Children Health

Covid-19 News Live Updates: Cases, Vaccines and Boosters

ImageA demonstration on Thursday at Gracie Mansion, the New York City mayor’s official residence. Thousands of those employed by the city, including firefighters and police officers, have yet to comply with a vaccine mandate.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Six New York City firefighters were relieved of duty and face possible penalties after driving to the office of a state senator on Friday, confronting his staff members over the city’s vaccine mandate and asking for his home address.

The state senator, Zellnor Myrie, said that he was not present when they arrived at his office in the morning. But staff members told him that the firefighters, who were members of Ladder 113 in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens area of Brooklyn, said the mandate would result in a reduction of emergency services in the city — and that the officials responsible for it would “have blood on their hands.”

Mr. Myrie said his staff had been “rattled” by the experience and called the firefighter’s actions “highly inappropriate.” Daniel A. Nigro, the fire commissioner, said in a statement that the firefighters would face disciplinary action.

“This is a highly inappropriate act by on-duty members of this department who should only be concerned with responding to emergencies and helping New Yorkers and not harassing an elected official and his staff,” Daniel A. Nigro, the fire commissioner, said in a statement.

A union representing firefighters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The confrontation was reflective of the tensions among some New Yorkers as the timetable for more than 300,000 police officers, firefighters, emergency medical service workers and other city employees to receive a first dose of a Covid vaccine neared its end. The official deadline was Friday at 5 p.m., but unvaccinated workers will be allowed to work until Monday before being placed on unpaid leave.

The police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, said that thousands of people in his department had filed for exemptions, which can be filed on medical or religious grounds. He said that those who had done so by Wednesday would be allowed to work until their applications were reviewed, so long as they submitted to weekly testing.

The Police Department said its overall vaccination rate had reached 80 percent by Friday afternoon. That represents an increase from last week, when officials said that more than a quarter of the department’s employees were unvaccinated.

Upticks were smaller among employees of two other crucial departments, whose unvaccinated employees accounted for more than a quarter of their work forces. Officials said that about 69 percent of employees in the Fire Department and 67 percent in the Sanitation Department had received at least one dose by Friday afternoon.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he does not expect significant disruptions to government agencies or city life from potential staffing shortages on Monday. But fire officials are expecting the closure of up to 20 percent of fire stations; Joe Borelli, a Republican City Council member who represents part of Staten Island, wrote on Twitter on Friday that five stations in Manhattan and the Bronx had already been shuttered.

And New Yorkers in some parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn have begun to report delays in trash collection and garbage buildups in their neighborhoods that officials say may continue because of staffing gaps.

“We’re definitely seeing that problem in some parts of the city,” Mr. de Blasio said on Thursday, “and it’s unacceptable.”

Credit…Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that vaccination provides stronger and more reliable protection against the coronavirus than a past infection does, the agency said on Friday.

Unvaccinated people who had previously recovered from a coronavirus infection were five times as likely to get Covid as people who had received both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, the C.D.C. said.

The study’s authors cautioned, however, that certain gaps in patient data and biases in their study participants could have influenced the results.

“We now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of Covid-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

The question of whether people who have had Covid really need a shot has gained traction among some Americans as vaccine mandates take hold across the country. Scientists have urged Covid survivors not to skip the vaccine, noting that the strength and durability of so-called natural immunity depends heavily on people’s age and health, and the severity of an initial infection.

The C.D.C. study used a roundabout experimental design. The researchers examined roughly 7,000 people hospitalized this year with Covid-like illness across nine states. They then looked at how many of those hospitalized patients were indeed infected with the coronavirus. The odds of testing positive for the virus were considerably higher among unvaccinated, previously infected patients than they were among vaccinated people.

The study comes with several caveats, however. The researchers cautioned that the findings may not translate to non-hospitalized people with different levels of access to medical care, and that some patients in the vaccinated group may unknowingly have also had previous infections.

The researchers also noted that separate research in Israel had failed to show that vaccinated people were better protected than those who had only been infected. In general, scientists said, studies on the topic had drawn contradictory conclusions.

Still, some patterns have emerged. Two doses of an mRNA vaccine produce more antibodies, and more reliably so, than a coronavirus infection does. But the antibodies from prior infection are more diverse, potentially helping people fend off variants.

