HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Friday he would extend emergency orders requiring masks and regulating travel amid ongoing concerns about high numbers of COVID-19 infections.
Ige said his new proclamation would stay in effect for 60 days. The rules mandate masks in indoor public spaces. To avoid 10 days of quarantine upon arriving in the islands, travelers must show proof of vaccination or a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii.
The governor said he was concerned that the seven-day average of new daily cases continues to exceed 300. He noted that while that’s down from late August when the figure approached 900, it’s still higher than last year’s peak.
He said he was watching closely whether hospitals have enough beds and staff to care for the sick. He noted Hawaii’s geographic isolation means patients can’t drive to neighboring states for healthcare if local hospitals are full.
Earlier this year Ige had hoped to lift restrictions once 70% of the state’s population was vaccinated, but he said “everything changed” with the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the disease. On Friday, 68% of the state’s population was fully vaccinated.
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School districts in Iowa will be able to issue mask mandates, at least for now, after a federal judge blocked the state on Monday from enforcing a ban on such policies. The case in Iowa is one of several disputes playing out across the country about the power of local officials to mandate coronavirus precautions and the authority of state leaders to block them.
Senior Judge Robert W. Pratt, in explaining his decision to issue a temporary restraining order, said that “if the drastic increase in the number of pediatric Covid-19 cases since the start of the school year in Iowa is any indication of what is to come, such an extreme remedy is necessary to ensure that the children involved in this case are not irreparably harmed.”
But Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said the ruling trampled on parental rights and suggested that the court fight was far from over.
“Today, a federal judge unilaterally overturned a state law, ignored the decision by our elected legislature and took away parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their child,” Ms. Reynolds said in a statement. “We will appeal and exercise every legal option we have to uphold state law and defend the rights and liberties afforded to any American citizen protected by our constitution.”
American schoolchildren have returned to classrooms in recent weeks, some for the first time since March 2020, as coronavirus cases have reached their highest levels since winter.
Unlike in some previous surges, case rates have been high among children, who tend not to become as sick but who can still have severe cases of Covid. With children under 12 still not eligible for vaccines and the highly infectious Delta variant circulating, health officials have recommended masking as a necessary step to curb transmission and keep schools open.
But the debate about how to hold class during a pandemic has become intensely divided, with combative school board meetings and accusatory language. Opponents of school mask mandates have described the measures as infringements on personal freedom, while supporters of the policies describe them as an easy way to prevent illness and save lives.
At least 15 states, almost all of them led by Democrats, have required masks in schools statewide. Iowa is among six Republican-led states to ban school districts from issuing mask mandates. In Florida, another of the states to ban such mandates, a state appellate court allowed a measure banning school mask mandates to again take effect last week after a lower-court judge briefly paused the policy.
Iowa has been averaging more than 1,300 new coronavirus cases a day over the last week, well below the state’s winter peak but far worse than this summer, when fewer than 100 cases were identified many days. About 53 percent of Iowans are fully vaccinated, roughly in line with the national rate.
Judge Pratt, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Federal District Court for Southern Iowa, cited the Americans With Disabilities Act in his ruling on Monday. The Biden administration recently announced that it was investigating whether states with school mask bans were violating that law.
“A universal masking requirement instituted by a school is a reasonable modification that would enable disabled students to have equal access to the necessary in-person school programs, services, and activities,” Judge Pratt said.
None of the data on coronavirus vaccines so far provides credible evidence in support of boosters for the general population, according to a review published on Monday by an international group of scientists, including some at the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.
The 18 authors include Dr. Philip Krause and Dr. Marion Gruber, F.D.A. scientists who announced last month that they will be leaving the agency, at least in part because they disagreed with the Biden administration’s push for boosters before federal scientists could review the evidence and make recommendations.
The Biden administration has proposed administering vaccine boosters eight months after the initial shots. But many scientists have opposed the plan, saying the vaccines continue to be powerfully protective against severe illness and hospitalization. A committee of advisers to the F.D.A. is scheduled to meet on Friday to review the data.
In the new review, published in The Lancet, experts said that whatever advantage boosters provide would not outweigh the benefit of using those doses to protect the billions of people who remain unvaccinated worldwide. Boosters may be useful in some people with weak immune systems, they said, but are not yet needed for the general population.
Several studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including three on Friday, suggest that while efficacy against infection with the Delta variant seems to wane slightly over time, the vaccines hold steady against severe illness in all age groups. Only in older adults over 75 do the vaccines show some weakening in protection against hospitalization.
Immunity conferred by vaccines relies on protection both from antibodies and from immune cells. Although the levels of antibodies may wane over time — and raise the risk of infection — the body’s memory of the virus is long-lived.
The vaccines are slightly less effective against infection with the Delta variant than with the Alpha variant, but the virus has not yet evolved to evade the sustained responses from immune cells, the experts said. Boosters may eventually be needed even for the general population if a variant emerges that sidesteps the immune response.
The experts cautioned that promoting boosters before they are needed, as well as any reports of side effects from booster shots such as heart problems or Guillain-Barre syndrome, may undermine confidence in the primary vaccination.
Data from Israel suggest that booster doses enhance protection against infection. But that evidence was collected just a week or so after the third dose and may not hold up over time, the experts said.
Both elation and caution were palpable in New York City on Monday, as public schools in the country’s largest school system resumed full in-person classes for the first time since March 2020.
With the extremely contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus still tearing through unvaccinated populations in the city, as it is around the country, and much of New York’s school-age population under 12 and therefore ineligible for vaccination, at least some disruptions are likely.
Last year, the city schools experienced remarkably few outbreaks. But even with a final in-school transmission rate of just 0.03 percent, quarantines were still a regular occurrence. And that was when most schools operated at significantly reduced capacity.
Debra Gray, who took her 13-year-old son, Kamari, to Public School 323 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, on Monday, said that returning in person was a “50-50 feeling.”
“We gotta give this a chance,” she said. “The kids need time with their teachers. But I’m concerned. The kids can’t keep their masks on all day.”
Justin Chapura, who teaches English as a second language at Bronx River High School, was thrilled to see students in person for the first time in more than a year. But his excitement was tinged with concern over the prospect of a long and uncertain school year.
“Everyone I know is nervous, nerve-racked, can’t sleep, won’t sleep,” Mr. Chapura said. “But we’re getting there, we’re going to get there.”
The risk that infected children will become seriously ill is low, but if and when coronavirus cases do occur — indeed, if just one child tests positive in a classroom filled with students too young to be vaccinated — the city’s current policy means that others who might have been exposed will have to return to remote learning for 10-day at-home quarantines.
In middle and high schools, only unvaccinated students will have to quarantine if exposed to someone with the virus.
That quarantine protocol is stricter than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance — but the city schools’ testing plan is more modest than what the C.D.C. calls for.
A random sample of 10 percent of unvaccinated students will be tested in each school every other week; the city was testing 20 percent of people in all school buildings weekly by the end of last year. Experts have said that the city’s current testing plan will almost certainly be too small in scope to reliably head off outbreaks before they start.
Anissa Haniff, 15, who was standing in a long line of returning students outside Bayside High School in Queens, said that she lived with her parents, grandparents and 9-year-old sister and that she was worried about potentially infecting them with the coronavirus.
Returning to school felt “a little premature,” she said. “Maybe we should’ve been remote another year.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio insists that school this year will be a much-needed return to normalcy for children, who have suffered deeply in the isolation of remote learning. “Let’s not be governed by fear,” he said at a news conference Monday morning. “All of the people who know all of the facts are saying to parents consistently, from the president of the United States on down: Get your kids back to school.”
For Timothy Seiber, of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, the prospect of possible classroom shutdowns loomed large.
He said he found reassurance over the safety of his sons — at ages 6 and 10, still too young to be vaccinated — in the relatively low rate of infection among children and the low school transmission rate.
“I’m not worried” about them getting infected, Mr. Seiber said in a telephone interview. “My kids wear their masks.”
But schools would be better served, he said, by more regular testing than by quarantines and returns to remote learning, which rob children of the benefits of in-person instruction and socializing with peers while disrupting parents’ working lives.
“I think the amount of time they’ll pull your kid to remote is kind of ridiculous,” Mr. Seiber said. “Considering the rapid testing we have, it could be a lot less.”
Chelsia Rose Marcius, Emma Goldberg and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.
It’s been exactly 18 months since public schools in New York City shut down because of the rapid initial spread of the coronavirus. Over that time, students, parents and employees in the New York City school system, the nation’s largest, have had to adjust to a series of abrupt changes that disrupted and reshaped the lives of about 1 million children and 1,800 schools in the district, eventually leading to a full reopening on Monday.
The city was not alone in facing twists and turns along the way as the pandemic swelled and ebbed, new variants emerged, vaccines were introduced and scientists and policymakers revised their guidance. New York was able to partially reopen last fall while other big-city peers remained all virtual for most of the year, and the city did not experience significant virus transmission in its schools.
