Coronavirus daily news updates, October 30: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world – The Seattle Times

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday paved the way for children ages 5 to 11 to get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA cleared kid-size doses — just a third of the amount given to teens and adults — for emergency use, and up to 28 million more American children could be eligible for vaccinations as early as next week. One more regulatory hurdle remains: On Tuesday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make more detailed recommendations on which youngsters should get vaccinated, with a final decision by the agency’s director expected shortly afterwards.

Two unions representing workers at the Port of Seattle have sued the Port over its mandate requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12. The lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction was filed earlier this week by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 117 and 763 in King County Superior Court. The unions argue that the executive director of the Port of Seattle, who enacted the mandate, does not have the authority to do so, and that such decisions are to be bargained.

Eleven states filed lawsuits Friday to stop President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors, arguing that the requirement violates federal law. Attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming signed on to the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal district court in Missouri. The states asked a federal judge to block Biden’s requirement that all employees of federal contractors be vaccinated against the coronavirus, arguing that the mandate violates federal procurement law and is an overreach of federal power. That lawsuit, along with one filed Friday by Texas and Thursday by Florida, brings to 12 the number of states challenging the Biden administration mandate in three federal courts. Biden has argued that sweeping vaccine mandates will help end the deadly pandemic, but Republicans nationwide have opposed the vaccination requirements and have threatened to bring similar legal challenges.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

8:06 pm

Xi hasn’t left China in 21 months; COVID-19 may only be part of the reason

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during the closing session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Xi is expected talk to global leaders at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, by video link, the foreign ministry announced Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File) BKWS301 BKWS301

When the presidents and prime ministers of the Group of 20 nations meet in Rome this weekend, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, will not be among them. Nor is he expected at the climate talks next week in Glasgow, Scotland, where China’s commitment to curbing carbon emissions is seen as crucial to helping blunt the dire consequences of climate change. He has yet to meet President Joe Biden in person and seems unlikely to anytime soon.

Xi has not left China in 21 months — and counting.

The ostensible reason for Xi’s lack of foreign travel is COVID-19, though officials have not said so explicitly. It is also a calculation that has reinforced a deeper shift in China’s foreign and domestic policy.

China, under Xi, no longer feels compelled to cooperate — or at least be seen as cooperating — with the United States and its allies on anything other than its own terms.

Still, Xi’s recent absence from the global stage has complicated China’s ambition to position itself as an alternative to American leadership. And it has coincided with — some say contributed to — a sharp deterioration in the country’s relations with much of the rest of the world.

Instead, China has turned inward, with officials preoccupied with protecting Xi’s health and internal political machinations, including a Communist Party congress next year where he is expected to claim another five years as the country’s leader. As a result, face-to-face diplomacy is a lower priority than it was in Xi’s first years in office.

“There is a bunker mentality in China right now,” said Noah Barkin, who follows China for the research firm Rhodium Group.

Xi’s retreat has deprived him of the chance to personally counter a steady decline in the country’s reputation, even as it faces rising tensions on trade, Taiwan and other issues.

Less than a year ago, Xi made concessions to seal an investment agreement with the European Union, partly to blunt the United States, only to have the deal scuttled by frictions over political sanctions. Since then, Beijing has not taken up an invitation for Xi to meet EU leaders in Europe this year.

“It eliminates or reduces opportunities for engagements at the top leadership level,” Helena Legarda, a senior analyst with the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, said of Xi’s lack of travels. “Diplomatically speaking,” she added, in-person meetings are “very often fundamental to try and overcome leftover obstacles in any sort of agreement or to try to reduce tensions.”

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times


6:54 pm

A world remembers: Memorials honor COVID-19’s 5 million dead

FILE – In this Sept. 21, 2021, file photo, visitors sit among white flags that are part of artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s “In America: Remember,” a temporary art installation to commemorate Americans who have died of COVID-19, on the National Mall in Washington. Firstenberg was struck by how strangers connected in their grief at the installation, which ended Oct. 3. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The Italian city that suffered the brunt of COVID-19’s first deadly wave is dedicating a vivid memorial to the pandemic dead: A grove of trees, creating oxygen in a park opposite the hospital where so many died, unable to breathe.

