Pfizer, health officials to meet about vaccine booster shots; California to require face masks at schools: Latest COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Representatives from Pfizer and federal health officials, who sent out conflicting signals about the need for vaccine booster shots, are planning to meet as soon as Monday, according to Reuters.

Last week, the American pharmaceutical giant and its partner BioNTech said they would pursue U.S. and European regulatory approval for a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, given the spread of variants and data they said showed diminished vaccine potency six months after the initial shots.

On Sunday, Israel’s health ministry announced that it would begin offering booster shots to adults with weakened immune systems who already had two doses of the vaccine, amid a surge there. 

“There’s a lot of work going on to examine this in real-time to see if we might need a boost. But right now, given the data that the CDC and the FDA has, they don’t feel that we need to tell people right now you need to be boosted,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top Biden administration adviser, said Sunday on CNN in response to the news.

Also in the news:

►The US is averaging about 19,455 new cases over the last seven days, a 47% increase from the week prior, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And 43 states saw an increase in COVID-19 cases last week from the week before, a sign that the pandemic is far from over in the United States. More than 99% of deaths are now among people who have not been vaccinated.

►The chairman of the Miami-Dade county commission has tested positive for coronavirus, about four months after he was fully vaccinated. Jose Diaz has been a frequent presence at the Surfside condo collapse site, raising questions about exposure at the site, reported the Miami Herald.

►India has already reported more than twice as many COVID-19 cases in 2021 as it had all of last year, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.

►The mayors of two Tokyo islands have asked the metropolitan government to take the planned Olympic torch relay off public roads amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

►Hospitalizations have continued to decrease in Wisconsin as more residents receive vaccines. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has remained under 100 for more than two weeks.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 33.85 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 607,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 186.74 million cases and more than 4 million deaths. Nearly 159.2 million Americans — 48% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re reading: As many adolescents and young adults prepare to return to the classroom in the fall term amid the spread of the delta variant, the lagging vaccination rate among Generation Z is raising concerns among experts.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

California to require face masks at schools this fall, diverging from CDC

California will require that masks be worn at schools when classrooms open this fall, despite new guidance issued Friday from the CDC that says vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear face coverings inside school buildings.

Ahead of new school guidelines expected next week, health officials in California said Friday that requiring face coverings will allow all schools to reopen this fall for full in-person instruction. California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that not all schools can accommodate physical distancing of at least 3 feet or more, so the best preventive measure is wearing masks indoors.

“We believe that with masking and with testing, we can get kids back to in-person 100% in our schools,” Ghaly said.

Ghaly noted the CDC guidance released Friday says that when it is not possible to maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance, “it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.”

California’s decision around schools comes as districts across the state prepare to open next month for full-time learning and the state continues to encourage residents, including kids as young as 12 years old, to get vaccinated.

– Stockton Record

Bonus pay for essential workers varied widely across states

For putting their health on the line during the coronavirus pandemic, prison guards in Missouri got an extra $250 per paycheck. Teachers in Georgia received $1,000 bonuses. And in Vermont, nurses, janitors, retail workers and many others got as much as $2,000.

Over the past year, about one-third of U.S. states have used federal COVID-19 relief aid to reward workers considered essential who dutifully reported to jobs during the pandemic. But who qualified for those bonuses — and how much they received — varied widely, according to an Associated Press review. While some were paid thousands of dollars, others with similar jobs elsewhere received nothing.

As society reopens, momentum to provide pandemic hazard pay appears to be fading — even though the federal government has broadened the ability of state and local governments to provide retroactive pay under a $350 billion aid package enacted by President Joe Biden in March.

So far, only a few states have committed to paying workers extra with money from the American Rescue Plan.

Contributing: The Associated Press.