The University of Virginia and Indiana University are joining a growing list of universities requiring vaccinations. At least 389 colleges across that country have required vaccinations for at least some students or faculty, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
IU students, faculty and staff will be required to get vaccinated to return to campus in fall 2021, the university said Friday. First doses are required by July 1 while those returning to campus must be fully vaccinated — including two weeks after the final dose — by Aug. 15 or before they arrive on campus.
UVA students will be required to provide proof of vaccination by July 1 but can request medical or religious exemption to the requirement, according to a Thursday statement.
Vaccination for employees is “strongly encouraged” but not yet required, the statement said. University leaders said they will monitor employee vaccination rates and consult with public health experts as they consider whether to require employees to get vaccinated at a later date.
Also in the news:
►For the first time since March 2020, the 7-day average for deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. has fallen below 500, White House coronavirus response senior adviser Andy Slavitt tweeted Friday.
►Two Republican lawmakers in the Nevada statehouse were punished Thursday for not complying with restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
►Pennsylvania marked a milestone on Thursday, with 50% of adults statewide now considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
►Actress Salma Hayek revealed to Variety that she battled a near-fatal case of COVID-19. “My doctor begged me to go to the hospital because it was so bad,” said Hayek, 54. “I said, ‘No, thank you. I’d rather die at home.’”
►There is no evidence to support that the COVID-19 vaccines cause temporary hearing loss, according to a study published Thursday.
►The Department of Homeland Security says the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain restricted through at least June 21, with only trade and essential travel allowed until then. The restrictions had been set to expire Friday.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 588,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 165.6 million cases and 3.43 million deaths. Nearly 352 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 279.4 million have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 126.6 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 38.1% of the population.
📘 What we’re reading: To protect Americans and help the world, the U.S. needs to start giving more COVID-19 vaccine away more quickly, experts say.
California no longer will require social distancing and will allow full capacity for businesses when the state reopens on June 15, the state’s top health official said Friday.
State health director Dr. Mark Ghaly said that dramatically lower virus cases and increasing vaccinations mean it’s safe for the state to remove nearly all restrictions next month.
“Something very important happens on June 15 In California,” Ghaly said. “We are now at a point, given our metrics that we’ve been watching, that California is at a place where we can begin to talk about moving beyond the blueprint,” the state’s color-coded, four-tier system that that has restricted activities based on each county’s virus prevalence.
Limits on how many people can be inside businesses at any one time, “which have been a hallmark” of the safety plan, will disappear, he said. “Physical distancing, there will no longer be restrictions for attendees, customers and guests in business sectors.”
— The Associated Press
More than 3 million excess deaths in 2020 could have resulted from COVID-19, according to preliminary data provided in a World Health Organization report released Thursday. This number is more than 1 million more than initial global estimates reported to the organization.
“With the latest COVID-19 deaths reported to WHO now exceeding 3.3 million, based on the estimates produced for 2020, we are likely facing a significant undercount of total deaths directly and indirectly attributed to COVID-19,” according to a statement on the report.
The million excess deaths include COVID-19 deaths that were not correctly diagnosed and reported, as well as “deaths attributable to the overall crisis conditions,” the report says.
The pandemic has, for example, “increased deaths from other causes” due to disruptions to the health care systems and fewer people seeking care. Some countries only report COVID-19 deaths that take place in hospitals or the deaths of people who have tested positive already. Many countries also cannot accurately report cause of death due to under-resourced health information systems, the report says.
Health authorities are continuing to offer incentives for residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine as U.S. vaccination rates slow, requiring agencies to work harder to get shots in arms.
The latest efforts are lotteries in New York and Maryland for vaccinated residents, following a similar program in Ohio where vaccinated residents are eligible for $1 million prizes and college scholarships.
On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced the $5 million “Vax and Scratch” program, which offers lottery scratch tickets to anyone who gets a COVID-19 vaccine at select state-run vaccination sites next week.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also announced a “$2 million Vax Cash promotion”. Every Marylander 18 and over who gets vaccinated will be entered into a daily drawing to win $40,000 from the Maryland State Lottery — culminating in a $400,000 drawing on July 4.
“If you’ve not been vaccinated yet, the sooner you do so, the sooner you get your shot, the more lottery drawings you will be eligible for,” the governor said.
Dating apps are making it easier for singles to find others who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the Biden administration announced Friday in what may be the first time the White House promoted digital matchmaking.
The administration says new features — including badges and other premium features — launching over the next several weeks by Tinder, Hinge, Match, OkCupid, Bumble, BLK and other dating sites will help President Joe Biden reach his goal of getting at least one shot in the arm of 70% of adults by July 4. More than 60% of U.S. adults have had at least one shot, according to the government.
Beginning May 24, daters can add an “I’m Vaccinated” profile badge and be featured within OkCupid’s “Vaccinated Stacks,” a new matching system that lets users search by vaccination status. Vaccinated people will also receive a free “Boost” to move their profile to the front of a dater’s stack.
On Tinder, vaccinated users get elevated to premium content such as a “Super Like” option to help them stand out among potential matches. Members can also add “I’m Vaccinated” or “Vaccines Save Lives” stickers to their profile.
White House coronavirus response senior adviser Andy Slavitt applauded the initiatives at a Friday press briefing, saying “It’s incredibly important to reach young people where they are in the effort to get them vaccinated.”
“We have finally found the one thing that makes us all more attractive: a vaccination,” he added.
— Maureen Groppe
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said on Twitter that the company has a new agreement with the European Commission to provide 1.8 billion doses to lower and middle-income countries.
Meanwhile, the European Union has pledged 1.3 billion vaccines to lower and middle-income countries, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Friday. The pledge includes 1 billion Pfizer vaccines, 200 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines and 100 million Moderna vaccines.
“We must step up efforts to give access to vaccines to low and middle income countries,” von der Leyen said on Twitter. “We will do our part.”
The GAVI Vaccine Alliance has signed an agreement to purchase 200 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses for the COVAX vaccine-sharing program, according to a Friday statement.
The U.N.-backed COVAX program seeks to send free vaccines to 92 lower-income countries and help higher-income countries without deals with manufacturers to get access to vaccines.
GAVI said the goal is to supply the Johnson & Johnson doses in 2021. The alliance said it is also discussing with Johnson & Johnson on a potential supply of 300 million additional doses in 2022.
COVAX also has agreements with seven other vaccines and vaccine candidates, including the AstraZeneca, Pfizer ad Modern vaccines.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be useful for areas with “difficult infrastructure.”
“Since the earliest days of the pandemic, we have been steadfast in our goal to facilitate equitable access to our COVID-19 vaccine,” Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson said in the statement. “No one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is protected, and our partnership with Gavi is the single greatest step we have taken to ensure our single-shot vaccine is accessible to everyone, everywhere.”
Despite a recent drop in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations, Europeans should remain cautious because the threat of the coronavirus remains present, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
Europe has recorded a 60% drop in new coronavirus cases over the past month, said WHO regional director Dr. Hans Kluge. The news comes as the European Union eased travel restrictions for vaccinated visitors and any traveler from countries where COVID-19 is under control.
“Where vaccination rates in high-risk groups are highest, admissions to hospitals are decreasing and death rates are falling. Vaccines are saving lives, and they will change the course of this pandemic and eventually help end it,” Kluge said.
The European Union’s executive arm on Thursday finalized a third vaccine contract with Pfizer and BioNTech through 2023 for an additional 1.8 billion doses of their COVID-19 shot to share between the bloc’s countries except for Hungary, which opted out of the deal.
About 60% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses that have spoiled since Texas’ vaccination program began in December were wasted in the past two weeks, according to an analysis of state data.
According to a Houston Chronicle analysis of the roughly 60,000 vaccine doses spoiled since December, about 36,000 were lost in the past two weeks, indicating plummeting demand for the vaccine in Texas.
The number of wasted doses through spoilage of the highly perishable vaccine was still a minute fraction of the state’s vaccine allotment. The state is currently administering an average of about 144,000 vaccinations daily. Even so, that was less than half of the 290,000-vaccination-a-day peak last month.
Just one in three Texans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Thursday, mostly with the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, while 42% have received at least one dose.
More than 51,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Texas during the 15-month pandemic out of the more than 3.2 million positive test results reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Contributing: Tamela Baker, the Herald-Mail; The Associated Press