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N.F.L. Updates: The League Is Back, With a Lot to Prove

By |2021-09-12T13:31:55-04:00September 12th, 2021|Breonna Taylor|

Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, left, joined teammates including safety Minkah Fitzpatrick during the team’s practice Wednesday, Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated PressT.J. Watt might have grown up in Wisconsin, and he might play for the Steelers, but according to Coach Mike Tomlin, he is just “visiting from another planet.” Tomlin said this toward the end of last season, which Watt finished with a league-leading 15 sacks.The team’s front office acknowledged Watt’s otherworldly talent with a four-year extension worth $80 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports. Fresh off that signing, Watt beams into Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Sunday to lead a Steelers defense that represents an immediate, and stern, test for the Buffalo Bills and their superlative quarterback, Josh Allen.Last season, Pittsburgh allowed the third-fewest points in the league and they are again stacked at every level, from secondary (Minkah Fitzpatrick) to linebacker (Devin Bush) to defensive line (Cam Heyward). Watt, though, is the best of them all, a supreme edge rusher who bypasses double-teams to torment quarterbacks, usually from the left side. Only Shaquil Barrett of Tampa Bay (76) recorded more pressures than Watt (73) during the 2020 season, according to Pro Football Focus.As he waited for his contract negotiation to get resolved, Watt abstained from practicing with his teammates during most of training camp. He finally joined them on Wednesday, and no doubt he figures to be ready to play. The Bills better be, too.Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins was carted off the field after tearing his A.C.L. in a preseason game against the Washington Football Team.Carolyn Kaster/Associated PressIn the span of just 12 days, the Baltimore Ravens lost their top three rushers on the depth chart to season-ending injuries.Gus Edwards tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during practice this week, the second such injury for a Ravens running back after starter J.K. Dobbins did so in the Aug. 28 preseason finale against Washington. They joined Justice Hill, who tore his Achilles’ tendon in practice, on injury reserve. Cornerback Marcus Peters also tore his A.C.L. at the same practice as Edwards.“I think you mourn for a day, and we fight today,” Coach John Harbaugh told reporters Friday. “We can move forward.” He said he did not think the playing surface contributed to the rash of non-contact injuries.To respond to the carnage, the Ravens signed Latavius Murray, the former New Orleans Saints backup, after he was released for declining to take a pay cut. Baltimore also added two players who previously had 1,000-yard rushing seasons, Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman, to the practice squad with the intention of elevating them to the active roster.Bell, a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was released by the Jets midway through last season for his lack of production. He briefly signed with Kansas City, splitting carries in a reserve role, and later criticized Coach Andy Reid on social media this off-season.Freeman, an elusive runner and pass catcher, rushed for 1,000 yards twice early in his six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, but his production slipped after his groin injury in 2018, which kept him out of all but two games. He signed a one-year deal with the Giants last season, appearing in only five games and rushing for 172 yards. The Saints released him during training camp after he signed a one-year contract this off-season.Mac Jones, right, took over the starting quarterback job at Alabama in 2019 when Tua Tagovailoa broke a hip. The pair will square off as N.F.L. pros on Sunday.Vasha Hunt/Associated PressAfter sharing one of the most talented quarterbacks rooms in recent college football history, the former Alabama teammates Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa will reunite on the field Sunday afternoon, as Tagovailoa’s Miami Dolphins face Jones’s New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.With Jalen Hurts having taken over the starting job for the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of the 2020 season, Alabama’s last three quarterbacks will be under center for N.F.L. franchises in Week 1. That each made it onto Sunday’s N.F.L. schedule should validate the quarterback battles that occurred when they were there. After winning a national championship with the Crimson Tide at the end of the 2017 season, Hurts lost the starting spot to Tagovailoa in 2018. When Tagovailoa broke a hip in 2019, Jones supplanted him, starting two games to end that season.Jones led an undefeated Alabama team to a national championship in 2021 before being selected at No. 15 in the draft. His poise in training camp and preseason games so impressed Patriots Coach Bill Belichick that he crowned the rookie the No. 1 quarterback and cut last year’s starter, Cam Newton, who is now a free agent.In one season in Miami, Tagovailoa has yet to cement himself as the Dolphins’ quarterback of the future. During the off-season, rumors swirled that the team might have been searching for other options, including the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, but Coach Brian Flores threw his support behind Tagovailoa as training camp ended.Alabama head coach Nick Saban wished both of his former quarterbacks well in a news conference Wednesday. “I hope they both do extremely well in this game and in their career,” Saban said. “But somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.”Justin Herbert finished the 2020 season with the most passing touchdowns (31) and completions (396) of any rookie in league history.Jae C. Hong/Associated PressIf Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert plans to make a leap in Year 2, facing the Washington Football Team’s dominant defensive end Chase Young is probably one of the most difficult ways to start. Young, the 2020 defensive rookie of the year, will meet Herbert’s Chargers Sunday afternoon. It will be the second straight season where the reigning offensive and defensive rookies of the year will meet in their season opener: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray faced Nick Bosa’s San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 last season.In 2020, Young anchored one of the league’s