Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has banned mask requirements at schools despite opposition from several school districts, has contracted the coronavirus.
Abbott’s office said the Republican governor, who is fully vaccinated and gets tested daily, had a positive result Tuesday.
“Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government officials to ensure that state government continues to operate smoothly and efficiently,” Communications Director Mark Miner said in a statement. “The Governor will isolate in the Governor’s Mansion and continue to test daily. Governor Abbott is receiving Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment.”
That’s the same treatment that helped President Donald Trump overcome his battle with COVID-19 last October.
Abbott is part of a group of Republican politicians opposed to vaccine and mask mandates who have been recently infected with the virus, joining the ranks of Wisconsin state Sen. Andre Jacque and North Carolina state Rep. Keith Kidwell.
Abbott’s stance regarding virus mitigation measures has drawn the ire of parent and activist groups, and one of the latter, Marked by COVID, released a statement Tuesday that said:
“Our Governor has been working to keep masks out of schools harder than he has worked to keep guns out of schools. In his relentless and cruel pursuit of controlling mandates in the name of bodily autonomy he himself contracted COVID and is using every resource available to HIM, but refuses to allow local governments to use their own resources to help save lives.”
On Monday, Abbott spoke at an event in Collin County, and photos on social media show him mingling with the mostly unmasked crowd to shake hands and pose for pictures.
Miner said Abbott, 63, is “in good health, and currently experiencing no symptoms.”
In July, Abbott signed an executive order that bans governmental entities from requiring “vaccine passports,” and then went further by expanding that ban into the private sector.
Also in the news:
►As preparation for further grim developments, Texas has requested five mortuary trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Texas trails only Florida among states with the most COVID deaths a day, both averaging more than 160. No other state is above 50.
►Chicago has brought back a mask mandate for anybody in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, effective Friday.
►Alabama’s intensive care units are near capacity amid the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases. The head of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Don Williamson, calls the situation “the greatest demand on the ICU system we’ve ever had.”
►Moderna’s COVID shot became the second coronavirus vaccine approved in Britain for use in children ages 12 to 17, after Pfizer’s.
►Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said large indoor venues in cities like Las Vegas and Reno will be allowed to opt out of the state’s mask requirements if they verify their guests are vaccinated.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 36.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 623,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 208.4 million cases and 4.37 million deaths. More than 168.6 million Americans — 50.8% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Some who got the J&J vaccine seek mRNA boosters. Is it safe to mix? Read more.
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Two Republican state legislators who opposed mask and vaccine mandates have received hospital care after contracting the coronavirus.
Wisconsin Sen. Andre Jacque of De Pere said Monday that he and some family members tested positive late last week and he was at a hospital with pneumonia. He did not say whether he had been admitted.
Jacque, who testified Wednesday in the Wisconsin State Capitol without wearing a mask in at least one hearings, has been outspoken in his disdain for vaccine mandates and voted against the governor’s mask requirement.
In North Carolina, House member Keith Kidwell of Craven County, who has called vaccine campaigns “manipulation,” was hospitalized along with his wife last week after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
In a message that fellow Rep. Larry Pittman read on the House floor Thursday before the hospitalization, Kidwell said, “Just walking to the bathroom is exhausting.”
— Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Todd Wetherington, New Bern Sun Journal
Air, train and bus travelers will need to mask up the rest of the year and into mid-January.
The Biden administration is expected to extend that requirement yet again, through Jan. 18, 2022, according to multiple reports. The federal requirement, which began Feb. 1, was originally due to expire May 11 but was extended in April through Sept. 13.
Air carriers had been pushing for the mandate, which is unpopular with some passengers, to be allowed to expire, but that was before the delta variant of the coronavirus sent daily infections in the U.S. soaring past 100,000 a day.
– Morgan Hines and Bailey Schulz
Forty-four states are reporting rising coronavirus counts, the lowest total in more than a month, but 38 states again reported rising death tolls, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Vermont reported lower numbers of new COVID-19 cases in the week ending Monday compared to the week before. Still, Hawaii, Mississippi and Oregon set new case-count records again Monday amid the surge driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
With so much data indicating the pandemic is far from over, Biden administration health officials are expected to recommend COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, regardless of age, eight months after they received the second shot, a source familiar with the plans confirmed to USA TODAY.
