You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Travel restrictions put in place over Omicron; 61 people who arrived in the Netherlands from South Africa test positive for COVID-19

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 1 hr ago Globe staff
People line up to get on an overseas flight at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. © Jerome Delay People line up to get on an overseas flight at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The recent authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 and the emergence of two promising pills for treatment of the virus have been major steps in the fight against the pandemic. But as winter approaches some experts are worried that another surge is likely as people gather inside in cooler weather, and immunity wanes among those who were vaccinated months ago.

Below, we’re gathering the latest news and updates on coronavirus in New England and beyond.

New Zealand halts travelers from Southern Africa to curb virus — 7:38 a.m.

By Bloomberg

New Zealand will ban entry to travelers from nine Southern African countries from the start of next week, other than returning citizens, in an attempt to stop the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.

“The government is taking a precautionary approach in treating South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique as very high risk countries to reduce the chance of omicron entering New Zealand,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement on Saturday.

“This means that from 11:59 p.m. Sunday 28 November only New Zealand citizens from these countries will be able to come here,” the minister said.

New Zealanders returning from those nine African counties will be required to undergo testing and a 14-day managed isolation period, he said.

Majority of Austrians back mandatory vaccinations in new survey — 6:04 a.m.

By Bloomberg

A majority of Austrians support government plans to make vaccinations against the coronavirus mandatory.

A combined 60 percent of respondents saw the government’s recent step as “absolutely right” or “rather right” in a survey conducted by the Unique Research institute for the Profil magazine. That compares with 36 percent who saw the policy as absolutely or rather wrong.

Read more

61 people who arrived in the Netherlands from South Africa test positive for COVID-19— 4:45 a.m.

By The Associated Press

A total of 61 people who arrived in the Netherlands on two flights from South Africa on Friday tested positive for the coronavirus and were in isolation on Saturday as the world anxiously sought to contain a highly transmissible new coronavirus variant.

Further tests are now underway on the travelers who arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to establish if any of them have the new omicron variant of COVID-19 that was first discovered in southern Africa.

Read more

Hong Kong wants 80 percent vaccination rate before borders open — 3:38 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Hong Kong will have to achieve a vaccination rate of at least 80 percent before it will consider reopening its borders to mainland China and the international community thereafter, The Standard reported, citing a top government official.

Read more

Hong Kong mulls vaccine requirements for some venues — 2:15 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Hong Kong authorities are mulling if they should require visitors to restaurants, gyms and cinemas to have taken at least one vaccine shot, the Ming Pao newspaper reported on Saturday, citing anonymous sources. Those who can’t be vaccinated due to health reasons may be exempted from the rule, it said.

Australia announces border security measures — 1:40 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Australia introduced new border security measures to protect against the new omicron variant. Direct flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique will be suspended, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Returning Australian citizens and their dependents who have been in any of those countries in the past 14 days must enter supervised quarantine on arrival. Other travelers from those locations will not be allowed to enter Australia.

On Saturday, New South Wales and Victoria states respectively reported 235 and 1,252 new virus cases.

New cases in Germany dip; deaths rise by 303 — 12:50 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Germany recorded a total of 67,125 new cases, down from 76,414 the day before, according to the country’s public health authority RKI. Reported new deaths rose by 303, bringing the total to 100,779.

  Nov. 27, 2021  

EU council president postpones Asian visit — 11:41 p.m.

By Bloomberg

European Council President Charles Michel postponed his planned visit to Japan and South Korea as the number of cases jumped, his spokesman Barend Leyts said. He had been due to meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

New York governor declares state of emergency in anticipation of new coronavirus surge — 10:20 p.m.

By The New York Times

As global concern rose Friday about a new coronavirus variant, Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency in New York, giving her the power to order hospitals to limit nonessential procedures to boost capacity in facilities.

The new variant, called omicron, has officially been named a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. The designation means that the variant has mutations that might make it more contagious or more virulent, or make vaccines and other preventive measures less effective — although none of those effects has been established.

Read more

Markets tumble as new coronavirus variant brings travel restrictions — 9:40 p.m.

By The New York Times

Stocks around the world fell Friday and oil prices plunged, after evidence of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa prompted another round of travel restrictions and reignited concerns about the economic toll imposed by the pandemic.

The S&P 500 logged its worst day since February as a growing list of nations, including the United States, moved to prohibit travel from a half-dozen or so African countries. The uncertainty shook a stock market that had been performing robustly, and market watchers said the heightened volatility might continue as countries assessed the risks of the variant.

The number of mutations in this new variant has raised fears that it could be especially contagious and render current vaccines less effective. But scientists have not come to firm conclusions yet.

Philippines stops South Africa flights over variant worries — 8:18 p.m.

By Bloomberg

The Philippines has immediately suspended flights from South Africa and six other countries until December 15 over concerns about a new coronavirus variant recently identified in the region.

Travel restrictions are in effect immediately and also cover Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a statement Friday night. Passengers who have visited any of these countries in the 14 days before their arrival will also be temporarily barred from entry, he said.

Read more

Southern states fall behind in vaccinating kids as pediatric infections climb — 7:25 p.m.

By The Washington Post

Many Southern states, especially Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi have fallen behind the rest of the nation in vaccinating children as the threat of a winter surge casts a pall over the holiday season.

Those states also rank near the bottom for vaccinating adolescents and adults, and have among the nation’s highest overall covid-19 death rates, according to a review of state vaccination and death data by The Washington Post. Their slow uptake of children’s - as well as adults’ - vaccines have heightened fears that another pandemic wave could hit hard as families gather for the holidays and spend more time indoors.

Read more

Data shows rise in COVID deaths in Connecticut nursing homes — 6:01 p.m.

By The Associated Press

A dozen nursing home residents died from COVID-19 in Connecticut over a recent two week period, which is the largest number since mid-August, new data released Friday showed.

There were 125 positive cases of COVID-19 among residents between Nov. 10 and Nov. 23, with 12 deaths, according to state Department of Health data. Sixty-seven staff also tested positive during the same period. Five of those deaths occurred at Candlewood Valley Health and Rehabilitation Center in New Milford, which reported 36 positive cases among its 105 residents and eight positive cases among its staff.

New data shows Merck’s experimental COVID-19 pill is less effective than early results predicted — 5:42 p.m.

By The Washington Post

Drugmaker Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics released data Friday showing their experimental pill to treat covid-19 is less effective than early clinical trials predicted, a finding that emerged as the Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the drug.

Molnupiravir, a pill that could be taken at home, had shown promise in cutting the risk of hospitalization and death by half among high-risk patients in data released by the company in October. But according to the latest findings Merck presented to the FDA, the pill reduced the risk of hospitalization and death only by 30%.

The study by the drugmakers found that, among participants receiving the pill, just one participant died during the trial, compared with nine deaths in the placebo group, the companies said in a news release Friday.

Former FDA commissioner says travel restrictions are counterproductive — 3:59 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, took to Twitter to express his disapproval of the travel restrictions being imposed due to the latest Covid-19 variant, saying they hurt current containment efforts and discourage future sharing.

Virginia child dies from inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19 — 3:35 p.m.

By The Washington Post

A northern Virginia child was the first in the state to die of an inflammatory syndrome associated with covid-19, state health officials said Friday.

The child, who was between the ages of 10 to 19, lived in the Prince William health district, which includes Prince William County as well as the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

More than 5,526 cases of the rare but serious illness - which is known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) - had been reported nationwide as of Nov. 1. Just 48 of those patients have died.

Virginia health data shows 111 cases of the illness have been reported within the state. Maryland has reported between 100 and 149 cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the District of Columbia has reported between 25 and 49.

The syndrome appears to have some similarities with Kawasaki disease and can cause problems with a child’s heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs. Symptoms include ongoing fever and stomach pain, vomiting and lightheadedness.

“We are devastated by this sad news, and our hearts go out to the family and friends of this child,” Virginia Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver said in a statement.

He urged families to get vaccinated if they have not done so already and to wear masks during the holiday season.

The new coronavirus variant known as Omicron has the world on edge: Here’s what we know — 2:43 p.m.

By Martin Finucane, Globe staff

It’s not the news that anybody weary of the long slog of the coronavirus pandemic wanted to hear while trying to relax the day after Thanksgiving. But a new and potentially dangerous variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been detected, and it’s causing jitters around a pandemic-weary world. Here, compiled from Globe wire service and major media reports, is what you need to know about the variant.

Read more

US to ban travel from South Africa, 7 other African nations beginning Monday due to Omicron — 2:14 p.m.

By The Associated Press

US to ban travel from South Africa, 7 other African nations by non-US citizens beginning Monday due to COVID-19 variant.

Canada bans entry of foreign nationals traveling from southern Africa — 1:48 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Canada bans entry of foreign nationals who have traveled through southern Africa after discovery of new COVID variant.

WHO classifies new COVID-19 variant as highly transmissible virus of concern, names it “Omicron” — 1:16 p.m.

By The Associated Press

World Health Organization classifies new COVID-19 variant as highly transmissible virus of concern, names it “Omicron.”

Read more

German patient airlifts start as COVID wave strains hospitals — 12:23 p.m.

By The Washington Post

The German military is starting the transfer of intensive-care patients within the country from areas whose hospital capacity is the most strained, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

An initial airlift will transport 10 patients from Memmingen in Bavaria to Muenster/Osnabrueck with an A310 Airbus/MedEvac on Friday. In total, three German Air Force planes are at the ready.

“We need to stop this wave now,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a press conference on Friday. “Otherwise we will experience the thing we always wanted to prevent: the health system becoming overwhelmed.”

Daily cases in Germany have repeatedly hit records this month. Deaths have risen too, although they remain below the levels seen last winter.

Without specifically calling for a lockdown, authorities are urging a return to the basics of social distancing in trying to throttle the current wave of cases.

“We need a massive reduction in contacts, immediately,” said Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute. “We’re standing at a crossroads. We have a choice. We can take the path that ends in chaos and disaster,” he said.

New Hampshire, Vermont asked to test deer for COVID-19 — 11:41 a.m.

By The Associated Press

With hunting season underway, wildlife agencies in New Hampshire and Vermont have started testing for COVID-19 in white-tailed deer, as antibodies for the virus have been found in deer in other states, according to a government study.

“We collected blood samples this year during the five busiest days of the hunting season,” said Dan Bergeron, the deer biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “We have biologists at biological check stations and collect ages and weights annually. This year, we also had them collect blood samples.”

New Hampshire and Vermont were approached by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service about testing the white-tailed deer population as part of its national research on the spread of COVID-19 among the species.

It wasn’t immediately known if Maine was asked. In unrelated testing, the state said it detected high levels of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, in harvested deer in the Fairfield area.

In its study, released in July, the inspection service tested 481 deer in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania and found COVID-19 antibodies in 33% of the samples.

“We do not know how the deer were exposed” to the virus, the study said. “It’s possible they were exposed through people, the environment, other deer, or another animal species.”

The study said that based on available information, the risk of deer and other animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low. It also said there were no reports of clinical illness in the deer populations surveyed, and that captive deer “experimentally infected” with the virus as part of a USDA Agricultural Research Service study didn’t show clinical signs of illness.

COVID variants: What you need to know about Omicron, Delta, Lambda, and more — 10:18 a.m.

By Maria Elena Little Endara, Globe Correspondent

As the winter months usher in colder weather and holiday travel, COVID cases in the US have begun to tick up again. In Europe, countries like Germany and the UK have seen a massive spike in cases and restrictions have once again been implemented.

Read more

EU calls new COVID-19 strain a ‘variant of concern’ — 10:20 a.m.

By Bloomberg

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control labeled the new Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa as a ‘variant of concern’ in a statement on its website on Friday.

The B.1.1.529 variant, a highly contagious variant with cases already detected in Israel and Belgium, has roiled global travel plans and markets, driving steep selloffs in airline stocks and buoying lockdown staples including Zoom Video Communications Inc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday that air travel from southern Africa should be suspended “until we have a clearer understanding of the dangers posed by this variant” and that scientists support such a precaution. She noted that EU contracts with vaccine manufacturers require companies to adapt the medication to new variants when necessary as they emerge.

Travel restrictions multiply for African countries over fears of new variant — 10:02 a.m.

By The New York Times

European countries Friday joined Singapore, Israel and others in restricting travel from southern Africa in a frantic effort to keep a newly identified, and apparently significantly evolved, variant of the coronavirus from crossing into their borders.

Read more

US needs data on new variant before limiting any flights, Fauci says — 9:25 a.m.

By Bloomberg

More scientific data is needed about the new coronavirus variant that’s roiling global markets before the U.S. can determine whether to halt flights from southern African countries, Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said Friday.

“Obviously as soon as we find out more information, we’ll make a decision as quickly as we possibly can,” Fauci said in an interview with CNN. “You always put these things on the table, but you don’t want to say you’re going to do it until you have some scientific reason to do it.”

There’s no evidence the new variant is present in the U.S., he said.

Fears stemming from the new variant, first identified in South Africa, fueled a post-Thanksgiving selloff that spread across global markets as both the U.K. and the European Union moved to halt air travel from southern Africa.

The new variant “has some mutations that are raising some concern, particularly with regard to possibly transmissibility increase and possibly evasion of immune response,” Fauci said.

