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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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.

Watch:

11:01 a.m. ET, September 9, 2021

39 public school districts have closed at some point during 2021-22 school year due to Covid-19

From CNN’s Mallory Simon

Approximately 23% of Kentucky’ public school districts — 39 of 171 — have had to close at some point during the 2021-22 school year due to an increase in Covid-19 cases, quarantines and/or staff shortages, Joshua Shoulta, a spokesperson for the Kentucky School Boards Association told CNN in a statement Thursday morning.

This marks an increase of five additional school district closures since CNN last reported on the issue Sunday.

10:57 a.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Student whose grandma died of Covid-19 mocked at school board meeting while he advocated for masks

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Parents who oppose mask mandates laughed at a Tennessee high-schooler while he spoke about his grandma who died of Covid-19 at a school board meeting.

"I'm worried about my family. If I get Covid, I'm going to bring it to my family. I talk to my grandparents a lot. They're higher risk than me, so I don't want to give them Covid. This time last year, my grandmother, who was a former teacher at the Rutherford County school system, died of Covid because someone wasn't wearing a mask," Grady Knox said at the Rutherford County school board meeting in Murfreesboro on Tuesday.

Knox was then interrupted as laughing could be heard from people surrounding him who were sitting with signs that read "Let our kids smile." An official had to call for quiet and remind them "we're here to act professional."

"This is an avoidable issue, and by not wearing masks in schools, it's irresponsible. We're killing people," Knox said in his remarks.

On CNN's "New Day," Knox said that he felt disconnected in the moment.

"I couldn't understand why people would...react like that to a statement that I made that's like so personal," he said.

Knox now has a message for those who mocked him:

"I just hope that they see that they've given me this chance now to speak in front of the entire nation and tell about how I believe masks are something that [are] really essential for schools to stay open. And I hope that they see that this is really just benefiting me and people that believe in masks all across the country."

Knox said being in school right now is a "really weird" experience.

"You'll walk into a class some days and half the kids will be gone from contact tracing, because there's so many kids that are getting Covid and so many kids that sit around with them," he said.

His classmate, Will Severn, said that having no mask mandates affects students' access to education.

"Sometimes they're hesitant to report symptoms or contacts outside of school for fear of falling behind in class," Severn said.

Watch:

8:57 a.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Biden will require all federal workers be vaccinated, with no option for testing

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden during remarks on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program on August 18, 2021 in Washington, DC, where he announced that he was ordering the United States Department of Health and Human Services to require nursing homes to have vaccinated staff.
President Joe Biden during remarks on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program on August 18, 2021 in Washington, DC, where he announced that he was ordering the United States Department of Health and Human Services to require nursing homes to have vaccinated staff. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

President Biden on Thursday will impose more stringent vaccine rules on federal workers, and take steps to encourage private businesses to do the same, during a major speech meant to lay out a new approach to combatting coronavirus.

Biden will sign an executive order requiring all federal workers to be vaccinated, with no option of being regularly tested to opt out of the requirement, according to a source familiar with the plans. 

Biden will also sign an executive order directing that standard be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the federal government. The Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Service and National Institute of Health will also complete their previously announced vaccination requirements, which the White House estimates covers 2.5 million people. 

That is a significant move beyond the requirement Biden announced earlier this summer that required federal workers be vaccinated, but allowed for those who opted out to be subject to stringent mitigation measures.

The White House has said the federal government should act as a model for other businesses in their own vaccine mandates and has praised large companies that require employees to be vaccinated.

Biden on Thursday also plans to announce a major expansion to free testing, a step public health officials have said is critical to containing the virus, particularly as children return to school and some workers return to offices.

And he will address the confusion over booster shots, though will not make any new announcements on when additional doses will be authorized for Americans.

8:58 a.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Los Angeles school district will vote on mandating vaccines for all eligible students

From CNN's Stella Chan

A syringe is filled with a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic during a back to school event offering school supplies, Covid-19 vaccinations, face masks, and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA in Los Angeles, California on August 7, 2021.
A syringe is filled with a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic during a back to school event offering school supplies, Covid-19 vaccinations, face masks, and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA in Los Angeles, California on August 7, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

The nation’s second largest public school district is poised to mandate vaccines for all eligible students.

