Iowa Governor Says Public Health Emergency Is ‘No Longer Feasible’
The move by Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, will limit the release of data about rates of vaccination and covid spread. Also, the Army is planning a court-martial for a junior officer for failing to follow rules on covid-19, and Los Angeles County is preparing to loosen its covid-prevention restrictions.
Iowa Governor Ending COVID Public Health Emergency Feb. 15
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday she is calling an end to the coronavirus public health emergency, a move that will limit the release of state public health data but reflects the governor’s long-held belief that it’s time to move on from pandemic restrictions. Reynolds said in a statement that the state cannot treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency indefinitely. “After two years, it’s no longer feasible or necessary,” she said. “The flu and other infectious illnesses are part of our everyday lives, and coronavirus can be managed similarly.” (Pitt, 2/3)
Iowa Public Radio:
Iowa To Scale Back COVID-19 Data Reporting As Gov. Reynolds Ends Public Health Disaster Proclamation
Officials said this means Iowa's two public COVID websites will be decommissioned. The websites present vaccine information and data on the virus's activity, which is currently updated three times a week on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. State health department director Kelly Garcia said at a press conference on Thursday that COVID data will instead be available on IDPH’s website, updated once a week. (Krebs, 2/3)
In other news about covid policies and mandates —
Officer Faces Court-Martial For Refusing Mask Mandate, COVID Test
A junior officer assigned to the Army Public Health Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, faces a special court-martial for failing to obey COVID-19 mitigation measures, Army Times has learned.1st Lt. Mark Bashaw’s arraignment is “pending” on three specifications of “failure to obey lawful orders,” said Becca Nappi, a spokesperson for the installation. ... Although other troops have faced discipline for failing to follow COVID-19 protocols, Bashaw is the first case in the Army referred to a court-martial for such incidents, Army spokeswoman Col. Cathy Wilkinson confirmed in a statement to Army Times. (Winkie, 2/2)
Judge's Insistence On Mask Removal Spurs Complaint
A watchdog group lodged a complaint Thursday against a federal appeals court judge for insisting that a lawyer remove his mask during arguments held in New Orleans at a time last month when new cases of COVID-19 were surging. The group “Fix the Court” said 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith’s insistence that a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer remove his mask at a hearing last month violated the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. (McGill, 2/4)
The Boston Globe:
The Science Behind The State’s School Mask Policy Is Outdated, Some Experts Say. Should The Benchmarks Change?
With the Omicron surge receding and the number of COVID-19 cases among Massachusetts students starting to decline, debate is growing about whether the state’s mandatory school mask rules should be revised or removed. Massachusetts’ current policy, developed as the Delta variant emerged last summer, allows local officials to lift the mask requirement if they can demonstrate that at least 80 percent of all students and staff in a school building are vaccinated. On Jan. 10, state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley extended the policy through Feb. 28. He also allowed, for the first time, nonvaccinated people in schools that achieve the 80 percent threshold to also go maskless. (Lazar, 2/3)
Once Struggling, Anti-Vaccination Groups Have Enjoyed A Pandemic Windfall
The pandemic has been a boon for the anti-vaccine community, with ... Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), one of the country’s best-funded anti-vaccine organizations, among the biggest beneficiaries, according to newly filed tax records. ICAN reported $5.5 million in revenue in 2020, a 60 percent increase over the previous year. The funding underscores how lucrative the pandemic has been for a handful of groups that spread health misinformation and undermine public faith in vaccines. Those donations primarily come from private donors, including through Facebook fundraisers. (Zadrozny, 2/3)
In mask news from California —
Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County To Nix Masks Outdoors Once COVID Stats Improve
Outlining how health and safety rules could be loosened as the coronavirus’ Omicron variant continues to wane, Los Angeles County officials said Thursday that face coverings no longer will be required in certain outdoor settings once COVID-19 hospitalizations drop, and indoor mask rules could be loosened after further gains. The county would enter this “post-surge” phase when coronavirus-positive hospitalizations drop below 2,500 for seven straight days, about 26% below the current figure. As of Wednesday, just under 3,400 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized countywide, down 29% from the apparent high mark of the Omicron wave, set a little more than two weeks ago, when about 4,800 were hospitalized. (Money, Lin II and Alpert Reyes, 2/3)
Garcetti Defends Maskless Photo At NFL Game: 'I Hold My Breath'
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters on Wednesday that he held his breath while taking a photo last weekend with San Francisco Mayor London Breed and former NBA star Earvin "Magic" Johnson in which all three were not wearing masks. Johnson posted the photo, taken at an NFL playoff game last Sunday between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams, on his Twitter account. Spectators at the game were required to wear masks. (Gedeon, 2/3)