Ten Republican state attorneys general sued on Wednesday to stop the Biden administration’s requirement that millions of U.S. health workers get vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying it would worsen staff shortages.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said last Thursday he will enforce the mandate starting Jan. 4.
The attorneys general of Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire jointly filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis.
“Placing this additional mandate on healthcare facilities and employees will exacerbate this problem and will likely lead some facilities – particularly those in underserved, rural areas – to close due to an inability to hire sufficient staff,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement.
The lawsuit said the federal mandate intruded on states’ police power and is unlawful under the Administrative Procedures Act because there was no comment period before its release.
On Nov. 4, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the regulator for the two federal health programs, issued an interim final rule it said covers over 10 million people and applies to around 76,000 healthcare providers including hospitals, nursing homes, and dialysis centers.
An interim final rule is effective immediately without the standard comment period that follows publication. There is a 60-day comment period following its publication, however.
Providers that fail to comply with the mandate could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid funds. Medicare serves people 65 and older and the disabled. Medicaid serves the poor.
The lawsuit said the CMS rule was heavy handed and did not take local factors and conditions into account.
CMS has said there have not been widespread resignations within healthcare providers that have already mandated vaccines, including 41% of U.S. hospitals, and that applying the mandate to all healthcare settings ensures staff cannot quit one setting to seek jobs in another.
“With many employers already mandating vaccination, and with nearly all local (and distant) healthcare employers requiring vaccination under this rule, we expect that such effects will be minimized,” the agency said in introducing the rule.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by Grant McCool)
Canada adds more countries to travel ban list over Omicron variant concerns – Canada Immigration News
The Canadian government announced this afternoon that several more countries have been added to the list of those currently subject to stricter border measures.
This is a developing story. CIC News will continue to update it once the Canadian government publishes official guidelines.
The countries added to the list are Nigeria, Egypt, and Malawi. As of today, foreign nationals who have travelled to these countries over the last 14 days will be forbidden from entering Canada. They join a list of seven southern African countries that had restrictive measures imposed on them this past Friday.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents that have been in any of these ten countries over the last 14 days will need to receive a negative PCR test before being allowed to travel to Canada. Upon arriving to Canada, they will face more testing and quarantine measures.
In addition, all air travellers (except those coming from the U.S.), irrespective of their Canadian immigration and vaccination status, will need to undergo testing at the airport in which they land in Canada. They will need to self isolate until a negative test has been confirmed. This is in addition to the PCR tests that they need to get within 72 hours of travel to Canada.
These new measures also apply to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, even those that are fully vaccinated. Canadian government ministers said during this afternoon’s press conference they will give further consideration to potentially adding these requirement to travellers entering Canada from the U.S. by air and/or land.
The stricter measures come after a new variant of COVID-19, Omicron, was discovered last week in South Africa and is causing concern around the world.
On November 26, two days following the discovery of the new variant, the Canadian government announced that foreign nationals who travelled to South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia, would not be allowed to enter Canada.
The World Health Organization describes the Omicron variant of the coronavirus as “very high risk” globally and the likelihood of it spreading around the world as significant.
It is currently unknown how contagious the variant is, how dangerous or whether or not it is resistant to vaccines.
To date, five cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant have been confirmed in Canada and several other possible cases are under investigation.
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Mexico seeks to overhaul Canada migrant farmworker program amid climate disasters
Mexico is pushing for changes to Canada‘s migrant farmworker program, a top Mexican official told Reuters on Tuesday, as migrants beset by natural disasters call for better pay, accessible care, labour mobility and employment insurance.
Mexico is renegotiating its Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program agreement with Ottawa. The agreement outlines Mexican migrant farmworkers’ rights and conditions of their employment in Canada. But this contract renewal is part of a larger rethink of the program that started last year, said Juan Gabriel Morales Morales, head of the consular section of Mexico’s embassy in Canada.
“Everything is on the table. … It’s overhauling completely the operation of the program,” he said.
It comes as migrant farmworkers in British Columbia are facing the second atmospheric river in as many weeks just months after record-setting heatwaves made bunkhouses unlivable and work treacherous or impossible.
Among the key issues Mexico hopes to tackle are eligibility for employment insurance, restrictive criteria for which have left some who cannot work because of flooding without pay, advocates say.
Mexico is also seeking an end to “early repatriation,” which Morales Morales said forces workers to return home even when they still need health care in Canada or when a contract ends early but they could find work elsewhere.
Many of these problems have been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters, Morales Morales said.
