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Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic updates

The latest news and commentary on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

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In this Sept. 13, 2021, file photo, a girl passes a "Welcome Back to School" sign as she arrives for the first day of class at Brooklyn's PS 245 elementary school in New York. COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have climbed back to where they were over the winter, fueled by children now back in their classrooms, loose mask restrictions and low vaccination levels. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Federal judge delays vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

- Associated Press

New York City schools have been temporarily blocked from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its teachers and other workers by a federal appeals judge just days before it was to take effect.

President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response and vaccinations in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Biden urges COVID-19 booster shots for those now eligible

- Associated Press

President Joe Biden on Friday urged those now eligible for boosters of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to get the added protection a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the extra doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.

In this Jan. 12, 2021, file photo resident of Harmony Court Assisted Living receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Jackson, Miss. With booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine now authorized in the U.S., government advisers reconvened on Thursday, Sept. 23, to tackle the most contentious question yet: Exactly who should roll up their sleeves right away? (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

CDC leader adds people with risky jobs to COVID-19 booster list

- Associated Press

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans, opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against COVID-19.

An Amazon truck drives in Philadelphia, Friday, April 30, 2021. Amazon wants to hire 125,000 delivery and warehouse workers and said Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, that it is paying new hires an average of $18 an hour in a tight job market as more people shop online. The company is also offering pay sign-on bonuses of $3,000 in some parts of the country. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

U.S. jobless claims tick up from near a pandemic low

- Associated Press

The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid rose last week for a second straight week to 351,000, a sign that the delta variant of the coronavirus may be disrupting the job market's recovery, at least temporarily.

In this Aug. 2, 2019, file photo, San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a news conference in San Francisco. The potential ascendancy of Sen. Kamala Harris to the vice presidency next year has kicked off widespread speculation about who might replace her if Democrats seize the White House. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is already being lobbied by hopefuls and numerous names are emerging in the early speculation. Several mayors would be possible picks, including Breed, who in Black and has ties to Harris. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Maskless San Francisco mayor bucks city health order at nightclub

Associated Press

The mayor of San Francisco was spotted dancing and singing along to live music without a mask at an indoor nightclub, despite a strict order by her public health department that requires wearing masks at indoor establishments unless someone is actively eating or drinking.

In this Tuesday, July 27, 2021, file photo, a help-wanted sign is displayed at a gas station in Mount Prospect, Ill. The gulf between record job openings and a lack of people taking those jobs is forcing Wall Street to reassess the pace of the economic recovery. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

U.S. unemployment claims rise after hitting pandemic low

- Associated Press

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits moved up last week to 332,000 from a pandemic low, a sign that worsening COVID-19 infections may have slightly increased layoffs.

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2020, file photo, a woman holds a sign during a protest at the state house in Trenton, N.J. Religious objections, once used only sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Religious exemption requests grow as vaccine mandates rise

- Associated Press

About 3,000 Los Angeles Police Department employees are citing religious objections to try to get out of the required COVID-19 vaccination. In Washington state, hundreds of state workers are seeking similar exemptions. And an Arkansas hospital has been swamped with so many such requests from employees that it is apparently calling their bluff.

In this Aug. 26, 2021, photo, Parsia Jahanbani prepares a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in a mobile vaccine clinic operated by Families Together of Orange County in Santa Ana, Calif.  An international group of scientists is arguing the average person doesn't need a COVID-19 booster yet — an opinion that highlights the intense scientific divide over the question. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) **FILE**

FDA strikes neutral tone ahead of vaccine booster meeting

- Associated Press

Influential government advisers will debate Friday if there's enough proof that a booster dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective - the first step toward deciding which Americans need one and when.

Pope Francis speaks with journalists on board an Alitalia aircraft en route from Bratislava back to Rome, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, after a four-day pilgrimage to Hungary and Slovakia. (Tiziana Fabi, Pool via AP)

Pope questions vaccine skeptics, including cardinals

- Associated Press

Pope Francis said Wednesday he didn't understand why people refuse to take COVID-19 vaccines, saying "humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines," and that serene discussion about the shots was necessary to help them.

FILE - This July 2020 file photo shows the Montana State Capitol in Helena, Mont. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Montana's legislature passed restrictive laws severely curbing quarantine and isolation powers, increasing local officials' power over local health boards, preventing limits on religious gatherings, and banning employers — including in health care settings — from requiring vaccinations for COVID, the flu or anything else. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)

Most states have cut back public health powers amid pandemic

- Associated Press

Republican legislators in more than half of U.S. states, spurred on by voters angry about lockdowns and mask mandates, are taking away the powers that state and local officials use to protect the public against infectious diseases.

UConn sophomore Sahiti Bhyravavajhala assists students moving into Shippee Hall on the Storrs, Conn. campus, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. UConn is one of many schools across the nation mandating that returning students be vaccinated against COVID-19. An analysis by The Associated Press shows 26 of the nation's 50 largest public universities aren't requiring the vaccination. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)

Largest colleges push student vaccines with mandates, prizes

- Associated Press

At most of the largest U.S. public universities, students are under no obligation to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Some schools do require vaccines, but with leniency for those who opt out. Still others have expelled students who do not comply.

Protesters who oppose mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates gather outside the Legislative Building, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. A growing number of communities are moving to require teachers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of aggressive campaigns to ward off the delta variant, which has infected hundreds of thousands of children in the United States. While some school districts are allowing teachers to opt out of vaccine requirements with weekly testing, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis have taken tougher stances by limiting exemptions to bona fide medical and religious reasons. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) **FILE**

Companies grapple with granting religious exemptions

- The Washington Times

Faith-based exemptions are gaining a big role in the debate over employer vaccine mandates, forcing companies to vet what is a "sincerely held" belief or whether workers are using religion as an end-run around tough rules imposed by corporations and cheered by President Biden.

FILE - In this Tuesday, May 11, 2021 file photo, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)

FDA official hopeful younger kids can get shots this year

- Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration's vaccine chief said Friday the agency will rapidly evaluate COVID-19 vaccinations for younger children as soon as it gets the needed data - and won't cut corners.

Recent Commentary Columns

President Joe Biden, followed by a Secret Service agent, walks to a presidential vehicle after attending a Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

America rises against 'Vaccine King' Joe Biden

- The Washington Times

America's in no mood for autocrats. Taking all the voters across all the political parties together -- nearly 59 percent "do not believe President Biden has the constitutional authority to force private businesses to require vaccine mandates for employees."