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United States New York judge strikes down state mask mandate

NY judge strikes down mask mandateA New York judge struck down the state's mask mandate on Monday, ruling that it was unconstitutional and a violation of state law, according to the court decision.

Judge Thomas Rademaker, of New York State Supreme Court on Long Island, wrote in his decision, which apparently takes effect immediately, that the state legislature last year curbed any governor's ability to issue decrees, such as a mask mandate, amid a declared state of emergency.

The legislature's action "prevents the type of mandates and directives that former Governor Cuomo included in his various COVID-19 related Executive Orders," the judge wrote.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement, "We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately."

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Do not assume COVID pandemic reaching 'end game', warns WHO

COVID not over: deaths risingThe head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of COVID-19's acutest phase, exhorting nations to stay focused to beat the pandemic.

"It’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant and that we are in the end game," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO executive board meeting of the two-year pandemic that has killed nearly 6 million people.

"On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge."

Though Omicron has sent total cases soaring to nearly 350 million, its less lethal impact and the increasing prevalence of vaccines has led to optimism in some parts that the worst of the pandemic may have passed.

Tedros, the WHO's first African head who is running unopposed for a second term, urged discipline and unity in combatting the coronavirus.

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‘The CDC alone can’t fix this’: Walensky calls for overhaul of U.S. public health system

Walinsky

The U.S. needs to rethink its approach to tackling Covid-19 by rebuilding the nation’s public health system, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said in an interview with POLITICO.

It’s been a year since Walensky took over the public health agency and the country has gone through a vaccine rollout, seen variants emerge and witnessed three massive surges. To Walensky, the pandemic shows no signs of vanishing. This week, an average of 740,000 infections were reported each day. On Thursday, the day she spoke with POLITICO, more than 2,400 people were reported as having died from Covid-19.

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U.S. judge blocks Biden federal employee COVID vaccine mandate

Judge blocks federal employee vaccine mandateA judge in Texas ruled on Friday that President Joe Biden could not require federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and blocked the U.S. government from disciplining employees who failed to comply.

Biden issued an order requiring about 3.5 million workers to get vaccinated by Nov. 22 barring a religious or medical accommodation -- or else face discipline or firing.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown said the question was whether Biden could "require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment. That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far."

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More than 1,200 Oakland students pledge to stay home unless schools improve Covid safety

Oakland studdent refuse to return to schoolMore than 1,200 students in Oakland, California, have signed a petition saying they would stay home this week unless school administrators provide additional Covid protections, including more N95 masks, weekly testing and better social distancing – or a shift to virtual learning.

On Tuesday, three district campuses were closed because students and teachers, in solidarity, stayed home.

At a news conference today, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) spokesperson John Sasaki said that attendance numbers would not be available until tomorrow, but the district was expecting more than a thousand students to stay home. The district said it was providing free tests and masks and had implemented other safety protocols including air purifiers, but students and teachers have alleged inequities in the distribution of resources between schools in more and less wealthy neighborhoods.

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U.S. to distribute 400 million free N95 masks at CVS, Walgreens in COVID fight

n95 masks free at some pharmaciesThe U.S. government will make 400 million non-surgical "N95" masks from its strategic national stockpile available for free to the public starting next week, a White House official said, as the Biden administration tries to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

Snug-fitting N95 face masks, so-called because they filter at least 95% of particulate matter from the air, will be shipped to pharmacies and community health centers this week, the official said, and will be available for pickup late next week.

The U.S. government is leveraging the "federal retail pharmacy program" it used for vaccines, the White House said, as well as federally funded health clinics that serve minority groups hit hard by COVID infections and deaths.

Retail chain CVS (CVS.N), which has nearly 10,000 U.S. pharmacy locations including within Target (TGT.N) stores, and Walgreens (WBA.O), which has over 9,000 stores, plan to distribute free masks, company spokespeople said.

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Neil Gorsuch defied a request from Chief Justice John Roberts to wear a mask out of respect for Sonia Sotomayor

SC Justice Gorsuch

Sotomayor hasn't taken the bench this year amid the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. The remaining justices have appeared in the courtroom for arguments, with each of them wearing masks except for Gorsuch.

The nine justices returned to in-person arguments last fall for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. At the time, none of the justices wore masks during oral arguments besides Sotomayor, NPR reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says either type of diabetes could make a person more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19.

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