Coronavirus Updates The latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

Coronavirus Updates

Latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

Washington State University head coach Nick Rolovich speaks to his players before an NCAA college football game against Portland State on Sept. 11 in Pullman, Wash. Young Kwak/AP hide caption

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Washington State University head coach Nick Rolovich speaks to his players before an NCAA college football game against Portland State on Sept. 11 in Pullman, Wash.

Young Kwak/AP

Head football coach Nick Rolovich was fired by Washington State University for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine as required by a mandate for state employees.

Four of Rolovich's assistant coaches — Ricky Logo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzmann and Mark Weber — were also terminated by the university for failure to get fully vaccinated by Monday.

"This is a disheartening day for our football program. Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team," WSU Director of Athletics Pat Chun said in an announcement. "The leadership on our football team is filled with young men of character, selflessness and resiliency and we are confident these same attributes will help guide this program as we move forward."

Rolovich is being replaced by defensive coordinator Jake Dickert, who will be elevated to acting head coach.

Rolovich was one of the highest-paid public employees in Washington with a salary of $3.1 million, according to earlier reports.

Under the state mandate, workers at state colleges and universities are required to get the vaccine. The mandate also covers public, charter and private school teachers and staff, health care workers and state troopers.

In July, before the Pac-12 conference that required in-person participants to be vaccinated, Rolovich issued a statement saying he was not getting a vaccine for "reasons which will remain private."

"While I have made my own decision, I respect that every individual — including coaches, staff and student-athletes — can make his or her own decision regarding the Covid-19 vaccine," he said at the time. "I will not comment further on my decision."

Northwest Public Broadcasting reported that as of Oct. 7, about 6,069 state employees had sought exemptions and roughly 84% of those requests were approved.

Rolovich did seek a religious exemption, according to local news channel King 5, but the state's rules limited approval for those exemptions.

Under the rules, according to NPB's report, anyone whose job was public-facing and involved direct care or put them in close proximity to colleagues couldn't be accommodated in their current position. Regular tests or wearing a mask didn't matter under those guidelines.

School officials said just a small number of university workers chose not to get a vaccine.

WSU President Kirk Schulz said in a statement, "While much has been made of the relatively small number of university employees who are not complying with the Governor's mandate, we are immensely gratified that nearly 90 percent of WSU employees and 97 percent of our students are now vaccinated."

Schulz went on to say, "WSU students, faculty, and staff understand the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing masks so that we can safely return to in-person learning and activities."

A video call on a laptop screen during Christmas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on Friday for safely celebrating the upcoming holiday season. FilippoBacci/Getty Images hide caption

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A video call on a laptop screen during Christmas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on Friday for safely celebrating the upcoming holiday season.

FilippoBacci/Getty Images

Following confusion earlier this month on how the country should safely celebrate the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released its updated guidance around gatherings and traveling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the new guidance issued Friday, the CDC says the best way to safely celebrate the holiday season is by being vaccinated (if eligible) against the coronavirus.

"Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated," the CDC said on its website.

Health officials said that having every person in attendance vaccinated against the virus is particularly important for protecting those who can't get a shot, such as children under 12.

The CDC recommends that those who aren't fully vaccinated delay their travel plans. For those that do travel, the CDC offers recommendations for domestic or international travelers.

In addition, the CDC suggests those who aren't fully vaccinated wear well-fitting masks over the nose and mouth if in public indoor settings. It says outdoor celebrations, if possible, are recommended instead of indoor ones.

If in an outdoor setting, those who are vaccinated do not need to wear a mask, unless they are in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

"By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends," the CDC said.

Just this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said that trick-or-treating can resume this Halloween, should those that are fully vaccinated feel comfortable doing so.

"I think that, particularly if you're vaccinated, you can get out there and enjoy it," Fauci told CNN's State of the Union.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics website, HealthyChildren.org, officials recommend that families that decide on outdoor trick-or-treating do so in small groups.

When it comes to handing out candy, the website says to sit outside and line up individually prepackaged treats for children to take, including non-edible treats for those with food allergies.

The vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The White House says Thursday that the U.S. will commit 17 million additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union. Picture Alliance/dpa/picture alliance via Getty I hide caption

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The vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The White House says Thursday that the U.S. will commit 17 million additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union.

Picture Alliance/dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

The White House says the United States will donate more than 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from its domestic supplies to the African Union.

President Biden made the announcement Thursday as he met with Kenyan Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House, Biden's first one-on-one meeting with an African leader.

"We're continuing our shared fight against COVID," Biden said during the meeting.

The vaccine donation comes on top of the 50 million vaccines doses already donated by the United States to the African Union, according to the White House.

The 17 million J&J vaccines will be available for delivery immediately and will be delivered to the African Union within the coming weeks.

Kenyatta thanked Biden for assisting both Kenya and other African countries, saying that the U.S. has "stepped up" when it comes to vaccine donation and access to vaccines for other countries.

News of Kenya's 17 million vaccine donation comes after the World Health Organization said last month the African continent was almost 500 million doses short of what is needed to achieve its goal of vaccinating 40% of people by the end of 2021.

"African countries need clear delivery dates so they can plan properly. We also need strong structures set up to ensure that all promises made are promises kept," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa in a statement addressing the shortage.

To date, under half of the African countries that have received COVID-19 vaccines have fully vaccinated only 2% or less of their populations, according to the WHO.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Geneva, in March 2020. Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Geneva, in March 2020.

Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The World Health Organization has announced the establishment of a scientific advisory group aimed at identifying the origin of COVID-19 and to better prepare for future outbreaks of other deadly pathogens.

The WHO's Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins on Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, will include scientists from the U.S., China and about two dozen other countries. It will be charged with answering the question of how the novel coronavirus first infected humans — a mystery that continues to elude experts more than 18 months into the crisis. The group will also be responsible for establishing a framework to combat future pandemics

Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of WHO's emerging disease unit, called the establishment of the new group "a real opportunity right now to get rid of all the noise, all the politics surrounding this and focus on what we know, what we don't know."

The team will be selected from more than 700 applications from experts in fields including epidemiology, animal health, ecology, clinical medicine, virology, genomics, molecular epidemiology, molecular biology, biology, food safety, biosafety, biosecurity and public health, the WHO said in a statement.

"The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential, and requires a broad range of expertise."

