COVID Live Updates: Pandemic has devastating impact on foster care system

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The crippling effect of COVID-19 has impacted some of America's most vulnerable children: those in foster care.

"They have experienced disruption from their daily life, the school that they attend, that they're rhythms and routines, and now they have the pandemic on top of all of that," said Jeannie Imelio, CEO of Aspiranet, a California non-profit dedicated to foster care and adoption support.

She says finding homes for children, at any age, has become more difficult due to the financial and emotional hardship foster families are experiencing because of the pandemic.

"We've seen families decide to take breaks," Imelio said. "We've seen them need to reduce the number of children they can care for."

Children's cases are moving slower, so they are in care longer, and virtual court dates are being overwhelmed with review cases that are from 2021 and are spilling over into this year.

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Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:



Starting Wednesday, masks no longer required at NY child care programs
Starting March 2, the Office of Children and Family Services is no longer requiring masks be worn in child care programs in New York.

However, child care programs can still opt to require masks and children and staff should be encouraged to wear a mask if they prefer to do so.

Masks optional at Brooklyn, Queens Catholic schools starting Wednesday
Catholic Academies and Parish Schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Queens, will make face coverings an individual choice for staff and a parental choice for all students starting on Wednesday. However, city funded Pre-K-3 and Pre-K-4 programs will need to continue to wear masks as required by the New York City Department of Education.

1 million Sputnik coronavirus vaccines expire in Guatemala

Health authorities in Guatemala say over a million doses of the Russian Sputnik coronavirus vaccine have expired, because nobody wanted to take the shot. Francisco Coma, the country's health minister, said Monday that there was a "rejection" among the population toward the vaccine, even though a lot of Guatemalans remain unvaccinated. Only about 43% of the country's 12.6 million inhabitants over age 11 are fully vaccinated, in a country whose total population is 17 million. It was unclear if people had any particular doubts about the Russian vaccine, or if they were unwilling to take any vaccine.
"We have tried to make available all the vaccines of different brands, to the public," Coma said. "Unfortunately, there has been a rejection among the public to vaccination."

Biden extends FEMA coronavirus aid for states through July 1
President Joe Biden is extending the federal government's 100% reimbursement of COVID-19 emergency response costs to states, tribes and territories through July 1, the White House announced Tuesday. White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors on a conference call that Biden is approving the extension of Federal Emergency Management Agency support to help continue FEMA-backed efforts like vaccination clinics, mass testing sites and surging hospital resources to deal with local case spikes.

"FEMA's priority throughout the response to COVID-19 has been to coordinate and provide the necessary resources and personnel states, tribes and territories need to adequately respond to the pandemic," FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said. "Today's extension of the 100% cost-share through July 1, 2022, builds on our efforts to assist impacted communities across state and federal levels."

British queen holds virtual audiences after COVID symptoms
Queen Elizabeth II has held two virtual audiences after more than a week of suffering cold-like symptoms from COVID-19. Buckingham Palace said the 95-year-old British monarch held virtual sessions with the ambassadors of Chad and Andorra on Tuesday. The queen canceled several sessions last week, so the ones held Tuesday suggest she is recovering. The palace's Feb. 20 announcement that Elizabeth had tested positive test for the coronavirus virus prompted concern and get-well wishes from across Britain's political spectrum. The queen is the country's longest-reigning monarch and has a series of engagements coming up as she celebrates her 70 years on the throne.

Australian prime minister diagnosed with COVID-19
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday but will continue his official duties while isolating.

"I am experiencing flu-like symptoms and will be recovering over the next week," Morrison said in a statement.

He said would continue working as prime minister, focusing on the government's responses to the Ukraine war and devastating floods on Australia's east coast. He is isolating in his official Sydney residence.

Morrison held a news conference with Defense Minister Peter Dutton earlier Tuesday in which the government promised $50 million in missiles, ammunition and other military hardware for Ukraine.

Our America: Health Equity & COVID | Watch full panel discussion
ABC Owned Television Stations and Participant have joined forces to present "Our America: Health Equity & COVID," a series of conversations focusing on health equity and supporting the mental health and wellness of our health care workers. The first conversation will be grounded in "The First Wave," a documentary from National Geographic Documentary Films and director Matthew Heineman, and will focus on the issues facing health care workers both since and before the start of the pandemic, as well as the disproportionate impact of COVID-19. It comes on the heels of Congress' passage of the Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which aims to improve mental and behavioral health among health care providers and health care workers, and is a timely reminder of the inequities pervading our health systems.

How many times can I reuse my N95 mask?
How many times can I reuse my N95 mask? It depends, but you should be able to use N95s and KN95s a few times. The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says health care workers can wear an N95 mask up to five times. But experts say how often the average person can safely wear one will vary depending on how it's used. Using the same mask to run to the grocery store, for example, is very different than wearing it all day at work.

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