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COVID-19

Saudi Arabia eases mask mandate as first Hajj pilgrims arrive

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2022)

Saudi Arabia has lifted a mask mandate for indoor spaces even as COVID-19 infection numbers steadily climb past 1,000 new cases a day.

Monday’s move comes as the kingdom prepares to welcome around 850,000 pilgrims from abroad to participate in the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The first batch of foreign pilgrims since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic began arriving from Indonesia earlier this month.

Masks will still be required at Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, where pilgrims gather for worship, according to the new rules and organizers of events and festivals can continue to require masks if they wish.

The COVID-19 pandemic Muslim pilgrimages, which are usually key revenue earners for the kingdom, bringing in some $12 billion annually.

One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj must be undertaken by all Muslims who have the means at least once in their lives.

For nearly two years, Saudi Arabia was among the world’s most restrictive in its efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

COVID-19

NYC ending COVID-19 vaccination mandate for city employees

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(Last Updated On: February 7, 2023)

New York City, which once had the nation’s strictest workplace vaccination rules for COVID-19, is ending one of its last such mandates, saying it will no longer require the shots for municipal employees including police officers, firefighters and teachers, AP reported.

The vaccine mandate, which led to the firing of hundreds of city workers who declined to get the shots, will end Friday, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday.

Adams said that with more than 96% of city employees and more than 80% of city residents having received their initial vaccine series, “this is the right moment for this decision.”

City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said, “It’s clear these mandates saved lives and were absolutely necessary to meet the moment. We’re grateful that we can now, as we leave the emergency phase of the pandemic, modify more of the rules that have gotten us to this point.”

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COVID-19

Washington state Gov. Inslee tests positive for COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: February 2, 2023)

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time.

Inslee’s office said in a statement Wednesday that he had tested positive and was experiencing very mild symptoms including a cough. He is consulting with his doctor about whether to receive Paxlovid antiviral treatments, according to the statement.

He plans to continue working. Trudi Inslee, the first spouse, has tested negative.

Inslee, who throughout the pandemic pushed for mitigation measures including indoor mask-wearing and restrictions on large public gatherings, is fully vaccinated and had booster shots in October 2021 and March 2022 and September 2022, according to his office.

“Once again I am very appreciative to be vaccinated and boosted,” Inslee said in the statement. “This is a scientific gift that has given us the capacity to prevent hospitalizations or worse. I encourage folks who haven’t received their booster to talk with their doctor and avail themselves of this protective, life-saving measure.”

Only 15% of Americans have received the recommended, updated booster that has been offered since last fall.

The governor also tested positive for COVID last May.

President Joe Biden told Congress this week that he will end the national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11.

Inslee ended the state of emergency in Washington at the end of October.

More than 1.1 million people in the country have died from COVID-19 since 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 3,700 last week. More than 15,000 people in Washington have died from the virus.

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COVID-19

COVID-19 is a leading cause of death among children, but is still rare

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2023)

COVID-19 was the eighth leading cause of death among children in recent months, according to a study published Monday.

In a year-long period from August 2021 to July 2022, 821 children ages 0 to 19 died from COVID-19 at a rate of 1 per 100,000. Children’s deaths of any kind are rare, researchers noted.

COVID-19 ranked fifth in non-disease-related deaths and first in infectious or respiratory illness deaths, overtaking the flu and pneumonia, NPR reported.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, the leading causes of death among children were perinatal conditions, unintentional injuries, birth defects, assault, suicide, cancerous tumors, heart disease and influenza and pneumonia.

The time period researchers analyzed coincided with the rise of Delta and Omicron COVID-19 cases. They found that studying other 12-month periods during the pandemic did not change the results.

Researchers noted their results were limited by the underreporting of COVID-19 cases, and the exclusion of deaths where COVID-19 could have been a contributing or amplifying factor in tandem with other conditions, such as influenza, NPR reported.

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