The CDC relaxed guidelines Thursday for wearing masks and social distancing indoors in a decision with major implications.
The new guidance allows fully vaccinated people to safely stop wearing masks and maintaining a certain distance from others inside most places.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “I you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the second Pfizer or Moderna shot or the same amount of time after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The rules will still call for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but could ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools. In addition, the agency will no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds, possibly allowing for bigger capacities at sporting events.
The new recommendations from the CDC could also serve as an incentive for the tens of millions of eligible Americans who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get their shots.
Already, just about any adult in the country can get vaccinated whenever they want, and maybe claim a prize. In New Orleans, a jab can get you a bucket of crawfish; in Ohio it could be $1 million.
Vaccine hesitancy remains an issue. Prince Harry called out comedian Joe Rogan for suggesting on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast that young, healthy adults need not get vaccinated. “You’ve got to be careful about what comes out of your mouth,” said the British prince on the “Armchair Expert” podcast that was released Thursday.
Also starting Thursday, youths 12 and up across most of the nation can get vaccinated. CVS Health is among providers ready with the shots, announcing that kids can begin scheduling vaccine appointments at more than 5,600 pharmacy locations nationwide.
“Getting this safe, effective vaccine means that these adolescents won’t have to miss school, sporting events or other activities if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19,” Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccination coordinator, told the Staunton News Leader. He said such freedom is “another step toward getting their lives back to normal.”
Vaccine equity:Vaccine equity remains elusive as vaccination rates for people of color still lag
Also in the news:
►The New Hampshire Department of Corrections will allow inmates to have in-person visitors starting next month. Those visits have been banned for more than a year because of the pandemic.
►McDonald’s is raising hourly pay by an average of 10% at 650 company-owned stores in the U.S. It’s part of its push to hire thousands of new workers amid an easing pandemic and economic boom.
►India reported more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths for the second day in a row amid concerns that many more rural deaths are going unreported.
►Caesars Entertainment announced that its nine casinos have been cleared for 100% capacity in Las Vegas amid easing of coronavirus restrictions.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 583,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 160 million cases and 3.33 million deaths. More than 337 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and more than 264.6 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 117.6 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 35.4% of the population.
📘 What we’re reading: How effective are COVID-19 vaccines in the real world? Two studies offer ‘stunning’ results, one doctor says.
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Prom night will happen for some, but with changes
Proms, essentially outlawed a year ago, are coming back in some school districts but with big changes. Some require a negative coronavirus test while others encourage vaccination. Most are requiring masks and putting strict restrictions on dancing or who can attend. In Florida, Sarasota County schools are banning dancing and limiting the event to seniors. At Elmbrook Schools outside of Milwaukee, prom-goers need a negative COVID-19 test and are encouraged to stick with their friends “to prevent any outbreak from having a dramatic impact on our ability to continue operations.” An outdoor prom in Exeter, New Hampshire, on June 4 will rotate students on and off the dance floor – no touching allowed.
“The last thing we want is to spread COVID,” said Liz Morse, Exeter High School senior class adviser. “Everyone is making concessions, and people are being pretty gracious about it.”
Pandemic shook public confidence in health system
The U.S. public health system was thrust into the limelight by the coronavirus pandemic, and a survey published Thursday found many Americans aren’t happy with its performance. According to the survey, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in February and March, ratings of nation’s public health system declined from 43% in 2009 to 34% in 2021. Positive ratings for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fell overall from 59% in 2009 to 54% in 2021.
“How the public sees public health is incredibly important,” said Dr. Robert Blendon, co-director of the survey at Harvard. “When it comes to trust with health information, which is the heart of what public health is about, they’re much more likely to trust clinical physicians and nurses than public health institutions and agencies.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
$50 monthly broadband bill discount has kicked in for many
You may be eligible for a $50 monthly coronavirus pandemic discount on your home broadband bill starting this week. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program was included as part of the roughly $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress in December 2020 and signed by President Donald Trump. It set aside $3.2 billion for the Federal Communications Commission to cover the program. Among those eligible are households with income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
“We all know that Internet access is essential for modern life,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. “This pandemic has made it abundantly clear that broadband is no longer nice to have, it’s need-to-have, for everyone, everywhere.”
– Mike Snider
‘Vax-a-Million’: Ohio vaccine lottery to give away five $1 million prizes
Ohio will give away $1 million prizes to five adults, plus another five full-ride public college scholarships to teens who get vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine announced during a statewide televised address Wednesday. “Ohio Vax-a-Million” drawings will be held for five consecutive Wednesdays, starting May 26, to pick the $1 million winners. The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings, but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds. To be eligible, you must be 18 or older, an Ohio resident and vaccinated before the drawing.
DeWine said 12- to 17-year-olds can sign up for the scholarship drawing via an electronic portal that will open May 18.
– Laura A. Bischoff, The Columbus Dispatch
Vaccine manufacturing capacity key to halting COVID spread, report says
High-income countries with access to manufacturing vaccines should commit to providing low-income countries at least 1 billion vaccine doses no later than fall 2021, according to a new report delivered to the World Health Organization. The report, intended to address missteps over the past year leading to more than 3 million deaths and even more lives changed, also focused on what countries in WHO can immediately do to stop the pandemic.
“The significant inequity in vaccine access must be addressed immediately, as it is not only unjust but also threatens the effectiveness of global efforts to control the pandemic,” the report said.
The report, released with another in advance of this month’s meeting of the WHO’s governing assembly, also said that world governments must act swiftly and preemptively with the next pandemic in order to avoid global catastrophe.
“Current institutions, public and private, failed to protect people from a devastating pandemic,” the report said. “Without change, they will not prevent a future one.”
CDC reports more cases of blood clots linked to J&J COVID-19 vaccine
Thirteen more cases of an unusual blood clotting disorder have been identified among people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but no one else has died and no new cases have been seen among people vaccinated after the government’s 11-day pause in J&J shots.
The CDC said Wednesday that 28 people have now been identified with a disorder being called Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). To qualify for the diagnosis, someone must have a blood clot, known as a thrombosis, in an uncommon location, such as the brain, as well as low levels of platelets in their blood, a condition known as thrombocytopenia.
The combination is extremely rare. The fact that it occurred in so many people within about two weeks of vaccination “suggests a plausible causal association,” Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, told an agency advisory committee Wednesday.
– Karen Weintraub
Contributing: The Associated Press.