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Rapid COVID-19 tests can be hard to come by; German police arrest suspect over killing after mask dispute

Kindergarten students at Public School 121 in the Bronx on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, the first day of the school year.
Kindergarten students at Public School 121 in the Bronx on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, the first day of the school year.ANNA WATTS/NYT

Coronavirus case counts are once again rising across the US, near and far. Health officials are scrambling to vaccinate as the Delta variant takes hold.

Below, we’re gathering the latest news and updates on coronavirus in New England and beyond.

Click here to refresh this page to see the latest updates.

Biden bets on rapid COVID tests, but they can be hard to find — 9:15 a.m.

By The Associated Press

President Joe Biden is betting on millions more rapid, at-home tests to help curb the latest deadly wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is overloading hospitals and threatening to shutter classrooms around the country.

But the tests have already disappeared from pharmacy shelves in many parts of the U.S., and manufacturers warn it will take them weeks to ramp up production, after scaling it back amid plummeting demand over the summer.

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By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe staff

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that people who receive a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine two months after the first shot had significantly higher protection against symptomatic illness in a closely watched clinical trial.

The one-dose vaccine, which licensed technology from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, had been found to be 66 percent effective in preventing moderate and severe disease worldwide and 72 percent effective against such cases in the US, robust protection but well below the performance of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

By The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Police in Germany say a 49-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the shooting dead of a gas station clerk following a dispute over face masks.

Authorities in the western city of Trier said late Monday that the suspect told officers he acted “out of anger” after he went to a gas station in Idar-Oberstein on Saturday to buy beer and the 20-year-old clerk asked him to put on a mask before being served.

“He further stated during interrogation that he rejected the measures against the coronavirus,” police said in a statement.

A requirement to wear masks is among the measures in place in Germany to stop the spread of the virus.

By The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Hundreds of demonstrators have marched in the streets of Australia’s second-largest city to protest against mandatory coronavirus vaccine rules in the construction industry.,

The protest Tuesday in Melbourne was aimed at a Victoria state government mandate requiring all construction workers to get vaccinated.

The march came a day after riot police were called in to disperse about 500 protesters who smashed the door at the offices of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, which represents construction workers.

On Monday night, the state government announced that the construction industry would be shut down from Tuesday for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne and some regional areas.

Officials say all worksites will need to demonstrate compliance with health directions prior to reopening, including that staff have had at least one dose of a vaccine before they return to work Oct. 5.

Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff

Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine safely protects children ages 5 to 11 and it will ask federal regulators to clear it for use in that age group soon, a significant potential milestone in the fight against a disease that has infected more than 42 million people and killed over 673,000 in the United States.

The vaccine made by the New York-based drug giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is already available for anyone 12 and older. But with children back in school and the highly contagious Delta variant causing pediatric infections to surge, many parents and teachers are eager to get younger kids vaccinated — to protect them and others who have contact with them.

If regulators authorize the vaccine for emergency use, children ages 5 to 11 would get two shots three weeks apart, the same as other Pfizer vaccine recipients. But each dose would contain 10 micrograms of the messenger RNA vaccine, one-third of the current dose. Despite the smaller amounts given in the trial of 2,268 participants, Pfizer executives said, the shots resulted in coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as robust as those in teenagers and young adults. (The company picked the smallest dose that elicits robust protection while causing the fewest side effects.)

New York Times

Already grappling with divisions in his own country over vaccine mandates and questions about the ethics and efficacy of booster shots, President Joe Biden is facing another front of discord: a split among world leaders over how to eradicate the coronavirus globally, as the highly infectious delta variant leaves a trail of death in its wake.

At a virtual summit Wednesday, while the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting is underway, Biden will try to persuade other vaccine-producing countries to balance their domestic needs with a renewed focus on manufacturing and distributing doses to poor nations in desperate need of them.

COVAX, the U.N.-backed vaccine program, is so far behind schedule that not even 10% of the population in poor nations — and less than 4% of Africa’s population — is fully vaccinated, experts said. Millions of health care workers around the world have not had their shots.

