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Coronavirus update: CDC faces heat over mask guidance, Biden pleads with Americans to get vaccinated

Restaurants avoided the pandemic apocalypse

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Photo (c) boonchai wedmakawand - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 32,975,491 (32,945,821)

Total U.S. deaths: 586,598 (586,001)

Total global cases:163,736,528 (163,174,951)

Total global deaths: 3,392,840 (3,381,317)

Report: CDC faces scrutiny over mask guidance

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidance late last week, saying fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks, many people celebrated. Others went, “Wait, what?” 

The sudden policy change appeared to catch state governments and corporate America off guard. The result was confusion about where you needed to wear a mask.

Politico cites government health officials who say the CDC is shaking up its COVID-19 response team in the face of criticism from Democratic governors like New Jersey’s Phil Murphy. The governor said this week that his state would keep mask mandates in place for now.

Biden makes appeal for more people to be vaccinated

President Biden says COVID-19 cases have declined in all 50 states. To keep that trend moving in the right direction, the president said more Americans need to get vaccinated.

In remarks at the White House, the president noted that deaths from the virus have plunged by 81% in the last year. But he said those who pass up the vaccine are putting themselves at potential risk.

"I can’t promise that will continue this way,” Biden said. “We know there will be advances and setbacks and we know that many flare-ups could occur. But if the unvaccinated get vaccinated, they’ll protect themselves and other unvaccinated people around them."

Restaurants avoided the pandemic apocalypse

The pandemic slammed the restaurant industry, but not as hard as many predicted. A survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) found that around 90,000 restaurants in the U.S. had either gone out of the business or closed their doors for an extended time.

In a typical year, about 50,000 restaurants fail. At the beginning of the pandemic, some of the direst predictions suggested 75% of restaurants might fail.

Now that the economy is beginning to reopen, restaurants are enjoying something of a revival as cooped-up consumers seek a normal dining experience. Industry analysts predict that trend will continue in the summer months, which typically are good for restaurants.

Justice Department targets COVID-19 fraudsters

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, scammers are still trying to con consumers with fake COVID-19 treatments and cures. Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced the creation of a Justice Department task force that will go after the fraudsters.

Garland said the task force will pull together the various resources of the Justice Department to enforce the law. It will also work with other federal and state agencies.

“The Department of Justice will use every available federal tool -- including criminal, civil, and administrative actions -- to combat and prevent COVID-19 related fraud. We look forward to working with our federal government colleagues to bring to justice those who seek to profit unlawfully from the pandemic,” Garland wrote in a memo announcing the task force.

U.S. vaccination total approaches 50%

While many other nations are still struggling under surging cases of the virus, the U.S. is seeing continued declines, thanks in large part to the pace of vaccinations. The CDC reports that nearly 48% of the U.S. population has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The percentage is even higher when it comes to the adult population. The agency says nearly 60% of Americans over the age of 18 have received at least one shot, and more than 47% are fully vaccinated.

There is also progress in vaccinating newly eligible young people. So far, 344,503,595 vaccine doses have been delivered since December, and 274,411,901 shots have been administered.

Around the nation

  • New York: In what may be a significant sign of a return to normal, the New York City subway has returned to 24-hour service. For more than a year, the mass transit system shut down at midnight as part of a virus mitigation effort.

  • Arizona: With the COVID-19 vaccine readily available for just about everyone, Arizona schools plan to reopen classrooms this fall. But there are other questions to be settled. The state’s public colleges have yet to rule whether all returning students and faculty must be vaccinated.

  • Michigan: Small business groups have organized to oppose a proposal by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to make COVID-19 workplace rules permanent. The current temporary rules expire in October. 

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