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A drop in testing may mask the spread of the virus in some US states.

The decline in coronavirus testing in many southern and Great Plains states is making it harder to know how far the virus can spread in those states, even as restrictions are lifted and residents return to daily life, according to experts.

States in both regions report few new cases relative to their population, compared to hardest-hit states like Michigan or New York. But they also test a lot fewer people.

Kansas, for example, is currently testing about 60 people per day per 100,000 population, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and slightly more in Alabama. The situation is similar in Iowa, Mississippi and elsewhere.

In contrast, New York City performs an average of 1,200 tests per day per 100,000 and Rhode Island 1,677 per 100,000.

Tests have been declining in Kansas since Jan. 1, even though hospitalizations were at their highest level in the pandemic, according to Tami Gurley, co-chair of the virus task force at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The state now tests fewer relative to its population than any other state except Idaho.

The tests they do in these low-rate states detect viruses.

Twelve percent of Kansas coronavirus tests come back positive. Alabama’s positivity rate is 12.8%. The rate in Idaho is 27.3%, the highest in the country. In New York, it’s only 3.5%.

So, in states that perform relatively few tests, their daily number of cases may be low in part because asymptomatic or mild symptom cases go undetected.

Ms Gurley says she is monitoring hospitalizations closely, which is a better indicator of the spread of the virus than reports of new cases.

“We think people are more focused on vaccines than testing,” she said. “It is definitely more difficult to know where we are going. We feel like we’re at the point of another spike in cases. “

Many states in the South and Midwest have relaxed their restrictions, including mask warrants, although national data indicates that a further increase in cases could occur, according to Edward Trapido, epidemiologist and associate dean for research at Louisiana. State University School of Public Health.

And many states are diverting resources from testing to bolster vaccination efforts and meet President Biden’s goal of making all adult Americans eligible for a vaccine by May 1.

As a result, Dr Trapido said, in many places these days only the sickest patients seek a coronavirus test.

“With the widespread use of vaccines, people feel comfortable not being tested,” he said. “A natural experiment is underway. It’s a battle between getting people vaccinated and keeping the positive percentage low. When I see a slight change in the upward curve, I am alarmed. “

Ms Gurley said the shift in focus on testing and vaccination could stem in part from widespread public fatigue with pandemic precautions and the political imperative in many states to reopen quickly.

If all you want to do is prevent deaths from the virus, that may make sense, she said, but “if your end goal is to prevent the spread, we need more testing. “

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Biden pushes back mask mandate as CDC director warns of ‘imminent fate’

WASHINGTON – President Biden, facing an increase in coronavirus cases in the country, on Monday called on governors and mayors to reinstate mask warrants as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of ” impending catastrophe “of a potential fourth wave of the pandemic.

The president’s comments came just hours after CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky appeared to hold back tears as he pleaded with Americans to “hold on a little longer” and continue to follow public health advice, such as the wearing of masks and social distancing, to curb the spread of the virus.

The back-to-back calls reflected a growing sense of urgency among senior White House officials and government scientists that the chance to defeat the pandemic, now in its second year, may elude them. Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are on the rise, including a worrying increase in the Northeast, even as the pace of vaccinations accelerates.

“Please this is not politics – restore the mandate,” Biden said, adding: “Failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us in this mess in the first place.

According to a New York Times database, the seven-day average of new virus cases on Sunday was around 63,000, a level comparable to the average at the end of October. That was an increase of 54,000 a day two weeks earlier, an increase of over 16 percent. Similar increases in Europe have led to major outbreaks in the spread of Covid-19, Dr Walensky said.

Public health experts say the country is in a race between the vaccination campaign and worrying new variants of the coronavirus. Although more than one in three American adults have received at least one vaccine, and nearly a fifth are fully immunized, the country is a long way from achieving so-called herd immunity – the tipping point that occurs when the spread of a virus begins to spread. slow because so many people, estimated at 70 to 90 percent of the population, are immune to it.

But states are rapidly expanding access to more abundant amounts of the vaccine. As of Monday, at least six – Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma – made all adults eligible for the vaccination. New York has said all adults will be eligible starting April 6.

Mr Biden said on Monday that the administration was taking steps to expand vaccine eligibility and access, including opening a dozen new mass vaccination centers. He ordered his coronavirus response team to ensure that 90% of Americans would not be more than five miles from a vaccination site before April 19.

The president said the doses were plentiful enough now that nine out of 10 adults in the country – or more – would be eligible for a vaccine by that date. Previously, he called on states to expand eligibility to all adults by May 1. He revised that pledge because states, backed by the planned increase in shipments, are opening their immunization programs faster than expected, a White House official said.

