Los Angeles County, the most populated county in the U.S., will once again require people to wear masks indoors – regardless of vaccination status – due to a recent surge in new COVID-19 cases.
The startling change, announced exactly a month after California became one of the last in the country to reopen and drop coronavirus mandates, aims to stunt an uptick in new cases combined with the spread of the highly infectious delta variant. It will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” the county‘s health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, said during a Thursday afternoon press briefing.
The news out of California comes asthe U.S. is once again reporting more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections every hour, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data for the week ending Wednesday.
The nation is averaging about 25,300 new cases per day, more than double the rate of the week of June 22. The total rose in 48 states – all but Iowa and South Dakota. Still, the totals represent only about 10% of the numbers reported in the U.S. in its worst week in January.
Deaths also rose in most states, and deaths and infections are also once again rising globally. The World Health Organization reported deaths climbed last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 lives lost, a 3% increase from the week before. Cases rose 10% last week to nearly 3 million, WHO said.
Low vaccination rates, the relaxation of mask rules and other precautions, and the swift spread of the more-contagious delta variant are blamed. Sarah McCool, a professor of public health at Georgia State University, said the combination amounts to a “recipe for a potential tinderbox.”
Also in the news:
►Joining a growing list of medical centers across the country, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the hospital confirmed in an email Thursday.
►The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has reached its lowest level since the pandemic struck last year.
►Rich Eisen, who anchors special event coverage for the NFL Network, is quarantining with COVID-19 despite having received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in February, according to an Instagram post Thursday.
►USA Basketball national team guard Bradley Beal, one of the NBA’s leading scorers, has been placed in health and safety protocols just days before the start of the Olympics, a person familiar with the development told USA TODAY Sports. His availability for the games was uncertain.
►Coronavirus infections in the Britain hit another six-month high Thursday, while the number of COVID-19 deaths was the highest since late March. The government warned that 100,000 daily infections may be possible this summer.
►Nebraska will resume reporting coronavirus statistics after dropping the practice a week ago after public health experts widely criticized the decision. The updates will be weekly rather than daily.
►New coronavirus cases leaped in New York in the week ending Sunday, rising 66%, state and national records show.
►The U.S. is shipping more than 3.2 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines.
►Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, began a five-day lockdown on Thursday night due to growing COVID-19 clusters.
►Italy is sending more than 25 tons of ventilators, masks, surgical gowns, disposable gloves and hand gel to Tunisia. Last month, Tunisia had one of the highest per capital infection rates in Africa. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Africa director, says some hospitals across the continent of 1.3 billion people are at the breaking point.
►COVID-19 vaccinations will be required of students and faculty at the University of California before the fall term begins, making UC the nation’s largest public university system to mandate the vaccines without full federal approval.
►NFL teams from Washington, Indianapolis, Arizona and Los Angeles face potential competitive disadvantages, as the teams currently have the four lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the league.
►Some 15 million households will now receive the child tax credit, a series of monthly payments that’s part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Payments amount to $300 for each child who is 5 and younger and $250 for those between the ages of 5 and 17.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 33.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 608,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 188.7 million cases and more than 4 million deaths. More than 160.4 million Americans — 48.3% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Internet dead zones and thick homework packets took an emotional toll on Navajo students during the COVID-19 school year. But they didn’t give up.
The Yankees’ post-All-Star break opener against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night was postponed because of positive COVID-19 tests among vaccinated New York pitchers Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Wandy Peralta.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said three additional tests were pending and he assumed they would come back positive. Cashman said all three were fully vaccinated, as are most of the players on the team. While vaccinations do not prevent a person from contracting COVID, it prevents severe effects. Read more.
Los Angeles County has been averaging more than 1,000 new cases a day over the last week. That’s significantly higher than before the state officially reopened its economy and dropped most of its coronavirus mandates on June 15. One day before the state reopened, Los Angeles County reported 135 new COVID-19 cases.
When asked about next steps, Davis, the health officer, said everything was “on the table” when it came to other COVID-19 precautions, including the possibility of businesses being required once again to reduce capacity. But, he added, this was a first step in hopes of curbing the “substantial” increase in cases over a short period of time so additional mandates wouldn’t be required.
– Christal Hayes
Health leaders in Springfield, Missouri, implored the state for funds to create an “alternate care site” on Wednesday, so local hospitals aren’t overrun amid the surge of COVID-19 in southwest Missouri.
Gov. Mike Parson told the Springfield News-Leader, part of the USA TODAY, Network, that he couldn’t commit to state funding for the site at the moment. Parson claimed his administration had only been notified five minutes before a joint news conference announcing the request.
