The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US

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Dr. Wen's checklist for sending her child back to school
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Covid-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County doubled over two weeks

The number of people in Los Angeles hospitalized with Covid-19 has doubled over the past two weeks, L.A. County’s Department of Public Health announced Monday, urging the importance of vaccinations amid a surge in new cases countywide.

There are 1,437 people in L.A. County currently hospitalized with the virus, health officials said in a news release – nearly double the 745 people hospitalized on July 26. The number has continued to rise since June 15, when the state fully reopened its economy and 218 people were hospitalized.

The latest wave of positive cases is mostly affecting unvaccinated people, the department said. From May to July 2021, 92% of those hospitalized were not fully vaccinated.

“The significant increase in hospitalizations is of great concern,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “With the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, we are hopeful that more people will get vaccinated during this time of very high transmission.”

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council will consider a motion that would require proof of vaccination to enter indoor public spaces like retails stores, gyms and restaurants, expanding on a similar order in New York City.

According to latest local health data, L.A. County’s test positivity rate currently stands at 4.4% – a decrease from last week’s rate of 6%.

There were 2,919 new Covid-19 cases reported in L.A. County on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to date to 1,329,262, the department said.

Austin mayor: Students and teachers should be required to wear masks, despite mask mandate ban

Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he believes both students and teachers should be required to wear masks in school despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates statewide. 

“Kids need to be wearing masks in school, so do teachers,” Adler told CNN as the Austin Independent School District considers taking on the governor’s executive order by requiring students and teachers to wear masks on school property. 

“We have to listen to the doctors and the data,” Adler continued. “…We need to do what we can and everything we can to keep our kids safe.”

Adler suggested that Abbot and other Republican leaders in Texas are looking to please donors with bans on masks and vaccination requirements, rather than following the latest research and data to protect Texans. 

“At this point, rather than being governed by the data, I think we’re being governed by Republican donors,” Adler said. “We’re going to have to do what it is necessary to keep the kids safe.”

Florida's Leon County will start the school year with a temporary mask mandate for these students

Leon County Schools will start the school year with a temporary mask requirement for pre-K-8 students, unless otherwise noted by a physician or psychologist, the district’s superintendent, Rocky Hanna, said Monday.

The superintendent emphasized that the requirement is temporary, saying he hopes to revisit the issue before Labor Day. 

Hanna said he took the advice of Dr. Thomas Truman, a specialist in Pediatric Critical Care with Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare. “Dr. Truman, who put it very bluntly, said ‘Rocky, I think the prudent thing to do, especially for children who are most vulnerable, and those are the ones who do not yet have an opportunity to become vaccinated, would be to start the school year off with a mask requirement,’” Hanna said Monday.

“I know this speaks against what the Department of Health said, what our governor said, what our State Board of Education says, and at the end of the day, if something happened and things went sideways for us this week and next week because we started school and heaven forbid, we lost a child to this virus, I can’t just simply blame the governor of the state of Florida. I can’t,” Hanna explained. “And if there’s an out and I didn’t take the out, and I didn’t do what was best for the children here in Tallahassee and Leon County, that’s on me. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror it would be really hard to answer to that guy.”

Earlier Monday Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that Florida’s State Board of Education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who “led to the violation of law” prohibiting mask mandates for school districts.

Hanna acknowledged the governor’s announcement. According to reporting by the Tallahassee Democrat, Hanna told school officials at a meeting Monday afternoon, “you can’t put a price tag on someone’s life, including my salary.”

“We want to make sure that children also have access to a high quality education but they can’t if they’re sick and in the hospital,” he added, according to the paper.

At least 7 states ban mask mandates in schools, CNN analysis shows

School children wearing facemasks walk outside Condit Elementary School in Bellaire, outside Houston, Texas, on December 16, 2020.

A CNN analysis from Aug. 5 has found that at least seven states – Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah – prohibit districts from requiring masks in schools 

On Aug. 6, an Arkansas judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of the state’s law banning mask mandates in schools, in response to two lawsuits – one from a school district, and one from parents – who want schools to be able to require masks if they so choose.

The temporary restraining order is in Arkansas is in effect, but the state law banning mandates is also in place. With the injunction in place, school districts can now enforce mask requirements, while the suits continue.

The state laws prohibiting mask mandates in schools conflict with guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends universal masking in school of everyone over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status – a stricter position than that taken earlier this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recently updated its Covid-19 school guidance to advise that fully vaccinated students, teachers and staff do not need to wear masks in school.

There are some states, including Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York and Washington, that follow the AAP guidance to require masks among K-12 students regardless of their vaccination status. 

Texas governor asks hospitals to forgo elective surgeries as coronavirus cases rise

Texas Governor Greg Abbott attends a security briefing with former President Donald Trump and state officials and law enforcement at the Weslaco Department of Public Safety DPS Headquarters on June 30 in Weslaco, Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures to increase hospital capacity for coronavirus patients, according to a news release from his office. 

Abbott is also directing the Texas Department of Emergency Management and Department of State Health Services to open additional antibody infusion centers across the Lone Star State.

The governor is also directing those agencies to increase vaccination availability across the state and encourages all Texans to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

This county in Oregon is implementing indoor mask mandates regardless of vaccination status

Oregon’s Multnomah County is issuing a mandate this week that everyone must wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status. If they don’t, they could be fined up to $1,000.

The executive order from County Chair Deborah Kafoury comes after Covid-19 cases have surged in the area causing strain on local health care systems, a news release said.

“The more contagious Delta variant has changed the game. Our hospitals are full,” Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said in the release. “And we now know that while the vaccine protects us really well from serious illness, it may not always stop us from spreading the virus. An across-the-board mandate buys us time to protect more people with vaccine.’’

Enforcement will be based on complaints phoned or emailed into the county, and the punishment could range from a warning to a $1,000 fine, the release added.

The mandate starts Friday and applies to everyone five years and older. It’s expected to remain in place until January, although officials say that timeline could change depending on disease trends and immunization rates. 

Covid-19 hospitalization rates in some states are more than double national average, data shows