Covid-19: Comparing the US and Canada

In Canada, a band of truckers opposed to vaccine requirements has laid “siege” to Ottawa and set off 10 days of protests that have snarled that nation’s capital.

In the US, more states are planning to go mask-optional in schools as Covid-19 case numbers decline.

New states to end mask requirements. Now it’s Democratic governors who are softening the rules on masks.

Murphy set a one-month timeline and said masks would no longer be required in New Jersey schools and child care settings as of March 7, although local communities can create their own rules if needed.

Carney will lift Delaware’s universal indoor mask requirement on Friday. School mask requirements will expire at the end of March. That’s also when Oregon’s indoor mask requirement will lapse.

In Connecticut, Lamont recommended ending the statewide mask requirement in schools and child care centers by the end of February.

“I think now is the time for us to say, the statewide mask mandate is no longer at our level. Each and every mayor, each and every superintendent, can make that call for themselves. I recommend the date February 28,” he said .

Mask politics continue to create awkward moments. Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat running for governor, faced backlash for appearing without a mask in a photo on Friday at an elementary school. The school is in Decatur, Georgia, where masks are still required indoors.
last week, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, was heckled at a Northern Virginia Safeway when he appeared mask-free. “You’re in Alexandria! Read the room, buddy!” a woman shouted at him.
Alexandria is a city that has ignored his demand that school districts allow parents to opt out of mask requirements. Youngkin won a victory from the state Supreme Court on his mask effort Monday, but the fight is not over. A separate case brought by school districts that want to maintain mask requirements has not been resolved.
Still supporting masks in schools. The White House argued Monday that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends masks in schools.

“The guidance is very clear, which is that we recommend masking in schools,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “That is the recommendation from the CDC. It is also true that at some point when the science and the data warrants, of course, our hope is that that’s no longer the recommendation, and they are continually assessing that.”

States, however, are free to ignore the recommendation.

“It’s always been up to school districts,” Psaki said. “That’s always been our point of view and always been our policy from here. And our policy from the federal government is to continue to advise everybody to abide by public health guidelines.”

Getting back to normal. CNN’s Jacqueline Howard looks at the arguments for and against the government updating its guidance on masks and other measures as cases fall.

It remains unclear when the US can transition to a phase where Covid-19 no longer has such strong effects on people’s daily lives, she writes, citing government experts.

“We have to be totally honest that we don’t know,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top pandemic adviser, said at a recent White House briefing.

A possible consequence. One completely bizarre end result of the pandemic would be a weakening of vaccine requirements in schools for things like measles and mumps. A broadly written bill proposed by some Georgia lawmakers could do just that. It’s not clear, however, that the effort will catch on.
Mask rules by state. Education Week does a weekly review of statewide mask rules, and as of February 5, it reports that four states ban school districts from enforcing mask requirements; six additional states have had such bans blocked or otherwise undermined.

On the other end of the spectrum, 14 states and Washington, DC, require masks in schools, per the EdWeek analysis. That number will fall to 10 when the New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Oregon mask requirements are lifted. More states could follow.

The dates in the US. Covid-19 cases are falling drastically in the US — they are down over the past 14 days in every state except Maine and Tennessee.
CNN’s Eric Levenson assesses the US on Covid-19 metrics and describes it as a “roses-and-thorns situation.” The quotes below are from his story.

Cases are down, but still high. “The US is now averaging just over 290,000 new Covid-19 cases per day, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s a higher daily total than in any previous wave of Covid-19, but it’s a steep drop from just a few weeks ago. “

Hospitalizations are down. “The number of hospitalized patients has declined in recent weeks, though it remains higher than during the Delta wave. There are about 110,000 people currently hospitalized with Covid-19, according to JHU, a 19% drop from last week.”

Deaths are up slightly. “All those infections and hospitalizations have led to grim daily death tolls. The US is now averaging 2,462 new deaths each day, according to JHU. This is a 3% increase from last week.”

The Canada trucker “siege.” Ottawa’s police chief called it a siege. It began after Canada took truck drivers off the list of people exempt from its vaccine requirement for international travel.

The demonstration began as a “Freedom Convoy,” but it parked in Ottawa and is now a noisy distraction angering locals and alarming officials.

“The whole event has gone beyond just vaccines and it is now about the entire order,” protester James MacDonald said, according to CNN’s Paula Newton. MacDonald has been in Ottawa for more than a week and has no intention of leaving until health measures are dropped.

Demonstrators in other Canadian cities have also joined in, opposing Covid-19 restrictions.

The country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, currently has Covid-19 and has been isolating at an undisclosed location.

Certain Canadians may be fed up with restrictions and rules, but the country as a whole has taken more kindly to vaccines than the US.

canada vs. the US. Canada’s total population is a little less than 80% fully vaccinated, and more than 40% of Canadians have received boosters, according to data posted by the government.
The US, by comparison, has a population that is only fully vaccinated around 65%. And less than half of the fully vaccinated have received boosters, according to the CDC.

There have also been relatively fewer Covid-19 deaths in Canada.

The US has had nearly 275 deaths per 100,000 Americans, among the highest rates in developed countries.

Canada, meanwhile, has sustained fewer than 93 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
900,000 US Covid-19 deaths and counting. Biden commemorated the 900,000 reported US Covid-19 deaths with a statement Friday night.

“Each soul is irreplaceable,” the President said.

Experts have long argued that the true toll of the pandemic is much higher.

While the number of cases in the US has fallen drastically, the seven-day average of daily deaths is still close to 2,500. If those levels persist, the US could cross the threshold to 1 million Covid-19 deaths in a matter of weeks.

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