COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
‘No vaccine!’: Woman arrested for allegedly driving through vaccination site in protest, nearly hitting workers
As a coronavirus vaccination tent was set up in the hope of inoculating more residents in Maryville, Tenn., sheriff’s deputies working at the site this week saw an SUV speeding their way — and the person behind the wheel wasn’t slowing for a shot.

Instead, Virginia Christine Lewis Brown was protesting the vaccine by driving her Chrysler Pacifica “at a high rate of speed” through a vaccine tent in a mall parking lot, police said.

“No vaccine!” she yelled Monday as she plowed through the tent, according to witness accounts to sheriff’s deputies.

Brown, 36, was arrested for driving through a vaccination tent and “placing the lives of seven workers in danger,” the Blount County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday. She’s been charged with seven counts of felony reckless endangerment. Tennessee attorneys claim each count carries penalties that include a possible prison sentence of 1 to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

... This week’s incident occurred as demonstrations from anti-vaccine protesters have unfolded nationwide despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are effective in preventing infections. Demonstrations have popped up in vaccination sites such as high schools and racing tracks in recent months, and anti-vaccine protesters temporarily shut down Dodger Stadium after maskless people blocked the entrance to one of the country’s largest sites.
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International Travel Opens To The Vaccinated, But How Do You Prove You Got The Shot?
There's good news and bad news for Americans who have been itching to take a European vacation. Spain reopens to vaccinated tourists on June 7. Greece, Germany, France, Italy, Croatia and other countries are opening up again soon.

But in order to go, travelers will have to show proof that they've been vaccinated, and it's not yet clear how they'll do that. That's causing a lot of confusion among those with pent-up wanderlust, as demand for air travel has been soaring in recent weeks.

... For now, travelers can self-report their vaccination status by showing their COVID-19 vaccination card with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo on it, but as the number of international travelers increases, can you imagine the airport lines as airline or Customs employees try to check each and every one? In addition, many countries including the U.S. continue to require a recent negative COVID-19 test before allowing entry, which requires travelers to present even more paperwork.

Plus there is no single standard vaccination card, and they can be easily lost, damaged or even forged.

"We're basically counting on trust, when the country is facing a trust deficit," says Leonard Marcus, director of the Aviation Public Health Initiative at Harvard University. "So there's no way to verify that someone is, in fact, actually vaccinated; it's only their word that, yes, I'm vaccinated.

Marcus says there needs to be a better way than the honor system.

"There should be either government systems or private sector systems that are reliable that I can use to show to an airline, that I can show as I go into a crowded facility, that I've been vaccinated," he says.

But as of now, there is no federal database tracking who has been vaccinated, and the Biden administration says it will not be issuing what some have dubbed "vaccine passports," a digital certificate that would verify a person's vaccination status.

... Public health experts point out that Americans have long been required to provide proof of vaccination in certain circumstances, such as to attend school and for international travel.

"We have a lot of precedent for requiring vaccinations for people, recognizing the value of those vaccinations, especially when they're involved with international travel," says Harvard's Leonard Marcus.

"This has become so politicized an issue that it's very difficult for us as a country to do the right thing," he adds.

Nonetheless, a majority of Americans support the concept of requiring vaccination for travel, according to a recent Gallop poll.

... And there is even wider support for some sort of vaccination verification system globally. A recent Ipsos poll on behalf of the World Economic Forum finds that about 3 in 4 adults across 28 countries agree that COVID-19 vaccine passports should be required of travelers to enter their country.

With no uniform way for American travelers to prove to foreign governments that they've been vaccinated, some airlines are trying to step up and develop digital platforms including smartphone apps that will tell customers exactly what documentation they need to provide to enter the country they are going to and a way to upload that documentation.

... The World Health Organization is working on creating standards for developing "Smart Vaccination Certificates" but also advises countries against requiring proof of vaccination, citing unequal global distribution of vaccines.

