The US passed 760,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday as the nation enters an uncertain phase of the pandemic, with the holidays approaching and precipitous increases possible.
Vermont set a record number of cases Thursday, with 23 states reporting rising cases, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
“Delta and waning immunity — the combination of the two has set us back,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics at the University of Washington. “This virus will stay with us for a long time.”
According to data from experts, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays could spark another wave. That’s mainly because mask use has declined and family reunions and holiday dinners bring people close together at the table, often mask-less. The virus that causes COVID-19 thrives in cool, dry air, and when people gather indoors, especially unmasked, they are more likely to transmit it.
But even for those who track cases, it’s hard to predict where the virus will go.
“It’s hard to know what will happen to this virus,” said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech researcher who studies the spread of the coronavirus through the air. “We thought we knew, but delta really surprised us. We thought the vaccine would help put an end to this, but things are still dragging on.”
Meanwhile, cases in Europe rose by more than 10% in the past week as the World Health Organization said the continent was “back at the epicenter of the pandemic”.
Some countries are considering stricter social restrictions as many countries no longer have lockdown measures. The Dutch government is widely expected to announce a partial lockdown on Friday, Austria is considering imposing a lockdown on unvaccinated people and Denmark has reintroduced a digital pass with vaccination status to enter restaurants, bars and major outdoor events. But health experts hope the combination of vaccines and better therapies will put European countries in a better position compared to previous outbreaks.
“I think the era of locking people up in their homes is over because we now have tools to manage COVID – the testing, vaccines and therapies,” said Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “So I hope people will do the things they need to do, like put on a mask.”
Also in the news:
► President Joe Biden plans to nominate former Commissioner Robert Califf as head of the Food and Drug Administration. The choice was reported by the Associated Press and other media outlets and confirmed to USA TODAY by a source familiar with the decision.
► Johnson & Johnson said Friday it would break into two companies, separating retail products from prescription drugs and medical devices.
► Five people — two California Highway Patrol officers and three Golden Gate Bridge employees — were injured when an SUV collided with a street sweeper during a vaccine mandate protest on the San Francisco Bridge.
► The Food and Drug Administration said more than 2.2 million COVID-19 home tests from Australian manufacturer Ellume are being recalled due to an unacceptable level of false positives.
► Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order Thursday allowing any resident 18 years of age or older to receive a COVID-19 booster shot, which deviates from national recommendations.
► According to a new survey, nearly 50% of workers in the US say they would take a pay cut of up to 5% to continue working remotely at least part-time after the pandemic.
📈Today’s figures: The US has more than 46 . included million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 759,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: more than 251 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 194 million Americans — 58% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we read: The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children ages 5 and older. But will schools need it? Read the full story.
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Proponents: ‘Extreme disability bias’ led to unnecessary COVID deaths
For millions of Americans with disabilities, COVID-19 was a stress test that revealed gaping shortcomings in the health care system, according to a new report assessing the U.S. pandemic response.
According to the 200-page review by the National Council on Disability, a federally appointed watchdog, people with disabilities died in large numbers because of policies that bypassed the community when it came to protective equipment, the introduction of vaccines and hospital care. The group pushed for reforms before the next health crisis.
“The overall overarching theme is the historic lack of focus on some of the systems people with disabilities rely on to keep them safe and healthy,” council chair Andres Gallegos said in an interview this week. “They have been ignored and the vulnerability of people with disabilities has been exposed during the pandemic.”
The global emergency “has exposed extreme prejudice about disability” and “failure to adapt policies to meet the needs of people with disabilities,” Gallegos added in a letter to President Joe Biden along with the 29-year report. October.
– Gene Myers, the (North Jersey) record
Tennessee passes legislation banning some from making masks and vaccine mandates
The Governor of Tennessee signed a sweeping bill on Friday that will curtail the authority of public schools, local health authorities and businesses over COVID-19 restrictions.
The legislation had emerged at a whirlwind special session in October, called for only the third time in state history by lawmakers themselves to push back against the COVID-19 restrictions. Many Republicans felt compromised in their personal freedom.
Legislators have passed a series of legislation, the largest of which was an omnibus law with a host of provisions that:
- Ban government agencies and public schools from requiring masks unless serious circumstances arise
- Ban government agencies, public schools and many private companies from vaccine requirements, but with exceptions
- Allows those who have quit their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine requirements to collect unemployment benefits
- Enabling healthcare professionals to use independent judgment to prescribe monoclonal antibody treatments
- Ban the use of public funds for COVID-19 mandates
— Melissa Brown and Duane W. Gang, Nashville Tennessee
Some schools are closing, go back to distance learning
School districts across the country are temporarily closing or switching back to distance learning as school administrators struggle with empty classrooms, driverless buses and understaffed cafeterias caused by widespread teacher exhaustion due to the COVID-19 crisis.
At least eight schools in Michigan have closed or reverted to online learning in recent weeks due to staff shortages. In Florida, Brevard Public Schools said Wednesday it would extend the Thanksgiving holiday, while public schools in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, gave teachers and students an extra day off for Veterans Day.
Administrators recognize that the last-minute schedule changes are forcing parents to shuffle their own plans, and it’s the latest hurdle for students trying to make up for missed classes after widespread pandemic school closures. Experts say missing more school means some kids, especially those from low-income families, fall even further behind their peers.
— Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY
Last 3 Florida School Districts Drop Student Mask Mandates
The last three Florida school districts to require at least some students to wear masks are dropping their student face covering mandates.
Friday, elementary school students in Miami-Dade schools can choose not to wear a mask if they have parental consent. Masks were already optional for high school students and some high school students.
In neighboring Broward County, all students will be able to go maskless from Monday, Nov. 21. No parental opt-out form is required, although the school district strongly encourages students to wear face coverings, according to the Miami Herald. Masks were already optional for high school and engineering students.
In Alachua County, home to the University of Florida, masks are optional, provided parents have given their consent beginning in early January when students return from winter break, The Gainesville Sun reported.
The three school districts were among eight Florida districts that had enacted mask mandates in defiance of Republican administration Ron DeSantis. The state health department imposed a rule requiring districts to give parents the choice of whether their children wear masks.
— Associated Press
Contributions: The Associated Press