Bergamo, in northern Italy, is among the many communities around the globe dedicating memorials to commemorate lives lost in a pandemic that is nearing the terrible threshold of 5 million confirmed dead.

Some have been drawn from artist’s ideas or civic group proposals, but others are spontaneous displays of grief and frustration. Everywhere, the task of creating collective memorials is fraught, with the pandemic far from vanquished and new dead still being mourned.

Memorial flags, hearts, ribbons: These simple objects have stood in for virus victims, representing lost lives in eye-catching memorials from London to Washington, D.C., and Brazil to South Africa.

The collective impact of white flags covering 20 acres on the National Mall in the U.S. capital was literally breathtaking, representing the more than 740,000 Americans killed by COVID-19, the highest official national death toll in the world.

One honored 80-year-old Carey Alexander Washington of South Carolina, who was vaccinated and contracted the virus while still working as a clinical psychologist in March. His 6-year-old granddaughter Izzy collapsed in grief when she found her ‘’papa’s” flag — a moment captured by a photographer and shared on Twitter.

“Families like mine, we’re still grieving,” said Washington’s daughter, Tanya, who traveled from Atlanta to see the memorial. “It was important to witness that honor that was being given to them. It gave a voice to all our loved ones that have been lost.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

5:46 pm

Kansas vaccine mandate foes rally; Holocaust comment decried

Opponents of COVID-19 vaccine mandates rally outside the Kansas Statehouse, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Topeka, Kan. The rally drew several hundred people as a legislative committee took testimony about mandates from President Joe Biden that could affect 100 million Americans. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Hundreds of people opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates rallied Saturday at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka and pushed state lawmakers to quickly counter them, while an international labor union disavowed a local leader’s comparison of the mandates to the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews.

The rally kicked off ahead of a rare weekend legislative committee hearing on mandates from President Joe Biden that affect as many as 100 million Americans. The hearing gave dozens of mandate opponents a chance to vent their frustration and anger both with the Democratic president’s administration and Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many of the speakers during the committee’s hearing argued that lawmakers should call themselves into special session instead of waiting to reconvene until 2022. Lawmakers can do that without Kelly if two-thirds of them sign a petition, but so far such an effort hasn’t gained much traction.

“If we allow this to continue, there will be no stopping further government overreach,” said Cody Foster, a utility line worker and volunteer firefighter in central Kansas.

Several critics of the mandates suggested Saturday that they violate international human rights standards enacted in the wake atrocities during World War II. Bryan Luedeke, a Wichita-area aircraft worker, called them “reminiscent of Nazi Germany.”

His comments followed Friday’s comparison of the mandates to the Holocaust by Cornell Beard, president of the Wichita district of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. A committee member, Republican Rep. Brenda Landwehr, of Wichita, appeared to agree with the analogy.

The international union issued a statement Saturday saying it “strongly condemns the offensive and inappropriate comparison” to the Holocaust.

“Regardless of one’s views on divisive political issues, there is never a place for this type of hurtful rhetoric,” the statement said.

The legislative panel’s name — the joint Committee on Government Overreach and the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates — signals that Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature already have concluded that the mandates violate people’s liberties. But many are not yet sure what power the state has to resist.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

4:45 pm

Why China is the world’s last ‘zero COVID’ holdout

The trip began in Shanghai, where the couple, both former professors, joined a tour group of other retirees. They traveled through Gansu province and Inner Mongolia, staying at a bed-and-breakfast and eating three times at the same lamb chop restaurant. Flying south to Xi’an, they dropped into a 1,300-year-old temple. Their fellow tour group members checked out an art museum, strolled through parks and visited friends.

