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Omicron is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the US, according to the CDC

The Omicron Covid-19 variant is now the most dominant strain in the US, accounting for over 73% of new coronavirus cases less than three weeks after the first was reported, according to estimates posted Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s been just 20 days since the US detected its first case of Omicron.
For the week ending December 18, Omicron accounted for 73.2% of cases, with Delta making up an additional 26.6%. The week prior, ending December 11, Omicron was estimated at just 12.6% of circulating virus, and in the first week of December, Omicron accounted for about 1% of new cases.
Omicron is even more prevalent in certain parts of the country — making up over 95% of circulating virus in parts of the Northwest and Southeast, the data shows.
As of Monday, 48 US states have reported cases of Omicron, according to public statements hoka shoes for women from hospital systems and state officials, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. The only states that have not reported cases of Omicron are Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, warned on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that Omicron was “going to take over” soon due to its highly contagious nature. The World Health Organization says Omicron cases are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days.
Meanwhile, the death of a Texas man is his 50s is related to Omicron, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Monday. This is the first known, confirmed Omicron-related death in the US.
According to a release from Harris County Public Health, the man “was unvaccinated and had been infected with COVID-19 previously. The individual was at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 due to his unvaccinated status and had underlying health conditions.”
Scientists are still waiting on data on the severity of Omicron in the US compared to other variants. But it is expected to put added strain the health care system and health care workers especially.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and the University of Minnesota, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday that even if Omicron proves to be less severe, “We are going to see 20%, 30% of health care workers getting infected, who will then be off of work in a health care system right now that is already stretched to the point of breaking.”

Health experts push vaccines and boosters

With the Delta and Omicron coronavirus variants spreading across the nation as the new year approaches, health experts are urging Americans to get vaccinated or boosted to protect themselves and others before they face greater chances of infection.
Airport travel before Christmas is up by nearly double from a year ago, according to Transportation Security Administration data, with more than 2 million people screened each day from December 16-18. And the indoor gatherings among friends and family could ultimately infect more who are at higher risk for Covid-19 complications.
As the virus spreads, more cities are adding restrictions, including New York and Washington, DC.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced an indoor mask mandate for the District will be reinstated starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday through January 31.
The announcement comes as DC has been experiencing its highest daily coronavirus case count since the start of the pandemic.
Bowser also said she plans to reinstate the district’s state of emergency and announced a six-part plan to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday the city is testing “more people than ever” for Covid-19 and city officials are working with federal officials and the private sector to get more testing supplies. Officials are also working to get more in-home test kits to offer to people as an alternative testing option.
De Blasio also spoke about the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.
Currently, the outdoor event is still scheduled to go on and all guests must be fully vaccinated.
But de Blasio said city officials are reviewing plans for the event in light of Omicron and said any changes would be announced before Christmas.

Experts discuss what’s next

Dr. Francis Collins, the outgoing director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday that the Omicron variant could result in as many as a million new cases a day.
Collins suggested the impact of that level of spread on an already stressed health care system remains uncertain.
“The big question is, are those million cases going to be sick enough to need health care and especially hospitalization?” Collins said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, his last day as NIH director.
Americans are less willing to take precautions as the coronavirus wears on
Covid-19 hospitalizations trended upward over the past month as medical facilities in some parts of the country have been inundated with patients infected with the Delta variant. Now, the presence of Omicron — which scientists believe to be more contagious though most cases so far appear to be mild — may push some strained health care systems to the brink.
“It is quite likely that we are going to see in some sections of the country, a significant stress on the hospital system as well as on the health care workers who are getting exhausted by all of this,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, noting that a more transmissible form of Covid-19, such as Omicron, will have a greater impact on the tens of millions of Americans who have not been vaccinated.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy hoka shoes and Infectious Diseases, has said traveling and gathering for Christmas and New Year’s can be done safely among those who are inoculated, and getting booster shots into the arms of vaccinated Americans remains paramount to increase antibody response.
“If we’re going to deal with Omicron successfully, vaccinated people need to get boosted,” Fauci told NBC on Sunday.
Recent data are demonstrating the potential dangers of remaining unvaccinated, including a 10-times greater risk of testing positive and 20-times greater risk of dying from Covid-19 than those vaccinated and boosted, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data through October.
Omicron 'is going to take over' this winter, and Fauci says Americans should brace for a 'tough few weeks to months'
President Joe Biden was set to meet with his Covid-19 response team Monday. He will address the nation Tuesday regarding the latest developments with Omicron and to issue another “stark warning of what the winter will look like for Americans who choose to remain unvaccinated,” the White House said.
Omicron will lead to a spike in cases in the upcoming weeks, but those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated will have a “stark difference” in experience, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told anchor Tony Dokoupil on “CBS Mornings” Monday.
“In the coming weeks, Tony, we are going to see a spike in cases. And that’s because Omicron is incredibly transmissible, and you know, we have to be prepared for that,” Murthy said. “But there will be a stark difference between the experience of those who are vaccinated and boosted versus those who are unvaccinated.”
People who have maximum protection from vaccines and boosters either won’t get an infection, or if they do, it will most likely be mild, said Murthy.

