People who experience breakthrough infections of the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated are about 50 percent less likely to experience long Covid than are unvaccinated people who catch the virus, researchers said in a large new report on British adults.
The study, which was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Wednesday, also provides more evidence that the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines offer powerful protection against symptomatic and severe disease.
“This is really, I think, the first study showing that long Covid is reduced by double vaccination, and it’s reduced significantly,” said Dr. Claire Steves, a geriatrician at King’s College London and the study’s lead author.
Although many people with Covid recover within a few weeks, some experience long-term symptoms, which can be debilitating. This constellation of lingering aftereffects that have become known as long Covid may include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, heart palpitations and other symptoms. But much about the condition remains mysterious.
“We don’t have a treatment yet for long Covid,” Dr. Steves said. Getting vaccinated, she said, “is a prevention strategy that everybody can engage in.”
The findings add to a growing pile of research on so-called breakthrough infections among vaccinated people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that the highly contagious Delta variant is causing more of these breakthroughs than other versions of the virus, although infections in fully vaccinated people still tend to be mild.
The new findings are based on data from more than 1.2 million adults in the Covid Symptom Study, in which volunteers use a mobile app to log their symptoms, test results and vaccination records. The participants include those who received at least one dose of the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines between Dec. 8 and July 4, as well as a control group of unvaccinated people.
Of the nearly 1 million people who were fully vaccinated, 0.2 percent reported a breakthrough infection, the researchers found. Those who did get breakthrough infections were roughly twice as likely to be asymptomatic as were those who were infected and unvaccinated. The odds of being hospitalized were 73 percent lower in the breakthrough group than the infected, unvaccinated group.
The odds of having long-term symptoms — lasting at least four weeks after infection — were also 49 percent lower in the breakthrough group.
“Of course, vaccines also massively reduce your risk of getting infected in the first place,” Dr. Steves said. That lowered risk means that vaccination should reduce the odds of long Covid by even more, she noted.
The study has limitations, the researchers acknowledge, the most notable of which is that the data is all self-reported. Long Covid is also difficult to study, with wide-ranging symptoms that may vary enormously in severity.
But Dr. Steves said that she hoped the findings might encourage more young people, whose vaccination rates have lagged behind, to get the shots. Young adults are less likely to become seriously ill from the virus than older adults, but they are still at risk for long Covid, she noted.
“Being out of action for six months has a major impact on people’s lives,” she said. “So, if we can show that their personal risk of long Covid is reduced by getting their vaccinations, that may be something that may help them make a decision to go ahead and get a vaccine.”
Unvaccinated people should avoid traveling during the Labor Day holiday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
As Covid hospitalizations reached a daily average of 100,000 for the first time since last winter’s surge, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., identified vaccination and masking as key factors in preventing the spread of the virus.
“First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling,” she said on Tuesday. Labor Day, which celebrates American workers with a three-day weekend and is the unofficial end of summer, is often observed with barbecues and gatherings for family and friends.
This year, the strong spread of the Delta variant makes decisions about those traditions more complicated. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all rising in the United States.
About 52 percent of the U.S. population, or 174 million people, is fully vaccinated, according to C.D.C. data. Among those who are over 12 years old and are eligible for the vaccine, 72.2 percent of the population, or 205 million people, have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Dr. Walensky said that gatherings — among vaccinated relatives and friends — should take place outdoors. And everyone, including those who are vaccinated, should wear masks in public indoor settings.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that the vast majority of transmission takes place among unvaccinated people in closed, indoor settings,” she said.
While health officials have said that those who are fully vaccinated and wearing masks can travel, Dr. Walensky said that everyone should assess their own risk tolerance, in light of the surges in the virus.
Even though many Americans changed their Thanksgiving plans last year, a spike in coronavirus transmissions and Covid hospitalizations and deaths in some areas of California and Texas were attributed partly to those gatherings that did happen.
New York State lawmakers agreed late on Wednesday to extend sweeping protections against evictions into next year, moving to keep hundreds of thousands of people whose finances have been battered by the pandemic in their homes.
The move was the first by a state to put in place new barriers to eviction after the U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected the Biden administration’s moratorium. It came as many parts of the country, including New York, have struggled to distribute tens of billions of dollars in pandemic rent relief that seeks to address renters’ unpaid bills.