Then, on Oct. 16, the day they had planned to visit the Terracotta Warriors, the couple tested positive for the coronavirus.

Since then, China has locked down a city of 4 million, as well as several smaller cities and parts of Beijing, to contain a fresh outbreak that has infected more than 240 people in at least 11 provinces and regions. The authorities have shuttered schools and tourist sites. Government websites have detailed every movement of the unlucky couple and their sprawling web of contacts, including what time they checked into hotels and on which floors of restaurants they sat.

The no-holds-barred response is emblematic of China’s “zero COVID” policy, which has served the country remarkably well: China has reported fewer than 5,000 deaths since the pandemic began. The scale of the new outbreak, while tiny compared to many other countries, is large for China.

But the policy has also, increasingly, made China an outlier. The rest of the world is reopening, including New Zealand and Australia, which also once embraced zero tolerance. China is now the only country still chasing full eradication of the virus.

“Every locality should firmly adhere to the policy of ‘Defend externally against importation, defend internally against rebound,’ ” Mi Feng, a spokesperson for the National Health Commission, said at a news conference Sunday. “The current control measures cannot be relaxed.”

The government’s strict strategy is the product of a uniquely Chinese set of calculations. Its thriving exports have helped to keep the economy afloat. The ruling Communist Party’s tight grip on power enables lockdowns and testing to be carried out with astonishing efficiency. Beijing is set to host the Winter Olympics in February.

For many Chinese, the low case numbers have become a source of national pride. Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has repeatedly pointed to the country’s success in containment as proof of the superiority of its governance model.

But experts — both in China and abroad — have warned that the approach is unsustainable. China may find itself increasingly isolated, diplomatically and economically, at a time when global public opinion is hardening against it.

“The regime thinks it needs to maintain a ‘zero COVID’ policy to maintain its legitimacy,” said Lynette Ong, a political scientist at the University of Toronto. “At a huge cost, though.”

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times


4:00 pm

More NYC workers get jabs amid mandate, but 26K still refuse

More than 26,000 of New York City’s municipal workers remained unvaccinated after Friday’s deadline to show proof they’ve gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the city said Saturday.

A last-minute rush of jabs boosted the vaccination rate to 83% among police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors and other city workers covered by the mandate as of 8 p.m. Friday, up from 76% a day earlier.

Workers who haven’t complied with the requirement will be put on unpaid leave starting Monday, leaving the Big Apple bracing for the possibility of closed firehouses, fewer police and ambulances and mounting trash.

Vaccination rates for the city’s fire and sanitation departments jumped significantly Friday as workers rushed to meet the deadline for the mandate and an extra incentive: Workers who get a shot by Friday will get $500.

City officials have been weighing various contingencies to deal with an expected staffing shortfall come Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the sanitation department will move to 12-hour shifts, as opposed to the usual 8-hour shifts, and begin working Sundays to ensure trash doesn’t pile up.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

3:15 pm

Children drive Britain’s longest-running COVID surge

Britain is once again at the peak of a coronavirus surge, just over three months after all coronavirus restrictions were lifted on what Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed as “Freedom Day.”

Cases have stayed at high levels since then, with more than 20,000 new cases recorded each day. There are almost 9,000 Britons hospitalized with COVID-19 — the highest level since March, when the United Kingdom was in the midst of a long national lockdown.

Unlike the rises and falls of previous periods of infection, the most recent wave shows the positive impact of Britain’s vaccination rollout: Far fewer COVID hospital admissions and deaths have followed the rise in cases than in previous waves. Still, health experts contend that the ongoing hospitalizations and deaths are burdening overstretched hospitals and could be reduced with basic measures.

England has some of the loosest coronavirus protections in Europe since July 19, when it lifted all legal restrictions, including mandatory mask-wearing. In a recent survey by YouGov and Imperial College London, 21% of Britons said they rarely or never wear a face mask in public — about four times as many as in Italy and Spain.

