The high vaccination rate stands in contrast to Puerto Rico’s initial vulnerability to the coronavirus. Four years after Hurricane Maria destroyed the electricity grid, power outages still occur regularly. Many municipalities face a shortage of health care facilities and workers.
The U.S. territory responded with some of the strictest pandemic measures in the country, including nonessential-business closures, stay-at-home orders and mask mandates.
Its successes aside, Feliú-Mójer noted that COVID-19 has still killed over 3,200 people in Puerto Rico. And she remains concerned about vaccine equity — particularly in rural communities or among older adults who can’t get out of their homes or don’t know how to make an appointment. She says the high overall vaccination rate can hide gaps in coverage.
“You have to look beyond that big number,” she said in a separate interview with NPR. “But then you look at certain municipalities like Loíza, a town in coastal northern Puerto Rico that’s predominantly Black and [a] very poor municipality. Their vaccination rate is about 55%. And so when you look at some of the social determinants that impact communities like Loíza, then they’re not doing as well.”
Author(s): PATRICK JARENWATTANANON, AYEN BIOR, SARAH HANDEL
The most likely scenario, says Lessler, is that children do get vaccinated and no super-spreading variant emerges. In that case, the combo model forecasts that new infections would slowly, but fairly continuously, drop from about 140,000 today now to about 9,000 a day by March.
Deaths from COVID-19 would fall from about 1,500 a day now to fewer than 100 a day by March 2022.
That’s around the level U.S. cases and deaths were in late March 2020 when the pandemic just started to flare up in the U.S. and better than things looked early this summer when many thought the pandemic was waning.
And this scenario projects that there will be no winter surge, though Lessler cautions that there is uncertainty in the models and a “moderate” surge is still theoretically possible.
There’s wide range of uncertainty in the models, he notes, and it’s plausible, though very unlikely, that cases could continue to rise to as many as 232,000 per day before starting to decline.
On top of that, other research shows that since the vaccine first became available to health care workers in December 2020, the rate of vaccination among nurses and nursing home aides has been lower than that of physicians. This may be of particular concern because nurses and aides have such frequent and close contact with patients.
Data shows health care workers have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine at a higher rate than the general population: 73% versus 64% of non-health care workers. And many may assume that people who work in health care industry are more enthusiastic about the vaccine and less apprehensive.
While a majority of nurses are vaccinated and more than half support vaccine mandates in the workplace, some are pushing back against requirements to get vaccinated or face mandatory testing and say they would rather leave their jobs. And hospitals are already feeling the effects.
President Biden on Thursday unveiled a series of steps to combat the newly surging pandemic, including the announcement of a forthcoming federal rule that all businesses with 100 or more employees have to ensure that every worker is either vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing for the coronavirus.
Among the other steps, Biden also announced that federal workers and contractors will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, eliminating an option laid out in July for unvaccinated employees to be regularly tested instead.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said federal workers would have about 75 days to become fully vaccinated, once Biden signed an executive order later Thursday. She said there would be limited exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
Some federal agencies will require proof of vaccination while others will accept attestations, Psaki said. Workers who fail to comply with the requirement will be counseled by their human resources departments, and then will face “progressive disciplinary action,” she said.
Biden announced that 17 million health care workers at hospitals and other health care settings like dialysis clinics and home health agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding will have to be vaccinated.
There will be similar requirements for teachers and staff at the Head Start early education program and other federally funded educational settings, such as schools on military bases.
In a review of the state’s economy, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office states that sales tax collections in April were more than forty-five percent higher than the same period last year.
Sales tax collections in 2021 totaled $1.5 billion. In Western New York, Erie County saw a nearly 50 percent increase this April over the previous year. The largest increases were seen in Niagara and Allegany Counties at 63 percent. The lowest growth was in Cattaraugus County at nearly 43 percent.
DiNapoli attributes the incredible growth to the re-opening of many businesses.
New research released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reinforces an old message: COVID-19 spreads less in schools where teachers and staff wear masks. Yet the study arrives as states and school districts across the country have begun scaling back or simply dropping their masking requirements for staff and students alike.
The new study comes from Georgia and compares COVID-19 infection rates across 169 K-5 schools. Some schools required teachers, staff and sometimes students to wear masks; some did not.
Between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11, researchers found that infection rates were 37% lower in schools where teachers and staff members were required to wear masks. The difference between schools that did and did not require students to wear masks was not statistically significant.
Colonial has acknowledged that its computer networks were hit by a ransomware attack — in essence, an attack in which a hacker or criminal group breaks in and encrypts the contents of a victim’s computers until a ransom is paid. And while the company has declined to say whether it has offered a ransom, the attack is focusing new attention on a potentially radical proposal to stem the growing threat posed by ransomware: making it illegal for targets to pay their attackers.
Callow says a ban is just part of the answer, and in its report, the ransomware task force said governments would need to ease the transition before moving to a world where ransom payments are prohibited. Changes would need to be phased in, it said, and allow time for governments to set up protection and support programs for victims. A bipartisan bill introduced last year in the Senate, for example, called for study into the creation of a federal fund to help support the recovery and response to significant cyber-incidents.
The clock may already be ticking — at least for some. In what is likely a first, the global insurance company Axa announced last week that it would stop offering policies in France that reimburse customers for extortion payments made to cybercriminals.
Based on the bureau’s estimates, the latest tally is likely to show that the growth in the number of people living in the U.S. has slowed to the lowest rate the country has seen since the 1940 census was conducted in the wake of the Great Depression. Disruptions from COVID-19 during last year’s counting, however, have made shifts in each state’s population particularly hard to predict.
Last year’s tally was the country’s 24th census — a once-a-decade tradition required by the Constitution since 1790 — and it is the ninth count for which the U.S. government has attempted to include every person living in the country in the numbers used for reapportioning seats in Congress. Before the 1940 census, the phrase “excluding Indians not taxed” in the Constitution excluded some American Indians from the apportionment counts.
It’s an idea that has been debated widely across global capitals: impose the same minimum corporate tax rate all over the world to prevent companies from shopping around for the country that can offer the smallest tax bill.
Now, it has a powerful new adherent. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday expressed support for a minimum tax rate, providing the vital backing of the U.S. government.
Yellen, in a speech, said a minimum global tax rate would stop what she described as a “30-year race to the bottom” that has allowed big corporations to avoid contributing fully to vital national needs.
At least 235 brick-and-mortar businesses have closed permanently in D.C. since the first known coronavirus case was reported on March 7, 2020, with 100 more shuttered temporarily, a count by DCist/WAMU found. (The status of another 40 is unknown.)
As of December, more than 36,000 residents were unemployed — a 77% increase over the prior year. Downtown D.C., once an economic engine that contributed nearly 16% of the city’s tax revenue in 2019, is today an effigy of its former self. At night, the bars and restaurants that propelled so much of D.C.’s economic growth seem funereal without scores of intoxicated revelers streaming through the doors and swiping their credit cards.
On Jan. 27, 1986, Allan McDonald stood on the cusp of history.
McDonald directed the booster rocket project at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol. He was responsible for the two massive rockets, filled with explosive fuel, that lifted space shuttles skyward. He was at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch of the Challenger “to approve or disapprove a launch if something came up,” he told me in 2016, 30 years after Challenger exploded.
His job was to sign and submit an official form. Sign the form, he believed, and he’d risk the lives of the seven astronautsset to board the spacecraft the next morning. Refuse to sign, and he’d risk his job, his career and the good life he’d built for his wife and four children.
“And I made the smartest decision I ever made in my lifetime,” McDonald told me. “I refused to sign it. I just thought we were taking risks we shouldn’t be taking.”