Beijing continues to resist investigations in China

The establishment of the group comes as China has continued to resist efforts to study the possible origin of the virus there. After an initial investigation by the WHO, Beijing rejected a plan for a second phase of the probe in July that might delve into various hypotheses about the origin of the virus, including that it escaped from a Chinese government lab in the city of Wuhan.

The so-called "lab-leak theory" was initially dismissed by WHO, but has nonetheless gained traction in recent months, fueled in part by Beijing's secrecy. Many scientists contend that a lab leak is much less likely than the alternative — that the novel coronavirus has a natural origin.

Beijing did not immediately react to the announcement of the new task force.

The WHO director still wants to look at labs in Wuhan

Despite the WHO's initial findings, Tedros has called for audits of Wuhan laboratories, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which some scientists believe may be the source of the virus that caused the first infections in China.

Some of the proposed SAGO members were on the original 10-person WHO team that studied possible origins in China, including Chinese scientist Yungui Yang of the Beijing Institute of Genomics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

An editorial co-authored by Tedros that was published in Science on Wednesday said SAGO would "quickly assess the status of SARS-CoV-2 origin studies and advise WHO on what is known, the outstanding gaps, and next steps."

It said that "[all] hypotheses must continue to be examined," including the "studies of wildlife sold in markets in and around Wuhan, China (where cases of COVID-19 were first reported in December 2019); studies of SARS-like coronaviruses circulating in bats in China and Southeast Asia; studies on prepandemic biological sampling around the world; and other animal susceptibility studies."

"As well, laboratory hypotheses must be examined carefully, with a focus on labs in the location where the first reports of human infections emerged in Wuhan," it said, adding, "A lab accident cannot be ruled out until there is sufficient evidence to do so and those results are openly shared."

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving shoots against the Milwaukee Bucks during Game 1 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series in New York in June. Adam Hunger/AP hide caption

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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving shoots against the Milwaukee Bucks during Game 1 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series in New York in June.

Adam Hunger/AP

Brooklyn Nets All-Star guard Kyrie Irving won't be allowed to play in practices or games, general manager Sean Marks said Tuesday, strongly suggesting that he continues to run afoul of New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for professional athletes.

Although the team is barred by law from revealing a player's vaccination status, Irving has been listed as "ineligible to play" in a preseason game scheduled for Thursday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant," Marks said in a statement, adding that the player had made "a personal choice" and that "we respect his individual right to choose."

However, "the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability," Marks said.

The announcement follows a New York City mandate that went into effect last month requiring everyone over the age of 12 to have proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to use indoor gyms, including the Nets' own Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Irving dodged several questions from reporters earlier this month about his vaccination status. During a news conference that he attended remotely, Irving told one reporter that he wanted "to keep that stuff private," adding that he would "handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan."

Irving could reportedly lose about $380,000 per home game while he's on the roster as ineligible.

The Nets had hoped that Irving would change his mind about vaccination in time to head off just such a dilemma that would keep him from playing, but ESPN reports that in recent days, "the franchise's collective patience will be increasingly tested the longer that Irving stops short of committing to join the team on a full-time basis.

A mask-clad U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs from No. 10 Downing St. in London in March. Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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A mask-clad U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs from No. 10 Downing St. in London in March.

Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.K.'s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic ranks among the worst public health failures in the country's history, causing "many thousands" of avoidable deaths, a new report says.

In the first weeks, as the virus began spreading in the U.K., the government chose not to restrict mass gatherings — a radical departure from the lockdowns that China quickly put in place. It was slower to impose widespread lockdowns than the U.S. and many other countries.

Instead, in the U.K., a "fatalism" about the ability to control the virus set in among government officials and scientific advisers, who sought to "manage, but not suppress, infection," said the new report, which is called "Coronavirus: lessons learned to date."

"This amounted in practice to accepting that herd immunity by infection was the inevitable outcome," it said, adding, "It would, however, be an overstatement to say that the Government and its advisers were promoting the acquisition of covid-19 to accelerate herd immunity in the population."

By default, though, the government's approach allowed the virus to spread in the population in hopes that the natural immune response generated by those exposed to the coronavirus would help tamp down the pandemic.

Boris Johnson let schools and businesses stay open early on

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who later tested positive for the coronavirus, initially allowed schools, restaurants, sports venues, movie theaters and pubs to remain open. His decision was backed by an advisory group of U.K. scientists.

The report, produced by the U.K.'s Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, said the decision not to lock down and social distance sooner amounts to "one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced."

It blamed the policy failure on "groupthink" between politicians and scientists that led to a resistance to adopting the measures as in other countries.

By the time the approach shifted, the damage was done

The "rapid discharge of people from hospitals into care homes without adequate testing or rigorous isolation" was also a key issue in the early response to the pandemic, the report said.

Although the U.K. shifted its approach as deaths mounted, the damage had already been done, according to the report.

"[It] was a mistake to allow patients to be transferred to care homes without the rigour shown in places like Germany and Hong Kong. This, combined with untested staff bringing infection into homes from the community, led to many thousands of deaths which could have been avoided," it said.

The report also pointed to an abrupt halt in community testing in the early phase of the pandemic, which left authorities without the information they needed to tackle the surge in infections. "A country with a world-class expertise in data analysis should not have faced the biggest health crisis in a hundred years with virtually no data to analyse."

Despite the significant criticisms contained in the more than 140-page report, it offered some praise for the government's handling of vaccine development and distribution, saying London's investment in vaccines, starting with the UK Vaccine Network in 2016, "clearly paid off."

The rollout of vaccines was "not plain sailing," the report acknowledged, pointing to problems in obtaining enough doses from drugmakers.

"Yet the Government and the [National Health Service] succeeded in maintaining public confidence in the leadership and operation of the vaccination programme, partly through a transparent communications programme," it said.

A nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a San Antonio senior center in March. A panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will meet Thursday to review Moderna's booster shot. Sergio Flores/Getty Images hide caption

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A nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a San Antonio senior center in March. A panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will meet Thursday to review Moderna's booster shot.

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The Food and Drug Administration released briefing documents Tuesday on booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines ahead of a two-day public meeting of advisers to the agency that starts Thursday.

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine booster is half the dose of the initial shots used in its two-shot vaccination — 50 micrograms of mRNA versus 100 micrograms.

The company's analysis says data on the immune response and side effects seen in people studied supports the use of a booster in people ages 18 and older six months or longer after initial immunization. The company cited an increase in breakthrough infections seen from the delta variant as a justification for a booster.

