WHO recommends masks even for fully vaccinated; Pfizer, Moderna vaccines may offer long immunity: COVID-19 updates

The World Health Organization has urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks indoors and practice social distancing as the delta variant surges in many parts of the world.

“People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general, during a news briefing Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control, however, told vaccinated Americans in May that they no longer needed to wear masks indoors. CDC officials pointed to the guidance Monday and gave no indication it would change, according to the New York Times.

But some areas around the country are still urging vaccinated residents to wear masks indoors.

"Until we better understand how and to who the delta variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection," the Los Angeles County of Department Public Health said Monday. The delta variant now accounts for 50% of active cases in Los Angeles, said officials Thursday, while it accounts for 1 in 5 of cases around the country.

23 states had more cases in the latest week than in the week before, an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. 26 states had more deaths than a week earlier.

Also in the news:

►Unionized auto workers in the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer have to wear face masks at work. A virus task force with representatives from top automakers and the United Auto Workers union made the decision Monday. It’s effective July 12.

►Indonesia needs to urgently increase medical care, testing and vaccinations as new infections in the country surge because of the spread of the delta variant, which has left it “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe,” the Red Cross said Tuesday.

►Working-age women put in an average of 173 hours of additional unpaid child care through October of last year, a new report estimates.

►Almost 5,000 people are in quarantine after vacationing high school students triggered a major COVID-19 outbreak on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, a senior official said Monday.

►Italy on Monday lifted its outdoor mask mandate as cases drop and vaccinations rise in the country which experienced a horrific surge at the beginning of the pandemic.

►Hong Kong says it will ban all passenger flights from the U.K. starting Thursday as it seeks to curb the spread of new variants of the coronavirus.

►U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Monday that Puerto Rico will receive nearly $4 billion in federal education pandemic relief funds to help boost the U.S. territory’s fight against COVID-19.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 604,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 181.3 million cases and more than 3.92 million deaths. More than 153.7 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — nearly 46.3% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘 What we're reading: Although COVID-19 vaccines work incredibly well for the vast majority of people, roughly 10 million Americans whose immune systems are compromised because of medication or disease may not be well protected. Read the full story.

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Fewer Black, Latino students have access to full-time, in-person learning

As of April, fewer than two out of three Latino and Black students in the U.S. had access to full-time, in-person learning, according to a report released Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that urges schools to reopen fully for all students this fall.

While 75% of white students had access to full-time, in-person instruction as the end of the school year approached, the same was true for only 63% of Black students and 59% of Latino students, according to the report. Because many families of color chose to stay remote even if in-person instruction was offered, it's likely an even smaller fraction of their children received any in-person learning this past school year.

The figures are important because reduced access to in-person learning has become increasingly associated with poorer learning outcomes and adverse mental health and behavioral development.

The latest counts underscoring racial disparities in learning modes are from a government survey of 1,200 school districts in 50 states and Washington, D.C. They're paired with a strong dose of health advice from the CDC: Schools need to intensify vaccination efforts and other measures to reduce community transmission.

-- Erin Richards, USA TODAY

Moderna announces its vaccine provides some protection against all coronavirus variants

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is effective against all variants of COVID-19, including the delta variant, which is thought to be more contagious, the company announced Tuesday.

The study analyzed serum samples from eight participants one week after they received their second dose of the vaccine. Researchers found the shot produced neutralizing antibodies against all variants, including the three lineage variants first identified in India, the beta variant first identified in South Africa, and the two variants first identified in Uganda and Angola.

“These new data are encouraging and reinforce our belief that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should remain protective against newly detected variants,” Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said in a statement. “These findings highlight the importance of continuing to vaccinate populations with an effective primary series vaccine.”

Australia tightens lockdown to prevent spread of delta variant

Several of Australia's major cities are under COVID-19 lockdown following a recent outbreak of the delta variant.

Perth, the capital of Western Australia, began a four-day lockdown Tuesday and made masks compulsory after a resident tested positive, according to Reuters. Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, will also enter lockdown Tuesday.

South Australia imposed new statewide restrictions Tuesday. Sydney in the east and Darwin in the north both locked down on Monday. Canberra made wearing masks compulsory.

Most of the new cases are linked to an unvaccinated Sydney limousine driver who tested positive June 16 after transporting a foreign air crew from the airport while reportedly not wearing a mask.

Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, registering fewer than 31,000 cases since the pandemic began. But the new clusters have highlighted the nation’s slow vaccine rollout, with only 5% of the population fully vaccinated.

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines may offer immunity for years to come, study finds

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines created a long-lasting immunity that may protect people from COVID-19 for years, a new study found.

The new results mean that people who received the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters so long as variants do not drastically evolve.

As for those who recovered from the coronavirus and received the vaccine later on, a booster may not be needed even as the virus mutates, the study's results suggest. The study, published in the Nature journal, didn't consider the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in its research, but it's expected to be less durable.

“It’s a good sign for how durable our immunity is from this vaccine,” Ellebedy told New York Times.

95% of those who've died from COVID-19 in Wisconsin since March weren't vaccinated or fully vaccinated

Nearly all Wisconsinites who recently have died of COVID-19 were unvaccinated — or not fully vaccinated — state health officials said Monday.

And just 1% of all confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases since Jan. 1 have been among those who were fully vaccinated, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health Services said.

The stark news came as Wisconsin finally reached a significant milestone Monday, with 50.1% of the state's population receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Between March 1 and June 24, 95% of confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths were among those who weren't fully vaccinated, DHS spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt said in an email.

"The science is clear: vaccines work in the real world. They save lives," Goodsitt said. "And if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected. All three vaccines have been tested and proven to be safe and effective."

Goodsitt added: "Take a look at the COVID-19 data and you will see that cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been declining since vaccines were authorized and we started getting shots in arms."

- Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: WHO urges masks; Pfizer, Moderna vaccine long immunity: Updates