Covid Live Updates: California Officially Broadens Booster Access to All Adults

Image
Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California is opening up eligibility for booster coronavirus vaccine shots to include anyone 18 or over, making it at least the second state to expand official eligibility beyond older adults and people in high-risk circumstances. Colorado took a similar step this week.

California’s vaccination sites should not turn away anyone requesting a booster if they are 18 or older and were fully vaccinated sufficiently earlier, Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, the state’s public health director, said in a letter dated Nov. 9. Boosters can be administered six months after full vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, and two months after Johnson & Johnson’s single shot.

California’s vaccination providers should “allow patients to self-determine their risk of exposure,” he said, including whether their work, location or members of their households put them at higher risk of contracting the virus.

That allows greater leeway than the guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s public health agency, which recommends boosters for fully vaccinated adults with underlying medical conditions, those who are 65 and older, and those 18 and over whose work exposure puts them at risk.

However, in practice, boosters are widely available across the United States because many vaccination providers allow individuals to self-affirm their eligibility.

In a news conference on Wednesday, California officials noted that cases were on a troubling ascent in other parts of the country, and that vaccines were the best way to prevent a winter surge. They recalled last year’s terrifying winter months, when California’s hospitals were stretched to their limits and so many Covid patients died that officials were forced to deploy mobile morgues.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said that federal guidelines recognized that there is increasing evidence of waning immunity months after people are fully vaccinated and that people outside the groups specified by the C.D.C. could also get booster shots if they are available.

“If you’re interested in getting a booster, go ahead and get one,” he said.

On Tuesday, Pfizer and BioNTech requested that the Food and Drug Administration expand booster eligibility to anyone 18 and older, but that decision has not yet been made. Only after the F.D.A. makes a determination would the C.D.C. consider altering its own guidance.

Credit…Borut Zivulovic/Reuters

The Italian police on Friday searched the homes of four people in Milan affiliated with the “No Green Pass” movement, a mixed group that has been protesting for weeks over a nationwide coronavirus health-pass mandate.

The four people, whose names were not immediately released, are being investigated on accusations of harassing journalists who are reporting on the demonstrations. The rallies have become common occurrences in several Italian cities, creating traffic chaos and disrupting daily life.

Alberto Nobili, an antiterrorism prosecutor in Milan who is coordinating the investigation, confirmed that the searches had been carried out.

As in several other countries in Europe, demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions have become commonplace in Italy. This week, the Interior Ministry instructed local officials to consider banning demonstrations in some areas and to take measures to deal with unruly protesters.

“It’s about balancing rights — the right to demonstrate, but also the right to work, to study and to one’s health,” Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said of the ministry’s instructions, which were outlined in a memorandum made public late Wednesday.

Protesters in several cities — Milan, Padua and Trieste, in particular — have staged frequent demonstrations, often on Saturday afternoons, in which they block traffic and limit access to downtown stores. The protesters object to a government requirement that all workers obtain a certificate known as a Green Pass to show that they have been vaccinated against the virus or have recently tested negative, or face fines and unpaid leave.

Local law enforcement authorities have been asked to identify areas within each city where mass gatherings should not take place as long as Italy’s pandemic state of emergency remains in effect. In many cases, these areas will include busy downtown shopping areas.

The ministry’s memorandum says that mayors and local officials can decide whether to require masks or social distancing at gatherings in their jurisdictions.

Although the memorandum does not ban protests outright, Stefano Puzzer, who led a group of dockworkers that transformed the northeastern port city of Trieste into a protest epicenter, said it had been designed to “repress demonstrations.”

He said the protests in Trieste had been peaceful and authorized by city officials.

“I will always be present at authorized demonstrations,” Mr. Puzzer said. “We have to be the first to uphold the law.”

Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

President Biden announced on Friday that he would nominate Dr. Robert M. Califf, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to lead the agency again. His decision ends nearly a year of political wrangling as the White House vetted then dropped several candidates after complaints that some were too close to the pharmaceutical industry.

In the end, White House officials might have concluded that they could not find a suitable candidate with no industry ties. Dr. Califf, 70, a respected academic and clinical trial researcher who ran the agency during the last year of the Obama administration, has long been a consultant to drug companies and ran a research center at Duke University that received some funding from the drug industry.

