The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:34 PM ET, Thu September 9, 2021
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5:08 p.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Federal workers will have 75 days to get fully vaccinated, White House says

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is seen at a pop-up clinic in Los Angeles on August 23.
A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is seen at a pop-up clinic in Los Angeles on August 23. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Federal workers will have 75 days to get fully vaccinated or will face losing their jobs, the White House said Thursday, ahead of President Biden’s speech officially announcing the change in policy. 

“There will be limited exceptions for legally recognized reasons such as disability or religious objections,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a briefing. 

She said the interagency task force would “provide a ramp up period, and we expect federal employees will have about 75 days to be fully vaccinated. That gives people more than enough time in our view to start and complete their vaccination series.” 

“If a federal worker fails to comply,” she continued, “they will go through the Standard HR process, which includes counseling and face disciplinary action, face progressive disciplinary action. Each agency is going to work with employees to make sure they understand the benefits of vaccination and how the vaccines are free, easy and widely accessible, but it will start to be applied once the executive order is signed.”
2:26 p.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Biden will acknowledge "frustration" vaccinated Americans are feeling in Covid-19 speech

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

President Biden will acknowledge “the frustration that tens of millions of Americans are feeling across the country” as the pandemic continues to rage, and some Americans still refuse to get vaccinated, when he speaks later today, the White House said.  

Asked by CNN’s Jeff Zeleny about the President’s own frustration level as he prepares to give another speech on fighting Covid-19, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said his speeches “aren’t just words.” 

“What the President is announcing is a series of bold and ambitious steps to address Covid to save more lives to protect more people, and that's what the American people can expect to hear from him today,” Psaki said. “What he will also acknowledge …is the frustration that 10s of millions of Americans are feeling across the country.”

She said the President would speak to “people who are vaccinated, who are frustrated that they can't go back to normal.” 

“They're fearful about sending their kids to school when there aren't necessary requirements, and the President's speech today is going to hopefully take steps forward to help ease those fears,” she said. 

Pressed by Zeleny on why federal employees didn’t have to show proof of vaccination, Psaki said it was an “understandable” question, “but what we've been doing and been implementing over the past several weeks is this attestation process, which is still underway. So, we're still implementing that and we'll have a better sense once we begin to implement the vaccination requirements.”

She also confirmed the policy only applies to the federal branch of government, not congressional or judicial, and will impact roughly 4 million people. 

 

5:08 p.m. ET, September 9, 2021

White House says "additional bold and ambitious steps" needed to increase vaccinations

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the White House on September 9.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the White House on September 9. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The White House is introducing a more strict vaccination policy for federal workers in part due to the Delta variant, press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, but also because of the need for additional “ambitious” action. 

“We've seen over the past couple of months, not only the threat of Delta, but the importance of taking additional bold and ambitious steps to get more people vaccinated,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “Obviously the federal workforce is one of the largest in the country and we would like to be a model to what we think other businesses and organizations should do around the country.”

She added the White House “said at the time that this would be the first of a series of steps so this is the next in that series of steps.” 

“The expectation is if you want to work in the federal government or want to be a contractor, you need to be vaccinated,” Psaki said. 

Asked why the administration was only requiring workers to attest to vaccination – without necessarily showing proof – she said each agency had its own process. 

“Each agency will do it differently,” she said. “Some agencies are will have standards do have standards already have proof of vaccination but different agencies will do it differently.”

2:16 p.m. ET, September 9, 2021

About 43% of US adolescents are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, CNN analysis finds

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

More adolescents are receiving Covid-19 vaccinations, and now about 43% of all 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States are fully vaccinated, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Out of the roughly 25 million 12- to 17-year-olds total in the United States, more than 10 million are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as of Wednesday. 

And more than half of all adolescents have received at least one dose of vaccine so far. 

Nearly 14 million or 55% of all 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States completed at least one dose as of Wednesday, the CDC data shows.

In mid-August, about 8 million or 32% of all adolescents ages 12 to 17 were fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

1:59 p.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Florida governor files emergency appeal on state mask mandate

From CNN’s Mallory Simon

A teacher greets students outside of a school in Miami on August 23.
A teacher greets students outside of a school in Miami on August 23. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Lawyers for Gov. Ron DeSantis have filed an emergency appeal with the First District Court of Appeals in Florida to reinstate a stay on school mask mandates while the case goes through the court system. 

According to the court document, DeSantis’ lawyers argue that they “have a high likelihood of success on appeal. Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in vacating the automatic stay, and this Court should reinstate the stay pending review.”

On Wednesday afternoon, in Leon County, Second Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled against DeSantis’ initial appeal, allowing Florida schools to continue to have mask mandates while the case is appealed at a higher level, CNN previously reported.

DeSantis’ filed the appeal later in the day, arguing that Cooper’s ruling was incorrect, but also his decision to lift the stay based in part due to harm to children was wrong. They argue there is also harm for the state now that the stay is lifted.

