Biden Courts Business, Australia Cases Rise: Virus Update

President Joe Biden’s Department of Labor officials met with business lobbying groups and leaders on Friday in an effort to gather support for upcoming rules mandating vaccines or tests at places of work.

Among the major measures the president announced this week to get more Americans vaccinated, one high-profile move was missing: requiring vaccines or negative tests to get on an airplane. Meanwhile, Biden also reprimanded Republican leaders for fighting rules on face coverings and other virus precautions in schools. 

Australia recorded new highs for infections in the current outbreak, while Florida posted a record number of Covid-19 deaths for the week. Separately, a court ruled that Governor Ron DeSantis can enforce a ban on school mask mandates, for now.

  • Global Virus Tracker: Cases pass 223.7 million; deaths exceed 4.6 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 5.66 billion doses administered
  • One high-profile move was missing in Biden’s vaccine mandate
  • Vaccine mandate is bad news for labor market: Allison Schrager
  • Reluctant firms now face mandate to require workers to be jabbed

Philippines Imposes New Travel Restrictions (10:48 a.m. HK)

The Philippines will bar travelers from Azerbaijan, Guadeloupe, Guam, Israel, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Saint Lucia and Switzerland from Sept. 12 through Sept. 18, according to a statement from presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Friday evening.

Biden Courts Business, Australia Cases Rise: Virus Update

Biden Administration Seeks Business Support for Mandates (10:40am HK)

U.S. Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda held a virtual meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s chief policy officer and other business lobbyists Friday, seeking to garner their support for an upcoming rule to require vaccinations or vaccine testing at much of the private sector.

It was one of at least three briefings the U.S. Labor Department held Friday for union leaders and employer associations, according to people familiar with the calls.

New South Wales Infections May Be Peaking (9:35 a.m. HK)

The delta outbreak in Australia’s largest state is showing signs of moderating. While New South Wales recorded 1,599 new cases in the past 24 hours — a fresh record number — the seven-day moving average rose at the slowest rate in five days, according to Bloomberg calculations based on official data. Lockdown restrictions were lifted overnight for several regional parts of the state, although Sydney residents remain under stay-at-home orders.

Neighboring Victoria recorded 450 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number of the current outbreak, with just 75 infections linked to known clusters. Queensland recorded five new cases and will not go into lockdown today. State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the next 24 to 48 hours will be “closely monitored” by health authorities. Meanwhile, New Zealand reported 23 new Covid cases in the community, all in Auckland.

Biden Courts Business, Australia Cases Rise: Virus Update

Domestic Flyers Missing From Biden Mandate (6:15 a.m. HK)

Among the major measures President Joe Biden announced this week to get more Americans vaccinated, one high-profile move was missing: requiring vaccines or negative tests to get on an airplane.

Countries including France, Italy and Canada have imposed requirements, or will, for domestic travel as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus and its emerging variants. Vaccine and testing requirements have taken hold widely for international flights, and the U.S. is weighing further restrictions on visitors, including a vaccine requirement for all foreign nationals. 

But, at home, the U.S. still only requires a mask for domestic flights, despite calls from some health experts to raise the bar and require proof of vaccines or a negative test. Biden stopped short of tightening the rules when he unveiled a new series of vaccine mandates on Thursday that will affect millions of federal and health care workers, as well as a vaccine-or-testing requirement for any business with 100 or more staff. 

Alaska Senate Votes Down Pandemic Bill (6:10 a.m. HK)

The Alaska Senate voted down a bill to alleviate concerns about staffing at medical facilities, Associated Press reported. The bill could be taken up again, it added.

The bill was introduced by Governor Mike Dunleavy following concerns from the health-care community after cases jumped. 

Florida Sets Record for Deaths (6:00 a.m. HK)

Florida reported 2,448 additional Covid-19 deaths in its latest weekly report, the most ever in a similar period.

The daily average rose 4% to 350, according to calculations based on the report. That would surpass the high for the entire pandemic in Johns Hopkins University data. The state’s figures are based on when the death was reported, not when it occurred.

People 65-and-over accounted for 62% of the fatalities reported for the week ending Thursday. Over the entire pandemic, Florida seniors represent 78% of deaths.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. Cases among Florida residents fell 23% to 100,012 for the week, the report showed. The rate of positive tests fell in every age group, but it remains highest among 12-19 year-olds.

Biden Courts Business, Australia Cases Rise: Virus Update

Shot for Kids 5-11 May Be Cleared Next Month (5:15 a.m. HK)

Top U.S. health officials believe the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BionTech SE could be approved for children 5 to 11 years old by the end of October, Reuters reported, citing two source familiar with the situation. 