However, in light of the FDA's action on Pfizer-BioNTech's booster application last month, Moderna is seeking authorization of a booster dose of its vaccine on the same terms. That means the booster would be for people 65 and older, those ages 18 to 64 and at high risk for severe COVID-19 and people 18 to 64 whose institutional or occupational exposure put them at risk for severe COVID-19.

In August the agency authorized a third, full-strength Moderna dose for people with compromised immune systems.

A Johnson & Johnson analysis concludes that a booster given to people 18 and older six months or longer after initial vaccination with a single shot has a favorable risk-benefit balance. For people at higher risk of COVID-19, the company said its data supports a booster as soon as two months after the first.

The documents included a separate Johnson & Johnson analysis of potential side effects from its vaccine. As of the end of August, the company said about 33.5 million doses of the one-shot vaccine had been administered worldwide, including 14.3 million in the U.S.

The company analysis noted a range of rare reports that include acute liver failure, autoimmune disorders, blood clots, heart inflammation and a decline in platelets in the blood. None appeared to be so common as to present a significant safety problem. J&J pledged to continue to monitor the experience of people who receive the vaccine.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he will not enforce the county's vaccine mandate in his agency. Jae C. Hong/AP hide caption

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he will not enforce the county's vaccine mandate in his agency.

Jae C. Hong/AP

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County sheriff says he will not enforce the county's vaccine mandate in his agency.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who oversees the largest sheriff's department in the country with roughly 18,000 employees, said Thursday in a Facebook Live event that he does not plan to carry out the county's mandate, under which Los Angeles County employees had to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.

The mandate was issued by executive order in August and allows only for religious and medical exemptions. Villanueva said his employees are willing to be terminated rather than get vaccinated.

"I don't want to be in a position to lose 5, 10% of my workforce overnight on a vaccine mandate," the sheriff said.

More than 26,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, which is the nation's most populous county.

Of the county's roughly 10 million residents, 78% have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 69% are fully vaccinated, according to public health officials.

Health officials said the county has reported 14 deaths a day, on average, even though deaths and hospitalization figures have plunged by some 50% since late August.

Villanueva's announcement came a day after the city of Los Angeles approved one of the nation's strictest vaccine mandates — a sweeping measure that requires the shots for everyone entering bars, restaurants, nail salons, gyms or even a Lakers game.

Colorado's UCHealth hospital system is requiring any prospective organ transplant recipients to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Here, a man receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Thornton, Colo., earlier this year. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images hide caption

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Colorado's UCHealth hospital system is requiring any prospective organ transplant recipients to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Here, a man receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Thornton, Colo., earlier this year.

Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

A large hospital system in Colorado says people on its organ transplant wait list won't be offered an organ if they refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, citing the "significant risk the virus poses to transplant recipients."

UCHealth, which operates 12 hospitals from its headquarters in Aurora, Colo., says it has long been standard practice to require many organ recipients or donors to get vaccines such as hepatitis B or the MMR shot.

Organ wait list status hinges on the COVID-19 vaccine

The hospital system added COVID-19 to its vaccine list a few weeks ago. But the change is drawing notice now, after Colorado state Rep. Tim Geitner publicized the case of a woman who says the hospital told her has no chance of receiving a kidney transplant because she isn't vaccinated.

"UCHealth denies life saving treatment," the Republican lawmaker said via Twitter.

In the letter Geitner posted, the woman was informed that she would remain on the hospital's wait list for a kidney — but that her status would be deemed "inactive" until she gets the vaccine, according to an image of a letter addressed from UCHealth that Geitner shared online.

Unvaccinated people are at far greater risk, the hospital system says

A hospital official told NPR that they are unable to share or confirm information about specific patients. But in response to a flurry of questions about its policy, UCHealth said that people who undergo an organ transplant are routinely subject to a number of health requirements, from a drug regimen to prevent rejection to abstaining from tobacco or alcohol — and getting vaccines.

The "vast majority" of its patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to UCHealth. And it says organ recipients are at increased risk for the worst outcomes from the coronavirus.

"Various studies show that between 20% and 30% of unvaccinated transplant recipients who contract COVID-19 have died," the hospital system said in an update posted late Wednesday.

The vaccine requirements and other measures "are in place to ensure patients have the best chances of recovery and good outcomes, UCHealth said.

In late summer, UCHealth adopted a vaccine requirement for all of the employees at its hospitals and other facilities.

"An unvaccinated person is about 50 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than a vaccinated person, and nearly 300 times more likely to die if infected," the hospital said at the time.

Organ transplant groups have backed the COVID-19 vaccine

Organ transplant wait lists are highly competitive, with hopeful recipients greatly outnumbering the available kidneys, livers and other organs that become available each year.

"On any given day there are around 75,000 people on the active waiting list for organs," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "but only around 8,000 deceased organ donors each year, with each providing on average 3.5 organs. Living donors provide on average only around 6,000 organs per year."

This year, both the American Liver Foundation and the National Kidney Foundation have called for wide access to the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots for organ recipients, citing their immunocompromised health status.

A healthcare worker prepares doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic at a high school in Los Angeles in August. Jill Connelly/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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A healthcare worker prepares doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic at a high school in Los Angeles in August.

Jill Connelly/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech are officially asking the Biden administration to authorize the use of their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Pfizer tweeted on Thursday that the companies had submitted their formal request for Emergency Use Authorization of the vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration.

"With new cases in children in the U.S. continuing to be at a high level, this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against #COVID19," the pharmaceutical giant said.

The submission is the latest development in the push to expand use of the vaccine to younger children, a process being closely watched by many anxious parents as the new school year gets underway.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has full FDA approval for people ages 16 and older, and those between the ages of 12 and 15 can get the shot under the current emergency use authorization.

The application was widely expected after Pfizer and BioNTech submitted data to the government last month showing that their vaccine produced a "robust" antibody response in kids from 5-11 and had "favorable" safety outcomes.

The FDA has scheduled a meeting with an independent advisory committee for Oct. 26 to discuss Pfizer's request to authorize its vaccine for children aged 5-11.

The FDA could then decide quickly to grant the authorization, though that could be held up if the committee has issues with the application.

In this Dec. 28, 2020, file photo, staff of the Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 disinfect the store to help curb the spread of the coronavirus before it opens in Pyongyang, North Korea. Jon Chol Jin/AP hide caption

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Jon Chol Jin/AP

In this Dec. 28, 2020, file photo, staff of the Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 disinfect the store to help curb the spread of the coronavirus before it opens in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Jon Chol Jin/AP

SEOUL, South Korea — The World Health Organization has started shipping COVID-19 medical supplies into North Korea, a possible sign that the North is easing one of the world's strictest pandemic border closures to receive outside help.

WHO said in a weekly monitoring report that it has started the shipment of essential COVID-19 medical supplies through the Chinese port of Dalian for "strategic stockpiling and further dispatch" to North Korea.

Edwin Salvador, WHO's representative to North Korea, said in an email to the Associated Press Thursday that some items, including emergency health kits and medicine, have reached the North Korean port of Nampo after North Korean authorities allowed the WHO and other U.N. agencies to send supplies that had been stuck in Dalian.

"Consequently, we have been able to transport some of our items by ship to Nampo ... (including) emergency health kits, medicines and medical supplies that would support essential health services at primary health care centers," Salvador said. "We are informed that WHO items along with supplies sent by other U.N. agencies are currently still under quarantine at the seaport."

Describing its anti-virus campaign was a matter of "national existence," North Korea had severely restricted cross-border traffic and trade for the past two years despite the strain on its already crippled economy.

U.N. human rights investigators in August asked the North's government to clarify allegations that it ordered troops to shoot on sight any trespassers who cross its borders in violation of its pandemic closing.

While North Korea has yet to report a single case of COVID-19, outside experts widely doubt it escaped the illness that had touched nearly every other place in the world.

The North has told WHO it has tested 40,700 people for the coronavirus through Sept. 23 and that all the tests were negative. Those tested in the last week reported included 94 people with influenza-like illnesses or other symptoms and 573 health care workers, according to the WHO report.

Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be devastating, considering its poor health care system and chronic lack of medical supplies.

But despite implementing severe border controls, North Korea hasn't shown the same kind of urgency for vaccines even as its mass immunization campaign continues to be delayed amid global shortages.

Analysts say North Korea could be uneasy about international monitoring requirements that would be attached to the vaccines it receives from the outside world. There are also views that leader Kim Jong Un has domestic political motivations to tighten the country's self-imposed lockdown as he calls for unity and tries to solidify his grip on power while navigating perhaps his toughest moment after nearly a decade of rule.

Salvador said the WHO is continuing to work with North Korean officials so that they complete the technical requirements for receiving vaccines through the U.N.-backed COVAX distribution program. He said the North has developed a national deployment plan to use as reference when it begins its vaccine rollout.

The latest WHO report came weeks after Kim during a ruling party meeting ordered officials to wage a tougher anti-virus campaign in "our style" after he turned down some foreign COVID-19 vaccines offered via COVAX.

UNICEF, which procures and delivers vaccines on behalf of the COVAX distribution program, said last month that North Korea proposed its allotment of about 3 million Sinovac shots be sent to severely affected countries instead.

Some analysts say the North is angling to receive more effective jabs amid questions about the Sinovac vaccine's effectiveness.

UNICEF said the North Korean health ministry said it will continue to communicate with COVAX over future vaccines.

A patient shows her COVID-19 vaccine card at the Clínica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero in the Pico-Union district of Los Angeles on July 26. Damian Dovarganes/AP hide caption

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A patient shows her COVID-19 vaccine card at the Clínica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero in the Pico-Union district of Los Angeles on July 26.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

By next month Los Angeles will require residents and visitors to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to eat, drink, or shop in indoor establishments across the city.

Under this mandate, eligible patrons will need to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, coffee shops, stores, gyms, spas or salons. People attending large, outdoor events will also need to show evidence of either vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test to attend the event.

Proof of vaccination includes a vaccination card issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a photo of both sides of the card, documentation from a health care provider, or a digital record of vaccination issued by California, another state or country.

The City Council passed the new law on Wednesday and Mayor Eric Garcetti approved the sweeping ordinance later that day. It's set to take effect sometime in November.

This mandate adds on to the recently-passed statewide rule requiring all elementary through high school students to get coronavirus vaccines.

The city-wide mandate passed despite some residents writing to the City Council in opposition to the rule, arguing the policy was unconstitutional and unenforceable. Copies of letters from the public were shared on the L.A. City Council agenda for Wednesday's meeting.

But city officials argued an earlier surge in coronavirus cases across the country thanks to the delta variant drove Los Angeles to this decision. Though nationwide, cases of the virus are trending downward.

This new mandate passed Wednesday also goes further than the Los Angeles County Department of Health's order, issued last month, requiring customers at outdoor events of 10,000 or more to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. That rule also applied to indoor bars, wineries, breweries, and nightclubs.

Businesses face fines for violations

Garcetti signed the ordinance Wednesday saying he hopes it will force more residents to get vaccinated.

Los Angeles reports that 78% of residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. At least 92% of residents older than 65 have received one dose.

"Vaccinating more Angelenos is our only way out of this pandemic, and we must do everything in our power to keep pushing those numbers up," Garcetti said. "These new rules will encourage more people to get the shot, and make businesses safer for workers and customers — so that we can save more lives, better protect the vulnerable, and make our communities even safer as we fight this pandemic."

In this Wednesday, July 7, 2021, file photo, patrons enjoy tropical cocktails in the tiny interior of the Tiki-Ti bar as it reopens on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Damian Dovarganes/AP hide caption

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In this Wednesday, July 7, 2021, file photo, patrons enjoy tropical cocktails in the tiny interior of the Tiki-Ti bar as it reopens on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

Under the ordinance, customers who are not vaccinated can use an establishment's outdoor space. They can only enter the indoor portion of a store or restaurant for brief moments, either to use the bathroom, to pick up an order, or to pay, while wearing a well-fitting mask.

A business found in violation of this mandate could face punishment that includes a warning or notice for a first violation, a $1,000 fine for a second violation, a $2,000 fine for a third, and a $5,000 fine for a fourth violation.

Those who cannot be vaccinated for religious or health reasons must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test and proof of an exemption.

Los Angeles follows a trend emerging in other major cities, including West Hollywood, San Francisco and New York City who have similar rules requiring showing a proof of a vaccine to enter some indoor establishments.

COVID-19 test kit maker Ellume is recalling some at-home tests after learning that they were reporting a higher-than-expected rate of false positive results indicating someone has the virus when they do not.

