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President Biden and Vice-President Harris honor lives lost to COVID-19

“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There’s no such thing,” Biden said.

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The President, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, pay tribute in a moment of silence to 500,000 lives lost in the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo Credit: Official White House Photo)

WASHINGTON – In a simple ceremony at the Diplomatic Entrance to the South Portico of the White House Monday evening, surrounded by 500 illuminated candles each one representing 1,000 lives lost over the past year to the coronavirus, President Joe Biden paid tribute honoring those Americans.

Accompanied by his wife, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, the president held a moment of silence and reflection.

Delivering his remarks in the Great Cross Hall in a clearly emotional moment, the president removed his face mask and gave a eulogy to the over 500,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus.

“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There’s no such thing,” Biden said. “There’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary.”

“Just like that,” he added, “so many of them took their last breath alone.”

The president, who has faced horrendous loss and grief in his own life, first with the deaths of his first wife and baby daughter in a car crash decades ago- then later with the death of his beloved son Beau Biden to brain cancer, gave a message of comfort couched in a deeply personal way.

“I know all too well. I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens,” said Biden. “I know what it’s like when you are there, holding their hands, as they look in your eye and they slip away. That black hole in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it.”

Biden then embraced a sense of hope telling the American people,

“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we’ll remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind.”

“We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or, on the news. We must do so to honor the dead. But, equally important, to care for the living.”

The president, who had earlier on Monday ordered flags at all federal property lowered to half staff for five days to commemorate the lives taken noted;

“It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It’s our fellow Americans. It’s our neighbors, our friends, our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives. We have to fight this together, as one people, as the United States.”

Official White House Photo

Full text of President Biden’s remarks:

Each day, I receive a small card in my pocket that I carry with me in my schedule.  It shows the number of Americans who have been infected by or died from COVID-19.  Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead.  That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined.  That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth. 

But as we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, we remember each person and the life they lived.  They’re people we knew.  They’re people we feel like we knew.  Read the obituaries and remembrances.  The son who called his mom every night just to check in.  The father’s daughter who lit up his world.  The best friend who was always there.  The nurse — the nurse and nurses — but the nurse who made her patients want to live.

I was in — just in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at the Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility.  There, I met a man when I walked in, whose father-in-law was dying of the virus.  He was sad.  I asked if I could call his father-in-law.  He said his father-in-law was too sick to speak.  But then he said, but could I pray for him — could I pray for him. 

We all know someone — fellow Americans who lived lives of struggle, of purpose, and of hope.  Who talked late into the night about their dreams; who wore the uniform, born to serve; who loved, prayed, and always offered a hand. 

We often hear people described as “ordinary Americans.”  There’s no such thing; there’s nothing ordinary about them.  The people we lost were extraordinary.  They spanned generations.  Born in America.  Immigrated to America.  But just like that, so many of them took final breath alone in America.

As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate.  While we have been fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.  We have to resist viewing each life as a sta- — as a statistic or a blur or on the news.  And we must do so to honor the dead, but equally important, care for the living and those left behind.

For the loved ones left behind, I know all too well — I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens.  I know what it’s like when you are there, holding their hands.  There’s a look in your eye, and they slip away.  That black hole in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it.  The survivor’s remorse.  The anger.  The questions of faith in your soul. 

For some of you, it’s been a year, a month, a week, a day, even an hour.  And I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen table, it brings it all back, no matter how long ago it happened, as if it just happened that moment you looked at that empty chair.  The birthdays, the anniversaries, the holidays without them.  And the everyday things — the small things, the tiny things — that you miss the most.  That scent when you open the closet.  That park you go by that you used to stroll in.  That movie theater where you met.  The morning coffee you shared together.  The bend in his smile.  The perfect pitch to her laugh.

I received a letter from a daughter whose father died of COVID-19 on Easter Sunday last year.  She and her children — his grandchildren — enter Lent this season, a season of reflection and renewal, with heavy hearts.  Unable to properly mourn, she asked me in the letter, “What was our loss among so many others?” 

Well, that’s what has been so cruel.  So many of the rituals that help us cope, that help us honor those we loved, haven’t been available to us.  The final rites with family gathered around.  The proper homegoing, showered with stories and love.  Tribal leaders passing [with]out the final traditions of sacred cultures on sacred lands.

