Biden Pushes for Masks in Schools; Cigna Mandate: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden’s administration will start offering booster shots in late September, and will require nursing homes to vaccinate their staff against the coronavirus in order to receive federal funding. The president said authorities need to ensure children wear masks in schools and criticized governors who are fighting mandates on face coverings.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will launch a new outbreak analysis and forecast center, picking a group of outsiders from academia and the private sector to lead the new initiative.
One of Israel’s top health-care providers said initial results of a study show that a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine given to Israelis over 60 has been 86% effective. Pope Francis issued a public service announcement promoting vaccination.
- Global Tracker: Cases top 209 million; deaths pass 4.38 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 4.78 billion doses administered
- U.S. drug authorities seen sidelined by Biden’s booster push
- Masks at Goldman, scrutiny at Morgan Stanley as delta spreads
- NYC businesses sue de Blasio for requiring vaccination proof
- U.S. Covid vaccinations rise to highest level since May
Texas ICU Capacity Shrivels (5:30 p.m. NY)
Intensive-care wards across Texas are rapidly filling and some regions have no space available for the sickest virus patients, state health department figures showed.
Almost two-thirds of Texas’s 22 trauma-service areas reported open ICU beds in the single digits or at zero, according to the data. In the service regions that include the state’s two largest metro areas -- Houston and San Antonio -- hospitals have just 111 ICU beds to cover a combined population of about 10 million.
Meanwhile, new cases soared by more than 20,000 for a second straight day, the first time that’s happened since the depths of the previous wave in mid January, state figures showed.
Biden Backs Masks in Schools (5 p.m. NY)
President Joe Biden said authorities should ensure kids are wearing masks in schools and criticized governors who are trying to block mask mandates in school, threatening them with legal action.
Biden didn’t name any other politicians but his administration has been tussling with the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, both Republicans, over the issue. Masks are necessary to protect children who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, the president said as he spoke at the White House about booster shots and other efforts to fight the virus.
“We are still in a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said, noting virtually all recent deaths and hospitalizations were among people not inoculated against the virus. About 85 million Americans who are eligible to get a shot remain unvaccinated, he said.
Biden to Require Nursing Home Staff Shots (3:40 p.m. NY)
President Joe Biden plans to announce Wednesday that his administration will require nursing homes to vaccinate their staff against the coronavirus in order to receive federal funding, a person familiar with the matter said.
The new requirement will apply to more than 15,000 facilities that currently participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to the person who discussed the policy before the president’s remarks on condition of anonymity.
Delta Accounts for 95% of New N.Y. Infections (1:10 p.m. NY)
Nearly all positive coronavirus cases in New York state are linked to the high transmissible delta variant, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The state is seeing a dramatic increase in cases, with 4,737 new positives reported on Wednesday, up from 823 cases one month ago, according to state data. There were 20 coronavirus-related deaths and 1,888 hospitalizations.
Samples collected between Aug. 1 and Aug. 14 showed 95% of the recent positives in the state are linked to the variant, Cuomo said in a news release. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65.5% of New Yorkers have at least one vaccine dose.
WHO Concerned Over Roche Drug Shortage (12:15 p.m. NY)
The World Health Organization and Unitaid expressed concern over yesterday’s statement from Roche Holding AG that warned of a global shortage in the drug Actemra.
In a joint statement, WHO and Unitaid welcomed Roche’s measures to address the shortage but called on the company to ensure “equitable allocation” of Actemra to all countries.
Additionally, the two public health organizations encouraged Roche to “facilitate technology transfer and knowledge and data sharing” to broaden access to the drug.
In June, the WHO recommended Actemra as treatment for severe cases of Covid-19. The drug, whose generic name is tocilizumab, was initially produced for arthritis but has been found to decrease the risk of death in Covid in patients.
In an email Wednesday, Roche said it “is in the midst of discussions with WHO and we are committed to support access” in low- and middle-income countries.
