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Sesame Street's Big Bird gets vaccinated as Ted Cruz bristles: Live COVID-19 updates

"Sesame Street" puppet Big Bird announced his coronavirus vaccination on Twitter – and drew fire from conservatives such as Ted Cruz, who dismissed the vaccine pitch as "government propaganda."

The iconic yellow bird appeared Saturday on CNN's town hall “The ABCs of Covid Vaccines" with journalist Erica Hill. His grandmother, Granny Bird, revealed Big Bird would be receiving the vaccine. Big Bird is generally identified as being about 6 years old. Federal health officials recently granted emergency use authorization to Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for kids ages 5-11.

That night, Big Bird tweeted: "I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it'll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. Ms. @EricaRHill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!"

Conservative social media personality Michael Cernovich tweeted a reply: "What’s the treatment for myocarditis in birds?" Myocarditis, heart inflammation, is a very rare side effect of the vaccine.

Fox News host Lisa Boothe tweeted:"Brainwashing children who are not at risk from COVID. Twisted."

Cruz also responded on Twitter: "Government propaganda … for your 5 year old!" That drew a response from Walter Schaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, who pointed out to the Republican: "You are vaccinated."

Plenty of commenters supported Big Bird's decision. 

"Thank you for getting vaccinated," tweeted Dr. Tom Nelson, an emergency room physician in Indiana.

Sesame Street characters Ernie, Bert, Big Bird, Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster attend the 42nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors in 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Also in the news:

►More than 30,000 runners took part in the 2021 New York City Marathon, a race that was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The race’s 26.2-mile course loops through all five boroughs, ending in Manhattan’s Central Park. 

►The Oklahoma City school district violated state law by firing six teachers who refused to wear masks, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt says. Five of the teachers are suing the district over the mandate and say wrongful termination will be added to the suit. Stitt said he will not re-issue an emergency order allowing schools to implement mask mandates.

►Some members of Arizona's Mohave County Board of Supervisors oppose county news releases promoting COVID-19 vaccinations for children. Supervisor Hildy Angius referred to the vaccinations for children as “insanity.”

►School officials in Rutherford County, Tennessee, are tapping COVID relief dollars to offer bonuses up to $1,000 to help retain school employees. District workers employed prior to Oct. 1 who remain employed with the county until Dec. 17 will qualify for a $500 payment. Finishing the school year will bring another $500.

📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 45.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 745,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 246.5 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 192.2 million Americans – 57.9% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we're reading: Babies born to moms with COVID-19 when pregnant should be watched for long-term impacts, researchers say. Read more here. 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY's Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox, and join our Facebook group.

New US air travel rules take effect Monday

Airlines and U.S. Customs and Border Protection expect a spike in travel starting Monday, when the U.S. reopens to foreign visitors from dozens of countries, and U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico reopen to nonessential travel. The new rules are launching nearly two years after the U.S. began imposing travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Add in a slew of new entry requirements for international visitors that must be verified by airlines – proof of COVID-19 vaccination, a negative coronavirus test and attestation forms – and bottlenecks are inevitable.

"It's going to be a bit sloppy at first, I can assure you," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said last week at a U.S. Travel Association conference. "There will be lines, unfortunately."  More details here.

Bailey Schulz

L.A. requiring proof of vaccination for most indoor businesses

Proof of vaccination will be required to enter a slew of businesses in the city of Los Angeles starting Monday under one of the nation's strongest vaccine mandates. Indoor restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, malls, salons and most city buildings will require – in addition to photo ID – a CDC vaccination card, a scan or photograph of the card on a mobile device, or a digital vaccination record issued by the state, city or a health care provider. The ordinance encourages businesses to offer service outside for patrons who do not provide proof of vaccination.

Patrons who claim a medical or religious reason for not getting vaccinated can provide a negative coronavirus test taken within 72. Venues that fail to adhere to the ordinance can face fines starting Nov. 29.

Vaccine mandate for larger businesses temporarily halted by court

A federal appeals court on Saturday temporarily halted President Joe Biden's vaccine requirement for businesses with 100 or more workers. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay of the requirement by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration that those workers be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or face mask requirements and weekly tests. Louisiana Attorney General Landry said the action stops Biden "from moving forward with his unlawful overreach.”

"The president will not impose medical procedures on the American people without the checks and balances afforded by the Constitution,” Landry said in a statement.

The administration says it is confident that the requirement, which includes penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation, will withstand legal challenges in part because OSHA safety rules preempt state laws.

More colleges are mandating the vaccine:These red-state colleges won't mandate COVID shots for students – but they will for employees

Health group ends partnership with Aaron Rodgers

Prevea Health announced Saturday that it would no longer continue its partnership with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The announcement comes after Rodgers publicly made a series of misleading and false claims about COVID-19 during an appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show." Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, and due to his unvaccinated status will not be able to get back on the field for a minimum of 10 days. According to a statement from the company, Rodgers has been a partner of Prevea Health since 2012 and has acted as a spokesperson and supported the organization's initiatives throughout Wisconsin.

"Prevea Health remains deeply committed to protecting its patients, staff, providers and communities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes encouraging and helping all eligible populations to become vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent the virus from further significantly impacting lives and livelihoods," the statement said.

– Kelli Arseneau, The Appleton Post-Crescent

Contributing: The Associated Press