At least 10 states have adjusted their mask-wearing rules after the CDC updated its guidelines, saying fully vaccinated Americans could throw masks outside and, in many situations, indoors.
The new guidelines announced by Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, represent a major step towards a return to normalcy for a nation battered and, at times, divided by a pandemic that has lasted for more than a year .
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Walensky said. “If you are fully immunized, you can start doing the things you stopped doing because of the pandemic. ”
Soon after, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington began to adjust their advice on wearing the mask.
“When you get the vaccine, the CDC says it’s safe to take that mask off, so go ahead and get the shot,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said. “Let us defeat this pandemic once and for all.”
Meanwhile, New Jersey has said it will not ease residents’ requirements yet. Governor Phil Murphy said on Friday it could be weeks before the Garden State follows the CDC’s latest guidelines.
Also in the news:
►Despite the new mask guidelines, some large retailers and restaurant chains, such as Starbucks, Target, Walmart, CVS and Kroger, are maintaining their mask requirements for now, but have said they will reassess the policies. Bucking the trend, Trader Joe’s says it has updated its mask policy and will not require fully vaccinated customers to wear a mask.
►Despite the new mask guidelines, some large retailers and restaurant chains, such as Starbucks, Target, Walmart, CVS and Kroger, are maintaining their mask requirements for now, but have said they will reassess the policies.
►In a letter in the journal Science, 18 infectious disease experts, immunologists and epidemiologists joined a global call for more information on the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is still unclear how it came about, and the lack of information is fueling conspiracy theories and preventing scientists and policymakers from taking action to prevent the next deadly pandemic, experts said.
► Many unvaccinated Latin Americans want to be vaccinated but fear losing hours of work, having to pay for the vaccine or facing immigration problems, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. He also found that 47% of Hispanic adults received at least one dose. That’s less than 60% for white adults and 51% for blacks.
►Japan extended its state of emergency as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated his determination to host the Olympics in just over two months. “Infections are escalating extremely quickly in populated areas,” Suga said.
►Washington is set to fully reopen its economy by June 30, and a full reopening could take place even sooner if 70% or more of residents over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the vaccine. here there, Governor Jay Inslee said Thursday.
► Coronavirus cases in the United States are at their lowest rate since September and deaths are at their lowest level since April 2020, averaging around 600 per day. But some experts still fear that the emergence of variants will disrupt that momentum and create a new wave, especially as the virus continues to rage in other parts of the world.
📈 The numbers of the day: The United States has more than 32.8 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and 585,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: over 161.3 million cases and 3.3 million deaths. More than 341 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed in the United States and more than 268 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 120 million Americans have been fully immunized – 36% of the population.
📘 What we read: The CDC’s new mask guidelines are great for some, but confusing for others. Here’s what experts say it does for the agency’s credibility.
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Indian families afflicted by COVID-19 ‘fend for themselves’
Aishwarya Tandon knew her grandmother, who was feverish and breathless, had COVID-19. But no hospital would admit it without already having a positive coronavirus test, which was hard to find.
“We basically went door-to-door hospitals, and no one was helping us,” said Tandon, 28. “There was literally no lead. You really had to plead (with) people.
As India passes from a new variant and second wave of COVID-19, its healthcare system is overwhelmed. The same is true of its citizens, grappling with the physical, mental and emotional onslaught of custody and loss.
The country of nearly 1.4 billion has reported more than 400,000 new cases daily multiple times during the month, shattering world records. Public health professionals estimate that the actual number of infections could be 10 times higher than official reports.
Some have reported skyrocketing prices for life-saving – and life-ending – medical needs. In Jharkhand, a predominantly rural state in eastern India, a report of a black market has emerged for drugs and medical supplies, and many people are turning to home remedies. The crematoriums were also overwhelmed.
Another major problem: testing. According to Dr Nilesh Thackeray, COVID-19 patients in some places have been “stigmatized” by villagers, and some have lost their jobs due to infection. “In such a scary atmosphere, no one wants to get tested,” Thackeray said. Learn more here.
– Sanket Jain and Grace Hauck
Boris Johnson ‘worried’ about rise of UK variant first identified in India
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concern on Thursday over an increase in the UK of the variant coronavirus first identified in India, after a closely watched study of infections in England found it was becoming more widespread – just before the next big easing of lockdown restrictions.
“It’s a variant of concern, we’re worried about it,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure that we now take all the prudential and prudent steps that we may take. So there are meetings going on today to look at exactly what we need to do. There is a range of things we could do, we are not ruling out anything.
Johnson’s comments have fueled speculation that the government will step up vaccinations alongside testing in areas with increasing incidence of the virus.
In the United States, the variant accounts for 3% of cases but is gaining ground, according to CDC data. The variant has spread to 44 countries around the world.
On Monday, the World Health Organization designated the new version of the virus as a “variant of concern” as the variant ravages rural India.
Teachers’ unions call for all schools to reopen in the fall
The leader of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union on Thursday called for the full reopening of K-12 schools this fall, adding that efforts to convince some families to return to class may require the zeal of a political campaign.
The announcement by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has 1.7 million members, marks a change after local unions in some communities fiercely resisted the reopening while pushing for better guarantees for teachers.
“Given the current circumstances, nothing should stand in the way of fully reopening our public schools this fall and keeping them open,” Weingarten said. “We’re all in it.”
The National Education Association, the country’s largest national teachers’ union, released a statement Thursday saying it supports opening school buildings to students for in-person instruction in the fall.
A minority of schools – around 12% – offered distance education only in March, according to government data. But many families, especially those of color, continued virtual learning even after schools reopened for in-person learning.
Among the majority of schools considered reopened, about 1 in 3 allowed students to attend only a few days a week on a hybrid schedule, the data showed.
– Erin Richards and Alia Wong
The pandemic has shaken public confidence in the healthcare system
The U.S. public health system has been put in the limelight by the coronavirus pandemic, and an investigation released Thursday found many Americans were unhappy with its performance. According to the survey, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in February and March, ratings of the country’s public health system fell from 43% in 2009 to 34% in 2021. The ratings CDC positive figures fell overall. from 59% in 2009 to 54% in 2021.
“How the public views public health is extremely important,” said Dr. Robert Blendon, co-director of the investigation at Harvard. “When it comes to trusting health information, which is at the heart of what public health is, they are much more likely to trust clinicians and nurses than institutions and public health agencies.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Contributor: Associated Press