best defenses, which allowed just over 300 yards per game, second fewest in the N.F.L. Herbert finished the season with the most passing touchdowns (31) and completions (396) of any rookie in league history.Giants running back Saquon Barkley is expected to return to play for the first time since Week 2 last season.Noah K. Murray/Associated PressComing into Week 1, most teams’ optimism hinges on the health of their rosters. A few star players whose status had been murky this week, including Giants running back Saquon Barkely, Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, and Colts guard Quenton Nelson, are good to go.Elsewhere, the absence of injured players will temper their teams’ game plans.Notable injuries in the 1 p.m. Eastern games:Jets at Carolina PanthersJets receiver Jamison Crowder (reserve/Covid-19) will miss Sunday’s season opener, while receiver Keelan Cole (knee) will be a game-time decision. And the Panthers will be without receiver Shi Smith, who missed practice this week with a shoulder injury.Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football TeamThe Washington Football Team placed receiver Curtis Samuel on the injured reserve list earlier this week, so he will miss at least three weeks to nurse a groin injury.Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee TitansThe Titans will be without kicker Sam Ficken, who is on the injured reserve list with a groin injury.Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis ColtsThe Colts’ veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf) will miss Sunday’s opener, along with receiver T.Y. Hilton, who re-aggravated a lingering neck injury during a practice last month. Hilton, the Colts’ top receiver, is expected to miss the start of the regular season.Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston TexansTexans quarterback Deshaun Watson is out for their season opener against the Jaguars. Watson, who has 22 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct filed against him, isn’t expected to suit up for Houston this season. (He has denied the accusations.) Tyrod Taylor will start in his place. Houston will also miss kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn (leg), as well as defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. (thigh).The Jaguars will be without cornerback Tre Herndon, who’s out with a knee injury.Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo BillsBills running back Zack Moss was not on the team’s injury report leading up to Sunday’s game against the Steelers, but he will miss the team’s opener. Notable injuries in the 4:25 p.m. Eastern games:Miami Dolphins at New England PatriotsDolphins receiver Preston Williams, who’s been nursing a foot injury, is reportedly not expected to play against the Patriots.Green Bay Packers at New Orleans SaintsThe New Orleans Saints will be without receiver Michael Thomas for the start of the season after he underwent ankle surgery in June. They’ll also miss receiver Tre’Quan Smith (hamstring).Denver Broncos at New York GiantsGiants tight end Evan Engram (calf) is out.Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts wore a helmet decal that read “Black Lives Matter,” one of six league-approved social justice messages, in a game last season.Rich Schultz/Associated PressIn Thursday night’s season opener, players stood on the field at Raymond James Stadium with their arms intertwined as Alicia Keys and the Florida A&M choir performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before the game’s start.The N.F.L. began airing the song, also known as the Black national anthem, as part of its TV broadcasts before games following the worldwide racial justice protests held after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. It also included a performance of the song before the draft in April.The league will continue to include the song’s performance in its pregame ceremonies as part of its continued social justice efforts.“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” written over 120 years ago by N.A.A.C.P. leader James Weldon Johnson, captures in its lyrics the solemn hope for the liberty of African Americans, which read in part:“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,Let us march on ’til victory is won.”Along with playing the song before its games, the N.F.L. will also allow players to wear helmet decals with one of six approved social justice messages. The league will again display the slogans “It Takes All of Us” and “End Racism” on end zones in solidarity with social justice movements against racism and police brutality.The New Orleans Saints’ Week 1 game against the Packers was moved to Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Stadium in the wake of Hurricane Ida.John Raoux/Associated PressNo, it’s not a misprint. Yes, the end zones at TIAA Bank Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, really do say “SAINTS.”The New Orleans Saints, displaced by the destruction of Hurricane Ida, will begin the season Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in the teal-tinged wilderness of Jacksonville, Fla., instead of the Superdome’s black-and-gold cacophony. The stadium was available because the Jaguars open on the road, but the site was hardly chosen at random.After evacuating New Orleans on Aug. 28, the Saints settled in North Texas, practicing first at AT&T Stadium in Arlington before shifting to Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth. With AT&T unavailable Sunday because of a conflict, the Saints picked Jacksonville from among Florida’s three N.F.L. locales, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, because of its “relative inaccessibility and unattractiveness as a destination location.”The Saints went so far as to research flights to Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, and discovered that Jacksonville was the hardest — and most expensive — option for Packers fans.“We’re conscious of everything, I think, when it comes to preparing for an opponent,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis told reporters last week. “The main thing is, hey, we’ve got to have an NFL-ready stadium. Look, there’s just so many variables. I don’t want to get into all the variables that exist, but the main thing is to have a suitable place to play that both teams have access to.”This is expected to be the only home game the Saints play away from New Orleans. Mayor LaToya Cantrell said that the Superdome, which didn’t suffer any major damage, should be ready to host the team’s Week 4 game against the Giants.

