Covid Live Updates: U.S. Vaccine Mandates Face Early Test in N.Y.


ImageCovid Live Updates: U.S. Vaccine Mandates Face Early Test in N.Y.
Governor Kathy Hochul of New York leaving after speaking at a service in Brooklyn on Sunday.Credit...Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Tens of thousands of health care workers in New York appeared to be risking their jobs by defying the state mandate to receive a dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Monday, setting up an early test for similar employer mandates across the United States.

Gov. Kathy C. Hochul’s success at enforcing the mandate could shape how other states proceed, as President Biden pushes for every person working in a health care setting to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

In New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon and the District of Columbia, health care workers must get vaccinated to remain employed. In California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Illinois, workers have the option to be tested regularly if they choose not to get inoculated.

But resistance to vaccine mandates has so far stopped most states from threatening to fire unvaccinated workers, even though employers (or state governments, in their capacity as employers) are legally allowed to require workers to get vaccinated, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

New York’s mandate and the state’s refusal to allow religious exemptions are the subject of at least two lawsuits. A vaccine mandate for the more than 150,000 adults working at New York City’s public schools was delayed by a federal appeals court on Friday.

Many of New York’s health care workers have resisted the order for fear of potential side effects from the vaccines, or challenged it because they say it violates their personal freedom. Covid vaccines have proven to be highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections, severe illness and death, and side effects tend to be short-lived.

New York officials are bracing for the likelihood of staffing disruptions at health care facilities. Ms. Hochul said on Friday that she might declare a state of emergency and deploy National Guard troops, or even recruit temporary workers from the Philippines or Ireland to replace unvaccinated health care workers.

Ms. Hochul has said she intends to seek election to a full term as governor in 2022. While she has been in office for just over a month, taking over after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned, she faced her first crisis earlier this month when Hurricane Ida’s downpours led to at least 15 deaths in the state. The pushback over the vaccine mandate is likely to be her next major test.

Deborah Conrad is one of many medical workers facing a choice between getting vaccinated or losing her job.Credit...Malik Rainey for The New York Times

Some workers in New York are prepared to lose their jobs rather than meet Monday’s state deadline for health care workers to get vaccinated.

In defying the order, they are resisting a step that public-health experts say is critical to save lives and end the pandemic, and their recalcitrance embodies a conundrum facing New York.

Experts have called the mandate a clear-cut way for health care workers to prevent new waves of the virus from spreading, and to persuade doubters to get vaccinated. And health systems say the plan is crucial to keeping patients and staff safe.

Westchester Medical Center Health Network, where 94 percent of the systems’s 12,000 workers are vaccinated, called the mandate “a critical part of upholding our mission,” in a statement on Sunday.

But a vocal minority working within the health care system are themselves skeptics, and some have imperiled the plan, even fighting the mandate in court.

They see their work as a badge of credibility, and the order from their bosses and the state to make a choice — get vaccinated or get fired — as a betrayal.

The dispute is dividing hospitals, where most workers are vaccinated and want their colleagues to be. The nurses’ union supports the mandate — some 95 percent of members are already vaccinated — even as some members complain its rollout was too rushed. But unions representing support workers, including nurses’ aides, orderlies, cafeteria workers and others, have opposed it. If many of those workers leave or are fired, their duties could fall to already taxed nurses.

The disagreement is also testing government’s power to mandate compliance with public-health measures; New York’s mandate and the state’s refusal to allow religious exemptions are the subject of at least two lawsuits.

Still, staff members choosing to exit their jobs because of the mandate could also create immediate practical challenges: Many nurses and other health workers are burned out or traumatized from the pandemic’s strain; others have been lured by high salaries to become “travel nurses,” crisscrossing the country to fill emergency staffing gaps.

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An observation area for people who just received a Covid-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic in Sydney, Australia, this month.Credit...Dan Himbrechts/EPA, via Shutterstock

Three months after Australia’s biggest city locked down to contain its latest coronavirus outbreak, the authorities have outlined a path to reopening. If it reaches a series of milestones in vaccination rates, Sydney will see restrictions start to lift in early October, with the aim of returning to normal life by December.

The city’s five million residents will begin to emerge from lockdown on Oct. 11, Gladys Berejiklian, premier of the state of New South Wales, said on Monday. That is the date by which officials expect to have vaccinated 70 percent of the state’s population over the age of 16, she said. Residents of Sydney, as well as some parts of rural New South Wales still under lockdown, will once again be able to go to hairdressers and attend weddings, funerals and small gatherings.

