Across the country, states and school districts continue to be battlegrounds for ideological arguments for and against COVID-19 mandates, including mask mandates and vaccine requirements, and vaccine maker Moderna this week will request approval of a booster dose of its vaccine.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott yesterday banned any entity in the state, including private businesses, from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for workers or customers, the Washington Post reports. Violators will face a fine up to $1,000, according to the order.

Abbott had previously banned vaccine requirements among state employees. The latest move pits him against several large private businesses in Texas that have already announced vaccine mandates, including Southwest Airlines, AT&T, and Hewlett Packard.

A bit more than half—56%—of Texas residents say they are vaccinated, according to a tracker from the Washington Post. The state has been a hot spot for virus activity several times throughout the pandemic, and Abbott himself had a breakthrough case of COVID-19 in August. At the time, Abbott reported no symptoms and encouraged vaccination for all eligible adults.

Moderna to suggest half-dose booster

Ahead of a meeting later this week by the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, Moderna has released data that support its request for an emergency-use authorization of a booster dose given at half the strength of the original two-dose mRNA vaccine series.

The half dose would raise antibody levels while staving off side effects, the company said, and it would boost the global supply of Moderna.

But the FDA said in its documentation that the two-dose Moderna vaccine still prevents severe illness and death from COVID-19, and a third booster dose may be unnecessary for most.

LA schools extend vaccine deadline

The Los Angeles school district has extended the deadline for all workers to be fully immunized from Oct 15 to Nov 15, the Los Angeles Times reports. The district has not told the media what percentage of their employees are vaccinated, but at a Sep 27 board meeting, officials said as many as 20% of district employees were not yet vaccinated.

Under the requirement, employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov 15.

In related news, parents in Wisconsin are suing two school districts over their COVID-19 mitigation efforts, arguing that the systems failed to protect their children from getting infected, CNN reports.

Both the Fall Creek School District and the Waukesha School District are implicated in the lawsuits. Both districts have not required masks, testing, or any distancing measures in schools. The Fall Creek lawsuit also says sick students were allowed to come to school without masks.

More than 148,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported from Sep 30 to Oct 7, according to the latest update from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children represented 24.8% of weekly reported COVID-19 cases.

Six million US children have now been sickened by the virus.

Other US developments

  • The US reported 116,202 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, and 1,182 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.
  • US workers are trickling back to the office at the highest rate since the pandemic began, according to the Wall Street Journal. As of Oct 8, an average of 36% of the workforce is back in the office in 10 major cities.
  • California’s coronavirus death toll reached 70,000 on Monday, the Associated Press reports.

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