Walmart mandated customers wear face masks starting last July (File)Washington, United States: US retail giant Walmart on Friday said customers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer have to wear masks in their stores, and staff can do the same starting next week.”Beginning today, vaccinated customers and members are welcome to shop without a mask, and we will continue to request that non-vaccinated customers and members wear face coverings in our stores and clubs,” the company said in a statement, while adding that masks would still be required where mandated by local authorities.Employees who are more than two weeks past their vaccination can stop wearing masks from May 18, the company said, and all employees are eligible for a $75 bonus if they prove they have got their jab.”These are positive developments. We can do this. We’ve been through a lot this year, and now we need to do our part to finish this,” Walmart said in a statement signed by corporate leadership.The announcement follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lifting on Thursday of mask-wearing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a decision that came over a year after it was first issued at the beginning of the pandemic that has killed more than 585,000 people in the United States.Walmart mandated customers wear face masks starting last July, and is now among the first major American corporations to end the requirement.”We are also reviewing whether masks may still be required for certain job codes for health and sanitation purposes and will share additional guidance soon. Some associates may choose to continue to wear masks, and as part of our value of respect for the individual we should all support their right to do so,” the company said.The largest private employer in the United States, Walmart has a staff of about 1.5 million people in the country and saw soaring sales throughout 2020 despite the pandemic’s business disruptions.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
Republican Gov. Spencer Cox has previously defended his administration’s decision to mandate masks in schools this school year against parent protests. AP PhotoSALT LAKE CITY: Utah’s governor said Thursday the state has no plans to require masks for students in K-12 schools next fall, following months of mounting pressure from parents calling for the mandate’s end. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox has previously defended his administration’s decision to mandate masks in schools this school year against parent protests, but now says the state’s rising vaccination rates indicate that districts are prepared to limit restrictions. “We now have the ability for those that have concerns about the virus to protect ourselves much more,” Cox told The Associated Press. “We have better masks available and opportunities for people to make those decisions.” Dozens of districts nationwide have already dropped mask mandates and many more districts have indicated they are likely to not require them next fall. At least half of states still have statewide mask mandates in place, and many school districts still require masks. The school-tracking site Burbio found 62% of schools were offering in-person learning every day by late April. As recently as last month, Utah’s governor said that if the state removed masks “there are a whole bunch of vulnerable kids and vulnerable parents who would have to take their kids out of school and we don’t want that to happen,” the Deseret News reported. Cox said Thursday that’s no longer a major concern as cases drop. Cox said that students who are at a higher risk can protect themselves by wearing N95 masks to school or utilizing remote learning if their school offers it. Those decisions will be up to families rather than the government, he said. “There will certainly be opportunities to accommodate those who may be struggling or are worried about that but our hope is that … by the time we’re back in school by the end of August that that won’t be a concern for most families,” Cox said. Requiring masks in schools has been contentious for Utah parents over the last year. Granite School District board members were forced to adjourn a meeting and call police Tuesday after 30 to 40 anti-mask parents began shouting. In November, protesters who characterized masks in school as “child abuse” disrupted another district meeting in American Fork. Lifting mask mandates now would be a mistake, and over the summer there should be serious conversations about safe benchmarks for the fall, said Adam Hersh, a University of Utah professor of pediatric infectious diseases. In some ways, when it comes to Covid-19 precautions, a school is more like a hospital or doctor’s office than a grocery store, he said. Kids don’t generally have choices about where they attend school in the same way adults can choose where to shop. School is also where people spend hours indoors, creating more potential for exposure. “I think there’s a moral obligation to ensure schools are as safe as possible,” he said. Hersh worked on a study that showed transmission rates are very low, under 1%, at schools with precautions like masks and distancing. There’s little data on school settings without masks, but there are troubling indications from earlier in the pandemic, including when Israel lifted a mask mandate during a heatwave in summer 2020 and high transmission rates at a summer camp in Georgia. Some of those risks are lower now as vaccination rates rise among U.S. adults, but shots haven’t been approved for kids younger than 16. That appears likely to change by next school year, as the FDA is expected to approve use of the Pfizer vaccine among kids as young as 12. Younger children, though, likely won’t have access by next school year. And though children overall aren’t considered as vulnerable to the coronavirus, there are indications that variants like the one first identified in the U.K. are a bigger threat. While children formed a small portion of cases early on, they’re making up a greater portion of case counts, in line with their share of the population, as more adults get vaccinated and variants become more prevalent. Utah lifted its statewide mask mandate on April 10, but a mask order for K-12 schools ends June 15, when most districts have let out for summer. It is unclear if districts or schools will be able to impose their own mask rules, but Cox said the Legislature could convene to reinstate some restrictions if cases surge again. The Utah Education Association said in a statement that mask requirements for teachers, staff and students “should remain in place until public health experts signal is it safe to remove them.” FacebookTwitterLinkedinEMail
The president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, has asked opposition leader Yair Lapid to form a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to secure enough support to form a coalition.