Justice Department Sues Texas Over Its Restrictive Abortion Law

By |2021-09-09T16:54:56-04:00September 9th, 2021|Election 2020|

Daily Political BriefingSept. 9, 2021Updated Sept. 9, 2021, 4:43 p.m. ETSept. 9, 2021, 4:43 p.m. ET“The Department of Justice has a duty to defend the Constitution of the United States, and to uphold the rule of law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. The department is seeking an injunction that would prohibit enforcement of the Texas abortion law.Yuri Gripas for The New York TimesThe Justice Department sued Texas on Thursday over its recently enacted law that prohibits nearly all abortions in the state, the first significant step by the Biden administration to fight the nation’s most restrictive ban on abortion.The department argued that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it allows the state to essentially prohibit abortion by deputizing private parties to enforce the new restrictions in order to technically comply with Supreme Court rulings that forbid such a ban.Attorney General Merrick B. Garland called that enforcement mechanism “an unprecedented scheme” whose “obvious and expressly acknowledged intention” is to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights guaranteeing they can choose to have abortions.“It is settled constitutional law that ‘a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,’” the lawsuit said. “But Texas has done just that.” The Justice Department is seeking an injunction that would prohibit enforcement of the Texas law. “The Department of Justice has a duty to defend the Constitution of the United States, and to uphold the rule of law,” Mr. Garland said in a news conference at the Justice Department. “Today we fulfill that duty,” he said of the lawsuit.The suit came days after the Supreme Court refused to block the Texas legislation, which bans all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.The court had stressed that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law. But the way the law was written — allowing anyone, regardless of whether they have any connection to an abortion, standing to sue those who perform or otherwise aid in the procedure — could make it difficult to challenge in court.That set up a major shift in the fight over abortion rights and paved a path for other states to limit access to abortion. The law also raised alarms that abortion providers would face myriad lawsuits brought by private citizens.Mr. Garland said that Texas does not dispute that the law violates Supreme Court precedent, which bars states from preventing a woman from determining whether to terminate a pregnancy.Rather, the Texas law effectively takes the state out of the equation. It insulates the state from responsibility by deputizing “all private citizens, without any showing of personal connection or injury, to serve as bounty hunters authorized to recover at least $10,000 per claim from individuals who facilitate a woman’s exercise of her constitutional rights,” Mr. Garland said.“The obvious and expressly acknowledged intention of this statutory scheme is to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review,” he added.Mr. Garland also said that the Texas law exposes federal employees, including at the departments of Defense, Labor and Health, to civil liability should they exercise their authorities related to abortion services. He argued that that makes the legislation invalid, both under the supremacy clause of the Constitution that gives precedence to federal law over state law and under the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment.The lawsuit was filed as Vice President Kamala Harris was set to meet with abortion and reproductive health providers and patients to discuss the impact of the Texas law. She planned to emphasize that the protection of abortion rights was a critical priority for the Biden administration, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters.The Texas lawsuit is the second time that the Justice Department has sued a state over a law passed by a Republican legislature that it views as unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful. In June, the department sued Georgia over a sweeping voting law, alleging that lawmakers there intended to violate the rights of Black voters.Abortion rights advocates on Saturday near the Supreme Court.Kenny Holston for The New York TimesThe Biden administration has made civil rights protections a priority. Beyond the lawsuits, it is also investigating whether several major city police departments, including in Minneapolis and Louisville, routinely violate the rights of people of color.But the Justice Department has little power to combat Republican state legislatures that were emboldened by the conservative shift in the federal courts during the Trump administration. In Texas, the particularities of the law and the slow pace with which lawsuits wend through the judicial system will make it difficult for the department to protect abortion rights in Texas in the near term. And the conservative majority on the Supreme Court could make it nearly impossible for the Biden administration to protect abortion rights nationwide in the long term.This month, the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, chose not to block the Texas law, known as Senate Bill 8, which took effect at the end of August. It bans all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.The decision forced Texas abortion providers to turn patients away to comply with the new restrictions. It also raised fears that providers would face a rash of lawsuits filed by private citizens and anti-abortion groups poised to take advantage of the latitude the law grants them to sue anyone who aid or intends to aid women who seek the procedure.The unsigned majority opinion said that the medical providers challenging the law had failed to make their case, but that the court was not ruling on whether the statute is constitutional.Even so, it was also seen as a threat to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that granted women the constitutional right to the procedure, and it has invigorated advocates on both sides of the debate.The court will soon take up a separate case that will determine whether Roe v. Wade should be overruled.After opponents of the Texas law failed to persuade the Supreme Court to block it, Democrats and abortion rights activists pressured the Biden administration and Mr. Garland to act.“We urge you to take legal action up to and including the criminal prosecution of would-be vigilantes attempting to use the private right of action established by that blatantly unconstitutional law,” the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, and 22 other House Democrats wrote in a letter to Mr. Garland this week.Mr. Garland foreshadowed the Justice Department’s lawsuit on Monday, saying that it would urgently explore all of its options “in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion.”Representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said lawmakers could “lay a new foundation of opportunity” with the far-reaching spending plan. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated PressFive House committees on Thursday began formally drafting their pieces of Democrats’ far-reaching social policy and climate change bill that would spend as much as $3.5 trillion over the next decade — and raise as much in taxes and other revenue boosters — to reweave the social safety net and move the country away from fossil fuels.The products of the drafting sessions, which could take several arduous days, are to be folded into a final bill later this fall that could be one of the most significant measures to reach the House floor in decades.“This is our moment to lay a new foundation of opportunity for the American people,” said Representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in opening remarks on Thursday. “This is a historic moment to make investments that reflect what we’ve learned during the pandemic so that the American people will be healthier and our economy will be more inclusive and resilient for generations to come.”Democrats plan to push through the legislation using a process known as reconciliation, which shields fiscal measures from filibusters and allows them to pass with a simple majority if they adhere to strict rules. The maneuver leaves the party little room for defections given its slim margins of control in Congress.Republicans are unified in opposition to the emerging bill, and lobbyists for business and the affluent are also arrayed against it. They need only to peel away three or four House Democrats — or a single Senate Democrat — to bring the effort down.