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President Joe Biden’s administration is continuing to cling to its Covid-19 restrictions despite other countries – including its close ally the United Kingdom – ditching their pandemic mandates entirely.

As White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated the necessity of masks for schoolchildren Wednesday, the UK announced it would scrap its final Covid restrictions by March.

Unlike in America, British children will no longer be obliged to wear masks in schools, and face coverings will no longer be mandated in any setting. There will be no testing requirements for international travelers, and no proof of vaccine will be required to gain access to businesses.

Conversely, American schoolchildren aged two and older must continue wearing masks in the bulk of the nation, and the general public is being urged to wear medical-grade masks at all public settings.

But even some Democratic governors are bucking Biden’s Covid guidance, with leaders in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon announcing plans this week to scrap school mask mandates.

Other left-leaning states – including New York and California – are also ditching face mask requirements, with the exception of in classrooms and high-risk states.  

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

America’s pandemic restrictions under President Joe Biden (left) remain in place as other world leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) prepare to scrape mandates

Some states – including Florida and Texas – have always pushed back against the Biden administration’s pandemic guidance, and have become ensnarled in lawsuits as a result.

 The Republican states have contended that prolonged shut downs and restrictions were detrimental to economic recovery and mental health, and have consistently rejected mask and vaccine mandates.

Although the nation isn’t yet ready to let the pandemic rules go, other countries are moving on.

The UK and US will also soon differ on travel requirements, as England will no longer require air travelers to present proof of a negative test before entering the country. 

And as Americans are expected to continue wallowing in isolation for at least five days following a positive Covid test, their friends across the pond will soon be free to reintegrate into society immediately after testing positive.

Britain – home to about 67 million – recorded 66,634 cases of Covid on Tuesday. In America – with a population of 329.5 million – 194,492 cases were confirmed. 

It means America’s infection rate of 0.06 per cent is nearly half of Britain’s 0.1 per cent infection rate. 

Both nations have recorded drastic decreases in case numbers since the highly-contagious omicron variant peaked in January.

Britain’s rules were set to expire March 24, but Johnson made a dramatic announcement in the Commons on Wednesday that signaled the end of an era.

When and where Americans are expected to wear masks 

  • A mask is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States  
  • It’s also required indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and train stations
  • Unvaccinated Americans aged two and older are expected to wear masks indoors in public  
  • Fully-vaccinated Americans are under CDC guidance expected to wear a mask indoors in public in high-transmission areas  

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

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American leadership took a decidedly terser tone Wednesday, when Psaki doubled down on wearing face masks even as eight Democratic governors are easing restrictions in their states.

The Biden administration’s reluctance to ease restrictions comes despite the fact America’s case rate is rapidly dropping.

‘Our guidance is consistently has consistently been this: when you are in a high transmission area, which is everywhere in the country, you should wear a mask and indoor settings, including schools,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her press briefing on Wednesday.

Her recommendation came as Democratic governors in Nevada, Oregon, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, California, Illinois, and Delaware have all announced or are preparing some form of easing of face mask restrictions in the coming weeks, including in schools. 

When asked if people should follow the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which are to wear a face covering, instead of listening to their governor, Psaki responded: ‘Yes.’

She conceded some people are tired of wearing masks but added there are many who still want to have one on.

‘People are tired of masks,’ Psaki said, adding, however, ‘there were also a huge chunk of people who still want masks.’

Cases are coming down virtually everywhere in America. 

Daily cases have dropped 47% nationwide over the past week, from 453,141 cases per day last week to 239,757 now. Deaths caused by the virus, a lagging indicator that trends a few weeks behind cases, have flattened as well with 2,480 being recorded daily.

Only one state, Maine, is recording an increase in cases over the past two weeks, and more than 30 states have seen cases slash in half during that period.

