Western Michigan’s two largest counties ordered masks in schools through sixth grade Friday, citing the risk of the COVID-19 delta variant and young children who don’t qualify for vaccines. The orders came from health departments in Kent and Ottawa counties.
Teachers and staff members who are vaccinated still must wear masks in schools, the counties said.
Kent and Ottawa join at least three counties with similar school mask policies: Allegan, Kalamazoo and Genesee. Some school districts elsewhere are acting on their own.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declined to order a statewide mask mandate in schools, though her chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said it would likely reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Mask Order in Salt Lake City Schools
The mayor of Salt Lake City has issued a mask order in the city’s schools, as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Friday that she used her emergency powers to issue the order. She says she plans to work with health officials to determine when it can be lifted.
The order comes a week after the Salt Lake County Council overturned a school mask mandate that the county’s top health official issued. Mendenhall says the majority of council members had privately told her that they feared retaliation and urged her to issue the order.
Masks were required in classrooms last year, but under a new state law, school mask mandates are now banned. Local health departments can issue a rule but only with the support from elected county leaders, and anti-mask advocates have been vocal in their opposition.
Mississippi’s only Level 1 trauma center and teaching hospital announced Friday it will mandate all employees and students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s policy requires employees and students be vaccinatedi by Nov. 1.
The policy is a reversal from a previous rule put in place last month that allowed employees or students to skip the vaccine if they agreed to wear a N95 mask while on campus.
In a letter Friday, a top official at the medical center said it’s time for the institution to take aggressive action. Mississippi has the highest per capita rate of new coronavirus cases in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Those who refuse vaccination may face “corrective action up to and including termination or dismissal,” according to the letter by Dr. Alan Jones, the center’s associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs. He adds those seeking accommodations must submit requests by Sept. 10.
South Africa has opened vaccine eligibility to all adults to step up the volume of inoculations amid a coronavirus surge fueled by the delta variant.
The nation started offering shots to everyone aged 18 and older Friday as the number of vaccinations stalled to less than 200,000 a day, down from 250,000 earlier this month. It’s significantly lower than the target of 300,000 the government had hoped to achieve by this time.
On Friday, South Africa recorded more than 13,000 new cases and 317 confirmed deaths. South Africa has 2.6 million confirmed cases, 35% of the Africa’s total.
80,000 Deaths in South Africa
South Africa has vaccinated more than 10 million of its 60 million people, of which more than 4.6 million are fully vaccinated. Nearly 80,000 people have died during the pandemic.
San Francisco became the first major city in the nation to require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 on Friday for people dining inside restaurants, working out in gyms or attending indoor concerts.
Restaurants and bars posted signs and added extra staff to begin verifying people’s proof of vaccination before allowing them in.
The new rule goes beyond New York City, which requires people to be at least partially inoculated for a variety of indoor activities. Local business groups have supported the new vaccine mandate, saying it will protect their employees’ and customers’ health and keep them from having to limit capacity indoors.
The majority of 36,000 city workers say they are vaccinated, but about 4,300 have not. This week, the city sent letters recommending a 10-day suspension without pay for 20 employees in police, fire and sheriff’s departments who refused to report their vaccination status by the Aug. 12 deadline, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
A federal appeals court on Friday allowed the COVID-related pause on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remain in place.
That sets up a likely showdown before the nation’s highest court. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a bid by Alabama and Georgia realtors to block the eviction moratorium reinstated this month.
The realtors are likely to appeal to the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 in June to allow the moratorium to continue through the end of July. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh — who joined the majority — warned the administration not to act further without explicit congressional approval.
As of Aug. 2, roughly 3.5 million people in the United States said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
The new moratorium temporarily halted evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of virus transmissions and would cover areas where 90% of the U.S. population lives. The court fight allows time for the distribution of $45 billion in rental assistance that’s been approved but not yet used.
The acting mayor of Boston says masks will be required for all indoor public places starting Aug. 27 to help contain rising coronavirus infections.
Kim Janey’s office says the mandate will apply to everyone age 2 and older who enters a business, retail shop, club, government office or any other public venue.
Janey says the mask mandate comes ahead of the arrival of more than 50,000 college students from across the nation, and a return to classes for more than 50,000 Boston Public School students.
On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker said tens of thousands of state workers will need to prove they’re fully inoculated against COVID-19 by October or risk losing their jobs.
Massachusetts remains one of the most vaccinated states in the nation, with more than 64% of residents fully inoculated. But cases have been increasing in recent weeks.
More than 200 University of Virginia students who didn’t comply with the school’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement have been disenrolled ahead of the fall semester.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that the school disenrolled 238 students, including 49 who were enrolled in fall courses. University spokesperson Brian Coy says the students were disenrolled after “receiving multiple reminders via email, text, phone calls, calls to parents that they were out of compliance.”
They can re-enroll if they comply with the vaccine requirement or file an exemption by Wednesday.
About 96% of students have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a news release. The university granted 335 permanent vaccine waivers for students with religious or medical exemptions. It granted 184 temporary vaccine waivers for students who couldn’t get vaccinated but intend to get a vaccine on campus. Exempt students must be tested weekly and wear a mask indoors and outdoors in common spaces.
Congressional Pandemic Windfall
When Congress sent states billions of dollars early in the coronavirus pandemic to help make schools safe, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee saw an opportunity.
He used part of the windfall to further his goal of offering school choice options for parents, sending millions to charter schools that operate without traditional public oversight. That included funneling more than $4 million to new charters that are not scheduled to open until at least next year.
It was an easy way for the Republican governor to advance a long-held priority. For Lee and some other GOP governors, the discretionary money was a chance to sidestep their state legislatures and advance school choice, which typically involves funding charter schools or offering vouchers so parents can use taxpayer money to pay private school tuition.
Teachers unions and other critics view the efforts as a way to siphon money away from traditional public schools.
The mayors of some of Georgia’s largest cities are slamming Gov. Brian Kemp’s new order that aims to limit local efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
In an open letter on Friday, the mayors of Atlanta, Savannah, Athens-Clarke County and Augusta-Richmond County suggested the Republican governor was putting politics above public health. The four Democrats also defended masks as necessary during the state’s latest COVID surge.
Kemp signed an executive order Thursday that says cities cannot require businesses and sports teams to enforce local pandemic restrictions. The move came amid a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the delta variant among the unvaccinated.
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