The resurgence of COVID-19 this summer and the national debate over vaccine requirements have created a fraught situation for the United States’ first responders, who are dying in larger numbers but pushing back against mandates.
It’s a stark contrast from the beginning of the vaccine rollout when first responders were prioritized for shots.
The mandates affect tens of thousands of police officers, firefighters and others on the front lines across the country, many of whom are spurning the vaccine. That is happening despite mandates’ consequences that range from weekly testing to suspension to termination — even though the virus is now the leading cause of U.S. law enforcement line-of-duty deaths.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 132 members of law enforcement agencies are known to have died of COVID-19 in 2021. In Florida alone last month, six people affiliated with law enforcement died over a 10-day period.
Despite the deaths, police officers and other first responders are among those most hesitant to get the vaccine and their cases continue to grow. No national statistics show the vaccination rate for America’s entire population of first responders but individual police and fire departments across the country report figures far below the national rate of 74% of adults who have had at least one dose.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PHOENIX – A program announced by Arizona’s Republican governor last month giving private school vouchers to students whose parents object to school mask requirements has seen a surge of applications.
More than 2,700 applications have been started or completed in less than two weeks. That’s twice as many as can be funded with the $10 million in federal coronavirus relief cash earmarked for the program.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan will give $7,000 a year to each student to pay for private school tuition.
School voucher opponents worry they will permanently get vouchers and some Republican lawmakers say they hope that’s the case.
DETROIT — Five federal courthouses in eastern Michigan will fully reopen Tuesday for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in March 2020.
Lawyers, news reporters, jurors and court spectators will be required to answer questions about their health and have their temperature checked at courthouse entrances. Masks will be required.
Courthouse employees who have not been vaccinated will be required to share the results of two weekly COVID-19 tests at their own expense.
“The court is doing everything in its power to make sure that everyone who uses our facilities are protected,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood.
The main courthouse is in downtown Detroit, but there are other federal courthouses in Flint, Bay City, Ann Arbor and Port Huron. Remote video access will be provided for some hearings in civil lawsuits. But nearly all criminal cases will be conducted in person at the courthouses.
AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency says it has started an expedited evaluation on whether to recommend use of a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech.
In a statement Monday, the EU drug regulator says it is considering whether a third dose of the vaccine should be given six months after people over age 16 have received two doses “to restore protection after it has waned.”
EMA’s experts are carrying out an “accelerated assessment” of data submitted by Pfizer and BioNTech, including results from an ongoing research trial in which about 300 healthy adults received a booster dose about six months after their second dose.
Pfizer has already submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administer for authorization of a third dose and the U.S. government said last month boosters would likely be available in late September. Israel has already started administering booster doses and the plan is under consideration in other countries for vulnerable populations, including France and Germany.
The Amsterdam-based agency said it expects to make a decision in the next few weeks.
SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s Public Health Institute has approved the Chinese-developed Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for children older than 6, though the health minister must approve the plan before shots enter arms.
The panel of senior physicians, including presidents of the associations of pediatrics and infectology, analyzed a Chinese study of 500 children aged 3 to 17, all of whom produced antibodies. A similar study of 4,000 children is being organized in Chile.
Brazil’s health regulatory agency, however, recently rejected a similar request by Sinovac, and asked for data involving a larger study.
Chile already had authorized vaccinations for children as young as 12, though only with the Pfizer vaccine. Supply shortages have stalled that effort.
Chilean officials plan to vaccinate 15.2 million of the country’s 19 million people. So far they have given a full double dose regimen to 86% of those now eligible. The country last month also began giving AstraZeneca booster shots to fully vaccinated people people older than 55.
ROME — Life expectancy for men in some of Italy’s worst-hit provinces in the pandemic dropped by more than four years.
ISTAT, Italy’s national statistics bureau, in a report on Monday said that compared with 2019, nationwide life expectancy for those born in 2020 dropped by 1.2 years.
“In 2020, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp increase in the risk of mortality that derived from it abruptly interrupted the increase of life expectancy at birth that had marked a trend up to 2019,” ISTAT said.
The pandemic first erupted outside Asia in northern Italy, and much of the north reeled with confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the initial wave of cases. In the northern provinces of Bergamo, Cremona and Lodi, life expectancy for men decreased by some 4.3 to 4.5 years. For women in those provinces, the reduced expectancy ranged from 3.2 to 2.9 years.
For a child born in 2020, male life expectancy nationwide is 79.7 and female life expectancy is 84.4, ISTAT said.
ROME — Italy’s health minister says a two-day meeting of his G-20 counterparts yielded resolve to help poor nations obtain more COVID-19 vaccines.
Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters in Rome on Monday that achieving that includes vaccine production in less developed nations. The goal is “to bring vaccines to every corner of the world,” said Speranza. He described the meeting’s unanimous final document as a “departure point.”
Stronger nations, starting with the G-20, are committing to more resources and to sending vaccines to the more vulnerable countries, he said, adding that efforts like COVAX need to be strengthened.
“We want to build on conditions so that production can be brought to the countries. It’s not enough merely to transfer doses,” Speranza said.
COVAX is an international mechanism created in part to share vaccines so that poorer wouldn’t have to rely on donations. But in some cases, wealthy nations have received doses through COVAX.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish health authorities say they are offering jabs in supermarkets as they are aware of differences in the vaccination pattern even though more than 80% of people over 12 have had two shots of vaccine.
“It is especially young people who have not received the first jab,” said Soeren Brostroem, head of the Danish Health Agency.”
On Saturday, vaccines will be offered in two of Denmark’s largest supermarket chains, Bilka and Foetex, No appointments are needed.
“We want to ensure that the offer of vaccination is as accessible as possible, so that, for example, it is possible to get a shot while shopping,” Brostroem said, adding there are many young people working in retail.
Denmark has a target of reaching 90% of people above the age of 12 by Oct. 1.
As of Sept. 10, the digital pass — a proof of vaccination or a negative test which was required to enter nightclubs — becomes the last COVID-19 safeguard to fall.
PRISTINA, Kosovo – Kosovo’s Health Ministry said it has received half a million Pfizer vaccines Monday sent from the United States.
Kosovo’s 1.8 million people have faced a surge in new infections during the last month. On Monday there were 28 deaths and 489 new cases.
The ministry said it had received 503,100 Pfizer shots from the United States through the COVAX program. It strongly called on people older than 16 years old to take the jabs as the only way to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
About 17% of Kosovo’s people have gotten both shots of the vaccine so far.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s daily increase in coronavirus infections has exceeded 1,000 for the 62nd consecutive day as officials are raising concerns about another viral spike during this month’s Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 940 of the 1,375 new cases reported Monday were from Seoul and the nearby metropolitan region, where a rise in infections have been linked to the reopening of schools and people returning from summer vacations.
While the virus has slowed outside the capital area in recent weeks, KDCA official Kim Ki-nam said transmissions could worsen nationwide during the Chuseok break, which starts on Sept. 20, a time when millions usually travel across the country to meet relatives.
Officials are enforcing the country’s strongest social distancing rules in the greater capital area, where private social gatherings of three or more are banned after 6 p.m. unless all are fully vaccinated.
A slow vaccine rollout has left less than 35% of South Koreans fully vaccinated as of Monday.
HANOI — About 23 million Vietnamese students have started a new school year, most of them in virtual classrooms, amid a COVID-19 lockdown to contain a virus surge in the country.
Since April, when the latest wave of the virus spread in the country, Vietnam closed down schools and education institutes in pandemic areas and move learning activities to online platforms.
Millions of students spent their summer break at home as more than half of the country is in lockdown. In hard-hit provinces, schools have been converted into quarantine facilities and field hospitals.
In Ho Chi Minh city, the epicenter of Vietnam’s worst virus outbreak, teachers and students observed a minute of silence to pay tribute to those who died of COVID-19 and honor front-liners before opening classes Monday.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Most of New Zealand will move out of lockdown Tuesday except for the largest city of Auckland, which will remain in the strictest type of lockdown until at least next week, the government announced Monday.
The nation has been battling an outbreak of the delta variant of the coronavirus since last month. All recent cases have been found in Auckland, including 20 that were found on Monday.
There have been a total of 821 cases found in the outbreak. The government is pursuing an unusual strategy of trying to eliminate the virus entirely.
JERUSALEM — Israel says it will soon reopen its gates to foreign tour groups — even as it battles one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus infections.
The country’s Tourism Ministry on Sunday said it will begin allowing organized tour groups into the country beginning Sept. 19.
Tourists will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, present a negative PCR test before their flight and undergo both PCR and serological testing upon arrival. Visitors would have to quarantine in their hotels until the test results come back — a process expected to take no more than 24 hours.
Tourists from a handful of “red” countries with high infection rates — including Turkey and Brazil — will not be permitted to visit for the time being.
Israel launched a similar program in May after vaccinating most of its population early this year. But the program was suspended in August as the delta variant began to spread.
In recent weeks, the country has begun administering booster shots to anyone who was vaccinated over five months ago.