Masks help keep students safe from COVID, studies say; vaccine mandate for NYC teachers temporarily blocked. Latest COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Mask mandates may have been a flash point in school districts across the nation as students went back to school late this summer, but studies keep showing the policies are helping prevent students from catching COVID-19.

Two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies released Friday found outbreaks and pediatric cases were more common when schools didn’t mandate masks.

One study of about 1,000 schools in two Arizona counties says schools without mask mandates were 3.5 times more likely to have outbreaks than schools that started the year with a mask mandate. Another study of hundreds of U.S. counties found an increased rate of pediatric cases in areas where schools didn’t have mask mandates.

Authors cautioned that a number of variables could affect the analysis, but the findings fall in line with what experts have long said: Masks provide instantaneous — although imperfect — protection from infection.

“School mask requirements, in combination with other prevention strategies, including COVID-19 vaccination, are critical to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools,” authors wrote in the second study.

Outbreaks have resulted in nearly 2,000 school closures this year, a third study found. 

Also in the news:

A third federal judge blocked Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee from allowing families to opt out of mandatory mask-wearing in schools late Friday. The judge’s order applies to Williamson County. Another judge previously blocked Lee’s order in Knox County.

► The United States had its first ferret test positive for COVID-19 in Florida after it showed symptoms including coughing and sneezing, the Department of Agriculture announced Friday. A ferret in Slovenia previously tested positive.

► President Joe Biden urged those eligible for COVID vaccine booster shots to take them, calling them a “key step” in fighting the pandemic. Biden said he also plans to get his booster as soon as he can.

► Retired Connecticut physician Dr. Sue Mcintosh had her license suspended for allegedly issuing false COVID vaccine, mask-wearing and other exemption forms to people she had not treated.

► “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin and contributor Ana Navarro tested positive for COVID-19 Friday moments before an in-studio interview with Vice President Kamala Harris.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 42.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 686,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 231 million cases and 4.7 million deaths. More than 182.9 million Americans — 55.1% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: More than 20 million Americans are eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots. Should you get one? Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Federal judge deals blow to vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

New York City schools have been temporarily blocked from enforcing a vaccine mandate for its teachers and other workers by a federal appeals judge just days before it was to take effect.

The worker mandate for the the nation’s largest school system was set to go into effect Monday. But late Friday, a judge for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary injunction and referred the case to a three-judge panel an an expedited basis.

Department of Education spokesperson Danielle Filson said officials seeking a speedy resolution by the circuit court next week.

“We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve,” Filson said in an email.

She said more than 82% of department employees have been vaccinated.

While most school workers have been vaccinated, unions representing New York City principals and teachers warned that could still leave the 1 million-student school system short of as many as 10,000 teachers, along with other staffers, such as cafeteria workers and school police officers.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has resisted calls to delay the mandate.

— The Associated Press

Civil rights complaint filed against Idaho as the state rations medical resources

An advocacy group has filed a complaint against Idaho, alleging the state is discriminating against older adults with its guidance for crisis standards of care amid overwhelming COVID cases.

The state said it would allow health care facilities to ration care while they are dealing with surging COVID cases in the state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

Hospitals are allowed to allot scarce resources, such as intensive care unit rooms, to patients most likely to survive, and make other dramatic changes to the way they treat patients. Other patients will still receive care, but they may be placed in hospital classrooms or conference rooms rather than traditional hospital rooms, or go without some medical equipment.

The civil rights complaint alleges that the state is discriminating against the elderly by using factors like age to determine how care is allocated. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Greg Stahl told The Associated Press the guidelines are rooted in ethical standards for allocating resources.

5 dead, 74 infected after Washington nursing home outbreak

A nursing center is trying to battle a COVID-19 outbreak that started in August, when the first new case was confirmed.

The Pinewood Terrace Nursing Center in Colville, Washington has seen 22 staff and 52 residents test positive for the coronavirus and five deaths. The first case was reported on Aug. 25, according to the Northeast Tri-County Health District.

Out of the 74 total infected, 33 were fully vaccinated and of the five residents who died, one was fully vaccinated. 

— Keira Wingate, USA TODAY

Vaccine makers could see big profits from booster shots

Since President Joe Biden laid out his plan to offer booster COVID vaccine shots to most Americans in August, vaccine makers have seen a bump in forecasted revenue.

Moderna’s anticipated 2022 revenue jumped 35% since the plan was announced.

Since then, regulatory bodies have rejected Biden’s sweeping plan and decided Pfizer’s third dose could be given to the most at-risk people only. There is still the possibility that boosters will be more widely approved as the pandemic evolves.

Morningstar analyst Karen Andersen expects boosters to result in $26 billion in global sales next year for Pfizer and BioNTech and around $14 billion for Moderna if the extra shots are eventually endorsed for nearly all Americans.

— The Associated Press

Contributing: The Associated Press