President Biden will announce on Thursday that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or to regularly test, socially distance and mask up on most travel, reported the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
He said Tuesday that he was considering the move for federal employees.
“That’s under consideration right now,” Biden told reporters. “But if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.”
The upcoming mandate comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with high transmission as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and vaccination rates wane.
New York, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the state of California have also announced plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for many of their employees. After the guidance Tuesday, both states and several others recommended that everybody in the state, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask at indoor public settings.
The guidance changes come as COVID-19 deaths in the United States are once again over 2,000 per week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data found. New cases are also averaging more than 60,000 per day for the first time in more than three months.
Also in the news:
►Starting Thursday, Apple will require customers to wear masks in COVID hotspots or in areas that have local or state mandates, accounting for about half its U.S. stores.
►The mayor of Atlanta has decreed that face masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces including private businesses in Georgia’s largest city.
►The hordes of people expected to descend on Chicago’s Grant Park for the Lollapalooza music festival this week will be required to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 or tested negative for the disease within the last three days.
►Google and Facebook join a growing list of companies requiring vaccination before returning to in-person work, they each announced Wednesday. The implementation of these new policies are dependent on local conditions of their campuses.
►Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is warning that Filipinos who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will not be allowed to leave their homes as a safeguard against the more contagious delta variant.
?Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 34.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 611,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 195.8 million cases and 4.18 million deaths. More than 163.5 million Americans — 49.3% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
?What we’re reading: With less savings to fall back on during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black households went deeper into debt and were more likely to fall behind on their mortgages than their white peers, according to a new analysis given exclusively to USA TODAY. Read the full story.
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Pfizer’s vaccine effectives decreases by 12% over six months, but third shot increases protection
The Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness wanes after six months, but experts say it still doesn’t mean booster shots are needed, according to data released by Pfizer and its partner BioNtech..
The study, posted on medrxiv.org on Wednesday, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published yet, found that the vaccine’s effectiveness of preventing symptomatic illness fell from about 96% to about 84% over six months, showing that its efficacy declined about 6% every two months. The vaccine’s efficacy against severe disease remained at 97% for the entire six months.
A different set of data by Pfizer also found that levels of antibodies that can target the delta variant grow fivefold in ages 18 to 55 who get a third dose of the vaccine, while for people ages 65 to 85 it can increase elevenfold. The antibody levels are much higher against the original coronavirus variant and the beta variant with a third dose.
Dr. Stephen Thomas, the lead study author and director of the SUNY Upstate Institute for Global Health & Translational Science in New York, told NBC News that he expected the vaccine’s protection to fade, but didn’t know how quickly and strongly it would do so.
“Even though we saw that at six months there was a waning of protection, there was a maintenance of protection against those severe outcomes that really make up the public health burden of the disease,” Thomas said.
Disney World announces guests must mask up indoors, on transportation starting July 30
Headed to Walt Disney World soon? Pack a mask — you’ll need to wear one at all Disney parks starting Friday.
The company announced Wednesday night that guests ages 2 and older will have to don face coverings for all indoor attractions and on Disney transportation. Face masks will remain optional outdoors.
The park had lifted its indoor mask mandate on June 15. While proof of vaccination was not required, masks were recommended for those who are not vaccinated. Now, they’ll be mandatory for all, except outside.
“Face coverings are required for all guests (ages 2 and up) while indoors and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status,” said a Wednesday update on the Disney website. “This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions.”
– Britt Kennerly, Florida Today
Netflix to implement vaccine mandate on all US productions
Netflix will be implementing a vaccine mandate on all its U.S. productions, according to a report from Deadline.
They are the first major Hollywood studio to require vaccination for production. The mandate applies to all cast members and crew members that come into contact with the actors, also referred to as “Zone A,” the report said.
In the production of “Gaslit,” a limited series produced by Starz/UCP, leading actor Sean Penn refused to return to work on the series until everyone involved got vaccinated, Deadline reported July 22.
Netflix aims to limit exceptions to medical, religious and age-related reasons, Deadline said.
Oklahoma health leaders warn of grim COVID trajectory
Hospital admissions in Oklahoma dropped off after a peak in January, and stayed relatively low until the last several weeks, said Dr. David Kendrick, founder and CEO of MyHealth Access Network, a statewide health information exchange.
But “even during the darkest days of our peak… of the pandemic, we did not have the number of patients being admitted to the ICU that we do now,” he said.
Across the state, just under 65% of about 9,767 inpatient beds were in use Tuesday, according to data reported by 136 hospitals to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. About 7% of beds were in use for COVID-19 patients, according to the data.
Almost 800 ICU beds were in use in Oklahoma on Tuesday — about 86% of the total number of staffed ICU beds in the state, per HHS data — and 209 of them were filled by COVID-19 patients.
Some ICUs in the state are already maxed out, Dr. George Monks, a former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, shared on Twitter.
Projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington show Oklahoma could need upwards of 500 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients by October.
– Dana Branham, Oklahoman
Contributing: The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID vaccine and mask mandates rise as delta variant cases spike