Biden Asks OSHA to Mandate Vaccines at Businesses With 100 or More Workers
The agency is expected to issue an emergency temporary standard to carry out the requirement, which will affect more than 80 million workers.,
President Biden on Thursday used the full force of his presidency to ensure two-thirds of the American work force is vaccinated against the coronavirus, including private sector employees, health care workers and federal contractors — as well as the vast majority of federal workers, who could face disciplinary measures if they refuse.
The sweeping actions, which the president announced in a White House speech, are the most expansive actions he has taken to control the pandemic since he assumed the presidency in January, and will affect almost every aspect of American society. They also reflect Mr. Biden’s deep frustration with the roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for the shots but have not been vaccinated.
“We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Mr. Biden declared from the White House state dining room, with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln looming over his shoulders. “We’re going to reduce the spread of Covid-19 by increasing the share of the work force that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”
“We can and we will turn the tide on Covid-19,” he declared.
Initially reluctant to enact mandates, Mr. Biden is now moving more aggressively than any president in modern history to require vaccination, experts say.
Also on Thursday, he ordered mandatory vaccination for nearly 300,000 educators in the federal Head Start Program. He announced that he would use the Defense Production Act to increase the production of rapid testing kits and would work with retailers including Amazon and Walmart to expand their availability. And he said the Transportation Security Administration would now double fines on passengers who refuse to wear masks, among other steps.
“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay — and by the way, show some respect,” Mr. Biden said, in a reference to angry airline passengers who refuse to mask up.
Initially reluctant to enact mandates, Mr. Biden is now waging an aggressive effort that will also put pressure on private businesses, states and schools to enact stricter vaccination and testing policies as the Delta variant continues its spread across the United States.
Mr. Biden is acting through a combination of executive orders and new federal rules. Under his plan, private sector businesses that have 100 or more employees will have to require vaccination, or mandatory weekly testing, for their workers after Mr. Biden instructs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to draft a rule. Roughly 17 million health care workers employed by hospitals and other institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement will also face strict new vaccination requirements, as will federal workers and contractors.
OSHA, which is part of the Department of Labor, oversees workplace safety, which experts say extends to vaccine mandates. The agency has issued other guidelines for pandemic precautions, such as a rule in June requiring health care employers to provide protective equipment, provide adequate ventilation and ensure social distancing, among other measures.
Slightly more than half of Americans, 53 percent, are now fully vaccinated. While the number of people seeking shots ticked up considerably in August, as Delta caused virus cases to soar, the vaccination rate has yet to help the nation across the threshold of “herd immunity” — the tipping point that occurs when widespread vaccination, coupled with natural immunity, slows the spread of a virus. If it continues to spread, officials fear that it will mutate into another, even more dangerous variant that evades vaccines.
“When you have 75 to 80 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated, who don’t get vaccinated, you’re going to have a dynamic of continual smoldering spread of the infection,” Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned in an interview, adding, “It’s very frustrating, because we have the wherewithal within our power to be able to actually suppress it.”
The mandate for federal workers is an especially assertive move by the president. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Thursday that, aside from some religious and disability exemptions, the vast majority of federal workers would be subject to a 75-day grace period for receiving a vaccine.
If workers decline to receive shots in that time frame, Ms. Psaki said, they will “go through the standard H.R. process,” which she said would include progressive disciplinary action. At least one major labor union challenged the mandate even before Mr. Biden delivered his speech.
Cathie McQuiston, a deputy general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing some 700,000 federal workers, said in an interview that her organization would be working with agencies to “not skip over procedures and make sure employees have due process” if they were disciplined.
Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.
President Biden’s federal employee mandate, announced Thursday, will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed services — a work force that numbers more than four million — but not to those who work for Congress or the federal court system, according to White House officials.
The mandate for health care workers will apply to those employed by institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, including hospitals and nursing homes, according to the officials. It will be carried out by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates the health care industry.
“We would like to be a model for what we think other business and organizations should do around the country,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said.
She added that, aside from some religious and disability exemptions, the vast majority of federal workers would be subject to a 75-day grace period for receiving a vaccine.