That timeline is based on the expectation that Pfizer will have enough clinical trial data to seek emergency use authorization from regulators by the end of September. The Food and Drug Administration could make a decision within three weeks of the EUA submission, Reuters said.

Kentucky, Pennsylvania Lead U.S. in New Cases (2:55 p.m. NY)

Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio led U.S. states in new cases during the week that ended Wednesday, even as the nationwide increase slowed, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Compared to the preceding seven-day period, Covid-19 deaths rose more than sixfold in Kentucky, almost quadrupled in New Mexico and more than doubled in Connecticut.

The number of intensive-care unit beds with Covid patients increased the most in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota during the week through Tuesday, followed by West Virginia, North Dakota and Kentucky, according to a CDC update published Friday.

Governor Andy Beshear called in another 310 Kentucky National Guard members to help with nonclinical duties at hospitals on top of more than 100 already deployed. “This shows that every hospital is bursting at the seams, that they desperately need help and that we are a state full of more desperately sick people than we have ever seen,” he said Thursday.

Florida Ban on School Mask Mandates Back On (2:45 p.m. NY)

A Florida appeals court said Friday that Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on school mask mandates can be enforced for now, even after a lower court judge ruled in favor of parents who had challenged the governor.

It’s the latest twist in an on-again, off-again saga with the ban. Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper ruled in favor of parents who challenged the ban; the state appealed, triggering an automatic stay; and on Wednesday, the circuit court judge vacated the automatic stay. Now, the pendulum has swung once again.

North Macedonia Health Minister Resigns (2:20 p.m. NY)

North Macedonia’s Health Minister Venko Filipche submitted his resignation after a fire in a Covid hospital killed 14 people in the city of Tetovo. “As a doctor and a minister I have integrity, this is why today I submit my resignation for moral reason,” Filipche said.

NYC School Chorus, Band Must Get Shots (1:55 p.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, during a radio interview with WNYC on Friday, said that a widespread vaccine mandate for public school students recently announced by Los Angeles is “not on the table.” He did, however, say that extracurricular activities that are considered high risk for the spread of Covid would require vaccines by students 12 and older. Activities include chorus, musical theater, dance, band and marching band, cheerleading. De Blasio said 66% of eligible kids are vaccinated in the city.

CDC Study Reinforces Vaccine (12:30 p.m. NY)

A CDC study set to be published on Friday finds that unvaccinated people are significantly more likely to contract Covid-19, become hospitalized and die, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Friday briefing. She called the findings “further evidence of the power of vaccination.”

Unvaccinated people have about 4.5 times higher risk of contracting Covid, more than 10 times the risk of getting hospitalized and 11 times the risk of death, she said. The study was conducted in the spring and summer months when delta became widespread in the U.S. and tracked more than 600,000 Covid cases by immunization status.

“Vaccination works,” Walensky said. “The bottom line is this: we have the scientific tools we need to turn the corner on this pandemic.”

Welsh Cabinet to Discuss Passports (11:26 a.m. NY)

Vaccine passports will be discussed by the Welsh government’s cabinet next week, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced. Speaking at a press conference, Drakeford said there were not only practical and ethical issues, but legal considerations too.The First Minister stressed that vaccination certification would not be introduced for access to things where “people have no choice but to go,” but said there was a different case for voluntary settings, particularly ones vulnerable to promoting the spread of Covid.

Biden Targets GOP Governors (10:59 a.m. NY)

President Joe Biden lambasted Republican governors for fighting mask mandates and other Covid-19 precautions in schools, accusing them of endangering children.

“I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids,” Biden said at a Washington, D.C., middle school on Friday.  “So cavalier with the health of their communities. We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game.”

Republican governors including Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have tried to prohibit schools in their states from requiring masks, calling it a personal decision for parents. The president said that both science and public opinion are on his side, noting polls that show strong support for mask mandates in schools.

Kentucky Mask Mandate Blocked (10:30 a.m. NY)

Kentucky’s Republican-controlled House and Senate held veto override votes that blocked Democratic Governor Andy Beshear from issuing statewide mask mandates, shifting that power to local government units, such as school boards.

The votes late Thursday capped a whirlwind three-day special session that Beshear called in order to continue dozens of pandemic-related executive orders and regulations that require legislative reauthorization.

House and Senate leaders voted to renew roughly 60 of Beshear’s actions. But they also revoked his ability to issue statewide masking mandates after the governor ordered masks in schools.

U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations at 13.2% (7:30 a.m. NY)

More than 13% of hospital beds in U.S. hospitals were occupied by Covid-19 patients on Sept. 9, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The hospitalization rate remained unchanged at 13.2% from the day before and hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients totaled 101,904.

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