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Covid Live Updates: J. & J. Recipients May Be Helped More by Other Brands’ Booster, Study Says


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Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

People who received a Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine may be better off with a booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, according to preliminary data from a federal clinical trial published on Wednesday.

That finding, along with a mixed review of Johnson & Johnson’s booster data from the Food and Drug Administration released earlier in the day, could lead to a heated debate about whether and how to offer additional shots to the 15 million Americans who have received the single-dose vaccine.

The agency’s panel of vaccine advisers will meet on Friday and vote on whether to recommend that the agency authorize the company’s application for boosters for recipients of its vaccine.

Despite these questions about the strength of J. & J. boosters, some experts anticipated that the agency would clear the shots anyway to meet the public’s demand. Once the agency authorized a booster from Pfizer-BioNTech last month, “the die was cast,” said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine.

In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, researchers organized nine groups of roughly 50 people. Each group received one of the three authorized vaccines, followed by a booster. In three groups, volunteers received the same vaccine for a boost. In the other six, they switched to a different one.

The researchers found that those who got a Johnson & Johnson shot followed by a Moderna booster saw their antibody levels rise 76-fold within 15 days, whereas those who received another dose of Johnson & Johnson saw only a four-fold rise in the same period. A Pfizer-BioNTech booster raised antibody levels in Johnson & Johnson recipients 35-fold.

Still, the authors cautioned about the study’s small size and noted that they did not follow the volunteers long enough to identify potential rare side effects.

The study was also limited in how it measured the immunity provided by boosters. The researchers only looked for antibodies that can stop the coronavirus from replicating in cells. They did not examine how well the booster trains immune cells to recognize and kill infected cells.

Earlier on Wednesday, an F.D.A. analysis questioned the strength of evidence Johnson & Johnson provided in its application for boosters.

A key test used by the company to measure the immune response of a six-month-boost — known as a psVNA assay — was not sensitive enough for the task, the analysis said. The agency also questioned whether the increase in immune response was as big as the data suggested.

“It is likely that the results seen are due to the low sensitivity of the psVNA assay used,” the F.D.A. stated in its report. Regulators also said that they didn’t have enough time to independently review much of the raw data from the company’s trials.

The F.D.A. saw a potential improvement in protection from a J. & J. booster given two months after the first shot, based on a large trial sponsored by the company.

“Although not independently confirmed by F.D.A. from datasets, summaries of the data suggest there may be a benefit in a second dose administered approximately 2 months after the primary dose,” the agency said in its report.

Johnson & Johnson in a statement said it looked forward to discussing the data at the Friday meeting, where panelists will also hear a presentation from the authors of the mix-and-match study.

The F.D.A.’s discussion this week of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has big implications for the shot’s future in the U.S., said Jason L. Schwartz, an associate professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health. The vaccine was already unlikely to have much uptake in the country in the long run, he said. And if the F.D.A. recommends a booster for Johnson & Johnson recipients of a different vaccine, he added, “it’s hard to see what would steer people to the J. & J. vaccine.”

The F.D.A. has already authorized an additional shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people over 65 years of age, or with health conditions or job exposures that put them at higher risk. Moderna has also submitted an application for a booster which will be evaluated by the F.D.A.’s advisers on Thursday. It may also win authorization, despite limited evidence that the protection provided by an initial two doses of Moderna is waning.

In its application for a booster, Johnson & Johnson included the results of a large-scale trial that began in November, in which they gave half their volunteers a second dose two months after the first. The other half received a placebo.

In August, the company announced that in the portion of the trial that took place in the United States, the efficacy rose to 94 percent. But in its report, the F.D.A. focused on the worldwide results, in which the increase was more modest, rising to 75 percent.

Against severe to critical Covid-19, two shots had an efficacy of 100 percent. But regulators warned in the analysis posted Wednesday that there was little data from that trial on the Delta variant, which now causes the vast majority of infections in the United States.

In August, when top Biden administration health officials announced plans to possibly begin administering boosters in September to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech recipients, they said they anticipated that those who received Johnson & Johnson’s shot would also need one, but that more data was needed.

