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Photo: Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that five California churches in Santa Clara County are exempt from a health directive prohibiting indoor gatherings, and are now permitted to resume services indoors.

Why it matters: The late Friday action is the latest in a string of orders directing state and local governments to whittle down public-health orders intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Details: In a one-paragraph, unsigned order, the court cited an earlier decision in which it excluded religious services from statewide regulations banning most indoor gatherings.

  • The Supreme Court's three liberal judges — Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor — dissented.

Context: Santa Clara County claimed its restrictions on indoor worship remained valid because they were part of a broader ban on gatherings at religious and secular facilities, including “political events, weddings, funerals, worship services, movie showings, cardroom operations.” Other indoor operations, such as shopping malls, were allowed at 20% capacity.

  • Five churches contested that order, saying it conflicted with the Supreme Court’s ruling, but a federal appeals court in San Francisco declined to block the restriction.
  • Of note: The county said on Feb. 25 it planned to ease restrictions starting the following week due to a decline in coronavirus cases, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper

Feb 27, 2021 - World

Brazil's capital to enter 24-hour lockdown as coronavirus cases surge

A health care worker administering a coronavirus vaccine in Brasilia, Brazil, Feb. 10. Photo: Xinhua/Lucio Tavora via Getty Images

The Brazilian capital of Brasilia will enter a 24-lockdown on Saturday as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Hospitals in Brasilia, the third-largest city in Brazil, have struggled to keep up with hospitalizations from the virus. More than 80% of the city's intensive care beds are occupied, according to Reuters.

Feb 27, 2021 - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated Oct 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Booster shots overtake first doses in the U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate entire Brazilian city as part of study — FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adultsU.S. to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers on Nov. 8.
  2. Health: New cases down, but the West is at risk — Low vaccination rates exacerbate America's caregiving crisis — COVID is here to stay. So what does "victory" look like? — FDA will review Merck COVID-19 pill.
  3. Politics: NHL announces all but four players have been vaccinated — WHO names new advisory group on COVID origins — Biden admin warns Moderna to "step up" global vaccine supply.
  4. Education: LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations amid staffing shortage — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive — Arizona can't use aid for anti-mask education grants, Treasury says.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.