Covid Live Updates: Washington State Fires Football Coach for Refusing Vaccine

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Credit…Young Kwak/Associated Press

Washington State University fired its football coach, Nick Rolovich, and four of his assistants for failing to comply with the state’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate, the school announced on Monday.

Mr. Rolovich, the state’s highest-paid employee, applied for a religious exemption this month from the mandate, among the strictest in the country. The status of the exemption request was unclear when the firings occurred.

“This is a disheartening day for our football program,” the university’s athletic director, Pat Chun, said in a statement. “Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team.”

The school said that the team’s defensive coordinator, Jake Dickert, would become acting head coach.

Monday was the deadline Gov. Jay Inslee set for state workers to be fully vaccinated or receive a religious or medical exemption. A state agency report from earlier this month showed that about 90 percent of employees covered by the mandate had been vaccinated.

Earlier in the day, a Superior Court judge rejected a request by hundreds of public employees for a temporary injunction blocking the mandate, though their lawsuit can go forward.

Mr. Rolovich, who was in the second year of a five-year, $15.6 million contract, had become the public face of the showdown with Mr. Inslee.

As Monday approached, the drama around the deadline intensified — fueled in part by the Cougars’ three-game winning streak, which has kept them in contention for the Pac-12 Conference North Division title.

The players, who had backed Mr. Rolovich, were informed about the firings Monday night.

Credit…David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe, via Associated Press

The firing of Washington State University’s head football coach for refusing to get a Covid vaccine was the most high-profile consequence of several statewide vaccine mandates for government workers that took effect on Monday.

In Washington, Monday was the final day for more than 800,000 workers, including those at state agencies, schools and health care facilities, to prove they had been fully vaccinated against coronavirus. The mandate, issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August, is among the strictest in the country.

In Massachusetts, nearly 1,600 state executive-branch employees missed the Sunday vaccination deadline, the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Monday. These unvaccinated workers, who do not have the option to submit the regular testing instead of getting vaccinated, now face suspension and the loss of their jobs. Governor Baker does not expect to experience staffing shortages in Massachusetts, the statement said, but some politicians say requiring vaccines will strain an already stressed work force.

The governor’s executive order was unsuccessfully challenged in court by the unions representing state police troopers and state prison guards.

New Jersey’s vaccine mandate for school and state workers also took effect this week and requires employees to provide proof of vaccination or complete a Covid-19 test at least once a week. The state’s next deadline is Nov. 1, when workers at child care facilities will be required to be fully vaccinated or have regular Covid-19 tests administered.

At a news conference on Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he didn’t immediately know what percentage of state employees had been vaccinated, but added, “It’s a very high percentage.”

Credit…John Hefti / Associated Press

The National Hockey League announced on Monday that it had suspended the San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games, without pay, for “an established violation” of the league’s Covid-19 protocol, officials said.

The announcement did not explain how Mr. Kane had violated the protocols, but several news organizations, including The Associated Press, reported that he had presented the league with false evidence of vaccination. The New York Times has not independently verified the claim.

Teams have the right to suspend and dock the salaries of unvaccinated players who are unable to play because of the protocols or local regulations.

Mr. Kane’s forfeited pay will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund, the league said in a statement, adding that he would not be eligible to play before Nov. 30.

A statement from the San Jose Sharks said the team was “disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place.”

“I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for,” Mr. Kane, who joined the league in 2009, said in a statement through the National Hockey Players’ Association. He added that he plans to continue with counseling in order “to help me make better decisions in the future.”

Mr. Kane, 30, did not play in San Jose’s season-opening game on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets. He was the Sharks’ leading scorer last season, with 22 goals.

Last week, which was the start of the league’s regular season, N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman said only four players out of about 700 had not yet received a Covid-19 vaccination.

“Our vaccination rate is incredible,” Mr. Bettman said. “Four players, not four percent of players. All of our officials are vaccinated. All of the personnel that come into contact with the players are vaccinated.”

The Sharks have already lost a coach because of vaccine-related restrictions. Rocky Thompson, the associate coach, stepped down last month. Mr. Thompson said he had a medical reason to remain unvaccinated, but the league requires vaccinations for any nonathlete whose job involves being within 12 feet of players.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration is planning to allow Americans to receive a different Covid-19 vaccine as a booster than the one they initially received, a move that could reduce the appeal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and provide flexibility to doctors and other vaccinators.

The government would not recommend one shot over another, and it may note that using the same vaccine as a booster when possible is preferable, people familiar with the agency’s planning said. But vaccine providers could use their discretion to offer a different brand, a freedom that state health officials have been requesting for weeks.

The approach was foreshadowed on Friday, when researchers presented the findings of a federally funded “mix and match” study to an expert committee that advises the F.D.A. The study found that recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot who received a Moderna booster saw their antibody levels rise 76-fold in 15 days, compared with a fourfold increase after an extra dose of Johnson & Johnson.

Federal regulators this week are aiming to greatly expand the number of Americans eligible for booster shots. The F.D.A. is expected to authorize boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by Wednesday evening; it could allow the mix-and-match approach by then. The agency last month authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for at least six months after the second dose.

An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will take up the booster issue on Thursday; the agency will then issue its own recommendations. By the end of the week, tens of millions more Americans could be eligible for extra shots.

Experts emphasized last week that the new data was based on small groups of volunteers and short-term findings. The study’s researchers warned against using the findings to conclude that any one combination of vaccines was better.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

After Sofia Kravetskaya got vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine last December, she became a pariah on the Moscow playground where she takes her young daughter.

“When I mentioned I volunteered in the trials and I got my first shot, people started running away from me,” she said. “They believed that if you were vaccinated, the virus is inside you and you’re contagious.”

For Ms. Kravetskaya, 36, the reaction reflected the prevalent mistrust in the Russian authorities that has metastasized since the pandemic began last year. That skepticism, pollsters and sociologists say, is the main reason only one third of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, despite the availability of free inoculations.

The reluctance to get vaccinated is producing an alarming surge, experts say. On Saturday, Russia exceeded 1,000 deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time since the pandemic began. (Britain, with a little less than half the population, had 57 deaths in a recent 24-hour period.) On Monday, Russia broke another record with more than 34,000 new infections registered in the previous 24 hours.

Only about 42 million of Russia’s 146 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said last week, a rate well below the United States and most countries in the European Union.

But even with a record-breaking death toll, the government has imposed few restrictions, and its vaccination campaign has floundered, sociologists say, because of a combination of apathy and mistrust.



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