The Australian company has said the tests were shipped to U.S. retailers and other distributors from April through August. It published a list on its website of the lot numbers on test packages affected by the recall.

The company said about 427,000 tests are in the lots identified in the recall, and nearly 200,000 are unused. Ellume said tests from those lots may provide false positive results at a rate higher than researchers saw during clinical testing.

Ellume said it will email customers who used one of those test kits and received a positive result in the last two weeks. It recommended that people who have not scheduled another test to confirm the result should immediately do so.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday in a separate statement that people who got a positive result from one of the tests should contact a care provider or urgent care location and ask for a molecular diagnostic test.

The problem was tied to a manufacturing issue, and it does not appear to affect negative results from the tests.

Ellume said about 42,000 affected tests have been used and produced positive results, both accurate and false. That represents about 1% of the 3.5 million tests the company has shipped to the U.S.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed into law several measures that restricted the power of local governments to enact COVID-19 protection measures. Ross D. Franklin/AP hide caption

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Ross D. Franklin/AP

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed into law several measures that restricted the power of local governments to enact COVID-19 protection measures.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

The Biden administration on Tuesday ordered Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to stop using the state's federal pandemic funding on a pair of new education grants that can only be directed to schools without mask mandates.

In a letter to Ducey, the Treasury Department said the grant programs are "not a permissible use" of the federal funding. It's the latest attempt by the Biden administration to push back against Republican governors who have opposed mask mandates and otherwise sought to use federal pandemic funding to advance their own agendas.

Ducey, a Republican, created the grant programs in August to put pressure on school districts that have defied the state's ban on mask mandates.

He launched a $163 million grant program using federal funding he controls, but he made it available only to schools without mask mandates. He also established a $10 million program that offers vouchers to families at public schools that require masks or that tell students to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure.

In the letter, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the conditions "undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19." He asked the state to explain how it will "remediate" the problem within 30 days.

C.J. Karamargin, a spokesperson for Ducey, said it's "baffling" why anyone would oppose the grant programs.

"Following the challenges during the 2020 school year, everyone's primary focus should be equipping families with the resources to get their kids caught up. That's exactly what this program does — giving families in need the opportunity to access educational resources like tutoring, child care, transportation and more," Karamargin said in a statement.

He said the governor's office is reviewing the letter and plans to respond.

Several states have banned mask mandates in schools

Arizona is one of at least eight states that have laws or executive orders banning mask requirements in public schools.

The Education Department in August opened civil rights investigations into five Republican-led states that forbid mask mandates in schools, saying such actions may violate the rights of students with disabilities. The agency later added Florida to the list of states under investigation. It said it was watching several other states in case it needed to take action, including in Arizona.

The Education Department separately promised to repay school districts who have state funding withheld for defying bans on mask requirements. Last month, the agency sent nearly $150,000 to the School Board of Alachua County in Florida after the state withheld pay for school board members because the district requires masks.

Education advocates have filed a lawsuit over Arizona's ban and several other state laws that restrict the power of local governments and school districts to impose COVID-19 requirements.

Those policies conflict with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends universal mask wearing for students and teachers in the classroom. The CDC issued the guidance in light of the rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.

Johnson & Johnson has asked U.S. regulators to allow booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine. David Zalubowski/AP hide caption

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David Zalubowski/AP

Johnson & Johnson has asked U.S. regulators to allow booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine.

David Zalubowski/AP

WASHINGTON — Johnson & Johnson asked the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to allow extra shots of its COVID-19 vaccine as the U.S. government moves toward expanding its booster campaign to millions more vaccinated Americans.

J&J said it filed a request with the FDA to authorize boosters for people 18 and older who previously received the company's one-shot vaccine. While the company said it submitted data on several different booster intervals, ranging from two to six months, it did not formally recommend one to regulators.

Last month, the FDA authorized booster shots of Pfizer's vaccine for older Americans and other groups with heightened vulnerability to COVID-19. It's part of a sweeping effort by the Biden administration to shore up protection amid the delta variant and potential waning vaccine immunity.

Government advisers backed the extra Pfizer shots, but they also worried about creating confusion for tens of millions of other Americans who received the Moderna and J&J shots. U.S. officials don't recommend mixing and matching different vaccine brands.

Americans may soon begin getting J&J and Moderna boosters

The FDA is convening its outside panel of advisers next week to review booster data from both J&J and Moderna. It's the first step in a review process that also includes sign-off from the leadership of both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If both agencies give the go-ahead, Americans could begin getting J&J and Moderna boosters later this month.

J&J previously released data suggesting its vaccine remains highly effective against COVID-19 at least five months after vaccination, demonstrating 81% effectiveness against hospitalizations in the U.S.

But company research shows a booster dose at either two or six months revved up immunity even further. Data released last month showed giving a booster at two months provided 94% protection against moderate-to-severe COVID-19 infection. The company has not yet released clinical data on a six-month booster shot.

FDA's advisers will review studies from the company and other researchers next Friday and vote on whether to recommend boosters.

The timing of the J&J filing was unusual given that the FDA had already scheduled its meeting on the company's data. Companies normally submit their requests well in advance of meeting announcements. A J&J executive said the company has been working with FDA on the review.

"Both J&J and FDA have a sense of urgency because it's COVID and we want good data out there converted into action as soon as possible," said Dr. Mathai Mammen, head of research for J&J's Janssen unit.

The vaccine from the New Brunswick, New Jersey, company was considered an important tool in fighting the pandemic because it requires only one shot. But its rollout was hurt by a series of troubles, including manufacturing problems at a Baltimore factory that forced J&J to import millions of doses from overseas.

Additionally, regulators have added warnings of several rare side effects to the shot, including a blood clot disorder and a neurological reaction called Guillain-Barré syndrome. In both cases, regulators decided the benefits of the shot still outweighed those uncommon risks.

Rival drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have provided the vast majority of U.S. COVID-19 vaccines. More than 170 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with the companies' two-dose shots while less than 15 million Americans got the J&J shot.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, on Oct. 4, 2021. New Zealand's government has acknowledged what most other countries did long ago: it can no longer completely get rid of the coronavirus. Mark Mitchell/AP hide caption

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Mark Mitchell/AP

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, on Oct. 4, 2021. New Zealand's government has acknowledged what most other countries did long ago: it can no longer completely get rid of the coronavirus.

