POST 136. March 2, 2021. CORONAVIRUS. ““The governors of Texas and Mississippi both announced on Tuesday they would be lifting their states’ mask mandates and rolling back many of their Covid-19 health mandates..”…while “The US could experience a “fourth surge” of coronavirus before the majority of the country is vaccinated.”

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“CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned states on Monday that “now is not the time” to lift public health restrictions, as the recent dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths “appear to be stalling.”

Why it matters: While the average of 70,000 new infections and 2,000 daily deaths is nowhere near the extremely high levels recorded at the start of 2021, the figures are still a poor baseline to “stop a potential fourth surge” — especially with the threat posed by more contagious new variants, Walensky warned.

What she’s saying: “With these new statistics, I’m really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” Walenky said at a press briefing.

“I understand the temptation to do this. … But we cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day, 2,000 daily deaths,” she continued.”(A)

“The governors of Texas and Mississippi both announced on Tuesday they would be lifting their states’ mask mandates and rolling back many of their Covid-19 health mandates, just one day after the CDC warned against complacency in the face of emerging coronavirus variants.

“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday afternoon at Montelongo’s Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock.

“Covid has not suddenly disappeared,” he said, “but state mandates are no longer needed.”

Shortly after Abbott’s announcement, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that he would end Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate, effective Wednesday of this week.

“Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed,” Reeves tweeted. “It is time!”….

Abbott said his new executive order would rescind “most” of his prior Covid-19 executive orders, and that all businesses would be allowed to open “100 percent,” effective March 10….

Abbott also claimed that the millions of Texans who caught and recovered from Covid mean that millions “have the proven ability to beat this disease.”

“Covid still exists,” Abbott said, “but it is clear from the recoveries, from the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations, and from the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed.”

In subsequent tweets, Reeves said that Mississippi was “rewarded” for keeping its businesses mostly open “with more jobs and economic recovery.”

“Executive orders that interfered with peoples’ lives were the worst, but the only possible, intervention for much of the last year,” Reeves said. “Now, we are putting our focus towards rapid vaccine distribution. We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do.” (B)

President Joe Biden announced a major partnership Tuesday afternoon between pharmaceutical giants Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson to help produce J&J’s newly authorized vaccine and changed the vaccine timeline, saying there would be enough for every American adult by the end of May….

“About three weeks ago, we were able to say that we’ll have enough vaccine supply for adults by the end of July, and I’m pleased to announce today, as a consequence of this stepped-up process that I’ve ordered and just outlined, this country will have enough vaccine supply … for every adult in America by the end of May,” Biden said….

While some states, like Texas, announced they are easing their restrictions Tuesday, Biden was blunt that there is still a long road ahead.

“This fight is far from over. I told you, I would be straight up with you from the very beginning. As I said many times, things may get worse again as new variants spread and as we face setbacks,” he said.

“Though we celebrate the news of a third vaccine, I urge all Americans, please, keep washing your hands. Stay socially distanced. Wear masks. Keep wearing them. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn. Now is not the time to let up. I’ve asked the country to wear masks for my first 100 days in office. Now is not the time to let our guard down,” Biden continued.

Asked when things will “get back to normal,” the president said he hopes “by this time next year,” but added that it depends on if people continue to be “smart.”” (C)

“Thirty-five state governments currently require people to wear face coverings in public to curb the spread of COVID-19. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also have mask orders in place.

To date, four states that had mask mandates covering the general public have lifted them: Montana, Iowa, North Dakota and Mississippi. Texas is set to become the fifth on March 10, when Gov. Greg Abbott says his 8-month-old mask order will expire.

State mandates vary in details (for example, exemptions for children range in cutoff age from 2 to 12), but broadly speaking, they require masks in indoor public spaces such as restaurants and stores, on public transit and ride-hailing services, and outdoors when unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

Generally, there are exceptions for people with disabilities or medical conditions that prevent the use of face coverings, and allowances for certain situations where masking is difficult, unnecessary or hinders communication (say, when swimming, eating, exercising alone, getting dental treatment or speaking with a hearing-impaired person). Some state rules also include exemptions for people attending religious services.” (D)

“States are rolling back more and more coronavirus restrictions as vaccines become available and positive cases trend downward nationwide…

Arkansas has lifted almost all of its restrictions, and a number of other states have already reopened completely, including Iowa, Missouri (with county-wide exceptions) and Flordia.

Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday lifted most of the safety restrictions it placed on businesses to curb the spread of coronavirus and said he’ll end a mask mandate next month if the state’s test positivity or hospitalizations are low.

Hutchinson announced the rollback of the safety rules as he extended the public health emergency he declared last year because of the coronavirus pandemic until the end of March. The governor announced the move as he’s faced pushback from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature over the state’s virus safety rules.

The limits being lifted include capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms and large venues. Hutchinson left open the possibility of reinstating the restrictions if there’s another surge in cases.

Hutchinson said the mask mandate will be lifted at the end of March if the state’s positivity rate is below 10%, with at least 7,500 specimens tested on an average daily basis. If the state tests fewer specimens, the mandate would end if hospitalizations are below 750 patients.” (E)

“The US could experience a “fourth surge” of coronavirus before the majority of the country is vaccinated, Rochelle Walensky, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned yesterday.

Speaking at a White House briefing, Walensky said that a recent increase in coronavirus cases and the circulation of new variants of the virus meant another wave was possible, warning that “we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.” Daily case numbers fell sharply in January but have since begun to increase again. However, Walensky said it was possible to prevent a fourth surge, providing people followed “the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of Covid-19”.”


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