Beleaguered in the pandemic and thrust into the spotlight by the 2020 election, the United States Postal Service now finds itself competing for its share of the vaccine.
The Postal Service has endured tumultuous months amid a significant increase in online shopping, understaffing, government funding issues and an explosion of mail-in ballots during a contentious election. Thousands of postal workers have contracted the coronavirus, and more than 150 have died. Still, fewer than half of the states across the country — at least 22 — have begun administering shots to Postal Service workers, at least in some counties, even as they rapidly expand access to more groups of people, according to a New York Times survey.
Postal workers are among several categories of essential workers that a committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that states prioritize early. In a letter penned to the Biden administration in January, Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, noted that “numerous states have not followed this recommendation and have chosen to place postal workers further down in the order of those with early access to the vaccine.”
Postal workers might not have to wait too much longer to be vaccinated. On Thursday, President Biden promised to bring cohesion to the national rollout, directing states to make every adult eligible by May 1, and announcing a series of initiatives to ramp up the pace of vaccinations.
Postal workers must navigate a patchwork of policies to determine whether they can get a shot. In Virginia, they can get the vaccine along with private mail carriers. And Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas announced that postal workers in his state could get the vaccine as of Monday. However, they are not yet eligible in Maine, Texas and Washington.
In a live video last month, Mr. Dimondstein lamented the lack of a collective government response on behalf of the Postal Service.
“It’s chaos,” he said. “You’ve got to find your own way.”
In the past month alone, the rate of U.S. vaccinations has ramped up over 50 percent, to an average of about 2.5 million shots a day as of Saturday, up from an average of about 1.6 million shots a day on Feb. 13, according to a New York Times database. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that about 68.9 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 36.9 million people who have been fully vaccinated.
School shutdowns have been a divisive topic during since the pandemic erupted, and a new study has ignited debate over the six-foot rule of social distancing and whether it can be relaxed in classroom settings, which would ease the way for children to return to schools.
The new study, published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggests public schools may be able to reopen safely for in-person instruction as long as children maintain three feet of distance between them, and with other mitigation measures maintained, such as wearing masks.
Dr. Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration have been traveling in a concerted campaign for reopening schools safely while parents and educators have grown increasingly frustrated by the off-again, on-again policies from district to district.
Asked about the new report by Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, agreed the study appeared to indicate three feet would be sufficient distance to curb transmission of the virus.
No official guidance on shortening the recommended six-foot rule has yet been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although Dr. Fauci said the agency is studying the data.
“What the C.D.C. wants to do is accumulate data, and when data shows ability to be three feet, they will act accordingly,” Dr. Fauci said. He added that the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, was aware of the new research, and that the C.D.C. was also conducting its own studies. “I don’t want to get ahead of official guidelines,” he said.
While the C.D.C.’s advice remains at six feet of social distancing between students, the World Health Organization has recommended a meter or 3.3 feet of distancing, and the study found the latter was enough to limit school-related cases. The C.D.C. recommendations call for six feet of social distancing in schools situated in counties with high Covid transmission rates. C.D.C. officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Some experts have chimed in that tempering social distancing recommendations could be an important step to getting children back into classrooms. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, suggested in a tweet that the C.D.C. guidance may be changing, and that is “good. Because 6 ft doesn’t protect teachers. But it does keep kids out of school.”
“Want to open schools safely? Masks. Ventilation. Testing. Vaccinating teachers/staff. That’s the list,” Dr. Jha tweeted.
The new study, published March 10, compared the incidence rates of coronavirus cases among students and staff in Massachusetts school districts that required at least six feet of separation with those that required only three feet of distance, and found no statistically significant differences in infection rates among staff members or students.
The researchers, who controlled for community rates of coronavirus in their analysis, concluded that lower physical distancing policies can safely be adopted in schools settings, as long as other measures like universal masking — are in place.