States responding to outbreaks

With Omicron reported in nearly every US state and Delta still present, cases in some areas are rising.
New York — which was among the hardest-hit states at the beginning of the pandemic — set a new record for single-day Covid-19 cases for a fourth consecutive day Monday, reporting a threefold increase in number of Covid-19 cases in one week, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Long lines for Covid-19 testing as Omicron variant looms
There’s generally about a three-week lag behind Covid-19 case trends and hospitalizations, according to a CNN Health analysis, but officials are hopeful the state will be in a more favorable position than last year.
“This is not March of 2020, we are not defenseless,” Hochul said. “We have the tools to protect ourselves and the vulnerable loves ones in our families: Get vaccinated, get the booster and wear a mask when indoors or in large gatherings. Don’t take a chance during the winter surge.”
New Jersey just hit its highest daily positive case count in nearly a year with 6,533 positive PCR tests, according to Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli; the statewide percent-positivity rate is 12.11%. Still, the governor said hospitalizations are not growing at the same rate as cases. The state reported Monday that there were 1,902 people currently hospitalized with Covid-19, far fewer than peak in April 2020 when there were 8,270 reported Covid hospitalizations.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said he would be “a little hesitant” about visiting New York or New Jersey right now given his state’s lower caseload. But he said he isn’t looking to enforce any quarantines on those traveling to and from Covid-19 hotspots.
“I can’t enforce quarantine from anything. I’m not going try and do that,” Lamont said.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that the state has been preparing for a winter surge and hopes to combat Covid-19 spread with measures including state-issued at-home testing and flexing beds within hospitals. Bringing in health care workers from olukai shoes other states has been key as well, Sununu said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan predicted that the state will see “probably the worst surge we’ve seen in our hospitals throughout the entire crisis” over the next three to five weeks, telling “Fox News Sunday” that officials are “trying to do everything we can to get the last 9.2% of our population vaccinated.”
On Monday, Hogan announced in a tweet that he has tested positive for Covid-19. Hogan, who is vaccinated and has received a booster shot, said the test was part of his regular testing routine. The Republican governor’s announcement follows a string of lawmakers who have been fully vaccinated and boosted and tested positive for Covid-19.
People wait in line for Covid-19 tests in Brooklyn, New York, on December 17, 2021.

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Russian COVID cases hit record high as eastern Europe imposes new curbs

Russia reported a record high number of daily COVID-19 cases and some central European countries imposed fresh restrictions on Monday, as a new wave of the pandemic gathered pace.

Authorities around the world have been sounding the alarm as infections surge, with governments in regions where vaccine uptake has been low forced to toughen up restrictions in a bid to stop the virus raging out of control.

Russia on Monday reported 37,930 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest single-day case tally since the start of the pandemic.

U.S. to outline Nov. 8 international travel reopening

The Biden administration plans to asics shoes unveil detailed rules on Monday requiring nearly all foreign air visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Nov. 8, sources told Reuters.

The White House first disclosed on Sept. 20 it would remove restrictions in early November for fully vaccinated air travellers from 33 countries.

South Korea plots course to scrapping COVID curbs

South Korea unveiled a three-phase strategy to get back to normal from the coronavirus with all limits on gatherings and distancing gone by February, after it achieved a goal of vaccinating 70% of its people at the weekend.

The scheme begins next Monday and is due to run until Feb. 20, by when all distancing curbs will be scrapped except for mask-wearing mandates, a government health panel said.

Beijing delays marathon, raises COVID curbs as Olympics near

China’s latest COVID-19 outbreak has forced the capital Beijing to delay its annual marathon and step up other curbs, as the sprawling city and neighbouring Hebei province go into high gear in their preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics Games.

China reported 35 new domestically transmitted cases on Sunday, official data showed on Monday. Beijing accounted for 14 of the 168 cases reported between Oct. 17-24.

The infection numbers are tiny compared to many outbreaks elsewhere in the world, but authorities have adopted a zero tolerance strategy, aggressively tracking potential infections.

EU regulator starts real-time review of Merck pill

U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co Inc said the European Union’s drug regulator has initiated a real-time review of its experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug for adults.

Under the procedure, also known as a “rolling review”, the European Medicines Agency would assess data as soon as it becomes available, instead of waiting for a formal application when all required information has been gathered.

While vaccines are the main weapons against COVID-19, Merck’s experimental pill molnupiravir keen shoes could be a game-changer after studies showed it could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe illness.

Pandemic overwhelms Papua New Guinea

Concerted international action is needed to support Papua New Guinea as a surge in COVID-19 cases overwhelms the Pacific country’s health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday.

Coronavirus cases in the island nation of 9 million have been surging in recent weeks, with 385 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to latest available government data.

Fewer than 1% of the population have been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures.

COVID Cases Keep Falling

Benigno Enriquez, right, elbow-bumps Miami Mayor Francis Suarez as Suarez hands out masks to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, at a mask distribution event, Friday, June 26, 2020, in a COVID-19 hotspot of the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars Friday as its daily confirmed coronavirus cases neared 9,000, a new record that is almost double the previous mark set just two days ago.

