Georgia state senators voted Tuesday to permanently block schools and most state and local government agencies from requiring people to get vaccinated against COVID, the Associated Press reported, in the latest move to scrap such a mandate.
The Georgia Senate voted 31-21 in favor of the bill, which would make permanent what had been a one-year ban enacted in 2022.
The 2022 ban was part of a conservative nationwide backlash against the mandates that were aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. It was set to expire June 30 if not extended by lawmakers.
Sen. Nan Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat, said the majority is “fundamentally signing on to the anti-vaccination movement” and tying the hands of government should COVID-19 again worsen.
“We know that there’s been a movement building in America to demonize vaccinations and do it in the name of individual rights,” Orrock said, as the AP reported.
The Georgia vote comes after New York City scrapped its COVID vaccine requirement for public-sector workers and California dropped one for schoolchildren.
It also comes as U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline. On May 11, President Joe Biden plans to end the twin emergencies the federal government had declared in order to manage the pandemic.
The seven-day average of new U.S. COVID cases stood at 39,460 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker. That’s down 14% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 17% to 29,753. The average for deaths was 449, down 17% from two weeks ago.
Cases are currently rising in 23 states and are flat in Kansas. On a per capita basis, they are rising fastest in Rhode Island, at 22 new cases per 100,000 residents.
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Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• No new variants of COVID were detected in Beijing in the weeks after China ended its zero-COVID policy in December, according to a new study published on Wednesday, as MedicalXpress.com reported. The study by Chinese researchers, who analyzed 413 samples from Beijing sequenced between Nov. 14 and Dec. 20, said “there is no evidence that novel variants emerged” during that time. Instead, they said, more than 90% of the cases were caused by BF.7 and BA5.2, omicron subvariants that were already present in China and that have been overtaken by more transmissible subvariants in Western nations.
• Separately, China said Wednesday it is actively sharing COVID information with the World Health Organization, Reuters reported. China has always done so, according to the country’s National Health Commission, which said that a Chinese delegation had made that assurance during a WHO meeting held in Geneva from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7.
• Fraudulent COVID loans cost U.K. taxpayers £640 million (equivalent to $774 million), Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The loans were made to small businesses that are now suspected of being fraudulent, the latest sign that the government failed to put sufficient safeguards in place to protect taxpayer money. Lenders have flagged £1.1 billion of the £46.6 billion spend on the Bounce Back Loan Scheme as suspected fraud as of the end of 2022, according to data released Tuesday by the British Business Bank. In total, the U.K. has so far paid out £4.1 billion, just under 9% of the total, to lenders to cover defaulting loans from the program.
Here’s what the numbers say:
The global tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 671,1 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.84 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 102.6 million cases and 1,112,152 fatalities.
The CDC’s tracker shows that 229.6 million people living in the U.S., equal to 69.2% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.
So far, just 51.4 million Americans, equal to 15.5% of the overall population, have had the updated COVID booster that targets both the original virus and the omicron variants.