The push, which White House officials say seeks to inject urgency into vaccine diplomacy, will test Biden’s doctrine of furthering American interests by building global coalitions. Coming on the heels of the United States’ calamitous withdrawal from Afghanistan last month that drew condemnation from allies and adversaries alike, the effort to rally world leaders will be closely watched by public health experts and advocates who say Biden is not living up to his pledges to make the U.S. the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service

Despite receiving at least one call from a truancy officer, Treasure Houston said Monday she is “standing her ground,” refusing to send her three children, including one with chronic asthma, back to school in Boston.

And she’s not alone.

Priyanka Rajoria made a similar choice for her second-grader, opting for home-schooling rather than sending him back to Quincy Public Schools. While she acknowledged evidence suggesting he might not get that sick from COVID-19, she’s worried about him bringing it home where she also has a 2-year-old and elderly parents to worry about.

And Nelly Medina said her 5-year-old son with asthma would have to go back to a poorly ventilated school in their Worcester neighborhood where there are more than 30 kids in a classroom and no distancing requirements.

By The Associated Press

Washington state’s governor is asking the federal government to provide military personnel to help in staffing hospitals and long-term care facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter made public Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee says that “in Washington State, our hospitals are currently at or beyond capacity, and we need additional assistance at this time.”

The letter was sent Friday to Jeffrey Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator.

Inslee notes the state Department of Health has requested 1,200 clinical and non-clinical staff and says he is requesting deployment of military medical personnel “to assist with the current hospital crisis.”

By Bloomberg

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said that a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 will likely be available before Halloween.

“There’s a really good chance it will be” available before the Oct. 31 holiday, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, said during an interview on MSNBC. He also said he would be in favor of schools mandating shots for kids once they are fully approved.

Fauci’s comments came after Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said their shot safely produced strong antibody responses in younger children.

By Bloomberg

Nebraska is re-activating an online dashboard tracking Covid-19 cases amid an increase in hospitalizations, the Omaha World-Herald reported Monday.

Republican Governor Pete Ricketts has been criticized by the medical community for closing the site when the state’s Covid-19 emergency declaration expired in June, saying the data is vital to stopping the pandemic, according to the newspaper.

By The Associated Press

Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor Rebecca Kleefisch tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at church earlier this month, her campaign said Monday.

Kleefisch is a cancer survivor and a former two-term lieutenant governor. She is seeking to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers next year. Kleefisch launched her campaign on Sept. 9 and has been on the campaign trail since.

Kleefisch spokesman Alec Zimmerman said she was informed of the exposure on Sept. 16, took a test and the next day received a positive result. She was vaccinated earlier this spring, Zimmerman said.

“She is feeling fine,” Zimmerman said. “We have canceled all upcoming events and are notifying recent close contacts.”

Kleefisch’s positive test was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Kleefisch is the latest in a growing number of office holders in Wisconsin who have tested positive, including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and state Sen. Andre Jacque, who was intubated and put on a ventilator Aug. 23. His office has not provided updates on his condition in nearly a month.

By Bloomberg

A member of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s delegation to the United Nations was put in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 in New York, adding to concerns that the general assembly this week could trigger a spike in coronavirus cases in the host city.

The diplomat, part of a mission that preceded Bolsonaro’s arrival, had tested negative before leaving Brazil, according to a person familiar with the situation at the Brazilian foreign ministry. The person, who requested anonymity and isn’t authorized to discuss the matter in public, said the diplomat didn’t have contact with president.

Brazil’s foreign ministry is now tracking dozens of people with whom the person has been in touch in New York, the Brazilian press reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources. Bolsonaro himself has refused to get a Covid shot, saying he still has antibodies from a previous infection last year.

By The Associated Press

Olympic gold medal swimmer Madison Wilson of Australia has been hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19.

Wilson, who is fully vaccinated, was forced to withdraw from the International Swim League competition in Naples, Italy because of the diagnosis.

By The Associated Press

Community providers are asking Vermont to extend emergency housing in hotels for some of the homeless population, including people with health issues, domestic violence survivors and pregnant women, as they say about 600 households are likely to lose the benefit this week.

In July, the state extended the hotel voucher program 84 days for families with children, the disabled, pregnant women and other vulnerable people, and gave $2,500 checks to those no longer eligible. Families with children and some disabled households may be able to stay longer.

The groups sent a letter to the Vermont Department for Children and Families commissioner last week, asking the state to continue to provide the benefits to as many households as possible, in light of the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus and a lack of immediate additional shelter beds or rental units.

“With rooms still available and FEMA funding available to pay for them, we cannot support the termination of benefits for immunocompromised persons whose health is still very much at risk due to the ongoing pandemic, domestic violence survivors who may feel forced to return to abusive homes rather than sleep unsheltered, pregnant women who will become more likely to have less healthy preterm babies as a result of being unsheltered, and so forth,” the letter stated.

By The Washington Post

Attempts to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 in the form of nasal spray are underway to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Currently available vaccines are highly effective in preventing the disease from becoming serious, but they don’t offer absolute protection.

By Bloomberg

The U.S. capital will require vaccines for all adults who regularly enter schools and child-care facilities by Nov. 1, according to an update Monday from Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. There will be no testing opt-out. Student-athletes 12 and older will also be required to get the shots to participate in school-based sports.

By Bloomberg

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed the importance of coronavirus vaccines during a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who says he has not been inoculated.

The two men met Monday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. As journalists were ushered out of the room at the start of the bilateral meeting, Johnson said: “Thanks everybody, get AstraZeneca vaccines.”

Johnson told Bolsonaro: “I’ve had it twice,” referring to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed at Oxford University.

The Brazilian leader pointed at himself and said “not yet,” then laughed.

In a statement after the meeting, Johnson’s office said the prime minister had “underlined the importance of vaccines as our best tool to fight the virus and save lives around the world, and emphasized the important role the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has played in the U.K, Brazil and elsewhere.”

By Bloomberg

Mortality rates among adult Covid-19 patients in U.S. hospitals rose in July from all-time lows, a slight setback in what has generally been a trend of steadily improving outcomes.

Among all age groups 18 and older, patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in July were slightly more likely to die than they were in June, according to Premier Applied Sciences data distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those 65-74 died 12.3% of the time, up from 10% in June. About 14.9% of patients 75 and over died, up from 13.2%. Among those 18-24, the youngest cohort for whom data was available, the mortality rate rose to 1.4% from 0.6% a month earlier.

The U.S. has seen massive improvements in care since the early days of the pandemic, but the data suggest that outcomes tend to worsen somewhat at moments of acute stress for hospitals -- including December 2020 and now July, when the fast-spreading delta variant began to drive patients into emergency departments.

The Premier Healthcare Database draws on submissions from more than 800 facilities nationwide.

By The New York Times

The average U.S. daily death toll from COVID-19 over the past seven days surpassed 2,000 this weekend, the first time since March 1 that deaths have been so high, according to a New York Times database.

Texas and Florida, two of the hardest-hit states in the country, account for more than 30% of those deaths: Florida, where 56% of the population is vaccinated, averages about 353 deaths a day, and Texas, where 50% of the population is vaccinated, averages about 286 deaths a day. In the United States as a whole, 54% of all people are vaccinated.

Hot spots continue to speckle the map of the country, many of them in line with low vaccination rates but others in areas where vaccinations are among the highest. Vermont, for example, has a vaccination rate of 69% and reported more coronavirus cases in the past week than in any other seven-day period, thought it still has the fewest cases in the country.

By Bloomberg

Fears about a possible spike in Covid-19 cases are making people in the host city less enthusiastic about the UN gathering.

New Yorkers, aware of the extra traffic and maze of street closures prompted by hosting more than 100 world leaders and their entourages, might normally embrace the economic boost provided by the event, more than 18 months after the pandemic prompted the city’s shutdown.

But this year’s UNGA won’t be an economic lifeline, and the delta variant is still raging.

By The New York Times

India’s health minister said on Monday that the country would resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines, five months after halting shipments during its own devastating wave of infections.

The health minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, said that exports would resume starting next month, and that the vaccines would help fulfill India’s commitment to COVAX, the United Nations-backed vaccine sharing initiative.

He said that India would produce more than 300 million vaccine doses in October and a total of at least 1 billion over the final three months of 2021.

“We will help the world and also fulfill our commitment toward COVAX,” Mandaviya said.

The minister did not specify which vaccines India would supply to COVAX, or how many doses. Before halting exports in April, the country exported 66.4 million doses, a combination of commercial sales, grants and shipments to COVAX, which is designed mainly to help low- and middle- income countries.

