Over a 15-month period of the pandemic, more than 120,000 children in the United States had a parent or caregiver die from Covid-19, a loss that more severely affected racial minorities, according to a modeling study published in the medical journal Pediatrics on Thursday.
The study estimated that for every four Covid-19 deaths between April 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, one child lost a parent or caregiver. The finding suggested that the ongoing pandemic, which has claimed more than 700,000 American lives thus far, could leave tens of thousands of children dealing with trauma for generations to come.
“It’s not just one of 500 are dead; one of 500 American children have lost their mommy or daddy or grandparents who took care of them,” Dr. Susan Hillis, the lead author and a researcher and epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview.
In addition to the 120,630 children who were estimated to have lost a primary caregiver — a parent or grandparent responsible for providing housing, basic needs and care — 22,007 lost a secondary caregiver, or a grandparent providing housing but not most basic needs, the study projected. Dr. Hillis said the loss of such grandparents could lead to homelessness.
The new findings aligned with research that has repeatedly demonstrated that racial minorities have been disproportionately vulnerable to the pandemic.
According to the study in Pediatrics, one of every 168 American Indian/Alaska Native children, one of every 310 Black children, one of every 412 Hispanic children, and one of every 612 Asian children have lost a caregiver, compared to one in 753 white children.
The leader of the United Nations sought $8 billion on Thursday to help narrow the yawning divide between rich and poor nations in Covid-19 vaccinations, assailing the imbalance in uncharacteristically blunt terms as both immoral and shortsighted.
The funding sought by Secretary General António Guterres from member states and other sources is part of a new vaccine strategy undertaken with the World Health Organization to ensure that 40 percent of the world is vaccinated by year’s end and 70 percent by mid-2022.
“Instead of global coordinated action to get vaccines where they are needed most, we have seen vaccine hoarding, vaccine nationalism and vaccine diplomacy,” Mr. Guterres said, speaking at a news conference about the new strategy with the director general of the W.H.O., Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Mr. Guterres’s frustration over vaccine inequity has become a defining theme of his tenure. Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly last month, he said that vaccine surpluses in wealthy countries and empty vaccine shelves in others amounted to a “moral indictment of the state of our world — it is an obscenity.”
His anger was more evident on Thursday in describing how the failure to vaccinate the developing world could spawn virus variants that are resistant to vaccines, putting the inoculated at risk as well.
“And all the vaccination effort made in developed countries to vaccinate the whole of the population, one, two or three times — all that effort will fall apart. And these people will not be protected,” he told reporters. “So, not to have equitable distribution of vaccines is not only a question of being immoral — it is also a question of being stupid.”
Mr. Guterres exhorted the Group of 20 wealthy nations to make good on their vow to “get the world vaccinated” when they convene for a summit meeting on Oct. 30 in Rome.
According to the Global Dashboard for Vaccine Equity, a database maintained by the United Nations Development Program, nearly 61 percent of people in high-income countries have received at least one dose of vaccine, while less than 4 percent in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
The W.H.O. plan calls for highly vaccinated countries to let deliveries of further doses to go first to poorer countries where they are more urgently needed, through the Covax global-sharing program and other distribution efforts.
JOHANNESBURG — Moderna said on Thursday that it planned to build a vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa, news that was welcomed for the long-term but that does not address the continent’s immediate need for Covid-19 vaccines.
The company said that a new “state of the art” facility would eventually produce up to 500 million doses a year of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, which has shown an efficacy rate of more than 90 percent in preventing Covid-19. The plant will, in time, also produce other Moderna vaccines, the company said.
However, Moderna gave no time frame, and said it was only now beginning the process of identifying which country would host the plant.
Building vaccine manufacturing sites in Africa will increase the continent’s future access to the drugs. But that does not answer calls from African leaders and activists to waive patent laws that would give more drugmakers access to details on how coronavirus vaccines are produced. It also does not address the continent’s immediate Covid-19 vaccine shortages.
“It doesn’t necessarily solve our problems today,” Dr. John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a regular news briefing on Thursday. “The problems we have are quick access to vaccines, redistribution of vaccines, making sure that certain licenses are provided so that manufacturing can start regionally.”
Moderna’s announcement comes amid mounting pressure on biotech firms to share their expertise with manufacturers in countries that desperately need more coronavirus vaccine doses.
