Vaccine Progress, New Mask Guidelines, and More News

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America makes deals for more vaccines, the CDC refines mask guidance, and school districts begin reopening. Here’s what you should know:

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Headlines

The US finalizes deals to secure enough vaccines for all eligible Americans by the end of July

On Thursday, President Biden announced that his administration has finalized deals to purchase 200 million more vaccine doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. These doses are expected to be available by the end of July and will bring the US total to 600 million doses. Around 260 million Americans are expected to be considered eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, which means the country will have enough doses to fully vaccinate all of them. The administration is also well on its way to vaccinating 150 million Americans by the 100th day of Biden’s presidency.

Around the world, procuring vaccines continues to be difficult. Some countries—including China, India, and the United Arab Emirates—are sending shots to other nations to curry favor or bolster geopolitical relations. And new research has shown that scammy vaccine sales pitches are spreading in Facebook groups and Telegram chats.

The CDC refines its mask guidance as new variants continue to spread across the US

The numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the US all dropped this week, but some experts are concerned that this trend may reverse as more transmissible variants gain traction. A new study suggests that the B.1.1.7 mutation, which was first found in Britain, could be the dominant strain in the US by next month. On Thursday, Illinois and North Carolina became the latest states to report their first cases of B.1.351, the variant first identified in South Africa.

A key way to better protect against these more contagious variants is to make sure your mask fits well, and potentially to double up. This week, the Centers for Disease Control released new guidance on mask-wearing after lab tests showed that wearing two masks can reduce the likelihood of transmission by up to 95 percent if both people are wearing them correctly. To do this, start with a disposable medical mask and layer a cloth mask on top. Fit is paramount: If you feel hot air escaping when you breathe out, you’ll want to adjust.

The CDC prepares new guidance for schools as some districts begin reopening

The CDC is releasing new guidance today for schools to safely reopen in person. President Biden has said that reopening schools is a top priority, and CDC director Rochelle Walensky commented last week that vaccinating teachers is not necessarily a prerequisite for reopening. Up to this point, decisions about reopening schools have been piecemeal, with individual districts and even schools left to chart the course for themselves. In some cases, the situation has escalated dramatically: Last week, San Francisco sued its own school district and board, saying they haven’t made meaningful plans to reopen despite public health guidance that it’s safe.

Elsewhere in the country, districts took key steps toward reopening this week. New York City announced that middle schoolers who opted to learn in person will be allowed to return to classrooms starting February 25. And after weeks of tense negotiations, Chicago reached a deal with its teachers union. On Thursday, the city’s pre-K and special education students resumed in-person classes, with elementary and middle schools expected to follow in the coming weeks.

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Something to Read

Preterm infants do best when they’re in skin-to-skin contact with their parents and surrounded by nurturing people. But during the pandemic, isolation is key. This creates a stressful paradox: “The same measures that protect the NICU from the virus also risk reducing its efficacy.”

Sanity Check

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One Question

As we hit the one-year mark, we’re starting to see movies come out that were filmed at least partly during the pandemic. How did they do it? Smaller films have been able to get by with bare-bones, quarantined crews. Bigger projects, on the other hand, are increasingly using tech to keep socially distant production running smoothly. Frame.io, a company known for its video review and collaboration software, recently unveiled a new service called Camera to Cloud that uploads footage to the cloud the moment someone yells “Cut!” That way, editors, producers, and others can offer notes almost in real time without having to be in the same place. And some filmmakers who need a socially distant way to design and plan their productions are using a tool called the Virtual Art Department, which lets them scout locations, frame shots, making lighting decisions, and more using virtual reality.


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