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An Arizona judge on Monday voided the state’s ban on school mask mandates, in a victory for local officials who have defied Republican efforts to block such requirements around the country.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled that the Arizona legislature acted unconstitutionally in packing several budget-related bills with other issues. Therefore, she concluded, measures such as the mask mandate ban and a ban on local vaccination requirements are “void and unenforceable.”
A federal appeals court Monday made way for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to implement a vaccine mandate for all school employees, ruling against four educators who had sued to stop it.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that seemingly contradictory messaging between her agency and the Biden administration has led to confusion among physicians and patients about who should get booster shots and when.
A panel of economists has tempered its expectations for economic growth this year, citing the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, even as it projects that more robust growth will arrive by the end of 2021 and into 2022.
The White House said Monday that public health agencies such as the CDC and Food and Drug Administration will continue their work if the federal government shuts down, but that some staff and services would be cut.
Hope collides with doubt, while covid deaths soar, in the E.U.’s least-vaccinated country
KRUSHOVITSA, Bulgaria — Tucked away at the edge of a Sunday market in this rural village 100 miles north of the capital, a small team of health-care workers was trying to defy the odds.
They knew that most people in the area were skeptical of coronavirus vaccines — and some are outright hostile — but the doctor, nurses and their driver showed up for patients.
On that day, the government-sponsored mobile vaccination unit immunized about 15 people at the market, a local hub where vendors sell still-flopping fish, fresh produce and secondhand clothing. After about four hours, the crew moved on to the other villages on its route, hoping to administer another couple dozen doses.
It’s a painfully slow process — especially in the European Union’s least-vaccinated country.
All California voters will now receive a ballot mailed to them whether they request it or not, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Monday, in a move long sought by state Democrats who have argued that it will make it easier for residents to take part in future elections.
“BREAKING: California is now PERMANENTLY a vote-by-mail state,” Newsom said in a tweet after signing the measure, Assembly Bill 37. “Because we believe in making voting EASIER and for every voice to be heard.”
The legislation permanently extends vote-by-mail provisions enacted in California during the coronavirus pandemic. Those provisions were in place during the 2020 election as well as during this month’s unsuccessful campaign to recall Newsom.
Following days of what has been derided as a messy and confusing rollout of covid-19 booster shots, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged the disarray but defended the government’s process.
Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said: “I recognize that confusion” after host Margaret Brennan pointed to the disconnect between comments from President Biden — who has spoken more broadly and definitively about the need for booster shots for the wider population — and U.S. health agencies.
The Biden administration said in August that it would start offering booster shots in September. A CDC panel last week recommended that a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech only be available for older Americans and those with underlying conditions. Walensky overrode the panel, adding eligibility for people whose jobs put them at higher risk of infection.
“We are evaluating this science in real time,” Walensky said of the process to determine whether the broader population would need to receive a third shot.
Some experts have said the United States’ decision to move forward with booster shots was premature and unnecessary, citing concerns over safety. Walensky on Sunday pushed back on that, saying that “there’s extraordinary data to demonstrate the safety of these vaccines, and in fact, that they work.”
“If you’re in a high-risk position, I would absolutely recommend you get the boost,” she said.
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New York City prevails in court, allowing mandate to move forward for school employees
A federal appeals court on Monday made way for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to implement a vaccine mandate for all school employees, ruling against four educators who had sued to stop it.
The court decision marks a major victory for the nation’s largest school system, which employs 150,000 people and educates more than a million students in a city gutted by the coronavirus last year. Unlike other cities, New York City’s mandate does not allow employees to opt out if they agree to submit to regular testing.
The school district implemented a similar mandate last week, telling unvaccinated school employees and child-care workers they could no longer submit to testing if they did not want to get the vaccine.
The mandate would have required all school employees to show proof of at least one shot by midnight Monday. But on Friday, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit issued an injunction halting the mandate.
An Arizona judge has voided the state’s ban on school mask mandates.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled Monday that the state’s Republican-dominated legislature acted unconstitutionally in passing four budget-related bills, and that some or all of their provisions are therefore “void and unenforceable.” That includes H.B. 2898, which forbids school mask mandates, and S.B. 1824, which barred local requirements for vaccination against the coronavirus.