But it was Dr. Walensky’s crude display of emotion that seemed to capture the angst of the moment. Just three months after starting her new job, the former Harvard Medical School professor and infectious disease specialist admitted she was deviating from her prepared scenario during the regular White House coronavirus briefing for the journalists.

She described “a feeling of nausea” she experienced last year when, caring for patients at Massachusetts General Hospital, she saw the corpses of Covid-19 victims piled up, overflowing from the morgue. She recalled how she stood – “clothed, gloved, masked, protected” – like the last in a hospital room before a patient died alone, with no family.

“I ask you to hold on a little longer, to get yourself vaccinated when you can, so that all of these people we all love are still there when this pandemic ends,” Dr Walensky said. The nation has “so much reason to hope,” she added.

“But now,” she said, “I’m afraid.

In nine states in the past two weeks, virus cases have increased by more than 40%, according to the Times database. Michigan led the way with a 133% increase, and the northeast also saw a marked increase in cases of the virus. Connecticut has reported a 62 percent jump in the past two weeks, and New York and Pennsylvania have both reported increases of more than 40 percent.

Michigan’s increase was not attributed to any particular event, but epidemiologists noted that cases began to increase after the state eased restrictions on indoor dining on February 1 and lifted further restrictions in January. Other hot spots include North Dakota, where cases have increased by almost 60%, and Minnesota, where cases have increased by 47%. Of these states, North Dakota is the only one currently without a mask warrant.

The wave of new cases comes alongside promising news: A CDC report released on Monday confirmed results from last year’s clinical trials that vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer were highly effective against Covid-19. The report documented that vaccines work to prevent symptomatic and asymptomatic infections “under real conditions”.

Researchers followed nearly 4,000 healthcare workers and essential workers from December. They found 161 infections among the unvaccinated workers, but only three among those who received two doses of the vaccine. The study suggested that even a single dose was 80% effective against the infection two weeks after its administration. Studies are continuing to determine whether vaccinated people can still transmit the virus to others, although many scientists consider this unlikely.

The pace of vaccination continues to accelerate. The seven-day average of vaccines administered reached 2.76 million on Monday, an increase from the previous week’s rate, according to data reported by the CDC on Sunday alone, nearly 3.3 million people were vaccinated, a said Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic official. advise.

Wider eligibility pools should reinforce this further, with at least three dozen states now allowing all adults to sign up for photos by mid-April.

Minnesota opens to all adults on Tuesday and Connecticut on Thursday. Florida lowered the eligibility age to 40 and Indiana lowered it to 30.

At the same time, outbreaks of Covid in some states are making health officials increasingly nervous. Similar escalations several weeks ago in Germany, France and Italy have now turned into major epidemics, Dr Walensky said.

“We know travel is on the rise, and I’m just worried we may not be able to see the surges we’ve seen over the summer and winter again,” she said.

As his presidency enters its third month, Mr Biden is still waging battles launched by his predecessor, who turned the act of wearing a mask into a political statement. From the moment he took office, Mr. Biden used his executive power to impose mask requirements where he could – on federal property. And he urged all Americans to “hide away” for 100 days.

But some governors, especially in more conservative states, have ignored it. When the governors of Mississippi and Texas announced this month that they would lift their mask mandates, Mr Biden denounced the plans as a “big mistake” reflecting “Neanderthal thinking.”

In Texas, a recent drop in cases could be reversed. Although the Times database shows that over the past two weeks, coronavirus infections have fallen 17%, deaths have declined 34%, and hospitalizations have fallen 25%, the seven-day average of Newly reported coronavirus infections rose Sunday to 3,774. As of Wednesday, the average number of cases was at a low of 3,401.

“There is something particularly difficult about this moment,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, a former senior Food and Drug Administration official who now teaches at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. With more and more Americans being vaccinated and the potential to end the pandemic in sight, he said, “It feels like every case is unnecessary.”

Dr Walensky, who has issued several warnings in recent weeks about the need to maintain mask wear and social distancing, said she plans to speak to governors on Tuesday about the risks of the restrictions being lifted prematurely.

“I know you all want to be done so badly,” she said. “We’re almost there, but not quite yet.”

Eileen Sullivan contribution to reports.

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Dropping mask warrants, even as vaccinations accelerate, is a “risky business,” warns Dr Fauci.

In contrast, about 23% of black Americans said they would not get the vaccine; as are 23% of White Americans and 20% of Hispanic Americans, according to the poll.

