The European Union on Wednesday announced plans to reopen its borders to fully vaccinated visitors, as well as people coming from a list of countries considered safe, with the United States expected to make the cut.
It’s unclear when these new rules will go into effect, but an updated list of countries that meet the new criteria is expected soon. Up until now, the list included only seven nations. The EU’s 27 ambassadors agreed to ease restrictions on nonessential travel and on those who are vaccinated for COVID-19 after imposing strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus last year.
“The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted,” said EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand. The EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will give advice on the list.
EU nations have been struggling to support their vital tourism industry during the pandemic and hope to recover some income over the peak summer season.
The U.S. ranks among the world leaders in vaccinations, with 60% of Americans adults having had at least one dose, and new infections and hospitalizations are steadily falling. The seven-day average of new cases has dropped to numbers not seen since March 2020, essentially the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also in the news:
►Health care providers may be overcounting the number of kids hospitalized for COVID-19, overestimating the small impact the disease has on children, according to a new study released Wednesday.
►Cafe and restaurant terraces reopened Wednesday in France after a pandemic shutdown of more than six months kept a quintessential French gathering spot off limits. In addition, the country’s 7 p.m. daily curfew is getting pushed back to 9 p.m.
►Japan continues to struggle with COVID-19 but is still planning to hold the Summer Olympics beginning July 23. “Japan is not ready to hold such a big event given the current situation of (the) COVID pandemic,” Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University in Japan, wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports. “The world, likewise, is not ready.”
►Coronavirus vaccination rates across the nation are lower in rural counties than in urban ones in both genders and in all age groups, according to a federal report issued Tuesday. The analysis, released by the CDC, looked at vaccination rates through April 10. It found rural counties had a rate of about 39% compared with 46% in urban counties.
►The Las Vegas Strip and surroundings will fully reopen to vaccinated diners, dancers, shoppers, and club-goers beginning June 1.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 587,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 164.4 million cases and 3.4 million deaths. More than 349 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 277 million have been administered, according to the CDC. Nearly 125.4 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 37.8% of the population.
📘 What we’re reading: A network of barbers and stylists in Maryland is offering fresh cuts and COVID shots to communities of color. Read more here.
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CDC’s Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci explain mask guidance
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday, six days after announcing new guidance on mask wearing for fully vaccinated people.
Walensky was asked repeatedly about the new recommendations and the impact they could have on getting Americans vaccinated. She emphasized that the country is not “homogenous,” and given the disproportionate rates of vaccination – particularly for people of color who are more at risk – said decisions about whether to remove mask mandates must be made at the local level.
“That scientific data was enough for us to move forward,” Walensky said of the decision on the mask guidance. “People said we moved too slow, we moved too fast. We moved at the speed that science gave us.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease expert, told Axios on Wednesday that the U.S. public did not correctly understand the CDC’s latest announcement.
“I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” he said. “It’s an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors.”
Fauci stressed that the CDC did not advise unvaccinated people to go without masks, though experts say the new guidance will allow unvaccinated people to flout rules without consequences.
Study: More California households went hungry early in pandemic
The early part of the pandemic significantly increased the number of Californians going hungry, a situation that became dramatically acute among those who previously lacked enough to eat, a UCLA study has found.
Researchers at the school said the number of California households with insufficient food rose by 22% during from late April to late July 2020. Households already struggling to put food on the table before the pandemic were 40 times more likely to go hungry.
“In particular, disadvantaged households in the San Francisco Bay Area – where income and educational levels are higher, but income inequality and cost of living are also higher – seem to be at higher risk for food insufficiency,” said May Wang, one of the study’s authors and a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Executives of firm that ruined millions of doses to testify before Congress
The top executives of Emergent BioSolutions, which ruined millions of Johnson & Johnson doses of coronavirus vaccine in its Baltimore plant in March, were to testify before a House subcommittee Wednesday.
A 13-page report released in April by the Food and Drug Administration found the plant in Baltimore was too small, poorly designed and dirty. Unsealed bags of medical waste were observed, along with peeling paint and damaged floors and walls that could inhibit proper cleaning, the inspectors said, adding that employees were not properly trained and failed to properly handle ingredients.
Members of Congress are asking for an explanation from the company, which was awarded a $628 million contract last year to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines but has not yet produced a single usable dose.
India reports record number of deaths: 4,329 in 24 hours
India’s total virus cases surged to 25.5 million Wednesday as the country registered more than 260,000 new infections and a record 4,329 fatalities in the past 24 hours.
The numbers continue a trend of falling cases after infections dipped below 300,000 for the first time in weeks Monday. Active cases in the country also decreased by more than 165,000 on Tuesday — the biggest dip in weeks.
But deaths, a lagging indicator, have continued to rise and hospitals are still swamped by patients.
The nation of nearly 1.4 billion has reported more than 400,000 daily new cases several times over the course of May, shattering global records. It has been slammed by a spike in infections since February, partially driven by a dangerous variant now found in 49 countries, including the U.S.
Contributing: The Associated Press.