Disney World Pauses Mandatory Vaccination Policy; 4 Million Federal Workers Face Monday Vaccine Mandate: Live COVID-19 Updates – USA TODAY

Walt Disney World has paused its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a series of restrictive laws last week punishing companies that don’t let workers opt out of vaccine requirements.

Disney said more than 90% of Disney World “cast members” have been vaccinated.

“We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we’ve continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our cast members and guests,” Disney said in an email. “We will address legal developments as appropriate.”

DeSantis’ office cheered the decision, adding in a statement “we believe that all companies in Florida will likewise follow the law.”

Not doing so could be costly: Fines are possible up to $50,000 per violation for large companies and $10,000 for smaller businesses if an employee is fired. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney World employed more than 70,000 workers.

Also in the news:

►Mississippi’s state of emergency order related to the coronavirus expired as Republican Gov. Tate Reeves cited increased vaccine numbers and declining hospitalizations.

►Nearly 6,100 people a day are now testing positive for COVID-19 in New York state, up 22% from earlier this month. 

►A federal judge in Rhode Island could rule this week on a request from some health care workers to block the state’s requirement that people working in the medical profession be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

►Vaccine protections starts to fade at around six months, data shows. The good news is that COVID-19 booster shots are now available to all adults in the U.S. Here is what you should know about boosters.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 47.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 771,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 257 million cases and 5.1 million deaths. More than 195.9 million Americans – 59% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: Governments that embrace a testing option instead of mandatory vaccination believe it creates a safe work environment and gives reluctant employees to opt out of the vaccine. But it’s costly.

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.

Buttigieg: Mandate won’t slash TSA staff during Thanksgiving travel rushAbout 4 million federal workers must be vaccinated by Monday under the president’s executive order aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. That includes Transportation Security Administration employees staffing airports across the nation for the Thanksgiving travel rush. But Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that won’t be a problem; close to 99% of the workers are either fully vaccinated, in the process of doing so, or have applied for an exemption. People who have not fulfilled the requirement aren’t immediately being pulled off their posts, Buttigieg added.

“From a federal perspective, you know, the deadline tomorrow, that’s not a cliff,” Buttiegied said. “It’s part of a process to make sure that everyone in the federal workforce is safe.”

New infections heading higher ahead of Thanksgiving holidayAs Americans prepare for their second coronavirus pandemic Thanksgiving, the virus is inviting itself to more tables. Cases appear to be rising in 38 states week-over-week, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. That number may be somewhat blurry because of Veterans Day disrupting testing. But hospitals in 36 states are reporting more COVID-19 patients than a week earlier, 30 states admitted more COVID-19 patients during the latest week, and 29 states have more patients in ICU beds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show 2,364 counties, or about three-quarters of them, are showing high levels of community transmission. Just 92 counties have low levels.

One brighter sign: Last year the United States reported about 1.2 million cases in the week ending Nov. 20. This year, it’s about 650,000.

– Mike Stucka

Tennessee’s new COVID law is back in courtTennessee continues to insinuate masks don’t work and the task of keeping kids safe from COVID-19 in schools is an individual, not community, task, according to legal arguments in federal court. Judge Waverly Crenshaw is deciding whether he will issue a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of a new state law’s provision prohibiting schools from implementing mask mandates except in extremely rare circumstances. It comes on the heels of three other cases across the state – one in Crenshaw’s court – over the state’s approach to masking in schools. 

The state argues that with the advent of vaccines, the increased availability of at-home tests and some promising treatment options, parents have the option to find a way to send their kids to school – or not – without impacting others. Parents of eight children with disabilities, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, argue school isn’t equivalent to deciding whether to stay home from a birthday party. Read more.

– Mariah Timms, The Nashville Tennessean 

Defense Department sends nurses to overwhelmed northern ColoradoThe Colorado COVID-related worker shortage is so severe at UCHealth that a medical response team of about 20 nurses, providers, respiratory therapists and administrators from the Department of Defense will be deployed to Poudre Valley Hospital beginning this week. The team will stay for about a month and to support hospital staff and patients and ease capacity and staffing challenges, according to a news release. As of Thursday, UCHealth had 373 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the state; 99 were in UCHealth hospitals in northern Colorado, according to the health system. 

“We are so grateful that this team will assist us in providing exceptional care in northern Colorado,” Kevin Unger, chief executive officer of UCHealth in Northern Colorado, said in the release. “We anticipate this additional support and other plans we already have in the works will help make a significant difference.” 

– Pat Ferrier, The Fort Collins Coloradoan

Contributing: The Associated Press