“The last thing Americans need right now is trillions more in government spending that drives up prices, kills jobs and wastes our hard-earned tax dollars,” said Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, which began drafting its hefty portion of the bill on Thursday.The panel will start with the spending side this week before moving next week to the more difficult task of tax increases to pay for it. Among the items on its voluminous agenda: providing up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave (approved 24 to 19); expanding tax credits to pay for child care and elder care; raising the wages of child care workers; requiring employers to automatically enroll employees in individual retirement accounts or 401(k) plans; and expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, vision and hearing benefits.At least one Democrat on that committee, Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida, warned that she would not support advancing the individual pieces out of the Ways and Means Committee until she could read that legislation in full. The menu of tax increases, for example, likely won’t be released until this weekend, as Democrats privately haggle over the scope.“I don’t think it’s asking too much to want to see this Ways and Means bill in its entirety before voting on any part of it,” Ms. Murphy said, later joining Republicans in voting against the paid family and medical leave section of the legislation. “I think that’s asking for the absolute minimum — especially when we are proposing to create or change programs that will affect my constituents at every stage of their lives.”The Education and Labor Committee’s portion of the bill, also under consideration on Thursday, would make prekindergarten universal for 3- and 4-year-olds; fund two years of tuition-free community college and increase the value of Pell Grants; provide money to rebuild and modernize school buildings; expand job training programs; and extend child nutrition programs bolstered on an emergency basis during the pandemic.The Committee on Natural Resources, which has partial purview over climate change programs, will try to raise the fees for fossil fuel companies that explore and drill on public lands and waters; expand leasing of offshore sites for wind energy; spend up to $3.5 billion on a new civilian and tribal climate corps; and boost funding for wildfire control, climate resilience and adaptation to a warmer planet.Smaller pieces of the bill will be drafted by the science and small business committees.Senate Democrats, who are expected to skip the public drafting phase, have been meeting behind closed doors to try to work out their version of the bill and bring it directly to the floor. They will have to reconcile their proposals with their House counterparts, particularly over the implementation and duration of certain programs.Aides from both parties are expected to meet with the Senate’s top rule enforcer on Friday to debate a proposal that would legalize several groups of undocumented immigrants, including those who were brought to the country without authorization when they were children. It is up to the parliamentarian to determine whether that measure — and any others singled out by Republicans — qualify under Senate rules to be included in the final bill, which is supposed to be restricted to policies that directly affect government revenues.David Chipman, President Biden’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, listened during his confirmation hearing in Washington in May.Al Drago for The New York TimesPresident Biden withdrew his nomination of David Chipman, a former federal agent who had promised to crack down on the use of semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity gun magazines, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.The withdrawal is a major setback to the president’s plan to reduce gun violence after several mass shootings this year, and comes after his push to expand background checks on gun purchases stalled in Congress in the face of unified Republican opposition.“We knew this wouldn’t be easy — there’s only been one Senate-confirmed A.T.F. director in the bureau’s history — but I have spent my entire career working to combat the scourge of gun violence, and I remain deeply committed to that work,” Mr. Biden said in a statement, announcing the withdrawal. “I am grateful for Mr. Chipman’s service and for his work.”The selection of Mr. Chipman, a longtime A.T.F. official who served as a consultant to the gun safety group founded by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, provoked a powerful backlash from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations who cast his confirmation as a threat to their Second Amendment rights.Mr. Biden, who chose Mr. Chipman after receiving pressure from Ms. Giffords and other gun control proponents, needed the support of all 50 senators who caucus with the Democrats and the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to get Mr. Chipman confirmed. In recent weeks, Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, told Biden administration and leadership officials that he could not support the nomination, citing blunt public statements Mr. Chipman had made about gun owners, people familiar with the situation said. During a contentious confirmation hearing in May, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee seized on those comments — including an interview in which Mr. Chipman likened the buying of weapons during the pandemic to a zombie apocalypse.Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who had originally suggested he was open to the pick, eventually soured on the selection, too.Mr. Chipman’s nomination deadlocked in the committee, but was reported to the Senate for a floor vote through a parliamentary maneuver. It never received one.It is the second high-profile nomination of Mr. Biden’s to be withdrawn for lack of Democratic support. In March, Neera Tanden, his pick to head the budget office, pulled out of contention after an uproar over her caustic public statements. She was later hired as a policy adviser in the West Wing. As hopes for Mr. Chipman’s confirmation waned this summer, White House officials began to discussing bringing him into the administration as an adviser, but no decisions have been made, according to a person involved in the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Thursday afternoon that the president would name a new nominee to lead the A.T.F. “at an appropriate time,” but didn’t give a timeline for the decision.As recently as last month, the White House signaled it was standing by its nominee, praising Mr. Chipman’s 25 years of experience as an A.T.F. agent, but also acknowledging the uphill battle he faced to gain confirmation. White House officials pinned the blame solely on Republican lawmakers, ignoring the opposition from members of the Democratic caucus.The withdrawal was earlier reported by The Washington Post.In the 48 years since its mission shifted primarily to firearms enforcement, the A.T.F. has been weakened by relentless assaults from the N.R.A., which critics have argued made it an agency engineered to fail.Fifteen years ago, the N.R.A. successfully lobbied to make the director’s appointment subject to Senate confirmation — and has subsequently helped block all but one nominee from taking office.And at the N.R.A.’s behest, Congress has limited the bureau’s budget; imposed crippling restrictions on the collection and use of gun-ownership data, including a ban on requiring basic inventories of weapons from gun dealers; and limited unannounced inspections of gun dealers. Annie Karni

U.S. Surpasses 40 Million Covid Cases

By |2021-09-07T06:42:50-04:00September 7th, 2021|Uncategorized|