Whatever the effect, doctors have warned that acquiring natural immunity is perilous and uncertain. Not everyone survives Covid in the first place, and those that do may not be able to count on a vigorous immune response.

Credit…Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to block Maine’s requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus notwithstanding their religious objections.

As is the court’s custom in rulings on emergency applications, its brief order gave no reasons.

But the three most conservative members of the court — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — issued a lengthy dissent, saying the majority had gone badly astray.

“Where many other states have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course,” Justice Gorsuch wrote for the dissenting justices. “There, health care workers who have served on the front line of a pandemic for the last 18 months are now being fired and their practices shuttered. All for adhering to their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Their plight is worthy of our attention.”

Maine has required health care workers to be vaccinated against various contagious diseases since 1989, and eliminated exemptions on religious or philosophical grounds under a state law enacted in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began. The state does exempt workers for whom the given vaccine would be “medically inadvisable” in the judgment of a health care professional.

Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

Enrollment in New York City’s public school system has dropped by about 50,000 students since the fall of 2019, the Department of Education said on Friday, the latest example of the profound disruption the pandemic has had on public education across the country.

The 4.5 percent drop was likely driven by a number of factors, including parents choosing to home-school their children either temporarily or long-term, families leaving the city during the pandemic and some parents delaying the start of school for their young children altogether.

New York City lost by far the largest number of students in recent history between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020, when about 38,000 students left the system.

But between fall of 2020 and now, enrollment fell by about 13,000 students, or roughly 1 percent, a rate that mirrors prepandemic drops in 2018 and 2019.

Los Angeles and Chicago, home to the biggest districts in the United States after New York, lost a larger percentage of students this year.

There are currently just over 1 million children enrolled in all of New York City’s public schools, including charter schools. About 938,000 of those students are enrolled in traditional district schools, according to preliminary data from the Department of Education.

Though New York is home to by far the largest school district in the country, enrollment has been steadily declining for years, prompted in part by families leaving the city in search of more affordable housing.

The losses over the past year were concentrated in non-charter district schools, which lost about 17,000 students. They have seen an enrollment decline of over 60,000 students, or roughly 6 percent, since the start of the pandemic. Charters have been steadily gaining enrollment for most of the last decade, but enrollment dipped slightly this year compared to last.

Daily attendance among enrolled students in city schools this fall is slightly below the typical average, at just under 90 percent. The education department had previously resisted explaining how it calculated that rate, but it said on Friday that it was tracking 869,000 students under its regular attendance system, excluding most children in prekindergarten and other early childhood programs.

Unlike many districts across the country, New York saw an increase in enrollment for young children: The city added seats in its pre-K program.

School districts across the country have been grappling with enrollment drops worsened by the pandemic’s profound effect on public education. A recent New York Times analysis found that about 340,000 kindergarten students nationwide did not show up to virtual or in-person classes during the pandemic.

Credit…Gints Ivuskans/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Coronavirus cases may be falling in much of the world but they are on the rise again in Europe, where pandemic restrictions have been relaxed and cold weather has moved into some northern and eastern countries.

From Oct. 18 through Sunday, more than half the world’s new confirmed cases were reported in Europe, a World Health Organization report said, and it was the only region that reported an increase in both new infections and coronavirus deaths.

Low vaccination rates in Eastern Europe are partly to blame for the grim numbers.

Although several Western European countries have reported a rise in cases, they have fully immunized the majority of their adult populations, and have seen relatively low numbers of deaths and hospitalizations.

The picture is starkly different in the East, where vaccinations are readily available, but many people remain hesitant to get shots, mainly because of widespread mistrust of the authorities.

“The global number of reported cases and deaths from Covid-19 is now increasing for the first time in two months, driven by an ongoing rise in Europe that outweighs declines in other regions,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. director general, said in a briefing on Thursday. “It’s another reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over.”

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Covid-19 Pandemic ‘Far From Over,’ W.H.O. Says

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, called for “global coordination” to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, after the number of cases and deaths worldwide increased for the first time in two months.

