The Latest: Central Park concert expected to draw thousands

NEW YORK — The sounds of song will be ringing out from Central Park, with thousands expected for a superstar-laden concert meant to celebrate New York City’s recovery from the coronavirus.

Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Jennifer Hudson, Carlos Santana, LL Cool J and Andrea Bocelli are among the performers at what is being billed as the “Homecoming Concert.”

Despite the joyful intention, the concert is taking place when there are worries over the contagious delta variant of COVID-19. According to state statistics, New York City has averaged just under 2,000 new cases of coronavirus a day over the past week. Those who attend the concert must show proof of vaccination.



— Demand for COVID-19 antibody drugs soars in hard-hit states

— Vietnam calls on army for food delivery ahead of strict lockdown

— Florida orders school boards to relax mask rules or risk pay

— San Francisco: Full vaccination needed to enter restaurants, bars


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ORLANDO, Fla. — The mayor of Orlando is asking residents to stop watering their lawns and washing their cars for at least a week.

Mayor Buddy Dyer says water usage needed to be cut back because of the recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The Orlando Utility Commission treats the city’s water with liquid oxygen and supplies that ordinarily go toward water treatment have been diverted to hospitals for patients suffering from the virus.

The city-owned utility typically goes through 10 trucks of liquid oxygen a week, but its supplier recently says that could be cut back to five to seven trucks a week to accommodate hospitals.

Officials at one of the Orlando area’s largest health care systems said this week they had 1,620 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, twice what it was during last winter’s peak high for AdventHealth.


SYDNEY — Authorities in Australia say more than 250 people have been arrested while protesting coronavirus lockdowns in the country. Many faced fines for defying health orders.

The protests took place Saturday in several cities nationwide, with the largest and most violent protest in Melbourne. At least seven police officers were treated for injuries after skirmishes broke out at some of the protests.

Sydney has been in lockdown for two months, while Melbourne and Australia’s capital, Canberra, went into lockdown earlier this month. Under the rules of the lockdown, people are mostly confined to their homes and have limits placed on their social interactions.

Protestors say the lockdowns should end, but authorities say they are necessary to suppress the spread of the virus and save lives.

Despite the restrictions, Sydney’s New South Wales state reported a record 825 new daily community infections on Saturday. Several cities are battling outbreaks of the highly contagious delta variant.


BERLIN — New coronavirus infections in Germany have reached their highest level in nearly three months amid a steady rise powered by the delta variant.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, says Saturday that 51.6 new cases per 100,000 residents were reported over the last seven days. It’s the first time since May 25 that the infection rate has been above 50, but it has been increasing since hitting a low of 4.9 in early July.

The disease control center says 8,092 new cases were reported over the past 24 hours — up from 5,644 a week earlier. More cases are getting detected as summer vacations end and children return to schools in some parts of Germany.

German authorities have been trying to reinvigorate the country’s vaccination drive, which has slowed considerably. Official figures showed that 63% of Germany’s population had received at least one vaccine dose as of Thursday and 58% was fully vaccinated.


HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam’s government says it is sending troops to Ho Chi Minh City to help deliver food and aid to households as it further tightens restrictions on people’s movements amid a worsening surge of the coronavirus.

The army personnel will be deployed to help with logistics as the city of 10 million people asks residents to “stay put” for two weeks starting from Monday, a report on the government website said Friday.

The move comes as Vietnam, which weathered much the pandemic with very few cases, recorded more than 10,000 new infections and 390 deaths on Friday. Ho Chi Minh City accounted for 3,500 of those infections.

Ho Chi Minh City has had strict coronavirus measures in place since June, including banning gatherings of more than two people in public and only allowing people to leave home for essential matters like buying food or going to work in certain permitted businesses. Under the new measures, people in high risk areas cannot leave home at all.


HONOLULU — A hospital serving a Honolulu suburb has filled up as the community faces a surge of COVID-19 cases.

All 104 beds at The Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu are full, said Jason Chang, the CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems.

The Ewa Beach hospital has sent some patients to its sibling facility in downtown Honolulu. It’s also asked staff from other parts of the Queen’s system to come help.

The city has set up a triage tent outside the hospital that has 25 cots. The hospital may add beds in hallways and other makeshift areas but not all patients will get rooms.

Chang says the hospital had 63 patients in its emergency room at one time, which is a crisis given the hospital only has 24 ER beds. Twenty-six of those in the ER were there with possible COVID-19 infections.


MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal team of health care workers has been deployed to a coastal Alabama hospital that is being ‘crushed’ with a surge of COVID-19 patients, the state health officer says.