U.S. scientists are set to meet later Friday with their South African counterparts to discuss the matter and “really get the facts,” about what’s going on, Fauci said. Testing the new variant to determine if the spike protein mutations make it more able to evade the immune response from vaccines or infection will be key, Fauci said.

“Once you test it, you’ll know for sure whether or not it does or does not evade the antibodies that we make, for example, against the virus through a vaccine or following convalescence.”

Any move by the U.S. to impose stricter travel restrictions would mark a shift from the pattern in recent weeks of easing limits on travel to the U.S., which re-opened its doors to vaccinated international travelers earlier this month.

The emergence of the mutation has prompted a rapid response by governments, who don’t want to either jeopardize progress made in the fight against the pandemic or make an already bad situation worse. Some countries in Europe are already back in lockdown due to a spike in cases.

WHO applauds South Africa’s speed in reporting new COVID variant — 9:16 a.m.

By Bloomberg

The World Health Organization commended South African health officials for quickly reporting the discovery of a concerning new coronavirus variant, a decision that was swiftly met by travel bans from the U.K., Germany and others.

Scientists on Thursday said they are studying a recently identified strain with a worrying number of mutations. Virologists in the country have detected almost 100 cases to date, with research underway as to how transmissible it may be and whether it will prove resistant to vaccines.

“This variant has been reported at a remarkable speed,” Christian Lindmeier, a spokesman for the WHO, told reporters in Geneva on Friday. “The WHO is grateful to the South African researchers, and it’s been outstanding how open and transparent they have been.”

The praise will come as scant consolation to those forced to cancel trips to see families over the holiday season or South African business owners desperate for tourism to return to the country. The travel bans have drawn ire from local officials due to the early stage of the research into the variant, which may yet prove less lethal than feared.

Cases of the new variant have been identified in Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium, though the U.K. has yet to implement restrictions against those nations.

Top UK adviser warns new variant may pose “substantial risk” — 8:38 a.m.

By Bloomberg

A new coronavirus variant identified in South Africa is the “most worrying” yet, a senior U.K. health official said, after the government temporarily banned flights from the region to try to limit its spread.

Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the U.K. Health Security Agency, told BBC radio the variant, currently known as B.1.1.529, has about 30 mutations “that seem relevant” -- double the number seen in the highly-transmissible delta variant. Fears it could fuel new outbreaks and potentially evade vaccines sparked a wave of selling across global markets on Friday.

Though no cases of the new variant have been detected in the U.K., Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament on Friday it may pose “substantial risk” to public health. The warning comes at a time when daily coronavirus infections are again surging, with 47,240 reported nationwide on Thursday.

Even so, Javid said the government has no plans yet to tighten pandemic rules including on mask-wearing and other social-distancing measures. Describing it as a “fast-moving” situation, the minister said key characteristics of the variant, including the severity of the illness it causes, are still unknown.

Adam Finn, a member of the U.K. vaccine committee, told ITV on Friday that more information is needed on the new variant but that the potential need for tougher rules can not be ruled out.

“On the one hand, I don’t want to induce unnecessary anxiety in people, but on the other hand, I think we all need to be ready for the possibility of a change in the restrictions,” he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said at a regular briefing on Friday there is nothing in the current data that warrants a shift in approach, though the situation remains under review.

Belgium confirms case of new virus strain — 8:31 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Belgium said it has confirmed one case of a concerning new Covid-19 variant in someone who traveled from abroad.

Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told reporters the variant was detected in an unvaccinated person who first tested positive for Covid-19 on Nov. 22. The new strain prompted the European Union on Friday to recommend suspending air travel from the region.

Belgium also Friday ordered a new set of steps to combat the spiraling growth of Covid-19 cases, including a closure of nightclubs for three weeks and restricting privately organized parties.

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said that restaurants and bars must limit tables to six people and close by 11 p.m. He also said the public will be banned from indoor sporting events.

Merck says COVID pill cuts hospitalization, death risk by 30 percent — 8:10 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Merck said updated results showed its COVID-19 pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death among adults with mild to moderate disease by 30%, less than a previous estimate of 48%.

The latest trial analysis includes data from all participants, Merck said in a statement. Nine deaths were reported in the placebo group, and one in the group receiving the treatment called molnupiravir.

The data will be at the center of a Tuesday panel discussion by US Food and Drug Administration advisers regarding its use to treat COVID in high-risk patients.

Merck sought US authorization for molnupiravir, also called Lagevrio, in October after a late-stage study showed it cut the risk of hospitalization or death by around 50% in high-risk patients. Another drug, Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid, has been submitted for review for use in the same population after yielding even more impressive results than Merck’s.

If authorized by regulators, the pills from Merck and Pfizer are likely to overtake infused drugs monoclonal antibodies from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. that are more expensive and harder to use.

BioNTech expects data on vaccine effectiveness against new variant in two weeks — 8:08 a.m.

By Bloomberg

BioNTech SE has begun studying the new COVID-19 variant that has emerged in southern Africa and expects the first data from laboratory tests about how it interacts with its vaccine within two weeks.

The lab data will shed light on whether the new variant, called B.1.1.529, can elude the vaccine it makes together with Pfizer Inc., the German biotech said on Friday. Pfizer and BioNTech put plans in place months ago to be able to ship a new version of their shot within 100 days if necessary, a BioNTech spokeswoman said.

“We understand the concern of experts and have immediately initiated investigations,” BioNTech said in a statement.

The new mutation is spreading rapidly in southern Africa and has raised concerns around the world, with the U.K. and European Union moving to temporarily ban flights and quarantine travelers from the region. The new mutation comes as many Northern Hemisphere countries -- including BioNTech’s home market of Germany -- are already grappling with a fourth wave of infections that threatens to overload some hospitals.

It will take weeks to understand the full impact of the variant, World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Friday. An expert panel is meeting today at the WHO to decide whether the strain is a variant of concern.

What is this new COVID-19 variant in South Africa? — 7:41 a.m.

By Maria Cheng, Associated Press

South African scientists have identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. It’s unclear where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has also been seen in travelers to Hong Kong and Botswana.

Health minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days, although experts are still trying to determine if the new variant, named B.1.1.529 is actually responsible.

From just over 200 new confirmed cases per day in recent weeks, South Africa saw the number of new daily cases rocket to 2,465 on Thursday. Struggling to explain the sudden rise in cases, scientists studied virus samples from the outbreak and discovered the new variant.

Read more

Denmark to impose more curbs — 6:32 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Denmark’s parliament agreed on more restrictions to fight a rise in infections. Face masks will again become mandatory on public transport, in retail stores, hospitals and other locations in the health sector.

The Nordic country is expanding the use of virus passports to include smaller public events. The government also decided to shorten the duration that a negative virus test is valid to 72 hours from 96 hours. The changes take effect on Nov. 29.

Israel detects its first case of a new coronavirus variant — 5:41 a.m.

By The Associated Press

The Israeli Health Ministry says it has detected the country’s first case of a new coronavirus variant in a traveler who returned from Malawi.

The Health Ministry said in a statement Friday that the traveler and two other suspected cases have been placed in isolation. It said all three are vaccinated but that it is currently looking into their exact vaccination status.

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

Late Thursday, the government declared South Africa and six other African nations to be “red countries” from which foreign nationals are barred from traveling to Israel. Israelis returning from those countries must undergo a period of isolation.

Israel launched one of the world’s first and most successful vaccination campaigns late last year, and nearly half the population has received a booster shot. Israel recently expanded the campaign to include children as young as five.

But the country still endured a wave of new cases in recent months driven by the delta variant, which was only recently brought under control.

EU wants to stop flights from southern Africa over variant — 4:56 a.m.

By The Associated Press

The European Union said Friday it is planning to stop air travel from southern Africa to counter the spread of a new COVID-19 variant as the 27-nation bloc is battling a massive spike in cases.

“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that she “proposes, in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region.”

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

Read more

India intensifies screening of travelers — 4:06 a.m.

By Bloomberg

India is stepping up screening of all overseas visitors traveling from or through South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong following the discovery of the new variant in those places.

The Health Ministry has written to all state governments asking for rigorous screening at airports, as well as continued contact tracing. India has close ties to South Africa, with a large diaspora and family connections.

Concerns rise over Indonesia’s sputtering COVID-19 vaccinations — 2:36 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Indonesia has significantly recovered from a mid-year spike in coronavirus cases and deaths that was one of the worst in the region, but with its vaccination drive stalling due to logistical challenges and other issues, and with holidays approaching, experts and officials warn the island nation could soon face another surge.

Indonesia started its vaccination rollout earlier than any other country in Southeast Asia on Jan. 13, and as infection and death rates soared in July and August, ramped up its program to more than 1 million shots per day.

Read more

Shanghai cancels flights — 1:49 a.m.

By Bloomberg

More than 30 percent of flights from Shanghai Pudong International Airport have been canceled, state broadcaster CCTV reported, after the city confirmed three local Covid cases Thursday.

The new infections in China’s financial hub and a handful more in Zhejiang and Liaoning provinces are emerging just as hotspots elsewhere have receded, likely extending the country’s containment effort into a protracted battle over the winter months.

Hong Kong tracking app — 1:03 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Hong Kong will roll out a China-style tracking app to reopen its mainland border, officials announced, closing a gap in surveillance that had been a sticking point in protracted travel talks.

“Our current idea is that the Hong Kong Health Code will be used with LeaveHomeSafe,” Chief Secretary John Lee said, referring to the city’s current contact tracing app, which won’t be retired.

The new health code will record a user’s real name and collect data on places they’ve visited. More details will be announced next week.

Australia monitoring latest variant — 12:03 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Australian health authorities are monitoring the new variant in conjunction with the World Health Organization and other international partners, but the country isn’t banning flights from South Africa and other African nations yet, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“We’re flexible and if the medical advice is we need to change, we won’t hesitate,” Hunt said at a briefing, Sky News Australia reported. “That’s what we’ve done as a country, whether it’s been closing borders, whether it’s been ensuring there’s quarantine, our approach is to look at the medical evidence and to act fast and we’ll continue to do that.”

German cases hit new record — 12:01 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Germany reported a record 76,414 new Covid-19 cases compared with 75,961 the previous day, according to the country’s public health authority RKI.

Reported new deaths associated with the virus rose by 357, bringing the total to 100,476. The daily incidence rate also reached a new high of 438.2 per 100,000 people.

  Nov. 26, 2021  

Australian consumer spending boost — 10:45 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Australian retailers recorded their best month of sales in nearly a year as consumers took advantage of the easing of protracted lockdowns and building momentum in the economy for the final quarter.

Sales surged 4.9% in October from a month earlier, when they rose 1.3%, and more than doubled economists’ forecast of a 2.2% gain, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

As cases climb in America, health agency warns Europe’s covid surge could be ‘window into the future’ — 9:20 p.m.

By The Washington Post

Global health leaders are urging caution as the holiday season gets underway, pointing to a 23% spike in coronavirus cases across the Americas in the past week, a surge that follows spikes in Europe - which officials warn could be a “window into the future for the Americas.”

“Time and again, we’ve seen how the infection dynamics in Europe are mirrored here several weeks later,” Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, said during a Wednesday briefing. “The future is unfolding before us, and it must be a wake-up call for our region because we are even more vulnerable.”

On the same day, the head of the World Health Organization urged against complacency, expressing concern about a “false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic and that people who are vaccinated do not need to take any other precautions.”

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “While Europe is again the epicenter of the pandemic, no country or region is out of the woods.”

Hong Kong finds 2 cases of new COVID variant identified in Africa — 8:03 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Two cases of the new COVID-19 strain raising alarm in parts of southern Africa have been found in travelers arriving in Hong Kong.

A traveler from South Africa was found to have the variant -- currently known as B.1.1.529 -- while the other case was identified in a person quarantined in the hotel room opposite them, the Hong Kong government said late Thursday. That person may have been infected as air flowed between the rooms, according to the government.

B.1.1.529 carries an unusually large number of mutations and is “clearly very different” from previous incarnations, Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor who runs gene-sequencing institutions at two South African universities, said at a briefing on Thursday.

Read more

Why the retail industry is fighting vaccine mandates — 6:45 p.m.

By The New York Times

The holiday shopping season has arrived, and retailers are ringing it in by doing everything from cutting prices to stocking showrooms to lure back customers who stayed at home last year. What the biggest of them are not doing is the one thing the White House and many public health experts have asked them to: mandate that their workers be vaccinated.

As other industries with workers in public-facing roles, like airlines and hospitals, have moved toward requiring vaccines, retailers have dug in their heels, citing concerns about a labor shortage. And a portion of one of the country’s largest workforces will remain unvaccinated, just as shoppers are expected to flock to stores.

At the heart of the retailers’ resistance is a worry about having enough people to work. In a tight labor market, retailers have been offering perks like higher wages and better hours to prospective employees in hopes of having enough people to staff their stores and distribution centers. The National Retail Federation, the industry’s largest trade group, has estimated that retailers will hire up to 665,000 seasonal workers this year.

Read more

Variant showing a ‘big jump in evolution’ detected in South Africa — 5:35 p.m.

By The New York Times

A concerning new variant of the coronavirus, whose mutations evidence a “big jump in evolution,” is driving a spike in new COVID-19 infections in South Africa, scientists said Thursday.

