Health Highlights: March 31, 2021
GOP Governors Resist Calls by Biden to Keep Mask Mandates
Several Republican governors still plan to cancel mask mandates despite President Joe Biden urging states to maintain those rules.
For example, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison said Tuesday that he's canceling the state's mask mandate immediately, a day earlier than previously announced, the Associated Press reported.
"We made our decision in Arkansas based upon the criteria we set," said the Republican, who last month set targets for test positivity and hospitalizations for the state's requirement to expire. "This is a goal we had. We achieved that, so we stuck with the principle that was outlined."
As more vaccines are deployed — with the nation on track to deliver 200 million doses overall by the end of Wednesday — whether to enforce the wearing of masks has become the latest partisan battle of the pandemic.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey intends for her state's mask mandate to end on April 9 as planned, though she urged people to wear masks as a matter of personal responsibility.
"We have made progress, and we are moving towards personal responsibility and common sense, not endless government mandates," said Gina Maiola, Ivey's spokeswoman.
Earlier this week, Biden and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said this isn't the time to relax pandemic safety measures.
In a call with governors on Tuesday, Walensky noted that the seven-day average of 61,000 new COVID-19 cases per day is up 13%, and the seven-day average of deaths is up 6%, the AP reported.
"It's important for people to hear that we're still in a war with this virus, and people still need to be vigilant in order to return to normal," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
Russia Announces First COVID-19 Vaccine for Animals
The world's first coronavirus vaccine for animals has been registered by Russia and manufacture of the vaccine could begin in April, a Russian official said Wednesday.
The vaccine was tested in dogs, cats, Arctic foxes, minks and other animals, and all animals in the trials developed antibodies, Konstantin Savenkov, deputy head of the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, told journalists Wednesday, the Washington Post reported.
Findings to date suggest the vaccine may provide immunity for at least six months, and further research on immunity is being conducted, Savenkov said.
A number of cases of COVID-19 in domestic animals have been reported, and more than 15 million minks were ordered slaughtered in Denmark last year after a variant of the virus was detected in farmed minks, the Post reported.
Savenkov said companies in the United States, Greece, Poland, Austria, Canada and Singapore have shown interest in the animal vaccine, the Post reported.