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Germany Locks Unvaccinated Out of Public Life; Mandate Looms
Unvaccinated people across Germany will soon be excluded from nonessential stores, restaurants and sports and cultural venues, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Thursday, and parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections.
She said officials also agreed on a nationwide requirement to wear masks, new limits on private meetings and a goal of 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.
Merkel said authorities plan to require staff in hospitals and nursing homes to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and she backed the even more contentious idea of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country’s national ethics committee. The mandate could take effect as early as February.
California School District Will Let Unvaccinated Students Have In-Person Learning, Defying State Mandate
A California school district has announced plans to create in-person learning for unvaccinated students, defying the state’s vaccine mandate for schools, which goes into effect next year.
The Alpine Union School District in San Diego County will allow unvaccinated students to continue learning in person and be taught by district teachers at an off-campus location, the superintendent said in a letter to parents last week.
The small district’s plans come weeks after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that all students and employees at public and private schools will need to be vaccinated, tentatively by next July.
HR 550: House Passes Bill to Fund Federal Vaccination Database
Eighty House Republicans voted with Democrats on Tuesday to pass the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act, which if passed by the Senate and signed into law would fund a federal vaccination database.
According to the bill, also called H.R. 550, the government would provide $400 million in taxpayer dollars to fund “immunization system data modernization and expansion,” a system otherwise defined as “a confidential, population-based, computerized database that records immunization doses administered by any healthcare provider to persons within the geographic area covered by that database.”
The text specifically outlines an expansion of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Public Health Department capabilities and the ability for state and local health departments, as well as public and private healthcare providers, to share health data with the federal government.
Any Omicron Restrictions Will Deepen Prejudice Against Unvaccinated People
We’re not back into lockdown, of course, or anything even vaguely resembling it yet. Instead we are tumbling once again down the rabbit hole of uncertainty, into that wearily familiar world where every plan feels made to be potentially broken.
The current wave of COVID-19 surging in Europe has seen a growing backlash emerging against unvaccinated people, the most obvious scapegoats for the fact that the virus still hasn’t gone away, and this is increasingly seeping into policy.
Utah Hospitals Suspend Vaccine Requirement After Court Blocks Federal Mandate
Intermountain Healthcare, which operates about two dozen hospitals, mainly in Utah, is “temporarily pausing enforcement of the vaccine requirement for caregivers until there is clearer direction from the courts,” said spokesman Jess Gomez.
Hospitals Among Tennessee Entities Banned From Asking Workers for COVID Vaccine Proof
Hospitals are among Tennessee entities banned from asking workers for proof of COVID vaccination, the Tennessee Hospital Association said.
State Comptroller Jason Mumpower announced a reversal of a number of exemptions that allowed entities to employ COVID measures against a state law that restricted them. Court rulings that also blocked a few of President Joe Biden‘s vaccine mandates were cited, the Associated Press reported.
Bristol Myers Is Sued for Refusing COVID Vaccine Religious Exemptions
Bristol Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N) was sued on Wednesday by four employees who said the drugmaker refused to grant them religious exemptions from its COVID-19 vaccination requirement, and threatened to fire them on Dec. 6 for remaining unvaccinated.
The plaintiffs in the proposed class action filed in Manhattan federal court accused Bristol Myers of violating a federal civil rights law known as Title VII by “systematically manufacturing” reasons to refuse religious accommodations.
The plaintiffs allege that Bristol Myers is concluding their politics is the real reason they won’t be vaccinated, regardless of whether they have sincere religious beliefs that independently would justify exemptions.
Biden Pushes for More COVID Vaccines, Boosters and Testing in Fight Against Delta, Omicron
With the fast-spreading Omicron variant on its way, Biden is set to kick off a winter campaign for more Americans to get vaccines and booster shots to prevent a punishing new surge of illness and death.
Biden previewed his winter plan by saying the winter COVID fight will advance “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”
Judge Blocks Texas Social Media Censorship Law
A federal judge has blocked Texas from enforcing a law that aimed to block social media companies from banning users based on political views.
Judge Robert Pitman issued the order Wednesday in favor of two industry associations that sued to block the Texas law.
The order underscored that social media platforms are “privately owned platforms” and not “common carriers.”
Zoom’s New Attendance Tool Will Snitch On Attendees Who Are Late to a Meeting
Zoom is adding in a new feature that may make it more difficult for you to casually coast your way into a meeting without your boss noticing. The new “Attendance Status” tool, first spotted by TechRadar, allows Zoom hosts and co-hosts to use calendar integration from Google and Microsoft to easily see whether or not invited participants joined the meeting on time.
According to Zoom’s support page, meeting participants who have been invited but who have not joined will be siloed into a “Not Joined” section where their names will appear alongside other lazy deplorables.
The new meeting monitoring tool may also be used by teachers and professors who have been forced to turn to Zoom to conduct remote classes. The feature may rub some students the wrong way, especially given how they’ve been subjected to historic levels of surveillance and remote monitoring during the pandemic.
Leaked Doc Reveals Which Messengers Send the Most Data to FBI
An internal FBI report reveals how WhatsApp and iMessage happily hand over users’ data to the Feds, sometimes providing the source and destination of messages every 15 minutes.
The sensitive Federal Bureau of Investigation paper, unearthed by the transparency group Property of the People, spells out in concise yet shocking detail the Bureau’s ability to secure messaging app content and associated metadata via warrants and subpoenas — and shows that WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage turn over the most information to authorities.
It’s a rare insight into the systematic manner in which U.S. authorities can access private information, and can only cast significant doubt on the publicly avowed positions of Apple and Facebook/Meta in respect of user privacy.
Rhode Island to Release a COVID Vaccine Passport App
Rhode Island plans to release a proof-of-vaccination passport program in the form of an app, staff members in the governor’s office told the Globe on Wednesday.
The app, called 401 Health, will include a QR code that can be scanned to confirm that the individual is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the state health department.
“We are converting the Crush COVID app into a more comprehensive health app. Rather than a passport, it is more a Health Smart Card,” said Wendelken in an email to the Globe.
Croatia Unveils Heavy Fines for Failure to Apply COVID Certificates
Croatia’s government on Thursday proposed heavy fines for heads of public institutions or municipalities who fail to enforce digital certificates for their employees or visitors designed to help curb a renewed surge of COVID-19.
Since the certificates were introduced in Croatia, however, the heads of several municipalities have refused to apply them, saying they did not want to create divisions among citizens.
“We propose fines amounting to between 30,000 and 50,000 kuna ($7,537.27),” Health Minister Vili Beros told a cabinet session. Parliamentary approval is expected later this month, given the government’s majority.
Israel Halts Controversial Tech to Track Omicron Variant
Israel said Thursday it was halting the use of a controversial phone tracking technology to trace possible cases of the new coronavirus variant, days after it was authorized as an emergency measure.
Earlier this week, the government announced a package of emergency measures to contain the new variant, including travel restrictions and authorizing the country’s internal security agency to use the phone monitoring technology for contact tracing people infected by the Omicron variant.
But late Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said the “cellular monitoring” would expire at midnight and not be extended. The reversal came following days of public criticism of a practice whose use in the past has been criticized by civil liberties groups and challenged in court.