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Vaccinated should wear masks indoors in US COVID hotspots: CDC – Al Jazeera English

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People in parts of the United States where COVID-19 infections are surging should wear masks indoors even if they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the country’s public health agency has advised.

Citing new information about the ability of the Delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and help protect others,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during an afternoon news briefing.

The US is averaging more than 57,000 coronavirus cases a day and 24,000 hospitalisations, and public health officials for weeks have warned that COVID-19 infections are increasing, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates.

Walensky said while vaccinated Americans represent “a very small amount of transmission” – and stressed that the vast majority of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths is occurring among unvaccinated individuals – vaccinated people still have the ability to pass the virus on to others.

“With the Delta variant, vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever,” she added.

Rising infections

The recent rise in cases comes after mask-wearing and other public health restrictions were loosened, and restaurants, bars and other venues reopened in many parts of the country amid a sharp increase in national vaccination rates.

The new CDC recommendations are not binding and many Americans, especially in Republican-leaning states, may choose not to follow them.

“This is not a decision that we … have made lightly,” Walensky said about the new guidelines, acknowledging that many people are frustrated by the ongoing pandemic. “This new data weighs heavily on me, this new guidance weighs heavily on me.”

US President Joe Biden welcomed the agency’s recommendations on Tuesday as “another step on our journey to defeating this virus”.

“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it,” Biden said in a statement, adding that masking students in schools “is inconvenient … but will allow them to learn and be with their classmates with the best available protection”.

“Most importantly, today’s announcement also makes clear that the most important protection we have against the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. Although most U.S. adults are vaccinated, too many are not. While we have seen an increase in vaccinations in recent days, we still need to do better,” Biden said.

The CDC had advised people to wear masks for much of the pandemic in settings where they could not maintain six feet (1.8 metres) of distance between themselves and others.

In April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the guidance was eased further for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.

Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.

Some municipalities and states have re-imposed mask mandates amid the recent increase in cases. [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Coronavirus vaccines are widely available across the US, and 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated while 69 percent have received at least one dose, according to CDC data. But millions of people remain unvaccinated – and the recent increase in cases is especially pronounced in US states with low vaccination rates, such as Florida.

‘Wrong direction’

Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, warned during the weekend that the US was moving “in the wrong direction” on the coronavirus – and he urged people to get jabs.

“If you look at the inflection of the curve of new infections,” Fauci said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union programme on Sunday, stressing that most infections are among Americans who have not been vaccinated.

“It is among the unvaccinated and since we have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that’s a problem – particularly when you have a variant like Delta which has this extraordinary characteristic of being able to spread very efficiently and very easily from person to person,” he said.

Some municipalities and states have re-imposed mask mandates amid the increase in cases.

In St Louis, Missouri, a county-wide mask mandate took effect on Monday, requiring most people, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors and on public transportation.

Sixty percent of US adults are fully vaccinated while 69 percent have received at least one dose, according to data from the CDC [File: Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters]

Los Angeles, California also recently reinstated its mask requirement, while the top public health official in King County, Washington, which includes the city of Seattle, last week asked everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces – even if they are vaccinated.

Calls have also grown to require health workers, among others, to be vaccinated.

“Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” a group of more than 50 healthcare organisations, including the American Medical Association, said on Monday.

That same day, the US Department of Veterans Affairs said it would require its doctors and other medical staff to get COVID-19 vaccines, becoming the first federal agency to impose such a mandate.

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COVID-19 booster debate in US heads to FDA vaccine advisory committee – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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The debate over whether Americans should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine moves to a panel of independent expert advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday.

While U.S. health officials, some other countries and vaccine makers have said boosters are needed, many scientists and vaccine experts disagree.

The FDA staff said in documents prepared for the committee this week that the vaccine Pfizer Inc developed with Germany’s BioNTech SE is still very effective at preventing severe illness and death and that the evidence is mixed on whether its efficacy declines over time.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Boris Johnson reverses course on vaccine passports for England, announces UK booster program'



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COVID-19: Boris Johnson reverses course on vaccine passports for England, announces UK booster program


COVID-19: Boris Johnson reverses course on vaccine passports for England, announces UK booster program

Pfizer, which is arguing for broad use of a third shot, submitted data from an analysis of over 300 participants in its late stage clinical trial showing that the vaccine’s efficacy diminished by around 6% every two months after the second dose, and that an additional shot boosted immunity.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will also consider data from Israel, which has been administering booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

It began offering a COVID-19 booster to people as young as age 12 last month, expanding a campaign that began in July for people over 60.

