Biden Mourns 700,000 Deaths; Alaska Crisis Deepens: Virus Update
President Joe Biden marked the “painful milestone” of 700,000 U.S. deaths from Covid-19, saying it’s a reminder for Americans to get vaccinated. His chief of staff said vaccine mandates are working.
The only non-military hospital in Alaska’s interior moved to “crisis standards,” which allows for rationing of medical care in what is now the U.S. state hardest hit by the virus.
U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid told care home workers they needed to get vaccinated or find another job. Singapore is shortening the quarantine period for travelers entering the city-state in its latest move to reopen its borders.
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Biden Mourns 700,000 Deaths, Urges Vaccination (3:29 p.m. NY)
President Joe Biden marked the “painful milestone” of 700,000 U.S. deaths from Covid-19, saying it’s a reminder for Americans to get vaccinated. He said “we must not become numb to the sorrow.”
“On this day, and every day, we remember all those we have lost to this pandemic and we pray for their loved ones left behind who are missing a piece of their soul,” Biden said in a statement. “As we do, the astonishing death toll is yet another reminder of just how important it is to get vaccinated.”
Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, focused on what he said are the practical benefits of vaccine mandates, which are coming into effect around the U.S. He tweeted a list of nursing homes in New York and how mandates had prompted almost full compliance.
Romanians Protest New Restrictions (2:32 p.m. NY)
Thousands of protesters marched in Romania’s capital against new restrictions amid a surge in infections that reached a record on Saturday, the Associated Press reported.
As intensive-care units reach capacity, the country will require masking in public, cut restaurant capacity in half and close stores at 10 p.m.
Protesters in Bucharest, organized by the far-right AUR party, blocked traffic and said proof-of-vaccination certificates were signs of dictatorship. Romania has one of Europe’s lowest vaccination rates, with almost 29% of people receiving at least one dose. That compares with an EU average of 67.7%, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
U.K. Gives Care Home Workers Ultimatum (12:47 p.m. NY)
U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid told care home workers they needed to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or find another job. The government has given care home workers until Nov. 11 to get the vaccine or risk losing their jobs.
In an interview with the BBC’s Radio 4, Javid said he wasn’t prepared to “pause” the requirement, adding that if you work in a care home and “cannot be bothered to go and get vaccinated, then get out and go and get another job.” Nadra Ahmed, National Care Association chairman, told the BBC her organization was making progress in convincing workers to get vaccinated.
Currently about 86% of care home workers have gotten the shot. That’s more than twice the 40% who said they planned to get the vaccine last November. Without an extension to the deadline, the consequences for care homes will be severe, she told the BBC.
Alaska Hospital Moves Toward Rationing Care (11:48 a.m. NY)
The only non-military hospital in Alaska’s interior moved on Friday to “crisis standards,” which allows for rationing of medical care. Overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients and further hampered by staffing and supply shortages, Foundation Health Partners in Fairbanks is at least the third hospital in Alaska to move to crisis standards, allowed by the state last month as Alaska became a hot spot for infection by the delta variant.
“The move to crisis standards of care is not something we take lightly,” Chief Medical Officer Angelique Ramirez said in a press release Friday afternoon. “This is in response to a very serious surge of Covid in our community.”
Alaska has by far the highest rate per capita of Covid-19 infections in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
D.C. Health Workers Claim Religious Objection (10:45 a.m. NY)
Almost 2,500 health-care workers in Washington, D.C. remain unvaccinated, and almost three quarters of them are requesting religious exemptions, the Washington Post reported.
Thursday was the deadline for tens of thousands of the capital’s health workers to have received a first dose under a city mandate that also covers public employees. The mandate does not allow health-care workers the alternative of regular testing.
Shot Mandates Vs. Health-Care Staff Shortage (9 a.m. NY)
What some are calling the worst U.S. health-care labor crisis in memory is sharpening concerns about attrition from resistance to vaccine mandates -- even in the medical mecca of Massachusetts, where Covid cases remain well within hospital capacity. About 16% of American hospitals had critical staffing shortages as of Oct. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Chinese Town Faces Virus Risks From Myanmar (8:17 a.m. NY)
China’s southwest border town of Ruili is under increasing pressure from expatriates wanting to return from neighbor Myanmar, where a coronavirus outbreak is spreading, The Paper reported.
Singapore Eases Arrivals (6:32 a.m. NY)
Arriving travelers from certain regions will need to spend 10 days in isolation starting Oct. 7, instead of 14 days currently, officials told reporters in a briefing on Saturday. Those quarantine rules apply to so-called category III countries, which among others, currently include Japan and France, as well as higher-risk category IV countries like the U.S. and the U.K.
Russia Records 11-Week High (5:34 a.m. NY)
The country registered 25,219 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the largest daily number since July 16, the government’s task force in charge of fighting the illness said by email.
World Bank Approves $400 Million Credit to Nigeria (3:45 a.m. NY)
Nigeria won approval for $400 million additional financing from the World Bank to buy Covid-19 vaccines for about 40 million people.
“This additional funding would ensure that the Nigerian government has the necessary financial resources to keep its vaccination drive going. This would mean that Nigerians will have increased access to the Covid-19 vaccination,” Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said in a statement.
So far, nearly seven million doses of various vaccines have been administered to Nigerians, with less than two million people fully vaccinated. Africa’s most populous nation plans to vaccinate of 40% its citizens by the end of this year and another 30% by the end of next year.
