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COVID-19 booster formulation for the fall

EU extends use of COVID-19 certificates for inter-union travel

Pfizer says tweaked vaccine offers better protection against omicron

Families worried about the end of pandemic-aid for public school meals

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Tuesday, June 28

10:51 a.m.: Court revives block of federal vaccination mandate

A court ruling is back in effect that blocks President Joe Biden from requiring federal employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Associated Press reports.

In January, a Texas-based federal judge blocked the federal employee vaccine mandate. However, a three-member panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled the judge didn’t have the jurisdiction and that employees opposed to the mandate should have pursued civil service remedies.

Now, the entire 17-member 5th Circuit Court has decided to take another look at the issue — meaning the Texas judge’s block on the mandate remains in effect.

10:27 a.m.: US grapples with idea of changing COVID-19 booster formulation for the fall

U.S. health authorities are facing a critical decision — whether to offer new COVID-19 booster shots this fall that are modified better to match the latest changes in the shape-shifting virus.

As reported by the Associated Press, Moderna and Pizer say their candidates targeting the super-contagious omicron variant will be an improvement.

However, the original omicron has already been replaced by its even more contagious relatives, with no way to know what version will spread this fall and winter.

Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will debate a recipe change Tuesday, and regulators promise a quick final decision.

10:14 a.m.: EU extends use of COVID-19 certificates for inter-union travel

European Union countries have approved extending the use of COVID-19 certifications by one year until the end of June 2023, according to the Associated Press.

A COVID-19 certificate is a document that proves a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or has gotten a recent negative test result or has recovered from the infection. Aimed at facilitating travel across the 27-nation bloc during the pandemic, certificates entered into force in July last year.

Cases of the deadly virus have started to grow again ahead of the summer holiday season.

The European Council said the regulation can be lifted earlier, but after most EU countries removed coronavirus restrictions over the past months in light of the improved health situation, a recent increase in infections fueled by new variants is leading governments to rethink their strategies.

Monday, June 27

10:34 a.m.: Pfizer says tweaked vaccine offers better protection against omicron

Pfizer says tweaking its COVID-19 vaccine to better target the omicron variant is safe and boosts protection.

As reported by the Associated Press, Saturday’s announcement came just days before regulators debate whether to offer Americans updated booster shots this fall.

The current COVID-19 vaccines still offer strong protection against hospitalization and death. However, protection against infection has dropped markedly with the omicron variant, and its even more transmissible relatives are spreading.

Pfizer says either an omicron-targeted booster or combination shot that mixes the original vaccine with omicron protection substantially increases protection.

Rival Moderna hopes to offer a similar combination shot.

9:52 a.m.: Families worried about the end of pandemic-aid for public school meals

The pandemic-era federal aid that made school meals available for free to all public school students — regardless of family income levels — is ending, according to the Associated Press.

This is raising fears about the effects in the upcoming school year for families already struggling with rising food fuel costs.

A bill passed in Congress last week and signed by President Joe Biden over the weekend is intended to allow summer meal distributions to remain widely available for students. It also gives higher reimbursement for meals to schools while providing some flexibility to help them deal with increasing food prices and supply chain issues.

9:50 a.m.: WHO says monkeypox is not a global emergency threat ‘at this stage’

The World Health Organization said the escalating monkeypox outbreak in more than 50 countries should be closely monitored but does not warrant being declared a global health emergency.

According to the Associated Press, a WHO emergency committee said many aspects of the outbreak were “unusual” and acknowledged that monkeypox — which is endemic in some African countries — has been neglected.

WHO nevertheless pointed to the “emergency nature” of the outbreak and said controlling its spread requires an “intense” response.

The committee said the outbreak should be “closely monitored” and reviewed after a few weeks.

Friday, June 24

12:08 p.m.: COVID-19 vaccines saved about 20 million lives in one year, scientists say

Scientists estimate that nearly 20 million lives were saved worldwide by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year, as reported by the Associated Press.

In a study published Thursday, they say even more deaths could have been prevented if global targets for vaccines had been reached.

Scientists at Imperial College London used data from 185 countries to estimate how many deaths were prevented by the vaccination effort. However, they excluded China because of uncertainty around the pandemic’s effects on deaths there and its huge population.

There are a lot of limitations in modeling studies, but independent experts agree that vaccines saved millions of lives.

12:02 p.m.: Moderna COVID-19 shots now an option for older kids

There is now a second COVID-19 option for kids ages 6 to 17 in the U.S., as reported by the Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday announced it is recommending Moderna shots as an option for school-age kids and teens. This group in the U.S. has been able to get only shots made by Pfizer until now.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots — full-strength doses for children ages 12 to 17 and half-strength for those 6 to 11.

The doses are to be given about a month apart. Moderna officials have said they expect to later offer a booster to all kids ages 6 to 17.

11:54 a.m.: Fauci uses himself as a successful example of both COVID-19 vaccination and anti-viral drug

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says his COVID-19 recovery is an “example” for the nation of the protection offered by vaccines and boosters.

Speaking during a White House briefing, Fauci, 81, said he began experiencing virus symptoms on June 14 and tested positive a day later.

