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NATIONAL NOTEBOOK

Fauci, fearing more super-spreader events, says this isn’t the year for Super Bowl parties

Blue skies and favorable weather greeted the thousands of fans attending Super Bowl festivities Saturday in Tampa.
Blue skies and favorable weather greeted the thousands of fans attending Super Bowl festivities Saturday in Tampa.Luis Santana/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top infectious disease expert doesn’t want the Super Bowl to turn into a super spreader.

When it comes to pandemic-era Super Bowl parties, “cool it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci says. Now isn’t the time to invite people over for watch parties because of the possibility they’re infected with the coronavirus and could sicken others, he said Wednesday.

Big events like Sunday’s game in Tampa between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are always a cause for concern because of the potential for virus spread, Fauci said.

“You don’t want parties with people that you haven’t had much contact with,” he told NBC’s “Today” show. ’'You just don’t know if they’re infected, so, as difficult as that is, at least this time around, just lay low and cool it.”

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The NFL has capped game attendance at 22,000 people because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, New Jersey is relaxing its rules on indoor dining and drinking, just in time for the Super Bowl. A 10 p.m. curfew for indoor dining will be lifted starting Friday.

Governor Philip D. Murphy also raised the ceiling on indoor dining to 35 percent of capacity, up from 25 percent — the first change to the state’s pandemic restrictions since indoor dining resumed in New Jersey over Labor Day weekend. The higher limits also apply to gyms and casinos.

New Jersey was one of the last states to resume indoor dining. Struggling restaurant and bar owners lobbied for months for higher capacity limits. Super Bowl Sunday is typically one of the busiest days of the year for bar and restaurant owners.

“We believe we can make this expansion without adding further stress on our health care system,” said Murphy, a Democrat. He imposed the 10 p.m. curfew in November, when coronavirus cases were rising sharply. He also ordered owners to eliminate all bar seating, a rule that is not yet being relaxed. (Many establishments responded by placing two-person cafe tables next to their bars.)

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At that time, New Jersey was reporting 2,605 virus cases a day, on average. On Wednesday, the daily average stood at 4,548, according to a New York Times database.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that indoor dining would be allowed in New York City starting Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, at 25 percent of capacity. — AP/NEW YORK TIMES

Once-struggling vaccine maker sees new hope

NEW YORK — As recently as December, the vaccine maker Novavax appeared to again be on the brink of failure. Manufacturing troubles had forced the Maryland company, which in its 34-year history had never brought a vaccine to market, to delay the US clinical trial of its COVID-19 inoculation, jeopardizing its $1.6 billion contract with the government. And two vaccines made by its competitors were already being shipped, leaving some to wonder if Novavax would ever catch up.

But the picture has improved. The company said last week that its vaccine showed robust protection in a large British trial and worked, though not nearly as well, in a smaller study in South Africa against a contagious new variant.

And the scarcity of the two vaccines authorized in the United States, made by Moderna and Pfizer, seems to have made it easier for Novavax to recruit volunteers. That has put it on track to report results this spring, with possible government authorization as early as April. If all goes right, that would mean an influx of 110 million vaccine doses, enough for 55 million Americans at two doses each, by June 30.

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If Novavax succeeds, that would have global implications. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna shots, the Novavax vaccine can be stored and shipped at normal refrigeration temperatures. The company is setting up plants around the world to produce up to 2 billion doses per year. — NEW YORK TIMES

Debate still raging about when to vaccinate teachers

NEW YORK — Almost half of US states have begun allowing teachers to be vaccinated as officials decide which groups should be given priority, a New York Times survey shows. By this week, 24 states and Washington, D.C., were providing shots to teachers of kindergarten through high school students.

How quickly states give shots to teachers from a growing but still limited vaccine supply has become a central point in the debate about how best to reopen schools, as more-contagious virus variants emerge and spread.

In some states where many teachers are already teaching in-person classes, teachers are not yet eligible for vaccines. For many places where classes are mainly remote, vaccinating teachers has been a first step to returning children to classrooms, though not the only factor.

“This discussion is not about if we return, but how we return,” Stacy Davis Gates, a leader of the Chicago Teachers Union, said recently amid a standoff in that city over whether students in elementary and middle schools — and their teachers — should return to classrooms immediately. “How we return is with the maximum amount of safety that we can obtain in an agreement,” Davis Gates said.

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In San Francisco, with one of the lowest rates of infection and death of any major US city, public schools have been closed for in-person learning since March. On Wednesday, officials announced an unusual move: legal action against the city’s own Board of Education to push it to reopen schools more quickly.

“There’s nothing like a lawsuit to focus the mind and force things to come to a head,” said Dennis Herrera, the city attorney. He said he’d seek an injunction to mandate that the independent Board Education produce a reopening plan.

San Francisco has one of the highest rates of private school enrollment in the country, a distinction that during the pandemic has created a kind of de facto segregation. About 15,000 students in private schools are attending in-person classes, while 54,000 public school students are studying online. — NEW YORK TIMES