Live Covid News and Updates: Boosters, Mandates and More

ImageNick Rolovich coached his final game at Washington State on Saturday against Stanford.
Credit…Young Kwak/Associated Press

Washington State University fired its football coach, Nick Rolovich, and four of his assistants for failing to comply with the state’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate, the school announced on Monday.

Mr. Rolovich, the state’s highest-paid employee, applied for a religious exemption this month from the mandate, among the strictest in the country. The status of the exemption request was unclear when the firings occurred.

“This is a disheartening day for our football program,” the university’s athletic director, Pat Chun, said in a statement. “Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team.”

The school said that the team’s defensive coordinator, Jake Dickert, would become acting head coach.

Monday was the deadline Gov. Jay Inslee set for state workers to be fully vaccinated or receive a religious or medical exemption. A state agency report from earlier this month showed that about 90 percent of employees covered by the mandate had been vaccinated.

Earlier in the day, a Superior Court judge rejected a request by hundreds of public employees for a temporary injunction blocking the mandate, though their lawsuit can go forward.

Mr. Rolovich, who was in the second year of a five-year, $15.6 million contract, had become the public face of the showdown with Mr. Inslee.

As Monday approached, the drama around the deadline intensified — fueled in part by the Cougars’ three-game winning streak, which has kept them in contention for the Pac-12 Conference North Division title.

The players, who had backed Mr. Rolovich, were informed about the firings Monday night.

Credit…David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe, via Associated Press

The firing of Washington State University’s head football coach for refusing to get a Covid vaccine was the most high-profile consequence of several statewide vaccine mandates for government workers that took effect on Monday.

In Washington, Monday was the final day for more than 800,000 workers, including those at state agencies, schools and health care facilities, to prove they had been fully vaccinated against coronavirus. The mandate, issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August, is among the strictest in the country.

In Massachusetts, nearly 1,600 state executive-branch employees missed the Sunday vaccination deadline, the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Monday. These unvaccinated workers, who do not have the option to submit the regular testing instead of getting vaccinated, now face suspension and the loss of their jobs. Governor Baker does not expect to experience staffing shortages in Massachusetts, the statement said, but some politicians say requiring vaccines will strain an already stressed work force.

The governor’s executive order was unsuccessfully challenged in court by the unions representing state police troopers and state prison guards.

New Jersey’s vaccine mandate for school and state workers also took effect this week and requires employees to provide proof of vaccination or complete a Covid-19 test at least once a week. The state’s next deadline is Nov. 1, when workers at child care facilities will be required to be fully vaccinated or have regular Covid-19 tests administered.

At a news conference on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he didn’t immediately know what percentage of state employees had been vaccinated, but added, “It’s a very high percentage.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Monday that some police officers in the city were no longer receiving pay because they had not complied with requirements to get vaccinated. “The disciplinary process will proceed from there,” she said. “My understanding is it’s a very small number.”

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration is planning to allow Americans to receive a different Covid-19 vaccine as a booster than the one they initially received, a move that could reduce the appeal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and provide flexibility to doctors and other vaccinators.

The government would not recommend one shot over another, and it may note that using the same vaccine as a booster when possible is preferable, people familiar with the agency’s planning said. But vaccine providers could use their discretion to offer a different brand, a freedom that state health officials have been requesting for weeks.

The approach was foreshadowed on Friday, when researchers presented the findings of a federally funded “mix and match” study to an expert committee that advises the F.D.A. The study found that recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot who received a Moderna booster saw their antibody levels rise 76-fold in 15 days, compared with a fourfold increase after an extra dose of Johnson & Johnson.

Federal regulators this week are aiming to greatly expand the number of Americans eligible for booster shots. The F.D.A. is expected to authorize boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by Wednesday evening; it could allow the mix-and-match approach by then. The agency last month authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for at least six months after the second dose.

An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will take up the booster issue on Thursday; the agency will then issue its own recommendations. By the end of the week, tens of millions more Americans could be eligible for extra shots.

Experts emphasized last week that the new data was based on small groups of volunteers and short-term findings. The study’s researchers warned against using the findings to conclude that any one combination of vaccines was better.

Credit…John Hefti/Associated Press

The National Hockey League announced on Monday that it had suspended the San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games, without pay, for “an established violation” of the league’s Covid-19 protocol, officials said.