In the last 36 hours after observing an increase in infections in South Africa’s economic hub, the Gauteng province, scientists detected the B1.1.529 variant. So far, 22 positive cases have been identified in South Africa, according to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Since the onset of the pandemic, a number of variants have emerged. One underlying concern about new variants is whether they will stymie progress against the pandemic or whether they will limit the vaccine’s effectiveness. South African scientists will meet with the World Health Organization technical team on Friday, where authorities will assign a letter of the Greek alphabet to this one.

Botswana’s health ministry confirmed in a statement that four cases of the new variant were detected in people who were all fully vaccinated. All four were tested before their planned travel. One sample was also detected in Hong Kong, carried by a traveler from South Africa, South African scientists said.

Read more

Long Island ER to reopen after resolving staffing shortages — 5:15 p.m.

By The Associated Press

A Long Island emergency room will reopen Friday after resolving staffing shortages related to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Mount Sinai South Nassau closed the Long Beach Emergency Department this week amid a state mandate requiring the suspension of unvaccinated staffers working under temporary religious exemptions.

The hospital had said the closure could last up to four weeks, but Governor Kathy Hochul announced Thursday that state health officials had worked to alleviate the staffing shortage.

EU recommends new restrictions for unvaccinated residents traveling within Europe — 4:15 p.m.

By The Washington Post

The European Commission recommended Thursday that member countries apply more travel restrictions to people who are unvaccinated in the 27-nation bloc’s latest attempt to curb the recent surge of cases across the continent.

The commission’s health authorizing agency also approved vaccines for children as young as 5 - a milestone that could help Europe improve vaccination rates at a time when cases and deaths from the virus are up. The commission travel recommendations did not apply to unvaccinated children under the age of 6.

The ability to easily travel between countries in the European Union is a core value of the bloc, and the commission’s latest recommendations attempt to strike the balance between upholding that freedom and implementing restrictions that could slow the spread of the virus.

Read more

COVID-19 sidelines two Cowboys coaches for Thanksgiving game — 2:42 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Joe Philbin and assistant strength and conditioning coach Kendall Smith are in COVID-19 protocols and will miss the Thanksgiving game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Cowboys will be missing a coach for the second time in three games because of health and safety protocols. Running backs coach Skip Peete missed the previous home game against Atlanta.

Kicker Greg Zuerlein also was sidelined against the Falcons. The Cowboys had several COVID-19 issues during the preseason and the first few weeks of the regular season.

Assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko is filling in for Philbin, the former Miami coach, on Thursday. The Cowboys play Thursday again next week at New Orleans.

Czechs declare state of emergency, impose new virus measures — 1:04 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The Czech government declared a 30-day state of emergency and imposed additional coronavirus restrictions Thursday in its effort to tackle a record surge of infections.

The state of emergency comes into effect on Friday and is a powerful legal tool that makes it possible to restrict people’s rights.

Among the other measures, all Christmas markets across the country are banned while it’s also banned to drink alcohol in public places, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said.

Furthermore, bars, restaurants, night clubs, discotheques and casinos have to close at 10 p.m.

The number of people at culture and sports events will be limited to 1,000 who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.

All other public gatherings can be attended by up to 100 visitors, down from 1,000.

“We’re targeting the places that pose the biggest risks,” Vojtech said.

The government’s decision came after the daily tally in new coronavirus cases hit a new record of almost 26,000 on Tuesday while the country’s infection rate has risen to 1,097 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, also a record high.

A flood of COVID patients causes ‘almost unmanageable strain’ in Michigan — 10:22 a.m.

By The Washington Post

At Spectrum Health, a major healthcare system here, officials spent part of last week debating whether to move to “red status” in a show of how strained hospitals had become.

A flood of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients was arriving at emergency departments already packed with people suffering other medical issues, sending capacity to unprecedented levels. The only hesitation for Spectrum’s decision-makers? Data suggested the COVID surge was not over.

Read more

Moderna beats Pfizer in effectiveness, study finds — 10:02 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Moderna Covid-19 vaccine edged the version from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE in effectiveness in a large-scale study of five different immunization shots conducted by Hungarian researchers.

Read more

Finland tells bars to stop alcohol sales at 5 p.m. as COVID spreads — 8:29 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Finland is set to tighten controls on restaurants and bars to curtail the spread of the coronavirus as the Nordic country’s intensive care units fill up.

The government is preparing to stop alcohol sales after 5 p.m. in bars and restaurants, telling them to close latest at 6 p.m., unless the establishments require patrons to provide a Covid certificate, Krista Kiuru, minister of family affairs and social services, said on Thursday. Cafes and fast-food restaurants could operate without requiring the corona passport, she said at a press conference in Helsinki.

The government is also preparing to decide whether vaccinations will be given to kids aged 5 to 11 following the European Union’s drugs regulator backing the use of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for younger school-age children.

EU regulator authorizes Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for kids 5-11 — 7:12 a.m.

Associated Press

The European Union drugs regulator authorized Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for use on children aged from 5 to 11 years on Thursday, clearing the way for shots to be administered to millions of elementary school children on the continent amid a new wave of infections sweeping across Europe.

It is the first time the European Medicines Agency has cleared a COVID-19 vaccine for use in young children.

The agency said it “recommended granting an extension of indication for the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty to include use in children aged 5 to 11.”

WHO discusses new COVID-19 variant with ‘unusual’ mutations — 6:33 a.m.

By Bloomberg

World Health Organization officials met on Thursday to discuss a new coronavirus variant circulating in South Africa and Botswana.

The new variant, called B.1.1529, carries an unusually large number of mutations, Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, said in a statement published by the Science Media Centre. It’s likely to have evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient, he said.

“It is difficult to predict how transmissible it may be at this stage,” Balloux said. “For the time being, it should be closely monitored and analysed, but there is no reason to get overly concerned, unless it starts going up in frequency in the near future.”

South Africa has detected 22 cases of the variant, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a statement.

“It is not surprising that a new variant has been detected in South Africa,” NICD Acting Executive Director Adrian Puren said in the statement. “Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date.”

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier it will meet South African officials next week to discuss a new variant in the country.

EU to propose 9-month limit on COVID vaccine validity for travel — 3:03 a.m.

By Bloomberg

The European Union will recommend a 9-month time limit for the validity of COVID-19 vaccinations for travel purposes and also propose prioritizing vaccinated travelers, according to a document seen by Bloomberg.

The European Commission will later Thursday propose that member states should continue welcoming all travelers inoculated with shots approved by the bloc, and should as of Jan. 10 reopen to all those who have used vaccines approved via the World Health Organization’s emergency-use listing process, the document says.

The proposed updates also introduce the new time limit for the validity of the primary vaccination series, the document says, in a move that will likely strengthen the case for boosters.

  Nov. 25, 2021  

German COVID deaths pass 100,000 with infections still spiking — 10:25 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Germany passed the threshold of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, with the latest wave of the pandemic still pushing new infections higher and hospitals in some hotspots under severe pressure.

Since the pandemic took hold at the beginning of last year, 100,119 people have died from the virus, according to the latest data from the RKI public-health institute. The number roughly equals the population of mid-sized German cities like Erlangen or Guetersloh.

Germany’s death toll is still lower than in the UK, France or Italy, which each passed 100,000 some time ago. The US has recorded the most deaths with more than 770,000, following by Brazil with over 610,000, according to the Bloomberg COVID-19 Tracker.

The number of daily fatalities in Germany is only about a fifth of the level seen last winter, with about 68% of the population fully vaccinated against the disease.

Germany’s hospitals are nonetheless becoming increasingly overwhelmed in some regions, and the government’s latest measures have yet to show a tangible effect.

Infections and hospitalizations are starting to surge in Midwestern states — 9:25 p.m.

By The New York Times

After a steady decline since mid-September, coronavirus cases are once again rising in most of the United States. New cases have increased by 25% nationally in the past two weeks. In 14 states, cases have climbed by 40% or more.

Some of the biggest spikes have been in the Midwest, a region where COVID-19 cases hit a record high around this time last year. Michigan and Minnesota, which had only modest waves during the late-summer surge, are now seeing the most cases per capita in the country.

Nationally, the daily average number of hospitalized COVID patients is about 50,000, half what it was during the September peak. But in most states where cases have risen drastically in the past two weeks, hospitalizations are also starting to rise.

Read more

A claim of herd immunity reignites debate over UK COVID policy — 8:51 p.m.

By The New York Times

In the four months since Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a gamble by lifting virtually all of England’s coronavirus restrictions, his country has settled into a disquieting new normal: more than 40,000 new cases a day and 1,000 or so fatalities every week.

Yet those grim numbers have put Britain “almost at herd immunity,” one of the government’s most influential scientific advisers said this week — a much-discussed but elusive epidemiological state that some experts say could leave the country well placed to resist the fresh wave of infections now sweeping across continental Europe.

The comments, made in an interview by Neil Ferguson, a public health researcher at Imperial College in London — whose projections about the pandemic have often swayed government policy — are likely to revive the debate about Britain’s status as a COVID-19 outlier: a country willing to tolerate a widely circulating virus and a steady death toll as the price of a return to economic normalcy.

They may also touch a nerve in a nation where herd immunity has been a fraught concept since it was raised by Patrick Vallance, England’s chief scientific adviser, in March 2020 as the virus was first bearing down on Britain. His openness to the advantages of herd immunity provoked such a backlash that, ever since, the government has rejected any suggestion that it embraces such a strategy.

As virus cases rise in Europe, an economic toll returns — 7:38 p.m.

By The New York Times

Europe’s already fragile economic recovery is at risk of being undermined by a fourth wave of coronavirus infections now dousing the continent, as governments impose increasingly stringent health restrictions that could reduce foot traffic in shopping centers, discourage travel and thin crowds in restaurants, bars and ski resorts.

Austria has imposed the strictest measures, mandating vaccinations and imposing a nationwide lockdown that began on Monday. But economic activity will also be dampened by other safety measures — from vaccine passports in France and Switzerland to a requirement to work from home four days a week in Belgium.

“We are expecting a bumpy winter season,” said Stefan Kooths, a research director of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany. “The pandemic now seems to be affecting the economy more negatively than we originally thought.”

The tough lockdowns that swept Europe during the early months of the pandemic last year ended up shrinking economic output by nearly 15%. Buoyed by a raft of government support to businesses and the unemployed, most of those countries managed to scramble back and recoup their losses after vaccines were introduced, infection rates tumbled and restrictions eased.

Portugal sees jump in COVID-19 cases, eyes restrictions — 6:07 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Portugal on Wednesday reported its highest number of new daily COVID-19 infections since July amid a surge in cases across Europe, though hospitalizations are rising more slowly in the country where 86% of people are vaccinated.

The Portuguese government is due to announce on Thursday what new pandemic restrictions it is introducing, seven weeks after scrapping almost all of them because of the high vaccination rate and perceived lower threat from the coronavirus.

The General Directorate for Health officially reported 3,773 new cases Wednesday, with 681 in hospitals, 105 in intensive care units and 17 deaths. The number of patients requiring hospitalization was the highest since September.

On Nov. 1, Portugal reported fewer than 500 new infections, 360 people hospitalized, 60 in intensive care and five deaths. Those numbers were similar to those a month earlier.

The rise reflects a broader surge in Europe, with some countries severely tightening restrictions, but the government has said it doesn’t foresee the immediate need for a lockdown.

Michigan lawmakers ‘urgently’ seek Biden’s help as COVID surges — 4:54 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Michigan lawmakers wrote President Joe Biden to “urgently request” help in combating a Covid-19 outbreak that’s overwhelming the state’s health system.

U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, and Republican Fred Upton sent a letter Wednesday asking the president to provide treatments, including Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s antibody therapy, rapid-testing supplies and military medical personnel to support hospitals coping with near-record levels of Covid patients.

Michigan has the highest per capita rate of Covid cases in the U.S., with hospitalizations reaching 4,080 as of Wednesday, approaching a record set in April 2020. Coronavirus patients are overflowing into hospital hallways and conference rooms, while some health workers have been attacked by patients and family members irate over long waits for treatment and strict infection-control measures, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

“The situation in Michigan is rapidly getting worse and we need all hands on deck and any and all resources you are willing to provide,” Dingell and Upton wrote in the letter. “We are concerned about the impact of the spread of Covid-19 on the state’s ability to effectively address the current public health emergency if current trends continue.”

Michigan’s hospitals, with the help of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, have also asked for emergency staff from the Department of Defense, the state’s hospital association said Tuesday. Earlier this week, the department sent a team of health workers to help staff a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is deploying the state’s National Guard to help fill gaps in skilled nursing.

Most Connecticut cities and towns in red zone for COVID infections — 4:50 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Sixty-five percent of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns are now in the red alert level, the state’s highest of four levels for COVID-19 infections, according to state data released Wednesday as families gather for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The 110 communities mark the largest number designated as being in the red zone since April 22, when there were 112, according to state records.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday urged residents to still take steps to protect themselves, noting New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont had higher rates of infection than Connecticut.

“That’s just a reminder that we’re not an island. That’s why we’ve got to continue to be very cautious,” he said.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Connecticut has risen over the past two weeks from 341.71 new cases per day on Nov. 8 to 751.29 new cases per day on Nov. 22, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins. In order for a community to be designated as being in the red alert zone, it must report case rates over the previous two weeks of greater than 15 per 100,000 population.