The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the United States has plunged 57% since peaking on Sept. 1. Almost as encouraging as the magnitude of the decline is its breadth: Cases have been declining in every region.

Forecasting COVID’s future is extremely difficult, and it’s certainly possible that cases will rise again in the coming weeks. But the geographic breadth of the decline does offer reason for optimism.

Past COVID increases have generally brooks shoes started in one part of the country — like the South this summer or the New York region in early 2020 — and then gone national. Today, there is no regional surge that seems to have the makings of a nationwide surge.

Yes, there are some local hot spots, as has almost always been the case since the pandemic began. Several of the hot spots are in northern parts of the country, like Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and a few counties near the Canadian border in New Hampshire and Vermont. This pattern has led to some speculation that the onset of cold weather is causing the increases by moving more activity indoors — and that the entire country will soon experience a rise in caseloads.

That does not seem to be the most likely scenario, however. In most colder regions, including both Canada and the densely populated parts of the northern U.S., cases are still falling. The biggest problem for Alaska and the Mountain West is probably not the weather; it’s the vaccine skepticism. Idaho is the nation’s least vaccinated state, and several other Western states are only slightly ahead of it.

The CDC tracks a range of COVID forecasting models. On average, the models predict that new daily cases in the U.S. will fall roughly another 20% over the next three weeks.

The bottom line: There is no reason to expect another COVID surge anytime soon, but surges don’t always announce themselves in advance.

When the delta variant began spreading this summer, many people worried that it was both much more contagious than earlier versions of the virus and much more severe. Only one of those two fears seems to be true.

Delta is clearly more contagious, which is the main reason that every metric of the pandemic — cases, hospitalizations and deaths — soared this summer. But a typical COVID case during the delta wave was about as severe as a typical case during the earlier stages of the pandemic. During the wave in late 2020 and clarks shoes uk early this year, about 1.2% of positive cases led to death; during the delta wave, the share was 1.1%.

Scientific studies trying to answer the severity question more precisely have come to conflicting conclusions. Some have found delta to be more severe than other versions of the virus, and others have found that it is not. Until the research becomes clearer, the best guess may be that delta is modestly more severe, which could explain why hospitalizations and death rates have held steady even as vaccination rates have risen.

“Delta may be a little more serious, but not materially so,” Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said.

This pattern can influence how you think about your day-to-day activities. If you are vaccinated (and boosted, if eligible) and you were comfortable socializing indoors and without a mask last spring, you can probably feel comfortable doing so again, now or soon. Wachter adds: “Some older people or those with medical conditions may want to be sure that everybody else indoors with them is vaccinated before removing their mask.”

Despite all the encouraging news, one shadow still hangs over the U.S.: The pandemic does not need to be nearly as bad it is.

About 1,500 Americans have died of COVID every day over the past week. For older age groups, the virus remains a leading cause of death. And the main reason is that millions of Americans have chosen to remain unvaccinated. Many of them are older and have underlying medical conditions, leaving them vulnerable to severe versions of COVID.

For older people, the effects of vaccination are profound. In late August, near the height of the delta wave, 24 out of every 10,000 unvaccinated Americans 65 and above were hospitalized with COVID symptoms, according hey dude shoes to the CDC. Among fully vaccinated Americans 65 and above, the number was 1.5 per 10,000.

Even so, many Americans are saying no to a shot. Among affluent countries, the U.S. is one of the least vaccinated, trailing Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and others. Less vaccination means more death.

The low vaccination rate in the U.S. is another consequence of the country’s polarized politics and its high levels of socioeconomic inequality. Only 67% of American adults without a four-year college degree have received a shot, compared with 82% of college graduates, according to the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. And only 58% of self-identified Republicans are vaccinated, compared with 90% of Democrats.

It is a triumph of misinformation: Offered a lifesaving vaccine to counteract a highly contagious virus, many Americans are instead choosing to take their chances.

Here’s What Happens Next on the Boosters

A family nurse practitioner administers a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine clinic in McMinnville, Ore., on Oct. 6, 2021. (Alisha Jucevic/The New York Times)
A family nurse practitioner administers a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine clinic in McMinnville, Ore., on Oct. 6, 2021.

An independent panel of experts advising the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday to recommend a booster shot for many recipients of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine and Friday to recommend authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine for people 18 clarks shoes uk years or older, at least two months after the first dose.

So what happens now? There are further steps at the FDA, then steps at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the process ends with the states. Here’s how it breaks down.


— The FDA, a federal agency of the Department of Health and Human Services that controls and supervises medications and other elements related to public health, takes up the advisory panel’s recommendation, which includes the question of who should be eligible. The advisory panel’s votes are not binding, but the FDA typically follows them.

— The FDA’s top official — its acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock — issues the agency’s final determination on whether to authorize the boosters and for whom. Such decisions are typically issued within a few days of advisory committee meetings.


— An advisory panel to the CDC, the United States’ public health agency, reviews the FDA’s decision. On Thursday and Friday, that panel is scheduled to meet and vote on its recommendations regarding boosters.

