The USA is now entering a more uncertain stage of the pandemic.

“It’s hard to know what’s coming next with this virus,” said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech researcher who studies airborne spread of the coronavirus. “We thought we knew, but delta really surprised us. We thought the vaccine would help end this, but things are still dragging on.”

Vermont on Thursday set a record case count and 23 states are reporting rising cases, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

“Delta and waning immunity — the combination of these two have set us back,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington. “This virus is going to stick with us for a long, long time.”

Meanwhile, in Europe, cases rose over 10% in the past week as the World Health Organization said the continent was “back at the epicenter of the pandemic.”

Due to the absence of lockdowns in several countries, some countries may consider tighter social restrictions. The Dutch government is widely expected to announce a partial lockdown Friday, Austria is considering imposing a lockdown on unvaccinated people and Denmark reintroduced a digital pass showing vaccination status to enter restaurants, bars and large outdoor events. But health experts hope the combination of vaccines and better therapeutics will make European countries better positioned compared to previous outbreaks.

“I think the era of locking people up in their homes is over because we now have tools to control COVID — the testing, vaccines and therapeutics,”  Devi Sridhar, University of Edinburgh’s chair of global public health, said. “So I hope people will do the things they have to do, like put on a mask.”

In the news also:

President Joe Biden plans to nominate former Commissioner Robert Califf as his head of the Food and Drug Administration, The Associated Press and Politico reported Friday.

Johnson & Johnson said Friday it would break into two companies, separating its retail products business from prescription drugs and medical devices.

Five people — two California Highway Patrol officers and three Golden Gate Bridge workers — were injured when an SUV collided with a street sweeper during an anti-vaccination 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 because of an unacceptable rate of false positives.

► Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order Thursday allowing any resident 18 or older to receive a COVID-19 booster shot, deviating from national recommendations.

► Nearly 50% of workers in the U.S. say they would take up to a 5% pay cut to continue to work remotely at least part-time post-pandemic, according to a new survey.

📈These are the numbers of today More than 46 years of U.S. history have been recorded million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 759,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 251 million cases and 5 million deaths. Over 194 million Americans – 58% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 We’re looking at: The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children ages 5 and older. Will schools still require the vaccine? The full article is available here.

For the most recent news, keep checking this page. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Schools close down. You can learn remotely from these schools

School districts across the nation are temporarily closing or switching back to remote learning as school administrators struggle with empty classrooms, driverless buses and understaffed cafeterias caused by widespread teacher exhaustion stemming from the COVID-19 crisis.

Michigan has in recent weeks seen at least eight schools shut down or return to online learning because of staff shortages. In Florida, Brevard Public Schools said Wednesday it would extend its Thanksgiving break, while public schools in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, gave teachers and students an extra day off for Veterans Day. 

Administrators acknowledge the last-minute schedule changes are forcing parents to scramble their own plans, and it’s the latest obstacle for students trying to make up missed learning following widespread pandemic school closures. Experts say missing more school means some kids, particularly those from low-income families, will fall even further behind their peers.

— Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY

Last 3 Florida school districts drop student mask mandates

Florida’s last three districts were required to have at least some of their students wear facial covers. They are now removing that requirement.

Students in grade school at Miami-Dade Schools can choose to wear a mask Friday provided they get permission from their parents. High school and middle school students had the option of wearing masks.

All students in neighboring Broward can start Monday Nov. 21 without wearing masks. No opt-out form from parents is required, though the school district is strongly encouraging students to wear facial coverings, according to the Miami Herald. Students in high school or technical college were not required to use masks.

In Alachua County, home to the University of Florida, masks will be optional provided parents have given their consent starting in early January when students return from winter break, The Gainesville Sun reported.

Three school districts in Florida were one of eight that implemented mask mandates against the will of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The state’s health department imposed a rule ordering districts to allow the parents the choice of whether their children wear masks.

— Associated Press

Tennessee will pass comprehensive legislation to ban certain entities creating mandates for vaccine masks 

Tennessee’s governor said Wednesday he plans to sign a sweeping legislative package curtailing the authority public schools, local health agencies and businesses have over COVID-19 restrictions.

The legislation, approved in the early morning hours of Oct. 30, came during a whirlwind special session, called by lawmakers themselves for only the third time in state history to push back against COVID-19 restrictions many Republicans felt infringed on personal freedom. 

The largest piece of legislation that was passed by lawmakers was the Omnibus Bill. It contains a number of provisions.

  • Except in extreme circumstances, ban masks from public schools and government agencies. 
  • But with some exceptions, ban government agencies and public schools from subjecting to vaccine requirements. 
  • COVID-19-related vaccines require that a person quit his job to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Health care providers should be able to make an independent decision about monoclonal anti-body treatments.
  • Stop using public funds to support COVID-19 mandats

— Melissa Brown and Duane W. Gang, Nashville Tennessean

Contributing to The Associated Press



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