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Coronavirus update: Unpacking the federal worker mandate, CDC concerned over Delta variant

A study suggests that the pandemic is making us paranoid

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 34,760,860 (34,685,950)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 612,160 (611,835)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 197,847,238 (196,263,711)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,203,020 (4,192,481)‌

What the new federal mask mandate means

As expected, President Biden has announced new safety requirements for federal employees. However, it differs from the recently revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Biden is requiring employees and contractors to “attest” that they have been vaccinated or wear a mask and social distance at all times while at work.

The CDC this week revised its guidance, saying even vaccinated people should wear a mask while indoors if they happen to be in an area identified as having “substantial” or “high” risk of COVID-19 transmission.

For his part, Biden says he plans to wear a mask while indoors at the White House and other public buildings, even though he is fully vaccinated. “What I’m trying to do is keep people safe,” the president said.

CDC: Delta as ‘contagious as chickenpox’

One of the pieces of evidence reportedly prompting the CDC to change its guidance this week is a study that underscores just how contagious the Delta variant is. The report concludes that the virus is not only more contagious than other strains, but it’s much more likely to infect fully vaccinated people.

The New York Times, which obtained a copy of the study, reports that the Delta variant is just as contagious as chickenpox. That makes it more transmissible than the common cold, the seasonal flu, and smallpox.

“The CDC is very concerned with the data coming in that Delta is a very serious threat that requires action now,” one official told the Times.

Study finds pandemic has increased paranoia

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was stunned recently as he held town meetings across the state. Some attendees angrily rejected his plea to get vaccinated, calling the vaccine “a bioweapon” that enabled “mind control.” 

A new Yale University study now explains why some people might succumb to that totally unsupported belief. Researchers say the emotional trauma from the pandemic has led to paranoia and widespread belief in conspiracy theories.

"Our psychology is massively impacted by the state of the world around us," said study author Phil Corlett, an associate professor of psychology at Yale.

Around the nation

  • New York: New cases of the coronavirus are surging in New York City, and scientists report that an overwhelming majority -- 72% -- were caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant. The infection rate is now about three times higher than it was three weeks ago.

  • Vermont: The state leads the nation in vaccination rates for adults. It now claims the title for vaccinating children. Health officials report that 70% of eligible Vermont children have now gotten the shots.

  • Nevada: Hospitals are grappling with a sudden increase in new cases of the virus, many of them in the Las Vegas metro area. On Thursday, health officials reported 26 COVID-19 deaths and 1,345 new cases. In one bright spot, hospitalizations declined at midweek.

  • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order threatening to fine local officials who impose mask or vaccination requirements in their jurisdictions. Abbott said he isn’t opposed to people wearing masks or getting vaccinated, but he believes the government shouldn’t mandate it.

  • Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine has set a benchmark of 50 cases per 100,000 residents, but health officials report that the numbers are moving in the wrong direction because of the Delta variant. The Ohio Department of Health said the state hit a rate of 77.4 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.

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