The global number of reported cases and deaths from Covid-19 is now increasing for the first time in two months, driven by an ongoing rise in Europe that outweighs declines in other regions. It’s another reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over. The pandemic persists, in large part, because inequitable access to tools persists. Global coordination is the only way to defeat this virus.

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, called for “global coordination” to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, after the number of cases and deaths worldwide increased for the first time in two months.CreditCredit…Reuters

Europe recently overtook the United States in daily cases per capita, with nearly 29 cases per 100,000 people, compared with about 22 in the U.S., according to Our World in Data.

The countries hit hardest now are concentrated in Eastern Europe, and there are serious concerns that another surge could shatter their underfunded and understaffed health care systems.

The Baltic nations — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — are each averaging more than 100 new daily cases per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times database.

Latvia became the first E.U. member during this new wave to institute a general lockdown on Oct. 21, and Estonia has also put new restrictions in place. Latvia’s vaccination rate is among the lowest in the European Union, with just under half its population fully vaccinated; the figure across the bloc as a whole is around 64 percent.

In Romania, where only 30 percent of residents are fully immunized, the situation has become so dire that this month the government asked for emergency help from other European Union countries. On Oct. 19, as hospitals were running out of beds, the country recorded its highest death toll since the beginning of the pandemic.

And in Poland the health minister said last week that the country was facing “an explosion of the pandemic,” after it recorded 85 percent and 100 percent weekly increases in new cases.

The picture grows grimmer beyond the E.U. borders. In Russia, which recorded the highest death toll in Europe, the Kremlin this week issued a stay-at-home order for workers until Nov. 7. And in neighboring Ukraine, only 16 percent of the population has been fully immunized.

But the recent spike in cases isn’t limited to Eastern Europe. In Germany, cases have doubled since Oct. 1. Britain is averaging 66 new daily cases per 100,000 people, and its positivity rate has been persistently high since the Delta variant swept through the country over the summer.

And in Belgium, the government reimposed restrictions on Tuesday that had been removed only weeks ago, with cases steadily increasing.

Credit…Shawn Rocco/Duke University/Via Reuters

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in children 5 to 11, a move eagerly anticipated by millions of families looking to protect some of the only remaining Americans left out of the vaccination campaign.

About 28 million children in the group are now eligible to receive one-third of the adult dose, with two injections three weeks apart. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signs off, as is expected, they could start getting shots as early as Wednesday.

The Biden administration has promised that children’s shots will be easily accessible at pediatrician offices, community health centers, children’s hospitals and pharmacies, with 15 million doses ready to ship immediately. States started ordering doses last week, under a formula based on how many children they have in the age group. While the school year is already well underway, the pediatric dose is arriving in time for the holidays, giving more comfort to families looking to gather older and younger people together for the first time since the early months of 2020.

In a clinical trial, the vaccine was shown to generate significant protection in children against the virus. But whether it will help substantially to curb the pandemic is unclear. As of this week, about 8,300 children ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized with Covid-19 and at least 94 have died, out of more than 3.2 million hospitalizations and 740,000 deaths overall, according to the C.D.C.

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City Workers Protest N.Y.C. Vaccine Mandate

The mandate requires city workers to get at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine or go on unpaid leave. Officials are bracing for staffing shortages when the mandate takes effect.

“We, the people, will not comply. We, the people, will not comply.” “One person is making that decision. One person is making this mandate happen to the Fire Department, even though we’re successful. That’s Bill de Blasio. That’s our mayor imposing.” [crowd booing] “Curtis [Sliwa], Curtis, Curtis, Curtis, Curtis, Curtis.”

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The mandate requires city workers to get at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine or go on unpaid leave. Officials are bracing for staffing shortages when the mandate takes effect.CreditCredit…Mike Segar/Reuters

City officials are bracing for the possibility that thousands of essential workers — including police officers, firefighters and sanitation employees — could be placed on unpaid leave starting Monday, when the city’s sweeping mandate requiring that almost all municipal workers receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine takes effect.

With just more than one-third of the workers in the Fire and Sanitation Departments, and one-quarter of the police force, yet to prove that they had been vaccinated as of Thursday morning, city agencies were putting in place an array of contingency plans, including mandating overtime for vaccinated workers and canceling vacations to fill staffing gaps.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat in his second term who issued the mandate, predicted on Thursday that many city workers would get a shot at the last minute, as happened just before similar mandates took effect in recent months for health care workers and school employees.

