Covid News Live Updates: LA Vaccine Requirement and Booster Shots

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Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

The city of Los Angeles appears close to enacting one of the strictest rules in the United States requiring proof of full vaccination against Covid to enter many indoor public spaces.

The ordinance would require people to provide proof to enter sites, including restaurants, gyms, museums, movie theaters and salons. The L.A. City Council debated it on Wednesday night in anticipation of its being approved next week. The ordinance would take effect on Nov. 4.

“We need to both limit the transmission of the virus as well as make it inconvenient for those that are unvaccinated to access indoor public venues, because they’re putting lives in jeopardy,” said Nury Martinez, the council president. “We have spent too much time placing restrictions on people who have done their part.”

The proposal would allow people with medical conditions that do not allow them to be vaccinated, or who have a sincerely held religious belief, to instead show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the preceding 72 hours.

In August, New York City became the first city in the nation to require proof that workers and customers at indoor sites for dining, physical fitness and entertainment had received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. Not long after, some cities and counties in California, including San Francisco, followed suit. In Los Angeles, a growing number of bars and restaurants have voluntarily begun checking that patrons are vaccinated before allowing them indoors.

California now has one of the lowest rates for new cases in the United States. Almost 70 percent of Californians age 12 and older have been fully vaccinated. But public health officials in many parts of the state remain worried about the possibility of another surge of infections.

Some council members expressed concerns about imposing extra burdens on already struggling businesses.

“We say we support our essential workers,” said Joe Buscaino, a council member who moved to slow the passage of the ordinance on Wednesday. “We don’t want them to be on the front lines of enforcing this.”

But while other council members acknowledged the complexity of implementing the measure, they said its approval should not be delayed.

“It is an extreme measure,” said Bob Blumenfield, a council member, “but we are in an extreme crisis.”

Masks are still required in indoor spaces in Los Angeles County, including in the city of Los Angeles, when people are not eating or drinking, and that will continue to be the case until public health officials say otherwise, even with the new vaccination requirements.

Credit…Jake May/The Flint Journal, via Associated Press

Describing a “crisis affecting America’s public schools,” a group representing tens of thousands of school board members urged President Biden on Thursday to take action to protect them from rising threats and violence by members of the public, including opponents of coronavirus mask mandates.

In a letter, the National School Boards Association called for federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and prevent violence, citing numerous instances this year of school board meetings being interrupted by anti-mask protesters or members of extremist groups.

In Mendon, Ill., this month, a 30-year-old man was arrested and charged with battery and disorderly conduct after striking a school board member at a meeting. Two school board meetings in Michigan were disrupted when a person yelled a Nazi salute in protest of mask requirements, the group said.

Arguing that the actions could amount to “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the association asked for agencies including the F.B.I. to investigate whether the incidents violated counterterrorism or any other federal laws.

“These threats and acts of violence are affecting our nation’s democracy at the very foundational levels, causing school board members — many who are not paid — to resign immediately and/or discontinue their service after their respective terms,” the group wrote.

Once staid, sparsely attended affairs, school board meetings have turned chaotic across the United States in recent weeks, with demonstrators challenging mask requirements, testing guidelines and other measures imposed by school districts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as students nationwide return to in-person learning.

The school boards association, which represents more than 90,000 school board members across 14,000 districts, said that threats had also been sent in the mail and via social media platforms. A letter mailed to a school board in Ohio, carrying the return address of a local neighborhood association, warned that “we are coming after you” for imposing a mask requirement “for no reason in this world other than control. And for that you will pay dearly.”

The school boards group asked the U.S. Postal Service to intervene to stop threatening letters and cyberbullying against students, school boards, district officials and other educators. It also asked Mr. Biden to increase collaboration between federal law enforcement agencies and local authorities to more closely monitor such threats.

“As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported,” the association wrote, “this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue.”

Credit…Rachel Woolf for The New York Times

The coronavirus is raging in the northern states of the Mountain West, especially Wyoming, where the Delta variant is tearing through one of the least vaccinated populations in the country.

Wyoming is tied with its neighbor Idaho for the second-lowest vaccination rate of any U.S. state. Each has fully vaccinated 41 percent of residents, compared with 56 percent nationally. And newly reported virus cases are at their highest levels since November in Wyoming and neighboring Montana.

Covid-19 patients are filling Wyoming’s hospitals and stretching health care workers thin, leading to the cancellation of elective procedures at some hospitals. Some patients are traveling as far away as Texas for care.