That announcement “set unreasonable expectations” for those who had received Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, Mr. Schwartz said, and “made the J. & J. conversation even that much more confusing” those who had received it.

Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting from Washington.

Credit…David Ryder/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions at the borders with Canada and Mexico starting in November for fully vaccinated travelers, reopening the doors of the United States to tourists and separated family members who have been sealed out of the country during the pandemic.

Foreign travelers who provide proof of vaccination and are looking to visit families or friends or shop in the United States will be allowed to enter, senior administration officials said on Tuesday, weeks after the administration said it would soon lift a similar sweeping restriction on foreigners traveling to the country from overseas.

The lifting of the bans will effectively mark the reopening of the United States to travelers and tourism, signaling a new phase in the recovery from the pandemic after the country closed its borders for nearly 19 months.

But the new requirements also indicate that the United States will welcome only visitors who are vaccinated. Unvaccinated travelers will continue to be banned from crossing the borders with Mexico or Canada, officials said. Those who were never banned from traveling across the land borders, including commercial drivers and students, will also need to show proof of vaccination when crossing starting in January, giving them some time to adjust to the new rules, officials said.

The travel restrictions, imposed in March 2020, only applied to “nonessential travelers” — relatives looking to visit family members, or shoppers, whom border communities relied on for profits. Politicians representing such communities have pleaded with the Biden administration to lift the restrictions to provide a reprieve for suffering businesses.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, said the restrictions had cost Erie County in her state at least $660 million annually.

“This reopening will be welcome news to countless businesses, medical providers, families and loved ones that depend on travel across the northern border,” Ms. Gillibrand said.

More than half of the 20.7 million people who visited the United States from Canada in 2019 traveled by crossing the land border, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group. More than 15 million people visited the United States that year by crossing the land border with Mexico, roughly 85 percent of all of the visitors who entered legally from Mexico.

“After months of closure, the reopening of U.S. land borders to vaccinated visitors will bring a welcome surge in travel from our two top source markets of inbound travel, Canada and Mexico,” said Roger Dow, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Association.

Officials did not give an exact date for the lifting of the travel restrictions. The announcement comes more than two months after Canada reopened its borders; Mexico did not close its northern border during the pandemic.

People entering the United States at the borders with Mexico or Canada will be questioned by Customs and Border Protection officers about their vaccination status before being allowed to cross. The officers will have the discretion to send travelers to secondary screenings for their documents to be checked, officials said. The administration will have limited exemptions for unvaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada, including some children.

Credit…Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images

However, President Biden will continue to use a separate border policy, implemented early in the pandemic, to turn away migrants who are seeking protection or economic opportunity — a policy that has been criticized by a top State Department official and the administration’s own medical consultants.

The decision on the land borders was made in part to coincide with the reopening to foreign air travelers, officials said. While those traveling by air will need to show both proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States, there will be no testing requirement for those crossing the land borders.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said at a news conference on Wednesday that his country’s vaccine rollout played a role in the reopening.

“The vaccination averages in Mexico, especially in the northern region, but also the rest of the country, are very high or are comparable to those in the United States,” Mr. Ebrard said. “The basis of global mobility will be vaccination.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers people fully inoculated two weeks after they receive a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s.

Those who have received vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca’s, would also be considered fully vaccinated — a standard that one senior official said would probably be applied to those crossing the land border. Officials added that the C.D.C. was still discussing whether foreigners crossing from Canada or Mexico with two doses from different vaccines could enter.

Many Mexicans have received vaccines that do not have W.H.O. authorization, like Sputnik V, developed in Russia, or the CanSino vaccine from China. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Wednesday that he would press the W.H.O. to authorize them soon.

The decision to lift the restrictions on air travel has been celebrated by business leaders overseas and in the United States. Travel spending dropped nearly in half to about $600 billion in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

And businesses in places from Buffalo to San Diego to South Texas rely on tourists or those making a short visit to shop before returning home.

The Texas border city of Del Rio sees its population of 36,000 fluctuate with cross-border traffic, as workers and residents travel back and forth on a daily basis. The lifting of the restrictions was celebrated by residents like Irma G. Rocha, 55, a clerk at a gas station, Border One Stop, a few miles from the bridge.

