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Covid-19 and Vaccine Mandate News: Live Updates

ImageTreating Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Leipzig, Germany, on Monday.
Treating Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Leipzig, Germany, on Monday.Credit…Waltraud Grubitzsch/DPA, via Associated Press

Germany’s state and federal politicians are scrambling to put new Covid rules in place as the country experiences record case numbers, and a top virologist has warned that the nation’s pandemic death toll could double if sufficient measures are not taken.

Nearly 40,000 new cases were registered in the country on Tuesday — the third time a daily record has been set within a week. And 236 people died of the disease in that 24-hour period.

“We have a real emergency situation,” Christian Drosten, the head of virology at Berlin’s Charité hospital, Germany’s most renowned research hospital, said on a podcast that aired on Tuesday.

Since the pandemic began, Germany has reported almost 97,000 deaths from Covid. Dr. Drosten warned that a further 100,000 could result if no additional solutions were found, although the number of patients in intensive-care beds is now less than half of what it was during the peak in January.

The three parties that are poised to succeed Angela Merkel’s coalition government have proposed a set of Covid rules that will be discussed in Parliament on Thursday. And several states, including those that have been hardest hit, either have in place or plan to enact their own stricter regulations this week. Those rules would mandate vaccinations or documentation of a past infection for people seeking to use certain services.

Experts say that the surge in new infections has resulted from the relatively low vaccination rate in some regions of Germany and the slow rollout of booster shots. About 67 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated.

An airport in Shenyang, China, which has imposed some of the strictest Covid requirements for foreign visitors: extensive testing, 28 days in a hotel and another 28 days at home.Credit…Tingshu Wang/Reuters

Some places have come under criticism for their long quarantines, but few can compare to the northern Chinese city of Shenyang.

Travelers arriving there from overseas must spend 28 days in hotel quarantine, and during the hotel stay they are not allowed to open the door except to take in food deliveries. They are tested seven times for the coronavirus over that period. And once that hotel quarantine is over, they are expected to avoid going outside their home for another 28 days.

The latest restrictions, which have been in place for nearly a month, are a stark example of how seriously Chinese officials are taking the country’s “zero Covid” approach to the pandemic, nearly two years after the virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The restrictions come after China began locking down cities in mid-October to try to contain a fresh outbreak following a flurry of domestic travel during a nationwide holiday.

China on Wednesday reported 39 symptomatic Covid-19 cases and 25 asymptomatic ones. But Shenyang has not reported any Covid-19 cases since July 30. Dalian, another city in the same province, Liaoning, reported 15 cases on Wednesday.

While travelers from overseas face a four-week quarantine, those entering Shenyang from other parts of the country considered high risk are required to do 14 days in hotel quarantine and another 14 days of self-monitoring.

In Beijing, where a small outbreak in late October led the capital to lock down certain neighborhoods, the authorities shut down dozens of pharmacies that were caught selling cough medicine without requiring customers to register their identification. The authorities started requiring pharmacies to ask customers for their name, ID and contact information when buying cough medicine early in the pandemic.

China’s lockdowns and zero-Covid strategy appear to enjoy widespread support among the public as caseloads remain low, but there is occasional griping on social media.

A recent article about Shenyang’s restrictions had just one negative comment. One user, under the name JonasLambily, wrote, “A model of lazy governance.”



