Massachusetts will require all students to get flu shots by Dec. 31 while teachers in New York City and Detroit have threatened to strike if the school districts fail to implement adequate coronavirus safety precautions prior to schools reopening.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced the inoculation requirement Thursday, saying all children and students 6 months or older who will be attending childcare, preschool, kindergarten, K-12, colleges and universities will be required to get the flu vaccine. The agency said it was an “important step to reduce flu-related illnesses and the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Students will need to have the flu vaccination by Dec. 31 for the 2020-21 influenza season unless they have a medical or religious exemption. Exemptions also include K-12 students, who are homeschooled, as well as college and university students, who are completely off-campus and attending classes remotely.

The vaccine requirement also applies to students visiting or attending classes in the state as part of an academic or exchange program.

“Every year, thousands of people of all ages are affected by influenza, leading to many hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director at the Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, said in a statement.

“It is more important now than ever to get a flu vaccine because flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19 and preventing the flu will save lives and preserve healthcare resources,” he added.

While students may be required to get the flu shot in Massachusetts, teachers in New York City and Detroit are ready to strike if they are forced to go back to school without a series of coronavirus safety measures put in place.

The United Federation of Teachers made the announcement in New York City after Mayor Bill de Blasio said schools would be allowed to reopen on Sept. 10 based on the city’s low coronavirus positivity rate.

Union President Michael Mulgrew told a news briefing teachers would take legal action if they are forced to go back to school and would strike if their requirements are not met, The Washington Post said. They are calling for testing of all staff and students as well as inspections of every school building and onsite nurses at every school.

“We have promised the teachers and parents of New York City that we would stand and fight if we feel a school is unsafe,” Mulgrew said. “If you open schools on Sept. 10, it might be one of the biggest debacles in the history of New York City.

“We are prepared to go to court and take a job action. And if the court deems that we are breaking the Taylor Law, so be it. We will deal with the ramifications of it.”

Some 91% of Detroit teachers voted to strike if they cannot reach agreement with the school district.

“This is the beginning of a fight to ensure that the health and safety protections for our members and our students are in place and enforced,” union President Terrence Martin said in a statement.

Teachers in Detroit have said classroom teaching at this time poses too much risk.

In other coronavirus news:

  • The FDA has given emergency use authorization to LimiraDx for its COVID-19 antigen test, which produces results in under 12 minutes. The test uses a swab that is inserted into the nasal cavity to test for proteins and is 97.6% accurate if patients are tested within 12 days of onset of symptoms.
  • American Airlines will stop service to 15 smaller cities, starting in October as the federal mandate requiring airlines to continue flights expires. Cities affected by the change include; Sioux City, Iowa; New Haven, Connecticut; Springfield, Illinois; Del Rio, Texas; Dubuque, Iowa; Florence, South Carolina; Greenville, North Carolina; Huntington, West Virginia; Joplin, Missouri; Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Michigan; Lake Charles, Louisiana; New Windsor, New York; Roswell, New Mexico; Stillwater, Oklahoma, and, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
  • DoorDash will expand service by adding grocery delivery as it looks to compete with Amazon Fresh and Instacart. The grocery service will come exclusively from Meijer, with plans to expand the service to more grocery chains and areas in coming weeks. Orders will be completed with the help of Adecco Group and be delivered by DoorDash drivers.
  • Delta will keep the middle seat empty on all of its flights through Jan. 6 as it looks to offer more space for social distancing amid the pandemic. The company also said that it would like to increase passenger capacity on its planes and use larger aircraft or add more flights if capacity increases on certain routes.
  • Airbnb announced that it was prohibiting parties at all of its listings indefinitely. The policy affects groups of 16 or more and will take effect on future bookings. The company said it could pursue legal action against guests who violate the party policy and may even ban them from the rental platform.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the U.S., underwent surgery at George Washington University Hospital on Thursday morning to have a polyp removed from his vocal cords. He is currently resting at home and told The Washington Post in a text that doctors have told him to rest and avoid speaking for the next few days. He must also limit interviews and other speaking for a week or two, he said.
  • Estee Lauder said it will cut as many as 2,000 jobs and close 10% to 15% of its freestanding stores after the coronavirus caused a drop in sales. The company reported net sales of $2.43 billion for fiscal Q4, down 32% compared to a year ago. Net loss for the quarter was $460 million compared to net earnings of $160 million and diluted earning per share of 43 cents in Q4 2019.
  • In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found some children may have high levels of the coronavirus in their airways during the first three days of infection by the virus even if they have mild or no symptoms. This suggests children may play a larger part in spreading the coronavirus to others than previously thought. “Some people thought that children might be protected,” Alessio Fasano, one of the authors of the study and physician at MassGeneral Hospital for Children told The Washington Post. “This is incorrect. They may be as susceptible as adults — but just not visible.”
  • A second Republican senator tested positive for the coronavirus. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., announced the news on Thursday, saying in a statement he is “strictly following the direction of our medical experts and [I] strongly encourage others to do the same.” Cassidy, who was exposed to someone who had COVID-19, was administered a test on Thursday. His office said he is quarantining and notifying those with whom he has been in contact.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has leveraged the Defense Production Act to enact priority orders with Becton Dickinson and Quidel Corp. for the diagnostic systems and assays for COVID-19 testing. Under the contracts, shipments will be expedited to about 14,000 nursing homes certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. The tests will be used to diagnose COVID-19 in patients in about 15 minutes.
  • A study from Franklin Templeton-Gallup indicates American adults have a misconception about the age of people who have died from COVID-19. The data suggested Americans believe that people aged 55 and older make up 57.7% of all COVID-19 deaths when in actuality, they account for 92%. The study further indicates that 58% of people 18 to 24 have a serious fear of health consequences from coronavirus even though they only account for 0.1% of total COVID-19 deaths.
  • Worldwide positive cases of coronavirus have exceded 22.5 million with more than 789,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. still leads the world in total coronavirus cases at more than 5.5 million and more than 173,000 COVID-19 deaths. Brazil has reported over 3.4 million positive cases of the virus with over 111,000 COVID-19 related deaths while India follows with more than 2.8 million positive coronavirus cases and 53,800 COVID-19 deaths, the data indicated.

flu-vaccine The CDC is urging U.S. residents to get the influenza vaccine as soon as possible. With flu cases on the rise, health officials around the country are scrambling to cope with the increasing number of patients. Photo: Reuters