COVID-19 Live Updates: WHO Director Says Vaccine Booster Rollout is 'Unfair, Unjust and Immoral' At This Time

Live Updates

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have started to fall significantly after months of sustained pressure on hospitals across the country. Healthcare facilities were forced, and continue to, only offer emergency medical services as the number of patients in intensive care remains extraordinarily high.

Elsewhere, a damning report has condemned the U.K. government's response to the pandemic, describing failures by ministers and scientific advisers as "costing thousands of lives." Victims' rights advocates say the report was an attempt to "ignore and gaslight bereaved families."

Meanwhile, arguments about vaccine and mask mandates continue to rage in the U.S. after Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order to prohibit businesses from enforcing such restrictions on workers.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said these mandates "​​fit a familiar pattern" of putting politics before health.

"I think it's pretty clear when you make a choice that's against all public health information and data out there, that it's not based on what is in the interest of the people you are governing," Psaki said during a press briefing Tuesday. "It's perhaps in the interest of your own politics."

The live updates for this blog have ended.

WHO Director says the rollout of vaccine booster shots at this time is "unfair, unjust and immoral"

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says vaccine dose donations "aren't enough" to achieve global vaccine equity.

"Donations aren't enough to deliver on Vaccine Equity and end the COVID-19 pandemic," Dr. Tedros said in a tweet. "We need stronger leadership to ramp up the production, share technology, waive IP rights, to vaccinate 40 percent of people in every country by the end of 2021."

"The current injustice is not acceptable," he added.

Tedros also said that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots "is unfair, unjust and immoral," saying countries should respect the moratorium WHO placed on booster shot administration.

"Broad administration of booster doses is unfair, unjust and immoral at a time when health workers and at most risk people in many countries, mainly in Africa, haven't received a first vaccination dose," he said in a tweet. "Countries should respect the moratorium."

Florida fines Leon County $3.5 million for COVID-19 vaccine requirement

The Florida Department of Health fined Leon County $3.5 million for requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The FDOH said the county is facing 74 violations of the state's "vaccine passport" law that prohibits businesses and the government from requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.

A spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis said "it is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, infringed on current and former employees' medical privacy, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions."

In a statement, Leon County said its employee vaccination requirement "was not only completely legally justifiable, but it was a necessary and responsible action to take to keep our employees safe, protect the public, and ensure our readiness as a frontline response organization."

The statement said the county's COVID-19 response efforts have been informed by public health guidance "in alignment with a plain reading of the law."

"The Governor's position in this instance, unfortunately, appears to be less of a public health strategy and more about political strategy," the county said.

State Department will send COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan

The U.S. State Department said it plans to send COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan, Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

"We are focused on bringing this epidemic to the end," Price said during a press briefing Tuesday.

Price said the U.S. pledged to send 3.3 million vaccine doses to Afghanistan, but noted that if there is a greater humanitarian need, the U.S. will send more vaccines.

A U.S. delegation met with the Taliban in Doha over the weekend. Price said the meeting was "pragmatic and practical," as the two sides discussed diplomatic and humanitarian issues.

Russia is testing a nasal spray form of its COVID-19 vaccine

Russia will test a nasal spray form of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, the state said Tuesday.

The nasal spray is applied in two doses and is currently being tested among adult volunteers at a clinic in St. Petersburg. In June, Russian authorities said it was testing a nasal spray vaccine suitable for children ages 8 to 12 and planned to launch the new product in September.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia needs to boost its vaccine rollout amid the country's highest single-day death toll.

"Vaccination safeguards people from infection, from serious symptoms," Putin told lawmakers. "We need to increase its pace."

Jen Psaki says governors' bans on vaccine mandates are "putting politics ahead of public health"

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the executive orders by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis blocking vaccine mandates are "putting politics ahead of public health."

During a daily press briefing Tuesday, Psaki said "there are vaccine requirements that have been implemented for decades in these states" and these mandates "puts these two leaders out of step" with that history, "but also many business leaders in their states."

She said that "federal law overrides state laws" and added that Abbott is baring businesses from mandating vaccines because of "politics."

