Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Young Israeli man receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection, February 10, 2021.

At least 45 children have also been diagnosed with the virus in the town of Binyamina. “The outbreak was detected thanks to an extensive sampling operation which began with the first sick child at the Karmim School in Binyamina,” the Health Ministry said in an update on Saturday night.

“In light of the exposure in different age groups in the school, more students were tested and nine more children were confirmed to have the virus; all but one were symptomatic,” the ministry said.

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As a result, the ministry expanded testing to several more schools, which turned up another 35 people from the Karmim and Amirim schools who were confirmed to be ill with the virus.

“The source of the outbreak is still under investigation but there is a connection to a family that returned recently from abroad,” said the update. Preliminary results of genetic sequencing of the samples indicates the children may be infected with the highly contagious “Delta variant” that was first identified in India.

“The Health Ministry is calling on the residents of Binyamina to be tested in order to preserve public health and prevent further spread of the virus in the community,” said ministry spokesperson Anat Danieli Lev.

“The Ministry calls on those obligated to be in quarantine to adhere to the isolation in accordance with general procedures and in particular those[restrictions] applicable to returnees from abroad.”

Masks are still required for unvaccinated patients and staff in Israeli medical facilities, for those en route to self-quarantine, and for all passengers on commercial flights.

Outbreak in Modi’in Prompts Renewal of Indoor Mask Mandate
A new outbreak of COVID-19 in the central Israeli city of Modi’in has prompted the municipality to reimpose an indoor mask mandate.

Approximately 90 sixth graders at the Asif Elementary School in Modi’in – all of the school’s sixth graders — entered mandatory quarantine last Monday, the day before Israel lifted its indoor mask requirement. The outbreak was first detected who two students at the school tested positive for COVID-19.

Another nine students were diagnosed with the virus after a rapid testing operation launched by the Modi’in municipality in cooperation with the Education Ministry and the HMO clinics in the city.

Mass COVID-19 testing for both students and staff was carried out at the school on Tuesday by soldiers from the IDF Home Front Command following the diagnosis of the 11 students.

“The outbreak at the Asif school reminds us all that despite the easing of the coronavirus restrictions, the virus is still with us,” the Modi’in municipality said in a statement.

“Therefore, we must adhere to the guidelines of the Health Ministry: Do not leave the house if you feel unwell, do not send children to school if there is a concern that they are ill or have come in contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID. This is the only way to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Highest Number of Diagnoses in More Than a Month
As of Saturday night at 9pm, some 42 Israelis have tested positive for the virus, the Health Ministry reported. It is the highest number of daily cases in more than a month.

From a low of below 190, Israel’s number of active cases has again begun to rise; on Saturday there were 286 active cases of COVID-19.

The good news: there were only 22 Israeli COVID-19 patients in serious condition on Saturday, down from a peak of more than 1,200 in serious condition at the highest point of the pandemic.

Health Ministry Reconsidering COVID-19 Restrictions on Travelers
The Health Ministry is considering reimposing COVID-19 restrictions on passengers traveling to Israel from abroad.

The restrictions may be imposed on unvaccinated Israelis returning from outside the country, and on those who arrive from “high-risk” countries, according to Hebrew-language news media.

The Health Ministry estimates that approximately 70 percent of those who arrive from abroad have been vaccinated.

According to a report by Israel’s Channel 12 News, anyone unvaccinated over the age of 14 and those entering Israel from “high risk” nations are going to be required to self-isolate at home upon their arrival, with an electronic bracelet to monitor compliance.

Those who refuse to comply with the electronic bracelet will be mandated into quarantine at state-run “quarantine hotels,” according to the report.

US: Delta Variant Now a ‘Variant of Concern’
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CNN in an interview on Friday the Delta variant of COVID-19 is expected to become the dominant strain of the virus in the United States, overtaking the Alpha variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

“The UK variant was more transmissible,” Walensky said, adding that variant still accounts for 70 percent of American cases.

“We know that the Delta variant is even more transmissible than the UK variant, and I anticipate that will be the predominant variant in the months ahead,” she said.

The CDC designated the Delta variant as a ‘variant of concern’ last week.

Walensky added that the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both offer “good protection” against the Delta variant after one receives the second dose.

Studies are now underway to determine the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine in fighting the Delta variant.

Some 148.5 million Americans have received their full vaccination series, the CDC reported. At least 13 states say they have “fully vaccinated” more than half of their residents, including New York and New Jersey.

Thus far, 53 percent of the population in the United States has received at least one dose of the vaccine. That figure includes 65 percent of the US adult population.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.