GOP embraces natural immunity as substitute for vaccines
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republicans fighting President Joe Biden's coronavirus vaccine mandates are wielding a new weapon against the White House rules: natural immunity. They contend that people who have recovered from the virus have enough immunity and antibodies to not need COVID-19 vaccines, and the concept has been invoked by Republicans as a sort of stand-in for vaccines. Florida wrote natural immunity into state law this week as GOP lawmakers elsewhere are pushing similar measures to sidestep vaccine mandates. Lawsuits over the mandates have also begun leaning on the idea.
Spurred by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, new cases of COVID-19 have risen in the U.S. by 170 percent over the last two weeks. Accompanying that rise, which is expected to continue to worsen heading into the fall, a slew of new vaccine mandates are being enacted across the country.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday that it will require 115,000 of its frontline health care workers to be vaccinated over the next two months.
“Yes, Veterans Affairs is going to in fact require that all docs working in facilities are going to have to be vaccinated,” President Biden told reporters Monday in the Oval Office.
Washington Nationals sued by ex-employees over vaccine firing
The Washington Nationals are being sued by two former employees who were fired for refusing to comply with the team’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Lawrence (Larry) Pardo and Brad Holman were pitching coaches in the Nats’ organization. The two refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons and were fired by the Nats as a result. The team instituted a mandate on Aug. 12 that went into effect on Sept. 10, leading to the firing of both men.Now the two have filed a lawsuit against the club, TMZ Sports reports.
With less than 50 percent of the U.S. population having been fully inoculated against COVID-19, several hospital systems nationwide have instituted similar policies requiring employees to be vaccinated or face termination.
Many of the recent policy changes have been driven by local governments at the city, county and state level.
Earlier this month, San Francisco issued a new policy requiring city employees to be vaccinated.
“To protect the health and safety of all City employees and the public, the City has implemented a new Vaccination Policy,” the policy states.
“The policy requires that all City employees: 1. Report their vaccination status, including verification documents, by July 29, 2021. 2. Be fully vaccinated and report that vaccination status to the City no later than 10 weeks after the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) gives final approval to at least one COVID-19 vaccine. Per the July 8, 2021 Health Order, City employees working in high-risk settings are required to be fully vaccinated by September 15th, 2021, regardless of whether the FDA has given final approval to a vaccine by that date.”
Nu B.1.1.529 COVID Variant Possibly 500 Percent More Infectious Than Delta
The new variant has more than double the number of "bad spike mutations" compared to the highly transmissible Delta variant, a scientist has warned.The new variant is thought to have 32 mutations in its spike protein and is feared to be able to bypass vaccines and immunity gained from being infected before. The B.1.1.529 variant that first emerged in southern Africa, has been detected in Belgium, South Africa, Hong Kong and Israel. The variant has been described as "the worst one we've seen so far" and scientists are concerned about it spreading.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has also pushed local businesses to issue their own vaccination requirements.
San Francisco is requiring City employees to be vaccinated in order to protect the public health of our employees and the residents we serve.
I applaud the businesses that are stepping up to do the same with their employees. We need widespread vaccinations to end this pandemic. https://t.co/RuSrcild9O
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) July 22, 2021
On Monday, the state of California followed San Francisco’s lead, releasing a new policy that requires state employees to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or undergo weekly testing for the virus starting Aug. 2.
NEW: CA will have the strongest state vaccine verification system in the US and will require state employees & healthcare workers to provide proof of vaccination—or get tested regularly.
President Biden Warns New Omicron COVID Variant 'Spreads Rapidly,' Urges Booster Shots
"Get your booster shot now, so you can have this additional protection during the holiday season," Biden urged fully vaccinated Americans on Friday."We don't know a lot about the variant, except that it is of great concern. It seems to spread rapidly," Biden told reporters in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on Friday, according to CBS News.
We’re experiencing a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Everyone that can get vaccinated—should.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) July 26, 2021
Since the start of July, the number of new daily reported cases of COVID-19 has exploded in the nation’s largest state, going from 700 new cases on July 3 to nearly 9,000 reported last Friday.
Video: Should vaccinated people be concerned about the delta variant? (NBC News)
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a similar policy on Monday for his city that requires all New York City municipal workers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests. The policy will affect approximately 300,000 workers in New York and will take effect on Sept. 13.
While it is largely up to private businesses to decide whether to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from customers, more and more companies and business owners are now grappling with the decision to impose restrictions in the wake of the spike in new infections thanks to the Delta variant.
Private companies must require vaccines for workers. It's the only way to get past COVID.
Biden and the US government are limited by politics and unclear authority. But private vaccine mandates are legal, ethical and, above all, effective.The unfortunate consequence is that the highly transmissible delta variant is causing surges in cases, hospitalizations and even deaths throughout the country, particularly in spots with low vaccination rates.
#BREAKING: Group representing 500 bars in #SanFrancisco will require proof of vaccination or negative test to enter inside establishments given the rise in COVID cases. @kron4newspic.twitter.com/VE8ZvOYxEP
— Taylor Bisacky (@TaylorBisackyTV) July 26, 2021
Yet a political divide has taken hold across America, with Republican-led states like Florida having instituted policies that bar “vaccine passports” that offer proof of inoculations, as well as mask mandates. Last week Florida led the nation in new COVID-19 cases, reporting 73,181 over a seven-day period. Florida also reported 319 deaths from the disease last week, the highest number of any state. Hospitalizations are also up dramatically there.
Orange County, Fla., Mayor Jerry Demings told reporters Monday that his county was now back in the same dire condition it was in during the height of the pandemic last fall.
“Those are the numbers we saw at the highest peak last year. A thousand a day is extraordinary. We are now in crisis mode,” he said.
Dr. Raul Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, noted that all of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the county on Friday were unvaccinated.
“On Friday, [there] was 1,031 cases. On Friday, those cases, no one was vaccinated — not a single person,” Pino said.
The Latest: Local transmission of virus variant in Scotland
LONDON -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is evidence of local transmission of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus after the country reported its first six cases. She told a news conference that not all the cases in Scotland had links to recent travel, adding that this suggests “there might already be some community transmission of this variant in Scotland.” The new cases takes the U.K.’s total to nine after three cases were identified in England over the weekend.The arrival of the variant on British shores prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten restrictions on mask-wearing and testing of international arrivals to England.
Public health experts estimate that at least 70 percent of the population would need to develop antibodies for COVID-19 either through vaccination or prior infection for the population to achieve herd immunity. If that were to happen, those who could not be vaccinated due to preexisting health conditions could be protected from the virus.
But since the virus remains widespread, it continues to mutate. One of those mutations, the Delta variant, is proving to be roughly twice as transmissible as the original strain. The more those changes are allowed to multiply, health experts say, the greater the risk that existing vaccines may prove less effective.
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Japan suspends new reservations on all incoming flights .
TOKYO (AP) — Japan continued its aggressive stance against a new coronavirus variant on Wednesday, asking international airlines to stop taking new reservations for all flights arriving in the country until the end of December in a further tightening of already strict border controls. The transportation ministry said the request is an emergency precaution amid growing worry over the spread of the new omicron variant. The move by the world’s third largest economy, coupled with its recent return to a ban on foreign visitors, is among the most stringent anywhere, and more in line with cloistered neighbor China than with some other democracies in the region.