October 15, 2021

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

In August, the Supreme Court ended the national moratorium on evictions. Even so, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Minnesota still have statewide eviction bans in place. New Jersey also has some protections for low-income renters. Go here to get eviction resources in every state. Some local governments have also enacted their own protections against evictions.

Experts predicted millions of Americans might be evicted once the federal moratorium was lifted but it has not happened even though billions of dollars in rental aid is still sitting in state government accounts awaiting distribution. Experts at The Eviction Lab told The Washington Post that it is too early to say that a wave of evictions will not arrive:

“I think it’s too early to declare decisively that this isn’t happening,” said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab, which tracks cases of eviction filings in 31 cities and a half-dozen states all around the country. “This may not take the form of a sudden spike in eviction cases all at once. It may be something that’s much more delayed and diffuse.”

These are the states with the highest number of recent evictions:

(The Eviction Lab)

NPR explores why most of the billions of dollars in federal rental assistance still has not arrived for the people who need it.

FDA recommends Moderna booster for seniors, rejects boosters for everyone

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that makes recommendations about whether the FDA should approve vaccines voted unanimously that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is both safe and effective for seniors, people who are at risk of getting severe COVID-19 infections and people who are likely to be exposed to the virus.

But the committee — VERBPAC — is still unconvinced that there is enough evidence to show that everybody who got vaccinated needs a booster. But committee members said they may decide to approve boosters for everyone — including young people, even children — months from now.

Moderna’s booster is a half-dose injection that follows the full two-dose regimen.

The committee’s recommendation is in line with what it said about booster shots for people who took the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine except the Pfizer- BioNTech booster shot is a full-strength dose, just like the first two shots.

This was the exact question the committee answered:

(FDA)

Remember, the FDA approves whether a drug is safe and effective, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets national policy and recommendations on how to distribute and prescribe drugs.

Committee members said they were not happy with the small size of Moderna’s trial for booster shots but that what data they did present was convincing enough that the booster was both safe and effective.

Moderna made a bolder claim for its booster than Pfizer did a couple of weeks ago. Pfizer said its booster protects against severe illness and hospitalizations, but Moderna said its booster shot also prevents mild to moderate COVID-19 infections.

Committee members said the public focus on booster shots should not overwhelm the need to keep telling the public that the first and best defense against the virus is to get vaccinated in the first place.

Today, the committee will consider whether Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine should also get a booster dose. The committee will also hear about a National Institutes of Health study released this week that, based on a small sample, found Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients may benefit more from a booster of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s vaccine than a second Johnson & Johnson dose.

Police ‘holding the line’ against vaccine mandates: half of Chicago’s cops could be put on leave today

Chicago is just one city where police are strongly resisting COVID-19 vaccine mandates and the police union is urging officers to “hold the line.”

Today, city employees, including police officers, must report their vaccination status. If they are not vaccinated, they must undergo COVID-19 tests twice a week.

By some estimates, up to half of Chicago’s police officers could be put on unpaid leave.

In San Francisco, 120 police officers could lose their jobs over vaccine mandates. KGO TV reports 80 patrol officers failed to report their vaccination status.

US Navy says sailors who reject vaccine will be dismissed

In this photo released by U.S. Navy, US Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and other U.S. and allied vessels transit the Bay of Bengal on Oct. 12, 2021. (Russel Lindsey/US Navy via AP)

A just-released Navy administrative message says clearly: Get fully vaccinated by Nov. 28 or get out of the Navy. The message from Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Lescher and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell says:

Navy service members refusing the COVID-19 vaccination, absent a pending or approved exemption, shall be processed for administrative separation.

The Navy says 98% of active-duty members are either vaccinated or are in the process of being fully vaccinated. USNI News adds:

Those who are separated for refusing the vaccine will be discharged with no lower than a general discharge under honorable conditions, according to the Navy release.

Those refusing the vaccine cannot be promoted, advance, reenlist or execute orders outside of ones involving separation. Any officer who refuses to be vaccinated will have any promotions delayed.

Since the vaccination is mandatory, service members who refuse the vaccine can be temporarily reassigned.

There have been 83,648 COVID-19 cases within the Navy, including active-duty and civilians, according to the service. Of those cases, 164 resulted in deaths.

There have been 14 active-duty deaths out of 48,231 cases.

Why is shoplifting rising?

Shoplifters are hitting retailers in waves serious enough to force some stores, especially drugstores, to close. In San Francisco, Walgreen closed five stores citing “organized retail crime.”

