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Florida Makes Quarantine Optional For Students Exposed To COVID-19

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen at a news conference last week. His newly appointed surgeon general on Wednesday signed protocols allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Wilfredo Lee/AP hide caption

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Wilfredo Lee/AP

ORLANDO, Fla. — A day after assuming his job, Florida’s newly appointed surgeon general on Wednesday signed new protocols allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The new guidelines signed by Dr. Joseph Ladapo also tweaked the state’s prohibition against school mask mandates, prompting an administrative law judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the old rule that had been filed by various school boards.

In terms of quarantine rules, Ladapo eliminated previous mandates requiring students to quarantine for at least four days off-campus if they’ve been exposed. Under the new guidelines, students who have been exposed can continue going to campus, “without restrictions or disparate treatment,” provided they are asymptomatic. They can also quarantine, but no longer than seven days, provided they do not get sick.

“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday at a news conference in Kissimmee. “It’s also disruptive for families. We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who get infected can spread the virus starting from two days before they have any symptoms. The CDC recommends that a student should quarantine for 14 days if they are unvaccinated. They can shorten the quarantine to seven days by testing negative, according to the CDC.

The president of a statewide teachers’ union said school districts need all the tools necessary to keep children safe.

“Limiting districts’ options and blocking them from following CDC guidelines is not in the best interest of the health of our students, employees or families,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association.

DeSantis named Ladapo to the job on Tuesday. Ladapo, who previously was a UCLA doctor and health policy researcher, shares the governor’s approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic. Like DeSantis, Ladapo has said he doesn’t believe in school closures, lockdowns or vaccine mandates.

DeSantis’ administration has opposed mask and vaccine mandates, fought local school boards over their efforts to require students to wear masks in schools and championed the use of monoclonal antibodies as a treatment for those who get sick with COVID-19.

Unchanged from the earlier rules are requirements that students with the virus either quarantine for 10 days, receive a negative test and be asymptomatic before returning to campus or offer a doctor’s note granting permission.

As in the previous guidelines, schools can require masks as long as students can opt out, though the new rules add language that it’s “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion.”

School officials in Alachua, Broward, Leon and Miami-Dade and Orange counties recently challenged the state’s prohibition against mask mandates. But the Florida Department of Health argued that its new rule should lead to the dismissal of the lawsuit that targeted the old rule. An administrative law judge agreed Wednesday, saying no decision on the validity of the rule could be made since it had been repealed.

Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon called the Department of Health rule changes “disingenuous.”

“Essentially, the State is responding to the legal challenges of its rules by repealing them and creating new ones, with limited public notice,” Simon said in a statement.

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/09/22/1039907024/florida-quarantine-optional-for-students-exposed-covid

Covid19

The CDC emphasizes COVID vaccinations as a key to safe holiday gatherings

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A video call on a laptop screen during Christmas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on Friday for safely celebrating the upcoming holiday season. FilippoBacci/Getty Images hide caption

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FilippoBacci/Getty Images

Following confusion earlier this month on how the country should safely celebrate the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released its updated guidance around gatherings and traveling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the new guidance issued Friday, the CDC says the best way to safely celebrate the holiday season is by being vaccinated (if eligible) against the coronavirus.

“Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated,” the CDC said on its website.

Health officials said that having every person in attendance vaccinated against the virus is particularly important for protecting those who can’t get a shot, such as children under 12.

The CDC recommends that those who aren’t fully vaccinated delay their travel plans. For those that do travel, the CDC offers recommendations for domestic or international travelers.

In addition, the CDC suggests those who aren’t fully vaccinated wear well-fitting masks over the nose and mouth if in public indoor settings. It says outdoor celebrations, if possible, are recommended instead of indoor ones.

If in an outdoor setting, those who are vaccinated do not need to wear a mask, unless they are in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

“By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends,” the CDC said.

Just this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said that trick-or-treating can resume this Halloween, should those that are fully vaccinated feel comfortable doing so.

“I think that, particularly if you’re vaccinated, you can get out there and enjoy it,” Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics website, HealthyChildren.org, officials recommend that families that decide on outdoor trick-or-treating do so in small groups.

When it comes to handing out candy, the website says to sit outside and line up individually prepackaged treats for children to take, including non-edible treats for those with food allergies.

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/10/15/1046615372/cdc-new-covid-guidelines-holiday-celebrations

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United States commits another 17 million COVID vaccine doses to the African Union

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The vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The White House says Thursday that the U.S. will commit 17 million additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union. Picture Alliance/dpa/picture alliance via Getty I hide caption

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Picture Alliance/dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

The White House says the United States will donate more than 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from its domestic supplies to the African Union.