Migrant farmworkers are key to Canada‘s C$68.8 billion agricultural sector and account for about one-fifth of the country’s agricultural workforce, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
And some 60,000 migrant farmworkers – many from Central America and the Caribbean, although not all of them part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program – come to Canada as part of an annual migration that ramps up in spring.
Canada‘s employment ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mexico is not taking on one key demand from advocates, however: an end to the “closed” work contracts that tie migrants to one employer.
“When an agricultural worker comes to Canada, the person depends absolutely, completely on the employer. … If you’re having a problem, if the person is pushing you to work more than normal, you don’t have an option,” said Carlos Rojas, president of advocacy group Conseil Migrant.
Rojas criticized Mexico-Canada negotiations for excluding migrant workers themselves.
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
Omicron: Feds imposing new testing requirements – CTV News
Canada is reviewing its vaccine booster strategy, adding new countries to the list of nations subjected to federal travel restrictions, and is imposing new testing requirements on all air travellers coming from outside of Canada with the exception of the U.S., due to concerns over the Omicron variant.
Federal ministers and public health officials announced these three new steps on Tuesday during an update on the latest measures Canada is taking, with the aim of preventing further importation and spread of the variant of concern.
The new testing requirements mean that all air travellers coming from outside Canada, with the exception of the United States, will now need to be tested at the airport when they land in Canada, on top of the existing pre-departure test requirement.
Those who are vaccinated will have to isolate until they get a negative result, and those who are unvaccinated will continue to have to isolate for the full 14 days and test on day one and day eight of their quarantine. So long as these travellers have a safe place to isolate they do not have to spend their isolation in a government quarantine hotel.
The new air traveller testing requirement for non-travel ban countries is set to come into effect “over the next few days,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos. He expects this will see approximately 32,000 tests being administered at Canadian airports per day, with the government covering the cost of these tests.
Duclos said Canada is preparing for a “possible extension” of this policy to include the United States and the land borders if the situation evolves to the point that re-imposing further restrictions on Canada’s borders is warranted.
REVIEWING BOOSTER PLAN
While it remains unclear just how transmissible and severe infection by the variant B.1.1.529 might be, Duclos said given that Omicron is highly mutated, the federal government is asking the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to quickly provide an update on its directives on the use of COVID-19 vaccine boosters.
“This measure, this call that we are making is to ask NACI to provide quick guidance on whether we should revise national standards, national attitudes, and actions on the use of boosters across Canada in the context of the new Omicron variant,” Duclos said. “We are explicitly asking NACI to come up quickly with a revised view on where, and how, and to whom these boosters should be administered.”
While all provinces and territories are handling how boosters are being prioritized in their jurisdictions, access is not currently widespread, with the conversation continuing to play out over whether Canada should be offering third doses to healthy adults or sending those shots to other nations who do not have the kind of access that Canada does.
TRAVEL BAN TERMS
In terms of the travel ban, Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt will join seven other African countries— South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini—that the federal government moved to restrict travellers from on Friday.
The policy bans the entry into Canada of all foreign nationals who travelled to these countries in the last 14 days. Canadians, permanent residents as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada will still be able to return home but will face new measures upon arrival.
All returning Canadians and others with right of entry will have to be tested before entering Canada, and effective Tuesday night, that test cannot have been administered in one of the 10 countries on the list. This means that those looking to get back to this country will first need to go to a third country to receive a negative test result before travelling home.
Once landed, returning travellers from these countries who are vaccinated will have to be tested at the airport upon arrival and remain in a government quarantine facility until they receive a negative result. Then, they can go home to finish isolating as the await their day eight test result.
Those who are unvaccinated will have to quarantine for the full 14 days in a government facility.
“These testing measures will allow us to assess the evolving situation and determine any additional and appropriate measures,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
The government said singling out these 10 countries, when Omicron has shown up in other countries, is because of the rate of community transmission.
MORE CHANGES COULD COME
The federal cabinet discussed the evolving situation surrounding Omicron at a closed-door cabinet meeting Tuesday morning.
As of Tuesday evening, seven cases of the variant of concern have been confirmed in Canada, with public health officials cautioning that more cases will likely be discovered in the coming days.
Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia all have detected cases of the variant, though health officials across the country are doing targeted testing of people who have travelled from the southern African countries subjected to the ban.
Federal officials said Tuesday to expect the situation and federal policies to continue to evolve.
“This is what we are doing today, it may well be that as we gain time we find that the new variant is of less concern than what some experts might be fearing, but the situation might also evolve differently, so we’re reminding Canadians that travel rules and border rules in particular can always change… and we will be watching the situation as all Canadians will do over the next days and weeks,” Duclos said.
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