CDC added four new countries to its Level 4 travel risk category, urging people to avoid those locations amid rising coronavirus cases, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from Arkansas, Georgia, and Illinois.
- Arkansas: In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he regrets signing a law banning mask mandates in schools amid rising coronavirus cases and low vaccination rates in the state. Hutchinson last week called on the state legislature to allow schools to implement their own masking rules while still banning local governments from implementing similar rules. According to Hutchinson, he continues to support a statewide ban on mask mandates because adults can be vaccinated while children don't have the option. However, the state's lawmakers have said lifting the ban will be difficult, as doing so before school starts would require both chambers of the state Legislature to have two-thirds vote in favor. "My issue is it's real close that we would even have the majority right now," Jimmy Hickey (R), president of the state's senate, said. (Lonas, The Hill, 8/4)
- Georgia: CDC on Monday added four new locations—Greece, Ireland, Iran, and the Virgin Islands—to its highest travel risk level, Level 4. At this level, the risk of coronavirus transmission is "very high," and the agency recommends against travel there. Regarding Greece in particular, the agency said, "Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variant." CDC recommends people who cannot avoid traveling to the added locations be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before they go. Six other countries—Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Israel, and Cuba—were added to CDC's highest risk level the week before. (Williams, The Hill, 8/3)
- Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Wednesday announced the state would implement a mask mandate in schools and a vaccine mandate for select state employees. According to a press release, this decision was precipitated by rising Covid-19 cases that have led to increased hospitalization, ICU occupancy, and ventilator usage. All students, teachers, and staff members, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear masks in schools, effective immediately. In addition, the vaccine mandate applies to state workers in high-contact settings, such as state prisons, veterans' homes, and other care facilities. Affected workers will have until Oct. 4 to get vaccinated. (Saric, Axios, 8/4)