"I think it's pretty clear when you make a choice that's against all public health information and data out there, that it's not based on what is in the interests of the people you are governing," she said.

FDA won't rule on Moderna booster shot ahead of advisory panel review Thursday

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists would not take a stance on whether it supports Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine booster shot Tuesday, saying the original two doses are effective enough.

"Some real-world effectiveness studies have suggested declining efficacy of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine over time against symptomatic infection or against the Delta variant, while others have not," the FDA wrote in a 45-page document published on the agency's website. "However, overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death in the United States."

The FDA took a similar stance on the Pfizer booster shot last month.

This report is meant to brief the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee before they review Moderna's request for approval Thursday.

Florida is investigating local governments, concert venues for requiring proof of vaccination

Florida is investigating local governments, performing arts centers, the Miami Marlins, a law enforcement counter-terrorism unit and a Harry Styles concert for requiring people to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The state is reviewing around 120 cases violating the state's law against requiring "vaccine passports."

The law is being challenged in court and "at this point, the courts have not reached the final decision," Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings told the Orlando Sentinel. "But the indication is that the Florida law flies in the face of our Florida Constitution and perhaps in the face of common sense."

Concert venues that require a COVID-19 vaccine or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test are not in violation of the law, Kelley Shanley, president and CEO of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, said.

Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, told the Orlando Sentinel Monday that "mandatory vaccine passports are prohibited, but other COVID protocols are not necessarily prohibited."

"An investigation is not a finding of a violation," Pushaw said.

Kyrie Irving will not play with the Brooklyn Nets until he is vaccinated

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving will not play with the team until he gets a COVID-19 vaccine, the general manager said.

"Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant," Nets General Manager Sean Marks said in a statement. "Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose."

Marks said Irving's choice "restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team," and part-time players will not be permitted to participate with the team.

"It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established value of togetherness and sacrifice," Marks said. "Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction."

FULL STORY: Kyrie Irving Won't Play, Practice With Brooklyn Nets Until He's Vaccinated: GM

New York judge sides with health care workers who oppose state vaccine mandate on religious grounds

A federal judge in Utica, New York granted an injunction against the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Judge David Hurd sided with 17 health care workers who opposed the state's vaccine mandate based on religious grounds. The plaintiffs said the COVID-19 vaccines violate their religious beliefs because "because they all employ fetal cell lines derived from procured abortion in testing, development or production."

"There is no adequate explanation from defendants about why the 'reasonable accommodation' that must be extended to a medically exempt health care worker under 2.61 could not similarly be extended to a healthcare worker with a sincere religious objection," Judge Hurd wrote.

The injunction means New York will be barred from enforcing any vaccine requirement that denies religious exemptions.

Judge Hurd said the mandate conflicts with the plaintiff's "federally protected right to seek religious accommodation from their individual employers."

He said the plaintiffs established that "they and others will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief."

Wisconsin moms sue school districts over lack of COVID-19 protection measures

Two Wisconsin moms are suing two school districts over their lack of COVID-19 prevention measures after their children tested positive for coronavirus.

Shannon Jensen filed the first lawsuit alleging that the Waukesha School District, the Waukesha Board of Education, a number of school board members and district employees are "knowing, needlessly, unreasonably and recklessly exposing the public" to the virus by continuing to hold classes "without adequate COVID-19 mitigation," according to the court documents.

"The School District of Waukesha's refusal to implement reasonable COVID-19 mitigation strategies, not only affected our immediate family, but if we had been notified sooner of my oldest son's close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, we could have prevented possible further community spread of the virus," Jensen said in the court declaration.

Gina Kildahl filed a different complaint against the Fall Creek School District, the board, its superintendent and individual board members Monday for "recklessly refusing" to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies, according to the complaint.

"By bringing students back to class around unmasked staff, reinstituting extracurricular activities, and allowing potentially contagious visitors and volunteers into the schools without masks, FCSD and the BOARD threw students into a COVID-19 'snake pit' creating an affirmative duty to keep their students safe from COVID-19," Kildahl's complaint read.

As the COVID-19 death toll rises, California's infection rate stays below the national average

Despite California's high death toll, its per capita fatality and infection rates remain below the overall U.S. average.

