India smashes global case record, true tally could be 10 times higher, expert says: Live COVID updates

India smashed another daily global record of new infections Saturday with more than 400,000 new cases, but at least one expert says the true tally could be 10 times that.

Less than 2% of India’s 1.4 billion people are fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry says.

Dr. Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto estimates, based on modeling from a previous surge in India, that the true infection numbers could be 10 times higher than the official reports.

“Entire houses are infected,” Jha said. “If one person gets tested in the house and reports they’re positive and everyone else in the house starts having symptoms, it’s obvious they have COVID, so why get tested?”

The U.S. has begun shipping valuable vaccine components, oxygen and masks to India, but the demand will still far outstrip supply. President Joe Biden’s administration also plans to restrict travel between the U.S. and India beginning Tuesday.

Also in the news:

►About 10% of the population of Republic, a small city in north-central Washington, has tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak traced to large indoor events last month at the local Fraternal Order of Eagles hall.

►A Nebraska community college is using federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for tuition and books for high schoolers from the state to take courses this summer. The Omaha World-Herald reports that officials at the Metropolitan Community College hope their newly approved offer will pull in thousands of students.

►Pope Francis in a special prayer service on Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica invoked the end of the pandemic and a return of what he called “a horizon of hope,” including a scenario in which scientists can figure out how to conquer the coronavirus.

►Canada will get Pfizer vaccines doses from the United States starting next week. The country had been getting Pfizer’s vaccines from its Belgium site. Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada in recent months.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 576,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 152 million cases and 3.2 million deaths. More than 310 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 243 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 103 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.

📘 What we’re reading: CDC guidelines on wearing masks after vaccination could affect communities of color, experts say. Here’s how.

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Iowa turns down 71% of COVID vaccine offered by feds

Iowa is turning down 71% of the COVID-19 vaccine supply it could have received from federal officials for the week of May 10, as demand for the shots continues to wane, the Iowa Department of Public Health said Saturday. This marks the second consecutive week that the state is asking the federal government to withhold part of its expected allocation of doses.

Department spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand said Saturday that the state could have received a total of 105,300 doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine from federal officials for the week of May 10. That total includes nearly 21,000 doses the state asked federal officials to withhold for the week of May 3. For the week of May 10, the state is asking federal officials to withhold 75,280 doses, Ekstrand said in an email to the Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Ekstrand also said 88 of Iowa’s 99 counties have told the state they won’t need part or all of their weekly allocations of vaccine for the week starting May 10. That’s up from 80 counties that declined allocations for the coming week and 43 counties that declined all or part of their allocations for last week.

– Tony Leys, Des Moines Register

Federal mask mandate extended into September for planes, trains, buses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans, and some states have rescinded mask mandates. But masks will still be a must if you’re traveling by plane, train or bus this summer. The Transportation Security Administration on Friday extended its face mask requirement for airplanes, airports, trains, commuter rail systems and other modes of transportation through Sept. 13. The mandate, which began Feb. 1, was due to expire May 11.

“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” Darby LaJoye, a senior TSA official, said in a statement. “Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot, and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.” Read more.

– Dawn Gilbertson

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