Home / 2021 / February / 21

Daily Archives: February 21, 2021

Israeli Economy Reopening Following Coronavirus Shutdown

JERUSALEM – Israel has reopened many schools, malls and gyms that were closed for several weeks. Some venues, however, are open only to those with a “green passport,” a document showing they have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine. The opening comes amid reports that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine works better than expected.?

Malls reopened after almost two months, and there were lines outside some of the stores. Parking lots were jammed, and many children went back in school for the first time in months.

But some venues, like gyms, cultural events and hotels, are open only to those with a green passport, a document showing that they have either received both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, or have recovered from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.?Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Israel is not imposing an obligation to get vaccinated. ?

Edelstein said that contrary to what he called “fake news,” Israel is not imposing sanctions on anyone who does not get vaccinated. ?

At the same time, some in Israel said that limiting venues like gyms and hotels to those who have been vaccinated was in effect a sanction on those who hadn’t received the shots. ?

So far, about one-third of Israel’s population of 9.2 million has received both doses, and nearly half have received the first shot. A further 3 million Israelis are not eligible to receive the vaccine, either because they are under 16 or because they have recovered from the infection. The director of Israel’s Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Ronni Gamzu, says the results of the Pfizer vaccine are even better than in clinical trials.

They show that the vaccine is very effective and very, very minor side effects almost, you know what, almost none, we have seen cases here and there, and we have seen the effectiveness is what was stated in the studies of Pfizer and Moderna, around 95 percent, and if you look at people admitted to the hospital it is even more than that. The protection is solid, said Gamzu.

Israel’s Health Ministry said that after two doses, Israelis saw their risk of illness from the coronavirus drop 98.5 percent, and their risk of hospitalization drop almost 99 percent. The statement was based on data from a poll of 1.7 million Israelis who had received both shots by the end of January.

Among those being vaccinated are Arab citizens?of Israel, and Palestinians in east Jerusalem, which is under Israeli control; but, the 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have yet to be inoculated.

The Palestinian minister of health said on Friday that Israel has agreed to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinian laborers who work regularly in Israel. Some human rights groups say that because Israel controls entry and exit into the West Bank and Gaza, it is responsible for providing vaccinations for the residents there.

Source: Voice of America

White House Hopes Majority of Public Schools Will Be Reopened by April

WASHINGTON – The United States is struggling to reopen its public schools across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the White House said Sunday it is hoping to have full-time, in-class instruction in a majority of schools by April.

“That’s our goal, that’s our objective, that’s our plan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC’s “This Week” show.

But she said meeting the goal is contingent on congressional approval of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which includes $130 billion in assistance for schools.

“Many schools across the country don’t have the resources to be able to invest in improving the facilities, on hiring more bus drivers, on hiring more temporary teachers so we can have smaller class sizes,” she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given “clear, science-based guidelines for school districts on the range of steps they can take to be safe. But every school in the country does not have that funding and the resources,” Psaki said. “We need the federal government to address that.”

The House of Representatives is planning to vote this week on the Biden relief package with the hope of full congressional approval by mid-March.

Currently, 47% of U.S. pupils in kindergarten through 8th grade are attending classes in person and 33% of 9th through 12th graders, while the remainder are attending classes virtually from home or in a mix of at-home and in-school instruction.

But one Republican critic of the size of the Biden relief aid, Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, told ABC, “There’s money out there already,” more than $1 trillion in unspent funds from previous relief packages he says that could be sent to local communities throughout the country to help reopen schools. He also criticized the Biden package for not requiring schools to reopen in full if more money is approved.

“There’s so much science out there that says [virtual learning] is hurting kids,” Scalise said. “Millions of kids in America right now are not getting in-classroom learning every day.”

He said about 40% are attending classes in schools, “so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Those are in hot spots, places where the virus is not as serious. If you look at what the priority should be, it should be the children.”

“Our kids can’t wait,” he said. “They need to be in a classroom today. The science says they can be in a classroom today. The question is, is the will there for some politicians in Washington who are bowing to the teachers’ unions,” some of which are opposed to restarting full-time classroom instruction.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert and Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN the “default position (of the Biden administration) is to get the children back to school and protect the teachers.”

He said school systems across the U.S. can reopen if they follow guidelines issued last week by the CDC to “get the children back to school in the safest way possible.”

The U.S., with 4% of the world’s population, is nearing 500,000 deaths, 20% of the global total, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is monitoring the global outbreak.

“It’s terrible,” Fauci said. “It’s really horrible. It’s a terrible milestone in the history of this country.”

But Fauci said better days are ahead as millions of Americans are being vaccinated against the virus.

“We’re going to have a significant degree of normality toward the end of the year,” he said. “It’ll be much better over where we are right now.”

Source: Voice of America