California registered 70,132 COVID-19 deaths Monday, the most of any state in the nation, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. However, California's per capita fatality rate is 117 per 100,000 people, which is under the national rate of 214.

More than 70 percent of Californians are fully vaccinated, which could be contributing to the state's low infection rate. California has the lowest per capita rate of new coronavirus cases in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

California recorded 67 new cases per 100,000 people last week. The national average is 195. The state's positivity rate in the last seven days was 2.5 percent, compared to the national average of 6.1 percent.

Hospitalizations in California are also down over the past month. There are about 4,100 hospitalizations and 1,100 intensive care cases, down from 8,220 and 2,100, respectively, in September, according to state data.

New report condemns Britain's delayed COVID-19 lockdown

A new report from the British government calls the country's delayed COVID-19 lockdown "one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdon has ever experienced."

Lawmakers concluded Tuesday that the nation's failure to impose a lockdown early in the COVID-19 pandemic costs thousands of unnecessary deaths.

"Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic - and the advice that led to them - rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced,″ the joint report from the House of Commons' science and health committees said.

The poor response was due to a failure of British government ministers to questions recommendations of scientific advisors, resulting in "groupthink" that led them to dismiss more extreme measures to limit the spread of infections, the report concluded.

"There was a groupthink that the way you tackle a pandemic should be similar to a flu pandemic," Jeremy Hunt, a former British health minister who now heads Parliament's health committee, said. "I was part of that groupthink, too, when I was health secretary. "

The report said that the government sought to manage the spread instead of trying to stop it, believing that testing capacity was limited, a vaccine was not an immediate possibility and the public would not accept a major lockdown.

Hannah Brady, a spokesperson for COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, told the Associated Press that the report is "laughable," saying it barely mentioned those who died of the virus.

"This is an attempt to ignore and gaslight bereaved families, who will see it as a slap in the face," she said.

FULL STORY: COVID Victims' Families Blast Report on Lockdown for Ignoring, Gaslighting Them

FDA panel to convene on Moderna, Johnson & Johnson booster shots

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel of independent advisors will meet Thursday and Friday to decide on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots, the Associated Press reported.

The panel if an additional dose of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be administered, and if so, who should get them and when.

After the advisors give their recommendation, the FDA will make its official decision whether to authorize booster a third or second jab for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, respectively. Then, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel will meet to discuss more specifics on booster shot rollout.

The FDA panel will also evaluate the safety and effectiveness of mixing different COVID-19 vaccine brands.

CDC announces variant-finding testing program at major U.S. airports

The program, limited to passengers on certain international flights coming into San Francisco, as well as JFK and Newark International, is part of an effort to identify new variants from abroad amid fears of a vaccine-resistant strain entering the country.

Early detection will allow medical researchers to quickly begin testing how the new strains spread and react to the vaccines currently in use, officials say.

The CDC will be conducting the SFO monitoring program in collaboration with the XpresCheck COVID-19 testing company and Ginkgo Bioworks.

Fauci gives the green light for trick-or-treating

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - and top adviser on COVID to the presidency - has given the thumbs up to kids and parents going trick-or-treating this Halloween.

Fauci told CNN's State of the Union show on Sunday that it's an important time of year for children and said they should "go out there" and "enjoy it".

He added that people wanting to enjoy Halloween on October 31 should consider getting the shots for that "extra degree of protection" if they haven't yet got the shot.

Fauci positive about COVID this winter
Fauci has given the thumbs up to trick-or-treaters this year Getty Images

Teenager fourth person to die of COVID in same school distract since August

16-year-old Texas student George Moralez, a 10th-grader at Connally High School in Waco, passed away on October 6 after being ill for more than a month.

Connally Independent School District (CISD) confirmed his death to the community in a letter sent out to parents and staff.

It is with a heavy heart that I bear the sad news of the loss of a Connally ISD student, the son of one of our Connally Junior High staff members, and a sibling to current Connally High School students.

Moralez was a member of the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and the manager of the school football team and volunteered for several causes, including Food For Families Drives.

In a post on Facebook, Moralez's mother said that he "was surrounded by family and close friends" when he died.