As a nation, we cannot and we must not let this go on.  That’s why the day before my inauguration, at the COVID-19 Memorial at the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, I said to heal — to heal, we must remember.  I know it’s hard.  I promise you, I know it’s hard — I remember.  But that’s how you heal: You have to remember.  And it’s also important to do that as a nation.

For those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: They’re never truly gone.  They’ll always be part of your heart.  I know this, as well — and it seems unbelievable, but I promise you: The day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye.  It will come.  I promise you.  My prayer for you though is that day will come sooner rather than later.  And that’s when you know you’re going to be okay — you’re going to be okay. 

And for me, the way through sorrow and grief is to find purpose.  I don’t know how many of you have lost someone a while ago and are wondering, “Is he or she proud of me now?  Is this what they want me to do?”  I know that’s how I feel.  And we can find purpose — purpose worthy of the lives they lived and worthy of the country we love. 

So today, I ask all Americans to remember: Remember those we lost and those who are left behind.

But as we remember — as we all remember, I also ask us to act.  To remain vigilant, to sa- — stay socially distanced, to mask up, get vaccinated when it’s your turn.  We must end the politics and misinformation that has divided families, communities, and the country, and has cost too many lives already.  It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus.  It’s our fellow Americans.  It’s our neighbors and our friends — our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives. 

We have to fight this together, as one people, as the United States of America.  That’s the only way we’re going to beat this virus, I promise you.  The only way to spare more pain and more loss — the only way these millstones [sic] no longer mark our national mourning — these milestones, I should say — no longer mark our national mourning.  Let this not be a story of how far we fell, but of how far we climbed back up.  We can do this. 

For in this year of profound loss, we have seen profound courage from all of you on the frontlines.  I know the stress, the trauma, the grief you carry.  But you give us hope.  You keep us going.  You remind us that we do take care of our own.  That we leave nobody behind.  And that while we have been humbled, we have never given up.  We are America.  We can and will do this.

In just a few minutes, Jill and I, Kamala and Doug, will hold a moment of silence here in the White House — the People’s House, your house.  We ask you to join us to remember, so we can heal; to find purpose in the work ahead; to show that there is light in the darkness. 

This nation will smile again.  This nation will know sunny days again.  This nation will know joy again.  And as we do, we will remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind.  We will get through this, I promise you.  But my heart aches for you — those of you who are going through it right now. 

May God bless you all, particularly those who have lost someone.  God bless you

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LA County requiring vax proof for indoor bars & nightclubs by Oct. 7

Participants and workers at outdoor “mega events” with more than 10,000 attendees must provide proof of vax or show a recent negative test

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that it will begin requiring verification of vaccination in select high-risk settings by October 7.

During a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday, L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the supervisors that vaccine verification will be required for customers and employees at indoor portions of bars, wineries, breweries, night clubs, and lounges.

The modified Health Officer Order would require customers and employees at bars, breweries, wineries, night clubs and lounges to have at least one dose of the vaccine by October 7 and both doses by November 4.

Public Health will require vaccination verification or a negative test within 72 hours prior to attending outdoor mega events. Participants and workers at outdoor “mega events” with more than 10,000 attendees must provide proof of vax or show a recent negative test.

Attendees at indoor mega events are already required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result prior to entry. 

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials are prepared to move forward with the updated order later this week, Ferrer said.

“This modified health officer order aligns with the continued need to reduce risk for transmission and increase vaccination coverage,” Ferrer said. “This is a reasonable path forward that can position us to be better able to break the cycle of surges.”

She noted that while the health order won’t require it, Public Health will recommend that restaurants also begin verifying vaccination status for indoor dining.

“As evidence mounts affirming the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination mandates are an increasingly important tool to prevent future COVID surges that cause widespread suffering. The modified Health Officer Order aligns with the continued need to reduce risk for transmission and increase vaccination coverage; this is a reasonable path forward that can position us to be better able to break the cycle of surges,” Ferrer added.