According to the Associated Press, he was prescribed the anti-viral drug Paxlovid, which has proven to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, on June 15.

“I’m still feeling really quite fine,” Fauci said Thursday as the administration emphasized the protection offered by vaccines to people of all ages.

Thursday, June 23

11:15 a.m.: California looks to sign the sale of to-go cocktails into law

During the height of the pandemic, some restaurants found themselves turning to to-go cocktails to keep their doors open and lights on.

A new bill in the state Legislature would expand California’s law allowing the sale of to-go alcoholic beverages as part of take-out restaurant food orders.

The law was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year to help struggling restaurants and bars. Napa Senator Bill Dodd says this new bill removes the meal requirement and extends the carry-out cocktail provision to bars.

“This bill simply seeks to continue one of the most successful elements of the emergency regulatory pandemic relief,” Dodd said.

However, some opponents are worried about underage drinking, such as Cruz Avila with the Alcohol Justice group.

“Really, what the problems [are] with the homey delivery of alcohol — no matter what, it continues to be a prime driver of youth access.”

Dodd has accepted amendments to the bill to prevent underage drinking, including more oversight of alcohol delivery by the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

In addition, this bill requires third-party delivery companies, who are delivering alcohol on behalf of an alcohol licensee, to obtain a permit from the Department of ABC,” he sad.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee and heads next to Appropriations.

10:21 a.m.: California may soon translate CalOSHA citations into different languages.

A bill intended to bridge the language gap for essential workers in California is advancing in the state Legislature.

It'll require California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health or CalOSHA to translate workplace citations into languages spoken by at least 5% of the employees at the worksite.

Some of the most commonly spoken languages by employees include Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog. Right now, CalOSHA is only mandated to post citations in English.

Assemblymember Matt Haney is the bill's author and notes how important it is to increase language accessibility.

"While these concerns of language access have existed far before the COVID-19 pandemic, these past couple of years have shown the importance of language accessibility for our essential workers," Haney said. "Workers in high-risk job sectors are far more likely to be immigrants, and industries with the highest pandemic-related deaths employ more immigrant workers who are predominately from Black, Latino and API communities."

Haney says it's necessary to help bridge the language gap for the state's essential workers.

"California has already enacted laws to expand language access in the courts, health care, state departmental offices, among other state agencies. CalOSHA should follow their lead so that our state's non-English speaking workers have full access to the complaint and investigatory process necessary to hold their employees accountable," he added.

The bill has passed the Senate Labor Committee.

If approved by both houses of the legislature and signed into law, the bill will take effect starting Jan. 1.

10:04 a.m.: Tennessee Republican House leaders are urging delay of COVID-19 orders for infants to preschoolers

Top Tennessee Republican House leaders are urging Gov. Bill Lee to delay the state’s health department from distributing and promoting the COVID-19 vaccines to infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

According to the Associated Press, in a letter sent to eh Republican governor on Wednesday, House leaders said they have “too many concerns” surrounding the vaccine for those under 5 years old.

The lawmakers added that the “COVID-19 emergency has long passed in Tennessee,” though public health experts dispute that declaration.

Lee’s spokesperson said in an email that the governor’s office was reviewing the letter and did not immediately answer questions about whether the state would delay or change the distribution of the vaccine.

The letter came just days after Florida raised an eyebrow for being the only state in the country not to preorder the vaccine for its toddlers. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wouldn’t facilitate their distribution, but the shouts would be available for those who want them.

Wednesday, June 22

10:24 a.m.: President Biden visits children’s clinic to celebrate newly released infant, toddler COVID-19 vaccinations

President Joe Biden is celebrating that virtually all Americans can now get a COVID-19 shot after the authorization of vaccines for kids under 5 over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.

Biden visited a vaccination clinic in Washington on Tuesday, where some of the first shots were given to what had been the last major age group ineligible for vaccines.

Biden is hailing it as an important pandemic milestone that will support the country’s recovery.

While anyone age 6 months and up is now eligible for vaccines, the administration is cautioning that it expects the pace of shots for the youngest kids to be slower than older ones, as parents are more likely to rely on their children’s pediatricians to administer them.

10:05 a.m.: Gas prices are a pain felt around the world, leading some to find alternatives

Around the world, drivers are looking at the numbers on the gas pump and rethinking their habits and finances.

Walking, biking, public transport or going car-free are options people are considering more often.

However, those without access to adequate public transportation or who otherwise have extremely limited options have little choice but to grit their teeth and pay at the pump.

As reported by the Associated Press, energy prices fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the global rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic are key drivers of rising worldwide inflation.

10 a.m.: Denmark offers fourth COVID-19 shot to vulnerable residents

Denmark’s prime minister says a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose will be offered to nursing home residents and people age 50 and over in Denmark this fall.

According to the Associated Press, there’s been a rise in cases of the BA.5 coronavirus variant in Europe.

Denmark’s government wants to move swiftly to avoid potential restrictions or a lockdown.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Wednesday that “the infection has been on the rise for the past three weeks. That is why we are acting now.”