Early on, as this whole thing got politicized the mask, (right) instead of before, the mask word. I thought that should have been a quick and easy mandate. It’s a mask. It’s not the vaccine it’s a mask. No harm proven, and we only prove that it can be healthy. It’s a small inconvenience for a possible long term freedom, everybody, let’s pay the tithe, put one on. So we’re trying to figure this out as we go. The science is changing as we go. Now you’ve got vaccine mandates. Well, look here. We’re going to, one day, we’re going to see who was exaggerating because as this thing got politicized, both sides, both sides, you could feel them both start to exaggerate. One side of the left was trying to raise up every number and anyone that died with the common cold, they said, blame it on Covid, raise the numbers. The other side saying no, none of this would have happened. COVID is not getting anybody. Now, we’re nine weeks into college football in America. We just had Wimbledon. We just had the English Premier Cup over in England. Well, I was sitting there going, these are super spreader events. I can’t believe we’re doing it. Doomsday is coming. So far? (Right) 12 weeks later. Those don’t seem to be super spreader events. So now the question really does not even seem as much are you vaccinated? Because I think we’re living in a pandemic world for the rest of time now. I’ll make it more complicated. Kids. Senator Ted Cruz, your own state was giving Big Bird a hard time on this issue. I know, I know, I know, I know. So, so you see that. And you think what? Oh, look, Andrew. Here I am. I see that to his look. He just said. We can vaccinate kids. Are we going to? Do we need to trust? I want to trust in the science, Do I think that there’s any kind of scam or conspiracy theory? Hell, no, I don’t. No, I don’t think theres any kind of— we all got to get off that narrative. There’s not a conspiracy theory on the vaccines. These are scientists trying to do the right thing and then people say, yeah, but the big pharma is making the money they can. Fine, that’s, that’s as well, if that’s true. OK? It’s scary. Right now, I’m not vaccinating mine, I’ll tell you that. (You’re not?) I’m not vaccinating mine, I want to get, I’ve been vaccinated, my wife has been vaccinated. We have a high risk person in our household, my mother, who’s 90, and she’s immune compromised. So why? Why don’t you want your kids to be vaccinated? We run, we go slow on vaccinations anyway, even before COVID. Now, mind you, I’ve chosen, we’ve quarantined harder than any of our friends have and still are two years later. I don’t want to. Maybe I’m trying to keep it from my mom. OK, so we’ve been doing just a heavy amount of testing, when and everywhere we can. We even take the ones that take the ones with us out of the box where we can do them in our house, everywhere we can with anybody we come in contact with. Try to do things outdoors. I’m in a position, though, where I can do that, and I understand that not everyone can do that. (Right.) I don’t I can’t I couldn’t mandate having to vaccinate the younger kids, I still want to find out, I still want to find out more information, but I couldn’t mandate it for kids just yet. No.

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The U.S. surgeon general has pushed back against comments by the actor and author Matthew McConaughey, who is contemplating a run for governor of Texas, about coronavirus vaccine mandates for children.

Speaking at the DealBook Online Summit on Tuesday, Mr. McConaughey said, “I couldn’t mandate having to vaccinate the younger kids. I still want to find out more information.”

Although the actor is vaccinated, as are his wife, mother and older child, his two youngest children are not, having become eligible for shots only recently.

He added that in his household, “We go slow on vaccinations, even before Covid.”

Mr. McConaughey said he trusted that scientists were trying “to do the right thing,” and he suggested that the conspiracy theory “narrative” about vaccines was problematic. “Do I think that there’s any kind of scam or conspiracy theory? No I don’t.”

He also criticized the exaggerated and polarized response to mask mandates. “Early on, this whole thing got politicized,” he said. “I thought that should’ve been a quick, easy mandate. It’s a mask, it’s not the vaccine.”

Masks, he said, are “a small inconvenience for possible long-term freedom.”

Mr. McConaughey later clarified that his comments about vaccine mandates were about children ages 5 to 11, not for children 12 and older, and that he planned to thoroughly consider information about immunizing children as it becomes available.

But Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, later weighed in, telling CNN that the vaccines were effective and “remarkably safe” for children.

He also pointed out that the coronavirus posed a significant risk to younger people. Parents, Dr. Murthy told CNN, need to recognize that “Covid is not harmless in our children.”

“Many kids have died,” he said. “Sadly, hundreds of children — thousands — have been hospitalized, and as a dad of a child who has been hospitalized several years ago for another illness, I would never wish upon any parent they have a child that ends up in the hospital.”

Mr. McConaughey also told the DealBook summit that he was examining his “mind, heart and spirit” about the possibility of running for governor of Texas.

“I’m trying to study what politics is. What democracy is and can be. Where we got off track,” he said. “Are there ways to get back on track?”

Blanca Quintero setting up a sign asking customers to show proof of Covid vaccination at Highland Park Brewery in Los Angeles on Monday.Credit…Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Thousands of gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, salons and other indoor businesses in Los Angeles were required this week to start asking customers for proof that they had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, under one of the nation’s strictest vaccination rules.

The law, which the City Council approved last month, allows people with medical conditions that preclude vaccination, or a sincerely held religious objection, to instead show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the preceding 72 hours.

Officials say that the law is meant to help revive a city that has been under varied levels of restriction for more than a year and a half, and that requiring almost everyone who enters an indoor public space to be vaccinated will help prevent a surge in cases as winter approaches.

“Our businesses can’t afford another shutdown,” Nury Martinez, the president of the Los Angeles City Council, said in a statement. “The goal of this mandate is to limit the transmission of the virus and save lives.”

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.

But some business owners said they were frustrated that they might be forced to turn away customers.

