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Over 150 Texas Hospital Workers Are Fired or Resign Over Covid Vaccine Mandate

The hospital employees had been suspended for two weeks for not getting vaccinated by the hospital’s deadline earlier this month.,

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153 Texas hospital workers are fired or resign over mandatory vaccine policy.

A demonstrator held a sign in protest at Houston Methodist Hospital in Baytown, Texas, in early June.Credit…Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

June 22, 2021, 6:58 p.m. ET

More than 150 staff members at a Houston-area hospital were fired or resigned on Tuesday for not following a policy that requires employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The hospital, Houston Methodist, had told employees that they had to be vaccinated by June 7 or face suspension for two weeks. Of the nearly 200 employees who had been suspended, 153 of them were terminated by the hospital on Tuesday or had resigned, according to Gale Smith, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Ms. Smith said employees who had complied with the vaccine policy during the suspension period were allowed to return to work a day after they became compliant.

The hospital did not specify how many workers had complied and returned to work.

Vaccine hesitancy has been high among frontline health care workers: Surveys showed that nearly half remained unvaccinated as of mid-March, despite being among the first to become eligible for the shots in December. A March 2021 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that health care workers had concerns about the vaccines’ newness and their possible side effects, both of which are common reasons for waiting to be vaccinated.

Earlier this month, dozens of employees who had not been vaccinated by Houston Methodist’s deadline protested outside of the hospital against the mandatory vaccine policy.

The protest followed a now dismissed lawsuit filed last month by 117 Houston Methodist employees against their employer over the vaccine policy. The workers’ lawsuit accused the hospital of “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who led the Houston Methodist protest, had cited the lack of full F.D.A. approval for the shots as a reason she wouldn’t get vaccinated.

U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, in the Southern District of Texas, rejected a claim by Ms. Bridges, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, that the vaccines available for use in the United States were experimental and dangerous.

“The hospital’s employees are not participants in a human trial,” Judge Hughes wrote. “Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer.”

Arthur Caplan, a professor of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, said the vaccine requirement was no different than other mandates for health care workers, like getting an annual flu shot, keeping up with immunizations and wearing hairnets.

He noted that some health care workers have been fired in the past for refusing to get flu shots and said that states like New York require it.

“Health care workers have three special ethical responsibilities,” Dr. Caplan said. “One is protect the vulnerable, people who are really at risk of a disease. Secondly, put patient interests for first. It doesn’t say, ‘put your choice first.’ Third, they’re supposed to do no harm.”

Dr. Caplan also condemned a comparison by the lead plaintiff in the Houston case, Ms. Bridges, between hospital workers and Nazi concentration camp prisoners.

He suggested that the hospital employees who refused to get vaccinated would be better off in a different line of work.

“It’s like you’re in the wrong job there, buddy,” he said.

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Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

A surge in Africa, and pandemic silver linings.,

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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

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The White House publicly acknowledged that the U.S. is likely to miss President Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal.

The virus is ravaging Colombia, where the death toll surpassed 100,000.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to jail those who refuse Covid shots.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

Delta spreads in Africa

Africa is bracing for a wave of infections, driven in some places by the Delta variant.

Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are grappling with surges, and new lockdowns and restrictions. South Africa, the continent’s worst-hit nation, has reported new infections doubling in just two weeks’ time. Tunisia, where hospitals are full and oxygen supplies are low, is enduring a fourth wave.

“It’s just one country, following another, following another,” said our colleague Abdi Latif Dahir, who covers East Africa for The Times.

According to official numbers — which represent a fraction of the true scale — Covid-related deaths in Africa have climbed by nearly 15 percent last week compared with the previous one, the W.H.O. said. And the countries are not vaccinating anywhere near fast enough. Fewer than 1 percent of Africa’s people have been even partially vaccinated, by far the lowest rate for any continent.

Abdi recently reported on the crisis in Kenya, which experts say may become the next India.

Like Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and other politicians have drawn large gatherings with mostly unmasked crowds — particularly at a major holiday held in the western Kisumu County — even as health officials pleaded with the country’s leaders to avoid the events.

In the weeks since, reports show an alarming surge in infections and deaths in Kisumu. Although data is spotty, the test positivity rate there is double the national average.

And the nature of infection is changing, too. Health officials in Kisumu first detected the Delta variant in early May in factory workers who had arrived from India. Now, young people are getting sick and doctors say Covid patients present more severe symptoms than before.

As in India, supplies are running short. Hospitals in Kisumu have started turning away patients for lack of beds or oxygen. Even the wealthy cannot get the medical supplies they need to survive.

“We may be facing a future where the rest of the world opens up and this becomes an Africa problem,” Abdi said.

But one thing has changed. In April, when we last spoke to Abdi, he described rampant skepticism, as doctors and health departments shied away from vaccines and governments paused inoculations amid fears about rare clotting.

Now, they can’t get enough.

“Because people are seeing countries out there reopening, there’s a huge appetite for the vaccine,” Abdi said. “Now, particularly in places like Kisumu or Nairobi, people are like, ‘Just give me anything right now.'”

