Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Sweeping U.S. vaccine mandates.,

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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

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In a speech delivered this afternoon from the White House, President Biden outlined an aggressive plan to use the full force of his presidency to require millions of American workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“The path ahead, even with the Delta variant, is not nearly as bad as last winter,” Biden said. “But what makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat Covid-19, and a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials, are keeping us from turning the corner.”

The executive orders and federal rules — the most expansive actions Biden has taken to control the pandemic since he assumed the presidency — will require or prod about 80 percent of the American work force to get vaccinated.

“We’ve been patient,” Biden added. “But our patience is wearing thin and the refusal has cost all of us.”

In perhaps the most far-reaching move, Biden will instruct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require all businesses with 100 or more workers to have their employees get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

The White House will also require nearly all federal employees and contractors, totaling about 4 million people, to get vaccinated or face disciplinary measures.

Other actions include:

  • Requiring that companies offer workers paid time off to get vaccinated.

  • Requiring that all health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid vaccinate their roughly 17 million employees.

  • Asking large entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test for entry.

  • Using the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of rapid testing kits and personal protective equipment.

The new rules are part of an aggressive new plan that will also put more pressure on private businesses, states and schools to require vaccines. They also signal a new phase for vaccine mandates in the U.S. in which doses are required for access to many areas of public life.

Earlier in the day, Los Angeles became the first major school district in the U.S. to mandate coronavirus vaccines for students 12 and older who are attending class in person. The measure, which passed the district’s Board of Education with broad support, requires students to get their first vaccine dose by Nov. 21 and their second by Dec. 19.

When it comes to company mandates, OSHA’s authority does not mean it won’t face pushback or lawsuits challenging the order. And enforcement may be a challenge, since there is no national system for employers to track or report vaccination status.

A number of large employers, ranging from CVS Health to Goldman Sachs to Chevron, have already put in place some form of vaccine mandate.

Still, many of these mandates are not comprehensive. Companies like Walmart and Citigroup have mandates for their corporate employees, but not for frontline workers in stores or at branches. Many companies are also dealing with labor shortages and varying levels of vaccine hesitancy among workers.


When did Covid-19 first arrive in the United States? Researchers are investigating at least four possible Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. in January 2020. If confirmed, that would speed up the timeline of the virus’s spread by several weeks. Previously, the earliest suspected Covid-related fatality was not until Feb. 6, 2020.

My colleague Ben Mueller reports that the cases are spread out across four states, and were discovered after a quiet, yearlong search by the C.D.C.

Some scientists say that the odds are slim that all four of the C.D.C.’s new death cases — from Kansas, California, Alabama and Wisconsin — really did result from Covid-19.

Some research has indicated that the virus was unlikely to be spreading outside of China before mid-December 2019, making U.S. deaths the following month doubtful, as the virus typically takes several weeks to cause deaths.

But with China refusing to share more information about its own early cases, researchers are looking for early cases elsewhere to help unravel how the pandemic began.

In Italy, researchers have reported coronavirus antibodies in blood samples from September 2019, as well as signs of the virus in a patient’s skin sample from November of that year. An analysis of American blood tests published this summer suggested that the virus may have been circulating in Illinois as early as Dec. 24, 2019, though other scientists questioned those findings.



Two years of Covid-mandated school closures, and our Montessori preschool has run out of money. After 38 years in operation, it has been forced to close permanently. It had survived so many difficult times and was a most resilient little operation, much loved by the local community. There is no safety net in the developing world, and Covid has now finished us off. So many small businesses have been forced to close. So many out of employment.

— Richard Owen, Zimbabwe

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