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COVID infections rise in eight states; most have low vaccination rates


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Although new COVID-19 cases are declining across most of the nation, eight states are seeing increases – and seven of those have below-average vaccination rates, new data reveals.

Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Wyoming have seen their seven-day rolling averages for infection rates rise from two weeks earlier, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. All of them except Hawaii have recorded vaccination rates that are lower than the U.S. average of 43% fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some states are seeing increased immunity after high rates of natural spread of the disease, which has so far killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.

“We certainly are getting some population benefit from our previous cases, but we paid for it,” said Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “We paid for it with deaths.”

Meanwhile, more than 70% of Americans – vaccinated and unvaccinated – are comfortable gathering with friends now, compared with just over 40% in March, according to a CBS poll released Friday.

But 29% of Republicans who responded to the poll say they do not have plans to get vaccinated, while just over 20% of independents and 5% of Democrats say the same. The top reasons? 50% say they are waiting to see what happens.

Also in the news:

►Commercial fishermen who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask while outside on a commercial fishing vessel under an updated guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Coast Guard.

►Iran’s state TV is reporting that the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East has approved an emergency use of its first domestically developed vaccine.

►An Iowa man convicted of following a man to a car and assaulting him after being told to raise the mask on his face in November was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday.

►German officials are considering loosening mask rules after recording the lowest number of new daily coronavirus infections in nearly nine months – 549.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 599,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 176 million cases and over 3.8 million deaths. More than 143.9 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 43.4% of the population, according to the CDC

📘 What we’re reading: Effective COVID-19 vaccines were developed in under a year. But a half-century after the country declared war on cancer, and 40 years after the first reported case of HIV/AIDS, there remains no way to prevent either disease, or many more. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox an join our Facebook group.

California is launching a new “California Dream Vacations” giveaway in hopes of not only encouraging vaccinations, but luring travelers back to the state as it officially reopens Tuesday – months after it was the epicenter of the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders announced the program Monday, offering trips to San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, the Ritz Carlton in Palm Springs and more. Newsom said the giveaways also include tickets to Lakers games, Legoland, Disneyland, SeaWorld and other sites. The first drawing will be July 1.

Newsom said hotels and businesses would be covering most costs and the state would be giving an additional $2,000 to cover travel expenses. 

“It’s a new day,” Newsom said. “But, this is not spiking the football tomorrow. It’s not mission accomplished tomorrow. This virus is not going away tomorrow. This pandemic is not behind us tomorrow. We’re very mindful of that.”

Christal Hayes

More than 50 million people have experienced food insecurity during the pandemic, up from 35 million in 2019, according to the Feeding America nonprofit, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The pandemic has intensified the problem. “Food insecurity” is not having access to enough food to live an active, healthy life. Low income, debt, unemployment, disability, homelessness, food price increases, age and environment all can play a role. The Census Bureau reported in March that as many as 9 million children live in a household where they don’t eat enough because the parents can’t afford it.

“Hunger hides in plain sight,” said Melissa Sobolik, president of Great Plains Food Bank. “No one wants to admit that they’re hungry or ask for help, but it’s out there.”

The nation is struggling to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, but Vermont has more than done its job. Gov. Phil Scott announced today that the state had surpassed 80% and that he was lifting all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in the state.

There are so many are responsible for today’s achievement,” Scott tweeted. “But at the end of the day, the people who deserve the credit most are everyday Vermonters – those who wake up each morning wanting to do the right thing.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Britain won’t be dropping all remaining pandemic restrictions next Monday after all. Johnson said most existing restrictions will remain in place until July 19. The culprit is the Delta variant, which now makes up more than 90% of new coronavirus infectious. Public health officials are concerned about the variant because it partially evades vaccines, is at least 40% more transmissible than other variants and could double the risk of hospitalization, the BBC reported.

The UK Weddings Taskforce – an industry group – estimates that 50,000 weddings planned in those four weeks could be canceled. The Night Time Industries Association said businesses such as nightclubs had already spent millions preparing to reopen, and the association promised a legal challenge to Johnson’s decision.

“It’s going to be catastrophic to us,” said Will Power, owner of the Lab 11 nightclub in Birmingham.

Dialysis patients are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and its severe complications. With people of color suffering disparate rates of both COVID-19 and kidney failure, the Biden administration made providing vaccine directly to outpatient dialysis clinics a part of its $10 billion vaccine equity plan. Charles Brown received both his shots at Fresenius Kidney Care in Columbia, South Carolina, where he goes three times a week for dialysis treatment to rid his body of toxins and excess fluid, functions his kidneys can longer perform.

“I have a full-time job and go (to dialysis treatment) Monday, Wednesday, Friday after work,” said Brown, a truck driver. “I was excited when they said they have the shots for us.”

Nada Hassanein

A COVID-19 vaccine made by Novavax of Gaithersburg, Maryland, is more than 90% effective in preventing infections and completely protected trial participants against severe disease, a company study shows.

From late January to late April, the company tested its vaccine in nearly 30,000 volunteers in the United States and Mexico, giving one person a placebo for every two who received the active vaccine.

Of the 73 people who were infected with COVID-19 during the trial, only 14 had received the active vaccine and none of them fell severely ill, company data shows. It proved effective in people over 65, as well as those with medical conditions putting them at extra risk and was tested in a diverse group.

The two-dose vaccine was also found to be safe, with side effects comparable to other COVID-19 vaccines, including pain at the injection site, headache and fatigue, all of which passed within a day or two.

The company said it plans to request federal authorization some time this summer to distribute its vaccine in the United States. With nearly 145 million Americans already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Novavax’ shots will likely be used as boosters in the U.S. but as primary two-dose vaccines elsewhere in the world.  

– Karen Weintraub

The seven-day average positivity rate in Wisconsin declined to 1.1%, the lowest mark since the state Department of Health Services began recording the stat.

Average COVID-19 cases declined again to the lowest mark since early spring 2020. The seven-day average of daily cases declined to 121, down 388 cases from a month ago and the lowest mark since March 27, 2020. 

Meanwhile, the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in New Jersey reached its lowest point Friday – 385 – since records of the pandemic began being publicly reported in March 2020.

The overnight low was less than 5% of the peak on April 14 last year, when 8,270 patients were hospitalized and facilities scrambled to convert cafeterias and doctors’ lounges to critical care areas. Without those emergency steps, the state would have fallen short by more than 250 beds. 

And Friday’s low also slipped below the summertime nadir of 389 patients, reached in September.  

“New Jersey may finally be putting the worst of the pandemic behind us,” said Cathleen Bennett, CEO of the state hospital association.

– Drake Bentley, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; Lindy Washburn, NorthJersey.com

School districts across the United States are hiring additional teachers in anticipation of what will be one of the largest kindergarten classes ever as enrollment rebounds following the coronavirus pandemic. 

Educators are also bracing for many students to be less prepared than usual because of lower preschool attendance rates. One report found that the number of 4-year-olds participating in preschool fell from 71% before the pandemic to 54% during the pandemic, and low-income children were much less likely to attend in-person classes.

“The job of the kindergarten teacher just got a lot harder,” said Steven Barnett, a co-author of the report and senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.



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