If Dr. Califf is confirmed by the Senate, he will again take the reins of an agency that is responsible for more than $2.8 trillion worth of food, medical products and tobacco. The F.D.A. regulates products accounting for about 20 cents of every dollar spent by consumers in the United States.

The agency has been front and center in the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It has the authority to approve Covid vaccines, tests and treatments, as well as certain types of protective equipment. It was also widely criticized for allowing manufacturers to flood the market with inaccurate coronavirus tests early in the pandemic and for failing to stand up to President Donald J. Trump, who at times promoted unproven and unsafe treatments.

But the agency is also sorely in need of permanent leadership. Since Margaret Hamburg left in 2015, the F.D.A. has had seven different commissioners — some acting — including Dr. Califf, who served for just 11 months after Dr. Hamburg’s departure. And recently, its reputation for independence has come under attack.

During his previous stint as commissioner, Dr. Califf sought to permit pharmaceutical companies to advertise off-label uses for F.D.A.-approved products, a practice that is not permitted under the strict regulations governing drug advertising. But the proposal, which many public health experts considered dangerous, was blocked by others in the Obama administration, according to a person familiar with it.

A cardiologist who has seen the harmful effects of smoking on the heart, Dr. Califf has been a forceful advocate for tobacco control.

For the past two years, after stepping down as the vice chancellor for clinical and translational health at Duke University, Dr. Califf has worked as the head of clinical policy and strategy for Verily Life Sciences, a health technology firm, and its sister company Google Health.

Dr. Califf, who remains an adjunct professor of medicine at both Duke and Stanford University, is on the corporate board of Cytokinetics, a biopharmaceutical company, according to its website. He has received personal fees for consulting from Merck, Amgen, Biogen, Genentech, Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim, according to his Duke University biography.

Number of People Who Left Their Jobs Voluntarily by Month

Employers are still struggling to fill millions of open jobs — and to hold onto the workers they already have.

More than 4.4 million workers quit their jobs voluntarily in September, the Labor Department said Friday. That was up from 4.3 million in August and was the most in the two decades the government has been keeping track. Nearly a million workers quit their jobs in leisure and hospitality businesses alone, reflecting the steep competition for workers there as the industry rebuilds from last year’s pandemic-induced shutdowns.

There were 10.4 million job openings in the United States at the end of September, down slightly from August but still extraordinarily high by historical standards.

Actual hiring has been slower to rebound, however, and was essentially flat in September, as businesses struggled to attract candidates. There were roughly 75 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings in September, the lowest ratio on record. Separate data released last week by the Labor Department showed that job growth rebounded in October but that the labor force barely grew, suggesting that employers’ hiring challenges are continuing.

“You’re essentially seeing demand continuing to increase without an offsetting increase in talent,” Ryan Sutton, a district director for Robert Half International, a staffing firm. “Until some new talent comes in, until we get employees who are on the sidelines back into the market, it’s very likely this is going to continue.”

Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Economists say a number of factors explain workers’ slow return. The pandemic is continuing to disrupt child care, making it hard for some parents to work; other workers are worried about contracting the virus or spreading it to high-risk family members. Many Americans have also built up their savings during the pandemic, allowing them to be choosier about jobs.

The labor crunch is giving workers the upper hand in negotiations. Wages have risen sharply in recent months, particularly in service jobs, although in other industries pay is lagging the pace of inflation.

The recent rise in the number of workers quitting suggests that many are taking advantage of their leverage to take better-paying jobs, or to look for them. At the same time, understaffing in many businesses may be putting stress on remaining workers, leading even more people to leave their jobs.

“We are seeing big pickups in quits in the industries that are having the hardest time hiring right now,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research for the job site Indeed.

Kaylie Sweeting worked as a bartender in Short Hills, N.J., through most of the pandemic, despite concerns about interacting with unmasked customers and frustration about low wages. But when the restaurant pressured a colleague to come to work sick this summer, Ms. Sweeting quit.

“The job was absolutely no longer worth it,” she said. “I was hurt that a company that I gave my time to did not seem to prioritize me or my safety.”

