The Latest: Georgia infections, hospitalizations near peaks

ATLANTA — Coronavirus infections and COVID-19 hospitalizations in Georgia are nearing the peaks set in January.

The state Department of Public Health says Georgia’s seven-day rolling average for cases was just below 9,591 Saturday, close to the high of 9,635 reached Jan. 11. About 5,600 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Monday, just short of the 5,715 set Jan. 13.

Also on Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order calling up as many as 1,500 more National Guard soldiers to help short-staffed hospitals with nonmedical jobs. He previously authorized 1,000.

Also, teachers and state employees insured by the state health plan will qualify for a cash incentive to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The governor is focusing on voluntary vaccination as a solution to the pandemic and opposes other interventions such as mask mandates and, capacity reductions in public places.



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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama has set a new high for the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care, although the total number of hospitalized COVID patients remains slightly below the winter peak.

There were 884 COVID-19 patients in intensive care Sunday, the most since the pandemic began, according to the Alabama Hospital Association. Dr. Don Williamson heads the organization and he said Monday that the previous high was 848 in January.

The total number of COVID-19 patients in state hospitals was 2,829 on Monday, still below the high of 3,087 set in January.

About 38% of the people in Alabama are vaccinated against the coronavirus, which is one of the lowest rates in the country.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The number of COVID-19 patients in West Virginia hospital intensive care units is approaching the high mark in the pandemic.

There are 203 virus patients in ICUs across the state, the most since Jan. 11. The record of 219 came on Jan. 6,

A total of 640 people are hospitalized for the illness that can be caused by the coronavirus, a fourfold jump in the past month. The record of 818 was set on Jan. 5.

Officials said at a news conference Monday that 82% of current virus hospitalizations and 74% of the statewide deaths over the past two months involved unvaccinated people.


PHOENIX — Health officials in Arizona’s most populous county are sounding the alarm about a growing number of coronavirus outbreaks in schools.

The medical director for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health told the county Board of Supervisors on Monday that the agency tracked almost three times the number of school outbreaks in August as during the pandemic’s peak in February.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine says that of 188 outbreaks this month, 166 continue — far more than at any other point during the pandemic.

She adds that more than one in four COVID-19 cases in the county are now among children, a rate “never seen before.” One in six of those cases are among children under age 12.

Maricopa County is home to nearly 60% of Arizona’s residents.


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mothers of two children with serious illnesses are asking a federal judge to block enforcement of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s order allowing parents to opt out of pandemic mask requirements in schools. They argue that it endangers kids with health conditions and hurts their ability to attend in-person classes.

U.S. District Judge Sheryl H. Lipman heard testimony in Memphis on Monday as part of the lawsuit filed by the parents of two students in the Shelby County suburbs of Collierville and Germantown.

The school districts had been under a mask mandate issued by the county health department when the school year began earlier in August. However, the governor’s Aug. 16 order allows parents to send their children to school without masks, and hundreds of students have been attending classes without masks.


WASHINGTON — U.S. government advisers on Monday reiterated that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for people 16 and older.

The vaccine was the first to win full approval in the U.S. for that age group last week. It also remains available for emergency use by 12- to 15-year-olds.

The full approval gave advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a chance to look at all the extra evidence about safety since vaccinations first began last December. And data revealed Monday showed one serious side effect, heart inflammation, remains exceedingly rare after both the Pfizer vaccine and the similar Moderna shot.

The CDC has counted 2,574 cases of heart inflammation after hundreds of millions of doses of both vaccines. It mostly strikes males under 30 about a week after vaccination. CDC tracking shows the vast majority recover without lingering symptoms.

The CDC put the rare risk into sharper perspective. For every 1 million Pfizer vaccine doses administered to 16- to 17-year-old males, it estimated there would be 73 cases of the heart inflammation. But 500 COVID-19 hospitalizations among these teens would be prevented over the next four months.


MIAMI — The number of patients with the coronavirus in Florida hospitals is dropping as infection rates stay high. It’s a sign that while more people test positive for the virus, they are not necessarily developing severe illness.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tallied 15,488 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals, an 8% decrease over the past week.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the more than 30,000 people have been able to get monoclonal antibodies at 21 state sites set up over the past two weeks and avoided worsening their symptoms.


OKLAHOMA CITY — The four largest hospitals in Oklahoma City on Monday said they either have no intensive care bed space available or no space for COVID-19 patients.

Mercy, Integris and SSM Health said they had no ICU beds available and OU Health had none for COVID-19 patients in the state’s largest city.

OU Health, the state’s only trauma center, must keep some ICU beds available for other critically ill or injured patients.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health, which reported 1,572 virus-related hospitalizations statewide Monday, including 422 in ICU, stopped providing daily hospital bed availability data in May when Gov. Kevin Stitt ended a COVID-19 emergency declaration. The department has said it will resume providing the data, but has not yet done so.

SSM Health spokesperson Kate Cunningham said the information provided by the hospitals is not in response to anything the state agency has or has not provided.

“The only motive for acting together in this is because of regular requests for information from reporters, and we want to be transparent to the public,” Cunningham said.


Disability rights groups and parents of children with disabilities are seeking an immediate halt to a South Carolina law banning school districts from requiring face masks.

Last week, the groups and parents represented by the American Civil Liberties Union filed for a temporary restraining order that would block the law from being enforced while their lawsuit challenging the measure proceeds.

The ban, they wrote, “needlessly and unconscionably exposes South Carolina school children and their families to a heightened risk of infection, hospitalization, and death.”

State officials have until Sept. 9 to respond to the request in court.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Fully vaccinated employees in Alaska’s largest school district will receive up to 10 extra days of paid time off if they test positive for COVID-19 but can’t work from home while quarantining.

A spokesperson for the Anchorage School District tells the Anchorage Daily News in an email that employees who are not fully vaccinated are not eligible for the leave.

The district said in an Aug. 23 memo that employees will have to show proof of vaccination to be eligible.

The district is not requiring people to be vaccinated, but Superintendent Deena Bishop encourages employees to do so. Masks must be worn inside school district buildings despite opposition on that policy by new Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson.


ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor is calling up as many as an additional 1,500 National Guard soldiers to help with COVID-19 response.

More than 5,600 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across Georgia on Monday, nearly one-third of all people in hospitals. That’s just short of the record of 5,715 set on Jan. 13.

Kemp signed the executive order Monday increasing the ceiling on guard members from 1,000 to 2,500.

The Guard had deployed more than 100 personnel to 20 hospitals across the state to help them deal with the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.___

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s public school system is looking to the U.S. mainland for teachers to teach online classes as the islands struggle with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

As the highly contagious delta variant continues to infect more people, schools are seeing an increased demand for online instruction. Department guidelines say teachers doing telework must live in Hawaii.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the state Board of Education is urging administrators to look at changing the residency requirement.

The new school year began this month and the department currently offers limited remote learning options.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor on Monday announced new restrictions to fight a rise in COVID-19 cases, including closing certain private businesses and banning alcohol sales after midnight.

Social activities such as concerts, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries also will be banned during those hours, and people will be required to wear masks outside if there is a crowd of 50 or more. In addition, elective surgeries that require the use of intensive care units will be prohibited.

The measures will be in effect Sept. 2-23 and affect businesses including restaurants and theatres.

“We’re on the right track, but there was no alternative,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said, referring to a recent spike in cases and deaths blamed largely on the delta variant.

The announcement comes on the same day that people in the U.S. territory are required to start showing proof of vaccination to enter gyms, casinos, beauty salons and other places.


TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s health authorities reinstalled new tough restrictive measures and warned of a possible obligatory vaccine shot for some categories in their effort to prevent a further spread of the new Delta virus variant.

Health minister Ogerta Manastirliu said that “soon we shall start the application to passing over to a new stage of the vaccination campaign, making obligatory the vaccines for some categories on behalf of the right of the other people not to get infected.”

Albania has noted a significant rise of the daily cases this month to more than 900 from about 100 times less a month ago.

An experts’ committee extended the overnight curfew time by one hour to 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. (2100-0400 GMT). Face masks are obligatory in closed areas.

There were two deaths and 768 new cases on Sunday and about half of Albania’s 2.8 million population has had at least one shot of the vaccine.


SOFIA, Bulgaria — A Bulgarian health official said Monday that the government should consider implementing “stringent” anti-coronavirus measures amid a surge of infections in the Balkan nation.

In early July, Bulgaria — which has the lowest COVID-19 vaccine rate in the European Union at 18% — was recording just a few dozen coronavirus infections per day, but over the last week has registered between 1,500 to 2,000 infections per day.

Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev on Monday told local television channel BTV that he will recommend to the health ministry stricter measures against COVID-19 “which should apply to the whole country.”

“A new tightening of measures is inevitable where the incidence is high,” Kunchev said. “It is imperative to observe 50% capacity in establishments. A ban on mass events such as concerts and festivals may be imposed.”

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