— The CDC takes up that panel’s recommendations, and the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, issues the agency’s guidance on whether boosters should be used and who should be eligible. That guidance is deeply influential for states, doctors, brooks shoes pharmacies and other health care institutions, and the general public. As with the process at the FDA, the panel’s recommendations are not binding, but the CDC usually follows them.

However, there was a rare exception last month: When a CDC advisory panel rejected the FDA’s recommendation that front-line workers be included among those eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech booster, Walensky overrode her own agency’s advisers and sided with the FDA.

The States

State health departments generally follow the recommendations of the CDC. In the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster, the shots began being administered widely immediately after Walensky announced the CDC’s guidance to allow them for people older than 65, patients in nursing homes and other institutional settings, those with underlying medical conditions, and front-line workers.

Colin Powell’s death doesn’t contradict efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, experts say

WASHINGTON — The death of storied general and statesman Colin Powell from complications related to COVID-19 should not lead to any concerns about the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines, according to experts and government officials.

The fact remains that unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die than those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Please don’t let the death of an American icon become fodder for anti-vax forces that are putting untold millions in danger,” wrote Department of Health and Human Services adviser Ian Sams on Twitter. “Vaccines work. They prevent bad salomon boots outcomes. They (like all vaccines) are not 100%, especially among older people with underlying/complicating health issues.”

Powell, who served as secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration and as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before that, died Monday at age 84.

Crucially, Powell suffered from a blood cancer known as multiple myeloma — precisely the kind of “immunocompromised” condition that experts have said from the start could lead to lower vaccine efficacy. In fact, the vaccines seemed to work especially poorly in patients afflicted with that type of cancer, even after a booster shot. (Powell also suffered from Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative condition.)

President-elect Bush smiles as he introduces retired Gen. Colin Powell, left, as his nominee to be secretary of state during a ceremony in Crawford, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2000. Powell served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George Bush, father of the president-elect. (David J. Phillip/AP)
President-elect George W. Bush introduces Colin Powell in 2000 as his nominee to be secretary of state.

Powell’s wife, Alma, had also reportedly contracted the coronavirus but was able to fight off the ensuing COVID-19 illness successfully.

Still, the mere news that a high-profile figure like Powell had died after being fully vaccinated is bound to fuel misinformation about the sperry shoes pandemic. Alex Berenson, a former New York Times journalist widely criticized (and banished from Twitter) for voicing unsound views, used the news to mock the efficacy of vaccines on his Substack channel.

And John Roberts, a correspondent for Fox News — whose most prominent hosts have routinely spread vaccine misinformation — wrote on Twitter that Powell’s death “raises new concerns about how effective vaccines are long-term.” Roberts deleted the tweet.

Medical professionals insist that worries about breakthrough deaths are unfounded and are being exaggerated by some media reports.

“The news reports, in saying that General Powell was vaccinated, should also mention that he had multiple myeloma. Individuals who are older, with chronic medical conditions (especially immunocompromised) are at much greater risk for adverse outcomes,” wrote Dr. Leana Wen, the former Baltimore health commissioner and a professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, in an email to Yahoo News.

“We should also be clear that the vaccines are very protective, but virtually nothing in medicine is 100%,” Wen wrote. “That doesn’t mean vaccines don’t work, but rather that we have to put the benefit of vaccination into perspective.”

Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) on stage during the Capital Concerts'
Powell at the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C., on May 28.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 190 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Of those people, 1,074 under the age of 65 have died from COVID-19. There have been 6,104 COVID-19 deaths of people 65 or older who had bluetooth headphones been vaccinated. Among the breakthrough coronavirus deaths tracked by the CDC were 951 people who did not show symptoms of COVID-19 and appear to have died from another cause.

“I don’t really have a sense yet if breakthrough deaths are up more recently because of waning vaccine immunity, [especially] given that 3rd mRNA immunizations should bump up immunity again,” tweeted Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine, alluding to the Pfizer booster shots that have recently been authorized for some groups.

More people are set to receive boosters in the coming weeks and months, as federal regulators are expected to approve shots for recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The notion of breakthrough infections has been a concern since an outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., during the July 4 holiday weekend. Although the resort town boasted an exceptionally high vaccination rate, a cluster of 1,000 cases emerged. But despite the fear engendered by the outbreak, only seven of the Provincetown cases required hospitalizations, and no deaths were reported.

Why Many Black Americans Changed Their Minds About COVID Shots

TUSKEGEE, Ala. — By the time vaccines for the coronavirus were introduced late last year, the pandemic had taken two of Lucenia Williams Dunn’s close friends. Still, Dunn, a former mayor of Tuskegee, contemplated for months whether to be inoculated.

It was a complicated consideration, framed by the government’s botched response to the pandemic,brooks shoes its disproportionate toll on Black communities and an infamous 40-year government experiment for which her hometown is often associated.

“I thought about the vaccine most every day,” said Dunn, 78, who finally walked into a pharmacy this summer and rolled up her sleeve for a shot, convinced after weighing with her family and doctor the possible consequences of remaining unvaccinated.

