States rapidly expanding vaccine access as supplies surge; CDC director urges US to stay vigilant

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Buoyed by a surge in vaccine shipments, states and cities are rapidly expanding eligibility for COVID-19 shots to teachers, Americans 50 and over and others as the U.S. races to beat back the virus and reopen businesses and schools.

Until now, the vaccination campaign against the outbreak that’s killed over a half-million Americans has concentrated mostly on health workers and senior citizens.

Around the U.S., politicians and school administrators have been pushing hard in recent weeks to reopen classrooms to stop students from falling behind and enable more parents to go back to work. But teachers have resisted returning without getting vaccinated.

The Department of Health and Human Services has ordered all states to make teachers, school staff, bus drivers and child care workers eligible for shots. That’s a major shift for the Biden administration, which controls access to COVID-19 vaccines but previously allowed states to set their own guidelines.

In other developments:

  • The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said she hopes people will decide to individually “do the right thing” about distancing and wearing masks, even in states moving to eliminate restrictions against the CDC’s recommendations.
  • President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have agreed to tighten the upper income limits at which people could qualify for stimulus checks in the party’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. That’s a major concession to moderates as party leaders prepared to move their legislation through the Senate.
  • Federal officials say 200 inmates at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, have declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including numerous medically vulnerable prisoners who have been seeking release to home confinement due to concerns about the coronavirus.
  • More than one-third of U.S. nonprofits are in jeopardy of closing within two years because of the financial harm inflicted by the viral pandemic, according to a study being released Wednesday by the philanthropy research group Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
  • A majority of small businesses aren’t requiring their employees to get tested for the new coronavirus or get any COVID-19 vaccines, though the health care and hospitality industries are ahead of the curve on the requirement.
  • Hard-hit Czech Republic has turned to Germany and other European countries with a request to help treat its coronavirus patients. Neighboring Germany has offered dozens of beds in its hospitals to treat Czech COVID-19 patients.