Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter Briefing of story ideas on coronavirus and other hot topics for journalists, written by Senior Professor Al Tompkins. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may release new mask-wearing guidelines within the next week, including new measures that will indicate if or when masks are needed.
You might be wondering why it’s taking so long, since cities and states across the country are dropping mask orders one after another. Isn’t the pandemic almost behind us?
If “behind us” means more than 2,000 people a day are still dying from COVID-19, then yes. In fact, our mortality rate, although declining, is still about the same as it was a year ago. It’s hard to see this as progress, because a year ago we had barely started administering COVID-19 vaccines.
More than 16,000 people are in hospital intensive care units with COVID-19. Current CDC guidelines still show that virtually every county in the United States has a high rate of community transmission.
Despite all of these realities, mask orders are falling out of favor state by state. But schools, nursing homes, hospitals, airports and train stations are all subject to different regulations. As CNN says:
“With the increasing use of home testing and the spread of the highly transmissible variant of Omicron, it may be time to shift Covid-19 metrics from case counts and test positivity to on-the-job metrics. serious illness and death,” Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN.
“When you think about what local and county health departments are up against in local decision-making and what measures are in place on current case rates and test positivity, these are leading community indicators that were defined a long time ago,” Freeman said.
The new guidelines attempt to make the current patchwork of guidelines more uniform and even predictable. They will be more localized than the sweeping mask orders of the past, depending on the severity of the virus outbreak and the number of hospitalizations recorded by a community.
A recent Harvard study stated it’s too early to drop mask mandates in schools. The researchers said schools have some basic (and common sense) questions to ask before abandoning masking policies:
“It’s critical that communities have a conversation about their goals for school mitigation,” said Andrea Ciaranello, MD, researcher in the Department of Infectious Diseases at MGH and lead author of the paper. “Do they want to prevent all transmissions at school? Or do they want to keep the number of cases among students, staff and families low enough that no one is likely to be hospitalized? Or do they want to minimize absences due to isolation and quarantine so students can enjoy in-person learning, a goal that also requires keeping overall cases low? These are all valid goals, and once they are clearly articulated, we can use a systematic mathematical approach to estimate the level of mitigation needed to achieve them.
NBC News says new guidelines will likely be in place ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said: ability to reach them again if things get worse. She said: “We’re looking at a preview of a lot of our advice – and masking in all contexts will be part of that.”
The current mandates, in place since February 2021, are due to expire on March 18, but the deadline has been extended several times.
Texas is practicing suing the federal government over COVID-19 mandates, including a legal battle against mandatory vaccinations for health care workers and federal contractors. The state is also suing local governments for mask requirements in schools.
Coachella and Stagecoach festivals will no longer have COVID-related barriers to entry. They will not ask for proof of negative tests and will not require masks. That’s a big deal as the spring and summer concert schedule draws closer.
Festival Admission Update: As we prepare to spend an incredible weekend in the desert together, we are announcing that there will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at Stagecoach 2022, in accordance with local guidelines. To visit https://t.co/mSx3KWeASg for more information pic.twitter.com/wy4VzOTPBU
— Stagecoach Festival (@Stagecoach) February 15, 2022
NBC summarizes“Coachella will take place over two successive weekends, April 15-17 and April 22-24, and will headline Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Kanye West (if the latter artist wasn’t bluffing when he said he would “need” to get an apology from Eilish before fulfilling his contract). The Stagecoach headliners from April 29th to May 1st are Luc CombesCarrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett.
The Guardian follows the evolution of restrictions around the world. Here are excerpts to give you an idea of the trends. Most countries are easing restrictions, but others are still seeing spikes in new cases and deaths:
Germany will ease Covid-19 restrictions as a wave of infections with the Omicron variant coronavirus appears to have passed its peak, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday, but he warned the pandemic was not yet over. finished.
France has reported 98,735 new cases of coronavirus, Reuters reports.
Switzerland will today lift almost all of its restrictions in the event of the coronavirus pandemic.
Spanish sports grounds will be able to return to 100% capacity for the first time since the pandemic next month, health chiefs have said.
The UK has reported 54,218 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with a further 199 people dying within 28 days of testing positive for Covid. This is up from the 46,186 cases reported on Tuesday, but down from the 68,214 cases reported on Wednesday last week.
The number of new coronavirus cases worldwide fell 19% last week while the number of deaths remained stable, according to the World Health Organization.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has told Hong Kong leaders their “primary mission” is to stabilize and control a worsening Covid outbreak. Infected patients lay in beds outside overwhelmed hospitals.
South Korea reported a daily record 90,443 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with the number nearly doubling in a week.
We don’t have many details for this article except that the The White House said the United States has shipped nearly half a billion vaccine doses to other countries and is ready to send more, but some foreign countries cannot handle the shipments. As you know, vaccines require ultra-cold storage and have a fairly short lifespan. The White House does not name the countries that rejected the shipments.
The day wouldn’t be complete without you having something new to worry about, so let’s add avocados to the list of things that are about to be missed.
Last weekend, the United States Department of Agriculture suspended shipments of avocados from Michoacán, Mexico. This is important because 80% of the avocados purchased in the United States come from Michoacán and at this time of year the figure can increase. The USDA has designated Michoacán is the only Mexican state to send lawyers to the United States since 1997. When an inspector found a shipment from the state of Puebla bound for the United States, the inspector stopped the shipment and said he had been threatened on his official mobile phone. The USDA has halted all shipments from Mexico until it can investigate.
“In a few days, the current inventory will be exhausted and there will be a shortage of product in almost all supermarkets,” said Raul Lopez, Mexican director of Agtools, which conducts market research on agricultural products. “The consumer will have very few products available and prices will increase dramatically.”
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working with Customs and Border Protection to allow avocados that were inspected and certified for export on or before February 11 to continue to be imported.
According to Michael Swanson, Wells Fargo’s chief agricultural economist, brokers are scrambling, retailers will face shortfalls and consumers will feel even more pain at checkout.
The two biggest American celebrations that rely on avocados are the Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo. Fruit brokers say they have about six weeks to ship supplies for the latter celebration, so they want to resolve current issues quickly.
In the United States, growers in Florida and California also supply avocados. Each state supplies approximately 10% of the avocados consumed in the United States that Americans consume almost a million dollars of avocado toast each month. The people behind credit card processing tool Square say they looked at their data and found that the highest consumption of avocado toast appears to be in San Francisco, Honolulu, Nashville and Portland, Oregon, some places in California charging $18 a slice.
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