DeSantis administration puts health official on leave for encouraging vaccinations for staff: COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration put Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino on leave this week after encouraging his staff to get vaccinated.

Pino had written in a Jan. 4 email to his staff: “I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it,” WMFE, a public radio station in Orlando, reported.

Pino’s email to his staff detailed that only 219 of his 568 staff members had received two doses. “I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated. We have been at this for two years, we were the first to give vaccines to the masses, we have done more than 300,000 and we are not even at 50% pathetic,” he wrote.

DeSantis and his state surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, have questioned the efficacy of masks and vaccines. The state’s Department of Health also has advised against testing for people who have no symptoms, stating, “COVID-19 testing is unlikely to have any clinical benefits.” 

— Frank Gluck, Fort Myers News-Press

Also in the news:

►Singer Adele has postponed her Las Vegas residency due to COVID-related production delays, the singer announced a day before her first show was set to kick off. 

►A passenger’s refusal to wear a face mask on board, which is required by federal law, forced an American Airlines flight bound for London to return to Miami this week. Police have not arrested the woman, and the department spokesperson said American Airlines will handle the incident administratively.

► The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services ordered nursing homes provide COVID-19 vaccines to residents on-site.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 69 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 860,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 340 million cases and over 5.57 million deaths. More than 209 million Americans – 63% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re reading: A nationwide chain of coronavirus testing sites known as the Center for COVID Control is facing increasing scrutiny after USA TODAY reporter Grace Hauck started asking questions. Read more.

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.

Essential workers coming into US need vaccination proof

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that essential workers crossing U.S. land borders, such as truck drivers and nurses, will have to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination starting Saturday.

The United States began allowing fully vaccinated foreign nationals to cross its land borders in November for nonessential purposes such as tourism or visiting friends and family for the first time since March 2020. The new announcement extends the vaccine requirement to essential workers who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Unlike those arriving by plane, those arriving by land travel will not have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry.

“These updated travel requirements reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protecting public health while safely facilitating the cross-border trade and travel that is critical to our economy,” DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a news release.

Earlier this month, United States federal officials warned U.S. travelers to avoid Canada due to its “very high” level of COVID-19, upgrading its level 3 travel health notice to level 4, the highest alert level.

“If you must travel to Canada, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” the CDC warned on its website. “Because of the current situation in Canada, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

Massachusetts man with COVID dies while waiting for hospital transfer

A Massachusetts man and pizza shop owner died while waiting for a hospital bed to open up after contracting COVID-19

Antonios “Tony” Tsantinis, 68, of East Brookfield, Massachusetts, died Dec. 10. He had fallen ill just after Thanksgiving and his longtime companion, Angela DiUlio, was sick, too. During a trip to the emergency room, they both tested positive for COVID-19.

Tsantinis was admitted to a hospital in Southbridge, Massachusetts, after his daughter, Rona Tsantinis-Roy, realized he had become a lot sicker. He needed additional care that the hospital was unable to provide and a search ensued for an available hospital bed.

“They called every hospital within 75 miles,” Tsantinis-Roy said, adding that by the time there was a spot for him at a Connecticut hospital, he was too sick to be transferred.

As he battled COVID-19, his kidneys began to fail and he needed dialysis, according to NPR. A short time later, Tsantinis-Roy and her brother, Andy Tsantinis, saw their dad, but it was to say goodbye.

“He literally looked me in the eyes and said this didn’t have to happen,” Tsantinis-Roy recounted to NPR when the doctor told her that her father was dead.

— Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY, and Kim Ring, Telegram & Gazette