The announcement did not explain how Mr. Kane had violated the protocols, but several news organizations, including The Associated Press, reported that he had presented the league with false evidence of vaccination. The New York Times has not independently verified the claim.

Teams have the right to suspend and dock the salaries of unvaccinated players who are unable to play because of the protocols or local regulations.

Mr. Kane’s forfeited pay will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund, the league said in a statement, adding that he would not be eligible to play before Nov. 30.

A statement from the San Jose Sharks said the team was “disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place.”

“I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for,” Mr. Kane, who joined the league in 2009, said in a statement through the National Hockey Players’ Association. He added that he plans to continue with counseling in order “to help me make better decisions in the future.”

Mr. Kane, 30, did not play in San Jose’s season-opening game on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets. He was the Sharks’ leading scorer last season, with 22 goals.

Last week, which was the start of the league’s regular season, N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman said only four players out of about 700 had not yet received a Covid-19 vaccination.

“Our vaccination rate is incredible,” Mr. Bettman said. “Four players, not four percent of players. All of our officials are vaccinated. All of the personnel that come into contact with the players are vaccinated.”

The Sharks have already lost a coach because of vaccine-related restrictions. Rocky Thompson, the associate coach, stepped down last month. Mr. Thompson said he had a medical reason to remain unvaccinated, but the league requires vaccinations for any nonathlete whose job involves being within 12 feet of players.

Credit…Dan Himbrechts/EPA, via Shutterstock

Australia has overcome a sluggish start to its Covid vaccination campaign, inoculating more people with at least one dose as a percentage of the population than the United States, according to government figures collated by the Our World in Data project.

The country has given at least one dose to 72 percent of its population as of Tuesday, compared with 66 percent in the United States. The two have fully inoculated about 57 percent of their people, according to the data. In Israel, one of the first nations to start vaccinating people in 2020, 63 percent have received two shots.

The success of Australia’s campaign has allowed thousands of children in Sydney to return to school and state governments to announce the relaxing of borders. Australia abandoned earlier plans to eliminate the virus and shifted to vaccinating as many people as possible. In the state of Victoria, where one of the world’s longest lockdowns is set to end on Thursday, close to 90 percent of the eligible population have now had one dose.

The rollout was a “great achievement,” Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said on Friday. It was also, he added, “allowing Australians to start reclaiming so many of the things that have been taken from them throughout this pandemic.”

When 80 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated nationwide, Mr. Morrison has said the country will begin to reopen its international borders, closed since March 2020, to the world.

Credit…Nate Palmer for The New York Times

Dr. Rachel Levine, who has helped lead the nation’s coronavirus response as President Biden’s assistant secretary for health and made history as the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate, has a new title: Admiral.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday morning that Dr. Levine has been sworn in as a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which she already leads in her role as assistant secretary.

Admiral Levine is the first female four-star admiral in the history of the corps, a uniformed service of more than 6,000 health, science and engineering professionals who work in federal agencies and on the front lines of health crises and natural disasters. She is also the first openly transgender person to become a four-star officer in any of the nation’s eight uniformed services.

As assistant health secretary, Admiral Levine has a broad portfolio that also includes addressing racial disparities in health and the effects of climate change on health.

In a brief interview, she said joining the corps and wearing the uniform of a public health service officer was “consistent with my thoughts about service” and her desire to be a role model and advocate for transgender people, especially transgender youth.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

After Sofia Kravetskaya got vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine last December, she became a pariah on the Moscow playground where she takes her young daughter.

“When I mentioned I volunteered in the trials and I got my first shot, people started running away from me,” she said. “They believed that if you were vaccinated, the virus is inside you and you’re contagious.”

For Ms. Kravetskaya, 36, the reaction reflected the prevalent mistrust in the Russian authorities that has metastasized since the pandemic began last year. That skepticism, pollsters and sociologists say, is the main reason only one third of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, despite the availability of free inoculations.

The reluctance to get vaccinated is producing an alarming surge, experts say. On Saturday, Russia exceeded 1,000 deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time since the pandemic began. (Britain, with a little less than half the population, had 57 deaths in a recent 24-hour period.) On Monday, Russia broke another record with more than 34,000 new infections registered in the previous 24 hours.

Only about 42 million of Russia’s 146 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said last week, a rate well below the United States and most countries in the European Union.

But even with a record-breaking death toll, the government has imposed few restrictions, and its vaccination campaign has floundered, sociologists say, because of a combination of apathy and mistrust.