Mark Mitchell/AP

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand's government acknowledged Monday what most other countries did long ago: It can no longer completely get rid of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a cautious plan to ease lockdown restrictions in Auckland, despite an outbreak there that continues to simmer.

Since early in the pandemic, New Zealand had pursued an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus through strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing.

Until recently, that elimination strategy had worked remarkably well for the country of 5 million, which has reported just 27 virus deaths.

While other nations faced rising death tolls and disrupted lives, New Zealanders went back to workplaces, school yards and sports stadiums safe from any community spread.

But that all changed when the more contagious delta variant somehow escaped from a quarantine facility in August after it was brought into the country from a traveler returning from Australia.

Despite New Zealand going into the strictest form of lockdown after just a single local case was detected, it ultimately wasn't enough to crush the outbreak entirely.

One factor may have been that the disease spread among some groups that are typically more wary of authorities, including gang members and homeless people living in transitional housing.

The outbreak has grown to more than 1,300 cases, with 29 more detected on Monday. A few cases have been found outside of Auckland.

Ardern said that seven weeks of lockdown restrictions in Auckland had helped keep the outbreak under control.

"For this outbreak, it's clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases," Ardern said. "But that is OK. Elimination was important because we didn't have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things."

New Zealand began its vaccination campaign slowly compared to most other developed nations. Rates rocketed in August after the outbreak began but have dropped off significantly again since then.

About 65% of New Zealanders have had at least one dose and 40% are fully vaccinated. Among people age 12 and older, about 79% have had at least a single jab.

Under Ardern's plan that starts Tuesday, Aucklanders will be able to meet outdoors with loved ones from one other household, early childhood centers will reopen and people will be able to go to the beach.

The dates for a phased reopening of retail stores and later bars and restaurants have yet to be decided.

Ardern said the elimination strategy had served the country incredibly well but the government always intended to eventually transition to the protection of vaccines, a change hastened by the delta variant "game changer."

The government's elimination approach had been broadly supported by New Zealanders but was facing increasing criticism. Over the weekend, hundreds of people turned out to rallies protesting the lockdown.

Opposition lawmaker Chris Bishop said the government had no clear strategy to deal with the outbreak other than total surrender.

But Ardern said that most measures would remain in place to keep the outbreak under control, including exhaustive contact tracing and isolating those who got infected.

"There's good cause for us to feel optimistic about the future," Ardern said. "But we cannot rush."

Above, a child walks by a Christmas display in New York City last year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, says it's "too soon to tell" whether Americans will be able to gather during the winter holidays. Noam Galai/Getty Images hide caption

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Noam Galai/Getty Images

Above, a child walks by a Christmas display in New York City last year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, says it's "too soon to tell" whether Americans will be able to gather during the winter holidays.

Noam Galai/Getty Images

Anyone looking to celebrate the fall and winter holidays without spreading COVID-19 should consider a window fan or a walk-by greeting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The suggestions are part of the agency's list of safe ways to get festive — sort of an epidemiologist's take on Martha Stewart's Home for the Holidays.

The CDC says it's updating its holiday guidelines

Update, Oct. 5: The guidance that was posted to the CDC's website isn't the agency's final word on the 2021 holidays. The day after this story was published, the agency told NPR that it's in the process of updating its advice for Americans to safely observe the upcoming holiday season.

The tips that had been on the website were "outdated" and a new version will come out soon, the CDC public affairs said.

Here's what the most recent guidance told people to do

The agency said it's safer for people from different households to get together outdoors than indoors. But if a gathering must take place indoors, the CDC recommends opening windows and doors to increase ventilation.

"You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window," the agency says. "This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows."

"What we should be doing is look at ventilation in indoor places," Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, told CBS' Face the Nation.

"We know now that this is clearly spread by aerosol, and when you have something spread by aerosol, you absolutely want more ventilation, which is the reason why outdoors is always much safer than indoors," he said. "And if you are indoors, ventilation is going to be key."

Getting vaccinated, keeping a mask handy and social distancing remain at the top of the CDC's guidance for people wanting to avoid the coronavirus. But it also has advice for anyone trying to navigate the potential risks of celebrating holidays during a pandemic.

Some highlights for getting together with people from outside your own household:

  • "In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings," the CDC says — but it adds that in areas with high case numbers, people should consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor areas or in close contact with someone who isn't vaccinated.
  • Anyone older than 2 who is also not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor public places.
  • Consider virtual celebrations or gatherings instead of in-person events.
  • If you're sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, stay home.
  • Discuss expectations and behavior early, so everyone is working from the same ground rules about masks and other safety measures.

The CDC's holiday-specific guidance ranges from the timeless — "Decorate your home with holiday themed items and banners" — to the pandemic-specific: "Have an outdoor celebration with everyone at least 6 feet apart."

If those approaches don't provide the sense of community many of us enjoy during the holidays, the CDC suggests walking or driving through your neighborhood waving to neighbors. You could also volunteer to help others who are in need, or drop off gifts at doorsteps.

New health data points to things getting better

Recent prediction models show the U.S. could be heading toward a steady decline in new cases — a welcome development after the delta variant fueled a late-summer surge. But Fauci says it's not yet time to relax.

"It's just too soon to tell" whether Americans will be able to gather during the winter holidays, Fauci said Sunday.

The focus now, Fauci said, should be on bringing case numbers down, through vaccination and other means.

Despite the promising news, nearly every U.S. state and territory is currently experiencing high levels of community transmission, according to the CDC. The agency is hoping to avoid the massive end-of year spike in cases and deaths Americans endured last year.

Travelers watch a JetBlue aircraft taxi away from a gate at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on May 25. Patrick Semansky/AP hide caption

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Patrick Semansky/AP

Travelers watch a JetBlue aircraft taxi away from a gate at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on May 25.

Patrick Semansky/AP

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue are joining United Airlines in requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as the Biden administration steps up pressure on major U.S. carriers to require the shots.

The airlines provide special flights, cargo hauling and other services for the government. The companies say that makes them government contractors who are covered by President Joe Biden's order directing contractors to require that employees be vaccinated.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told employees late Friday that the airline is still working on details, but "it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines."

The pilot union at American recently estimated that 4,200 — or 30% — of the airline's pilots are not vaccinated.

The White House is pressing airline CEOs to mandate vaccinations

Earlier, White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients talked to the CEOs of American, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines about vaccine mandates, according to three people familiar with the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the calls were private.

Airlines are large employers that fall under Biden's sweeping order that companies with more than 100 workers require employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for the virus.

