Mon, September 27, 2021

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Biden administration takes new actions on masking, vaccination amid COVID-19 resurgence


President Joe Biden said he is directing the Education Department to use its legal authority against some governors who are trying to block local school officials from requiring students to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday the administration is taking new actions on masking, vaccination and booster shots amid a COVID-19 resurgence driven by the highly contagious Delta variant across the country.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said he is directing the Education Department to use its legal authority against some governors who are trying to block local school officials from requiring students to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

"You know, we're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children," Biden said.

Some Republican governors, such as Florida's Ron DeSantis, Doug Ducey of Arizona, and Greg Abbott of Texas, have issued orders barring local school districts from requiring masks in the classroom.

"They're setting a dangerous tone," Biden said. "This isn't about politics. It's about keeping our children safe. It's about taking on the virus together, united."

He said COVID-19 emergency funding in American Rescue Plan can be used to pay educators who have their paycheck cut by local and state governments if their schools implement mask mandates.

More than 121,000 new child cases were logged in the week ending Aug. 12 in the United States, "a continuing substantial increase," said a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

As of Aug. 12, more than 4.41 million children had tested positive in the country since the onset of the pandemic, representing 14.4 percent of all cases, said the report. Children under the age of 12 have not been authorized to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States.

Biden said Wednesday he is also directing the Department of Health and Human Services to draw up new regulations making employee vaccination a condition for nursing homes to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

His administration has already required that all health care and nursing home workers with the Department of Veterans Affairs be vaccinated and that federal employees get vaccinated or undergo routine testing.

Additionally, Biden spoke about the administration's new recommendation for everyone to get booster shots, beginning the week of Sept. 20, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

"It's the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that could arrive," Biden said of the boosters.

He downplayed the criticism that Americans would be getting additional protection against COVID-19 while much of the world still waits for the first vaccination shots.

"There's some world leaders who say America shouldn't get a third shot until other countries got their first shot -- I disagree," Biden said. "We can take care of America and help the world at the same time."

Students of Montrara Ave. Elementary School attend their in-person class in Los Angeles, California, the United States, on Aug. 16, 2021.

Fully vaccinated Americans who received a two-shot mRNA vaccine, like those made by Moderna and Pfizer, earlier this year can start getting booster doses on Sept. 20, U.S. health officials announced earlier Wednesday. Each person should get their booster shot eight months after their second shot.

Americans who got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely also need booster shots, but more data on the topic is expected in the coming weeks, said the officials.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the vaccines' effectiveness dropped from 75 percent in March to 53 percent by August.

Hospitals across the United States are "back in crisis mode" due to a fourth surge of the COVID-19 pandemic driven by the Delta variant, according to an article published by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Double-digit growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations was recorded in 46 of the 50 U.S. states in the week ending Tuesday, and eight states, including California and New York, added more than 400 new inpatients, the article said.

The United States logged 911,529 new cases in the week ending Sunday, and had not seen such a high weekly increase since the week ending Jan. 31 with more than 1 million new infections, according to the newspaper.

As of Wednesday, 60 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines, with 51 percent fully vaccinated, CDC data showed.

A man walks past a sign of COVID-19 vaccination at a pharmacy in New York, the United States, Aug. 11, 2021.

Published : August 19, 2021

By : xinhua