Coronavirus update: CDC urges Americans to continue masking up

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Feds charge 21 more people with COVID-19 fraud

COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 80,818,490 (80,733,941)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 990,395 (989,367)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 507,371,986 (506,185,821)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,210,317 (6,204,500)‌

CDC still recommends masks on planes and trains

While the U.S. government is appealing a judge’s ruling that blocks the extension of the travel mask mandate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says everyone should continue masking up.

In a statement to the media, the CDC said it will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine whether such an order remains necessary. In the meantime, it has asked the Justice Department to appeal a federal judge’s ruling blocking the extension of the travel mask mandate.

“CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in all indoor public transportation settings,” the agency said in a statement. “CDC’s number one priority is protecting the public health of our nation. As we have said before, wearing masks is most beneficial in crowded or poorly ventilated locations, such as the transportation corridor.”

Justice Department charges 21 people with COVID-19 financial fraud

The U.S. Justice Department has leveled criminal charges against 21 people in nine federal districts across the U.S. for their alleged participation in various health care-related fraud schemes that exploited the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the complaint, the cases resulted in over $149 million in COVID-19-related false billings to federal programs and theft from federally-funded pandemic assistance programs. In connection with the enforcement action, the department seized over $8 million in cash and other alleged fraud proceeds.

“The Department of Justice’s Health Care Fraud Unit and our partners are dedicated to rooting out schemes that have exploited the pandemic,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite, Jr. “Today’s enforcement action reinforces our commitment to using all available tools to hold accountable medical professionals, corporate executives, and others who have placed greed above care during an unprecedented public health emergency.”

Unions protected staff at nursing homes, study finds

Nursing homes have been vulnerable hot spots during the pandemic. Residents are elderly, sometimes in declining health, and live in close proximity. Many early deaths occurred among residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

But a new study by researchers at George Washington University found that facilities that employed union staff members suffered fewer infections and deaths. The study was published in the journal Health Affairs and suggests that union work rules made the difference.

"By protecting workers during the pandemic, labor unions are limiting the spread of COVID-19 inside nursing homes and have likely saved the lives of thousands of residents," said Adam Dean, the study’s lead author.

Around the nation

  • Kansas: Gov. Laura Kelly has vetoed a bill to renew the COVID-19 liability immunity protections for businesses. Kelly said she supported parts of the legislation but opposed an expansion of the protections that some described as too broad. Kelly said last-minute amendments doomed the legislation.

  • New York: Despite a federal judge’s ruling that overturns the federal transportation mask mandate, Gov. Kathy Hochul said masks are still required aboard New York mass transit -- but only for “the short term.” Hochul said the emergence of two subvariants is reason enough to keep masks on for now.

  • Kentucky: After struggling with a surge in COVID-19 cases throughout most of 2021, Kentucky officials are reporting a 67% decline in new cases. Anderson County, west of Lexington, is the only one of the state’s 120 counties not to be classified as an area of low COVID-19 community transmission. The rest of the state is in the green this week.

  • Washington: The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has updated the design of its COVID-19 data dashboard with the goal of providing a new, more user-friendly format. The goal of the new format is to make it easier for the public to access and understand the data that health officials post.

  • Mississippi: The Mississippi State Department of Health reports that second-dose booster shots of both the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccine are now available at all county health department clinics for eligible individuals. The shot is recommended for people over age 50 at least four months after the first booster.

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