COVID News: 2 anchors of U.S. pandemic protection ending

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Labor Day 2021 represents a perilous crossroads for millions of Americans. Two primary anchors of the government's COVID protection package are ending or have recently ended.

The $300 weekly jobless benefit boost stopped Monday, affecting an estimated 8.9 million people. A federal eviction moratorium already has expired.

While other aspects of pandemic assistance including rental aid and the expanded Child Tax Credit are still widely available, the social safety net has clearly shrunk.

The Biden administration believes the U.S. economy is strong enough not to be rattled by evictions or the drop in unemployment benefits and that the other elements of the safety net are enough to smooth things over.

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



NY strengthens workplace protections against COVID
NY Governor Kathy Hochul announced Monday that the commissioner of health has designated COVID-19 a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health under New York State's HERO Act. As a result, all employers will now be required to adopt workplace safety plans in response to the pandemic. Employers can adopt a model safety plan as crafted by the New York State Department of Labor, or develop their own safety plan in compliance with HERO Act standards. "While we continue to increase our vaccination numbers, the fight against the Delta variant is not over, and we have to do everything we can to protect our workers," Hochul said. "This designation will ensure protections are in place to keep our workers safe and support our efforts to combat the virus and promote health and safety."

8.9 million people lose all federal unemployment benefits Monday as COVID safety net ends
April Stokes wants to go back to work. An optician by trade, Stokes was employed at Henry Ford OptimEyes until the coronavirus struck and school closed for her two young children. The family has been able to ride out the pandemic thanks to expanded federal unemployment benefits, which provided them with $1,152 every two weeks -- much less than Stokes was making before, but enough to survive. Now, however, that vital lifeline has ended. Stokes isn't worried about her ability to find a new job, but finding one that can accommodate her children's schedules will be "next to impossible," she says. Child care in the Detroit suburb where she lives is severely limited, she said, and the nanny she trusted to pick up the kids in the afternoon prior to the pandemic is no longer available.

Labor Day could exacerbate COVID surge with millions still unvaccinated, experts warn
Labor Day weekend crowds across the country are triggering new fears that an already dire COVID crisis could soon potentially get even worse. As Americans get ready to celebrate the end of summer, health officials are once again urging the public, particularly those who are still unvaccinated, to act responsibly during the Labor Day weekend, given the country's ongoing struggle with the virus.

"First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.

Holidays, which often entail traveling and large gatherings, have proven to be a catalyst of rapid COVID-19 spread across the country.

Booster shots for public may start later than 1st planned
Vaccine booster shots for the general public may begin later than initially planned. That's because while a booster shot for the Pfizer vaccine has gotten approval, the FDA is still reviewing data on a booster for the Moderna shots. One concern is how strong the dose should be. The goal was to begin booster shots in less than 3 weeks on September 20.

Already vaccinated against COVID? Experts say you're protected
Health experts are reinforcing the point that full vaccination remains highly effective against severe illness and death caused by COVID-19 as federal regulators consider the possibility of authorizing a third dose in the upcoming weeks. "What's the goal of this vaccine? The stated goal by (CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky) and others is to prevent serious infection, and all the data today, published by the CDC, presented by the CDC, is it's done exactly that," Dr. Paul Offit, a top vaccine expert and US Food and Drug Administration adviser said Friday. "There's been no evidence of clear erosion of protection against serious disease," he said. The conversation around vaccines has fluctuated because health experts are learning new information about the coronavirus and its variants. But amid the debate, experts are consistent in noting the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Is the mu variant worse than delta? What to know about COVID-19 mutations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the COVID-19 delta variant as one of its "variants of concern" (VOCs) on June 15. According to the CDC, VOCs can be more contagious, more dangerous, less susceptible to available treatments or harder to detect. The uncontrolled spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, means the virus is mutating quickly. That's why many new variants are being discovered in places with the highest infection rates and large numbers of unvaccinated individuals, like the United States, the United Kingdom, India and Brazil.
"Viruses mutate; they change their form all the time," said ABC News medical contributor, Dr. Simone Wildes, a board-certified infectious disease physician and public health expert at South Shore Health in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

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