The spread of the highly infectious Delta variant pushed the country’s daily average caseload over 150,000 for the first time since late January, overwhelming hospitals in hard-hit areas and killing roughly 1,500 people a day. The surge has alarmed Mr. Biden and his top health advisers, who see mass vaccination as the only way to bring the pandemic under control.
Mr. Biden had already pushed federal workers to get vaccinated by announcing that those who refused would have to undergo regular coronavirus testing. But the surge, coupled with last month’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration to grant full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to those 16 and older, convinced him to eliminate the option of testing, the officials said.
Companies had put off the question of whether to mandate for months, worried about potential litigation and employee pushback. But stalling vaccination rates and the rise of the contagious Delta variant put new pressure on executives. They were provided cover to go forward with requirements after earlier mandate moves by the Biden administration.
Soon after, Walmart, Walt Disney Company, Google and others said they would implement mandates. When the Pfizer vaccine received full federal approval late last month, Goldman Sachs, Chevron and others followed suit.
The mandates are a marked shift for a president who, mindful of the contentious political climate around vaccination, initially steered away from any talk of making vaccines mandatory. But the F.D.A. approval has strengthened Mr. Biden’s hand.
Some of the new requirements may prompt lawsuits, but Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said Mr. Biden has broad latitude to compel vaccination, even for workers in private businesses.
“The federal government has ample power to regulate health and safety in the workplace,” Mr. Gostin said. “Employers have a legal obligation to comply with evidence-based federal health safety standards.”
Still, Mr. Gostin said, there is much more the president could do, including mandating vaccination for international or interstate travel.
One thing Mr. Biden cannot do is require all Americans to get vaccinated; in the United States, vaccinations are the province of the states.
New federal safety regulations that call for businesses with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations against the coronavirus will affirm mandates already in place at many companies and give cover to employers that had yet to decide.
The proposed rules, which President Biden announced on Thursday, will require workers to be inoculated or face weekly testing and will mandate that the businesses offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated. They are the government’s biggest push yet to draw employers into a campaign to vaccinate the country.
Some 80 million workers will be affected. The requirements will be imposed by the Department of Labor and its Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is drafting an emergency temporary standard to carry out the mandate, according to the White House.
“Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this — United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods and even Fox News,” Mr. Biden said during a speech Thursday.
The move, though, is sure to face political pushback and litigation. And it faces considerable challenges, like establishing a way to gather and store the vaccination information, as well as a process for exemptions. The president did not specify penalties for flouting the requirements.
Lawyers said Thursday that it was not immediately clear whether the rule would apply to all employees or only those who work in company offices or facilities.
The Biden administration also intends to require vaccination for federal workers and contractors, as well as for 17 million health care workers in hospitals and other institutions that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
Mr. Biden pleaded for more businesses to help the effort to increase vaccinations. “To those of you running large entertainment venues — from sports arenas, to concert venues, to movie theaters — please require folks to get vaccinated or show a negative test as a condition of entry,” he said.
OSHA oversees workplace safety, which the agency is likely to contend extends to vaccine mandates. The agency has issued other guidelines for pandemic precautions, such as a rule in June requiring health care employers to provide protective equipment, provide adequate ventilation and ensure social distancing, among other measures.
“I think that the Department of Labor probably is in good stead to be able to justify its mandate for health and safety reasons for the workers,” said Steve Bell, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney who specializes in labor and employment.
“They’ve got a broad pretty solid basis for saying: ‘We’re here to protect the workers, and this is part of our purview, and we think that this is something that will protect employees,'” he said.
OSHA has the authority to quickly issue a rule, known as an emergency temporary standard, if it can show that workers are exposed to a grave danger and that the rule is necessary to address that danger. The rule must also be feasible for employers to enforce.
Such a standard would pre-empt existing rules by state governments, except in states that have their own OSHA-approved workplace agencies — about half the states in the country. States with their own programs have 30 days to adopt a standard that is at least as effective, and that must cover state and local government employees, such as teachers. Federal OSHA rules do not cover state and local government employees.