The study’s authors examined the rates of coronavirus infections among staff and students at some 242 school districts in Massachusetts, with varying levels of in-person instruction from Sept. 24, to Jan. 27, 2021.
Children are less likely to require hospitalization when infected with the coronavirus, and children under 10 are less likely to get infected than teenagers. But the true incidence of infections may not be known because children and adolescents are far less likely than adults to develop severe illness and are less likely to be tested.
Duke University ordered nearly all its students Saturday evening to quarantine for at least a week because of a coronavirus outbreak at the school.
More than 180 students have tested positive in the last week, and an additional 200 people were already in isolation after contact tracing, the university order said.
In a statement on Sunday, Duke said the new cases were “almost all linked to unsanctioned fraternity recruitment events that took place off campus.”
“This stay-in-place order is the direct result of individual behavior in violation of Duke’s requirements for in-person activity,” the statement said, adding, “Those who are found responsible for organizing and hosting these events will be held accountable.”
Under the order, students who live on the campus in Durham, N.C., must stay in their rooms except for essential errands like picking up food; they may walk outdoors in groups of three or less. Students living elsewhere were told not to go to campus and were “strongly encouraged” to limit their movements and activities off campus. All classes will be taught online.
In all, the order covers 6,000 undergraduates and 8,000 graduate and professional students who are in or near Durham, the university said.
Students across the country have had their college experiences upended as the pandemic has dragged on for more than a year, and the virus has continued to spread on campus and in surrounding communities. Since Jan. 1, more than 120,000 cases have been linked to American colleges and universities, according to a New York Times database.
When rumors circulated on Saturday that the order was coming, students rushed to stock up on food and other supplies for their rooms, the campus newspaper reported.
Leah Boyd, 19, a sophomore who covered the events for the paper, said she and several friends walked around campus on Saturday to “soak up our last hour or so of freedom.” She said they were worried that the lockdown would be extended to last longer than a week.
Another reporter for the paper, Nadia Bey, 19, said that while most students understood the need for restrictions, “I think the stress is really getting to us.”
Students who are careful about safety rules are starting to resent those who are not, Ms. Boyd said: “They’re tired of sacrificing their social lives, getting to see their families, getting to go to in-person classes, for other people to still be acting irresponsible.”
An online petition calling on the university to sue the Durham Interfraternity Council for “reckless endangerment” gathered more than 1,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
After closing down last spring, Duke allowed freshman and sophomores back into campus housing in the fall, and juniors and seniors in January. It garnered praise for its Covid testing program. But a coronavirus case sent the whole men’s basketball team into quarantine, threatening to make Duke miss the N.C.A.A. Tournament for the first time since 1995.
“The thing is, as much as you test, if you’re still gathering in large groups, if you’re still being unsafe, if you’re still not following the rest of the protocol, the amount of testing you do doesn’t matter,” Ms. Boyd said. “You’re still going to end up in situations like this.”
For most of his tenure, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has relied on a set of close advisers who act as both political enforcers and point people on government operations. He did the same at the height of the pandemic, calling on some of his most trusted emissaries to help coordinate the state’s coronavirus response.
With Mr. Cuomo facing concurrent scandals over accusations of sexual abuse and calls for his resignation, though, that pattern is raising alarms.
Larry Schwartz, a former top aide to the governor who now leads the state’s vaccination efforts, has also apparently been acting as a political operative, asking state Democratic leaders to support the governor while continuing to discuss the urgent business of immunization. At least two Democratic county executives said they had received such calls.
One of the county executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that after Mr. Schwartz had discussed the governor’s political situation, he then pivoted directly to a conversation about vaccine distribution.
The mixing of politics and the state’s vaccination program threatened to further complicate Mr. Cuomo’s efforts to forge ahead with the day-to-day business of government despite the deep uncertainty about his future.
And it threw a spotlight on a concern that local officials have voiced quietly in recent months: that the Cuomo administration saw its control over the vaccine supply as a means to reward or punish local officials.
