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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today?

In a speech this afternoon from the White House, President Biden sought to revive the stalled vaccination rollout across the country, announcing tough new requirements for federal workers to be vaccinated and urging local governments and states to distribute $ 100 to anyone who wishes to be vaccinated voluntarily.

He also ordered the Defense Ministry to consider requiring coronavirus vaccination for all members of the military, a measure that would affect nearly 1.5 million soldiers.

Biden is facing a wave of cases fueled by the Delta variant, and experts fear that if the vaccination campaign remains at a standstill, the Delta variant could mutate into a variant that eludes vaccines.

A team has been working on this plan for months, trying to juggle employee concerns and the need to keep government running.

The solution Biden announced for federal workers aims to avoid accusations that he is forcing guns into people’s arms. Workers can choose to wear a mask at work and undergo regular testing, social distancing and restrictions on work travel. Officials hope employees will be vaccinated to avoid the hassle.

Biden’s announcement comes as the EU leads the United States in terms of total vaccinations, adjusted for population. The block stumbled at the start of its vaccination campaign, but is now close to ending this week after administering around 105 doses per 100 people, and at least one dose to just over 70 percent of adults, while that the United States is at about 103 doses per 100 people and 69 percent of adults for an administered dose.

Policy making is much more centralized in Europe and, more importantly, some governments have been more willing to use some coercion. Vaccine resistance in the United States is also more vehement. The EU’s vaccination effort has slowed recently, but the drop is small compared to the US campaign, which has declined by more than 80% since its peak.

Yet the EU has much larger geographic disparities than the US, with the wealthiest western region far ahead of the east, and generational divisions appear – where those under 45 are more hesitant.

Vittoria Colliza, a Paris-based epidemiologist at Inserm, France’s public health research center, said new lockdown restrictions may need to be reimposed to stem the spread of the Delta variant if vaccination does not follow.

“They are already increasing,” Dr Colliza said of inoculations, especially in young people. “But the fear is that the Delta variant will start to have a total impact on our lives by the end of August.”

The varying rates of vaccination across the United States have left many areas susceptible to the highly contagious Delta variant. Even areas with high immunization levels could experience new outbreaks if immunization rates do not increase, according to an analysis conducted for The Times.

Estimates developed by PHICOR, a public health research group, suggest that more than 40 percent of U.S. residents may not be adequately protected against the Delta variant due to delayed vaccination rates in their communities.

Researchers say it is likely that few, if any, counties have achieved herd immunity because the Delta variant is more contagious. This means that much of the country is still susceptible to the kind of rapid spread that can stress hospitals and lead to worse patient outcomes.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett today announced that Israel will begin giving a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to people 60 years of age and older, citing the wave fueled by the Delta variant.

Whether booster shots are needed for the elderly is a far cry from scientists. Most studies indicate that the immunity resulting from vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna is long lasting. Scientists say those vaccinated likely won’t need boosters anytime soon.

Even so, some people in the US get them anyway, although it’s technically not allowed.

They go to local pharmacies, other states, or even other countries to get additional doses for fear of the Delta variant or because they fear their protection may run out.

The CDC has not authorized the booster injections, but there is a growing consensus within the Biden administration that people aged 65 and over or with weakened immune systems would benefit from a third injection. Some public health officials have warned that much of this data is preliminary and people should not assume that boosters are needed.

Find out how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

My husband, even though he has been vaccinated, has recently become one of the “disbelievers” of the new variants and their threats to our health. Even though we are both in a high risk group, over 70 years old, he says that wearing a mask is not based on science but on some kind of political climate. I am a retired surgical and intensive care nurse and have learned that wearing a mask not only protected my patients, but also protected me. My husband and I are now divided. We have a new Republican governor who has poisoned our beautiful state with his rhetoric and his legislation. I have reached a point in my marital bliss where I can find little, if anything, to say as my nation and state struggles to awaken people to basic solutions to get back on track. This virus has divided us and I am deeply saddened by it.

– Maureen Cleary, Whitefish, Mont.

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