The ruling is a victory for school districts and local officials who have defied bans on mask rules in Arizona and other Republican-led states, launching ongoing court battles. Earlier this month, a federal judge declined to block a similar ban in Florida.
In Arizona, Cooper said that “budget reconciliation bills” meant to carry out the state budget were improperly packed with other issues. For instance, she said that the title of H.B. 2898 did not give proper notice that its contents would prevent public schools from requiring face masks — or that it would punish the teaching of certain concepts sometimes targeted as “critical race theory.”
“None of these measures remotely pertains to the budget or budget reconciliation,” Cooper wrote.
Plaintiffs including the Arizona School Boards Association had sued in August over four pieces of legislation.
“The issue here is not what the Legislature decided but how it decided what it did,” Cooper wrote in a 17-page ruling.
A spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey (R), CJ Karamargin, said in a statement Monday that the decision is “clearly an example of judicial overreach.”
“Further action will be taken to challenge this ruling and ensure separation of powers is maintained,” he said, denouncing a “rogue judge.”
The Arizona School Boards Association welcomed the ruling in a statement and said the case is about “local school boards being able to make the best choice for their students, staff and community.”
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A vaccine mandate fractures a state fair, leaving children as ‘pawns’
'ALBUQUERQUE — Down from the New Mexico State Fair’s glittery midway, and past the stands selling funnel cakes and turkey legs, the barns that are typically packed with animals entered in the state’s premiere youth livestock contest were quiet. Resting in pens were a sleepy pig and a few sheep there only for display, not awards.
About 200 miles southeast, hundreds of children instead gathered at a fairground with no rides and few spectators to show more than a thousand cows, pigs, sheep and goats in open-sided barns. It was an alternative livestock show quickly thrown together after families decided to boycott the state fair over a requirement that everyone over age 12 show proof of coronavirus vaccination, test or exemption to enter.
New Mexico’s state fair this year was a triumph compared to the previous — when it was staged virtually — but was also emblematic of the latest stage of a pandemic still fomenting division months after the release of vaccines that were supposed to end it. As more employers and businesses require workers and patrons to be vaccinated, resistance among a minority of Americans runs deep — even if it costs them jobs or experiences.
As customers enjoyed their Saturday afternoon at Staten Island Mall and prepared to dig in to their meals, a raucous, maskless crowd of dozens opposing New York City’s indoor vaccination mandate stormed into the food court while chanting, “U-S-A!”
Their goal: to eat at the food court without showing proof of vaccination.
“Everybody go get food and eat. That is what we’re here to do!” one woman said to the group, according to a video from freelance journalist Oliya Scootercaster. “We’re going to meet over there and go into the food court area and sit our butts down and stay as long as we like!”
WILCANNIA, Australia — In two weeks, more than one-tenth of this town of 600 people was infected with coronavirus, making it the hardest-hit place in Australia. Soon, the number of cases would approach 150, with about 90 percent of them Aboriginal people.
The remote community’s crisis reflects not only the recent collapse of “covid zero” in Australia but also the country’s historical failings.
For 18 months, state and federal leaders had been promising to protect Indigenous Australians, who have higher rates of chronic disease and shorter life expectancies.
“There has been a stunning lack of preparedness,” said Linda Burney, a federal lawmaker from the opposition Labor party who is an Aboriginal woman. “The people out there have been sitting ducks.”
Hours after President Biden received his coronavirus booster shot on camera Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he, too, has received a booster shot.
“I’m a survivor of childhood polio, from before vaccines eradicated that disease here in our country and around the world,” McConnell, 79, said in remarks on the Senate floor.
“Mountains of evidence tell us these shots are safe, effective and dramatically shrink the odds of severe disease or death from covid,” McConnell added. “Like I’ve been saying for a month, these safe and effective vaccines are the way to defend ourselves and our families from this terrible virus. They’re also how we stay on offense against covid as a country.”
He added, “All Americans should speak with their doctors and get vaccinated.”
McConnell has been a staunch supporter of the coronavirus vaccines. His vocal advocacy stands in contrast with the ambivalence toward vaccinations or outright rejection of them expressed by some other members of his party.
White House says public health work will continue if government shuts down, but some staff, services would be cut
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that public health agencies will continue their work if the federal government shuts down, but that some staff and services would be cut and that such a situation “is never a good thing.”