Here are key dates and developments.
March 15, 2020
Under immense pressure, Mayor Bill de Blasio shuts down New York City’s public school system for in-person instruction. The move, taken after several other major school systems had already shut down, comes as attendance is plummeting and worried teachers are organizing sickouts to demand action. “This is not something in a million years I could have imagined having to do,” Mr. de Blasio says.
Remote learning begins
Students and teachers return to classes virtually instead of face to face, as everyone tries to get used to virtual instruction. Officials say they hope to get everyone back to in-person instruction later in the spring if the virus outbreak subsides.
Spring is lost
Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces that schools in New York State will remain closed through the end of the academic year — confirming what other city leaders, including Mr. de Blasio, had been predicting for several weeks.
Plan for partial reopening
Mr. de Blasio says the city’s public schools will not fully reopen for the 2020-21 school year. Instead, he introduces a partial reopening plan calling for school leaders to work out staggered schedules and other measures to help schools enforce social distance and minimize virus transmission.
In-person and online options
Mr. de Blasio announces that New York City schools will offer both in-person and virtual instruction and allow families to opt for either mode.
A delayed start
Mr. de Blasio pushes back the start of in-person school for students amid logistical problems and political conflicts with the teachers’ union. The school year finally begins on Sept. 21, 10 days later than originally planned.
Shut down again
With the virus spreading rapidly again outside of schools and the city’s test positivity rate climbing above 3 percent, the threshold the mayor had set for closure, New York City closes its schools after just eight weeks of in-person instruction.
Grade schools will reopen
Mr. de Blasio abruptly announces that all public elementary schools would soon reopen in stages for students who had previously opted for in-person instruction, and that the city would abandon the 3 percent positivity threshold for closing schools. Middle and high schools remain closed for now.
A new surge
A surge in virus transmission that took hold over the holidays drives the city’s test positivity rate above 9 percent, prompting demands from teachers’ unions that the city’s open elementary schools be closed again.
Middle schools reopen
In-person classes resume at the city’s middle schools for at least part of the week for students whose families had previously chosen that option. Along with the elementary schools reopened earlier, about one-quarter of the city’s students are back in school buildings.
High schools reopen
The city’s staged reopening reaches its high schools, with about half offering full-time in-person instruction for most students and the others offering a mixture of in-person and remote learning.
No more remote learning option
Mr. de Blasio announces that when the new school year begins in the fall, the city will no longer offer a remote learning option — a major step toward a full reopening in September.
Vaccine mandate for staff
Mayor Bill de Blasio says all employees of the city’s Department of Education will have to receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27. The requirement applies to every adult working inside public school buildings, including teachers and principals.
New testing and quarantine rules
Mr. de Blasio released guidelines requiring random testing of 10 percent of unvaccinated people — including adult staff and students in first grade and above — every two weeks. When someone tests positive, close contacts who are unvaccinated will have to quarantine, but not necessarily whole classes. A negative test within five days will end the quarantine early. Parental consent is necessary for testing children.
All New York City public schools reopen to full in-person instruction.
New York City public schools are reopening at a time when some schools in other states are already several weeks into in-person teaching. Some districts seem to be doing well, but others are contending with mass outbreaks, hospitalizations and several reported deaths.
The data is showing that school reopenings tend to do well in areas with high vaccination rates.
San Francisco County in California boasts a 79 percent vaccination rate for those 12 years and up, and its Health Department reported last Thursday that there had been no school outbreaks since classes resumed on Aug. 16. Since the pandemic began, just 13 children in the area have been hospitalized.
That bodes well for New York City, where 70 percent of those 12 years and up are vaccinated, though some neighborhoods have lagging rates.
The picture is very different in areas with lower vaccination rates. Hillsborough County Schools, in the Tampa, Fla., area, where 58 percent of those 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, isolated or quarantined 8,000 of its students after a mass outbreak last month. Florida schools face a particular set of challenges, given that Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is adamantly opposed to vaccination and mask mandates, and the state’s Education Department has withheld funds from at least two school districts that mandated masks in schools.
In Georgia, the Griffin-Spalding County school district, outside of Atlanta, abruptly closed its classrooms temporarily after two bus drivers and a bus monitor died after contracting Covid-19 after school reopened on Aug. 4, according to its superintendent, Keith Simmons. Mr. Simmons said parents were “frustrated” over the short notice.
“We weren’t able to give them advanced notice,” Mr. Simmons said. “We made the announcement on a holiday, and parents may not have had enough time to ensure child care.”
Other states across the South where vaccine rates lag behind the national average — including Kentucky and Mississippi — are also reporting outbreaks at schools.
Florida cities and counties that require public employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will face fines of $5,000 each time they enforce their mandates, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Monday, escalating his opposition to such measures just as President Biden is expanding them.
“We are going to stand for the men and women who are serving us,” Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, said in Newberry, near Gainesville. “We are going to protect Florida jobs. We are not going to let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate.”
He noted that the violations could quickly add up to potentially millions of dollars for municipalities mandating the shots.
Once the mandates take effect, they would allow escalating discipline — including potential dismissal — against employees who do not get vaccinated.
Mr. DeSantis cited a state law enacted this year that prohibits governments and businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from their customers.
But the ban on so-called vaccine passports did not preclude businesses from mandating vaccinations of their employees — and many of the state’s largest employers, such as Disney, did just that. Some local governments, including the city of Gainesville, Orange County (home to Orlando) and Leon County (home to Tallahassee), decided to require the vaccines for public workers as well.
Gainesville’s mandate, which is scheduled to take effect in October, led to a protest from some workers and labor unions. More than 200 city employees sued over the requirement last month. Several spoke at Monday’s event with the governor.
“We feel betrayed and used,” said Lt. Jonathan Cicio of Gainesville Fire Rescue, one of the plaintiffs, who said he has natural antibodies from having Covid-19 and recovering months ago. “While we were heroes and selfless not long ago, now we’re selfish, and they’re just going to let us go.”
Ashley Moody, the Florida attorney general, said at the event that her office would file a legal brief in support of the plaintiffs. Mandating the vaccines would aggravate the state’s shortage of law enforcement officers, she said, “which will directly affect the safety of local communities.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the city of Gainesville stood by the requirement.
“The health, safety and welfare of the city’s work force and those we serve is our No. 1 priority,” Shelby N. Taylor said. “It is our belief that as an employer we retain the right to require vaccination as a condition of employment.”
Mr. DeSantis crisscrossed the state earlier this year in a big push to promote vaccinations, especially among older Floridians. But he later stopped the visits, and while he has continued to say he endorses getting vaccinated, Monday’s event before a cheering crowd featured not only people opposed to mandates but also vaccine skeptics.
One Gainesville employee said that the vaccine “changes your RNA,” an echo of skeptics’ claim about changes to the body’s DNA, which is false. His assertion went unchallenged.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to extend a $500,000 death benefit to its employees who die of Covid-related causes through the end of 2021, a senior authority official said Monday. But the benefit will remain unavailable to those who decline to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The authority, which runs New York City’s subways, buses and commuter trains, has provided the $500,000 benefit to all of its 68,000 employees since last year. But in April, as vaccines became widely available, the authority decided that, starting in June, the benefit would be available only to the families of employees who had been vaccinated.
That requirement was one of several ways the authority used to urge its workers to get vaccinated. The authority was hit hard by the virus last year, with 171 employees dying of Covid-related causes since the pandemic started.
Only three of those deaths have occurred since June, said Tim Minton, a spokesman for the authority. Mr. Minton said that the authority had no indication that any of the three had been vaccinated. He said none of their families had tried to claim the death benefit and so far no family had been denied the benefit.
“We want each of our employees to get every single benefit that they are entitled to,” Mr. Minton said. He added that the authority and its officials had taken every step they could think of to encourage employees to get the vaccine, including allowing paid time off for each dose.
Tony Utano, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said that his members had been notified in April, when the Covid death benefit was extended, that “vaccinations would be required to access the benefit as of June.”
The benefit is equal to the benefit for deaths in the line of duty under the union’s contract. Mr. Utano expressed pride in the union’s efforts to persuade the authority to provide the benefit because transit workers had to keep working through the early months of the pandemic.
The extended benefit was scheduled to expire on Aug. 31. But the authority’s board is expected to move this week to extend it again, to Dec. 31.
Mr. Minton said that more than 70 percent of the authority’s employees have gotten at least one does of the vaccine, mostly through programs run by the state. But the rates are lower for employees of some of the transit divisions, including subways and buses.
The authority has not made vaccines mandatory for its workers. But on Oct. 12, it plans to start requiring weekly testing of workers who cannot provide proof that they have been vaccinated.
Broadway is back. Or so it hopes.
A year and a half after the coronavirus pandemic forced all 41 theaters to go dark, silencing a symbol of New York and throwing thousands out of work, some of the industry’s biggest and best known shows are resuming performances on Tuesday.
Simba will reclaim the Pride Lands in the “The Lion King.” Elphaba and Glinda will return to Oz in “Wicked.” A young, scrappy and hungry immigrant will foment revolution in “Hamilton.” The long-running revival of “Chicago” will give ’em the old razzle dazzle. Plus there’s one new production, the childhood reminiscence “Lackawanna Blues,” offering a reminder that Broadway still provides a home for plays, too.
Broadway’s reopening is a high-stakes gamble that theater lovers, culture vultures and screen-weary adventurers are ready to return — vaccinated and masked — to these storied sanctuaries of spectacle and storytelling.
But it comes at a time of uncertainty.
Back in May, when Broadway got the green light to reopen, it seemed imaginable that the coronavirus pandemic was winding down, thanks to readily available vaccines. Since then, a combination of vaccine hesitancy and the Delta variant has sent cases skyrocketing again.
And while New York is doing better than much of the nation, the city is still facing a sharp drop in tourists, who typically make up two-thirds of the Broadway audience; many businesses in the region have postponed bringing workers back to their offices; and consumer appetite for live theater after months of anxiety and streaming remains unknown.
The industry’s recovery is enormously important to New York City, for symbolic as well as economic reasons.
There are reasons to hope. Four trailblazing productions — the concert show “Springsteen on Broadway,” the new play “Pass Over” and the musicals “Waitress” and “Hadestown” — started performances this summer, serving as laboratories for the industry’s safety protocols. None has yet missed a performance.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said in an interview with the theSkimm that he would support a vaccine mandate for air travelers.
“I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, that you should be vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci told the site, which targets millennial women.
Dr. Fauci’s support for such a mandate follows President Biden’s recent announcement that all companies with 100 or more workers will require vaccination or weekly testing.
The sweeping actions from Mr. Biden reflect his frustrations with the roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for shots but remain unvaccinated. Mr. Biden also moved to mandate vaccinations for health care workers, federal contractors and the vast majority of federal workers, who could face disciplinary measures if they refuse.
The president also said that the Transportation Security Administration would double fines on travelers who refused to wear masks.
When asked on Friday if the administration was considering vaccine or testing requirements for domestic flights, Jeff Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters that they were “not taking any measures off the table.”
Some airlines, such as United Airlines and Frontier Airlines, have required that all U.S. employees get vaccinated. Delta has intensified pressures for employees to get vaccinated but has stopped short of a mandate.
President Biden will use the upcoming gathering of the United Nations General Assembly to set new targets for a global coronavirus vaccination campaign, including having 70 percent of the world’s population fully vaccinated one year from now, according to draft documents prepared by the White House.
Mr. Biden is convening a virtual global Covid-19 summit next week, when heads of state gather for the annual General Assembly meeting. Invitations to world leaders were sent out last week, according to one person familiar with the planning. Another round of invitations to stakeholders went out on Monday by email.
The invitation, obtained by The New York Times, told participants that Mr. Biden would “call on chiefs of state, heads of government and international organizations, business, philanthropic, and nongovernmental leaders to come together to commit to ending the Covid-19 pandemic.” It was accompanied by a draft detailing specific targets necessary to achieve that goal.
The 70 percent target “is ambitious but consistent with existing targets,” the draft document said. In June, the heads of the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization set a target of having 60 percent of the world’s population vaccinated by the middle of 2022.
The draft also calls for countries “with relevant capabilities” to either purchase or donate one billion additional doses of coronavirus vaccines, beyond the two billion that have already been pledged by wealthy nations; and for world leaders to ensure that $3 billion is made available in 2021 and $7 billion in 2022 in financing “for vaccine readiness and administration, combating hesitancy, and procuring ancillary supplies.”
Mr. Biden has come under fierce criticism from advocates and public health experts who say he is not living up to his pledge to make the United States the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world. Expanding global vaccination efforts is necessary to protect not only the world, but the national security and health and safety of Americans.
Pressure is building as the United Nations meeting draws near. On Tuesday, two House Democrats — Representatives Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut — are planning to host a news conference to call on Mr. Biden to unveil a global plan to end the pandemic, including a plan to transfer vaccine technology from pharmaceutical manufacturers to other vaccine makers around the world, and to ramp up manufacturing capacity.
Peter Maybarduk, who directs Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, said the draft looks promising but does not go far enough. His group has a plan calling for the government to invest $25 billion in developing regional manufacturing hubs around the world, which it says would produce enough vaccine for low- and middle-income countries in a year.
“It’s not asking very much of the private sector,” Mr. Maybarduk said. “It is trying to unify commitments rather than using the very significant power of the U.S. government to move very significant manufacturing capacity on its own. That still leaves tools unused. It’s not being the vaccine arsenal for the world.”
The German health authorities on Monday started a weeklong drive to try to speed the pace of coronavirus vaccinations and combat the possibility of more infections as colder weather approaches.
“In order to get through autumn and winter in good shape and then also to get the virus permanently under control, we need to convince even more people to get vaccinated,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a video message on Sunday.
Currently, 62.2 percent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated and 66.5 percent have had at least one shot, according to figures from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Those numbers are just above the averages for the European Union as a whole.
Germany made good progress in vaccinating its population in spring and early summer, but demand has slowed. While doctors and nurses routinely vaccinated more than a million people a day in May and June, last week’s busiest day drew just 256,559.
For the weeklong campaign, pop-up vaccination sites have been set up in places such as supermarkets, zoos, markets, churches, mosques, on buses and at soccer games, where those interested can get a shot without an appointment.
According to a recent poll conducted by the Robert Koch Institute, the German federal agency for disease control and prevention, about 88.5 percent of adults either have had their shots or are open to being inoculated.
“It’s never been easier to get vaccinated,” Ms. Merkel said in her address.
In other pandemic news around the world:
Health officials in the United Kingdom on Monday authorized a Covid-19 vaccination program for 12- to 15-year-olds, clearing the way for the governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to establish plans for that age group to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Authorities in China reported 22 new coronavirus cases, the country’s most in nearly a month and evidence that Beijing may need to rethink its zero-Covid strategy. The cases, all caused by the Delta variant in the southern province of Fujian, mark the country’s largest outbreak since Aug. 14, when it reported 24 cases.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, shortened the nationwide curfew and expanded hours for certain businesses there after coronavirus cases dropped across the country.
A small hospital in upstate New York is planning to suspend delivering babies starting in a few weeks because some of its labor and delivery nurses resigned rather than comply with the state’s Covid vaccine mandate.
“The math is just not working,” said Gerald Cayer, chief executive officer of Lewis County Health System, at a news conference on Friday. “The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies.”
Six out of the 18 staff members in the maternity department at Lewis County General Hospital have resigned, and seven have not indicated whether they will get their shots, Mr. Cayer said in an interview on Monday. The hospital, located in Lowville, the county seat, had expected to deliver about 200 babies this year, he added.
At least 30 employees in the health system have resigned since former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo mandated vaccinations by Sept. 27 for New York State’s health care workers, Mr. Cayer said. Of those who have resigned, 21 worked in clinical areas.
The maternity department at Lewis County General will pause deliveries on Sept. 25, Mr. Cayer said, and other units could be affected if more workers resign. Prospective parents in the area will have other options: There are hospitals with maternity departments in Carthage, about 15 miles from Lowville, and in Watertown, about 27 miles away.
The vast majority of workers in his health system have complied with the mandate. Mr. Cayer said that 464 employees, or 73 percent, have been fully vaccinated, and that he hoped that the staff members who quit would reconsider and take the shots before the deadline. “Anyone who has resigned who changes their mind will be welcomed back,” he said.
The resignations have taken place in a region with a dire staffing shortage. There has been a lack of experienced maternity nursing staff throughout upstate New York, said Dr. Sean Harney, the hospital’s medical director. Thousands of open nursing positions remain, Mr. Cayer said.
Lewis County, with about 27,000 residents, is among the least populous and most politically conservative counties in the state, and has one of the lowest Covid vaccination rates: 44 percent of residents were fully vaccinated as of Friday, compared with 61 percent statewide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reports of new cases more than doubled in Lewis County, and hospitalizations rose 35 percent in the past 14 days, according to a New York Times database.
In Idaho, where unchecked virus transmission has pushed hospitals beyond their breaking point, the state is sending some Covid-19 patients to neighboring Washington State.
But Washington hospitals are struggling with their own high caseloads, and some leaders in the state see Idaho’s outsourcing of Covid patients as a troubling example of how the failure to aggressively confront the virus in one state can deepen a crisis in another.
On the Washington side of the border, residents must wear masks when gathering indoors, students who are exposed to Covid face quarantine requirements, and many workers are under vaccination orders. On the Idaho side, none of those precautions are in place.
Last week, Idaho took the extraordinary step of moving its hospitals in the northern part of the state to crisis standards of care — the threshold at which facilities facing overwhelming caseloads are authorized to ration their resources.
Idaho now has more than 600 patients hospitalized with Covid-19, about 20 percent higher than a previous peak in December. Only 40 percent of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the nation, compared with 61 percent in Washington State, one of the highest.
The strain on health care facilities is particularly evident in northern Idaho, where the vaccination rate is even lower. The area just hosted the North Idaho State Fair, and in a region where there is deep wariness of government, no mask orders or other strategies were adopted to halt the spread of the virus.
With the Delta strain of the virus sweeping the nation, Washington State has faced its own challenges and record hospitalizations, especially in areas on the eastern side of the state where vaccination rates are lower. This week, that state, too, began talking openly about the possibility that crisis standards of care could become necessary.
The annual General Assembly, the diplomatic mega-event that was held almost entirely virtually last year because of the pandemic, will be far more physical when it convenes for two weeks beginning on Tuesday.
Although strict pandemic rules will be enforced — including mandatory mask-wearing for all participants, required vaccinations for headquarters staff and severely limited access to its 16-acre campus on Manhattan’s East Side — the United Nations is aiming for at least a partial restoration of the person-to-person diplomacy that its leaders regard as critical.
The outgoing annual president of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, told reporters in his farewell news conference last week that at least 83 leaders were planning to attend this year’s event, albeit with slimmed-down entourages. (Mr. Bozkir will be succeeded by Abdulla Shahid, foreign minister of the Maldives.)
A provisional list of speakers provided by U.N. officials indicated that President Biden would attend, for what would be his first address as president to the 193-member world body. Mr. Biden, unlike his predecessor Donald J. Trump, is a United Nations enthusiast, and diplomats say a personal appearance would reinforce his “America is back” pledge.
The White House has not specified Mr. Biden’s plans, and U.N. officials said the speakers list could change up to the last minute.
According to the provisional list, top leaders from Brazil, Britain, Canada, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey and Venezuela also plan to personally deliver their speeches, all scheduled for the second week. China’s speech will be delivered by its deputy prime minister, the list indicated, and Russia’s by its foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov.
Iran’s new president has opted to send a prerecorded video, but diplomats said the country’s new foreign minister is expected to attend.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in New York City this summer has slowed in recent weeks, convincing some epidemiologists that the city’s third virus wave has begun to ebb. But others are bracing for an uptick in cases.
With the school year starting, and municipal agencies and some large companies mandating a return to the office, the old weekday rhythms are about to return for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, even as levels of the virus remain relatively high.
For the moment, the rates of new cases and hospitalizations are down from their summer peaks.
In mid-August, nearly 2,000 people a day on average were testing positive in New York City, a tenfold increase from earlier in the summer. The rate of new cases was highest among young adults, ages 18 to 34. More than 100 people were being hospitalized each day.
But over the past three weeks, new cases and other indicators have begun dropping. Staten Island has had by far the highest level of transmission, with one in every 417 people testing positive in a recent seven-day period. That was more than twice the rate in Queens, which had the lowest virus levels.
The surge in New York City and much of the Northeast has been mild compared to the South, largely because of diverging vaccination rates, epidemiologists say. On Thursday, the city reached a new milestone: five million New York City residents, about 60 percent of the population, are now fully vaccinated.
But there are still large pockets of New York City that remain unvaccinated. In particular, Black New Yorkers, who have far lower vaccination rates than other groups, have been hit hardest by the third wave.
So far, the third wave has been minor compared with the previous two. In early September, the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in New York City in a single day reached 900, before falling below 800 this weekend. In April 2020, there were more than 12,100 at the peak.
Health officials in the United Kingdom on Monday authorized a mass Covid vaccination program for 12- to 15-year-olds, amid widespread concerns that Covid-19 cases could spike with the return to school after the summer vacation.
The authorization, announced by the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, ended weeks of uncertainty and came despite some medical experts’ reservations over whether vaccinations would significantly benefit the age group. The four countries’ governments are now expected to put in place campaigns that will offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The campaigns are expected to be part of an address that the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, is scheduled to give on Tuesday, in which he will outline a strategy to prevent any new surge in coronavirus infections from overwhelming the national health service over a winter during which seasonal flu could add further strains. His focus is on protecting the country without resorting to the kind of severe lockdown restrictions imposed during earlier phases of the pandemic.
Those 16 and up are already eligible for vaccination, and so are younger children who have health conditions that put them at high risk. But otherwise healthy young people generally face only a small risk of suffering serious illness from the coronavirus, and that has prompted a debate over the ethics of vaccinating children to contain a virus that is mainly a threat to adults.
As a result — and to the frustration of government ministers — Britain has lagged behind some other countries, including the United States, in vaccinating those between the ages of 12 and 15.
The authorizations announced on Monday were presented largely as intended to minimize the disruption caused by outbreaks in schools. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said school closings and remote learning had been “extraordinarily difficult for children and had a big impact on health,” including mental health. He acknowledged, however, that the decision to vaccinate children was a closer call than for older people.
The debate over extending vaccines to 12- to 15-year-olds exposed divisions within Britain’s medical and scientific community. Earlier this month, Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization said that those in the age group would get only marginal benefits from a mass vaccination campaign. It noted concerns over a rare side effect of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that has occasionally caused heart inflammations and led to palpitations and chest pains.
“The margin of benefit, based primarily on a health perspective, is considered too small to support advice on a universal program of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12- to 15-year-old children at this time,” the committee concluded.
However, the health ministers of the four U.K. nations reacted by seeking advice from their chief medical officers that took into account “educational impacts” as well as health concerns.
Britain has recently been averaging around 35,000 new coronavirus cases a day — among the highest rates in Europe relative to its population. Two-thirds of the population is fully vaccinated. Government ministers are bracing for the possibility of a further surge in cases after schools reopen and the weather worsens in the fall and winter.
South Africa is easing some of its coronavirus restrictions, with new infections dropping across all provinces, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.
“While the third wave is not yet over, we have seen a sustained decline in infections across the country over the last few weeks,” Mr. Ramaphosa said. The seven-day average of daily new cases has decreased by 48 percent in the past 14 days, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
When the latest wave of cases surged in June, South Africa introduced some tough restrictions, then relaxed them as cases fell in July. For about a month, restaurants could only sell food by takeout or delivery, alcohol sales were banned and schools were closed.
New rules introduced on Monday further eased those restrictions. The nationwide curfew has been shortened by an hour, operating hours at restaurants, bars and fitness centers have been expanded and hours of alcohol sales have been extended. As many as 250 people may now meet indoors, and as many as 500 outdoors — changes that are expected to make political campaigning easier ahead of local elections in November.
While the easing of restrictions in other parts of the world has been driven by the accelerating pace of vaccinations, South Africa’s vaccination drive has been slow. But the government has secured enough doses to vaccinate the entire adult population, Mr. Ramaphosa said. About 18 percent of the country’s population has been partially vaccinated and 12 percent has been fully vaccinated, according to figures from Our World in Data.
Across Africa, new cases are falling. The continent recently recorded the sharpest seven-day decline in two months, the World Health Organization said this month. But the shortage of doses has left the continent vulnerable to surges, especially of more contagious variants.
Thailand and Vietnam, two countries whose economies rely largely on tourism, are pushing to reopen their travel industries despite surges in coronavirus cases and outbreaks of the Delta variant.
Late last week, the Vietnamese government announced a reopening of the island of Phu Quoc to fully vaccinated overseas tourists, with the goal of attracting two to three million international visitors to the island by the end of the year. Alongside that move, the chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Nguyen Trung Khanh, said that efforts to vaccinate residents on the island would be a priority.
In 2019, Vietnam saw more than 18 million international tourists. But in a sign of the profound effect of the pandemic, overseas arrivals in the month of March 2020, as the coronavirus began to hit hard, dropped steeply, to only about 32 percent of the number in the same month a year earlier, according to Vietnamese tourism statistics.
While Vietnam did a good job of containing the virus in the initial stages of the pandemic, like many other countries it has struggled to contain the Delta variant this year. The country is recording a daily average of 12,724 new cases, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Only 4.9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures.
Thailand is also set to welcome back fully vaccinated tourists, to Bangkok and other major tourism destinations, starting in October, according to Reuters. It is the second phase of a reopening plan that began over the past two months, with the reopening of places including the island of Phuket.
Thailand had nearly 40 million international visitors in 2019. Tourism accounts for about a fifth of the country’s economic activity, according to the International Monetary Fund, and the pandemic contributed to a drop of 6.1 percent in the country’s G.D.P. in 2020.
Thailand is reporting about 14,000 new daily cases, according to the country’s tourism authority, and there have been public protests about the government’s handling of the pandemic. In 2020, Thailand registered fewer than 100 Covid-related deaths, but the toll in 2021 already exceeds 12,000.
Australia has opened up Covid-19 vaccinations to children as young as 12 as it races to inoculate the population amid an outbreak of the Delta variant.
Children ages 12 to 15 started receiving Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on Monday. Appointments for the Moderna vaccine can be booked now for sessions starting next week.
Australia’s vaccine campaign is gaining speed after a sluggish first few months. Millions of doses that were ordered earlier this year are arriving, and the country will have enough supply by mid-October to vaccinate every eligible person, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week.
Currently, 55 percent of the population of 26 million has had at least one vaccine dose, and 34 percent are fully inoculated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. The number of new cases increased by 36 percent over the past two weeks to 1,493 cases, based on the seven-day average.
Australia will also receive its first shipments of the Moderna vaccine this week, with 11 million total doses expected to be delivered by the end of the year. The government also signed an agreement with other nations to swap vaccines, which will allow it to get 500,000 doses of the Pfizer shot from Singapore and four million from Britain. In return, Australia promised to ship the same numbers of doses to the two countries later this year.
Fully vaccinated people living in Sydney, the epicenter of the Delta outbreak in Australia, had some restrictions eased on Monday. Those who live outside 12 government areas “of concern” are now allowed to have outdoor picnics with up to four other people.
Schools in Sydney will reopen on Oct. 25, while pubs and gyms are expected to open in mid-October when the state fully vaccinates 70 percent of its population.
China has logged its highest number of coronavirus cases in nearly a month, prompting one county to shut down public transportation and test hundreds of thousands of people.
On Sunday, the Chinese authorities reported 22 new locally transmitted infections, all in the southern province of Fujian and caused by the Delta variant. The number was the highest since Aug. 14, when 24 cases were recorded.
China does not release enough data to make clear how prevalent Delta is there, but last month, the country stamped out multiple Delta outbreaks that swept across half the country through mass testing, contact tracing, and targeted lockdowns. Health experts have warned that such measures come at a punishing economic and social cost and may deepen pandemic fatigue among the public.
The outbreak over the weekend bucked a downward trend of cases, which had fallen for more than a month since Aug. 9, when China reported 109 infections. While Sunday’s case count is far below many other countries, the number reflects what health experts have long warned: that it is probably nearly impossible to completely eradicate the Delta variant, and that Beijing needs to rethink its zero-Covid strategy.
The government said that the Fujian outbreak started on Sept. 10 in a primary school in the county of Xianyou, and local authorities said that most of the cases involved young children. An initial analysis showed that the initial carrier was an adult who had arrived from Singapore.
The authorities in Fujian have ordered mass testing of all students and teachers to be completed within a week. The city of Xiamen has closed off two districts and a hospital after identifying Covid patients. In Xianyou, buses and taxi services have been suspended. More than 900,000 residents in the county have been called up for testing, with threats of criminal punishment for anyone who does not cooperate.
A team from the National Health Commission that has been sent to Fujian said that it would probably detect more cases, but added that the outbreak could be controlled before the weeklong National Day holiday at the start of October, according to CCTV, the state broadcaster.
Beijing is likely to be nervous about large numbers of people traveling and gathering during that holiday, as well as during the three-day Mid-Autumn Festival, which begins on Sunday.
Daily reports of new coronavirus cases grew tenfold in South Dakota in August, with the worst outbreaks concentrated in the western part of the state. Hospitalizations have increased swiftly in the last few weeks. National Guard soldiers were dispatched to aid with testing.
The increase came during and after the state’s annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew more than 550,000 people from all over the country to South Dakota — even more than last year’s, which forged ahead while most large events were canceled. This year’s happened during a broad spread of the Delta variant that drove a spike in all 50 states.
Uncertain, experts said, was the role the rally may have had in spreading the virus in South Dakota. And unanswered was a larger question: How safe are major gatherings held at least partly outdoors — events like Sturgis, Lollapalooza and college football games.
Cases in Meade County, which includes Sturgis, began to rise in mid-August, just as the motorcycle rally was winding down. By the end of August, more than 30 county residents were testing positive most days, up from about one a day before the rally. Case levels have since started to decline.
But the vast majority of people at the rally came from elsewhere and, if they became infected, would be counted in the data in their home states.
As the Delta variant spreads widely, and as Americans yearn to go back to normal, health experts have debated the public health risks of large outdoor events and music festivals.
Outdoor events are far safer than those held in indoor, poorly ventilated spaces. But even gatherings where the main event is outside can include indoor opportunities for Covid to spread.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said it may be too early to link the Delta variant surge that’s overwhelming hospitals and increasing case level to large outdoor events, including the rally in Sturgis.
“I haven’t seen any data so far that says outdoor gatherings themselves are pretty risky,” said Dr. Jha. “And what I’ve said about Sturgis is, I don’t think it was the rally itself, I think it was all the bars and restaurants and all the stuff and night and evenings and all the indoor stuff.”
Dr. Shankar Kurra, the vice president for medical affairs at Monument Health, which is headquartered in Rapid City, S.D., said last month that the number of coronavirus cases in the area was much higher at this time than they were following last year’s rally.
“It’s hard not to say these cases didn’t come from the rally,” Dr. Kurra. “The cases had to come from somewhere and we know these cases did not come from here.”
Local officials in Sturgis have pushed back against the scrutiny of the event, saying the rally has received unequal criticism compared to other large gatherings across the country.
“As the data illustrates, South Dakota’s current infection rate is mirroring the entire upper Midwest region,” said Dan Ainslie, the Sturgis city manager. “There was some spread of Covid from the rally, though the national media fixation on it is without merit given the fact that our experience is so similar to our neighbors.”
Businesses in Chicago are being cited as the city enforces an indoor mask mandate now in effect across the state.
Meanwhile, some concerned Chicago Public Schools parents say they want a remote learning waiver for students.
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Watch Live: Chicago’s Top Doctor to Give COVID Update at 1 p.m.
Chicago’s top doctor is set to deliver a COVID-19 update for the city Tuesday afternoon.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is scheduled to “provide an update on COVID-19 case data and vaccinations and the city’s response to the pandemic,” including an update to the city’s travel advisory.
She is also expected to announce the launch of a new website with mental health resources and support.
The announcement is slated for 1 p.m. Tuesday and can be watched live here.
Chicago Travel Advisory Set for an Update Tuesday
Chicago is set to update its travel advisory Tuesday, announcing which states, if any, will be added to or removed from its list recommending that unvaccinated travelers test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.
Last week, the city added four states to that list, including Maryland, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado.
The addition brought the total number of states on the advisory to 43 states, along with two territories.
The District of Columbia was removed after falling below the threshold, city officials said.
Chicago Businesses Cited Over Mask Mandate, City Says
Chicago has been enforcing its indoor mask mandate and a number of businesses have been cited in recent days for failing to comply, the city said.
According to Chicago Mayor Lori Lighftoot’s office, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) issued 16 “notices to correct” and 20 citations to businesses from Aug. 20 through Aug. 29.
The city’s new indoor mask mandate took effect on Aug. 20. A similar mandate for the entire state began Monday.
“As cases continue to rise in Chicago, BACP is putting all businesses on high alert and letting them know that we will be strictly enforcing the City of Chicago mask mandate,” the mayor’s office said in a release.
Some CPS Parents Push to Obtain Remote Learning Waiver
Monday, the first day of classes for Chicago Public Schools students, was especially nerve-racking for Christine Hernandez, whose 13-year-old son, Christopher, is on the Autism spectrum and goes to a sensory school on the city’s North Side.
Hernandez said she hoped her son could attend school virtually because of her ongoing health issues and rising COVID-19 cases spurred by the delta variant.
“It is scary having my son go in person knowing he could bring something home that could be deadly to me,” the mother said, noting she is in kidney failure and awaiting a transplant.
Hernandez said she applied for CPS’ remote learning option, the Virtual Academy, but was denied. And she wasn’t alone.
CPS said 758 people applied for the Virtual Academy, but 481 students were admitted.
Read more here.
Cook County Judge Rescinds Ruling Stopping Unvaccinated Mom From Seeing Son
A Cook County judge who barred a divorced mother from seeing her 11-year-old son because she hasn’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 rescinded the original ruling Monday, restoring the mother’s parental rights.
Rebecca Firlit’s case became the subject of national attention earlier this month after Cook County Judge James Shapiro asked the 39-year-old mother if she was vaccinated during an online child support hearing.
When she said no, the judge withdrew her rights to see the boy until she gets vaccinated. The judge, not Firlit’s ex-husband, raised the issue during the Aug. 10 hearing.
Read more here.
Jesse Jackson in Rehab Facility, Wife Moved From ICU as COVID Battle Continues
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and his wife, Jacqueline, were both said to have been making progress regarding their health approximately one week after being hospitalized for COVID-19, according to a statement from family.
Jacqueline Jackson, 77, remains hospitalized as of Monday, but was moved out of the intensive care unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and into a “regular hospital room” where she continues to receive oxygen.
Jacqueline Jackson has not been vaccinated, longtime family spokesman Frank Watkins previously said. He declined to elaborate.
Read more here.
Proof, Testing, Religious Exemptions: What to Know About COVID Vaccine Mandates
With both Illinois and Chicago mandating COVID vaccines for certain groups, what are the requirements and what do you need to know?
Illinois Mask Mandate: New Indoor Mask Requirements Take Effect Monday
Illinois’ reinstated mask mandate takes effect Monday, requiring residents over the age of 2 to wear face coverings in indoor settings.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker re-issued the mask mandate for the state Thursday, saying the state is “running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds.”
The new indoor mask guidelines, similar to mandates already handed down in Cook County and Chicago, will require facial coverings in indoor settings, regardless of COVID vaccination status.
“Illinois will join several other states that have reinstituted statewide indoor mask requirements, regardless of vaccination status, effective on Monday,” Pritzker said in his announcement. “Masks work. Period.”
He noted that while face coverings are not required outdoors, “masks are strongly encouraged in crowded outdoor settings like festivals and concerts as well as for activities that require close contact with people who are not vaccinated.”
Evacuees from Afghanistan arrive in Virginia
Numerous evacuees from Afghanistan landed at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC Friday after harrowing days of trying to get out of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Aug. 27)
The last plane carrying U.S. forces left Afghanistan, meeting the deadline to withdraw from the Taliban-led nation after 20 years of war. States in Hurricane Ida’s path are assessing the damage from a storm so powerful it reversed the flow of the Mississippi River. And are bans on school mask mandates a civil rights violation?
👋 Hey! It’s Laura. Monday, Funday, right? Right. Here’s the news.
But first, mom to the rescue! 🙌 A mountain lion attacked a 5-year-old boy playing outside his home. His mother saved him by fighting the cat off with her bare hands.
Last plane carrying US forces leaves Afghanistan
Meeting the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw from the Taliban-led nation, the last plane carrying U.S. forces left Afghanistan on Monday, after 20 years of war that left nearly 2,500 American troops dead and spanned four presidencies. The Biden administration has spent weeks scrambling to evacuate Americans and Afghan translators who helped the American military after the Taliban quickly gained control of Kabul on Aug. 15. The withdrawal also comes in the aftermath of an ISIS-K suicide bombing that killed dozens of people, including 13 U.S. service members, on Thursday. The U.S. retaliated with airstrikes targeting Islamic extremists on Friday and Sunday. Evacuations originally began in July with at least 122,000 people evacuated out of Afghanistan as of Monday, including 5,400 Americans.
👉 Afghanistan evacuation: Pentagon vague on final evacuation plans; Marine relieved of duties after critical social media post. Catch up on the latest updates.
Hurricane Ida leaves path of destruction
As day broke Monday, residents emerged from their homes to assess the damage from Hurricane Ida as others, heeding the call of local officials, remained inside to make way for rescue operations. More than 1 million homes and businesses were without power across a swath of Louisiana and Mississippi, and thousands of people were in shelters. Hurricane Ida roared ashore in Louisiana on Sunday with a force so strong it temporarily reversed the flow of the Mississippi River. Ida’s winds snapped trees and tore roofs off buildings as its floodwaters blocked roads and submerged cars. Ida is tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. mainland and struck 16 years to the day after the deadly Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The storm was downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm early Monday.
👉 Hurricane Ida: Rescue boats fan out across Louisiana amid Ida flooding. Power could be out six weeks for some. Catch up on the latest updates.
What everyone’s talking about
EU removes US from safe travel list
The European Union is no longer recommending its member states lift restrictions on nonessential travel for Americans as COVID-19 cases spike. The U.S. had been on a safe travel list since June, when the EU recommended gradually easing all travel restrictions for U.S. travelers, regardless of vaccination status. But criteria for the safe travel list include having “a stable or decreasing trend of new COVID cases” over the previous two weeks, according to the European Council. The EU’s updated guidance comes as the U.S. faces its fourth wave of COVID-19, driven by the highly contagious delta variant. New U.S. cases are averaging over 150,000 a day, and for days, deaths have been seven times higher than they were in early July. This does not, however, mean an end to European travel. The EU’s recommendation is nonbinding, and each member state has the power to set its own travel restrictions.
Are bans on school mask mandates a civil rights violation?
As thousands of schools return to full-time in-person instruction, President Joe Biden’s administration is investigating five states that are banning districts from mandating masks, on the grounds that such policies violate the civil rights of children with disabilities and underlying health conditions. State superintendents in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah received letters Monday outlining how prohibiting indoor masking in schools prevents districts from implementing health and safety measures necessary to protect students. The banning of mask mandates may keep schools “from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” the letters said. The Biden administration had previously threatened to use its authority to enforce civil rights law against states that have forbid schools from enforcing universal indoor mask-wearing. Under federal law, public schools must not discriminate on the basis of a person’s disability, and they must provide an equal education to students with disabilities.
Mollie Tibbetts’ killer sentenced to life in prison
Cristhian Bahena Rivera will spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2018 murder of Mollie Tibbetts. The man convicted of murdering the 20-year-old University of Iowa student was sentenced Monday after being convicted of the murder in May. A week before he was scheduled to be sentenced in July, Bahena Rivera’s attorneys filed motions to request a new trial. A judge rejected Bahena’s request after a lengthy hearing on July 27. Tibbetts’ body was found in August 2018, about a month after she disappeared while jogging near her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Police eventually traced a car seen on surveillance video to Bahena Rivera, a local farmhand. He then led police to her remains.
A break from the news
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Chicago health officials on Tuesday announced that a new indoor mask mandate will go into effect Friday for all residents 2 years of age and older.
The city also added eight states and the District of Columbia to its travel advisory, recommending that unvaccinated people entering the city from those areas test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
US Announces Plan to Offer COVID Booster Shots for All Americans
U.S. health authorities are recommending an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans eight months after they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot in order to gain longer-lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.
The move is being driven by both the highly contagious variant and preliminary evidence that suggests the vaccine’s protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.
In a joint statement, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health and medical experts announced plans, pending formal FDA approval of a third dose, to begin administering booster shots widely.
“We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose,” the statement said.
The expansion will be rolled out first to those who were fully vaccinated earliest, which includes health care workers, nursing home residents and other other older people before distributing booster shots to general public.
Every Illinois County Is Seeing ‘Substantial’ or ‘High’ COVID Transmission and Should Mask Indoors, CDC Says
Every county in Illinois is seeing “substantial” or “high” community transmission of COVID-19, placing the entire state in the category in which everyone over the age of 2 should resume wearing a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, federal health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance late last month to recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks in indoor settings again in areas of the U.S. that are seeing “substantial” or “high” transmission of COVID-19.
So in which areas is the CDC advising people wear masks indoors? The agency points to its COVID-19 data tracker showing levels of community transmission, along with other data, for each county in the U.S.
As of Monday, all 102 counties in Illinois were experiencing either “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission, triggering the recommendation to mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Ninety-seven counties – including every county in the Chicago area – are seeing “high” transmission while five are in the “substantial” transmission range: Putnam, Lee, Carroll, Jo Daviess and Stark, which was the last county to cross the threshold into the higher transmission levels after remaining in “moderate” transmission through Sunday.
Chicago Travel Advisory: 8 States, DC Added to List as COVID Cases Continue to Rise
Chicago on Tuesday added eight states and the District of Columbia to its travel advisory, recommending that unvaccinated people entering the city from those areas test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.
The eight new states added include: Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia.
The addition brings the total number of states on the advisory to 39, along with three territories.
Indoor Mask Mandate Issued in City of Chicago, Regardless of Vaccination Status
Due to recent increases in the number of new coronavirus cases in the city, officials with the Chicago Department of Public Health have announced that a new indoor mask mandate will go into effect Friday for all residents 2 years of age and older.
According to city officials, the mandate was implemented as the average number of daily new COVID cases in the city surpassed the 400 mark this week.
Masks will be required in all indoor public settings, including bars, restaurants, gyms and private clubs, CDPH said.
Masks can be removed at restaurants, bars and other establishments while customers are eating or drinking, as well as for certain activities like beard shaves and facials, according to CDPH.
Chicago Hits 400 New COVID Cases Per Day, Which Officials Previously Called a ‘Line in the Sand’
Chicago on Monday surpassed the metric of 400 average new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed per day, a figure that city health officials warned earlier in the pandemic would mark a “line in the sand” to implement more mitigations.
Chicago was averaging 419 new COVID-19 cases per day as of Monday, according to city data. That metric was up from 347 the week before, having grown by 21% in the past week.
That figure is also more than 12 times the low of 34 that the city saw in late June, before cases began to rise again, but remains lower than the more than 700 new cases per day the city was seeing at the peak of the last surge earlier this year.
On July 19, Chicago’s average daily COVID case rate was at 132, meaning the number of average new cases per day has more than tripled in the past four weeks.
While cases continue to steadily rise, other metrics have not been increasing at the same rate, city data shows.
Hospitalizations in Chicago are down 18% from last week while deaths are down 24%, per the city’s data. But the positivity rate in testing is up to 4.3% this week, an increase from 3.8% last week, which was up each week since it was at 1% a month ago.
The average of 419 new cases per day recorded Monday is over the threshold of 400 that Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said just over a year ago “really marks line in the sand” to bring back restrictions to slow the pandemic’s spread.
“It’s the equivalent of needing to go back to a phase three, really pulling back on major activities,” Arwady said in August 2020, before any of the three vaccines currently in use were available.
But Arwady said Tuesday that vaccines have changed the way the city approaches that metric of average daily case rate, taking other data into account in its evolving pandemic response.
US Expected to Recommend COVID Boosters for All 8 Months After 2nd Dose
U.S. experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot, to ensure lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.
Federal health officials have been actively looking at whether extra shots for the vaccinated would be needed as early as this fall, reviewing case numbers in the U.S. as well as the situation in other countries such as Israel, where preliminary studies suggest the vaccine’s protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.
Who Can Get COVID Booster Shots and When Can They Get Them? Here’s What to Know
With COVID booster shots now approved for some people with compromised immune systems, who can get the shots and when?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel also recommended the extra shot Friday.
Eligible for a Third COVID-19 Shot? Here’s Where to Get One in the Chicago Area
COVID-19 booster shots have been approved for millions of Americans who are especially vulnerable because of organ transplants, certain cancers and other disorders.
Immunocompromised patients make up roughly 2.7% of the U.S. adult population and 44% of hospitalized breakthrough infections, where someone gets infected even after they’ve been fully vaccinated. Small studies also suggest, according to the CDC, that immunocompromised people are more likely to transmit the virus to household contacts.
The CDC recommends people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional vaccine dose at least 28 days after their second dose.
Following the announcement Friday, federal health officials said booster shots “could start being administered immediately.” Since then, multiple retail chains have started offering third doses nationwide, including in the Chicago area.
Illinois Senate President Recovering From ‘Breakthrough’ COVID Case
Illinois Senate President Don Harmon tested positive for a “mild breakthrough” case of COVID-19 and was recovering from symptoms, his office announced Monday.
The Democrat from Oak Park was vaccinated in the spring. He began experiencing symptoms late last week, self-isolated and tested positive, according to a statement. His office said “contact tracing was implemented.”
“I’m even more grateful to be vaccinated, given how mild my symptoms have been,” Harmon said in a statement. “I encourage everyone to get vaccinated and also to not let their guard down as we try to get back to normal.”
$100K Illinois Vaccine Lottery Winners Chosen From Chicago and St. Charles
Three winners were chosen Monday during the seventh $100,000 drawing of Illinois’ COVID vaccine lottery.
The winners, two located in Chicago, and one in St. Charles, will be notified by the Illinois Department of Public Health by phone or email. Each will be awarded a $100,000 cash prize.
“Illinoisans from those cities and counties should keep their phones on and check their emails regularly to find out if they’ve won,” IDPH said in a statement.
Health officials will call from 312-814-3524 and/or email from DPH.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vaccine Mandates and Passports: Will They Come to Illinois?
With cities in parts of the U.S. implementing a COVID vaccine requirement for certain activities, could Chicago and Illinois follow suit?
New York City will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday for anyone wanting to partake in much of public life — dining indoors at restaurants, working out at a gym, visiting a stadium or strolling through a museum. While the new requirement goes into effect Tuesday, enforcement won’t begin until Sept. 13.
Other cities, including San Francisco, followed New York’s move in taking more aggressive measures against the pandemic.
People who want to go into bars, restaurants, gyms, music halls or other indoor venues in New Orleans will also soon have to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus or a recent negative test.
So what does that mean for Chicago and Illinois?
Delta, Lambda, Gamma: Here’s a Breakdown of COVID Variants and What We Know So Far
As cases of the delta variant continue to raise concerns across the U.S., the latest variant to take hold in the country, many are wondering what other variants are out there and which should we be concerned about?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, variants of the coronavirus were expected. But some variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than others, according to the CDC, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.
Variants are categorized as “variants of interest,” “variants of concern” and “variants of high consequence.”
So which variants are being tracked so far? In the U.S. and around the globe, there are currently four variants labeled “variants of concern” by the CDC and the World Health Organization.
Cook County Health Requires Employees to Receive COVID Vaccines as ‘Condition of Employment’
Officials with Cook County Health have announced that all employees will be required to receive COVID-19 vaccines, saying that the move is “simply the right thing to do” amid a delta variant-driven surge in cases.
The announcement was made Monday in a message to employees. Israel Rocha, CEO of Cook County Health, says that all team members will be required to receive the vaccine by Oct. 1, and that employees who aren’t compliant by that date could potentially lose their jobs.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 21,334 New COVID Cases, 92 Deaths, 215K Vaccinations in the Past Week
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 21,334 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, along with 92 additional deaths and more than 215,000 new vaccine doses administered.
In all, 1,457,687 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported this week bring the state to 23,594 confirmed COVID fatalities.
Chicago Public Schools to Require COVID Vaccinations for All Employees
Chicago Public Schools will require COVID vaccinations for all employees, the district announced Friday.
The requirement, which comes just days before the district’s Aug. 30 start date, includes school-based teachers and staff, central office, regular vendors and network employees, and all other Board employees, unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.
Under the new policy, all staff will be required to submit proof of full vaccination by Oct. 15, unless they have an approved religious or medical exemption. Those who have not already reported to the district that they are fully vaccinated must be tested once a week at a minimum until Oct. 15 or until proof of vaccination is submitted. Staff with a documented exemption will need to be tested for the remainder of the year.
(Bloomberg) — The U.S. plans to extend mask requirements for travelers on airplanes, trains and buses, and at airports and train stations through Jan. 18, Reuters reported, citing three unidentified sources.
The U.S. government is poised to being offering booster shots as soon as next month. Morgan Stanley is stepping up efforts to ensure employees comply with its rule that they be vaccinated to enter its buildings.
Apple Inc. will increase testing of both corporate and retail employees and has reversed course on rebooting in-store classes in the U.S. this month. Staff participating in the company’s at-home testing program will now receive kits twice per week instead of weekly.
New Zealand, which has run a successful Covid elimination strategy, will enter a lockdown after reporting its first community transmission since February. Early Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were four additional Covid cases, RNZ reported.
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U.S. to Extend Travel Mask Mandate: Reuters (3:20 p.m. NY)
The U.S. plans to extend mask requirements for travelers on airplanes, trains and buses and at airports and train stations through Jan. 18, Reuters reports, citing three unidentified sources.
Apple Steps Up Staff Testing (1:15 p.m. NY)
Apple Inc. will increase testing of both corporate and retail employees and has reversed course on rebooting in-store classes in the U.S. this month.
This week, the iPhone maker informed staff participating in the company’s at-home testing program with Quest Diagnostics Inc. that they will now receive testing kits twice per week instead of weekly. The company told employees in the program that they are expected to get tested on Mondays and Thursdays.
Morgan Stanley Asks Workers for Vaccine Proof (1:05 p.m. NY)
Morgan Stanley is stepping up efforts to ensure employees comply with its rule that they be vaccinated to enter its buildings.
The firm told vaccinated workers to provide documentation of their shots by Oct. 1, after previously letting them attest to their status, according to an internal memo. The extra step is meant to “provide greater comfort for those working in the office,” it wrote.
Masks Required in U.S. National Parks (12:35 p.m. NY)
The U.S. National Park Service said it is requiring masks for crowded outdoor spaces and buildings “regardless of vaccination status or community transmission levels.”
In a statement issued Monday, Shawn Benge, deputy director of the Park Service, said: “Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world. Because of this, and recognizing that the majority of the United States is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure our staff and visitors’ safety.”
Greece Sees Biggest Case Jump Since April (11 a.m. NY)
Greece reported 4,205 new cases, the highest daily increase since April 6 and the third-biggest one-day jump since the start of the pandemic. Greek authorities are worried by the situation on the island of Crete, which is a popular vacation destination for foreigners and Greeks alike. The Heraklion area of the country’s largest island saw the third-biggest increase in new cases nationwide after Thessaloniki and central Athens.
U.K. Authorizes Moderna for Adolescents (9:15 a.m. NY)
Britain’s drug regulator authorized Moderna Inc.’s shot for children as young as 12, though few are likely to receive it in the near term as the country remains an outlier in its policy on vaccinating kids.
The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency extended the existing conditional marketing authorization for the Spikevax shot. It is up to the government’s advisory committee — the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation — to decide if and when the vaccine will be offered to to 12- to 17-year-olds.
The vaccine is the second after Pfizer Inc.’s to be authorized in the U.K. for use in older children, though Britain is currently only offering shots to those aged 16 and up, and to vulnerable kids aged 12 to 15 who have underlying health conditions or who live with immunosuppressed adults.
Swiss Cases Jump; Vaccine Demand Weak (8:20 a.m. NY)
Switzerland recorded 3,150 new infections within the last 24 hours, the biggest daily increase in months. Since early July, the number of hospitalizations has risen 10-fold, Patrick Mathys of the Federal Office of Public Health said.
The government has redoubled efforts to get more people vaccinated with a publicity campaign this week. Just 56% of the public has received at least one dose. With demand for vaccinations weak, the government agreed take delivery of just half the 1 million doses it was due to receive from Moderna.
“Vaccines globally are in very short supply and they should be located where they actually can be used,” Mathys said.
U.S., Singapore to Discuss Virus Response (7:57 a.m. NY)
Singapore expects to discuss areas of cooperation, including the pandemic response, during U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit in the city state next week, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post Tuesday.
S. Africa White Adults Most Vaccine-Hesitant (7:36 a.m. NY)
Vaccine hesitancy is most pronounced among White adults in South Africa, which is struggling to keep immunization centers busy just three months into the rollout, a survey showed. Only 52% of White adults in the country are willing to get a Covid-19 shot, compared with three-quarters of Black adults, researchers from the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Johannesburg said in the highlights of a report due to be released on Wednesday.
Separately, South Africa may open registrations to allow people aged between 18 and 34 to get vaccinated as early as this week, Eyewitness News reported, citing Health Minister Joe Phaahla.
Iran’s Daily Cases Surpass 50,000 (6:02 a.m. NY)
Iran reported a record number of daily cases, with new infections surpassing 50,000 for the first time. The country had 50,228 cases and 625 deaths overnight, according to the Health Ministry, bringing the total figures to more than 4.5 million infections and 99,100 fatalities.
Serbia Set to Rollout Boosters (6 a.m. NY)
Serbia is offering booster shots to people who completed their initial, two-dose vaccination at least six months ago. The new rollout is starting with transplant patients and others with weakened immunity, as well as health workers, frequent travelers and nursing home residents.
The Balkan country is struggling to advance the inoculation rate from around 50% of its population of 7 million, amid some vaccine skepticism. Weeks of accelerating Covid cases soared on Tuesday to almost 1,500 new infections, the highest daily total since late April.
S. Africa Expects Fourth Wave, New Variant (4:11 p.m. HK)
South Africa expects a fourth wave of infections to start on Dec. 2 and to last about 75 days, said Salim Abdool Karim, former chairman of the government’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19.
The government assumes that the wave will follow a similar pattern to the current one and that there will be a new variant by then, he said at a Government Technical Advisory Centre conference. Data suggest the current wave will end around Aug. 26.
Poland to Let Employers Check Vaccinations (3:43 p.m. HK)
The Polish government expects parliament to approve regulations allowing employers to check whether workers are vaccinated, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said in an interview with Wirtualna Polska. The rules, which may be voted on by parliament next month, would enable companies to move unvaccinated people away from jobs focused on direct contact with clients.
New Zealand Goes Into Lockdown (2:30 p.m. HK)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put the nation into a three-day lockdown after reporting the first community case of Covid since February. The country will be placed in lockdown at midnight tonight after discovery of a single case in Auckland, Ardern said at a news conference in Wellington. Auckland and the nearby Coromandel region will be in lockdown for seven days.
“Going hard and early has worked for us before,” she told reporters. She said officials assume the case is the delta variant, adding that strain “has been called a game changer, and it is.”
India’s Record Vaccination (1:05 p.m. HK)
India administered a record 8.8 million shots in a day, according to a government statement. India has given 554.7 million doses so far, but only 8.9% of the country’s population is fully inoculated, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. India added 25,166 cases, while deaths rose by 437 to 432,079.
Booster Shots in the U.S. (11:50 a.m. HK)
The U.S. government is poised to offer booster shots as soon as next month, with the country facing a renewed wave of infections fueled by delta.
Biden administration officials are finalizing a plan expected to recommend booster shots eight months after people received their second dose, according to two people familiar with the deliberations who asked not to be identified. The plan is not yet finalized but an announcement could come as soon as this week, they said.
Singapore Pilot Programs (11:45 a.m. HK)
Singapore plans to set up pilot programs next month to allow vaccinated business travelers from some countries to enter on carefully controlled itineraries as it takes steps to reopen its borders.
Singapore is in talks with Germany, Australia, Canada and South Korea to be the first batch of countries for such arrangements, though it is also looking at the possibility of leisure travel, trade minister Gan Kim Yong told Bloomberg News in an interview Tuesday. He said factors like infections, vaccination rates and the ability to control outbreaks will be considered in these discussions.
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The Transportation Security Administration announced on Tuesday it is extending the federal mask mandate for airplane, bus, and train passengers through Jan. 18.
This is being done to “minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” the agency said, and comes as the Delta variant continues to spread across the country. The mandate was put in place on Feb. 1, and was already extended once before in April to Sept. 13.
“Extending the federal mask mandate for travel makes sense for the current health environment,” Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement. “The universal wearing of masks in airports and on airplanes, trains, and other forms of public transportation is both an effective safeguard against spreading the virus and boosts public confidence in traveling — both of which are paramount for a sustained economic recovery.”
Those found in violation of the mandate face fines, and there are exemptions for travelers under the age of two and people with specific disabilities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis Has No Power To Overturn Mandate At Florida Airports. Violators Fined, Potentially Arrested.
BY: STAFF REPORT | BocaNewsNow.com
BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Copyright © 2021 MetroDesk Media, LLC) — The Transportation Security Administration Tuesday afternoon confirmed that the travel mask mandate is now in effect until at least January of 2022.
That means anyone planning holiday travel — even to South Florida — will need to bring a mask. Despite his efforts to keep masks out of public schools, businesses and other location in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has no power over the federal mandate for airline and interstate bus travel.
For travelers, it’s more of the same. All airline and bus passengers are required to wear a facial covering. Violators on airplanes face arrest and fines that could total tens of thousands of dollars. Flight crews have been duct taping passengers to seats if they aggressively refuse to comply with the mask mandate.
Most airlines continue to prohibit neck gaiters or mask with vents.
The mask mandate also applies to anyone in an airport.
The current mask mandate went into effect in early 2021 and was set to expire in September. It has been extended to January 18th, 2022.
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FAA seeks thousands in fines from disruptive airline travelers
The Federal Aviation Administration is getting aggressive when it comes to disruptive passengers.
Travelers on airplanes, trains, buses and in airports and train stations should be prepared to continue to wear masks for holiday travel and into next year.
The Transportation Security Administration will extend its travel mask mandate through Jan. 18 to “minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” according to a Tuesday statement from the agency.
“The emerging evidence about the Delta variant demonstrates it is more formidable than the original virus,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Tuesday. “Wearing a well-fitting mask that covers your nose and mouth is a way to prevent germs from spreading between yourself and other people.”
The federal mandate, which was put in place on Feb. 1, was originally due to expire May 11 but was extended in April through Sept. 13.
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USA TODAY has reached out to federal officials for comment.
The current rule includes fines for people who don’t comply and exempts travelers under the age of 2 and those with certain disabilities.
Airlines dealing with backlash over mask requirement
Airlines began requiring masks early in the pandemic but have faced resistance from a minority of passengers and long sought the federal government’s support.
Reports abound of passengers refusing to wear masks and becoming aggressive with flight crews.
The extension has the travel industry’s “full support,” according to a statement from Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association, a travel industry trade group.
“Extending the federal mask mandate for travel makes sense for the current health environment,” she said in the statement. “The universal wearing of masks in airports and on airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation is both an effective safeguard against spreading the virus and boosts public confidence in traveling –both of which are paramount for a sustained economic recovery.”
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight Attendants at 17 airlines, released a statement Tuesday saying the extended mask mandate would help keep passengers and aviation workers safe, especially amid the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We have a responsibility in aviation to keep everyone safe and do our part to end the pandemic, rather than aid the continuation of it,” Nelson’s statement said. “We all look forward to the day masks are no longer required but we’re not there yet.”
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, chairman of industry lobbying group Airlines for America (A4A), said in July, before the delta variant surge, that Southwest and the trade group were not recommending another extension of the federal transportation mask mandate.
Kelly, answering reporter questions during Southwest’s quarterly earnings conference call, said airlines support following CDC guidance on masks, which says vaccinated individuals don’t need one but unvaccinated individuals should wear one.
Unless that advice changes, he said, “we wouldn’t advocate from Southwest’s perspective, or the A4A for that matter, extending the mandate.”
Kelly is the first U.S. airline executive to publicly express what is in effect support for letting the mandate expire, though United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said he expected it to be lifted in September.
“What they decide, we’ll enforce,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said earlier in July on the airline’s quarterly earnings conference call. “It’s not for us to opine.”
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Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson