Michigan to lift restrictions next week; US embassy in Afghanistan locked down amid case surge: Live COVID-19 updates

Michigan to lift restrictions next week; US embassy in Afghanistan locked down amid case surge: Live COVID-19 updates

June 18, 2021

Michigan will lift all indoor capacity restrictions and mask requirements next week, 10 days sooner than planned amid vaccinations and plummeting COVID-19 infections, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday.

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” Whitmer said in a news release.

Just months ago, the state was considered the worst COVID-19 hot spot in the nation. At mid-April, it was at a record-high for childhood hospitalizations — an alarming virus situation that researchers blamed on the U.K. variant when it first turned up in the state.

Now, Michigan’s seven-day case rate has dropped to 18.4 per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a 96.7% drop from 551.8 per 100,000 people on April 14. 

Same with New York City. After restrictions opened up Tuesday in the state, the New York Yankees will resume 100% capacity at Yankee Stadium starting with Friday night’s series opener against the Oakland Athletics.

And California regulators approved revised pandemic rules that end mask requirements for fully vaccinated workers, thus giving them the same freedoms as when they are off the job, freedoms granted this week.

But rates of COVID-19 vaccinations are continuing to slow across the United States, data from the CDC shows.

In the past week, only six states reported administering first doses at a pace of at least a quarter of their peak rate. Another six states reported administering first doses at a pace less than a tenth of their peak rate.

Also in the news:

►Ohio will end its COVID-19 emergency declaration Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday. Ohioans continue to die from COVID-19, DeWine said, but cases and hospitalizations have continued to decline. Most of the state’s health orders, however, ended June 2.

►The U.S. Open tennis tournament will allow 100% spectator capacity throughout its entire two weeks in 2021. This comes a year after spectators were banned from the Grand Slam event in New York because of the coronavirus pandemic.

►The U.K. has recorded more than 10,000 daily coronavirus infections for the first time in nearly four months, likely the result of the spread of the more contagious delta variant. The variant accounts for around 95% of all new cases in the U.K..

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 600,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 177.36 million cases and more than 3.84 million deaths. More than 147.7 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 44.5% of the population, according to the CDC. 

📘What we’re reading: As the Delta variant of COVID-19 tore through India last month, there was a lot of concern, but few answers about what would happen when it arrived in the United States.Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

COVID-19 surge in Afghanistan hits US embassy, prompting lockdown

A dangerous surge in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan has gripped the U.S. embassy in Kabul, forcing an immediate lockdown and the creation of temporary, on-site COVID-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients, according to an internal memo.

“COVID-19 is surging in the Mission. 114 of our colleagues now have COVID and are in isolation; one has died, and several have been medevaced,” reads the notice from Shane Pierce, an employee in the embassy’s health unit. His memo says that intensive care units at a U.S. military hospital “are at full capacity,” prompting the need to set up temporary on-site units for staff who need oxygen. 

Ned Price, the State Department’s chief spokesman, noted the surge in cases coincides with “an intense third wave of COIVD-19 cases” across Afghanistan. Infection rates have surged in Afghanistan by 2,400% over the past month, according to the International Federation of Red Cross. Read more.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

As COVID-19 crisis ebbs, some seeking 9/11-style commission

With more than 600,000 Americans dead of COVID-19 and questions still raging about the origin of the virus and the government’s response, a push is underway on Capitol Hill and beyond for a full-blown investigation of the crisis by a national commission like the one that looked into 9/11.

It is unclear whether such a probe will ever happen, though a privately sponsored team of public health experts is already laying the groundwork for one.

Many worry that politics will get in the way of any inquiry, as happened when Republicans came out against a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by President Donald Trump supporters. Others fear that a desire by many to simply move on will thwart a review.

“I think we need to get into the weeds, to look at the details to see what happened,” said Sabila Khan of Jersey City, New Jersey, whose father, Shafqat Rasul Khan, died of COVID-19. “If this happens again, our loved ones died in vain.”

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