The Latest: Australia state reports record daily infections
SYDNEY — Australia’s most populous state reported a daily record 466 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections on Saturday and increased fines for breaches of pandemic restrictions.
The previous record tally in New South Wales, home to Sydney, was 390 reported on Friday.
Four people had died overnight, bringing the death toll in New South Wales from an outbreak of the delta variant first detected in Sydney in mid-June to 42.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said fines for breaking pandemic rules such as breaching quarantine orders had been increased from 1,000 Australian dollars ($737) to AU$5,000 ($3,685).
Sydney residents will be restricted to within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of home, half the distance they were previously allowed.
The government later announced that all of New South Wales would be locked down from 5 p.m. until Aug. 22.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro tweeted that the stay-at-home orders were to minimize movement and protect regional communities from the evolving COVID-19 situation in Sydney.
Berejiklian said a positive note was that half the New South Wales population older than 16 had at least one vaccine dose.
“We know that the lockdown, coupled with a strong, targeted vaccination program. is what is going to get us out of this dire situation,” Berejiklian said.
Police supported by the military will crack down on Sydney residents who breach stay-at-home orders from Sunday night.
Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26, 10 days after the first delta case was detected.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— More U.S. cities requiring proof of vaccination to go places
— Biden admin backs Texas, Florida districts on mask mandates
— Canada to require those traveling by air and train to be vaccinated
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday issued a state of emergency as state hospitals face a surge in COVID-19 cases, an order that came the same day the state tied a record low for available intensive care unit beds.
Ivey issued a limited state of emergency aimed at giving medical providers flexibility on staffing and capacity decisions and easier shipment of emergency equipment and supplies. The Republican governor stressed she would not be issuing any closure orders or mask mandates.
”I want to be abundantly clear: there will be absolutely no statewide mandates, closures or the like. This state of emergency is strategically targeted at removing bureaucracy and cutting red tape wherever we can to allow our doctors, nurses and hospital staff to treat patients that come through their doors,” Ivey said in a statement.
The order came as medical providers described a “tidal wave” of COVID-19 cases that is putting severe stress on Alabama hospitals. The state on Friday tied the record low for available intensive care unit beds with just 39 vacant beds statewide, said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.
“The system is slowly becoming overwhelmed,” Williamson said.
Of the state’s 1,567 intensive care unit beds, 689 are filled with COVID-19 patients and just 39 are empty.
HONOLULU — A new wave of the coronavirus pandemic has Hawaii in “crisis” mode, with the state recording its highest single bump in cases and hospitals putting together overflow plans, Gov. David Ige said.
Nearly 1,170 new infections were reported Friday, he said at a news conference. That includes a small number of cases from previous days that were delayed because of a technical glitch, but still represents the largest single increase since the start of the pandemic.
“Friday the 13th has never been so frightening. It is real and it is terrifying,” Ige said. “And tragically, it’s preventable.”
The vast majority of new cases are among unvaccinated people, officials said.
“Our behavior can save us,” Ige said in urging people to get vaccinated and avoid gatherings. “The actions we take each and every day can make a difference in the battle against COVID.”
Hawaii saw an average of 729 new cases over the past three days, Ige said. It has a population of nearly 1.5 million people. The seven-day state positivity rate is now 7.4%.
Ige said hospitals filling up and preparing for things to get worse.
“They are treating younger and younger people,” the governor said. “Yesterday, tragically, we reported a death of a man in his 30s.”
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon’s governor says she will deploy up to 1,500 National Guard troops to hospitals around the state to support healthcare workers as the COVID-19 surges amid the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, says starting Aug. 20 she will send an initial 500 Guard members to serve as equipment runners in hospitals and help with COVID-19 testing, among other things.
There are 733 people hospitalized with the virus in Oregon, including 185 in intensive care units. Hospitals have warned they are near capacity as the state endures a fourth wave of the outbreak.
SALT LAKE CITY — Coronavirus patients are filling Utah hospitals beyond capacity.
Officials with the state’s largest health care system said Friday that intensive care units are at 102% capacity.
Intermountain Healthcare doctors say about 90% of the hospitalized coronavirus patients are not vaccinated.
Infectious disease physicians say the surge driven by the highly contagious delta variant is especially concerning as the new school year begins without a mask mandate for children who cannot yet be vaccinated. Officials worry about school outbreaks that could spread to kids’ families. The latest surge has also taken a heavy toll on healthcare workers’ morale.
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee governor’s office is pushing back on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation that goes as far as claiming cows are being vaccinated to inoculate unwitting people who eat meat.
The confusion over an assortment of outlandish claims illustrates the hurdles that face a state in the bottom 10 for vaccination rates amid a virus resurgence stretching hospitals thin.
In an email Thursday to lawmakers, a top deputy of Republican Gov. Bill Lee debunked “several conspiracy theories” about a recent executive order. The email says some components that are being most frequently misinterpreted were included in previous executive orders during the pandemic. Lee’s office said lawmakers seeking information for constituents and constituents themselves have reached out about the claims.
The push to debunk shows how prevalently misinformation is swirling among unvaccinated circles, even as hospitals of all sizes have begun running out of staffed beds. Vanderbilt University Medical Center said its adult hospital and emergency department are “completely full,” as it is limiting elective procedures and declining transfer requests from many hospitals. More than 90% of COVID-19 hospitalizations there are unvaccinated people, while vaccinated patients are also severely immunocompromised, the hospital said.
The rumors deemed “FALSE” in the governor’s office email are that his executive order creates “quarantine camps”; that the National Guard will round up unvaccinated people and take them to locations to be quarantined or vaccinated, or forcibly vaccinate them in their homes; that the executive order lays the groundwork for permanent lockdowns; and that COVID-19 vaccines are being given to livestock to vaccinate people through meat consumption.
HONOLULU — Two visitors from U.S. mainland were arrested for allegedly using fake vaccine cards to travel to Hawaii.
Officials with the Hawaii attorney general’s office arrested the visitors at Honolulu’s international airport, a spokesman for the agency said in a statement.
Investigators said the two violated state rules requiring travelers to produce either a negative coronavirus test or proof of vaccination to avoid quarantine upon entering the state.
Violating the state’s COVID-19 mandates, including falsifying a vaccination card, is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine of up to $5,000, up to a year in prison or both.
The agency said this is the first time it has arrested someone for allegedly falsifying a vaccination card.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina health system is rescheduling surgeries and reassigning nurses after two of its hospitals topped 100% capacity as the delta variant spurred a new wave of coronavirus cases in the state.
Tidelands Health says it’s also opening two temporary clinics to treat patients with COVID-19-like symptoms as a way to bring down emergency department volumes.
Elsewhere in the state, hospitals are limiting visitors and entire high school football teams are being quarantined as schools newly reopened for the fall semester grapple with outbreaks.
In Pickens County, school board members called an emergency session Friday after 534 students and 28 staff members were quarantined two weeks into the school year. Kershaw County School District, which also began classes last week, quarantined 701 of its 11,033 students by Friday.
Coronavirus cases are soaring toward rates not seen since the height of the pandemic last winter, before vaccines became widely available. On Friday, health officials confirmed 3,585 new cases and 15 deaths, and total daily case counts have risen above 2,000 for the last 12 days.
PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University says students will soon no longer be able to cite a “personal or philosophical” exemption to the school’s requirement that all who attend get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The university says those exemptions would be nixed once the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval to vaccines now allowed under an emergency authorization.
It wasn’t immediately clear what effect the school’s new policy would have on football coach Nick Rolovich, who has opted not to get a vaccine. “Discussions also are underway about changes to the faculty and staff vaccination policy,” the university said.
The more strict vaccine requirements are being implemented because of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which has caused spikes in cases and hospitalizations throughout Washington state. Classes begin at WSU on Aug. 23.