The White House is preparing for future pandemics.
The Biden administration unveiled a plan to upgrade the country’s ability to respond to biological threats, comparing its scope to the Apollo Program, which was initiated to put a man on the moon.
“We need better capabilities,” said Eric Lander, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, “because there’s a reasonable likelihood that another serious pandemic that could be worse than COVID-19 will occur soon and possibly even within the next decade.”
The cost? $65.3 billion over the next decade.
A good chunk of that money will go toward vaccine development and distribution, the White House said. Administration officials are hoping an initial $15 billion will pass through Congress as part of the massive $3.5 trillion spending package on the table for this fall.
The plan includes:
- Dramatically expanding the arsenal of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
- Strengthening public health systems both in the U.S. and internationally.
- Improving the ability of the U.S. to produce personal protective equipment and other vital supplies.
- Improving early detection of pandemic threats.
- Creating a centralized “mission control” to be in charge of an effort that will draw on multiple federal agencies.
Also in the news:
► New Zealand reported its first COVID death in over six months on Saturday — a woman in her 90s who had underlying health conditions, according to authorities. New Zealand remains in lockdown that began last month after one positive case.
► A German man attacked health care workers at a vaccination site after he demanded a vaccination certificate without receiving a shot, and they refused to give it to him. Police said he became violent and injured two workers, who were treated in a hospital and later released.
► Michigan schools this year are still required to display information about reported COVID-19 cases publicly on their websites, under an order from the state health department last October. But some of those dashboards are hard to find or navigate.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 39.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 647,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 219.7 million cases and 4.5 million deaths. More than 175.5 million Americans — 52.9% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: The mu variant of the coronavirus has been marked as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization and has spread across Chile, Peru and parts of the U.S. and Europe. Here’s what we know about the mu variant.
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Hawaii struggles with delta surge, begs travelers to stay away
Hawaii has already reported more than twice as many coronavirus cases this year as it did in all of 2020, Johns Hopkins University data show.
The data show Hawaii had been reporting 66,778 COVID-19 cases through Saturday afternoon. It had reported 22,007 cases in all of 2020.
The annual comparisons don’t begin to tell how much Hawaii struggled with a wave of cases pushed by the delta variant. In just the last month, Hawaii has reported more cases than it did in all of last year.
Hawaii’s governor has begged tourists to stay away from the islands through October.
– Mike Stucka
Kentucky health care workers sue over COVID-19 vaccine mandate
Claiming mandatory COVID-19 vaccines are “a fraud upon the entire American public,” 40 employees of St. Elizabeth Healthcare have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a requirement they be vaccinated.
The 93-page lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Covington, comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases — largely among unvaccinated patients — that threatens to overwhelm most Kentucky hospitals.
Fueled by the delta variant, COVID-19 continues to affect Kentuckians in record numbers.
The lawsuit follows an announcement Aug. 5 by most of the state’s major hospital systems, including St. Elizabeth’s, based in Northern Kentucky, that they would require vaccines for all workers without a medical or religious exemption to try control the surge of COVID-19 in Kentucky.
– Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal
Denmark bans unvaccinated US tourists
Denmark is banning unvaccinated tourists from the United States, joining a growing list of European Union member states that are tightening travel restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise.
The change comes after the country moved the U.S. to its “orange” travel advisory category on Saturday. Previously, U.S. tourists could enter Denmark by showing a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery. Entry requirements do not change for fully vaccinated U.S. travelers, who are still exempt from testing and quarantine requirements.
The Netherlands, another EU member state, on Saturday started enforcing a quarantine period for vaccinated U.S. travelers and prohibited entry among unvaccinated travelers. Bulgaria announced it would prohibit travel from the U.S. and Italy added testing and self-isolation requirements for U.S. travelers.
– Bailey Schulz
Contributing: The Associated Pres