At least 1,000 schools across 35 states have closed for in-person learning because of COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year, according to Burbio, a New York-based data service that is tracking K-12 school reopening trends.
Schools listed in the company’s tracker have closed for anywhere from one day to several weeks. Most temporarily moved to remote learning. Others temporarily closed with no instruction. And a small number delayed the start of school or shifted into hybrid learning, according to Burbio.
The rising number of closures comes amid a battle over mask mandates in schools and a surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases largely because of the highly contagious delta variant.
Late last month, President Joe Biden’s administration announced it is investigating five states that are banning districts from mandating masks, on the grounds that such policies violate the civil rights of children with disabilities and underlying health conditions.
“The department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely and the rights of local educators to put in place policies that allow all students to return to the classroom full-time in-person safely this fall,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
Also in the news:
► Tom Brady contracted COVID-19 in early February, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
► New Zealand reported its first COVID death in over six months on Saturday – a woman in her 90s who had underlying health conditions, according to authorities. New Zealand remains in lockdown that began last month after one positive case.
► A German man attacked health care workers at a vaccination site after he demanded a vaccination certificate without receiving a shot, and they refused to give it to him. Police said he became violent and injured two workers, who were treated in a hospital and later released.
► Michigan schools this year are still required to display information about reported COVID-19 cases publicly on their websites, under an order from the state health department last October. But some of those dashboards are hard to find or navigate.
► As the delta variant of COVID-19 continues its run, how theater owners woo patrons in a politicized climate remains a cliffhanger question as Labor Day weekend brings out Marvel’s first Asian superhero epic, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 39.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 648,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 220.5 million cases and 4.5 million deaths. More than 175.8 million Americans – 52% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: After 18 months of the pandemic, hospitals find themselves in a prolonged battle against a relentless enemy, fighting with tired, disheartened and depleted troops. Many states have lost hundreds to thousands of hospital workers to burnout, early retirement and job transfers. Read more here.
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As patients stream into Mississippi hospitals one after another, doctors and nurses have become all too accustomed to the rampant denial and misinformation about COVID-19 in the nation’s least vaccinated state.
People in denial about the severity of their own illness or the virus itself; visitors frequently trying to enter hospitals without masks. The painful look of recognition on patients’ faces when they realize they made a mistake not getting vaccinated. The constant misinformation about the coronavirus that they discuss with medical staff.
Mississippi’s low vaccinated rate – about 38% of the state’s 3 million people are fully inoculated – is driving a surge in cases and hospitalizations that is overwhelming medical workers. The workers are angry and exhausted over both the workload and refusal by residents to embrace the vaccine.
“This is the reality that we’re looking at and, again, none of these individuals were vaccinated,” state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
The final act of the delayed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics came Sunday, almost eight years to the day after the Japanese capital was awarded the Games.
The Paralympics ended a 13-day run in a colorful, circus-like ceremony at the National Stadium overseen by Crown Prince Akishino, the brother of Emperor Naruhito. The Olympics closed almost a month ago.
These were unprecedented Olympics and Paralympics, postponed for a year and marked by footnotes and asterisks. No fans were allowed during the Olympics, except for a few thousand at outlying venues away from Tokyo. A few thousand school children were allowed into some Paralympic venues.
Like the Olympics, the Paralympics went ahead as Tokyo was under a state of emergency because of the pandemic. Like the Olympics, testing athletes frequently and isolating them in a bubble kept the virus largely at bay, though cases surged among a Japanese population that is now almost 50% fully vaccinated.
This week was another reminder of how widely misinformation spreads, and how tech companies are scrambling to push back.
Reddit shut down a popular anti-vaccine subreddit which had been connected to pushing misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine. The platform also placed 54 other COVID-19 denial communities under a quarantine, which means posts won’t appear in search results on Reddit, and users must explicitly approve entering the subreddit before seeing any of its content.
Meanwhile, Amazon said it plans to block some autocomplete results linked to ivermectin – an anti-parasite drug the Food and Drug Administration has advised people not to take to treat COVID-19 – after it appeared once users started typing “iv” into the search bar. Read more here.
