President Biden on Thursday unveiled a series of steps to combat the newly surging pandemic, including the announcement of a forthcoming federal rule that all businesses with 100 or more employees have to ensure that every worker is either vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing for the coronavirus.
Among the other steps, Biden also announced that federal workers and contractors will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, eliminating an option laid out in July for unvaccinated employees to be regularly tested instead.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said federal workers would have about 75 days to become fully vaccinated, once Biden signed an executive order later Thursday. She said there would be limited exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
Some federal agencies will require proof of vaccination while others will accept attestations, Psaki said. Workers who fail to comply with the requirement will be counseled by their human resources departments, and then will face “progressive disciplinary action,” she said.
Biden announced that 17 million health care workers at hospitals and other health care settings like dialysis clinics and home health agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding will have to be vaccinated.
There will be similar requirements for teachers and staff at the Head Start early education program and other federally funded educational settings, such as schools on military bases.
In a review of the state’s economy, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office states that sales tax collections in April were more than forty-five percent higher than the same period last year.
Sales tax collections in 2021 totaled $1.5 billion. In Western New York, Erie County saw a nearly 50 percent increase this April over the previous year. The largest increases were seen in Niagara and Allegany Counties at 63 percent. The lowest growth was in Cattaraugus County at nearly 43 percent.
DiNapoli attributes the incredible growth to the re-opening of many businesses.
New research released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reinforces an old message: COVID-19 spreads less in schools where teachers and staff wear masks. Yet the study arrives as states and school districts across the country have begun scaling back or simply dropping their masking requirements for staff and students alike.
The new study comes from Georgia and compares COVID-19 infection rates across 169 K-5 schools. Some schools required teachers, staff and sometimes students to wear masks; some did not.
Between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11, researchers found that infection rates were 37% lower in schools where teachers and staff members were required to wear masks. The difference between schools that did and did not require students to wear masks was not statistically significant.
Colonial has acknowledged that its computer networks were hit by a ransomware attack — in essence, an attack in which a hacker or criminal group breaks in and encrypts the contents of a victim’s computers until a ransom is paid. And while the company has declined to say whether it has offered a ransom, the attack is focusing new attention on a potentially radical proposal to stem the growing threat posed by ransomware: making it illegal for targets to pay their attackers.
Callow says a ban is just part of the answer, and in its report, the ransomware task force said governments would need to ease the transition before moving to a world where ransom payments are prohibited. Changes would need to be phased in, it said, and allow time for governments to set up protection and support programs for victims. A bipartisan bill introduced last year in the Senate, for example, called for study into the creation of a federal fund to help support the recovery and response to significant cyber-incidents.
The clock may already be ticking — at least for some. In what is likely a first, the global insurance company Axa announced last week that it would stop offering policies in France that reimburse customers for extortion payments made to cybercriminals.
Based on the bureau’s estimates, the latest tally is likely to show that the growth in the number of people living in the U.S. has slowed to the lowest rate the country has seen since the 1940 census was conducted in the wake of the Great Depression. Disruptions from COVID-19 during last year’s counting, however, have made shifts in each state’s population particularly hard to predict.
Last year’s tally was the country’s 24th census — a once-a-decade tradition required by the Constitution since 1790 — and it is the ninth count for which the U.S. government has attempted to include every person living in the country in the numbers used for reapportioning seats in Congress. Before the 1940 census, the phrase “excluding Indians not taxed” in the Constitution excluded some American Indians from the apportionment counts.
It’s an idea that has been debated widely across global capitals: impose the same minimum corporate tax rate all over the world to prevent companies from shopping around for the country that can offer the smallest tax bill.
Now, it has a powerful new adherent. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday expressed support for a minimum tax rate, providing the vital backing of the U.S. government.
Yellen, in a speech, said a minimum global tax rate would stop what she described as a “30-year race to the bottom” that has allowed big corporations to avoid contributing fully to vital national needs.
At least 235 brick-and-mortar businesses have closed permanently in D.C. since the first known coronavirus case was reported on March 7, 2020, with 100 more shuttered temporarily, a count by DCist/WAMU found. (The status of another 40 is unknown.)
As of December, more than 36,000 residents were unemployed — a 77% increase over the prior year. Downtown D.C., once an economic engine that contributed nearly 16% of the city’s tax revenue in 2019, is today an effigy of its former self. At night, the bars and restaurants that propelled so much of D.C.’s economic growth seem funereal without scores of intoxicated revelers streaming through the doors and swiping their credit cards.
On Jan. 27, 1986, Allan McDonald stood on the cusp of history.
McDonald directed the booster rocket project at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol. He was responsible for the two massive rockets, filled with explosive fuel, that lifted space shuttles skyward. He was at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch of the Challenger “to approve or disapprove a launch if something came up,” he told me in 2016, 30 years after Challenger exploded.
His job was to sign and submit an official form. Sign the form, he believed, and he’d risk the lives of the seven astronautsset to board the spacecraft the next morning. Refuse to sign, and he’d risk his job, his career and the good life he’d built for his wife and four children.
“And I made the smartest decision I ever made in my lifetime,” McDonald told me. “I refused to sign it. I just thought we were taking risks we shouldn’t be taking.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, big parts of the U.S. economy just turned off. Voluntary social distancing and lockdowns, like those during the first wave in March, were necessary to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19’s spread throughout the country, but these lockdowns had ripple effects on the economy.
Millions suddenly lost their jobs, pushing unemployment to historic highs. When travel ground to a halt, hotel occupancy plummeted — and so did profits, which dropped 84.6% in 2020 from a year earlier. In New Jersey, that meant hotel owner Bhavesh Patel had to furlough employees to make ends meet.
That factory is one of the parts of the economy that are slowly coming back. Some sectors are thriving, while others continue to struggle, putting different people in vastly different situations. NPR will spend the year following four people who will help illustrate the arc of the expected economic recovery.
What will it take to finally halt the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.? To answer that question we’ve created a simulation of a mock disease we’re calling SIMVID-19.
When you click “Run Simulation” above, you are witnessing how a disease can spread through a population and how increased levels of vaccination can stop it in its tracks.
We’re chosen to simulate a fake disease since there are too many unknowns to simulate the course of COVID-19. There are common features in how any infection spreads. When enough people are immune — through vaccination or natural immunity — a population achieves herd immunity. The disease stops spreading efficiently and starts to fade away.
Since vaccine distribution began in the U.S. on Dec. 14, more than 50 million doses have been administered, reaching 11.2% of the total U.S. population, according to federal data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. is currently administering over 1.6 million shots a day.