Biden Dangles New Federal Funds For Schools That Defy Mask Mandate Bans
On Thursday, the president announced a series of actions to encourage K-12 schools to mandate masks for all and require vaccines for employees.
Harvard Yard is temporarily closed to the public in an effort to keep students safe amid the pandemic.
Only people with a Harvard ID can access the area between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m.
A Harvard spokesperson says the area will remain closed to the public every evening through mid-October.
Harvard's COVID positivity rate is below 0.2%.
All faculty, staff and students who attend on-campus classes at the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 2022, the presidents of those schools announced Monday.
The heads of the Bunker Hill, Bristol, Cape Cod, Berkshire, Greenfield, Holyoke, Massasoit, MassBay, Middlesex, Mount Wachusett, North Shore, Northern Essex, Quinsigamond, Roxbury, and Springfield Technical community colleges shared messages with their campuses, noting that many of their students have been "disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic."
The campus memos also expressed a wish to "increase the health and safety of the learning and working environment in light of the ongoing public health concerns and current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
All employees will be required to be vaccinated. Students who register for classes without any in-person components and who do not plan to come to campus for any reason for the spring 2022 semester will not be required to provide documentation of their vaccination, according to the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges.
The 15 campuses serve about 135,000 students each year. The presidents said the community colleges "are committed to ensuring vaccination status is not a barrier to students and will continue offering a range of virtual learning opportunities and services."
Many colleges and universities, including the UMass campuses, required student vaccination for the fall semester, and other state government employers, including the executive branch under Gov. Charlie Baker, have announced vaccine policies for their workforces.
Starting Monday, a number of Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) offices will offer more in-person service options that earlier were halted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty-one registry offices throughout the state will resume in-person license and registration transactions, as well as in-person bulk transactions for car dealers and insurance agencies.
Here are the offices welcoming back in-person services, according to the RMV:
- Fall River
- New Bedford
- South Yarmouth
Registrar Colleen Ogilvie said that residents who want to visit a registry office should consider booking an appointment first, but that offices will once again try to help those who enter without appointments.
"We'll review your transaction and determine if we can service you right then and there," she said, adding that staffers may ask patrons to come back at a different time for same-day service.
Ogilvie said some RMV offices will continue to offer senior citizen designated service hours early on Wednesday mornings.
Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with kids now back in school and the extra-contagious delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.
For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose — a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press.
The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, he said.
“I think we really hit the sweet spot,” said Gruber, who’s also a pediatrician.
Gruber said the companies aim to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for emergency use in this age group, followed shortly afterward with applications to European and British regulators.
Earlier this month, FDA chief Dr. Peter Marks told the AP that once Pfizer turns over its study results, his agency would evaluate the data “hopefully in a matter of weeks” to decide if the shots are safe and effective enough for younger kids.
Many Western countries so far have vaccinated no younger than age 12, awaiting evidence of what's the right dose and that it works safely in smaller tots. But Cuba last week began immunizing children as young as 2 with its homegrown vaccines and Chinese regulators have cleared two of its brands down to age 3.
While kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Cases in children have risen dramatically as the delta variant swept through the country.
“I feel a great sense of urgency” in making the vaccine available to children under 12, Gruber said. “There’s pent-up demand for parents to be able to have their children returned to a normal life.”
In New Jersey, 10-year-old Maya Huber asked why she couldn’t get vaccinated like her parents and both teen brothers have. Her mother, Dr. Nisha Gandhi, a critical care physician at Englewood Hospital, enrolled Maya in the Pfizer study at Rutgers University. But the family hasn’t eased up on their masking and other virus precautions until they learn if Maya received the real vaccine or a dummy shot.
Once she knows she’s protected, Maya’s first goal: “a huge sleepover with all my friends.”
Maya said it was exciting to be part of the study even though she was “super scared” about getting jabbed. But “after you get it, at least you feel like happy that you did it and relieved that it didn’t hurt," she told the AP.
Pfizer said it studied the lower dose in 2,268 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids. The FDA required what is called an immune “bridging" study: evidence that the younger children developed antibody levels already proven to be protective in teens and adults. That's what Pfizer reported Monday in a press release, not a scientific publication. The study still is ongoing, and there haven't yet been enough COVID-19 cases to compare rates between the vaccinated and those given a placebo — something that might offer additional evidence.
The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that sometimes occurs after the second dose, mostly in young men. The FDA’s Marks said the pediatric studies should be large enough to rule out any higher risk to young children. Pfizer’s Gruber said once the vaccine is authorized for younger children, they’ll be carefully monitored for rare risks just like everyone else.
A second U.S. vaccine maker, Moderna, also is studying its shots in elementary school-aged children. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger tots as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.
AP journalist Emma Tobin contributed to this report.
Massachusetts on Thursday reported 1,230 COVID cases among students in K-12 schools. That's about 0.13% of students statewide.
Springfield schools saw the highest number of active cases, with 70 infected pupils.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education also said there were 190 cases — or 0.14% — among school staff across the state.
Chris Sale has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss his next start.
A Red Sox spokesman confirmed the result on Friday morning, two days before the seven-time All-Star was to face the White Sox in Chicago.
The result is yet another setback for the 32-year-old left-hander, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Since returning Aug. 14, Sale is 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA.
It's also a setback for the Red Sox, who entered Friday with a one-game lead over the New York Yankees for the AL's top wild-card berth. Toronto was another half-game back as it tries to swipe the second wild-card spot from its AL East rivals.
President Biden is set to announce a six-part plan aimed at getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
The president is scheduled to begin speaking at 5 p.m. You can watch it live here:
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