CDC memo makes case for vaccination; LAUSD announces weekly testing regardless of vaccination status: COVID-19 updates

Earlier this week, the he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people in COVID-19 hotspots resume mask-wearing in indoor public spaces in regions with high coronavirus transmission.

The report followed an ongoing explosion in COVID cases across the nation fueled by the emergence of the delta variant and waning vaccination rates. A new report, first reported on by the Washington Post, highlights why the CDC made these new recommendations.

It shows that those who are vaccinated are three times less likely to get COVID-19 than those who are unvaccinated. Once infected, though, vaccinated people are just as contagious as someone without that protection — meaning they need to wear a mask and keep their distance to avoid passing on the virus. Read more findings.

Last summer, before there was a vaccine, there were about 80,000 new COVID-19 cases reported every day and nearly 500 deaths — almost exactly the same count as today although half the population is vaccinated and many others have immunity because they’ve already been infected.

“This is an American tragedy,” President Joe Biden said Thursday. “People are dying and will die who don’t have to die. If you’re out there unvaccinated, you don’t have to die.”

– Karen Weintraub

Also in the news:

►With the first week of the Olympics set to wrap up Friday, the International Olympic Committee announced 27 new COVID cases, including 3 athletes, bringing the total to at least 220 cases since July 1.

►Biden is asking states and localities to offer unvaccinated residents $100 to get their COVID-19 shots. The cash reward for vaccination was one idea in Biden’s latest plan to boost lagging vaccination rates in many parts of the nation. Rolled out Thursday, the core of his new plan is a requirement for federal workers to disclose their vaccination status to their agencies.

►North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday decided to reverse course from guidance he issued last week and will now urge all K-12 public school students and staff to be masked, even if they have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

►In several trials made public Thursday, scientists have found changes in brain biology after hospitalization with COVID-19, problems lingering months after infection, and a link between smell loss and mental sharpness in older adults. They’re concerned about the possibility that lingering brain symptoms might lead to dementia years or decades later.

►Los Angeles County health authorities said more than a quarter of new COVID-19 cases are among those fully vaccinated. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer shared during a virtual meeting with the county’s board of supervisors that from July 1 to 16, fully vaccinated residents made 26% of infections, totaling 3,592 cases of the over 13,000 overall cases.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 34.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 612,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 196.5 million cases and 4.19 million deaths. More than 163.8 million Americans — 49.4% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: Some people in Missouri are dressing in disguise and begging doctors to not publicly reveal they’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine, a doctor said. Read more.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

IRS announces tax credit to employers who offer employees PTO to get vaccinated

The IRS announced Thursday they would expand tax credits to employers who give their employees paid time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19, encouraging them to make time for people to get inoculated.

Eligible employers, including businesses and tax-exempt organizations with less than 500 employees, can receive a tax credit equal to the wages paid for providing the time off, but only up to certain limits, according to a release from the agency.

“This new information is a shot in the arm for struggling small employers who are working hard to keep their businesses going while also watching out for the health of their employees,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in the release. “Our work on this issue is part of a larger effort by the IRS to assist the nation recover from the pandemic.”

The decision extends from Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which offers tax credit to small and mid-sized employers that provide paid sick and family leave to employees due to COVID-19. Self-employed individuals also have a similar tax credit as part of the plan.

– Steven Vargas

Missouri county withdraws request for field hospital

Springfield and Greene County officials withdrew their request to the state to set up a field hospital in the area, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s office announced Thursday in a statement that said local health authorities “believe current state efforts to boost health care capabilities are sufficient to meet existing needs.”

Springfield-Greene County Health Director Katie Towns said in recent weeks that health care facilities have hired additional staff and repurposed additional spaces to create additional space, reducing the need for a state-provided facility that was slow to arrive.

“This decision was not made in response to falling cases or hospitalizations,” Towns said. In fact, on Thursday alone 267 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, which is the second highest number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in a single day to date.”

Towns, along with leaders from CoxHealth, Mercy and Greene County Emergency Management, went public with their initial request for an alternate care site July 14, saying state assistance was needed to help treat the surge in COVID-19 patients amid the delta variant outbreak.

Kaitlyn McConnell, the system director for public relations at CoxHealth, said the hospital and other community partners “made the joint decision to pause our application for an alternate care site in Springfield.”

“This is not because the need is not great. It is because we needed to serve patients quickly,” McConnell said in a statement sent to the News-Leader, part of the USA TODAY Network. “We initially believed this request would take around five days, but we will soon be at a month since it was initially submitted.

– Galen Bacharier, Springfield News-Leader

LAUSD announces weekly COVID testing regardless of vaccination status

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest district in the U.S., announced on Thursday that it will require “baseline and ongoing” weekly COVID testing for all students and employees returning for in-person instruction, regardless of their vaccination status. The move, which comes amid rising COVID-19 infection rates in the county and across the country, is a reversal from earlier directives that only unvaccinated individuals would have to undergo regular testing.

The required testing, which begins August 2, is in accordance with recent guidance issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, according to a memo sent out to parents by interim superintendent Megan K. Reilly. Other prevention measures include universal masking, upgraded air filtration systems and vaccination outreach.

“We believe Los Angeles Unified has the highest COVID safety standards of any public school district in the nation,” Reilly said in her memo. Los Angeles Unified is the country’s second largest school district.

Other districts nationwide have been bolstering their safety plans for the fall as the delta variant continues to spread and drive the surge in case numbers. Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending universal masking at schools, a u-turn from its earlier suggestion that vaccinated students and employees need not wear masks.

– Alia Wong

Judge won’t reinstate $300 per week federal COVID unemployment benefits in Ohio

An Ohio judge won’t reinstate $300 in additional federal pandemic unemployment payments that Gov. Mike DeWine ended early.

On Thursday, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Holbrook rejected an attempt to restore the extra unemployment benefits in Ohio, saying DeWine had the power to cut them off before Labor Day.

“The court is aware of, and sympathetic to, the thousands of Ohioans without work and in desperate need of any assistance available,” Holbrook wrote. “The court simply cannot legislate from the bench and overlook the clear terms of (Ohio law.)”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress approved an additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits to help struggling Americans. The benefits are set to expire after Labor Day, but several governors cut them off early.

DeWine, a Republican, stopped the additional payments for Ohioans on June 26, citing Ohioans’ need to get back to work. Ohio’s unemployment rate had dropped from 16.4% in April 2020 to 5.2% in June.

Ultimately, Holbrook found that DeWine had the authority to stop the benefits. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, in a statement, said they were pleased with the decision.

– Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer

Contributing: The Associated Press

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