“We are a small border town and we need the people to come from Mexico to shop,” Ms. Rocha said. “This is going to help our economy greatly. We have not had people from Mexico come shop here for more than a year.”

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, said the lifting of the restrictions would benefit communities she represents like Point Roberts, which are “almost entirely dependent on cross-border travel to sustain their economy.”

But she warned that after “months of economic calamity” inflicted largely by the border closure, more measures would be needed to ensure that the community could fully recover.

Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Fandos and Heather Murphy from New York, Edgar Sandoval from San Antonio, and Oscar Lopez and Maria Abi-Habib from Mexico City.

Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters

The World Health Organization on Wednesday named 26 scientists to a new advisory group charged with studying the origins of the coronavirus, opening another chapter of the fraught search for how the pandemic began.

The group, chosen from more than 700 applicants, includes scientists from 26 countries, a reflection of the W.H.O.’s effort to amass widespread international support for the work.

Among them are an American researcher — Dr. Inger Damon, a veteran of the country’s Ebola response who directs work on highly lethal diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and a Chinese scientist. The Chinese scientist, Dr. Yungui Yang, is the deputy director at the Beijing Institute of Genomics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a government institution.

Credit…CDC

With this new group, the W.H.O. is trying to revive its study of the pandemic’s origins. That work that had become bogged down in a political rivalry between China and the United States, and concerns about scientists’ conflicts of interest, since the W.H.O. sent a previous team to China in early 2021.

The result of that visit was a joint report by the W.H.O.-chosen team and China that said a leak of the coronavirus from a lab, while possible, was “extremely unlikely,” a conclusion that the W.H.O.’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, later called premature.

Six members of that since-disbanded W.H.O. team have joined the new advisory group. The committee also includes the head of a Swiss biosafety center, an indication of W.H.O.’s efforts to ensure that a laboratory leak be considered alongside scenarios in which the virus spilled over naturally from animals to humans.

“A lab accident cannot be ruled out until there is sufficient evidence to do so and those results are openly shared,” Dr. Tedros and two top W.H.O. officials wrote in an editorial in Science outlining the advisory group’s mandate.

After a two-week public comment period that is customary before W.H.O. advisory groups are set up, the committee will begin to meet.

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W.H.O. Announces New Team to Study Covid-19 Origins

The World Health Organization hopes that the new advisory group, which includes scientists from 26 countries, can revive its study of the pandemic’s origins, after previous efforts became bogged down in a political rivalry between China and the United States.

“Following a public call for experts, W.H.O. today announced the proposed members of the W.H.O. scientific advisory group for the origins of novel pathogens, or SAGO. The 26 experts were selected from over 700 applications, and were chosen for their world-class expertise and experience in a range of disciplines, as well as their geographic and gender diversity.” “That is a human endeavor to understand a virus that has stopped our whole world. And I would ask everyone, countries, journalists and everybody else, to create a little space for that discussion to happen because this is probably, right now, this is our best chance, and it may be our last chance, to understand the origins of this virus in a collegiate, collective and mutually responsible way.” “I anticipate that the SAGO, in its discussions about the urgent next steps for understanding you know, the origins of the current pandemic, will recommend further studies in China and potentially elsewhere. And I very much hope, we very much hope, that there will be further missions to China and other countries. The SAGO itself will make recommendations or give advice to W.H.O. Any future missions will be organized by W.H.O. and that member-state in question. And of course, we need the cooperation of that member-state to carry out any future missions.”

Covid Live Updates: J. & J. Recipients May Be Helped More by Other Brands’ Booster, Study Says
The World Health Organization hopes that the new advisory group, which includes scientists from 26 countries, can revive its study of the pandemic’s origins, after previous efforts became bogged down in a political rivalry between China and the United States.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Denis Balibouse

W.H.O. officials said the group would assess recent studies, including those describing bats harboring close relatives of the virus behind Covid-19, and advise the organization on what future studies were needed — potentially including field research in China.

