Lawmakers urge stricter holiday travel protocol

November 13, 2021
Paramedic Rebecca Hoke prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 12 years old on Thursday at a vaccination site in Fort Worth, Texas.
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The delta variant of COVID-19 is not done with the U.S. 

Nearly all US infections are now attributed to the highly-contagious variant. And as winter months mean more people will be gathering indoors, the nation is attempting to prepare for a possible winter surge that may be already be underway in some regions. 

In New Mexico, hospitals are running out of intensive care beds, despite the state’s high vaccination rate. In Michigan, the three-county metro Detroit area is again becoming a hot spot for transmissions.  Cases are also on the rise in highly-vaccinated Vermont.

Waning immunity may be contributing to the rise in cases, as months have passed since millions of Americans were first vaccinated and past surges of the virus led others to have some protection from natural infection immunity. The nation’s ongoing booster rollout is attempting to head off the effects of waning immunity.

“Delta and waning immunity — the combination of these two have set us back,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington. “This virus is going to stick with us for a long, long time.”

No state has achieved a high enough vaccination rate, even when combined with infection-induced immunity, to avoid the type of outbreaks happening now, Mokdad said.

Also in the news:

► California, Colorado and New Mexico are the three states now allowing coronavirus booster shots for all adults even though federal health officials recommend limiting doses to those considered most at risk. The nation’s most populous state instituted its policies to try to head off a feared surge around the end-of-year holidays when more people are gathering inside.

►An Iowa high school was closed Friday due to a lack of staff, a sign of how the pandemic is affecting an ongoing teacher shortage. The absences were attributed to illnesses among staff and their families and also employees who couldn’t find child care.

► Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law an expansive legislative package strictly limiting the authority schools, health agencies and businesses have over COVID-19 restrictions on Friday.

► The government on Friday directed nursing homes to open their doors wide to visitors, easing many remaining pandemic restrictions while urging residents, families and facility staff to keep their guard up against outbreaks.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded almost 47 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 762,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: Almost 252.7 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 194.7 million Americans – 58.7% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: As children are immunized, parents are looking forward to the freedoms their kids can enjoy after bravely facing their jab. But the question of masking – especially in schools – still remains. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Lawmakers urge Biden to require vaccination or negative tests for holiday travel

With the holiday travel season rapidly approaching, three dozen lawmakers are pushing the federal government to require proof of full vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to board domestic flights.

Lawmakers said the additional travel restrictions would “ensure Americans can travel safely to see their loved ones during the holidays while also limiting household introduction and spread of COVID-19 from visiting family and friends,” according to a letter sent to President Joe Biden.

The push for more mandates comes less than a week after the United States updated its entry requirements for international air travel. As of Monday, most foreign nationals must be fully vaccinated and all travelers aged 2 and older who have not recently recovered from COVID-19 – including U.S. citizens – must show a negative coronavirus test to enter.

— Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY

Missouri to allow nursing homes to close if short-staffed because of vaccine mandate

The Missouri health department is giving nursing homes a legal pathway to temporarily shut down if they face staffing shortages because of a new mandate from President Joe Biden’s administration for health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

An emergency rule published Friday from the state Department of Health and Senior Services would allow skilled nursing and intermediate care facilities to close for up to two years, if they are short staffed because of the vaccine requirement. They could then reopen without having to start the licensure process from scratch.

Missouri’s nursing homes have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates nationally, and the state’s top Republican elected officials have been pushing back against Biden’s vaccine requirements. State Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued this week as part of a coalition of 10 states seeking to block the vaccine mandate.

New Oklahoma National Guard head undercuts DOD vaccine requirement

In one of his first acts as the head of the Oklahoma National Guard, new Adjutant General Thomas Mancino updated the guard’s COVID-19 vaccine policy

In a memo issued Thursday, Mancino ordered that no members of the Oklahoma National Guard be required to take a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The memo obtained by The Oklahoman, part of The USA TODAY Network, also notes “no negative administrative or legal action will be taken” against guard members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.

In August, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said all military members must immediately begin to get COVID-19 vaccines. 

— Carmen Forman, The Oklahoman

Contributing: The Associated Press

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