Americans will be able to pay Memorial Day tributes to fallen troops on Monday in ways that were impossible last year, when virus restrictions were in effect in many places.
It will also be a day to remember the tens of thousands of veterans who died from COVID-19, and to recommit to vaccinating those who remain reluctant. Department of Veterans Affairs data shows more than 12,000 vets have died and more than 2.5 million have been inoculated.
The isolation of the pandemic has also been particularly hard on veterans, many of whom depend on kinship with fellow service members to cope with wartime trauma, says Jeremy Butler, a 47-year-old Navy Reserve officer in New York who heads the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“We’re reuniting now, but it’s been an extremely challenging year,” he said. “To have those connections cut off … those are so important to maintaining mental health.”
Also in the news:
►A fired Florida Health Department employee has received whistleblower status a year after being accused of repeatedly violating the agency’s policy about communicating with the media. Rebekah Jones, had raised questions about Florida’s data.
►Veteran Bill Swetow, 102, compares World War II service to the campaign to vaccinate Americans. “When our nation needed us and Uncle Sam came calling, we answered,” veteran Bill Swetow says in the video released Saturday by New York’s Ulster County. “And over 75 years later, we are at another moment where we need every American to do their part.”
►More than half the population of Massachusetts is now fully vaccinated from COVID-19, according to public health data.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 594,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 170 million cases and 3.5 million deaths. More than 134 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 40.5% of the population.
📘 What we’re reading: COVID-19 cases spiking again at some ICE detention centers. Critics say ICE failed to vaccinate detainees.
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Future queen of England gets first jab
The Duchess of Cambridge has received her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as Britain extends its inoculation program to younger residents. The wife of Prince William formerly known as Kate Middleton, 39, received her shot at London’s Science Museum, a mass vaccination center near the couple’s home at Kensington Palace. Middleton got her shot Friday, a few weeks after her husband, Prince William, who contracted COVID-19 last year. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles are among other members of the royal family who received shots publicly to promote vaccinations. Britain is among world leaders in vaccinations.
“I’m hugely grateful to everyone who is playing a part in the rollout – thank you for everything you are doing,” she wrote on social media accounts.
New Jersey’s “Shots At The Shore” campaign offering free vaccinations Saturday and Sunday at Sandy Hook, Long Branch and Asbury Park beaches drew no favors from the weather. This was also the first weekend after the mask mandate was lifted and social distancing requirements were all but gone, and millions in the state were vaccinated and ready to enjoy the outdoors. But Saturday and Sunday were rainy and chilly, dampening hopes for revelry as summer neared. Beaches were quiet and the anticipated buzz at local eateries was subdued.
“Yesterday was just OK,” said Jan Dorsey, manager of Pop’s Garage and the Asbury Park Yacht Club, two Boardwalk eateries. “On a normal weekend it is slammed crowded.”
– Joe Strupp, Asbury Park Press
Mandatory vaccines for universities comes under scrutiny
About 400 or so colleges plan to require that students who wish to learn in-person be vaccinated. But that demand could clash with Republican lawmakers. The state of Indiana recently passed a law that prohibits the use of “vaccine passports.” Indiana University argued the law doesn’t apply to the university, but the state’s attorney general disagreed. So far, the university is sticking by its vaccine requirement, even as conservative lawmakers continue to call on it to drop the mandate. This could be a recurring theme as the new school year approaches.
– Chris Quintana
Can your boss require you to be vaccinated? Yep.
Businesses can require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 without violating federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws, the agency says. Businesses can also offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated or to provide documentation of vaccination “as long as the incentives are not coercive,” the EEOC said in a statement. The updated EEOC guidance indicates employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who don’t get vaccinated because of a disability, religious beliefs or pregnancy.
– Julia Thompson
Nearly 60,000 Arkansas coronavirus doses near expiration
Nearly 60,000 doses of Arkansas’ allotment of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine are nearing their expiration date and would have to be discarded if not used by the end of June, according to a state health official. The Johnson & Johnson doses administered so far include 11,150 given May 1 through Friday – an average of fewer than 400 per day, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“What we have done is move them around,” to various vaccination sites, “so that the earlier expiring doses get used,” state epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “States everywhere are in a similar situation where they’re not ordering doses.”
Vietnam says new variant is highly contagious
Vietnam has detected a new coronavirus variant that lab tests say might spread more easily than other virus variants, Vietnamese Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said. Scientists who examined the genetic makeup of the virus say the variant is a hybrid of strains first found in India and the UK, Long said. Long said the new variant may be responsible for a surge in cases in Vietnam as the country has confirmed more than 3,500 new cases and 12 deaths in the last few weeks. The surge has prompted nationwide bans on religious events and other large gatherings, as well as the closing of public parks and non-essential businesses such as restaurants, bars, clubs and spas.
A Nashville, Tennessee, hat seller removed an Instagram post after fueling social media controversy for selling a patch that looks like the Jewish Star of David. HatWRKS, run by hatmaker Gigi Gaskins, posted a photo of a woman wearing a bright yellow star sticker with the words: “Not Vaccinated.” Social media users responded with the hashtag #HateWorks, calling the patch antisemitic and “disgusting.” The original Instagram post had thousands of comments before being taken down.
About 6 million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, when Nazis forced Jews to identify themselves by wearing a yellow six-pointed star. The business responded with an Instagram statement saying it did not mean to minimize the horrors of the holocaust.
– Sandy Mazza, Nashville Tennessean