China has reacted angrily to the idea that the virus may have emerged from a lab and, analysts have said, is almost certain to resist outside requests to visit research centers, bat caves or wildlife farms within its borders.

Unlike the last W.H.O. team, which was assembled specifically for the visit to China, the new committee will also have a mandate to weigh in on the emergence of any new pathogens beyond the coronavirus, giving it a permanence that the W.H.O. hopes will help insulate it from political squabbling.

At a news briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the W.H.O. Health Emergencies Program, said it was impossible to ignore obstacles like “national pride” standing in the way of hunting down the origins of the coronavirus. But he said the new advisory group was an effort to return to the scientific issues at the core of that effort.

“This is our best chance,” he said. “And it may be our last chance to understand the origins of this virus in a collegiate and collective and mutually responsible way.”

Credit…Liam James Doyle for The New York Times

Intensive care units are nearing capacity and health care workers are in short supply in Minnesota, as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths all reach levels not seen since vaccines became widely available.

All of the state’s counties are at high risk for community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New daily cases have risen by 29 percent in the last two weeks and hospitalizations by 17 percent, according to a New York Times database.

About this data

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.

The state’s daily case average is at its highest level for 2021 and reached 2,932 on Monday, a dramatic increase since the summer, when it bottomed out at an average of 81 daily cases.

While a monthslong increase driven by the Delta virus variant is waning in much of the country, Minnesota is just one of several Upper Midwestern and Mountain West states where the virus is surging. Cases are up and hospitals have been overwhelmed in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, all of which have low vaccination rates. Some areas have had to ration care and send patients to distant hospitals for treatment.

The Minnesota Department of Health said the state’s surge is overwhelming hospitals, with rural and metropolitan areas equally stretched.

“Even before Covid cases started to rise in this latest surge, our hospitals were very full with patients needing care for other critical conditions,” Jan Malcolm, the state’s health commissioner, said in a news conference last week.

According to a state health department database, 96 percent of I.C.U. beds in Minnesota are in use along with 93 percent of non-intensive care beds. Although beds are almost at capacity, the state is equipped with respirators to combat the surge, Ms. Malcolm said. The bigger issue now is a shortage of medical personnel, she said.

“What’s important to understand is that this isn’t so much about the physical asset of a hospital bed or a ventilator, and those were big focuses earlier in the pandemic, but now this is really an issue of health care worker capacity,” Ms. Malcolm said. “There are actually fewer health care workers on the job today than there were last year due to the extreme stress and burnout that they have faced for over 18 months now.”

Dr. Kevin Croston, chief executive officer at North Memorial Health, one of Minnesota’s largest medical systems, said “every element of our health system is incredibly stressed.”

Both hospitals run by North Memorial — North Memorial in Robbinsdale and Maple Grove Hospital — are almost running at capacity and are experiencing staffing shortages that have reached a “critical level.”

“Staff vacancies are increasing while our customer patient volumes remain high,” Mr. Croston said. “We have rapidly escalated measures to attract and retain talent in health care and that’s adding more expense to an already stressed financial picture for all these health care systems.”

He also noted that all patients hospitalized with Covid were unvaccinated.

In Minnesota, 59 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated compared to 56 percent of the population nationally.

“With the amount of virus that’s out there and the amount of the population that is not protected by the vaccine, there’s unfortunately plenty of room for the virus to still do its harm,” Ms. Malcolm said.

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Biden Announces Plan to Address Supply Chain Shortages

President Biden said the Port of Los Angeles would move toward 24/7 operations, joining its counterpart in Long Beach, in an effort to curb product shortages.

Today, we have an important announcement that we’ll get things you buy to you, to the shelves faster. After weeks of negotiation and working with my team, and with the major union retailers and freight movers, the Ports of Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles announced today that it’s going to begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This follows the Port of Long Beach’s commitment to 24/7 that it announced just weeks ago. By staying open seven days a week through the night and on the weekends, the Port of Los Angeles will open over 60 extra hours a week, will be open. In total, that will almost double the number of hours that the port is open for business from earlier this year. Walmart, our nation’s largest retailer, is committing to go all in on moving its products 24/7 from the ports to their stores nationwide. Specifically, Walmart is committing as much as a 50 percent increase in the use of off-peak hours over the next several weeks. Additionally, FedEx and UPS, two of our nation’s biggest freight movers, are committing today to significantly increase the amount of goods they’re moving at night. And other companies are stepping up as well. They include Target, Home Depot and Samsung, that have all committed to ramp up their activities that utilize off-peak hours at the ports.