Credit…Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Some of the world’s most isolated and smallest nations, by both population and land mass, have achieved some of the highest rates of vaccination against the coronavirus.

The Pacific island nation of Palau, an archipelago of hundreds of islands with a population of around 17,600 people that sits due east of the Philippines, has now vaccinated 92 percent of its population, according to government data. That equates to 99 percent of those eligible, a spokeswoman from the Pacific office of the Red Cross said, placing Palau ahead of any other country in the world.

New Zealand has played a critical role in helping neighboring Pacific island nations with their vaccine programs, supplying doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines to the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau and Tuvalu.

The Cook Islands, a self-governing associated state of New Zealand, had as of last month vaccinated almost 100 percent of people aged over 16, according to its government, and is now inoculating ages 12 to 15. Its neighbor Niue, which has a population of about 2,000 and a similar relationship to New Zealand, had as of July vaccinated more than 97 percent of adults. Both countries are using only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Nauru, an independent island state north of Australia, in four weeks vaccinated more eligible people than were recorded in its 2019 census — about 6,800 — with supply donated by Australia, according to the country’s Bureau of Statistics.

Most of these nations closed their borders early in the pandemic, favoring a total pause on tourism rather than risking the strain of an outbreak on often basic health systems. The Cook Islands has reported no cases in the community since the pandemic began, for example. A quarantine-free travel tunnel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand has been closed since August, because of an outbreak of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus in New Zealand.

Other Pacific countries have contended with challenging outbreaks of the coronavirus. Fiji, with a population of around 900,000, was pummeled by the Delta variant earlier this year, with ​​a total of 663 deaths from the virus. The country has now vaccinated 77 percent of the eligible population, and intends to reopen its borders to fully vaccinated tourists on Dec. 1.

Not every Pacific island nation has had such ample supply of a vaccine, however, while others have had to contend with extreme vaccine hesitancy. In Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, both of which are using the Sinopharm vaccine provided by China, less than 10 percent of the population is vaccinated, while in Papua New Guinea, around 1 percent of the population have received two doses of a vaccine.

Credit…Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

The global economy’s setback from the pandemic is expected to largely stabilize by the end of next year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday, with most major economies returning to a prepandemic growth path by 2025 at the latest.

But the rebound could be delayed if the pandemic drives a retreat from globalization, the organization said, as governments and business leaders begin to question whether global supply chains have been stretched too far. And governments must begin taking action to reduce the towering amounts of debt left behind by stimulus measures.

“Long-run scenarios assume no lingering growth effects” on the global economy beyond 2022, the organization said in a new report on the fiscal outlook through 2060. But that could turn out “to be an optimistic assumption if, for instance, the pandemic ushers in a de-globalisation trend.”

Businesses of all sizes have been facing delays, product shortages and rising costs linked to disruptions in the global supply chain. The pandemic has starkly revealed the dependence that Western nations in particular have on foreign supplies as diverse as medical equipment and semiconductors.

Policymakers in the United States, Europe and other nations are increasingly examining whether production should be brought back home to address national security and public health concerns. Such a shift, if it takes hold, could lead to a decline in labor productivity growth over time, the organization noted.

Countries are grappling with large holes in their finances as governments borrowed heavily during the pandemic from central banks and spent enormous sums to support businesses and individuals from the economic ravages of virus-induced lockdowns.

The national debt of major countries will balloon next year by as much as 25 percentage points of their gross domestic product because of pandemic-related effects, the report said. Most central banks have lent the money at ultra-low rates, so the interest payments that governments owe are manageable, assuming they are continuously rolled over, the O.E.C.D. report said.

Even so, nearly all of the 35 countries that are members of the organization, including United States and European nations, will need to rein in spending and start collecting more revenue for national coffers within the next couple of years if they are to stabilize the share of public debt over the long term, the report said.

The organization said it was not recommending that governments raise taxes to make up for all the shortfall. But the analysis in the report showed that all O.E.C.D. governments would need to raise taxes to prevent gross government debt ratios from rising over time.

And despite the financial burden brought on by emergency government spending during the pandemic, the direct fiscal impact pales in comparison to looming long-term expenses like funding pensions and health services as societies age, the organization said.

Unless governments start reducing their debt, “population aging and the rising relative price of public services will keep adding fiscal pressure onto O.E.C.D. countries in the decades ahead,” the report concluded.

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