State Health Officer Scott Harris says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is sending a task force team, that includes nurses, a doctor and others, to help at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley. Similar help had been sent to help in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Coastal areas have been particularly hard hit by the recent COVID-19 surge, and the team was sent to the area having the greatest need, state health officials said.

Alabama is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases that medical officials say is fueled by low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.


MIAMI — Florida officials are threatening to withhold funds equal to the salaries of school board members if school districts in two counties don’t immediately do away with strict mask mandates as the state continues to battle through high hospitalization rates.

School boards in Broward and Alachua counties received a warning from the State Board of Education giving them 48 hours to walk back their decisions to require masks for all students, only exempting those with a doctor’s note.

“We cannot have government officials pick and choose what laws they want to follow,” Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said in an emailed statement. “These are the initial consequences to their intentional refusal to follow state law and state rule to purposefully and willingly violate the rights of parents.”

Corcoran said the two districts are violating the Parents’ Bill of Rights and a late July executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis that prompted rules limiting how far districts can go with mask requirements. DeSantis maintains masks can be detrimental for children’s development.

But board members in the two countries decided not to allow parents to easily opt out of the mandate as surging cases fueled by the delta variant strained hospitals.


FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations gained a new voice with a highly personal testimonial — a one-time vaccine skeptic recounting his debilitating fight against the virus.

Ethan Koehler, 28, spoke in stark terms of his journey from downplaying the pandemic to being laid low by excruciating pain, struggles to breathe and then “relearning” to walk without losing his breath as the coronavirus ravaged his health.

“I was very, very big on anti-COVID, anti-vaccine,” Koehler said. “I made Facebook posts, public posts, talked to people, made a big deal about it. Made a point to not wear a mask. Made a point to say that COVID wasn’t important. And I am eating crow on it, because I experienced it.”

Koehler’s video message was shown at Beshear’s media briefing Thursday afternoon. After months of imploring Kentuckians to take COVID-19 shots, the governor has turned increasingly to others to help make the case.

Koehler’s ordeal highlighted another alarming trend — growing infection rates among younger Kentuckians, who are less likely to be vaccinated.


SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco has become the first major city in the United States to require proof of full vaccination against the coronavirus for people to dine inside restaurants, work out in gyms or attend indoor concerts.

Restaurants and bars posted signs and added extra staff Friday to begin verifying people’s proof of vaccination before allowing them in.

The new rule goes beyond New York City, which only requires people to be at least partially inoculated for a variety of indoor activities.

Local business groups in San Francisco have supported the new vaccine mandate, saying it will protect their employees’ and customers’ health and keep them from having to limit capacity indoors.


RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina children now must get approval from a parent before receiving the current COVID-19 vaccine available to them under legislation that Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law.

The written consent requirement is contained in a broader measure that largely expands the medications or immunizations, including vaccines, that pharmacists trained to deliver shots can administer to consumers.

The measure received near unanimous support in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.

“This important legislation will help our state administer COVID-19 vaccines more quickly and efficiently,” Cooper, a Democrat, said in a news release announcing the bill signing.

Permission from a parent or guardian applies immediately to vaccines authorized by federal regulators for emergency use. The coronavirus vaccine produced by Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine now available in the U.S. for children 12 and older.

North Carolina has given minors the ability on their own to be treated for certain health issues. That previously included obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine if they showed “the decisional capacity to do so,” according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.


OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is calling for school districts to require masks and says she is considering declaring an emergency as hospitals strain to handle increasingly young COVID-19 patients.

The latest health department data shows 154 coronavirus clusters in schools, with a total of 1,889 cases.

Kelly noted schools in other states have shut down completely over outbreaks. She says until a coronavirus vaccine is approved for children under age 12, using masks can help curb the spread of infections.

The governor says more COVID-19 patients were admitted to Kansas hospitals Wednesday than any other single day during the pandemic. ICUs are at 100% capacity at six of the state’s largest hospitals, with two-thirds of the beds going to COVID-19 patients.


BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is calling on parents to take seriously the coronavirus risks for children and to ensure students wear face masks.

Schools that resumed classes this month already have reported more than 5,300 students and 750 employees who have tested positive for the virus. Those numbers are expected to grow larger.

Edwards has enacted a statewide mask mandate that includes schools. That has prompted angry outcries from some parents who argue they should decide whether to put a mask on their children.

The governor said: “Transmission is very high. Simply put, we cannot keep our schools open or our kids safe today without masks.”


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