New Jersey Gov. Murphy to scrap face mask mandates in schools in March, and Ottawa declares emergency following trucker protest

New Jersey Gov. Phillip Murphy plans to announce later Monday that he is removing the face mask mandate for students and school employees starting the second week of March, according to media reports.

The move comes just days after the United States reached a grim milestone of more than 900,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, as fatalities continue to average around 2,600 a day.

Murphy is a Democrat who has consistently adhered to strict measures throughout the pandemic to curb infections, but now appears intent on returning the Garden State to something resembling normality. The governor follows Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfa fellow Democrat, who last month announced a decision to end his state’s school masking mandate.

Experts said the moves are likely premature given that case numbers, though falling, remain high and hospitals in some states are under severe stress.

The United States averages 295,922 cases per day, according to a New York Times tracker, down 57% from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations are down 23% from two weeks ago to 121,600 a day on average.

Despite a generous supply of vaccines and treatments, the United States has one of the worst COVID death rates in the world, as fewer people have chosen to be vaccinated than in other wealthy countries, as reported. the Times last week.

With the booster program came another challenge: that the United States also lags behind other countries in the share of vaccinated people who received a booster shot, according to a Times analysis on Monday.

Amid a surge in cases, some countries are handing out second booster shots. In Israel, early data suggests a fourth dose of the vaccine may boost antibodies against Covid-19, but not enough to prevent Omicron infections. WSJ explains. Composite photo: Eve Hartley/WSJ

Canadians, Australians and most Europeans quickly accepted the need for a third dose of vaccine, which has proven to be the best defense against developing severe COVID for those with a breakthrough case caused by the variant. highly infectious omicron.

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tracker shows that nearly 213 million people living in the United States are fully immunized, or 64.1% of the population. But barely 90 million are boosted, or 42.2% of the vaccinated population. This low rate has caused the United States to suffer more deaths during the omicron wave of the past two months than many other countries.

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Other COVID-19 news you should know:

• In Canada, Ottawa declared a state of emergency following a protest by truckers against vaccination mandates that paralyzed the capital. Thousands of protesters again descended on Ottawa over the weekend, joining the 100 who had remained since last weekend, the Associated Press reported. Ottawa residents are furious at the incessant honking, traffic disruptions and harassment and fear no end is in sight after the police chief called it a ‘seat’ he couldn’t to manage. The “freedom truck convoy” drew support from Republicans in the United States, including former President Donald Trump, who called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far-left madman” who “destroyed the Canada with insane COVID mandates”.

Hundreds of trucks have blocked Ottawa streets for more than a week of protests against the country’s Covid-19 vaccination mandates. The mayor of Canada’s capital declared a state of emergency as protests blocked traffic and shuttered businesses. Photo: Lars Hagberg/Reuters

• Australia will open its borders to all vaccinated tourists and business travelers from February 21 in a further easing of pandemic restrictions announced on Monday, the AP reported separately. Australia imposed some of the world’s strictest travel restrictions on its citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 to prevent them from bringing COVID-19 home. When border restrictions were eased in November in response to rising vaccination rates among the Australian population, international students and skilled migrants were given priority over tourists to be welcomed into Australia.

• The Chinese city of Baise near the border with Vietnam has quarantined its 3.6 million people after discovering dozens of COVID cases during mass testing, reported the South China Morning Post. The city detected a single infection on Saturday in a resident who had recently returned to the city and then tested more than 207,000 residents. Some 98 tested positive

• An Oxford scientist who worked on the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca AZN,
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accused scientists and politicians of causing hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths by damaging his reputation, reports the Guardian. John Bell said evidence of a rare blood clotting disorder led many countries to suspend use of the vaccine. The jab also didn’t feature in the recall campaign, where it was just 48,000 out of more than 37 million shots.

• Russia had another record 180,000 new COVID cases on Sunday, Voice of America reported. The figure released by the state’s coronavirus task force on Sunday was about 2,800 cases higher than the previous day and continued a rise that began in mid-January, when new daily cases were at about 17,000.

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Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 395.6 million on Monday, and the death toll is now over 5.74 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The United States leads the world with 76.5 million cases and 902,650 deaths.

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