By The Associated Press

More than half of Maine’s youngest residents who qualify to get the COVID-19 vaccine are now fully vaccinated.

About 53% of people age 12 to 15 in the state have had their final dose of vaccine, the office of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills reported on Monday. That percentage trails the state’s overall percentage among eligible people, which is 74%.

Many children are still in the process of getting vaccinated, though, as the percentage that has had at least a first dose is more than 60%.

The state has exceeded 50% vaccination of 12 year olds and early teens as vaccines for younger people might soon become available. Pfizer said on Monday that it will seek U.S. authorization for children ages 5 to 11.

By Bloomberg

The US’s COVID-19 pandemic could surpass the number of dead in the 1918 influenza pandemic as soon as Monday, a milestone many experts say was avoidable after the arrival of vaccines.

The U.S. has reported 673,768 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data -- just shy of the 675,000 that are estimated to have died a century earlier. The toll has increased by an average of 1,970 a day over the past week.

By Bloomberg

New York City will increase its frequency of student testing to once a week instead of its current two-week interval, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. The city’s powerful teachers union on Sunday called for weekly testing.

The union demand came after the city was forced to shut down P.S. 79, a special education school in Manhattan. All of the positive cases were among staff members, city officials said Friday, with 16 confirmed cases as of Sept. 16. Citywide, 77 classrooms were closed and 60 more are partially closed, according to the city Education Department. Since schools opened Sept. 13, 445 classrooms have been closed, according to the Department of Education.

By The Associated Press

President Biden will ease foreign travel restrictions into the US beginning in November, when his administration will require all foreign nationals flying into the country to be fully vaccinated.

All foreign travelers flying to the US will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of flight, said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, who announced the new policy on Monday. Biden will also tighten testing rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who will need to be tested within a day before departure to the US, as well as on their return.

By Anissa Gardizy, Globe Staff

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was found to be safe an effective in a trial of children ages 5 to 11 years old, the companies announced Monday, saying they would use the data to apply for emergency use authorization.

A panel of advisors to the US Food and Drug Administration voted on Sept. 17 to recommend Pfizer booster shots for people over 65 or at high risk of severe COVID-19, largely scaling back the company’s proposal that would have covered anyone 16 and older. The recommendation now awaits an OK from the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Preventing, expected by the end of the week.

Moderna has also applied for approval of a booster shot, but Pfizer is farther along in the process.

By The New York Times

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be safe and highly effective in young children ages 5 to 11 years, the companies announced early Monday morning. The news should help ease months of anxiety among parents and teachers about when children, and their close contacts, might be shielded from the coronavirus.

The need is urgent: Children now account for more than 1 in 5 new cases, and the highly contagious delta variant has sent more children into hospitals and intensive care units in the past few weeks than at any other time in the pandemic. Massachusetts officials say there are 884,000 children under the age of 12 in the state, including 515,000 who are 5 to 11.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for authorization to use the vaccine in these children. If the regulatory review goes as smoothly as it did for older children and adults, millions of elementary school students could be inoculated before Halloween.

By Anissa Gardizy, Globe Staff

Back-to-office plans are playing out much differently than anyone expected.

Anticipation for a momentous post-Labor Day return has come and gone, but now a growing number of employers are repopulating their offices gradually and on a voluntary basis, rather than pinning all their hopes — and anxieties — onto one date.

By Bloomberg

President Biden’s chief medical adviser said booster shots for more of the US population remain a possibility soon, as additional data on the still-widening outbreak come in.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke two days after an advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration rejected a national rollout of boosters for all ages, approving them only for people 65 and older and those who are medically vulnerable.

“The story is not over because more and more data is coming in and will be coming in,” Fauci said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Last month, Biden said a broad booster plan would begin on Monday. The panel’s narrower recommendation on Friday was seen as rebuke to a president whose policy was getting ahead of the science.

Fauci said he did not believe the panel “made a mistake.”

By Kay Lazar, Globe Staff

In the wake of President Biden’s recent order mandating COVID shots for roughly 80 million Americans, the push to vaccinate has grown more fervent. So, too, has the pushback by people who insist the shots violate their religious beliefs.

By The New York Times

“In America: Remember” is an art installation of hundreds of thousands of flags planted along the mall that honor the more than 670,000 people in the United States who have died from the coronavirus.