As part of the network’s “Face The Nation” program, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who is leading a new federal working group on health equity, called the survey results “good news”. “You see the confidence in vaccines growing in all groups across the country,” said Dr. Nunez-Smith. “It’s very promising.”

Even so, polarized attitudes aligned with political affiliation grew stronger: around 71% of Democrats said they had been vaccinated or would be vaccinated, while only 47% of Republicans said the same. A third of Republicans said they would say no to the vaccine, compared to just 10% of Democrats.

Dr Fauci said he was puzzled and confused by the partisan tendency. “It makes absolutely no sense,” he said. “We need to decouple political persuasion from common sense, obvious public health things.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” Dr Fauci was asked about a vaccination public service announcement that included other former presidents but not Donald J. Trump. He was then asked whether Mr. Trump, who was quietly vaccinated in January before leaving office, should publicly approve the vaccination.

“I think it would make all the difference in the world,” Dr Fauci said, adding, “He’s a very popular person among Republicans. If he came out and said, go get vaccinated, this is really important for your health, the health of your family and the health of the country, it seems absolutely inevitable that the vast majority of people who are his relatives will listen. . “

During an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on February 28, Mr. Trump said, “Everyone should go get their chance,” but this message was largely ignored by the characteristic emphasis of the former president on divisive political issues.

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Biden calls on states to end ‘Neanderthal thinking’ mask mandates

HOUSTON – President Biden sharply criticized decisions by the governors of Texas and Mississippi to lift statewide mask mandates on Wednesday, calling the plans a “big mistake” reflecting “Neanderthal thinking,” as his administration is trying to manage the pandemic while state leaders set their own plans.

The president said it was essential for public officials to follow the advice of doctors and public health officials as the coronavirus vaccination campaign gains momentum.

“The last thing we need is for Neanderthals to think that until then it’s all right, take off your mask and forget about it,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “It is essential, critical, critical, critical that they follow science.”

“Wear a mask and stay socially distanced,” he added. “And I know you all know it. I would have liked some of our elected officials to know that.

The sudden announcement Tuesday by Governor Greg Abbott of Texas that he would lift a statewide mask requirement and allow all businesses to operate at full capacity was a surprising development in a state where vaccinations are Significantly below the national average, more than 7,000 new cases are reported a day, and in recent weeks worrying variants of the virus have emerged.

The move by Mr Abbott, a Republican, frustrated public health experts and various city officials, two weeks after a major winter storm collapsed the state’s electricity grid and left millions of Texans without power nor water, which could fuel the spread of the disease. .

Yet the move has been welcomed by some Texans, especially those whose livelihoods and businesses have suffered over the past year. “I’m proud to be Texan and this is the first step in bringing Texas back,” said Amber Rodriguez, 32, owner of an air conditioning business in Houston.

Kendall Czech, 26, a leasing agent who moved to Dallas last summer from California in part because of that state’s strict Covid-19 restrictions, agreed. “I think the governor has just gained courage.”

But for many other Texans, the announcement, billed as a long-awaited relief after a grueling period of isolation and hardship, was anything but reassuring for a state that has recorded more than 44,000 deaths and nearly 2.7 million people. case. If anything, some said, it would only prolong the misery.

Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, called the announcement a “dangerous” attempt to “turn away from the state’s failure” in dealing with the storm. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called the announcement a “huge mistake.” Dr Victor Treviño, the health authority in Laredo, said he was concerned the decision “wipes out all the gains we have made”.

“We know from science that masks work and social distancing works,” said Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas, who believed the upheaval from the winter storm, the arrival of new strains of the virus and the governor’s planned reopening, which takes effect on March 10, would further delay any return to normal. “We have a lot of things against us right now.”

Since the pandemic began about a year ago, states have not taken a unified approach to the coronavirus. Even within states, restrictions vary widely from county to county. At the time of Mr Abbott’s announcement, 12 other states did not have a statewide mask mandate – a number that rose to 13 when the mandate ended in Mississippi on Wednesday night . South Dakota never had one.

But the decision to reopen Texas, with its 29 million people, comes at a delicate time in the coronavirus punishment season, as public health officials implore people not to let impatience exceed caution. . As vaccinations roll out steadily across the country and the worst of the pandemic appears to have an end date, advice from health experts and federal health officials has been consistent: Keep your guard a little longer .

“Now is not the time to lift all restrictions,” Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a White House briefing Wednesday.

Federal officials have urged people to continue to wear and double face masks. Dr Anthony S. Fauci, Mr Biden’s chief medical adviser for Covid-19, has suggested masks may even be needed for another year. “When it goes down and the overwhelming majority of the population is vaccinated, then I would feel comfortable saying, ‘We have to take off the masks,'” he said in a recent interview on CNN. .

Neither measure was observed in Texas. While the tally of new virus cases and deaths has been largely disrupted by the recent storm, thousands of new cases have been reported every day and the death toll remains high. As of this week, 13% of Texans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, among the lowest rates in the country. And Houston recently became the first U.S. city to register five of the variants of Covid-19 circulating around the world.

“I don’t know what they are thinking,” said Ernestine Cain, 52, a caregiver who picked up a case of bottled water from a distribution site in San Antonio Wednesday morning. “You still have to give him time. You can’t just cut it like that.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the governor “absolutely” decided to reopen the state to distract residents from the sky-high electricity bills and credit card balances they faced after the storm.

“It gives people something to say other than the state’s failure to protect the power grid,” he said.

In a statement Tuesday, the governor defended his decision by saying, “We must now do more to restore the livelihoods and normalcy of Texans by opening up Texas 100%.” Make no mistake, Covid-19 hasn’t gone away, but it’s clear from recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices Texans are using that state warrants are no longer needed.

But that sense of optimism has been lost on local officials like Ricardo Samaniego, the El Paso County judge, where, according to a New York Times database, one in seven residents is known to have had the virus.

“We still have saturated mortuaries,” he said. “We still have bodies that have been there for two to three months.”

He said leaders of the state’s six largest counties agreed Mr Abbott’s decision was premature. But he said he saw no indication that their opinions were being solicited, which left him frustrated and dejected.

“We were doing so well,” he said. “We had worked so hard.”

It remains to be seen whether Mr Abbott’s move will trigger a wave of similar decisions by other governors keen to lift the restrictions. On the same afternoon as Mr. Abbott’s speech, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, also a Republican, announced he was lifting the statewide mask mandate and repealing corporate capacity limits over there.

“We continue to suggest that you do the right thing,” said Mr. Reeves, who like Mr. Abbott urged people to continue wearing masks despite the lifting of the state order. The precautions remain the same, Mr. Reeves said; the difference is that “the government no longer tells you what you can and cannot do”.

In a tweet Wednesday afternoonMr. Reeves acknowledged Mr. Biden’s “Neanderthal” comment and pushed back, “Mississippians don’t need managers. As the numbers drop, they can weigh their choices and listen to the experts. I guess I just think we should trust the Americans, not insult them.

As part of new orders in Texas and Mississippi, private companies may maintain mask requirements. Many appeared on Wednesday to do just that, with Target and Macy being among the biggest to say face coverings would remain mandatory in Texas stores. Masks will be optional for customers of HEB, a popular grocery store in Texas.

Under Mississippi’s order, cities and counties can still impose local mask warrants, while in Texas, a jurisdiction can only impose restrictions if Covid-19 hospitalizations exceed a certain level. And even then, people cannot be penalized by local governments for not wearing a mask.

Dr Mary Carol Miller, a doctor at Greenwood Leflore Hospital in the Mississippi Delta, said even a lightly applied statewide mask prescription was helpful, sending the message that the virus was still circulating and that masks were the best protection. Without that order, she saw weeks before other illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in part of the country where the pandemic has already been devastating.

“The light is there at the end of the tunnel, and now we have lengthened the tunnel,” said Dr. Miller. “It’s silly. It is beyond madness.

In Texas, after a wave of challenges, from the brutal winter storm to widespread power outages to statewide water outages, some saw another factor at work in the reopening debate: the Politics.

“It’s pretty obvious to people paying attention that this is just about changing the subject of the infrastructure failures that we just saw,” said Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper, an El Pasoan now living in Dallas, echoing a common sentiment across the state.

But Ms Urenda-Culpepper, whose mother died of Covid-19 in July, acknowledged that the governor has the power to make such decisions, as frustrating and unnerving as they are. And given that, there was no choice but to hope for the best.

“I don’t want him to be wrong,” she said. “But obviously, for the greater good of people, I’m like, ‘Dude, you better be right and not cost us tens of thousands more.'”

Maria Jimenez Moya reported from Houston, Campbell Robertson from Pittsburgh, Erin Coulehan from El Paso and James dobbins of San Antonio. David Montgomery contributed reporting from Austin, Texas, Marina Trahan Martinez from Dallas and Ellen Ann Fentress by Jackson, Miss.

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Planning to give up the mask after vaccination? Not so fast.