Paramedics transported a woman believed to be suffering from Covid-19 in Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday.Jon Cherry/Getty ImagesMore than 40 million cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the United States, according to a New York Times database.The total number of known infections, more than the population of California, the nation’s most populous state, is a testament to the spread of the coronavirus, especially lately the highly contagious Delta variant, and the United States’ patchwork efforts to rein it in.Vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease and death, but 47 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated, allowing the Delta variant more than enough opportunity to inflict suffering and disrupt daily life. Health officials say that most of the patients who are being hospitalized and dying are not vaccinated, and that it is those unvaccinated people who are driving the current surge and burdening the health care system.Over the past week, new virus cases have averaged more than 161,000 a day, as of Sunday. New deaths are up to 1,385 a day, and hospitalizations are averaging more than 103,000 a day. Those numbers, while very high, remain lower than last winter’s peaks.Before July 4, President Biden said he hoped for “a summer of freedom.” Instead, the Delta variant became the dominant form of the virus, ravaging unvaccinated populations and filling I.C.U.s in some states.In an appearance last Wednesday, Gov. Brad Little of Idaho, a Republican, pleaded with people to get vaccinated: “I wish everyone could have seen what I saw in the I.C.U. last night.”Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia said at a news conference on Monday that the virus had flooded many of his state’s hospitals and closed schools there.“We’ve got a really big time, big time situation in West Virginia, as it is all across this nation,” said Mr. Justice, a Republican.After reading a list of people who died in his state from causes related to the disease since Friday, Mr. Justice pleaded with the unvaccinated people of West Virginia to get inoculated.“We’ve got to get vaccinated for all, not just for you but for everybody — we’ve got to do this,” he said. “We can stop a lot of this terrible, terrible, terrible carnage.”No U.S. state has more than 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated, according to federal data, and while the average pace of vaccinations ticked upward this summer, it remains far lower than when it peaked in the spring.A mobile clinic providing free vaccinations in West Palm Beach, Fla., last month.Saul Martinez for The New York TimesCases in the United States make up nearly a fifth of the known global total, more than 221 million cases as of Tuesday, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. That is likely to be an undercount because of factors like insufficient testing and reporting.The news came at the end of the Labor Day holiday weekend, not long after Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that unvaccinated Americans should avoid travel.But data from the Transportation Security Administration suggested people did not stay home in droves. T.S.A. checkpoints recorded 2.13 million travelers through U.S. airports on Friday, close to the number on the Friday before Labor Day two years ago.Ethan Hauser and Julie Walton Shaver contributed reporting.Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said that he needed to return to official business after visiting his family, and had acted within the rules by not quarantining.Mick Tsikas/EPA, via ShutterstockPrime Minister Scott Morrison defended traveling to his home state for Australian Father’s Day over the weekend, prompting a backlash in a country where millions of people have been unable to see loved ones because of strict measures against Covid-19.Mr. Morrison, speaking to Sky News, said he understood why people were frustrated, but that he had acted within the rules when he traveled to New South Wales to see his family. He added that he needed to get back to the capital on official business and that politicians were not required to quarantine for 14 days.More than half of the nation’s population is under lockdown as states experience prolonged outbreaks of the Delta variant.Australia got off to a sluggish start vaccinating its population and has seen the average number of daily new cases nearly double to 1,548 in the past two weeks. About 51 percent of the population has at least one vaccine dose, below the 62 percent in the United States and 72 percent in Britain.Individual states in Australia have set different guidelines, with Queensland and South Australia imposing harsh border restrictions on travelers from New South Wales and Canberra, the capital. Australians have reported being rejected for exemptions to attend funerals and visit dying relatives in other states.On Sunday, which was Father’s Day in Australia, people gathered on either side of a plastic barricade at the border between New South Wales and Queensland to see family members.Australians on Twitter criticized Mr. Morrison’s actions, with comments like “One rule for all the other dads separated by border closures and one rule for the Prime Minister,” and “What a disgrace of a leader.”In 2019, Mr. Morrison faced harsh backlash for going on a family trip to Hawaii while Australia suffered record wildfires. Mr. Morrison cut his vacation short soon after the news broke.Waiting for shuttle buses to mandatory government-designated quarantine hotels in the arrivals hall at the Hong Kong International Airport last month.Jerome Favre/EPA, via ShutterstockHong Kong said it would allow fully-vaccinated residents to return to the city from five additional countries and relaxed restrictions on travelers from mainland China, moving away from some of the world’s strictest measures against the coronavirus.The loosening of rules is expected to remove a significant hurdle for travelers. It is also a step toward focusing more on preventing severe illness and death, rather than stopping the spread of the virus completely. Singapore and South Korea have also eased rules in the past few weeks and leaders there are now acknowledging that the virus may be a permanent part of life.While Hong Kong’s previous approach had kept new cases at or near zero, business leaders and residents expressed concern that stringent quarantine restrictions would damage the economy. Travelers from countries deemed high risk by officials have been required to quarantine for three weeks, including those who have been vaccinated.The eased restrictions come after 53 percent of the city’s population has been fully vaccinated and no new local cases have been reported in the last three weeks, according to the health authorities.Hong Kong residents from India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and South Korea can now enter the city if they are fully vaccinated, according to a news release, but must still quarantine for two to three weeks.The addition of those five nations raises the number of countries from which residents are granted entry to 49, in addition to mainland China and Macau.Quarantine-free travel will restart on Wednesday for Hong Kong residents arriving from mainland China and Macau, said Carrie Lam, the chief executive, at a news conference on Tuesday morning.Hong Kong will also allow as many as 2,000 nonresidents to enter from the mainland and Macau each day without needing to quarantine starting a week from Wednesday.Tiffany May

Kentucky Schools Struggle as Virus Outbreaks Close Entire Districts

By |2021-09-04T13:27:41-04:00September 4th, 2021|Uncategorized|

