Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 44,590,780 (44,505,919)
Total U.S. deaths: 717,158 (714,808)
Total global cases: 238,947,617 (238,540,011)
Total global deaths: 4,869,812 (4,862,317)
FDA is withdrawing hand sanitizer guidelines
Hand sanitizer was hard to find early in the pandemic, causing some alcohol distillers to shift into hand sanitizer production under guidelines issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With demand for these products now much lower, the FDA is withdrawing that authority effective Dec. 31.
The guidance was issued in March 2020, to manufacturers that were not drug companies. The FDA said it was a temporary measure to meet a public health emergency.
At the end of December, companies producing hand sanitizer under that guidance must stop making the products. Hand sanitizers manufactured before or on December 31, 2021, and produced under the temporary guidelines, must no longer be sold to wholesalers or retailers by March 31, 2022.
Judge: United can’t place unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave
A federal judge in Texas has placed limits on United Airlines’ enforcement of its vaccination mandate. The judge ruled the airline may not place unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave.
The judge also placed a temporary restraining order on the airline, barring it from rejecting late requests for religious or medical exemptions.
United was the first U.S. airline to impose a COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Six employees filed suit in federal court, arguing unpaid leave is not a reasonable accommodation.
Poll suggests Americans are not that divided on COVID-19
Despite headlines about emotional encounters at school board and town hall meetings, a new poll shows that Americans are not all that divided over COVID-19 and the response to the pandemic.
It’s true that conflict exists as the pandemic and the various remedies to combat it have become politicized, but a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that just 15% of Americans say they will not get vaccinated, down from 19% in August.
Just 17% said they “never” wore a mask during the previous week. And just 16% said they believed that face coverings are “not effective at all” in preventing the spread of the virus.
Around the nation
New York: A federal judge has ruled that New York must accept religious exemptions to its vaccination mandate for hospital employees. The ruling temporarily blocks the state and employers from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate against medical workers who have a legitimate religious exemption.
Massachusetts: Members of the National Guard have been enlisted to help schools across the state conduct COVID-19 tests. Gov. Charlie Baker has directed about 200 members of the guard to help schools and another 250 personnel to help correctional facilities deal with staff shortages.
Florida: The state health department has fined Leon County $3.5 million, saying it violated the state’s ban on vaccination passports. Leon County reportedly fired 14 employees who did not provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by the stated deadline.
Ohio: A new state law took effect today limiting how schools can issue vaccination requirements. The new law prohibits public schools and colleges from requiring students and employees to get any COVID-19 vaccine that has not received full FDA approval.
Oregon: Alex Castro of Portland just may have set the world’s record for the length of time battling COVID-19. Diagnosed just before the first vaccine was available, Castro spent 299 days at Providence Portland Medical Center, at times fighting for his life, before being released this week.