Two days after the CDC issued new mask guidance, momentum continued to build for measures to contain the explosion in COVID cases across the nation, including mandatory vaccinations.
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or to regularly test, socially distance, wear masks and be subject to restrictions on most travel, reported the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Biden is also asking states and cities to use federal rescue funds to offer $100 incentives for the holdouts to get vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with high transmission as the emergence of the delta variant and waning vaccination rates fuel a sharp rise in coronavirus infections and an increase in hospitalizations.
California, New York state and the Department of Veteran Affairs have announced plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for most of their employees or face testing. After the guidance Tuesday, both states and several others recommended that everybody, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask at indoor public settings. Los Angeles County and Washington, D.C., are among the jurisdictions imposing mask mandates again, and New York City is considering one.
Private employers are taking action as well, as tech giants Google and Facebook along with streaming platform Netflix on Wednesday said they would require their workers to vaccinate against the coronavirus.
COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are once again over 2,000 per week, and new cases are averaging more than 60,000 per day for the first time in more than three months after dropping to around 11,000.
Also in the news:
►Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer told CNBC that employees and indoor customers of his Union Square Hospitality Group establishments would be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID.
►For the third straight day, Tokyo saw a record high in new COVID-19 cases as the Olympics were well underway. There were 3,865 reported new cases Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the numbers a week ago.
►Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told USA TODAY the agency hopes “to be long since done” with granting full approval for a COVID-19 vaccine by its goal date of January 2022.
►The FDA is allowing a Baltimore factory to resume production after it shut down in April because of contamination problems that forced the company to throw out the equivalent of tens of millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions didn’t say when production will resume.
►The mayor of Atlanta has decreed that face masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces including private businesses in Georgia’s largest city. Are masks required in your area? See our state-by-state list.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 34.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 611,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 196.2 million cases and 4.19 million deaths. More than 163.8 million Americans – 49.4% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘What we’re reading: The CDC is recommending fully vaccinated Americans wear mask indoors if they’re in an area of substantial or high coronavirus transmission. These county-level maps will show you if that means your area is affected.
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The physical manifestations of COVID are bad enough. What researchers are now learning about the mental ones is increasingly troubling.
In several trials made public Thursday, scientists have found changes in brain biology after hospitalization with COVID-19, problems lingering months after infection, and a link between smell loss and mental sharpness in older adults. They’re concerned about the possibility that lingering brain symptoms might lead to dementia years or decades later.
“Is this part of that puzzle of things that may contribute to your (dementia) risk? We don’t know yet, but we need to understand that,” said Heather Snyder, vice president for medical & scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, an advocacy group.
– Karen Weintraub
President Joe Biden urgently asked Congress on Thursday to extend a nationwide moratorium on evictions, saying a Supreme Court ruling had left him unable to act on his own.
The eviction freeze, which is set to expire Saturday, was put in place last September by the CDC to protect Americans who have fallen behind on their rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden extended the moratorium through the end of July and would have “strongly supported” another extension, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, particularly as the delta variant drives a spike in new COVID-19 infections. But the Supreme Court indicated the moratorium could only be extended until the end of the month.
Millions of Americans are behind on rent and policy experts and analysts said more needs to be done to avoid the largest housing crisis in more than a decade.
– Michael Collins
Pfizer says its vaccine’s effectiveness decreases by 12% over six months but is still highly protective
The Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness wanes after six months, but experts say it still doesn’t mean booster shots are needed, according to data released by Pfizer and its partner BioNtech.
The study, posted on medrxiv.org Wednesday, hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published yet. It found that the vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing symptomatic illness fell gradually from about 96% to about 84% over six months but still “had a favorable safety profile and was highly efficacious in preventing COVID-19.” The vaccine’s efficacy against severe disease remained at 97% for the entire six months.
A different set of data by Pfizer also found that levels of antibodies that can target the delta variant grow fivefold in ages 18 to 55 for those who get a third dose of the vaccine, while for people ages 65 to 85 it can increase elevenfold. The antibody levels are much higher against the original coronavirus variant and the beta variant with a third dose.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is using unspent campaign funds to buy air time for radio ads across Kentucky in which he urges people to get vaccinated and “take advantage of this miracle.”
While some Republican elected officials and conservative media pundits have aired heavy skepticism about the vaccine, McConnell for months has urged people to vaccinate to help end the pandemic.
In the 60-second ad, a transcription of which was obtained by The Louisville Courier Journal, McConnell references his bout with polio as a child and the decades it took to develop a vaccine for the disease – contrasting that with the unique opportunity to act fast on COVID-19.
“If you haven’t been vaccinated, do the right thing for you – for your family – and get vaccinated right now,” McConnell says.
– Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal
Satisfaction with the way Asian Americans are treated in the U.S. has plummeted after a year of documented increases in hate crimes and instances of racism, a new poll shows. The finding comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, when negative stereotypes for Asian Americans were used by public figures and elected officials.
Americans are also at an all-time low in their satisfaction with the treatment of immigrants in this country, according to the Gallup poll released Thursday. Americans’ views on the treatment of immigrants have declined in the 20 years since Gallup began polling them on the topic, with this year’s 33% of satisfaction marking the lowest point.
Just 46% of Americans are satisfied with the way Asian people are treated, a 14% drop from the previous year. From 2016 to 2020, the level of satisfaction dropped 15%; before then, about 70% or more of Americans typically said they were satisfied with the treatment of Asian Americans, according to Gallup.
– Jeanine Santucci
Headed to Walt Disney World soon? Pack a mask – you’ll need to wear one at all Disney parks starting Friday.
The company announced Wednesday night that guests ages 2 and older will have to don face coverings for all indoor attractions and on Disney transportation. Face masks will remain optional outdoors.
The park had lifted its indoor mask mandate on June 15. While proof of vaccination was not required, masks were recommended for those who are not vaccinated. Now, they’ll be mandatory for all, except outside.
“Face coverings are required for all guests (ages 2 and up) while indoors and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status,” said an update on the Disney website. “This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions.”
– Britt Kennerly, Florida Today
Netflix will implement a vaccine mandate on all its U.S. productions, according to a report from Deadline.
It is the first major Hollywood studio to require vaccination for production. The mandate applies to all cast and crew members who come into contact with the actors, also referred to as “Zone A,” the report said.
In the production of “Gaslit,” a limited series produced by Starz/UCP, leading actor Sean Penn refused to return to work on the series until everyone involved got vaccinated, Deadline reported July 22.
Netflix aims to limit exceptions to medical, religious and age-related reasons, Deadline said.
Contributing: The Associated Press.