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Memorial Day events facing fewer restrictions this year; Kate Middleton, Britain’s future queen, gets jabbed: COVID-19 updates



Americans will be able to pay Memorial Day tributes to fallen troops on Monday in ways that were impossible last year, when virus restrictions were in effect in many places.

It will also be a day to remember the tens of thousands of veterans who died from COVID-19, and to recommit to vaccinating those who remain reluctant. Department of Veterans Affairs data shows more than 12,000 vets have died and more than 2.5 million have been inoculated.

The isolation of the pandemic has also been particularly hard on veterans, many of whom depend on kinship with fellow service members to cope with wartime trauma, says Jeremy Butler, a 47-year-old Navy Reserve officer in New York who heads the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“We’re reuniting now, but it’s been an extremely challenging year,” he said. “To have those connections cut off … those are so important to maintaining mental health.”

Also in the news:

►A fired Florida Health Department employee has received whistleblower status a year after being accused of repeatedly violating the agency’s policy about communicating with the media. Rebekah Jones, had raised questions about Florida’s data.

►Veteran Bill Swetow, 102, compares World War II service to the campaign to vaccinate Americans. “When our nation needed us and Uncle Sam came calling, we answered,” veteran Bill Swetow says in the video released Saturday by New York’s Ulster County. “And over 75 years later, we are at another moment where we need every American to do their part.”

►More than half the population of Massachusetts is now fully vaccinated from COVID-19, according to public health data.

? Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 594,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 170 million cases and 3.5 million deaths. More than 134 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 40.5% of the population.

? What we’re reading: COVID-19 cases spiking again at some ICE detention centers. Critics say ICE failed to vaccinate detainees.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Future queen of England gets first jab

The Duchess of Cambridge has received her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as Britain extends its inoculation program to younger residents. The wife of Prince William formerly known as Kate Middleton, 39, received her shot at London’s Science Museum, a mass vaccination center near the couple’s home at Kensington Palace. Middleton got her shot Friday, a few weeks after her husband, Prince William, who contracted COVID-19 last year. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles are among other members of the royal family who received shots publicly to promote vaccinations. Britain is among world leaders in vaccinations.

“I’m hugely grateful to everyone who is playing a part in the rollout – thank you for everything you are doing,” she wrote on social media accounts.

Bad weather greets NJ’s ‘Shots at the Shore’ campaign

New Jersey’s “Shots At The Shore” campaign offering free vaccinations Saturday and Sunday at Sandy Hook, Long Branch and Asbury Park beaches drew no favors from the weather. This was also the first weekend after the mask mandate was lifted and social distancing requirements were all but gone, and millions in the state were vaccinated and ready to enjoy the outdoors. But Saturday and Sunday were rainy and chilly, dampening hopes for revelry as summer neared. Beaches were quiet and the anticipated buzz at local eateries was subdued.

“Yesterday was just OK,” said Jan Dorsey, manager of Pop’s Garage and the Asbury Park Yacht Club, two Boardwalk eateries. “On a normal weekend it is slammed crowded.”

Joe Strupp, Asbury Park Press

Mandatory vaccines for universities comes under scrutiny

About 400 or so colleges plan to require that students who wish to learn in-person be vaccinated. But that demand could clash with Republican lawmakers. The state of Indiana recently passed a law that prohibits the use of “vaccine passports.” Indiana University argued the law doesn’t apply to the university, but the state’s attorney general disagreed. So far, the university is sticking by its vaccine requirement, even as conservative lawmakers continue to call on it to drop the mandate. This could be a recurring theme as the new school year approaches.

Chris Quintana

Can your boss require you to be vaccinated? Yep.

Businesses can require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 without violating federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws, the agency says. Businesses can also offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated or to provide documentation of vaccination “as long as the incentives are not coercive,” the EEOC said in a statement. The updated EEOC guidance indicates employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who don’t get vaccinated because of a disability, religious beliefs or pregnancy.

Julia Thompson

Nearly 60,000 Arkansas coronavirus doses near expiration

Nearly 60,000 doses of Arkansas’ allotment of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine are nearing their expiration date and would have to be discarded if not used by the end of June, according to a state health official. The Johnson & Johnson doses administered so far include 11,150 given May 1 through Friday – an average of fewer than 400 per day, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“What we have done is move them around,” to various vaccination sites, “so that the earlier expiring doses get used,” state epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “States everywhere are in a similar situation where they’re not ordering doses.”

Vietnam says new variant is highly contagious

Vietnam has detected a new coronavirus variant that lab tests say might spread more easily than other virus variants, Vietnamese Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said. Scientists who examined the genetic makeup of the virus say the variant is a hybrid of strains first found in India and the UK, Long said. Long said the new variant may be responsible for a surge in cases in Vietnam as the country has confirmed more than 3,500 new cases and 12 deaths in the last few weeks. The surge has prompted nationwide bans on religious events and other large gatherings, as well as the closing of public parks and non-essential businesses such as restaurants, bars, clubs and spas.

Tennessee hat shop under fire for Star of David ‘Not Vaccinated” patch

A Nashville, Tennessee, hat seller removed an Instagram post after fueling social media controversy for selling a patch that looks like the Jewish Star of David. HatWRKS, run by hatmaker Gigi Gaskins, posted a photo of a woman wearing a bright yellow star sticker with the words: “Not Vaccinated.” Social media users responded with the hashtag #HateWorks, calling the patch antisemitic and “disgusting.” The original Instagram post had thousands of comments before being taken down.