States that have DROPPED masks this week

California – On February 15, vaccinated residents will no longer have to wear masks in public indoor settings

Connecticut – On February 28, masks will no longer be required in schools

Delaware – On February 11, a mask mandate for all indoor public places except schools will end

Illinois – Gov J.B. Pritzker announced the state will lift its indoor mask mandate on February 28

Massachusetts – On February 28, masks will no longer be required in schools

New Jersey – On March 15, masks will no longer be required in schools

Nevada – Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak expected to announce Thursday mask mandate lifted 

New York – Gov Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the state’s mask mandate for indoor public settings has been lifted, though face coverings will still be required in schools

Oregon – On March 31, the state plans to allow its indoor mask mandate to expire

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White House Covid Task Force Coordinator Jeffrey Zients said the administration is working with governors and public health officials ‘on steps we should be taking to keep the country moving forward. 

‘We know that in different areas of the country, cases have fallen more significantly, and this will lead to different approaches and different timing, and we will continue to coordinate closely with state and local leaders.’

 But the CDC is standing by its mask-wearing guidelines for schools, saying COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still ‘too high’ to consider dropping restrictions despite daily infections having declined by 47 percent over the past seven days.

‘Right now our CDC guidance has not changed. We continue to endorse universal masking in schools,’ CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a radio interview with WYPR on Tuesday.

‘We owe it to our children to make sure that they can safely stay in school. Right now, that includes masking. We’ve seen outbreaks that have occurred in communities where students were not masked in schools and had to close.’

Psaki defended the CDC when asked if the agency was in danger of becoming ‘irrelevant’ given that many states are moving forward and lifting mask mandates despite guidance from the federal government.

‘Well I don’t think the federal experts on health and medical advice should be irrelevant to Americans at a time where we’re still facing a pandemic,’ Psaki said.

The current CDC guidelines on wearing masks will stay in place, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walsensky said on Wednesday, despite many states making changes in contradiction to the agency’s recommendations.

‘Our hospitalizations are still high, our death rates are still high, so as we work towards that and we are encouraged by current trends, we are not there yet,’ she said at a COVID team press briefing.

But she also conceded decisions will be made a local level.

‘We certainly understand the need and desire to be flexible,’ she noted.

‘Those decisions can be made at the local level,’ Walensky said. ‘And, of course, we at CDC will keep the public informed about our guidance and we will clearly communicate those recommendations to the public – if and when they are updated.’

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the United States is almost past the ‘full-blown’ stage of the pandemic and predicted there would soon be an end to all Covid-related restrictions, which includes the mandatory use of face masks.

His comments come as polls show Americans are reaching a breaking point on Covid with a majority of voters, including many Democrats, describing themselves as ‘tired,’ ‘frustrated,’ and arguing ‘we just need to get on with our lives. 

Meanwhile, Denmark became the first nation to drop all of its coronavirus laws, including the need to self-isolate. 

But the nation’s policymakers still advise anyone with tell-tale symptoms to quarantine at home for at least four days, raising the prospect that England could go one step further. 

Sweden on Wednesday joined its Scandinavian neighbor in dropping almost all restrictions, but people must still isolate until April 1. 

Norway is also intending to drop its final measures on February 17 – a week before Johnson – but people with the virus will still legally need to stay at home. 

Let parents make the decision on masks for kids! Obama-era medical expert says ‘science doesn’t support’ schoolchildren wearing face coverings in ‘perpetuity’ as COVID cases plummet 47% in a week and eight states drop mask mandates

States that have DROPPED masks this week

California – On February 15, vaccinated residents will no longer have to wear masks in public indoor settings

Connecticut – On February 28, masks will no longer be required in schools

Delaware – On February 11, a mask mandate for all indoor public places except schools will end

Illinois – Gov J.B. Pritzker is expected to announce a lifting of the state’s mask mandate on Wednesday

Massachusetts – On February 28, masks will no longer be required in schools

New Jersey – On March 15, masks will no longer be required in schools

New York – Gov Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the state’s mask mandate for indoor public settings has been lifted, though face coverings will still be required in schools

Oregon – On March 31, the state plans to allow its indoor mask mandate to expire

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Even as federal health officials cling to masks, many health officials and experts – including many Democrats – are voicing that it is time to drop face-coverings as the Omicron variant-fueled Covid surge continues to falter, with cases down 47 percent over the past week.

Dr. Kavita Patel, an MSNBC contributor who works as a primary care physician and director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement in the Obama administration, told CNBC’s Squawk Box that mask mandates in schools should not be around forever, and instead parents should choose whether their child needs to wear one based on a variety of factors.

‘If you told me there’s a future where we’re wearing masks in perpetuity I’d say that’s ridiculous, the science doesn’t support that if we see that cases are coming down,’ Patel said.

Patel joins an ever-growing group of health officials and experts calling for mask and other mandates to be phased out as cases continue to drop. Eight states, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Oregon are setting plans to drop or adjust mask mandates in the near-future.

Cases are coming down virtually everywhere in America. Daily cases have dropped 47 percent nationwide over the past week, from 453,141 cases per day last week to 239,757 now. Deaths caused by the virus, a lagging indicator that trends a few weeks behind cases, have flattened as well with 2,480 being recorded daily.

Only one state, Maine, is recording an increase in cases over the past two weeks, and more than 30 states have seen cases slash in half during that period. 

Patel says that, looking at these downwards trends, it might be time to drop masks in schools soon. When parents are making decisions for their children, they should consider multiple factors before send their child to school masked.

‘Weigh your families risks in dealing with what might happen,’ she said, considering the risk the child may be in from the virus – which is generally low unless they are immunocompromised, risk of other people in the household and the potential social detriments wearing a mask can pose on a child when interacting with other kids.

Dr Kavita Patel (pictured), a primary care physician and previously served in the Obama Administration, said Wednesday that 'the science doesn’t support' indefinite use of masks in schools

Dr Kavita Patel (pictured), a primary care physician and previously served in the Obama Administration, said Wednesday that 'the science doesn’t support' indefinite use of masks in schools

Dr Kavita Patel (pictured), a primary care physician and previously served in the Obama Administration, said Wednesday that ‘the science doesn’t support’ indefinite use of masks in schools

 Forcing children to wear masks at school has become one of the most controversial issues in America in recent weeks, and weeks of declining cases have led to even some of the most liberal states in the country starting to leave masks behind.

Earlier this week, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware – all states led by Democratic governors – announced they would drop masks in school in the coming weeks. 

California, the nation’s most populous state which also is among those with the strictest mandates in America, announced that it will end its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people starting next week. In New York, the statewide mask mandate expired on Wednesday.  

Americans are still required to follow county mask or vaccine mandates that exist, though, even if rule are receded at the state level. Cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta, for example, all have stricter local guidelines than those that exist at the state level.

While federal level officials have little control over local guidelines, their advice is often used to shape pandemic mandates at the state and county levels – especially in blue areas of the country. Even federal officials seem to be breaking ranks on mandates going forward, though. 

WHO Chief: Covid ‘isn’t finished’ despite falling cases around the world

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is warning the Covid is not yet over, even as cases plummet in the U.S. and many other countries around the world

 ‘COVID isn’t finished with us,’ he said Wednesday

The WHO’s weekly case report showed that global COVID-19 cases have dropped 17% over the past week. In the U.S. in particular, cases are down 47%

‘Depending on where you live, it might feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is almost over, or, it might feel like it is at its worst,’ Tedros said

‘We know this virus will continue to evolve, but we are not defenseless… We have the tools to prevent this disease, test for it and to treat it.’

The WHO is launching a $23 billion effort to fund tests, vaccines and treatments in the developing world

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Covid cases are plummeting in nearly every U.S. state. The only place where they are trending upwards in Maine, which has one of the lowest infection rates in America, meaning even slight upticks in cases will cause massive swings in the state’s change figures.

As of Wednesday morning, 38 states have recorded a drop in cases of 50 percent or more over the past two weeks. 17 states have had daily infections drop by 70 percent or more.  

Maryland is currently recording the lowest infection rate in America, with 24 of every 100,000 residents testing positive for the virus daily. It is a miraculous turnaround for the state that was among the hardest hit by the Omicron variant when it first emerged last month.

Other northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that were slammed by the variant last month are suddenly among those with the nation’s lowest infection rates as well. New Jersey (33 daily cases per 100,000 residents), Connecticut (36), New York (37), Delaware (49), Pennsylvania (52) and Massachusetts (54) are among those with the lowest cases as well.