– Brett Molina
The Biden administration has promised that come Sept. 20, anyone who wants a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get one, as long as they are at least eight months past their second shot. But pulling that off may be challenging, and experts have raised questions about whether it’s a good idea at all.
Some experts say the administration has gotten ahead of the science, which shows that while protection against any infection does start to fade, the vaccines are still extremely good at doing what they were designed to do: Keep people out of the hospital and the morgue.
“The question is when does that (waning immunity) rise to the level of needing a booster dose?” asked Dr. Jesse Goodman, co-chair of a group of vaccine experts that has been weighing in regularly during the pandemic. “Is that urgent or what time do we have for the data to come in?” Read more here.
– Karen Weintraub
The Biden administration unveiled a plan Friday to upgrade the country’s ability to respond to biological threats, comparing its scope to the Apollo Program, which was initiated to put a man on the moon.
“We need better capabilities because there’s a reasonable likelihood that another serious pandemic that could be worse than COVID-19 will occur soon and possibly even within the next decade,” said Eric Lander, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The cost? $65.3 billion over the next decade. A good chunk of that money will go toward vaccine development and distribution, the White House said. Administration officials are hoping an initial $15 billion will pass through Congress as part of the massive $3.5 trillion spending package on the table for this fall.
The plan includes:
- Dramatically expanding the arsenal of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
- Strengthening public health systems both in the U.S. and internationally.
- Improving the ability of the U.S. to produce personal protective equipment and other vital supplies.
- Improving early detection of pandemic threats.
- Creating a centralized “mission control” to be in charge of an effort that will draw on multiple federal agencies.
Hawaii has already reported more than twice as many coronavirus cases this year as it did in all of 2020, Johns Hopkins University data show.
The data show Hawaii had been reporting 66,778 COVID-19 cases through Saturday afternoon. It had reported 22,007 cases in all of 2020.
The annual comparisons don’t begin to tell how much Hawaii struggled with a wave of cases pushed by the delta variant. In just the last month, Hawaii has reported more cases than it did in all of last year.
Hawaii’s governor has begged tourists to stay away from the islands through October.
– Mike Stucka
Claiming mandatory COVID-19 vaccines are “a fraud upon the entire American public,” 40 employees of St. Elizabeth Healthcare have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a requirement they be vaccinated.
The 93-page lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Covington, comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases – largely among unvaccinated patients – that threatens to overwhelm most Kentucky hospitals. Fueled by the delta variant, COVID-19 continues to affect Kentuckians in record numbers.
The lawsuit follows an announcement Aug. 5 by most of the state’s major hospital systems, including St. Elizabeth’s, based in Northern Kentucky, that they would require vaccines for all workers without a medical or religious exemption to try control the surge of COVID-19 in Kentucky.
– Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal
Denmark is banning unvaccinated tourists from the United States, joining a growing list of European Union member states that are tightening travel restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise.
The change comes after the country moved the U.S. to its “orange” travel advisory category on Saturday. Previously, U.S. tourists could enter Denmark by showing a negative test or proof of recovery. Entry requirements do not change for fully vaccinated U.S. travelers, who are still exempt from testing and quarantine requirements.
The Netherlands, another EU member state, on Saturday started enforcing a quarantine period for vaccinated U.S. travelers and prohibited entry among unvaccinated travelers. Bulgaria announced it would prohibit travel from the U.S. and Italy added testing and self-isolation requirements for U.S. travelers. Read more here.
– Bailey Schulz
The mu variant has been marked as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization and has spread across Chile, Peru and parts of the U.S. and Europe.
The mu variant is the fifth variant of interest currently being monitored by the organization. Stuart Ray, a professor of medicine at John Hopkins University, said the variant accounts for most cases in Colombian, Chile and Peru, but only some cases in the U.S. as of right now.
As of now, Ray said what’s concerning is mu obtains similarities to deadlier variants such as the delta variant, which is the cause of over 99% of cases in the U.S. Read more here.
– Gabriela Miranda
Contributing: The Associated Pres
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