‘Go get the shot’: Biden highlights path past pandemic; CDC updates mask guidance

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President Joe Biden spent his first 100 days in office encouraging Americans to mask up and stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. His task for the next 100 days will be to lay out the path back to normal.

When he entered office, Biden moved swiftly to overcome problems with vaccine supply and more than tripled the country’s ability to administer them. But ending the coronavirus pandemic, the central challenge of his presidency, will require not only putting shots into arms — a task now growing more difficult as demand sags — but also a robust plan to help the nation emerge from a year of isolation, disruption and confusion.

If Biden launched the nation onto a war footing against a virus that infected nearly 200,000 Americans in January and killed about 3,000 of them per day, the next months will be tantamount to winning the peace. Already, deaths are down to fewer than 700 per day, and average daily cases are below 60,000. U.S. officials insist there is a long way to go before the country can be fully at ease, but the progress is marked.

Going forward, success will mean finishing the nation’s herculean vaccination campaign — to date, 43% of Americans have received at least one shot — overcoming lagging demand and communicating in clear terms what activities can be safely resumed by those who are vaccinated. Key milestones include Biden’s July Fourth pledge that Americans can safely gather with friends and family, and the start of the new school year, when the president hopes to have all schools open safely.

In other developments:

  • U.S. health officials say fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks outdoors anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. And unvaccinated people can drop face coverings in some cases, too.
  • Brazil’s health regulator has rejected a request from several states to import almost 30 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, citing safety concerns. The decision comes on the same day that Brazil’s Senate begins an inquiry into the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Europe is ramping up its recovery plan. And finance officials in Germany and France say there’s no time to lose as the continent lags behind the U.S. and China in recovering from the pandemic recession.
  • U.S. consumer confidence rose sharply for a second straight month in April, hitting the highest level in more than a year as consumer sentiment was boosted by a more rapid rollout of the vaccines and another round of support payments.
  • A South Florida private school has warned teachers and staff against taking the COVID-19 vaccine. The Centner Academy in Miami sent parents a letter Monday informing them of a new policy against employing anyone who’s had the shots.