September 18, 2021

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Rise in US vaccinations as cases surge, White House says; Cincinnati hospitals mandate vaccines for employees: COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

6 min read

Some of the states hardest hit by the pandemic — Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma — are administering vaccinations at a rate not seen since April, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday during a briefing.

Over the last 24 hours, there were a total of 864,000 vaccines administered, the highest since early July, Zients said. During the same period, 585,000 people received their first shot, an encouraging sign as the delta variant runs rampant through the unvaccinated.

“For the fourth week in a row, we’ve increased the daily average numbers of Americans newly vaccinated,” Zients said. “And importantly, we’re seeing the most significant increase in the states with the highest case rates.”

Those in the briefing believe the uptick in people headed to get inoculated is because the states hardest hit by the virus are seeing how the delta variant poses a larger risk to people.

In the states with the highest case rates, Zients said the number of people newly vaccinated each day over the past three weeks more than doubled. The comments come after President Joe Biden also reached his goal to vaccinate 70% of adults in the U.S. this week, one month past his initial deadline.

“Clearly, Americans are seeing the impact of being unvaccinated and unprotected,” Zients said. “And they responded by doing their part, rolling up their sleeves and getting vaccinated.”

Also in the news:

►The World Health Organization called for a moratorium on COVID booster shots, at least for the next two months, to prioritize lower-income countries who have not received the first shot.

►Cases inside nursing homes climbed by 38% between July 25 and Aug. 1, according to the CDC. During the same time frame, deaths rose from 163 to 281 nationwide among nursing home residents.

►States with relatively low vaccination rates and high infection rates — mostly those in the South and West — have seen slower job and economic growth this summer, according to two reports out this week.

►Fully vaccinated people who get infected with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to others, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN Thursday. She said the transmissibility of the virus despite inoculation is the reasoning behind the new guidance to mask indoors.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 35.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 615,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 200 million cases and 4.2 million deaths. More than 165.6 million Americans — 49.9% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: Chicago’s Lollapalooza is a “recipe for disaster,” experts warn. Should more music festivals be canceled amid COVID-19?

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

California mandates vaccines for all workers in healthcare settings

California’s public health department issued an order Thursday mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all workers in healthcare settings as the state sees the number of cases surge due to the delta variant.

The order says all healthcare workers, including those working at hospitals and nursing home facilities, must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30. The order applies to anyone who works at those facilities regardless of whether they have contact with patients, an estimated 2.2 million workers.

“Recent outbreaks in health care settings have frequently been traced to unvaccinated staff members,” Tomás J. Aragón, director of the state’s health department, said in a release.

The order allows for medical and religious exemptions, but those who get them will have to wear masks and get tested at least once a week.

Late last month, California became the first state in the country to unveil a vaccine verification program for all state and healthcare employees, requiring evidence of vaccination from employees by Aug. 2 or mandatory testing. More states and businesses have followed.

California’s public health department said these guidelines were altered for healthcare workers because of the delta variant, which has caused the “fastest increase in COVID-19 cases during the entire pandemic with 18.3 new cases per 100,000 people per day.”

— Christal Hayes

Cincinnati hospitals ‘require’ COVID-19 vaccinations for employees

Starting Oct. 1, six Cincinnati area hospital systems will require their thousands of workers and volunteers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as hospital leaders urged other large employers to take the same step to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.

As a more infectious variant puts more people in hospitals, the chief executive officers and medical leaders said the time had come to require the vaccine to protect their workers and to assure patients that hospitals are safe.

UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and the Christ Hospital Health Network said they would start the mandate by Oct. 1. Bon Secours Mercy Health and St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood said they will require the shot by early fall.

“These are very complex decisions. People have very strong personal beliefs, as we know,” said Dr. Robert Prichard, chief clinical integration officer of St. Elizabeth. “Half of our employees are probably applauding, and half are probably booing us.”

— Anne Saker, Cincinnati Enquirer

Gov. Murphy to reinstate student mask mandate for upcoming school year

All K-12 students in New Jersey will be required to wear masks in schools again this fall as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase while vaccination rates fall, an official in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration confirmed Thursday.

Murphy is expected to make the announcement Friday in Middlesex County, reversing his stance taken in June and falling in line with recommendations from two major public health organizations.

It is likely teachers and staff will also be required to wear masks throughout the school day, as health organizations have recommended. It is not yet known if students will be allowed to take off the masks outdoors during recess or gym class.

Murphy said last month that it would take a “wholesale deterioration in health data” for him to require mask-wearing in all schools. In June, he said a statewide mask mandate was not necessary, and he allowed superintendents and school boards to make the call.

But since then both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued recommendations that students and teachers should wear masks in schools, even if they’ve been vaccinated.

The CDC cited evidence that the delta variant of the coronavirus is more contagious. The pediatrics academy recommended universal masking because many students are not yet old enough to receive the vaccine.

— Stacey Barchenger and Scott Fallon,

Florida students may get school vouchers to avoid wearing masks

A week after Gov. Ron DeSantis promoted a tough policy banning mandatory masks at Florida schools, state education leaders Thursday looked poised to endorse a softer stand in the face of an uprising by some school districts.

Hope Scholarship vouchers would be made available to parents who don’t want their children wearing masks in school districts that require them, under a proposed policy set for review Friday by the state Board of Education.

With the scholarship, parents who want to avoid mask mandates could transfer their kids to another public school, or get taxpayer-funded seats in a private school where they wouldn’t have to wear face coverings.

The move by the DeSantis administration seems to acknowledge he may not have the authority to reverse recent action by school boards in Duval, Broward and Alachua counties to require masks, and a push by Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna to mandate masks when students return to class next week.

DeSantis, though, last Friday vowed to allow only optional masks at schools — saying parents should decide whether their kids wear face coverings.

“I have young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the mask thing with the kids,” DeSantis said last week. “We never have. I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun.”

— John Kennedy, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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