Coronavirus National

Updated September 23, 2021 at 5:14 PM ET

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended a third dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and older, as well as others at a high risk of severe illness.

On a recent Monday morning, a group of preschoolers filed into the gymnasium at Hillside School in the west Chicago suburbs. These 4- and 5-year-olds were the first of more than 200 students to get tested for the coronavirus that day — and every Monday — for the foreseeable future.

At the front of the line, a girl in a unicorn headband and sparkly pink skirt clutched a plastic zip-top bag with her name on it. She pulled out a plastic tube with a small funnel attached, and Hillside Superintendent Kevin Suchinski then led her to a spot marked off with red tape.

When Pam Goble first heard that President Biden was mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for health care workers, she had one thought: It's about time.

Goble is owner and CEO of Ability HomeCare, a pediatric home health care agency serving 900 children in San Antonio, Texas.

Of her 261 nurses and therapists, 56 have declined to get the vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized a booster dose Wednesday of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and older and others at high risk of severe COVID-19.

The FDA says the vaccine can also be given to people ages 18 to 64 whose jobs or institutional exposure to the coronavirus puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19.

"Anthropause" is a word scientists have coined to describe the scaling back of human activity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it's probably safe to say most people have found it uncomfortably restrictive, a new study published Wednesday suggests the pandemic has allowed many bird species to stretch their wings.

Updated September 22, 2021 at 4:46 PM ET

Federal Reserve policymakers now think inflation will run hotter than previously expected this year, but the central bank still believes price hikes will moderate in 2022 as pandemic pressures fade.

A fair warning for your next trip to the liquor store: Several states across the U.S. are still experiencing booze shortages related to COVID-19, and it's unclear when supply will be able to meet demand.

Early in the pandemic, it was common to find libations low in stock after some liquor stores briefly closed amid statewide lockdowns and skyrocketing consumer demand for alcohol.

President Biden's failure to name someone to lead the Food and Drug Administration, more than 10 months after the election, has flummoxed public health experts who say it's baffling for the agency to be without a permanent leader during a national health crisis.

Americans may be able to breathe a tentative sigh of relief soon, according to researchers studying the trajectory of the pandemic.

The delta surge appears to be peaking nationally, and cases and deaths will likely decline steadily now through the spring without a significant winter surge, according to a new analysis shared with NPR by a consortium of researchers advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who receive a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine booster shot are better protected against the coronavirus for a longer period of time, according to the pharmaceutical company's latest trial results.

Nicole Wolter runs a factory in Wauconda, Ill., that makes gears and pulleys used in a variety of industrial equipment. She has plenty of orders, but she's straining to get all the parts she needs – and that's creating trouble across the supply chain.

"I'm getting phone calls of 'Hey, you're holding up a $5 million machine,'" says Wolter, adding that customers sometimes offer to pay for overtime in her factory or next-day air delivery. "I think there's just that air of desperation."

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona kickstarts his "Return-to-School Road Trip" this week, talking up the Biden administration's efforts to help children safely return to classrooms. The five-day bus tour begins early Monday with a pep rally at Locust Lane Elementary School in Eau Claire, Wisc.

Updated September 20, 2021 at 10:31 AM ET

The first results from the highly anticipated trial studying the effectiveness and safety of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 showed promising results.

The pharmaceutical companies said early results of their trial indicate the vaccine is safe for children and establishes a strong antibody response against the virus.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

As new data shows 1 in 500 Americans has died from COVID-19 and the delta variant continues to surge across the country, the next challenge many health care leaders face is within their own staffs: the 27% of of U.S. health care workers who have not been vaccinated against the disease as of July, according to a study by The COVID States Project.

Three tourists were arrested after allegedly assaulting a restaurant host in Manhattan after she asked for proof of their vaccination status before they could be seated.

A head-to-head comparison of all three COVID-19 vaccines found Moderna is holding up better than Pfizer and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides the weakest protection.

But the researchers stressed that all three vaccines are still providing strong protection against people getting so sick that they end up in the hospital.

In a surprising vote, a panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration on Friday recommended against approval of a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 years and older.

The 16-2 vote against broad use of the booster, which would be given about six months after completion of the two-dose immunization regimen, dealt a setback to Pfizer and complicates the FDA's approach to boosters.

In a Coronavirus FAQ last week, I reported on an encounter at an outdoor restaurant in which a stranger asked me why I was wearing a mask. "Do you think you really need it?" he wondered, even though he admitted that he was not yet fully vaccinated.

Humans aren't the only ones who have to worry about COVID-19. A number of lions and tigers at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., are now being treated for the virus.

Six African lions, a Sumatran tiger and two Amur tigers have tested presumptive positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 and are undergoing treatment, the zoo said in a news release Thursday.

In the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to vaccinate its population, Italy is making COVID-19 health passes mandatory for all workers — becoming the first European country to do so.

In a newly approved measure introduced Thursday by the Italian government, officials said digital vaccine certificates will be mandatory for all employees across the country.

As a group, American children and teenagers have seen a significant increase in weight gain since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with the biggest jumps occurring in younger school-aged children and those who were already prone to obesity, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Updated September 17, 2021 at 11:18 AM ET

For more than two weeks starting this week, more than 600,000 white flags will fill the National Mall — symbolizing the lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States.

Each of the flags, displayed across the 20 acres of grass, will hold a written personalized message from loved ones honoring their memory.

France's health minister has said that thousands of health care workers across the country have been suspended without pay for failing to get a required COVID-19 vaccine.

"Some 3,000 suspensions were notified yesterday to employees at health centers and clinics who have not yet been vaccinated," Olivier Véran, the health minister, told France's RTL radio on Thursday, according to a France 24 translation.

It's a bad time to get sick in Oregon. That's what many doctors are telling their patients and the public as hospitals full of COVID-19 patients have been forced to postpone some treatments of other medical conditions.

Charlie Callagan's scheduled bone-marrow transplant was postponed. Now he's waiting for a new surgery date, hunkered down at his home in Merlin, a small Rogue Valley town in southern Oregon.

The stark situation of COVID's impact on Alaska has affected the ability of the state's largest hospital to provide care for some patients.

On Wednesday, the state reported 1,068 new virus infections — a level 13% higher than last week and one shattering the state's daily case rate since the pandemic began. The highest number of cases is in Anchorage, which reported more than 470 new cases.

National Guard troops are used to being activated during times of natural disaster or civil unrest — but in Massachusetts, they're being called out to drive students to school.

The office of Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that as many as 250 Guard members would be made available "to address staffing shortages in certain districts," according to a news release. It said that 90 would be training immediately for service in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn.

Updated September 15, 2021 at 1:51 PM ET

The Food and Drug Administration released an analysis by Pfizer on the need for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer's analysis says data from Israel and the United States in the context of the delta variant suggests "that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose."

Last month, Dr. Simone Gold stood before a crowd at a conservative church in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and delivered a talk riddled with misinformation. She told people to avoid vaccination against the coronavirus. As an alternative, she pushed drugs that have not been proven effective at treating COVID-19 — drugs that she also offered to prescribe to the audience in exchange for $90 telehealth appointments.

Updated September 14, 2021 at 3:19 PM ET

Ray DeMonia, 73, was born and raised in Cullman, Ala., but he died on Sept. 1, some 200 miles away in an intensive care unit in Meridian, Miss.

Last month, DeMonia, who spent 40 years in the antiques and auctions business, suffered a cardiac emergency. But it was because hospitals are full due to the coronavirus — and not his heart — that he was forced to spend his last days so far from home, according to his family.

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