“By the start of spring semester, every student 12 and up who is eligible and doesn’t have an exemption will have received a vaccine, ideally from LA Unified, we’ll be providing it,” said Los Angeles Unified School Board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin to CNN affiliate KCBS/KCAL.

“That’s why there isn’t measles and mumps and rubella in our schools - because we vaccinate, and we require it, it’s a mandate,” said board member Jackie Goldberg emphatically. “This is a mandate to save lives!”

The school board will vote on the issue in a special meeting scheduled for Thursday.

The mandate would apply to all vaccine eligible students who are going to school in-person and would exclude those with "qualified and approved exemptions."

The LAUSD serves over 600,000 students in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade. Currently, students and staff are tested weekly.

8:58 a.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Where things stand in the Biden administration's Covid-19 response 

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Veronica Stracqualursi

President Joe Biden walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.
President Joe Biden walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (Susan Walsh/AP)

President Biden is set to deliver a major speech Thursday on the next steps of his administration's Covid-19 response.

The speech comes as Biden has seen a significant drop in Americans' confidence in his handling of the pandemic. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll showed it dropped to 52% from 62% in late June.

The administration is juggling how to persuade more Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 while working to make a third shot of the vaccine available in the fall, as schools return and cases due to the highly transmissible Delta variant have been on the rise.

Amid warnings about the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks occurring again within schools unless mitigation measures are followed, pressure is building for vaccines to be authorized for children younger than 12 and for booster shots to begin.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday said his state is ready to administer third shots if the federal government would only give the go-ahead.

Biden administration had initially said last month that a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine would be made available for adults later this month. But top health officials warned the White House that they may need more time to review all the necessary data before they can recommend booster shots, CNN and other news outlets reported.

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," White House chief of staff Ron Klain was reluctant to give a specific date as to when booster shots would be made available to the public but committed to waiting for full approval from health officials.

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration is set to meet Sept. 17 to discuss Covid-19 booster shots.

As for vaccine requirements, the White House has repeatedly said there won't be a federally mandated vaccine passport but has been pushing other ways to increase vaccination rates.

The Biden administration also already requires federal workers and government contractors to attest to being vaccinated — and mandates that certain federal workers be vaccinated -- or adhere to strict protocols such as regular testing, while hoping that the private sector will follow its lead.

The President also ordered all nursing homes to require their staff be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding.

8:58 a.m. ET, September 9, 2021

Here's a preview of Biden's remarks today on Covid-19, according to the White House

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a moment of silence for workers who have died from the COVID-19 pandemic as he speaks on workers rights and labor unions in the East Room at the White House on September 08, 2021 in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden holds a moment of silence for workers who have died from the COVID-19 pandemic as he speaks on workers rights and labor unions in the East Room at the White House on September 08, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

President Biden will “outline the next phase in the fight against the virus,” during his Covid-19 remarks on Thursday, the White House said Wednesday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who noted she was speaking as the President was meeting with his Covid-19 team “to talk about a range of steps,” said Biden would “be specific about what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“He'll announce tomorrow six steps to stop the spread of Delta and increase vaccinations,” Psaki told reporters during an afternoon press briefing. She said Biden would detail “what these six steps will do.”

“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, we'll get the pandemic under control. We'll return people to normal life. That's what our objective is, so we want to be specific about what we're trying to achieve,” she continued, adding she would “just note that what you're going to hear from the President tomorrow is going to build on some of the steps that the President announced over the course of last few months.”

Psaki said the country still has more work to do and is still at war with the virus and the Delta variant. She said Biden is “speaking to it now, because this issue, of course, is on front of mind, top of mind, to Americans across the country.” 

“He's going to outline the next phase in the fight against the virus and what that looks like, including measures to work with the public and private sector, building on the steps that we've already announced.”

Those steps, she said, include requiring more vaccinations, boosting testing measures, and “making it safer for kids to go to school.”

The steps will be implemented over the months ahead, she added.