All of these efforts underscore the lack of one central national and international system to verify vaccination status, so it will likely take some time for governments, airlines and travelers to sort out exactly what will be accepted where as proof of vaccination.
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Biden Confirms He Will Release Report on Coronavirus Origins

President Biden spoke with reporters on Thursday, and confirmed he would release an intelligence report on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporter: “What do you expect to get from your review, your 90-day review on where the origins of the coronavirus —” “If I knew that, I wouldn’t ask for a 90-day review. I don’t know.” “What can they get that they haven’t found in the last year?” Reporter: “— to release the report in full after 90 days?” “Yes, unless there’s something I’m unaware of.”
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Last Year, Manitoba Had Virus Under Control. Now It’s a Continental Hotspot.
Last year the Canadian province of Manitoba seemed to be a model of how to handle a pandemic: Its case numbers were low compared to Europe and the United States, and deaths were rare.

But now the coronavirus is spreading faster in Manitoba than in any other province or state in Canada, the United States or Mexico, with Indigenous people and people of color hit disproportionately hard.

At a time when Canada’s vaccination program is hitting its stride after a slow rollout, with many provincial governments laying out plans for gradual reopenings into the fall, Manitoba is in crisis mode.

Over the past two weeks, the province has reported a daily average of 35 new cases per 100,000 people, far exceeding Canada as a whole, which is averaging about 10. Manitoba has more than twice as many new cases per day than the next-highest state or province.

The situation is a remarkable reversal. Manitoba once stood out as an example of the effectiveness of tight restrictions, like closing its borders to the rest of Canada, to curb the spread of the virus.

Manitoba later eased or lifted many of those restrictions. But as a third wave of infections struck, its premier, Brian Pallister, resisted the restoration of many of them.

“We’ve gone from being almost the best-case scenario — the way to do it right with almost no cases — to now the worst in North America,” said Mary Agnes Welch, a principal in Probe Research, a polling firm in the provincial capital, Winnipeg. “How did we get here? There’s a sense of sort-of bafflement about that among Manitobans.”

People of Southeast Asian descent, who make up a small portion of Manitoba’s population, are disproportionately affected, with an infection rate of 146 cases per 1,000 people, 13 times the rate among white people. Indigenous people, about 20 percent of the province’s population, are being infected at 1.75 times the rate of white people.

Some Indigenous people in Manitoba say that the disparity underscores racism within the health care system and longstanding problems in getting services.

... Few medical experts in Manitoba expect that the province will soon join the rest of Canada in looking toward the pandemic’s end.

“We’re in this for a couple of months, for sure,” Dr. Jacobsohn said. “Many people in the scientific community felt that the shutdowns were really, really never as tough as they should have been.”
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With Idaho’s Governor Out of State, the Lieutenant Governor Bans Mask Mandates
In the government equivalent of throwing a party while your parents are out of town, Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, issued an executive order on Thursday banning mask mandates while the state’s Republican governor, her political rival Brad Little, was out of the state at a conference.

Ms. McGeachin, a Republican who recently announced a bid for governor, said she was making the decision as acting governor during Mr. Little’s brief trip to Nashville for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

She signed an executive order forbidding the state, municipalities and public schools from requiring masks. It said that wearing masks had done “significant physical, mental, social and economic harm,” that they failed to serve a health or safety purpose and that they “unnecessarily restrict the rights and liberties of individuals and business.”

Ms. McGeachin did not tell Mr. Little that she would be issuing the order ahead of time, his office said in a statement to KTVB, a television station in Boise, Idaho.
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Japan Extends State of Emergency Until One Month Before Olympics
Japan’s vaccine rollout has been among the slowest in the industrialized world, with only 2.4 percent of the population fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. This week, the country opened its first mass vaccination sites in an effort to jump-start inoculations. But the government’s current goals call for only those over 65 to be fully vaccinated by the end of July, when the Summer Games would have begun.

Amid frustration over the government’s response to the pandemic, public opposition to hosting the Olympics, which were postponed from last year, has grown. In a recent survey, 83 percent of Japanese people said that they did not want Tokyo to hold the Games. The daily Asahi Shimbun, an official Olympic partner, published an editorial this week calling on Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, to cancel the Games.

