The authorities in Hawaii are struggling to transport tanks of oxygen from the mainland as the state’s hospitals grow increasingly strained by new coronavirus infections.
Medical authorities are asking people to postpone elective surgeries and the state’s 223 I.C.U. beds have dwindled to 16 available, said Hilton R. Raethel, the president and chief executive of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
“The most critical point for Hawaii that we’ve experienced during this entire pandemic is right now,” he said.
Since July 1, Hawaii has been battling its highest surge in virus infections and hospitalizations, with the seven-day average of reported cases reaching 884 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times database. The seven-day hospitalization average peaked at 427 on Monday. Health experts say the surge is driven by the highly contagious Delta variant and low vaccination rates.
Though Hawaii has seen droves of tourists coming to the islands — so many that the state’s governor last week asked them to stay away — Mr. Raethel said that around 95 percent of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated residents, not tourists.
These hospitalized patients are also largely the reason for a huge surge in requests for medical oxygen. The demand is up 250 percent since August began, the association said in a statement. The state authorities turned to the mainland for help, but encountered challenges.
An international shortage has limited the number of liquid oxygen tanks that the state can order, Mr. Raethel said. It also takes up to a month to ship the tanks in boats across the Pacific. (Liquid oxygen is highly flammable and dangerous to transport by plane.)
“If New York runs out of oxygen, you ship it in from New Jersey or put it on a truck,” he said. “Even Alaska can drive it across the border from Canada or Washington.”
The state currently has 10 tanks, Mr. Raethel said, and each carries up to 3,500 gallons of liquid oxygen.
The state authorities have requested assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies as it tries to increase its oxygen supply, the association said.
Mr. Raethel said he believes the state will weather the crisis without running out of oxygen. In addition to canceling elective surgeries, FEMA has approved the purchase of three oxygen generators, the authorities have asked shipping companies to speed up deliveries and the state has identified a few tanks that can carry liquid oxygen instead of other gases.
“Living in Hawaii is wonderful when things are going well,” he said. “But it’s really challenging when you have logistical concerns.”
In hospitals, I.C.U.s are equipped with specialized equipment and trained staff who can treat critically ill patients. Experts say maintaining existing standards of care for the sickest patients may be difficult or impossible at hospitals with more than 95 percent I.C.U. occupancy, and throughout the pandemic, hospitals have been forced to improvise solutions when I.C.U. space and staffing have dwindled.
This month, several countries have begun or will start giving booster shots to people already vaccinated against the coronavirus, in an effort to bolster immunity in the face of the fast-spreading Delta variant and the change to a cooler season that is likely to bring more people together indoors.
The Czech Republic announced this week that it would offer a booster, beginning Sept. 20, to anyone who had previously been vaccinated with either a single or double dose. The country strongly recommended boosters for people over 60.
Similar policies were recently announced in Germany and France, which are offering boosters to older people and those with underlying health conditions. And Israel is now offering boosters to vaccinated people as young as 12.
In the United States, the Biden administration has said it is planning to offer booster shots to most Americans eight months after vaccination, assuming federal regulators clear them. The F.D.A. will hold a public meeting on the topic Sept. 17.
Despite the flurry of booster programs in wealthier nations, the science of whether they are needed is not yet clear.
Some studies suggest that the protection that the vaccines provide against infection and mild disease may be waning. But they remain highly effective at preventing the worst outcomes, including severe disease and death, and scientists have said that a blanket recommendation for boosters is premature.
Experts generally agree, however, that a third shot is warranted for people with compromised immune systems, who may not have mounted a strong immune response to the initial doses. Several countries, including the United States, are now offering additional shots to this vulnerable group.
On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency, the E.U.’s drug regulator, said there was no urgent need to give booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine to fully inoculated individuals without underlying health issues, citing a report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Extra doses should be considered for those with weakened immune systems, and as a precautionary measure for frail older adults, especially those living in nursing homes, the agencies added.
The agency said that at this time, the urgency is to finish vaccinating all those eligible for a normal vaccination course. The drug regulator is continuing to assess data on booster shots.
Britain’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, said on Wednesday that a third vaccine dose would be offered to those aged 12 and over with severely compromised immune systems “as soon as possible.”