Psaki made the statement in response to a question at a regular news briefing on what would happen to entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration if Congress fails to pass a deal to avert a shutdown this week.
The Biden administration is “doing everything we can” to prevent a shutdown, Psaki said, but it has also begun making contingency plans.
“Most of the public health work would be exempted from a government shutdown,” she added. “But that doesn’t change the fact that having services shut down, staffing cut in different agencies, is not in the interests of addressing any crisis we face, including the pandemic.”
Psaki noted that government shutdowns “also are hugely costly.”
“They would include the cutting of staff at a range of agencies,” she said. “That’s not a positive thing, obviously.”
Covax, the global effort to secure vaccines for poor countries, aims to change the way it allots doses to ensure that highly vaccinated countries don’t benefit more than countries in need because they have larger populations, Reuters reported.
More than 1,000 robots will supplement the ranks of delivery personnel of Chinese behemoths Alibaba, Meituan and JD.com over the next year as the pandemic fuels demand for contactless services, Reuters reports.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will finally meet Tuesday with members of the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, who for more than a year have sharply criticized his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson’s Downing Street office confirmed Monday that the prime minister will hold a “private meeting” with members of the group, the Associated Press reported.
Jordan’s crown prince tests positive for coronavirus; King Abdullah enters quarantine as a precaution
The crown prince of Jordan tested positive for the coronavirus Monday, and the country’s king and queen have entered quarantine as a precaution, according to a statement by the royal family in Amman.
Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah has been vaccinated, the statement said. The 27-year-old is showing mild symptoms but was otherwise in “very good health.” His test was part of routine coronavirus screening implemented for the royal family and staff of the Royal Hashemite Court.
His parents, King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, both tested negative Monday. But the couple will isolate for five days in accordance with the palace’s coronavirus protocol, the statement said.
Hussein, who is being groomed to one day succeed his father as Jordan’s ruler, is an officer in the Jordanian military and has degrees from Georgetown University and Britain’s Sandhurst Military Academy.
In April, the royal family was enmeshed in turmoil when the government accused the king’s half brother, former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein, of scheming to destabilize the kingdom as part of an international plot. Hamzah and several other officials were arrested for activities that amounted to “promoting sedition,” according to palace sources. The prince was effectively confined to one of the family palaces. The king had replaced Hamzah as heir to the crown with his own son, Hussein. The recent intrigues are unusual for Jordan, a normally stable government considered a critical U.S. ally in the region.
As he receives booster, Biden urges vaccinations, says he’ll continue to press businesses to institute mandates
As he received his Pfizer booster shot Monday, President Biden urged Americans who haven’t gotten vaccinated to do so, and said he would continue to urge businesses to institute vaccine requirements.
“Boosters are important, but the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” Biden said in remarks at the White House before getting his shot on camera. “About 20 percent haven’t gotten any shots. And that distinct minority is causing an awful lot of us an awful lot of damage for the rest of the country.”
Biden, who is 78, joked about his inclusion in one of the categories of those eligible for the shots.
“Now, I know it doesn’t look like it, but I am over 65,” he said.
Biden relayed that he will be traveling to Chicago on Wednesday with the aim of talking “about why it’s so important that more businesses are instituting their own vaccine requirements.”
“So please, please do the right thing. Please get the shots,” Biden said, before moving over to receive his vaccination.
A short struggle ensued to roll the sleeve of his dress shirt up far enough to get the shot.
Biden fielded questions as the process unfolded, relaying that his wife, Jill, will get a booster soon and that he had suffered no side effects from his first and second shots in December and January.
Amyiah Cohoon had just gotten home from the hospital in March 2020when a sheriff’s sergeant arrived, warning of possible charges and even jail time. The high school student’s offense: posting on Instagram that she had “beaten the corona virus.”
It was early in the pandemic, and her county in Wisconsin had yet to record any cases of covid-19, court documents say. “Concerned citizens” started calling local officials.
“If [the post] doesn’t come down, the sheriff has directed me to issue disorderly conduct citations, if not start taking people to jail,” the Marquette County, Wis., sergeant told Cohoon’s father, according to dash-cam video obtained by The Washington Post. “Because it is causing a disturbance to the public.”