The drug makers Pfizer and BioNTech said in July that they had partnered with Biovac, a public-private partnership pharmaceutical company in Cape Town. In Gqeberha, the South African coastal city formerly known as Port Elizabeth, Johnson & Johnson has partnered with Aspen, a local manufacturer, in a fill-and-finish manufacturing process.
Moderna said that it expected to invest up to $500 million in its future site, and that its facility would manufacture the doses with fill-and-finish capacity, in addition to packaging facilities.
“While we are still working to increase capacity in our current network to deliver vaccines for the ongoing pandemic in 2022, we believe it is important to invest in the future,” said Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive.
African leaders had already established the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing, which works within an existing “ecosystem” of Africa’s vaccine needs. Launched in April, it has political backing from the continent’s leaders, including Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
Moderna, an American drug company, developed its coronavirus vaccine with billions of dollars in taxpayer money and received initial research and development funding from Covax, the vaccine sharing facility supported by the global vaccine alliance Gavi and the World Health Organization.
Lockdowns helped keep last year’s flu season historically mild in both the United States and around the world, but U.S. officials fear a more serious season this fall and winter, with unmasked people out and about far more, and nearly half of adults in a new survey saying they are unlikely to get a flu shot.
At a news briefing to release the survey data on Thursday morning, top health experts said they were particularly concerned that, with the coronavirus still coursing around the country, nearly one in four people at higher risk for flu-related complications indicated they did not intend to get the flu vaccine.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that while experts did not yet know how severely the flu would hit the United States this fall, other respiratory infections had already returned, including RSV, a common cause of pneumonia and bronchitis in babies and a serious threat to older adults. The C.D.C.’s latest weekly flu report shows that only one state, Wyoming, had reached a “moderate” level of flu cases.
Because the flu was almost nonexistent last year, Dr. Walensky noted, people do not have the protective immunity they might have acquired if they had gotten sick, and she urged that everyone age 6 months and older be vaccinated. “The Covid-19 pandemic is not over, and the risk of both flu and Covid-19 circulating could put additional strain on hospitals and frontline health care professionals,” she said.
The survey was commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, a nonprofit organization. Its medical director, Dr. William Schaffner, said that overall vulnerability to flu could be higher this year, “with relaxed Covid-19 mitigation strategies, increased travel and the reopening of schools.”
For the survey, more than 1,110 respondents 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia answered questions in mid-August that explored attitudes about the flu; Covid-19; pneumococcal disease, which can cause pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis; and vaccination intentions.
The answers revealed a tension between beliefs about the value of the flu vaccination and the intention to get one: 61 percent of respondents agreed that a shot was the best protection against the flu, but 44 percent said they were either unsure whether they would get one or did not intend to do so.
The coronavirus pandemic, however, has had a positive effect on behaviors that could help lessen the impact of the flu. Nearly half of those surveyed said that because of the pandemic, they were more likely to stay home from work or school if they were sick, and 54 percent said they would wear a mask at least sometimes during the flu season.
But there were racial disparities: 73 percent of Black respondents and 62 percent of Latinos said they would wear a mask during flu season, compared with only 46 percent of white respondents. Black and Latino respondents were also more likely to be worried about being infected with Covid and the flu simultaneously than white respondents.
Dr. Walensky said that the flu vaccination rate nationally had held steady over the year before, at about 52 percent, but criticized what she called a “disparity gap” in flu vaccination: 56 percent for white people versus 43 percent among Black people.
Patsy Stinchfield, a nurse practitioner at Children’s Minnesota, a pediatric health care system, and the president-elect of the infectious disease foundation, said that it was safe for people to get flu and Covid shots — including boosters — at the same time.
Dr. Walensky also raised alarms about a decline in the flu vaccination rates among young children, to 59 percent from 64 percent the year before. In the 2019-2020 season, she said, 199 children died from the flu, about 80 percent of whom were not vaccinated.
With deadlines for health care workers to take coronavirus vaccinations either passed or quickly approaching, only a fraction of those workers across the United States are risking their jobs by not complying.
The consequences that employers warned of are becoming reality.
UCHealth System in Colorado fired 119 people this week. Kaiser Permanente, based in California, has suspended more than 2,200 employees. And 400 workers have resigned from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit rather than get inoculated.
On Friday, UCHealth, a nonprofit system serving the Rocky Mountain region, sent the last of several email reminders to the 119 employees — 0.5 percent of its work force — who had not received a vaccination or a medical or religious exemption. They had already been removed from weekend schedules and were notified this week of their termination.
“Certainly we would have liked 100 percent compliance,” Dan Weaver, the vice president of communications, said in an interview on Wednesday. He said that the terminated employees had been “encouraged” to reapply for their positions if they got vaccinated.
Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health plans, announced its vaccination requirement on Aug. 2, when 78 percent of its work force had already been inoculated. A spokesman said this week that the level had risen to more than 92 percent.
Still, about 1 percent of Kaiser’s work force across the country — approximately 2,200 workers — were put on unpaid administrative leave because they had not met the requirement, the spokesman said. They have until Dec. 1 to get vaccinated to be able to return to work.
The Henry Ford Health System required its employees to comply with a vaccination requirement by last Friday. The system said on Tuesday that 99 percent of its 33,000 employees had been fully vaccinated, were soon to get their second dose or had received medical or religious exemptions.
About 400 employees have resigned over the requirement, but new hires have already made up for the loss, officials said.
At Henry Ford, Bob Riney, the chief operating officer and president of health care operations, said that people who had left the company could reapply once they were inoculated.
“We are doing all we can to keep those doors open,” Mr. Riney told reporters. “Whatever their choice, we wish them the very best and appreciate the years of service they provided our community and organization.”
Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health care provider, said on Monday that 1,400 employees — less than 2 percent of its staff — had declined to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and had to leave their jobs.
President Biden announced a mandate on Sept. 9 that requires workers at nearly every hospital and health system in the country to get vaccinated or be tested weekly for the coronavirus.
One week after requiring more than 650,000 hospital and nursing home workers to get at least one dose of the vaccine, New York State’s pioneering mandate for health care workers is moving into a second and likely more difficult phase: requiring at least 250,000 home health care workers to get at least one dose of the vaccine before Friday or face the threat of losing their jobs.
While the first phase of the mandate was widely viewed as successful in pressuring thousands of nurses, doctors, technicians and orderlies to get the vaccine, many industry officials say they fear this second phase will result in thousands of workers simply quitting their jobs and finding new work in restaurants, retail or other industries. Most home health care aides, many of them immigrants, are paid about minimum wage and could find jobs paying similar wages elsewhere.
Without enough workers to go around, patients recovering from stints in the hospital or older New Yorkers who rely on long-term aides for assistance with everything from grocery shopping to bathing could find their care reduced or ended. The shortage could also exacerbate patient backlogs at hospitals, which often discharge patients with the support of in-home care.
“Even a small percentage of home care workers no longer working will impact thousands of homebound individuals,” said Dan Savitt, the president and chief executive of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. “The rough math here is for every 1 percent of full-time aides unavailable, there are about 1,500 Medicaid members that will be impacted.”
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region this week became some of the first after the United States to secure supplies of molnupiravir, the pill that the pharmaceutical company Merck says could halve the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19.
Merck said in June that the United States had agreed to buy enough pills for 1.7 million treatments, at a cost of $1.2 billion. This week, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea said that they had reached agreements with the drug maker to buy the pills, even though their regulatory agencies have yet to approve the drug. Thailand and Taiwan are also in talks with Merck to buy them, Reuters reported.
While many nations in Asia had a slow start at vaccinating against Covid-19, countries including Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea have now administered more vaccine doses than the United States per capita. Merck’s treatment, the first oral antiviral drug that can be taken at home, is expected to help limit the impact of future outbreaks and reduce the need for costly hospital treatment.
A patient would take four capsules twice a day for five days, or 40 pills total.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said on Tuesday that his government had agreed to buy 300,000 courses, pending regulatory authorization, which could happen in early 2022.
“Vaccines and new treatments like this will boost our national plan to safely reopen Australia and keep Australia safely open,” he said in a statement.
Malaysia has struck a deal to secure 150,000 treatments, its health minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, said on Thursday. “This complements our successful vaccination rollout,” he said in a tweet, adding that the ministry would continue to buy more treatment options.
South Korea secured enough pills for more than 20,000 treatments and is continuing talks with the company to secure more, the office of Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Wednesday. The government has budgeted to buy 38,000 doses of the drug in total this year and next year, it said in a statement.
Singapore also secured a deal to purchase the drug, Merck said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Reuters. The health ministry confirmed the deal to Reuters but did not disclose the number of pills citing commercial sensitivities.
Merck did not immediately respond to an early morning request for comment by telephone and email.
Merck has said it plans to seek emergency authorization for the pills to be used in the United States. Initially, the drug might be available only for people considered high risk, such as older people or those with comorbidities, though experts say that the pills could eventually become more widely available.
White House officials have said that people should get vaccinated even if Merck’s pill cuts deaths. Vaccination “remains far and away our best tool against Covid-19,” said Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus adviser.
President Biden is traveling to Chicago on Thursday to talk about vaccine mandates.
Chicago was picked in part because it is the home of United Airlines, one of the first major carriers to require shots for its 67,000 U.S. employees. Other airlines have followed with similar requirements, including American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.
Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, announced the trip on Wednesday and said that Mr. Biden would focus on the success of vaccine mandates.
Mr. Biden said last month that he would use his presidential powers to require two-thirds of American workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus. That included a private sector to mandate that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing.
He also moved to mandate shots for health care workers, federal contractors and most federal workers, who could face disciplinary measures if they decline to be inoculated.
Mr. Biden will talk about the impact that those requirements are having, Mr. Zients said.
“We believe that vaccination requirements at workplaces are very effective and an efficient way to ensure people are vaccinated or tested,” Mr. Zients said.
United Airlines has said that it would terminate about 600 employees for not complying with its vaccination requirement. About 99 percent of its U.S. work force has been vaccinated, according to the airline.
The World Health Organization said on Thursday that it had resumed shipments of medical supplies to North Korea to help its Covid-19 response, in what appears to signal a relaxation of the closed-border policies enforced by Pyongyang early in the pandemic.
The agency said its shipments of medical supplies, together with other international supplies destined for North Korea, had become stranded in China after Pyongyang sealed the country’s borders in January 2020 when Covid-19 was declared a public health emergency of international concern.
North Korea’s Ministry of Public Health told the agency several months ago that it would allow the stranded supplies to be transported through the northern Chinese port of Dalian, a W.H.O. spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said in an emailed statement.
As a result, the agency had sent some of the medical supplies and equipment to the North Korean port of Nampo, he said.
North Korea has not reported any Covid-19 infections, and it turned down several offers of vaccines, including ones from the United Nations-backed Covax facility and from Russia. But North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said in June that lapses in his country’s anti-pandemic campaign had caused a “great crisis” that threatened “grave consequences,” according to the state media. He did not clarify whether he was referring to an outbreak within the country.
The W.H.O. said its shipments to North Korea included health kits, medicines and other medical supplies that would support essential health services at primary health care centers.
The agency said it had been told that these supplies remained under quarantine in Nampo.
In other news from around the world:
The authorities in France announced that, as of Oct. 15, coronavirus screening tests would no longer be free for unvaccinated people, signaling a new phase in the government’s strategy to encourage inoculations. The change means that unvaccinated people will bear the financial burden of meeting the proof of coronavirus status required by a law enacted this summer before they can enter cafes, restaurants, theaters and many other indoor venues.
The 14-day average of new daily coronavirus cases in Spain dropped below 50 per 100,000 people on Thursday for the first time in more than a year, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called the return to low-risk status “a crucial milestone on the road to recovery” on Twitter.
Starting on Saturday, Greece will begin a two-week test of lifting some pandemic restrictions in regions where coronavirus cases have been the highest, but for the most part, only vaccinated people will be able to enjoy the heightened freedom. The restrictions — notably a curfew from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. and a ban on music in bars and restaurants — were imposed last month in “red areas” across much of the country’s north and parts of its center, as a way to fight a fourth wave of the virus. But unvaccinated people who cannot prove that they recently recovered from Covid remain barred from indoor venues like bars, cafes and restaurants.
WASHINGTON — Pfizer and BioNTech said on Thursday morning that they had asked federal regulators to authorize emergency use of their coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, a move that could help protect more than 28 million people in the United States.
The companies have said they were submitting data supporting the change to the Food and Drug Administration. The agency has promised to move quickly on the request and has tentatively scheduled a meeting on Oct. 26 to consider it. A ruling is expected between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Parents across the United States are anxiously awaiting the regulator’s decision, which could affect family life and the operation of schools. Clearance depends not only on the strength of the companies’ clinical trial data, but on whether they can prove that they are able to properly manufacture a new pediatric formulation.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting F.D.A. commissioner, said last week that children might require “a different dosage or formulation from that used in an older pediatric population or adults.”
Pfizer has proposed giving children one-third of the adult dosage. That might require adding more diluent to each injection or using a different vial or syringe. The company was expected to describe the method it intended to use in its submission to the F.D.A.
Covid screening tests in France will no longer be free for unvaccinated people starting on Oct. 15, according to the French authorities, a change that signals a new phase in the government’s strategy to quell coronavirus infections by encouraging people to get inoculated.
Unvaccinated people will now essentially have to pay to enter cafes, restaurants and theaters, because under a law enacted this summer, entering many indoor venues requires proof of being fully vaccinated, of a recent negative test or of a recent Covid-19 recovery.
Tests will remain free for vaccinated people.
The introduction of the health pass prompted large protests over the summer, with demonstrators including people calling it an infringement on their freedom, vaccine conspiracy theorists, and activists on the far left and the far right.
The law also includes mandatory inoculation for health workers — representing about three million people in France — by Oct. 15. Although most have received at least a first vaccine dose, some have held out. About 3,000 health workers have been suspended as a result, the government said last week.
A sharp decline in the number of protesters and a surge in vaccination rates in recent months suggest that President Emmanuel Macron’s gamble to increase restrictions to encourage vaccination has paid off.
But with vaccination rates lagging again in recent weeks, the government renewed its mixture of mandates and inducements — including an ad campaign promoting the “desirable” effects of vaccines — to encourage people to get vaccinated.
France, one of the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the world, has now fully inoculated nearly 70 percent of its population against the coronavirus, one of the highest rates in Europe, according to data from The New York Times.
“It is no longer legitimate to pay for unlimited comfort tests at taxpayers’ expense,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told the newspaper Les Echos last month, adding that tests prescribed by a doctor and those for minors would continue to be reimbursed.
“The rationale,” he said, “is to reimburse tests linked to real medical reasons, and to keep encouraging vaccination.”
In August, Germany also announced plans to end free Covid tests for the unvaccinated, scheduling the change for Oct. 11.
Greece will, starting on Saturday, begin a two-week test of lifting some pandemic restrictions in regions where coronavirus cases have been the highest — but for the most part, only vaccinated people will be able to enjoy the heightened freedom.
The restrictions being lifted — notably a curfew from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. and a ban on music in bars and restaurants — were imposed last month in “red areas” across much of the country’s north and parts of its center, as a way to fight a fourth wave of the virus.
But unvaccinated people who cannot prove that they recently recovered from Covid remain barred from indoor venues like bars, cafes and restaurants.
The trial is part of a drive to grant greater freedoms to people who are fully vaccinated against the virus and to encourage a large unvaccinated population to get shots. In another example, unvaccinated workers who need to prove their Covid status have to undergo regular coronavirus tests at their own expense.
“The philosophy is not that some people are being favored over others,” the Greek health minister, Thanasis Plevris, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “The measures for the unvaccinated are adequate. Those who are vaccinated can have greater freedoms.”
Vaccine hesitancy is relatively strong in Greece, where 57 percent of the population of 10.7 million has been fully vaccinated, compared with about 63 percent in the wider European Union, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Even as parents in the United States wrestle with difficult questions over vaccinating their children against the coronavirus, families in other countries have been offered a novel option: giving children just one dose of the vaccine.
Officials in Britain, Hong Kong, Norway and other countries have recommended a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 and older — providing partial protection from the virus, but without the potential harms occasionally observed after two doses. On Wednesday, Sweden and Denmark joined the ranks, announcing that adolescents should get only one jab of the Moderna vaccine.
Health officials in those countries are particularly worried about increasing data suggesting that myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, may be more common among adolescents and young adults after vaccination than had been thought.
The risk remains very small, and significant only after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine. But the numbers have changed the risk-benefit calculus in countries where new infections are mostly lower than in the United States.
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data on myocarditis in June and unanimously voted to recommend the vaccine for children ages 12 and older, saying that the benefits far outweighed the risk.
Myocarditis was among the concerns that led the Food and Drug Administration to ask vaccine makers this summer to increase the number of children in clinical trials. The issue is likely to be the focus of intense discussion when agency advisers meet next week to review the evidence for vaccinations of children ages 5 to 11 years.
The coronavirus seems to be in retreat in the United States, with instances of hospitalization and death both falling.
Although some states, such as Alaska, Maine and New Hampshire, are still seeing high figures, the number of virus cases across the country is down about 25 percent compared with a couple of weeks ago.
So, what stage is the country in with the pandemic? And how will developments such as a new antiviral treatment and the availability of booster shots affect things?
Last month, President Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write rules that would require companies with more than 100 employees to mandate coronavirus vaccinations or weekly testing. But with OSHA still going through a lengthy rule-making process, which could take several more weeks, the White House is urging companies to act now.
Several big employers have imposed mandates since Biden’s announcement, including 3M, Procter & Gamble and the airlines American, Alaska and JetBlue. IBM said on Thursday that it will require all of its U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, regardless of how often they come into the office. It will allow for “limited” medical or religious exceptions.
But many others, like JPMorgan Chase and Walmart, have yet to issue broad requirements. The OSHA standards would require reluctant companies to introduce mandates.
Executives continue to be worried about losing employees and managing the cost and complexity of vaccinate-or-test mandates. Retailers are eyeing the run-up to the holiday season, which is crucial to their yearly sales and for which finding labor was already set to be a challenge because of the pandemic.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated last month that the vaccine requirements announced by the White House will apply to about 25 million unvaccinated workers in the United States and boost the number of vaccinated individuals by 12 million — or 3.6 percent of the population — by March. Based on those estimates, Goldman’s analysts expect that 82 percent of the total population, and 90 percent of adults, will have their first dose by mid-2022. To date, 65 percent of all Americans have had at least one dose.
President Biden is headed to Chicago on Thursday to make the case that vaccine mandates are crucial to the economic recovery. He plans to meet with Scott Kirby of United Airlines, a pioneer in corporate vaccine mandates, and to visit Clayco, a construction company set to announce its own mandate.
As Mr. Biden tries to sell the mandate, OSHA is working on the time-consuming process of writing standards that pass legal muster. The president’s mandate for large employers would affect more than 80 million workers.
The White House said at the time of Mr. Biden’s announcement, in early September, that the OSHA standards would take weeks, which is a typical timeline for an emergency standard. This process includes a number of steps, like demonstrating that workers face a grave danger at work and that a rule is necessary to address the danger.
Almost a month from the initial announcement, OSHA standards could still be a few weeks away, as it works through a long list of questions that business groups, like the Chamber of Commerce and Retail Industry Leaders Association, have about the finer points of vaccine mandates. A few of the issues include:
Will independent contractors count toward the 100-employee threshold?
Who will pay for testing? Companies? The government? The unvaccinated?
Will vaccine mandates include boosters, if approved?
Even after OSHA finalizes its rules, some employers wary of mandates may not act, betting that they won’t be punished because of the agency’s limited enforcement resources or that the standards could get bogged down in court.
Attorneys general in 24 states have threatened to sue. Legal experts generally say that OSHA has the authority to introduce a vaccine mandate under powers granted by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Plans for a mandate could also be complicated by state legislation challenging the move. Montana has outlawed employer vaccine mandates. OSHA’s standards pre-empt state governments’ existing rules, except in states that have their own OSHA-approved workplace agencies. (About half do.) The legal basis for a challenge is likely to be weakest in states that are directly within OSHA’s jurisdiction, which include Montana, Texas and Florida.
Employers wary of a mandate may decide to wait out any legal battles before putting in place any requirements of their own.
As executives await for more details, a cottage industry has emerged to help companies with everything from testing to tracking vaccinations. Smaller employers, in particular, are worried about managing the new requirements, given their limited resources.
ReturnSafe, a software company that can integrate building access systems with vaccine records, said it had gone from an average of 40 to 60 people booking a meeting via its website every week to almost 300 requests per week after President Biden’s announcement. ADP, a payroll processing company, has updated its “return to workplace” software to add features to track vaccination status and weekly Covid testing. Labor lawyers are walking companies through the complex task of handling requests for religious exemptions to vaccine mandates.
The White House released details on its mandate for federal contractors this month, which gives those workers until Dec. 8 to comply. The guidelines are stricter than the proposed rules for private employers: For example, there is no option for the unvaccinated to submit to regular testing instead of getting inoculated. A White House official said that the administration expects many companies ultimately to announce vaccine-only policies. IBM and United Airlines noted that their mandates bring them into compliance with the rule for federal contractors.
United, which announced its mandate in August, recently reported that 99 percent of its workers had been vaccinated and that it had received 20,000 applications for about 2,000 flight attendant positions, a much higher ratio than before the pandemic. Tyson Foods reported a 91 percent vaccination rate ahead of a November deadline, compared with less than 50 percent before its mandate announcement in August. These figures challenge the concerns among some employers that mandates would cause workers to quit, particularly in industries facing labor shortages.
Still, “some companies are looking at it and saying, ‘Great that those employers had a good experience. I don’t know if we’ll have the same experience,’” Douglas Brayley, an employment lawyer at Ropes and Gray, told The Times’s DealBook newsletter. “Or, they may look at it and say, ‘Great, they had a 91 percent vaccination rate, but we are so thinly staffed we couldn’t possibly lose 9 percent of our work force.’”
Noam Scheiber contributed reporting
With schools fully reopened last month, the Delta variant drove many worries: Would crowded classrooms run up infection rates? Would outbreaks keep many schools closed? Could there be a normal academic year — the first since the pandemic began?
The news so far has been reassuring: The vast majority of the nation’s 50 million public school students have been in classrooms, full time and mostly uninterrupted, this fall — whether students are masked or unmasked, teachers vaccinated or not. In fact, infection rates declined 35 percent nationally through the month of September, as many schools opened their doors.
Still, it hasn’t always been pretty. Parents protested at school board meetings over mask mandates, or the lack of them. Families had to scramble because of stay-at-home orders. And virus-infected students and teachers prompted worries about the possibility of a spread in schools.
Yet in the sometimes chaotic reopening, there has been dramatic progress. Virus-driven school closures declined steeply from the end of August to late September, from about 240 a week to about 25 a week, according to a survey by Burbio, a company that has monitored district responses to the pandemic. Many districts have relaxed quarantine guidelines, allowing more students to remain in classrooms. And three-quarters of the nation’s 200 largest school districts began October with a mask mandate.
More progress may be made, given that Pfizer and BioNTech asked federal regulators on Thursday to authorize emergency use of their vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.
Now schools face the question of what comes next. In conservative areas like Wyoming, with fewer safety measures, some schools want to figure out how to encourage more people to get vaccinated. In parts of Georgia that have started requiring masks in schools, there is debate over how much it will help. And in liberal districts like Boston, where infection rates are low, some parents are beginning to question how long masking will be necessary.
These debates reflect a larger societal question: How should we live with Covid, since it appears to be here to stay?
Arkansas lawmakers approved legislation on Wednesday that would require employers to let their employees opt out of vaccination, an attempt to walk back the White House’s vaccine mandate for millions of Americans.
“I don’t believe in a federal mandate on vaccination,” Mr. Hutchinson said, referencing President Biden’s recent mandate that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing. “But I also don’t believe in state mandates as well on employers and defining the employer employee relationship.”
Mr. Hutchinson’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the bill’s passage.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Kim Hammer, a Republican, said on Wednesday that it was unfair for employees to be terminated because of a “forced vaccine requirement on them.”
“What this does is protect those hard-working employees who are not looking to leave their employment,” he said.
Much of the discussion around the bill on Wednesday was about an emergency clause, which would have made the law go into effect immediately, if passed by the governor. The bill was ultimately approved without the clause, with the senate voting 23 to 10 and the house voting 61 to 25.
If the governor vetoes the legislation, lawmakers can try again to pass the bill with an emergency clause to put it into effect right away. “Then the door still has a crack open,” Mr. Hammer said in an interview on Thursday.
Employees would have two ways to opt out of getting vaccinated if the bill is implemented: They can test negative for antigens once a week, or they can prove that they have antigens in their system.
Jim Hudson from the Arkansas Department of Commerce said some small businesses were expressing confusion about which mandates they might need to follow: federal, state, or both?
“There’s going to be some questions about how you implement that, and how you implement this,” Mr. Hudson said. “And I think as a kindness to our business community, in particular, our small businesses, our restaurants, our hospitals, if we could give them just a little bit more time to study the bill and understand how to run it in their particular business, I think that would be helpful.”
Adeel Hassan contributed reporting.
Trang tổng hợp Làm kinh tế, nguồn tham khảo: Tin tức Kinh doanh Châu Á