The regulation is expected to be challenged in court by employers and perhaps even some states. But the legal basis for a state challenge is likely to be weakest in states that are directly within OSHA’s jurisdiction. Among them are some of the states that have been hardest hit by Covid-19 recently and where politicians have been resistant to mandates — such as Texas and Florida.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business lobby, said in a statement that it “will work to ensure that employers have the resources, guidance and flexibility necessary to ensure the safety of their employees and customers and comply with public health requirements.” Another major business advocacy group, the Business Roundtable, said it “welcomes” the Biden administration actions, including the requirement that companies offer paid time off for workers to get vaccinated.
The Culinary Workers Union, which represents 57,000 workers in Nevada, said “stricter” vaccine mandates were “the only way we see a full recovery possible.”
But some unions have been wary of mandates, with members worrying about potential health side effects or bristling at the idea of an employer’s interfering in what they regard as a personal health decision.
On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration paved the way for broader mandates when it gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Employers as various as CVS Health, Goldman Sachs and Chevron have put in place some form of requirement. Companies have been eager to get their workers back into the office and return to a degree of normalcy. And others, like AstraZeneca and JPMorgan Chase, are already requiring vaccination or else weekly testing.
Still, many mandates are not comprehensive. Companies like Walmart and Citigroup have requirements for their corporate employees but not for frontline workers in stores or at branches. Many companies are dealing with labor shortages and varying levels of vaccine hesitancy among workers.
“It levels the playing field,” said Ian Schaefer, a partner at the law firm Loeb & Loeb who specializes in labor issues and has been advising companies on their Covid policies. “Particularly in service industries or industries where they may have been represented by minority populations or lower-wage earners who are disproportionately likely not to be vaccinated — those employers were reluctant to push out a vaccine mandate because they thought they’d lose talent.”
“If they rolled out that mandate and people in their work stream weren’t getting vaccinated and walking across the street elsewhere, they’d be in a bind,” he said.
Mr. Biden had already raised the pressure on private employers to help with vaccination efforts. In August, the White House met with executives of companies that had mandated vaccination, including Scott Kirby of United Airlines, to discuss how they could encourage fellow business leaders to do the same.
Joseph Allen, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who advises companies on Covid strategies, said the wide-ranging rule announced on Thursday was “a clear signal” from the federal government that it stood behind mandates.
“I suspect the dominoes will keep dropping,” he said. “It’s also necessary and needed. The voluntary approach has hit its limit.”
Katie Rogers and Noam Scheiber contributed reporting.
Small businesses seeking cash to help them weather the pandemic can now borrow up to $2 million from the federal government, after the Biden administration said on Thursday that it would lift a $500,000 cap on disaster relief loans.
Those that took smaller Economic Injury Disaster Loans will be able to apply for increases, although the Small Business Administration said it will not start approving requests for more than $500,000 until Oct. 8.
Any loans taken out this year will also come with a two-year deferral on repayments, allowing struggling businesses some time to catch up on their bills, the agency said. Loans can also now be used to refinance existing debt.
The loan program “offers a lifeline to millions of small businesses who are still being impacted by the pandemic,” Isabella Casillas Guzman, the agency’s administrator, said in a statement.
So far under the program, the Small Business Administration has made 3.8 million loans, totaling $263 billion. The amount that small companies and nonprofit organizations can borrow is based on their revenue and expenses; they are now eligible for loans equivalent to roughly two years’ of their operating costs, up to the $2 million limit.
Fearing that a flood of borrowers would quickly deplete the program, Small Business Administration officials quietly limited the size of loans to $150,000 early in the pandemic. The cap was raised to $500,000 after President Biden took office.
The low-interest loans, made directly by the government, can be repaid over a term as long as 30 years, and can be used for a wide variety of expenses — including, as of Thursday, paying off higher-interest debt or other federal loans. Businesses had previously been restricted from using the money for such refinancing.
The loan program has been a lifesaver for many business owners, but it has also been mired in shifting rules, complexity and bottlenecks. In August, the agency said it had significantly sped up processing and eliminated a backlog of loan-increase applications that had grown to more than 600,000.
But the funding left in the program could be limited: The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that the Senate passed last month seeks to pull some of it out for other purposes. The House plans to take up the bill this month.
Los Angeles is the first major school district in the United States to mandate coronavirus vaccines for students 12 and older who are attending class in person.
With the Delta variant ripping across the country, the district’s Board of Education voted to pass the measure on Thursday afternoon. The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest in the nation, and the mandate would eventually apply to more than 460,000 students.
