Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.
Mask Mandate for Planes, Trains Overturned by Federal Judge
A federal judge in Florida overturned the U.S. government mask mandate on public transportation, dealing a blow to the Biden administration as fights continue nationwide over policies tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa vacated the mask mandate nationwide and directed the CDC to reverse the policy. The suit was filed by the Health Freedom Defense Fund.
Florida and other Republican-led states in March filed a similar lawsuit seeking to overturn the mask mandate, a fight that pitted President Joe Biden against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a fierce critic of pandemic mandates. The states accused the administration of ignoring “loss after loss” in court and having “outright disdain” for the limits of its power.
Fired NYC Teachers Are Rejected by Supreme Court in COVID Vaccine Case
The U.S. Supreme Court turned away four public-school teachers who said New York City violated their constitutional rights by firing them or putting them on unpaid leave for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
The justices made no comment in rejecting the teachers’ appeal, which challenged the city’s vaccine mandate for its 148,000 employees. The same group of teachers failed last year to block the policy before it took effect.
The Supreme Court has permitted COVID vaccine mandates at the state and local level even as it has curbed federal authority to impose requirements. The justices blocked a Biden administration rule that would have required shots or regular tests for more than 80 million employees while allowing a more targeted vaccine mandate for some healthcare workers.
Brooklyn Net Kyrie Irving Backs MTA Worker’s Fight Against COVID Vaccine Mandates
Tramell Thompson — a subway conductor who’s been on disability leave for nearly all of the pandemic — has since 2016 led a group called Progressive Action. It began as a splinter group within Transport Workers Union Local 100 critical of both the union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Thompson has recently broadened his agenda to rail against COVID-19 vaccine mandates, netting the attention of Irving, one of the country’s most famous unvaccinated athletes.
The seven-time All-Star coyly plugged Thompson’s group during a March 26 press conference when he declared his support for unions that oppose vaccine mandates.
San Diego Unified Staying the Course With COVID Vaccine Mandate
The San Diego Unified School District is moving forward with its plan for a vaccine mandate despite the state’s decision to delay its mandate for schoolchildren until at least next summer.
Students aged 16 and older will be required to get the COVID vaccine as planned, beginning this summer. Board trustee Richard Barrera said this age group is the only age group with full FDA approval to get the COVID vaccine.
Barrera said about 80% of this age group has been vaccinated so far. The mandate takes effect in July for summer school, and Barrera hopes by the time regular school starts the number of students vaccinated will increase.
“In order to attend in-person, they must be vaccinated. If not, they’ll enroll in the online program Virtual Academy,” Barrera said. Those in sports and extra-curricular activities will not be able to participate, though he noted more than 90% of student-athletes are vaccinated.
Unvaccinated LAUSD Employees Demand Old Jobs Back
A group of parents and teachers opposed to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s COVID-19 staff vaccination requirement gathered outside district headquarters Friday, April 15, to demand that officials scrap the mandate and allow unvaccinated employees back onto campuses to help address staffing shortages.
The press conference came in response to LA School Report’s coverage of LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s plan to reassign 400 administrators or other district employees to classrooms to fill teacher vacancies.
Carvalho’s reported plan is particularly vexing to some former and current employees who refused to get COVID-19 shots earlier this school year and were fired, placed on leave or reassigned to teach in L.A. Unified’s online independent study program. At least 600 employees have been fired to date, though it’s unclear how many were classroom teachers.
Suit Seeks to Overturn Renewed Philadelphia Mask Mandate
Several businesses and residents have filed suit in state court in Pennsylvania seeking to overturn Philadelphia’s renewed indoor mask mandate scheduled to be enforced beginning Monday in an effort to halt a surge in COVID-19 infections.
The lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court on Saturday, said Philadelphia lacks the authority to impose such a mandate.
Philadelphia earlier this week became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, with the city’s top health official saying she wanted to forestall a potential new wave driven by an Omicron subvariant.
Vaccine Mandate Prompts Officials to Eye Nursing Home Sale
County officials released a statement saying that with an increasingly regulatory environment surrounding nursing homes, industry experts who specialize in healthcare compliance, rather than local government officials with no such expertise, are in a better position to make decisions.
The statement also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic further prompted local officials to explore their options and that the vaccine mandate for healthcare employees is “contrary to the positions of all board members” and has complicated uniformity in how county employees are treated.
Texas AG: School Districts Likely Cannot Offer Special Treatment to Vaccinated Staff
In a 2021-22 school year policy, Houston Independent School District offered a maximum of 10 additional paid sick days for staffers who were fully vaccinated and those who had medical exemptions should they contract COVID-19, while unvaccinated staff must use their personal leave should they test positive.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an opinion released Thursday that the policy was likely a violation of state law.
“A court would likely conclude that, by offering additional paid leave only to those employees showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a medical exemption, the Houston Independent School District’s COVID-19 paid leave policy violates Executive Order GA-39,” the opinion read.
In June, a law banning governmental entities from issuing vaccine passports, passes or other standardized documentation to certify vaccine status was solidified. Gov. Greg Abbott doubled down on the idea with an executive order signed in August that stated governmental entities cannot compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Twitter’s Board Could Find Itself in Court if Their Anti-Free Speech Stance Continues
Last week, Twitter‘s Chief Executive Officer Parag Agrawal sounded more like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in rallying his troops to defy the existential threat of billionaire Elon Musk while pledging that they will not be “held hostage.”
The threat, however, was not a private buyout but the threat that Twitter might be forced to respect free speech on the site. The problem for the company’s board of directors is that they could find themselves in court if their anti-free speech stance continues to stand in the way of shareholder profits.
The board responded to the Musk offer with what sounded like a suicide pact to swallow a “poison pill” to sell new shares to drive down share values. While a standard tactic to fend off hostile takeovers, Twitter made it clear that it would not be forced into free speech after making the company synonymous with censorship.
Intel Under Fire Over Its Face-Reading AI
The tools from Class Technologies work with Intel-based CPUs and Zoom, the video calling service. The goal is to analyze the emotions of students and provide insights to teachers.
The pandemic caused almost all schooling across the world to move online, often facilitated by video calls, with varying degrees of success. An early concept of Class’s technology aims to see whether students are less engaged.
Central Bank Digital Currencies Are Doomed to Fail — and Here’s Why
As central banks including the Fed, the ECB and (of course) the PBOC (along with some 85 others) scramble to roll out their own digital currencies, some naive crypto bros might assume that the financial establishment and the government have completely embraced cryptocurrencies. But as we have pointed out before, this isn’t exactly true. The reality is that while they have spoken of ‘the financial revolution,’ they have only embraced some aspects of cryptocurrency.
For example, they have embraced the fact that all transactions on a digital blockchain can be carefully tracked and monitored, assuming they are the ones in control of the said blockchain. This deep level of vision and insight would allow centralized financial authorities (like the Fed) to exert unprecedented levels of control over Americans’ spending habits.