“I am determined to ensure we are doing all we can to protect people in this group and a third dose will help deliver that,” Mr. Javid said in a statement.
But the decision by some nations to give booster shots to healthy vaccinated people — when many countries have nascent vaccination programs — has raised ethical questions.
In early August, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, called for a moratorium on coronavirus vaccine booster shots until the end of September, and an “urgent reversal” in the global supply of vaccines that had mainly gone to wealthier nations, leaving low-income countries vulnerable.
W.H.O. officials have taken pains to distinguish between booster shots used to shore up immunity in vaccinated populations and additional doses that may be needed by the immunocompromised to develop immunity in the first place.
On Wednesday, Dr. Tedros reiterated the point.
“Third doses may be necessary for the most at-risk populations where there is evidence of waning immunity against severe disease and death, such as the very small group of immunocompromised people who did not respond sufficiently to their initial doses or are no longer producing antibodies,” he said at a news conference. “But for now we do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated.”
Emily Anthes, Monika Pronczuk and Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.
SEOUL — North Korea has declined an offer of 2.97 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, saying they should be sent to countries with worse outbreaks instead, a spokesperson for UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, said on Wednesday.
The shipment of vaccines was funded by the global vaccine-sharing initiative called Covax that distributes shots to lower-income countries. North Korea said that the vaccines may be “relocated to severely affected countries,” the spokesperson said.
Having a decrepit public health system, North Korea shut its borders in January 2020 and declined other international aid, for fear that outside help might bring in Covid-19, which could overwhelm its public health system and damage an economy that was already struggling under international sanctions. The country continues to maintain that it has no virus cases, but outside health experts are skeptical.
UNICEF, which helps deliver the shots on behalf of Covax, said that North Korea’s public health ministry turned away the shipment citing the limited global supply of Covid-19 vaccines and continuing virus surges elsewhere. The North has said it will “continue to communicate with Covax facility to receive Covid-19 vaccines in the coming months,” the U.N. agency added.
A spokesperson for Gavi, the nonprofit leading Covax, said that it was continuing to work with the North Korean authorities to help respond to the pandemic.
Before declining the Sinovac vaccines, North Korea was expected to receive nearly two million doses of the AstraZeneca shot by the middle of this year for a population of about 25 million, according to a report by Covax from February. North Korea never accepted this shipment.
It has also attempted to steal Covid-19 vaccine technology by hacking international pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer Inc., a South Korean lawmaker said earlier this year after a briefing by government intelligence officials.
Such attempts were part of numerous cyber-hacking activities initiated daily by North Korea, Ha Tae-keung, a lawmaker affiliated with the opposition People Power Party, told South Korean reporters in February. Mr. Ha, who provided no further details, spoke after he and other lawmakers were briefed by senior officials from the National Intelligence Service during the closed-door briefing. The National Intelligence Service declined to confirm Mr. Ha’s comment, citing its policy of not confirming information from closed-door parliamentary briefings.
Choe Sang-Hun contributed reporting.
Joe Rogan, the host of the hugely popular podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” said on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus after he returned from a series of shows in Florida, where the virus is rampant.
Mr. Rogan, who was rebuked by federal officials last spring for suggesting on the podcast that young healthy people need not get Covid vaccinations, said that he started feeling sick on Saturday night after he returned from performing in Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. He did not say whether he had been vaccinated.
“Throughout the night, I got fevers, sweats, and I knew what was going on,” he said in a video on Instagram, adding that he moved to a different part of his house away from his family. (In an episode of his podcast in April, he mentioned that his children had experienced mild Covid-19 symptoms earlier in the pandemic.)
He took a coronavirus test the next morning that came back positive, he said.
In his video on Wednesday, Mr. Rogan said he had been treated with a series of medications. “Sunday sucked,” he said, but by the time he made the video, he said he was feeling “pretty good,” using an expletive.
“A wonderful heartfelt thank you to modern medicine for pulling me out of this so quickly and easily,” he said.
The list of treatments he mentioned included monoclonal antibodies, which have been shown to protect Covid patients at risk of becoming gravely ill; and prednisone, a steroid widely accepted as a Covid treatment. When Donald J. Trump was stricken with Covid during his presidency, he was also treated with monoclonal antibodies.