Despite the extended surge in cases, the U.K.’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies recently said that behaviors in Britain are closer to pre-pandemic levels than at any time since March 2020.

The current surge is being primarily driven by high levels of infection in school-age children, with more than one-third of all recent cases being reported in those younger than 15.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

2:29 pm

Spokane firefighters union still hopes to win leeway for unvaccinated employees

Some unvaccinated Spokane Fire Department employees may still be allowed to work after all, according to city and union leaders.

Conversations are ongoing between the union and the city regarding “a small number of employees,” according to city spokesman Brian Coddington.

Four unvaccinated fire department employees retired or resigned, while 16 opted for a leave or layoff option provided by the city ahead of the state’s Oct. 18 vaccination deadline for health care workers.

It is unclear which of those employees could be brought back and under what conditions. Both city and union officials declined to delve into specifics about the negotiations.

The conversations center on a “very small subset” of those who left, Coddington said. They would not return in their original job, but in a different role in the department.

“All those options that people were given, it was intentional for them to come back in good standing … if they could comply with the mandate or find another way back,” Coddington said.

Unlike several other fire departments in Spokane County, the city of Spokane declined to make accommodations for the fire department employees who had applied for — and received — an exemption to the statewide vaccine mandate.

Read the full story here.

—The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.


1:30 pm

As COVID cases rise, some activists fearful of climate talks

FILE – In this Oct. 29, 2021, file photo, attendees wait for registration to enter the venue where the U.N. climate conference will be held in Glasgow, Scotland. Despite the concerns about the coronavirus from some of the delegates from around the world, the British government decided to hold an in-person conference, arguing that world leaders must act now to prevent catastrophic global warming — and that they will be more effective if they can talk face-to-face. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

Climate activist Lavetanalagi Seru has been watching COVID-19 case numbers rise in the U.K. ahead of a U.N. climate conference beginning Sunday, and it scares him — even though he’s been vaccinated and is only 29. But the campaigner from the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network is determined to travel from his home in Fiji to Scotland to bring attention to the plight of island nations being battered by climate change.

“It’s a scary time to be traveling,’’ Seru said. “But I’m putting my health at risk to make sure Pacific Island states are heard.”

Despite the concerns of delegates like Seru, the British government decided to hold an in-person conference, arguing that the crucial talks among world leaders will be more effective if held face-to-face. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The government insists it can now be done safely — and said it had worked “tirelessly” to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit in Glasgow “with a comprehensive set of COVID-mitigation measures.”

“COP26 has already been postponed by one year,” Alok Sharma, the president-designate of the conference known as COP26, said last month. “And we are all too aware climate change has not taken time off.”

But some environmental and community groups had called for the conference to be pushed back again because many of those most affected by global warming wouldn’t be able to attend because of the continuing threat of COVID-19. Those fears have been heightened by a surge in infections across the U.K., where the daily average of confirmed new cases has jumped more than 50% since mid-September.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

12:50 pm

COVID-19 memorial creators reflect as world nears 5M deaths

Rima Samman looks for certain names of people who died from coronavirus at Rami’s Heart COVID-19 Memorial in Wall Township, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. The memorial, which started out on a jersey shore beach made of shells and rocks, has found a permanent home at Allaire Community Farm. Started by Rima Samman and named after her brother Rami, who was killed by the coronavirus, it has grown to more than 4,000 victims’ names, with dozens of new names added every week. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

On Jan. 25, Rima Samman wrote her brother Rami’s name on a stone and placed it on a beach in her hometown of Belmar, New Jersey, surrounded by shells arranged in the shape of a heart. It would have been Rami’s 41st birthday, had he not died from COVID-19 the previous May.

A makeshift memorial quickly grew up after Samman, 42, invited others in an online support group to contribute markers memorializing their own loved ones. By July there were more than 3,000 stones in about a dozen hearts outlined by yellow-painted clam shells. “For a lot of people, it’s all they have to remember their loved ones,” she said.