She added that the swift move was aimed at taking care of older and vulnerable people and avoiding the congestion of hospitals, shutdowns, and restrictions to keep the economy going.

Tuesday, June 21

11:45 a.m.: UC Davis ending COVID-19 community testing

The city of Davis, in partnership with UC Davis, is ending its Healthy Davis Together COVID-19 testing project on June 30.

Through the project, any Davis resident can access free testing at one of several community sites in Yolo County. Along with COVID-19 education and testing, Healthy Davis Together also focuses on city-wide wastewater testing and piloting air filter testing in schools.

According to the project’s medical director, Dr. Sheri Belafsky, as of June 17 nearly 850,000 COVID-19 tests were administered through the initiative, with 14,700 positive cases identified.

“Now, we’re at a different point in the pandemic,” Belafsky wrote in an email to people who previously utilized Healthy Davis Together testing. “COVID-19 and new variants will be in our lives for the foreseeable future, but the important difference is that we know much more about the virus, and we have many more tools to protect ourselves and our community.”

Intended to “facilitate a coordinated and gradual return” along with preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the Davis community, the project, which began in September 2020, has been scheduled to end at the end of June since last year. Its sister initiative, Healthy Yolo Together, will also end on June 30.

I encourage you to stay informed about COVID-19 numbers so you can make safe choices for yourself, your family, co-workers, and neighbors,” Belafsky wrote. “During surges, your choice to wear a mask and plan outdoor activities can make a big difference and limit community spread.”

All test results from the Healthy Davis Together website will still be accessible at the website’s testing landing page until Sept. 28. After that, you’ll need to request results by emailing [email protected].

Healthy Davis Together’s end is part of a gradual decrease in testing accessibility in the Sacramento region, with Sacramento County closing six of its then-thirteen free community COVID-19 testing sites at the end of February 2022.

Belafsky said a list of testing resources is available at Healthy Davis Together and Healthy Yolo Together testing sites. Locations of all free and low-cost COVID-19 testing options in Yolo County are available on the county’s website.

— Janelle Salanga

11:22 am.: Western States Scientific Workgroup approves use of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for infants and young children

Science advisors for California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington provided their approval to new COVID-19 vaccines for young children, a last step for use in those states.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recently completed its review of the federal process and has unanimously concluded that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective for children as young as 6 months old.

The Workgroup provided its confirmation to the governors of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Dose size will depend on the company — Pfizer’s formulation is three vaccines while Moderna’s is two. The Workgroup and the CDC have both agreed that the vaccines are safe for young children.

The Workgroup reviewed safety and efficacy data for the vaccines, and found that either series produced antibody levels similar to those achieved in individuals aged 16-25 years. Babies aged 6-12 months and children aged 1 through 5 years both had consistent antibody production similar to other age groups.

The four states in the Workgroup said they will continue to evaluate other COVID-19 vaccines as they go through the federal process.

10:57 a.m.: Youngest kids can now receive COVID-19 vaccinations

The nation’s youngest children are getting their chance at vaccines for COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press, shots began Monday at a few locations, though they were expected to ramp up after the Juneteenth federal holiday.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared vaccines from Modern and Pfizer last week, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final signoff over the weekend.

Roughly 18 million youngsters under 5 are eligible.

For little kids, Pfizer’s vaccine is three shots and Moderna’s regiment is two shots.

Getting some parents on board may be a challenge given disappointing vaccination rates in school-age kids.

Friday, June 17

9:49 a.m.: FDA approves emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5

U.S. regulators have authorized the first COVID-19 shots for infants and preschoolers, according to the Associated Press.

This paves the way for vaccinations for children under 5 to start as early as next week.

The Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization on Friday follows a unanimous recommendation by its advisory panel. The kid-sized shots are made by Moderna and Pfizer.

The FDA's action allows the companies to be shipping millions of preordered doses across the country. A final signoff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected this weekend.

The nation's vaccination campaign began with adults in late 2020, about a year into the coronavirus pandemic.

9:25 a.m.: California changes up bill allowing teens to receive vaccination without parental consent

California lawmakers have amended a bill that would have let preteens be vaccinated without their parents’ consent.

As reported by the Associated Press, the proposal now calls for a minimum age of 15, which would still be among the lowest wages in the U.S.

Before Thursday’s amendment, the bill would have allowed children age 12 and up to be vaccinated for a range of health conditions without their parents’ approval.

Currently, minors aged 12 to 17 in California cannot be vaccinated without permission from their parents or guardians, except for vaccinations that prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

The bill’s author says the measure may not have had enough support to pass the state Assembly.

9:22 a.m.: EU officials say Schengen Region traveling restrictions were badly checked

European Union auditors say the bloc’s executive arm should have checked more carefully the restrictions on free movement imposed by EU countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Associated Press, in its latest report, the European Court of Auditors, or ECA, said the supervision of the internal border controls reintroduced since March 2020 “did not fully safeguard the Schengen rules.”

EU nations struggled to coordinate travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic as they tried to maintain a smooth circulation of people and goods.

