While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for May 14

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic you may have missed overnight.

Here’s a look:

No masks required. In a striking move to send the country back toward pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday eased indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside in most places.

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

The CDC will also no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds. The announcement comes as the CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people — people who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose — in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, announced the new guidance on Thursday afternoon at a White House briefing, saying the long-awaited change is thanks to millions of people getting vaccinated — and based on the latest science about how well those shots are working.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Indiana restaurants say no to vaccine passports. Will restaurants and other indoor businesses require Hoosiers to present their vaccination cards as proof to go maskless?

Patrick Tamm, president & CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, says no. 

“We’re not asking people for that at this time, and I think that’s where businesses will also try to make sure, particularly restaurants, we’re in the business of making people comfortable,” Tamm said. “Individual businesses will still make those individual decisions and that’s where having some common courtesy for others, would be helpful because frankly, in each part of the state, it’s a little different – what customers are willing to do or what they’re comfortable with.”

With 92 counties and 96 individual health departments in the state, the guidance has been left up to the discretion of each individually, which makes things confusing for small business owners.  

“It’s gonna be on the customer’s responsibility to choose whether or not they’re choosing to wear a mask. There will be no questioning of customers at all,” said Michael Cranfill with The District Tap. “Most restaurants you go to, their employees are still required to wear masks – which I completely get it. You wanna make sure that all the customers feel safe in that dining environment.”

Customer safety and comfort is the main priority as many restaurants have reported strong starts to the season.

UK ready to embrace freedom. Thanks to an efficient vaccine rollout program, Britain is finally saying goodbye to months of tough lockdown restrictions.

Starting Monday, all restaurants, bars and museums can fully reopen, and people can socialize indoors.

It’s the biggest step yet to reopen the country following a sharp drop in new infections and deaths.

Many credit Britain’s universal public health system for getting hundreds of thousands vaccinated every day.

Experts say that infrastructure was key, helped by the government’s early start in securing vaccine doses and its decision to delay the second dose. But some worry about a resurgence because of variants of the virus.

Misinformation pervades in India. False cures. Terrifying stories of vaccine side effects. Baseless claims that Muslims spread the virus. Fueled by anguish, desperation and distrust of the government, rumors and hoaxes are spreading by word of mouth and on social media in India, compounding the country’s humanitarian crisis.

“Widespread panic has led to a plethora of misinformation,” said Rahul Namboori, co-founder of Fact Crescendo, an independent fact-checking organization in India.

While treatments such as lemon juice may sound innocuous, such claims can have deadly consequences if they lead people to skip vaccinations or ignore other guidelines.

In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that India had “saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively.” Life began to resume, and so did attendance at cricket matches, religious pilgrimages and political rallies for Modi’s Hindu nationalist party.

Four months later, cases and deaths have exploded, the country’s vaccine rollout has faltered and public anger and mistrust have grown.

“All of the propaganda, misinformation and conspiracy theories that I’ve seen in the past few weeks has been very, very political,” said Sumitra Badrinathan, a University of Pennsylvania political scientist who studies misinformation in India. “Some people are using it to criticize the government, while others are using it to support it.”

Distrust of Western vaccines and health care is also driving misinformation about sham treatments as well as claims about traditional remedies.

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