Mr. Rogan also said he had received a “vitamin drip” as well as ivermectin, a drug primarily used as a veterinary deworming agent. The Food and Drug Administration has warned Covid-19 patients against taking the drug, which has repeatedly been shown as ineffective for them in clinical trials. However, it is a popular subject on Facebook, Reddit and among some conservative talk show hosts, and some toxicologists have warned of a surge of reports of overexposure to the drug by those who obtain it from livestock supply stores.
Mr. Rogan has been traveling nationally with a show called, “Joe Rogan: The Sacred Clown Tour.” He was scheduled to perform a show with the comedian Dave Chappelle in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday, but said in his video on Wednesday that it would be postponed to October.
His podcast is effectively a series of wandering conversations, often over whiskey and weed, on topics including but not limited to comedy, cage-fighting, psychedelics, quantum mechanics and the political excesses of the left. The show was licensed to Spotify last year in an estimated $100 million deal. His comments on the show in the spring undermining the value of vaccinations for young, healthy people drew condemnations from the Biden administration and Prince Harry, another Spotify podcaster.
Mr. Rogan has offered refunds to fans who bought tickets to an upcoming show scheduled for Madison Square Garden after New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, required that attendees at major events show proof of vaccination.
Mr. Rogan said on his podcast last week that 13,000 tickets to the show had already been sold, but that because he opposes vaccine requirements, he would offer refunds.
“If someone has an ideological or physiological reason for not getting vaccinated, I don’t want to force them to get vaccinated to see” the show, he said on the podcast in late August, underscoring his comment with a profanity. “And now they say that everybody has to be vaccinated, and I want everybody to know that you can get your money back.”
Mr. Rogan returned from performing three shows last week in Florida, where the state is reckoning with its highest-ever surge in virus infections, according to a New York Times database. Even as cases continue to rise, with more than 15,600 people hospitalized with the virus across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has held firm on banning vaccine and mask mandates. Florida’s deaths are considerably higher than those in any other state in the country.
As the United States confronts its worst moment of the pandemic since the winter, there is a group of 48 million people who do not have the option of getting a vaccine: children under 12.
Because a vaccine is not yet authorized for young children, and may not be for some time, their families are left in a particularly difficult position heading into this school year.
“Waiting for a vaccine for the under-12 set has started to feel like waiting for Godot,” said Dana Gilbert, 49, of Minneapolis. Her 11-year-old son was born prematurely and has special needs, and a family doctor advised that he not return to school in person until a vaccine is available.
Her plan is to wait out the clock: Keep him at home until a vaccine is authorized for emergency use, or until he turns 12 next year, whichever comes first.
The timeline for a vaccine for children under 12 — initially expected by this fall — appears to have slowed, as officials consider safety, effectiveness and dosage. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, recently indicated that a vaccine could become available to young children “hopefully by the mid, late fall and early winter.” Shots for children ages 5 to 11 are expected first; children as young as six months may have to wait longer.
In interviews, many parents of children under 12 described feeling increasingly desperate, angry and backed into a corner as they reluctantly send their children into the classroom this fall — or resort to drastic actions to keep them safe.
Others are less worried, but equally frustrated as they head into another school year marked by pandemic rules. In some cases, mandates are being applied most stringently to young children not eligible for a vaccine.
“It doesn’t feel like there are any good options at this point,” said Adina Ellis, 45, who tossed and turned in bed for hours the night before school started this week in Washington, D.C., racked with indecision about whether to send her 6-year-old son, Cassius.
On the first day of school, Ms. Ellis rose before dawn, sat on her front porch with her husband and made a “game-time decision,” she said, to drop her son off at school. Watching him walk up the steps, carrying a Hot Wheels backpack, some part of her became resigned to the possibility that he may get infected.
“That thought will haunt me for as long as he’s going to school unvaccinated,” she said.
Mobile coronavirus testing sites in New York City were reopening on Thursday as the area worked to recover from the flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Some vaccination sites also remained closed or with delayed openings, the city’s alert system said.
Overall, public and private city hospitals reported minimal storm damage and relatively normal operations as they dealt with both storm-related problems and the pandemic.
“Our facilities sheltered some community members through the storm, and today our social workers are connecting any patients affected with relevant community resources,” said Chris Miller, a spokesman for the city’s public hospital system.