The new agreement, which extends the moratorium through Jan. 15, creates one of the most extensive protections in the nation. Only five other states and Washington, D.C., currently have eviction moratoriums in place, according to the White House, and many of those protections will expire this year.
“I think it’s huge for renters,” said Brendan Cheney, director of policy and communications for the New York Housing Conference, a nonprofit advocacy group for affordable housing. He said it would give people “more time and more stability” to learn about how to access the rent relief program.
“If you look at the numbers, there are hundreds of thousands of people that seem to be behind on their rent due to the pandemic, owing billions of dollars in rent and it’s clear based on the program that very few of those people have gotten the money they need,” he said.
The enormous amount of rent owed across the country threatens to hobble its economic recovery, leaving large numbers of low-income residents facing debt or homelessness.
The need is particularly acute in New York, where more than 700,000 households are behind on rent, according to a recent analysis of U.S. census data, trailing only California, where about 750,000 households are behind. No other state has a higher share of renters. And the vast majority of them are in New York City.
Joe Rogan, the host of the hugely popular podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” said on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus after he returned from a series of shows in Florida, where the virus is rampant.
Mr. Rogan, who was rebuked by federal officials last spring for suggesting on the podcast that young healthy people need not get Covid vaccinations, said that he started feeling sick on Saturday night after he returned from performing in Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. He did not say whether he had been vaccinated.
“Throughout the night, I got fevers, sweats, and I knew what was going on,” he said in a video on Instagram, adding that he moved to a different part of his house away from his family. (In an episode of his podcast in April, he mentioned that his children had experienced mild Covid-19 symptoms earlier in the pandemic.)
He took a coronavirus test the next morning that came back positive, he said.
In his video on Wednesday, Mr. Rogan said he had been treated with a series of medications. “Sunday sucked,” he said, but by the time he made the video, he said he was feeling “pretty good,” using an expletive.
“A wonderful heartfelt thank you to modern medicine for pulling me out of this so quickly and easily,” he said.
The list of treatments he mentioned included monoclonal antibodies, which have been shown to protect Covid patients at risk of becoming gravely ill; and prednisone, a steroid widely accepted as a Covid treatment. When Donald J. Trump was stricken with Covid during his presidency, he was also treated with monoclonal antibodies.
Mr. Rogan also said he had received a “vitamin drip” as well as ivermectin, a drug primarily used as a veterinary deworming agent. The Food and Drug Administration has warned Covid-19 patients against taking the drug, which has repeatedly been shown as ineffective for them in clinical trials. However, it is a popular subject on Facebook, Reddit and among some conservative talk show hosts, and some toxicologists have warned of a surge of reports of overexposure to the drug by those who obtain it from livestock supply stores.
Mr. Rogan has been traveling nationally with a show called, “Joe Rogan: The Sacred Clown Tour.” He was scheduled to perform a show with the comedian Dave Chappelle in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday, but said in his video on Wednesday that it would be postponed to October.
His podcast is effectively a series of wandering conversations, often over whiskey and weed, on topics including but not limited to comedy, cage-fighting, psychedelics, quantum mechanics and the political excesses of the left. The show was licensed to Spotify last year in an estimated $100 million deal. His comments on the show in the spring undermining the value of vaccinations for young, healthy people drew condemnations from the Biden administration and Prince Harry, another Spotify podcaster.
Mr. Rogan has offered refunds to fans who bought tickets to an upcoming show scheduled for Madison Square Garden after New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, required that attendees at major events show proof of vaccination.
Mr. Rogan said on his podcast last week that 13,000 tickets to the show had already been sold, but that because he opposes vaccine requirements, he would offer refunds.
“If someone has an ideological or physiological reason for not getting vaccinated, I don’t want to force them to get vaccinated to see” the show, he said on the podcast in late August, underscoring his comment with a profanity. “And now they say that everybody has to be vaccinated, and I want everybody to know that you can get your money back.”
Mr. Rogan returned from performing three shows last week in Florida, where the state is reckoning with its highest-ever surge in virus infections, according to a New York Times database. Even as cases continue to rise, with more than 15,600 people hospitalized with the virus across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has held firm on banning vaccine and mask mandates. Florida’s deaths are considerably higher than those in any other state in the country.
The United States has entered the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic — or fifth, depending on which expert you ask. As the vaccination campaign lags and the contagious Delta variant spreads, cases and hospitalizations are at their highest since last winter. Covid-19 deaths, too, are on a steady incline.
After every other peak has come a trough, however, often for reasons that were not immediately obvious. In Britain, where the variant is also the dominant form of the coronavirus, daily cases fell from a peak of 60,000 in mid-July to half that within two weeks, though they have since been climbing again.
In India, the numbers spiked to more than 400,000 daily cases this spring; experts estimated that the true figure could be more than 20 times greater. The unimaginable toll shocked many who had declared that the country had successfully eluded the virus. But then, in June, infections fell drastically.
Scientists are struggling to understand why Delta outbreaks in those countries dissipated, even if temporarily, and what that may mean for similar surges, including the one in the United States.
In the United States, the variant’s pace has slowed, and new infections are falling in some states, like Missouri, that Delta struck hard. The number of infections over the last week is now 14 percent higher than it was two weeks ago, a fraction of the rate during much of July and early August.
Is the Delta surge beginning to slow in the United States? Or is the variant putting the country on course for months of bumps and valleys?
Expert opinion varies widely on the direction of the virus in the coming months. A number of national forecasts being tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that cases will rise in the early weeks of September — but many foresee the opposite.
The coronavirus pandemic has been especially tumultuous for children as they hunkered down over the past year and a half, experiencing disrupted schooling, increased social isolation and heightened anxiety at a time when millions of households have been buffeted by upheaval.
The crisis, it turns out, has also been linked to substantial excess weight gain among children and adolescents, according to a recent study published in the medical journal JAMA.
The researchers found a 9 percent increase in obesity among children ages 5 to 11, with an average weight gain of five pounds during the pandemic. Among adolescents, 16- and 17-year-olds gained an average of two additional pounds, they found.
The study, which analyzed electronic health records for nearly 200,000 young people in the Kaiser Permanente health network in Southern California, confirms what many Americans have experienced firsthand: The pandemic expanded waistlines.
Experts said the study was among the first to quantify the effects on young people of the disruptions to normal activities and resources. “We know that kids have been gaining weight during the pandemic, but the numbers are shocking and worse than I expected,” said Dr. Sarah Barlow, a childhood obesity specialist at Children’s Health in Dallas who was not involved with the study.
Some weight gain can be tied to the school closures that limited access to physical activity and nutritious meal programs. Remote learning, experts say, has often meant more sedentary time — and more access to the refrigerator.
Dr. Rachana Shah, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted the pandemic’s effects on mental health and how stress can lead to poorer eating habits. Dr. Shah, who specializes in metabolic and obesity-related illnesses, said, “During Covid, a lot of the people have been even more stretched and less able to provide their kids with healthy options.” She added that food can become “a coping mechanism” for those with anxiety or depression.
Dr. Deborah Young, the director of Kaiser Permanente’s division of behavioral research and an author of the study, said she expected the obesity spike to decline as children returned to school and their routines, but she and others expressed concern that not everyone would shed the excess pounds.
“Excess weight in adolescence and young adulthood translates into excess weight in adulthood and all the comorbidities associated with that, like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure,” she said.
Jamie Bussel, a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who focuses on childhood obesity, said the pandemic had worsened systemic problems like the lack of access to healthy foods in poorer communities and the ubiquity of junk food and sugary drinks.
“Covid really highlighted how negligent our food system really is,” she said. “We need long-term policy fixes. Otherwise, we’re just putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City has directed all of the city employees who are currently working from home to return to the office full-time starting in less than two weeks, a signal that he is intent on resurrecting the city’s office-dependent central business district despite the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
In a Wednesday email to agency heads that was acquired by The New York Times, the mayor’s reopening task force said the roughly 80,000 office workers employed at city agencies would “resume pre-March 2020 work schedules in the office beginning September 13.” There are more than 300,000 city workers overall, but many of them are essential employees who have already been reporting to job sites.
The move represents an escalation of the city’s requirements for its work force, and is bound to discomfit employees who are concerned about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, or who have grown accustomed to the conveniences afforded by working from home.
In the first half of August, the seven-day average of new virus cases in the city reached its highest level since April, but cases have since declined slightly, to 1,844 on Tuesday, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
Hospitalizations in the city have also risen, to a weekly average of just under 1,150 as of last week. New deaths have remained relatively stable, with a seven-day average of 12 per day as of Tuesday.
Nearly 59 percent of the city’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to city data.
Mr. de Blasio has sought to push forward New York City’s reopening, despite the arrival of the variant. In August, he mounted a major concert in Central Park designed to signify the city’s reopening. Bad weather forced the concert to end early.
Mr. de Blasio first required city workers to return to the office in person starting May 3, but he instituted 50 percent occupancy limits on buildings, which necessitated a hybrid schedule — on some days, employees worked from home, and on others, they reported to the office.
The Wednesday email noted that “telework will only be allowed in limited circumstances.” It also said employees would be subject to an executive order, signed by the mayor on Tuesday after he announced the plan in July, that requires all employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo weekly testing.
All employees and contractors will be required to wear face coverings in all communal spaces.
“As the city finishes its return to office process, the mayor’s message remains the same: We know how to make workplaces safe, and public servants can deliver more for New Yorkers when they’re working together,” said Mitch Schwartz, a spokesman for the mayor. “City workers will have all the resources they need to complete this final step safely. There’s no time to waste in building a recovery for all of us.”
Daniel E. Slotnik, Alison Saldanha and Albert Sun contributed reporting.
The World Health Organization opened a center in Berlin on Wednesday where information can be shared to help prepare the world for the next global health crisis.
The center, known as the Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, will gather data from around the world and share it internationally in a stepped-up effort to allow the health authorities to recognize trends in diseases as they happen, and develop new analytic and modeling tools to use that data in establishing strategies to battle outbreaks, the W.H.O. said on its website.
The hub will assess traditional disease surveillance information, like case numbers and laboratory results, along with environmental, social, economic, cultural and agricultural factors.
It will focus on what the W.H.O. called “collaborative intelligence” — the consistent sharing of information among political, scientific and civil organizations to develop a coordinated approach, according to a paper about the hub. Countries and institutions, public and private, must trust each other in order for the hub to function properly, the paper said.
The coronavirus pandemic was the catalyst for the hub, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., said at a news conference Wednesday after an inauguration ceremony in Berlin that included Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany among the dignitaries.
“Even as we respond to the pandemic, we must learn the lessons it’s teaching us,” Dr. Tedros said. “One of the most clear is the need for new powerful systems and tools for global surveillance to collect, analyze and disseminate data on outbreaks with the potential to become epidemics and pandemics. Viruses must move fast, but data can move even faster.”
The German government is initially funding the effort, and Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control, will lead it. The hub falls under the W.H.O.’s Health Emergencies Program, run by Dr. Michael Ryan.
Dr. Ryan said that the deeply interlinked nature of the modern world, which can allow a novel disease — and misinformation — to spread around the globe with astonishing speed, could help battle pathogens if nations work together.
“That interconnectedness is also our greatest strength,” he said.
PHOENIX — Only weeks after Arizona’s students went back to school, coronavirus infections are forcing thousands of children and teachers into quarantine. School outbreaks around Phoenix are surging. In one suburban district, so many drivers are sick that school buses are running 90 minutes late.
All this in a state that ignored C.D.C. recommendations and banned school mask mandates weeks before classes resumed.
Now the back-to-school turmoil has cascaded far beyond Arizona’s classrooms, igniting a political uproar for Gov. Doug Ducey and other Republican leaders in this fast-changing desert battleground. The tumult underscores the perilous decisions facing governors in swing states where voters are divided over Covid-19 safety measures and personal freedoms.
Mr. Ducey, a business-minded Republican, spent much of the past year getting attacked by conservatives angry about pandemic restrictions and his defense of the 2020 election results. But he has since doubled down on anti-mask-mandate measures passed by Arizona’s Republican-run Legislature.
He pledged to withhold millions of dollars in federal pandemic relief from schools that pass mask mandates in defiance of a state law that takes effect at the end of September. He offered $7,000 vouchers to families who opt to leave districts that require face coverings. Masking decisions, he said, belonged to parents, not school officials.
“In Arizona we are pro-parent,” Mr. Ducey said at a recent news conference. “I want parents to do what they think is the right thing to do.”
Mr. Ducey had kept a lower profile throughout much of the pandemic compared with the Republican governors of Florida, South Dakota and Texas, who built national reputations as combative opponents of Covid restrictions.
