Thirteen school staffers in Florida’s Miami-Dade County have died in the last three weeks, none of them vaccinated, school authorities say.
The deaths come as almost all schools across the nation have returned for the 2021-22 school year. Classrooms and hallways are packed with students and staff, often without mask or vaccination mandates.
In Miami-Dade, fatalities include four teachers, one security monitor, one cafeteria worker and seven school bus drivers, United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats told CNN on Tuesday. It was not clear how the staffers became infected. New teachers began reporting to county schools Aug. 11; classes began Aug. 23.
All of the staffers who died were Black, and Hernandez-Mats said only 30% of African Americans in the county are vaccinated.
“The loss of any of our employees is one that is always profoundly felt as every member of this organization is considered a part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools family,” the district said in a statement. “We extend our hearts and prayers to the loved ones of those whose lives have recently been lost.”
Also in the news:
►Kentucky has reported three times as many COVID-19 deaths this year as it did in all of last year, Johns Hopkins University data shows. The state reported 2,623 deaths in 2020. As of Tuesday, the state has reported 7,905 deaths in 2021.
►COVID-19 killed an average of one Floridian about every four minutes last week, but information on how many people are dying every day in local communities is hard to find. The state has provided incomplete or inconsistent data.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 40 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 650,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: Nearly 222 million cases and 4.5 million deaths. More than 176 million Americans — 53% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Officials in India are racing to contain a virus outbreak that has claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy and is deadlier than COVID-19 — the Nipah virus. Here’s more on the deadly virus, which might have the same origins.
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After lying low for months since the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, members of the far-right street gang the Proud Boys have been showing up at protests against mask mandates and coronavirus vaccine requirements. In recent weeks, Proud Boys have been spotted at rallies against masks and vaccines in at least five states. From Los Angeles, California, to Columbus, Ohio, members have scrapped with counterprotesters after gathering for events branded as pro-freedom, pro-patriot or anti-COVID restrictions.
“They’ve been piggybacking on other people’s events,” said Jared Holt, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “They go where they believe the culture war is being fought, because they see themselves as potentially violent enforcers in a broader culture war.” Read more here.
– Will Carless
A Texas school district that shut its doors after two teachers died has reopened this week with a mask mandate. The Connally Independent School District in and around Waco said it will provide masks to students who do not have a mask readily available when they arrive at school. The first day of school was Aug. 13. David McCormick, a seventh-grade social studies teacher, died 11 days later. Natalia Chansler, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at the same school, died Aug. 28, according to the school district. Campuses were closed Aug. 31 for “deep cleaning,” the district said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has banned mask mandates despite a surge in new cases. Efforts to enforce the ban with other districts requiring masks have been hung up in litigation.
More than 500 websites have promoted misinformation about the coronavirus including debunked claims about vaccines, according to a firm that rates the credibility of sites. NewsGuard announced Wednesday that, of the more than 6,700 websites it has analyzed, 519 have published false information about COVID-19. Some of the sites publish dubious health information or political conspiracy theories, while others were “created specifically to spread misinformation about COVID-19,” the company says on its website.
“It’s become virtually impossible for people to tell the difference between a generally reliable site and an untrustworthy site,” Gordon Crovitz, co-founder of NewsGuard, told USA TODAY. “And that is why there is such a big business in publishing this information.”
– Daniel Funke
Idaho is allowing health care facilities to ration care due to the surge of COVID-19 cases that has more people needing care than institutions can handle.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare quietly enacted the move Monday and publicly announced it in a statement Tuesday — warning residents that they may not get the care they would normally expect if they need to be hospitalized.
The move came as the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose sharply in recent weeks. Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S. with 744,460 of its 1.78 million residents — or about 42% of its total population — fully vaccinated.
The move allows hospitals to allot scarce resources, such as intensive care unit rooms, to patients most likely to survive and make other dramatic changes to the way they treat patients. While others will still receive care, patients may be placed in hospital classrooms or conference rooms rather than traditional hospital rooms or go without some life-saving medical equipment.
The traditional summer travel season ended with Labor Day weekend, and maybe that’s just as well considering the shrinking number of safe places to visit. The CDC on Tuesday added Jamaica and Sri Lanka to the list of places it recommends people don’t travel to due to a high rate of transmission of COVID-19.
It’s recommended people avoid travel to both places, which are on different sides of the world but popular tourist destinations. The CDC says even those who are vaccinated “may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants” due to the levels of transmission.
The CDC had already added Puerto Rico and the Bahamas on that same list the previous two weeks. France, Switzerland, Israel, Aruba, Thailand, Greece and Ireland also became non-advisable destinations in August, according to the CDC.
Spain, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and Portugal have also landed Level 4 designations by the CDC, meaning a virus transmission rate of more than 500 per 100,000 people in the previous four weeks.
Snagging restaurant reservations and bookings for popular tourist activities has been a struggle for visitors to Maui this summer and it’s about to get more difficult. Hawaii is grappling with a COVID surge it largely escaped until the past several weeks.
Beginning Sept. 15, those who want to dine inside at restaurants and bars must show proof they are fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t vaccinated will only be allowed to dine outside, where applicable, or order takeout. Children younger than age 12 are exempt.
Bars and restaurants must also close by 10 p.m. beginning next week.
Many tourist activities will also see cuts in capacity. Group sizes on tours, snorkeling excursions, fishing expeditions, sunset sails and other excursions, as well as ground transportation providers, will be limited to 50%, down from the current capacity limit of 75%, to promote social distancing.
– Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press