Ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on vaccine mandates expected as early as this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is under increased scrutiny after recent comments about COVID-19 deaths.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky fell into controversy after a clip of her appearance on Good Morning America Friday went viral.
“I want to ask you about the encouraging headlines we’re talking about this morning, a new study talking about just how well vaccines are working to prevent severe illness,” co-host Cecilia Vega said on Good Morning America. “Given that, is it time to rethink how we’re living with this virus if it is potentially here to stay?”
Days after Republican Gov. Mike Parson let emergency COVID-19 orders expire on Dec. 31, Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reported significant increases in COVID-19 infections.
The DHSS dashboard on Monday showed 35,067 new confirmed cases during the last seven days, an 88.8% increase compared to the previous seven-day total. The seven-day positivity rate was 27.3%, an increase of 11.7 percentage points compared to the previous seven-day total. Many health organizations and agencies consider a positivity rate higher than 5 or 10% to be a predictor of rampant spread of sickness, resulting in increased hospitalizations and deaths.
“Thanks to the effectiveness of the vaccine, widespread efforts to mitigate the virus, and our committed health care professionals, past needs to continue the state of emergency are no longer present,” Parson said in a statement on Dec. 30, 2021. “Over the last 22 months, we have coordinated with local, state, and private partners to mitigate COVID-19 and work towards returning to normalcy. We all now know how to best fight and prevent serious illness from this virus. The State stands ready to provide assistance and response, but there is no longer a need for a state of emergency.”
After unvaccinated healthcare workers were fired for refusing to comply with vaccine mandates, some are being asked to return to work due to staffing shortages amid increasing COVID-19 cases.
In Canada, for example, Alberta Health Services announced on Dec. 23 it will allow unvaccinated healthcare workers to resume their jobs starting Jan. 10 if they submit to frequent testing. AHS cited expected increased demands on the health system due to the spread of the Omicron variant for the policy change. As of the date of the announcement, 1,400 healthcare workers who were not fully vaccinated had been placed on unpaid leave.
AHS said that unvaccinated workers will be responsible for paying for and coordinating their COVID tests, which they must complete no more than 48 hours prior to their shifts.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a case from a Catholic hospital challenging a ruling that forces it to sterilize patients through gender transition surgery.
Evan Minton, a patient seeking uterus removal surgery as part of the gender transition process, will be allowed to go forward with suing the Mercy San Juan Medical Center for canceling the surgery.
Minton seeks to compel the hospital to perform surgeries that directly contravene Catholic teachings, Dignity Health, which operates Mercy San Juan, told the court. The case “poses a profound threat to faith-based health care institutions’ ability to advance their healing ministries consistent with the teachings of their faith,” according to Dignity Health’s petition.
The president of the largest union of health care workers in the U.S. says it will fight companies requiring its members to have mandatory COVID-19 shots as a condition of employment.
The announcement came one day after Houston Methodist announced that 153 employees had been fired or resigned for refusing to get the shots as a condition of employment. Those suing argue requiring employees to receive a vaccine approved only through Emergency Use Authorization violates federal law. After a recent court dismissal, their attorney vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, is weighing the organization’s legal options.