Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has been temporarily blocked from enforcing a vaccine mandate for nearly all adults in New York City public school buildings, after a federal appeals court granted a temporary injunction on Friday.
The mandate, which affects well over 150,000 people working in the nation’s largest school system, was set to go into effect on Monday at midnight. Educators, parents and union officials have been bracing for the likelihood of staffing shortages and disruption in at least some schools where significant numbers of educators and staff members are not vaccinated.
A judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted the injunction on a temporary basis and referred the case to a panel of three judges for review. City officials said they expected the review and ruling to take place in the next few days, possibly even over the weekend, and anticipated that the mandate would be upheld. But it is not clear if the issue will be resolved before the Monday deadline.
Last week, a State Supreme Court judge ruled that the city could move forward with the mandate, after considering a separate but similar lawsuit filed by a coalition of unions that represents employees in public schools. The judge, Laurence Love, said state and federal courts have consistently upheld mandatory vaccination orders.
And on Thursday, a federal judge in Brooklyn, Brian M. Cogan, declined to grant the injunction sought by a group of teachers, calling the mandate “a rational policy decision surrounding how best to protect children during a global pandemic.”
At least 90 percent of teachers and 95 percent of principals are already vaccinated. The rate is lower — about 82 percent — among staff members in school buildings.
The leaders of the unions representing the city’s teachers and principals have called on Mr. de Blasio to delay the implementation of the mandate, arguing that schools are not prepared to deal with staffing crunches.
The mandate, which was announced last month, requires all educators, along with staff like custodians, school lunch helpers and safety agents to receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Monday night. It is the first vaccine mandate without a test-out option for any group of city workers.
“We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Danielle Filson, said in a statement.
School mask mandates have generated controversy in many parts of the country. Now, two studies, published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provide additional evidence that masks protect children from the coronavirus, even when community rates are high and the contagious Delta variant is circulating.
One study, conducted in Arizona, where children returned to school in July, found that schools that did not require staff and students to wear masks were 3.5 times as likely to have a virus outbreak as schools that required universal masking.
A second study looked at infections among all children in 520 different counties across the United States, and found that once the public school year started, pediatric cases increased at a far higher rate in counties where schools did not require masks.
The first study analyzed data on about 1,000 public schools in Maricopa and Pima counties, which include the metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson, and account for most of the state’s population.
Only 21 percent of the schools implemented a universal mask mandate upon opening, and nearly half had no mask requirement at all. Another roughly 30 percent enacted a mask requirement about 15 days after school started.
Between July 15 and Aug. 31, there were 191 school-associated virus outbreaks that occurred about a week after school started. The majority of them — 113 outbreaks, or nearly 60 percent of the total — occurred in schools with no mask requirement.
Only 16 outbreaks, or 8 percent of the total, took place in schools that implemented mask requirements regardless of vaccination status from the start. There were 62 outbreaks, or about one-third of the total amount, in schools that implemented a mask requirement after the school year had already started.
The study defined an outbreak as two or more positive confirmed cases of infection among staff or students within a 14-day period.
“The school year starts very early in Arizona, in mid-July, so we had the advantage of being able to get an early look at data for the new school year a bit sooner than was possible for the rest of the country, which was important, because of the transmission of the Delta variant,” said J. Mac McCullough, associate professor at Arizona State University and a co-author of the study.
The C.D.C. recommends a layered approach to preventing coronavirus outbreaks in schools — masking, distancing, staying home when sick and vaccination for those eligible. “This study really shines a lens on the masking part of that,” Dr. McCullough said.
The second study looked at the association between school mask policies in a given county and communitywide infections among children, finding that counties with no school mask requirement experienced a larger uptick in pediatric case rates after the start of school than counties with school mask requirements.
Between the week before school started and the second week of school, the number of pediatric infections increased by 35 cases per 100,000 in counties without mask requirements, while the number increased by 16 cases per 100,000 population in counties with school mask requirements.
State health officials are rushing to roll out campaigns to provide coronavirus booster shots for millions of vulnerable people who got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and to help a confused public understand who qualifies for the extra shots.
Among their challenges: making sure that recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines know that they are not yet eligible for boosters, reaching isolated older people, and informing younger adults with medical conditions or jobs that place them at higher risk that they might be eligible under the broad federal rules.
“Those of us overseeing vaccine rollouts don’t have a clear idea of what to do,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s Covid czar.
In his state, pharmacies sent staff members into the largest nursing homes on Friday to administer booster doses. In Vermont, health officials opened booster shot appointments to people 80 and older on Friday, and said many other eligible people could get them starting next week. In virus-battered North Dakota, officials struggling to make sense of the federal guidance delayed a broad booster rollout until next week.