With 50 million Americans immune to the coronavirus and millions more joining the ranks every day, the pressing question on many minds is: when can I throw off my mask?

It’s a deeper question than it sounds – about getting back to normal, how quickly vaccinated Americans can hug loved ones, hang out with friends, and go to concerts, health centers. shopping and restaurants without feeling threatened by the coronavirus.

It is certain that many representatives of the State are ready. Texas lifted its mask mandate on Tuesday, along with all restrictions on business, and Mississippi quickly followed suit. Governors in both states cited declining infection rates and increasing numbers of citizens getting vaccinated.

But the pandemic is not yet over and scientists advise patience.

It seems clear that small groups of vaccinated people can get together without worrying too much about getting infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue new guidelines shortly that will affect small gatherings of vaccinated Americans.

But when vaccinated people can ditch masks in public spaces will depend on how quickly disease rates drop and the percentage of unvaccinated people in the surrounding community.

Why? Scientists do not know whether people who are vaccinated pass the virus to those who are not vaccinated. While all Covid-19 vaccines are remarkably effective in protecting people against serious illness and death, research is unclear to what extent they prevent the virus from taking root in an immune person’s nose and then spreading. spread to others.

It is not uncommon for a vaccine to prevent serious illness but not infection. The flu, rotavirus, polio, and pertussis vaccinations are all flawed in this way.

Coronavirus vaccines “are under much more scrutiny than any of the previous vaccines,” said Neeltje van Doremalen, an expert in preclinical vaccine development at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in the Montana.

And now the coronavirus variants that bypass the immune system are changing the calculus. Some vaccines are less effective at preventing infections with certain variants and could in theory allow more virus to spread.

The research available to date on how vaccines prevent transmission is preliminary but promising. “We are convinced that there is a reduction,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida. “We don’t know the exact magnitude, but it’s not 100%.”

Yet even an 80% drop in transmissibility could be enough for those vaccinated to throw away their masks, experts said – especially once a majority of the population is vaccinated and rates of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are falling.

But most Americans are still unvaccinated, and more than 1,500 people die every day. Given the uncertainty surrounding transmission, even those vaccinated must continue to protect others by wearing masks, experts have said.

“They should wear masks until we actually prove that vaccines prevent transmission,” said Dr Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

This evidence is not yet available because clinical vaccine trials were designed to test whether vaccines prevent serious illness and death, which usually reflects the impact of the virus on the lungs. Transmission, on the other hand, is driven by its growth in the nose and throat.

Initiated by the vaccine, the body’s immune fighters are expected to curb the virus soon after infection, shorten the period of infection, and reduce the amounts in the nose and throat. This should greatly reduce the chances that a vaccinated person will infect others.

Animal studies support the theory. In one study, when monkeys were immunized and then exposed to the virus, seven of eight animals had no detectable virus in the nose or lung fluid, noted Juliet Morrison, a virologist at the University of California at Riverside.

Likewise, data from a few dozen Moderna trial participants who were tested when they received their second dose suggested that the first dose reduced infection cases by about two-thirds.

Another small body of data has recently emerged from the Johnson & Johnson trial. Researchers looked for signs of infection in 3,000 participants up to 71 days after receiving the single-dose vaccine. The risk of infection in this study appeared to drop by about 74%.

“I think it’s very potent,” said Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston, who ran one of the test sites. “These number estimates could change with more data, but the effect seems pretty strong.”

More data is expected in the coming months from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

But clinical trials can overestimate a vaccine’s potency, as the type of people who choose to participate already tend to be cautious and be advised on precautions during the trial.

Instead, some researchers track infections among people vaccinated in real settings. For example, a study in Scotland performed tests every two weeks, regardless of symptoms, on healthcare workers who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Investigators found that the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing infection was 70% after one dose and 85% after the second.

Israeli researchers assessed infections in nearly 600,000 vaccinated people and attempted to trace their family contacts. Scientists have found a 46% drop in infections after the first dose and 92% after the second. (The study may have missed infections in people without symptoms.)

But to get a true assessment of transmission, researchers need to really know which immune people are infected, and then trace the spread of the virus among their contacts through DNA analysis.

“This is the ideal way to do it,” said Dr. Larry Corey, a vaccine development expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. He hopes to conduct such a study among college age students.

But what precautions should immunized people take until the results of these studies are available? At present, many experts believe that what is allowed will depend to a large extent on the number of cases in the surrounding community.

The higher the number of cases, the higher the likelihood of transmission – and the more effective vaccines need to be to stop the spread.