Only one state has an infection rate of more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents, Alaska (214). The far-away state has often trended separately from the U.S. mainland during Covid because of its large differences in weather and the fact that it does not share any borders with another state.

Only 12 states are recording 100 or more cases per 100,000 residents every day, and there is a clear disparity opening up between the unvaccinated and vaccinated. 

While the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states with the highest vaccination rates are recording the least infection per capita, Midwestern and southern states that have failed to jab much of their populations are recording the highest level of infections.

Mississippi has only vaccinated 50 percent of its population in the year since the shots have become available, and the Magnolia state is average 197 daily cases per every 100,000 residents.

Other nearby states like Tennessee (162 daily cases per 100,000 residents; 53 percent vaccination rate), West Virginia (142; 56), Kentucky (127; 56), South Carolina (101; 55) and North Carolina (100; 59) are among the group as well.

Going out further west, the rest of the group is made up of North Dakota (133; 54), Montana (129; 55), Wyoming (104; 50), Idaho (102; 52) and Arizona (102; 59). Minnesota (109; 67) is an outlier among the group.

Mississippi also leads the nation in Covid mortality rate, as deaths from the virus have surged in the south while they drop in many other parts of America. The state is averaging 1.68 daily deaths per every 100,000 residents, leading the nation by a significant margin. 

Other southern states like Virginia (1.49), South Carolina (1.25), Tennessee (1.11) and Arkansas (1.1) are among the leaders as well.

Children find it more difficult than adults to recognize people wearing face masks which could affect their ability to make friends, study finds

York University in the UK published a new landmark study showing masks make it difficult for children to recognize faces and, in turn, could affect their ability to socialize and make friends.

Researchers from found that face masks make it 20 percent more difficult for children to recognize faces, compared to just 15 percent in adults.

‘[This] could impair children’s ability to navigate through social interactions with their peers and teachers, and this could lead to issues forming important relationships,’ said Dr. Erez Freud, who led the study.

‘Given the importance of faces to social interactions, this is something we need to pay attention to.’

The team recruited 72 children aged six to 14, who were presented with images of faces with or without masks, both upright and inverted

The team recruited 72 children aged six to 14, who were presented with images of faces with or without masks, both upright and inverted

The team recruited 72 children aged six to 14, who were presented with images of faces with or without masks, both upright and inverted

While previous research has found that mask-wearing can hinder facial recognition in adults, this is the first time it has been studied in children.

Freud explained: ‘Faces are among the most important visual stimuli.

‘We use facial information to determine different attributes about a person, including their gender, age, mood and intentions.

‘We use this information to navigate through social interactions.’

The team recruited 72 children aged six to 14, who were presented with images of faces with or without masks, both upright and inverted.

The results showed that children had about a 20 percent impairment rate for recognizing masked faces.

For comparison, previous research has shown that adults have about a 15 percent impairment rate.

The results showed that children had about a 20 percent impairment rate for recognizing masked faces. For comparison, previous research has shown that adults have about a 15 percent impairment rate

The results showed that children had about a 20 percent impairment rate for recognizing masked faces. For comparison, previous research has shown that adults have about a 15 percent impairment rate

The results showed that children had about a 20 percent impairment rate for recognizing masked faces. For comparison, previous research has shown that adults have about a 15 percent impairment rate

Meanwhile, the results also showed that children process faces differently when looking at a masked, and unmasked face.

Usually, humans process faces as a whole, rather than by their individual features – known as holistic processing.

However, the researchers found that when children looked at masked faces, they became more analytical, focusing on individual features.

‘Not only do masks hinder the ability of children to recognize faces, but they also disrupt the typical, holistic way that faces are processed,’ Freud said.

The researchers hope their findings will encourage future research into the effects face masks have on children’s ability to recognize faces and make friends.

Freud concluded: ‘With children back to school with mask mandates once again, future research should explore the social and psychological ramifications of wearing masks on children’s educational performance.’

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Source: dailymail

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