Many more people became eligible for boosters early Friday after the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said people at greater risk of exposure to the virus “because of occupational or institutional setting” would qualify, opening up boosters to millions of people her advisory committee had left out.
People 65 and older and residents of long-term care facilities and adults who have certain medical conditions also qualify for the boosters.
President Biden said on Friday that 20 million people could get boosters immediately because they had gotten their second Pfizer-BioNTech shot at least six months ago. In all, he said, 60 million people will be eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster over the coming months.
State and federal officials said the booster program would look much different than earlier coronavirus vaccination drives, which relied heavily on mass inoculation sites at sports stadiums and convention centers. Instead, pharmacies, primary care physicians and smaller vaccination clinics that have become accustomed to offering shots will deliver boosters.
As a practical matter, the official recommendations were unlikely to deter millions of Americans who might not be eligible yet from pursuing booster doses, by claiming medical conditions or weakened immune systems. The C.D.C. said on Thursday that millions of Americans had already received an extra shot.
Renters living in apartment buildings with federally backed mortgages may get an eviction reprieve — even though a broad federal moratorium on evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic expired last month.
The federal agency overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the two big government-controlled mortgage finance firms — on Friday extended the time period for those firms to grant mortgage relief to apartment owners. Landlords that accept the relief cannot evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent.
Sandra L. Thompson, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority, said the extension was needed given the “uncertain nature of this pandemic.” The forbearance period for apartment owners with federally backed mortgages was set to expire this month; it also includes an eviction ban.
The F.H.F.A. did not put an end date on the program, which is available to landlords showing a financial hardship because of the pandemic.
It is unclear how many owners would accept the forbearance offer and how many renters would be covered. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late August that the Biden administration could not extend the federal eviction moratorium without congressional approval, it was estimated that hundreds of thousands of people were in immediate danger of eviction.
The extension comes as the federal government and states are struggling to deliver $46 billion in emergency rental assistance approved earlier this year as part the administration’s pandemic relief package. The Treasury Department on Friday said that as of the end of August, it had distributed $7.7 billion in aid to more than one million households.
Fannie and Freddie do not make home loans but instead buy mortgages and package them into government-backed securities that are guaranteed in the event of default.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Millions of Americans became eligible for booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine this week, after federal regulators recommended it for people inoculated with that vaccine more than six months ago and who fall into one of three categories: over 65; having underlying medical conditions; or working that put them at risk for infections.
Whether to include that last category was hotly debated among regulators.
On Wednesday, the Federal Drug Administration recommended booster shots for Americans in all three categories. But the following day, the Centers for Disease Control’s advisory committee on immunization practices issued its own recommendations, which excluded frontline workers.
On Friday, the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, overruled her agency’s advisers and said frontline workers should be able to get the booster shots. “This was a scientific close call,” she said told reporters at a White House briefing on Friday. “In that situation, it was my call to make.”
Dr. Walensky added that “it was a decision about providing rather than withholding access.”
President Biden on Friday welcomed Dr. Walensky’s decision and encouraged eligible people to get the booster shots. At the White House briefing, he also lamented that there were about the 70 million Americans who have chosen not to get vaccinated, and complained about what he called the “elected officials actively working to undermine with false information the fight against Covid-19.”
Here’s what else happened this week:
Pfizer-BioNTech announced on Monday that its vaccine had been shown to be safe and effective in low doses in children ages 5 to 11. If the F.D.A. authorizes the Pfizer vaccine for those ages, that could be a game changer for millions of American families and could help bolster the U.S. response to the highly contagious Delta variant. Vaccine uptake among older children has lagged and polling indicates that a significant number of parents have reservations about vaccinating their children.
A World Health Organization panel endorsed the use of a monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid patients at the greatest risk of being hospitalized or those who are not producing antibodies to fight off the disease. The expensive treatment, developed by the U.S. drug maker Regeneron and the Swiss biotech company Roche, has garnered attention as an alternative therapy for Covid-19, particularly among some who have shunned vaccines.
African public health experts on Thursday hailed Mr. Biden’s plan to expand global vaccine donations, but warned that his ambitious goals would not be met without timelier deliveries and greater transparency about the amount of doses sent. The continent, which has the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rate, has suffered not only from a shortage of doses but from delayed and inconsistent deliveries. African countries have still received only one-third of the doses they were promised for this year.
Two hosts of “The View” television show were directed to leave the set live on the air on Friday after both had apparently tested positive for the coronavirus. The hosts, Ana Navarro and Sunny Hostin, had been on the verge of introducing Vice President Kamala Harris for an in-person interview.