Vaccinated teachers and students don’t need masks, CDC says: Live COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday in relaxing its COVID-19 guidelines.

In guidance released Friday, the CDC called a return to in-person learning “a priority.” 

The changes come amid a national vaccination campaign in which children as young as 12 are eligible to get shots, as well as a general decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

“We’re at a new point in the pandemic that we’re all really excited about,” and so it’s time to update the guidance, said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the CDC task force that prepares recommendations designed to keep Americans safe from COVID-19.

Also in the news:

►Do you need a vaccine passport to travel? The answer is no – for now, anyway.

►Michael Andrew, a U.S. swimming star who will compete in multiple events in Tokyo later this month, became the biggest Olympic name yet to reveal he has not been vaccinated. Thursday, Olympic officials said fans would not be allowed at the games amid the state of emergency in Tokyo.

►All of Maryland’s reported coronavirus deaths last month were made up of unvaccinated people, as well as most of the new cases and hospitalizations, the state reported Tuesday.

►Cases have increased over 160% in Los Angeles County over the last week, though vaccinated people remain well protected, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health said. 

►Trinity Health, one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the U.S., is requiring all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help stop the spread and protect patients, staff and their communities. Trinity is one of the first hospital groups to mandate vaccinations.

►Australian authorities are further tightening restrictions in Sydney after reporting 44 new community cases, the largest number since a coronavirus outbreak began there last month. The city of more than 5 million is already in lockdown.

►Arizona on Thursday reached a coronavirus milestone with 50% of its population, or nearly 3.6 million people, having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.79 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 606,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 185.5 million cases and more than 4 million deaths. More than 158.28 million Americans — 47.7% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: As COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to fall, several states have spent millions of dollars on lottery prizes to encourage unvaccinated Americans to get their shot. Did it work?

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

New CDC guidance for schools: Social distancing not required among vaccinated

The nation’s top public health agency is not advising schools to require shots for teachers and vaccine-eligible kids. And it’s not offering guidance on how teachers can know which students are vaccinated or how parents will know which teachers are immunized.

Schools should continue to space kids — and their desks — 3 feet apart in classrooms, the CDC says. But the agency emphasized spacing should not be an obstacle to getting kids back in schools. And it said distancing is not required among fully vaccinated students or staff.

All of this may prove hard to implement, and that’s why CDC is advising schools to make decisions that make the most sense, Sauber-Schatz said. “The guidance is really written to allow flexibility at the local level,” Sauber-Schatz said.

The biggest questions will be at middle schools, where some students are eligible for shots and others aren’t. If sorting vaccinated and unvaccinated students proves too burdensome, administrators might choose to keep a masking policy in place for everyone.

Indeed, in some of the nation’s largest school districts, widespread mask-wearing is expected to continue this fall. In Detroit’s public schools, everyone will be required to wear a mask unless everyone in the classroom has been vaccinated. Philadelphia will require all public school students and staff to wear masks inside buildings, even if they have been vaccinated. But masks won’t be mandated in Houston schools.

The new schools guidance also says:

  • No one at schools needs to wear masks at recess or in most other outdoor situations. However, unvaccinated people are advised to wear masks if they are in a crowd for an extended period of time, like in the stands at a football game.
  • Ventilation and hand-washing continue to be important. Students and staff also should stay home when they are sick.
  • Testing remains an important way to prevent outbreaks. But the CDC also says people who are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in such screening.
  • Separating students into smaller groups, or cohorts, continues to be a good way to help reduce spread of the virus. But the CDC discouraged putting vaccinated and unvaccinated kids in separate groups, saying schools shouldn’t stigmatize any group or perpetuate academic, racial or other tracking.

Debate rages as states cut jobless aid, workers seek better pay

While the economy took a major leap forward in June when employers added 850,000 jobs, many businesses say they are struggling to find workers.

Some employers and Republican lawmakers blame the shortage on the federal jobless aid, which they say discourages people from returning to work. Economists disagree about whether the extra assistance is holding back job searches, even as 26 states end the federal boost of $300 a week before it officially ends on Sept. 6.

What’s clearer is that some workers, particularly those who earn low wages, are being more selective about where they work. They’re determined to find better paying, more fulfilling jobs than the ones they left or lost during the pandemic.

“They know they’re going to have to go back to work,” says Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank. “People are looking for the right job that comports to their feelings of security and safety.”

– Charisse Jones and Jessica Menton

CDC cautions 3rd dose not yet needed

Government public health agencies said Thursday a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet needed after a new study found a booster dose of the shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech strongly extends protection.

The companies said they are developing a vaccine targeted directly at the delta variant and data demonstrated  a third dose of their vaccine, given six months after the second, increases neutralizing antibodies five to tenfold against the original virus and beta variant.

In a joint statement late Thursday, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized that people who have been fully vaccinated do not need booster shots yet. 

“FDA, CDC, and NIH are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary,” according to the government statement. “This process takes into account laboratory data, clinical trial data, and cohort data – which can include data from specific pharmaceutical companies, but does not rely on those data exclusively … We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

The study on the vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech comes as another, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found a single dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines “barely inhibited” the delta variant, first detected in India. However, a second dose “generated a neutralizing response in 95% of individuals,” even if it was a little less potent than against earlier versions of the virus.

“On the one hand we have seen the success of our vaccination programs over the last eight months… and yet on the other hand we are starting to see some new and concerning trends,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.

Because the authorized vaccines largely protect against hospitalization and death from the delta variant, this trend has largely been driven in unvaccinated populations, she said.

– Karen Weintraub

Iowa to stop reporting COVID activity data daily

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s pandemic reporting website is no longer updating daily as the state continues “to transition to COVID-19 pandemic recovery,” according to state’s memo.

State officials outlined the changes in a memo to local public health authorities on June 24. The changes to went into effect Wednesday.

All positive and negative tests will continue to be reported, along with demographic data including county of residence, age, gender, race and ethnicity. The positive case analysis, hospitalization analysis, the Regional Medical Coordination Center dashboard and death analysis dedicated pages are still live. 

The changes come as case counts continue to hover around where they were in April 2020, near the beginning of the pandemic and before the coronavirus swept over the state. On Wednesday, 85 people were reported hospitalized in Iowa with COVID-19, an uptick from the recent low of 46 reported on June 24, but far from the November spike that saw more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in a single day.

In March, the Oklahoma State Department of Health adjusted the level of information previously reported in its daily updates. Oklahoma residents can’t see much of the information previously provided over the past year; gender and age of victims are no longer available, but deaths are still being reported, along with their general location.

– Nick Coltrain, Des Moines Register

Vaccine hesitancy not the sole reason for low rates of vaccination in Black and Latino communities

Black and Latino communities often have low vaccination rates, and the reason is often directed towards vaccine hesitancy. A study by CommuniVax shows the reason is more nuanced.

The medical anthropologists who contributed to the study shared in The Conversation that many people in these communities are not “vaccine hesitant” but rather “vaccine impeded.”

Those involved in the study reported feeling excluded from the vaccine because of a lack of access. Challenges included finding transportation, internet access and general information on how to get the vaccine.

Some, the study suggests, were ambivalent about the vaccine because they felt that the shot had the same threat level as getting infected with COVID-19. They thought that both could lead to illness or complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 63.4% of adults have gotten at least one shot, well below President Joe Biden’s July 4 goal of 70%. About 20 percent of Americans are either refusing to get vaccinated or remain unsure, according to the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

– Steven Vargas

Contributing: The Associated Press