The New York Police Department says shoplifting from January to September 2021 is up about 6,000 cases compared to all of last year. Of course, a 2021 to 2020 comparison might not be the best comparison since the country was in lockdown in 2020.

It is worth asking whether police and courts take shoplifting cases seriously enough. The New York Post profiled one guy who walks into stores and steals stuff every day. His arrest resume includes:

In addition to his 37 Walgreens strikes, he’s hit local Victoria’s Secret stores four times, Rite Aid (3), Target (3), CVS (2), Family Dollar (1) and Macy’s (1), police said.

He’s alleged thievery, which includes 42 counts of petit larceny and three for grand larceny (over $1,000 in value), escalated to violence, police said.

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention found that shoplifting costs retailers about $50 billion every year. And, the group reports:

History has proven that theft increases after national and global events that have major economic impact. With the prolonged current crisis, retailers are likely on the verge of a significant increase in internal theft and organized retail crime (ORC), and we need to be prepared.

“Our experience tells us that we are going to see a spike in retail theft and organized retail crime as our stores begin to open back up,” said

Caroline Kochman, executive director at the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP). “We took a look back at retail theft activity following two recent galvanizing events, September 11th and the 2008 financial crisis, and there were notable increases in shoplifter referrals after both.”

During these difficult times, offenders who were not employed increased by 11 percent. Almost one in three reported they didn’t have the money to purchase what they took. There was also a jump in adults and juveniles who said they shoplifted simply to survive. Twenty-five percent of adults and 38 percent of juveniles had been asked to shoplift for someone else, and shockingly, 12 percent of adults and nearly 20 percent of juveniles — one in five — were offered money to steal from retail stores.

New record: 4,650 firearms at TSA checkpoints in the first 10 months of the year

I am not sure which is more astonishing, that Americans just set a record for the number of guns intercepted at Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoints or that the majority of the weapons found were loaded.

(TSA)

In the last week, TSA agents found guns at checkpoints in Boston, Newport News and Pittsburgh (the latter was the second gun caught in two days, and the 29th gun TSA officers detected this year at the airport). TSA agents said they found two guns at the Cleveland airport.

Preventable amputations rise in pandemic

Medscape tells the story of how delayed routine medical care and delays in “nonessential” medical treatments have led to an increase in amputations that would not have been necessary before the pandemic.

According to data shared with WebMD and interviews with experts in the field, the number of patients with “unsalvageable” disease — disease so extreme that it can’t be effectively treated with drugs or minor surgery — has ticked up. So too has the rate of amputations.

Dr. Lee Kirksey, vice chairman of vascular surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, describes what’s happened over the past year as a “pandemic superimposed on an epidemic.”

“There is no doubt that the COVID crisis has resulted in patients delaying their care … in some instances losing their leg as a consequence,” he says. “And I think over the coming years, we’ll continue to see those consequences play out.”

Nursing homes: ghost towns

The Associated Press finds that already short-staffed nursing homes are in critical condition and COVID-19 is not the only reason. Low pay is also a contributing factor:

Even before COVID-19 bared the truth of a profit-driven industry with too few caring for society’s most vulnerable, thin staffing was a hallmark of nursing homes around the country. Now, staffing is even thinner, with about one-third of U.S. nursing homes reporting lower levels of nurses and aides than before the pandemic began ravaging their facilities, an Associated Press analysis of federal data finds.

(AP)

Here is why it matters:

Some 32% of nursing homes reported staff-to-resident ratios in June that were lower than those in February 2020, AP’s analysis shows.

In homes posting lower ratios, the average resident had 21 fewer minutes of contact with staff each day, or about 11 hours a month, translating to scarcer help at mealtime, fewer showers and less repositioning to prevent painful bedsores. In the worst cases, when someone falls, chokes or is otherwise endangered, it means there are fewer people to discover the problem or hear their calls for help.

Back-timing your vaccination to the holidays

If you are the kind of person who works best under a deadline, KDVR in Denver is here to help you get vaccinated just in time for the upcoming holidays. To meet these dates, you must get your first vaccine by:

(KDVR)

Somebody may want to pass this schedule along to TSA employees. 40% of them are unvaccinated and they have to be vaccinated by Nov. 22 or be fired … just before Thanksgiving travel. This could be interesting.

The headline and lead of this article were changed to more accurately reflect the state of eviction moratoriums.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
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