By late October, when 80 percent of the state is projected to be fully vaccinated, Sydney residents will be able to drink standing up in restaurants and bars, and attend larger events. Unvaccinated people will still be barred from those activities, officials said, but they will be able to attend places of worship. And New South Wales will allow more Australians stranded overseas to return.

On Dec. 1, most venues including cinemas, nightclubs and museums will reopen, masks will no longer be mandatory indoors and restrictions will be lifted for unvaccinated residents. Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city, is set to start emerging from lockdown on Oct. 26, when 70 percent of residents aged over 16 are expected to be fully vaccinated.

Nationwide, 41 percent of Australia’s population is fully vaccinated and 63 percent have had at least one dose.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that before the end of the year, he expects to reopen the border to foreign visitors and allow Australians to travel abroad again.

At Mount Everest base camp in Nepal in May.Credit...Prakash Mathema/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Nepal has reopened to tourists in a bid to revive an industry battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government began offering visas to foreigners who land at Kathmandu airport last week, said Narayan Prasad Bhattarai, director general of the immigration department. Vaccinated tourists and those with negative PCR tests will no longer have to quarantine in hotels, he said.

The decision has lifted the hopes of tourism operators and Nepalis who saw the pandemic decimate their livelihoods. More than a million people in Nepal work in the trekking and climbing industry, which brings about $2 billion a year into one of Asia’s smallest and poorest nations. Climbers spend tens of thousands of dollars each to attempt to scale one of the eight peaks in Nepal above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet).

Trekking regions, including Mount Everest, emptied out at the start of the pandemic as Nepal canceled all expeditions. The country then introduced mandatory quarantines and stopped issuing visas at the airport. Companies laid off workers, and sherpa guides were forced to return to their villages in the mountains, many growing potatoes to make their living.

This spring, Nepal allowed expeditions for some mountains, including Everest. Large outbreaks at the base camp marred the attempts, leading some climbers to abandon their efforts.

Tourism entrepreneurs were elated by the recent government decision. “It will certainly take some time to return to normalcy,” said Samsher Parajuli, managing director of Global Holidays Adventure Nepal. “Nevertheless, this is a good decision to save the tourism industry.”

Nepal, a country of 30 million people, has fully vaccinated just 21 percent of its population, and is adding fewer than 900 new infections a day, according to health ministry statistics. Although the authorities say that the virus’s spread is under control for now, they have asked people to follow health protocols and social distancing to avoid outbreaks during religious festivals.

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The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles last week.Credit...Mario Tama/Getty Images

For months, the world economy has expanded at a torrid pace, as industries that were shut down in the pandemic reopened. While that process is hardly complete — numerous industries are still functioning below their prepandemic levels — further healing appears likely to be more gradual, and in some ways more difficult.

Reopening restaurants and performance arenas is one thing. Fixing extraordinary backups in shipping networks and shortages of semiconductors, among the most vivid examples of supply shortages, is harder.

And a range of risks, including the hard-to-predict dynamics of coronavirus variants, could throw this transition to a healthy post-pandemic economy off course.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last week projected that the world economy would grow 4.5 percent in 2022, downshifting from an expected 5.7 percent expansion in 2021. Its forecast for the United States shows an even steeper slowdown, from 6 percent growth this year to 3.9 percent next.

Of course, a year of 3.9 percent G.D.P. growth would be nothing to scoff at — that would be much faster growth than the United States has experienced for most of the 21st century. But it would represent a resetting of the economy.

After the global financial crisis of 2008-9, the great challenge for the recovery was a shortfall of demand. Workers and productive capacity were abundant, but there was inadequate spending in the economy to put that capacity to work.

Now there is plenty of demand — thanks to pent-up savings, trillions of dollars in federal stimulus dollars and rapidly rising wages — but companies report struggles to find enough workers and raw materials to meet that demand.

Dozens of container ships are backed up at Southern California ports, waiting their turn to unload products meant to fill American store shelves through the holiday season. Automakers have had to idle plants because of semiconductor shortages. Builders have had a hard time obtaining windows, appliances and other key products needed to complete new homes. And restaurants have cut back hours for lack of kitchen help.

These strains are, in effect, acting as a brake that slows the expansion. The question is how much, and for how long, that brake will be applied.