ECONOMY

Florida Reports Record Deaths, Judge Bars Mask Ban: Virus Update

Florida reported 1,727 Covid-19 deaths in its latest weekly report, the most on record. A judge blocked Florida from enforcing Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates in schools, clearing the way for educators to require face coverings in classrooms without the threat of retaliation by the state.

The origins of the coronavirus pandemic are still uncertain and a lack of cooperation from China is hampering the effort to ever know the truth, the U.S. intelligence community said in a report released Friday.

President Joe Biden said his administration is considering whether to start booster shots of the vaccine as soon as 5 months after people receive a second dose. Soon after Biden made the comments, a White House official said there had been no change in the plan to administer boosters after eight months.

Apple Inc. is making its strongest push yet for employees to get vaccinated, urging all U.S. workers to get shots as soon as possible now that the Food and Drug Administration has started formally approving the injections. 

Delta Doubles Hospitalization Risk (6:38 a.m. NY)

People who contract the delta variant of Covid-19 are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized as those infected with the alpha strain, according to a U.K. study, raising the prospect of a greater burden on health services this winter.

The review of more than 43,000 Covid-19 cases in England, most of whom were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal Friday, and highlighted the protection shots provide against hospitalization from both variants.

U.S. Limits Eli Lilly Antibody Treatment (5:50 p.m. NY)

U.S. regulators said Eli Lilly & Co.’s monoclonal antibody treatment can only be used in states where coronavirus variants are less prevalent. The move comes after the the U.S. government said earlier this year that Lilly would stop distributing its treatment, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, due to concerns about sustained increase in variants.

On Friday afternoon, the Food and Drug Administration amended the monoclonal antibody’s authorization to say that only states, territories and U.S. jurisdictions “in which recent data shows the combined frequency of variants resistant to bamlanivimab and etesevimab administered together is less than or equal to 5%” could administer the drug. The amendment leaves nearly 30 states unauthorized to use Lilly’s Covid-19 treatment.

Two monoclonal antibodies made by other companies remain available in those states, according to the FDA, and local health providers should choose a therapeutic with activity against the circulating variants.

Florida Deaths Hit Record (5:46 p.m. NY)

Florida reported 1,727 Covid-19 deaths in its latest weekly report, the most on record.

The deaths are the most since Florida has been issuing the reports. At a daily average of 247 reported deaths, that would also surpass the previous high for the entire pandemic in John Hopkins University data. The data is based on when the death was reported, not when it occurred.

New cases among residents rose about 1% to 151,749 in the week ended Aug. 26. Overall, the cases have been relatively flat for the past two weeks.

Alabama Mobilizes Morgue Trucks (5:19 p.m. NY)

Alabama sent mobile morgue trucks to two hard-hit counties, for the first time in pandemic, the state’s top health officer said. “There was no room to put the bodies,” Scott Harris said at a briefing, AL.com reported. 

In a state with one of the U.S.’s lowest rates of vaccination, Harris said there was a shortage of 40 beds in intensive care units — and that five of 45 children hospitalized statewide were on ventilators. 

“So much of what we’re seeing is preventable,” he said. “We all have the ability to prevent it. Go get vaccinated and wear your mask.”

Infections Soar Among Georgia Children (4:18 p.m. NY)

Infections among Georgia children more than doubled from the previous high since schools reopened at the start of the month, state data show. The seven-day average for infections in that age group surpassed 2,000 on Friday, up from slightly more than 360 on Aug. 2.

The previous record in that age group was almost 870 in mid-January. The group with the steepest increase is between 10 and 17, the data show. 

Most local school districts in Georgia now require masks, the Associated Press reported, after a ban on local mandates from Governor Brian Kemp was watered down amid rising cases. 

Kraft Mandates Vaccines for Office Staff (3:50 p.m. NY)

Kraft Heinz Co. will require all U.S. office-based employees to be fully vaccinated prior to returning to the office in January, unless they have obtained a health-related or religious accommodation.

“We decided to take this step after listening to employees that a fully vaccinated workplace would increase their confidence in returning to the office,” a company spokesperson told Bloomberg News in an emailed statement. The mandate doesn’t apply to manufacturing workers, though Kraft Heinz said it’s encouraging vaccinations and has “stringent health and safety protocols” at its plants.

U.S. Probe of Covid Origins Inconclusive (3:36 p.m. NY)

The origins of the coronavirus pandemic are still uncertain and a lack of cooperation from China is hampering the effort to ever know the truth, the U.S. Intelligence community said in a report released Friday.

Four components of the intelligence community said — with low confidence — that the outbreak was likely linked to exposure to an infected animal, according to an unclassified summary of the report submitted to President Joe Biden this week and released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

One component of the intelligence community assessed with moderate confidence that the outbreak was associated with a research lab in China. As of a few months ago, two elements backed the animal theory while one backed the lab theory.

