10 things you need to know today: July 27, 2021
Biden announces the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, medical groups call for vaccinating all health-care workers, and more
Biden announces formal end of U.S. combat mission in Iraq
President Biden on Monday announced the formal end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq "by the end of the year." Biden met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in the Oval Office, and said that American troops would shift their focus to training and assisting Iraq forces fighting the Islamic State. "Our shared fight against ISIS is critical for the stability of our region and our counterterrorism cooperation will continue, even as we shift to this new phase we're going to be talking about," Biden said. Iraq's U.S. ambassador, Fareed Yasseen, told ABC News last week that Iraq's military would continue to request U.S. assistance as needed for intelligence, surveillance, and other purposes. Several U.S. officials said that the 2,500 U.S. troops still in Iraq already were largely concentrating on assisting their Iraqi counterparts.
Medical groups call for mandating vaccinations for health workers
Nearly 60 major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, said it was an ethical obligation to make sure that all health-care workers were vaccinated against the coronavirus as the virulent Delta variant drives a new surge of infections. In a joint statement, the organizations called for health-care and long-term care employers to enforce the requirement. "This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health-care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being," the statement said. Many hospitals and health-care systems have announced in recent weeks that they would require vaccinations for their workers, just as many do with flu shots.
Biden administration recognizes long COVID as a disability
The Biden administration announced Monday that it was issuing a guidance recognizing long COVID-19, which leaves people with coronavirus symptoms for extended periods after the virus has been cleared from their systems, as a disability under civil rights laws. "We're bringing agencies together to make sure Americans with long COVID who have a disability have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law," President Biden said in a White House Rose Garden ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some "long-haul" COVID-19 patients suffer from fatigue, chronic pain, and other symptoms. The recognition of the condition as a disability would ensure these patients accommodations in workplace, school, and health-care settings.
White House maintains travel restrictions as Delta variant spreads
The White House will maintain current coronavirus restrictions affecting travelers from many countries, largely due to the need to curb the rapid spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. The decision, which triggered some criticism, came despite pressure from the travel industry and U.S. allies to ease restrictions on travel by foreigners to the United States. The restrictions imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic have essentially halted tourism from abroad and applications for asylum in the U.S. Psaki said the Biden administration would always be guided by the recommendations of public health experts. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical adviser, said Sunday that the U.S. was "going in the wrong direction" as COVID-19 cases surged, particularly among the unvaccinated, as inoculation rates slowed.
Pfizer, Moderna to test vaccine effects on more children
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, at the request of federal regulators, are expanding clinical trials on their coronavirus vaccines to include several thousand children ages 5 to 11, a change intended to help determine whether a rare heart inflammation seen in a small number of vaccinated young adults also affects kids. The Food and Drug Administration asked the drugmakers to expand their studies to provide more information before they submit applications for emergency approval for the vaccines to be administered to children in the age group. The FDA reportedly told the companies that the scope of their trials was not broad enough to detect such rare side effects. The addition of 3,000 children to each trial reportedly will roughly double their size.
Senators, White House continue infrastructure talks after deadline passes
Democratic and Republican senators and the White House held high-stakes negotiations on Monday, hoping to save a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal. The bipartisan group of senators has been conducting closed-door discussions for weeks, but failed to finalize an agreement before a Monday deadline. Sticking points include how much to spend on public transit and water infrastructure, and whether projects to upgrade roads, bridges, broadband, and other priorities would be covered under federal wage requirements. The two sides also have disagreed over whether some of the money can come from unspent COVID-19 funds. "This is heading in the right direction," Republican negotiator Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said.
Last victim of Surfside condo collapse identified
The last victim of the Champlain Towers South condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, has been identified as 54-year-old Estelle Hedaya, a native New Yorker who moved to Florida six years ago, Hedaya's mother confirmed to The Washington Post on Monday. The beachside condo building collapsed early on June 24, when most residents were sleeping. A massive rescue-and-recovery effort — the largest non-hurricane response in Florida history — continued for days after the collapse. Authorities say the death toll is now at 98. "It really means the world to be able to have closure for all of those who were seeking their loved ones," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cara said during a Monday news conference.
California, NYC to mandate vaccines for government employees
California and New York City on Monday announced that they would require government workers to get coronavirus vaccines or be tested for COVID-19 weekly. The moves mark the "opening of the floodgates," with more governments and companies expected to follow with their own vaccine mandates as the national vaccination push stalls due to widespread resistance, said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health. The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first major federal agency to impose a vaccine mandate on health-care workers. St. Louis became the second major city, after Los Angeles, to order a new mandate requiring people to wear face masks indoors, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.
Former Sen. Barbara Boxer assaulted, robbed in Oakland
Former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was assaulted and robbed in Oakland, California, on Monday, a representative said on Twitter. Boxer was in the Jack London Square neighborhood when the assailant "pushed her in the back, stole her cell phone, and jumped into a waiting car," the tweet stated. "She is thankful that she was not seriously injured." Boxer, 80, served in the Senate from 1993 to 2017. She was succeeded by now-Vice President Kamala Harris. Before her time in the Senate, Boxer served as a member of the House of Representatives. The early afternoon incident is under investigation, with police officers gathering surveillance footage taken in the area, the Oakland Police Department said.
Lydia Jacoby wins Olympic gold in an upset
U.S. swimmers added to their Olympic medal haul, with Alaska teen Lydia Jacoby giving U.S. women their first swimming gold in Tokyo with her upset victory in the women's 100-meter breaststroke. Teammate Lilly King, the favorite and defending Olympic champion, took the bronze, behind silver-medal-winner Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa. Team USA also took two bronze medals in the 100m backstroke, with Regan Smith picking up the medal on the women's side and Ryan Murphy following with a third-place finish for the men, behind two Russian swimmers. Katie Zaferes of the United States took the bronze in the women's triathlon, 1:27 behind winner Flora Duffy, who won the first gold medal ever for Bermuda.