So Ms. Sweeting, 23, and her partner, a cook, decided to take the money they had saved to buy a house and open their own restaurant instead. They recently signed a lease and are beginning renovations, with plans to open a vegan restaurant early next year. They are trying to apply the lessons they have learned as employees, promising good wages, paid time off and other basic benefits that restaurant jobs have often failed to provide.

“I genuinely love the industry,” Ms. Sweeting said. “I just don’t love the way it’s managed. I feel like the only way to change it is to implement the change yourself.”

Credit…China Daily/Via Reuters

China’s top leader has declared that the country has “overcome” the impact of the coronavirus, even as sporadic lockdowns continue in various areas and officials order greater scrutiny of imported frozen food and children’s clothes — both extremely unlikely sources of contagion.

The stringent, if sometimes impractical, restrictions stem from China’s struggle to maintain its “zero Covid” strategy. Other nations have gradually loosened restrictions as they vaccinate more people, allow more gatherings with limits and bolster their health care systems for those who get sick. By contrast, the Chinese Communist Party has staked a big share of credibility on its ability to stamp out the disease entirely.

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, said this week that the country had “overcome the impact of Covid-19.” In propaganda messaging from a major party meeting, Communist Party leaders touted the successes of their response in saving lives while playing down the huge social and economic cost of those measures.

Government officials have defended their approach, saying that it is “low cost” and has allowed the country to recover from the pandemic faster than others. So far, caseloads remain low. Officials have reported 1,280 in the current outbreak that began in mid-October.

But the limits have costs. In the case of new scrutiny on imports, scientists widely believe that they will do little to keep people from getting infected. Amid a fresh Covid-19 outbreak in the port city of Dalian, Chinese officials this week ordered businesses there that use imported frozen foods to stop their operations.

In a neighboring Hebei Province, officials tested hundreds of packages after several workers at a children’s clothing factory were found to have Covid-19. In Guangxi, a province 1,200 miles to the south of Hebei, officials went even further, testing every person who had touched or even received a package from the factory.

Not a single person outside the factory reported testing positive.

In addition to inspecting imported frozen foods, China has required that packages coming from overseas be sanitized, and has encouraged people to use masks and gloves when receiving deliveries. International health bodies have said there is a minimal chance of transmission on surfaces like cardboard.

Chinese officials have in the past suggested that imports could bring the disease into China. They have been under pressure from the international scientific community and world leaders to disclose more about the source of the outbreak, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan nearly two years ago.

Officials have also continued to enforce lockdowns to address occasional breakouts. Entire cities have been shut down at a moment’s notice. One city in the southwest has been locked down four times in the past year. About 30,000 visitors to Shanghai’s Disneyland had to stay and get tested this month before being allowed to leave.

In Beijing, the authorities closed dozens of pharmacies that had been caught selling cough medicine without requiring customers to register with their name and ID.

The strategy could face a significant challenge as China prepares to host athletes and visitors for the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing in February.

Organizers have said the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will take place in a bubble in which athletes, broadcasters and journalists will be required to stay. Already, two foreign Olympic athletes who are in the country for related events have tested positive for Covid-19, Reuters reported on Friday.

Credit…Ramon Van Flymen/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Netherlands’ government plans to introduce a three-week partial lockdown to quell a fourth wave of Covid infections amid a spike in case numbers, the public broadcaster NOS reported on Friday.

It is the first recent lockdown affecting all people — whether vaccinated or not — in Western Europe, and it comes as the Netherlands registered 16,364 new cases on Thursday. That figure, a level not seen since early in the pandemic, was a 33 percent rise over the new cases registered a week earlier.

Cases and deaths have been rising sharply in Europe as a whole, and other countries have instituted or are considering new restrictions. This week, the World Health Organization reported that Europe accounted for about two-thirds of the world’s 3.1 million new reported cases in the first week of November.

Officials in hard-hit countries are urgently seeking to quell the outbreaks as winter approaches and the threat of flu rises. For instance, Germany will once again offer free Covid tests to all adults in the country.

Starting on Saturday, restaurants, bars and cafes in the country will have to close at 7 p.m. Sporting events will be held without spectators. Residents will not be allowed to invite more than four guests into their homes. And social distancing rules will be reinstated, though stores that sell essentials will remain open.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Hugo de Jonge, the health minister, are expected to announce the measures on Friday evening.

