Abbott adviser on Texas mask mandate; Arizona schools

It’s been nearly a year since Texas Governor Greg Abbott began easing restrictions on Texas businesses, relying on the support of a team of business executives and public health experts.

That was then. That is now. Abbott announced this week that it is dropping all mask mandates and business restrictions effective March 10th. Dr. Mark McClellan, former head of the Food and Drug Administration and one of the above public health experts, said he had not been consulted.

“I don’t think this is the right time,” said McClellan. “Texas has made some real headway, but it’s too early to fully reopen and stop masking others.”

Art Acevedo, Houston police chief, described Abbott’s ambitious plan as “grossly misguided,” but said it offered residents an opportunity to see “who among us cares enough for their Texans to take simple steps to help our Texans ahead a deadly virus to protect “.

Abbott is fully vaccinated. Angela Clendenin, an epidemiologist at Texas A&M University School of Public Health, said it would have been better to wait until all Texans have a chance to get vaccinated. Now she said it was the individual’s duty to protect one another in order to avoid a “freedom for all”.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves issued a similar order, and this week’s tandem decisions prompted President Joe Biden to criticize “Neanderthal thinking” about lifting coronavirus restrictions when only about 8% of the US -Population are fully vaccinated.

Abbott’s plan was supported by Dr. John Hellerstedt, the State Department of State Health Services commissioner, who said the governor’s decision did not pose a threat to public safety. Hellerstedt said he believed Texans should wear masks but not be asked to.

Also in the news:

►One first: The US administered an average of more than 2 million vaccine doses per day in the seven-day period ended Wednesday, based on a TODAY review of data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

► Health officials in Hillsborough County, Florida have determined that despite the thousands of fans who have traveled to Tampa to attend the game and surrounding events, official Super Bowl 55 events resulted in a total of 57 COVID-19 cases have led.

► New York, one of the first states in the US to introduce travel restrictions for domestic visitors last spring, took another step on Wednesday to relax its COVID-19 guidelines by adding quarantine and COVID-19 testing restrictions for People who were vaccinated within the US were repealed 90 days after their second vaccination.

► An outbreak of COVID-19 at Vermont State Prison in Newport has grown to 100 inmates and eight employees, the corrections department commissioner said.

📈 Today’s numbers: The US has more than 28.7 According to the Johns Hopkins University, millions of coronavirus cases and 518,300 deaths have been confirmed. The global total: More than 115.12 million cases and 2.55 million deaths. According to the CDC, more than 107 million vaccine doses have been distributed and about 80 million administered in the United States.

📘 What we read: Four states announced rollback mask mandates in major COVID-19 security recalls last month. Many wonder if more states will join the flood and change the country’s handling of COVID-19 at a crucial time in the fight against the disease. Read the full story.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Please keep updating this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates for your inbox and join our Facebook group.

The real cost of a $ 1.9 trillion stimulus plan remains a mystery

Senators waited Thursday for a final price on President Joe Biden’s COVID stimulus plan before starting debate on the measure that Democrats want to pass by the end of next week. The Senate was due to begin debating the legislation on Wednesday, but the Senate was still waiting for the Impartial Budget Office of Congress and the Joint Tax Committee of Congress to estimate the total cost of the Senate version of the bill on condition of the adjutant, according to a senior Democrat Anonymity. Typically, the total cost must be less than the $ 1.9 trillion approved in previous statutes.

– Nicholas Wu

It’s not just Texas: pressure is building to ease restrictions

Texas and Mississippi aren’t the only states to withdraw mask mandates and other security measures in the last month. Texas, Montana, New York, and Arkansas are among the states that are rapidly easing restrictions. More states could join the flood and change the country’s handling of COVID-19 at a crucial time in the pandemic. In the meantime, cities, businesses and families often make their own decisions about whether to wear masks or go to restaurants, despite statements from the governors.

Eric Rubin, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said he understood the daunting task for states considering whether to reopen their economies. But that has nothing to do with wearing a mask.

“The part that doesn’t make any sense at all is the masking part,” said Rubin. “There is no economic reason never to wear masks.”