The pandemic has killed at least 6.3 million people around the world so far.

Thursday, June 16

11:12 a.m.: Fauci tests positive for COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of America’s pandemic response through two White House administrations, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

As reported by the Associated Press, the 81-year-old Fauci is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots.

He is experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms, according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health.

Fauci has not recently been in close contact with President Joe Biden or other senior government officials. He tested positive using a rapid antigen test. He will return to work at the NIH when he tests negative.

10:29 a.m.: If you feel like everyone is ‘revenge traveling,’ you may be right. Here’s what you need to know.

The data shows travel is surging, despite high plane-ticket prices, as many countries loosen their COVID-19 restrictions and reopen borders, according to NPR.

Analysts say vacation-starved Americans are making up for lost time during the pandemic, and there’s even a new term for it — revenge travel. The idea is that people are making up for time and experiences lost so far during the pandemic.

However, there’s a few things to keep in mind.

Everything is going up lately — airfares, fuel costs and the number of trips taken.

Travel insurance company Allianz Partners analyzed more than 40,000 trip itineraries planned for this summer and concluded that American travel to Europe will jump 600% from last year.

Data shows the prices of tickets sold so far for this July were 35% higher than tickets sold in July 2019, the last summer before the pandemic started.

Meanwhile, the industry as a whole isn’t even yet operating at the same level as it was before the pandemic. Fewer flight routes, fewer crew members, and less equipment means that capacity is down 15%.

10:07 a.m.: Baby formula plant forced to temporarily close after just restarting productions

Baby formula manufacturer Abbot has once again stopped producing infant formula at its Sturgis, Mich. plant less than two weeks after restarting due to severe thunderstorms that caused flooding inside the plant.

As reported by NPR, the company announced the pause in production in a statement on Wednesday, adding that it will re-sanitize the plant and production is likely to resume in a few weeks.

The company also added that the Food and Drug Administration will conduct comprehensive testing to ensure the facility is safe to resume production.

This comes after the head of the FDA had to testify about a series of setbacks that led to the months-long delay in inspecting the plant months ago, when it was at the center of a nationwide baby formula shortage.

Wednesday, June 15

Updated at 1:16 p.m - FDA approves COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months

A committee of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend that the agency authorize COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for children as young as 6 months, as reported by NPR.

The committee's recommendations, in a pair of 21-0 votes, pave the way for the FDA to make COVID-19 vaccines available to immunize the last group of people to become eligible for them. The agency is expected to authorize the vaccines soon.

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9:35 a.m.: FDA weighing in on COVID-19 vaccines for younger children

U.S. government advisers met Wednesday to decide whether to endorse COVID-19 shots for the youngest children, moving the nation closer to vaccinations for all ages.

Kids under 5 are the last remaining age group to get vaccinated, according to the Associated Press. Many parents have been anxiously waiting months for regulators to act.

An independent advisory committee is hearing presentations from Moderna and Pfizer at an all-day meeting before voting on whether to recommend Food and Drug Administration authorization.

If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later recommends the shots, they could be available early next week.

9:51 a.m.: US Representative says country failed to prevent COVID-19 funds fraud

The head of a congressional panel says the U.S. failed to take basic steps at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to prevent fraud in a federal aid program intended to help small businesses.

As reported by the Associated Press, Rep. James Clyburn on Tuesday blamed the Trump administration for problems in the COVDI-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program amid revelations that tens of billions of dollars may have been awarded to fraudsters.

That’s about 20% of all of the program’s money.

The program is overseen by the Small Business Administration, whose inspector general says there was a struggle at the agency about the “need for speed versus the need for controls.”

Clyburn said the Biden administration has implemented measures to identify potential fraud and directed loan officers to address indications of fraud before approving loans. Congress has also invested into fraud prevention and accountability.

Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, said the Trump administration and Congress worked together at the start of the pandemic when uncertainty was rampant to deliver “much needed relief as fast as we could to help save as many jobs as we could.”

Scalise said Democrats are undermining the successes of the program under the previous administration.

The SBA’s Office of the Inspector General has estimated that at least $80 billion distributed from the $400 billion program could have been fraudulent, much of it in scams using stolen identities.

A recently issued report found that some 1.6 million loan applications may have been approved without being evaluated.

9:10 a.m.: FDA backs Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for older children

A government advisory panel has endorsed a second brand of COVID-19 vaccine for school-aged children and teens, according to the Associated Press.

The expert panel agreed on Tuesday that the vaccine made by Moderna is safe and effective enough to give to U.S. kids ages 6 to 17. A vaccine made by Pfizer has been available since last year for those ages.

The Food and Drug Administration will consider the panel’s advice and decide whether to authorize the shots. The same FDA panel will meet Wednesday to consider shots from Moderna and Pfizer for the littlest kids, those under 5.

Tuesday, June 14

9:56 a.m.: Las Vegas health experts recommend residents, visitors to mask indoors again

With COVID-19 cases rising again, the public health agency for metro Las Vegas is advising a return to wearing masks in public, indoor settings, according to the Associated Press.