Covid Live Updates: J. & J. Recipients May Be Helped More by Other Brands’ Booster, Study Says
President Biden said the Port of Los Angeles would move toward 24/7 operations, joining its counterpart in Long Beach, in an effort to curb product shortages.CreditCredit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

President Biden said Wednesday afternoon that his administration is taking steps to untangle supply chains and clear disruptions that have threatened the holiday shopping season, including moving a key port and some large retailers toward round-the-clock operations.

Speaking from the White House, Mr. Biden said the country must “take a longer view” and invest in shoring up supply chain vulnerabilities that have been exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The remarks came as the White House sought to spotlight its efforts to address the problems in ports, factories and shipping lanes that have helped produce shortages, long delivery times and rapid price increases for food, televisions, automobiles and much more.

The resulting inflation has chilled consumer confidence and weighed on Mr. Biden’s approval ratings. On Wednesday, the Labor Department announced that the Consumer Price Index, a key reading of monthly inflation, jumped 5.4 percent in September when compared with the prior year, raising the stakes for the White House and the Federal Reserve.

Mr. Biden cheered an announcement that the Port of Los Angeles will begin operating around the clock as his administration struggles to relieve growing backlogs in the global supply chains that deliver critical goods to the United States.

“Today’s announcement has the potential to be a game-changer,” Mr. Biden said, but added that its success would depend on private retailers taking steps to more rapidly move products from ports to stores around the country.

Administration officials say that they have brokered a deal to move the Port of Los Angeles toward 24/7 operations, joining Long Beach, which is already operating around the clock, and that they are encouraging states to accelerate the licensing of more truck drivers. UPS, Walmart and FedEx will also announce they are moving to work more off-peak hours.

Mr. Biden’s team, including a supply chain task force he established earlier this year, is working to make tangible progress toward unblocking the flow of goods and helping the retail industry return to a prepandemic normal.

But it is unclear how much the White House’s efforts can realistically help. The blockages stretch up and down supply chains, from foreign harbors to American rail yards and warehouses. Companies are exacerbating the situation by rushing to obtain products and bidding up their own prices. Analysts say some of these issues may last into late next year or even 2023.

Reporters peppered Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, with questions Wednesday about lingering effects on holiday shopping, including whether she could guarantee it would not be disrupted by supply chain issues. “We cannot guarantee,” she said. “What we can do is use every lever at the federal level to reduce delays.”

Credit…Li Bo/Xinhua, via Associated Press

Chinese authorities are rolling out third shots of coronavirus vaccines for high-risk groups in at least 10 regions, according to state media, as the country races to meet its goal of fully vaccinating 80 percent of its population by the end of the year.

After a series of outbreaks of the Delta variant, Wang Huaqing, chief expert for China’s immunization program at the Chinese Center for Disease Control, recommended last month that additional shots be administered to people in frontline professions, including medical workers; people with weaker immune systems; those age 60 or older; and travelers going to countries deemed at high risk.

Chinese health officials have said that further studies were still needed to determine whether the rest of the population would benefit from getting an additional shot.

By Sunday, more than 40,000 people in Hubei, the province encompassing Wuhan where the virus first emerged, had received booster shots, according to state media reports. In the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, which had a flare-up of the Delta variant last month, local health officials said that people who got the booster shot would see their government-issued health codes upgraded to reflect their strengthened immune status.

Last month, China announced that it had fully inoculated 1 billion people, or about 71 percent of its population of 1.4 billion. The country has administered 2.21 billion doses, more than twice that of India, which is ranked second for shots given, according to Our World in Data, which tracks vaccination figures.

Despite its high vaccination rate, China has shown no signs of abandoning its “zero Covid” strategy, and has instead continued to employ a mix of stringent border controls, mass testing and snap lockdowns to tame outbreaks.

On Monday, a panel of experts advising the World Health Organization recommended that an additional dose be administered to people over 60 who were inoculated with vaccines made by the Chinese companies Sinopharm and Sinovac. The panel cited evidence from studies in Latin America that immune protection from the Chinese vaccines wanes significantly over time. While the experts also recommended additional doses of the seven W.H.O.-authorized vaccines for people with weaker immune systems, the Chinese-made shots were the only ones that were singled out for expanded use for older people in the general population.

In a nod to concerns that poorer countries are struggling to offer first doses to their populations while some wealthier countries administer boosters, the W.H.O. panel recommended that health authorities using the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines aim to fully inoculate older populations before administering third doses.

Authorities in Turkey have already been allowing people inoculated with Sinovac’s vaccine to get an additional shot of the Pfizer vaccine to help facilitate travel to countries where the Chinese vaccines have not been approved.

More than 1 billion Chinese-made doses have been administered in over 90 countries outside China, though outbreaks in several countries over the summer have raised questions about the efficacy of the shots at preventing the spread of the virus, especially new variants.

The concerns have not slowed China’s efforts to engage in vaccine diplomacy. Last month, the Pan American Health Organization struck a deal with Sinovac to buy millions of Covid-19 vaccines for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where access to vaccines has been highly uneven.

Credit…Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News, via Associated Press

The Anchorage Assembly approved a mask mandate on Tuesday after two weeks of heated public discussion amid a Covid outbreak that has forced doctors to ration life-saving care in Alaska’s largest city.

The vote was 9-1, concluding a tense, often chaotic debate that included doctors being heckled by members of the public, an armed man being arrested, and protesters sparking outrage by turning up to meetings wearing Stars of David — an attempt to liken mask requirements to the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust.

“The time to act is now,” Meg Zaletel, an assembly member, said on Tuesday night while pressing for a vote. One person in the crowd shouted objections, leading security officers to intervene.

The order requires everyone to wear a mask or face covering in public indoor spaces, with limited exemptions for younger children and for religious or medical reasons.

Alaska has recorded the highest coronavirus case numbers per person in the United States in recent weeks. Although new infections have fallen from a late September high, the surge has overwhelmed hospitals, especially in Anchorage, where many of the state’s patients come for critical needs.

About this data

Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data.

Heart surgeries have been canceled to preserve space in hospitals. One facility rationed oxygen. And doctors have been forced to implement “crisis standards of care,” prioritizing some critical patients over others because of the lack of resources.

One patient who needed emergency surgery was not attended to; a second was taken off of dialysis because another needed it. In both cases, the patients who received substandard care died.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has resisted a statewide mask mandate, but assembly members in Anchorage — home to about 40 percent of the state’s population — moved forward. Doctors had gone to the assembly meetings in recent weeks to detail the crisis they have been facing, but they faced blowback from community members. One man followed doctors out of a meeting, calling them liars.

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, who has opposed a mask requirement, vowed to veto the mandate, although it appears the assembly has the votes to override it.

About 51 percent of Alaska’s population is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database, lower than the national figure of 57 percent.

Credit…Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, citing federal requirements, said on Tuesday that they would not comply with an order from the governor of Texas barring private employers from mandating coronavirus vaccines in the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott, a strong opponent of vaccine mandates, issued the order on Monday, saying inoculation against the coronavirus should “always be voluntary for Texans.”

“We believe the federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws, and this does not change anything for American,” said a spokeswoman for the airline, which is based in Fort Worth. Southwest, which is based in Dallas, said it would “remain compliant” with the federal mandate.

About this data

Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data.

The Greater Houston Partnership, a business group that counts Exxon Mobil, Chevron and JPMorgan Chase as members, also came out on Tuesday against Mr. Abbott’s order, saying it “does not support Texas businesses’ ability and duty to create a safe workplace.”

President Biden announced last month that federal contractors and their employees would need to be vaccinated, with limited exceptions. Like other major employers, American and Southwest cited that requirement and their status as contractors in announcing that employees must be vaccinated.