“We’re in the process of kind of going through that right now to see what we can deliver and what we can’t,” Parson said. “Those are things we’ve done before, so I think we’ll be able to do [the funding].”
At the news conference, Katie Towns, interim health director at Springfield-Greene County Health Department, described this facility as one that delivers “transitional care to patients who are stable enough to be released from the hospital.”
“Over the past week, we have seen dramatic increases in COVID-19-related cases,” Towns said. “We need help.” Read more.
— Andrew Sullender, Springfield News-Leader
Protesters at Idaho Capitol push back against hospitals’ vaccine mandates, make comparisons to Rosa Parks and Nazi Germany
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Idaho Capitol Thursday to oppose the COVID-19 employee vaccine mandates of a few state health care systems.
Kayla Dunn, the organizer of Thursday’s Stop the Mandate Idaho Rally, said the protest “was not an argument over whether the vaccine is good or bad,” but rather a demand for bodily autonomy, according to the Idaho Statesman.
One of the protesters, who said she was a nurse, likened the anti-mandate demonstration to the activism of civil rights leader Rosa Parks. Dentist Samuel Petersen compared the vaccine mandates “to the medical experiments conducted by Josef Mengele in Nazi Germany.”
Many of the protesters carried signs with messages such as: “‘We are nurses not lab mice'” and “‘If your vaccine works, why do I need one?'”
Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s, two of Idaho’s largest health systems, both announced in early July that they will require COVID-19 vaccinations of all staff members. Both hospitals said they will allow exemptions for individuals with religious objections or medical conditions; employees who don’t meet exemption criteria, however, could be terminated if they don’t get vaccinated.
A naturopathic physician in California has been arrested and charged after federal prosecutors said she sold fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and fraudulent vaccination cards that made it seem like customers received Moderna vaccines.
Juli A. Mazi, 41, of Napa, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.
The case is the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to homeoprophylaxis immunizations and fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccination cards, the department said.
The head of the World Health Organization acknowledged it was premature to rule out a potential link between the COVID-19 pandemic and a laboratory leak, and he said Thursday he is asking China to be more transparent as scientists search for the origins of the coronavirus.
In a rare departure from his usual deference to powerful member countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said getting access to raw data had been a challenge for the international team that traveled to China earlier this year to investigate the source of COVID-19. The first human cases were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Tedros told reporters that the U.N. health agency based in Geneva is “asking actually China to be transparent, open and cooperate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for at the early days of the pandemic.”
He said there had been a “premature push” to rule out the theory that the virus might have escaped from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan – undermining the WHO’s own March report, which concluded that a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci called Missouri’s renewed struggle with COVID-19 “entirely predictable” but urged vaccination through local and community initiatives in the Show-Me State to quell rising case loads and hospitalizations.
In a Thursday interview with the Springfield News-Leader, part of the USA TODAY Network, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and president’s chief medical advisor cited the state’s lagging vaccination rate as a key indicator for the delta virus variant’s surge.
Missouri continues to lag behind the national vaccination rate average, with 39.9% of the population fully vaccinated as of Thursday, according to state data. Springfield and southwest Missouri have seen the brunt of rising infections and hospitalizations within the state in recent weeks, with hospitals straining close to capacity and the Springfield/Greene County Health Department requesting an alternate care site from the state this week. Read more.
– Galen Bacharier, Springfield News-Leader
New coronavirus cases surged to 1,308 in Tokyo on Thursday, a six-month high, as fears rise of a possible dramatic increase that could flood hospitals during the Olympics that start in eight days.
Tokyo is under a fourth state of emergency, which began Monday and requires restaurants and bars to close early and not serve alcohol through the Olympics, which start July 23. Read more.
More than 600,000 white flags will cover the National Mall this fall in a public art installation honoring of the victims of COVID-19 in the U.S.
Maryland artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg announced the “In America: Remember” project Thursday to create “a national opportunity to reflect upon the enormous toll of the pandemic of 2020 and 2021.”
“This fall as employers bring workers back to office buildings and students return to school, it will be too easy to ‘go back to normal,'” Brennan Firstenberg said in a press release. “But for one in three American families, there is no normal.”
The installation will run from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3. Visitors will be allowed walk through the 3.8 miles of paths and dedicate a flag for a loved one. People who cannot visit in person can dedicate a flag online to appear in physical form on the Mall.
Brennan Firstenberg first installed the project last fall at a site at D.C.’s Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, where she placed more than 267,000 flags before the exhibition ran out of space.
Contributing: Edward Segarra Christal Hayes and Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.