The Southern Nevada Health District said in a news release on Friday that Clark County is at a “high community level” of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave Clark County the designation based on recent rates of hospital admissions and bed occupancies for COVID-19.

To help slow the virus’ spread, the health district this week also launched two vending machines carrying self-test kits. One machine is at the Regional Transportation Commission’s Bonneville Transit center. The other is at Mesa View Regional Hospital.

9:52 a.m.: North Korea plans crackdown as Kim pushes for internal unity

North Korea's state media say leader Kim Jong Un and his top deputies are pushing for a crackdown on officials who abuse their power and commit other "unsound and non-revolutionary acts."

The comments come as Kim has been seeking greater internal unity to overcome a COVID-19 outbreak and economic difficulties, as reported by the Associated Press.

It's not clear what specific acts are being alleged, but a possible crackdown could be an attempt to solidify Kim's control of his people. The official Korean Central News Agency said Monday that Kim had ordered the authority of various disciplinary bodies be bolstered.

Kim has previously described shortcomings in North Korea's pandemic response that led to the country's first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak.

9:36 a.m.: Virus cluster shuts down Shanghai again

China’s capital has put schools back online in one of its major districts amid a new COVID-19 outbreak linked to a nightclub.

According to the Associated Press, a total of 228 cases have been linked to the Heaven Supermarket club in the downtown Workers Stadium nightlife area after an infected person visited there on Thursday.

That prompted authorities in the sprawling Chaoyang district to put schools back online, with the exception of students taking middle and high school placement exams.

Meanwhile, life has yet to return to normal in the city of Shanghai despite the lifting of a more than two-month-long lockdown.

While 22 million Shanghai residents were released from lockdown almost two weeks ago, 220,000 people are still restricted to their homes and another 600,000 are restricted to their compounds.

Monday, June 13

10:07 a.m.: Baby formula plants weren’t inspected during the start of the pandemic

U.S. regulators have historically inspected baby formula plants at least once a year, but they did not inspect any of the three biggest manufacturers in 2020 — that’s according to federal records reviewed by the Associated Press.

The FDA has consistently inspected infant formula facilities annually, but in early 2020, the FDA pulled most of its safety inspectors from the field because of the pandemic. So it skipped thousands of routine plant inspections.

The baby formula plant inspection gap is getting new scrutiny from Congress and government watchdogs. That’s because one Michigan factory had to be closed for contamination, turning a supply shortage into a full-blown crisis that sent parents scrambling to find formula.

9:13 a.m.: FDA says new Pfizer shots for children appear to be effective

A review by federal health officials says that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appears safe and effective for children under 5, the only group not currently eligible for vaccination.

As reported by the Associated Press, the latest review from the Food and Drug Administration is a key step toward an expected decision to begin vaccinating babies, toddlers and preschoolers as soon as June 21.

Parents have been waiting months to protect America’s youngest children, who number roughly 18 million.

On Wednesday, the FDA will ask an outside panel of experts to vote on whether to recommend the shots.

8:47 a.m.: New Jersey man caught selling unregistered pesticides under guise of combating COVID-19

A New Jersey man has admitted to illegally selling unregistered pesticides as a COVID-19 defense to government and municipal entities.

According to the Associated Press, Paul Andrecola pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court in Camden to wire fraud and other charges.

A criminal complaint alleges the 63-year-old Burlington County man made and sold pesticides that weren’t registered with the EPA as required. The pesticides also weren’t on the EPA’s list of products deemed effective against COVID-19.

Andreola and others allegedly put another company’s EPA registration numbers on his product and sold them to federal and local entities for $2.7 million.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 11.

Friday, June 10

10:28 a.m.: Air travelers into the US won’t have to test for COVID-19 starting Sunday

The Biden administration plans to drop the requirement for air travelers coming to the United States to test negative for COVID-19 before departure, starting on Sunday, as reported by NPR.

According to an official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the requirement is no longer needed and will lift on Sunday, June 12 at 12:01 a.m. ET.

Since December, travelers have had to present a negative COVID-19 test results taken no more than a day before departure or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days.

However, the CDC said it’ll reassess the decision in 90 days and could reinstate it if a new variant of concern developed.

9:39 a.m.: FDA hearings to decide the fates of vaccinations for kids

Next week brings a marathon of hearings as the U.S. decides whether to open COVID-19 vaccinations to kids younger than 5, as reported by the Associated Press.

On Wednesday, both Moderna and Pfizer will argue their case. Each company aims to offer a different dose and number of shots.

If the Food and Drug Administration authorizes one or both types of shots, there will still be another question — should young children get vaccinated or just those at high risk?

Kids under 5 are the only group not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S.

If all the steps fall into place, the shots should be available later this month.

9:25 a.m.: Small businesses are facing a ‘summer of uncertainty’

Small businesses that depend on outdoor crowds and free-spending tourists aren’t sure what to expect this summer.

Consumers likely have a lot of pent-up demand after more than two years of the pandemic. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Travel Association predicts travel spending will be slightly above pre-pandemic levels.

But consumers are also facing some significant financial headwinds. Inflation is making day-to-day living more expensive, which could leave less money for discretionary spending.

