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Covid-19

Biden asks Republicans who refused to be vaccinated to ‘get out of the way’

“If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing,” Biden said.

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President Joe Biden called on resistant Republican governors to “get out of the way” of vaccine rules aimed at containing the more transmissible and dangerous COVID-19 variant. He backed city and private mandates requiring people to be vaccinated to go about some daily activities.

Speaking Tuesday from the White House, Biden sharply criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials who have moved to block the reimposition of mask mandates to slow the delta strain of the virus. The strain is surging in their states and other parts of the country that have large numbers of unvaccinated people.

“If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing,” Biden said.

Biden endorsed New York City’s move to require vaccinations to dine indoors or go to the gym, as well as corporate moves to require vaccines to return to work, and said more localities and businesses should follow suit. Such policies have been barred to varying degrees in at least seven GOP-led states.

A rise in infections in the U.S., fueled by the highly contagious delta strain of the virus, led U.S. public health officials last week to recommend that even people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume wearing face coverings in some public indoor settings.

After months of dangling carrots of incentive to Americans to get vaccinated — including million- dollar cash lotteries and opportunities to earn free college tuition — the Biden administration is looking to wield a stick by making it harder for people to remain unvaccinated without seeing their daily lives disrupted.

As he seeks to drive up vaccinations at home, Biden is also spotlighting his administration’s progress in sharing shots with the rest of the world — an initiative helped in part by the slowed pace of domestic vaccination that has increased the nation’s stockpile of doses. Roughly 90 million eligible Americans aged 12 and over have yet to receive one dose of vaccine.

Biden announced that the U.S. has donated and shipped more than 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Zambia.

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“Vaccinate America and help vaccinate the world,” Biden said, “That’s how we’re going to beat this thing.”

Biden has promised that the U.S. will be the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world, but while notable, the 110 million doses the U.S. has donated largely through a global vaccine program known as COVAX represent a fraction of what is needed worldwide.

The White House said in a statement Tuesday that U.S. at the end of August will begin shipping 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine that it has pledged to 100 low-income countries by June 2022.

Biden had pledged to ship more than 80 million doses overseas by the end of June, but had only been able to share a fraction of that due to logistical and regulatory hurdles in recipient countries.

The pace of shipments picked up significantly through July.

Under Biden’s sharing plan, about 75% of U.S. doses are shared through COVAX, which aims to help lower- and middle-income nations, with the balance being sent to U.S. partners and allies.

The White House insists that nothing is being sought in return for the shots, contrasting its approach to Russia and China, which it alleges have used access to their domestically produced vaccines as a tool of geopolitical leverage.

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[VIDEO] Bombshell report about Wuhan lab released by House GOP lawmakers

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Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel on new questions about the Wuhan lab leak and Australia’s COVID lockdowns.

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Florida Governor DeSantis signs order letting parents decide if kids wear masks in schools

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Ron DeSantis Florida Governor signed an executive order on Friday to “protect parents’ freedom to choose” whether their children wear masks in schools. 

“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children.”

The order bars school districts from forcing students to mask up, despite new guidance from the CDC, and as COVID-19 cases climb in the state like never before. This week, the CDC said masks should be required of everyone inside K-12 schools.

District school boards that are “unwilling or unable to comply” with DeSantis’ law, the executive order states, will be susceptible to losing state funding. 

In a notice about the executive order, the governor’s office said the action is in response to Florida school boards considering or implementing school mask mandates. The office also falsely claimed the Biden administration has issued “unscientific” recommendations about school-aged children wearing masks. 

The executive order states that “forcing students to wear masks lacks a well-grounded scientific justification” and that there is “no statistically-significant evidence” suggesting that counties with mask mandates fared better than those without in the previous school year. 

The CDC says, however,that mask wearing is a critical step people can take to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. Studies have shown their effectiveness. In one recent study — a peer- reviewed study of mask adherence and COVID transmission across the U.S. that was published in April — researchers found that 14 of the 15 states that had no mask policy for the public from April to September 2020 had a high rate of COVID-19. Eight states had at least 75% mask adherence during that time frame, the study found, and of those, none reported a high rate of the virus. 

COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiration, which is why officials have pushed for people to wear masks. The U.S. is also now facing the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant.

DeSantis argued in his executive order that masks could “inhibit breathing,” and lead to a buildup of “bacteria, parasites, fungi and other contaminants.” 

But the American lung Association says masks do not cause low oxygen levels, and that “there is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system.” 

“Proper laundering of cloth masks removes any viruses, bacteria or respiratory secretions that may build up on the mask,” johns Hopkins says.

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DeSantis’ order comes as Florida is experiencing its highest numbers of daily COVID cases to date. On July 30, the state had 110,724 new cases of COVID-19, a record high, and 409 deaths, according to John Hopkins university. 

More than 160 people in the state 29 years or younger have died from COVID-19, including seven children under the age of 16. The Florida Hospital Association said on Wednesday that the “average age of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 is younger than previous peaks.” 

“The virus has a new target: the unvaccinated and younger people,” said Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary C. Mayhew in a statement. “Previously healthy people from their teens to their 40s are now finding themselves in the hospital and on a ventilator…What you heard last year and last spring about this virus mostly targeting seniors and those with pre-existing conditions is not true today.”

More than 95% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida are people who are not fully vaccinated, the association said. As of July 30, there were 9,329 confirmed COVID hospitalizations in the state. 

Some of the most prominent supporters of DeSantis’ actions are Republican state legislators. State House Speaker Chris Sprowls said in a statement Friday they “demonstrate his faith and trust in our fellow Floridians.” 

“While there are some public officials who will seek to use the power of government to compel uniformity and adherence to their preferred course of conduct, that approach is not in keeping with Florida values,” he said. 

Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said, “I trust Florida parents to decide” if their children should wear a mask, adding that he’s “grateful” for DeSantis’ “steady leadership at every stage of this pandemic.” 

Many, however, have criticized the move, including the Florida Education Association, the statewide teacher’s union. 

“Schools should be the safest place in Florida. No matter if we live in urban South Florida, in the rural Panhandle or somewhere in between, we all want our children to be healthy and safe, and for learning to continue uninterrupted for every child,” the union said in a statement. “…Unfortunately, through his words and actions, Gov. DeSantis has made it clear he does not respect the freedom of locally elected officials to do what they feel is best for their communities.” 

On Thursday, the Florida Chapter of the American academy of paediatrics said it supports use of masks in schools. 

“Since children under 12 years of age are still not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccine will most likely not be available for this age group until winter of 2021,” the group said, “most children are still at risk for Coronavirus infection and transmitting the infection to others.”

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