Kim Prince, who owns Hotville, a popular Nashville hot chicken restaurant in the city’s Crenshaw district, said the vaccine verification requirement for indoor diners was just one more thing she had to worry about, along with staffing challenges and skyrocketing prices of ingredients.

While she has encouraged neighbors to get vaccinated and the restaurant has a patio, she said the mandate could put her employees in the difficult position of explaining the restrictions to customers — some of whom may be arriving from out of town — for the first time.

“We become the villain. We become that target,” she said. “That’s not my role — I’m not a policymaker, I’m a business owner who loves working in my own neighborhood.”

It’s particularly difficult for historically marginalized neighborhoods like Crenshaw, where fewer people are vaccinated than in Los Angeles County overall.

Ms. Prince said she thought much of the problem could be solved if the city did a better job of communicating the restrictions so that restaurant workers aren’t required to explain them to hungry, unsuspecting customers.

Some residents viewed the restrictions not as a mere logistical burden but as an unfair encroachment. At a protest outside City Hall on Monday, The Los Angeles Times reported, thousands of demonstrators voiced anger with vaccine mandates more broadly, especially those for public employees.

Still, across much of Los Angeles, the mandate took effect with little incident. Many bars, restaurants and fitness studios were already asking patrons to submit proof of vaccination if they planned to spend time indoors. In many cases, they said they hoped to lure back customers who might otherwise feel uncomfortable.

Allie Tichenor, the owner of Pilates Punx in the Echo Park neighborhood, said that even before the mandate went into effect, clients had asked whether instructors were vaccinated. Some volunteered their own vaccination status, and no one questioned the studio’s mask policy.

So although she didn’t hear from the city about the new law until just before it went into effect, she quickly emailed clients asking them to send proof of vaccination.

“It helps the clients feel really safe,” she said. “I’m happy to err on the side of caution, and I’ve figured if somebody wants to push back, maybe this isn’t the studio for them.”

Waiting outside the American Embassy in Beijing in May. For now, the lines are smaller than before.Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Xiao Yu looked relieved when she walked out of the American Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday. Having passed her interview for a tourist visa, she can finally visit her friend in the United States. The last time they met was over 20 years ago when she was a bridesmaid at her friend’s wedding.

“I’m happy today,” said Ms. Xiao, who had arrived an hour before her appointment to beat the crowds. “It’s my first time applying for an American visa. There were not as many people here as I imagined.”

Before Covid, the street in front of the embassy in central Beijing drew some of the largest daily public crowds in the city as thousands waited in line for appointments to apply for visas.

On Tuesday, the United States resumed regular visa services in China, like in other parts of the world, for the first time since Feb. 3, 2020, after President Donald J. Trump blocked travel from China. And the lines have returned in Beijing and outside U.S. consulates in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang, though for now they are smaller than before.

That may reflect the political tensions between Washington and Beijing, but also the wariness of traveling to the United States, where the pandemic remains rampant compared with the relatively small outbreaks in China. Also, travelers returning to China face lengthy quarantines, deterring those who might leave.

The embassy declined to disclose how many applicants it had processed so far, but the website where people can schedule visa interviews showed that there were still slots open in Beijing next week.

Some, like Ms. Xiao, welcomed the chance to visit the United States again after so long, regardless of any safety concerns or logistical complications.

“Even if Americans are relatively free,” Ms. Xiao, 48, said on Wednesday, “I think they have beefed up their awareness” of the virus’s dangers.

She said she would stay in Indiana with her friend’s family, but also visit some college campuses to prepare for sending her son to study in the United States. She also wants to visit Times Square and the Statue of Liberty.

“I’m interested in the United States,” she said. “It’s also an American dream of a kind.”

Claire Fu contributed research.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been condemned for making false statements about Covid vaccines and treatments. He was also fined for violating league rules. Credit…Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The N.F.L. has fined the Green Bay Packers $300,000 and two of its players, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard, $14,650 each for failing to follow the Covid-19 protocols agreed on by the league and players’ union.

The penalties come about a week after Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus and his subsequent public statements espousing false and unfounded claims about the Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Those comments were condemned by public health officials and by some fellow athletes, though the league’s decision focused on his compliance with the rules.

Rodgers and Lazard, who is also unvaccinated, were penalized for attending a Halloween party even though the Covid-19 protocols prohibit unvaccinated players from gathering outside the team facility in a group of more than three players.

Rodgers also did not wear a mask when speaking with reporters, another violation of the league’s rules.

The team, which was notified of the fines late Tuesday, was penalized far more than the players because it did not do more to police its players’ behavior. The fine against the Packers is one of the largest for Covid-19 protocol violations.

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