Today during a White House press briefing, Jeff Zients, the coordinator of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 pandemic response, said vaccine mandates are driving up vaccination rates across the country.

To date, more than 3,500 organizations, including universities, healthcare systems, private companies, and state and municipal governments, have mandated COVID-19 vaccines for employees, a move Zients said results in an average of 90% of employees taking the vaccine.

Zients said mandates have raised the vaccination rates in the United States up by 20% in recent weeks. He also said 77% of all Americans age 12 and older have now gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Airlines to maintain federal mandate

But vaccine mandates have become the latest political football in the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines said they would comply with the federal mandate that will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Reuters reports.

The companies said the federal mandate supersedes the order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that bars private entities from requiring vaccination, a move Abbott made earlier this week. Southwest is a contractor with the federal government, a category that falls under vaccine requirements.

Over the weekend, thousands of travelers on Southwest flights were left stranded as thousands of flights were canceled. Rumors spread on social media that the chaos was caused by pilots and flight attendants who were using up vacation and sick days to protest the company’s vaccine requirement—a rumor denied by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Southwest pilots union, and the company.

Cases continue to drop

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said the 7-day averages for new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continued to decrease this week by a little more than 10% than from the previous week. The 7-day average of new daily cases is now 92,600, and the daily average of hospitalizations is 7,080. 

Zients said 7 million Americans now gotten a booster shot, 3 million in the last week alone.  All of the boosters administered thus far have been Pfizer/BioNTech, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tomorrow will consider Moderna boosters.

Early today the White House has told governors to start preparing to vaccinate children as young as 5 by early next month, according to NBC News, as the FDA will consider vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 during an Oct 26 meeting. In anticipation of FDA authorization, the Biden administration has purchased 65 million pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough supply to vaccinate 28 million children.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 56.5% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 65.5% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 4.6% of fully vaccinated people have received a booster dose.

Biden to lift travel restrictions to Canada, Mexico

Beginning in November, the Biden administration will lift travel restrictions at the borders with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated travelers, the New York Times reports. Unvaccinated visitors from the two neighboring countries will not be allowed to enter the United States.

Borders have been closed since March 2020 to most visitors. An exact date has not yet been set for the reopening, but White House officials said it will likely coincide with the reopening of foreign air travel.

Air travelers will have to show both proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States. Those crossing the land border will only be required to show vaccination records.

Other US developments

  • The New York Times tracker shows the country recorded 91,399 cases yesterday, including 1,983 deaths.
  • The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday fined Leon County $3.5 million for violating the state’s vaccine passport law, which prohibits businesses and governments from requiring people to show proof of vaccination, the Associated Press reports. The county fired 14 employees who were not vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Minnesota on Tuesday reported a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 8.3%, its highest since the vaccines were introduced, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The state also hit its highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations in 2021.


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