My boy was one of a kind. I still can't believe I won't hear his voice, laugh, hug him, or see his smile. I know where my boy is at, he is in heaven and in no more pain. Fly baby, fly high. Please pray for my Alana and Jaden. We miss our George.

Is it flu or COVID?

Many people have been suffering from symptoms that are similar to both COVID and flu as we head into winter.

But the agency has set out how to tell the difference, highlighting COVID symptoms that could help Americans determine what measures to take.

#DYK? COVID-19 and flu can both cause fever and cough, but shortness of breath is more common with #COVID19 than #flu. Use this chart to learn more about the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and flu.

Learn more: https://t.co/7JvVEcIerm. pic.twitter.com/gunz9fwET2

— CDC (@CDCgov) October 11, 2021

Russian hospitals 'close to capacity' amid low vaccination uptake

Russian hospitals 'close to capacity' amid low vaccination uptake

Russia continues to have one of the world's highest death tolls throughout the pandemic as its coronavirus task force on Monday reported on low vaccination rates and overflowing hospitals.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed the low vaccination rates for causing the extreme case and death numbers.

The vaccination level we have is too low, impermissibly low. That is why we have mortality numbers that are so high. We are using every opportunity to make a simple call on all citizens—go ahead and get the shot.

FULL STORY: Russia Admits Some Hospitals Close to Capacity, Over 29,000 New COVID Cases Reported

We are not at the 'beginning of the end' of the pandemic, Yale Professor tells Greek journalist

We are not at the "beginning of the end" of the coronavirus pandemic, but near the "end of the beginning," Yale University Professor of Social and Natural Science Nicholas Christakis warned in an interview with Greek TV news channel Skai last night.

To be safe now – because with the original strain we could have gotten by with a much smaller percentage, but the virus has become much more infectious – 85 percent to 90 percent of the population would have to be vaccinated or infected.

The second phase would be about "cleaning up" after the virus, he added, which he likened to a "tsunami" and the third post-pandemic phase should not be expected until around 2024, when Christakis said the world will have suffered more casualties than it would have with a "better" exit strategy.

Texas pushes for vaccine mandate ban despite leading nation in COVID deaths

The order to ban vaccine mandates for workers comes as Texas leads the nation in average daily deaths due to COVID-19 and continuing vaccine hesitancy among a section of the U.S. population.

Data compiled by The New York Times shows that the average number of daily deaths from COVID-19 in Texas stands at 241.4. That figure represents data from the seven days up to October 11.

Texas' average is significantly higher than the state with the next highest figure, Florida, which stands at 149.7 average daily deaths.

FULL STORY: Greg Abbott's Vaccine Mandate Ban Comes as Texas Leads U.S. in Daily COVID Deaths

George Clooney's verdict on COVID vaccine mandates

The Hollywood star did not mince his words during an interview at London Film Festival after participating in a series of interviews about his political views.

Clooney - a supporter of President Biden - said he backed the idea that "every company" should make vaccines mandatory when asked if they should be compulsory on film sets.

U.N. condemns affect of pandemic on poorer nations

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the pandemic has pushed over 100 million people into poverty and left more than four billion people with little or no social support, healthcare, or financial security.

Speaking on an International Monetary Fund panel last night, he said that global solidarity "is missing in action" and people living in conflict-affected and poor countries are suffering most of all - especially when it comes to vaccine distribution.

Vaccine inequality is a moral outrage that is condemning the world to millions more deaths and prolonging an economic slowdown that could cost trillions of dollars, hitting the poorest countries hardest of all.

Texas Governor issues executive order prohibiting vaccine mandates

Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday to prohibit any entity, including private business, from enforcing a vaccine mandate on workers and called on colleagues in other states to push through similar laws.

It is being seen as a response to the Biden administration's plans to issue rules requiring employers with over 100 workers to be vaccinated or test weekly for the virus.

Abbot set out the laws by arguing that nobody should be restricted from day-to-day activities, including work, because of reasons such as religious beliefs or medical issues.

No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.

Abbott, who was previously vaccinated and also later tested positive for COVID-19, noted in his order that "vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans".