Americans locked down for a year or more are finally getting out, and a lot of them are headed to national parks — so many that some parksare setting up reservation systems, such as those controlling the flow at California’s Yosemite National Park and Maine’s Acadia National Park.
In 2020, the National Park Service received 237 million recreation visits, down more than 90 million visits (27.6%) from 2019. The decrease was due largely to temporary park closures in response to the pandemic. Visitation was the lowest since 1980.
Now the parks are booming again. Yellowstone National Park’s website emphasizes “if you don’t have a reservation, the nearest campsite or hotel room may be hours away.”
Great Falls National Park outside Washington, D.C., warns that “on weekends, if the park fills and parking not available, the entrance will close. … You may not enter until we reopen.”
Also in the news:
►The Food and Drug Administration has authorized for use another batch of vaccine produced at Johnson & Johnson’s troubled Emergent BioSolutions facility. Multiple media organizations including The Hill reported that the batch totals 14 million doses.
►The British government is planning to make vaccination mandatory for nursing home workers, the BBC and other media report. Staff are expected to be given 16 weeks to have the jab or face being redeployed away from frontline care or lose their jobs.
►The New York Yankees will resume 100% capacity at Yankee Stadium starting with Friday night’s series opener against the Oakland Athletics.
►Royal Caribbean International is postponing the inaugural sailings of its newest cruise ship after eight crew members received positive COVID-19 test results during routine testing.
►Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order barring all public universities and community colleges from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 600,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 176.57 million cases and more than 3.81 million deaths. More than 145.76 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 43.9% of the population, according to the CDC.
📘What we’re reading: Effective COVID-19 vaccines were developed in under a year. But a half-century after the country declared war on cancer, and 40 years after the first reported case of HIV/AIDS, there remains no way to prevent either disease or many more. Read the full story.
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US purchases 200M more vaccine doses from Moderna
Moderna announced that the federal government has purchased an additional 200 million doses of vaccine, primarily for vaccinating children or for use as a booster for people already vaccinated.
The government has bought 500 million doses including 110 million doses expected to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2021 and 90 million expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2022, the Massachusetts-based company said in a statement.
CEO Stéphane Bancel said Moderna remains “focused on being proactive as the virus evolves … to stay ahead of emerging variants.”
Vast majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated
Falling rates of COVID-19 across the United States mask a harsh reality – the overwhelming majority of those getting sick and being hospitalized are unvaccinated. Hospitals in states with the lowest vaccination rates tend to have more COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, according to hospital data collected in the past week by the Department of Health and Human Services and vaccination rates published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The people who say, ‘It’s my body, my choice?’ Well, it’s not all about you,” said Dr. Gerald Maloney, chief medical officer for hospital services at Geisinger health network, which runs nine hospitals in Pennsylvania. “It’s also about the people that you’re around.” Read more here.
– Elizabeth Weise and Aleszu Bajak
Delta variant a ‘concern’ as is quickly spreads across US
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now classified the delta variant of the coronavirus, first discovered in India, as a “variant of “concern” as it now accounts for 10% of cases in the U.S. The variant previously raged in India and is currently making its way through the U.K., prompting a delay in reopening.
“It’s doubling every two weeks,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on “Face the Nation”. “And I think the risk is really to the fall that this could spike a new epidemic heading into the fall.”
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 88% effective against the delta variant after two shots, according to research. Research indicates that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is less effective, but more information is needed.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, but it doesn’t bring back any of those lives or bring solace to the grieving families,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. “My other worry is that, for too many Americans and politicians, the rush for life to ‘get back to normal will lead to complacency about the problems that made us vulnerable to COVID in the first place.”
Study: Almost 25% who get COVID-19 develop long-term symptoms
A new report by FAIR Health shows that almost a quarter of coronavirus patients develop long-lasting symptoms or Long COVID. The study found that some symptoms were more prevalent in certain age groups or demographics. Older patients had a higher chance of developing high cholesterol, while younger patients were more likely to develop gastrointestinal issues after diagnosis.
The journal analyzed nearly 2 million private health care claim records of patients with COVID-19, excluding those with chronic conditions such as cancer and HIV.
– Steven Vargas
Maryland’s COVID-19 state of emergency to end July 1
Maryland’s COVID-19 state of emergency will end on July 1, more than 15 months after the deadly virus made its first appearance in the state in March 2020. All remaining health restrictions will end on that date, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday, including mask mandates.
“The battle’s not over,” Hogan said. “We’re transitioning from a state of emergency to an ongoing operation.”
That operation will include continuing to vaccinate thousands of Marylanders who still need the shots and caring for the shrinking number of people sickened by the virus. Over the course of the pandemic, Maryland has seen more than 460,000 cases of COVID-19. Nearly 9,500 people died, many of them elderly and vulnerable.
– Madeleine O’Neill, Salisbury Daily Times
New York, California ease restrictions as vaccination thresholds reached
New York state has surpassed the first-shot, 70% vaccination threshold for adults, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday, a benchmark that will trigger a pullback on safety precautions such as those still in place for social distancing in restaurants.
It means retail stores, restaurants, offices, gyms, amusement centers, hair salons can make it optional to have capacity and social distancing restrictions, as well as ease COVID disinfection protocols. However, large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12th-grade schools, public transit systems, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings must continue to follow existing state’s guidelines until more New Yorkers are vaccinated.
“Congratulations to New Yorkers because they are the ones who did it,” Cuomo said at a celebratory event at One World Trade Center in Manhattan.
And on the other coast, the nation’s largest state reopened Tuesday, effectively ending a slew of 15-month restrictions to stem the COVID-19 pandemic. California is ranked 41st among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. With 11.87% of the country’s population, California had 6.19% of the country’s cases in the last week.
– Joseph Spector
Contributing: The Associated Press.