The Department of Homeland Security says the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain restricted through at least June 21, with only trade and essential travel allowed until then. The restrictions had been set to expire Friday.
DHS confirmed the move in a tweet Thursday, but noted it is “working closely with Canada & Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve.”
The agency, in conjunction with its Canadian and Mexican counterparts, originally closed the borders to leisure travelers in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic. The restrictions have been extended on a monthly basis ever since.
Canada now requires anyone entering the country by plane or land to be tested in advance for COVID-19, and anyone coming in from the U.S. must prove they are doing so for essential reasons and must quarantine upon arrival.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he would prefer to wait until 75% of his country is vaccinated before fully reopening the border. “My gut tells me it’s going to be (closed) at least well into the fall of 2021,” he said.
– Jayme Deerwester
Also in the news:
►Booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines will probably be required about 8-12 months after initial inoculation, the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna told Axios. That would mean as early as September for the first group of Americans to get vaccinated.
►Michigan will fully lift outdoor capacity limits on June 1 and, starting July 1, end indoor gathering caps that were put in place to curb spread of COVID-19, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday.
►The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 444,000, a new pandemic low and a sign that the job market keeps strengthening as consumers spend freely again.
►A study of 280 nursing homes in 21 states across the U.S. provides real-world confirmation of the COVID-19 vaccines’ effectiveness: About 1% of residents tested positive for the virus within two weeks of receiving their second dose, and only 0.3% did more than two weeks after being fully vaccinated, researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Most of the cases did not produce any symptoms.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 588,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 165.1 million cases and 3.42 million deaths. Nearly 352 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 279.3 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 126.6 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 38.1% of the population.
📘 What we’re reading: Japan continues to struggle with COVID-19 but is still scheduled to open its doors for the Summer Games. Why some are calling it a “ridiculous idea.”
Get your lotto ticket here! New York, Maryland offer prizes for vaccinations
Given the attention and success of Ohio’s Vax-a-Million, New York and Maryland are trying similar approaches, announcing lottery incentives to convince residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said those who get the vaccine at select state-run sites next week will receive a lottery scratch ticket, with prizes ranging from $20 to $5 million. Cuomo said participants have a one-in-nine chance of landing a prize.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan promoted the state’s new inducement at a news conference in front of a man in a lottery-ball costume. The state will award a $40,000 daily prize to a vaccinated Marylander for 40 days starting Tuesday through July 3, then will cap the program with a $400,000 prize July 4, Hogan said.
“So remember Maryland – get your shot for a shot to win,” he said.
On Thursday, Ohio health officials said the vaccination rate among residents 16 and older has increased by more than 28% since May 13, when Gov. Mike DeWine introduced a plan to give away five $1 million prizes and five full college scholarships to vaccinated residents.
Northeast leads in vaccination rates, South trails
Five months into the U.S. vaccination campaign against the coronavirus, a clear geographic pattern has developed: the highest inoculation rates are in the Northeast and the lowest in the South.
Experts say the gap reflects several factors, including political leanings, religious beliefs and education and income levels.
There are eight Northeastern states among the 10 in the nation with at least 54% of its population receiving one vaccine dose or more, leading with Vermont’s 64%. At the opposite end of the scale, eight Southern states are in the bottom 10, all under 40%, with Mississippi last in the country at 32%. The nationwide figure is 48.2%.
“Low vaccination rates will leave room for the virus to circulate, re-emerge and possibly form new variants,” said Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “High vaccination rates are critical to keeping the disease under control, especially when we get back to the fall and winter.”
India tops US daily death mark as countries head in opposite directions
The United States has yielded to India a dark statistic of the global pandemic – the country with the highest single-day death toll.
While daily U.S. infections, hospitalizations and deaths slide, India’s Health Ministry reported 4,529 deaths Wednesday as the coronavirus spreads beyond cities into the vast countryside, where health systems are weaker. The number is considered an undercount by most health experts.
The U.S. held the previous record for daily deaths at 4,475 on Jan. 12, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. But struggles with near-record infections and an increasing death count have India reeling. Hospitals and morgues are overwhelmed. Dozens of bodies are found floating daily in the Ganges River as it flows through poor, rural states.
Onward: Tokyo Olympics remain a ‘go’ despite pandemic concerns
The Summer Olympic Games scheduled to open in Tokyo in two months are facing more obstacles than the 400-meter hurdlers.