Gas prices are up more than 60% from a year ago and hotel rooms and airfare are pricier as well, putting pressure on travel budgets.

COVID-19 still remains a looming presence.

Thursday, June 9

9:53 a.m.: New Novavax COVID-19 vaccine may be an option for those with religious concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine that could soon win federal authorization may offer a booster for the U.S. military: an opportunity to get shots into some of the thousands of service members who have refused the other coronavirus vaccines for religious reasons.

Already, at least 175 active duty and reserve service members have received the Novavax vaccine, according to the Associated Press.

Some have traveled overseas at their own expense to get it.

The Novavax vaccine meets the Defense Department's requirements because it has the World Health Organization's emergency use approval and is used in Europe and other regions.

Military officials say many troops who refuse the shots cite certain COVID-19 vaccines’ remote connections to fetal tissue.

Lab-grown cell lines descended from fetuses from decades ago were used in some early-stage testing of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and to grow viruses used to manufacture the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The vaccines do not contain fetal cells.

Novavax says that “no human fetal-derived cell lines or tissue” were used in the development, manufacture or production of its vaccine.

9:33 a.m.: WHO says COVID-19 origins are still unclear

Experts drafted by the World Health Organization to help investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, further research is needed to determine how COVID-19 first began.

As reported by the Associated Press, the WHO say they need a more detailed analysis of the possibility it was a laboratory accident. That request makes a sharp reversal of the U.N. health agency’s initial assessment of the pandemic’s origins.

The WHO concluded last year that it was “extremely unlikely” that COVID-19 might have spilled into humans from a lab.

In a report released Thursday, WHO’s expert group said “key pieces of data” are still missing to help scientists understand how the pandemic began.

9:22 a.m.: Virus testing pop-ups are the new normal in China as a part of its 'zero-COVID' strategy

Thousands of coronavirus testing sites have popped up on sidewalks across Beijing and other Chinese cities in the latest development in the country’s “zero-COVID” strategy, according to the Associated Press.

Regular testing of residents is becoming the new normal as the Chinese Communist Party sticks steadfastly to the “zero-COVID” approach that is increasingly at odds with the rest of the world.

The move follows a recent outbreak in Shanghai that spread so widely that authorities locked down the entire city for two months to end it.

Authorities have decided that early detection is needed if they’re going to control omicron outbreaks without extreme measures that cause major economic disruption.

Wednesday, June 8

9:43 a.m.: FDA to approve more traditional vaccine, Novavax, as fouth COVID-19 shot option

A more traditional kind of COVID-19 vaccine is a step closer to becoming the fourth option for U.S. adults.

According to the Associated Press, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted Tuesday to recommend authorization of shots made by Novavax.

It’s a protein vaccine, a more conventional technology than the dominant Pfizer and Moderna shots and the lesser-used Johnson & Johnson option.

If the FDA ultimately agrees, the Novavax shots could be an option for adults who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated.

The company eventually hopes to offer its shots as a booster, like they’re used in some other countries.

9:34 a.m.: Moderna says updated COVID-19 vaccine offers even better protection against omicron

Moderna says its experimental COVID-19 vaccine that combines its original shot with protection against the omicron variant appears to work, according to the Associated Press.

COVID-19 vaccine makers are studying updated boosters that might be offered in the fall.

Moderna says its combination booster candidate increased omicron-fighting antibodies more than just another dose of the original.

Today’s vaccines still offer strong protection against COVID-19 hospitalization and death, but protection against milder infections wanes, especially as the virus continues to mutate. Health authorities are considering whether to order a change in the vaccine recipe.

Moderna announced its preliminary study results on Wednesday.

9:15 a.m.: New Hampshire vaccine protesters who shut down meeting won’t face charges

New Hampshire’s attorney general says he won’t bring criminal charges against protesters who disrupted an executive council meeting in September before it began and forced its postponement.

As reported by the Associated Press, angry opponents of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate moved around the room at St. Anselm College on Sept. 29.

They shouted “shut it down” before the meeting could get underway. Attorney General John Formella said Tuesday that the state would not have been able to prove any potential criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

The postponement delayed a council vote on $27 million in federal aid to boost New Hampshire’s vaccination efforts.

Tuesday, June 7

9:44 a.m.: An FAQ for some of your questions about COVID-19 reinfection

Here’s a scenario — let’s say you got sick with COVID-19 back in January, so you figured you were done with the virus for a while.

But then you began feeling a scratchy throat, a runny nose and more, so you took an at-home test just in case. You’ve just tested positive for COVID-19 again.

You may be wondering, how could this happen? Is it possible to get COVID again just a few months or weeks after recovering from a case?

NPR asked four specialists to answer some frequently asked questions about reinfection.

Two things they found: Newer omicron variants are more transmissible and make reinfection more likely than earlier in the pandemic, but vaccination can also help prevent reinfection.

