The updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guide to masks wasn't meant to end mask mandates, though some have interpreted the recommendations that way. Infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci spoke to Axios Wednesday to dispel confusion: The new masking advice is supposed to reassure those who are vaccinated they can feel safe, inside or outdoors, he said.
“I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” he said. At a Senate hearing, Republicans grilled CDC director Rochelle Walensky on the topic. She responded that some places in the United States need to keep up their guard – especially the “counties that aren’t vaccinated.”
This week marked the deadliest single day in India, with the highest one-day death toll of any country since the coronavirus outbreak began. On Wednesday, the country reported 4,500 people had died from covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, surpassing a record held by the United States. What's more, the official statistics in India are probably too low, as death certificates and crematoriums suggest a higher body count.
There's comparatively little known about how the virus is evolving in India due to a lack of genetic sequencing. But researchers in Britain are concerned about one variant first detected in India, named B.1.617.2, that is becoming more prevalent in England. It's not clear whether this variant is more harmful, and preliminary tests indicate vaccines protect against it.
Deaths in Mexico are declining. One possible reason is the “Biden Wall” – the idea that fewer infections are spilling from the United States into Mexico because so much of the U.S. population is vaccinated. “The transfer of contagion through the border was very high,” as health professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico told The Washington Post. That has declined with the declining U.S. case counts.
Executives at Emergent BioSolutions, which runs a facility where the production of Johnson & Johnson vaccines was botched, testified before a House subcommittee Wednesday. Johnson & Johnson had already documented contamination risks and unsanitary conditions at the Baltimore plant months before the incident that ruined 15 million doses, per documents disclosed during the House investigation.
Other important news
Republicans in the House of Representatives, some of whom have gone maskless at the Capitol in defiance of the rules, are trying to force a vote on wearing masks in the chamber.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates will give a third shot of the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm as a booster to residents who have received two doses.
Workers at a Maryland government office in Harford County have resumed their jobs in person. Employees say the possibility of exposure is balanced by what they view as a necessary return.
The European Union agreed to open its borders to vaccinated travelers, including Americans, a change that could go into effect within the next two weeks.