“I am not having second thoughts,” Mr. de Blasio said, adding that he was confident the city would not face serious disruptions. “We expected that a lot of the vaccinations would happen toward the end of the deadline.”

Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea said on Friday that 80 percent of the department had received at least one shot of vaccine, and many of them were getting their first dose as the deadline loomed, including 1,000 of them on Thursday.

Mr. Shea said that he did not think the police staffing situation would prove disastrous because of contingency plans, like reassigning staff to conduct patrols, scaling back some administrative work and temporarily suspending training.

“What the public should know, from the police department perspective, we’re going to be OK,” Mr. Shea said in an interview with on Good Day New York, adding that he did not anticipate extensive overtime for department staff, but “anything is possible.”

But defiance of the mandate is running high among some workers. In a protest outside the mayor’s residence, Gracie Mansion, on Thursday, many demonstrators wore sweatshirts and shirts bearing Fire Department engine and ladder company numbers from across the city. Union leaders led chants of “Hold the line!” and took aim at Mr. de Blasio for ordering vaccinations on what they said was too short a timeline.

New York is one of the first major American cities to require that its entire work force receive the vaccination — without the option of getting regular coronavirus tests instead. San Francisco set a similar vaccine mandate for its 35,000 city workers, which goes into effect on Monday, and Los Angeles and Chicago have been pushing public workers to get vaccinated. Among states, Washington and Massachusetts are requiring state employees to be fully vaccinated.

Dire predictions of job loss also preceded each of the last two vaccine mandates — one for the tens of thousands of Department of Education employees, which went into effect on Oct. 4, and again for over a million health care workers across the state, which went into effect around the same time.

In each case, thousands of holdouts appeared for shots at the last minute — and in some cases, after the deadlines — boosting vaccination rates among health care and education employees to around 95 percent, the city said.

Mr. de Blasio said he was counting on the same thing happening again with the city’s remaining unvaccinated workers, who numbered 46,000 as of last week. The official deadline for their first dose is Friday at 5 p.m., but unvaccinated workers can work though the weekend before being put on unpaid leave on Monday.

Sean Piccoli contributed reporting.

Credit…Philippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Faced with a spike in coronavirus cases in Europe, the World Health Organization urged governments on Friday to keep schools open and argued they should be the last places to close their doors.

The number of reported cases in Europe rose 18 percent this past week, according to the W.H.O.’s Europe office, which covers 53 countries — prompting some countries to consider tightening restrictions on public gatherings.

The uptick in cases as schools reopened after summer breaks has also led to increased scrutiny of children’s vulnerability to Covid-19 and their role in transmission of the virus.

But widespread school closures disrupting education for millions of children over the past year “did more harm than good,” said Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s regional director for Europe, in a statement. “We can’t repeat the same mistakes.”

“Interrupting children’s education should be a last resort,” the statement said. “If and when restrictions are imposed to decrease or control transmission, schools should be the last places to shut their doors, and the first to reopen, coupled with appropriate infection prevention measures.”

The W.H.O. said 45 European countries and territories had recommended keeping schools open for in-person learning; seven countries had opted for full or partial school closures, either at the national or regional level; and two countries recommended distance learning.

In addition to vaccinating teachers, the W.H.O. recommended vaccinating children ages 12 to 17 who have underlying medical conditions with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The organization said it would provide guidance on vaccinations for children under 12 when it has evidence from vaccine trials.

In the meantime, schools could reduce transmission through safety measures such as social distancing, wearing masks, frequent hand washing and increased testing, the W.H.O. added.

Credit…Eduardo Munoz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For nearly two years, the remote Pacific island of Tonga has avoided the global pandemic that has infected hundreds of millions of people and left millions dead.

That streak of good fortune ended on Friday, when the island nation recorded its first coronavirus case.

The infected person arrived in Tonga on a commercial flight that left Christchurch, New Zealand, on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health in New Zealand confirmed in a statement. Christchurch has reported four active community cases in the last two days.

