Some public health experts hope the test-to-stay model will encourage more schools and parents to adopt testing programs and help students stay in the classroom.
As the cold days set in, the United States is again seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases, though deaths and hospitalizations trend lower, while the federal government's vaccine mandate consistently faces legal challenges and resistance.
The seven-day average of confirmed cases of the pandemic stood at 80,885 nationwide on Sunday, with its 14-day change striking an 11-percent rise. COVID-19-related deaths were 1,133 on Sunday, with the 14-day change realizing a 16-percent fall.
On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated that 226,607,653 people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, making up 68.3 percent of the U.S. population; fully vaccinated people stood at 195,120,470, accounting for 58.8 percent of the total. A total of 29,338,966 people, or 15 percent of the fully vaccinated group, have received booster shots.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned on Sunday during an appearance on Fox News that parts of the country with colder temperatures could see a resurgence in the coronavirus this year if vaccinations do not increase.
"As winter approaches again and as people get prepared for the holidays... we should be prepared for the fact that there may be an uptick in cases that we see in various parts of the country with cold weather," Murthy said.
He argued that the impact of the virus would be significantly reduced in areas with high vaccination rates, saying that "a couple of things that are critical for people to keep in mind and number one is if you are vaccinated... your chances of both getting sick and transmitting the virus to someone else are much, much lower."
�� 7.4 billion COVID vaccine doses have been administered— Our World in Data (@OurWorldInData) November 11, 2021
�� 51% of world population with at least 1 dose
�� Share with at least 1 dose
High-income countries: 72%
Upper-middle income: 71%
Lower-middle income: 40%
Low income: 4%
Our data on vaccinations: https://t.co/3imP7PqURn pic.twitter.com/YrJBwbgDbm
Meanwhile, as COVID-19 disruptions extended into a third academic year, implementation of in-school testing remains mixed. Some schools are making changes to COVID-19 protocols as students between 5 and 11 years of age start getting vaccinated. Around 900,000 children in that age range had received a first shot through Wednesday, the White House said.
Some states and schools kicked off comprehensive testing programs during the previous school year, while others are starting to launch initiatives or have rejected the available resources. Setting up robust testing routines can be expensive and laborious, some schools have said. Some health departments and officials have been slow to roll out testing programs or to explain the benefits of in-school screening.
Some public health experts hope the test-to-stay model will encourage more schools and parents to adopt testing programs and help students stay in the classroom. "That's a game-changer," Andrew Sweet, managing director of COVID-19 Response and Recovery at the Rockefeller Foundation, said.
The U.S. Pentagon has said that it would respond to Oklahoma's Republican governor after the state's National Guard indicated it would thwart a Defense Department mandate that troops be vaccinated against COVID-19. The department said it was "aware" of a memo issued last week by the Oklahoma National Guard's recently installed adjutant general which said the organization would not enforce the department's vaccine mandate for its troops. The Pentagon mandated in August that U.S. military service members get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The development in Oklahoma came as multiple Republican-led states and other groups have filed suit to stop the Joe Biden administration's vaccine requirement for federal contractors. A federal appeals court on Friday reaffirmed its earlier decision to freeze a separate vaccine mandate that private businesses employing more than 100 workers require vaccination or impose testing guidelines for those not vaccinated.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said that if courts continue to block the Biden administration's efforts to soon compel large companies to require a COVID-19 vaccine or face weekly testing, it would be "a setback for public health."
Vaccine mandates are well-established and highly successful in achieving more widespread vaccination. Schools, the military and workplaces such as hospitals have long required vaccines. Many companies have leapt ahead of a federal order, and imposed one on their own employees. At the heart of the vaccine mandate strategy is the creation of "safer workplaces for workers, for customers and to increase vaccination rates overall, because that's ultimately how we're going to end this pandemic."