“What people need to understand is some of the hesitancy is rooted in a horrible history, and for some, it’s truly a process of asking the right questions to get to a place of getting the vaccine.”

In the first months after the vaccine rollout, Black Americans were far less likely than white Americans to be vaccinated. In addition to the difficulty of obtaining shots in their communities, their hesitancy was fueled by a powerful combination of general mistrust of the government and medical institutions, and misinformation over the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

But a wave of pro-vaccine campaigns and a surge of virus hospitalizations and deaths this summer, mostly among the unvaccinated and caused by the highly contagious delta variant, have narrowed the gap, experts say. So, too, have the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of a vaccine and new employer mandates. A steadfast resistance to vaccines in some white communities may also have contributed to the lessening disparity.

While gaps persist in some regions, by late September, according to the most recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a roughly equal share of Black, white and Hispanic adult populations — 70% of Black adults, 71% of white adults and 73% of Hispanic adults — had received at least one vaccine dose. A Pew study in late August revealed similar patterns. Federal data shows a larger racial gap, but that data is missing demographic information for many vaccine recipients.

Since May, when vaccines were widely available to a majority of adults across the country, monthly surveys by Kaiser have shown steady improvement in vaccination rates among Black Americans.

How the racial gap was narrowed — after months of disappointing turnout and limited access — is a testament to decisions made in many states to send familiar faces to knock on doors and dispel myths about the vaccines’ effectiveness, provide internet access to make appointments and offer transportation to vaccine sites.

In North Carolina, which requires vaccine providers to collect race and ethnicity data, hospital systems and community groups conducted door-to-door canvassing and hosted pop-up clinics at a theme park, a bus station clarks shoes uk and churches. Over the summer, the African American share of the vaccinated population began to more closely mirror the African American share of the general population.

In Mississippi, which has one of the country’s worst vaccination rates and began similar endeavors, 38% of people who have started the vaccine process are Black, a share that is roughly equal to the Black share of Mississippi’s population.

And in Alabama, public awareness campaigns and rides to vaccination sites helped transform dismal inoculation rates. A store owner and county commissioner in Panola, a tiny rural town near the Mississippi border, led the effort to vaccinate nearly all of her majority Black community.

Today, about 40% of Black Alabama residents — up from about 28% in late April — have had at least one dose, a feat in a state that has ranked among the lowest in overall vaccination rates and highest in per capita deaths from COVID-19. About 39% of white people in the state have had one dose, up from 31% in late April.

Health officials and community leaders say that those who remain unvaccinated have pointed to concerns about how quickly the vaccines were developed and what their long-term health effects might be, plus disinformation such as whether they contain tracking devices or change people’s DNA. The damage wrought by the government-backed trials in Tuskegee, in which Black families were misled by health care professionals, also continues to play a role in some communities, helping to explain why some African Americans have still held out.

“It’s less about saying, ‘This racial ethnic group is more hesitant, more unwilling to get vaccinated,’ and more about saying, ‘You know, this group of people in this given area or this community doesn’t have the information or access they need to overcome their hesitancy,’ ” said Nelson Dunlap, chief of staff for the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

When the U.S. Public Health Service began what it called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” 600 Black men — 399 with syphilis and 201 without the disease — were told they would be treated for so-called bad blood in exchange for free medical exams, meals and burial insurance. In reality, treatment was withheld. Even after penicillin was discovered as an effective treatment, most did not receive the antibiotic.

The experiment began in 1932 and did not stop until 1972, and only after it was exposed in a news article. The surviving men and the heirs of those who had died were later awarded a settlement totaling about $10 million, and the exposure of the study itself eventually led to reforms in medical research. Still, the damage endured.

“Few families escaped the study. Everyone here knows someone who was in the study,” said Omar Neal, 64, a radio show host and former Tuskegee mayor who counts three relatives in the study and who wavered on a vaccine before finally getting one, his mind changed by the rising number of deaths. “And the betrayal — because that is what the study was — is often conjured whenever people are questioning something related to mistrusting medicine or science.”

Rueben C. Warren, director of the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University, said the study was a real example in the long line of medical exploitation and neglect experienced by Black Americans, eroding trust in the government and health care systems.

“The questions being asked about the vaccine should be understood in the larger context of historic inequities in health care,” Warren said. “The hope, of course, is they finally decide to get the vaccine.”

A national campaign led by the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative, a coalition of experts, tackled the hesitation. This summer, a short-form documentary including descendants of the men in the Tuskegee study was added to the campaign.

When Deborah Riley Draper, who created the short-form documentary, interviewed descendants of the Tuskegee study, she was struck by how shrouded it was in myths and misconceptions, such as the false claim that the government had injected the men with syphilis.

“The descendants’ message was clear that African Americans are as much a part of public health as any other group and we need to fight for access and information,” she said.

