White House releases plan to vaccinate 28M children ages 5-11; New York City mandates vaccination for all employees: COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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The Biden administration said Wednesday that it has obtained enough coronavirus vaccine and is ready to quickly and equitably distribute doses for the nation’s 28 million children ages 5-11 once federal authorization is obtained.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds could win authorization in a couple weeks, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said at a briefing Wednesday. He said 15 million vaccines would then be shipped in the first week alone.

Vaccines for youths will be the focus of the Food and Drug Administration’s independent advisory committee meeting Oct. 26 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent panel meeting Nov. 2-3.

“Our planning efforts mean that we will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation,” the White House said in a statement. 

The statement said 25,000 pediatrician and primary care offices, more than 100 children’s hospitals, tens of thousands of pharmacies and hundreds of schools and community-based clinics will be providing the shots.

“Equity and fairness will be at the center of our pediatric vaccination program,” Zients said.

Also in the news:

►Almost two years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many employers and businesses are requiring the vaccine. But what happens to those who refuse? Some have been fired or benched. Others quit. Those who did include well-known football coaches, Broadway stars and news reporters. Read about them here.

►The Brazilian Senate is expected to recommend that President Jair Bolsonaro be indicted on criminal charges for allegedly bungling Brazil’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Senate report calls for Bolsonaro to be indicted on nine charges ranging from charlatanism to crime against humanity.

►Conservative radio host Dennis Prager, 73, says he contracted COVID-19 on purpose after months of trying to get infected. The host of “The Dennis Prager Show” told listeners he hopes to “achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics.”

►The Food and Drug Administration may give its OK to administer booster shots that are different from recipients’ original COVID-19 vaccine as soon as today, the New York Times reported.

►More than 20 Chicago police officers have been put on “no pay” status for refusing to comply with the city policy of disclosing their COVID vaccine statuses, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said Tuesday.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 45.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 728,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 241.6 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 189.4 million Americans – 57.1% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Latino Catholics have one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates among major religious groups in the United States, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The study comes amid ongoing debate over whether or not to mandate vaccines and amid ethical questions surrounding the research and manufacture of certain vaccines using cell lines from aborted fetuses.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Rescue money targeting affordable housing, but red tape abounds

Replacing lost revenue to avoid budget cuts is the most common use of COVID-19 rescue funds, a USA TODAY review of plans submitted by U.S. cities to the Treasury Department found. But when it comes to new investments, nothing appears to get more attention than affordable housing and programs for the homeless. Yet housing advocates want more lasting federal funding than one-time money. And they’re looking for execution, not just plans. Cities and states have been slow to spend the rescue money because of lengthy public input processes and federal guideline issues.

“Certainly, there’s a huge opportunity here because there is $350 billion on the table that can be used for housing,” said Sarah Saadian, vice president of public policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Read more here.

Joey Garrison

In-N-Out restaurant defiant after being shut down over COVID mandate

California burger chain In-N-Out had a San Francisco restaurant briefly shut down for failing to follow a city requirement that employees check customers for proof of vaccination to eat in the restaurants.

The chain said the restaurant had signs explaining the vaccination requirements but was not checking for vaccination cards. The city Health Department shut down the restaurant briefly on Thursday, though it quickly reopened for grab-and-go only.

“We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government,” the company said in a statement. The city Health Department responded that “vaccination is particularly important in a public indoor setting where groups of people are gathering and removing their masks, factors that make it easier for the virus to spread.”

Death, new case rates down sharply from recent peak

COVID-19 is killing about 20% fewer Americans now than during the recent peak of deaths four weeks ago, and cases are being reported at less than half the pace they were during an earlier part of the delta variant-driven wave.

Johns Hopkins University data shows states reported 11,725 deaths in the week ending Tuesday, down from more than 14,500 per week less than a month ago. In the week ending Tuesday the United States reported 569,445 new cases, compared with about 1.15 million about a month and a half ago.

The higher numbers came amid America’s first big encounter with the highly contagious delta variant. The high counts came months after free, effective vaccines became widely available to American adults and teens.

Mike Stucka

New York City mandates vaccination for all city employees

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for city employees. The workers will receive an extra $500 in their paycheck for receiving their first dose at a city-run vaccination site through next week. The employees are required to have proof of at least one dose. Unvaccinated employees will be placed on unpaid leave, the mayor said. Vaccination has been required for city health care and schools employees since late September. The mayor said vaccination rates for those departments are 95% or higher. 

“There is no greater privilege than serving the people of New York City, and that privilege comes with a responsibility to keep yourself and your community safe,” de Blasio said. 

Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto tests positive, urges vaccination

Fox News Channel anchor Neil Cavuto says he has tested positive for COVID-19 and that while he was stunned by the news “doctors tell me I’m lucky as well.” Cavuto wasn’t on air for “Your World with Neil Cavuto” Tuesday after learning of his test results following Monday’s episode. Cavuto said in a statement that his condition “would be a far more dire situation” if he had not been vaccinated because of “all my medical issues.”

Cavuto, 63, had open-heart surgery in 2016, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997 and was treated for cancer in the 1980s. The Fox News anchor said he hopes “anyone and everyone gets that message loud and clear” following his diagnosis: “Get vaccinated, for yourself and everyone around you.”

Community transmission of virus easing across nation

More than one-quarter of Americans are now living in a county that no longer has high levels of community transmission of coronavirus, a USA TODAY analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows. That’s a major change from earlier in the most recent pandemic wave. The CDC defines “high” as 100 cases or more per 100,000 people per week.

The United States isn’t out of the woods – another 82.5 million Americans live in a “substantial” county and 7.5 million are in a “moderate” county. About 560,000 are in a “low” counties. The lowest rates were found in Hawaii, Florida, California and Maryland, where fewer than one-third of residents lived in places with high levels of coronavirus. The best place on record is Puerto Rico, where about 71,000 people – just 2.1% of the population – are living in an area of high community transmission.

Washington sees fallout from state worker vaccine mandate

More than 1,800 Washington state workers have been fired, resigned or retired because of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, according to data released Tuesday. The latest numbers released by the governor’s Office of Financial Management show that about 3% of the state’s approximately 63,000-person workforce that was covered by the mandate have left their jobs, and the cases of another 4.6% – or 2,887 – are pending because they are either in the process of receiving a job accommodation, are planning to retire, are getting vaccinated or are awaiting separation from their agency.

Of the 1,887 who are no longer employed, 1,696 were fired, 112 resigned and 79 retired.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has breakthrough COVID infection

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is fully vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday morning, the department said. DHS spokesperson Marsha Espinosa said in a statement that Mayorkas tested positive after “taking a test as part of routine pre-travel protocols.” Mayorkas was expected to travel to Colombia this week with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“He is experiencing only mild congestion; he is fully vaccinated and will isolate and work at home per CDC protocols and medical advice,” Espinosa said.

The department is currently conducting contact tracing.

– Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press