Immigrants turn to unproven drugs

In the U.S., many immigrants are shut out from mainstream medicine, and some people are using unproven remedies to treat the coronavirus. These medicines are promoted by doctors and companies on social media, or they find their way to “wellness” clinics or the black market.

At a flea market in California, vendors recently sold $25 injections of the steroid dexamethasone, several kinds of antibiotics and the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — the malaria drugs pushed by Donald J. Trump last year — make regular appearances at the market as well, as do sham herbal supplements.

One woman recently told The Times how her husband, a farmworker, had become so sick from Covid that he couldn’t breathe or walk, but he refused to go to the hospital because he had heard rumors that undocumented immigrants had checked in and never left. She took him to a wellness clinic, where a doctor gave him injectable peptide treatments, for which she was charged $1,400.

Some unregulated drugs can be dangerous. And even if they aren’t a health risk by themselves, they can lead people to postpone seeking help from doctors, which can be deadly. Delayed treatment is one reason Black and Hispanic people have died from Covid at twice the rate as white people in the U.S.

“I am not surprised that people are taken advantage of,” said Oralia Maceda Mendez, an advocate at a California-based community group for Indigenous people from Oaxaca, Mexico. “We don’t have the care we need.”

Pandemic silver linings

For years, we’ll be sorting out the damage that the pandemic has done — on our communities, families and personal lives. Many were left worse off than when it began. But for the fortunate among us, the trauma of the past 15 months has also contained surprising silver linings.

Perhaps the pandemic brought you closer with family members. Or helped push you out of a toxic job or relationship. Or maybe you discovered something important about yourself in the silence of lockdown.

As the virus ebbs in some areas, we’re asking readers to look back on their pandemic experience for those positive outcomes. And we’d love to hear about yours. We’ll be featuring some of the silver lining stories in future newsletters. If you’d like to tell us your story, you can fill out this form here.

Vaccine rollout

India is accelerating its vaccine effort, administering 8.6 million doses on Monday and racing to inoculate its roughly 950 million adults by the end of the year.

Cuba reported a high success rate for its homegrown Abdala vaccine.

In the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, exposure to death and disease — not lottery prizes — is pushing people to get inoculated.

Thailand opened Phuket, a vacation island, to vaccinated tourists.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

What else we’re following

Experts warn that the Delta variant could create two Americas of Covid — one of vaccinated individuals, and the other of renewed deadly surges, BuzzFeed reports.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the Delta variant accounts for nearly 21 percent of all new infections in the U.S., and other scientists say it could become the dominant variant within weeks, NPR reports.

New York City lost the greatest share of jobs among large U.S. cities, and faces a lasting economic toll from the pandemic, as patterns of work and travel may be irreversibly altered.

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, said the state would pay off all the unpaid rent incurred by lower-income Californians because of the pandemic.

A new analysis found that households that had recent birthdays were more likely to test positive for the virus in areas with high infection rates, The Guardian reports.

The economist Emily Oster offers loads of data-driven advice about children and Covid-19. Many parents live by her words. Others say she’s dangerous.

Alexandra March, an editor in Opinion, wrote about what the past year was like as the parent of a new baby.

The New Yorker asks: What will become of the pandemic pets?

What you’re doing

I got my first cold since the pandemic started! My nose was so stuffed up that I lost my smell and taste for a day and I had almost convinced myself I had Covid (despite being vaccinated). I had forgotten how terrible colds were, but I’m thankful that it was harmless, compared to the alternative.

— Madeline, Boston

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

Sign up here to get the briefing by email.

Email your thoughts to briefing@nytimes.com.

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For the People Act Blocked by G.O.P. Filibuster in Senate

President Biden had urged the Senate to pass the bill and “send it to my desk.”,

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Republicans block a sweeping voting rights bill, dealing Biden and Democrats a defeat.

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Senate Debates Voting Rights Reform

Senate Republicans on Tuesday used the filibuster to block a bill intended to overhaul elections throughout the country.

“Republicans across the country are deliberately targeting all the ways that younger, poorer, non-white and typically Democratic voters access the ballot. Republicans claim they’re making it easier to vote and harder to cheat in an election, in reality, they’re making it harder to vote and easier to cheat in an election. And we all know it. Because of one man’s lie, Republicans are now doing the dastardly act of taking away voting from millions of Americans — millions of Americans — making it much harder for them to vote and many, many, many will not. From Georgia to Montana, from Florida to Iowa, in 14 different states, through 22 different laws, Republican state legislatures are conducting the most coordinated voter suppression effort in 80 years.” “Later today, the Senate will vote on whether to advance Democrats’ transparently partisan plan to tilt every election in America permanently in their favor. By now, the rotten inner-workings of this power grab have been thoroughly exposed to the light. We know that it would shatter a decades-old understanding that campaign finance law should have a bipartisan referee and turn the Federal Election Commission into a partisan majority cudgel for Democrats to wield against their political opponents.”

Senate Republicans on Tuesday used the filibuster to block a bill intended to overhaul elections throughout the country.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

June 22, 2021, 8:21 a.m. ET

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked the most ambitious voting rights legislation to come before Congress in a generation, using the filibuster to deal a blow to a bid by President Biden and Democrats to counter a wave of state-level ballot restrictions and fueling a political battle that promises to shape the 2022 elections.