In Macon County, Alabama, which has a population of about 18,000 and is home to many descendants of the Tuskegee trials, about 45% of Black residents have hey dude shoes received at least one vaccine dose. Community leaders, including those who are part of a task force that meets weekly, attribute the statistic, in part, to local outreach and education campaigns and numerous conversations about the difference between the Tuskegee study and the coronavirus vaccines.

For months, Martin Daniel, 53, and his wife, Trina Daniel, 49, resisted the vaccines, their uncertainty blamed in part on the study. Their nephew Cornelius Daniel, a dentist in Hampton, Georgia, said he grew up hearing about the research from his uncle and saw in his own family how the long-running deception had sown generational distrust of medical institutions.

Cornelius Daniel, 31, said he overcame his own hesitation in the spring because the risks of working in patients’ mouths outweighed his concerns.

His uncle and aunt reconsidered their doubts more slowly, but over the summer, as the delta variant led to a surge in hospitalizations across the South, the Daniels made vaccination appointments for mid-July. Before the date arrived, though, they and their two teenage children tested positive for the coronavirus.

On July 6, the couple, inseparable since meeting as students on the campus of Savannah State University, died about six hours apart. Their children are now being raised by Cornelius Daniel and his wife, Melanie Daniel, 32.

“We truly believe the vaccine would have saved their lives,” Melanie Daniel said.

Amid lawsuit, Maryland’s largest school system will allow religious exemption for staff coronavirus vaccine mandate

Amid lawsuit, Maryland’s largest school system will allow religious exemption for staff coronavirus vaccine mandate

Maryland’s largest school system said Thursday it will allow religious exemptions for its coronavirus vaccine mandate for teachers and other school staff.

The announcement came hey dude two days after an employee from Montgomery County Public Schools filed a lawsuit alleging the school system had infringed on his First Amendment rights by not allowing a religious exemption to opt out of receiving a coronavirus vaccine.

The school system first announced in August that it would require its 24,000 employees to get a coronavirus vaccine or be tested weekly. But earlier this month, the school board tightened the requirement to remove the test option and said all employees must show proof of getting a vaccine shot by Thursday. The policy announced Sept. 9 allowed for a medical exemption to opt out of the vaccine requirement, but did not mention religious exemptions.

Chris Cram, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, said in a statement Thursday that staff can submit a “medical or religious exemption, and those exemptions have been and will continue to be considered.”

“The previous message [about the mandate] did not say it explicitly,” Cram said, and “people presumed religious exemptions were excluded.”

The district declined to comment further on the lawsuit Thursday because it is pending litigation.

About 76% of the school district’s employees were vaccinated as of Thursday, the district said. Officials say vaccines “are critical to helping schools maintain regular operations in a safe environment for students and staff.”

Other school systems in the Washington region have implemented coronavirus vaccine mandates for teachers or other school workers, some allowing staff to get tests as an alternative. Officials in Alexandria, Va., and D.C. recently tightened their vaccine rules to remove the testing option; both districts allow for medical or religious exemptions.

In New York City, home to the nation’s largest school system, four educators recently challenged that city’s strict vaccine mandate for school workers. A judge temporarily halted the requirement last week, but a federal appeals court on Monday allowed the mandate to proceed. On Thursday, the workers asked the U.S. dr martens boots Supreme Court to halt the mandate.

The Maryland plaintiff, who used the pseudonym “John Doe” in the complaint filed Tuesday, was described as someone who is not a teacher, but who works in a district administrative building where he has a private office. He also religiously identifies as Christian, and he “sought the Lord for wisdom on this vaccine to determine God’s will, and sincerely believes that it is God’s will that he not receive a coronavirus vaccine,” according to the complaint.

The employee also argued that he maintains minimum contact with other employees and students in Montgomery County Public Schools, and that about 60% to 80% of his job duties could be done remotely, according to the complaint.

The complaint states that the employee emailed a district staff member on Sept. 21 to ask about the process for submitting a religious exemption and was told the district did not provide for one. The filing then says the employee emailed a district employee on Sept. 24 to request a religious exemption, but did not receive a response.

The complaint says Doe is willing to comply with other virus mitigation measures if he receives a religious exemption for the vaccine.

Earlier in September, an online petition launched with Montgomery County Public School employees who are fighting the vaccine requirement. More than 800 people had signed the petition as of Thursday afternoon.

And it’s not the first time that an steve madden shoes employee of the school system has pushed against covid-19 mitigation tactics because of a religious exemption. In August, a Montgomery teacher was placed on leave after she did not comply with a school’s mask mandate. The instructor claimed that her religion and a doctor’s orders prevented her from wearing a mask.

Americans appear divided on whether adults should be able to get a religious exemption from the coronavirus vaccines. A survey conducted by the Public Religion and Research Institute found that 52% favored allowing people to refuse the vaccines based on religious beliefs, while 46% opposed it.

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No major organized religion objects to Covid vaccines. Will religious exemptions hold?

Religious exemptions could prove to be the latest legal battlefield of the pandemic, as Americans opposed to the coronavirus vaccines try to find ways around employer and government vaccination mandates.

