Coronavirus update: Officials say COVID-19 restrictions could end soon

Photo (c) Cris Canton - Getty Images

Supply chain issues boosted inflation in January

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 77,284,578 (77,058,413)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 912,549 (909,070)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 404,498,492 (401,536,661)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,781,589 (5,767,326)‌

Feds may be ready to phase out restrictions

The White House is still following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but a number of states, including Democrat-controlled states like New York, are dropping mask mandates. However, there are signs that the federal government may be ready to make a shift.

White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Financial Times this week that he thinks national COVID-19 restrictions could end soon.

"I hope we are looking at a time when we have enough people vaccinated and enough people with protection from previous infection that the COVID restrictions will soon be a thing of the past," Fauci said.

Supply chain issues send inflation soaring

The cost of living rose faster than expected in January, which is largely a product of an overburdened supply chain that has persisted throughout the pandemic. The Labor Department reports that the Consumer Price Index rose 0.6% from December and was up 7.5% over the last 12 months.

The cost of food, electricity, and shelter were the biggest drivers of inflation in the last month. The food index rose 0.9% in January following a 0.5% increase in December. The energy index also increased 0.9% over the month, with an increase in the electricity index being partially offset by declines in the gasoline index and the natural gas index.

New car prices proved to be one of the few bright spots in the report. After months of rising new car prices, the increases leveled off last month. Prices charged by hotels and wireless companies declined slightly.

Navy discharges sailors over vaccine refusal

Vaccine mandates continue to be highly controversial. The U.S. Navy said it has discharged 240 service personnel for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Most of the personnel – 217 – were listed as being on active duty. One was listed as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve.

According to the Defense Department, all of those service members received honorable characterizations for their discharges from service, meaning they are still eligible to receive veteran benefits.

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: While some states are retaining their mask mandates for schools, New Jersey will end its mandate for students and teachers on March 7. “Balancing public health with getting back to some semblance of normalcy is not easy. But we can responsibly take this step due to declining COVID numbers and growth in vaccinations,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a Twitter post.

  • Maryland: State health officials have established a new lottery to persuade people to get a booster shot. The lottery will award $2 million in cash prizes to 12 residents who have received their booster shot.

  • Tennessee: The numbers appear to be trending in the right direction, as state health officials report significant drops in new COVID-19 cases. But the exception, they say, is a handful of rural communities of the state where caseloads remain stubbornly high.

  • Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott said his state continues to make progress in halting the spread of COVID-19 and that his administration will consider rescinding school masking guidelines in the coming days. One official said Vermont’s Omicron variant picture continues to look better by the day. 

  • Hawaii: Gov. David Ige has announced that Hawaii’s Safe Travels program will continue on its present course. That means domestic travelers will not be required to include proof of COVID-19 booster shots. Proof of vaccination or an acceptable negative test will exempt travelers from the mandatory five-day quarantine.

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