The CDC changed its mask restrictions policy on Thursday and said that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most settings.
That means that two weeks after a second vaccine dose, you can forget the mask.
Mask restrictions still apply in certain indoor settings . . . such as healthcare facilities or when traveling by air or public transportation.
The decision to loosen mask restrictions for fully vaccinated people came amid a drop in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations across the U.S. The U.S. has averaged about 36,800 infections a day over the past week. That’s a 23% drop from a week earlier.
And Covid-19-related deaths are at about 590 a day in the U.S. That’s the lowest level since April 2020, when the pandemic was in its early stages.
There is still more work to do, though. Only roughly 35% of Americans have been fully vaccinated. Almost 59% of Americans have received one vaccine dose.
Bottom line: vaccinations = freedom from masks.
The Big News
Longer Gap Between Vaccine Doses May Be Better
Extending the interval between doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine from three to 12 weeks strengthens the antibody response in elderly people. That is according to a study from Birmingham University, working in collaboration with Public Health England. The researchers found that peak levels of neutralizing antibodies, reached two to three weeks after the second shot, were 3.5 times higher on average in the group with the extended gap.
Vaccines Safe for Pregnant Women
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines produce robust immune responses in pregnant and lactating women. And they are likely to provide at least some protection against two dangerous coronavirus variants, according to a study published in JAMA on Thursday. Vaccinated women can also pass protective antibodies to their fetuses through the bloodstream and to their infants through breast milk, the research suggests. In a second study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology on Tuesday, researchers found no evidence that either vaccine damaged the placenta during pregnancy.
Superspreader Meat-Packing Plants
Poultry giant Tyson Foods – the third-largest employer in Arkansas – reported 2,866 Covid-19 cases at its workplaces. That’s nearly one-third of the state’s 9,065 sickened workers across all industries from May 19, 2020, to April 8, 2021. This is according to an analysis of Arkansas Department of Health data. The state health department publishes Covid-19 occupational illness reports that show businesses with five or more active cases. In less than one year, Tyson had 281 appearances in these reports. Comparatively, Walmart – the largest employer in Arkansas – had two appearances that totaled 12 sick workers.
How an African Variant Spread Unnoticed
Multiple travelers carried a new coronavirus variant from central Africa to Europe. It has now spread to at least a dozen countries there, according to genomic data. The variant, named B.1.620, hosts a number of mutations that have been linked to increased transmission and the ability to escape immune response. The findings suggest that the variant is circulating widely in central Africa. But it has been undetected because of limited genomic sequencing in Africa.
Americans Lose Trust in Health Agencies
Only 52% of Americans have a great deal of trust in the CDC, a new study found, just as the agency is loosening mask restrictions in the U.S. And just 37% of Americans said they had a lot of trust in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the FDA. State health departments have the trust of 41% of Americans, and local health departments only did slightly better at 44%. This survey of 1,305 people was conducted from mid-February to mid-March of this year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Friday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 161,253,616 Infected Worldwide
- 1,373,218,212 Vaccines Given Globally
- 3,346,827 Deaths
- 32,853,398 Infected in the U.S.
- 266,596,486 U.S. Vaccine Doses Administered
- 584,495 Deaths in the U.S.
Another inflation gauge delivered a hot reading yesterday. U.S. producer price index inflation rose 6.2% year-on-year. That’s the biggest hike in prices over a 12-month period since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began measurements in 2010.
Markets were a good deal calmer, despite the economic report. Treasury yields eased back below 1.7%. The Dow Jones and S&P 500 both rallied more than 1%. The Nasdaq rose over 100 points but fell short of the 100-day moving average and closed off the highs of the day.
Stocks look set to continue higher today.
Fed officials have been out in force to calm inflation nerves. Fed governor Christopher Waller said rates will not rise until policymakers see inflation above target for a long time or there is excessively high inflation.
Waller also stressed that there is only a temporary “mismatch” between surging demand for workers and people’s willingness/ability to get a job.
Yours in Health & Wealth,