COVID-19 and work: 3 lasting changes employees could see at the office
Here are three big changes employees can expect as they go back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staff Video, USA TODAY
Amid intensifying calls for wealthy nations to share their COVID vaccine surplus with the rest of the world, the U.S. is poised to step up big time.
President Joe Biden will announce the U.S. has purchased 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to donate to 92 low-income countries and the African Union, a person familiar with the plan told USA TODAY.
Biden is set to announce the donation Thursday in remarks at the Group of Seven summit in Britain. The doses will be distributed through the global vaccine alliance known as COVAX, with 200 million to be shared this year and the remaining 300 million to be donated through the first half of 2022, according to the person, who confirmed the report on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. has been under mounting pressure to step up efforts to share vaccines as need across the country begins to wane and more Americans are vaccinated. The administration had previously said it would give away 80 million vaccine doses by the end of this month, but this new commitment represents a six-fold increase.
The first allotment of those 80 million doses – a 25 million tranche – will go mostly to countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia and Africa.
Vaccine inequality has become an increasingly pressing concern, and the World Health Organization has warned of a “two-track pandemic” as wealthy nations inoculate large portions of their populations and developing countries are left exposed to the coronavirus’ ravages.
In a June 3 report, Oxfam International said that of the 1.77 billion doses administered worldwide to that point, 28% had gone to people in G7 nations and only 0.3% to low-income countries. Such disparity could prolong the pandemic and allow for dangerous variants to emerge as the virus continues to spread.
— Courtney Subramanian
Also in the news:
►India’s daily coronavirus infections have dropped below 100,000 for the first time in more than two months, as the monstrous surge that beset the country last month has receded.
►The highly transmissible delta variant now makes up 6% of infections in the United States, the Biden administration said.
►Several dozen staffers at Houston Methodist Hospital, which became the first major health care system in the U.S. to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, were suspended without pay this week for not complying with the hospital’s full vaccination requirement. The staffers represent less than 1% of the hospital’s roughly 26,000 employee workforce.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 598,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 174 million cases and over 3.75 million deaths. Nearly 140.4 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 42.3% of the population, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Summer vacation season is underway without a key element this year: packed flights between the United States and London because of COVID travel restrictions.
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Millions of children will participate in what’s expected to be the largest summer school program in history, powered by more than $1.2 billion in targeted post-pandemic assistance from the federal American Rescue Plan. But experts worry the students who would most benefit from extra tutoring won’t get it. Studies have shown students most needing help, typically Black or Latino kids from low-income families who were already being left behind academically before the pandemic – often because of socio-economic factors and systemic racism – are least likely to actually participate. And those who sign up often don’t attend consistently.
“The past many months have been full of trauma and heartbreak and stress,” said Austin Beutner, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. “We know one of the best places for kids to heal is schools, surrounded by support and their friends and the sense of community that only a school can provide.” Read more here.
– Trevor Hughes
A former pharmacist in Wisconsin who admitted trying to sabotage more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines at a time when demand for the shots was overwhelming has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton admitted after his arrest in December to intentionally removing the doses manufactured by Moderna from a refrigerator for hours at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton. He pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts of attempt to tamper with a consumer product.
His attorney, Jason Baltz, said Brandenburg was skeptical about vaccines in general after one of his daughters was diagnosed with eczema, a skin condition, following an inoculation at a young age.
Aurora destroyed most of the tampered doses, but not before 57 people – mostly Brandenburg’s co-workers – received inoculations from the supply. Those doses are believed to have still been effective, but weeks of uncertainty on that front created a storm of anger, anxiety and anguish among the recipients, according to court documents.
“The team is still very troubled,” said Michelle Blakely, president of the Aurora facility. “This has been absolutely devastating for the organization.”
– Elliot Hughes’ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
An analysis of data from Michigan and Minnesota – the only two states to provide detailed and comparable vaccine records in response to records requests from USA TODAY – reveals that Minnesota supercharged its health care system, dispersing doses to a wide network of doctor’s offices and hospitals across the state. Michigan, in an effort to equitably distribute vaccines to rich and poor alike, steered doses to public health departments that aimed to entice uninsured residents to mass vaccine events.
Not only did Michigan trail Minnesota’s overall vaccination rate through the end of March, it didn’t do any better at vaccinating poor minority residents. Dr. Bryan Jarabek, chief informatics officer at M Health Fairview in Minnesota, said all the hospitals in the state have clinics surrounding them.
“The hospitals and clinics are positioned to take care of the whole state,” he said. “We then showed that to the governor … and said, ‘You can trust us. Give us the vaccines. We will get it to the places that need it.’”
– Aleszu Bajak
Ohio crossed two COVID-19 milestones Tuesday, surpassing 20,000 deaths but also reporting the fewest number of people currently hospitalized statewide.
Only 503 COVID patients were being treated in Ohio hospitals Tuesday, the lowest number seen since the Ohio Hospital Association began collecting data in March 2020. That’s down from a high of 5,308 on Dec. 15, 2020, and 1,058 just one month ago.
After recording a high of 5,520 deaths in December, the state saw a decline in January and February as people in long-term care facilities got vaccinated. As of Tuesday, more than 46% of Ohio’s population had received at least one vaccine shot.
– Jackie Borchardt, Cincinnati Enquirer
Federal authorities are giving their blessing for Americans to visit our neighboring countries to the north and south, as long as travelers are vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised travel health notices for dozens of nations to a lower-risk tier, adjusting travel guidance for vaccinated Americans in the process. Among the 62 destinations that dropped from “COVID-19 very high” Level 4 tier to “COVID-19 high” Level 3 tier are Canada, Mexico, Japan, Italy, France and Germany.
The CDC recommends avoiding countries at Level 4 and says visitors to Level 3 nations should be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. It discourages nonessential travel to the latter group by those who are not vaccinated.
– Bailey Schulz
Fake COVID-19 vaccination cards are being sold online across various platforms, from Amazon to Telegram. Amazon has since taken down the vendor, but photos shared on Twitter show what was once live – a 10-pack of blank vaccination cards for $12.99. Some organizations and states created apps and digital passports to prove vaccination, but there is no widespread practice. Scammers are making use of the confusion to profit from the fake vaccination cards. Scammers have also found space on Telegram, the messaging service and app, to sell fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, BuzzFeed News found.
The FBI shared a public service announcement in March saying that it is illegal to make or buy the vaccination cards because it is a misuse of the official government agency’s seal. The agency also said it puts others at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Contributing: The Associated Press.