This month, the number of Connecticut cities and towns in the red alert zone climbed from 31 on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11 to 67 on Nov. 18 and to 110 on Wednesday.

‘Overwhelming majority’ of Americans should get COVID-19 booster shots, Fauci says — 3:56 p.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Globe Staff

The “overwhelming majority” of vaccinated Americans should get COVID-19 booster shots, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said Tuesday, as the United States faces a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and a surge in holiday travel.

Read more

Aaron Rodgers says he’s suffering from COVID toe, expects to be dealing with the painful condition for ‘next few weeks’ — 1:16 p.m.

By Hayley Kaufman, Globe Staff

Aaron Rodgers’ decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 appears to be having another long-term effect.

Read more

Connecticut inmate dies from COVID-19 — 12:57 p.m.

By The Associated Press

A 62-year-old Connecticut inmate has died from complications from the coronavirus, the 22nd state prisoner death related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year, state officials said Wednesday.

The man was serving a sentence for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Prison officials said he was transferred from the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield to a hospital on Oct. 29 to be treated for COVID-19 and died on Tuesday. Authorities said he had several underlying health problems.

The Department of Correction did not release the man’s name, citing medical privacy laws.

The death comes amid an uptick in coronavirus infections in Connecticut, including in the prison system.

The Correction Department’s website on Wednesday said there were 104 inmates with COVID-19 symptoms and another 149 inmates infected with the virus who did not have symptoms. The agency said 99 staff members are recovering from the virus.

The department has about 5,444 staff members and about 9,500 inmates.

State data shows the Department of Correction has the lowest employee vaccination rate among executive branch state agencies at 65%. Unvaccinated employees must get tested regularly.

Slovakia imposes strict COVID lockdown as hospitals get overrun — 11:59 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Slovakia imposed a strict lockdown, including a curfew, as it is struggling to curb one of the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks.

The government of the European Union nation approved a state of emergency starting on Thursday and closed most retail businesses for at least two weeks, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on Wednesday. Residents can only leave their homes to go to work or school and to visit essential shops and services.

“It’s a battle for the lives of our citizens,” Heger told a press briefing in the capital, Bratislava. “I’m not happy about this, and I know many other people are not happy about this. But it’s unavoidable, to protect our health-care system, our doctors and nurses.”

The motion resembles a growing trend in the western EU, where Austria has imposed a full lockdown and Germany has tightened social-distancing rules. Fewer than a half of Slovakia’s 5.5 million people are fully vaccinated, and the ex-communist country registered a record 10,315 new infections on Tuesday.

Hospitals across the country have reached a critical stage that may force authorities to ask for help abroad.

The three-party ruling alliance has been debating how to tighten measures for days, and its conflicting messaging over the coronavirus strategy is deepening distrust in institutions.

Meanwhile, fierce opposition to social-distancing measures by former Premier Robert Fico, who was ousted after widespread anti-graft protests in 2018, is boosting his popularity in opinion polls.

Seven doctors contract COVID after attending Florida anti-vaccine summit — 10:33 a.m.

By Maria Elena Little Endara, Globe Correspondent

Seven doctors tested positive for COVID-19 or developed symptoms after going to an anti-vaccine summit in Ocala, Florida earlier this month, according to a report in the Daily Beast.

Read more

Biden vaccine mandate yields 92 percent of federal workers with a shot — 10:26 a.m.

By Bloomberg

About 92% of federal government employees have had at least one Covid-19 shot, according to data released by the administration following President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for the workforce.

An agency-by-agency breakdown of compliance rates on Wednesday showed a range of outcomes. Across the government, 92% of the estimated 3.5 million federal workers have at least one dose. About 4.5% -- more than 157,000 people -- either have requested or been granted exemptions from the mandate, the report also found.

The Agency for International Development has the highest vaccination rate, with 97.8% of its workforce receiving at least one shot, while the Department of Agriculture has the lowest, with 86.1%.

The administration deemed nearly 96% of Agriculture workers in compliance with the mandate, suggesting a large number of exemptions.

Other agencies reported a high share of workers seeking exemptions. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, reported 98% “compliance” with the mandate, but only 87.8% of its staff have at least one shot, meaning that more than 10% of the agency’s workforce sought an exemption -- the largest proportion of any agency.

The Departments of the Interior, Justice, Homeland Security and Social Security Administration also all reported vaccination rates lower than 90%.

About 3.5% of the workforce, or 120,000 people, haven’t reported vaccination or sought an exemption. For those workers, “agencies are beginning a period of education and counseling, followed by additional enforcement steps,” according to a statement issued by White House spokesman Kevin Munoz.

One in four African health workers fully vaccinated, WHO says — 9:36 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Only a quarter of African health-care workers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the World Health Organization said, citing an analysis it did.

The continent is the least vaccinated and this has stoked concern that the coronavirus could persist and mutate before spreading to other regions.

This leaves “the bulk of the workforce on the front lines against the pandemic unprotected,” WHO said in a statement on Wednesday.

Dutch ICU boss calls for tough lockdown to rein in virus — 9:24 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Social distancing became mandatory again across the Netherlands on Wednesday as coronavirus infections soared and the country’s leading intensive care physician called for even tougher measures to rein in the pandemic.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that a press conference on coronavirus measures that had been scheduled for Dec. 3 has been moved forward to Friday.

“The picture is somber and worrying,” De Jonge told reporters in The Hague.

The Netherlands is in the midst of a surge that has seen a string of new daily records for numbers of coronavirus infections in recent weeks. The country’s public health institute last week recorded a 39% spike in infections and said hospital and intensive care unit admissions also rose.

The head of the national association of intensive care units, Diederik Gommers, appealed Tuesday night for a tough lockdown, including closing schools, something the government has been keen to avoid.

Gommers told a committee of lawmakers that the country’s hospitals are 10 days away from being so overburdened with COVID-19 patients that intensive care doctors will have to start making choices about which critically ill patients get care.

There are currently around 500 COVID-19 patients in Dutch ICUs, which have an overall capacity of 1,066, according to an organization that distributes patients between hospitals. Gommers said the number of beds could be scaled up to a maximum of 1,200 to 1,250 and that around 50 COVID-19 patients are entering ICUs each day.

Putin says he’s ‘feeling fine’ after taking experimental booster — 8:25 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he took an experimental nasal Covid-19 vaccine earlier this week, a day after getting a booster injection of the locally developed Sputnik Light inoculation.

The nasal version is still in trials and hasn’t been approved by regulators. Sunday, in a televised appearance announcing he’d taken the injected booster, Putin said he would volunteer to participate in the testing of the nasal vaccine, as well. That option provides better protection in the upper respiratory tract against breakthrough infections than injected versions, Denis Logunov, deputy director of the Gamaleya National Research Center, Sputnik’s developer, told Putin.

The Russian president, 69, said Logunov gave him the nasal version Monday. Putin told a government meeting that he’s “feeling fine” after the boosters and had exercised today.

Russia claimed to be the first to approve a Covid vaccine in the summer of 2020, but officials and scientists began getting the shots even before Sputnik was registered. Putin, however, got his first two-dose inoculation only in March of this year.

Man sentenced for sending bomb hoax to UK vaccine plant — 8:23 a.m.

By The Associated Press

A man who sent a bomb hoax to a U.K. coronavirus vaccine factory and similar parcels elsewhere, including a laboratory in Wuhan, China, was sentenced to more than two years in prison on Wednesday.

About 120 people had to be evacuated from a plant in Wales producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca shots in January after Anthony Collins, 54, sent a suspicious package there. The British army’s bomb disposal unit was called and production of the vaccine was halted, but the batch was salvaged later after bomb experts found no explosives in the parcel.

Detective Inspector Adam Marshall said Collins “was fully aware of the impact his actions would have and chose to impede the vaccine rollout when the program was still in its infancy.”

Authorities also intercepted similar packages Collins sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office, a laboratory in Wuhan and a U.S. Air Force base in England.

His defense lawyer Janice Brennan said Collins had a diagnosed personality disorder and had long been obsessed with sending letters and parcels. He had developed an “obsessive interest” in COVID-19 and vaccines, she added.

But Judge David Griffith-Jones said Collins deliberately sent a bomb hoax “knowing perfectly well that it would cause fear and mayhem.”

When arrested, Collins told police that the package — which contained a calculator, a garden glove, four batteries among other items — was meant to help scientists and the government cope with COVID-19.

The judge said Collins’ insistence that he intended to help was “childish and quite perverse.”

He sentenced Collins to 27 months in prison, with time that he had already spent in custody to be deducted.

EU waits for vaccine data before unveiling COVID travel rules — 8:20 a.m.

By Bloomberg

The European Union delayed unveiling a proposal to update its Covid-19 travel guidelines as it waits for guidance from the bloc’s public health agency on the efficacy of different vaccines.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, may present the proposal later this week or early next week, depending on when it receives data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, according to officials familiar with the plans.

The proposal will likely recommend that nations impose travel restrictions based on whether individuals have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid, rather than the current system that judges where people are traveling from, said the officials who asked not to be identified because the preparations are private.

The proposal will also seek to give guidance on how long vaccinations should remain valid, according to the officials. While some member states don’t have an expiration date for their vaccination certificates, others require a booster for it to stay valid. Austria recently cut the validity of vaccine certificates to nine months from 12.

Sweden offers COVID-19 booster shot to those ages 18 to 65 — 7:32 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Sweden recommended Wednesday that everyone between the ages of 18 and 65 should get a booster shot against COVID-19 six months after having received the second jab.

Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said about 7 million people in Sweden, which has a population of 10 million, have had both shots. But she expressed concern about the uptick in coronavirus infections.

“The government takes the spread of infection around the world seriously,” Hallengren said. “The purpose (of offering a third shot) is to be prepared for a possible deteriorating situation.”

Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of the Swedish Public Health Agency, said the vaccine was “our most important tool for dealing with the pandemic.”

“Two shots provide good protection against serious illness and death, but the protective effect diminishes over time,” she told a news conference.

Sweden had previously stood out among European nations for its comparatively hands-off response to the pandemic. All people above age 65 have already been offered a third shot. Authorities say 26% in that age group has received a booster so far.

Europe is only region with more COVID, with 11 percent case rise — 5:57 a.m.

By The Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization said that coronavirus cases jumped by 11% in Europe in the last week, the only region in the world where COVID-19 has continued to increase since mid-October.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said cases and deaths globally have risen by about 6%, with about 3.6 million new infections and 51,00 new deaths reported in the previous week.

WHO’s Europe director Dr. Hans Kluge warned that without urgent measures taken soon, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.

Read more

Germany faces grim COVID milestone with leadership in flux — 2:55 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Germany is set to mark 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week, passing a somber milestone that several of its neighbors crossed months ago but which Western Europe’s most populous nation had hoped to avoid.

Teutonic discipline, a robust health care system and the rollout of multiple vaccines — one of them homegrown — were meant to stave off a winter surge of the kind that hit Germany last year.

Yet complacency and a national election, followed by a drawn-out government transition, saw senior politicians dangle the prospect of further lifting restrictions even as Germany’s infection rate rose steadily this fall.

“Nobody had the guts to take the lead and announce unpopular measures,” said Uwe Janssens, who heads the intensive care department at the St. Antonius hospital in Eschweiler, west of Cologne.

“This lack of leadership is the reason we are here now,” he said.

Doctors like Janssens are bracing for an influx of coronavirus patients as confirmed cases hit fresh daily highs that experts say is also being fueled by vaccine skeptics.

Resistance to getting the shot — including the one developed by German company Biontech together with its US partner Pfizer — remains strong among a sizeable minority of the country. Vaccination rates have stalled at 68% of the population, far short of the 75% or higher that the government had aimed for.

  Nov. 24, 2021  

Salem Board of Health encourages mask wearing indoors in public or large gatherings — 11:30 p.m.

By Jeremy C. Fox, Globe Correspondent

The Salem Board of Health on Tuesday strongly encouraged people to wear face coverings indoors in public places and large private gatherings, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the region.

The board also encouraged vaccinations and booster shots for those who are eligible and advised residents to get tested prior to holiday travel or gatherings, according to an advisory posted on the city website.

Read more

Essex County sheriff announces vaccine mandate for 500+ department employees amid rising COVID-19 cases — 10:57 p.m.

By Katie Redefer, Globe Correspondent

Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger announced Tuesday that all department employees, vendors, and volunteers will be required to show proof of vaccination by early January as the department experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases.

As of Tuesday, there are 96 active COVID-19 cases within the sheriff’s department, including 59 incarcerated individuals, 36 employees, and one vendor, said Gretchen Grosky, a spokeswoman for the Essex County sheriff’s department.

All sheriff’s department employees will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before Jan. 4, 2022, Coppinger said in a statement. Medical and religious exemptions for the shot will be considered by the department, he said.

Read more

South Korea sets pandemic high with 4,000 new virus cases — 10:55 p.m.

By The Associated Press

New coronavirus infections in South Korea exceeded 4,000 in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic as a Delta-driven spread continues to rattle the country after it eased social distancing in recent weeks to improve its economy.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said most of the new 4,116 cases reported Wednesday came from the capital Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan region, where an increase in hospitalizations has created fears about possible shortages in intensive care units.

The country’s death toll is now 3,363 after 35 virus patients died in the past 24 hours. The 586 patients who are in serious or critical conditions also marked a new high.