“If the number of cases is zero, it doesn’t matter if it’s 70% or 100%,” said Zoe McLaren, health policy expert at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, referring to the effectiveness of vaccines. .

Mask-wearing policies will also depend on how many unvaccinated people remain in the population. Americans may need to remain cautious while vaccination rates are low. But people will be able to relax a bit as those rates rise and start to return to normal once the virus runs out of others to infect.

“A lot of people have in mind that masks are the first thing you drop,” said Dr McLaren. In fact, she said, the masks offer more freedom by allowing people to go to concerts, travel by bus or plane, or go shopping even with unvaccinated people.

Ultimately, masks are a form of civic responsibility, said Sabra Klein, an immunologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Do you wear a mask to protect yourself from serious Covid, or do you wear a mask for public health?” Said Dr Klein. “It’s right to do your part in the community beyond yourself.

Impacting Travel

TSA workers were given authority to enforce Biden’s mask mandate

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today authorized Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers to enforce President Joe Biden’s mask mandate “at TSA checkpoints and throughout the public and commercial transportation system, “according to CNN,

Acting Secretary David Pekoske today signed a National Emergency Determination, empowering the TSA to “take action consistent with authorities” within its federal jurisdiction to enforce the mask mandate of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC). The CDC order, issued last week and effective February 1, makes the refusal to wear face masks on airplanes and other forms of public transportation (buses, trains, ferries, subways, taxis, travel vehicles shared, etc.) is a violation. of federal law.


Being a trend now

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

“This includes supporting the CDC in meeting any orders or other requirements necessary to protect the transportation system, including passengers and employees, from Covid-19 and to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 through the transportation system. , to the appropriate extent and in accordance with applicable law, “Pekoske wrote.

The CDC’s mandate is based on an executive order that Biden signed on opening day, requiring people to wear masks that cover both the nose and mouth while using public transportation and while waiting at airports, terminals. , stations, etc. The CDC dictates that masks must include two or more layers of breathable fabric and be secured around the person’s head with ties, loops, or elastic bands.

People must also wear their masks properly to be effective, which is why the CDC requires that the masks fit snugly around the face and must not have piercings or exhalation valves. Leggings are also allowed, but must consist of at least two layers of fabric or be folded to provide two layers. Scarves and bandanas do not meet the requirements.

The CDC order specifies that face shields and goggles can be used in addition to the mask, but not instead of it. It also provides exemptions for children under the age of two and people with disabilities that would prevent them from wearing a mask.


Impacting Travel

CDC builds on Biden’s facial mask mandate

The Centers for Disease Control on Friday relied on President Joe Biden’s executive order last week ordering face masks on airplanes, making a refusal to use the cover a violation of federal law.

Commuters on airplanes and public transportation like buses and subways will need to wear face masks starting next week to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.


Being a trend now

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

The rule “will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can safely travel again even during this pandemic,” said Dr. Marty Cetron, director of the CDC’s quarantine and migration division, who signed the order.

The rule takes effect on Monday, February 1, and applies to passengers on planes, trains, subways, buses, taxis and carpooling. It says that travelers should wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth while traveling and while on and off. The order extends to waiting areas such as airports, train platforms and metro stations.

Airlines already require masks and have banned more than 2,500 passengers for refusing to wear one. Flight attendant unions have said a federal rule will make it easier for crews to enforce the requirement.

The order exempts children under the age of two and people with a disability that makes it unsafe to wear a mask. Travelers will be able to remove their masks while eating or drinking.


Travel News

Portland’s mayor Pepper-Sprays Man after mask dispute

Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, Ore., Used pepper spray on a man who berated him for not wearing a mask at a restaurant, then followed him to his car on Sunday night, according to a report by police.

“I immediately became concerned for my personal safety,” Mr. Wheeler told police of the confrontation.

The report says the man, who has not been identified, approached Mr Wheeler, a Democrat who was re-elected last year, at 8 p.m. as he left the McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House.

The man, whom Wheeler described as a “middle-aged white man,” appeared to be recording the mayor with his cell phone, according to the report.

Mr Wheeler, 58, said the man told him he had ‘photographed’ him as he ate inside a restaurant tent.

“He accused me of sitting in a restaurant without a mask,” Mr. Wheeler said. “I informed him that the current Covid regulations allow people to take off their masks to eat and drink.”

As Mr. Wheeler made his way to his car, the man followed him and continued recording, according to the report.

“He got closer,” Wheeler said. “He didn’t have a face mask and got a foot or two away from my face while he filmed me.

Mr. Wheeler said he was particularly concerned because he had recently been “docked in a similar situation”.

The mayor did not specify the situation he was describing. On January 6, a small group of protesters shouted and cursed Mr. Wheeler as he dined at another restaurant in town.

In the police report, Mr Wheeler expressed concern about “contracting Covid” with the man who confronted him on Sunday night, “given he was right in my face” and that he was not wearing a mask.

The mayor said he told the man to “back off” and warned him that he had pepper spray and was ready to use it.

The man stayed close, according to Mr Wheeler, who said he took out the pepper spray and sprayed it in his eyes.

“He made a comment like, ‘I can’t believe you just sprayed me with pepper,'” Wheeler told police. The man is gone.

Mr Wheeler said that before leaving he threw a bottle of water at the man so he could wash his eyes.

Police said they learned of the meeting at 9 p.m. on Sunday, when Robert King, the mayor’s senior public safety adviser, called the department to report the incident.

Mr King told police to call the mayor so he could provide them with a statement.

Sam Adams, a former mayor who had dinner with Mr Wheeler at the restaurant, told police the man who approached Mr Wheeler was in his mid to late forties, about 5ft 4in and wearing glasses. and dark clothes.

The man’s identity was not known on Monday when the report was filed. Portland Police did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. The mayor’s office, which provided the police report, did not respond to requests for further comment.

Mr Wheeler has been criticized for his handling of the city’s homeless crisis and growing tensions in the city, where there have been months of protests over racial injustice, economic inequality, the application of federal law and corporate power. These protests met with a militarized federal response that only escalated the anger of the protesters.

Last July, Mr. Wheeler joined protesters who marched to the federal courthouse to protest the response, when they were hit by tear gas by federal agents.

“I’m not going to lie – it stings; it is difficult to breathe ” Mr. Wheeler said at the time. “And I can tell you with 100% honesty, I didn’t see anything that caused this response.”

Mr Wheeler, who is also a police commissioner and has been criticized for the use of tear gas by the Portland Police Department against protesters, also became a target during the July protest.

Some protesters threw objects in his direction and others called for his resignation chanting “Tear Gas Teddy”.

Mike Baker contributed reporting.

Travel News

A mask is good. Would two be better?

Football coaches do it. Presidents-elect do it. same senators experts in science do it. As cases of the coronavirus continue to rise globally, some of the country’s most prominent people have started doubling their masks – a move that researchers say is increasingly supported by data.

Double masking is not necessary for everyone. But for people with thin or fragile faces, “if you combine multiple layers you start to get high enough yields” to keep viruses from coming out and entering the airways, said Linsey Marr, expert in virus transmission at Virginia Tech and author of a recent commentary exposing the science behind wearing a mask.

Of course, there is a trade-off: at some point, “we run the risk of making it too difficult to breathe,” she says. But there is a lot of wiggle room before mask wearing gets close to that extreme.

One year after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is very different. More than 90 million confirmed coronavirus infections have been documented worldwide, leaving millions dead and countless others with lingering symptoms, amid persistent economic hardship and closed schools and businesses. New variants of the virus have appeared, carrying genetic changes that appear to improve their ability to spread from person to person.

And although several vaccines have now removed regulatory hurdles, the rollout of injections has been slow and slow – and there is no definitive evidence yet to show that vaccines will have a substantial impact on how quickly and where the virus comes from. .

Through all of this change, researchers have maintained the line on masks. “Americans won’t need to wear masks forever,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at the University of California at San Francisco and author of the new commentary. But for now, they’ll need to stay active, offering protection to both mask wearers and those around them.

The arguments in favor of masking span several fields of science, including epidemiology and physics. A multitude of observational studies have suggested that widespread mask wear can curb infections and deaths on an impressive scale, in environments as small as barber shops and at the level of entire countries. A study, which followed state policies requiring face covering in public, found known cases of Covid almost increased and decreased with mask-wearing rules. Another, which followed coronavirus infections among healthcare workers in Boston, noted a drastic drop in the number of positive test results after masks became a universal item among staff. And a study in Beijing found that face masks were 79% effective in blocking transmission from infected people to their close contacts.

Recent work by researchers like Dr Marr is now defining the basis for these links on a microscopic scale. The science, she said, is pretty intuitive: Respiratory viruses like the coronavirus, which travel between people in drops of sputum and spray, need a clear conduit to enter the airways, which are filled with the types of cells infected with viruses. The masks that cover the nose and mouth prevent this invasion.

The goal is not to make a mask airtight, Dr Marr said. Instead, the fibers that make up the masks create a random obstacle course through which the air – and any infectious cargo – must navigate.

