As the United States honors its veterans on Memorial Day on Monday, restrictions have been lifted on those vaccinated at the nation’s dedicated veterinarian cemeteries, another step on the way back to normalcy after more than a year under pandemic restrictions.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced last week that it was relaxing the rules at 155 veterans cemeteries across the country.
The move comes as the VA reported last Monday that there have been no new deaths from COVID at its medical centers across the country, a first since March 18, 2020. VA data shows more than 12,000 have died and more than 2.5 million have been vaccinated against COVID. -19 out of some 9 million ex-combatants enrolled in the agency’s programs.
Isolation from the pandemic has also been particularly difficult for veterans, many of whom depend on kinship with their military colleagues to cope with wartime trauma, Jeremy Butler told The Associated Press. Butler, a 47-year-old Navy reserve officer in New York City, heads the Iraq-Afghanistan Veterans Defense Group.
“We are meeting now, but it has been an extremely difficult year,” he said.
For others, especially the families of veterans who survived the horrors of war to die of COVID, Memorial Day can reopen barely healed wounds. In Massachusetts, Susan Kenney told AP that her 78-year-old father’s death from the virus in April 2020 was still believed.
Charles Lowell, an Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War, was among 76 residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home who died in one of America’s deadliest coronavirus outbreaks last year in a long-term care facility.
“I relived that for a whole year,” she said. ” At each step. Veterans Day. His birthday. His death anniversary. Everything is a constant reminder of what happened. It is so painful to think about it.
Also in the news:
►A Tennessee hat seller deleted an Instagram post after fueling controversy on social media by selling a crest that resembles the Jewish Star of David. HatWRKS, led by hatter Gigi Gaskins, posted a photo of a woman wearing a bright yellow star sticker with the words: “Not vaccinated.”
►In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine looked at the antibody levels of solid organ transplant recipients who had received two injections of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and had no never had COVID-19 before. Of the 658 study participants, 46% had no detectable antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 after the two injections. Read more here.
► About half of American adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and cases are declining across the country. However, the Washington Post found that the rate of hospitalizations for those who are not vaccinated is the same as three months ago, and that the rate of infections for those who are not vaccinated is the same as in December.
►The seven-day coronavirus positivity rate in New York City has fallen to an all-time high of 0.71%, after 55 consecutive days of decline, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday.
►Companies can require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and offer incentives to do so without violating federal laws from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said. The updated EEOC guidelines also state that employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who do not get vaccinated because of a disability, religious beliefs, or pregnancy.
The numbers of the day: The United States has more than 33.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 594,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: over 170.4 million cases and 3.54 million deaths. More than 135 million Americans have been fully immunized, or 40.7% of the population, according to the CDC.
What we read: The pandemic – and the political battles and economic devastation that have accompanied it – have inflicted unique forms of torment on those in mourning, making it more difficult to move forward with their lives than with a typical loss.
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Memorial Day weekend brings signs of normalcy: more travel, less masks
Just as Memorial Day weekend is known as the unofficial start of summer, this year the holidays mark a return to some semblance of normalcy, a release from the grip of the pandemic a year and more for Americans.
The Transportation Security Administration reports that the number of passengers screened at US airports Friday through Sunday has exceeded 1.6 million each day; Friday had a high of 1.96 million. This is the highest figure since March 8, 2020, just before the pandemic began to take hold in this country. On the last Memorial Day weekend, the total for the first three days was 861,000.
The surge in travel is directly linked to the success of the US immunization program – more than half of the country’s population has received at least one dose – and the drastic drop in infections that follows. On Saturday, the United States reported just under 12,000 new cases of the coronavirus, the lowest number since March 23, 2020.
It was also the first holiday weekend since the CDC announced on May 13 that those who are vaccinated do not need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors or maintain social distancing, adding to the feeling that life as we knew it is coming back. Some masking requirements remain in place depending on jurisdiction or company, but more states are dropping them, including New Jersey on Friday and Massachusetts on Saturday.
In New York and Chicago, authorities have reopened public beaches. “Welcome, Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a video announcement. “The lakeside is open.
The same is true of most of the country now.
Base built to launch submarines now a vaccination site
A disused WWII submarine base in Lorient, France, has become the country’s last vaccination site, according to the New York Times.
The structure, built in 1941, was initially used to launch German submarines. Now redeveloped with chairs, tents and an art exhibit, the base-turned-vaccination center has administered more than 6,000 doses in the past week, the Times reported.
The first person to be vaccinated at the site was a Frenchman involved in the war who was working on reassembling submarines, the head of the vaccination center, Jean-Michel Pasquet, told the newspaper.
“He told us it was a beautiful symbol of resilience,” Pasquet said. “This bunker that used to build warships to kill people now embodies a return to life.”
Colleges are hoping students will receive COVID vaccines for the fall semester – but can they demand it?
As colleges anticipate a potential reopening in fall 2021, some are wondering if vaccination will be mandatory to attend classes in person.
Although half of American adults are fully vaccinated, only about 30% of college-age adults make up the group, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As college towns and counties with universities have seen some of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19, vaccination has become a priority for resuming in-person classes.
More than 400 colleges across the United States require at least some students and employees to be vaccinated before returning to campus, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. The controversy over the colleges’ decision to make it a requirement stems from the fact that the vaccine was cleared by the FDA under an emergency clearance order. The University of California and California State University systems, for example, have said they will require vaccinations once they are fully approved.
Unvaccinated Houston hospital staff file complaint
One hundred and seventeen unvaccinated staff at the Houston Methodist Hospital filed a lawsuit against the hospital on Friday, saying it is illegal to require them to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The allegation says the warrant violates the Nuremberg Code, which prohibits experimentation on human subjects without consent.
The code was developed after World War II in response to the atrocious medical practices carried out in the concentration camps. The main complainant, Houston Methodist nurse Jennifer Bridges, said there needs to be further study on COVID-19 vaccines.
Contribute: The Associated Press.