The Latest: Australia’s 2nd city reopens after 5th lockdown
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s second-most populous city is ending its fifth pandemic lockdown Tuesday as the Victoria state government declares it has beaten an outbreak of the highly contagious coronavirus delta variant for a second time.
The five-day lockdown in Melbourne and across Victoria will allow schools, pubs and restaurants to reopen. But people will not be allowed to have visitors in their homes for two more weeks.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews says that “we have seen off two delta outbreaks.”
Meanwhile, the city of Sydney remains in lockdown indefinitely after more than four weeks. Australia’s most populous city is where the delta outbreak began in mid-June when a limousine driver was infected while transporting a U.S. air crew from the airport.
The New South Wales state government on Tuesday reported 172 new infections in the latest 24-hour period, a new daily record.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Some French health workers resent, resist mandatory vaccines
— Pandemic leaves Indians mired in massive medical debts
— What happens when your Olympics COVID test gets taken 39 minutes early?
— Malaysian doctors walk off job in government hospitals
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ST. LOUIS — Missouri’s attorney general has filed suit seeking to halt a mask mandate that took effect Monday in the St. Louis area amid a rise in COVD-19 cases that are burdening a growing number of hospitals around the state.
The mandate requires everyone age 5 or older to wear masks in indoor public places and on public transportation in St. Louis city and St. Louis County even if they are vaccinated. Wearing masks outdoors is strongly encouraged.
The lawsuit by Attorney General Eric Schmitt argues the mandates are “arbitrary and capricious because they require vaccinated individuals to wear masks, despite the CDC guidance that this is not necessary.” It also questions mandating children to wear masks in school, noting they are less likely to become seriously ill.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones defends the mandate, calling the suit frivolous.
Gov. Mike Parson says in a tweet that requiring everyone to wear masks “reduces the incentive of getting the vaccine.”
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s Department of Health is recommending that masks be used in all indoor settings at schools and that social distancing be observed in classrooms when possible. Masks are recommended outdoors when there is crowding or prolonged close contact.
The department made the recommendations Monday in updated guidance for school officials before the Aug. 3 start of another school year during the pandemic.
The department also says schools should consider screening tests for all teachers and staff who have not been fully vaccinated. It further recommends screening for students who are not fully vaccinated for participation in sports and other activities with a higher risk of virus transmission.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief is warning that the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting conflict-ridden and impoverished countries much worse this year than in 2020, with many facing higher caseloads and rising deaths.
Ramesh Rajasingham said in a closed briefing Monday to the U.N. Security Council that these surges are being fueled by a lack of access to vaccines, the easing of public health measures, increased social mixing, and the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.
In his briefing obtained by The Associated Press, Rajasingham says that so far in 2021 almost three-quarters of countries needing humanitarian aid have recorded more pandemic cases or deaths than in all of 2020. He adds that in over one-third of those countries “at least three times more cases or deaths have been recorded this year compared to last.”
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The number of COVID-19 patients in Alabama hospitals has climbed to more than 900 — a number the state has not seen since February.
The Alabama Hospital Association says there were 947 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals Monday, up from 204 at the beginning of July. The latest number is about a third of where the state was at the peak of the pandemic when there were 3,000 virus patients in state hospitals in January.
The head of the hospital association says the concern is not the number itself, but the steep upward trajectory in numbers. Dr. Don Williamson says the state has the solution in the form of the vaccine, but “there is not a long line of people wanting to be vaccinated.”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Coronavirus infections in West Virginia’s largest county have doubled in the past week after reaching a 12-month low.
The Kanawha-Charleston health department said in a news release Monday that the number of cases in Kanawha County grew by 38 to 124 on Monday, up from 58 active cases on July 19,
Active virus cases peaked at Kanawha County at nearly 2,100 in early January before dropping steadily, falling below 500 in mid-March. The number hit 57 on July 13, the fewest active cases since June 2020.
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Some Louisiana health facilities are suspending nonemergency surgeries that might require hospital admissions as they grapple with a steadily increasing influx of COVID-19 patients amid the state’s latest spike in cases.
Baton Rouge-based Our Lady of the Lake said Monday it will pause scheduling nonurgent surgeries requiring inpatient beds for at least three weeks after admitting 25 new COVID-19 patients within 24 hours.
In New Orleans, the six-hospital LCMC system said it, too, is suspending non-essential procedures that might require overnight stays.