“The air has to follow this tortuous path,” said Dr Marr. “The large objects it carries will not be able to keep up with these twists.”

Experiments testing the extent to which masks can diffuse incoming and outgoing sprays have shown that even fairly basic materials, like fabric coverings and surgical masks, can be at least 50% effective in both directions.

Several studies have reaffirmed the idea that masks appear to protect the people around the mask wearer better than the mask wearers themselves. “It’s because you stop it at the source,” Dr Marr said. But, motivated by recent research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that there were also great benefits for those who wear masks.

The best masks remain the N95, which are designed with ultra high filtration efficiency. But they are still rare for health workers, who need them to treat patients safely.

Layering two less specialized masks can provide comparable protection. Dr Marr recommended wearing fabric masks that hug the face over surgical masks, which tend to be made with materials that are easier to filter but fit more loosely. An alternative is to wear a cloth mask with a pouch that can be filled with filter material, like that found in vacuum bags.

But wearing more than two masks, or layering masks that are already very good at filtering, will quickly bring diminishing returns and make normal breathing much more difficult.

Other adjustments can improve the fit of a mask, such as fasteners that secure the fabric to the back of the head, instead of relying on earrings that allow the masks to hang down and hang. ‘to open. Nasal bridges, which can help the top of a mask fit more comfortably, also provide a protective boost.

Getting superb fit and filtration “is really easy,” said Dr Gandhi. “It doesn’t need to involve anything fancy.”

No mask is perfect and wearing a mask does not preclude other public health measures such as physical distance and good hygiene. “We have to be honest that the best answer is one that requires multiple interventions,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, public health expert at Johns Hopkins University.

Wearing a mask remains rare in parts of the country, in part due to the politicization of the practice. But experts noted that the model behavior of the country’s leaders could help turn the tide. In December, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. implored Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office and said he would make them a requirement in federal buildings and on planes, trains and buses that cross state lines.

A broad review of the evidence behind masking, published this month in the journal PNAS, concluded that masks are a key tool in reducing community transmission and are “most effective in reducing the spread of the virus when compliance is high. .

Part of the message might also require more empathy, open communication and voice recognition that “people don’t like to wear masks,” Dr Nuzzo said. Without more patience and compassion, it is enough to double the restrictions to “fix” poor compliance: “No policy will work if no one wants to join.”

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Travel News

After personal threats on a local mask mandate, the mayor of Dodge City, Kansas, resigns.

The emails Joyce Warshaw received as mayor of Dodge City, Kan., Were quite hostile last month, as the city was simply considering serving a mask term.

But then the mandate was passed and USA Today ran an article last week about Dodge City’s struggles with the coronavirus – and hostility has just spilled over, Ms Warshaw said.

“We’re coming to get you,” read a message. “You will burn in hell,” said another. The word “murder” has been used several times, she said.

Fearing for the safety of her family and hers, Ms Warshaw, 69, stepped down as mayor on Tuesday, weeks before her one-year term ended.

“I can go beyond words,” Ms. Warshaw, a retired elementary school principal, said in an interview on Wednesday. “But I think right now our nation is experiencing so much division and so much inappropriate bullying that is being accepted, and that worries me. I don’t know if these people would act according to their words.

Ms Warshaw’s experience provides a vivid example of the challenges officials have faced amid the emotional and political battle over the virus. Local and state health service leaders have faced harassment, personal insults and death threats for their role in imposing viral restrictions. Political leaders have also been criticized.

Prosecutors have charged a man from Wichita, Kan., With threatening to kidnap and kill that town’s mayor over a mask ordinance. And the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., got a text who referred to him using a racial insult and suggested he should be lynched to require masks. Council members in Green Bay, Wisconsin said they had received threats about their mask warrants, and the principal of an Arizona school district resigned after being harassed over the decision to switch to virtual learning.

Ms Warshaw said she understood people might not agree, but was disheartened by the lack of courtesy. Even when she tried to explain things to critics, they fired her and told her she was lying, she says. She hopes her resignation might help some of the anger over the mask warrant the city adopted in response to Ford County’s decision to withdraw from the state’s mask order.

One in seven residents of that county has tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic, making it one of the hardest-hit counties in the country. Several of Ms Warshaw’s relatives, including her daughter, contracted the virus and her aunt has died of Covid-19, she said.

“If we could all have a little compassion for society as a whole instead of looking at our individual desires or beliefs,” said Ms Warshaw, “we could have curbed this pandemic sooner.