As the United States passes 760,000 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, the country enters an insecure phase of the pandemic. With the holiday season approaching, and possible steep rises,

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.”

According to experts, Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday could be a new boom. This is due to the fact that mask usage has been declining and people gather around tables at holiday meals and family reunions, sometimes without wearing masks. COVID-19 is a virus that thrives in dry, cool air. People who gather indoors are especially likely to spread it, even if they’re not wearing masks.

Even for people who keep track of cases, however, it can be difficult to know where the virus will go.

“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.”

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.”

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President Joe Biden plans to nominate former Commissioner Robert Califf as his head of the Food and Drug Administration. USA TODAY was informed by sources familiar with the matter and the Associated Press.

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.

📈Today’s numbers: There have been 46 deaths in the United States. 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. There are more than 194 million Americans – 58% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 This is what we are reading The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children ages 5 and older. Schools will require it, however. The full article is available here.

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Advocates: “Extreme disability bias” has led to unnecessary COVID deaths

According to new research, COVID-19 proved to be a stress test for millions of Americans living with disability. It revealed gaps in the U.S. health system’s response to pandemics.

According to the review of 200 pages by the National Council on Disability (a federally appointed watchdog), people with disabilities died in large numbers due to policies that ignored the community regarding protective equipment, vaccine rollsouts, and hospital care. This group called for reforms in order to avoid the next major health crisis.

“The general, overarching theme is the historic lack of attention to some of the systems that people with disabilities rely upon to keep them safe and healthy,” council Chairman Andres Gallegos said in an interview this week. “They have been ignored, and the vulnerability of people with disabilities was exposed during the pandemic.”

The global emergency “exposed extreme disability bias” and “failures in modifying policies to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities,” Gallegos added in a letter sent to President Joe Biden along with the Oct. 29 report. 

– Gene Myers, The (North Jersey) Record

Tennessee passes legislation banning some from creating mask, vaccine mandates 

On Friday, Tennessee’s Governor signed a comprehensive legislative package that curtails the power of local health agencies, public schools and businesses to over COVID-19 restrictions.

The legislation had emerged during a whirlwind special session in October, 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 entities and public schools from vaccine requirements. 
  • COVID-19 vaccinations can be used to allow people who have quit their jobs to receive unemployment benefits
  • Let health professionals use their independent judgment to recommend monoclonal antibodies treatments
  • Interdiction of the use public money for COVID-19 mandates

— Melissa Brown and Duane W. Gang, Nashville Tennessean

Remote learning is possible at some schools that have closed.

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.

Grade school students at Miami-Dade schools have the option to not wear a mask on Friday if their parents allow it. For middle and high school students, masks were already an option.

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. High school students and those attending technical colleges were already allowed to wear 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

Contributing to The Associated Press

Source: USAToday.com

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