In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Schwartz said that he had never mixed vaccination policy with political considerations.
“All decisions regarding vaccines are done based on public health considerations, not politics,” Mr. Schwartz’s statement said. “At no time has politics ever entered into the discussion or decision making regarding vaccines. I have never discussed vaccines in a political context, and anyone who thinks that is seriously mistaken.”
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Today, on the anniversary of the city’s first coronavirus-related death, New York City will hold a virtual memorial event honoring the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have died of the virus.
The virtual ceremony, which will include names and photographs of the deceased, will be streamed online on the city’s website and on social media platforms at 7:45 p.m. Families are being encouraged to submit photographs of their loved ones.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 30,000 people are known to have died in New York City in relation to the virus.
“We constantly talk about moving forward and our recovery, but we’ve got to take time to remember the people we’ve lost,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference Monday.
The city’s first confirmed death was an 82-year-old woman with emphysema who died in Brooklyn.
The next day, the city shut down schools, restaurants and bars. There were about 5,600 reported cases of the virus in the city at the time, but researchers have said that the virus was likely spreading in New York City earlier than residents realized.
The city soon became the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States. Morgues, funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries were overwhelmed with bodies.
When asked if the city will create a permanent memorial to commemorate victims of virus, Mr. de Blasio said on Monday that the city will develop a plan for “a place that people can gather and remember their loved ones.”
Ireland suspended use of the Covid-19 vaccine by Oxford-AstraZeneca on Sunday, citing reports of unusual blood clotting problems among people who recently received shots in Norway.
The decision followed a new advisory from Norway on Saturday that four people given the AstraZeneca vaccine had experienced blood clotting issues and all had low platelet counts. Leading public health agencies, including the World Health Organization, point out that millions of people have received the vaccine without experiencing such blood clotting issues, and that experts have not found a causative link between any of the vaccines and the conditions.
Ireland’s health minister, Stephen Donnelly, said:
The decision to temporarily suspend use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was based on new information from Norway that emerged late last night. This is a precautionary step. The National Immunisation Advisory Comm meets again this morning and we’ll provide an update after that
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) March 14, 2021
Regulators like the European Medicines Agency are investigating to determine whether there is any evidence of any link.
AstraZeneca defended its vaccine on Sunday, saying that the company is continually monitoring its safety.
“Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” Ann Taylor, the company’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.
Prof. Karina Butler, the chairwoman of Ireland’s immunization advisory committee, said the panel’s recommendation was made while agencies were investigating. “We will continue to monitor the situation, and if we can be satisfied that these events are coincidental and not caused by this vaccine, we will reassess the situation.”
No such cases have been reported to Ireland’s medicine regulators, with over 117,000 doses of the vaccine administered in the country. Of the newest reports in Norway, one patient died from an unexpected brain hemorrhage, and the three others with severe cases of blood clots or brain hemorrhages were being treated in a hospital, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.
That agency issued an advisory for people under age 50 who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the past two weeks, and who feel increasingly unwell with several large blue patches on their skin more than three days after vaccination, to consult doctors or other medical advice as soon as possible.
Ireland joined other European countries in halting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the past week as a precaution because of concerns over the risk of blood clots, though officials there emphasized that there was no evidence yet of a causal link and that the new reports from Norway were still being investigated.
Thailand delayed its rollout of the vaccine, which was to begin Friday. The Democratic Republic of Congo has also delayed its rollout, Reuters reported. On Sunday, Italy’s northern region of Piedmont said it would temporarily suspend giving the AstraZeneca vaccine, a day after a teacher there died after receiving the shot.
The European Medicines Agency, which is investigating the relationship, said on Wednesday that 30 cases of obstructive blood clots had been reported in the nearly five million people who received the shot — a rate no higher than that seen in the general population, and that the vaccine’s benefits outweighed the risks. AstraZeneca has said that its safety data of more than 10 million records does not show evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis.