Daily Covid BriefingSept. 4, 2021Updated Sept. 4, 2021, 1:19 p.m. ETSept. 4, 2021, 1:19 p.m. ETMasked and distanced children heading to lunch at Wilder Elementary School in Louisville, Ky., as fall classes began in the state’s public schools on Aug. 11. As of Friday, 34 of the state’s 171 school districts had at some point closed because of coronavirus outbreaks and quarantines.  Amira Karaoud/ReutersAbout a fifth of Kentucky’s school districts have had to temporarily close since classes began last month because of coronavirus infections, an indication of the dire impact the most recent wave of the virus has had on the state.Kentucky has recently reached its highest levels of cases and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, largely because of the highly infectious Delta variant. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed, and Governor Andy Beshear said on Thursday he was deploying the National Guard to help medical professionals. The rise in cases has also affected Kentucky’s schoolchildren, hundreds of thousands of whom are under 12 and so not eligible for vaccination. “More kids are getting Covid right now than we ever thought imaginable,” Mr. Beshear said at a news conference on Monday.As of Friday, 34 of the state’s 171 school districts had closed at some point during the new school year because of infections and quarantines, said Josh Shoulta, a spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has emphasized returning to in-person classes, ideally with as many people as possible vaccinated and measures like universal masking in place. But those measures have become politically fraught. On Friday, anti-mask protesters demonstrating against Washington State’s mask mandate in schools forced several to close in the southern city of Vancouver (named for the same 18th century British sea captain as the younger but much larger city in Canada).Many states are in the midst of their worst wave of the pandemic since last winter, and children are very much a part of it. According to data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics the number of cases in children increased exponentially, up from about 38,000 cases the week ending July 22 to nearly 204,000 for the last full week in August. Pediatric Covid hospitalizations are soaring.In August, Governor Beshear, a Democrat, rescinded an executive order mandating masks in schools after the state Supreme Court upheld laws passed by the Republican-led state Legislature limiting his power. However, Kentucky’s Department of Education has a mask requirement in place for public schools, in line with federal recommendations intended to make the resumption of in-person schooling as safe as possible. Toni Konz Tatman, an Education Department spokesman, said that the mask rule appeared to make a difference based on the experience of some districts. “We had a couple districts that opened before the regulation was passed and their number of quarantines was significantly higher,” she said.Reopening schools has also been complicated by a shortage of personnel, especially substitute teachers and bus drivers, that was greatly worsened by rampant coronavirus infections and quarantines, Ms. Tatman said.“Our districts are pulling in all the people they can, they really are exhausting every possibility they can, but when it gets to the point where they can’t pull it off they are closing,” she said.For now, the hope of normalcy that many educators and parents had entertained has not come to pass, she said.“I think a lot of people were hopeful that we could start the year differently,” Ms. Tatman said. “It’s just not the case.”Two-month-old Carvase Perrilloux Jr. in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans last month.Erin Schaff/The New York TimesPediatric hospitalizations for Covid-19 have soared over the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant spread across the country, according to two new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.From late June to mid-August, hospitalization rates in the United States for children and teenagers increased nearly fivefold, although they remain slightly below January’s peak, one new study found.But vaccination has made a difference. During this summer’s wave, the hospitalization rate was 10 times as high in unvaccinated adolescents as in those who were vaccinated, researchers found. Pediatric hospital admissions were nearly four times as high in states with the lowest vaccination rates as in those with the highest rates, according to a second study.The studies, released on Friday, do not provide clear answers about whether Delta causes more severe disease in children than earlier versions of the virus. The rise in pediatric hospitalizations could also be because of the variant’s high infectiousness.Indeed, one study concluded that the proportion of hospitalized children with severe disease had not changed in late June and July, when the Delta variant became dominant in the United States.The rates reported in the C.D.C. studies are based on data from two national surveillance systems, including hospitals in 49 states and Washington, D.C.In one C.D.C. study, researchers found that since July, when the Delta variant became predominant, the rate of new coronavirus cases increased for children 17 or younger, as did Covid-related emergency room visits and hospital admissions.“We saw that E.R. visits, cases and hospital admissions are rising,” said Dr. David Siegel, lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service and the lead author of the paper. “It could be that Delta is more severe or that Delta is more transmissible, and it could be related to other factors such as masking.”The study also found that Covid-related emergency room visits and hospital admissions among children were more than three times as high in states with the lowest vaccination coverage compared with states with high vaccination rates, underscoring the importance of communitywide vaccination to protect children. Other important factors that might affect regional differences included masking and social distancing measures, the study noted.Last month, as Delta surged, the incidence of Covid in children rose from earlier in the summer — reaching 16.2 cases per 100,000 children ages 4 or under; 28.5 cases per 100,000 children ages 5 to 11; and 32.7 cases per 100,000 children ages 12 through 17.That rate represented a sharp spike from a June low of 1.7 per 100,000 children ages 4 or under; 1.9 cases per 100,000 children ages 5 to 11; and 2.9 per 100,000 children between ages 12 and 17. It was still below the peak incidence of cases among children last January.The proportion of Covid patients under 17 who were admitted to intensive care units ranged from 10 to 25 percent from August 2020 through last June, and hovered at 20 percent by July 2021, according to the C.D.C. study.In a second study, researchers analyzed data from the Covid-Net surveillance network, which includes information on hospitalizations in 99 counties across 14 states.Over the course of the pandemic — or from March 1, 2020, to Aug. 14, 2021 — there were 49.7 Covid-related hospitalizations per 100,000 children and adolescents, the researchers found.But the weekly rates have been climbing since July. During the week ending Aug. 14, there were 1.4 Covid-related hospitalizations for every 100,000 children, compared with 0.3 in late June and early July. (That remains slightly below the peak weekly rate of 1.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 children, in early January 2021, in the post-holiday wave of cases.)Hospitalization rates have increased most sharply for children who are 4 or younger. In the week ending Aug. 14, there were 1.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 children in that age group, nearly 10 times as many as in late June.But based on the limited data available so far, it does not appear that the Delta variant is affecting the incidence of severe disease or deaths among children, which have been somewhat steady and relatively low throughout the pandemic.Among the children and adolescents hospitalized from June 20 to July 31, 23.2 percent were admitted to the I.C.U., 9.8 percent required mechanical ventilation and 1.8 percent died. Those figures were roughly the same as those for children who were hospitalized before the Delta variant became widespread.Travelers at Union Station on Friday in Washington, D.C., as Labor Day weekend began. Alex Wong/Getty ImagesThough the three-day Labor Day weekend typically signifies the unofficial end of summer and the last chance for many people to travel, health officials are trying to rein in that ritual this year as the highly contagious Delta variant fuels a rise in hospitalizations.Unvaccinated people should avoid traveling over the holiday weekend, said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She identified vaccination and masking as key factors in preventing the spread of the virus.