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Briefing on the coronavirus: what happened today

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The Biden administration said today that major companies have until January 4 to ensure their staff is vaccinated against Covid-19. The new health measures apply to companies with more than 100 employees and affect approximately 84 million private sector employees.

While President Biden announced the plan in September, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released details about the vaccine mandate today. This is what it means to you.

Who will be affected by the new measures?

All private companies with 100 or more employees must require their employees to be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly coronavirus tests and wear masks in the workplace by January 4. The deadline for employers to enforce the mask mandate is December 5.

I work remotely. Does the rule apply to me?

It depends on. Being completely remote means you don’t need to get vaccinated or tested weekly, as the rule is specifically aimed at protecting people from the coronavirus in the workplace. But if you work part-time in the office and the rest of the time remotely, you should stick to the rule.

Can I claim an exemption?

Employers are required to offer two types of exemptions from the vaccine mandates: medical and religious. For medical exemptions, many employers will require people to provide a doctor’s note. Exemptions for people of religious beliefs are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. But so far, no major religion has banned its members from getting the coronavirus vaccine.

Can I unsubscribe through testing?

Could be. It is up to employers to decide whether employees can opt out of vaccination by submitting to tests. If you opt out, you may have to pay for the tests. OSHA does not require employers to pay for or offer tests as the vaccine is free, safe and highly effective. However, your company may be required to pay under a collective bargaining agreement or local law.

Do I get paid for the time it takes to get vaccinated?

Yes. Employers must give their employees paid leave to get vaccinated — up to four hours — and sick leave to recover from side effects. They are obliged to provide this leave from 5 December.

How does my employer check whether I have been vaccinated?

For example, they may ask you for a copy of your vaccination card or a signed and dated employee certificate. OSHA expects employers to keep records of their employees’ vaccination status.

Can I be fired if I don’t follow the rules?

If you do not have an exemption, that is possible. Employers are generally free to punish people who do not follow their rules. However, they may face pushback under collective bargaining agreements.

Read more answers to frequently asked questions about the new rules.


The WHO said Europe could experience half a million Covid-related deaths in the next three months.

The region is reporting near-record levels of infections and the number of new daily cases has nearly doubled since September. Last week, Europe was responsible for 59 percent of the world’s newly reported cases and nearly half of the world’s Covid-related deaths, said Hans Kluge, WHO’s director for Europe.

“Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic — where we were a year ago,” Kluge told reporters today.

New reported cases hit a record high in Germany on Wednesday, as the country registered 33,949 new infections in a 24-hour period. Only 67 percent of the country is fully vaccinated and the health minister warned of a massive “pandemic, mainly among the unvaccinated”.

And in Trieste, Italy, protests against the country’s health pass — the toughest and most extensive in Europe — sparked a worrying outbreak. The city’s struggles show how an unvaccinated minority can still pose a threat to public health — as well as how difficult it can be to change your mind.


An individual’s dreams may seem disjointed. But many people’s dreams, especially when all those people are going through the same experience, can reveal patterns. Patterns, in turn, can reveal meaning.

Brooke Jarvis watched the strange night visions provoked by the pandemic and spoke to scientists trying to fathom our subconscious. Much of her coverage comes from more than 15,000 dreams collected by Deirdre Barrett, who teaches in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School.

Here are a few fascinating nuggets:

  • Our dream worlds became more memorable. That may have been because our brains were trying to parse the fear and distress. It could also be that lockdowns gave more people more time to sleep, and longer hours mean more intense and memorable dreams.

  • We dreamed about the pandemic. Barrett told stories of monsters lurking just out of sight, or invisibly attacking those around them. Many people reported more insect dreams, often scary swarms of insects, which she interpreted as the sleeping mind’s pun on “virus.”

  • Our role probably shaped our dreams. Healthcare workers often dreamed of not being able to save their patients. In contrast, people who were quarantined alone often dreamed of excessive isolation, such as being held in prison or stranded on a spaceship.

“Dreams are above all a time when the unheard-of parts of ourselves are allowed to speak,” Barrett once wrote. “We would do well to listen.” You can read Brooke’s story here.


On November 8, vaccinated international travelers will finally be allowed to re-enter the US, including at the land borders with Canada and Mexico.

Are you planning to reunite with friends and family from abroad in the coming months? If so, we’d love to hear about your reunion plans. We may use your comment in upcoming Times coverage.

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  • Eric Adams, New York City’s newly elected mayor, said he wants to “review” the city’s vaccine mandate, The Hill reports.

  • South Korea said it would ensure that all infected high school students take the country’s high-stakes university entrance exam from the hospital or quarantine facility.


After what seems like an eternity, Victoria is reunited. The metro/regional split has been completed and people from the countryside can now move into the city and vice versa. This is only possible due to the high vaccination rate. Tuesday we saw our son for the first time in months. Tonight I am in Melbourne for a meeting and dinner with friends. Great to be able to travel again. We are planning a family trip to Fiji next year for my 60th birthday.

— Wayne Stewart, Wallington, Victoria, Australia

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