“The world deserves answers, and I will not rest until we get them,” Biden said in a statement. “Responsible nations do not shirk these kinds of responsibilities to the rest of the world.”

Russia Monthly Deaths Hit Record (2:38 p.m. NY)

Russia’s death toll from Covid-19 in July grew to 50,421, the highest monthly total since the epidemic began, amid spreading infections from the delta variant and continued public resistance to vaccination campaigns. 

The number of deaths associated with the virus last month was more than double initial figures reported by the government’s Covid-19 task force, according to Federal Statistics Service data released late Friday. 

Apple Pushes for Employee Vaccinations (2:33 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc. is making its strongest push yet for employees to get vaccinated, urging all U.S. workers to get shots as soon as possible now that the Food and Drug Administration has started formally approving the injections. 

The iPhone maker launched a new internal web page, sent a memo to employees and is hosting internal talks as part of the campaign.

“Apple is asking everyone who has access to the vaccine and is able to get vaccinated to do so as soon as you can,” the company said in the memo, which was sent to staff Thursday evening.

Biden Weighs Speeding Up Booster Timeline (2:26 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden said his administration is considering whether to start booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine as soon as 5 months after people receive a second dose. Soon after Biden made the comments, a White House official said there had been no change in the plan to administer boosters after eight months.

Biden nonetheless said he talked with infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci about the possible timeline change earlier in the day, signaling his interest in studying the issue.

Illinois’s Cases High But Growth Slowing (1:25 p.m. NY)

Illinois’s case counts remain significantly higher than a few months ago but the weekly growth rate has slowed, according to state data reported Friday. Over the past week, the state has recorded 25,636 new confirmed and probable cases, up 3.9% from the 24,682 reported on Aug. 20, the state department of public health said on its website. The state reported a weekly case increase of 16% on Aug. 20 and 27% in the week through Aug. 13.

Canada Approves Moderna for Young Teens (1:12 p.m. NY)

Canada has approved the use of Moderna Inc.’s vaccine for people 12 and over. Previously only the Moderna vaccine was approved for adults in Canada. Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine is already approved for those 12 and over in country.

IMF Delays Office Return, Requires Vaccines (12:54 p.m. NY)

The International Monetary Fund delayed plans to have staff return to its Washington headquarters to January amid rising Covid-19 cases, and said it requires all employees seeking to enter the buildings be vaccinated. 

“In light of the unpredictable length and severity of this new Covid-19 wave, the current phase of the return has been extended until early January 2022, when the situation will be re-assessed,” a spokesman for the fund said by email Friday. “IMF headquarters’ offices are currently open on a voluntary basis to staff members who are vaccinated and agree to regular Covid-19 testing.”

Florida Mask Ban Blocked (12:40 p.m. NY)

A judge blocked Florida from enforcing Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates in schools, clearing the way for educators to require face coverings in classrooms without the threat of retaliation by the state.

Judge John C. Cooper issued the statewide ruling Friday after a four-day trial that included testimony from health experts and parents in Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee.

The judge said he decided not to issue an injunction against DeSantis himself, saying, “I think the governor will follow the law.”

Italy Tells Sicilians to Wear Mask Outdoors (12:05 p.m. NY)

Italy’s government expanded the mask requirement for residents of Sicily to outdoor activities and limited restaurants to seating four people per table, with an exemption for families.

While daily cases are increasing on the Mediterranean island, nationwide infections remain relatively low with 7,826 reported on Friday. That compares with levels of more than 25,000 in Italy in March. Another 45 people died of causes related to Covid-19.

Nebraska Limits Elective Surgery (10:45 a.m. NY)

Facing hospital staff shortages aggravated by Covid-19, Nebraska is limiting elective surgeries that can be delayed four or more weeks and easing some personnel licensing requirements, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican, said the declaration isn’t specific to Covid-19 and that hospital staffing “was a challenge we had before the pandemic.”

U.K. Scientists Predict School Spread (10:30 a.m. NY)

The U.K. government’s scientific advisers said Covid-19 cases are likely to rise exponentially among children when schools resume next month after the summer holidays.

Most U.K. children haven’t been vaccinated against coronavirus and it would be “sensible” for the government to plan for “high prevalence” in schools by the end of September, according to a document dated Aug. 11 that was released on Friday by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Scotland Reports Record Infections (7:39 a.m. NY)

Scotland reported a record number of daily coronavirus infections after restrictions were lifted and schools reopened.

There were 6,835 cases in the past 24 hours, more than at any time since the pandemic began and twice the number a week ago, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at a briefing on Friday. 

One third of new cases in Scotland are among those people who are vaccinated, she said. The numbers don’t bode well for the rest of the U.K. as the bulk of school pupils in England prepare to return early next month.

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