All 50 senators in the Democratic caucus voted to advance the measure, known as the For the People Act, but with every Republican opposed, it fell well short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. Vice President Kamala Harris, who has taken a leading role in rallying support for the measure, presided as the legislation hit a roadblock.

Democratic leaders immediately vowed to redouble their efforts to steer meaningful voting rights legislation into law. But the Republican blockade left them without a clear path to beating back the restrictive voting laws Mr. Biden has compared to “Jim Crow” racing through Republican-led states. Instead, for now it will largely be left to the Justice Department to try to challenge them in court — a time-consuming process with limited chances of success.

Democrats’ only real hope of enacting an elections overhaul now rests on a long-shot bid to eliminate the legislative filibuster. Seething progressive activists pointed to Republicans’ refusal to even allow debate on the issue as a glaring example of why their representatives in Congress must move to eliminate the rule to bypass Republicans on a range of liberal priorities while they still have power.

“The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists,” Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter in the hours before the vote. “Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people’s work.”

They promised a well-funded summertime blitz, replete with home-state rallies and million-dollar ad campaigns, to try to ramp up pressure on a handful of Senate Democrats opposed to the change. For progressives in Congress, mounting frustration with Republicans could also accelerate a growing rift within the Democratic Party over whether to try to pass a bipartisan infrastructure and jobs package or go it alone with a far more ambitious plan.

But key Democratic moderates who have defended the filibuster rule — led by Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — appeared unmoved and said their leaders should try to find narrower bipartisan compromises, including on voting and infrastructure bills.

The Democrats’ voting rights bill would usher in the largest federally mandated expansion of voting rights since the 1960s, ban partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, force super PACs to disclose their big donors and create a new public campaign financing system. It would also effectively blunt laws adopted in 14 Republican-led states so far making it harder for people of color and young people to vote, or shifting power over elections to Republican legislatures.

“There is a rot — a rot at the center of the modern Republican Party,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “There is no principle behind these laws: not fraud, not election integrity, not security, not better election administration. The only principle is blatant partisan electoral advantage.”

Republicans never really considered the legislation, or a narrower alternative proposed in recent days by Mr. Manchin. They mounted an aggressive campaign in congressional committees, on television and finally on the Senate floor to portray the bill as a self-serving attempt to federalize elections to benefit Democrats.

They particularly savaged provisions restructuring the Federal Election Commission to make it more partisan and the creation of a public campaign financing system for congressional campaigns.

“These same rotten proposals have sometimes been called a massive overhaul for a broken democracy, sometimes just a modest package of tweaks for a democracy that’s working perfectly and sometimes a response to state actions, which this bill actually predates by many years,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader. “But whatever label Democrats slap on the bill, the substance remains the same.”

Mr. McConnell, who made it his personal mission to bury the bill, also decried any attempt to gut the filibuster, especially for such high stakes legislation. “The Senate,” he said, “is no obstacle to voting laws done the right way.”

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Democrats Vow to Redouble Voting Push: ‘Today Is the Starter Pistol’

Even as the party’s sweeping elections bill was blocked in the Senate, Democrats and civil rights groups reaffirmed their resolve to fight for voting protections in Congress.,

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For many Democrats and voting rights groups, the failure to advance the party’s major elections bill on Tuesday felt like the arrival of the inevitable, the final thud of a tree crashing in the woods after wavering for months. And everyone heard it.

Unable to halt the relentless push by Republican state legislatures to pass a host of voting restrictions, many Democrats had rested their hopes on a long-shot bid to enact a federal voting law that would undo much of the G.O.P. legislation and expand access to voting for millions around the country.

But on Tuesday, as it became increasingly clear that passing federal voting legislation would be a steep challenge, Democrats, civil rights groups and voting rights organizations reaffirmed their resolve to fight in Congress for voting protections.

“The pathway is Congress must do their job,” said Derrick Johnson, the president of the N.A.A.C.P. “When the Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965, people thought it was a long shot. It’s our jobs as civil rights organizations to make possible what other people think is impossible. We continue to push forward.”

Though the bill, known as the For the People Act, struggled to garner universal support among Democratic senators, it had been perhaps the ultimate overarching objective for Democrats who have been beaten badly in state legislatures for much of the past two decades, allowing Republicans to draw gerrymandered state legislative districts to hold onto power and move nearly unimpeded in their recent quest to pass new voting laws.

Some voting rights groups expressed frustration with initial Democratic efforts, arguing that even though the issue was nominally the party’s top legislative goal — as evidenced by its H.R. 1 and S. 1 marking in Congress — it has not been treated with the requisite urgency. Yet they also hoped that the failed vote on Tuesday would vividly demonstrate the gravity of the situation.

“I have yet to see Democrats act like this is the No. 1 priority on their agenda, and I suspect that we will start to see that after today,” said Nse Ufot, the chief executive of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, a voting rights group. “Today is the starter pistol. Today marks the beginning of the escalation.”

The blockade of the Democratic legislation in Congress came on the same day that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas called a special session of the state’s Legislature, as Republicans there resumed their attempt to pass an expansive bill of voting restrictions.

