New York to require masks indoors; Amtrak frequency to be cut in 2022

December 10, 2021
Omicron variant in more states; delta surge continues: COVID updates


New Yorkers will soon be required to wear masks in all indoor public places that don’t have a vaccine requirement for entry, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday.

The new mask requirement, which applies to staff and patrons, will begin Monday and last until Jan. 15 when officials will reevaluate the measure. The mandate is intended to curb COVID-19 outbreaks that may emerge during the holiday season as people spend more time indoors shopping, gathering and visiting holiday attractions, Hochul said.

Local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements. Failure to comply with the measure could result in a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.

New York state is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, which strains a health care system also dealing with staffing shortages. More than 80% of adult New Yorkers are vaccinated, according to the governor.

“As governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy,” Hochul said. “We shouldn’t have reached the point where we are confronted with a winter surge, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share many New Yorkers’ frustration that we are not past this pandemic yet,” she said. 

— David Robinson, New York State Team

Also in the news:

►New COVID-19 restrictions came into effect Friday in the U.K., including once again requiring face masks indoors, as the country tries to prevent the omicron variant from taking hold and delta from spreading further.

►Wisconsin hospitals are facing staffing shortages and a severe lack of beds in intensive care units as COVID-19 infections rise. Less than 3% of ICU beds were available in the state as of Thursday. 

►The FDA on Thursday authorized booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds at least six months after their initial doses.

Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin, one of the world’s youngest elected leaders, apologized this week after facing backlash for spending a night out in Helsinki after she was exposed to COVID-19.  

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 49.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 794,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 268.4 million cases and 5.2 million deaths. More than 200 million Americans — 60% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: Researchers say the U.S. has been undercounting COVID deaths. Now we have a new tool to figure out why. Read more here. 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Amtrak riders can expect reduced services in January due to federal vaccine mandate

Amtrak expects to cut back service in the new year, with roughly 5% of its workforce running out of time to comply with the federal contractor vaccine mandate. 

About 94% of Amtrak’s workforce was fully vaccinated at the beginning of the week and 96% have received at least one dose, according to president Stephen Gardner. But with a significant number still unvaccinated, Gardner said the railway company may have to cut the railway’s frequency of service in January to avoid staffing-related cancelations.

Amtrak employees have until Jan. 4 to comply with the federal mandate requiring full vaccination among government contract workers. 

Gardner told a House of Representatives committee Thursday the changes will primarily affect long-distance services, and the company plans to restore all frequencies by March “or as soon as we have qualified employees available.” Amtrak aims to have “as few impacts to service as possible.”

-Bailey Schulz

Flu took a break in 2020, but it’s officially back

The U.S. may have dodged a ‘twindemic’ last year, but health experts say the country may not be so lucky this season.

While the U.S. continues to report more than 800,000 coronavirus cases per week, flu cases and hospitalizations are also steadily increasing.

As of Dec. 4, the Walgreens Flu Index reports flu activity is 335% higher nationwide this season compared with last season during the same period. Weekly hospitalizations for the flu increased from 288 in the week ending Oct. 30 to nearly 500 in the week ending Nov. 27, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly flu surveillance report. 

Flu hospitalizations pale in comparison to the 90,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations reported in the last week, but health experts say hospital systems can’t handle any extra stress.

Hospitals in 39 states reported more COVID-19 patients than a week earlier, while hospitals in 36 states had more COVID-19 patients in intensive-care beds, according to a USA TODAY analysis of U.S. Health and Human Services data.

-Adrianna Rodriguez

Should you put vaccination status on your resume? More people are.

As a near-record number of Americans switch jobs each month, they’re wrestling with a dilemma that has nothing to do with the employment gap created by a pandemic-related layoff.

The question, borne of our unprecedented COVID-19 era: Should you include your vaccination status on your resume?

The short answer: It probably won’t hurt and could help you land a position.

As a result, a growing number of vaccinated job candidates are acknowledging that status on their resumes, career and resume advisors say. The question is a thorny one because vaccinations themselves have become somewhat controversial.

“It could be a dangerous precedent – you’re putting health information on a resume,” says Lisa Rangel, CEO of Chameleon Resumes, a resume and job search consulting service.

Then there’s the question of whether the move will be a boost or hindrance to your chances of getting hired.

About 63% of companies are requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for staffers, according to a survey of 1,250 hiring managers in August by About 84% of adults 18 and over are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same time, the public has been divided. In August, 49% of Americans favored vaccination mandates and 46% were opposed, a CNBC survey shows.

– Paul Davidson

Contributing: The Associated Press


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