ECONOMY

L.A. Reimposes Masks; Missouri County Sounds Alarm: Virus Update

Los Angeles County is requiring the use of masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, following a jump in coronavirus cases as the delta variant spreads. Health officials in southwestern Missouri asked the state to set up an emergency hospital to handle a surge in delta-strain cases that threatens to overwhelm health services.

Most vaccinated Americans are unlikely to need Covid-19 booster shots for months, or even years, despite the rise of highly infectious variants and the continued spread of the virus, according to top scientists.

New cases in Tokyo reached the highest in six months, about a week before the Olympics are scheduled to start.

L.A. Reimposes Indoor Masking (5:50 p.m. NY)

Los Angeles County is requiring the use of masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, following a jump in coronavirus cases as the delta variant spreads.

The move comes after the county added more than 1,000 new cases for a seventh straight day, with the transmission rate edging close to “high” levels from “substantial,” Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer, said in a briefing. The new policy also makes it easier for businesses to impose the use of masks especially when it’s difficult to verify vaccination status, he added.

“We have to get these numbers down,” he said, warning of the need for stricter measures if the transmission rate doesn’t ease. “Masking by all makes it a lot easier for this to happen, it means there’s a level playing field, and it adds that layer of protection for fully vaccinated people.”

Utah Pharmacist Gave Cards Without Shots (3:21 p.m. NY)

A Utah pharmacist lost his license after admitting to giving vaccination cards to about half a dozen people whom he didn’t inoculate, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The pharmacist was caught on a surveillance camera writing down the manufacturing lot number from a vial of vaccine on a card and giving it to a patient without administering a shot, the paper reported, citing a stipulation order. He told the authorities the patient was “reluctant” but faced pressure to get vaccinated from an employer.

U.S. Issues Advisory on Health Misinformation (3:13 p.m. NY)

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said misinformation about vaccines and health practices is harming the fight against Covid-19 and called on social-media companies to help turn the tide.

“While it often appears innocuous on social media apps, on retail sites or search engines, the truth is that misinformation takes away our freedom to make informed decisions about our health and the health of our loved ones,” Murthy said at a White House news briefing.

Social-media companies could help counter misinformation with measures such as stronger monitoring, penalties for accounts that repeatedly violate platform policies and redesigned algorithms to avoid amplifying false claims, Murthy said in a surgeon general’s advisory issued Thursday.

Canada Allows Cruise Ships Back (2:29 p.m. NY)

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced that cruise ships will once again be able to enter Canadian waters as of Nov. 1.

Cruise operators, barred since the start of the pandemic, will need to prove they’ll be able to meet public health requirements to be allowed to travel to Canada.

“As Canadians have done their part to reduce the spread of Covid-19, our government continues to work hard to safely restart our economy and build back better. We will welcome cruise ships — an important part of our tourism sector — back in Canadian waters for the 2022 season,” Alghabra said in an emailed statement.

French Lawmakers Get Death Threats (2 p.m. NY)

A number of French lawmakers have received death threats due to their backing of the government’s vaccine policy, according to a statement Thursday from the National Assembly. This type of intimidation won’t be tolerated, the statement said, adding that French police have been alerted.

President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week increased pressure on people to be vaccinated with a plan to make it mandatory for health-care workers. So-called immunity passes will also be required for entry into venues such as restaurants and cafes. The delta variant has gained ground in France and the number of new cases is rising.

Ireland Sounds Warning (12:47 p.m. NY)

Ireland is heading into a “difficult couple of weeks” where Covid cases will spike and hospitalizations will increase, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned, as the country saw its most new cases in five months. There’s concern that unvaccinated people could “overwhelm our hospitals” if they take risks with the virus, Varadkar told lawmakers in Dublin. Hospitalizations rose to their highest level in five weeks, although well below the previous peak in January. Despite the rise in cases, the government has set a target to reopen indoor dining for July 26.

Experts Say to Relax About Booster Shots (12:40 p.m. NY)

Most vaccinated Americans are unlikely to need Covid-19 booster shots for months, or even years, despite the rise of highly infectious variants and the continued spread of the virus, according to top scientists.

Pfizer Inc. has been touting a plan to apply for clearance this summer for a third shot of its messenger RNA vaccine. But vaccine experts and health officials in both the U.S. and Europe say that while a booster may eventually be needed, existing shots remain highly effective in preventing severe disease, including against all known variants.