Democratic state lawmakers in Texas — one of the few major battleground states led by Republicans in which the party has not yet passed a new voting bill — pledged to keep up their efforts on the ground to stymie the bill, but said that help from Congress would be essential.

“We’re without a doubt holding the line in Texas,” said State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat who helped organize the dramatic late-night walkout to stall the previous G.O.P. voting bill last month. “We’re using every tool at our disposal, and we’ll continue to do so.”

But he added, “It is very clear that the best approach and the best policy is to have a national standard for voting.”

Mr. Martinez Fischer said the next voting bill in Texas, which Republicans are likely to pass, would remind Americans of the scale of voter restrictions being enacted at the state level.

Republicans in other states are also moving forward with new voting legislation. On Tuesday, Wisconsin Republicans passed a bill — certain to be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat — that would make absentee voting more difficult, especially for disabled and older people, and would prohibit local election clerks from completing missing information like addresses on the envelopes of absentee ballots.

The Republican legislation would also forbid ballot collection events more than two weeks before an election, which would end events like the “Democracy in the Park” festivities conducted last year by 1,000 poll workers in Madison, the bastion of Wisconsin Democrats.

Absent the federal law, Democrats and voting rights groups have sought to fight new voting restrictions in both the courts and through traditional campaign tactics.

Democrats have put forward many legal challenges to the new Republican voting limits, with active lawsuits in Georgia, Florida, Montana, Iowa, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Arizona and Kansas, and more cases likely to be announced.

The Battle Over Voting Rights

After former President Donald J. Trump returned in recent months to making false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Republican lawmakers in many states have marched ahead to pass laws making it harder to vote and change how elections are run, frustrating Democrats and even some election officials in their own party.

A Key Topic: The rules and procedures of elections have become central issues in American politics. As of May 14, lawmakers had passed 22 new laws in 14 states to make the process of voting more difficult, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.The Basic Measures: The restrictions vary by state but can include limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots, and doing away with local laws that allow automatic registration for absentee voting.More Extreme Measures: Some measures go beyond altering how one votes, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules, clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives, and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections.Pushback: This Republican effort has led Democrats in Congress to find a way to pass federal voting laws. A sweeping voting rights bill passed the House in March, but faces difficult obstacles in the Senate, including from Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. Republicans have remained united against the proposal and even if the bill became law, it would most likely face steep legal challenges.Florida: Measures here include limiting the use of drop boxes, adding more identification requirements for absentee ballots, requiring voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, limiting who could collect and drop off ballots, and further empowering partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.Texas: Texas Democrats successfully blocked the state’s expansive voting bill, known as S.B. 7, in a late-night walkout and are starting a major statewide registration program focused on racially diverse communities. But Republicans in the state have pledged to return in a special session and pass a similar voting bill. S.B. 7 included new restrictions on absentee voting; granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers; escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials; and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting.Other States: Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill that would limit the distribution of mail ballots. The bill, which includes removing voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years, may be only the first in a series of voting restrictions to be enacted there. Georgia Republicans in March enacted far-reaching new voting laws that limit ballot drop-boxes and make the distribution of water within certain boundaries of a polling station a misdemeanor. And Iowa has imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day.

The party is also investing more money in expansive efforts in political organizing and voter education, hoping to overcome the likely confusion and suppressive effects that the new voting laws could have in elections in 2021 and 2022.

Priorities USA, one of the largest liberal super PACs in the country, pledged on Tuesday to spend a minimum of $20 million on voting initiatives, including a large digital campaign that will target voters affected by new legislation and help them navigate the laws.

And Democrats are looking to use the energy and attention on voting rights this year to help expand their reach in other ways. In Texas this month, the state Democratic Party announced a major $13 million voter registration effort, the largest in party history, with a goal of registering up to two million new Democratic voters.

Ms. Ufot said her organization was about to embark on the recruitment of civil rights lawyers in Georgia who could help build a protective force for voters and local election officials, who face a greater threat of penalties under part of Georgia’s new voting law.

But passing a federal voting law, no matter the odds, is still the top priority for Democrats and voting rights groups — not just for future elections, but also for the looming redistricting process.

“Time is of the essence. Redistricting starts in just a few weeks, meaning the gerrymandering is starting in two weeks,” said Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank. He added that simply failing to pass a procedural vote did not signal the end of a federal voting law, but instead simply showed what it would take to pass it.

“This is the first collision of this major piece of reform legislation within the Senate,” Mr. Waldman said. “And it isn’t over today.”

Reid J. Epstein contributed reporting.

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White House Says It Will Narrowly Miss July 4 Vaccination Goal

People ages 18 to 26 have been slow to get their shots, aides to President Biden said, ruling out the possibility of getting 70 percent of adults at least partly vaccinated by Independence Day.,

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WASHINGTON — The White House publicly acknowledged on Tuesday that President Biden did not expect to meet his goal of having 70 percent of adults at least partly vaccinated by July 4 and instead would reach that milestone only with people older than 26.

It would be the first time that Mr. Biden has failed to meet a vaccination goal he has set. If the rate of adult vaccinations continues on the current seven-day average, the country will come in just shy of his target, with about 67 percent of adults having at least one shot by July 4, according to a New York Times analysis.

White House officials have argued that falling short by a few percentage points is not significant, given all the progress the nation has made against Covid-19. “We have built an unparalleled, first-of-its-kind, nationwide vaccination program,” Jeffrey D. Zients, the administration’s pandemic response coordinator, said during a White House briefing. “This is a remarkable achievement.”

But health experts warn that the slowing vaccination rate could mean renewed coronavirus outbreaks this winter when cold weather drives people indoors, with high daily death rates in areas in which comparatively few people have protected themselves with shots.

“I give credit to the Biden administration for putting in place a mass vaccination program for adults that did not exist,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “But now we’ve hit a wall.”

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said at the White House briefing that “there is a danger, a real danger, that if there is a persistence of a recalcitrance to getting vaccinated that you could see localized surges,” or regional spikes.

He also warned of the rising prevalence of the Delta variant, first identified in India, which is more contagious than previous versions of the virus and may cause more severe disease. The variant now accounts for an estimated 20 percent of new infections, he said. A new analysis of nearly one-quarter of a million infections in the United States released Monday suggests the variant will soon be the dominant form of the virus here.

The three vaccines authorized in the United States are effective against the Delta variant, and Dr. Fauci said its spread lent new urgency to the campaign to vaccinate as many Americans as soon as possible.

Data released by the administration this week shows that young adults are most reluctant to get vaccinated. “Where the country has more work to do is particularly with 18 to 26 year olds,” Mr. Zients said. Many of them, he added, feel “like Covid-19 is not something that impacts them, and they’ve been less eager to get the shot.”

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Monday, just over one-third of adults ages 18 to 39 reported being vaccinated. In that group, those who were either 24 or younger, as well as non-Hispanic Black people and those with lower incomes, less education and no health insurance had the lowest reported vaccination rates and expressed the least interest in getting vaccinated, the report said. They most often cited concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

Mr. Zients said it would take “a few extra weeks” beyond July 4 to reach enough young adults to achieve the goal of 70 percent of adults at least partly vaccinated. But Dr. Fauci stressed that 70 percent “is not the goal line, nor is it the end game.”

A certain percentage of Americans are simply adamantly against the vaccine, said Dr. Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “But I think there’s still people out there who are kind of on the fence about it and that’s where our opportunity is,” he added.

In announcing the goal on May 4, Mr. Biden made a personal plea to the unvaccinated, saying getting a shot was a “life and death” choice. According to the latest figures from the C.D.C., 150 million Americans — 45 percent of the population — have been fully vaccinated and 177 million have received at least one dose.

In recent weeks, new infections, hospitalizations and deaths related to the virus have declined sharply nationwide. As of Monday, the seven-day average of new virus cases across the United States was 11,243 cases a day, a decrease of nearly 30 percent over the last two weeks, according to a Times database.

Lazaro Gamio contributed reporting.

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Texas G.O.P. to Renew Voting Push as Abbott Calls Special Session

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, was forced to call for the special session after Democratic lawmakers staged a walkout last month to temporarily foil a major G.O.P. voting restrictions bill.,

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Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Tuesday called a special session of the Texas Legislature that will begin on July 8, a move that revives Republicans’ effort to enact what are expected to be some of the most far-reaching voting restrictions in the country.

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, had pledged to call for a special session after Democratic lawmakers staged an eleventh-hour walkout last month that temporarily foiled the Republican effort to overhaul the state’s election systems and delayed other G.O.P. legislative priorities.

Now the new session restarts the clock.

Mr. Abbott did not specify on Tuesday what proposals the special session would address, but a Texas Republican legislative staff member confirmed that the session would address the state’s voting laws. Texas Republicans may also pursue other legislative goals, including an overhaul of the state’s bail system.

Republicans will have to start the process from scratch, but it is possible they will simply use the final version of the bill that failed to pass in May as a starting point. Given that the party has control of both chambers of the Legislature, its leadership could pass a new bill along party lines.

The initial voting bill, known as S.B. 7, contained new restrictions on absentee voting; granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers; escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials; and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which were used for the first time during the 2020 election in Harris County, home to Houston and a growing number of the state’s Democratic voters.

The walkout by Democrats, which left Republicans short of the 100-member threshold necessary for a quorum to continue business, infuriated G.O.P. leaders in the state, who cast blame across the State Capitol for failing to pass one of Mr. Abbott’s — and one of former President Donald J. Trump’s — legislative priorities.

Mr. Abbott was so frustrated that he said he would veto the part of the state budget that provides funding for the legislature, including its staff members — a threat he followed through on last Friday.

Last week, the Texas Democrats who organized the walkout made a pilgrimage to Washington in a last-ditch effort to persuade recalcitrant senators to pass federal voting reforms that were headed to certain failure on Tuesday.

“We knew he would call us back to pass the voter suppression bill,” State Representative Gina Hinojosa said on Tuesday after Mr. Abbott’s announcement. “That’s why we flew to Washington to plead our case to the U.S. Senate. As the minority party, we can only block the G.O.P. attack on democracy for so long.”

While the Democrats were able to halt the passage of the voting bill through the late-night exodus, it was built upon months of opposition and legislative maneuvering against the bill that helped lead to its demise, holding lengthy question-and-answer periods and extensive debates to force late-night votes and delays in the process.

But voting will not be the sole item on the agenda in Texas. Mr. Abbott signaled that he wanted multiple priorities addressed before the Legislature returns in September for what is likely to be a contentious battle over redistricting.

The governor has indicated he wants a bill passed to overhaul the state’s bail system, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, also a Republican, has called on the Legislature to pass a bill limiting transgender athletes from competing in school sports and another bill seeking censorship of social media companies.

The Texas Legislature shifted sharply to the right during the most recent legislative session, passing aggressive measures that included a near-ban on abortion and a bill allowing the carrying of handguns without permits.

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Senate Confirms Kiran Ahuja to Lead Office of Personnel Management

Ms. Ahuja returns to the personnel agency where she served as chief of staff during the final two years of the Obama administration.,

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The Senate confirms Kiran Ahuja, Biden’s nominee to run the Office of Personnel Management.

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Kiran Ahuja, President Biden’s nominee, to run the Office of Personnel Management.Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

June 22, 2021, 3:28 p.m. ET

Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tiebreaking vote to confirm President Biden’s nominee to run the Office of Personnel Management, Kiran Ahuja, overcoming Republican objections to her nomination that centered on her views on racial justice.

Ms. Ahuja’s confirmation follows a tumultuous period at the federal human resources agency. O.P.M. had five different directors, three of them acting, while President Donald J. Trump was in office, with one of the confirmed directors quitting under pressure from the White House and the other fired by the president.

“Kiran Ahuja is a qualified, experienced and dedicated public servant who we are looking forward to leading the Office of Personnel Management in its work protecting the safety of the work force, empowering federal employees, and building a federal work force that looks like America,” said Chris Meager, a White House spokesman.

The unified Republican objections centered on Ms. Ahuja’s remarks last year, when she ran a Seattle-based philanthropic organization, following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

“You can’t be a true ally to Black communities until you take it upon yourself to understand our racialized history in its most intimate and heinous forms,” she wrote last June. “And learn, as I did, that all forms of discrimination flow from the subjugation of Black and Indigenous people.”

Before the vote, Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, sought to tie Ms. Ahuja to critical race theory — a framework used to look at how racism is woven into seemingly neutral laws and institutions — which Republicans have used as an organizing tool to energize conservative voters during the Biden presidency.

“I’m concerned that as the federal government’s H.R. director, Ms. Ahuja could use her platform to promote radical ideologies that seek to divide rather than unite the American people,” Mr. Hawley said. “She could bring critical race theory back into federal government training.”

Much to the consternation of some conservatives, Mr. Biden on Inauguration Day rescinded a Trump-era executive order that forbade some workplace diversity and training programs for federal employees and contractors.

Ms. Ahuja, an Indian-born immigrant who was raised in Savannah, Ga., worked in the Department of Justice and as the executive director of President Barack Obama’s Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. With her confirmation, Ms. Ahuja returns to the personnel agency where she served as chief of staff during the final two years of Mr. Obama’s administration.

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University of Washington Police Officers File Racism Claims

Police officers at the University of Washington in Seattle, regarded as one of the nation’s most progressive cities, said they were the target of racist insults and harassment.,

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SEATTLE — Earlier this year, as Officer Russell Ellis neared the end of his late shift at the University of Washington’s campus police department, one of his superiors offered him an energy drink. The sergeant was laughing, Mr. Ellis said, noting that the beverage was flavored like watermelon.

“I thought all you guys like watermelon and Popeyes chicken,” the senior officer said, according to Mr. Ellis, who is Black. A second Black officer described a nearly identical encounter with the same sergeant two years earlier.

Mr. Ellis, 49, said the exchange left him stewing privately with anger and humiliation. But he said it was far from the first time he had faced racial disparagement or discrimination during his years at the university, a sprawling lakeside campus in Seattle. The school touts diversity goals to the public, shares antiracism resources with the student body and shapes the ideals of one of the nation’s most progressive — and one of the whitest — big cities.

All five Black rank-and-file officers in the university police department filed multi-million-dollar damage claims this week, describing a culture of entrenched racism that has included racial slurs, vicious comments about Black people and open hostility directed at them and at members of the public.

Dozens of incidents, ranging over the past several years through last month, are detailed in the filings. Officer Karinn Young said she sometimes found bananas placed in front of her locker, once with a note that referred to her as a “monkey” and said, “Here’s your lunch.” Officer Hamani Nowlen reported that a white supervisor hit him with a long, stick-like object and remarked, “You people should be used to being hit with these.” Officer Damien Taylor said he overheard white officers talking about the case of George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis last year, saying, “His Black ass got what he deserved.”

After a Black officer was placed on leave for an internal investigation, Officer Gabriel Golden reported, he heard three white colleagues talking, with one referring to the officer in question with a racial slur, and saying that he “better not show his face around here.”

In a series of legal notices filed with the state, which are required ahead of a potential lawsuit, the five Black officers did not name the specific individuals who made the comments. The officers seek $8 million in damages for workplace conduct that they said has made their jobs “unbearable.” They said that supervisors in the department were well aware of the conduct, and some of them engaged in it themselves.

“I can’t sleep sometimes,” Mr. Ellis said in an interview. “This has affected me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.”

As police forces across the country have worked to diversify amid concerns over racist policing, officers of color have often reported encountering hostility and discrimination. In Columbus, Ohio, Black officers have filed racial discrimination lawsuits, including allegations that they were subjected to racial slurs. In Prince George’s County, Md., more than a dozen officers of color complained that such officers faced stiffer punishments than other employees, as well as retaliation for raising complaints of discrimination. In Minnesota, eight correctional officers of color filed a complaint after they were barred from guarding Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who was eventually convicted of murder in Mr. Floyd’s death.

In Seattle, the descriptions of overt racism inside the campus police department stand out in a city that proudly touts its efforts to combat racism, and where Black Lives Matter signs can be seen in yards and windows all over town. Yet only 7 percent of Seattle residents are Black, one of the smallest concentrations among large U.S. cities. On the University of Washington’s campus in Seattle, the numbers are even smaller, with Black students comprising about 3 percent of the student body.

With nearly 50,000 students enrolled at the Seattle campus, the university’s police officers investigate on-campus crimes, patrol areas around residence halls and help manage security for public events. The department, which employs 22 officers and 11 supervisors and commanders, has touted its own diversity efforts, saying “different viewpoints, experiences and backgrounds are central to meeting the unique needs of the community we serve.” Amid last year’s racial-justice protests across the country, some of them on the university campus, the department boasted about how it trains its officers to beware of implicit bias.

University officials said on Tuesday that they were “stunned” by the allegations outlined in the legal claims, and said administrators had not previously been made aware of them. “Any one of the incidents described here would prompt an immediate investigation and appropriate disciplinary action based on the investigation’s findings,” Victor Balta, a university spokesman, said in a statement.

Mr. Ellis, who joined the campus police force in 2007, said that early in his life, he had not considered a career in policing. That changed during his junior year in high school in Sacramento, Calif., he said, when he got pulled over after football practice and a police officer pointed a shotgun at his head. The officer was searching for somebody else.

Mr. Ellis said he told one of his coaches, who also worked as a county sheriff’s deputy, what had happened.

“He said that to change law enforcement, sometimes you have to get involved,” Mr. Ellis said. “We don’t have very many Black police officers. That was a big part of me thinking I need to be in law enforcement to change the environment of law enforcement.”

He began a career in 1999, working as a correctional officer in Arizona and later as a law-enforcement officer for the Washington State Liquor Control Board. When he joined the University of Washington Police Department 14 years ago, he said, he noticed problems from the beginning. In 2008, several current and former employees filed a civil rights lawsuit against the university detailing complaints of discrimination and harassment against Black, Jewish and female officers. Mr. Ellis was not part of that lawsuit, and said he had not been not aware that it was in the works. He was new, sticking to himself, trying to fit in and avoid potential conflict.

A jury in 2011 sided with the university in that case, rejecting the discrimination claims.

Mr. Ellis left the department in 2012, in part because of the continuing atmosphere within the force. A few years later, after the department brought in new officers and new leadership, he returned.

But the problems persisted, he said, and other officers who joined the department later raised complaints of their own.

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The campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Mr. Golden, who joined the department in 2017, said he was shocked at an incident that occurred within a few weeks after he started. He had offered to grab a bag as a favor for a supervisor, who is white, but he said the officer responded by saying: “You kind of have to because I own you, don’t I?”

Mr. Golden said he did not know anyone in the department well enough to talk about the remark at the time, and, still on his probationary period, he feared losing his job if he complained. He also worried that people would assume he was “playing the race card.”

White colleagues at the time were openly criticizing the chief, John Vinson, for hiring too many Black officers, Mr. Golden said. Mr. Vinson, who is Black, was reassigned to a position in senior administration at the university in 2019 after some of the department’s other leaders accused him of creating an atmosphere of hostility, retaliation and unethical behavior.

Since then, the department has been without a permanent chief, with the search for a permanent replacement suspended during the pandemic. Randall West, a white deputy chief who has been serving as interim chief, did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.

The officers who are part of the legal claims described problems both before and after Mr. Vinson’s departure. Mr. Golden said he heard a white officer openly using a racial slur to describe a homeless person, while another white colleague used the same term while criticizing a Black colleague.

“It progressively got worse and worse,” Mr. Golden said. “I went from loving my job, loving going to work every day, to starting to dread going into work because I didn’t know what would happen next.”

The five rank-and-file Black officers currently working in the department said in their filing this week that the longstanding culture has adversely affected their performance, advancement and mental health. Two Black managers with leadership roles in the department have not joined in the claims.

The legal notices filed on Monday are the first step in filing a lawsuit. The university has 60 days to pay or otherwise settle the claims, after which the plaintiffs can turn to the courts.

Mr. Balta, the university spokesman, said Tuesday that the school plans to initiate its own investigation into the allegations.

“The U.W. is committed to maintaining a fair, equitable and inclusive environment and provides employees with many avenues for reporting inappropriate or discriminatory behavior so they can be addressed immediately,” he said.

But the officers said they are convinced that senior officers have long been aware of racist attitudes within the department, and have repeatedly failed to take action.

“I really hope this can bring about the change that is needed,” Mr. Golden said. “There is so much that needs to be changed. I want people to be able to come here and not have to worry about these things.”

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For the People Act Poised to Hit Filibuster in Senate

President Biden on Tuesday urged the Senate to pass the voting rights bill and “send it to my desk.”,

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Manchin supports advancing the For the People Act, but it still faces a filibuster.

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The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to begin debate on a proposal that will reform U.S. elections. All 50 Senate Republicans oppose the measure and are expected to filibuster the bill.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

June 22, 2021, 8:21 a.m. ET

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said Tuesday he would vote to open debate on Democrats’ signature voting rights bill, uniting the party in the face of certain defeat as Republicans vow to block the legislation from advancing.

Mr. Manchin, who had been the sole Democratic holdout on the measure, last week released a wish list of substantial changes to the bill, including eliminating provisions that would create a public campaign financing program and neuter state voter identification laws. Democrats signaled they were open to incorporating his proposals.

“These reasonable changes have moved the bill forward and to a place worthy of debate on the Senate floor,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement released by his office Tuesday afternoon. “This process would allow both Republicans and Democrats to offer amendments to further change the bill. Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues refused to allow debate of this legislation despite the reasonable changes made to focus the bill on the core issues facing our democracy.”

All 50 Senate Republicans oppose the measure and are expected to vote against taking it up. Under the Senate’s filibuster rule, it takes 60 votes to advance a measure over senators’ objections.

President Biden on Tuesday urged the Senate to pass the voting rights bill and “send it to my desk.”

“We can’t sit idly by while democracy is in peril — here, in America,” Mr. Biden wrote on Twitter. “We need to protect the sacred right to vote and ensure ‘We the People’ choose our leaders, the very foundation on which our democracy rests.”

The doomed Democratic effort to pass sweeping federal voting rights legislation comes as Republican-led states rush to enact restrictive voting laws, Democrats have presented the legislation as the party’s best chance to undo them, expand ballot access and limit the impact of special interests on the political process.

“We can argue what should be done to protect voting rights and safeguard our democracy, but don’t you think we should be able to debate the issue?” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Monday in a last-ditch appeal to Republicans to let the bill proceed.

Mr. Schumer is left with one option to try to pass the legislation: blowing up the legislative filibuster. Progressives, who have clamored to do so since Democrats won a narrow Senate majority in January, argued that the vote would help make their case. But a handful of moderates, led by Mr. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, have rejected those appeals.

With the path forward so murky, top Democrats are framing Tuesday’s vote as a moral victory. The White House endorsed a compromise framework proposed last week by Mr. Manchin under the assumption that it would be enough to persuade him to vote yes.

“What we are measuring, I think, is: Is the Democratic Party united? We weren’t as of a couple of weeks ago,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said before acknowledging the vote would fail.

She suggested the outcome might “change the conversation on the Hill” around the filibuster, but offered no clear next steps.

Mr. Manchin opposed key planks in the original For the People Act as too intrusive into the rights of states to regulate their elections. His proposal would eliminate a public campaign financing program and put in place a national voter identification requirement while expanding what documents voters can present as proof of identify.

But it would preserve other measures, like tough new ethics rules and an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. It would also expand early voting, make Election Day a federal holiday and make it easier to vote by mail.

On Monday, former President Barack Obama tepidly endorsed Mr. Manchin’s version as the best chance to pass a new federal voting law.

“The bill that’s going to be debated, including Senator Manchin’s changes, would address, as Eric mentioned, many of the concerns and issues that I was just discussing,” Mr. Obama said during a call with former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and supporters. “I’ll be honest, the bill doesn’t have everything I’d like to see in a voting rights bill. It doesn’t address every problem.”

Republicans are united in their opposition to both Democrats’ original bill and Mr. Manchin’s changes, describing them as poorly drafted and overly prescriptive.

“The real driving force behind S. 1 is the desire to rig the rules of American elections permanently, permanently in Democrats’ favor,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, referring to the measure by its bill number. “That’s why the Senate will give this disastrous proposal no quarter.”

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How We Talk About Race and Gender

The way some Americans talk about these issues is changing. We want to hear what you think about these changes.,

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Much has changed in a year of racial reckoning that followed the killing of George Floyd and other Black men and women at the hands of the police, even the words we use to talk about these issues.

We are interested in how language on race and gender identity is changing. Terms like “systemic racism,” “people of color,” “BIPOC,” “antiracist,” “Latinx” and “Asian American” (unhyphenated) have become more widely used. Identifying one’s pronouns on social media or in video meetings has become more prevalent as well. A debate remains, though, about these changes in language: How much do they matter and, ultimately, how are they affecting the nation’s larger conversation about race and gender?

If you have a perspective to share about the changing vocabulary, we want to hear from you.

Share your thoughts in the form below. A reporter may follow up to discuss your response. We won’t publish your name or comments without talking to you first.

Race, Gender, Language and Identity

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