South Korea is the latest country to see infections and hospitalizations rise after loosening social distancing measures amid high vaccination rates. Cases are also climbing in the United States ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, while Austria entered a major lockdown on Monday as a virus wave spreads across Europe.

New Zealand to begin easing border restrictions in January — 9:22 p.m.

By Bloomberg

New Zealand will begin easing its border restrictions from January, almost two years after it was closed to keep COVID-19 out, with tourists able to return from the end of April.

Fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travelers will be able to enter New Zealand from Australia without staying in managed isolation from January 17, and they will be able to travel from all other countries starting February 14, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told a briefing Wednesday in Wellington. All fully vaccinated individuals will be able to travel to New Zealand from April 30 onwards, with the re-opening staged over time, he said.

The border will open in three steps and all travelers not required to go into managed isolation will still require a negative pre-departure test, proof of being fully vaccinated, a test on arrival, a requirement to self-isolate for seven days and a final negative test before entering the community.

The country closed it borders to everyone except New Zealand citizens and permanent residents on March 19 last year. The following month, the government introduced the managed isolation and quarantine system, which became the key plank of New Zealand’s approach to keeping the virus out of the country.

Despite vaccines, the US has lost more lives to COVID this year than last — 8:32 p.m.

By The New York Times

This was supposed to be the year vaccines brought the pandemic under control. Instead, more people in the United States have died from COVID-19 this year than died last year, before vaccines were available.

As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded 386,233 deaths involving COVID-19 in 2021, compared with 385,343 in 2020. The final number for this year will be higher, not only because there is more than a month left but because it takes time for local agencies to report deaths to the CDC.

COVID-19 has also accounted for a higher percentage of U.S. deaths this year than it did last year: about 13% compared with 11%.

Experts say the higher death toll is a result of a confluence of factors: most crucially lower-than-needed vaccination rates, but also the relaxation of everyday precautions, like masks and social distancing, and the rise of the highly contagious delta variant.

Essentially, public health experts said, many Americans are behaving as if COVID-19 is now a manageable, endemic disease rather than a crisis — a transition that will happen eventually but has not happened yet.

Yet many are also refusing to get vaccinated in the numbers required to make that transition to what scientists call “endemicity,” which would mean the virus would still circulate at a lower level with periodic increases and decreases but not spike in the devastating cycles that have characterized the pandemic. Just 59% of Americans are fully vaccinated, the lowest rate of any Group of 7 major industrialized nation.

MIAA mandates masks for winter indoor athletes, coaches, officials, staff, and spectators — 6:03 p.m.

By Jim Clark, Globe Correspondent

Masks will continue to be required for all participants at indoor high school events and practices when the MIAA winter season begins Monday.

In an email to all member schools Tuesday afternoon, MIAA executive director Bob Baldwin wrote that the guidelines for MIAA indoor sports will remain the same as the fall, and are consistent with those set by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Read more

COVID uptick at Connecticut prisons as worker vaccination rates lag — 5:22 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The Connecticut Department of Correction, which has the lowest employee vaccination rate among executive branch state agencies at 65%, has seen a recent uptick in COVID-19 infections among staff and inmates, according to new state data.

As of Tuesday morning, 107 inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 and were symptomatic were being housed in the medical isolation unit at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, according to an agency spokesperson. Thirty-five of those inmates were scheduled to complete their isolation period by the end of the week.

In comparison, there were 31 inmates with COVID-19 in the same unit on Aug. 18, though population numbers in the unit fluctuate.

Inmates infected with the coronavirus but who are asymptomatic are separated from the general population while completing the quarantine period but are not moved from the facility where they are housed. There are 149 asymptomatic inmates, according to the latest agency count.

More than 800 inmates tested positive for the virus from Aug. 18 to Nov. 18, according to state data. Twenty-one inmates have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began and three have died since Aug. 18. About 9,500 people are incarcerated in Connecticut.

Mass. reports 6,917 new breakthrough COVID-19 cases, raising total to 1.5 percent of fully vaccinated people — 4:50 p.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Globe Staff

Massachusetts on Tuesday reported 6,917 more COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated people since last week, bringing the total since the beginning of the vaccination campaign to 71,037 cases, or 1.5 percent of all fully vaccinated people.

The Department of Public Health also reported 43 more COVID-19 deaths among fully vaccinated people, bringing the total to 552 deaths among those fully vaccinated. The number of breakthrough deaths represents a tiny fraction of all vaccinated people and underscores the protection the vaccines provide against severe illness and death.

Read more

US to require vaccines for all border crossers in January — 4:07 p.m.

By The Associated Press

President Joe Biden will require essential, nonresident travelers crossing U.S. land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials, to be fully vaccinated beginning on Jan. 22, the administration planned to announce Tuesday.

Read more

Denver renews mask mandate as COVID-19 cases mount — 3:41 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Denver is renewing a Covid-19 mask mandate, requiring face coverings for businesses and other indoor public spaces until Jan. 3 unless venues check vaccine cards at the door, Mayor Michael Hancock said Tuesday.

The order takes effect Wednesday. Neighboring counties have taken similar steps. A recent surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations across Colorado puts the health care system at risk, Hancock said at a news conference.

Denver’s hospitals are at 95% of capacity due to the number of virus cases, said Robin Wittenstein, CEO of Denver Health. “The health care system is on the brink of collapse,” she said.

An estimated 76% of Denver residents have received at least one vaccine dose, data the mayor called “stellar.”

Michigan’s overflowing hospitals offer COVID warning for US — 2:57 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Henry Ford Health System has seen Covid-19 cases soar by 50% in three weeks, putting a major strain on staff and patients at the Detroit-based network of five major hospitals in southeast Michigan.

Read more

There are COVID-19 booster shots aplenty, but appointments are scarce — 2:27 p.m.

By Diti Kohli, Globe Staff

With Thanksgiving approaching, Massachusetts residents are searching for COVID-19 vaccine boosters in greater numbers, making appointments difficult to find.

Read more

COVID-19 cases have jumped 59 percent in New England in the past 2 weeks — 1:57 p.m.

By Martin Finucane, Felice J. Freyer, and Ryan Huddle, Globe Staff

The number of COVID-19 cases reported across New England has taken a sudden turn upward in recent weeks as the coronavirus has returned with a vengeance to the region after devastating the South this summer.

Read more

NYC mayor urges governor to impose mandate on MTA workers — 12:58 p.m.

By Bloomberg

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Governor Kathy Hochul to impose a vaccine mandate for Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers after he implemented requirements for all city workers.

“We need them to be vaccinated for the safety of each other and their families, their communities, for the safety of the passengers,” the mayor said at a briefing Tuesday. “It’s worked for the New York City workforce, it can work for the MTA as well.”

De Blasio has been pushing for vaccinations as the city and state confront a rise in Covid-19 cases with the weather turning colder and people spending more time indoors. However, the MTA has seen a shortage of subway operators this year, which could make a vaccine mandate challenging. The state-controlled agency, which is responsible for city public transportation, is still recovering from a hiring freeze during the pandemic when ridership plummeted.

“We’re obviously seeing that number go up,” de Blasio said, referring to Covid cases in the city. “This is all the more reason for people to get vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated and for folks who are ready for that booster, go get that booster.”

In New York City, 94% of municipal workers have been vaccinated including 87% of police officers, 89% of firefighters, 93% of emergency medical services and 88% of sanitation workers. The mayor has also called on the private sector to enact requirements, saying “I think every company should move to it.”

Justice Department asks court to reinstate Biden’s vaccination policy for businesses — 12:57 p.m.

By The Washington Post

The Biden administration on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to reinstate its covid vaccination or testing requirement for private businesses “as soon as possible” and to get rid of an earlier ruling that has temporarily blocked one of the White House’s signature policies, set to take effect in January.

Read more

Boston College postpones two men’s hockey games due to COVID-19 protocols — 11:42 a.m.

By Andrew Mahoney, Globe Staff

The Boston College men’s hockey team has postponed its games against Notre Dame and Harvard due to COVID-19 protocols and “out of an abundance of caution,” the school announced Monday.

Read more

Some colleges drop indoor mask rules despite holiday COVID threat — 10:21 a.m.

By Bloomberg

The masks are coming off at some US universities just as students begin to travel for the holidays and winter threatens a fresh surge of COVID.

Read more

Pediatricians say COVID cases in children are on the rise — 9:43 a.m.

By The New York Times

Coronavirus cases in children in the United States have risen 32% from about two weeks ago, a spike that comes as the country rushes to inoculate children before the winter holiday season, pediatricians said.

Read more

Europe may exceed 2 million COVID deaths by March, WHO forecasts — 8:33 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Deaths in Europe from Covid-19 will reach 2.2 million by March based on current trends, the World Health Organization warned, advising countries to vaccinate more to avoid further lockdowns.

Covid is now the leading cause of death in Europe, and the number of reported daily fatalities approached 4,200 last week, double the level at the end of September, the WHO said Tuesday. The cumulative total is 1.5 million in the WHO’s European region.

The WHO said it expects intensive-care units in 49 out of 53 countries in the region will have high or extreme stress between now and the start of March.

The outbreak has accelerated in Europe in recent weeks as colder temperatures lead to more socializing indoors, while many countries have eased restrictions. The WHO has repeatedly said that the pandemic is not yet over, and that governments should keep public-health measures such as mask-wearing along with vaccinations.

“As we approach the end of 2021, let’s do everything we can by getting vaccinated and taking personal protective measures, to avoid the last resort of lockdowns and school closures,” Hans Kluge, the head of the WHO for the European region, said in the statement.

About 54% of people in Europe have completed their full vaccination doses, though that varies from 10% to 80% in individual countries, the WHO said.

French PM singled out for ire after testing COVID-positive — 8:23 a.m.

By The Associated Press

The prime minister of France, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, is being singled out on social media and beyond as an example of what not to do in the pandemic.

Multiple videos are being circulated of a maskless Prime Minister Jean Castex vigorously shaking hands with elected officials in an enclosed space at a Paris mayoral congress on Nov. 16. Many people are pointing out that goes against France’s official stance that everyone should keep taking preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19.

They also noted that Castex had called the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe “irresponsible” in the enforcement of COVID-19 measures when he did not abide by the rules himself.

Gabriel Attal, the French government’s spokesman, had leaped to Castex’s defense when the video first began circulating. “We are all only human,” he said.

But Castex’s positive test is a potential embarrassment for the French government and for President Emmanuel Macron ahead of April’s presidential election.

Castex’s office says the 52-year-old was infected by his 11-year-old daughter and is self-isolating for 10 days.

It’s unclear if Castex, who was vaccinated in the spring, has symptoms. His office was not immediately available to comment Tuesday.

Experts are saying that Castex’s behavior is indicative of a wider drop in vigilance now that most of France’s population has received vaccine shots. A prominent government figure, Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne, warned against complacency this month, acknowledging that “maybe we have lapsed a bit, barrier measures are being less respected.”

As virus cases rise in Europe, an economic toll returns — 7:27 a.m.

By The New York Times

Europe’s already fragile economic recovery is at risk of being undermined by a fourth wave of coronavirus infections now dousing the continent, as governments impose increasingly stringent health restrictions that could reduce foot traffic in shopping centers, discourage travel and thin crowds in restaurants, bars and ski resorts.

Austria has imposed the strictest measures, mandating vaccinations and imposing a nationwide lockdown that began on Monday. But economic activity will also be dampened by other safety measures — from vaccine passports in France and Switzerland to a requirement to work from home four days a week in Belgium.

“We are expecting a bumpy winter season,” said Stefan Kooths, a research director of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany. “The pandemic now seems to be affecting the economy more negatively than we originally thought.”

AstraZeneca opens research center as UK builds science hub — 6:26 a.m.

By The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Prince Charles will be on hand Tuesday when pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca opens a 1 billion-pound ($1.34 billion) research center near the University of Cambridge, hoping to build on work in developing one of the first COVID-19 vaccines.

The 19,000 square-meter (more than 200,000 square-foot) complex will house more than 2,200 research scientists. It joins a cluster of businesses seeking to make Cambridge a hub for life sciences research similar to what California’s Silicon Valley is for the technology industry.

“Our ambition today is to not only unveil a building, but to also drive the next wave of scientific innovation,” CEO Pascal Soriot said in a statement.

The Cambridge life sciences cluster includes 631 companies that employ almost 21,000 people and generate annual revenue of 7 billion pounds, according to Cambridge Ahead, which promotes business development in the city.

AstraZeneca worked with Oxford University to develop one of the first COVID-19 vaccines approved by regulators in the U.K., European Union and other countries. The vaccine is widely used in developing nations because AstraZeneca has pledged to keep costs down by selling it to low- and middle-income countries on a non-profit basis.

AstraZeneca also plans to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the vaccine.

German soldiers face vaccine mandate as COVID cases rise — 5:53 a.m.

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — The German military is poised to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for troops as COVID-19 infections continue to rise across the country.

The Defense Ministry on Tuesday confirmed a report in the German military blog Augen Geradeaus that officials and soldiers’ representatives agreed late Monday to add the coronavirus shot to the list of vaccines soldiers must get. The measure still needs to be formally added to military regulations, the ministry said in a statement.