Merck’s Pill Raises Hopes for Developing World (3:22 a.m. NY)
As Merck & Co. races ahead with an experimental pill that could play a pivotal role in the fight against Covid-19, efforts are intensifying to bring the drug to developing countries that have struggled to vaccinate their populations.
The global health agency Unitaid and its partners hope to reach an agreement as soon as next week to secure the first supplies of the antiviral treatment for lower- and middle-income nations, Philippe Duneton, its executive director, said in an interview. Unitaid has been in discussions with the company and generic manufacturers, he said.
Singapore Dormitories Hit by New Clusters (12:49 p.m. HK)
Singapore again reported a sharp increase of coronavirus infections in foreign worker dormitories as it seeks to tamp down rising case numbers that have pushed deaths from the pandemic to a record level.
The city-state’s Ministry of Health said that eight people had died on Friday from Covid-19, matching Wednesday’s toll -- the highest daily fatality rate since the pandemic began.
The mounting death count and worsening caseload are likely to test the government’s resolve to reopen. Infections among foreign workers almost doubled to 818 on Friday from a day earlier, with eight clusters reported at dormitories housing workers from abroad.
Hong Kong Overtakes U.S. in Vaccinations (12:24 p.m. HK)
Hong Kong has fully vaccinated 55.8% of its population against Covid-19, surpassing the U.S., but has yet to announce plans to reopen its borders.
The Asian financial hub has administered almost 8.7 million shots from BioNTech and Sinovac Biotech, after high levels of vaccine hesitancy initially curbed demand for the inoculations. Hong Kong has maintained a Covid Zero approach since the start of the pandemic, with no local outbreaks reported for more than three months. That reduced the urgency, for many, of getting shots.
Australia’s Victoria State Reports Record Cases (11 a.m. HK)
Australia’s Victoria state hit a record 1,488 new Covid-19 cases, topping 1,438 from just two days ago. Two people died.
“It’s another challenging day, the highest daily number of Covid cases we have seen, and the largest number of active cases we have seen at any one time in Victoria,” the state’s Covid-19 Response Commander Jeroen Weimar said at a news conference.
New South Wales continued to see its case load decline, with 813 infections, down from 864 on Friday. There were 10 deaths.
Thailand’s Daily Death Count Drops to Two-Month Low (8:53 a.m. HK)
Thailand reported 87 Covid deaths in the past 24 hours on Saturday, the lowest single-day tally since July 26 as it continued to see a steady decline in the number of critical patients and active cases. Cumulative fatalities rose 16,937, with almost 90% of them in the past three months, official data showed. The country also reported 11,375 confirmed infections and 13,127 recoveries on Saturday.
American Airlines Says All U.S. Employees Must Be Vaccinated (8:33 a.m. HK)
American Airlines Group said all of its U.S.-based employees and certain international crew members must be vaccinated, without the provision of a regular testing alternative, in order to comply with the federal vaccine mandate on government contractors.
Employees who choose to remain unvaccinated won’t be able to work at the airline, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said in a memo to employees. Those who can’t be vaccinated because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief can request an accommodation.
Indonesia Eyes 10,000-Strong Event in Test of Life With Virus (8 a.m. HK)
As many as 10,000 people are expected to attend the opening ceremony of Indonesia’s first big sports event since its worst outbreak -- a test of the country’s strategy of living with the virus.
The national sporting week called PON will start Saturday at the newly renovated stadium in the eastern city of Jayapura, with the maximum capacity set at 25%, according to a domestic affairs ministry decree. Spectators must be tested before attending, wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Argentina to Give Kids 3-11 Chinese Shot (5:44 a.m. HK)
Argentina will begin vaccinating children ages 3 to 11 with Sinopharm Group’s shot, according to President Alberto Fernandez’s office. The nation is planning to inoculate all residents over 3 by the end of the year.
Sotomayor Won’t to Halt NYC School Mandate (5:23 a.m. HK)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request by four New York City teachers and staff to lift the city’s new requirement that school employees be vaccinated.
Sotomayor, who is assigned to consider emergency requests out of the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, made no comment. Her rejection leaves open the possibility the challengers can refile the request with another justice, who could then refer the matter to the full, nine-member court.
U.S. Surpasses 700,000 Deaths (3:20 p.m. NY)
The U.S. surpassed 700,000 fatalities from Covid-19, a milestone marked by the spread of the delta variant as well as readily available vaccines that largely prevent serious illness and death. Health experts and the Biden administration blame this latest surge on the tens of millions of Americans who have declined vaccination.
U.S. to Weigh Boosters, Kids’ Shots (2:52 p.m. NY)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers will meet this month in separate sessions to discuss booster doses for recipients of the Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines and Pfizer Inc. shots for kids ages 5 to 11.
The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee of outside experts will meet Oct. 14 and 15 to discuss boosters for Moderna and J&J shots, the agency said in a statement Friday.
California to Mandate Shots for Schoolchildren (1:21 p.m. NY)
California will mandate Covid-19 vaccines for children attending school once the shots are federally approved for their age groups, becoming the first state to require the inoculations in classrooms.
The mandate, which follows similar actions by several school districts in the most-populous U.S. state, will be implemented in phases for grades 7 to 12 and kindergarten to sixth grade. California anticipates that the requirement will kick in for the older students on July 1, 2022.
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