Some evangelical pastors are reportedly providing religious exemption documents to members of their churches, and right-wing forums are sharing strategies to skirt vaccination requirements. Religious freedom groups are sending threatening letters to states, schools and employers ecco shoes and preparing legal challenges to fight vaccination mandates.

Only some federal agencies and states have made vaccinations mandatory for workers, and more private companies are doing or considering the same. But experts anticipate that religious liberty challenges will pick up as more mandates are put in place — especially when there is no national standard.

“There are some First Amendment implications here and there’s a patchwork of laws that could potentially be implicated by these mandates,” said James Sonne, a law professor at Stanford Law School and founding director of its Religious Liberty Clinic. “It’s certainly something we’ll see getting worked out in the courts.”

The challenge for governments and institutions is balancing American civil liberties with a worsening public health crisis.

Protesters holding placards expressing their opinion (Matthew Hatcher / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Protesters holding placards expressing their opinion 

Experts say that the threshold for religious exemptions could come down to proving whether the person attempting to obtain one has “sincerely held beliefs” against getting vaccinated on religious grounds. They may even have to show a track record of opposition to receive an exemption.

Those challenging employer-created mandates cite Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which requires employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate employees, while government-created mandates are being challenged under the First Amendment. Both, however, bring up the question of whether a person’s religious beliefs are sincere.

Thomas Berg, a self-described “strong supporter of religious exemptions” and a religious liberty advocate who teaches law at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic institution in St. Paul, Minnesota, said he believes that there is a strong case to deny many nike sneakers of the religious claims and to test religious sincerity.

“In cases where you’ve got a lot of potential insincere claims — and I think there’s evidence that is what’s happening here in which people are raising religious objections when they’re motivated by fear of the vaccine or political opposition to it — testing sincerity makes sense,” he said. “We have to test sincerity or else we have to accept them all or deny them all, so I think the courts will provide room for testing that.”

One driver for testing sincerity is the fact that no major organized religion objects to the vaccines, and Roman Catholic and other Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have advised followers to get the shots. Pope Francis went so far as to say that getting vaccinated was “the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.”

Individually held beliefs, however, could provide some protections.

The challenge with religious exemptions

The Christian argument for religious exemptions follows two tracks typically: first, that the vaccine shots at some point in their production used aborted fetal cell lines. The second argument cites a Bible verse that claims that the human body is God’s temple of the Holy Spirit and argues that for that reason receiving a vaccine would be a sin.

Johnson & Johnson did use a replicated fetal cell line in the production of its vaccine, but Pfizer and Moderna did not. They did, however, use replicated fetal cell lines to test the effectiveness of their vaccines. Those cell lines, however, were isolated from two fetuses in 1973 and 1985 and then replicated numerous times over the ensuing decades. They are commonly used in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries to test and create medications.

Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor at New York University Langone Medical Center, said that people who oppose the coronavirus on religious grounds should also oppose numerous medications and vaccines developed over the past 30 to 40 years.

“There’s a lot more drugs, vaccines and medicines you should not be taking and protesting if you’re really worried about these fetal cells being used,” Caplan said. “I don’t think most of this is sincere. I think it’s just a way to get out of having to take a vaccine.”

But there are many groups that are taking it seriously and giving individuals support and advice on ways to obtain a religious exemption or even challenge a vaccination mandate.

On its website, Liberty Counsel — an evangelical ministry that provides legal assistance in religious liberty cases — provides a 23-minute video guide that has been viewed more than 150,000 times on how to file a religious exemption. It, like other groups, also provides a nike store handful of sample documents to file for an exemption.

Liberty Counsel is known for representing Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk whose refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2015 led to a lawsuit. The group has also challenged the Affordable Care Act, attempted to reverse gay conversion therapy bans and supported lawsuits maintaining religious monuments and nativity scenes.

Since the start of the pandemic, the group has been dedicated to challenging Covid restrictions at places of worship, as well as mask mandates. It has shared misinformation on its social media accounts, podcasts and website alleging the vaccines are dangerous, and it has supported members of America’s Frontline Doctors — an anti-vaccination group whose founder stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Over the past few months, Liberty Counsel has become one of the groups leading the charge on claiming religious exemptions to the growing number of vaccination mandates.

“Just in a few weeks, we’ve received over 10,000 people contacting us for help,” Mathew Staver, the group’s founder and director said. “It’s more than anything we’ve ever encountered before. We’re getting people calling. Some are very concerned and upset, some break down, because they are being forced on a very quick time frame to make a decision between getting one of the Covid shots and their jobs.”

How past cases held up

Last week, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against Maine’s vaccination mandate, arguing it violates a worker’s right to object to the vaccines on religious grounds. The suit was filed on behalf of 2,000 unnamed Maine health care workers who objected to Maine’s vaccination mandate for health care workers on the grounds that the state did not allow for a religious exemption.

“We will vigorously defend the requirement against this lawsuit and we are confident that it will be upheld,” Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey said in a statement to NBC News. “For many years the state has required health care workers to be vaccinated against various communicable diseases and, to our knowledge, that requirement has never been challenged. The state has now simply added an additional disease — COVID-19 — to the list of ones for which health care workers must be vaccinated.”

The statement added that federal courts have consistently upheld mandatory vaccination requirements.


Liberty Counsel has also sent letters to the states of New York and Washington, as well as United Airlines, which required its employees to be vaccinated. The letters threatened to sue the states and airline if they did not provide greater access to religious exemptions and accommodations.

Experts said some of their challenges have already been tested and pointed to past legal battles over vaccination mandates, such as those states created for children, nursing homes and hospitals.

Caplan, who was involved in developing some of the flu vaccination mandates that have become commonplace in hospitals, noted that states such as California, New York, Maine and Connecticut have entirely dropped religious exemptions for children.

“When brought to court, that was tested and it held up, so we already have a pattern of arguments,” Caplan said. “So now if your boss says you can’t come to work without a vaccine but you refuse to get one on religious grounds, employers don’t have to keep you on, they don’t have to hire you.”

Backlash to the latest push for religious exemptions could backfire, however.

Doug Opel, a bioethics and pediatrics professor at the University of Washington who has written about the challenges of religious exemptions and vaccination mandates, pointed out that arguing against and not allowing religious exemptions might do more harm than good.

Though there are certainly people who will attempt to falsely secure an exemption, he said he believed that only a small minority of the American population would likely try to obtain one. It might be better to allow religious exemptions to reduce the perception of coercion and allow the vaccination mandates to stand with fewer challenges, he said.

“A policy reason to have exemptions is to allow the very few people who want to opt out to opt out and then allow the mandate itself to stand and be acceptable and sustainable over time,” he said. “Even if a minority opt out, the vast majority will get vaccinated, and the mandate will have served its purpose of reducing transmission and disease.”

A judge asked a mother if she got the covid vaccine. She said no, and he revoked custody of her son.

Rebecca Firlit said a Chicago judge has revoked custody of her 11-year-old son until she gets vaccinated against the coronavirus.

When Rebecca Firlit joined a virtual court hearing with her ex-husband earlier this month, the Chicago mother expected the proceedings to focus on child support.

But the judge had other plans.

“One of the first things he asked me . . . was whether or not I was vaccinated,” Firlit, 39, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

She was not, she said, explaining that she has had “adverse reactions to vaccines in the past” and that a doctor advised her against getting the coronavirus vaccine.

“It poses a risk,” she added.

Cook County Judge James Shapiro then nike store made what the parents’ attorneys called an unprecedented decision – he said the mother could not see her 11-year-old son until she got the vaccine.

Firlit is appealing the judge’s decision. Her attorney, Annette Fernholz, who did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment late Sunday, told WFLD that the ruling was an overreach.

“The father did not even bring this issue before the court,” Fernholz said. “So it’s the judge on his own and making this decision that you can’t see your child until you’re vaccinated.”

Judges in other states have granted lesser sentences to defendants who opt to get the vaccine, or mandated the vaccine as a condition of release from prison for some inmates. A judge in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge offered some defendants the option of getting the vaccine instead of completing community service hours.

Two judges in Ohio have also ordered that some people receive the vaccine as a condition of their probation. Similarly, two Georgia judges are reducing sentences for some offenders who get the vaccine. In New York, judges in the Bronx and Manhattan have ordered defendants to get the vaccine as part of brooks shoes their rehabilitation and as a condition for seeking bail, respectively.

But the judge’s ruling in Chicago appears to be the first of its kind. Firlit and her ex-husband, Matthew Duiven, have been divorced for seven years, according to WFLD. Court documents show they have shared custody of their 11-year-old son since June 2014.

Neither Firlit nor Duiven immediately responded to The Post’s request for comment late Sunday.

The hearing on Aug. 10 had nothing to do with revising the custody agreement, Firlit’s lawyer said, so no one was expecting the judge to ask the boy’s mother if she was vaccinated. Firlit said she was befuddled by the judge’s question.

“I was confused because it was just supposed to be about expenses and child support,” she told the Sun-Times. “I asked him what it had to do with the hearing, and he said, ‘I am the judge, and I make the decisions for your case.'”

The judge then revoked her custody of her son until she was fully inoculated. Firlit did not indicate if she would get the vaccine, but she said she is appealing the decision because she believes the judge overstepped his authority. She added that taking a son away from his mother is “wrong.”

“I think that it’s dividing families,” Firlit told WFLD. “And I think it’s not in my son’s best interest to be away from his mother.”

The father’s attorney, Jeffery M. Leving, who did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment late Sunday, said he was not expecting the judge to ask about vaccinations or change the custody arrangement. But he said he supported the judge’s decision.

“There are children who have died because of covid,” Leving said. “I think every child should be safe. And I agree that the mother should be vaccinated.”

Over the past few months, the number of children contracting the highly contagious delta variant has increased exponentially, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Academy of Family hey dude shoes Physicians has also warned that there is an increasing risk of unvaccinated children sustaining “severe and long-lasting impacts” on their health.

Firlit said she is struggling with the separation from her son, whom she’s only allowed to communicate with over the phone.

“I talk to him every day,” she told the Sun-Times. “He cries, he misses me.”