Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Oregon’s strict mandates.,
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New York City detailed its plan for public schools, including rules for testing and quarantining.
Illinois will require masks indoors for everyone, and educators must get vaccinated or face testing.
In Florida, the pandemic is worse now than it has ever been before.
Oregon faces its worst outbreak
Throughout most of the coronavirus pandemic, Oregon has been a success story, ranking 46th in the nation in deaths per capita as it maintained some of the country’s most stringent restrictions.
But the state is now recording more cases each day than at any point in the pandemic and hospitalizations have reached a new peak, fueled by counties where only about one-third of residents have been vaccinated.
To quell the surge, Gov. Kate Brown has issued a mandate that will take effect on Friday, requiring that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks, even when gathering outdoors. That goes well beyond what any other state has done in battling this year’s summer surge.
She said in an interview that more restrictions may be needed as the coming days unfold and the state tries to keep in-person schooling on track.
Brown told my colleagues Sergio Olmos and Mike Baker that in some states that largely contained the virus early in the pandemic there is little natural immunity in the population. She said she doesn’t see the most draconian restrictions of last year — such as closing restaurants and limiting gatherings — as being as effective when there are two easy and effective tools available: masks and vaccinations.
Ms. Brown has not imposed the kind of restrictions that were in place when the virus, arguably, was less dangerous than it is now: She has not prohibited indoor dining or large public gatherings and the state is resuming in-person instruction at most public schools, unless they face serious outbreaks.
That has largely left local leaders and businesses — and individuals themselves — to figure out how to navigate the hazardous new terrain.
In the state’s largest city, Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland was among those endorsing new mandates on face coverings.
A week after he took to Twitter to ask residents to follow the guidelines by wearing a mask at all times indoors, he gathered for a party in the eighth-floor lounge of a downtown hotel. Photos obtained by The New York Times show him sitting with about a dozen people — almost all unmasked — testing the limits of the strict new mask rules.
Lennox Wiseley, a spokesman for Wheeler, said the mayor and his staff were complying with the rules because they were “actively eating and/or drinking” — the state standard for when people can remove their masks indoors.
Delta drives vaccinations
After weeks of stagnation, the U.S. vaccination campaign has picked up some steam. “The reason why we’ve seen the marked increase in demand is fear, it’s the Delta variant,” said the head of Arkansas’s vaccination effort.
The increase in vaccinations has been especially pronounced in states where immunization levels were below the national average of 61 percent. Many of those states have felt the effects of the Delta-led fourth wave most acutely.
Some state officials say they are adjusting their messaging to focus on the stories of people who have experienced Covid-19 illness or death firsthand.
North Dakota is developing an “Impact Wall,” a website with a collection of videos and photos from those who have been sick or lost a loved one.
And Arkansas has produced a televised public service announcement featuring a pregnant woman who had a near-death experience with Covid. In the video, she and her husband encourage Arkansans to get vaccinated.
What breakthroughs feel like
Public health experts continue to believe that Covid cases are relatively uncommon among people who are vaccinated, and rarely result in severe illness or hospitalizations.
In a recent analysis of state-level data, 90 percent of cases resulting in hospitalization or death occurred among patients who were not fully vaccinated. But breakthroughs are indisputably happening, and some people who have been through it shared their stories with The Times:
Moira Smith, 46, and her 76-year-old mother visited unvaccinated family members. Days later, Smith woke up feeling like she had been “hit by a Mack truck,” with body aches and a sore throat. Her mother, who has lung cancer, wound up in the emergency room.
Jimmy Yoder, 25, was infected on a weekend trip and initially thought he was hung over. A couple days later he “felt like he had a really bad flu,” with a high fever and congested sinuses. He slept for 18 hours, and after beginning to recover found that he had lost his sense of smell. But he was relieved to find that of the people he had exposed, only one tested positive. “Obviously it shows the vaccines are still working a lot,” he said.
“We were calling it floaty-head syndrome,” said Molly O’Brien-Foelsch, 47, who tested positive for Covid after a vacation. “It felt like there was a huge marshmallow on my head.”
In Japan, health authorities announced that they would halt the use of the Moderna vaccine over contamination worries.
Covid-19 is more likely to cause myocarditis than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, scientists report.
Health insurance surcharges for the unvaccinated are more complex than employer mandates.
Sky-high expectations for mRNA vaccines “are in the process of sinking back to earth,” STAT reports.
The Biden administration is being criticized for falling short on its pledge to provide vaccines to the world.
According to a U.K. study, protection is waning for those who have received both shots of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, CNBC reports.
What else we’re following
Guam’s tourism-based economy is paralyzed as it waits for its Asian neighbors to bounce back from the pandemic.
Nebraska is recruiting unvaccinated nurses to plug a staffing shortage.
Hawaii hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid patients.
The Wall Street Journal explains why the global supply chain is out of whack using the parts of a hot tub.
Cases in India have surged following harvest festival celebrations in the southern state of Kerala, Al-Jazeera reports.
A study suggests that China’s coronavirus lockdown in 2020 led to an earlier, greener spring, The Washington Post reports.
In the journal Science, a team of scientists takes a deep look at what is known about the airborne transmission of respiratory pathogens.
What you’re doing
I am despondent at times. It was bad enough when we were waiting for a vaccine that would slam dunk end the crisis. But, I learned some things the first time around. I am 71 and attending two classes on zoom. I don’t get “stuck” on the phone looking up COVID symptoms. Check my phone three times a day for welcomed messages from friends. Try to do something each day to help myself in four areas: Intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes I draw a pie and illustrate what I will do each day in each divided area. — Lizabeth L. Nackson, Louisville, Ky.
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