From vaccination rates to case counts, here are some important COVID-19 statistics you should know from May 2021.
Also in the news:
►Retail chain Walmart announced Friday that it will be closing its doors for the second year in a row on Thanksgiving Day, as a “‘thank you’ to employees for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
►One-third of the 559,000 jobs added to the U.S. economy in May happened at restaurants and bars, an encouraging sign for workers in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality industry.
►Starting June 9, vaccinated American tourists will be able to visit France sans quarantine, provided they show a negative PCR test upon arrival.
►As vacationers are expected to flock to the island this summer, non-vaccinated travelers to Maui will no longer be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival.
►Health experts are urging parents to vaccinate their teenagers against COVID-19 after a report shows rising hospitalization rates.
►”Mission: Impossible 7″ has shut down production again due to positive COVID-19 tests.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 597,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 172.6 million cases and over 3.7 million deaths. More than 137.4 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 41.4% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘 What we’re reading: As the 2021 Summer Olympics approach, all eyes are on host country Japan as it battles rising COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent months.
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California plans grand reopening, but emergency will remain
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he plans to maintain the golden state’s emergency declaration, but California’s long-awaited reopening is still planned for June 15.
Newsom cites the continued spread of COVID-19 variants, as well as discrepancies in vaccination rates, as justification for keeping the state of emergency declaration in place.
“This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished; it’s not taking the summer months off,” Newsom said.
Newsom originally issued the state of emergency in March 2020, a power granted to him by the California Emergency Services Act. The crisis-intervention laws have also allowed Newsom to issue at least 58 executive orders, altering or suspending existing laws.
While Newsom has the authority to formally end the state of emergency, the California legislature can also end it through passage of a concurrent resolution, an effort that has been unsuccessfully attempted by Republicans in the state Senate on multiple occasions.
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New York to eliminate indoor mask rule for schools, camp
New York plans to eliminate its indoor mask rule Monday for schools and camps regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for K-12 schools recommends requiring “consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks with proper filtration by all students, teachers, and staff.”
But for youth camps, the CDC “strongly encourages mask use indoors for people who are not fully vaccinated” and says “people do not need to wear masks” outdoors, regardless of vaccination status.
In a letter to the head of the CDC Friday, Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, said the state would encourage indoor mask use by unvaccinated students, campers and staff. But for consistency, the state would not require indoor masks in either schools or camps.
Virtual visits may be here to stay, post-COVID-19
As the COVID-19 crisis wanes and life approaches normal across the U.S., health industry leaders and patient advocates are pushing Congress and the Biden administration to preserve the pandemic-fueled expansion of telehealth that has transformed how millions of Americans see the doctor.
The broad effort reaches across the nation’s diverse health care system, bringing together consumer groups with health insurers, state Medicaid officials, physician organizations and telehealth vendors.
And it represents an emerging consensus that many services that once required an office visit can be provided easily and safely – and often more effectively – through a video chat, a phone call or even an email.
“We’ve seen that telehealth is an extraordinary tool,” said David Holmberg, chief executive of Pittsburgh-based Highmark, a multistate insurer that also operates a major medical system. “It’s convenient for the patient, and it’s convenient for the doctor. … Now we need to make it sustainable and enduring.”
Last fall, a coalition of patient groups – including the American Heart Association, the Arthritis Foundation, Susan G. Komen and the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society – hailed the expansion of telehealth, noting the technology “can and should be used to increase patient access to care.”
– Noam N. Levey, Kaiser Health News
Florida Gov. DeSantis criticizes CDC over vaccine cruise ship requirements
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a Thursday press release blasted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its cruise ship policies, calling the organization a “bureaucratic virus against science-based governance” and accusing it of “discriminating against children.”
The governor’s fiery missive comes as cruise lines in Florida accede to the federal public health agency’s requirement they return to the high seas with vaccinated passengers. But DeSantis has signed an executive order banning so-called vaccine passports, and a new Florida law has put the prohibition into state statute.
Cruise lines are gearing up for “test sail” cruises later this month. On Thursday, Bahamas Paradise welcomed its Grand Classica ship back to the Port of Palm Beach. The ship will have a “test” sail with fewer than 50 passengers on June 25, then, if they get approved, will have full cruises beginning July 2.
“It is well past time to end the CDC’s desperate attempt to prolong its power trip over America,” he wrote. Read more.
– Wendy Rhodes, Palm Beach Post
Heart reaction probed as possible rare vaccine link in teens
Health authorities are trying to determine whether heart inflammation that can occur along with many types of infections could also be a rare side effect in teens and young adults after the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
An article on seven U.S. teen boys in several states, published online Friday in Pediatrics, is among the latest reports of heart inflammation discovered after COVID-19 vaccination, though a link to the vaccine has not been proven.
The teen boys received Pfizer shots in April or May and developed chest pain within a few days. Heart imaging tests showed a type of heart muscle inflammation called myocarditis.
None were critically ill. All were healthy enough to be sent home after two to six days in the hospital and are doing “doing pretty well,” said Dr. Preeti Jaggi, an Emory University infectious disease specialist who co-authored the report.
The CDC on Friday reported that COVID-19-related hospitalizations of kids aged 12 to 17 fell early this year but rose again in March and April. Possible reasons include the spread of new virus variants, more kids going back to school or the relaxing of mask and social distancing rules, agency researchers said.
A Pediatrics editorial said the heart inflammation cases warrant more investigation but added that “the benefits of vaccination against this deadly and highly transmissible disease clearly far outweigh any potential risks.”
— The Associated Press
Celebrities are sharing vaccination stories
Celebrities are coming forward with their firsthand accounts of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to quell skepticism as vaccination efforts roll out across the world.
Ellen DeGeneres shared an Instagram video of herself receiving her second dose of Moderna at CVS Pharmacy on June 4. DeGeneres admitted that she isn’t “scared” of the vaccine itself, but she’s “a little scared of after the shot.” The talk show host didn’t even know that she had already been pricked: “Oh you’ve already done it?”
DeGeneres, 63, announced Dec. 10 that she had tested positive for the novel coronavirus but was “feeling fine right now.” She made a full recovery, although experiencing “excruciating back pain.”
Duchess Kate Middleton announced on Twitter that she got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on May 28, a little more than a week after her husband Prince William.
“Yesterday I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at London’s Science Museum. I’m hugely grateful to everyone who is playing a part in the rollout – thank you for everything you are doing,” she wrote. Read more.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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