A Northwell Health spokeswoman said some elective surgeries in Manhattan were being postponed because of staffing issues caused by public transportation problems, but that all of its hospitals were open.
The city is still dealing with a virus surge caused by the Delta variant, with an average of about 1,800 cases per day. Hospitalizations, however, have remained well below previous peaks. About 885 people are currently hospitalized in New York City for Covid-19, according to state data, compared to more than 12,000 in the spring of 2020.
All city-run virus testing sites will also be closed for Labor Day, the city announced, unlike earlier in the pandemic, when testing sites remained open on major holidays.
Adam Shrier, a spokesman for the city’s Test and Trace Corps, said the rainfall had prevented one city-run testing site, at St. James Recreation Center on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, from opening on Thursday. But other sites were open as usual, and by noon on Thursday the city’s fleet of more than 40 mobile testing units was operational, Mr. Shrier said.
“Our staff are going above and beyond to continue their critical work with minimal disruption, as they have through inclement weather several times before,” Mr. Shrier wrote in an email. “It is our priority to provide no-cost, convenient testing options to patients across the city, a mission that is more important than ever as New Yorkers recover from the impact of this storm.”
Amtrak will require all its employees to be vaccinated against coronavirus as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to concern public health officials.
Rail service employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 or submit a weekly negative coronavirus test. As of Oct. 4, new hires must show proof of vaccination before their first day of employment.
Amtrak requires all customers and employees to wear face masks, regardless of vaccination status or state and local laws.
The company joins a heap of others that have mandated inoculation in the workplace. Other transportation companies and agencies, including Frontier Airlines and New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also announced mandatory vaccination for their workers. Delta Air Lines said it would impose a $200 monthly surcharge on employees who had not been vaccinated as of Nov. 1.
Amtrak has catered mostly to leisure travel during the pandemic, said a spokesman for the rail service. Many business travelers, on which it relies, are still working from home while their companies settle on return-to-office plans.
Amtrak provided 16.8 million customer trips in 2020, a decrease of 15.2 million passengers from the year before.
“Ridership continues to improve,” said the Amtrak spokesman, with levels rising to 65 percent of what they were in 2019.
Unemployment benefits have helped stave off financial ruin for millions of laid-off workers over the last year and a half. After this week, that lifeline will snap: An estimated 7.5 million people will lose their benefits when federally funded emergency unemployment programs end. Millions more will see their checks cut by $300 a week.
The cutoff is the latest and arguably the largest of the benefit “cliffs” that jobless workers have faced during the pandemic. Last summer, the government ended a $600 weekly supplement that workers received early in the crisis, but other programs remained in place. In December, benefits briefly lapsed for millions of workers, but Congress quickly restored them.
This time, no similar rescue appears likely. President Biden has encouraged states with high unemployment rates to use existing federal funds to extend benefits, but few appear likely to do so. And administration officials have said repeatedly that they will not seek a congressional extension of the benefits.
The politics of this cliff are different in part because it affects primarily Democratic-leaning states. Roughly half of states, nearly all of them with Republican governors, have already ended some or all of the federal benefits on the grounds that they were discouraging people from returning to work. So far, there is little evidence they were right: States that cut off benefits have experienced job growth this summer that was little different from that in states that retained the programs.
In the states that kept the benefits, the cutoff will mean the loss of billions of dollars a week in aid when the pandemic is resurgent and the economic recovery is showing signs of fragility. And for workers and their families, it will mean losing their only source of income as other pandemic programs, such as the federal eviction moratorium, are ending. Even under the most optimistic forecasts, it will take months for everyone losing aid to find a job, with potentially long-term consequences for both workers and the economy.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do once these benefits stop,” said Amanda Rinehart, who is considering borrowing money from her grandmother or selling blood plasma to feed herself and her son.
Evan Ocheret is considering giving up his career in music.
Mr. Ocheret, 32, is a professional oboist in Philadelphia. Before the pandemic, he cobbled together a living as a freelancer.
Without unemployment benefits to fall back on, he isn’t sure how he will get by. He has signed up for computer coding courses to give him another option — one that he doesn’t want to take.
“I hate to stop doing the thing I love,” Mr. Ocheret said. “But if things don’t start to improve, I may have to do something different.”