However, they are also government contractors, who face a Dec. 8 deadline to enforce vaccination requirements — without the testing option.

Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways said Friday they will require employees to be vaccinated as soon as Dec. 8 because they will be treated as federal contractors.

"This means employees may no longer opt-in for regular testing and masking in lieu of getting the vaccine," Alaska Airlines said in a memo to employees.

Delta said it was still evaluating Biden's order. The airline previously said it will require vaccination or weekly testing and impose surcharges on unvaccinated employees. That would meet the Biden test for large employers but not the stricter rules for federal contractors.

United Airlines took an early and tough stance to require vaccination. United said Thursday that 320 of its 67,000 U.S. employees face termination for not getting vaccinated or seeking a medical or religious exemption by a deadline earlier this week.

Employees can seek waivers on medical or religious grounds

Employees can seek waivers from the vaccines on medical or religious grounds. United is placing most of those workers on unpaid leave until COVID-19 rates come down.

Southwest says it is studying Biden's order. Both Southwest and American are under pressure from their pilot groups not to require vaccinations but to instead offer options, including testing.

The White House adviser's calls with airline CEOs were reported earlier by Reuters.

At least two members of Congress — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va. — have proposed requiring that passengers on domestic flights be vaccinated or show proof of a negative test for COVID-19 before they fly.

Anthony Fauci, the government's top expert on infectious disease, supports that approach for domestic flights, and travelers entering the country must present a negative test before boarding. The Biden administration has not ruled out the idea, which the airlines oppose strongly.

Long COVID patient Gary Miller receives treatment from physiotherapist Joan Del Arco at the Long COVID Clinic at King George Hospital in Ilford, London, in May. Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP hide caption

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Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Long COVID patient Gary Miller receives treatment from physiotherapist Joan Del Arco at the Long COVID Clinic at King George Hospital in Ilford, London, in May.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Symptoms of COVID-19 persist or recur months after diagnosis for more than a third of all people who get the illness, a new study finds, potentially pushing the number of so-called long COVID cases higher than previously thought.

In the study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers found that about 36% of those studied still reported COVID-like symptoms three and six months after diagnosis. Most previous studies have estimated lingering post-COVID symptoms in 10% to 30% of patients.

The study, led by University of Oxford scientists in the United Kingdom, searched anonymized data from millions of electronic health records, primarily in the United States, to identify a study group of 273,618 patients with COVID-19 and 114,449 patients with influenza as a control.

Some patients had symptoms months after having none at all

Although long COVID is poorly defined, the researchers looked at such symptoms as chest/throat pain, abnormal breathing, abdominal symptoms, fatigue, depression, headaches, cognitive dysfunction and muscle pain.

"The research found that over 1 in 3 patients had one or more features of long-COVID recorded between 3 and 6 months after a diagnosis of COVID-19," the authors concluded.

The researchers also found that of those who had long COVID three to six months after diagnosis, roughly 40% had no record of such symptoms in the prior three months.

Long-haul symptoms for COVID seem to be hitting more often than they do for the flu

Months after the pandemic began, scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned about a post-viral syndrome that was showing up in people who had recovered from COVID. That led some to compare the symptoms experienced by many following COVID-19 to the same experience that some people have after other viral infections, such as the flu.

But the new study concludes that the chances of getting COVID-19 symptoms months after the acute stage of the illness was more than twice as high as for influenza.

The Oxford-led team also found that people who had more severe COVID-19 illness were more likely to get long COVID. Likewise, female and young adult patients also had an elevated risk for the long-term symptoms, but the authors of the study found no difference between white and nonwhite patients.

NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar looks on during the game between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum in 2019 in Milwaukee. Dylan Buell/Getty Images hide caption

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NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar looks on during the game between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum in 2019 in Milwaukee.

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Retired NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a message for professional basketball players who are refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine: Get the shot or get off the squad.

"The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team," Abdul-Jabbar said in an article published in Rolling Stone on Saturday.

"There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research," the NBA Hall of Famer added.

Abdul-Jabbar's comments come a few weeks before the 2021-2022 NBA season is set to begin, without a vaccine mandate for players.

Instead, the league will require unvaccinated players to submit to regular testing — once on practice or travel days and at least once on game days, according to The Associated Press. Fully vaccinated athletes won't need to get tested regularly.

But in recent days, several top NBA players have said they won't get vaccinated against the coronavirus or refuse to publicly acknowledge their vaccination status, raising questions about whether the league can return to normalcy as the virus continues to circulate throughout the U.S.

Last year, the NBA sequestered players and workers in a "bubble" for the remainder of the season after a pause at the start of the pandemic. Players and team staff were isolated from anyone not connected to the league. The novel experiment ended with no players, coaches or staff members reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 in the bubble.

About 90% of NBA players are currently vaccinated, according to several media outlets.

Abdul-Jabbar said players who are refusing the vaccine don't have science on their side.

"What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts," he said. "Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?"

Some teams, such as the New York Knicks, have been required to fully vaccinate all of their players in order to comply with local COVID-19 mandates that require athletes to have the shot in order to set foot on their home court.

The WNBA announced in June that 99% of its players were fully vaccinated.

An older child gets vaccinated in Michigan. Pfizer and BioNTech say they will submit a formal request for emergency use authorization of the vaccine in children as young as 5 in the coming weeks. Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An older child gets vaccinated in Michigan. Pfizer and BioNTech say they will submit a formal request for emergency use authorization of the vaccine in children as young as 5 in the coming weeks.

Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech are another step closer to seeking authorization for young children to receive the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, submitting data to the Food and Drug Administration that shows a "robust" antibody response and "favorable" safety outcomes in kids ages 5 to 11 who received the two-dose regimen in clinical trials.

The companies plan to submit a formal request for emergency-use authorization of the vaccine for that age range "in the coming weeks," they said Tuesday.

News of the data submission comes a week after Pfizer announced promising results from the trials, which have been closely watched by parents eager to protect their children from the coronavirus. COVID-19 has now killed more than 690,000 people in the U.S., with millions more sickened by the disease.

The trial, one of several companies are conducting for children in three different age groups, included 2,268 participants.

Children received two vaccine doses of 10 micrograms — notably smaller than the pair of 30-microgram doses used in an earlier successful trial for people 16 to 25 years old. The smaller vaccine dose "was carefully selected as the preferred dose for safety, tolerability and immunogenicity," the companies said.