The interim superintendent, Megan Reilly, said at Thursday’s board meeting that student vaccination was one way to ensure that the district’s classrooms would be able to remain open. Los Angeles had some of the country’s longest school closures last year.
Los Angeles already has a strict vaccine mandate for teachers and staff members, and the new student mandate will further increase the safety of the classroom. But it is also likely to be more divisive.
Nick Melvoin, a Board of Education member who supports the mandate, said that in the hours after news of the proposed resolution was first published, about 60 percent of the emails he received expressed opposition to the mandate, which he noted was most likely a reflection of the opposition’s organizing strength.
Los Angeles is not the first district to mandate vaccines for students 12 and older. Culver City, in west Los Angeles County, approved a mandate in August, and other California districts are considering similar requirements.
Eliza Shapiro and Shawn Hubler contributed reporting.
Coronavirus infections are more than ten times higher than they need to be in order to end the pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, told the political news site Axios.
There are currently roughly 150,000 new infections a day in the United States. “That’s not even modestly good control,” Dr. Fauci told Axios.
He added, “In a country of our size, you can’t be hanging around and having 100,000 infections a day. You’ve got to get well below 10,000 before you start feeling comfortable.”
Case rates did fall to almost that level in June, when there were roughly 12,000 new infections per day, on average.
But that was before the highly infectious Delta variant spread widely throughout the country, causing a major surge in cases and hospitalizations, especially in areas of the country with low vaccination rates.
That surge has also impacted children, who are currently being hospitalized at the highest levels reported to date, with nearly 30,000 entering hospitals in August. No vaccine has been cleared for children younger than 12, who make up a sizable unvaccinated population in the United States.
In an interview with Apoorva Mandavilli, a New York Times reporter who covers science and global health, Dr. Fauci said that “we are still in the middle of a serious pandemic, and it is definitely involving children.”
“We’re seeing more children in the hospital now, because the Delta variant is more readily transmissible among everybody, adults and children,” Dr. Fauci said in the interview, which appeared on The Times’s website on Thursday.
Children still remain markedly less likely to be hospitalized or die from Covid-19 than adults, especially older adults. But experts say that the growing number of hospitalized children, however small compared with adults, should not be an afterthought, and should instead encourage communities to work harder to protect their youngest residents.
Although concerns have been growing about breakthrough infections, which officials acknowledge are not as rare as they once indicated, the vaccines continue to provide robust protection against the worst outcomes, including hospitalization and death.
Vaccination remains the best path out of the pandemic, experts and health officials have repeatedly said. “The endgame is to suppress the virus,” Dr. Fauci told Axios. “Right now, we’re still in pandemic mode.”
The number of children admitted to the hospital in the United States with Covid-19 has risen to the highest levels reported to date. Nearly 30,000 of them entered hospitals in August.
Pediatric hospitalizations, driven by a record rise in coronavirus infections among children, have swelled, overwhelming children’s hospitals and intensive care units in states like Louisiana and Texas. During the summer surge, the hospitalization rate was about 10 times as high in unvaccinated adolescents as in those who were vaccinated, according to a recent federal study. Data on hospitalizations among children of different ages is limited.
Children remain markedly less likely than adults to be hospitalized or die from Covid-19. But the United States recorded more than 250,000 child virus cases in the past week, the highest number to date, according to the most recent American Academy of Pediatrics survey of state data.
“It should concern us all that hospitalizations — indicators of severe illness — are rising in the pediatric population, when there are a lot of steps we could take to prevent many of these hospitalizations,” said Jason L. Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida, who tracks Covid-19 hospitalization data.
According to Dr. Christopher Carroll, a pediatric intensivist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the average U.S. pediatric I.C.U. in the U.S. has 12 beds. “In a system that small, even a few patients can quickly overrun the capacity, ” he said. “And there are fewer specialty trained pediatric clinicians to pick up the slack.”
Experts have said that vaccinations can make all the difference. States with the highest vaccination rates in the country have seen relatively flat pediatric hospital admissions for Covid-19 so far, while states with the lowest vaccine coverage have child hospital admissions that are around four times as high.
