Overnight Health Care: How a GOP governor and a union leader changed their minds on COVID | DC to require COVID-19 vaccine or regular testing for city employees | Fauci supports vaccine mandates for teachers

Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care. More people are rolling up their sleeves for their first COVID-19 shot, as the U.S.’s seven-day average for new vaccine recipients reached more than 500,000 for the first time in over two months.  

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Today: D.C. will require all city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by AT&T — Former CDC director previews a tough school year ahead Biden says he will get COVID-19 booster The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by AT&T – Biden: US military stays in Afghanistan until last American is out MORE said he thinks vaccines should be mandated for teachers, and ICU beds are in short supply in Arkansas.

But we’ll start with changing attitudes on COVID: 

How a GOP governor and a union leader changed their minds on COVID

Two divergent political figures — Arkansas Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonAlabama has more intensive care patients than ICU beds, official says Colorado school district adds extra officers on first day due to ‘tensions’ over mask mandate The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by AT&T – Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (R) and teachers union leader Randi Weingarten — have one thing in common.

They’ve recently changed their minds.

Hutchinson, a conservative governor in the Deep South, has acknowledged he was wrong to sign a bill that banned school districts from imposing mask mandates.

Weingarten, the head of the liberal American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has said she is open to mandatory vaccinations for teachers, which her union has opposed until now.

Both are candid about their change of heart.

“The facts and circumstances changed my mind,” Hutchinson told this column in a Tuesday morning phone interview. He referred to the rise of the delta variant and his state’s comparatively slow rate of vaccinations as the key factors in shifting his position.

“It was an ill-advised law for those reasons,” he said. “The facts change, and so I have to move with it.”

Weingarten, speaking Monday afternoon, said she became personally more open to the idea of a vaccine mandate in part because of recent travels around the country where she saw the “pernicious” effects of the delta variant — including rising infection rates among children too young to get vaccinated.

Read more here

Another supporter of mandates for teacher vaccinations: Fauci 

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases doctor, on Tuesday said he supports any effort from local governments to mandate that teachers be vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

“I’m going to upset people on this, but I think we should [mandate teacher vaccinations],” Fauci said during an appearance on MSNBC. “I mean, we are in a critical situation now. We have had 615,000 deaths and we are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business.”

“I’m sorry. I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something,” he added. “But I think that we’re in such a serious situation now, that under certain circumstances, mandates should be done.” 

Fauci had been asked about comments made over the weekend by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in which she indicated she would also support mandating coronavirus vaccinations for all teachers across the country. 

President BidenJoe BidenTexas House Dems end standoff, paving way for election overhaul Taliban calls on Afghan Muslim leaders to urge unity amid protests, fleeing citizens State Dept. will not charge for evacuation flights from Afghanistan MORE’s chief medical adviser, and other leading public health officials, have said that all eligible adults becoming vaccinated against the virus is the surest way to slow the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant and ensure a safe return to the classroom this fall.

“You would wish that people would see why it’s so important for people to get vaccinated,” Fauci said. “But you’re not going to get mandates, centrally, from the federal government.”

Read more here.

A sign of the worsening toll of the delta variant: Arkansas governor says there are 8 ICU beds open in the whole state

Only eight intensive care unit (ICU) beds were available in Arkansas as of Monday as COVID-19 cases increase in the state and nationwide due largely to the highly infectious delta variant.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced that 103 people were hospitalized in the state on Monday, marking the largest single-day increase in hospitalizations. 

The state reported 995 new cases on Monday and 21 additional deaths, according to Hutchinson.

More than 5,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were also administered that day.

“Today’s report shows some very startling numbers,” Hutchinson wrote in a tweet announcing the day’s figures.

The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths, however, are among unvaccinated individuals.

Read more here

DC to require COVID-19 vaccine or regular testing for city employees

Washington, D.C., will require its more than 36,000 city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing, Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserDC requires health care workers to get vaccine by Sept. 30 ACLU sues DC, police officers over tactics used on journalists covering BLM protests The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by AT&T – Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (D) announced Tuesday. 

The requirement applies to all employees, contractors, interns and grantees, including D.C. Public Schools teachers and staff, Bowser said during a press briefing. Current employees will have until Sept. 19 to get fully vaccinated.

Employees can apply for exemptions, including medical or religious exceptions. Those with exemptions will still have to get weekly COVID-19 tests or potentially face “adverse employment actions,” the mayor said.

Not a mandate: But officials said the policy isn’t a mandate, as current employees who do not have a vaccination or exemption can stay employed if they provide weekly negative COVID-19 test results. 

“There is an opportunity, working with our employees and their unions to be able to boost our vaccine numbers much higher than they are now I believe without getting to the point where we have to impose a mandate as a condition of employment on everyone,” D.C. City Administrator Kevin Donahue said at the briefing. 

Current stats: Out of 59 percent of city workers who have voluntarily reported their vaccination status, 54 percent said they are fully vaccinated. The number aligns with the city’s estimate that 55 percent of all of its residents are fully vaccinated. 

Read more here.

What we’re reading

As coronavirus’s delta variant surges, indecision is along for the ride (again) (The Washington Post)

Hospitals run low on nurses as they get swamped with COVID (The Associated Press)

Virus misinformation spikes as delta cases surge (The New York Times) 

‘We’re in trouble’: Rural America can’t escape Delta (Politico)

State by state 

Arkansas COVID-19 hospitalizations hit new high for 2nd day (The Associated Press)

Texas nears 10,000 COVID patients; Travis County hospitalizations approach highest average during pandemic (Austin American-Statesman)

As overdoses soar, this state’s largest needle exchange is being evicted (The New York Times)

The Hill op-eds

Biden’s Title 42 COVID order at the border is the right call

Give K-12 schools the opportunity to open effectively