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LAUSD to require vaccines- Biden lays out new plan to require vaccines

“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective & requiring students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”

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Photo Credit: Los Angeles Unified School District

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Thursday that it will require for students 12 and older who are attending class in person to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The LAUSD Board of Education voted, 6-0, to pass the measure making it the first major school system, the second largest in the United States to require its more than 460,000 students, including some enrolled at independent charter schools located in LAUSD owned buildings, to be vaccinated.

Interim superintendent, Megan Reilly, said at Thursday’s board meeting that student vaccination was one way to ensure that the district’s classrooms would be able to remain open. Los Angeles had some of the country’s most extended school closures last year. All students ages 12 and up will be required to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10, 2022, unless they have a “medical or other exemption,” Reilly noted.

The science is clear — vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19,” Reilly said in a statement following the vote. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”

New York Times educational journalist Dana Goldstein tweeted:

As the Delta variant brought another wave of COVID-19 infections this summer, in California the number of unvaccinated young people being hospitalized has increased in certain areas of the state.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health noted that while case rates increased among children in all age groups between mid-July and mid-August, cases have declined by about 30% in all age groups among children (0-4, 5-11, and 12-17 years old) over the past two weeks.

The decrease is similar to the decreases we are seeing in cases among adult residents and occurred as many schools reopened with testing, masking, infection control and outbreak management protocols in place.  Over the past week, children under 18 comprised, on average, 27% of all cases seen in L.A. County.

Among L.A. County teens 12 to 17 years old, more than half of whom are vaccinated, we see just how powerfully protective the vaccines really are. As of August 28, the case rate among unvaccinated 12 to 17-year-olds was 424 cases among every 100,000 unvaccinated children in this age group compared with 51 cases among 100,000 of those vaccinated.

Among groups ineligible for vaccination, the case rate was 130 per 100,000 children aged 0 to 4, and 230 per 100,000 children aged 5 to 11.

As of September 5, 62% of L.A. County residents 12 to 15 years old received at least one dose of vaccine, while 51% were fully vaccinated. Sixty-nine percent of residents 16 to 17 years old received at least one dose, and 59% were fully vaccinated.

In K-12 school settings countywide, between August 15 and September 7, 7,784 student cases and 1,250 staff cases were reported, with the vast majority occurring at LAUSD, which tests everyone weekly.

The second highest number of cases came from other K-12 schools in L.A. County. With more than 1.5 million students and 175,000 staff countywide (by last year’s counts), 0.5% of the student body and 0.7% of staff have become infected since school districts reopened.  This is slightly higher than the 0.4% rate of infection experienced overall in the County.

“We support the actions taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District and other schools and school districts to add an additional layer of protection at schools through a sensible school vaccine requirement for eligible students,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Vaccination remains one of the quickest and most powerful ways to decrease community transmission and prevent serious illness, which helps keep students, teachers, and staff in school, and the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe and effective. Public Health will continue to work closely with school districts as they take critical actions to protect students and staff from a dangerous and highly infectious virus,” said Ferrer.

Battle over vaccinations and mask wearing has become so acrimonious in some parts of the country it is not unusual to see fistfights breaking out at school board meetings and law enforcement agencies effecting arrests as those who are adamantly opposed to coronavirus safety protocols protest, sometime violently, measures designed to protect the risk of infection by the COVID-19 virus.

As school boards weigh their options in implementation, in one highly publicized and now viral moment, anti-maskers in Rutherford County Schools in Tennessee at a school board meeting attacked a teen student who had lost a grandparent to the pandemic.

At the White House Thursday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation on his plans to implement plans to address the shortfall in the number of Americans who are vaccinated.

Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free,” the President acknowledged. 

This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot

And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.  Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities.  This is totally unacceptable,” Biden argued. 

The President then took direct aim at officials and others who in his eyes who have blocked progress saying; “These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.” 

President Joe Biden (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

Biden laid out the steps he was going to order to combat the lack of vaccinations in the nation.

I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week. Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this: United Airlines, Disney, Tysons Food, and even Fox News,” he said.

He announced vaccination requirements for all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid and then expanded those requirements to include those who work in hospitals, home healthcare facilities, or other medical facilities –- a total of 17 million healthcare workers.

The President then said he would sign an executive order requiring all executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated as well as another executive order that will require federal contractors to do the same.

