Covid-19 and Vaccine Mandate News: Live Updates

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

New York City will require all city workers to be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday. Regular testing will not be an option for workers who refuse to get vaccinated, he said.

More than 65 percent of New York City’s nearly nine million residents are fully vaccinated, well above the national average of 57 percent. But pockets of residents and public employees have resisted getting vaccinated, leading city and state officials to push for mandates.

“As we continue our recovery for all of us, city workers have been a daily inspiration,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “Now is the time for them to show their city the path out of this pandemic once and for all.”

Uniformed correction officers would initially be excluded, he said, because of staffing shortages at Rikers Island.

The mandate builds on a July announcement that all city employees would be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.

In August, educators became the first city workers to face a full vaccine mandate. That month, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a vaccine mandate for health care workers in the state.

Today’s announcement, reported earlier by the New York Post, will immediately apply to about 160,500 workers. More than 70 percent of them have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, the statement said.

City employees who have not yet received their first doses will receive an extra $500 in their paychecks for getting their first shots at a city-run vaccination site, a benefit that will end on Oct. 29. By that point, all of the city’s more than 300,000 employees will be required to have proof of at least one dose.

Some labor leaders, representing thousands of workers, have resisted that city mandate.

In late September, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said city schools “are not ready for the implementation of the vaccine mandate.”

But on Oct. 1, Mr. de Blasio said 90 percent of the city’s Department of Education staff, including 93 percent of teachers and 98 percent of principals, were vaccinated. “The bottom line is this mandate has worked,” he said during an interview on MSNBC.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the city’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association, said on Oct. 6 that his union would “continue to protect the rights of members who are not vaccinated.”

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The Washington State Patrol announced that the state’s vaccine mandate has forced out 127 police officers and other employees, as state and city vaccine requirements begin to push out law enforcement officers who refuse to comply.

By Tuesday, 53 civil servants and 74 commissioned officers had left the agency, Chief John R. Batiste said in a statement.

“We will miss every one of them,” he said. “I truly wish that you were staying with us.”

Monday was Washington State’s deadline for more than 800,000 workers, including those at state agencies, schools and health care facilities, to prove they had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The mandate, issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August, is among the strictest in the country.

“Covid is a killer and the state is taking action intended to improve public safety,” Chief Batiste said in a message to employees on Monday. “I thank you for staying on post and staying in service to this state and agency. Better days are ahead.”

Police unions across the United States have clashed with local governments over Covid vaccine requirements.

In Chicago, the head of the police union told officers to ignore a city order to report their vaccination status by the end of the day last Friday.

On Tuesday, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said that 21 officers had been placed on “no pay status” for not complying with the city’s order to disclose their vaccination status.

Public health officials like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, have implored police officers and others responsible for public safety to get vaccinated.

“Think about the implications of not getting vaccinated when you’re in a position where you have a responsible job, and you want to protect yourself because you’re needed at your job, whether you’re a police officer or a pilot or any other of those kinds of occupations,” Dr. Fauci said on Fox News Sunday.

“We now know the statistics — more police officers die of Covid than they do any other causes of death,” he said. “So it doesn’t make any sense to not try to protect yourself, as well as the colleagues that you work with.”

Other agencies and police unions also reported that officers were leaving over vaccine requirements. At least 150 members of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, the union that represents state police, have resigned or intend to do so, the union told NBC Boston.

Credit…Andy Wong/Associated Press

The Olympic torch arrived in Beijing on Wednesday, beginning a countdown to a Winter Games being held under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and calls for a boycott over China’s rights abuses in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.

The arrival ceremony, like the official lighting of the Olympic flame in Athens on Monday, unfolded without spectators, one of many concessions to Covid-19 that will severely restrict access to the games, which begin on Feb. 4.

China, with the “full support” of the International Olympic Committee, is planning to hold the Games with even greater health protocols than those in place during the summer Olympics in Tokyo this year.

Only vaccinated and screened residents of China will be able to attend as spectators, while athletes, broadcasters, journalists and others working at the Olympic sites will be confined to one of three bubblelike environments for their entire visit. Those not vaccinated face 21-day quarantines upon arrival.

Wednesday’s ceremonies set the tone for a subdued Games. Only a small delegation at Beijing’s airport greeted the flight that brought the canister carrying the flame. The ceremonial lighting of the flame took place indoors at Beijing’s Olympic Park. International journalists were given less than 12 hours’ notice of the event — and those invited could only attend after a Covid test.

The contrast to 2008, when China first hosted the Olympics, was striking.

The ceremony then took place in Tiananmen Square in front of thousands of spectators, though under intense security because of political unrest in Tibet.

Hu Jintao, China’s leader at the time, presided. The current leader, Xi Jinping, who was already a rising political force, said that China holding the Games was the realization of a century-old dream.

China has taken a zero-tolerance approach to the virus since it controlled the spread last year, keeping its borders largely sealed and squashing periodic flare-ups by locking down entire cities and neighborhoods.

The health measures have also given the country’s authorities tools to maintain even stricter control over potential political protests.

Calls for an official boycott — or even stripping Beijing of its role as host — have gained little traction. Protesters still hope to use the international spotlight to draw attention to China’s authoritarian policies, especially against Tibetans and Uyghurs in Xinjiang, where China has carried out a campaign of mass detention and re-education.

In Athens on Monday, activists managed to elude security during the lighting of the torch, unfurling a Tibetan flag and a banner reading, “No Genocide Games.” Such a breach would be nearly inconceivable in Beijing.

A traditional relay of the torch — a ritual introduced in 1936 when Nazi Germany was host to the Summer Games in Berlin — has also been scuttled, as it was in Tokyo.

In 2008, China’s monthlong international relay became a lightning rod, spurring large and chaotic protests in several cities, including Paris, London and San Francisco.

This time, organizers are planning an abbreviated relay at home on the eve of the opening ceremony in Beijing on Feb. 4. It will pass among the three sites of the games: Beijing, as well as Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, nestled in the hills north of the capital.

Claire Fu contributed research.

Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Earlier this year, New York created a $2.1 billion fund to help undocumented immigrants and others who weathered the pandemic without access to government relief. The Excluded Workers Fund, by far the biggest of its kind in the country, was intended to provide eligible workers with one-time payments to help cover costs associated with joblessness, such as back rent and medical bills.

But just a few months after the state began accepting applications, the fund is about to run out of money, after a blitz in claims and a speedy distribution of aid.

The fund’s rapid depletion could mean that tens of thousands of applicants might miss out on payments, according to organizers and state lawmakers who championed the fund.

Soaring demand for the fund has placed pressure on Gov. Kathy Hochul to add more money to the pot in what could be an early test of her progressive bona fides as she campaigns next year. Ms. Hochul, a Democrat, had made it a priority to fast-track the disbursement of the original $2.1 billion when she ascended to the state’s top job after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo resigned in August.

To date, the state has distributed just over two-thirds of the fund, to about 128,000 people, a fraction of the nearly 351,000 claims that were received.

Ms. Hochul said last week that “$2.1 billion was an extraordinary amount of money, and we don’t have that level of money available just to deploy for something like this.”

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