#Live #Covid #News #Updates
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday and is receiving an antibody treatment, though he has no symptoms, the governor’s office announced.
An ardent opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has taken his opposition to such requirements all the way to the State Supreme Court. Mr. Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, will now be isolated in the Governor’s Mansion while receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, which can help patients who are at risk of getting very sick.
“The governor has been testing daily, and today was the first positive test result,” the statement said. “Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government.”
The announcement came less than a day after Mr. Abbott appeared at a crowded indoor political event hosted by a Republican club in Collin County, a hotly contested area of the fast-growing suburbs north of Dallas.
In the images and in videos posted by the governor’s campaign, Mr. Abbott could be seen smiling and shaking hands with supporters who were largely unmasked. “Collin County is fired up to keep Texas RED,” the governor’s campaign posted.
According to the The Houston Chronicle, Mr. Abbott told those gathered that masks were optional — a stance that he has taken across Texas even as cases have risen sharply and some hospitals are filling to at or near capacity. The governor’s office did not respond to questions about the event.
At least 10 other sitting governors — four Democrats and six Republicans — have contracted the virus since the pandemic began, according to reports compiled by Ballotpedia, a political information site. So have four lieutenant governors, all Republicans.
Vaccination rates in Texas lag those of many other U.S. states, and deaths are rising, though far more slowly than in prior waves, given that a majority of the state’s oldest and most vulnerable residents are now vaccinated. The state has averaged more than 15,000 new cases a day as of Tuesday, up from an average of more than 10,000 cases a day two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database.
Mr. Abbott, 63, has faced criticism as available intensive-care beds have dwindled in Austin and in other cities. But he maintained his ban on mask mandates, which prohibits local officials from imposing restrictions in their communities.
Fear and frustration over the course of the pandemic in Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state, come as schools were preparing to reopen, raising worries about further spread of the virus.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending that even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in high-risk areas and that everyone should wear one in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Mr. Abbott, though, doubled down in the opposite direction. He issued an executive order that stopped local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines and reaffirmed decisions to prohibit officials from requiring that students wear masks.
Across the United States, most counties are experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission, according to the C.D.C.
Last week, after Mr. Abbott’s ban suffered at least three legal setbacks, the state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said that he was taking the issue to the State Supreme Court. The setbacks were in areas with Democratic leaders, rampant cases and rising hospitalizations.
The State Supreme Court sided with the state on Sunday, ruling that schools could not make masks mandatory.
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this item referred incorrectly to guidance recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidance said that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, should wear masks in public indoor settings, not that the fully vaccinated did not need to do so.
Since Americans first began rolling up their sleeves for coronavirus vaccines, health officials have said that those who are immunized are very unlikely to become infected, or to suffer serious illness or death. But preliminary data from seven states hint that the arrival of the Delta variant in July may have altered the calculus.
Breakthrough infections in vaccinated people accounted for at least one in five newly diagnosed cases in six of those states and higher percentages of total hospitalizations and deaths than had been previously observed in all of them, according to figures gathered by The New York Times.
The absolute numbers remain very low, however, and there is little doubt that the vaccines remain powerfully protective. This continues to be “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” as federal health officials have often said.
Still, the trend marks a change in how vaccinated Americans might regard their risks.
“Remember when the early vaccine studies came out, it was like nobody gets hospitalized, nobody dies,” said Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “That clearly is not true.”
The figures lend support to the view, widely held by officials in the Biden administration, that some Americans may benefit from booster shots in the coming months. Federal officials plan to authorize additional shots as early as mid-September, although it is not clear who will receive them.
“If the chances of a breakthrough infection have gone up considerably, and I think the evidence is clear that they have, and the level of protection against severe illness is no longer as robust as it was, I think the case for boosters goes up pretty quickly,” Dr. Wachter said.
The seven states — California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Virginia — were examined because they are keeping the most detailed data. It is not certain that the trends in those states hold throughout the United States.
In any event, scientists have always expected that as the population of vaccinated people grows, they will be represented more frequently in tallies of the severely ill and dead.
“We don’t want to dilute the message that the vaccine is tremendously successful and protective, more so than we ever hoped initially,” said Dr. Scott Dryden-Peterson, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“The fact that we’re seeing breakthrough cases and breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths doesn’t diminish that it still saves many people’s lives.”
The C.D.C. declined to comment on the states’ numbers. The agency is expected to discuss breakthrough infections, hospitalizations and vaccine efficacy at a news briefing on Wednesday.
Most analyses of breakthrough infections have included figures collected through the end of June. Based on the cumulative figures, the C.D.C. and public health experts had concluded that breakthrough infections were extremely rare, and that vaccinated people were highly unlikely to become severely ill.
The states’ data do affirm that vaccinated people are far less likely to become severely ill or to die from Covid-19.