There were 1,215 active COVID-19 cases as of Monday reported within the military and the ministry’s civilian staff.

The nationwide tally of newly confirmed cases rose by 45,326 in the past 24 hours, the country’s disease control agency said Tuesday. A further 309 deaths from COVID-19 were reported, taking the total toll since the start of the outbreak to 99,433.

Israel begins giving COVID shots to children age 5 to 11 — 2:57 a.m.

Associated Press

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel on Tuesday began administering the coronavirus vaccine to children age 5 to 11.

The country recently emerged from a fourth COVID wave, and daily infections have been relatively low for the last few weeks. But Health Ministry statistics show that a large share of the new infections have been in children and teenagers.

Children age 5 to 11 make up nearly half of active cases. Officials hope the new inoculation campaign will help bring down the numbers and perhaps stave off a new wave.

Israeli media reported low demand for the shots on the first day they were available to this age group. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was expected to accompany his son later Tuesday to get his jab in a bid to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated.

Israel, which has a population of more than 9 million, has had more than 1.3 million infections since the start of the pandemic and more than 8,100 deaths.

Texas court affirms ruling against governor’s mask mandate ban — 1:41 a.m.

New York Times

The chief elected official in Dallas County celebrated a victory Tuesday in his legal battle over the governor’s ban on mask mandates, after a state appeals court upheld an earlier injunction against the ban.

The ruling by 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas affirmed an August ruling by a district judge that Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates impeded the ability of Judge Clay Jenkins, the top elected official in Dallas County, to protect his constituents from COVID.

Partisan tensions are at a fever pitch over whether students, teachers and school staff members should be required to wear masks. Some Republicans have cast mask rules as an infringement on parental rights, while many Democrats hold that they are a matter of public health.

Abbott has faced a series of legal challenges since he signed an executive order in July barring mandates for both masks and vaccinations.

Officials in Dallas and elsewhere in Texas have defied the governor by requiring people to wear masks in schools and other indoor public settings.

  Nov. 23, 2021  

Macy’s parade is back this Thanksgiving, without kids on floats — 9:27 p.m.

New York Times

As the coronavirus surged in New York City last year, the typical fanfare of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was downsized: The route shrank to one block, the number of participants was cut by several thousand people, and the public was told to stay home.

It could hardly be called a parade at all. There wasn’t so much a procession as a series of struts down the runway for the television cameras. The broadcast was filmed over three days and edited to give the impression of a seamless three-hour program.

This year, with the city reporting that more than 80% of adults are fully vaccinated, the parade is expected to return with all its helium-filled pomp and corporate-branded holiday cheer — with an asterisk: Children under 12 will not be allowed to participate in the parade itself. They will, however, be allowed as spectators along the 2 1/2-mile parade route.

‘Vaccinated, recovered or dead’: Europe fights another COVID-19 wave, and itself — 7:06 p.m.

New York Times

Austria went into a major lockdown Monday to try to break the strong fourth wave of COVID-19 spreading across Europe, while the German health minister, Jens Spahn, warned that by the end of this winter “just about everyone in Germany will probably be either vaccinated, recovered or dead.”

“Immunity will be reached,” Spahn said. “The question is whether it’s via vaccination or infection, and we explicitly recommend the path via vaccination.”

European governments are toughening their measures against COVID-19 in the face of soaring infection rates — more than 2 million new cases each week, the most since the pandemic began — and popular resistance, with violent protests over the weekend in numerous countries.

Tens of thousands of people protested official crackdowns and vaccine requirements in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland and Croatia, with scattered violence and police use of tear gas and water cannons. Some protesters were organized by far-right parties, but many were simply fed up with almost two years of intermittent state controls over their lives.

Europe is once again the epicenter of the pandemic, accounting for more than half the world’s reported COVID-19 deaths this month, according to the World Health Organization. The four countries with the world’s highest rates of reported new cases in the past week are Austria and three that border it, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic; 27 of the top 29 are in Europe.

Vaccines ward off severe COVID in US, wane against infections, new CDC data show — 5:24 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Covid-19 vaccines remain highly effective at keeping people alive and out of the hospital, but new U.S. data add further support to the argument that the shots aren’t preventing infections as much as they once did.

Unvaccinated people were about five times more likely to test positive for the virus than the unvaccinated in the week starting Sept. 26, down from about 15 times less likely in May, according to the latest age-adjusted data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which were updated Monday.

The new figures come shortly after the CDC approved booster shots for all adults, and could provide additional support for third doses as the U.S. heads into its traditional winter virus season. Covid-19 cases are rising across many parts of the U.S., including the Midwest and Northeast.

The CDC data isn’t adjusted for time since vaccination. That means that the earliest recipients of the vaccine -- mostly senior citizens and those with pre-existing conditions -- are possibly at even greater risk.

COVID rebound in US is as bad as last November’s in some areas — 3:36 p.m.

By Bloomberg

The latest U.S. Covid-19 wave is taking its toll on some states’ intensive-care units, with several parts of the country seeing outbreaks that are as bad as ever.

In 15 states, patients with confirmed or suspected Covid are taking up more ICU beds than a year earlier, according to Department of Health and Human Services data. Colorado, Minnesota and Michigan have 41%, 37% and 34% of ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients, respectively, the data show.

Read more

New Jersey schools see student COVID-19 cases rise — 3:30 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Schools in New Jersey are seeing increased Covid-19 cases in students K-12 and staff since the second week of November, according to Governor Phil Murphy and health commissioner Judy Persichilli in a Monday briefing.

This surge in cases comes as the statewide transmission rate increases to 1.23, signaling an outbreak.

“We are concerned about cases in students and staff and among the general public increasing with gatherings for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays,” said Persichilli.

About 87,500 children ages 5 through 11 are now vaccinated. In the last reporting period, schools reported 85.2% of staff were fully vaccinated, she said.

Masks again required in western NY county as virus spreads — 3:27 p.m.

By The Associated Press

People will soon have to wear masks indoors again in western New York’s most populous county because of a spike in COVID-19 positives and hospitalizations in the region, officials said Monday.

Starting Tuesday, anyone 2 and older must wear masks at all indoor public locations in Erie County, including bars and restaurants, grocery stores, gyms and fitness centers, hotels and banks, and hair salons.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz said if the mask mandate doesn’t work by mid-December, the county will require vaccine mandates for indoor dining.

Erie County, home to the city of Buffalo, recorded 456 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, more than quadruple the federal government’s threshold for high transmission, according to Poloncarz.

“This is one of the largest seven-day periods we’ve ever seen,” Poloncarz said in a virtual briefing Monday.

Poloncarz said that cases among K-12 students and staff are rising and that 30-39 year-olds represent the most cases. He said COVID-19 hospital admissions have increased by 50% in the past two weeks.

Disney pauses COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Florida — 1:47 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Disney has paused its policy requiring Florida-based employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine following new laws passed by the state’s legislature last week that limit employers’ power to require vaccinations, according to a memo sent to employees.

The company informed employees in a memo sent Friday that it has paused the requirement due to the state legislature’s action during a special session last week, and because of an appeal court’s temporary delay of federal vaccination guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

“We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we’ve continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our Cast Members and Guests, and at this point, more than 90 percent of active Florida-based Cast Members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated. We will address legal developments as appropriate,” Disney said in a statement Monday afternoon.

Any Disney employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to wear face coverings, and observe social distancing and other safety protocols, according to the memo.

In addition, the company has paused consideration of vaccine exemption requests, the newspaper reported. Also, employees who have not finished the vaccine verification process will be considered unvaccinated for the time being, the memo said.

The company had given non-union workers until Sept. 28 to complete the vaccine course. Union represented employees reached a deal with the company and were given through Oct. 22 to provide proof of vaccination.

The bills signed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last Thursday require companies to allow workers who agree to regular testing and to wear protective gear to be exempt from required vaccinations. The new laws also allow religious or medical exemptions, which Disney had already included in its mandate.

Vermont Senate passes bill allowing town masking mandates — 1:36 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The Vermont Senate passed a bill in a special session Monday that would allow municipalities to adopt temporary indoor mask mandates amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and after the governor has declined to reimpose a state of emergency.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said Vermonters must do their part to get vaccinated, receive boosters and protect the elderly and that he will continue to encourage the use of masks indoors, but is opposed to statewide mandates and restrictions at this time.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns asked for the option of allowing municipalities to put in place masking requirements.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic and our transmission rate is rising and it affects ... different communities in different ways,” said Sen. Jeanette White of Windham County. “This bill is very, very narrowly designed to allow towns to address the pandemic as it affects their jurisdiction by requiring masks in public places.”

Some senators who voted against the measure said it was heavy handed and burdened towns that might not have the resources to enforce it.

The state Senate also passed a resolution urging the governor “to use all possible public health measures to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and associated deaths and maximize vaccination rates among all eligible population groups,” including declaring a state of emergency, followed by a statewide mask mandate.

The resolution states that while Vermont consistently has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, it now has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its masking guidelines this fall to areas of substantial or high transmission and last week identified the whole state as an area of high transmission, the resolution stated.

Curley School reopens after closure for COVID outbreak — 12:16 p.m.

By Bianca Vázquez Toness, Globe Staff

Some 900 Boston students and their teachers returned to the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain on Monday after a COVID-19 outbreak prompted the district to close their school for nearly two weeks.

Read more

Fauci has a message for vaccinated Americans ahead of Thanksgiving: ‘Enjoy the holiday’ — 12:01 p.m.

By Christina Prignano, Globe Staff

Get vaccinated and enjoy Thanksgiving.

That’s the message that Dr. Anthony Fauci is delivering to Americans ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, when a new poll shows that many will be gathering together at pre-pandemic levels. Fauci told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday that families who are fully vaccinated can feel comfortable gathering together indoors without masks.

Read more

Harris to announce $1.5b investment in health care workforce — 10:51 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Vice President Kamala Harris will announce Monday that the Biden administration is investing $1.5 billion from the coronavirus aid package to address the health care worker shortage in underserved communities.

Read more

European Union discusses changes to travel rules, COVID certificates during surge — 9:11 a.m.

By Bloomberg

The European Union is discussing this week how to update its digital Covid-19 certificates and its approach to travel within and outside the bloc as member nations take varying steps to counter the latest wave of the pandemic.

Booster shots will be a topic of conversation when European affairs ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday, along with a debate over whether to change the length of time a Covid-19 vaccination certificate is valid for, according to EU diplomats who declined to be named on confidential preparations.

The commission is also due to submit proposals to the bloc’s ambassadors Wednesday on how to revise recommendations on non-essential travel between the EU and third countries, one of the diplomats said. There are currently no plans to curb travel, but the evolution of the pandemic and potential lockdowns may affect travel for people who have been vaccinated.

The commission’s proposals on non-essential travel are not binding on member states. EU countries agreed earlier this year to harmonize travel restrictions. Currently, countries can require quarantine or testing if people come from an area with a high enough infection rate, and can impose stricter restrictions on people traveling to or arriving from areas coded “dark red” on the EU’s common map. The framework also lays out recommendations for approaching travel from outside the EU.

The Covid certificates have helped facilitate travel around the EU, although some countries are beginning to impose new restrictions. Germany recently announced that people from Belgium, Ireland, Greece and the Netherlands who aren’t vaccinated or recovered from Covid will have to self-isolate upon arrival, while Austria has banned leisure travel into the country until Dec. 13.

Should ‘fully vaccinated’ now include a booster dose? Here’s what the experts say — 9:04 a.m.

By Amanda Kaufman, Globe Staff

The Centers for Disease Control on Friday expanded COVID-19 booster eligibility to include all adults, clearing the way for millions more Americans to shore up protection against the virus.

Read more

More than 90% of federal workers have received at least one COVID-19 shot — 8:51 a.m.

By The Associated Press

More than 90% of federal workers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday’s deadline set by President Joe Biden.

Read more

New restrictions in Greece as pandemic deaths mount — 8:19 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Greece on Monday introduced a wide range of new restrictions aimed at curbing a COVID-19 infection spike that has pushed the rate of death to nearly double the European Union average.

A government order went into effect through Dec. 6, mandating masks at all workplaces, staggering opening hours in the public and private sector, and allowing access for adults to indoor recreation and entertainment areas only to those carrying a certificate of vaccination or recent recovery.

The restricted spaces include indoor areas at bars, restaurants, movie theaters and museums.

Additional capacity limits and entry restrictions were also imposed at courts and places of worship.

About a third of the country’s population and a quarter of adults remain unvaccinated and deaths have risen rapidly since late October to reach the highest level in six months.

The measures were imposed after ICU occupancy for COVID-19 treatment exceeded 90%.

The government has ruled out a return to a general lockdown but Health Minister Thanos Plevris said the current restrictions would be re-assessed in two weeks.

“It is our unvaccinated fellow citizens who are getting very sick, are being admitted to ICU wards, and are dying,” he told private Antenna television.

Health minister tells Germans: Get vaccinated or get COVID — 6:43 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Germany’s health minister said Monday that the rapid rise in coronavirus cases means it’s likely everyone in the country who isn’t vaccinated will have caught COVID-19 by the end of the winter — and some of those will die.

Official figures showed more than 30,000 newly confirmed cases in Germany over the past 24 hours — an increase of about 50% compared to one week ago. Hospitals have warned that ICU capacities are nearly exhausted, with some patients having to be transferred to other clinics far away.

