The Lunar New Year in COVID, the extremely tight Olympic bubble, and “living with” the virus

Let’s get caught up with today’s COVID-19 news for Feb. 7, 2022.

A muted Lunar New Year, inside and outside the Olympic bubble

China’s capital city returned to work Monday after a weeklong Lunar New Year holiday that was muted by the pandemic — especially for the thousands of people inside the Winter Olympics bubble.

For volunteers and competitors at the Games, there’s no hong bao – red envelopes – with gifts of cash, no lucky tang yuan rice cakes with sesame filling, no dramatically-choreographed lion dance.

Across China, the pandemic has meant a subdued Lunar New Year for the third year in a row.

The “Forbidden City” is… forbidden: Beijing is essentially closed

The premise of this bubble is simple: Keep those who passed multiple tests just to get access to the Olympics in, keep the rest of the world — and, hopefully, COVID-19 — out. It has worked for the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Grand Slam tennis events, college sports, the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics that took place last summer and so much more.

Everyone inside the bubble is, in theory, virus-free when they get in and figure to have a chance to stay that way if the strict rules are followed. For a few, it hasn’t gone to plan. Their Olympics ended before they could begin after a positive test. For most, it is working.

New Jersey’s governor is ending their school mask mandate

New Jersey’s governor announced plans Monday to lift the statewide mask requirement in schools a month from now because of the rapid easing of COVID-19’s omicron surge, calling the move “a huge step back to normalcy for our kids.”

Individual school districts will be free to continue requiring masks after the state mandate ends March 7, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said.

New Jersey is one of a dozen states with mask mandates in schools, according to the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy. New Jersey’s has been in place since classes resumed in person in September 2020.

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