The Biden administration is shying away from vaccine passports. That’s a mistake — it will leave us in the same state vs. state mess we are in with gun laws. And let’s not pretend that passports will destroy our privacy; it doesn’t exist.

I now have one vaccine passport — and I’m trying for more.

Because I got my shots at a New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation site, I now have a New York State Excelsior Pass. It is stored as a QR code in my iPhone wallet.

Right now, it gets me only into Madison Square Garden and a few other venues. But soon, I hope, it will help me get onto airplanes and into movies and restaurants without having to take a Covid test, quarantine or even surrender all my contact details to the restaurant.

I tried to get…


What may be the most effective way to stop huge surges in infections during a pandemic?

Ground the planes.

Just do it. Tell the airlines: “No. You’re not booking hundreds of extra flights to Florida this week.”

I wish I’d written this a month ago, because now it’s too late to stop the new crisis that spring break may hand us.

Last Thanksgiving, I actually did write a note suggesting this to the editors of The New York Times editorial page. It was deemed a bit crazy.

I don’t think it is. Taking charge of air travel and throttling it…


First Covid shot, 2:14 AM January 29, Brooklyn Army Terminal

One year ago this week, I went into hiding from the coronavirus.

On March 12, I taped one episode of The Daily inside a studio at The New York Times. With the help of a slightly nervous producer who lived a short bicycle ride away, I did the the next on March 13 from my Brooklyn living room, describing my own Lockdown, Day 1.

(That was the week the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, flights from Europe were cut off, and Americans were urged to stay home. Life suddenly got simpler — and a lot scarier.)

Now, exactly…


As has been described elsewhere, this was a Times “Student Journey” arranged by Putney Student Travel in Vermont. They’re expensive, and most of the students are from private schools. Some go to Oxford or Florence. The Peru trip’s theme is rural public health, and included towns in the Sacred Valley, a couple of mountain villages, a day of first aid training, visits to salt-making ponds and ancient farming terraces and a full day of hiking in and around Machu Picchu.

My job was to deliver three talks about global health and also make myself available to the students as much…


On August 8, 2019, I wrote this note to my friend Jan Benzel, the retired New York Times editor who recruited Times experts for the Putney student trips:

Hi Jan

Do you know that I’ve been hauled up before Charlotte Behrendt, Chris Biegner and the rest of the newsroom legal and human resources department for an “investigation of my behavior” on the Peru trip?

The Guild is pissed off and ready to arbitrate over this.

I’m outraged. I did EVERYTHING according to the contract: I delivered my three lectures, I joined all meals and activities, I “connected with” and “gave…


At 11:17 A.M. on January 28, I got an email from the Daily Beast. It was from Lachlan Cartwright, and said:

Hi Donald,

The Daily Beast is preparing to publish a story about you, and we wanted to give you an opportunity to comment.

We will report:

**Following a 2019 “student journeys” trip to Peru hosted by the New York Times in conjunction with Putney Student Travel, a number of students and their parents complained that you made wildly offensive and racist comments.

**Several students complained that you also used the n-word, questioned the notion of white privilege, and argued…


On February 5 this year, one week after an article about me appeared in the Daily Beast, The New York Times announced that I would be leaving.

At my departure, I was the paper’s lead reporter on the Covid-19 pandemic. I had been at the Times since starting as a copy boy in 1976.

Since the Daily Beast wrote to the Times on Jan. 28 saying it intended to publish a story, I have not spoken in detail to any reporter. On the advice of my lawyer, I waited until my departure date, March 1, 2021.

March 1 having arrived…

Donald G. McNeil Jr.

New York Times, 1976–2021. Global health beat 2002–2021. Last assignment: lead reporter on the Covid-19 pandemic

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store