October 29, 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.

The newest national survey shows parents are increasingly opposed to vaccinating their younger children against COVID-19.

If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approves COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds next week as expected, 27% of parents surveyed say they will get their children vaccinated “right away,” according to the newest polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation. That number has barely changed since July, despite the fact that with every passing month, there is mounting evidence of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

In fact, more parents say they will not have their children vaccinated than say they will move quickly to get the shots.

(Kaiser Family Foundation)

There is one footnote to consider: This polling was done Oct. 14 to 24, before the latest U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC meetings. But would any data or hearings change minds at this point?

Let’s dig deeper to find out what information parents say they need:

(Kaiser Family Foundation)

For some parents, the concerns are more practical than health-related. For example, look at the answers to the same questions above only this time broken out by income brackets.

(Kaiser Family Foundation)

People who have higher incomes are more willing to get their kids vaccinated. Almost half of parents in households earning less than $50K say a barrier to vaccination is that they might have to take off work to do so. That raises the issue of whether we make it easy enough to get vaccinated. Are employers willing to accommodate schedules? How could they do so?

To answer some of the concerns — if they really are concerns and not just excuses/reasons not to be vaccinated — here is epidemiologist Dr. Katelyn Jetelina’s point-by-point advice:

(Dr. Katelyn Jetelina)

Almost four in 10 adults are confused about COVID-19 boosters

I know journalists are tired of writing about boosters, but the newest Kaiser polling shows four out of 10 adults are still confused about whether they are eligible to get a third shot.

(Kaiser Family Foundation)

Mandates for Johnson & Johnson boosters

Here is a new wrinkle. NJ.com reports:

University Hospital, the state’s only public acute care facility, is requiring employees who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to get a booster shot by Dec. 24.

The Newark hospital is believed to be the first in the state to mandate a booster for some of its workers, according to spokesman Adam Dvorin. It became the first hospital in New Jersey to mandate COVID-19 vaccination among all its employees in June. The requirement allowed for exemptions based on medical or religious reasons.

“Data and analysis indicate that a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may no longer confer a level of effectiveness that prevents COVID-19 infection in enough of our employees if they are exposed, which has implications on our ability to keep vulnerable patients and families safe,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital, in a statement Wednesday announcing the mandate.

United Airlines starts booze service again Nov. 15

The company logo adorns the tail of a United Airlines jetliner being prepared for departure at Eppley Airfield on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

FlyerTalk reports that United Airlines will resume alcohol service on Nov. 15, which will put pressure on other airlines to do likewise:

According to an internal document shared with FlyerTalk by a United spokesperson, the return of alcoholic beverage services is based on feedback received by both flyers and flight crews. When service resumes on flights over 300 miles, flyers will be able to purchase from a selection of beers, wines, seltzers and liquor using the airline’s contactless payment system.

On the same day, a passenger on American Airlines punched a flight attendant and broke her nose after arguing over masks. The crew duct-taped the guy in his chair. Even with her nose bleeding, the flight attendant kept her mask on.

College enrollment may have dropped by a half-million students this fall

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center says this fall, a half-million fewer undergraduates enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. The 3.2% decline is barely less than the 3.4% shock that schools felt when the pandemic sent classes online. Together, it would represent the biggest drop in college enrollment in a century.

The NSCRC estimate is just that, an estimate, but it is based on responses from 8.4 million undergrad and graduate students from about 50% of U.S. colleges, so it is a big sample. The newest report says:

While undergraduate enrollment is down in all sectors, private nonprofit four-year students fared better, falling only 0.7 percent this fall due to 4.3 percent more students enrolled in highly selective institutions.

It is a totally different story for private for-profit four-year schools and two-year schools.

(National Student Clearinghouse Research Center)

Graduate programs are all over the place. Grad schools at public universities are faring pretty well while the for-profit grad school enrollments are tanking.

(National Student Clearinghouse Research Center)

For many of your communities, universities are some of the most important employers. The enrollment drop that has now been going on for a decade is accelerating and it holds real significance to the economy. College towns attract fans to athletic events and fill apartments and condos with students.

We SAY we are better drivers this year

AAA asks people about their driving habits every year. We now say we are less drunk, distracted, high and speeding while driving. That’s what we say. Have you done these things in the last 30 days?

(AAA)

And while we say we are driving more safely, traffic fatalities went up 7.2% last year, which is the largest number of fatalities since 2007. The one piece of data I wish we had was what percentage of cops read texts while driving. They have computers open in their cars while driving. Why is that OK?  In some states, police are exempt from distracted driving laws. Here is a story from some years back by KSHB in Kansas City about police driving distracted. It includes lots of car cam videos.

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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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