— The New York Times
The decision by some rich nations to offer booster shots will hinder coronavirus vaccine access for low-income countries, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday, arguing there is no conclusive evidence healthy people who are not immunocompromised need an extra shot.
In wealthy countries — including Germany, France, Israel and the United States — there has been growing momentum to offer additional doses to certain vulnerable populations, including older citizens, and to the general public.
“The problem we have with the third doses is that we have not seen enough science behind them,” the director, Dr. John Nkengasong, said in an online news conference with journalists on Thursday. “It is really still confusing to me as to why we are moving toward a vast recommendation for a booster dose.”
By offering booster shots, he added, “we will surely be gambling.”
The World Health Organization has warned that booster shots could divert vaccine supplies from countries with largely unvaccinated populations. On Wednesday, the agency asked wealthy countries to hold off on administering booster shots for healthy patients until at least the end of the year as a way of enabling every country to vaccinate at least 40 percent of their populations.
W.H.O. officials have tried to distinguish between booster shots that increase immunity in already vaccinated populations, and additional doses that may be needed by the immunocompromised to develop immunity in the first place. Officials are not opposed to additional doses for the immunocompromised.
Despite the flurry of booster programs in wealthier nations, the science of whether they are needed is not yet clear.
Some studies suggest that the protection that the vaccines provide against infection and mild disease may be waning. But they remain highly effective at preventing the worst outcomes, including severe disease and death, and scientists have said that a blanket recommendation for boosters is premature.
Experts generally agree, however, that a third shot is warranted for people with compromised immune systems, who may not have mounted a strong immune response to the initial doses. Several countries, including the United States, are now offering additional shots to this vulnerable group.
Dr. Nkengasong’s comments came as the W.H.O.’s Africa director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said on Thursday that the continent will receive fewer Covid-19 vaccine doses than expected for the rest of the year from Covax, the global immunization program.
On Wednesday, Covax slashed its forecast for doses available in 2021 by roughly a quarter, another setback for an effort that has been hampered by production problems, export bans and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations. Dr. Moeti said the fewer doses were “in part because of the prioritization of bilateral deals over international solidarity.”
Around 3 percent of Africa’s population, or 39 million of 1.3 billion residents, has been fully vaccinated, and 72 percent of all doses received have been administered, according to the W.H.O.
The African continent is coming off a severe third wave of the pandemic, driven largely by the Delta variant.
The continent has so far reported 7.9 million cases and over 200,000 deaths from the virus as of Thursday, according to the Africa C.D.C.
Dr. Nkengasong said wealthy nations should first come through on their commitments to donate hundreds of millions of doses, so as to help end the acute phase of the pandemic.
Dr. Moeti said those donated doses were not only the clearest pathway out of the pandemic but would help alleviate already strained health care systems. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, is dealing with a meningitis outbreak and the risk of the resurgence of deadly diseases like measles.
“If producing countries and companies prioritize vaccine equity, this pandemic can be over quickly,” Dr. Moeti said.
Emily Anthes contributed reporting.
Late last year, the federal government’s chief statistician on death received word about a tantalizing discovery: Someone had died from Covid-19 in January 2020, a death certificate said, a revelation that would have sped up the timeline of the virus’s spread in the United States by several weeks.
That death was ultimately not what it seemed. The person who certified it had meant June 2020, not January. But that blip on the radar screen of Robert Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helped to kick off a quiet, yearlong campaign at the agency to check and recheck the country’s first suspected Covid-related deaths in the uncertain days of early 2020.
Now, at least four possible Covid-19 deaths from January 2020 have survived Dr. Anderson’s vetting. Spread out across four states, they have become part of a scattershot collection of clues about the virus’s early spread beyond China — some of them trustworthy, others less so — that have begun drawing more attention as scientists and intelligence officials try to unravel how the pandemic began.
The odds that all four of the C.D.C.’s new death cases — from Kansas, California, Alabama and Wisconsin — really did result from Covid-19 are slim, some scientists said. This year, a doctor or another official certifier reclassified them as being Covid-related. But whether they did so solely on the basis of the person’s symptoms, or with the help of more useful blood or tissue samples, is not clear.
Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, will require that all passengers on international flights are vaccinated against the coronavirus when it restarts worldwide operations in December, its chief executive said Wednesday, making it one of the first airlines in the world to require proof of vaccination for everyone on board.