Mr. Biden also announced that workers at companies with more than 100 employees would have to be vaccinated or tested regularly, but those requirements are dependent on new rules that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not issued yet. That requirement will cover tens of millions of workers, the administration said. Health care workers at institutions that receive funding from Medicaid and Medicare are also required to be vaccinated.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, accused Mr. Abbott on Tuesday of putting “politics ahead of public health” and said federal laws superseded state and local ones.

The administration will continue to pursue the expansive mandates it announced last month, she said, adding that business leaders who had already introduced mandates had reported positive results.

“Beyond the legal aspect, which is unquestionable in our view, the question for any business leader is: What do you want to do to save more lives in your companies?” Ms. Psaki said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Abbott said that the Biden administration had “left employers with the unfair choice of either violating federal regulations or losing their valued employees” and that the governor’s order was “enforceable by state and local law enforcement.”

Late Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary restraining order telling United Airlines not to place on unpaid leave any employee who had been granted a vaccine exemption. The court’s order said it was not ruling on any merits of the case, but was allowing for more time to consider a preliminary injunction. The order is in place until Oct. 26.

In Florida, another state with a governor who has battled vaccine mandates, the Department of Health issued a notice of violation to Leon County, which encompasses Tallahassee, for violating a ban on “vaccine passports” in the state.

The department said in a release on Tuesday that it was fining the county nearly $3.6 million for requiring 700 government employees to provide their vaccine status and firing 14 who refused to comply. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wanted to “preserve the ability of Floridians to make their own decisions regarding what shots to take.”

Credit…Matthew Busch for The New York Times

An order by the governor of Texas barring nearly all Covid-19 vaccine mandates in the state appears sweeping. But legal experts say that it does not supersede President Biden’s orders requiring vaccine mandates for many kinds of employees, and that it is likely to be challenged in court, where the case law so far has been heavily in favor of the validity of vaccine requirements.

The order issued on Monday by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican, bars vaccine mandates by any “entity” — including private employers, who were not covered by his previous orders forbidding mandates. States like Florida have also acted to ban public agencies and private businesses from requiring vaccination, and those bans are also likely to end up in court, experts say.

“Texas has just set itself up for a grand political show, but not a potentially legally sound initiative to stop all vaccine mandates,” said James Hodge, the director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University. “It boils down to a lot more politics than law.”

Courts in the United States have a long history of upholding vaccine mandates, Mr. Hodge said, and of ruling that protecting public health takes precedence over personal choice.

“That individual right to liberty has never gone that far to actually engage in behaviors that directly impact the public’s health,” said Mr. Hodge.

The right of the government to impose vaccine mandates has been established at least since 1905, when the Supreme Court ruled that Cambridge, Mass., could require adults there to be vaccinated against smallpox. Later court cases set the legal groundwork for vaccine mandates in schools, health care and other fields, Mr. Hodge said.

The Texas order also ramps up an emerging battle between Republican governors and President Biden, who is testing the limits of presidential power by asserting executive authority to require Covid-19 vaccines for workers in the federal government and the health care industry.

The president has also moved to require that all companies with more than 100 workers maintain safe workplaces through vaccination or weekly testing, relying on the federal government’s power to regulate commerce and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

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Abbott ‘Putting Politics Ahead of Public Health,’ Psaki Says

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, criticized Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas for signing an executive order banning vaccine mandates, and said that it does not supersede President Biden’s orders requiring vaccinations for many kinds of employees.

Governor Abbott’s executive order banning mandates, and I would also note announcement by Governor DeSantis this morning essentially banning the implementation of mandates fit a familiar pattern that we’ve seen of putting politics ahead of public health. Over 700,000 American lives have been lost due to Covid-19, including more than 56,000 in Florida and over 68,000 in Texas. And every leader should be focused on supporting efforts to save lives and end the pandemic. Why would you be taking steps that prevent the saving of lives, that make it more difficult to save lives across the country or in any state? And I would also note that vaccine requirements have been standard in both the Lone Star State, Texas in case you’re not familiar, and the Sunshine State, Florida, in schools for decades. Whether polio, measles, mumps, rubella, the chickenpox, there are vaccine requirements that have been implemented for decades in these states. Bottom line is we’re going to continue to implement the law, which the president of the United States has the ability, the authority, the legal authority to do, and we are going to continue to work to get more people vaccinated to get out of this pandemic. The president will use every lever at his disposal to do that.

