The CDC issues new guidance for people who are vaccinated, young teens start getting shots, and the pandemic rages in South Asia. Here’s what you should know:
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The CDC says that fully vaccinated Americans can forgo masks in most settings
On Thursday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated Americans can forgo masking and social distancing in most indoor and outdoor settings. Masks will still be required for everyone on public transportation and may still be necessary elsewhere depending on state or local laws and individual businesses’ mask policies. Health care settings, such as a hospital or doctor’s office, also have their own guidelines. President Biden touted the announcement as a “milestone” and urged eligible Americans who haven’t yet to get vaccinated. Earlier this week, his administration also announced a new deal with Uber and Lyft that will help people get to vaccination sites.
The CDC’s new guidance is based on real-world studies from Israel and the US that demonstrated the effectiveness of the shots. However, as the New York Yankees showed this week, breakthrough infections are still possible. Eight people who work for the baseball team, all fully vaccinated, recently tested positive for Covid-19. Almost all of the cases were asymptomatic, but some experts say this is an example of why it may be good to hold onto that mask some of the time while large swaths of the population are still unvaccinated.
Young teens start getting vaccinated in time for the start of the new school year
On Monday, the FDA determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is safe for use in children ages 12 to 15. Following a recommendation from the CDC two days later, younger teens across the country began getting vaccinated. Fortunately, this news comes well before the new school year begins and earlier than many expected. But even if schools are able to largely resume in-person classes next fall, they will likely look different than they did pre-pandemic. For example, the New York City Department of Education recently announced that because of the technology it invested in during the pandemic, snow days will become remote learning days.
In response to the expanded vaccine eligibility in the US, some people have raised concerns about whether it’s ethical to vaccinate relatively healthy kids while the virus rages elsewhere. But experts affirm that teens should get their shots. The CDC has added that kids can get other routine immunizations within two weeks of receiving their Covid shots.
Cases stay high in South Asia as the WHO reclassifies a variant identified in the region
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization added a fourth mutation to its list of “variants of concern”: B.1.617, which was first detected in India. The strain was reclassified because it seems to be more transmissible and may be more resistant to protections and treatments. In the UK, cases of the B.1.617 variant are rising, and authorities are tweaking their approach accordingly. A “surge rapid response” team is being deployed to a town where the mutation is spreading rapidly, and the government may move up the date for second doses in affected areas as well.
In India, the pandemic is still raging. On Wednesday the WHO reported that new cases in the country accounted for half of the total reported cases in the world in the last week. Cases are also surging in neighboring Nepal, where almost half of Covid tests have been positive. Supplies are scarce, and wealthy mountaineers who are in the country to climb Mount Everest have been asked to hand off their used oxygen cylinders so they can be refilled for Covid patients.
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