Lapid, the chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party will have a 28-day mandate to form a government. He has so far received 56 recommendations from lawmakers from across Israel’s 120-seat Knesset.The politician has pledged to rotate as prime minister with Naftali Bennett, the chairman of the right-wing Yamina party, who has seven recommendations.Rivlin made the announcement in a televised speech on Wednesday, saying it was clear Lapid could form a government, given the support for him in the Knesset.
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Israeli PM Netanyahu misses deadline to form government coalition, President Rivlin to decide next move
Israel, which has held four elections in two years, has been “caught in a maze – if not a political crisis,” the president said.Earlier on Wednesday, Bennett urged all political parties to form a “broad emergency government” in order to avoid a fifth election.At midnight local time on Tuesday, Netanyahu, Israels longest-serving leader, missed the deadline to form a government.His right-wing Likud party won 30 seats in the Knesset in the March election, making it the largest party, ahead of Yesh Atid, which took 17 seats.Like this story? Share it with a friend!
In power from 1996 to 1999 and again since 2009, Netanyahu has acquired a reputation as a master political survivor.JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government following an inconclusive election expired on Wednesday, giving his rivals a chance to take power and end the divisive premier’s record tenure. Netanyahu, on trial over corruption charges he denies, had a 28-day window to secure a coalition following the March 23 vote, Israel’s fourth in less than two years. The 71-year-old’s right-wing Likud party won the most seats in the vote, but he and his allies came up short of an absolute majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The results delivered by a deeply fractured electorate left Netanyahu with a daunting path towards 61 seats, as voters broadly chose not to reward him for a successful coronavirus vaccination campaign. President Reuven Rivlin’s office said in a statement that Netanyahu had “informed (the presidency) that he was unable to form a government and so returned the mandate to the president.” In power from 1996 to 1999 and again since 2009, Netanyahu has acquired a reputation as a master political survivor and Israeli media had over the past four weeks feverishly speculated about deals he was hatching to stay in power. But the obstacles that faced Netanyahu the morning after the vote remained largely unchanged. A Netanyahu-led coalition likely would have required tacit cooperation between the conservative Islamic Raam party and the far-right Religious Zionism alliance, whose leaders have hurled incendiary anti-Arab rhetoric during their political careers. Raam’s leader Mansour Abbas had said he was open to any arrangement that improved living standards for Israel’s 20 percent Arab minority. But Religious Zionism’s leader Bezalel Smotrich has repeatedly called Raam “terror supporters” who he refused to work with. Netanyahu also could have made up the numbers by making peace with his estranged former protégé, the religious nationalist Naftali Bennett, and convincing Likud defectors in the New Hope party to return home. New Hope’s leader Gideon Saar maintained that his party was committed to ousting Netanyahu. Bennett, a multi-millionaire former tech entrepreneur, said Monday he could have endorsed Netanyahu to preserve right-wing governance but saw no path for the prime minister to clinch a viable coalition. Likud on Wednesday blasted Bennett for what it called “his refusal to form a right-wing government.” Bennett has long been viewed as a hardliner and enthusiastic supporter of Jewish settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank. But he sought to highlight his business and management credentials as pandemic closures ravaged Israel’s economy. Bennett has said his top priority is avoiding a fifth election and that he would work towards a unity government if Netanyahu could not form a coalition. Bennett may end up leading such a unity government, despite his Yamina party only controlling seven seats. Rivlin said he would contact political leaders on Wednesday morning “regarding the continuation of the process of forming a government.” He can assign a new 28-day mandate to another lawmaker, with opposition leader Yair Lapid the most likely choice after his centrist Yesh Atid party finished second in the vote. Lapid has confirmed that he offered Bennett the chance to serve first as premier in a rotational coalition, in the interest of ending Netanyahu’s tenure. “There is an historic opportunity. To break down the barriers at the heart of Israeli society. To unite religious and secular, left and right and center,” Lapid said Monday. “It’s time to choose. Between a unity government or ongoing division.” The former television presenter said last week’s stampede that killed 45 mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews at a religious festival was a consequence of Israel lacking a “functioning government.” He conceded that an ideologically divided coalition forged mainly through shared opposition against Netanyahu “won’t be perfect”, but would prioritise national interests. Rather than tap another lawmaker to form a government, the president could ask the Knesset to select a name, a move unlikely to break the deadlock that could accelerate Israel’s return to the polls. In a widely-criticised manouevre, Netanyahu and his allies have flirted with legislation to create a direct vote for prime minister, hoping he would emerge victorious in a divided field. Likud members made moves to advance such legislation as the prime minister’s mandate was expiring on Tuesday, but with little sign of success. FacebookTwitterLinkedinEMail