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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Cities

Covid-19 vaccine

By Peter Szekely and Brendan O'Brien

NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York City declared on Monday that all private-sector employers must implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates for their workers, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant has spread to at least one-third of U.S. states.

The biggest U.S. city set a December 27 deadline for all 184,000 businesses within its limits to make their employees show proof that they have been vaccinated.

In addition, children 5 to 11 years old must get at least one vaccine dose by Dec. 14 to enter restaurants and to participate in extracurricular school activities, such as sports, band, orchestra and dance, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

"Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and these are bold, first-in-the-nation measures to encourage New Yorkers to keep themselves and their communities safe,” de Blasio, who leaves office next month, said in a statement.

De Blasio's successor, Eric Adams, “will evaluate this mandate and other COVID strategies when he is in office and make determinations based on science, efficacy and the advice of health professionals,” said his spokesperson Evan Thies.

About 27 percent of children ages five to 12 have gotten at least one dose and 15 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the city's website.

The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce said it supported the expanded mandate.

The requirements come at a time when new coronavirus infections are accelerating nationwide https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR, especially in northern states, as colder weather has encouraged more mingling and socializing indoors.

Over the last week, the country has averaged more than 120,000 new infections a day, up 64% from the prior week, according to a Reuters tally.

Deaths, which lag infections, have averaged 1,300 a day over the last seven days, up from an average of 800 a day a week ago, according to Reuters data.

The Delta variant still accounts for 99.9 percent of new COVID cases in the United States, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told ABC News on Sunday.

Omicron, first detected last month in southern Africa, has spread around the globe and shows signs of being more contagious than the Delta variant.

A total of several dozen Omicron cases have been found in 18 out of 50 U.S. states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters tally.

Louisiana has also reported a probable Omicron case in a crew member on a cruise ship that disembarked in New Orleans over the weekend. At least 17 COVID-19 cases were detected on the ship and more testing is underway, state health officials said.

Several Wall Street banks headquartered in New York, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, already require vaccines for anyone coming into their offices. JPMorgan Chase & Co, the largest U.S. bank, has so far allowed unvaccinated employees to come to work in offices if they submit to twice-weekly COVID-19 tests.

Alphabet Inc's Google and Meta's Facebook, which also have operations in New York City, also already require all U.S. employees to be vaccinated to enter buildings.

A nationwide vaccine mandate issued earlier this year by President Joe Biden for companies with 100 workers or more has been tied up in litigation. In November, a U.S. appeals court upheld its decision to put on hold the order.

De Blasio, noting that the city has already issued mandates covering several other sets of municipal workers, expressed confidence that his latest order would withstand legal scrutiny.

"We are confident because it's universal," he said on MSNBC.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts in New York, Susan Heavey in Washington and Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Lisa Shumaker)

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Many of us watching the inferno at Notre Dame de Paris felt that 9/11 dread. This week, as nearly 18 years ago, the news channels kept looping the same horrific video of towers collapsing. At the end, the medieval cathedral remained mostly standing while the twin towers at New York’s World Trade Center vanished into a pile of smoking rubble. The outcomes may have been different, but both calamities showed that what we think most permanent may not be.

In human terms, the calamity on Sept. 11, 2001, was of an entirely different scale. Thousands died. The conflagration in Paris miraculously cost no lives.

As an architectural disaster, however, there’s no comparison. Notre Dame is a Gothic masterpiece embodying the spiritual. The twin towers, bland buildings famous mainly for being tall, were dedicated to commerce.

The late historian Lewis Mumford denounced the World Trade Center as an “example of the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that are now eviscerating the living tissue of every great city.”

That terrorists had unleashed the massacre at the twin towers made the tragedy especially gruesome. Parisians are relieved that the fire at Notre Dame appears to have accidentally started — but the 2015 terror attack was often mentioned during the fire as a related reason for insecurity. The scars from terrorism and devastation of an iconic structure make Paris and New York sisters in pain.

Medieval cathedrals are no strangers to destruction. Over the centuries, fire and humans have caused enormous damage at cathedrals throughout Europe, and they have been rebuilt. French President Emmanuel Macron said Notre Dame will be brought back as well — though his five-year timetable sounds optimistic.

It took almost 200 years to build the original Notre Dame. Reconstruction on a work dating back to the 12th century would be quite a challenge.

Where the twin towers stood, a 104-story replacement skyscraper has risen. The Freedom Tower took only eight years to build.

Movies and TV offer insight into how a world-famous structure characterizes its city. Notre Dame represents the enduring soul of France. A very good French TV series called “Chef” flashes scenes of Notre Dame, seemingly in every episode. The chef is a Parisian perfectionist trying to defend traditional French cooking against waves of culinary fads.

The catastrophic loss of life at the World Trade Center transformed pictures of the towers into sacred imagery. Before 9/11, movies such as “Wall Street” and “The Bonfire of the Vanities” portrayed the twin towers as cauldrons of corporate greed. After 9/11, “The Simpsons” and other shows deleted episodes showing them out of respect for the fallen.

The post-9/11 TV series “Blue Bloods” frequently uses New York’s ornate century-old bridges as backdrops for the Reagans. They seem fit for a multigenerational Irish American family largely employed in law enforcement.

Older structures, be they homely or majestic, also serve as warming reminders of place. About 14 years ago, wealthy residents of Santa Monica Canyon stopped the demolition of a beaten-up gas station dating back to 1924. A tiny business with three vintage pumps, the Canyon Service Station was no cathedral, but the millionaires who passed it every day loved it for always being there.

“On a cold, rainy night, when you’re driving up the canyon and you see the glow of the gas pumps,” one neighbor said poetically, “it literally welcomes you home with open arms. It’s like a lighthouse.”

That is exactly what lighthouses do for sailors coming into harbor. Now imagine the trauma of losing a cathedral that has anchored your town for almost 700 years. Parisians were spared the worst this week, but like New Yorkers, they’ve seen that the unthinkable is possible.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.