COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Michigan GOP official blames maskless colleagues for his covid-19: ‘Masks and vaccines shouldn’t be political’
Last month, Michigan GOP official Jason A. Watts was one of the few wearing a mask at an indoor party meeting with about 70 others. He said he was ordered to attend and threatened with being ousted from his role after criticizing former president Donald Trump in an interview.

About two weeks later, he was in a hospital bed gasping for air.

“I wore two masks” at the event, said Watts, 44, who ended up spending five days in the hospital. “I found out later that four people at my table — not including me — came down with covid.”

The experience has left Watts, the Republican Party treasurer for the 6th Congressional District, blasting other party members for being careless about the pandemic and for not holding the meeting virtually.

“Masks and vaccines shouldn’t be political,” Watts said. “They don’t have a party.”

The party’s district leader, Scott McGraw, disputed some of Watts’s figures, saying that he estimated 55 to 65 people attended the meeting. But he confirmed to local media that few wore masks or were vaccinated and that about four to eight attendees later tested positive.

... What upset him most about the whole situation was that the meeting was held in the first place. “There was no reason,” he said, and there was no option to attend over Zoom.

Watts also expressed frustration that party members are resistant to wearing masks and are not concerned with exposing colleagues to the virus.

“It shouldn’t be an indication of your manhood, or what have you, if you don’t wear a mask,” he said.
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White House Announces Nearly $2 Billion Plan to Track Variants

Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic adviser, announced a $1.7 billion plan on Friday to bolster the nation’s ability to monitor coronavirus variants through genomic sequencing.

Even as we accelerate our efforts to get shots in arms, more dangerous variants are growing, causing increases in cases with people without immunity. This increases the urgency for you to get vaccinated, but it also requires us to intensify our efforts to quickly test for and find genetic sequence of the virus as it spreads. Today, we are announcing a $1.7 billion investment to bolster the ability of the C.D.C., and state and local public health departments to monitor, track and defeat emerging threats, whether it’s Covid-19 variants today or other viruses in the future, through a process known as genomic sequencing. This significant investment, which is made possible due to the American Rescue Plan President Biden signed into law last month, is critical in our fight against the new and potentially dangerous variants of Covid-19. Right now, these variants account for nearly half of all Covid-19 cases in the United States, and we need more capacity in our public health system to identify and track these mutations. State and local public health departments are on the front lines of beating back the pandemic, but they need more capacity to detect these variants early on before dangerous outbreaks. This funding will enable C.D.C. and states to do more genomic sequencing as we activate the nation’s great research capabilities to detect variants earlier and increase our visibility into emerging threats. This investment will give public health officials the chance to react more quickly to prevent and stop the spread.
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Covid-19 Global Death Toll Nears 3 Million
The world’s Covid-19 death toll is approaching yet another once unthinkable number — nearly three million people have died from the virus since the first cases surfaced more than 14 months ago and upended life for people across the globe.

The global death toll stands at 2,990,993, while the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has surged to nearly 140 million, according to a New York Times database, as countries race to provide enough vaccines to slow the relentless pace of infections.

The pace of deaths has been accelerating. The world did not record one million deaths until Sept. 28, but had recorded two million by Feb. 21, less than five months later. And the latest million took under two months.

The United States, Brazil and Mexico lead the world in Covid-19 deaths.

In the United States, more than 564,800 virus-related deaths have been confirmed, about one in 567 people — the most of any other country.
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Sen. Ted Cruz no longer wears a mask at the Capitol, falsely claiming 'everybody' in the Senate has been vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Sen. Ted Cruz has stopped wearing a mask at the Capitol, CNN reports.
  • Cruz claimed "everybody" in the Senate is vaccinated, but that's not true of all staffers, reporters, and lawmakers.
  • The CDC still recommends vaccinated individuals to wear a mask when in public.
Defending his decision, the Texas Republican told CNN that since he got the COVID-19 vaccine and "everybody working in the Senate" has also received their shots, he no longer chooses to don a face-covering. However, not all congressional staff members, reporters and even senators have been fully vaccinated.

Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinated individuals to continue mask-wearing in public as the coronavirus pandemic is not over, and scientists and public health experts are still learning the long-term effects of the shots. Safety precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing remain necessary at this time, especially amid rising cases and an ongoing vaccine rollout in the US and the rest of the world.

Reporters pressed Cruz on this point, yet he pushed back, claiming: "CDC has said in small groups, particularly with people who were vaccinated don't need to wear masks," per CNN. During those comments, a maskless Cruz entered an elevator on the Hill, along with two of his aides who were wearing masks.

The CDC released guidance earlier this month that it is considered low risk for fully-vaccinated people to convene indoors without masks, but did not specify how many people. Hundreds of people, many of whom are not fully vaccinated, work in the Congress.

This is not the first time that Cruz has publicly flouted public health guidelines on Capitol Hill during the pandemic. Last month at a news conference, Cruz, after being asked to put a mask on, told a reporter he was "welcome to step away if you like."

Cruz joins fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has refused to wear a mask at the Capitol, declaring he has full immunity from the virus since he already contracted it last March. Scientists and public health experts have not yet determined the extent of immunity achieved after getting the virus, nor how long it lasts. Paul has frequently clashed with top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci during hearings on the issue.

The Senate does not mandate mask-wearing, unlike the House, which implemented new mask requirements after at least four members of Congress tested positive in the wake of the Capitol riot on January 6.
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia