New York must allow religious exemptions to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for medical workers, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. Northern District Justice David Hurd of Utica granted a preliminary injunction temporarily barring New York state and employers from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate against medical workers claiming a legitimate religious exemption. Last month, Hurd issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the mandate in relation to religious beliefs.
This mandate required that all state-based medical staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27. Or they would lose their jobs. The mandate encouraged approximately 55,000 workers to receive the vaccine, while leaving the fates of the remaining 35,600 workers who refused the shots a mystery.
Many of the medical workers who had claimed religious exemptions had been placed on suspensions pending the outcome of the court battle. Potentially thousands of these workers could be reinstated to their jobs, as many hospitals and nursing homes are facing staff shortages.
– David Robinso
Also in the news:
►Southwest Airlines and its pilots union steadfastly denied that workers walked off the job to protest a federal vaccine mandate after thousands of flights were canceled this weekend.
►Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has again extended the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, as the state continues to recover from the pandemic.
📈These are the numbers of today The U.S. has recorded more than 44.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 714,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global sum: Over 238.4 Million cases, 4.8 Mio deaths. More than 187 million Americans – 56% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘We’re looking at: COVID-19 vaccines offer the best protection against severe illness and death. Experts say that new antiviral and antibody treatments have “interlocking advantages”. Learn more.
For the most recent news, keep checking this page. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Texas Gov. Abbott increases ban on mandated vaccines
Governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order prohibiting COVID-19 vaccinations mandates for employees or consumers across the state, an expansion of a prior order limited to government entities. Abbott requested that lawmakers address the issue in the current legislative session. He also asked for the protection of vaccine recipients from Texas.
Abbott stated that the COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective and is our best defense against this virus. However, it should be voluntary and not forced.
Abbott, who was previously vaccinated and also later tested positive for COVID-19, has urged Texans to get vaccinated throughout the pandemic but had already banned school districts, cities, counties and government agencies from requiring the shots. The Legislature passed a law earlier this year prohibiting so-called “vaccine passports,” meaning private businesses cannot require patrons to wear masks, but until Monday companies were allowed to mandate vaccines among employees.
– Madlin Mekelburg, Austin American-Statesman
Illinois VA nursing home didn’t follow guidelines. 11 residents died.
Leaders and staff at a federal veterans’ nursing home in Illinois mismanaged a coronavirus outbreak that killed 11 residents in fall 2020, well after employees had been put on notice about the danger the pandemic posed to its elderly population, a government investigation found. The test was refused for a staff member at the nursing home who had been exposed and asked to wear a mask as he finished his shift. One day later, the employee was positive. The virus had spread throughout the Veterans Affairs facility in Danville, and testing continued to be inconsistent. The investigation revealed that isolation of the exposed was not a systematic process.
“Direct care staff described chaos and a lack of awareness of what to do,” the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concluded in a report released last month. Continue reading.
– Donovan Slack
More virus treatments expected soon
Several new COVID-19 treatments are likely to become available within the next few months. Each drug fills a slightly different role, but together they could change the course of the illness, at least in the United States. An experimental antiviral from Merck and a monoclonal antibody from AstraZeneca, along with a handful of other drugs making their way through the development process, could make COVID-19 a much less fearsome disease.
“We’re at the point where if we could use these medications all to their interlocking benefits … we could really begin to control the impact this virus has on us, and in particular on the health care system,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease physician at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
– Karen Weintraub
Moderna does not intend to share the COVID-19 vaccination recipe
Moderna has no plans to share the recipe for its COVID-19 vaccine because executives have concluded that scaling up the company’s own production is the best way to increase the global supply, the company’s chairman said. Moderna was pressed by the United Nations Health Agency to provide its vaccine formula. Afeyan stated that the company had examined whether sharing the messengerRNA technology would make sense and found it possible to increase production and provide billions more vaccines by 2022.
“Within the next six to nine months, the most reliable way to make high-quality vaccines and in an efficient way is going to be if we make them,” Moderna chairman Noubar Afeyan said. Asked about appeals from the World Health Organization and others, he contended that such pleas assumed ”that we couldn’t get enough capacity, but in fact we know we can.”
The COVID-19 vaccine is Moderna’s only commercial product. Last week, the company revealed plans to establish a vaccine facility in Africa. Afeyan expressed hope that the decision on an exact spot will soon be made. The plant could be up and running in years.
Health professionals and educators report high rates of vaccinations with mandates
Almost all of Washington and North Carolina’s state health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 99.99% of Cincinnati Public School employees have complied with the district’s mandatory vaccination policy. The high vaccination rates come after mandates from the federal government, states and local school districts. A White House report released last week stated that vaccination mandates could lead to more Americans becoming vaccinated.
According to the report, businesses that have mandated vaccines see their workforce be fully vaccinated rise by more than 90%.
California coronavirus death count tops 70K as cases fall
California’s coronavirus death toll reached another once-unfathomable milestone – 70,000 people – on Monday as the state emerges from the latest infection surge with the lowest rate of new cases among all states. Last year at this time, cases in the state started ticking up and by January California was in the throes of the worst spike of the pandemic and was the nation’s epicenter for the virus. Everyday, 700 people died.
This latest spike began in summer, and was driven by the Delta variant which primarily targeted unvaccinated people. At its worst during this spike, California’s average daily death count was in the low 100s.
Contributing: The Associated Press