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Most states see rising virus cases as winter surge fears grow

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Most states see rising COVID cases as winter surge fears grow; some states expand booster accessMost states see rising virus cases as winter surge fears grow
The delta variant of COVID-19 is not done with the U.S.

Nearly all of the nation’s coronavirus infections are now attributed to the highly-contagious variant. And as winter months mean more people will be gathering indoors, the nation is attempting to prepare for a possible winter surge that may be already be underway in some regions.

The majority of U.S. states reported rising cases in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University data updated Saturday.

In New Mexico, hospitals are running out of intensive care beds, despite the state’s high vaccination rate. In Michigan, the three-county metro Detroit area is again becoming a hot spot for transmissions. Cases are also on the rise in highly-vaccinated Vermont.

Waning immunity may be contributing to the rise in cases, as months have passed since millions of Americans were first vaccinated and past surges of the virus led others to have some protection via natural infection immunity. The nation’s ongoing booster rollout is attempting to head off the effects of waning immunity.

“Delta and waning immunity — the combination of these two have set us back,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington. “This virus is going to stick with us for a long, long time.”

No state has achieved a high enough vaccination rate, even when combined with infection-induced immunity, to avoid the type of outbreaks happening now, Mokdad said.

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Lawmakers urge Biden to require vaccination or negative tests for holiday travel
With the holiday travel season rapidly approaching, three dozen lawmakers are pushing the federal government to require proof of full vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to board domestic flights.

Lawmakers said the additional travel restrictions would “ensure Americans can travel safely to see their loved ones during the holidays while also limiting household introduction and spread of COVID-19 from visiting family and friends,” according to a letter sent to President Joe Biden.

The push for more mandates comes less than a week after the United States updated its entry requirements for international air travel. As of Monday, most foreign nationals must be fully vaccinated and all travelers aged 2 and older who have not recently recovered from COVID-19 – including U.S. citizens – must show a negative coronavirus test to enter.

— Bailey Schulz

Missouri to allow nursing homes to close if short-staffed because of vaccine mandate
The Missouri health department is giving nursing homes a legal pathway to temporarily shut down if they face staffing shortages because of a new mandate from President Joe Biden’s administration for health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

An emergency rule published Friday from the state Department of Health and Senior Services would allow skilled nursing and intermediate care facilities to close for up to two years, if they are short staffed because of the vaccine requirement. They could then reopen without having to start the licensure process from scratch.

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Missouri’s nursing homes have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates nationally, and the state’s top Republican elected officials have been pushing back against Biden’s vaccine requirements. State Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued this week as part of a coalition of 10 states seeking to block the vaccine mandate.

New Oklahoma National Guard head undercuts DOD vaccine requirement

In one of his first acts as the head of the Oklahoma National Guard, new Adjutant General Thomas Mancino updated the guard’s COVID-19 vaccine policy.

In a memo issued Thursday, Mancino ordered that no members of the Oklahoma National Guard be required to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

The memo obtained by The Oklahoman, part of The USA TODAY Network, also notes “no negative administrative or legal action will be taken” against guard members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.

The memo obtained by The Oklahoman, part of The USA TODAY Network, also notes “no negative administrative or legal action will be taken” against guard members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.

In August, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said all military members must immediately begin to get COVID-19 vaccines.

— Carmen Forman, The Oklahoman

Contributing: The Associated Press

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