Pope reverts to mask-less ways amid growing criticism
A day after donning a face mask for the first time during a liturgical service, Pope Francis was back to his mask-less old ways Wednesday despite surging coronavirus infections across Europe and growing criticism of his behavior and the example he is setting.
Francis shunned a face mask again during his Wednesday general audience in the Vatican auditorium, and didn’t wear one when he greeted a half-dozen mask-less bishops at the end. He shook hands and leaned in to chat privately with each one.
While the clerics wore masks while seated during the audience, all but one took his mask off to speak to the pope. Only one kept it on, and by the end of his tete-a-tete with Francis, had lowered it under his chin.
Vatican regulations now require facemasks to be worn indoors and out where distancing can’t be “always guaranteed.” The Vatican hasn’t responded to questions about why the pope wasn’t following either Vatican regulations or basic public health measures to prevent COVID-19.
No immediate changes planned in Nevada as cases spike
Nevada’s rate of coronavirus infections is steadily rising again. But state officials are reluctant to blame relaxed guidelines and say there is no reason yet to consider stricter measures.
“We’re not at that point now,” Governor Steve Sisolak said.
“I don’t want to get to that point … I don’t want to see that happen, so we are working to loosen things up more and get people back to what their new normal is,” he said Tuesday at a news conference in Las Vegas.
Sisolak and state health officials pointed to national and worldwide trends rather than the easing of state guidelines as the cause of the spikes. He said adherence to prevention measures could curb the spread of the virus and prevent reimplementing restrictions.
Nevada’s rate of infections has been increasing since Sisolak, a Democrat, relaxed restrictions on the size of public gatherings on October 1. The White House Coronavirus Task Force has since redesignated the state as a “red zone,” after the number of new cases per week per 100,000 residents surpassed 100.
The governor acknowledged the rates of new cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations were trending at an “alarming” rate in Nevada. But he echoed comments from health officials that pointed to broader trends rather than decisions to ease restrictions.
Nevada’s 14-day rolling average for the positivity rate, which measures community transmission of the virus, began this week at 9.1% for the third consecutive day.
Another chunk of England faces tight virus restrictions
The South Yorkshire region of northern England is being placed under the country’s tightest restrictions to curb the coronavirus – joining a densely populated swathe of the country where the measures have been imposed despite protests from local politicians.
Dan Jarvis, mayor of the region’s biggest city of Sheffield, said Wednesday the Tier 3 restrictions for about 1.4 million people will come into force on Saturday. He said local authorities had struck a deal with the British government on financial support for the area to accompany the measures.
“We all recognize the gravity of the situation and have taken the responsible route to ensure we save lives and livelihoods,” Jarvis said.
“The character and grit of people in South Yorkshire will be needed in abundance to help us get through what will be an incredibly challenging period.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is resisting a recommendation from its scientific advisers to have a short nationwide “circuit-breaker” lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. Instead, it has adopted a three-tier system for England, with areas classed as medium, high or very high virus risk. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own measures.
In the highest-risk areas of England, pubs have to close, people are barred from mixing with members of other households and travel in and out of the area is discouraged.