Health Minister Jens Spahn urged Germans to get vaccinated, including with booster shots if their first round of inoculation occurred more than six months ago, to reduce the risk of serious illness.

“By the end of this winter pretty much everyone in Germany (...) will have been vaccinated, recovered or died,” Spahn told reporters in Berlin.

He acknowledged some had described this view as cynical. “But it’s true. With the highly contagious delta variant this is very, very likely and that’s why we are recommending vaccination so urgently,” said Spahn.

Germany expects the European Union to approve vaccines against COVID-19 for children aged 5-11 at the end of the week, he said. School-age children have among the highest infection rates in the country.

The EU will begin shipping vaccines adjusted for younger children on Dec. 20, with Germany initially getting 2.4 million doses, Spahn said.

Danish consumers turn pessimistic as virus restrictions return — 5:55 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Denmark’s consumers turned pessimistic for the first time in seven months in November after the Nordic country re-introduced some restrictions to fight a rise in Covid-19 infections.

The consumer confidence index fell to minus 2 from plus 3.3 a month earlier, the first negative reading since April, Statistics Denmark said on Monday.

“The risk of more restrictions is greater than it has been for many months and that is ruining sentiment,” Asbjorn Klein, a senior analyst at Nykredit, said in a note. “At the same time, rising inflation means that Danes have to spend more money every time they consume.”

Daily infections are up by a factor of about 10 since the country, which has been among the most resilient to the pandemic, ended restrictions in September.

From this month, Danes are again required to provide corona passports to attend some public events and the government has also said that it may require state workers to display the ID, which verifies that a person is either vaccinated, has tested negative, or has recently recovered from the disease.

After slow starts, some Asian vaccination rates now soaring — 3:55 a.m.

By The Associated Press

When Cambodia rolled out COVID-19 vaccines, lines stretched down entire streets and people left their shoes out to save their places as they sheltered from the sun. But three months into its campaign, just 11 percent of the population had received at least one dose. In far wealthier Japan, it took two weeks longer to reach that level.

Now both countries boast vaccination rates that rank among the world’s best. They are two of several nations in the Asia-Pacific region that got slow starts to their immunization campaigns but have since zoomed past the United States and many nations in Europe.

Read more

Auckland lockdown to end as New Zealand tries new virus tack — 1:34 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Bars, restaurants, and gyms can reopen in Auckland from early December but customers will be required to show proof they’ve been fully vaccinated, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.

The announcement removes the last remnants of a lockdown that began in the nation’s largest city in August. It also signals a new phase in New Zealand’s response to the pandemic, in which people around the country will need to be fully vaccinated in order to participate in anything from getting a haircut to watching a concert.

Ardern said New Zealand would move into a new pandemic “traffic light” system based around the use of vaccine passports from late Dec. 2.

Read more

Vietnam expects to fully vaccinate all adults by the year’s end — 12:40 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh directed local officials to accelerate Covid-19 shots in order to fully vaccinate all adults age 18 and older this year, surpassing the nation’s inoculation target, the cabinet’s news portal reported.

The nation will have enough vaccine doses this month to administer two shots to its entire adult population against the virus by the end of the year, according to the report, which also cited Deputy Premier Vu Duc Dam.

Vietnam had targeted fully vaccinating at least half of people age 18 and older by the end of December and 70% of its entire population by the end of March, 2022. The planning ministry this month proposed increasing that target to 80% of the population during the same period.

The premier, who with Dam spoke to the nation’s anti-Covid 19 task force over the weekend, also ordered the quickening of vaccinations for children and to prepare booster shots to those already vaccinated, according to the report.

The government had administered nearly 108 million vaccine doses as of Saturday, according to the health ministry. As of Friday, 53.4% of adults in Vietnam were fully vaccinated, the government website reported, citing information from the same meeting. Local virus cases in November have risen 2.9% from October, though fatalities have dropped 46.3% and hospitalizations are down 25.3%.

  Nov. 22, 2021  

Australia to welcome vaccinated foreign students, workers — 10:45 p.m.

By The Associated Press

The Australian government expects 200,000 vaccinated foreign students and skilled workers will soon return without quarantining when the country further relaxes pandemic restrictions next week.

From Dec. 1, students, skilled workers and travelers on working vacations will be allowed to land at Sydney and Melbourne airports without needing to seek exemptions from a travel ban, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday.

“The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back, it’s a major milestone about what Australians have been able to achieve and enable us to do,” Morrison said.

The government expects 200,000 arrivals in the two categories by January, he said.

Read more

As Thanksgiving approaches, US virus cases tick upward once more — 10:15 p.m.

By The New York Times

CHICAGO — A month ago, new coronavirus cases in the United States were ticking steadily downward and the worst of a miserable summer surge fueled by the delta variant appeared to be over. But as Americans travel this week to meet far-flung relatives for Thanksgiving dinner, new virus cases are rising once more, especially in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.

Federal medical teams have been dispatched to Minnesota to help at overwhelmed hospitals. Michigan is enduring its worst case surge yet, with daily caseloads doubling since the start of November. Even New England, where vaccination rates are high, is struggling: Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire have tried to contain major outbreaks.

Nationally, case levels remain well below those seen in early September, when summer infections peaked, and are below those seen last Thanksgiving. But conditions are worsening rapidly, and this will not be the post-pandemic Thanksgiving that Americans had hoped for. More than 90,000 cases are being reported each day, comparable to early August, and more than 30 states are seeing sustained upticks in infections. In the hardest-hit places, hospitalizations are climbing.

Virginia’s new lieutenant governor-elect says she won’t force vaccines — 8:32 p.m.

By The New York Times

Winsome Sears, the lieutenant governor-elect of Virginia, reaffirmed Sunday that she did not support a sweeping vaccine mandate for Virginians like the rules implemented in New York City and elsewhere.

“I’m not going to force anybody to do that,” Sears said on the CNN program “State of the Union.” She added, “I have said: Get the vaccine. And then if you’re not going to get the vaccine, then do what’s necessary to keep yourself safe and keep other people safe.”

Virginia reported a seven-day rolling average of 1,518 new daily cases Saturday. Cases have dropped since a mid-September surge, but are starting to tick up again. More than 74% of Virginians have received at least one vaccine dose, according to a New York Times database, ranking the state one of the nation’s most vaccinated.

Angry and divided, Austrians argue over a lockdown and vaccine mandates — 7:30 p.m.

By The New York Times

Daniel Zeman wasn’t able to sell any of his handmade apple-ginger liqueur last year during the Christmas season because Austria was in lockdown. He finally opened his stand four days ago, only to have the government announce that Sunday would be the last day. Austria was locking down.

The decision was a blow that angered some and frustrated nearly everyone.

Europe is experiencing a menacing fourth wave of the coronavirus, with soaring rates of infection. While Austria may be the first European country to respond with a nationwide lockdown, it may not be the last. That prospect, along with increasingly stringent vaccine mandates, is setting off a backlash here and elsewhere, with mass demonstrations in Vienna, Brussels and the Dutch city of Rotterdam over the weekend, sometimes punctuated with violent outbreaks.

Austria, where 66% of the population is fully vaccinated, reported more than 14,000 new cases of the virus within 24 hours Sunday. Over the past week the Netherlands has been averaging more than 20,000, while Germany has seen roughly double that number.

Austrian officials’ decision to impose a lockdown that will last at least 10 days and as many as 20 came after months of struggling attempts to halt the contagion through widespread testing and partial restrictions. Starting Monday, public life in the country is to come to a halt, with people allowed to leave their homes only to go to work or to procure groceries or medicines.

Read more

Treatments will change the pandemic, but they can’t end it alone — 6:30 p.m.

By The Washington Post

A year after coronavirus vaccines dangled visions of an end to the pandemic, science has delivered inspiring results again: two antiviral pills that dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

The notion that a fearsome infection could soon be treatable with a handful of pills is an exhilarating idea nearly two years into a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people, at least 770,000 in the United States. But experts - who are thrilled about the prospect of two powerful new medicines - worry that enthusiasm for the idea of treatments may distract from their limitations and the necessity of preventing illness in the first place.

If regulators deem the five-day treatment courses from Pfizer and Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics safe and effective in coming weeks, as most people expect, the drugs could make getting sick far less scary. The United States has already prepurchased millions of treatments. The good news arrives like an echo of last year, when two remarkably effective vaccines were authorized in the middle of the holiday season as a winter surge in new cases loomed.

Disney World halts vaccine requirement for workers after Florida restricts employer mandates — 5:50 p.m.

By The Washington Post

Disney has halted a coronavirus vaccine requirement for workers at Walt Disney World in Florida after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation last week restricting such mandates for workplaces.

In a statement to The Washington Post on Saturday, Disney said it still believes its “approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one.”

But amid the uncertainty caused by the new state laws, Disney “will address legal developments as appropriate,” the statement said.

Under the legislation passed in a special session last week, Florida companies are barred from mandating that all employees get vaccinated, and instead must allow workers to “choose from numerous exemptions,” according to a statement from DeSantis, a Republican. Among the justifications for exemption are “anticipated future pregnancy” and recovery from prior covid-19 infection. Workers may also opt for regular coronavirus testing or the use of personal protective equipment - paid for by the employer - in lieu of a vaccine.

Read more

Who should get a booster shot? It depends, Dr. Scott Gottlieb says — 5:35 p.m.

By The New York Times

Who should get COVID-19 vaccine boosters? That depends on the public health goal, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

On Friday, the FDA endorsed Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine boosters for all adults but did not require that people have boosters to be considered fully vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed with the FDA later Friday and advises that those 50 years and older, or adult residents in long-term care, “should” get a Moderna or Pfizer booster, while other adults “may” get one. The agency also advises that all adults who received the Johnson & Johnson shot should get boosted.

Read more

COVID-19 outbreak at Vermont prison spreading — 3:50 p.m.

Associated Press

A coronavirus outbreak at a Vermont prison is growing, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Nine new cases of COVID-19 were detected at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport during testing conducted on Thursday, the agency said in a statement. Six of the new cases were among inmates and three were among staff.

There are now a total of 27 active cases at the facility, 20 among prisoners and seven among staff. The facility has about 380 inmates, according to the latest department data.

The facility remains on full lockdown and contact tracing on the new positives is underway, the agency said. Additional testing is being scheduled in partnership with the Vermont Department of Health.

Buttigieg says US holiday travel is safe from vaccine disruptions — 1:51 p.m.

Bloomberg

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he doesn’t expect a vaccine requirement that includes airport security screeners to disrupt U.S. holiday-season travel.

Many U.S. federal employees, including Transportation Security Administration workers, face a Monday deadline to document full vaccination or apply for an exemption, though any discipline for workers who don’t comply isn’t immediate.

“The deadline tomorrow, that’s not a cliff,” Buttigieg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “People aren’t getting immediately pulled off their posts. It’s part of a process to make sure that everyone in the federal workforce is safe.”

Hydrick Thomas, president of the American Federation of Government Employees’ division representing front-line airport security officers, estimated last week that about 40% of members hadn’t been vaccinated. He said he didn’t expect disruptions over Thanksgiving but that Christmas could present problems “if they don’t accommodate employees.”

Buttigieg said he doesn’t foresee vaccination requirements for U.S. domestic travel. In contrast, foreign travelers to the U.S. must document vaccination.

COVID-19 surge strains Michigan’s hospitals — 1:24 p.m.

New York Times

Many hospitals in Michigan are nearing their capacities amid an alarming surge in coronavirus cases.

The toll on hospitals is compounded by a staffing shortage that is rippling through the state’s health care system and a rise in people seeking medical help for issues not related to COVID-19, health leaders said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state are up 46% over the last two weeks, according to a New York Times database. The only other state with a higher spike in that time was New Hampshire, where hospitalizations increased 58%. Michigan had a higher per capita rate of hospitalizations than all but one state, North Dakota. COVID-19 cases in Michigan are up 78% over the last two weeks, according to The Times’ database. Only three states have bigger increases over that time.

“We’re all scared to death because this is now so hard to predict what will happen,” Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, said in an interview Saturday. “We’re preparing for the worst.”

Elmouchi said that Spectrum Health, which has 14 hospitals in the state, is seeing more patients than ever, driven by the COVID surge and people seeking treatment for ailments not related to the virus.

GOP embraces natural immunity as substitute for vaccines — 11:24 a.m.

Associated Press

Republicans fighting President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates are wielding a new weapon against the White House rules: natural immunity.

They contend that people who have recovered from the virus have enough immunity and antibodies to not need COVID-19 vaccines, and the concept has been invoked by Republicans as a sort of stand-in for vaccines.

Florida wrote natural immunity into state law this week as GOP lawmakers elsewhere are pushing similar measures to sidestep vaccine mandates. Lawsuits over the mandates have also begun leaning on the idea. Conservative federal lawmakers have implored regulators to consider it when formulating mandates.

Scientists acknowledge that people previously infected with COVID-19 have some level of immunity but that vaccines offer a more consistent level of protection. Natural immunity is also far from a one-size-fits-all scenario, making it complicated to enact sweeping exemptions to vaccines.

