COVID restrictions relaxed; new vaccine joins the fight

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced changes to the state’s COVID rules during a news conference Tuesday afternoon, March 2, 2021.


Michigan restaurants and bars will be able to accommodate double the number of indoor diners. Shops and businesses can also allow more customers and private gatherings may involve more people under a new state health order set to take effect Friday. Businesses limited to only 25% capacity for months will now be allowed to accept 50%. Adjustments also include gyms, casinos raised to 30% and 50% for indoor movie theaters. Restaurant and bar curfew is extended from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m.

Additional adjustments in COVID protocols include residential gatherings of 15 indoors and 50 outdoors; with non-residential gatherings at 25 indoors and 300 outdoors. Sports facilities are subject to 50% of the limits established by the fire marshal (if applicable), and must not exceed an overall total of 1,000 people. Face masks are required, unless eating or drinking. Large indoor stadiums/arenas: up to 375 patrons for large venues with a seating capacity up to 10,000 seats, and up to 750 patrons for large venues with a seating capacity over 10,000 seats.


The state is also easing limits on nursing home visitors, allowing those who have received a negative COVID-19 test to visit their loved ones.


Vaccines


Supply and distribution issues to provide vaccine for an expanding list of clinics across the country is looking up as Johnson & Johnson received emergency approval for its COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend. Michigan will get its first shipments this week.


Joining Moderna and Pfizer as the 3rd weapon in the battle against the pandemic, the new entrant to “Operation Warp Speed” is manufactured here in Michigan by Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing at their Grand Rapids facility. Clinical trials have shown 85% effective against severe disease and 100% effective at preventing death.


The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both require two injections a month apart, along with special handling. Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored and shipped at between -112ºF to -76ºF, something that caused initial difficulty of the requirement for special freezers. The Pfizer vaccine must be diluted before it’s used, and it cannot be shaken, but must be carefully inverted exactly 10 times to mix it. The Moderna vaccine requires some special handling, but can be kept the temperature of a home freezer.

The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be kept at simple refrigerator temperatures for up to three months, making it far easier to store and ship. The vaccine requires just a single injection.


The most recent statement from President Joe Biden claims the availability of enough vaccine supply to provide inoculations for every adult U.S. citizen by the end of May.


Nationally


Governor Greg Abbott says it’s time to open Texas 100% and end statewide mask mandate which flies in the face of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. chief medical adviser, recent suggestion in an interview on CNN that people might need to keep wearing masks until 2022.

Mississippi followed Texas in lifting the state’s mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100%.


International


Citing recent data showing that over half of Israel’s adult citizens have received both injections of the COVID vaccine, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines announced Monday that its newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, will start sailing from Haifa in mid-May with Israeli passengers. It will be the first cruise line to offer “fully vaccinated sailings,” with crew and passengers older than 16 required to have a full course of the vaccine against COVID-19.

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