“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that the vast majority of transmission takes place among unvaccinated people in closed, indoor settings,” Dr. Walensky said.However, the Transportation Security Administration reported that the number of travelers passing through its airport checkpoints on Thursday and Friday nearly equaled prepandemic levels. On Thursday, the agency logged 1,896,846 checks, about 90 percent of the 2019 number, and on Friday it reported 2,129,999 checks, about 97 percent of the 2019 level.Here’s what else happened this week:The United States was removed from the European Union’s “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel to the 27-nation bloc without additional restrictions, such as quarantine and testing requirements. Italy is requiring unvaccinated travelers from the United States to quarantine for five days, while the changes that other parts of Europe may put into effect are still undetermined.New Zealand on Saturday reported 20 new virus cases and one death — a woman in her 90s with underlying health conditions, according to health officials — pushing the country’s total death toll to 27. It is the only reported death since the country’s outbreak of the more transmissible Delta variant began last month and the first since February. New Zealand recently locked down to try to contain Delta’s spread.The World Health Organization is monitoring a new coronavirus variant called “Mu” — known by scientists as B. 1.621 — and has added it to the list of “variants of interest” because of preliminary evidence it can evade antibodies. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said that the United States has identified few cases involving Mu but that officials were monitoring the variant, which was first identified in Colombia in January and now makes up nearly 40 percent of that country’s cases.Federal regulators warned on Thursday that they might not have enough data to recommend boosters for anyone except certain recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by late September. Asked about the warning, a White House spokesman said, “We always said we would follow the science, and this is all part of a process that is now underway.”There were a number of notable people who were dealing with the virus this week, including: the hall of fame boxer Oscar De La Hoya; Joe Rogan, the host of a hugely popular podcast who previously said on his show that young healthy people need not get Covid vaccinations; and Ross Wilson, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul who helped manage the evacuation from the Kabul airport and who was the last diplomat to leave Afghanistan this week.People sat in the observation area at a mass vaccination clinic in Toronto earlier this year. Those aged 18 to 39 are a lagging demographic in the country’s vaccination rate.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press, via Associated PressAs another wave of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rises in parts of Canada, its public health agency is urging young people, a lagging demographic in the country’s vaccination campaign, to roll up their sleeves.In a new analysis released on Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said that there was an “urgent need” to increase vaccinations among Canadians aged 18 to 39 to reduce the risk that hospitals will become overwhelmed. It noted that there was an immediate “window of opportunity” to slow transmissions.Sixty-eight percent of all Canadians are fully vaccinated, and 75 percent have received at least one dose, according to The New York Times database. By comparison, only 53 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and 62 percent have received at least one dose.Among those Canadians eligible for the vaccine, aged 12 and over, 77 percent are fully vaccinated. However, the rate is much lower for people in their 20s and 30s. Health officials say about 63 percent of people aged 18 to 29 have received both doses, while 68 percent of adults in their 30s are fully inoculated.As it has in other countries, the highly contagious Delta variant has driven up cases and hospitalizations in Canada in recent weeks. On Thursday, the seven-day average of new cases in Canada was 3,489, up 56 percent from two weeks earlier, according to the Times database. Deaths rose 8 percent over the same period.Hospitalizations were also up 34 percent over the last week and were dominated by unvaccinated patients, the country’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said in a statement.The upward trend could climb to more than 15,000 cases a day by October if vaccination rates don’t rise, the agency’s modeling showed. But, the increase in cases could also be curbed if other public health measures succeed in reducing transmissions by 25 percent, the agency said.Some provinces could achieve this by restricting access to a number of public settings to the fully vaccinated. Both Quebec and Manitoba began vaccine passport systems this week, requiring individuals to present an electronic or physical proof of vaccination to enter certain places, including restaurants. British Columbia and Ontario are scheduled to impose similar restrictions later this month.The Ontario government announced its vaccine passport system on Wednesday. The next day, bookings by people seeking the shots more than doubled, the provincial health minister, Christine Elliott, said on Twitter. “Today, we’re already seeing thousands more Ontarians roll up their sleeves, nearly half of whom are receiving their first dose,” she said.Other provinces have gone in a different direction.Alberta, which does not have a vaccine passport system, on Friday reinstated an indoor mask requirement and announced a cash incentive of 100 Canadian dollars on a prepaid debit card for people over 18 who get vaccinated by Oct. 14. The province has also awarded the second of three lottery prizes of one million Canadian dollars each to spur inoculations, and dozens of other smaller prizes. The province has the highest rate of active coronavirus cases in the country, according to national public health data.Oscar De La Hoya signed autographs at a media promotion last month in Los Angeles.Caroline Brehman/EPA, via ShutterstockOscar De La Hoya, the aging hall of fame boxer, said he has been hospitalized with Covid-19 and he will not take part in a comeback fight planned for later this month.Mr. De La Hoya, 48, posted videos on Instagram and Twitter on Friday of himself in a hospital bed in Los Angeles. He says in Spanish to the camera that had been diagnosed with Covid-19 even though he was fully vaccinated.“Me siento mal, mal, mal, mal, tengo Covid, mi pecho no — no puedo respirar bien.” “I feel bad, bad, bad, bad, I have Covid, my chest doesn’t — I can’t breathe well.”The boxer, who retired with a 39-6 professional record and won numerous world titles, hasn’t fought in a professional boxing match since he lost to Manny Pacquiao in 2008. Mr. De La Hoya had been training in recent months for an match against Vitor Belfort, a former UFC champion, on Sept. 11 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.In recent years, Mr. De La Hoya, whose nickname was “Golden Boy,” has worked as a boxing promoter and last year helped push to bring boxing back during the pandemic, even if it meant there would be no fans in the arena. He will be replaced in the fight by Evander Holyfield, ESPN reported.Masha Crawford, a nurse, tends to a patient on dialysis at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Los Angeles. People hospitalized with Covid-19 are at greater risk of kidney damage, a new study finds.Isadora Kosofsky for The New York TimesSince the beginning of the pandemic, doctors have found that people who become very ill with Covid-19 often experience kidney problems, not just the lung impairments that are the hallmark of the illness.Now, a large study suggests that kidney issues can last for months after patients recover from the initial infection, and may lead to a serious lifelong reduction of kidney function in some patients.The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found that the sicker Covid patients were initially, the more likely they were to experience lingering kidney damage. But even people with less severe initial infections could be vulnerable.