People who experience breakthrough infections of the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated are about 50 percent less likely to experience long Covid than are unvaccinated people who catch the virus, researchers said in a large new report on British adults.
The study, which was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Wednesday, also provides more evidence that the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines offer powerful protection against symptomatic and severe disease.
“This is really, I think, the first study showing that long Covid is reduced by double vaccination, and it’s reduced significantly,” said Dr. Claire Steves, a geriatrician at King’s College London and the study’s lead author.
Although many people with Covid recover within a few weeks, some experience long-term symptoms, which can be debilitating. This constellation of lingering aftereffects that have become known as long Covid may include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, heart palpitations and other symptoms. But much about the condition remains mysterious.
“We don’t have a treatment yet for long Covid,” Dr. Steves said. Getting vaccinated, she said, “is a prevention strategy that everybody can engage in.”
The findings add to a growing pile of research on so-called breakthrough infections among vaccinated people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that the highly contagious Delta variant is causing more of these breakthroughs than other versions of the virus, although infections in fully vaccinated people still tend to be mild.
The new findings are based on data from more than 1.2 million adults in the Covid Symptom Study, in which volunteers use a mobile app to log their symptoms, test results and vaccination records. The participants include those who received at least one dose of the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines between Dec. 8 and July 4, as well as a control group of unvaccinated people.
Of the nearly 1 million people who were fully vaccinated, 0.2 percent reported a breakthrough infection, the researchers found. Those who did get breakthrough infections were roughly twice as likely to be asymptomatic as were those who were infected and unvaccinated. The odds of being hospitalized were 73 percent lower in the breakthrough group than the infected, unvaccinated group.
The odds of having long-term symptoms — lasting at least four weeks after infection — were also 49 percent lower in the breakthrough group.
“Of course, vaccines also massively reduce your risk of getting infected in the first place,” Dr. Steves said. That lowered risk means that vaccination should reduce the odds of long Covid by even more, she noted.
The study has limitations, the researchers acknowledge, the most notable of which is that the data is all self-reported. Long Covid is also difficult to study, with wide-ranging symptoms that may vary enormously in severity.
But Dr. Steves said that she hoped the findings might encourage more young people, whose vaccination rates have lagged behind, to get the shots. Young adults are less likely to become seriously ill from the virus than older adults, but they are still at risk for long Covid, she noted.
“Being out of action for six months has a major impact on people’s lives,” she said. “So, if we can show that their personal risk of long Covid is reduced by getting their vaccinations, that may be something that may help them make a decision to go ahead and get a vaccine.”
For college football players this season, a chance at glory could hinge on a team’s coronavirus vaccination rate, arguably the most important statistic in college leagues these days.
The mercies of the 2020 season, including rescheduled games and no-contests connected to the pandemic, have all but vanished for 2021 so the games go on and the money keeps flowing. Now there are largely unforgiving policies intended to keep players and coaches safe and furious efforts inside locker rooms to persuade young men to be inoculated so they can more likely stay on the field.
The results have often been robust, with many teams vaccinated at higher rates than their surrounding communities. Arizona, Boston College and Mississippi have reported 100 percent vaccination rates among football players; at least half of the teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press preseason poll have said that 90 percent or more of their players are inoculated.
And in a stark departure from last year, when many athletic programs tried to keep their virus case counts out of public view, schools are sometimes celebrating their vaccination rates to the envy of their rivals.
“Football is competitive, coaching is competitive, the SEC is as competitive as you get, including in pro sports,” said Lane Kiffin, the coach at Mississippi, where about 47 percent of adults statewide are fully vaccinated. “This is probably the first thing where it was like, ‘OK, hey, we did this,’ and people are calling us for advice — other coaches, other trainers — and we’re openly sharing that.”
Universitywide vaccination mandates have eased the strain for some football programs, even though they have stirred some players to threaten to leave their schools entirely. But on many campuses, coaches, players, trainers and team doctors have taken the lead in prodding athletes to receive shots.
It has been a monthslong high-wire act, complicated by rampant misinformation about vaccines and worries about potential overreach by schools that already have enormous influence over athletes’ lives. Some coaches feared that their efforts would be seen as too self-serving.
