New York City is bracing for a plethora of potential problems — including mounting trash, closed firehouses and fewer police and ambulances on the streets — as the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate looms and thousands of municipal workers remain unwilling to get the shots.
Police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors and most other city workers faced a 5 p.m. Friday deadline to show proof they’ve gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Workers who don’t comply will be put on unpaid leave starting Monday.
A rush of last-minute vaccines on Friday boosted the vaccination rate among city workers to 83% from 76% the day before, but more than 26,000 remained unvaccinated after the deadline.
Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the hard deadline “sets the city up for a real crisis.”
People who refuse to get vaccinated are now a big factor in the continued spread of the virus. Backers of mandates say New Yorkers have a right not to be infected by public servants unwilling to get the shots.
After Friday’s deadline, 16% of police personnel, 23% of firefighters and 23% of sanitation workers have yet to receive at least one vaccine dose.
COVID-19 is the leading cause of death of law enforcement officers in the U.S., killing 498 officers since the start of 2020 compared to 102 gun deaths, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks police fatalities.
Meanwhile, healthcare workers in New York state will no longer have the option of religious exemption to the state vaccine mandate after a federal appeals panel on Friday rejected arguments that the mandate didn’t adequately protect those with religious objections
Also in the news:
► A review issued by the Director of National Intelligence found that while U.S. intelligence agencies were divided on the origins of COVID-19, analysts do not believe the virus was developed as a bioweapon. Most agencies also believe the virus was not genetically engineered.
► Nearly 90% of vaccinated American adults are eligible or will be eligible for a booster shot once enough time passes since their first shot, according to analysis by the Computational Epidemiology Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital published by CNN. While boosters for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots have been billed as targeted at high-risk individuals, the analysis found that health and occupational risk factors cover the vast majority of people.
► Tonga, one of the few countries in the world that has avoided a COVID-19 outbreak, reported its first-ever case on Friday after a traveler from New Zealand tested positive.
► Khloe Kardashian and her daughter, 3-year-old True Thompson, have tested positive for COVID-19 and are quarantining, she said in a tweet. This is Kardashian’s second time testing positive, as she was previously infected in 2020. The reality star is vaccinated, she said.
► “Piano Man” singer Billy Joel revealed he continued to pay members of his band’s salary during the COVID pandemic even though they weren’t playing shows. “I wanted to take care of the band,” he told Howard Stern.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded 45 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 743,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 245 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 191 million Americans – 57% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Health officials, doctors and other medical providers say you can safely get your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. Here’s what you need to know.
Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Vaccines offer more protection than previous infection, new study says
Vaccines prevent COVID-19 more than previous infections do, according to a new study released by the CDC Friday.
Adults in the study who were hospitalized after either having a previous infection or receiving their vaccine were more than five times more likely to have COVID if they had a previous infection but were unvaccinated than those who were fully vaccinated and had no prior infection.
The study could help sway some who are hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID citing immunity from a prior infection as protecting them.
“Vaccine-induced immunity was more protective than infection-induced immunity against laboratory-confirmed COVID-19,” the study said. “All eligible persons should be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible, including unvaccinated persons previously infected with SARS-CoV-2.”
Data for the study was collected across nine states and 187 hospitals, and included more than 7,000 people.
The study also found that the benefit of vaccination compared to prior infection without vaccination was higher with Moderna than Pfizer, consistent with previous studies showing Moderna’s higher effectiveness.
Supreme Court won’t stop vaccine mandate for Maine health workers
The Supreme Court on Friday declined to block a vaccine mandate for health care workers in Maine over objections that it doesn’t include a religious exemption, the latest example of the high court steering clear of the issue.
The suit focused specifically on the lack of a religious exemption. The court’s ruling, which came over the objection of three of its conservatives, allows the state requirement to remain in place while litigation continues.
In a concurring opinion, Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett noted the court has “discretionary judgment” about whether to take an emergency appeal like the Maine case. Without that, she wrote, “applicants could use the emergency docket to force the court” to give a “merits preview in cases” on a “short fuse.” The court’s emergency docket has come under considerable criticism in recent weeks for doing exactly that.
– John Fritze, USA TODAY
FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids 5-11
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday voted to recommend Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to kids ages 5 to 11, but steps remain before children will be able to receive injections.
The FDA cleared kid-size doses – just a third of the amount given to teens and adults –for emergency use, and up to 28 million more American children could be eligible for vaccinations as early as next week.
One more regulatory hurdle remains: On Tuesday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make more detailed recommendations on which youngsters should get vaccinated, with a final decision by the agency’s director expected shortly afterward.
5% of unvaccinated adults have left a job because of a vaccine requirement
As the federal government prepares to unveil new vaccination rules for workplaces, 5% of unvaccinated adults say they have left a job because of a COVID-19 vaccination requirement, according to a survey released Thursday.
That represents 1% of all adults, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the survey of 1,519 adults Oct. 14-24.
The White House is reviewing an emergency Labor Department rule requested by President Joe Biden spelling out vaccination rules for businesses with 100 or more employees. When released, the rule will fill in the details on how workers at larger businesses must get vaccinated or be tested regularly for the coronavirus.
Separately, federal employees and contractors must get inoculated unless they qualify for an exemption.
— Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press