About 6 million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, when Nazis forced Jews to identify themselves by wearing a yellow six-pointed star. The business responded with an Instagram statement saying it did not mean to minimize the horrors of the holocaust.

– Sandy Mazza, Nashville Tennessean

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID news: Kate Middleton vaccinated; Memorial Day restrictions

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November saw fewer Covid deaths in Pimpri-Chinchwad, zero fatalities on eight days



Even as two passengers from Pimpri-Chinchwad who returned from high-risk countries have tested positive for Covid, the month of November brought some relief to the industrial city as it witnessed fewer deaths due to infectious disease compared to the last few months.

According to PCMC health officials, 22 citizens succumbed to Covid-19 in November, the lowest figure in the last four months. In August, 54 died while in September, the figure was 39. In October, the deaths doubled as 83 lost their lives.

According to health officials, in the month of November, on at least 8 days, Pimpri-Chinchwad did not register a single death. “Otherwise, mostly the city registered a solitary death on most days,” officials said.

The first Covid death was registered last year on April 11. To date, there have been 4,511 related deaths in the industrial city.

The health officials said the Covid positivity rate has also gone down considerably in the month of November. “The COVID positivity rate is now below one per cent,” said Dr Laxman Gofane, medical officer. The current positivity rate is 0.78 per cent and the overall positivity rate is 12.67 per cent.

Officials said vaccination has also picked momentum with 25 lakh citizens so far receiving either first or both vaccine doses. Every day 10-15,000 citizens are receiving their vaccine doses at 200 civic and private vaccination centres.

Besides, in November, more patients recovered than the number of those admitted.

Municipal Commissioner Rajesh Patil said, “Since last one month, Covid deaths and positivity rate have come down. However, citizens should continue to observe Covid appropriate behaviour. Wearing mask, maintaining social distancing and washing hands regularly is essential to keep COVID at bay.”

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Internet swoons over Joe Biden’s bodyguard, comparing him to Tom Cruise in Top Gun



Joe Biden’s security team is making headlines across the globe — but not for any act of bravery.

A member of his security detail took the attention off the US President during his Thanksgiving trip to Nantucket, thanks to his dashing good looks and striking similarity to a Hollywood superstar.

The unknown agent, who has been dubbed the “Tom Cruise” of the secret service, has now gone viral after footage of him was posted on social media.

The video, posted by TikTok user @life_with_Matt, has already notched up more than 400,000 views.

“Forget about the President, the Secret Service be looking fine,” he wrote on the video caption.

Other TikTok users seemed to agree, posting hundreds of comments, before they were promptly turned off.

However the video was reposted by another user, who left the comments on.

“Defending the nation with hotness,” one person wrote.

“That man is too fine,” wrote another.

Joe Biden’s security team is making headlines across the globe — but not for any act of bravery.
Camera IconJoe Biden’s security team is making headlines across the globe — but not for any act of bravery. Credit: TikTok

Another said: “I am a heterosexual man but this video made me feel things.”

The agent, casually dressed in khaki pants, a knit sweater, a black trench coat, and classic black Wayfarers, drew just as many comparisons to Tom Cruise.

“He’s conveying Tom Cruise to me in Top Gun vibes,” noted one fan.

The Bidens are back at the White House but visited the tiny Massachusetts island at the weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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omicron: Japan starts booster Covid-19 vaccinations amid omicron scare



TOKYO: Japan on Wednesday started offering coronavirus vaccine booster shots to health care workers amid growing concerns over a new variant of the virus that has already been detected in the country.
Japan’s initial vaccination drive kicked off in mid-February and some medical workers who received jabs more than nine months ago are now eager to get additional protection ahead of a possible next wave of infections especially after the new variant known as omicron, which was first reported in South Africa last week, was found in Japan on Tuesday.
At Tokyo Medical Center, a group of nurses and doctors received booster shots.
“It’s an important first step for our patients and their families to be treated with a sense of safety,” said hospital chief Kazuhiro Araki.
Even though vaccine efficacy against the new variant is still being examined, booster shots are important, Araki said, because the vaccines remain effective against other strains of the virus, including delta, which put heavy pressure on Japan’s health care systems this summer.
In principle, those who received their second shot eight months ago are eligible for a third shot to prevent breakthrough infections. Eligibility may be shortened to six months if there is a resurgence of infections, officials said.
Japan’s vaccination rollout got off to a slow start but surged from late May onward and now about 77% of the population has been fully vaccinated a main reason experts cite for Japan’s steady slowing of infections since September.
Booster shots for elderly people, who received their initial inoculations starting in April, are expected to begin in January.
The booster vaccination drive began amid a global scare over the new variant. The first case of omicron in Japan was detected Tuesday in a Namibian diplomat who recently arrived from that country.
Japan banned all foreign visitors starting Tuesday as an emergency precaution against the new variant. The ban tentatively extends through the end of the year. The government is also requiring Japanese nationals arriving in the country to quarantine for up to 14 days.
The World Health Organization warned Monday that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on the early evidence, saying it could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”

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