President Biden made the announcement Thursday as he met with Kenyan Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House, Biden’s first one-on-one meeting with an African leader.

“We’re continuing our shared fight against COVID,” Biden said during the meeting.

The vaccine donation comes on top of the 50 million vaccines doses already donated by the United States to the African Union, according to the White House.

The 17 million J&J vaccines will be available for delivery immediately and will be delivered to the African Union within the coming weeks.

Kenyatta thanked Biden for assisting both Kenya and other African countries, saying that the U.S. has “stepped up” when it comes to vaccine donation and access to vaccines for other countries.

News of Kenya’s 17 million vaccine donation comes after the World Health Organization said last month the African continent was almost 500 million doses short of what is needed to achieve its goal of vaccinating 40% of people by the end of 2021.

“African countries need clear delivery dates so they can plan properly. We also need strong structures set up to ensure that all promises made are promises kept,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa in a statement addressing the shortage.

To date, under half of the African countries that have received COVID-19 vaccines have fully vaccinated only 2% or less of their populations, according to the WHO.

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/10/14/1046163404/united-states-donating-covid-vaccines-african-union

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WHO launches a new group to study the origins of the coronavirus

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Geneva, in March 2020. Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The World Health Organization has announced the establishment of a scientific advisory group aimed at identifying the origin of COVID-19 and to better prepare for future outbreaks of other deadly pathogens.

The WHO’s Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins on Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, will include scientists from the U.S., China and about two dozen other countries. It will be charged with answering the question of how the novel coronavirus first infected humans — a mystery that continues to elude experts more than 18 months into the crisis. The group will also be responsible for establishing a framework to combat future pandemics

Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of WHO’s emerging disease unit, called the establishment of the new group “a real opportunity right now to get rid of all the noise, all the politics surrounding this and focus on what we know, what we don’t know.”

The team will be selected from more than 700 applications from experts in fields including epidemiology, animal health, ecology, clinical medicine, virology, genomics, molecular epidemiology, molecular biology, biology, food safety, biosafety, biosecurity and public health, the WHO said in a statement.

“The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential, and requires a broad range of expertise.”

Beijing continues to resist investigations in China

The establishment of the group comes as China has continued to resist efforts to study the possible origin of the virus there. After an initial investigation by the WHO, Beijing rejected a plan for a second phase of the probe in July that might delve into various hypotheses about the origin of the virus, including that it escaped from a Chinese government lab in the city of Wuhan.

The so-called “lab-leak theory” was initially dismissed by WHO, but has nonetheless gained traction in recent months, fueled in part by Beijing’s secrecy. Many scientists contend that a lab leak is much less likely than the alternative — that the novel coronavirus has a natural origin.

Beijing did not immediately react to the announcement of the new task force.

The WHO director still wants to look at labs in Wuhan

Despite the WHO’s initial findings, Tedros has called for audits of Wuhan laboratories, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which some scientists believe may be the source of the virus that caused the first infections in China.

Some of the proposed SAGO members were on the original 10-person WHO team that studied possible origins in China, including Chinese scientist Yungui Yang of the Beijing Institute of Genomics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

An editorial co-authored by Tedros that was published in Science on Wednesday said SAGO would “quickly assess the status of SARS-CoV-2 origin studies and advise WHO on what is known, the outstanding gaps, and next steps.”

It said that “[all] hypotheses must continue to be examined,” including the “studies of wildlife sold in markets in and around Wuhan, China (where cases of COVID-19 were first reported in December 2019); studies of SARS-like coronaviruses circulating in bats in China and Southeast Asia; studies on prepandemic biological sampling around the world; and other animal susceptibility studies.”

“As well, laboratory hypotheses must be examined carefully, with a focus on labs in the location where the first reports of human infections emerged in Wuhan,” it said, adding, “A lab accident cannot be ruled out until there is sufficient evidence to do so and those results are openly shared.”

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/10/13/1045647249/who-covid-investigation-china-wuhan-lab-leak

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COVID-19 continues to be a leading cause of death in the U.S. in September 2021

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An updated issue brief examines COVID-19’s effect on mortality rates, and estimates that in September 2021, COVID-19 was the number two on the list of the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S. As recently as January 2021, COVID was the number one leading cause of death, though COVID rank had briefly dropped to the 8th leading cause of death in July 2021 before the delta variant, relaxed social distancing and inadequate vaccinations led to a surge in new cases and deaths.

The analysis also estimates that nationally more than 90,000 deaths from COVID-19 since June could have been prevented with vaccines. More than half of those preventable deaths occurred in September.

The analysis can be found on the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, an information hub dedicated to monitoring and assessing the performance of the U.S. health system.

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Source: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/covid-19-continues-to-be-a-leading-cause-of-death-in-the-u-s/

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