In its statement, AstraZeneca also said that as of March 8, the company was aware of 15 reports of deep-vein thrombosis and 22 of pulmonary embolism among those who had received the vaccine across the European Union and Britain. “This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed Covid vaccines,” the company said.
Italians enjoyed the last weekend outdoors before three-quarters of the population entered into a strict lockdown on Monday, when the government puts in place restrictive measures to fight the rise in coronavirus infections.
A more contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom, combined with a slow vaccine rollout, led to a 15 percent increase in cases in Italy last week, a worrisome picture for the government run by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
“I am aware that today’s measures will have an impact on children’s education, on the economy but also on the psychological state of us all,” Mr. Draghi said on Friday. “But they are necessary to avoid a worsening that will make inevitable even more stringent measures.”
Most regions in northern Italy, as well as Lazio and Marche in central Italy and Campania and Puglia in the south, will shut schools and forbid residents from leaving their homes except for work, health or necessity. Among business activities, only supermarkets, pharmacies and a few other stores will stay open, but restaurants will be shut.
In the rest of the country, residents will not be allowed to leave their municipality without reason involving work, health or other necessities, but schools and many stores will stay open.
“We believe that only with widespread vaccinations will we be able to avoid measures like these,” Mr. Draghi added.
Fewer than two million people in the country have been fully vaccinated so far, partly because of late deliveries from the pharmaceutical industries, but also because of logistical problems in some regions. Italy is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world: More than 100,000 people have died of Covid there, and 3.2 million have been infected.
Last Saturday, the government said it aimed to vaccinate at least 80 percent of the population by September. The plan, designed by an army general picked by Mr. Draghi for his expertise in logistics, envisioned administering up to 500,000 doses a day and also hiring junior doctors and dentists to give the injections in a plethora of facilities, such as military barracks, production sites, schools and gyms.
In a cabinet document, the government wrote that it expected to see its vaccination capacity increased in coming months. Deliveries are expected to rise from 15.7 million doses in the first quarter to 52.5 by June, and peak to almost 85 million in the third quarter. After canceling or limiting supplies for weeks, Pfizer-BioNTech should increase deliveries in the near future, while AstraZeneca is still planning a slower rollout of vaccines to Italy. The Piedmont region, however, suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a precautionary measure while investigations of a possible link to health problems are underway.
The entire country will be on lockdown for the Easter weekend, April 3-5, to prevent the usual large family reunions. As with last Christmas’s restrictions, people will still be allowed to leave their homes once a day.
With millions of Americans vaccinated and states dropping mask and dining restrictions at the one-year mark of the pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci warned on Sunday against loosening restrictions prematurely, despite the recent week-over-week decreases in new Covid cases.
“Even though the decline was steep, we absolutely need to avoid the urge to say ‘Oh, everything is going great,’” said Dr. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, on the NBC program “Meet The Press.”
“When you get a plateau at a level around 60,000 new infections per day, there’s always the risk of another surge,” he said. “And that’s the thing we really want to avoid, because we are going in the right direction.”
Dr. Fauci cited what is happening in Italy, where much of the country will lock down again on Monday, and other parts of Europe. “They had a diminution of cases, they plateaued, and they pulled back on public health measures,” he said. Restaurants and some bars reopened, he said, and “the younger people particularly stopped wearing masks, and then, all of a sudden, you have a surge that went right back up. And that’s where we are right now.”
Rescinding mask mandates in the U.S., as some states have already done, is “risky business,” he warned.
Asked on the CNN program “State of the Union” about questions that remain unanswered a year into the pandemic, Dr. Fauci mentioned the effect of coronavirus variants, some of which are more contagious and have emerged in Europe, Latin America and in the United States. He said the available vaccines would protect against severe disease, death and hospitalization.
“So, the best way that we can avoid any threat from variants is do two things,” he said: “Get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can, and to continue with the public health measures, until we get this broad umbrella of protection over society, that the level of infection is very low.”
