Supreme Court justices were due to hear oral arguments on Friday on two major rules issued by President Joe Biden that require COVID-19 vaccines for people in large companies and most healthcare workers.
Challenges from states and Republican-led business groups have thrown the two vaccine mandates, which affect more than 80 million people, into limbo. A rule, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires vaccination or weekly testing for companies with 100 or more employees. The other requires health care workers in facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding to get immunized.
The rule for businesses was supposed to go into effect on Monday, but OSHA said fines would not be imposed until the end of February. The health care rule had been blocked in about half of the states.
The arguments will be the first time High Court judges have heard cases regarding the administration’s vaccine policies. He previously ended the federal moratorium on evictions in place due to the pandemic.
Also in the news:
► The United States averages more than 600,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day, according to a USA TODAY analysis by Johns Hopkins. The average day now has more than twice as many cases as the highest week in previous waves of coronavirus.
► Chicago public schools were closed again for a third day on Friday as the city and district teachers’ union remains deadlocked over COVID-19 safety rules. A small number of schools may have in-person learning and activities depending on the number of staff who show up for work, the school district said in a message to parents on Thursday.
► Several Canadian airlines are refusing to bring a group of passengers home after filming themselves partying without a mask last week on a Sunwing chartered flight. The video prompted the airline to cancel the group’s return flight due to public backlash, and the group is stranded in Cancun.
► COVID-19 indicators for New Hampshire rose sharply last week after three weeks of steady declines. The number of new cases per day is now almost double what it was at the peak of the first wave at the end of 2020.
► Alaska Airlines is cutting its remaining flight schedule by 10% in January as it continues to tackle COVID-19 employee shortages and recent inclement weather.
??The numbers of the day: The United States has recorded more than 58 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 833,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: Over 300 million cases and 5.4 million deaths. More than 207 million Americans – 62.4% – are fully immunized, according to the CDC.
??What we read: A new study indicates that the technology used in mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 could also be used in the treatment of heart disease, offering hope to millions of people.
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Peru reports death from ‘flurona’: what you need to know about co-infection
Peru has reported a death from “flurona”, a co-infection of the coronavirus and influenza, Peruvian newspaper El Comercio reported Thursday. The death occurred in an 87-year-old man with comorbidities who had not been vaccinated against the flu or COVID-19, the newspaper reported.
While co-infections involving influenza are rarer than other viruses, health experts still expect “flurona” cases to increase as peak influenza activity in the United States approaches. .
It is not known whether “flurona” causes more serious illness, but vaccination against both viruses may help provide protection, according to health experts. In general, people who are immunocompromised and young children, whose immune systems are unfamiliar with many common viruses, are at greater risk of co-infections. Read more about Flurona here.
– Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 delayed vaccine for younger children
Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine will not be available anytime soon for children under 5.
In early testing, the lower dose given to children 2 to 5 years old did not produce as much immune protection as injections given to other age groups, a Pfizer scientist said on Wednesday in an interview. meeting of the Federal Advisory Committee, developing the information provided. at the end of last year.
The company hopes that a third dose of vaccine eight weeks after the first two injections will provide the desired efficacy, said Dr Alejandra Gurtman, vice president of clinical vaccine research and development at Pfizer, in a statement. Immunization Practices Advisory Committee meeting.
But that does mean waiting until the end of March or early April for results, she said, allowing time for the children in the trial to receive a third injection and then test their immune responses.
“It could be a three-dose vaccine,” Gurtman said, adding that Pfizer-BioNTech was also testing a third dose in children aged 5 to 12.
The vaccine has been shown to be safe in young children, she said, as it was for older children and adults.
Boosters Offer “Powerful” Protection Against Omicron, Study Says
New evidence underscores the importance of boosters against omicron, with an mRNA vaccine booster offering the best protection against the rapidly spreading variant.
People who received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series and then a booster got a “potent” neutralization against omicron, according to an article published Thursday in the journal Cell.
The initial two-dose vaccine regimen did not produce antibodies capable of fully recognizing and neutralizing the omicron variant, the researchers found. But they noted that although omicron is more successful in overcoming the immunity created by the vaccine, people with breakthrough cases have milder illness, potentially due to the long-term immunity created by their initial vaccination.
“Even though antibodies cannot prevent us from getting infected with omicron, other aspects of the immune response can keep us from getting very sick,” said Alejandro Balazs, who studies how to develop immunity against them. infectious diseases at the Ragon Institute and is the lead author of the article. Read more here.
– Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
WHO: record number of cases worldwide, but fewer deaths
The World Health Organization said on Thursday the world reported a record 9.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the past week, a 71% increase from the previous week.
But unlike the rapid increase in the number of cases, which the WHO has likened to a “tsunami,” the number of deaths reported each week has declined.
“Last week, the highest number of COVID-19 cases were reported so far in the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He added that the WHO was certain it was an underestimate due to a delay in testing around the year-end vacation.
The United Nations health agency said the weekly number of COVID-19 cases reached 9,520,488 new cases. 41,178 deaths were recorded last week, up from 44,680 the previous week.
Mayo Clinic fires 700 workers who missed vaccination mandate deadline
The Mayo Clinic, one of the best healthcare systems in the United States, laid off 700 employees this week who failed to meet the organization’s mandate to get vaccinated on Monday, January 3.
Mayo said workers would lose their jobs if they didn’t meet the company’s deadline, which was to either receive a dose of the vaccine or be late for a second dose. Mayo said he granted the majority of medical and religious exemption requests, according to the New York Times.
Last summer, New York state imposed the vaccination mandate on healthcare workers, which allows medical exemptions, but not those based on religious objections.
In October 2021, New York health care provider Northwell Health announced that 1,400 employees would quit their jobs after refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
New York health care workers have filed a lawsuit, claiming in a lawsuit that the lack of a religious exemption violates their First Amendment right to practice religion. But in December, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the state’s tenure to continue without religious exemptions.
Contributor: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press