But as he looks to his political future after he leaves office next year because of term limits, Mr. Ducey is moving to the front of the volatile new battle over personal freedoms, children’s health and the politicization of pandemic relief money.
The coronavirus continues to batter India’s damaged economy, putting growing pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to nurture a nascent recovery and get the country back to work.
Infections and deaths have eased, and the country is returning to work. Economists predict that growth could surge in the second half of the year on paper. But, still, the damage could take years to undo. Economic output was 9.2 percent lower for the April-through-June period this year than what it was for the same period in 2019, according to India Ratings, a credit ratings agency.
Just 11 percent of the population is fully inoculated, and economists are particularly concerned that the slow rate of vaccinations could lead to a third wave of the coronavirus, which could prove to be disastrous for any economic recovery.
Since the start of the pandemic, about 10 million people have lost salaried jobs, which are difficult to get back, said Mahesh Vyas, the chief executive of the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy. At least 3.2 million Indians lost stable, well-paying salaried jobs in July alone.
Mr. Modi’s government moved this month to rekindle the economy by selling stakes worth close to $81 billion in state-owned assets like airports, railway stations and stadiums. But economists largely see the policy as a move to generate cash in the short term.
Economists say that India needs to splurge to unlock the full potential of its huge low-skilled work force. “There is a need for very simple primary health facilities, primary services to deliver nutrition to children,” Mr. Vyas said. “All these are highly labor-intensive jobs, and these are government services largely.”
Throughout India’s second wave, core infrastructure projects across the country, which employ millions of domestic migrant workers, were exempted from restrictions and helped bolster the economy.
The “only solution,” Mr. Vyas said, is for the government to spend and incite private investment. “You have a demotivated private sector because there isn’t enough demand. That’s what’s holding India back.”
In other news from around the globe:
Thailand allowed shopping malls in Bangkok to reopen on Wednesday and restaurants to operate at half capacity, Reuters reported. The moves come after nearly three months of tough restrictions aimed at containing the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak. The number of infections started falling in the middle of August, and the government is under pressure to ease lockdown measures because of the impact on the economy. On Wednesday, the health ministry reported 14,802 new cases and 252 additional deaths. Thailand has reported a total of 1.2 million cases and 11,841 fatalities.
Spain’s health ministry on Wednesday announced that it had fully vaccinated over 70 percent of its residents against Covid-19. With nearly 33.4 million residents fully vaccinated, equivalent to 70.3 percent of its population, Spain is now almost 10 percentage points ahead of other large European Union countries like Germany, France or Italy. The latest data also means that Spain has met the deadline set by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in April, when he pledged that 70 percent of the country would be fully vaccinated by the end of August.
The staff of a Southern California hospital system experienced a small resurgence in coronavirus infections this summer, despite more than four-fifths of its employees being fully vaccinated.
The findings join a flurry of recent reports of so-called breakthrough infections among vaccinated people. Earlier this summer, Provincetown, Mass., reported a Covid outbreak among many vaccinated residents, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that these cases are happening more often with the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus than they did with previous versions.
Breakthrough infections tend to be mild, and vaccines are still highly effective against severe disease and death from the Delta variant. Still, studies on breakthrough infections have fueled the debate over the need for a booster dose, which the Biden administration has supported, as well as masking requirements aimed at preventing the spread of Delta.
Even among its fully vaccinated workers, the University of California San Diego Health witnessed a significant increase in infections from June to July, according to a letter published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
From March through July, a total of 227 workers tested positive, according to the letter. Of those, 130 — or 57 percent — were vaccinated.
The total number of symptomatic Covid-19 cases went up more than eightfold, from 15 in June to 125 in July, with 75 percent of the cases occurring in fully vaccinated employees.
There were no reported deaths, and one unvaccinated person was hospitalized, according to the researchers.
While the number of cases represented a tiny fraction of University of California San Diego Health’s overall work force of 19,000, the growing number of infections points to a noteworthy drop in the effectiveness of the vaccines, according to the authors.
“Our data suggest that vaccine effectiveness against any symptomatic disease is considerably lower against the delta variant and may wane over time since vaccination,” they wrote.
Given these findings, they recommended a rapid return to indoor masking and intensive testing strategies to detect the virus.