Dr. Fauci was asked about recent public opinion polls showing growing public confidence in the vaccines. A new CBS News/YouGov poll found declining resistance to vaccination among Black and Hispanic Americans, but it identified differences along political lines, with higher rates of resistance among Republicans, especially younger ones.
Overall, 55 percent of Americans in the survey said they would get vaccinated or had already been vaccinated. That included 57 percent of white Americans, 51 percent of Black Americans and 52 percent of Hispanic Americans, the poll found.
By contrast, about 23 percent of Black Americans said they would not get the vaccine; as did 23 percent of white Americans and 20 percent of Hispanic Americans, the poll indicated.
On the network’s “Face The Nation” program, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who heads a new federal task force on health equity, called the polling results “great news.” “You see vaccine confidence growing in all groups around the country,” Dr. Nunez-Smith said. “It is very promising.”
Even so, polarized attitudes aligned with political affiliation have stiffened: About 71 percent of Democrats said they had been vaccinated or would get shots, while only 47 percent of Republicans said the same. One-third of Republicans said they would say no to the vaccine, compared with only 10 percent of Democrats.
Dr. Fauci said he was perplexed and troubled by the partisan trend. “It makes absolutely no sense,” he said. “We’ve got to dissociate political persuasion from what’s common sense, no-brainer public health things.”
On “Fox News Sunday,” Dr. Fauci was asked about a public-service message on vaccination that included other former presidents but not Donald J. Trump. He was then asked whether Mr. Trump, who was quietly vaccinated in January before leaving office, should publicly endorse immunization.
“I think it would make all the difference in the world,” Dr. Fauci said, adding: “He’s a very widely popular person among Republicans. If he came out and said, go and get vaccinated, it’s really important for your health, the health of your family and the health of the country, it seems absolutely inevitable that the vast majority of people who are his close followers would listen to him.”
In an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Feb. 28, Mr. Trump did say, “Everyone should go get your shot,” but that message was largely overlooked by the former president’s characteristic focus on divisive political matters.
Stimulus payments have started to land in Americans’ bank accounts, just days after President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue bill into law.
The Internal Revenue Service announced on Friday that people would start receiving direct deposits over the weekend as the Biden administration rushes to get money to people who have been struggling throughout the pandemic. More batches will be sent out in the next few weeks, with some payments arriving by mail as checks or debit cards.
Johanna Suarez, a 21-year-old sophomore at Houston Community College, said she received her $1,400 payment on Saturday morning. She plans to use some of the money to buy books for school and pay for a dental procedure to remove her wisdom teeth.
Ms. Suarez said she needed the payment because her insurance does not cover dental costs. As an adult dependent, she qualified for the stimulus payment for the first time. (The previous two rounds of stimulus payments required dependents to be younger than 17 to be eligible, leaving out many college students.)
“The stimulus check was a little bit of a saving grace,” Ms. Suarez said.
Mr. Biden signed the pandemic relief bill, which prompted the payments, on Thursday afternoon. The payments provide up to $1,400 per individual, including dependents. The amounts are reduced for individuals making more than $75,000 and for married couples who earn more than $150,000. People earning more than $80,000 or couples making more than $160,000 are not eligible for payments.
David Gordon, 40, said he saw a post on Twitter about the stimulus payments and checked his bank account at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday to find a $1,400 deposit in the account that he shares with his wife.
Mr. Gordon, an assistant attorney general for the state of Texas, used some of his payment to donate $400 to a charity organization that supports cyclists. He also spent about $250 on plants at a garden nursery after a recent winter storm destroyed the ones in his yard.
Although he said he was not an ardent supporter of Mr. Biden and his centrist positions, he said the payments were a “good thing for the country.”
Lilliana Cardiel, a 48-year-old supply chain manager at the University Medical Center of El Paso, said she received her payment at about 1 a.m. early Saturday. She was surprised to get her payment so early, after the last two rounds of stimulus checks took more than a week to arrive.