9:31 a.m.: Special Olympics drops COVID-19 vaccination requirement after threatened with fines

The Special Olympics has dropped a coronavirus vaccine mandate for its games in Orlando after Florida moved to fine the organization $27.5 million for violating a state law against such requirements.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis recently announced the organization had removed the requirement for its competition in the state, which is scheduled to run from June 5 to June 12.

The Florida health department notified the Special Olympics in a letter Thursday that the organization would be fined $27.5 million for 5,500 violations of state law for requiring proof of coronavirus vaccination for attendees or participants.

9:12 a.m.: Beijing restaurants and shops reopen as COVID-19 cases fall

Diners are returning to restaurants in most of Beijing for the first time in more than a month as authorities further ease pandemic-related restrictions.

According to the Associated Press, the move comes after a small COVID-19 outbreak in the capital was largely eradicated under China’s strict “zero-COVID” approach.

Museums, cinemas and gyms are allowed to operate at up to 75% of capacity and delivery drivers can once again bring packages to a customer’s door.

The Community Party remains wedded to a “zero-COVID” strategy that exacts an economic cost and keeps people in their homes, even as many other countries take a more relaxed approach.

Monday, June 6

1:04 p.m. Sacramento County continues to 'strongly recommend' but not require masking

Sacramento County health officials continue to advise all people to wear masks in indoor public places as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increase in the region, but will not be requiring it.

"We continue to follow state guidance and strongly recommend masking," Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said Monday. "Businesses can choose to make masking mandatory, especially if they have a lot of interaction with the general public or if they are seeing an increase in cases among employees or if they have an outbreak."

Last week the county was placed in the highest COVID-19 risk level by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as cases and hospitalizations continued to increase. In what's known as the "high" community level, the CDC recommends that all people wear masks in indoor public spaces.

As of Friday, 167 patients were in hospitals in the county with COVID-19, including 21 in the ICU. Kasirye said that while hospitalizations are high, they are far below the peaks earlier this year.

The county saw many of its highest numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the first months of 2022, including 657 patients on January 25, the county’s all-time highest number since the start of the pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 297,787 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,052 deaths in Sacramento County.

Kasirye said she's hopeful that those figures may soon plateau but that summer travel and other gatherings mean residents should still be careful.

"There are some early indications that there may be a slowdown, but it's too early to tell," she said.

"Of course, our hope is that we are getting to the peak of this recent surge and that we will start seeing a decline. But … with [an] increase in travel, there is that increased risk of exposure, so people do need to be careful. People do need to continue wearing masks."

10:05 a.m.: Sacramento City schools mask mandate starts today

The Sacramento City Unified School District is reinstating an indoor masking mandate, according to the Associated Press.

The district suggested that students resume wearing masks on Friday as a soft start to the renewed masking requirement that takes effect today.

The move comes amid a rising tide of COVID-19 cases in California. The school district announced the move Thursday when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved Sacramento County into the “high” level of community transmission.

Alameda County became the first county in the state to reinstate indoor masking requirements, and last month UCLA and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo were among schools returning to masking requirements.

9:50 a.m.: First shots for children under 5 may be here as soon as June 21

The Biden administration says children under 5 may be able to get their first COVID-19 vaccination doses as soon as June 21 if federal regulators authorize shots for the age group as expected.

As reported by the Associated Press, White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha outlined the administration’s planning for the last remaining ineligible age group to get the shots.

He says the Food and Drug Administration's outside panel of advisers will meet on June 14-15 to evaluate the Pfizer and Moderna shots for younger kids.

Shipments to doctors’ offices and pediatric care facilities would begin soon after FDA authorization, with the first shots possible the following week.

9:39 a.m.: US Interior Secretary tests positive for COVID-19

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms, according to the Associated Press.

The Interior Department says Haaland is isolating in Nevada, where she took part in a roundtable discussion last Tuesday about clean energy production on public lands.

The agency says Haaland began experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus on Wednesday and tested positive.

She has canceled further travel around the U.S. West and is working remotely. The Interior Department says the 61-year-old Haaland is confident she’ll recover quickly as she’s fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots.

Friday, June 3

8:59 a.m.: Indoor masking returns to several California school districts

School districts across California are reinstating indoor mask policies as COVID-19 hospitalizations steadily increase in the nation’s most populous state.

Daily new hospital admissions of patients with COVID have exceeded last’s summer peak, according to the Associated Press.

The Sacramento City Unified School District will require masks indoors starting Monday for all students and staff.

This change comes only 45 days since the district originally dropped its indoor mask requirement on April 18, despite being one of the last California districts to do so. California dropped its state school mask mandate for K-12 students on March 12.

SCUSD isn’t the only district reinstating masking rules. Alameda County Unified School District is reinstating its mask rules starting Friday at midnight. It’s the first in the county to bring masking rules back.

Alameda County is also reinstating a county-wide indoor mask policy.

Statewide hospitalizations topped 2,500 after falling below 1,000 at the lowest point in April.

8:35 a.m.: First shots for children under 5 may be rolling out by the end of June

The Biden administration says children under 5 may be able to get their first COVID-19 vaccination doses as soon as June 21 if federal regulators authorize shots for the age group as expected.