Alan Joyce, the chief executive of the airline’s parent company, Qantas Group, made the announcement in an interview with the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, a network for business leaders in Australia and New Zealand.
“Qantas will have a policy that internationally we’ll only be carrying vaccinated passengers because we think that’s going to be one of the requirements to show that you’re flying safe,” he said, adding that many countries are requiring arriving travelers to be vaccinated anyway. He said he hoped the policy would be in place “by Christmas.”
Qantas, which is headquartered in Sydney, suspended international operations during the pandemic — but did resume flights to New Zealand in April this year before suspending them again on July 31. The airline plans to restart flights abroad in December. Mr. Joyce said in November of last year that he was considering banning unvaccinated travelers on international flights, but did not offer a timeline.
Other airlines have announced that they will require flight attendants and pilots to be vaccinated, but few other airlines have committed to banning unvaccinated passengers. Air Canada seems to be the only other airline that is poised to soon begin turning away unvaccinated passengers. By the end of October, the Canadian government will require all commercial airline employees and passengers to be vaccinated. Air Canada endorsed the government’s position in August.
Leonard J. Marcus, the co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University and the director of an initiative focused on public health on flights, said he hoped that other airlines would follow Qantas’s lead.
“I think this would be a bold and courageous step in the right direction,” he said. Requiring passenger vaccinations is currently easier in Australia than in other parts of the world, he said, because the country has a uniform system of validating vaccination status, in contrast to places like the United States.
Qantas did not respond to an inquiry on whether it would make exceptions for children too young to be eligible for vaccination and for people who cannot take the shots for medical reasons, two of the populations that would be most affected by the vaccination status of passengers sitting near them.
Qantas has made vaccination central to its marketing strategy throughout the pandemic. A recent television ad, which has been widely shared, shows Australians longing to travel and then getting vaccinations before heading off on international flights.
Israel plans to allow visits from organized groups of vaccinated tourists after Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, taking a step toward reopening to the world even as health officials record thousands of new coronavirus infections daily.
Tourism Ministry officials said the government decision was approved as a pilot program and emphasized that it constituted only an initial step.
“This program is a foot in the door,” said Pini Shani, a senior Tourism Ministry official. “It’s the start of a process that we hope will lead to the renewal of the tourism industry.”
The ministry then hoped, he said, that the government would allow entry starting in October to individual travelers.
Before the pandemic, tourism was booming in Israel, with 4.55 million visitors in 2019 bringing $7.18 billion in revenue into the country, according to Tourism Ministry statistics.
The pilot program will come into effect on Sept. 19, allowing the entry of groups of five to 30 people on condition that they adhere to a host of virus-related measures, including providing a negative P.C.R. test taken 72 hours before landing and undergoing a second test as well as a serological examination upon arrival, the ministry said.
All travelers will be required to show proof of being fully vaccinated within the previous six months or proof of having received a booster shot, the ministry said, with a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the European Medicines Union. The program will not be open to those coming from a list of “red” countries, which currently includes Bulgaria, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey.
This program, announced on Sunday, will be Israel’s second attempt to begin reopening to tourists. An earlier effort began in May, but was halted in August when infections surged with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Mr. Shani emphasized that only three to four of some 2,800 people who visited under the previous pilot program had contracted the virus.
George Horesh, the chief financial officer and co-founder of the tour company Alma-Israel, expressed concerns about the “bureaucratic complications” of requiring travelers to do several tests upon arrival — especially serological tests, which require drawing blood — but added that he thought the authorities would find a way to smooth the process.
“Our business was basically eliminated during the pandemic, but we think things are finally improving and are on the right track,” he said.
A state judge granted an injunction on Wednesday prohibiting disruptive protests near school campuses after anti-mask demonstrations in a high school in the Washington city of Vancouver resulted in a lockdown.
According to a statement from the Vancouver School District, the injunction requires that “protests, rallies, gatherings on or near school premises that disrupt educational services, immediately cease and desist and not be allowed to convene on or within a one-mile radius of any Vancouver School District building or grounds.” The injunction, granted by a judge in the Clark County Superior Court, is effective as long as state-issued mask mandates are in place.
