Another trucker protest convoy falters with few people: COVID updates

A truck convoy that rolled out of California bound for the nation’s capital to protest COVID-19 mandates and other concerns has given up because of lack of trucker interest.

“The launch in California had a good turnout of supporters, but only 5 trucks were with us on arrival in Vegas,” organizers of Freedom Convoy USA said Saturday on the group’s Facebook page. “There are 2 other convoys that have massive turnouts.”

The organizers encouraged truckers who had expressed interest in joining their ranks to join other convoys headed to Washington, D.C., to air similar concerns. The Freedom Convoy had left Los Angeles Friday, planning on reaching Washington on Tuesday.

Now the organizers are directing any truckers who had been interested in joining them to join the People’s Convoy that left California earlier last week or the Texas Convoy that has been trying to organize a drive to start in about a week. The group said it had $6,500 that will be dispersed to truckers who arrive to Maryland and D.C.

Last week a protest convoy from Pennsylvania bound for the Capital Beltway fell apart amid concerns of arrest before being bogged down in rush-hour traffic.

The Pentagon has authorized the use of up to 700 unarmed National Guard members and dozens of vehicles to ensure roads and highway remain open through an protests.

Also in the news: 

►Nearly half of the 500 million free COVID-19 tests the Biden administration recently made available to the public still have not been claimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to test.

►The COVID-19 vaccination site at the Rhode Island Convention Center closed Saturday. The state is focusing on managing the virus rather than eliminating it.

►Boston is appealing a judge’s order blocking its COVID-19 vaccination mandate on certain classes of firefighters and police officers.

►Hong Kong will no longer require all children who test positive for COVID to be separated from their families and isolated in a hospital after an outcry from families, Reuters reported. In some cases even toddlers were removed from their homes.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 78.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 948,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 434.5 million cases and 5.9 million deaths. More than 215.4 million Americans – 64.9% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re reading: After a few false starts, organizations – from banks to nonprofits to hospitals – are once again gearing up to bring their employees back to work. They’re bringing anxiety, questions, even fear with them.

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

Chicago schools to continue requiring masks

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to drop the statewide school mandate effective Monday won’t change a thing in Chicago, the nation’s fourth-largest public school system with 350,000 students. The decision by Pritzker, a Democrat, to follow the lead of a growing number of governors from both parties comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates its guidance for communities where COVID-19 is easing its grip. The agency says masks may not be needed in almost two-thirds of U.S. counties, citing easing strain on health care systems as new cases plummet.

In a letter to parents and students, the district said masks will remain a requirement in its 650 schools. School buildings are not like other indoor settings, the letter says.

“We all look forward to the day when masks will no longer be required in schools,” the letter says. “We plan to work with our labor and public health partners on the best way to preserve a safe learning environment for all.”

Mental health issues in teen girls increased during the pandemic

Mental health issues for teenage girls such as eating disorders, depression and tics increased during the pandemic compared with 2019, according to a study released by the CDC. Emergency department visits in 2020 increased for girls ages 12 to 17 for tic disorders and eating disorders, the study found. In 2021, teen girls went to emergency rooms more often for issues related to depression, eating, tic and obsessive-compulsive disorders. And in the first month of 2022, there was an increase in visits for anxiety, trauma and stressor-related, eating, tic and obsessive-compulsive disorders. 

Overall pediatric visits to emergency departments declined in the years of the pandemic. Mental health-related visits also decreased overall for children under 18 during the pandemic, emphasizing the need for specific outreach efforts with adolescent girls, the study said.

Most Americans are in areas where they can shed masks indoors, but most Floridians are not

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the majority of Americans can remove their masks indoors – but that’s not true of most Floridians. About 70% of Americans live in counties the CDC classifies as places where COVID-19 is placing a “low” or “medium” level of strain on health care systems, so there is no need to require mask-wearing indoors and in schools, the federal agency says.

The same is true for just 44% of Floridians. Just 25 of Florida’s 67 counties are in the “low” or “medium” categories, which emphasize COVID hospitalizations more than case counts. Florida logged at least 25,390 new infections in the past week, state health officials reported Friday, the lowest seven-day sum since Dec. 17. The state also recorded 888 new fatalities this past week, the first time since Jan. 21 when the seven-day statewide death toll increase was less than 1,000.

– Chris Persaud, Palm Beach Post

Contributing: The Associated Press