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A woman receives her second Covid-19 vaccine at a back-to-school clinic in South Gate, Los Angeles, California August 12, 2021. ― Reuters pic
A woman receives her second Covid-19 vaccine at a back-to-school clinic in South Gate, Los Angeles, California August 12, 2021. ― Reuters pic

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SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 13 ― At least three major US cities will require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms and other indoor venues, aiming to curb a new wave of Covid infections that has prompted public health mandates across the country.

San Francisco and New Orleans yesterday joined New York in mandating proof of vaccination in indoor public spaces. The New Orleans order, which goes into effect Monday, also allows people to submit proof that they tested negative for the virus within the past 72 hours.

The vaccine mandates in the three liberal cities have come as schools in some conservative states are fighting to require masks, going against their Republican governors’ orders.

The board of Houston’s public schools was expected to vote yesterday evening to defy a state ban on mask mandates, joining other districts in Texas and Florida requiring face coverings in classrooms to fight a surge of Covid-19 infections, despite threats from state leadership.

The measure is likely to pass, with a majority of board members expressing support for requiring masks in schools, the Houston Chronicle reported.

As the start of the academic year coincides with a dire new wave of Covid-19 cases, schools have quickly become the focal point of the nation’s political fight over masking and vaccine mandates. In Virginia, where some school districts had said they would not require masks, governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, issued an order yesterday requiring face coverings in indoor school settings.

Florida has threatened to withhold the salaries of school officials who require masks, a move that has escalated tension between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and the administration of US President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

The White House is considering reimbursing Florida school officials if DeSantis, who is widely seen as weighing a potential 2024 challenge for the presidency, follows through on his threat.

The Delta variant appears to be flattening the pace of the US economic recovery after a big upswing in the first half of 2021, according to Oxford Economics US Recovery Tracker.

“Sharply deteriorating health conditions are the main reason why the South’s recovery is now losing momentum,” Oxford’s lead US economist Oren Klachkin said. “And the rapid uptick in Covid cases in the region is causing activity to moderate and mobility and employment to stagnate.”

Health care stretched thin

The worst of the US Covid outbreak is concentrated in the South, including Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, where intensive care units have been stretched to capacity. While flouting federal recommendations on masks, Florida has asked Washington to help by sending ventilators.

The number of daily cases across the country has doubled in the last two weeks, according to a Reuters tally, reaching a six-month peak, while the average number of daily deaths has increased 85 per cent in the last 14 days.

“Our frontline health care heroes are finding themselves stretched thin and physical and mental exhaustion is taking its toll,” Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that people in their 20s and 30s were being hospitalized with the virus.

Leaders in Democrat-led states and cities have moved swiftly to impose Covid-19 mask and vaccine requirements in the face of the Delta variant.

San Francisco’s new vaccine mandate for indoor businesses extends to employees as well as patrons. Employees of restaurants, gyms and other venues have until October 13 to show proof of full vaccination, the order says. Proof of vaccination will also be required for attendees at indoor events of 1,000 people or more.

San Francisco’s mandate, which begins August 20, requires proof of full vaccination. The New York and New Orleans health orders require only one dose.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses several weeks apart. Johnson and Johnson has a one-dose vaccine.

Meanwhile, California, Illinois, Kentucky and New Jersey, all led by Democratic governors, have required masks in all schools.

Yesterday, the National Education Association President Becky Pringle, who leads the largest teachers’ union in the country, said she supported vaccine mandates for teachers. Her statement came on the heels of a similar announcement from the American Federation of Teachers’ president earlier this week. ― Reuters

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