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Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, criticized Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas for signing an executive order banning vaccine mandates, and said that it does not supersede President Biden’s orders requiring vaccinations for many kinds of employees.CreditCredit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that the president’s legal authority to issue mandates “overrides state law,” and that “to get out of this pandemic, the president will use every lever at his disposal.”

Republican governors like Mr. Abbot and Ron DeSantis of Florida have accused Mr. Biden of overreach. Mr. DeSantis said at a news conference on Tuesday that Florida and other states were prepared to mount a legal challenge to Mr. Biden’s mandate for private employers. But the states are likely to lose in court, experts say.

“It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to see any sort of higher-level court consistently agree that this type of intervention exceeds federal authority, when it’s been in place for 50 years,” Mr. Hodge said.

In August, a federal judge ruled against Florida’s ban on “vaccine passport” requirements. Ruling on First Amendment grounds, the judge issued a temporary injunction allowing Norwegian Cruise Line to continue requiring its embarking passengers to show proof of vaccination, despite the state ban.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated the year that the Supreme Court ruled governments have the right to impose vaccines. It was 1905, not 1904.

Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

In Guatemala, shortages of syringes have slowed vaccination efforts. In Haiti, logistical and security challenges after the devastating Aug. 14 earthquake have contributed to making it the country with the lowest vaccination coverage in the world.

And across the Caribbean, countries are grappling with unequal distribution of doses and vaccine hesitancy, World Health Organization officials warned today in an online news conference.

An “important challenge that the Caribbean is facing — English-speaking countries and French- speaking countries and territories — is vaccine hesitancy,” said Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, the Covid-19 incident manager at the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of the W.H.O.

“Even if some territories of the Caribbean are leading the regional effort in terms of vaccination coverage, we can say that the vaccine uptick is suboptimal in most of the Caribbean countries,” he said.

The W.H.O. has set a goal of having every country in the world vaccinate at least 40 percent of its population by the end of the year. Four of the six countries in the Americas that have yet to reach the 20 percent threshold are in the Caribbean: Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia. The other two — Nicaragua and Guatemala — are in Central America.

“Across all these countries, vaccine availability due to unequal distribution of doses has been a central challenge,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, the Pan-American agency’s director.

But several of the countries are also “facing their own unique barriers,” she added, like the shortage of syringes in Guatemala.

At the same time, Jamaica has had to cope with supply delays.

Haiti, where the August earthquake killed at least 2,200 people, has fully inoculated less than 1 percent of its population.

“The sociopolitical situation in Haiti is still tense, and that has negatively impacted” vaccination efforts, said Ciro Ugarte, the Pan-American agency’s director of health emergencies.

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean receive vaccines through bilateral agreements with manufacturers as well as through the United Nations-backed Covax program and donations from countries with excess doses. The Pan-American agency has also sealed deals for countries to buy millions of vaccine doses from China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac, as well as from AstraZeneca.

Although the numbers of Covid cases in much of Latin America and the Caribbean are declining, several islands in the Caribbean are seeing increases.

Barbados, for example, is reporting the highest number of infections and deaths since the pandemic started, said Dr. Etienne, the agency’s director. The Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Anguilla are also reporting increases in cases.

“In the eastern Caribbean, health services have been — or are still — overwhelmed by the influx of patients requiring hospitalization,” Dr. Aldighieri said. He also noted that the situation was a sharp contrast to last year, when most of the Caribbean island countries were largely able to avoid widespread transmission of the virus.

Despite vaccine hesitancy, 39 percent of the population across Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Dr. Etienne said. That is sharply higher than in Africa, where less than 5 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As more vaccines start to flow to the region, though, it’s important for countries “to make the necessary preparations so these doses can be used as quickly as possible,” Dr. Etienne said.



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