An analysis by Israeli scientists published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that among 1.1 million people age 60 or older who had been fully vaccinated at least 5 months earlier, those who received a booster were less likely to be infected or become severely ill than those who did not get the third shot.

Read more:
Unclear whether U.K.’s booster plan will mean new doses every 6 months, chief says

The Israeli Health Ministry said in documents on Friday that immunity against infection declined during July among all age groups, but particularly among people aged 60 and over who had been vaccinated in January.

Immunity against severe disease dropped in that older group, and such a decline may occur in younger groups aged 50 to 59 as well as 40 to 49, it said. The ministry also said the booster dose did not raise new safety issues.

The booster debate gained urgency as U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths surged due to the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus, mostly among the unvaccinated. But infections among fully vaccinated people have risen and they can spread the virus on occasion, mostly to unvaccinated people.


‘LARGER POPULATIONS MAY TAKE LONGER’

Wall Street analysts see the additional shots ultimately getting approved for a broad population.

“We expect a potential positive FDA support for boosters for elderly ahead of Biden’s rollout, but larger populations may take longer for broad support and approval,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said in an email.

Scientists say the strongest evidence for boosters is for older adults and other high risk populations.

“My guess is we are going to end up with a recommendation for booster doses for a certain subpopulation, such as adults older than 65,” said Bill Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


Click to play video: 'Immunocompromised offered vaccine booster shot. Who is eligible?'



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Immunocompromised offered vaccine booster shot. Who is eligible?


Immunocompromised offered vaccine booster shot. Who is eligible?

More than 1.9 million Americans have already gotten a booster dose after the government authorized them for people with compromised immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The panel will vote on if safety and effectiveness data support approval of a booster at least 6 months after the second dose for people aged 16 and older. The vote is scheduled for between 2:25 pm ET and 4:45 pm ET.

Eight top health officials in the Biden Administration – including the heads of the FDA and the CDC – said in August they believe booster shots will be needed because emerging data shows that protection against COVID-19 decreases over time.

Read more:
Moderna to take on COVID-19, flu with single booster vaccine

The U.S. is planning a booster campaign for the week of Sept. 20, contingent on backing by the FDA and CDC.

Moderna Inc has also asked for approval of a booster and released data on Wednesday showing that protection from its vaccine also wanes over time. That is not expected to be discussed at Friday’s meeting.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)

© 2021 Reuters

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'Absolutely gut-wrenching:' Waterloo Region child under the age of 10 dies after contracting COVID-19 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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A Waterloo Region child under the age of 10 has died after contracting COVID-19.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, who serves as the medical officer of health for Waterloo Region, shared the news during a briefing on Friday.

She said that the child had underlying health conditions but did not provide any further information, other than to say that there were no “school-related or childcare-related exposures.”

“This is a heartbreaking loss and I wish to express my deepest sympathy and condolences to the family and loved ones,” she said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have only been five deaths reported in individuals under the age of 19 and Wang said that she was “not aware” of any other fatalities involving younger individuals in Ontario.

In a message posted to Twitter, Premier Doug Ford called the loss of someone so young “absolutely gut-wrenching.”

“My prayers are with the family at this excruciatingly difficult time,” he said. “This virus knows no bounds. It’s why we need every eligible Ontarian to get vaccinated — to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and those who can’t yet get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

With files from CTV News Kitchener

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88 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba Friday; more than half not vaccinated – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG –

Manitoba has recorded 88 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, along with one more death added to the total.

According to the provincial COVID-19 dashboard, which was updated on Friday, of the new cases 53 were not vaccinated, 12 were partially vaccinated and 23 were fully vaccinated.

The new cases bring Manitoba’s total to 59,612, including 629 active cases and 57,779 recoveries. The five-day test positivity rate in the province is 2.6 per cent.

The number of deaths of people with COVID-19 increased by one on Friday, for a total of 1,204. The province did not release any details about this death.

As of Friday, the province said there are 72 people in hospital with COVID-19 including 37 people with active cases. Of those 37 people, 27 are not vaccinated, eight are partially vaccinated and two are fully vaccinated.

Of the seven people in ICU as of Friday with active COVID-19 cases, the province said six are unvaccinated and one is partially vaccinated.

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