What We’re Reading: Misinformation as Public Health Threat; LA Mask Mandate; COVID-19 Booster Debate

An advisory from the US Surgeon General classifies COVID-19 misinformation as a public health threat; the most populous county in the nation reinstates a mask mandate; debate continues around COVID-19 booster shots.

The Threat of Misinformation

In his first advisory in the position, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for a national effort to combat misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, the Associated Press reports. In the 22-page advisory, Murthy urged tech companies, health care workers, journalists, and everyday Americans to work together to combat what he deemed an “urgent threat” to public health. The flood of misinformation disseminated since the pandemic’s onset has led to individuals rejecting masks and social distancing and ultimately undermining efforts to end the crisis. In the United States, COVID-19 has claimed at least 600,000 lives, and during a news briefing, Murthy revealed that 10 of his own family members died of COVID-19.

Mask Mandate in Los Angeles County

Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Los Angeles County will reinstate its mask mandate to begin at 11:59 pm this Saturday, CNN reports. The county is the most populous in the nation, and the order will require masking indoors, regardless of individuals’ vaccination status. On Thursday, more than 1500 new COVID-19 cases were reported, marking the highest new total since mid-March. Approximately 4 million county residents are unvaccinated, and the daily test positivity rate has risen to 3.7%, up from 0.5% recorded on June 15. In total, the county has reported 24,566 COVID-19 deaths and over 1.2 million cases.

Debate Around COVID-19 Booster Shots

Despite a CDC advisory panel agreeing to consider a third COVID-19 shot for immunocompromised individuals, the decision is contentious as populations throughout the world have not received a first dose, and a former FDA director cautioned there is not enough evidence that boosters are needed now. The panel is slated to convene on July 22 to discuss the possibility following Pfizer’s decision to seek authorization from the FDA for a third dose of its vaccine last week. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also stressed that the priority must be to vaccinate those who have not yet received a first dose. In Israel, third doses are already being administered to people with weak immune systems, although the country remains unsure about opening the possibility to the general population.