The results of the two trials are comparable, the companies said as they announced the data submission to the FDA.

In a separate clinical trial for kids younger than 5, participants are receiving 3-microgram doses of the vaccine. The pharmaceutical companies expect to have results of trials for kids from 6 months up to 2 years old and from ages 2 to 5 "as soon as the fourth quarter of this year."

Michelle Chester, director of employee health services at Northwell Health, prepares the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital. Hospitals and nursing homes across the country are preparing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Eduardo Munoz/AP hide caption

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Eduardo Munoz/AP

Michelle Chester, director of employee health services at Northwell Health, prepares the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital. Hospitals and nursing homes across the country are preparing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Eduardo Munoz/AP

Hospitals and nursing homes around the U.S. are bracing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

With ultimatums taking effect this week in states including New York, California, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the fear is that some employees will quit or let themselves be fired or suspended rather than get the vaccine.

"How this is going to play out, we don't know. We are concerned about how it will exacerbate an already quite serious staffing problem," said California Hospital Association spokesperson Jan Emerson-Shea, adding that the organization "absolutely" supports the state's vaccination requirement.

New York health care employees had until the end of the day Monday to get at least one dose, but some hospitals had already begun suspending or otherwise taking action against holdouts.

Erie County Medical Center Corp. in Buffalo said about 5% of its hospital workforce has been put on unpaid leave for not being vaccinated, along with 20% of staff at its nursing home. And the state's largest health care provider, Northwell Health, said it has begun removing unvaccinated workers from its system, though it said its workforce is nearly 100% vaccinated.

"To those who have not yet made that decision, please do the right thing," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

Some New York hospitals prepared contingency plans that included cutting back on noncritical services and limiting nursing home admissions. The governor also drew up plans to summon help from National Guard members with medical training, retirees or vaccinated workers from outside the state.

About a dozen states have vaccination mandates covering health care workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities or both. Some allow exemptions on medical or religious grounds, but those employees often must submit to regular COVID-19 testing.

States that have set such requirements tend to have high vaccination rates already. The highest rates are concentrated in the Northeast, the lowest ones in the South and Midwest.

The Biden administration also will require the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid to be fully vaccinated under a rule still being developed.

That has worried some hospital officials, particularly in rural communities where vaccination rates tend to be lower.

"We are looking at the need to reallocate staff, in some cases just to maintain services that are essential, and there are going to be some delays" in care, said Troy Bruntz, president and CEO at Community Hospital in McCook, Nebraska.

He said 25 of the hospital's 330 employees said they would definitely resign if they were required to be vaccinated. The remainder of the approximately 100 unvaccinated employees — a group that includes nurses as well as cleaning and maintenance staff — haven't decided.

He also worries that it will be difficult to hire new workers when the hospital is already short-handed.

"It doesn't make us feel too confident that this isn't going to turn into something short of a nightmare for American health care," he said.

Many hospitals and nursing homes are already suffering staff shortages because many nurses and others have quit as a result of pandemic-related burnout or have left for lucrative jobs traveling from state to state.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that hospitals in Houston and Maine lost a relatively small number of employees recently after requiring employees to get vaccinated.

"We're seeing in a lot of places that this is working, it's effective. It's creating more certainty and protection in their workforces," Psaki said.

In California, where health care workers have until Thursday to get fully vaccinated, some hospitals are anticipating firings, suspensions or the moving of people to other positions, Emerson-Shea said. She said many traveling nurses have declined assignments in California because of the state's vaccine requirement.

But with a statewide mandate, health workers won't be able to just quit their jobs and go to other hospitals, said Dr. Jeff Smith, CEO and executive vice president of hospital operations at Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

He expects that about 97 percent of Cedars-Sinai's almost 17,000 employees affected by the vaccine mandate will comply by the deadline. Another 1 percent have applied for medical or religious exemptions. Those who don't comply by Friday will be suspended for a week, and fired on Oct. 8 if they don't comply or if there are not extenuating circumstances, he said.

The hospital also was able to hire over 100 nurses in the past month and uses some travel nurses.

"We're in a good place but don't want to minimize the challenges other hospitals are likely facing," Smith said.

In Rhode Island, where the vaccine mandate takes effect Friday, the state said hospitals can allow unvaccinated employees to keep working 30 days past the deadline in cases where firing them would compromise patient safety. The mandate is being challenged in court because it doesn't allow religious exemptions.

In states that don't have mandates, some hospitals are imposing their own.

Ginger Robertson, a registered nurse who works in a mental health clinic at a hospital in Bismarck, North Dakota, has requested a religious exemption from her hospital's vaccination requirement. She said she will look for other work if she doesn't get it.

"Honestly, I really love my job. I am good at it. I enjoy my patients. I enjoy where I am at," she said. "So this is a really hard place, to have to choose between two things I don't want to do. I don't want to leave, and I don't want to get the vaccine."

She said other nurses are also considering leaving over what she called the "insulting" mandate.

"We feel demoralized, like as though we aren't intelligent enough to make these choices for ourselves," Robertson said.

A North Carolina-based hospital system announced Monday that more than 175 of its 35,000-plus employees have been fired for failing to comply with its COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Last week, Novant Health announced 375 workers had been suspended and given five days to comply. Nearly 200 of them did so — including those who submitted approved exemptions — before the Friday deadline, spokesperson Megan Rivers said.

Massachusetts' mandate, issued by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, applies only to rest homes, assisted living facilities, hospice programs and home care programs. It allows for medical and religious exemptions but doesn't require regular testing. The deadline is Oct. 31.

In Connecticut, a vaccine mandate for employees of state-run hospitals took effect on Monday. It does not apply to privately run hospitals, some of which are imposing their own requirements. Medical and religious exemptions are possible, but anyone else who fails to get vaccinated will be barred from the workplace.

About 84% of over 450,000 hospital workers in New York were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to state data. Nursing home data through Sunday showed about 89% of nursing home workers fully vaccinated.

New York City's hospital system reported a 95% vaccination rate for nurses and a higher rate for doctors.

In Missouri, which became a severe COVID-19 hot spot over the summer, the Mercy hospital system is requiring vaccinations among staff at its hundreds of medical centers and clinics in Missouri and neighboring states by Thursday.

Anyone who doesn't comply by then will be placed on a 30-day unpaid suspension, said Mercy spokeswoman Bethany Pope.

The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

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