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Fully vaccinated people who meet certain criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The eased rules announced Wednesday start 14 days after the final vaccination dose and last for three months after that dose for people who show no symptoms. The latter timeframe could be extended as more is learned about the long-term impact of the vaccines. CDC notes that, although the risk of transmission from vaccinated people is still uncertain, vaccination has been demonstrated to prevent symptomatic COVID-19.

“Individual and societal benefits of avoiding unnecessary quarantine may outweigh the potential but unknown risk of transmission,” the CDC said.

Vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces and follow other guidelines for travel and other activities, the CDC said.

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In the headlines:

►Japan could waste 12 million Pfizer vaccine doses due to a shortage of special syringes capable of extracting more of the vaccine from vials. Japan secured doses for 72 million people based on the assumption that each vial could provide six shots. Health officials are scrambling to acquire more of the required syringes.

►Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute, Tulane University, LSU Health Shreveport and several other institutions said in a pre-publication report that 2020 Mardi Gras was responsible for tens of thousands of coronavirus cases after a single person likely brought it to New Orleans.

►The World Health Organization is recommending that the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford should still be used in countries where new variants of the coronavirus are circulating, even as South Africa halts use of the vaccine because of it ineffectiveness against the variants.

Story continues

►About 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll that some experts say is discouraging news if the U.S. hopes to achieve herd immunity and vanquish the outbreak. Many expressed doubts about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 27.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 471,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 107.4 million cases and 2.35 million deaths. More than 65.9 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 44.7 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: How much rent relief will you get amid the COVID-19 pandemic? You’re more likely to get help if you’re white and live in rural America. Read the full story.

Sidney Johnson receives the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Crystal Durocher, a registered nurse, on Wednesday at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, Vt.NBA’s Karl-Anthony Towns feels ‘guilty about the treatment I got’

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who lost his mother and six other family members to the coronavirus, on Wednesday played in his first NBA game since testing positive for COVID-19 less than a month ago.

“I had a lot of underlying conditions that didn’t play in my favor genetically,” Town said of his illness. “The amount of virus I had in my body was not healthy whatsoever.”

Towns said he shared similar genes to his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, who died on April 13 after receiving treatment in a medically induced coma and being connected to a ventilator. Towns, who donated $100,000 to the Mayo Clinic to support coronavirus testing efforts, expressed gratitude to frontline workers and described his survivor’s remorse. He said he felt “very guilty about the treatment I got. I feel it should be more widely available to Americans and anyone in the world.”

Mark Medina

40% of deaths could have been prevented

About 40% of the nation’s 470,000-plus coronavirus deaths could have been prevented if the United States’ average death rate matched other industrialized nations, a new report found. While the Lancet Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump era faulted former President Donald Trump’s “inept and insufficient” response, its report said roots of the nation’s poor health outcomes are much deeper. Commission co-chairs Dr. Steffie Woolhandler and Dr. David Himmelstein, longtime advocates for a single-payer health system such as Medicare for All, said the report published Thursday underscores decades of health, economic and social policies that have accelerated the nation’s disparities.

“The overriding thing that we need to do in our country is to decrease the huge and widening inequalities that have emerged in our nation,” Himmelstein said.

Ken Alltucker

Fauci: Plenty of vaccine will be available by spring

April will be “open season” for vaccinations in the U.S. and any adult will be able to get vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted Thursday. Fauci, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, said the rate of vaccinations is already accelerating. As production speeds up of the two authorized vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, and more come online, vaccines will quickly become more readily available, Fauci said.

“By the time we get to April it will be … open season, namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.” But Fauci said. He said it will take several more months to logistically deliver injections to adult Americans but predicted herd immunity could be achieved by late summer.

US death rate in decline

The United States reported 19,453 COVID-19 deaths in seven-day period ending Wednesday, the first time deaths were under the 20,000 mark in more than a month, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Deaths peaked at 23,541 in the week ending Jan. 14.

Cases in the United States have fallen to less than half of what they were in last month’s peak, and deaths follow case trends. But even with the declines, cases and deaths remain at high levels. The United States is still reporting more than 1 case every second, and cases are being reported about three times faster than they were in the relative lull before the fall surge. Deaths are still being reported four times faster.

In 2021 alone, the United States has reported more than 7.2 million new cases and 124,485 deaths.

– Mike Stucka

L.A. closing Dodger stadium vaccine site because of ‘unacceptable’ shortage

Los Angeles will temporarily close a majority of its vaccine sites on Friday and Saturday, including the megasite at Dodger Stadium, because of a shortage of shots. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the move in a video conference Wednesday, saying the city, among the hardest hit by the pandemic, only received 16,000 doses this week from the federal government.

“That is down 90,000 from the week before,” he said. “That is unacceptable.” The city expects to use all available Moderna vaccines for first-dose appointments this week by Thursday.

The White House did announce three new mass vaccination sites at sports stadiums in Texas that could deliver a total of 10,000 shots per day. The sites in Dallas, Arlington and Houston will be operated by local health officials supported by federal troops starting Feb. 22. The action comes days after the National Football League said it was working with public health officials to allow use of its stadiums for mass vaccinations, and Biden’s activation of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program as part of the coronavirus vaccine effort, enabling distribution to retail locations throughout the country.

Ohio to add up to 4K previously unreported COVID-19 deaths

Ohio will add as many as 4,000 previously unreported COVID-19 deaths to the state’s tally during the next week after the Ohio Department of Health discovered errors in how coronavirus deaths are confirmed. Most of these deaths occurred in November and December, the agency said in a news release. State officials were still determining the cause of the problem but released some information Wednesday evening to be transparent, Gov. Mike DeWine’s spokesman Dan Tierney said.

“When there’s been issues, whether it’s spoilage with the vaccine or reporting issues like this, we’ve disclosed it to the public,” Tierney said.

CDC recommends double or tight-fighting masks

Wearing a tight-fitting mask or a double mask can dramatically decrease exposure to and spread of COVID-19, a crucial defense against emerging new variations of the virus, the CDC reported Wednesday.

In lab tests with dummies, exposure to potentially infectious aerosols decreased by more than 90% when tight or double masks were used, the CDC said.

“Cases hospitalizations and deaths are still very high,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a White House coronavirus briefing. “Now is not the time to roll back mask requirements.”

US colleges struggle to contain COVID-19 spread

The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced this week that the campus is now considered “high risk” and all students, whether in campus residences halls or in off-campus housing in the surrounding area, are directed to self-sequester. Students must stay in their residences except to get meals, undergo twice-weekly COVID testing, or to attend medical appointments.

At the University of California Berkeley, a self-sequester mandate was extended through least Feb. 15. The rate of new cases is declining, but a “significant” number of students remain in quarantine, the school said on its website. It is too early to be sure this current surge is contained, the school said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine, CDC; New York

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