But organizers and Japanese officials have insisted that the Games will go on. On Thursday, Toshiro Muto, chief executive of the Tokyo Olympics, said, “No one on the executive board has explicitly mentioned a view that we should cancel or postpone the Games,” adding that as coronavirus cases decline, public opinion “will improve.”
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Biden slams Republicans for 'bragging' about his coronavirus stimulus plan they voted against: 'Some people have no shame'
  • Biden slammed GOP lawmakers who have touted his American Rescue Plan but voted against it.
  • "I mean, some people have no shame," he said in a speech on Thursday.
  • "They're bragging about the Rescue Plan," he added.
President Joe Biden on Thursday scolded Republican lawmakers who are touting popular measures of his American Rescue Plan to their constituents after they voted against the bill.

"I mean, some people have no shame," Biden said during a speech on the state of the economy in Cleveland, Ohio.

The president's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package passed the House and Senate in March without any GOP support. However, some Republicans have since praised provisions included in the legislation.

"Even my Republican friends in Congress, not a single one of them voted for the Rescue Plan. I'm not going to embarrass any one of them, but I have — here — a list of how back in their districts, they're bragging about the Rescue Plan," Biden said Thursday.

The Republicans on the list included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York, Beth Van Duyne of Texas, Greg Pence of Indiana, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Troy Balderson of Ohio, Anthony Gonzales of Ohio, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Alex Mooney of West Virginia, Lee Zeldin of New York, Andrew Garbarino of New York and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, according to a photo captured by the New York Times' Doug Mills.

Some of the benefits that GOP members have boasted about include federal aid for restaurants and community health centers, Biden said. Key elements of the bill included $1,400 direct stimulus payments for individuals, funding for state and local governments and an expansion of the child tax credit.

The president said he's "happy" that Republicans are aware the stimulus package benefited voters in their home states, but urged them not to get in the way of delivering more help to the American people.

"If you're going to try to take credit for what you've done, don't get in the way of what we still need to do. The bottom line is this: The Biden economic plan is working," he said.

Biden's remarks come as the White House is trying to push its infrastructure package through Congress, where it has been met with Republican opposition.
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Texas spent $1.1 million fighting a lawsuit from prisoners who asked for soap, hand sanitizer, and social-distancing measures, documents say
  • Two prisoners sued the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice last year for access to sanitizer and soap.
  • The plaintiffs, ages 69 and 73, won the case, but a Texas appeals court overturned it last month.
  • The Texas attorney general spent $1.1 million on the case, the reporter Keri Blakinger said.
Last March, Laddy Curtis Valentine, 69, and Richard Elvin King, 73, who are serving time at the Pack Unit geriatric prison in Grimes County, sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, arguing that it was failing to "prevent transmission of COVID-19 to some of its most vulnerable inmates."

The complaint alleged, for example, that the Pack Unit was denying prisoners access to personal protective equipment and alcohol-based hand rub but was giving it to non-prisoners conducting many of the same tasks.

The complaint requested that the judge order the department to provide soap, disposable towels, and hand sanitizer to prisoners and enforce a 6-foot social-distancing rule in communal areas.

The plaintiffs won the case in late September, but it was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last month. The US Supreme Court declined to take up the case earlier this month.
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Employers Can (Mostly) Require Vaccines For Workers Returning To The Office
A large number of Americans still say they are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving employers to decide about how to handle employee health and safety.

If an employer wants its workers back in the office, can it mandate a vaccine to come back? And if a reluctant worker refuses to get immunized, can an employer show them the door?

There is no federal law specifically addressing that issue. The matter remains up to private businesses, state or other local laws, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Whether an employer may require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law," the agency said.

Under recent guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers have the legal right to make such a requirement.

It's not a new concept. The federal workplace watchdog has allowed companies to mandate flu and other vaccines but allowed employees to claim exemptions where appropriate. Workers can still keep their jobs while opting out of receiving the vaccine by claiming medical or religious exemptions.

Many long-term care operators have begun mandating that their workers get immunized to keep their jobs, according to AARP.

... Many major employers are stopping short of making a COVID-19 vaccine a requirement to return to work, for now.

Employers such as Kroger, Target and Petco are relying on monetary incentives and other perks to get otherwise reluctant workers to vaccinate. States have also begun rolling out incentives and prizes to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated.

Part of the resistance to requiring workers to roll up their sleeves stems from a real threat of worker lawsuits, experts say.
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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