Singapore Mulls New Measures (11:36 a.m. NY)

Singapore is mulling new measures to curb Covid as it deals with the latest outbreak stemming from karaoke lounges in the city-state.

“We are working round the clock to deal with the latest cases, to contain them,” Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s finance minister who co-chairs the city’s Covid task force, said in a Facebook post. The task force will update citizens on the latest measures soon, he said.

Singapore reported 42 new cases in the community Thursday, adding to the 56 the previous day. Wong, who expressed disappointment and frustration in his social-media post, asked for those who have been to the lounges to get tested. Meanwhile, police have arrested 20 women suspected of involvement in vice-related activities at the lounges.

Portugal Expands Nighttime Curfew (11:25 a.m. NY)

Portugal said a nighttime curfew will apply to more municipalities as the government tries to contain an increase in infections. The limit to movement in public spaces between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. in regions including Lisbon and the southern Algarve region that are popular with tourists will now be imposed in 90 municipalities, up from 60 previously, Presidency Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said on Thursday.

The government in June began to face a surge in infections around Lisbon, where the delta variant had a high incidence, and had to halt a plan to continue gradually easing confinement measures across the country.

WHO Urges Cooperation from China (11:21 a.m. NY)

The World Health Organization’s director general called on China to cooperate in a second phase of studying the origins of the coronavirus as the pandemic rages on around the world.

One of the challenges is the lack of raw data, especially from the early days of the outbreak, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing Thursday. China hasn’t yet shared that information.

“We’re asking China to be transparent and open and cooperate,” Tedros said.

NYC Marriage Bureaus to Reopen (11:15 a.m. NY)

New York City’s marriage bureau will reopen on Monday, 16 months after the city shut the department at the start of the pandemic.

The city’s five marriage bureaus had been closed since March 2020 due to health and safety concerns, despite the reopening of most other municipal offices and the return to office buildings by city employees. The city has been holding virtual ceremonies, but a deluge of requests led to months-long waits.

Missouri Asked to Help Contain Outbreak (10:43 a.m. NY)

Health officials in southwest Missouri asked the state to set up an “alternate site” to handle overflowing hospitalizations caused by a spike in new virus cases. The state is one of the worst hit by the delta variant, particularly around the city of Springfield and surrounding Greene County.

“Today, there are 231 patients being treated in Greene County hospitals with Covid-19, 104 of those are in critical care and 61 are on ventilators,” read a statement released Wednesday night by officials from the city, county and three health care networks. “Greene County is averaging more than 196 cases per day, and the increase in severe illness is projected to outpace hospital capacity.”

In Missouri, 46.1% of people have received at least one dose of vaccine, compared with the national average of 55.7%, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

U.S. Doses Arrive in Haiti (9:31 a.m. NY)

The U.S. delivered 500,000 doses of Moderna Inc.’s vaccine to Haiti, and the Biden administration plans to send additional doses soon, according to a White House official, who said the shipments don’t come with strings attached. Haiti has been dealing with the aftermath of the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moise, on July 7, including a power struggle and unrest in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

WHO Warns of South Africa Surge (7:27 a.m. NY)

South Africa should prepare for a surge in cases after days of widespread rioting and looting in the two most populous provinces, said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Africa director. The deadliest and most widespread unrest since the end of apartheid followed the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma on July 7. The looting spree has occurred amid the country’s third and most severe wave of Covid-19 infections.

Deaths from Covid-19 in Africa as a whole rose 40% in the last week and hospitals are now at “breaking point,” Moeti said.

The continent is in the grip of its most severe wave of coronavirus infections yet, with an additional million cases recorded over the last month compared with the three months it took for the previous million to accumulate, she said.

Tokyo Virus Cases Hit Six-Month High (5:26 p.m. HK)

Tokyo logged 1,308 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the most in six months, with just over a week remaining until the Olympics kick off on July 23. Serious cases also increased to 57 from 54 the previous day. Tokyo’s daily record stands at 2,520 new cases on Jan. 7.

People in their 20s and 30s accounted for most of the new cases. Cases among older people have dwindled amid the acceleration of Japan’s vaccination drive, which has prioritized the elderly. About 71% of Tokyoites aged 65 or older had received at least one shot of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine as of July 7, while younger age groups are yet to catch up.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, visiting Japan ahead of the Olympic opening ceremony, said Wednesday that measures against the virus are in place and working. He said about 85% of the residents in the Olympic Village will arrive in Japan vaccinated and nearly 100% of the IOC members and staff will be as well.

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