Booster shots will begin as early as mid-to-late September once the FDA formally approves vaccines.
Florida’s largest school district, located in Miami-Dade County, will likely require students to wear face masks when classrooms open next week, following the recommendation of a task force of medical experts and defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on mandatory masking rules.
The Miami-Dade County School Board is expected to approve the measure on Wednesday. “My mind is pretty made up on the way to move forward,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.
Students in neighboring Broward County will be wearing masks when they return for the fall semester on Wednesday. And in the Tampa area, the Hillsborough County School Board, which has not required masks, scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday to discuss additional measures against COVID-19.
The Biden administration will continue to fully reimburse states for some COVID-19 emergency response costs through the end of the year, USA TODAY has learned. Administration officials will announce the extension during their weekly call with governors, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The covered services include emergency medical care, vaccination operations and housing at-risk populations such as the homeless.
“We’re going to continue to … make decisions like this one, based on their needs,” said Charlie Anderson, the economic and budget policy director for the administration’s COVID-19 response team. “There are a lot of folks on the frontlines doing everything they can, including state governments … And it is critical to continue to be a strong partner in those efforts given what they’re dealing with.”
– Maureen Groppe
Thousands of COVID-19 cases and hundreds of deaths in California, Oregon and Washington state from March to December 2020 may be linked to wildfire smoke, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.
Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health used a statistical model to measure the connection between high levels of fine particulate air pollution from wildfires and the number of infections and deaths in 92 counties. Across the three states studied, researchers determined nearly 19,700 cases and 750 deaths were attributable to the fires.
“That small particle is small enough to burrow into the lung in a way that sets it up for any respiratory disease,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
New Zealand’s 5 million people began a strict lockdown Tuesday that will last at least three days after finding one case of coronavirus. Auckland, where the infected man lives, and Coromandel, where he had visited, face at least seven days of lockdown. Schools and almost all workplaces closed. When people leave home, they are encouraged to wear a mask pending a possible mandate that could come as soon as Wednesday. New Zealand has reported just 26 virus deaths since the pandemic began.
“We know that this strategy works, we know that we are a strong team of 5 million, and we know that life will get easier, we just need to keep going,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
New York, the nation’s first major city to require at least partial vaccination for indoor activities such as dining and using gyms, began to require proof Tuesday. Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday expanded the list of public venues with the requirement: “If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now,” he said.
New Orleans’s vaccine mandate for all indoor venues and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people went into effect Monday. San Francisco’s full vaccination requirement for indoor activities will start Friday.
New York state and D.C. have both become the latest areas to require vaccinations for medical workers, with both announcing mandates on Monday. Similar moves were announced previously in California and Washington state.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Monday said he is issuing an executive order requiring schools to allow parents to exempt their children from mask mandates, a decision that follows an outcry from some conservative legislators over districts’ masking policies for students. In a statement late Monday, Nashville’s Metro Schools Director Adrienne Battle said the district will continue to require masks for now.
“Universal masking policies, during the pandemic, are a key mitigation strategy to do just that. To allow anyone to opt out of these policies for any reason, other than legitimate medical need, would make them ineffective and would require more students to be quarantined and kept out of the classroom,” Battle said.
Public health, politics and education made for an uncomfortable mix in many parts of the country Monday. Confusion reigned in several Texas school districts after the state Supreme Court stopped mask mandates in two of the largest districts before the first day of school in Dallas. An Arizona judge upheld, at least temporarily, a mask mandate in a Phoenix district despite a new state law prohibiting such requirements. One Colorado county posted sheriff’s deputies in schools on the first day of classes as a precaution after parents protested a last-minute mask mandate.
— Natalie Allison, Nashville Tennessean
Contributing: Mike Stucka, Courtney Subramanian and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY; Brandon Mulder, Austin American-Statesman;Associated Press
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