Free rides and beer: Incentives are added to vaccine drive across US; plus more virus news

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Free beer, pot and doughnuts. Savings bonds. A chance to win an all-terrain vehicle. Places around the U.S. are offering incentives to try to energize the nation’s slowing vaccination drive and get Americans to roll up their sleeves.

These relatively small corporate promotion efforts have been accompanied by more serious and far-reaching attempts by officials in cities such as Chicago, which is sending specially equipped buses into neighborhoods to deliver vaccines. Detroit is offering $50 to people who give others a ride to vaccination sites, and starting Monday will send workers to knock on every door in the city to help residents sign up for shots.

Public health officials say the efforts are crucial to reach people who haven’t been immunized yet, whether because they are hesitant or because they have had trouble making an appointment or getting to a vaccination site.

In other developments:

  • The U.S. economy grew at a brisk 6.4% annual rate last quarter — a show of strength fueled by government aid and declining viral cases that could drive further gains as the nation is rebounding with unusual speed from the pandemic recession.
  • Pfizer says it will soon start shipping its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine in smaller packages meant to better suit U.S. clinics, pharmacies and other medical providers in remote and rural areas. The new package holds 25 vials with six doses each, for a total of 150 doses. Pfizer’s boxes now contain trays of 195 vials with nearly 1,200 doses.
  • Experts are still cautioning against attending big sporting events during the pandemic, but say there are ways to make it safer if you go.
  • Africa’s top public health official says the continent is watching with total disbelief as India struggles with a devastating resurgence in COVID-19 cases, warning that the continent could face a similar scenario.
  • People have stocked up on groceries, shoppers have filled markets and many others left cities for their hometowns or the southern coast as Turkey’s strictest COVID-19 lockdown yet comes into effect.
  • President Emmanuel Macron says outdoor terraces of France’s cafes and restaurants will be allowed to reopen on May 19 along with museums, cinemas, theaters and concert halls under certain conditions.
  • Thailand’s recent wave of COVID-19 cases has passed its peak after setting record daily highs for new cases and deaths, but officials are still implementing new restrictions this week.