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CDC urges pregnant people to get vaccinated; California mandates teacher vaccinations; ICUs reaching capacity: Latest COVID-19 updates

Pregnant people should get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday, warning of the possibility of “severe outcomes” for those who don’t and pointing out there’s no evidence of increased chance of miscarriage for those who get immunized.

The recommendation comes as the U.S. is experiencing another spike in coronavirus infections and daily cases nationwide are surging past 100,000.

“Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people,” the CDC says on its website. “Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19.”

The expectant run a higher risk of serious illness and pregnancy complications from the coronavirus, including miscarriages and stillbirths. But their vaccination rates are low: Only about 23% have received at least one dose, according to CDC data.

Breastfeeding mothers, those who are trying to get pregnant now and those who will try to get pregnant in the future should also get vaccinated against COVID, the CDC said.

‘’The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people,’’ CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

The updated guidance comes after a CDC analysis of new safety data on 2,500 women showed no increased risks of miscarriage for those who received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy. The analysis found a miscarriage rate of around 13%, within the normal range.

Dr. Jane Martin, an obstetrician with Ochsner Baptist Medical Center in New Orleans, said the pace of pregnant patients with COVID has picked up in the last couple of weeks.

“We have had multiple critically ill pregnant patients admitted” every day, she said, most requiring intensive care.

In Melbourne, Florida, a 30-year-old woman with COVID died days after giving birth to a daughter.

California governor mandates vaccination or testing for all teachers, school staff

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday a new requirement that all teachers and school employees — for public and private schools — need to be vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing, saying it was the “first state in the country” with such a mandate.

The order mandates not only faculty members but custodians, aides and bus drivers to show proof of their vaccination status to their school district. If an employee is not vaccinated, they must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

“We think this is the right thing to do and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open,” Newsom said in announcing the order at a school in Oakland.

The San Francisco, San Jose and Long Beach school districts issued similar requirements in recent days. Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, is requiring all students and employees to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, regardless of vaccination status.

Last month, Newsom also required millions of health care workers and state employees to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or get tested weekly.

More local officials defying governors’ ban on mask mandates, and courts agree

As students return to school, battles over mask mandates to curb spread of the coronavirus are being waged across the country.

In Texas, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Wednesday issued an executive order requiring masks in schools, county buildings and businesses. The previous day, a Dallas district judge had temporarily suspended Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on such mandates.

On Tuesday, a judge in San Antonio had also temporarily blocked Abbott’s ban, and city and Bexar County officials promptly mandated masks at schools.

In Oklahoma, the superintendent of a public charter school in Oklahoma City said students and staff must begin wearing masks indoors, defying a state law signed by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt that prohibits such mandates. Santa Fe South Schools, a 3,500-student, pre-K through 12 district, is the first in Oklahoma to require masks.

In Arizona, officials at Arizona State University said masks will be required in all classrooms, labs and other indoor settings, in apparent contradiction of state law.

In Arkansas, the University of Arkansas system will require masks on its campuses after a judge temporarily blocked the state’s law banning mask mandates.

A state judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the state law banning mask mandates by schools and other governmental entities, and at least three dozen school districts and public charter schools have approved the requirement.

Hospitals, ICUs overrun with COVID cases

Hospitals around the nation are once again overwhelmed by the amount of COVID-19 patients.

Texas hospitals tallied more than 10,000 coronavirus patients for the first time since early February. The state has only 329 staffed beds for intensive care among 8,283 hospital beds left for about 30 million people, according to state health data released Tuesday.

And hospital admissions have tripled in the last month among children 17 and younger, Dr. Desmar Walkes of the Austin-Travis County health authority told county commissioners. In June, 11 children were hospitalized with COVID-19, and by July that figure was at 34. A majority of cases, Walkes reported, are among children ages 10-18.

In Florida, all three hospital systems in one county are over capacity and are continuing to deal with a strong surge in patients, Brevard County Emergency Management Director John Scott said. During the week of July 30 to Aug. 5, Brevard had a total of 189.3 ICU beds at its seven general hospitals – 176.6 ICU beds were occupied on average.

Doctors in the state say they’re seeing more coronavirus infections among children as students return to classrooms. After seeing about 20 minors with COVID in the emergency room in June, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood had more than 200 in July and already over 160 in August.

The surge in COVID-19 cases also prompted Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Schollmeyer to urge residents to stop calling 911 for non-emergency calls.

– Luz Moreno-Lozano, Austin American-Statesman; Florida Today 

Unvaccinated Americans could pay more for health insurance

Tyson Foods, United Airlines, CNN, the U.S. military.

A wide variety of employers, including those four, are imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates on their workers, and experts said they’ll have a lot more company soon after the Food and Drug Administration gives the shots its full approval.

Some employers aren’t ready to impose mandates but may penalize workers for not getting vaccinated, possibly by requiring them to pay an insurance surcharge costing several hundred dollars a year.

Experts agree vaccine requirements are legal as long as workers are provided accommodations for legitimate medical or religious objections. Read more here.

– Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY

US adds more cases in first days of August than in all of May or June

The U.S. reported more than 1 million cases by Aug. 10. That’s more than double the number of cases reported in all of June, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The first nine days of August also added more cases than all of May.

While testing early in the pandemic was limited, the United States’ first nine days of August included more cases than any of the spring 2020 months through June.

At the pace of the first nine days of August, the U.S. would be on track to report about 3.3 million cases in the month, far more than any months of the summer 2020 surge. If the surge continues at this pace, August 2021 would be the fourth-worst month for cases of the entire pandemic, behind only November, December and January of the fall-winter surge. But the pace of cases continues to rise.

Deaths are rising, too. At this month’s pace so far, the U.S. could report about 14,100 deaths, far more than July’s 8,671.

– Mike Stucka

Study showing levels of antibodies that protect against COVID-19 could speed creation of new vaccines

Eagerly anticipated new research pinpoints antibodies scientists can test for to see whether a COVID-19 vaccine is effective. These “correlates of protection” could speed the development of new vaccines or boosters without requiring the enormous clinical trials used to create the first COVID-19 vaccines.

This is “the Holy Grail” in terms of vaccines, and one that hasn’t yet been set for the virus that causes COVID-19, said Peter Gilbert, co-author of the study posted Tuesday to medRxiv, a preprint site where scientific articles can be published prior to being accepted by peer-reviewed journals.

“The hope is that the Food and Drug Administration will see these data and use them as a provisional approval mechanism,” he said.

– Elizabeth Weise

Contributing: Associated Press

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