According to the Associated Press, White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha outlined the administration’s planning Thursday for the last remaining ineligible age group to get shots.

He said the Food and Drug Administration’s outside panel of advisers will meet on June 14-15 to evaluate the Pfizer and Moderna shots for younger kids.

Shipments to doctors’ offices and pediatric care facilities would begin soon after FDA authorization, with the first shots possible the following week.

Thursday, June 2

4:16 p.m.: Sacramento moved in CDC's highest COVID-19 level with 12 other California counties

Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo counties were placed in the highest COVID-19 community level by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Thursday as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in the region.

Overall, 13 California counties moved into the CDC's "high" community level. The measurement tracks the impact of COVID-19 on a community, and is based on a combination of case rates, hospitalization rates and the percentage of hospital beds used by COVID-19 patients.

Over the past week, Sacramento County recorded 283 new COVID-19 cases and 12.1 COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people. The limit to stay in the CDC's low tier is 200 cases and 10 hospitalizations.

The other California counties in the high tier are Del Norte, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma.

At the high community level, the CDC recommends all people wear masks indoors in public places, stay up to date on vaccinations (including booster shots if you are eligible), and get tested if they have symptoms

The Sacramento City Unified School District has said it will return to universal masking if the county moved to the high community level. Sacramento County health officilas have not yet responed to questions about if they will change any COVID-19 policies.

9:42 a.m.: Some local governments turning down $73 million in federal pandemic relief funds

Local governments across the U.S. have turned down a potential total of $73 million in federal pandemic relief funds.

An Associated Press analyst found that 1,468 smaller cities, towns, villages and counties effectively said “no” to their share of the American Rescue Plan.

Some local officials told the AP they had no need for the money. Others said they didn't want the hassle of dealing with the federal government.

In a few cases, some expressed political opposition to the relief package enacted last year by the Democratic-led Congress and President Joe Biden.

The rejected money amounts to a small percentage of the $350 billion of government aid.

9:34 a.m.: Latest COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax, hopes to win out vaccine holdouts

Americans may soon get a new COVID-19 vaccine option — a more traditional kind of shot known as a protein vaccine.

According to the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration is evaluating the vaccine made by Novavax. It’s late in the pandemic for a new choice, but with millions still unvaccinated or needing boosters, the Maryland-based company is hoping to find a niche.

The vaccine is made very differently from the widely used Pfizer and Moderna shots. Novavax’s COVID-19 shots are authorized in numerous other countries, but U.S. clearance is a key hurdle.

9:10 a.m.: Brace yourself for sticker shock if you’re traveling this summer

If you haven’t booked your summer vacation plans, you’re already too late to snag the best deals, according to travel experts.

Airfares are up, hotel rates are up, and airlines are bracing for a big summer, as reported by the Associated Press.

High prices are not the only thing travelers need to worry about.

Airlines have thousands fewer employees than they did before the pandemic, which means they could struggle to handle the expected crowds. During Memorial Day weekend, United Airlines canceled 2% or 2,800 flights from that Thursday to Monday.

Delta canceled 800 flights and said it faced several issues, with rising COVID-19 cases among staff being one of them.

Despite all of this, consumers seem to be burnt out from pandemic fatigue and seem to be taking it all in stride. Airlines say bookings are running at record levels, and spending on U.S. flights is running ahead of 2019 levels.

Wednesday, June 1

9:48 a.m.: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has reinstated indoor masking

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has reinstated indoor masking due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, as reported by the Associated Press.

The decisions taking effect on Tuesday cover all campus facilities and applies to all students, employees and visitors regardless of vaccination status.

A university statement says the numbers are not on the order of what was seen during the worst of the winter omicron surge, but they are still concerning from a health and safety standpoint.

The mandate had previously been lifted in February.

9:23 a.m.: Political gridlock could delay COVID-19 funds until fall or later

The Biden administration foresees unnecessary deaths if lawmakers don’t approve billions of dollars more to brace for the pandemic’s next wave, yet the push to provide the money is in limbo in Congress.

It’s the latest victim of election-year gridlock that’s already stalled or killed a host of Democratic priorities, according to the Associated Press.

President Joe Biden’s request for funds for vaccines, testing and treatments has run into opposition from Republicans.

The GOP has also complicated the election-year fight by fusing it with the politically precarious issue of immigration. If the issue isn’t resolved soon, the next best chance of handling it may not come until the fall.

9:14 a.m.: WHO greenlights China’s CanSino vaccine for emergency use

The World Health Organization has granted an emergency use authorization for the coronavirus vaccine made by China’s CanSino Biologics.

According to the Associated Press, it’s the 11th coronavirus vaccine to receive WHO’s greenlight.

In a statement on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said the single-dose vaccine was found to be about 92% effective against severe COVID-19 and 64% effective in preventing people from getting symptoms.

WHO’s expert vaccine group recommends the CanSino vaccine for everyone 18 and over.

Last year, China’s top infectious disease official acknowledged that the country’s vaccines offered low protection against COVID-19 and that mixing them with booster doses of messenger RNA vaccines might be needed.

Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here


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