The injunction follows protests outside one of the district’s schools, Skyview High School. Groups including some members of the far-right Proud Boys gathered there twice this month to protest the state’s mask mandate for schools.
After the second protest, during which demonstrators left the sidewalk and came onto the campus, the school went into lockdown on Sept. 3, the district’s statement said. The neighboring Alki Middle School and Chinook Elementary School also locked down as a precaution. More protests had been scheduled for this week.
“Our district understands and supports free speech and the right for people to be involved in peaceful protests,” the superintendent of the Vancouver district, Jeff Snell, said in a statement. “However, our first priority is to ensure student and staff safety and an educational environment free of disruption. This responsibility prompted us to present our concerns to the court.”
As of Wednesday, the seven-day average of new cases across Washington State was 3,431 a day, a slight increase over the last two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations have risen 3 percent over the same time period, to a daily average of 1,598. Approximately 61 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is temporarily banning social media companies from removing certain content, including his claims that the only way he’ll lose next year’s elections is if the vote is rigged — one of the most significant steps by a democratically elected leader to control what can be said on the internet.
The new social media rules, issued this week and effective immediately, appear to be the first time a national government has stopped internet companies from taking down content that violates their rules, according to internet law experts and officials at tech companies. And they come at a precarious moment for Brazil.
Under the new policy, which will expire after 120 days unless Mr. Bolsonaro can secure support for it in Brazil’s Senate, tech companies can remove posts only if they involve certain topics outlined in the measure, such as nudity, drugs and violence, or if they encourage crime or violate copyrights. To take down others, they must get a court order.
That suggests that, in Brazil, tech companies could easily remove a nude photo, but not lies about the coronavirus. The pandemic has been a major topic of disinformation under Mr. Bolsonaro, with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all having removed videos from him that pushed unproven drugs as coronavirus cures.
“You can only imagine how hard it would be for a big platform to get a judicial order for every single piece of disinformation they find,” said Carlos Affonso Souza, a law professor at Rio de Janeiro State University.
Mr. Bolsonaro has used social media as a megaphone to build his political movement and make it to the president’s office. Now, with polls showing he would lose the presidential elections if they were held today, he is using sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to try to undermine the legitimacy of the vote, following the playbook of his close ally, former President Donald J. Trump.
Brazil’s new internet rules are the latest effort in a larger fight that conservatives are waging against Silicon Valley. Politicians and pundits on the right have argued that tech companies are censoring conservative voices, and increasingly they have pushed laws making it harder for social networks to remove posts or accounts from their sites.
As parts of Scotland are seeing some of the highest coronavirus rates in Europe, members of the Scottish Parliament voted on Thursday to introduce a vaccine passport system as of Oct. 1, requiring proof of vaccination to visit crowded venues and some large events.
The plan was formally approved in the Parliament, or Holyrood, after the country’s National Party and the Green Party voted in favor of the plan.
The new rules mean that people over age 18 will have to show that they are fully vaccinated before being allowed entry to crowded sites at adult entertainment venues including nightclubs, music festivals, some soccer grounds, some live events and any event that is expected to draw more than 10,000 people. All those 16 and older are eligible for vaccination in Scotland.
After the vote, Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s health secretary, said in a statement that vaccination certification “will only be used in certain higher risk settings and we hope this will allow businesses to remain open and prevent any further restrictions as we head into autumn and winter.”
Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, told the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday that requiring people to present vaccine certificates in these circumstances was a “reasonable response to a very difficult situation.”
“Fundamentally, we believe that certification can help us reduce the overall harms caused by the pandemic,” Ms. Sturgeon added. “It will help to reduce transmission in some higher risk settings, and it will maximize protection against serious illness.”
Across Britain, anyone over 18 who has been administered two vaccines can download or get a paper copy of a coronavirus pass proving their vaccination status.
The momentum for vaccine passports has been building in numerous countries. Italy, for example, requires proof of vaccination for dining indoors, long-distance travel and some cultural activities. The British government’s vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has previously described vaccine passports as “discriminatory” but now says they should be introduced in nightclubs and large-capacity venues.
“We are living through difficult and unprecedented times,” Mr. Zahawi said in the British Parliament on Wednesday.