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Mandate for U.S. Federal Workers; NYC Cases Climb: Virus Update

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 7/29/2021 Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden will require federal workers to prove they’ve been vaccinated or wear masks and submit to frequent coronavirus testing as the delta variant causes cases to spike in the U.S. His administration is also calling on states and local governments to provide $100 to people who get vaccinated.

New York City’s daily average cases passed 1,000 for the first time in almost three months, though hospitalizations remain relatively low. Diners soon will be required to be vaccinated to eat indoors at some of the city’s most famous restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café.

Israel will start giving third doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to people over age 60, becoming the first country to widely roll out booster shots intended to halt a resurgent spread of the virus.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 196.3 million; deaths surpass 4.19 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 3.98 billion doses administeredU.S. Spotlight: Some hot spots near point where U.K.’s delta surge reversedU.S. doctors lose patience as they confront vaccine hesitancyVirus surge upends plans for getting workers back to officesWhat makes delta the most disruptive virus variant: QuickTake

U.S. Imposes Mandate for Federal Workers (4:03 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden will require federal workers to prove they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19 or wear masks and submit to frequent coronavirus testing as the highly contagious delta variant is causing cases to spike in the U.S.

The rules will cover millions of federal workers, including the military and on-site contractors, according to the White House. Biden, who will announce the requirement Thursday, also asked his team to take steps to apply similar standards to all federal contractors and encourage private sector employers to follow the same approach.

The requirements come in response to vaccine holdouts, whose refusal to get shots has allowed the delta variant to spread.

Arkansas Declares Emergency (3:50 p.m. NY)

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson declared a public health emergency, with cases at levels of the surge in January and hospitals overwhelmed. As he announced the emergency, he said four Covid patients were in ambulances waiting for spaces in hospitals.

“That constitutes an emergency and a public health crisis,” the Republican governor said in a news conference.

In declaring the emergency, the governor said he would be able to request help from the federal government and medical assistance from other states. He said he would also ask the legislature to amend a law prohibiting mask mandates to allow localities to decide on whether children too young to be eligible for vaccines should wear masks.

He stressed there would be no statewide mask mandate. “This is not ... a debate about mask mandates for those that can make their own decisions and have the means to get vaccinated,” he said.

Biden Pushes for $100 Vaccine Incentive (3:27 pm. NY)

President Joe Biden’s administration is calling on states and local governments to provide $100 to people who get vaccinated using the $350 billion of aid that his administration has provided them.

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said $100 would be given to any resident who got a first shot at a city run vaccination site.

New Mexico Requires Vaccines or Testing (2:59 p.m. NY)

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday signed an executive order requiring all state employees to either be fully vaccinated or otherwise submit to regular testing, according to a press release.

Employees not fully vaccinated will be required to show a negative test at least once every two weeks. Unvaccinated employees must also wear a face mask when indoors during employment. Those who don’t comply subject to disciplinary action, including termination.

“Right now, it’s very simple: Get a vaccine, or else you will be tested,” Lujan Grisham said.

N.Y. Moves to Aid Restaurants (2:55 p.m. NY)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled a $35 million tax credit program for restaurants that move quickly to hire back workers in one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

Restaurants that qualify could receive a $5,000 return-to-work tax credit for every new hire, up to $50,000 in credits per business. The program was created as part of a $1 billion package of economic recovery initiatives included in the state’s fiscal 2022 budget finalized in April.

D.C. Reimposes Indoor Mask Mandate (2:25 p.m. NY)

The District of Columbia will require the wearing of masks indoors as the delta variant causes cases of the coronavirus to surge, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday.

“People over the age of 2 must wear a mask indoors regardless of their vaccination status,” Bowser said at a press conference. “I know that D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines and they will embrace it. Our businesses will embrace it.”

The announcement comes as the city has seen a five-fold increase in the daily case rate since the beginning of July.

N.J. Cases, Hospitalizations Accelerate (2:10 p.m. NY)

New Jersey reported more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since early May, according to state data.

Hospitals logged 480 patients, a 35% increase over one week. The sickest patients, those on ventilators, numbered 35. That figure hasn’t exceeded 40 since last month.

Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, on Wednesday said he strongly recommended face masks indoors even for people who have been vaccinated. He stopped short of mandating face coverings but said that if numbers continue to increase, he may issue such an order.

Portugal Eases Curbs (2:02 p.m. NY)

Portugal plans to lift a nighttime curfew and ease other restrictions as the number of vaccinated people increases and the latest surge in infections in the country shows signs of slowing.

A limit to movement in public spaces between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. that was imposed in some regions will be lifted on Sunday, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said at a press conference on Thursday. Restaurants and non-food stores can now stay open until 2 a.m. Remote working will no longer be mandatory.

“The vaccination campaign has made a very positive contribution,” Costa said.

Israel to Give Boosters to Over 60s (1:59 p.m. NY)

Israel will start giving third doses of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine to people over age 60, becoming the first country to widely roll out booster shots intended to halt a resurgent spread of the virus.

Starting Sunday, those who received a second dose more than five months ago will be eligible for the booster, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a televised address on Thursday.

“Reality has proven that the vaccines are safe,” Bennett said. Israel has already given a third dose to 2,000 immuno-compromised people and seen “no severe adverse events,” he said. New infections have surged in Israel in recent weeks, largely due to the delta variant.

Top NYC Restaurants Require Guests to be Vaccinated (1:54 p.m. NY)

Starting Sept. 7, you will have to be vaccinated to eat indoors at some of New York’s most famous dining rooms, including Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café.

Danny Meyer, chief executive officer at Union Square Hospitality Group LLC and the chairman of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, announced Thursday that eating indoors at any of his restaurants, which also include the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, will require proof of vaccine.

Meyer made clear to Bloomberg that this move does not impact Shake Shack Inc., the burger empire that he founded, even for requiring proof of vaccination for employees.

“It’s one of these make or break moments and I want to commend Danny Meyer for what he did,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “This is the shape of things to come.”

Durst Mandates Vaccines (1:15 p.m. NY)

The Durst Organization, the New York City real estate firm, is requiring employees to be vaccinated by September 6 or face termination, a company spokesman said.

“People need to be in an environment that they are safe in,” Jordan Barowitz said.

The directive applies to all the company’s more than 1,000 workers, though any direct termination only applies to the 350 corporate staff, whom Barowitz said largely supported the mandate. A vaccination policy for unionized workers, which includes cleaners, security, building operators and doormen, is being negotiated.

Louisiana Cuts Back on Non-Covid Care (1:03 p.m. NY)

Almost all of Louisiana’s hospitals have canceled or postponed surgeries and other non-emergency care, and many can’t accept transfers of critical patients, as a delta-fueled surge in infections grows there, said Joseph Kanter, state health officer of the Louisiana Department of Health, on a call with reporters Thursday.

The number of patients hospitalized with Covid in Louisiana has increased sixfold in the past four weeks, he said, adding that health officials are finding it difficult to project how the outbreak will evolve. “Nobody really knows how to model delta appropriately,” Kanter said.

N.Y. Calls Out Facebook for Misinformation in Spanish (12:26 p.m. NY)

New York Attorney General Letitia James called on Facebook to do more to address false information spreading on its platform in Latino communities, much of which she said is in Spanish. She asked that the company share policies that address Covid-19 misinformation targeted towards Latinos across all of its platforms including WhatsApp and Instagram.

“We’re calling on Facebook to take responsibility for its role in allowing these dangerous lies to continue to spread, and to do more to combat this disinformation,” James said in a statement.

Facebook has a “comprehensive strategy to combat Covid-19 misinformation in Spanish,” including machine learning and fact checkers, said Will Castleberry, vice president of state and local public policy.

Biden Calls for Extension of Eviction Moratorium (11:02 a.m. NY)

President Joe Biden on Thursday called on Congress to extend a moratorium on home evictions that is set to expire on July 31 as the delta variant of Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the U.S.

Biden also asked the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs to extend the moratorium through the end of September for Americans living in federally-insured, single-family properties.

In recent days, Democratic lawmakers and housing advocates have called for extending the eviction moratorium beyond the July 31 deadline. But it isn’t clear Congress can act in time, even if there’s enough political support for an extension.

NYC Cases Top 1,000 a Day (10:52 a.m. NY)

New York City surpassed 1,000 new daily cases on a seven-day average this week for the first time since early May, beginning Monday with 1,032 recorded. Tuesday’s seven-day average totaled 1,008.

The upward trend has concerned city health officials, leading Mayor Bill de Blasio to offer $100 pre-paid cash cards to everyone who gets a shot starting Friday. The city has fallen short of a goal to get at least 5 million New Yorkers vaccinated by the end of June, with 4.95 million receiving at least one shot so far, representing about 59% of the population, according to city Health Department data.

Hospitalizations due to the virus remained relatively low with 98 suspected cases as of July 27, amounting to less than one person per 100,000.

Phuket to Limit Access (9:28 a.m. NY)

Thailand’s resort island of Phuket will ban all domestic travelers and vehicles from entering the province from Aug. 3 to 16 as a Covid-19 outbreak worsens in the Southeast Asian nation.

Travelers with confirmed international itineraries will be exempted from the rules, according to a provincial order issued on Thursday.

a sign on a beach near a body of water: Tourist Reliant Phuket Faces Economic Pressure Despite 'Sandbox' Experiment © Bloomberg Tourist Reliant Phuket Faces Economic Pressure Despite 'Sandbox' Experiment

A sign mandating the use of face masks at the empty Patong Beach in Patong, Phuket, Thailand, on Monday, July 19, 2021.

Photographer: Andre Malerba/Bloomberg

Citi Reinstates Mask Rules (7:18 a.m. NY)

Citigroup Inc. has gone back to requiring employees -- regardless of their vaccination status -- to don masks when they’re in the office, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Workers can remove their masks when at their desks or while eating in the cafeteria, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel information.

China Makes New Proposal for Origin Probe (5:34 p.m. HK)

China says it’s put forward alternative parameters for a second probe into the origins of Covid-19 that should span multiple countries, Beijing’s latest move to counter a push by the U.S. for a deeper investigation into the theory the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab.

China, where the coronavirus that caused the pandemic first emerged, submitted a counterproposal for how the second phase of the World Health Organization’s study should be conducted, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Thursday. He didn’t specify when or to which body the proposal had been submitted.

Astra to File for U.S. License This Autumn (4:50 p.m. HK)

AstraZeneca plans to file an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the next two to three months, Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said in a Bloomberg TV interview Thursday. Astra hopes to get approval “relatively quickly,” he added.

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