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CDC reverses indoor mask policy, saying fully vaccinated people and kids should wear them indoors – CNBC

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid-19 transmission rates. The agency is also recommending kids wear masks in schools this fall.

Federal health officials still believe fully vaccinated individuals represent a very small amount of transmission. Still, some vaccinated people could be carrying higher levels of the virus than previously understood and potentially transmit it to others.

“As you have heard from me previously, this pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of all Americans,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters on a call. “Today, we have new science related to the delta variant that requires us to update the guidance regarding what you can do when you are fully vaccinated.”

The updated guidance comes ahead of the fall season, when the highly contagious delta variant is expected to cause another surge in new coronavirus cases and many large employers plan to bring workers back to the office. In mid-May, the CDC said fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks in most settings, whether indoors or outdoors.

“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor setting to help prevent the spread of the delta variant, and protect others. This includes schools,” Walensky said. The CDC recommends that everyone grade schools wear masks indoors, “including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.”

Walensky said new data shows the variant behaves “uniquely differently from past strains of the virus,” indicating that some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant “may be contagious and spread the virus to others.”

Read More: Americans will need masks indoors as U.S. heads for ‘dangerous fall’ with surge in delta Covid cases

Health experts fear delta, already the dominant form of the disease in the U.S., is hitting states with low vaccination rates. Those states are now being forced to reintroduce mask rules, capacity limits and other public health measures that they’ve largely rolled back in recent months.

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the CDC was considering whether to revise mask guidance for vaccinated Americans, saying it was “under active consideration.”

“It’s a dynamic situation. It’s a work in progress, it evolves like in so many other areas of the pandemic,” Fauci, also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. “You’ve got to look at the data.”

The CDC’s guidance is only a recommendation, leaving it up to states and local officials on whether to reintroduce their mask rules for certain people. But even before the CDC’s anticipated guidance Tuesday, some regions were reintroducing mask mandates and advisories as Covid cases began to spike again.

Walensky said a majority of the hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. are occurring among unvaccinated people, pointing to vaccines she said worked well in protecting against severe illness and death. “But the big concern is that the next variant that might emerge, we’re just a few mutations potentially away where it could potentially evade our vaccines,” she said.

Several counties across California and Nevada are now advising all residents to wear masks in public indoor settings — whether they are vaccinated or not. In Massachusetts, officials in Provincetown advised all individuals to resume wearing masks indoors after Fourth of July celebrations led to an outbreak of new cases.

Experts say Covid prevention strategies remain critical to protect people from the virus, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels.

The CDC defines “substantial transmission” as counties that have 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period and “high transmission” is more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over seven days, Walensky said.

“We have places and counties and states here that are now reporting over 300 cases per 100,000 over a seven day period. So really an extraordinary amount of viral transmission, which is what we’re concerned about,” she added.

Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and vaccine advocate who has served on advisory panels for both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC earlier this month that the U.S. was still “undervaccinated,” with about half of the population not fully inoculated.

Even people who are fully protected have cause for concern when it comes to Covid variants, Offit said. While the vaccines protect well against severe disease and death, they may not protect as well against mild disease or spreading Covid to others, he said. No vaccine is 100% effective, he noted.

“It is not a bold prediction to believe that SARS-CoV-2 is going to be circulating two or three years from now. I mean there are 195 countries out there, most of which haven’t been given a single dose of vaccine,” Offit said. “Will it still be circulating in the United States? I think that would be very, very likely.”

Israel released preliminary data last week that showed the Pfizer vaccine is just 39% effective against the virus there, which officials attributed to the rapidly spreading delta variant. Its effectiveness against severe disease and death remained high, the data showed. U.S. and world health officials said they are looking at the Israeli research, which was not peer-reviewed and was scant on details.

Executives from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have said they expect Americans will need booster shots, and Pfizer has said it plans to ask the FDA to authorize boosters as it sees signs of waning immunity. Federal health officials say booster doses of the vaccines are not needed for otherwise healthy people at this time, although they may recommend it for the elderly or people with compromised immunity.

– CNBC’s Meg Tirrell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Bird flu continues to spread among domestic, wild animals throughout North America – Just The News

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Strains of H5N1 avian influenza continue to pop up in birds around the country, with authorities reporting infections in both domestic and wild animals, including some wild mammals.

Officials in Washington state late this week confirmed two more outbreaks among flocks of birds there, stating that the infections were found in non-commercial backyard flocks of poultry. 

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, meanwhile, said the infection had been detected in three wild baby red foxes which subsequently died from the illness. 

“At this point, it is unclear how the fox kits became infected, but it’s possible that they were exposed by consuming infected birds, such as waterfowl,” DNR Veterinarian Megan Moriarty told media.

Moriarty predicted additional infections in mammals in the state but said “they likely will be isolated cases.”

Another baby fox reportedly died in Minnesota after testing positive for avian flu, as did two in Ontario, Canada. 

Three wild red foxes in Wisconsin also reportedly tested positive for the virus, with officials stating that they likely ate infected birds in the wild. 

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Wildlife rescue on Vancouver Island to limit visitors as avian flu continues to spread in B.C. – CBC.ca

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A wildlife rescue in the Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island, is closing its visitor centre starting Monday due to the spread of avian flu in B.C.

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) Wildlife Rescue Centre, in Merville, B.C., announced it would be limiting visitors due to the risk that the disease poses to its captive birds, which include owls, eagles, and albino crows.

The decision comes after a small poultry flock in the Comox Valley tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus last week, the first such case on Vancouver Island.

It is part of a rapidly-spreading outbreak of the flu throughout North America, with eight cases recorded in B.C. since April 13.

The concern is that a visitor could inadvertently bring the virus to the MARS centre on their vehicle, shoes or clothing.

“All of the species that we have in permanent captivity here … they are especially susceptible to the avian flu,” said Gylaine Andersen, manager of wildlife rehabilitation at MARS. “They are more likely to get severe symptoms, and actually die from the flu, than other types of animals.”

“It was a really difficult decision to close the visitor centre because we need the visitor centre to support the wildlife rehab program. But we just had to do it for the safety of our resident birds.”

The centre hosts two bald eagles and multiple owls that were previously rescued, as well as a red-tailed hawk. MARS also has two albino crows in residence named Nimpkish and Kokish.

Nimpkish and Kokish, two albino crows, are seen here at the MARS Wildlife Rescue. They are particularly susceptible to avian flu, according to Gylaine Andersen. (MARS Wildlife Rescue)

Andersen said the temporary closure comes at the busiest time of year for the centre. It might struggle to weather the loss of income without public donations, she said.

“At this time of year, we’re getting lots of little baby birds and baby mammals at the hospital,” she told CBC News. “Over at the visitor centre, this is when we would have the most visitation from the public.”

The MARS wildlife hospital remains open, according to the rescue’s website, but Andersen said it would be “an expensive time of year” without funds for PPE and other medical equipment.

Andersen asked poultry owners to be extra vigilant as avian flu continues to spread in the province, and also reiterated a call to take down bird feeders to stop the spread among wild birds.

Avian flu cases have been confirmed in several other provinces, but no infections have been detected in humans.

Officials say the illness is not considered a significant concern for healthy people who are not in regular contact with infected birds.

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Mental Health Issues Demand Resolution

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Should those who hold public office show that they are of sound mind and body before taking office and during the years they serve? Are those bureaucrats who truly run our government ever tested or investigated for various mental health issues that could surely affect their performance as public employees?

Imagine what the mental state of public servants is like these days? Besides the Pandemics’ influence upon us all, these men and women are responsible for public service to their communities and nation. Man public employees are under vigorous scrutiny for their honesty and performance as employees, but what about their mental health challenges? Various municipal, State and Federal authorities make attempts to pinpoint an employee in need, someone needing assistance and direction in their professional and personal lives, but it is difficult to do. Privacy and union issues often stand in between the person in need and those who would assist them. Furthermore, many employees refuse to seek assistance, for reasons of professional survival. Say an employee has an important job where many decisions are made influencing the community at large(ie Police). That person needs assistance for some mental health issues but fears either losing their jobs or being declared problematic employees, slowing promotions or professional advancement. They clam up, interiorizing their pain, fear or distress.

Most public institutions will honestly admit they do not invest enough into mental health services for their fellow employees.

Our elected officials have much to hide away from their future or present-day electors. What if they have a skeleton in their closet? A colourful personal history, a criminal record, possible mental health or physical health issue. Issues that are allowed to be hidden from the transparency portfolio. If asked, tell the truth(as they see it), otherwise hide what can be hidden. Politicians performing their service to the community, are placed under a microscope by the electorate and media alike. This must be stressful to them and their families too. Are elected officials ever evaluated for mental health status ever, before being elected and during their service?

Do you think anyone with a criminal record or under investigation should be removed or barred from holding office or in a position of public trust? Is the trust of the electorate easily given? A public official or employee could mishandle a portfolio, or commit a crime while in public service. How often have you seen such an individual stand before the media’s camera, proclaiming their innocence or sorrow of their actions?

We have heard many public officials call for hugely needed investments in the treatment of mental health issues, yet these investments are either moving at a snail’s pace or not at all. Our military and police have been calling for assistance regarding their need for mental health programs for two decades with little happening. The government’s response is usually words, words, and more words with little accountable assistance given. Our government has enough revenue to invest in weapons for the police and military, building structures and community centers, highways and new computers, but when asked to invest in people, their employees and the electorate, it’s either too costly or they have not the funds.

The Police and Military: Have an immediate need for trained mental health professionals, therapists and therapy-recoup centers. If the government can send them into harm’s way, they are responsible to maintain their mental health.

Government Agencies: Due to privacy issues, the government should make allotments to their employees available to find and go to therapy. A healthy employee is a trusted effective one. The government should source mental health professionals for those who serve them. Furthermore, Governments and their agencies are responsible to encourage, initiate and plan for the training of these professionals. A well-paid professional will make their placement a long-term investment. If our public employees can rely upon their employer to care for them, we can rely upon our public sector.

An established long-term mental health program needs to be established. This can be all-inclusive to the entire community. For example, gun owners, and drivers of vehicles should be required to invest their time in an interview and possible retraining every five years. Should a mental health issue be recognized, it can be dealt with appropriately and calmly. Bad habits, addictions, attitudes and illnesses developed over time can be recognized and something is done about them promptly and privately.

We have forgotten that much that we receive from and within our society is a privilege, something that should be earnt, and not awarded. Our mental health changes over time, and so too our responsibility to our communities, family and society. Is the public sector becoming our parents, our caregivers? In many ways, it is, and so our overall health, and that of our minds may be calling for community maintenance.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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