As part of his plan Biden said that the Department of Labor will require employers with 100 or more workers to give those workers paid time off to get vaccinated.  “No one should lose pay in order to get vaccinated or take a loved one to get vaccinated,” he said.

The President then noted; “And my message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for?  What more do you need to see?  We’ve made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient. The vaccine has FDA approval.  Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot.”

We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.  And your refusal has cost all of us.  So, please, do the right thing.  But just don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying, “If only I had gotten vaccinated.”  “If only,” he said. 

Biden also addressed the future availability of vaccines for children under 12 and schools.

Now, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re wondering when will it be — when will it be — the vaccine available for them.  I strongly support an independent scientific review for vaccine uses for children under 12.  We can’t take shortcuts with that scientific work

Now to the schools.  We know that if schools follow the science and implement the safety measures — like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems that we provided the money for, social distancing, and vaccinations — then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools.

Today, about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated.  We should get that to 100 percent.  […] And tonight, I’m calling on all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.  Some already have done so, but we need more to step up,” Biden said.

The President castigated local and state officials he viewed as an impedimentg to winning the fight against the virus;

Let me be blunt.  My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions.  Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs.  Talk about bullying in schools.  If they’ll not help — if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way. 

The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered.  Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government 100 percent.  I promise you I will have your back,” he stated.

Addressing the increasing violence against mask wearing and other simple measures Biden noted;

In addition to testing, we know masking helps stop the spread of COVID-19.  That’s why when I came into office, I required masks for all federal buildings and on federal lands, on airlines, and other modes of transportation,” he said.

Today — tonight, I’m announcing that the Transportation Safety Administration — the TSA — will double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask.  If you break the rules, be prepared to pay.  And, by the way, show some respect.  The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong; it’s ugly,” he added.

 







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Breakthru Delta Variant on rise in LA County as Pfizer gets full FDA okay

Last week Los Angeles County surpassed the grim milestone of losing more than 25,000 residents to COVID-19

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FDA Headquarters (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – Numbers of fully vaccinated people being affected by breakthrough infections of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus are rising in Los Angeles County according to L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

The latest data “reflect the reality that the vaccines do not provide 100% protection, and that with these high rates of community transmission, more fully vaccinated people are getting post-vaccination infections,” Ferrer said. “However, this very same information also makes it clear how much protection vaccinated people still have. Most of us that are fully vaccinated don’t get infected.”

Among the 5.1 million L.A. County residents who are fully vaccinated, 0.53% have tested positive, 0.014% have been hospitalized and 0.0013% — or 68 people — have died.

On Monday the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 7 new deaths and 2,331 new cases of COVID-19. There are 1,722 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for nearly 7,940,000 individuals with 16% of people testing positive. The test positivity rate is 2.8%, (Monday) a slight decrease from last week’s same-day rate of 3.4%

It was announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the license for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for those 12 through 15 years old and for a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. The licensing approval was announced after another thorough evaluation of safety and effectiveness data by a panel of scientific and medical experts. FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products.

Last week Los Angeles County surpassed the grim milestone of losing more than 25,000 residents to COVID-19. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is one of the leading causes of death – surpassing stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Between July 11 and August 11, hospitalizations rose by 333% to an average of 1,622 beds filled with people testing positive for COVID-19 on any given day, and deaths rose 275% to an average of 15 deaths per day

As the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, Federal officials announced changes to vaccination strategies aimed at increasing the protection afforded to people by vaccines. With emerging data indicating that certain populations will need more support to be protected, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on August 13 recommended a third dose of mRNA vaccines for immunocompromised people, including transplant recipients, people with advanced or untreated HIV infection, people actively receiving cancer treatment, and people taking immunosuppressive medications. 

Third doses have been available to eligible individuals at vaccination sites across LA County since Saturday.  Additionally, following yesterday’s announcement by the CDC that booster doses of mRNA vaccines will be offered to all vaccinated people, Public Health is continuing to work with staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities to prioritize these most vulnerable residents for booster doses to be prepared for administering these as soon as the Food and Drug Administration gives their approval.

Public Health notes the difference between third doses and booster doses is more than just language. Third doses are meant to elicit an antibody response where there was an inadequate antibody response before, while booster doses are meant to increase antibody levels that have waned after a robust increase in the months after vaccination.

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