Mr. Rutte’s cabinet will also discuss on Friday whether to introduce longer-term measures that would require people to provide proof of vaccination or past infection to get access to certain services or to participate in certain events.

About 73 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Our World in Data project at Oxford University.

Credit…Reuters

Just last year, Vietnam’s coronavirus controls were lauded by health officials around the world. The country was so successful that it achieved the highest economic growth in Asia in 2020, at 2.9 percent.

But that outlook has dimmed: Workers have fled their factories, managers are struggling to get them back, and economists are forecasting that a full recovery in output won’t come until next year.

And for consumers, the worker shortage is likely to worsen the delays for global manufactured goods caused by a worldwide shipping crisis and monthslong factory shutdowns in Vietnam.

In 2020, Vietnam relied on strict quarantine measures, contact tracing and lockdowns. It assumed that it had time to order vaccines, until infections and deaths surged in the summer with the arrival of the Delta variant.

Officials in Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong told factories that workers had to comply with the “three on site” model, which meant they needed to eat, live and work within the factory’s premises.

Factory managers scrambled to provide tents and toilets for their workers, who were crammed into warehouse buildings or parking lots. Local media reported that hundreds of workers in several factories became infected with the coronavirus. Many businesses felt they could not bear the costs of housing their workers, so they shut down production. Suddenly, thousands of workers found themselves with no income.

Managers have made calls promising higher wages to get the workers to return. On Oct. 22, the Ho Chi Minh City government said it would provide free transportation and accommodations for the first month to workers who were willing to come back.

The measures have had some success. Ninety percent of the work force of Pouyuen Vietnam has returned to Ho Chi Minh City, according to Cu Phat Nghiep, the chairman of the company’s trade union.

Separately, American businesses have pushed the Vietnamese government to speed up its vaccine program, which they say is essential for workers to feel safe. Only 29 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in Southeast Asia. Vietnam says it hopes to increase that to 70 percent by the end of the year.

Credit…Lisa Leutner/Associated Press

A week ago, Austria announced restrictions on people who are not vaccinated or protected because of prior infections, barring them from cafes, restaurants, pubs, theaters, gyms and hairdressers.

And the lines at vaccination centers have grown.

Last Saturday, the day after Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced the changes, nearly 40,000 people received a shot. The week before that, when only a negative rapid test was required to partake in all aspects of society, less than half as many stood in line.

On Thursday, more than 78,000 Austrians got a shot, a number not seen since July.

With just 65 percent of its population fully vaccinated, Austria has one of the weakest vaccination rates in Western Europe. But it is finally seeing a willingness that the authorities could not coax through advertising or positive reinforcement.

Besides the new rules, a spike in infections is contributing to the growing interest in a vaccine that has been available for free for months.

On Thursday, the country reported 3,143 new infections, just below a record set the day before. Two states, Salzburg and Upper Austria, announced partial lockdown measures on unvaccinated adults on Friday, and a nationwide order may be announced on Sunday after a special meeting of Parliament.

On Friday, the German foreign ministry put most of Austria back on a list of high-risk countries, meaning unvaccinated travelers from Austria have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in Germany.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, has described the current status of the pandemic in the country as a “mixed bag” that is leaning more toward the positive than the negative.

But there is still work to do, he said, including dealing with complicated factors such as vaccination rates, contagious variants of the virus and waning immunity to infection.

In a conversation with “The Daily,” Dr. Fauci weighed in on vaccine mandates, booster shots and the end of the pandemic.

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: An Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci

America’s top infectious disease official discusses the state of the virus, booster shots, mandates and the end of the pandemic.

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times

Across the United States, employers are struggling with how, when and even whether to bring employees back to the office. In conversations with leaders at companies in a broad variety of industries — the people charged with making the ultimate call — the consensus was that there was no consensus.

Chief executives are struggling to balance rapidly shifting expectations with their own impulse to have the final word on how their companies run. They are eager to appear responsive to employees who relish their newfound autonomy, but reluctant to give up too much control. And they are constantly changing policies in response to worker demands, re-examining aspects of their business that they might not have tinkered with otherwise.

