Congress lifts mask mandate ahead of State of the Union: COVID updates


New CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19 have arrived just in time for the State of the Union address.

All 535 members of Congress will be able to attend President Joe Biden’s Tuesday speech without wearing a mask after the requirement was dropped in the House, ABC reporter Ben Siegel said on Twitter on Sunday. The tweet added that the Office of the Attending Physician changed the rules based on the CDC’s new measures for determining community risk of COVID-19, released Friday.

Washington, DC, and surrounding areas are currently at the green community level, the safest according to the agency’s new color code charttherefore interior masking is not mandatory.

It will be Biden’s first State of the Union address and it should resolve the crisis in Ukraine after the Russian invasion, as well as the country’s pandemic recovery, among other topics.

Mask-wearing will remain a personal choice in Congress, and special precautions will be in place for Biden’s speech, which, unlike last year’s joint speech, will be open to all members of Congress. All attendees will be required to take a COVID-19 test before entering the room before Biden’s address.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month announced initial directives from the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms which included a threat that violation of social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines during the event “would result in the withdrawal of the participant”.

The new policy allays fears among some Biden allies who were bracing for potentially disruptive Republican protests against the policies. Some GOP lawmakers have racked up thousands of dollars in fines for violating mask-wearing mandates on the House floor.

Also in the news:

►Elijah Majak Buoi, a Massachusetts businessman accused of misrepresenting the number of employees and salary expenses of his startup, was found guilty of fraudulently soliciting more than $13 million in federal loans coronavirus pandemic relief, federal prosecutors said.

► Nearly half of the 500 million free COVID-19 tests the Biden administration recently made available to the public remain unclaimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to hate.

►The Rhode Island Convention Center’s COVID-19 vaccination site closed Saturday. The state is focused on managing the virus rather than eliminating it.

►Boston is appealing a judge’s order blocking its COVID-19 vaccination warrant on certain categories of firefighters and police officers.

►Hong Kong will no longer require that all children who test positive for COVID be separated from their families and isolated in a hospital after an outcry from the families, Reuters reported. In some cases, even toddlers have been taken from their homes.

📈 The numbers of the day: The United States has recorded more than 78.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 948,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: Over 434.7 million cases and 5.9 million deaths. More than 215.4 million Americans – 64.9% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we read: After a few false starts, organizations — from banks to nonprofits to hospitals — are once again gearing up to bring their employees back to work. They bring with them anxiety, questions and even fear.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates straight to your inbox and join our facebook group.

Another protest convoy of truckers falters as numbers drop

A truck convoy that left California bound for the nation’s capital to protest COVID-19 mandates and other issues has dropped out due to lack of interest from truckers.

“The California launch had good fan attendance, but only 5 trucks were with us when we arrived in Vegas,” Freedom Convoy USA organizers told the group’s website on Saturday. Facebook page. “There are 2 other convoys that have massive turnouts.”

Organizers encouraged truckers who had expressed an interest in joining their ranks to join other convoys bound for Washington, DC, to voice similar concerns. The Freedom Convoy had left Los Angeles on Friday, planning to reach Washington on Tuesday.

Now organizers are asking any truckers who wanted to join them to join the people’s convoy that left California earlier last week or the Texas convoy that tried to organize a departure in about a week. The group said it has $6,500 that will be distributed to truckers who reach Maryland and Washington D.C.

New York State to drop mask mandate for schools

The masking mandate for schools in New York state will be lifted on Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced Sunday. The Democrat cited declining COVID-19 cases and CDC guidance, but said counties and cities could keep their own mandates in place. Parents can choose to send their children to school wearing masks.

The new rules also apply to children aged 2 and over in child care centres. New York state has 2.7 million school children, including about 1 million in New York City, whose school officials did not immediately announce their plans. Earlier this month, Hochul let a broad mask mandate expire for most indoor settings, but said the school requirement would remain in place.

WHO working to get oxygen and other medical supplies to Ukraine

The World Health Organization is working to establish safe transit of oxygen and other medical supplies to Ukraine via Poland, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Sunday.

Oxygen supplies are approaching dangerously low levels and trucks are unable to transport oxygen supplies from factories to hospitals across the country, including the beleaguered capital of Kiev, Tedros said.

During the crisis in Ukraine, health must remain a “priority pillar of the humanitarian response”, Tedros said. Health systems and facilities must be protected, safe and accessible to all who need essential medical services, and health workers protected “so they can continue to save lives,” Tedros said.

Chicago schools will continue to require masks

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s decision to drop the statewide school mandate effective Monday won’t change anything in Chicago, the nation’s fourth-largest public school system with 350,000 students. The move by Pritzker, a Democrat, to follow the example of a growing number of governors from both parties comes as the CDC updates its guidelines for communities where COVID-19 is loosening its grip.

The agency says masks may not be needed in nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties, citing easing pressure on health care systems as new cases plummet.

In a letter to parents and students, the district said masks will remain a requirement in its 650 schools. School buildings are not like other indoor environments, the letter states.

“We all look forward to the day when masks are no longer needed in schools,” the letter reads. “We plan to work with our labor and public health partners on how best to maintain a safe learning environment for all.”

Mental health issues among teenage girls have increased during the pandemic

Teenage girls’ mental health issues such as eating disorders, depression and tics have increased during the pandemic compared to 2019, according to a study published by the CDC. ER visits in 2020 increased for girls aged 12 to 17 for tics and eating disorders, the study found. In 2021, teenage girls visited the emergency room more often for problems related to depression, eating, tics and obsessive-compulsive disorder. And in the first month of 2022, there was an increase in visits for anxiety, trauma and stress-related disorders, eating, tics and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Overall, pediatric emergency department visits have declined during the pandemic. Mental health-related visits also declined for minors during this period, underscoring the need for adolescent-specific outreach, the study found.

Most Americans are in areas where they can throw masks indoors, but most Floridians are not.

CDC says majority of Americans can remove their masks indoors – but that’s not true for most Floridians. About 70% of Americans live in counties that the CDC classifies as having “low” or “medium” strain on their health care systems from COVID-19, so there’s no need to require wearing a mask indoors and in schools, the agency says.

The same is true for only 44% of Floridians. Only 25 of Florida’s 67 counties fall into the “low” or “medium” categories, which focus more on COVID hospitalizations than case counts. Florida has recorded at least 25,390 new infections over the past week, state health officials reported Friday, the lowest seven-day sum since Dec. 17. The state also recorded 888 new deaths last week, the first time since Jan. 21 when the rise in the seven-day statewide death toll was below 1,000.

– Chris Persaud, Palm Beach Post

Contribute: The Associated Press


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