“You see really, across the board, a higher risk of a bunch of important kidney-associated events,” said Dr. F. Perry Wilson, a nephrologist and associate professor of medicine at Yale, who was not involved in the study. “And what was particularly striking to me was that these persisted.”Kidneys play a vital role in the body, clearing toxins and excess fluid from the blood, helping maintain a healthy blood pressure, and keeping a balance of electrolytes and other important substances. When the kidneys are not working properly or efficiently, fluids build up, leading to swelling, high blood pressure, weakened bones and other problems. The heart, lungs, central nervous system and immune system can become impaired. In end-stage kidney disease, dialysis or an organ transplant may become necessary. The condition can be fatal.The new study, based on records of patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system, analyzed data from 89,216 people who tested positive for the coronavirus between March 1, 2020, and March 15, 2021, as well as data from 1,637,467 people who were not Covid patients.Between one and six months after becoming infected, Covid survivors were about 35 percent more likely than non-Covid patients to have kidney damage or substantial declines in kidney function, said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of the research and development service at the V.A. St. Louis Health Care System and senior author of the study.A man receiving a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last month in Southfield, Mich., after the F.D.A. and the C.D.C. said that some immunocompromised people needed an additional shot to attain protection against severe Covid. Emily Elconin/Getty ImagesTop federal health officials have told the White House to scale back a plan to offer coronavirus booster shots to the general public later this month, saying that regulators need more time to collect and review all the necessary data, according to people familiar with the discussion.Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned the White House on Thursday that their agencies may be able to determine in the coming weeks whether to recommend boosters only for recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — and possibly just some of them to start.The two health leaders made their argument in a meeting with Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator. Several people who heard about the session said it was unclear how Mr. Zients responded. But he has insisted for months that the White House will always follow the advice of government scientists, wherever it leads.Asked about the meeting, a White House spokesman on Friday said, “We always said we would follow the science, and this is all part of a process that is now underway,” adding that the administration was awaiting a “full review and approval” of booster shots by the F.D.A. as well as a recommendation from the C.D.C.“When that approval and recommendation are made,” the spokesman, Chris Meagher, said, “we will be ready to implement the plan our nation’s top doctors developed so that we are staying ahead of this virus.”Less than three weeks ago, Mr. Biden said that, contingent on F.D.A. approval, the government planned to start offering boosters the week of Sept. 20 to adults who had received their second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least eight months ago. That would include many health care workers and nursing home residents, as well as some people older than 65, who were generally the first to be vaccinated. Administration officials have said that recipients of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine would probably be offered an additional shot soon as well.Prescriptions for ivermectin have jumped to more than 88,000 per week in the United States.Luis Robayo/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesPrescriptions for ivermectin, a drug typically used to treat parasitic worms that has repeatedly failed in clinical trials to help people infected with the coronavirus, have risen sharply in recent weeks, jumping to more than 88,000 per week in mid-August from a prepandemic average of 3,600 per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Ivermectin was introduced as a veterinary drug in the late 1970s, and the discovery of its effectiveness in combating certain parasitic diseases in humans won the 2015 Nobel Prize for medicine.Though it has not been shown to be effective in treating Covid-19, people are now clamoring to get the drug, trading tips in Facebook groups and on Reddit. Some physicians have compared the phenomenon to last year’s surge of interest in hydroxychloroquine, though there are more clinical trials evaluating ivermectin.While sometimes given to humans in small doses for head lice, scabies and other parasites, ivermectin is more commonly used in animals. Physicians are raising alarms about a growing number of people getting the drug from livestock supply centers, where it can come in highly concentrated paste or liquid forms.Calls to poison control centers about ivermectin exposures have risen significantly, jumping fivefold over their baseline in July, according to C.D.C. researchers, who cited data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Mississippi’s health department said this month that 70 percent of recent calls to the state poison control center had come from people who ingested ivermectin from livestock supply stores.Clinicians suiting up at a free Covid-19 testing site in Oakland, Calif. Fewer Covid-related medical services will be free in the future.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesAmericans will most likely pay significantly more for Covid medical care during this new wave of cases — whether that’s a routine test or a lengthy hospitalization.Earlier in the pandemic, most major health insurers voluntarily waived costs associated with Covid treatment. Patients weren’t responsible for co-pays or deductibles for emergency room visits or hospital stays, and most tests were free, too. But now, insurers are treating Covid more like other conditions, no longer fully covering the costs of care.The federal rules that make coronavirus testing free include exemptions for routine workplace and school testing, which has become more common. Some patients have already received bills as high as $200 for routine screenings, according to documents patients submitted to a New York Times project tracking the costs of Covid testing and treatment. If you’ve received a bill, you can submit it here.Some of the highest bills will probably involve Covid patients who need extensive hospital care now that 72 percent of large health plans are no longer offering free Covid treatment, a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found.This includes Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, the largest health plan in a state experiencing one of the country’s worst outbreaks. “When the Covid-19 pandemic began last year, we implemented several emergency provisions to temporarily help our members,” Toni Woods, a spokeswoman, said in a statement. She said the plan was now focused on encouraging vaccinations.Oscar Health, which sells coverage in Florida and 14 other states, also ended free Covid treatment this week. It cited the widespread availability of the vaccine as a key reason. Jackie Khan, an Oscar spokeswoman, said, “We believe that the Covid vaccine is our best way to beat this pandemic, and we are committed to covering it and testing at $0 for our members.”The new policies generally apply to all patients, including the vaccinated, people who get sick with a breakthrough infection, and children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan who researches Covid care costs, said, “If you have a small kid who gets Covid at school and ends up at the I.C.U., that family is going to now be stuck with the bill even though that patient did not have the ability to get vaccinated.”

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