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U.S. Enlists Dating Apps; EU Travel Moves Forward: Virus Update

The White House is enlisting popular dating apps to encourage Americans to brandish their vaccination status in exchange for a better shot at love.

Just as Wall Street offices are filling up, New York City’s high-flying social life is returning.

California outlined its plans for full reopening, saying it will lift physical distancing and capacity limits on June 15, as well as drop quarantine requirements for people traveling into the state.

Europeans and some foreign visitors can firm up their summer plans in the region, after EU negotiators agreed to introduce vaccine certificates. The EU’s drug regulator issued a warning against using AstraZeneca’s vaccine in some cases.

New York’s state’s seven-day positivite test rate dropped below 1% for the first time since September, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday. The rate is among the lowest in the nation. California was the only state with a seven-day rate below 1% in the latest data from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With more than a month of declining cases, hospitalizations and deaths, New York followed the CDC guidance and dropped its mask mandate this week for fully-vaccinated residents. On Friday, Cuomo said four counties — Putnam, Yates, Hamilton and Essex — all recorded zero new positive cases.

California outlined its plans for full reopening, saying it will lift physical distancing and capacity limits on June 15, as well as drop quarantine requirements for people traveling into the state. The state has already said it will conform to CDC guidelines and lift mask mandates for those who are vaccinated on June 15.

The state said it is recommending that large outdoor sporting events and concerts with more than 10,000 attendees and indoors events of more than 5,000 should require proof of a vaccine or a negative coronavirus test. “We feel like we are tracking well,” said California Health Secretary Mark Ghaly said during a call with reporters, citing high vaccination rates and plummeting hospitalizations.

London Heathrow airport will devote a terminal to arrivals from countries with high levels of Covid-19 infection amid concern that having them share a building with other passengers risks spreading the virus.

A dedicated facility for flights from so-called red list nations will open in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 from June 1, the airport said in a statement Friday. The hub had been in protracted talks over government funding for the plan, which it said will be very challenging logistically.

Mask use and improved ventilation were linked to a lower rate of Covid-19 cases in schools in a study that reinforced federal health guidance on how to keep the nation’s children safe.

Among Georgia elementary schools, the frequency of Covid cases at the end of last year was 37% lower in schools that required teachers and staff to use masks, according to a Friday report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidence of Covid cases was 39% lower in schools that enhanced ventilation.

McDonald’s Corp. is planning for fully reopened dining rooms in the U.S. this summer, though it’s running into opposition from some franchisees who say they don’t have enough staff or interested diners to make it worthwhile.

The company said that while it isn’t setting a hard deadline for franchises, it’s aiming for a rolling re-opening between now and the end of August, as Covid-19 rates and local regulations allow. Franchisees own about 95% of McDonald’s roughly 13,600 U.S. locations, and the company said it plans to be flexible and work with individual owners on alternate plans when necessary. Only about 15% of customer dining areas were open as of last month, McDonald’s said.

Just as Wall Street offices are filling up, New York City’s high-flying social life is returning, with cater-waiters, high heels and all the other wonderful and annoying things about being in person to support a cause.

Of course, gatherings are outdoors and in smaller groups, but the masks are largely off, with safety protocols still in place.

The Whitney Museum of American Art offered on-site rapid testing and crudite in individual containers. The Central Park Conservancy’s legendary hat lunch took place at several locations, on two days, after its first round-robin tennis tournament and before an in-person board meeting of the Women’s Committee at the Colony Club.

Leaders of the Group of 20 nations called for greater global cooperation in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic and to prevent future outbreaks, a bid to turn the page on damaging tensions over how to tackle the disease.

China pledged $3 billion in additional international aid over the next three years to support developing countries recover. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris vowed to continue donating excess supplies of vaccines to countries in need, and France will share at least 30 million doses by the end of this year and contribute 500 million euros ($609 million) to the G-20’s Act-A initiative.

The White House is enlisting popular dating apps to encourage Americans to brandish their vaccination status in exchange for a better shot at love.