Cigna Requires Vaccinations (11:35 a.m. NY)
Cigna Corp. will require U.S. workers to be vaccinated before returning to in-person work, the health-care giant said. People who work remotely will need to be fully immunized against Covid-19 before entering worksites starting on Sept. 7. Employees who must work on-site, including medical providers and pharmacists, will have to be fully vaccinated or provide two negative Covid tests each week starting Oct. 18, the company said.
Cigna had about 73,700 employees at the end of 2020, according to company filings, with 89% based in the U.S.
De Blasio Doesn’t See Student Shot Mandate (11:30 a.m. NY)
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he doesn’t anticipate imposing a vaccine mandate on schoolchildren ahead of the Sept. 13 public school start. He said that 56% of 12-to 17-year-olds, or about 300,000 kids, have received their first shot. De Blasio declined to say whether or not he would impose a vaccine mandate on teachers, who are required to submit to weekly testing if they aren’t vaccinated.
The city said it has been stockpiling shots in anticipation of the ability to give booster shots. The city has 750,000 doses in stock and has the ability to order more.
South Africa Infection Rate as High as 80% (10:20 a.m. NY)
As many as four out of five South Africans may have contracted the coronavirus, indicating that the country may be one of the world’s hardest-hit nations, the chief actuary at Africa’s biggest health insurer said. Emile Stipp, the actuary at Discovery Health, based his calculations on the country’s case-fatality rate and excess deaths, a measure of the number of fatalities compared with an historical average. They are thought to provide a more accurate picture of the impact of the pandemic than the official toll.
CDC Creates Center to Forecast Outbreaks (9:37 a.m. NY)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a new center designed to provide early warnings and real-time data on disease threats and outbreaks. The CDC said the move was addressing a critical need to improve the U.S. government’s ability to forecast and model emerging health threats.
Funded by the American Rescue Plan stimulus package, the new department will use data to help public health decision-makers mitigate the effects of disease threats.
Israel Pfizer Booster Shows 86% Efficacy (9:33 a.m. NY)
Initial results show vaccine effectiveness of 86% for people age 60 and above who received a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine, according to a study by Israel’s Maccabi health care services.
Kids Sue Texas Over Ban on School Masks (9:07 a.m. NY)
More than a dozen disabled Texas children sued Governor Greg Abbott in federal court to overturn his ban on universal masking in schools, calling the rule a threat to their safety and a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and President Joe Biden’s Covid-recovery economic stimulus act.
The children’s challenge against Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since becoming a paraplegic in a running accident decades ago, was filed the same day the governor revealed he’d contracted a breakthrough case of Covid-19.
Greece Approves Booster for Vulnerable (8:49 a.m. NY)
Greece’s national vaccination committee approved booster shots for immune-suppressed individuals and other vulnerable groups. The country will start to administer the third vaccines in early September, senior Health Ministry official Marios Themistocleous said.
The number of new cases is expected to peak at the end of September or in early October, he said.
Earlier, Greece prolonged a curfew and other restrictions in the Heraklion and Chania areas of Crete, the country’s largest island, until Aug. 25. The measures were also introduced in the Rethymno district. Greece on Tuesday had its third-biggest daily jump in Covid cases.
Pope Urges Vaccinations in Video (7:25 a.m. NY)
Pope Francis issued a public service announcement dedicated to the people of Latin America that promotes the benefits of vaccination.
“Being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love,” as is helping others to do so, he said.
Singapore Extends Shot Eligibility (6 a.m. NY)
Singapore will offer vaccinations to short-term visa pass holders, according to the Ministry of Health.
The eligibility expansion includes special pass holders such as those on training work permits. Vaccinations will also be made available to eligible short-term visit pass holders who have been in Singapore for at least 60 days continuously.
Moderna Founder Says Annual Shots Possible (5 a.m. NY)
Moderna Inc. co-founder Noubar Afeyan envisions a time when Covid-19 shots could become routine.
“Public health officials are going to have to decide if everybody should get a booster shot,” he said in an interview on “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” that’s airing on Bloomberg TV on Wednesday.
“My guess is that given enough time, we may well end up in a situation where we have, let’s say at a minimum, yearly vaccinations, just like the flu,” said Afeyan, who also serves as chairman.
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