She put the $4,200 — which she received for her daughter, grandmother and herself — toward her savings account for emergencies. “I’ve been saving all of my stimulus checks,” Ms. Cardiel said. “It’s money I can count on.”
Thousands of clergy members from a cross-section of faiths — imams, rabbis, priests, swamis — are trying to coax hesitant Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
By weaving scripture with science, they are employing the singular trust vested in them by their congregations to dispel myths and disinformation about the vaccines. Many are even offering their sanctuaries as vaccination sites, to make the experience more accessible and reassuring.
Their mission is becoming increasingly vital. With the White House promising enough doses for every American adult by May, public health officials are shifting their attention to the substantial number of people who are still skeptical about the vaccines. Winning them over is imperative if the country is to achieve widespread immunity from the virus and a semblance of normalcy.
Some of the most potent reasons people cite in resisting vaccines are rooted in religious beliefs. But clergy members who believe in the importance of vaccines are uniquely positioned to counter those claims.
About 20 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot as the pace of inoculations in the United States sharply climbs. Here is a look at the vaccines that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and where some other vaccine candidates stand.
How many vaccines are authorized in the U.S. now?
Three: from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer’s was the first, in December, with Moderna’s following shortly after; each is given in two shots spaced three to four weeks apart. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, authorized last month, is given in one dose.
Is the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine widely available?
Not yet. When it was authorized on Feb. 27, Biden administration officials cautioned that supplies would be limited for the first month, with 3.9 million shots initially and 16 million more by the end of March.
Johnson & Johnson pledged last year to deliver 37 million doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June, but it is still working on getting production up to that scale. A recent deal with Merck is meant to increase manufacturing and packaging capacity.
President Biden said last week that the federal government would order another 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s shot.
Which vaccine could the F.D.A. authorize next?
Novavax could apply for emergency use authorization for its two-shot vaccine in late April. It offers robust protection, though it was not as effective against a variant circulating rapidly in South Africa as it was against other versions. Novavax could deliver 110 million doses by the end of June if the F.D.A. clears the vaccine for use.
AstraZeneca, whose vaccine is authorized in more than 70 countries, has not yet reported results from its U.S. clinical trial, nor has it applied for authorization in the U.S.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with Oxford University, has run into some problems. European countries have suspended use of it over concerns about blood clots, although no evidence has been found of any causal link. Some people in Germany are also declining to receive it because of its lower overall efficacy in clinical trials, compared with other vaccines.
When will all Americans be able to get vaccinated?
Mr. Biden said he would direct all states to expand eligibility to include every adult — roughly 260 million people — by May 1. No vaccine is authorized yet for children.
The world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma gave a surprise concert on Saturday at a vaccination site in Massachusetts.
Mr. Ma, 65, who lives in the Berkshires part time, was spending 15 minutes in observation after receiving his second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Mass. He “wanted to give something back,” Richard Hall of the Berkshire Covid-19 Vaccine Collaborative told The Berkshire Eagle.
Clips shared on Facebook by the community college show the masked musician seated with his cello against a wall, away from other people under observation after being vaccinated. The songs included “Ave Maria” and Bach’s Prelude in G Major.
His post-vaccination performance came one year to the day after he first posted on Twitter about his project #SongsOfComfort, sharing a recording of himself playing Dvorak in an effort to reassure an anxious public as lockdowns began in the United States and elsewhere. Other musicians, both professional and amateur, soon joined in. In December, Ma and the British pianist Kathryn Stott released “Songs of Comfort and Hope,” an album that was inspired by the project.
Last year, Mr. Ma also gave a series of pop-up performances with the classical pianist Emanuel Ax for small groups of bus drivers, firefighters, health care providers and other essential workers in the Berkshires region.
“People need each other for support beyond the immediate staples of life,” Mr. Ma told The New York Times in November. “They need music.”