That’s because how much immunity COVID-19 survivors have depends on how long ago they were infected, how sick they were, and if the virus variant they had is different from mutants circulating now. For example, a person who had a minor case one year ago is much different than a person who had a severe case over the summer when the delta variant was raging through the country. It’s also difficult to reliably test whether someone is protected from future infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August that COVID-19 survivors who ignored advice to get vaccinated were more than twice as likely to get infected again. A more recent study from the CDC, looking at data from nearly 190 hospitals in nine states, determined that unvaccinated people who had been infected months earlier were five times more likely to get COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people who didn’t have a prior infection.

Marine Corps compliance with vaccine mandate on course to be military’s worst — 10:01 a.m.

Washington Post

Up to 10,000 active-duty Marines will not be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus when their deadline arrives in coming days, a trajectory expected to yield the U.S. military’s worst immunization rate.

While 94 percent of Marine Corps personnel have met the vaccination requirement or are on a path to do so, according to the latest official data, for the remainder it is too late to begin a regimen and complete it by the service’s Nov. 28 deadline. Within an institution built upon the belief that orders are to be obeyed, and one that brands itself the nation’s premier crisis-response force, it is a vexing outcome.

The holdouts will join approximately 9,600 Air Force personnel who have outright refused the vaccine, did not report their status, or sought an exemption on medical or religious grounds, causing a dilemma for commanders tasked with maintaining combat-ready forces — and marking the latest showdown over President Joe Biden’s authority to impose vaccination as a condition of continued government service.

“Marines know they’re an expeditionary force, and pride themselves on discipline and being first to fight,” said David Lapan, a retired Marine Corps officer and former communications chief for the service. Leadership, he said, should be alarmed that the Marine Corps ethos of always being ready for the next mission appears to be tarnished in this case. “Why,” Lapan asked, “did they decide not to follow a direct order?”

Thousands march in Brussels against Belgium’s COVID measures — 8:15 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Thousands of people gathered in central Brussels Sunday to protest against the reinforced COVID-19 measures that the government has imposed to counter the latest spike in coronavirus cases.

Many among them also protested against the strong advice to get vaccinated and any moves to impose mandatory shots.

The protest march lined up behind a huge banner saying “Together for Freedom.” There were smoke bombs and firecrackers, but there was no violence during the early part of the march, which was due to conclude outside European Union headquarters.

Over the past several days, there have been marches in many European nations as one government after another tightened measures.

Dutch police arrested more than 30 people during unrest in The Hague and other towns in the Netherlands on Saturday, following much worse violence the previous night.

Thailand predicts a tourism boost — 6:50 a.m.

By Bloomberg

The Thai economy is set to expand as much as 1.2% this year with the reopening of its key tourism sector, exceeding the Finance Ministry’s earlier forecast of 1%.

The country’s nationwide reopening to vaccinated visitors that started this month boosted economic activities in the fourth quarter, said Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, adding that next year’s growth could reach as much as 4.5%, exceeding the ministry’s earlier forecast of 4%.

Germany 7-day incidence rate increases — 5:05 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Germany’s infections continued to climb, with the seven-day incidence rate increasing to 372.7 per 100,000 people compared with 362.2 the prior day. With intensive-care units all but filled in some regions, Europe’s largest economy faces its biggest test yet of the pandemic.

The country reported 42,727 new cases, compared with 63,924 the day before. Deaths rose by 75 to a total of 99,062.

Swiss cantons to offer boosters next year — 4:07 a.m.

By Bloomberg

Many Swiss cantonal health services won’t be able to offer Covid booster shots to those under 65 until January, newspaper SonntagsZeitung reported, citing Gundekar Giebel, a spokesman for the cantonal health department in Bern.

The federal government had previously said it hoped to make booster shots available to those under 65 beginning in December.

Ukraine’s doctors pushed to the limit by COVID-19 wave — 3:11 a.m.

By The Associated Press

As coronavirus infections hit Ukraine, a single shift for Dr. Oleksandr Molchanov now stretches to 42 hours — 24 of them in Kakhovka’s hospital, followed by another 18 hours spent visiting tents set up to care for 120 COVID-19 patients.

While vaccination rates in Eastern Europe have generally lagged, Ukraine has one of the lowest in the region. But because of its underfunded and struggling health care system, the situation has turned dire nearly two years since the virus swept into Europe.

Read more

Relatives of virus dead question Japan’s stay-at-home policy — 2:06 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Yoshihiko Takeuchi, who ran a small restaurant on the island of Okinawa, told only a few friends he had the coronavirus. When he didn’t answer phone calls from public health workers for three days, police went to his home and found him dead in his bed.

He was among hundreds of people who have died while subject to “jitaku ryoyo,” or a policy of having some COVID-19 patients “recuperate at home.”

Read more

Canadian senator dies after being hospitalized for COVID-19 — 1:04 a.m.

By The New York Times

Josée Forest-Niesing, a Canadian senator from Ontario, died shortly after she went home from a hospital where she had been treated for COVID-19, Canadian officials said Saturday. She was 56.

In a statement issued on her behalf Tuesday, just days after her Saturday return home from the hospital, Forest-Niesing sought to encourage constituents to get vaccinated, as she had been, The Associated Press reported.

Read more

  Nov. 21, 2021  

COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise in New York — 11:19 p.m.

By The Associated Press

New York is continuing to see an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in November as the holiday season approaches, according to the latest state data released Saturday.

Nearly 6,100 people a day are now testing positive for COVID-19 in New York — up 22% from roughly 5,000 for the seven days through Nov. 11.

That’s the highest seven-day average since mid-April.

Meanwhile, the latest federal data show more then two-thirds of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated.

“There is one simple solution to ensure New Yorkers can enjoy a safe holiday season - get vaccinated if you haven’t already and get a booster shot if you have,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a Saturday statement.

Read more

Ireland has most coronavirus cases since January — 10:09 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Ireland reported 5,959 cases, the highest daily tally since January. The country had 640 patients hospitalized, of which 121 were in intensive care, according to the Department of Health.

Florida weekly coronavirus cases rise to more than 10,800 — 8:57 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Infections in Florida rose over the last week, ending a steep decline in new cases that peaked last summer as the delta variant spread through the U.S. South, state data show.

Weekly infections rose to 10,828 in the week ending Nov. 19, compared with 10,732 the previous week, as new cases trend upward nationally. Florida’s weekly cases reached more than 151,000 in August, making up a fifth of all U.S. infections.

Weekly deaths in Florida also rose slightly, to 385.

COVID outbreak worsens in New Hampshire — 8:12 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Infections in New Hampshire, one of the most vaccinated U.S. states, are soaring, with the seven-day average now at the highest point of the pandemic, state data show. Hospitalizations are at a near record, set at the end of 2020.

As in neighboring Maine, where the outbreak has also worsened, the virus is largely attacking the unvaccinated as the weather grows colder and people move indoors, health officials say. Almost 83% of the population has had at least one dose of vaccine, compared with the U.S. average of 68.7%, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

U.S. cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, including several states with above-average vaccination rates.

Disney World reported to halt employee shot mandate — 7:41 p.m.

By Bloomberg

Walt Disney World in Orlando has stopped mandating vaccines for its cast members and employees, according to a local TV report. A spokesperson for resort complex declined to comment on the specific changes to its vaccine mandate, which was first reported by Fox 35 in Orlando.

The decision comes after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that would restrict Covid vaccine mandates by employers.

Dorchester family vaccine day draws families, including the mayor’s — 5:45 p.m.

By Charlie McKenna, Globe Correspondent

Inflatable bounce houses, basketball hoops, and a DJ blasting “Kidz Bop” greeted entrants to Saturday’s family vaccine day at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Dorchester, an opportunity for children and parents alike to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Mayor Michelle Wu held the hand of her six-year-old son Blaise as he got a shot of the Pfizer vaccine at the clinic. Her younger son, Cass, is 4 and not yet eligible for the vaccine because of his age.

Speaking to reporters, Wu said it was critical for residents to get vaccinated, with COVID-19 cases on the rise and the cold winter months just around the corner.

Read more

Health workers again challenge Rhode Island’s vaccine rule — 4:31 p.m.

By The Associated Press

A group of Rhode Island health care workers is again asking a federal judge to block the state’s requirement that people working in the medical profession be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

A lawyer for eight people went before a federal judge on Friday seeking a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing the vaccine mandate, arguing that the state must provide a religious exemption if it offers a medical exemption, The Providence Journal reported.

Read more

‘Orgy of violence’: Dutch police open fire during COVID protests — 2:45 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Police opened fire on protesters in rioting that erupted in downtown Rotterdam around a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions late Friday night. The Dutch city’s mayor called it “an orgy of violence.”

Police said that two rioters were hospitalized after being hit by bullets and investigations were underway to establish if they were shot by police. The condition of the injured rioters was not disclosed.

Read more

Thousands protest virus restrictions in Vienna, Zurich — 1:55 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Tens of thousands of protesters, many from far-right groups, marched through Vienna on Saturday after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown beginning Monday to contain skyrocketing coronavirus infections.

Demonstrations against virus restrictions also took place in Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands on Saturday, a day after Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in rioting that erupted in Rotterdam. Protesters rallied against coronavirus restrictions and mandatory COVID-19 passes needed in many European countries to enter restaurants, Christmas markets or sports events, as well as mandatory vaccinations.

Read more

A new hurdle for COVID-19 home testing: the holiday season — 1:22 p.m.

Associated Press

Millions more home tests for COVID-19 are hitting store shelves, but will there be enough for Americans hoping to screen themselves before holiday gatherings?

Gone are last year’s long lines to get tested, thanks to nearly a year of vaccinations, increased testing supplies and quicker options. But with many Americans unvaccinated and reports of infections among those who’ve gotten the shots, some are looking to home tests for an extra layer of protection ahead of this year’s festivities.

After weeks of shortages, chains like CVS and Walgreens now say they have ample supplies and recently lifted limits on how many can be purchased at one time. The shift comes after test makers ramped up production, spurred by more than $3 billion in new purchasing contracts and assistance from the government. Home tests are typically more than $10 each and take about 15 minutes.

Despite the improving picture, health experts warn that a winter surge could easily overwhelm supplies, especially if holiday gatherings and colder weather continue sparking new outbreaks across the country. And, they note, the U.S. is still far from having the kind of cheap or free widespread testing seen in some European countries that were early adopters of the technology.

When can the COVID-19 masks finally come off? — 11:58 p.m.

New York Times

Amid the turmoil of the past two years — a period that included a deadly pandemic, mass layoffs, an ugly presidential election and an attack on the U.S. Capitol — some of the fiercest political debates in America have been waged over a nearly weightless piece of fabric: the face mask.

U.S. officials were slow to embrace face masks as a strategy for slowing the spread of the coronavirus. When they finally did, masks became a potent symbol of the pandemic — a common-sense public health measure turned political flashpoint and a visible reminder that life was anything but normal.

Now, with the summer’s delta surge in the rearview mirror and the vaccination of school-age children underway, many Americans are wondering when the masks might finally come off.

Read more

Russia’s record virus death toll persists — 9:38 a.m.

Associated Press

Russia’s record high coronavirus death toll persisted for a second straight day on Saturday, as the number of new infections declined.

The state coronavirus task force reported 1,254 COVID-19 deaths, matching Friday’s tally.

The task force also reported 37,120 new confirmed cases. The daily new infections in recent weeks appear to have a downward trend but still remain higher than during previous surges of the virus.

The latest surge in infections and deaths comes amid low vaccination rates and lax public attitudes toward taking precautions. About 40% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though the country approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine months before most of the world.

In total, the coronavirus task force has reported nearly 9.3 million confirmed infections and 262,843 COVID-19 deaths, by far the highest death toll in Europe.

Some experts believe the true figure is even higher. Reports by Russia’s statistical service, Rosstat, that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher mortality. They say 462,000 people with COVID-19 died between April 2020 and September of this year.

COVID outbreak in party town shows how the pandemic could end — 8:04 a.m.

By Bloomberg

It was meant to be a summer vacation to celebrate. Thousands of revelers flocked to Provincetown, Massachusetts, for the July Fourth holiday, fully immunized against COVID-19 and ready to enjoy new freedoms, including socializing without face masks.

Instead, the weather turned cool and rainy, and the festivities shifted indoors to pubs, clubs and private homes, creating a crucible for the effectiveness of vaccines used to contain the uber-transmissible delta variant. More than 1,000 COVID cases ensued over the following two weeks, rocking confidence in the inoculations and prompting the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reinstate an indoor masking mandate.

Read more

Europe’s COVID crisis pits vaccinated against unvaccinated — 3:55 a.m.

By The Associated Press

This was supposed to be the Christmas in Europe where family and friends could once again embrace holiday festivities and one another. Instead, the continent is the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic as cases soar to record levels in many countries.

With infections spiking again despite nearly two years of restrictions, the health crisis increasingly is pitting citizen against citizen — the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.

Read more

Austria announces COVID vaccine mandate, crossing a threshold for Europe — 3:49 a.m.

By The New York Times

Austria on Friday became the first Western democracy to announce that it would mandate COVID vaccinations for its entire adult population as it prepared for a nationwide lockdown starting Monday.

The extraordinary measure by Austria, which only days ago separated itself from the rest of Europe by introducing a lockdown for the unvaccinated, who are driving a surge of infections, made for another alarming statement about the severity of the fourth wave of the virus in Europe, now the epicenter of the pandemic.

Read more

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon