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The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the rounds on various networks Wednesday, reaffirming fully vaccinated Americans still don't need to wear COVID-19 face masks in most situations but acknowledging local officials may implement stricter policies.
"Here in the United States, we're fortunate. We have three vaccines that we know are safe and effective. We have two-thirds of the adult population that is fully vaccinated and really quite protected from the variants that we have circulating here," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday morning on NBC News' Today show.
Walensky's comments come after the World Health Organization this week recommended even vaccinated people continue to wear masks, and Los Angeles health officials recommended all people wear them indoors because of concerns about the delta coronavirus variant.
"We are still seeing an uptick of cases in areas of low vaccination, and in that situation we are suggesting that policies be made at the local level. And those masking policies are really intended to protect the unvaccinated. The vaccinated we believe still are safe," Walensky said on "Good Morning America."
The delta variant, which is believed to be more contagious, accounts for more than one in four COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to CDC estimates.
Also in the news:
►Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte moved Wednesday to lift the state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic, more than 15 months after it was imposed under his predecessor.
►Michigan on Wednesday became the 11th state to report 1 million cases, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. California has reported the most cases with more than 3.8 million reported. Texas, the state with the second-most cases, is on the cusp of reporting its third millionth case.
►A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict a former Houston-area health department doctor who was accused of stealing nine doses of coronavirus vaccine from a damaged vial and administering them to family and friends.
►The latest World Health Organization update Tuesday reported that last week reflected the lowest COVID-19 mortality rate globally since early Nov. 2020: 57,000 new deaths in total. But the rate of new cases remained similar to the previous week, with over 2.6 million new cases.
►South Korea is reporting its biggest daily rise in new coronavirus cases in about two months, just a day before it plans to relax its physical distancing rules.
►The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed a federal moratorium on evictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic to remain in place. The move came days after the Biden administration extended the moratorium another 30 days, through July 31. Officials told the court the CDC did not intend to extend it again after the end of next month.
►Effective July 12, unionized autoworkers in the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer have to wear face masks at work.
►About 90.5% of all active cases in Arkansas involve people not fully vaccinated, according to CBS.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 604,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 182 million cases and more than 3.94 million deaths. More than 154.1 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – nearly 46.% of the population, according to the CDC.
📘 What we're reading: In the United States, masks are becoming a far less common accessory, under federal guidance that once vaccinated, they're largely unnecessary. But the World Health Organization recently recommended that even vaccinated people continue to wear masks. So who's right? Read more here.
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Text messages may boost vaccination rates, study says
Most states around the country are experiencing a vaccination lag, even as vaccines become more widely available.
The culprit behind this lag? Most vaccine hesitancy has come from young, rural and lower-income people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More data shows that at least 10% of people who received one dose of an mRNA vaccine have yet to get their second shot.
Researchers found in a study published in May that people who were texted encouraging them to get the flu vaccine were more likely to get inoculated, and some states have begun using the same strategy to increase vaccination rates.
Hengchen Dai, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, tested the text messages at UCLA's Health system, finding that the message reminders boosted vaccination rates by as much as 3.4 percentage points.
Oklahoma launched a statewide texting campaign earlier this month to reach people across the state with details about how to find an appointment near them. The federal government also launched one in May.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment used a different approach: Monday, it called residents who hadn't received the vaccine to remind them to get inoculated and to provide them with information on where to get vaccinated. Various other states have employed lotteries and cash incentives to get residents inoculated.
Study author Dr. Mitesh Patel told CNN it was unlikely the texts would persuade a hesitant person to get vaccinated. But "there's probably 10% of people who are just vaccine apathetic," he said. "They're not against it, but they're not going to go out of their way to get it, and that 10% could really push us toward herd immunity."
Anheuser-Busch still giving away free beer over July 4th holiday
Remember Anheuser-Busch’s promise to give Americans free beer if the White House hit its goal of getting 70% of U.S. adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4? The beer-maker is keeping its word, even though the country fell short of that goal.
Starting Friday and through Monday at 11:59 p.m. ET, adults 21 and older can go to MyCooler.com/beer and upload a picture of themselves at their favorite place to have a beer (such as a local bar or restaurant, backyard or baseball stadium). They will get an email with a digital gift card worth $5, the average retail price of an Anheuser-Busch product. They can use the card to claim a free beer through Monday. Read more.
– Mike Snider, USA TODAY
Dozens positive for COVID-19 after attending camp that didn't require masks, vaccinations
More than 80 teens and adult staff have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a summer camp in central Illinois that did not require masks indoors or vaccination status.
Of the 85 people infected, about 70% of the cases were in those not vaccinated, according to a press release from the Illinois Department of Health on Monday.
"The perceived risk to children may seem small, but even a mild case of COVID-19 can cause long-term health issues," IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in the release. Read more.
– Asha Gilbert, USA TODAY
Wearing a mask at the gym doesn’t affect workouts, study finds
A new study found wearing a mask while exercising doesn’t impact performance.
Cleveland Clinic researchers analyzed 20 healthy men and women as they ran on a treadmill wearing no mask, an N95 mask and a cloth mask with a carbon filter, according to the study published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open.
They increased the treadmill speed from 0 to 2% in the first two minutes and then increased the speed by 1% every minute until volunteers reached peak exhaustion. Participants were also asked to fill out a questionnaire of how they were feeling post-exercise.
Study authors found that while respondents perceived it harder to breathe at peak exercise with a mask, there actually were no significant physical changes between exercising with or without a mask.
– Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Elderly inmate sent home during COVID is back in prison after going to computer class
Gwen Levi left prison last year, believing it was for good. She volunteered for several criminal justice groups and began learning how to use a computer.
On June 16, about a year after the Justice Department allowed her to serve her sentence at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, Levi was re-arrested for violating the terms of her home confinement, her attorney, Sapna Mirchandani said.
Levi attended a computer class in Baltimore four days earlier, believing she had been approved to do so. Officials at her halfway house pinged her ankle monitor and called her several times after realizing she wasn't home. But Levi had turned her phone off while in class, and her ankle monitor didn't go off, her attorney said. She was unreachable for several hours.
Levi was serving more than 30 years for drug conspiracy charges. Her sentence was reduced to 24 years as part of the First Step Act, a Trump-era criminal justice bill that shortened punishments for nonviolent drug crimes.
A Bureau of Prison report described the incident as an "escape." Levi is now at a Washington, D.C. jail, waiting to be transferred to a federal facility, where she will presumably serve the remaining four years of her sentence. She's 76. Read more here.
– Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY
Brazil’s Bolsonaro under fire after vaccine deal allegations
Accusations that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro turned a blind eye to possible corruption in a deal to purchase coronavirus vaccines have heightened threats to his presidency, including a move to recommend slapping him with a criminal charge.
The claims have added impetus to the opposition’s impeachment drive and left the Brazilian leader’s allies in Congress evaluating the costs of their support.
Bolsonaro, who has been targeted by nationwide street protests in recent weeks, has called the Senate committee investigating the government’s COVID-19 response a “national shame” aimed at undermining his administration. For two months, the nationally televised hearings have largely focused on why his Health Ministry ignored opportunities to buy vaccines while Bolsonaro relentlessly pushed hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that rigorous studies have shown to be ineffective in treating COVID-19.
Testimony before the Senate committee last week from Luis Ricardo Miranda, the chief of the Health Ministry’s import division, and his brother Luis Miranda, a lawmaker until recently allied with Bolsonaro, has turned up the heat even more.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Mike Stucka, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Colorado, Oklahoma hold phone campaigns to boost COVID vaccinations