“We tried here to take the lead from a sports medicine standpoint and really make it about health and safety,” said Ron Courson, Georgia’s executive associate athletic director for sports medicine. “You do have some concerns that if it’s coming from other people it could be construed as hazing or bullying, and we really wanted to stay away from that.”
New York State lawmakers agreed late on Wednesday to extend sweeping protections against evictions into next year, moving to keep hundreds of thousands of people whose finances have been battered by the pandemic in their homes.
The move was the first by a state to put in place new barriers to eviction after the U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected the Biden administration’s moratorium. It came as many parts of the country, including New York, have struggled to distribute tens of billions of dollars in pandemic rent relief that seeks to address renters’ unpaid bills.
The new agreement, which extends the moratorium through Jan. 15, creates one of the most extensive protections in the nation. Only five other states and Washington, D.C., currently have eviction moratoriums in place, according to the White House, and many of those protections will expire this year.
“I think it’s huge for renters,” said Brendan Cheney, director of policy and communications for the New York Housing Conference, a nonprofit advocacy group for affordable housing. He said it would give people “more time and more stability” to learn about how to access the rent relief program.
“If you look at the numbers, there are hundreds of thousands of people that seem to be behind on their rent due to the pandemic, owing billions of dollars in rent and it’s clear based on the program that very few of those people have gotten the money they need,” he said.
The enormous amount of rent owed across the country threatens to hobble its economic recovery, leaving large numbers of low-income residents facing debt or homelessness.
The need is particularly acute in New York, where more than 700,000 households are behind on rent, according to a recent analysis of U.S. census data, trailing only California, where about 750,000 households are behind. No other state has a higher share of renters. And the vast majority of them are in New York City.
The first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrived in Taiwan on Thursday morning, health officials said. The delivery of the 930,000 doses came after a monthslong struggle to acquire BioNTech’s vaccines on the island.
In May, President Tsai Ing-wen attributed the delay to “China’s intervention.”
A Chinese company, Fosun Pharma, claimed exclusive commercial rights to the distribution of the BioNTech vaccine in Taiwan, whose frosty relationship with China has intensified in recent months. Two Taiwanese corporate giants, a charity organization and a Buddhist foundation stepped into the morass in July to offer a solution.
Foxconn, a major assembler of Apple’s iPhones, and TSMC, which makes the chips found in Apple devices, agreed with the YongLin Foundation, a charity set up by the founder of Foxconn, to purchase 10 million doses of the BioNTech vaccine from Fosun Pharma and donate them to the Taiwanese government. The Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist organization, agreed to purchase and donate an additional 5 million BioNTech shots from the Chinese company for Taiwan’s vaccination effort.
Earlier this week, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control released a statement announcing that the BioNTech vaccine would be prioritized for those between the ages of 12 and 17, with leftover doses administered to those between 18 and 22.
On Wednesday, health officials reported that Taiwan saw six new cases of Covid-19. According to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the island has fully vaccinated just under 4 percent of its population.
Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s biggest carrier, has begun disciplinary proceedings against flight attendants and pilots who have refused to get Covid-19 vaccines, one of the first examples of an airline enforcing a vaccination mandate.
“We continue to review the future employment of those who are not vaccinated and assess whether they can continue to be employed as aircrew with Cathay Pacific,” a company spokesperson said in an email, following a policy announced in June that all air crew must be fully vaccinated by the end of August.
The carrier, which now operates all flights with fully vaccinated aircrew, employs 13,500 people in Hong Kong, according to its latest half-year report.
The spokesperson said that the vast majority of Hong Kong employees — 93 percent — had booked or received their vaccinations as of Thursday, including 99 percent of pilots and 93 percent of cabin crew.
But a number of those who remain, the company said, may risk losing their jobs. The airline said that most of the unvaccinated employees were exempt from its vaccine mandate because they had valid medical reasons or were on long-term leave.
The stringent policy — which other airlines like United Airlines, Air Canada and SWISS also adopted — is harsher than that of many other airlines, which have mostly focused on encouraging their employees to get shots. Delta Air Lines, for example, has said that workers who are not vaccinated by Nov. 1 will have to pay an additional $200 per month to remain on the airline’s health plan. More companies are considering imposing such fees on the unvaccinated, following the airline’s lead.