As the world nears the milestone of 5 million COVID-19 deaths, memorials large and small, ephemeral and epic, have cropped up around the United States.

Here’s a look at what inspired some U.S.-based artists to contribute to the growing collection of memorials honoring the nearly 5 million dead worldwide from COVID-19.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

12:00 pm

Oregon’s vaccine mandate? Some employers granted exceptions to every worker who asked

Thousands of Oregon healthcare employees, K-12 educators and state workers who were told they must get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or risk losing their jobs found an easy way out: They applied for religious or medical exceptions.

While some employers rigorously scrutinized these requests and accepted only a smaller number they determined to be sincere, many other employers in especially rural, vaccine-reluctant parts of the state gave the nod to every employee who asked for one.

That includes school districts in Roseburg, Medford, Grants Pass, Klamath County, Prineville and Ontario, where 21% to 26% of staff applied for exceptions to the vaccine mandate and 100% of them were approved.

Other examples include the city of Medford, where 44% of the city’s emergency medical technicians asked for and received exceptions. That means only 56% of the city’s EMTs are fully inoculated against COVID-19.

Gov. Kate Brown’s office says her vaccine mandate pushed thousands of employees to get vaccinated.

But in many pockets of the state, employers have undermined the effectiveness of the governor’s directives – driven in some cases by intense pressure from vaccine-adverse employees, their own anti-mandate views, faith in the honesty of their workers, or a desire to avoid labor shortages or lawsuits.

Read the full story here.



11:15 am

Inside Russia’s ‘fourth wave’: Record deaths, deep frustration and plenty of blame

A routine medical checkup in mid-September nearly cost Alexander Ivanov his life. The clinic was packed with people, almost no one wearing masks.

“Or distancing,” he said – a common sight in Russian public spaces and on transport. “I even told some of the people that they should be wearing masks, but people didn’t care.”

Three days later he fell ill with the coronavirus and wound up in intensive care in Yekaterinburg, in Russia’s Urals region. The 47-year-old resident – who was not vaccinated – watched other patients dying, thinking he was next.

Russia’s catastrophic “fourth wave” is a cautionary tale for a failing vaccination campaign, showing the difficulties in correcting course after the government’s confused, on-off messaging about COVID-19.

Some analysts say Russians’ distrust of authorities and skepticism of doctors – going back to Soviet times – helps explain the country’s vaccine reticence. Others blame anti-vaccine activists and rampant disinformation on social media.

Russia’s pandemic measures began with a strict lockdown in early 2020 and dropped before a crucial July 2020 vote on constitutional changes. This summer, Moscow brought in QR codes to prove vaccine status to enter bars, restaurants and cafes, but the unpopular measure was abandoned after a few weeks.

But the result leaves Russia as a pandemic hot spot, while countries with higher vaccination rates are lifting restrictions.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

10:45 am

Vaccine inequities ‘morally unacceptable,’ Italian PM says

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, and Mario Draghi, Italy’s prime minster, at the Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy, on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, for the “Group of 20” world leaders’ summit. “In high-income countries, more than 70% of the population has received at least one dose,” Draghi said. “In the poorest ones, this percentage drops to roughly 3%.” “These differences are morally unacceptable and undermine the global recovery.” (Bloomberg)

ROME – Italy’s Prime Minister says vaccine inequities have not only extended the pandemic, but also are triggering problems for the global economy.

“In high-income countries, more than 70% of the population has received at least one dose. In the poorest ones, this percentage drops to roughly 3%,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi during the “Group of 20” world leaders’ summit in Rome on Saturday.

“These differences are morally unacceptable and undermine the global recovery.”

Draghi referred to a pledge, made a day earlier among G-20 health and finance ministers, to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population by mid-2020. The aim is ambitious – but it also would require the world’s wealthy countries to provide far more support to the poorest nations.

