The Latest: DC reinstates mandatory indoor mask requirements
WASHINGTON — The nation’s capital is reinstating mandatory indoor mask requirements, regardless of vaccination status.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the new regulations begin Saturday and apply to everyone over age 2.
“I know that D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines and they will embrace this,” Bowser said. “We will continue to do what is necessary to keep D.C. safe.”
The move had been expected in the face of local infection numbers and new guidance from the Center for Disease Control, which now encourages vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas classified as having “substantial community transmission” levels. That includes Washington and the neighboring Virginia communities of Alexandria and Loudon counties.
The city’s public health emergency expired this week, but a general state of public emergency remains in place. Bowser says the only exception to the new rules are when people are “actively eating and drinking.”
D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt says there will be a renewed vaccination push because shots “continue to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death.”
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Officials in Tokyo alarmed as cases hit record highs
— Europe on vacation, but vaccinations not taking a break
— Africa outlook ‘encouraging’ amid dose shortage
— In reversal, Burundi says it will accept COVID-19 vaccines
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JERUSALEM — A leading Israeli health provider says it will soon begin offering a third booster COVID-19 shot to patients over age 60 who have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Maccabi, one of Israel’s four publicly funded health maintenance organizations, says the vaccinations will start on Sunday.
The announcement came shortly ahead of a nationally televised news conference by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is expected to unveil a nationwide booster shot program. It would make Israel among the first countries to launch a widespread campaign offering its vaccinated citizens a third dose.
The effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech 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.
More than 57% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and more than 80% of the population over 40 is vaccinated.
OSAGE BEACH, Mo. — A Missouri hospital with no people hospitalized with COVID-19 just two months ago is dealing with an onslaught of patients.
Daryl Barker said his conservative politics made him “strongly against the vaccine.” But he and several relatives got sick, and now the 31-year-old Barker is fighting for his life in an intensive care unit at Lake Regional Hospital.
The hospital workers in Osage Beach witnessed 22 people died from the coronavirus in the first 23 days of July. Barker and his wife, who have a 6-year-old son, plan to get vaccinated if he recovers.
Just 47.5% of Missourians have initiated vaccination, nearly 10% less than the national average. Around Osage Beach, a town of about 5,000 people that straddles two counties, state data shows only 38.6% of Camden County residents and 26.7% in Miller County have started the process.
Statewide, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have more than doubled since the start of June, and the number of ICU patients has more than tripled. Lake Regional Dr. Joe Sohal, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist, says nearly everyone hospitalized is unvaccinated.
PHOENIX — Several major Arizona cities are reinstituting mask-wearing requirements for people in city-owned facilities in response to new CDC guidance aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero says she directed the city manager on Wednesday to require masks in city facilities, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Mandates announced by Phoenix, Peoria and Tempe also apply whether people are vaccinated or not.
Peoria’s requirement took effect Thursday, while Tempe’s mandate takes effect Friday and exempts children under 6.
A similar requirement ordered by the Phoenix city manager for all city facilities takes effect Monday, the city said in a statement.
Most of Arizona, including the Phoenix and Tucson areas, meets the threshold for substantial community spread.
NEW YORK — A spot check of U.S. stores and other data sources shows mask sales are rising again amid concerns about surging coronavirus cases from the delta variant.
Retail analysts expect mask sales will increase further after The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week recommended vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the cases are surging.
Sales of masks rose 24% for the week ending Tuesday, compared to the prior week, reversing weekly declines since May, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
The coronavirus is especially surging among the unvaccinated and in states with low vaccination rates.
Stores face challenges in figuring how much they should order, given so much uncertainty regarding the virus.
PARIS — Social workers in France worry the growing use of virus passports will further marginalize migrants and other poor populations.
The aid group Doctors Without Borders has set up a tent this summer in Paris to vaccinate migrants, homeless people and others without access to health care. Aid workers are carrying out similar actions in other countries, too.
Migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan African countries lined up before the vaccinations started Thursday and many were glad to have the opportunity. Migrants and poor populations have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic.
France has confirmed 111,000 deaths from the virus, and infections and virus hospitalizations are rising again.
DES MOINES — Health experts are concerned about next month’s Iowa State Fair, which will bring more than 1 million people to Des Moines.
Many will come from counties with low vaccination rates and increasing prevalence of the disease. Officials have encouraged people to get vaccinated, but Iowa’s Republican-majority legislature and governor have blocked local governments from imposing vaccination or mask requirements.
The CDC reported Wednesday that 49% of Iowans were fully vaccinated, ranking the state 21st in the nation. In at least 18 of Iowa’s 99 counties, fewer than 40% of the population is vaccinated. CDC data shows 35 counties with a high rate of spread and 12 counties with substantial spread of the virus.
There will be no capacity limits for the 11-day fair that starts Aug. 12.
LEWISBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice surprised a retired health care worker with a $1 million check as the most recent winner of the state’s vaccination sweepstakes.
Wanda Coleman of Ronceverte got together with former co-workers at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, believing it was a ceremony to honor a recently retired staff member.
Justice made some remarks about the importance of vaccinations, and school officials honored Coleman for 10 years of service with the Robert C. Byrd Clinic. That’s when Justice revealed her name had been drawn for the million-dollar prize.
It was one of 50 prizes announced Wednesday. He also surprised two people with new custom-outfitted trucks. Other prizes included two full four-year scholarships to any public institution in the state, five lifetime hunting licenses, five lifetime fishing licenses, five hunting rifles, five hunting shotguns and 25 weekend getaways to West Virginia State Parks.
BALTIMORE, Md. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is allowing the troubled factory of contract manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions to resume production of COVID-19 vaccine bulk substance, the company said Thursday.
The Baltimore factory was shut down by the FDA in mid-April due to contamination problems that forced the company to throw out the equivalent of tens of millions of doses of vaccine it was making under contract for Johnson & Johnson.
The bulk vaccine was contaminated with an ingredient for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which was made in the same factory. Emergent didn’t say when production will resume at the factory.
The productions problems forced J&J to import millions of doses from its factory in the Netherlands to the U.S. and to miss supply commitments. Emergent Chief Executive Robert Kramer said the company had fallen short of the public’s expectations.
The Biden administration has been working to find a different American manufacturing partner for British drugmaker AstraZeneca, whose COVID-19 vaccine isn’t authorized for distribution in the U.S.
BEIJING — A disease-control official has called for increased testing of employees at China’s ports because of concerns about the coronavirus.
Roadblocks were set up to test drivers after a rash of coronavirus cases traced to a major airport. It’s rattled authorities who thought they had the disease under control.
The 171 new cases of the more contagious delta variant in the eastern city of Nanjing and surrounding Jiangsu province are modest compared with India and some other countries. But infections traced to Nanjing Lukou International Airport have spread to at least 10 cities.
Drivers who want to leave Jiangsu need to show a negative coronavirus test taken in the past 48 hours, the provincial transportation department announced Wednesday. It said 93 checkpoints were set up on highways.
Nanjing, a city of 9.3 million people northwest of Shanghai, ordered tens of thousands of people to stay home. It’s conducting mass testing while experts hunt for the source of the virus.
China has reported 92,811 confirmed cases and 4,363 deaths.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The World Health Organization’s Africa director says the continent of 1.3 billion people is entering an “encouraging phase after a bleak June” as supplies of COVID-19 vaccines increase.
But Matshidiso Moeti told reporters on Thursday that just 10% of the doses needed to vaccinate 30% of Africa’s population by the end of 2021 have arrived. Some 82 million doses have gotten to Africa so far, while some 820 million are needed.
And the year-end vaccination target is just half the 60% population coverage that African health officials seek to achieve so-called herd immunity. The African continent is far behind on vaccinations as richer countries keep doses for their citizens.
Less than 2% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the more infectious delta variant is driving a deadly resurgence of cases. The WHO says nearly 4 million vaccine doses arrived in Africa last week from the global COVAX facility, compared to less than 250,000 in all of June.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel on vaccine deliveries to Africa but it must not be snuffed out again,” Moeti said. She warned that countries’ decisions to provide a third, “booster” dose could influence decisions on sending vaccines to Africa.
Africa Centers for Disease Control director John Nkengasong told reporters that African countries might need more doses than previously thought as the delta variant spreads and younger people get COVID-19.
TOKYO — Japanese officials have sounded the alarm as Tokyo reported record-breaking coronavirus cases for the third straight day with the Olympics well underway.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katunobu Kato told reporters the new cases are soaring not only in the Tokyo area but across the country. He says Japan has never experienced an expansion of infections of this magnitude.
Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases on Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the number it had a a week ago,
Japan has kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries, but its seven-day rolling average is growing and now stands at 28 per 100,000 people nationwide and 88 in Tokyo, according to the Health Ministry.
People are still roaming the streets despite stay-at-home requests, making restrictions ineffective. The Tokyo governor says cases could hit 4,500 a day.
“While almost nothing is helping to slow the infections, there are many factors that can accelerate them,” said Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, noting the Olympics and summer vacation. “The biggest risk is the lack of a sense of crisis.”
MADRID — Spain’s prime minister on Thursday announced that existing measures to protect the most vulnerable from the pandemic’s economic fallout will be prolonged until the end of October.
Spain, one of the country’s that was hardest hit at the beginning of the health emergency, has extended subsidies for the unemployed and furloughs for companies that have gone out of business to try to cushion an economic drop of 11% of its gross domestic product in 2020.
As a national lockdown extended in March last year, the government also rolled out a series of social measures, including a ban on leaving impoverished families without utilities and a moratorium on forced evictions for those who saw their income vanish.
During a televised briefing on Thursday to summarize progress during the first 1½ years of his left-wing coalition, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that the so-called social shield will be extended beyond the current Aug. 9 expiration date to Oct. 31.
The change will be approved by the Cabinet next week, Sánchez said.
New cases have spread mostly among people under 30, who largely haven’t received their vaccine shots yet, although the speed of infections spreading has plateaued in recent days.
BANGKOK — Health authorities in Thailand are racing to set up a large field hospital in a cargo building at one of Bangkok’s airports as the country reports record numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Other field hospitals are already in use in the capital after it ran out of hospital facilities for thousands of infected residents. Workers rushed to finish the 1,800-bed hospital at Don Mueang International Airport, where beds made from cardboard box materials are laid out with mattresses and pillows.
The airport has had little use because almost all domestic flights were canceled two weeks ago. The field hospital is expected to be ready for patients in two weeks.
The airport, a domestic and regional hub, has had little use because almost all domestic flights were canceled two weeks ago.
The quick spread of the delta variant also led neighboring Cambodia to seal its border with Thailand on Thursday and order a lockdown and movement restrictions in eight provinces.