Nine of the largest dating apps in the U.S., including Bumble Inc.’s namesake and Match Group Inc.’s Tinder and Hinge, are adding badges that show a person’s vaccine status and offering perks for those who have already gotten their inoculations.

The program is the federal government’s latest effort to boost vaccination rates in the U.S. and achieve President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70% of adults at least one jab by July 4.

Europeans and some foreign visitors can firm up their summer plans in the region, after European Union negotiators agreed to introduce vaccine certificates that will allow quarantine-free travel within Europe, handing the pummeled tourist industry an important chance to salvage the season.

“Citizens will be able to travel safely. Businesses will be able to benefit from their spending, and transport will be able to operate,” European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said at a press conference Friday. “Today we are one step closer to making this happen.”

Youngsters in France between the age of 16 and 18 years old could start to be inoculated in June, vaccination czar Alain Fischer said in an interview on BFM TV on Friday.

Earlier in the day, health authorities revised lower the total number of confirmed Covid cases since the start of the pandemic by 348,846 to 5.57 million, or about 6%. That’s due to an updated tracking system that now avoids double-counting of people who were tested twice in a very short period of time.

The authorities said the the revisions don’t modify the broad trend of the epidemic, which has slowed after a recent partial lockdown and as vaccination ramps up.

Ireland is “closely monitoring” the variant first identified in India, chief medical officer Tony Holohan said, amid the strain’s “possible higher transmissibility” and “early reports of its impact on vaccine effectiveness.”

The nation has been easing restrictions steadily in recent weeks after a four month lockdown. There have been 72 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant in the country so far. Ireland is due to move to the next stage of easing restrictions next month, with bars and restaurants set to reopen.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he remains confident that England’s lockdown will end on June 21 as planned, despite the rapid rise in cases of a variant first detected in India.

Authorities have found 3,424 cases of the B1.617.2 variant in the U.K., up from 1,313 last week. Public Health England also announced late on Thursday it was investigating a separate variant with an “unusual mutation profile,” with 49 cases logged so far.

That prompted fears that the U.K.’s reopening plans could be in doubt, but Johnson told broadcasters on Friday: “At the moment I can’t see anything that makes me think we’ll have to deviate from the roadmap.”

Norway removed limits on large gatherings and allowed restaurants and pubs to serve alcohol until later in the night after hospital admissions fell and the share of adults with at least a first vaccine dose reached 36%.

Separately, Oslo municipality opened training centers, swimming pools, museums and cinemas.

The EU drug regulator warned healthcare professionals against giving AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria to anyone who developed blood clots with low platelets after receiving the vaccine, according to a statement.

Doctors should make checks within 3 weeks of vaccination and ensure that such patients receive specialist care.

Moscow has a lower vaccination rate than any other European city despite starting inoculations before others, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a video posted on his blog Friday.

Only 1.3 million people in the Russian capital, or 10% of its population, have received shots since the start of the campaign even though they are free and the government provides incentives, Sobyanin said.

Earlier this week, former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it may be in the state’s interest to make vaccination mandatory. Nearly two-thirds of Russians aren’t ready to get inoculated, according to an April poll by the Levada Center.

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said the third virus wave “has been broken” amid accelerating vaccinations. The country’s seven-day incidence rate has been steadily falling and was at 67.3 per 100,000 people on Friday.Europe’s biggest economy is reopening outdoor dining and is easing restrictions on non-essential stores. Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute public-health agency, said the willingness of Germans to get vaccinated was very high. Still, he warned that infections could jump back up quickly if restrictions were relaxed too soon.

India reported 259,551 new infections Friday, continuing with the declining trend seen since a record high May 7. The total tally inched past 26 million, while deaths rose by more than 4,200 to 291,331, according the heath ministry.

The country also is seeing a raft of secondary ailments, from dangerous inflammatory syndrome in children to rising cases of a deadly black fungal infection called mucormycosis, which India’s government has asked states to designate as an epidemic.

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