Across Africa, only 5.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Most of the donations announced by major countries to fight the pandemic have not yet been given. Covax, an initiative backed by the World Health Organization for distributing vaccines, indicated last month that it would not reach its goal of delivering 2 billion shots to low- and middle-income countries by the end of the year; it cut its target by 30%.

“We need to strengthen supply chains while expanding vaccine manufacturing capacity at local and regional level,” Draghi said.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

10:00 am

COVID shots are approved for children, but some parents are reluctant to consent

Erin Gauch of Middletown, R.I., with her 9-year-old son, David on Oct. 27, 2021. Gouch got herself and her two adolescent children vaccinated this summer. But she’s worried about the potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine for her youngest. (Katherine Taylor/The New York Times)

The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 on Friday makes 28 million unvaccinated children in the United States suddenly eligible for the shot and offers the country an opportunity to make big inroads in its efforts to achieve broad immunity against the coronavirus.

But even many parents who are themselves vaccinated and approved the shot for their teenagers are questioning if the risk of the unknowns of a new vaccine is worth it when most coronavirus cases in youngsters are mild.

The FDA said clinical trial data showed that the lower-dose shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech and authorized for the age group, is safe and prompted strong immune responses in children. The most common side effects were fatigue, fever and headache.

But new research indicates parental concerns around the COVID vaccination had increased “significantly” from June through September. Chief among them, were the newness of the vaccine, whether it has been sufficiently tested, efficacy, side effects and long-term health consequences, according to a report this month from researchers at Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers and Northwestern universities.

According to a survey released Thursday by Kaiser Family Foundation, scarcely 1 in 3 parents will permit their children in this newly eligible age group to be vaccinated immediately. Two-thirds were either reluctant or adamantly opposed. An Axios-Ipsos poll found that 42% of parents of these children said they were unlikely to have their children vaccinated.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times


9:20 am

Chicago city worker vaccine mandate survives repeal effort

The City of Chicago’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers survived another challenge — this one from the City Council, which voted down a proposal pushed by some of its members to repeal it.

The council voted 30-13 Friday to keep in place the mandate after Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s warned that halting it would put the public at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus. The council further decided against stripping the mayor of her power to order such measures.

“I know, without a doubt … the only way we can save lives and put this pandemic behind us is to get people vaccinated,” Lightfoot said.

Under Lightfoot’s mandate, all city employees must report their vaccination status or risk being put on no-pay status. Those who are not vaccinated must undergo regular testing until Jan. 1, when they must be fully inoculated.

The mandate triggered a battle between Lightfoot and the police officers’ union, which has urged members to defy it, maintaining that the mayor had no right to order city employees to disclose such information.

The vote came after some City Council members expressed concern that many officers would refuse to comply with the mandate and would leave the department understaffed. But the police superintendent reported Monday that about two dozen employees had been placed on no-pay status.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

8:50 am

US appeals court gives greenlight to NY’s vaccine mandate

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals panel on Friday upheld New York state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers, rejecting arguments by lawyers for doctors, nurses and other professionals that it did not adequately protect those with religious objections.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan reversed a decision by an upstate judge who had temporarily blocked vaccination requirements on the grounds that the mandate did not accommodate religious exemptions.

In a brief order, a panel of three 2nd Circuit judges also upheld a ruling by a Brooklyn judge who had found the mandate constitutional.

The appeals court said a written decision would follow at a later date.

Attorney Cameron Lee Atkinson, who argued before the appeals panel, said late Friday that he’s already drafting an appeal to bring to the U.S. Supreme Court. “New York’s mandate forces an abominable choice on New York health care workers: abandon their faith or lose their careers,” he said.

In a statement, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, commended the ruling, saying she had pledged to “take bold action to protect the health of all New Yorkers.”

Read the full story here

—The Associated Press

8:45 am

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children? (AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?

Yes: U.S. regulators authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for younger children after millions of 12- to 17-year-olds already safely got the shot, the only one available for children in the country.

Those ages 5 to 11 will get just a third of the dose given to teens and adults. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the kid-size doses Friday, and next the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend who should get them.

A study found kid-size doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. The 5- to 11-year-olds developed virus-fighting antibodies as strong as those of teens and young adults who got regular doses, with similar or fewer annoying reactions such as sore arms, fever or achiness.

The FDA assessed the safety of the kid-size doses in 3,100 vaccinated youngsters. Regulators deemed that enough data, considering the trove of safety information from hundreds of millions of larger doses given to adults and teens worldwide.

Very rarely, teens and young adults given the Pfizer vaccine or a similar one made by Moderna experience a serious side effect, heart inflammation, or what doctors call myocarditis. It’s mostly in young men or teen boys, and usually after the second dose. They tend to recover quickly, and after intense scrutiny U.S. health authorities concluded the vaccine’s benefits outweigh that small risk.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press


8:33 am

Seattle to offer hiring bonuses of up to $25K to attract more police officers, 911 dispatchers

 Mayor Jenny Durkan announced new hiring bonuses Friday for the Seattle Police Department. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

As hundreds of unvaccinated city employees are placed on leave or facing termination, the city of Seattle will start offering hiring bonuses to Seattle Police Department and 911 dispatch hires to address “critical ongoing staffing challenges,” Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said late Friday. 

Durkan announced an emergency order that would provide hiring bonuses of up to $25,000 for laterally hired and $10,000 for newly hired officers and staff to the SPD and the Community Safety and Communications Center.

Staffing in the city and nationwide had been strained by the pandemic, but took a further hit in Seattle last week when several hundred medically or religiously exempted employees were put on leave to await potential accommodations after Durkan’s citywide COVID-19 vaccine mandate went into effect.

Among those on leave were more than 170 first responders from SPD and the Seattle Fire Department. 

“When residents call 911, they expect an officer to show up — and when they call the 911 emergency line, they expect that someone will answer the phone,”  Durkan said in a news release. “Hiring, recruiting and training takes months, and we need to act now to ensure we can have trained and deployable staff. Seattle cannot keep waiting to address the real public safety officer hiring and retention crisis we are experiencing in Seattle right now.”

Read the full story here.

—Sarah Grace Taylor

8:28 am

Facing pandemic burnout, Washington state health care workers join growing call for more long-term staff support

A nurse holds her back as she walks in the hallway outside patient rooms in May 2020 in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

Nurses, pharmacists, technicians, therapists and aides and other health care workers in Washington are calling for more financial and sustainable support by hospitals as they work through the pandemic’s continued strain on the state’s medical systems.

Other front-line workers, such as grocery store employees, have received some hazard pay for their efforts during the pandemic, but health care employees have been largely excluded from that group.

Recent months of combating the infectious delta variant, combined with seeing increased virus misinformation and patient pushback on vaccinations, have worsened the stress, health care workers say.

“You hear (hospitals) call us heroes,” said Katy Brehe, a registered nurse and ECMO specialist at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “But we’re human like everyone else and we want working conditions that are safe for us.”

Last week, three of Washington’s largest labor unions for nurses and other health care employees issued a joint statement in an attempt to shed light on several potential policies they’d like to see hospitals implement, including ending mandatory overtime policies, offering retention bonuses for workers who have stayed on the job, providing incentive pay for those who take on extra shifts and giving “appropriate” orientation for workers who are temporarily moved to departments they don’t normally work in.

In a Friday statement, the Washington State Hospital Association said a “number of hospitals” have implemented strategies that WSNA, SEIU and UFCW are pushing for, though it declined to say which organizations have done so.

“We are very focused on retention of staff and are using many of the stop gap measures outlined in the comments from the unions to retain staff — including leveraging all available avenues to bring in more staff to alleviate the burden on existing staff,” the statement said. “Right now there just are not enough people to fill the staffing needs and in a national market, we are all competing for the same limited resource.”

Read the full story here.

—Elise Takahama