The torch relay rolled through Hiroshima this week, minus the usual crowds due to coronavirus concerns. Some cities took the relay off public streets. Surveys indicate about 60% of Japanese people say the Olympics should be called off, and an online petition in favor of cancellation attracted 350,000 signatures in just nine days.
Still, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 are barreling toward the Opening Ceremony on July 23. IOC Vice President John Coates promised science-based solutions to assuage pandemic concerns, promising to “draw upon the experience of hundreds of sports events that have taken place safely across the world over the past year, with minimal risk to participants and also, importantly, the local population.”
A Japanese vaccine policy panel is expected to give its approval Friday to vaccines developed by Moderna and AstraZeneca, which may help speed up a slow-paced immunization program so far limited to the Pfizer vaccine as the only one authorized.
Almost 1M excess deaths in 29 wealthy countries linked to COVID-19
An estimated 979 000 “excess deaths” occurred in 2020 in 29 relatively wealthy countries as the pandemic swept around the globe, a new report in the British Medical Journal found.
The U.S. had the highest absolute number of deaths above what would have been expected – 458,000 – yet only reported about 340,000 coronavirus deaths. Italy, England, Spain and Poland were among countries with high numbers of excess deaths.
A few countries, New Zealand, Norway and Denmark among them, actually had fewer deaths than would have been expected. Researchers said they don’t know why.
“Excess deaths substantially exceeded reported deaths from COVID-19 in many countries, indicating that determining the full impact of the pandemic on mortality requires assessment of excess deaths,” the study found.
EU signs deal for up to 1.8 billion Pfizer vaccine doses
The European Union’s executive arm has signed a third vaccine contract with Pfizer and BioNTech through 2023 for an additional 1.8 billion doses of their COVID-19 shots. That’s enough for about four doses for everyone in the 27-nation collective.
The EU Commission says the deal includes 900 million doses of the current shots and of a serum adapted to the coronavirus’ variants, with an option to purchase an extra 900 million shots. The deal with Pfizer-BioNTech stipulates production of doses must be based in the EU and essential components are sourced from the region.
The EU has struggled with supply issues and is behind the U.S. and the United Kingdom in vaccinations. EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said 260 million vaccine doses will have been delivered across Europe by the end of this week.
Pedestrian death rate see largest rise in 45 years
New data released Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association for 2020 shows the largest-ever annual increase in the pedestrian death rate since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established its Fatality Analysis Reporting System in 1975.
The association cited 6,721 pedestrian deaths in 2020, a 4.8% increase over the previous year. But it also represents a “shocking and unprecedented” 21% increase in the pedestrian death rate per miles traveled – Americans drove fewer miles because of the pandemic and the restrictions and lockdowns that accompanied it.
“We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to these unacceptable numbers of pedestrian deaths,” said Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting, who conducted the data analysis.
– Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press
Iowa bans local mask mandates
Leaders of Iowa school districts cannot require students or staff to wear masks and Iowa cities and counties cannot impose mask mandates under a law Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Thursday.
Democrats denounced the measure, saying it could harm children and teachers, especially immunocompromised children, and overreaches into local government decisions.
Reynolds, a Republican, said the state wanted to put parents back in control of their children’s education and protect the rights of Iowans to make their own health care decisions. “I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties,” she said.
– Ian Richardson, Des Moines Register
Pfizer vaccine can be stored longer at refrigerator temperatures, FDA says
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can now be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures for up to a month, according to a Food and Drug Administration announcement. This time period will make it easier to store and ship the vaccine — previous storage time was only five days. The change should make the vaccine more widely available to the public, the FDA said.
“Making COVID-19 vaccines widely available is key to getting people vaccinated and bringing the pandemic to an end,” says Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics and Research.
Another potential complication: Deep blood clots in the arm
In the first reported case of its kind, a healthy 85-year-old man developed a rare recurrence of deep-vein blood clots, or deep-vein thrombosis, in his upper arm as the result of coronavirus infection, according to a Rutgers researchers report.
The unusual case highlights yet another way the virus that causes COVID-19 can affect people. Beyond the more common respiratory symptoms and loss of taste and smell, the virus can trigger coagulation disorders, especially clots.
“This is of concern since in 30% of these patients, the blood clot can travel to the lung and be possibly fatal,” said Dr. Payal Parikh, an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, who led the study along with Martin Blaser, director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine. “Other disabling complications include persistent swelling, pain and arm fatigue.”
Those who have had deep-vein thrombosis or have a medical condition that predisposes them to clots may be more vulnerable. Read here.
– Lindy Washburn, NorthJersey.com
Contributing: The Associated Press.