Unlike hospitals in many states, most in Wyoming are not requiring their employees to be vaccinated. Some hospital administrators worry that President Biden’s national vaccine mandate for health care workers, which has yet to take effect, could prompt some workers to quit, making staffing shortages more severe.

“We’re near bursting at the seams, and a lot of that has to do not really with the number of beds we have available, but with the staffing for those beds,” said Eric Boley, the president of the Wyoming Hospitals Association, a trade group that represents most of the state’s hospitals.

“I don’t think they realize what a delicate balancing act it is to try to have enough trained staff,” he said of federal officials.

Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming has encouraged vaccinations but resisted requiring them. He issued a directive in May that prevents state agencies, boards and commissions from restricting access based on vaccine status, and the state is preparing a possible legal challenge to Mr. Biden’s mandates.

Mr. Gordon has activated the Wyoming National Guard to provide nonmedical support for hospitals with staff shortages, and allocated more than $20 million to help hospitals hire and pay extra workers.

Dr. Mark Dowell, the health officer for Natrona County, said the governor’s approach was out of sync with the reality on the ground.

“It’s become political instead of medical,” said Dr. Dowell, an infectious disease specialist. “There has been basically no major activity at a state level to acknowledge or deal with this — it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist.” He added that because anti-vaccine sentiment was so pervasive in Wyoming, vaccine mandates were needed “simply to save lives.”

Many health care workers do not need the extra push, said Mike McCafferty, the chief executive of Sheridan Memorial Hospital. He said that more than 70 percent of his hospital’s employees had been vaccinated without using an incentive or mandates.

Most health care workers around the country, especially those at large hospital systems, seem to be going along with vaccination requirements. That is true at Wyoming’s largest hospital, the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, according to Dr. Carol Solie, its chief medical officer.

All of the hospital’s roughly 1,500 workers and contractors must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, with exemptions for religious and medical reasons. Dr. Solie said that more than 60 percent were already vaccinated, while “a very small number” had quit over the mandate, which was announced on July 20.

“If you tell a group of professionals that they have to do something to keep their job,” Dr. Solie said, “the majority are going to act on it.”

Credit…John Konstantaras/Associated Press

When Tyson Foods announced on Aug. 3 that it would require coronavirus vaccines for all 120,000 of its U.S. employees, it was notable because it included frontline workers at a time when corporate mandates applied primarily to office workers. At the time, less than half of its work force was inoculated.

Nearly two months later, 91 percent of Tyson’s U.S. work force is fully vaccinated, said Dr. Claudia Coplein, Tyson’s chief medical officer, who spoke to the DealBook newsletter about the results of its policy.

Tyson did not release vaccination rates by type of worker, but “certainly the vaccination rate amongst our frontline workers was lower than our office-based workers at the beginning of this,” Dr. Coplein said.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents several thousand Tyson workers, endorsed the mandate in return for more benefits, like paid sick leave. Frontline workers have until Nov. 1 to get vaccinated (or request an exemption), while the company’s roughly 6,000 office workers have until Friday to do so.

Tyson said that about 91 percent of its 31,000 unionized employees are now vaccinated, matching the company’s overall rate. Unlike some other big companies, Tyson has not faced any lawsuits over its mandate, but it has lost a handful of employees over its mandate, a number that may increase as the deadline nears.

One of the company’s poultry plants achieved a 100 percent vaccination rate, from 78 percent, after Covid hit close to home. A viral video about Caleb Reeves, a young Arkansas man who died of Covid, helped to highlight the risk of the virus to young people, “and we have many young frontline workers,” Dr. Coplein said. Mr. Reeves’s uncle worked at a Tyson plant, and the video “gave them a personal connection to say, ‘Hey, that could be my family, too,’” Dr. Coplein said.

Tyson executives have visited plants to have small group conversations about the vaccines. “It’s important to recognize that misinformation is out there,” Dr. Coplein said. Some questions she regularly hears are whether vaccination will affect fertility or pregnancy (the evidence suggests not).

“The most powerful conversations have been when I sat down with somebody who was scared or emotional or otherwise hesitant to get the vaccine,” she said, “and they just really needed somebody to listen to them with empathy.”

Fortune 500 companies and the White House’s Covid task force have reached out to Tyson to discuss the company’s experience, particularly after the White House asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to order large employers to make vaccination mandatory.

Tyson expects that when OSHA outlines more details and a timeline for mandates, which could take weeks, more companies will announce vaccine requirements. When that happens, the options will be limited for those who quit (or are let go) because of a mandate.

Credit…Franck Robichon/EPA, via Shutterstock

As the United States and Europe ramped up Covid-19 vaccinations, countries in the Asia-Pacific region, once lauded for their pandemic response, struggled with their inoculation programs. Now, many of those countries that lagged behind are speeding ahead, lifting hopes of a return to normalcy in an area that had been resigned to repeated lockdowns and onerous restrictions.

The turnabout is as much a testament to the region’s success in securing supplies and working out the kinks in their programs as it is to vaccine hesitancy and political opposition in the United States.

Japan, Malaysia and South Korea have even pulled ahead of the United States in the number of vaccine doses administered per 100 people — a pace that seemed unthinkable in the spring. Several have surpassed the United States in the percentage of their populations that are fully vaccinated, or are on track to do so.

In South Korea, the authorities said that vaccines had helped keep most people out of the hospital. In Japan, new cases and hospitalizations have plummeted.

“It’s almost like the tortoise and the hare,” said Jerome Kim, the director general of the International Vaccine Institute, a nonprofit based in Seoul. “Asia was always going to use vaccines when they became available.”

In contrast with the United States, vaccines were never a polarizing issue in the Asia-Pacific region. Although each country has had to contend with its own anti-vaccine movements, the opposition has been relatively small.

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

New York’s mandate that more than 650,000 hospital and nursing home workers be vaccinated against Covid-19 took effect this week, prompting tens of thousands of holdouts to get their first dose. But the mandate has also prompted lawsuits across the state by nurses and others who are seeking exemptions.

In courtrooms from Manhattan to Utica, judges are weighing whether to carve out exemptions that would cover thousands, or even tens of thousands, of health care workers. If they do, they may leave hospitals and nursing homes more vulnerable to coronavirus outbreaks, health care officials say.

Alternately, if the mandate is upheld and providers fire significant numbers of unvaccinated workers, some institutions could face staff shortages — although so far industry officials say that most seem able to handle limited job losses.

Several suits accuse New York of violating religious freedoms. These have mostly been brought on behalf of Christian health care workers who say their faith-based opposition to abortion requires them to avoid a Covid-19 vaccine. Cell lines derived from fetuses aborted decades ago were used in development, production or testing of vaccines.

The suits include one that is set to be heard on Thursday in State Supreme Court in Albany that challenges the legality of the mandate on procedural grounds, saying that it should have been enacted by the State Legislature, not as an emergency regulation by the executive branch. There are also federal court cases that intersect at certain points of law or involve conflicting decisions made in the state Health Department and then changed.

One issue in the litigation is whether it is lawful for the state to offer medical but not religious exemptions. In U.S. District Court in Utica, 17 plaintiffs including doctors and nurses are asserting that the mandate restricts their First Amendment right to practice their religion and intrudes on federal anti-discrimination law.

Credit…Kham/Reuters

The Delta variant of the coronavirus is on a rampage in Vietnam, the second-biggest supplier of apparel and footwear to the United States after China, highlighting the uneven distribution of vaccines globally and the perils that new outbreaks pose to the world’s economy, Sapna Maheshwari and Patricia Cohen report for The New York Times.

With the holiday season fast approaching, many American retailers are anticipating delays and shortages of goods, along with higher prices tied to labor and already skyrocketing shipping costs. Nike cut its sales forecast last week, citing the loss of 10 weeks of production in Vietnam since mid-July and reopenings set to start in phases in October. Everlane said it was facing delays of four to eight weeks.

The densely packed industrial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s virus epicenter, has experienced a series of increasingly stringent lockdowns, with many factories temporarily closing in July. That paralyzed commercial activity and added stress to a strained global supply chain. Although new cases have started to decline, the government extended the lockdown through the end of September, as it struggles to vaccinate its residents.

American companies are looking outside Vietnam, often returning to Chinese factories that they worked with previously or finding partners in other countries that are not in the middle of a surge.

Whether they will have enough time to shift before the holidays is questionable. “September is a bad time to reposition things,” said Gordon Hanson, an economist and urban policy professor at Harvard Kennedy School.

Retailers are already trying to prepare customers. L.L. Bean is warning about holiday shipping delays and shortages and urging early shopping. READ THE ARTICLE →

The economy has begun to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, but millions of people still haven’t returned to work. Some are looking but haven’t been able to find jobs. Others can’t work because of child care or other responsibilities. Still others say the pandemic led them to rethink how they prioritize their careers.

What is keeping you on the sidelines right now? How are you getting by financially without a steady paycheck? How has your time away from work changed your life, both now and in the future?

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