The Latest: California urges people to mask up indoors
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Following the federal government’s lead, California is recommending that people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Wednesday’s announcement comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that fully vaccinated people mask up in public indoor settings in places where community spread is high or substantial.
California officials said more than 90% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents live in such areas of community spread.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— U.S. states, businesses reconsider masks amid surge
— NY to require state employees to get vaccines or get tested
— Google delays return to office, mandates vaccines
— England, Scotland end quarantine for vaccinated from US, EU
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
RALEIGH, N.C. -— North Carolina’s health department will require workers, volunteers and others at 14 state-run health care facilities to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Sept. 30 unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption, according to a memo.
The Associated Press obtained a departmental FAQ about the vaccine mandate that says those who don’t get fully vaccinated or exempted by the deadline could face “disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, for unacceptable personal conduct.”
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore first shed light on the development through a news release Tuesday evening. Although he is vaccinated and encourages others to get the shots, he believes residents should have the ability to make their own decisions without fear of reprisal.
The speaker also noted that none of the available COVID-19 vaccines the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use have thus far received full FDA approval.
North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services did not comment on Moore’s criticism, but confirmed it will require many within the Division of State Operated Health Facilities to get vaccinated.
WASHINGTON — The effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine wanes slightly over time but it remains strongly protective for at least six months after the second dose, according to company data released Wednesday.
The findings are one piece of evidence that U.S. health authorities will consider in deciding if and when booster doses might be needed. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have said they plan to seek authorization for boosters.
The new data comes from the 44,000-person study that initiated the widespread use of the vaccine, showing its highly effective in the first few months after immunization. Now the companies have tracked those study participants for six months and counting.
Most important, protection against severe COVID-19 remains very high, at nearly 97%, researchers found. Overall, protection against symptomatic COVID-19 was 91% over the six-month period, the study found.
But a closer look shows that efficacy against any symptomatic infection dropped gradually every two months, from a peak of 96% two months after study participants got their second dose. By month four, efficacy was 90% and by six months, it was about 84%.
The study results were posted online but haven’t undergone full scientific review. They don’t single out how the vaccine works against the highly contagious delta variant. However, the companies cite separate testing and real-world data showing the shots counter it.
NEW YORK — New York will require all state employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by Labor Day or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the policy Wednesday in a Zoom call with the nonprofit Association for a Better New York. In mandating either the shots, or frequent testing for government workers, the Democrat is following on the heels of California and New York City.
New York, like other states, has seen a rising number of coronavirus cases linked to the delta variant. New infections have climbed more than 400% since the end of June. Cuomo also says vaccines would be mandatory for “front-line” workers at state-owned hospitals.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that New York City will offer $100 to any city resident who gets a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine at a city-run site.
SAN RAMON, Calif. — Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October.
It’s rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened in an attempt to fight the spreading delta variant.
In a Wednesday email sent to Google’s more than 130,000 employees, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning Oct. 18 instead of its previous target date of Sept. 1. Exceptions for vaccines will be made for medical and other “protected” reasons, Pichai wrote.
The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and other U.S. offices before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where the Google operates.
The decision to extend its remote work follows a similar move by another Apple, which recently moved its return-to-office plans from September to October.
MEXICO CITY — Health officials say infected youth are a driving factor in Mexico’s third wave of COVID-19 cases.
The number of new infections has been rising since mid-June and is up more than 40%, according to government figures. But unlike the last spike in cases in December and January, hospitalizations, and especially deaths, have been rising much more slowly.
Experts say the young are at greater risk because most are unvaccinated and they’ve become increasingly active. The government has expanded its vaccination campaign to anyone over age 18 in an attempt to lower the rising case numbers.
So far, about 42.4 million people have been vaccinated, according to the health ministry. That’s about 47% of the adult population, but only about 30% of the total population,
Mexico has registered 2.75 million confirmed cases and more than 238,000 deaths, both figures the government concedes are significant undercounts. The death total places it behind only the United States, Brazil and India.
KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities reported a surge in confirmed cases of coronavirus in the southern port city of Karachi in the past 24 hours amid widespread violation of social distancing rules.
It has put a pressure on the health care system in the largest city of Pakistan, where hospitals are flooded by COVID-19 patients. The latest development comes two days after federal authorities confirmed the positivity rate in Karachi was about 27%. The nationwide positivity rate from coronavirus in Pakistan is about 7%.
According to local media, the COVID-19 positivity rate in Karachi has increased about 30 percent in the past 24 hours. Of the 44 deaths in the past 24 hours, most were reported in Karachi.
Pakistan has reported 101,5827 confirmed cases and 231,33 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
BOSTON — Governments and businesses are attempting to follow new federal guidance calling for the return of mask wearing in coronavirus hot spots amid a surge of cases and hospitalizations.
Nevada moved swiftly to re-impose an indoor mask mandate following Tuesday’s announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Arkansas, legislative leaders are weighing revisiting a recently passed law banning mask mandates. Ford Motor Co. says it will reinstate face mask protocols at its Missouri and Florida facilities.
CDC Director Dr, Rochelle Walensky says the updated guidance was prompted by new data that showed vaccinated people can pass on the virus. She notes unvaccinated people account for the vast number of new infections.
Walensky stressed vaccines are working by preventing greater levels of hospitalization and death. Two-thirds of the vaccine-eligible population in the U.S. has received at least one dose.
The U.S. is averaging more than 60,000 new cases a day, driven by the highly contagious delta variant spreading through unvaccinated populations.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — St. Louis County’s top elected official insisted Wednesday a mask mandate remained in place even though the county commission voted to overturn it.
Meanwhile, Kansas City prepared to issue its own order to stem a rise in COVID-19 cases straining hospitals.
“This virus, these cases and this curve is shooting straight up and if we don’t make some decisions fast, we are going to be in a bad spot,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said during a media briefing.
He spoke after the St. Louis County Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to end the county’s mask mandate, saying Page didn’t consult with them before issuing it. Orders took effect Monday there and in the city of St. Louis, requiring everyone age 5 or older to wear masks in inside public spaces and on public transportation, even if they are vaccinated.
The mandates prompted the state’s Republican attorney general to immediately file a lawsuit in an effort to stop them. Page says until the lawsuit was resolved, “masks will be required in all indoor public spaces.”
Meanwhile, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced Tuesday he’ll reinstate an indoor mask mandate, tweeting the community “cannot ignore the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant in Missouri — outpacing much of the country.”
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — About 89% of Idaho residents live in communities where masks should be worn again.
The Post Register reports 27 of Idaho’s 44 counties have substantial to high transmission of the coronavirus.
The CDC on Tuesday recommended vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges. The CDC cited new information about the variant’s ability to spread among vaccinated people.
The city of Boise on Wednesday started requiring masks indoors at its city-owned facilities.
Idaho has the sixth-lowest vaccination rate, with only about 46% of eligible residents fully vaccinated, compared to 56% of all eligible Americans. Everyone age 12 and up is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia’s aviation authorities say only citizens vaccinated against the coronavirus can travel abroad starting Aug. 9, aiming to ramp up its inoculation campaign and counter vaccine hesitancy.
The country’s General Authority for Civil Aviation on Wednesday issued a notice to all airlines that only fully vaccinated citizens can board international flights. The rule exempts children under 12 and those who have recovered from the coronavirus over six months ago.
On Tuesday, the Saudi Ministry of Interior delivered a warning to the public against traveling to destinations on its “red list,” or countries with a high risk of COVID-19 infection, including the United Arab Emirates, India, South Africa and Turkey. Authorities say they’ll impose a three-year travel ban on anyone found to have violated the rules.
The kingdom has previously announced nationwide restrictions on the unvaccinated. Next week, all residents must show proof that they’ve received at least one vaccine dose to enter non-essential businesses, public transportation and schools.
On Tuesday, Kuwait also ruled only vaccinated citizens can travel abroad next week.
Saudi Arabia, with a population of 34 million, has reported half a million cases of the coronavirus, including more than 8,100 confirmed deaths. It has administered 25.5 million doses of the vaccine, according to online scientific publication Our World in Data.
LONDON — Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and much of Europe can enter England or Scotland without quarantining starting next week.
The British government says people who have received both doses of a vaccine approved by the FDA in the U.S. or the European Medicines Agency, can take pre- and post-arrival coronavirus tests instead of self-isolating.
There is one exception: France, which Britain has dubbed a higher risk because of the presence of the beta variant of the coronavirus. Visitors from France will continue to face a British quarantine.
Currently only people who have been vaccinated in Britain can skip 10 days of quarantine when arriving from most of Europe or North America. The move to boost Britain’s ailing travel industry comes despite rising coronavirus cases.
The rule change takes effect Monday and only applies to England and Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland will decide whether to follow suit.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Doctors in several regions in Sumatra island in Indonesia reported the increasing COVID-19 cases in their areas.
Indonesia recorded 47,791 new cases and 1,824 confirmed in the last 24 hours. The Health Ministry recorded 558,392 active cases in Indonesia, with more than 81,000 cases from Sumatra regions.
Doctors from the associations in Jambi, South Sumatra and Riau Islands regions also say the bed occupancy rate at the hospitals in those areas have increased, along with oxygen distribution. Doctors and other health care workers are also among those infected by the virus.
Adib Khumadi, Head of The Risk Mitigation Team of Indonesian Medical Association, says some regions outside Java, such as Jambi, South Sumatra and South Kalimantan provinces show spikes of the new infections.
Indonesia has registered 3.2 million cases and 88,659 total confirmed deaths.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Rochelle Walensky says new mask-wearing guidance, coupled with higher rates of vaccination against COVID-19, could halt the current escalation of infections in “a couple of weeks.”
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told “CBS This Morning” she hopes more stringent mask-wearing guidelines and other measures won’t be necessary as the country heads into the fall.
“We can halt the chain of transmission,” she said. “We can do something if we unify together, if we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated, if we mask in the interim, we can halt this in just a matter of a couple of weeks.”
With the delta variant fueling a surge of infections across the country, the CDC on Tuesday recommended even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the variant is prevalent.
Walensky says the new guidance was prompted by data that vaccinated people can pass on the virus. However, the vast number of infections are occurring in unvaccinated people, she noted. Walensky said 80% of the counties with the highest number of infections have less than 40% of people vaccinated.
The nation is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. The guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the U.S. with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.
TOKYO — Tokyo has reported 3,177 new coronavirus cases, setting an all-time high and exceeding 3,000 for the first time, just days after the start of the Olympics.
The new cases Wednesday exceeded the record of 2,848 set the previous day and bring the total for the Japanese capital to more than 200,000.
Tokyo has been under a fourth state of emergency since July 12 ahead of the Olympics, which began last Friday despite widespread public opposition and concern that they could further worsen the outbreak.
Health experts say Tokyo’s surge is being propelled by the new, more contagious delta variant of the virus.