– Christal Hayes

The legendary civil rights march in Selma will be virtual this year

For the first time in decades, there will be no crowds walking the streets or politicians bandaging guns at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the first weekend in March in Selma, Alabama.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Selma Bridge Crossing anniversary is going virtual, broadcasting speeches, workshops, and fellowship in homes across the country and around the world. The 2021 Jubilee marks the 56th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March, when hundreds of civil rights activists attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965.

“We realized in September that there will still be a real threat to public health and safety,” said Drew Glover, main coordinator for the 2021 event. “We took a step back and wondered what the best approach would be to still host the event and keep people as safe as possible. “

– Melissa Brown, advertiser in Montgomery

The governor of Arizona orders all schools to open classrooms

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has ordered all schools to study in person again this month. He said, “The students need to be back in the classroom.”

Ducey issued an executive order on Wednesday urging all schools to reopen in-person learning by March 15 or after the spring break. The move comes about a year after schools initially closed face-to-face classes to limit the spread of COVID-19. Some states have similar plans to re-admit students, including California, Michigan, and North Carolina.

President Joe Biden’s American bailout, the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package under discussion in the Senate, provides around $ 130 billion for schools to give them the resources to reopen safely amid the pandemic. Many states are now vaccinating teachers to get them back into the classroom as soon as possible.

– Rachel Leingang, Republic of Arizona

Fewer low-income students going to college because of a pandemic are taking their toll

Applying to college has always been more difficult for first generation and low-income students than for their peers, who have better access to support at every step of the process. Data shows that the gap has widened this year. The pandemic is likely a culprit.

Completion of the federal grant form, a harbinger of college intent, was 9.2% lower than last year on Feb. 19. High schools serving lower-income students were 12.1% behind and schools with a high percentage of color students were down 14.6%.

“What we’re really concerned about is, simply put, ‘Are we going to miss a generation of college students?’” Said Angel Pérez, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “If the pandemic highlighted anything about approvals,” he said, “it is how the system perpetuates inequality” and how complex it has become to use.

– Laura Pappano, The Hechinger Report

The hurdles remain when vaccine manufacturers strive to meet delivery dates

When vaccine experts welcomed President Joe Biden’s accelerated distribution schedule, they cautiously commented on whether companies can meet their promised doses and delivery dates.

While manufacturing is never 100% safe, pharmaceutical manufacturing is particularly delicate and demanding. People like to think that making vaccines is like making widgets or cars, but it’s not, said Robert Van Exan, president of Immunization Policy and Knowledge Translation, a vaccine manufacturing consultancy.

“You can join in and get a certain yield, and then all of a sudden your yield drops and you don’t know why,” Van Exan said, just a few examples of things that can lead to disruptions in supply. “

– Elizabeth way

Starbucks, target group of retailers who still need masks in Texas

Even if some states roll back mask mandates, some of the country’s largest retailers, including Kroger, Macy’s, Starbucks, and Target, aren’t rolling back theirs.

Kroger, who also owns supermarket chains like Ralphs and Dillons, said in a statement to the US TODAY that “everyone in our stores across the country must continue to wear masks until all of our frontline grocers can get the COVID-19 vaccine. “” Best Buy announced TODAY to USA that it has no plans to change its mask policy.

The decision by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to remove the face-covering requirement and open Texas to 100% full on March 10th is contrary to the safety protocols of many companies. Read more here.

– Jessica Guynn

What you should know about variants of COVID spread across the country

Health officials urge Americans not to disappoint their guards against COVID-19 as researchers discover new variants that may already be more transmissible and could also be somewhat resistant to the vaccine. “At this level of cases where variants spread, we may lose all of the hard-earned ground we gained,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a briefing at the White House on Monday. “These variants are a real threat to our people and our progress.”

While experts have tracked variants first identified in the UK and South Africa, they are also seeing red flags in newer variants discovered in Brazil, New York and California. Find out what you should know about the variants.

– Adriana Rodriguez

Featuring: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman; The Associated Press

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