Two of the biggest employers in Texas, American Airlines Group
and Southwest Airlines Co
, said they would not follow the executive order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the Lone Star state, because as federal contractors, they are bound to comply with President Joe Biden’s requirement.
The news highlights the clash between the Republican governor, who has accused the Biden administration of overreach for mandating vaccines, and private companies, who require greater certainty to operate safely, as the Wall Street Journal reported. Abbott has said vaccination must be voluntary, even though close to 70,000 Texans have died of COVID, and recent fatalities are almost all in unvaccinated people. The state’s vaccination rate of about 50% lags the national average.
A coalition of some 900 companies grouped under the Greater Houston Partnership, that includes names like Exxon Mobil Corp.
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
and Accenture PLC
said Tuesday Abbot’s order would complicate their efforts to run their businesses. The organization has been supportive of Biden’s effort to require vaccines for companies with more than 100 employees.
“Employers, like most businesses, want to minimize uncertainty, and certainly this isn’t helping,” Todd Logsdon, a labor law expert at law firm Fisher Phillips, told the newspaper.
The news comes as the U.S. continues to suffer almost 2,000 deaths from COVID a day, according to a New York Times tracker. And while new cases and hospitalizations are continuing to decline, tens of thousands of Americans are still getting sick every day.
Alaska, which has been a hot spot for weeks and where hospitals have been forced to ration case, has been joined by Minnesota, which has seen new cases climb 36% in the last two weeks, the tracker is showing. ICUs are now nearing capacity and there is a shortage of healthcare workers to tend to the sick, the Times reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says all of the state’s counties are at high risk of community transmission.
The CDC’s vaccine tracker shows that 187.7 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 57% of the overall population, still way below the 70% required to contain the spread, according to health experts. The number has barely budged in recent weeks, even though vaccines have proved safe and effective at preventing severe illness or death.
Some 8.55 million Americans have received a booster dose of vaccine, and the pace of booster vaccination is outpacing primary vaccination. CDC data shows that 238,059 Americans got a first vaccine dose on Tuesday, while 362,489 got a booster dose, according to an analysis by Axios.
The U.S. is planning to reopen its land borders in November to fully vaccinated travelers, ending a 19-month freeze, the Associated Press reported. Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic. The new rules, to be announced Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, two mothers whose children contracted COVID in September in schools without face-mask mandates have sued their school districts, accusing them of “needlessly and recklessly endangering the health and safety” of their children, the Guardian reported. The suits accuse the school districts of creating a “snake pit” for students by failing to implement the public-safety measures experts say are essential to prevent spread.
Elsewhere, Russia suffered yet another one-day record death toll of 984, The Moscow Times reported, cementing its position as the country in Europe with the most deaths. Russia has seen its worst peacetime decline in its natural population in the last 12 months, at just under 1 million, mostly due to COVID, the Guardian reported, citing official government statistics.
China has started to give third vaccine shots to elderly and high-risk people in 10 regions, the Times reported. The shots are viewed as part of primary vaccination and not boosters.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 238.8 million on Wednesday, while the death toll edged above 4.86 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 44.6 million cases and 716,834 deaths.
India is second by cases after the U.S. at 34 million and has suffered 451,189 deaths. Brazil has second highest death toll at 601,398 and 21.6 million cases.
In Europe, Russia has most fatalities at 215,438, followed by the U.K. at 138,351.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 108,809 confirmed cases and 4,809 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.