“Presently, there are no active policies in any school district that prohibit students from wearing masks. All of Appellees’ children remain free to wear masks. Maintaining the automatic stay will not prohibit Appellees from masking their children,” the lawyers argued in the 41-page motion.

Attorneys for the parents who are suing have until tonight to file their response to the motion.

12:37 p.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Jobless claims fall to new pandemic low

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

The number of first-time claims for jobless benefits dipped to a new pandemic-era low last week. That's welcome news, and proof that the jobs recovery is still moving in the right direction.

Last week, 310,000 Americans filed for jobless benefits, adjusted for seasonal swings, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Additionally, 96,198 workers – a figure that is not seasonally adjusted – filed claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to those not eligible for regular state aid, such as the self-employed.

But last week's dip also coincided with the expiration of the enhanced unemployment benefit programs enacted at the start of the pandemic. Although various states had already rolled back some of those benefits over the summer, the federal deadline was the beginning of September.

For millions of unemployed workers that means no more emergency aid.

"Today's unemployment report further shows just how shortsighted the elimination of pandemic unemployment aid is," said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at left-leaning think tank The Century Foundation. "Unemployed workers face a tsunami of hardship and suffering that simply did not need to happen."

The effect reduced benefits might have on the labor market is still up for debate. The prior rollbacks in some states did not lead to material changes in the job situation.

In total, nearly 12 million Americans were receiving benefits under various government programs in the week ended Aug. 21.

"In the weeks ahead, seasonal hiring dynamics and the ending of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are expected to have an effect on initial claims for jobless benefits and on the overall number of those receiving some form of unemployment insurance," said Joe Brusuelas chief economist at RSM.

America's employment situation has improved materially since the start of the pandemic recovery, but the nation still remains more than 5 million jobs below February 2020 levels.

The August monthly jobs report, released Sept. 3, was a major disappointment relative to expectations as the more infectious Delta variant continues to leave its mark on the recovering economy.

12:08 p.m. ET, September 9, 2021

The US has Covid-19 testing technology, but still struggles with distribution, official says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

The United States has access to the technology needed for widespread testing, but still needs to figure out the distribution of that technology, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said this week.

“We're doing pretty well now in terms of being able to get rapid answers for people who have symptoms where you're worried about ‘Is this Covid?’ ” Collins said in an interview with Conversations on Health Care on Wednesday. 

“What we haven't done so well is to figure out how to really put in place asymptomatic testing in places like schools, businesses, because that is a really important part of ending this pandemic,” he said. 

Collins called asymptomatic infection a “diabolical aspect” of Covid-19 which makes testing more important.

“Unless you do that kind of asymptomatic testing, especially in areas where you have a lot of people packed together like schools, you're going to miss that. Now, we do have the technologies now to start to do that, but we haven't really quite figured out how to distribute them,” he said. 

12:07 p.m. ET, September 9, 2021

NYC expands vaccine mandate to city childcare and after-school workers

From CNN’s Laura Ly

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the city is expanding its Covid-19 vaccine mandate to include all city-contracted childcare and after-school staff.

The mandate will include workers at city-run pre-K and preschool programs, as well as after school and home-based childcare.

All city employees working in these settings will need to show proof-of-vaccination for at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Sept. 27, de Blasio said.

The mayor said the decision to expand the vaccine mandate to include childcare and after-school workers came after discussions with labor unions and leaders in the early childcare field in New York City.

Additionally, the mayor said that in-school vaccinations will be offered at all city schools with students aged 12 and over next week – comprising more than 700 schools across the five boroughs.

In-school vaccination will return to the schools the week of Oct. 4 to administer second doses, de Blasio said.

11:42 a.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Los Angeles school vaccine mandate would keep students "as safe as possible," board member says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Tanya Ortiz Franklin.
Tanya Ortiz Franklin. (CNN)

As the Los Angeles Unified School Board is set to vote on mandating vaccines for all eligible students in the district, board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin said safety is the top priority.

"We imagine by second semester, our middle school and high school campuses will be absolutely even safer than they are today," she said.

The board member said that full US Food and Drug Administration approval of a vaccine for 12-to-16-year-olds does not play into the timing of the decision.

"We understand that the benefits far outweigh the risks, and so the emergency use authorization really isn't weighing into our decision here. It is about the access, and that we can provide it in this country to our children, and we want to do that as quickly as possible," Ortiz Franklin said.

She said that students who do not get vaccinated will need to participate in independent study.

"If families choose to do that, that's their choice, but on campus, our decision is that students and community members will be as safe as possible. Independent study is the option for those who don't get the vaccine," she said.

Los Angeles is the second-largest school district in the US. Ortiz Franklin said that at least an estimated 150,000 vaccine doses would need to be administered.

"But we have the doses in LA County, and we have the staff capacity and the time and a week-by-week plan working with our school staff and our community partners to get this done by the end of first semester," she said.

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