The ministry said the individual had been fully vaccinated, and had tested negative for the virus before travel. But a routine test after arrival, on Thursday, returned a positive result the following day. New Zealand health officials are working with Tonga to confirm the case.

Tonga’s geographical isolation — the island is 1,100 miles northeast of New Zealand — has helped it to avoid the virus until now, even as nearby Fiji fought what at one point was among the world’s fastest growing coronavirus outbreaks.

Tonga’s prime minister, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, has warned islanders to prepare for the possibility of a lockdown if more cases emerge, according to the Tongan news website Matangi Tonga, which said that he was expected to make an announcement on Monday.

After the positive case was confirmed, Dr. Siale ’Akau’ola, the chief executive of Tonga’s health ministry, said all the health workers, police officers and airport staff who were on duty when the plane arrived had also been put into quarantine as a precaution.

Around 32 percent of Tongans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 49 percent have had at least one dose of a vaccine, according to Our World in Data.

Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

A startling statistic emerged as advisers to the Food and Drug Administration debated use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in ages 5 to 11 last week. According to one federal scientist, by June, an estimated 42 percent of these children had already been infected with the coronavirus.

That figure was much higher than anyone expected. But the estimate, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, might have overstated the percentage of children who were infected, several experts said in interviews. Among other flaws, the percentage was based on tests known to have a high rate of “false positives” — signaling the presence of antibodies where there were none.

And even if unexpectedly high numbers of children have been infected, parents should not assume that they are shielded from the virus and don’t need the vaccine. Immunization will cement that protection now and against future virus variants, said Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The data are clear that even if they had been exposed in the past that they would benefit from the vaccine,” he said, speaking of children. “The risks of vaccination are very low, whereas the benefits are appreciable.”

All of the evidence so far indicates that the vaccines are far safer than a bout of Covid, even for children.

For example, although the vaccines have been associated with the rare chance of myocarditis, inflammation of the heart, in young men, the symptoms have quickly resolved in most of them. Covid is much more likely to cause myocarditis, and a much more severe version.

Over the course of the pandemic, more than 8,300 children ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized, and roughly one-third of them were admitted to intensive care units, the F.D.A. advisers were told. At least 94 children in this age group have died. Some continue to have symptoms weeks to months after the infection has resolved.

Federal agencies are continuing to collect safety information about the vaccines, Dr. Hensley noted, and will pick up any serious side effects that surface.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Around noon on Monday, thousands of city workers, many of them emergency responders, took over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan to protest the Covid vaccine mandate that would require them to get shots in a matter of days or go on unpaid leave. Vaccine opposition does not conform to a single ideology, but despite the signs in the crowd heralding the powers of “natural” immunity, this was not a convening in the name of a strange understanding of “wellness.”

The crowd was racially mixed but skewed male, and that energy — beer drinking, no masks — didn’t sit well with Gisele Delgado, who peeled off to the sidelines on Tillary Street, before the approach to the bridge. She represented a brand of vaccine resistance that suggested the complexity of the movement — a refusal that would seem to have little to do with the vaccine itself.

The mandates are partly about protecting the municipal workers and largely about protecting the collective good. The problem, of course, is a widespread disinclination to serve that good, whether it is fueled by selfishness and ignorance or the sense that one’s contributions to the commonweal have not felt adequately reciprocal. In this case, refusal becomes primarily an assertion of power, a self-interested counterpunch — the only means available to people who believe that their government has ignored them.

On the face of it, the agenda of the anti-vaccination brigade would appear to have little in common with that of another set of protesters who had settled on the Manhattan side of the bridge, in front of City Hall, for nearly a week: cabdrivers conducting a hunger strike in the hope of bringing about an end to their financial catastrophe. But the strains of grievance align in the feeling that the ruling political class has little interest in the dissenting voices of those who form the sturdiest beams of the city’s human infrastructure.

For a long time now, drivers have been fighting for a more forgiving program of debt relief to get them out from under the crisis that has left them with huge outstanding loans for taxi medallions that have collapsed in value — a crisis that has led to bankruptcies, foreclosures and suicides. And to be clear, it was a crisis that was brought about by predatory lending that the city failed to regulate, not to mention the free rein extended to Uber and Lyft.




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