“Preferences are changing during this pandemic,” said Tim Ryan, the U.S. chairman of PwC, the accounting and consulting firm, which said that it would let its U.S. workers work remotely forever.

“C.E.O.s are now just beginning to realize that if you’re employing thousands and thousands and thousands of people, you need to have multiple options,” he said. “I believe what we announced will be commonplace for the mass employers in a matter of months. It’s just catching up with how fast the world is moving.”

But for Chris Merrill, a co-founder and the chief executive of Harrison Street, a private real estate investment firm, the romanticization of remote work is balderdash.

“It’s very important to get the younger employees in the office, collaborating and working hard,” he said. “Personal interactions are what this is all about.”

Credit…Rodger Bosch/AFP — Getty Images

Six times more booster shots of coronavirus vaccine are being administered around the world daily than primary doses in low-income countries, the director general of the World Health Organization said on Friday, calling the disparity “a scandal that must stop now.”

The official, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and others at the W.H.O. have regularly criticized wealthy nations for hoarding vaccines while lower-income countries do not have enough doses to vaccinate their elderly, frontline health care workers and other high-risk groups. In August, Dr. Tedros called for a global moratorium on boosters that he later extended until the end of the year.

However, nations including Germany, Israel, Canada and the United States have gone ahead with booster programs. The W.H.O. said in an email that 92 countries had confirmed programs to provide added doses and that none of them were low-income.

About 28.5 million Covid vaccine doses are given daily around the world. According to the W.H.O., about a quarter of those are booster or additional doses. (Boosters are meant to bolster protection for those who were earlier fully vaccinated; additional doses are for immunocompromised people whose initial vaccinations failed to sufficiently protect them against the virus.)

W.H.O. officials contrasted the at least 6.9 million added daily doses globally with 1.1 million primary doses being given in low-income countries.

Only 4.5 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford, a figure that is dwarfed by rates in wealthier countries.

The United States recently authorized booster shots for certain recipients of Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines, and everyone who took Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. This week, Colorado and California announced that they would allow booster shots for all vaccinated adults.

Experts in the United States have been fiercely divided over whether boosters are necessary for most healthy Americans, and many say that the original course of vaccination continues to offer strong protection against serious illness and hospitalization. Other experts argue that new data indicates that the boosters can counteract waning protection.

Dr. Tedros also warned that access to vaccines was not enough to stop the virus, pointing to a surge of infections and deaths in Europe that has led the Netherlands to plan a partial lockdown, the first recent lockdown in the region affecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

“Covid-19 is surging in countries with lower vaccination rates in Eastern Europe, but also in countries with some of the world’s highest vaccination rates in Western Europe,” Dr. Tedros said. “It’s another reminder, as we have said again and again, that vaccines do not replace the need for other precautions.”

Every country should tailor its response to its situation, he said, but should also use measures like physical distancing and masking to help curb transmission and reduce pressure on health systems.

Credit…Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images

New lockdown restrictions for unvaccinated people in Austria are likely because new coronavirus cases in the country are rising rapidly, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Thursday.

Though such restrictions would be a “very harsh measure,” they appear to be necessary and “probably inevitable,” the chancellor said at a news conference.

The Austrian national health agency is reporting an average of 760 new coronavirus cases a week for every 100,000 people, a rate that has more than doubled since late October.

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

About 64 percent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus so far — a larger share than in the United States or in Austria’s neighbors to the east, but smaller than in most Western European nations, according to government figures collated by the Our World in Data project.

The Austrian government said last week that it would bar people who are not fully vaccinated from entering places like restaurants and hair salons; that measure took effect on Monday. A lockdown like the one Mr. Schallenberg warned about would be much more restrictive.

“The situation in Austria and other European countries is serious,” Mr. Schallenberg said in a statement, noting that hospital intensive care units were filling up faster than expected.

The chancellor has been talking about the worsening picture in Austria for some time. “We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he told The Associated Press last month.

At a news conference after a meeting with state governors last Friday, Mr. Schallenberg urged Austrians to get their shots.

“With a vaccination, we protect not only ourselves, but also our friends, family and colleagues,” he said, adding, “It is simply our responsibility to protect the people of our country.”





Source link

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: