The Latest: Florida school district gets cash over mask vote
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A Florida school district has received cash from President Joe Biden’s administration to make up for state pay cuts imposed over a board’s vote for a student anti-coronavirus mask mandate.
Alachua County school Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a news release Thursday the district has received $148,000 through a U.S. Department of Education program.
Simon says Alachua, where Gainesville and the University of Florida are located, is the first district in the nation to receive such a grant.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials have begun cutting salaries paid to school board members in Florida who voted to require masks for students. DeSantis favors allowing parents to decide whether their children wear face coverings and is in the midst of court battles over this broader issue.
About a dozen school boards in Florida, representing more than half the state’s students, have voted to defy the state ban on mask mandates despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to withhold some of their funding.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— ″Vaccine apartheid’: Africans tells UN they need vaccines
— New York state health commissioner resigns, backed Cuomo
— CDC advisers try to work out details on booster shots
— Some Argentines turn to unusual pandemic pets for comfort
See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
RALEIGH, N.C. — More than one-third of the 56,000 North Carolina government employees included in Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order compelling them to get a COVID-19 shot or face weekly testing have not been fully vaccinated, according to new state data.
Law enforcement officials are getting vaccinated at the lowest rates, though the state said it is still processing a large set of data from the Department of Public Safety. Less than 53% of the 21,804 employees within that department who are subject to Cooper’s directive have been fully vaccinated.
This is substantially lower than the 63% of North Carolina adults who have gotten one Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two Pfizer or Moderna shots, as of Thursday.
Cooper said in a news conference Tuesday that he is particularly concerned by the number of prison officials who have thus far refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s probably the most concerning because we know there’s close quarters and congregated populations there, so we really want to work on those percentages,” Cooper said. “Right now, we’re setting up discipline procedures for people who do not do the vaccination or the testing, and there are some employees who are beginning to fall in that category.”
The Department of Public Safety is the largest agency covered under Cooper’s order, followed by the state Department of Health and Human Services, which has three-fourths of its more than 15,000 employees subject to Cooper’s directive fully vaccinated.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama has averaged more than 100 deaths a day from COVID-19 over the last week, statistics showed Thursday, giving it the nation’s highest death rate over the period even as hospitalizations linked to the coronavirus pandemic continue to decline.
Statistics from Johns Hopkins University show 106 deaths were reported statewide daily over the last seven days, although some of those could have occurred earlier because of a lag in reporting. Alabama’s rate of 18 deaths for every 100,000 people over the last week is far above second-place West Virginia, which had 10 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The increase in deaths come as hospitalizations in the state fell below 1,800 patients for the first time in a month, a change health officials said likely was due to both people getting well and dying.
While more people are getting vaccinated than before the highly contagious delta strain took hold, the state still has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, and its chief health officer said still more people need to get shots because the risk of getting infected remains high.
“Increasing vaccine rates remains critical to reduce cases of COVID-19,” Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said in a statement Thursday.
NEW YORK — The inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution is coming into sharper focus as many of the African countries whose populations have little to no access to the life-saving shots stepped to the podium to speak at the U.N.’s annual meeting of world leaders.
South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa pointed to vaccines as “the greatest defense that humanity has against the ravages of this pandemic.”
Ramaphosa, speaking by video link, urged U.N. member states to support a proposal to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rights established by the World Trade Organization to allow more countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1% has gone to low-income countries,” he says.
Angola president João Lourenço says: “These disparities allow for third doses to be given, in some cases. While in other cases, as in Africa, the vast majority of the population has not even received the first dose.”
The U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Israel are among the countries administering boosters or have announced plans to do so. Namibia president Hage Geingob called it “vaccine apartheid.”
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Board of Education has voted to require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend in-person school.
The move late Wednesday makes Oakland Unified the first school district in Northern California to adopt a vaccine requirement. The vote comes after Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest school district, and the smaller Southern California district of Culver City imposed similar policies for their students this month.
Several other school boards in the San Francisco Bay Area are considering similar measures as schools try to navigate in-person instruction during the pandemic.
ISTANBUL — A Turkish school official is using traditional shadow puppet shows to teach children how to follow COVID-19 restrictions in class, the state-run news agency reported Thursday.
Mehmet Saylan, based in the central Anatolian city of Kirsehir, has been staging Karagoz plays to educate kindergarten and primary school pupils. Karagoz was popularized during the Ottoman period and often contains a moral message.
“I cover the issues of masks, distance and hygiene,” Saylan, 39, told Anadolu Agency. “The children do what they see and hear in the play with more enjoyment and willingness. The feedback we get from schools is also very positive. The children learn the rules of the pandemic while having fun.”
NEW YORK — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has submitted his resignation. Hochul said Thursday that Zucker has agreed to stay on until the state names a new commissioner.
Zucker was appointed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as state health commissioner in 2015. He has faced heated criticism over the state’s COVID-19 response, particularly in nursing homes.
Data released by the state earlier this year show 15,800 people living in nursing homes and other long-term care homes in New York have died of COVID-19.
Zucker has defended a since-rescinded March 2020 directive that said nursing homes couldn’t refuse to admit patients solely because they had COVID-19.
Zucker also faced criticism from health care workers who said the state failed to ensure hospitals and nursing homes had adequate personal protective gear and staffing during the peak of the pandemic in New York.
FOND DU LAC, Wis. — A 26-year-old Fond du Lac police officer has died of COVID-19 complications, according to his department.
The death of Officer Joseph Kurer on Wednesday came a day after his second child was born, according to a statement from Chief Aaron Goldstein.
Kurer joined the Fond du Lac Police Department in August 2018 and was a member of the Tactical Field Force Team, the Honor Guard Unit, Domestic Violence Intervention Team and was certified as a field training officer.
Kurer also was a member of the Wisconsin National Guard, according to his department.
HELENA, Mont. — Medical providers and Montana residents with compromised immune systems are challenging a state law that prevents employers from mandating vaccines for employees.
They argue the law passed by the 2021 Legislature violates federal requirements for safe workplaces and reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities and want a federal judge to rule it doesn’t apply to hospitals and other medical providers.
The Montana Medical Association, private physician groups, a Missoula hospital and seven individuals filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Missoula on Wednesday. The complaint names Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Commissioner of Labor and Industry Laurie Esau as defendants.
Montana’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law that said requiring vaccines as a condition of employment is discriminatory and violates the state’s human rights laws. Montana is the only state with such a law.
Knudsen’s office says he’ll defend the law, and is committed to protecting Montanans’ right to privacy and their ability to make their own healthcare decisions.
The complaint argues the new law prevents medical providers from taking steps to protect employees and patients who have compromised immune systems and violates Occupational Safety and Health Act provisions that require employers to provide workplaces free from hazards.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is scrapping many of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions, after becoming the world leader in the vaccination rollout.
Portugal has fully vaccinated nearly 85% of the population, according to Our World in Data.
The government says starting Oct. 1, it will remove limits on how many people can be in cafes and restaurants, weddings and baptisms, shopping malls, concerts and cinemas. Bars and discos will reopen, although only for vaccinated people and people with negative coronavirus tests.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa said some restrictions need to stay in place. The wearing of face masks will still be mandatory on public transportation, in hospitals and care homes, and shopping malls. People arriving from abroad by air or sea must still show a vaccine certificate or a negative virus test.
“The pandemic isn’t over,” he said. “The risk is still there.”
Naval Rear Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo, with his team from the three branches of the armed forces, took charge of the vaccine rollout in February.
Tiago Correia, an associate professor in international public health at Lisbon’s New University Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, credits the traditional consenting attitude in Portugal toward national vaccination programs. Its vaccination rate for measles, mumps and rubella is 95% —one of the EU’s highest — and there’s no significant anti-vaccination movement.
LONDON — The pharmaceutical company Novavax and the Serum Institute of India say they’ve submitted an application to the World Health Organization for their coronavirus vaccine to be granted an emergency use listing.
That would allow the shot to be used as part of a global vaccine-sharing program. In a statement on Thursday, Novavax and its partner the Serum Institute say their request for the COVID-19 vaccine to the U.N. health agency is based on a previous submission to Indian regulators.
The Novavax shots are easier to store and transport than some other options. They’ve long been expected to play an important role in increasing supplies in poor countries desperate for more vaccine. In June, the company said their vaccine was about 90% effective against symptomatic COVID-19.
Novavax, based in Maryland, signed a deal this year with the vaccine alliance Gavi to provide 350 million doses to the U.N.-backed COVAX program, most of which are intended to be made by the Serum Institute. A previous non-binding agreement said Novavax would provide up to 1 billion vaccines.
TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas education official says a middle school student has died of COVID-19.
The child’s death is the first reported COVID-19 death of someone age 10 to 17 in Kansas and only the third reported for someone under 18.
Education Commissioner Randy Watson said Wednesday that state health officials told him the child died this week. State health officials said they are investigating the report.
Meanwhile, state health officials reported 11 new COVID-19 clusters at schools. Data from the department showed there are now 72 active school outbreaks across Kansas, resulting in 537 coronavirus cases and one hospitalization.