Officials of the World Health Organization on Wednesday called on countries with a surplus of Covid-19 vaccines to speed up donations of doses to Latin American and Caribbean nations where immunization is moving slowly.
“While every country in our region has begun administering Covid-19 vaccines, immunizations are following the fault lines of inequality that have long divided our region,” Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, a division of the W.H.O., said at a news conference.
Only one in four people in Latin America and the Caribbean has been fully immunized against Covid-19, “and for many, vaccines remain months away,” Dr. Etienne added.
The divisions within the region are stark. Chile and Uruguay have managed to fully vaccinate more than 60 percent of their populations while more than a third of countries in the region have yet to reach 20 percent.
“Vaccination rates remain in the teens in several Caribbean and South American countries and coverage is still in the single digits in Central American nations like Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua,” Dr. Etienne said, referring to percentages of people vaccinated. The numbers are especially low in countries with particularly fragile health systems, such as Haiti and Venezuela.
Infections overall are declining in most of South America, while they are rising in much of the Caribbean and in several Central American countries, including Costa Rica and Belize.
Latin America and the Caribbean had received donations of around 43.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by mid-August through bilateral agreements and the United Nations-backed Covax program, according to agency estimates.
The Pan American Health Organization is starting a program to boost regional production of so-called messenger RNA vaccines — the same type as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots — but that effort will not provide doses in the short term.
An additional 540 million doses are needed to make sure every country in the Americas can fully inoculate 60 percent of the population.
Officials deplored the fact that administering booster shots is being discussed in some countries while in others people are desperate to receive a first dose.
“This is not only an ethical and moral problem, it is also a public health problem,” Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, the pan-American agency’s assistant director, said. The best way to control transmission and prevent other variants from emerging is to increase vaccination everywhere, Dr. Barbosa said.
While the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread rapidly in much of the world, Latin America and the Caribbean have so far largely been spared by the variant — and experts aren’t sure why.
“It’s not easy to explain,” Jairo Méndez Rico, a regional adviser to the agency for viral diseases, said. “Perhaps some sort of cross-protection because of the previous circulation of many other variants” could be helping to delay the community spread of Delta, he suggested, adding, “It’s early to say what is happening.”
Maverick is disengaging.
Paramount Pictures on Wednesday scrapped a plan to release a much-anticipated “Top Gun” sequel in theaters in November, citing uncertainty about the willingness of moviegoers to brave the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus, particularly overseas.
“Top Gun: Maverick,” with Tom Cruise returning to the rebel fighter pilot role that made him a superstar, was rescheduled for theatrical release in May.
To make room, Paramount pushed back the release of “Mission: Impossible 7,” another sequel starring Mr. Cruise, from May to September 2022. Paramount also removed “Jackass Forever” from its fall release calendar.
Theater owners were counting on “Top Gun: Maverick” to help salvage their year, which has been filled with one pandemic-related setback after another. Several movies scheduled for the summer were rerouted to streaming services or made available simultaneously in theaters and online, cannibalizing ticket sales. North American multiplexes have sold about $1.9 billion in tickets this year, compared with $7.7 billion for the same period in 2019. (Many theaters were closed for most of 2020.)
Just last week, theater owners gathered for a convention in Las Vegas and used the moment as a type of pep rally: The big screen is back. Paramount even showed 13 minutes of “Top Gun: Maverick” to attendees.
Other studios may follow Paramount. The biggest movies that remain pointed toward exclusive theatrical releases in 2021 are “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (Sony), “Eternals” (Marvel-Disney), “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (Sony), “No Time to Die” (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), “West Side Story” (Disney) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony).
Studios have been paying close attention to moviegoer surveys by National Research Group, a film consultancy. On July 11, about 81 percent of American ticket buyers said they felt comfortable (“very or somewhat”) sitting in a movie theater. By late August, with the Delta variant surging, only about 67 percent said they felt comfortable.
Mothers have been particularly reticent, surveys have shown, imperiling movies aimed at families. As a result, studios have been trying to figure out what to do with films like “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” which Paramount pulled from its fall release calendar on Aug. 4, and “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania,” which Sony is selling to Amazon for streaming.
“The business has what it takes to recover, but as long as Covid persists, moviegoing will remain sluggish,” David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, wrote in a recent client note.
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