Louisiana has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the nation, worsening this latest surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.
SEATTLE — Health officials in eight counties in western Washington state are recommending mask-wearing in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The recommendation came in a joint statement Monday from local health officers in the Puget Sound region.
The officials say mask use “will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public, including customers and workers, help stem the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in many parts of the state, and decrease the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.”
State health officials have talked about masking in public indoor spaces but aren’t currently making the same recommendation.
OSAGE BEACH, Missouri — Thirty-one-year-old Daryl Barker of Branson, Missouri, was one of the unvaccinated. He came down with the delta variant of the coronavirus in early July and has been hospitalized 17 days.
With southwestern Missouri hospitals too full, he was transferred to Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach, where he is slowly recovering after becoming critically ill.
On Monday, Barker’s wife, Billie, used a marker to write “I love you” backwards on the ICU window so he could read it from the other side.
The chief medical officer at the hospital tells The Associated Press that the difference between the current virus outbreak and the winter is that patients are younger and sicker. Since July 1, the hospital has admitted 70 patients with the virus. Twenty-two have died.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi health officials say the state is seeing its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in months as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.
The state is also experiencing a sharp increase in the percentage of positive tests.
The state Department of Health said Monday that 3,608 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mississippi from Friday through Sunday. That compares to 2,326 reported from Friday through Sunday a week earlier — numbers that were highest in the state since February.
The increase is happening as some schools are starting classes and thousands are gathering for the Neshoba County Fair.
SAN FRANCISCO — California will require state employees and all health care workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or get tested weekly as officials aim to slow rising coronavirus infections, mostly among the unvaccinated.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new policy Monday. The mandate will affect at least 238,000 state employees, according to the California controller’s office, and at least 2 million health care workers in the nation’s most populous state.
About 62% of all eligible Californians are fully vaccinated, and the state has struggled to make significant progress in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the more contagious delta variant now makes up an estimated 80% of infections in California. Hospitalizations are on the rise, though still far below where they were during the winter peak.
MADRID — Spanish health authorities say the spread of the coronavirus is slowing down following weeks of a steep surge of infections driven mostly by young groups that are yet to receive vaccines.
The country has reported 700 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks, a level that Spain only recorded in the third major surge at the beginning of the year, when it peaked at 900 new cases per 100,000.
But Health Secretary Silvia Calzón said Monday that the one-week cumulative incidence had dropped to less than half the 14-day figure for the first time in weeks, leading officials to believe that contagion is receding.
The more contagious delta variant of the virus accounts since this week for most new cases, the Health Ministry said in a report on Monday.
Nearly 8% of hospital beds across the country are treating COVID-19 patients, although in ICUs the occupation rate is now already more than 16% and growing.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has recorded more than 15,000 new coronavirus cases, as the number of infections continue to surge.
Health Ministry figures on Monday showed another 16,809 new infections in the past 24 hours, the highest number of cases since early May. The ministry also reported 63 new deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 50,997.
“The rate of increase in the number of cases makes keeping the outbreak under control more difficult,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted on Monday, urging the public to observe coronavirus precautions and to get vaccinated.
Experts are warning that Turkey could face another peak with the highly contagious Delta variant and vaccination rates are not sufficient. Only about 26 percent of the country of 84 million people have been fully vaccinated, using China’s Sinovac and the Pfizer vaccines.
ORLANDO, Fla. — The mayor of the county that hosts Florida’s theme park mecca says that “we are in crisis mode” when it comes to dealing with soaring numbers of COVID-19 infections.
Florida accounted for a fifth of the nation’s new infections last week, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Orange County Mayor Jerry Deming said Monday that the home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort is seeing about 1,000 new cases a day.
The state health department says more than 73,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in Florida over the previous week, nearly seven times the 12,000 reported a month ago. Florida had 341 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, second only to Louisiana, according to CDC data.
Despite this latest surge, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida will not return to government mandates.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on Monday said it’s reached a new peak of COVID-19 patients at its hospital as a surge in coronavirus cases continued in the state.
UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson tweeted that the hospital had 66 COVID-19 patients, surpassing the record it reached in January when it had 63. The Department of Health said the number of people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 rose by 44 on Sunday to 919. The state’s COVID-19 cases rose by 1,022 and its deaths increased by six.
The rolling average number of daily new cases in the state has increased by 161% over the past two weeks, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. Only 36% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.