INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic you may have missed overnight.
Here’s a look:
Biden’s July 4 goal in doubt. Summer travel and activities are rapidly gaining momentum, but the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations across the US has slowed down dramatically.
There are concerns the country could experience new coronavirus outbreaks and setbacks. In fact, the CDC warns the hospitalization rate for teens with COVID is rising even though teens are now eligible for the vaccine.
President Joe Biden set a goal of vaccinating 70% of Americans by the 4th of July but the White House seems less confident that goal will be met.
“We’re going to continue to push to the red tape to July 4th, but I can’t make a prediction weeks ahead of time where we will be,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Vaccination rates, particularly in the South, have plummetted to just over 1 million doses a day compared to 3 million a day administered in April. The drop comes despite the fact people 12+ are now eligible.
Marion Co. businesses react. The day after the Indianapolis City-County Council voted to ease several Covid-19 restrictions, including mask mandates for vaccinated people, Marion County businesses are making decisions on how best to adjust to the new rules.
Along Mass Ave. Tuesday, several businesses still had signs asking customers to continue wearing masks. One of those is Silver in the City.
“We are going to keep requiring masks until everyone on our staff who is choosing to get vaccinated has had a chance to get vaccinated and then had the two weeks post their second shot,” said General Manager Claire Shipley. “We’re probably looking at least until the end of June to be requiring masks down here at our Mass Ave store, and then we’ll go to a mask optional.”
Nearby, customers are free to walk into Slapfish with no mask.
“We’re going to follow the city’s guidelines and honor the fact that if customers have been vaccinated, they don’ have to wear a mask anymore,” said owner Mark Weghorst.
However, Slapfish employees will continue wearing masks for now, Weghorst said. The same policy is now in effect at Shapiro’s Deli. Customers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear a mask, but workers will keep theirs on for the time being. Shapiro’s owner Brian Shapiro says 95% of their employees are fully vaccinated.
Indianapolis International Airport. The Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA) is reminding air travelers that the COVID-19 federal mask mandate is still in effect until September 2021.
IAA said while the City of Indianapolis ended its mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents effective Tuesday in most situations – except when using public transportation – the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended the face mask requirement for individuals across all transportation networks throughout the United States, including at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on over-the-road buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems through Sept. 13.
Read the entire announcement from TSA on the federal mask mandate extension here.
CDC lowers risks levels. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eased travel guidelines for at least 110 countries and territories, including 61 countries that were previously listed under its highest “Level 4” risk category for COVID-19.
The 61 countries were downgraded to Level 3 on Monday, reports Reuters, citing a CDC spokesperson. In addition, dozens of other countries that were previously listed as Level 3 or Level 2 were downgraded to Levels 2 or 1, as well.
Among the countries previously listed at Level 4 (“very high” risk for travelers) to Level 3 (“high” risk) include Canada, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Spain and South Africa, among more than 50 others.
The United States, too, has been moved from Level 4 to Level 3.
Former pharmacist sentenced. A former pharmacist in Wisconsin who purposefully ruined more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Steven Brandenburg, of Grafton, was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in February to two felony counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product.
Brandenburg had admitted to intentionally removing the doses manufactured by Moderna from a refrigerator for hours at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, located just north of Milwaukee.
After leaving the vaccine doses to spoil, he stated that he then put them back in the refrigerator. At least 57 people received doses that Brandenburg purposely ruined before authorities realized what he was doing, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.