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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden administration is working alongside private companies to create "vaccine passports" that would allow Americans to prove they've been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Many companies have said they'll require proof of vaccination as part of reopening.

  • But creating some form of vaccine passport will be riddled with logistical, technological and ethical challenges.

Where it stands: The administration's effort has been led by the Department of Health and Human Services, and the White House has recently taken a larger role in coordinating the involved government agencies, per the Post.

  • “Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people's privacy," coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said at a March 12 briefing.

Details: "The passports are expected to be free and available through applications for smartphones, which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass," the Post reports.

  • "Americans without smartphone access should be able to print out the passports, developers have said."
  • The Biden administration has identified at least 17 passport initiatives already underway, setting up one of the effort's biggest challenges.

Go deeper: The barriers to vaccine passports

Go deeper

Mar 28, 2021 - World

Blinken evasive on punishing China for COVID handling

Secretary of State Antony Blinken evaded questions about whether the U.S. would seek retaliatory actions against China for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, instead saying that the focus should be on preventing another pandemic in the future.

Why it matters: The diplomat said there should be "accountability for the past," positioning himself in contrast to his predecessor Mike Pompeo, who had called for China to be punished, per CNN.

What they're saying: "I think the issue for us is to make sure that we do everything possible to prevent another pandemic, even as we're working through this one, or at the very least, to make sure that we can mitigate in much more effective ways any damage done if something happens in the future," Blinken said.

  • A large part of preparing for a future pandemic, Blinken said, would be having "a system in place, including with the World Health Organization that features transparency, that features information sharing, and features access for international experts at the start of something like this."
  • "[T]hat's going to require a lot of reform, and that's going to require China to do things that it hasn’t done in the past."

Blinken also expressed concern about a forthcoming WHO report on the origins of the coronavirus outbreak because of the Chinese government's role in helping author it.

Flashback: During his confirmation hearing in January, Blinken said the that China had misled the world with regards to the coronavirus outbreak, per the New York Times.

Mar 28, 2021 - Health

COVID-19 rates of infection surge in New Jersey, New York

Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past diners eating outdoors in Brooklyn. Photo: Amir Hamja/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Even as vaccination rates have accelerated, rising coronavirus infection rates in New Jersey and New York have made them the top two states for new infections per capita, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: New York was an epicenter of the coronavirus early on in the pandemic. Potent variants are now circulating and the recent rise in cases is likely the result of new reopening measures coupled with the public's decreasing caution, per AP.

Mar 28, 2021 - Health

The key to opening schools: Better air flow

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Getting kids back to in-person learning could hinge on upgrading the ventilation systems in school buildings.

Why it matters: This is a massive undertaking in the U.S., where school maintenance has been neglected and the average school building is 44 years old. Significant stimulus funds can be funneled to installing new A/C systems, but it may not happen by fall.