The Latest: Gov. Jim Justice alarmed over rising cases
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice expressed concern Friday about the state’s “alarming” number of coronavirus cases as he announced an initiative with schools to get more people vaccinated.
There were 1,328 new cases of COVID-19 reported in West Virginia in the last 24 hours, pushing the total number of active cases in the state to 13,766, according to figures from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
The number of confirmed positive cases surpassed 1,060 on back-to-back days for the first time since the most serious surge of the pandemic in mid-January.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch joined Justice to announce that schools across the state would offer vaccine clinics this fall.
Getting students vaccinated is about protecting lives and keeping kids in classrooms, said Cardona, who appeared virtually.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— New Zealand wages high-stakes effort to halt virus outbreak
— COVID-19 surge pummels Hawaii and its native population
— More US states seeing record hospitalizations, rising toll on children
— Music industry weighs vaccine mandates, but politics collide
— Models forecast 100,000 more COVID-19 deaths unless US changes its ways
— 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 on Friday reported that unvaccinated people were over 15 times more likely to die from COVID-19 during the four-week period ending Aug. 21.
State health officials also announced 912 adults are in intensive care units due to COVID-19 and 574 are on ventilators. Both figures represent the highest count since the start of the pandemic.
Data the state Department of Health and Human Services released on Friday shows more than 8,000 new daily COVID-19 cases in each of the last two days, which hasn’t happened since Jan. 14 and Jan. 15 — a time when vaccines were hard to come by and spread of the virus was rampant. The state also revealed on Friday it has had 26 consecutive days of at least 10% of new daily COVID-19 tests coming back positive, which nearly mirrors the stretch of 27 straight days of a double-digit positivity rate from Dec. 24, 2020, to Jan. 19.
The 3,651 people currently hospitalized in North Carolina due to the virus is the highest count in more than seven months. The state has reported 260 new COVID-19 deaths in the past week, which is expected to continue to rise as more and more people become hospitalized.
“The vast majority of people dying with COVID-19 are unvaccinated,” said a statement from Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official. “If you are not vaccinated, please don’t wait until it is too late.”
LAS VEGAS — An equestrian supply store in Nevada has sold out of a drug primarily used to deworm horses that vaccine skeptics are peddling as a remedy to the coronavirus.
KTNV-Las Vegas reports that V & V Tack and Feed in the northwestern Las Vegas metro area no longer has any Ivermectin.
The store told the television station it now requires customers show proof that they own horses to purchase the parasite drug.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Southern Nevada Health District published advisories this week warning people against taking Ivermectin for COVID-19. That it could lead to poisoning, hospitalization or vomiting.
JACKSON, MISS. — The board governing Mississippi’s public universities voted Friday not to require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19, after the body’s only two physician members urged the group to decide in favor of a mandate.
Nine members of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees said the vaccine should not be mandated during a special meeting on Friday. Many said they support students getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but that shots should be taken on a volunteer basis.
Members Dr. Alfred McNair Jr.and Dr. Steven Cunningham were the only two who voted to mandate vaccinations.
“This volunteer thing is ridiculous,” McNair, who is chief of medical staff at Biloxi Regional Medical Center. “If they had polio, it wouldn’t be a volunteer thing.”
McNair said cases among young people are rising in the state and that he’s seeing children hospitalized with more severe symptoms than ever before. He said people who recover from the virus can have long-term side effects.
Cunningham, a radiologist from Hattiesburg, said the board already tried letting students volunteer for the shots, and it hasn’t been as effective as it could be.
Board member Bruce Martin, an insurance agent, voted not to mandate vaccinations. He said he was vaccinated and fully supports as many students being vaccinated as is possible. But he said some people will never agree to be vaccinated, even if it’s mandated.
MISSION, Kan. — More than half of Kansas students are now required to wear masks in school as the delta variant rages, leading to widespread quarantines and forcing one district to call off classes because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
An Associated Press analysis has found that 30 of the state’s 50 largest districts have mask mandates in place, with most passed in the last month during often heated meetings and protests. Those 30 districts educate a combined 262,585 of the state’s 476,435 public schoolchildren.
Several other smaller districts also have mandated masks as well, including Atchison and Wamego.
Gov. Laura Kelly has repeatedly said that students need to wear masks in school, including in a Facebook post this week that also urged people to get vaccinated.
Most of the mandates, including those in Wichita, Olathe and Shawnee Mission, require masks for all students. A handful, though, only require masks for students who are too young to be vaccinated.
Remaining mask-free is proving challenging. In the 1,400-student Wellington district in south-central Kansas, schools were shuttered and sports practices canceled starting Friday.
Other districts, including Tonganoxie, started the year with masks optional but then quickly switched to requiring them after students started testing positive and dozens were ordered to quarantine.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska —- Alaska this week reported its highest daily number of confirmed resident COVID-19 cases this year as health officials struggle to keep pace with testing and contact tracing. And hospitals are juggling a surge in hospitalizations with staff shortages and admissions for other conditions.
The Anchorage Daily News reports that Gov. Mike Dunleavy and members of his administration on Thursday announced plans aimed at increasing hospital staffing to help with COVID-19 cases.
The measures include speeding the licensing process for health care workers and seeking federal contracts for more workers. Alaska reported 701 resident COVID-19 cases on Thursday. That’s one the highest daily infection rates since the pandemic started.
HONOLULU —- As visitors continue to fly to Hawaii and locals go about their business, state officials say the islands may need to go into lockdown if a surge in COVID-19 delta variant cases continue to rise.
County mayors are asking for more restrictions, and Gov. David Ige told Hawaii News Now on Thursday that strict mandates are being considered.
If case counts continue to rise “and we push the hospitals across that line then we will have to go to more extreme measures, lockdowns and potentially shutting businesses,” Ige said.
Hawaii has had nearly 16,000 new infections in August amid a spike of cases that has repeatedly broken state records. Earlier this week, Ige asked that tourists stop coming to the islands, but stopped short of enacting any formal restrictions on travel.
Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth is expected to make an announcement Friday about new rules. The island recently postponed the Ironman World Championship that was slated to be held in Kailua-Kona in October.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino is waiting for state approval for his newly proposed restrictions.
Victorino is asking residents to only do essential activities and is requesting that visitors voluntarily stay at their resorts and not visit the remote Hana coastline.
BOSTON —- A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a requirement that students at the University of Massachusetts campuses in Boston and Lowell be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in order to return to campus.
Students at the schools sued in July, asking the judge to find the vaccination mandates to be unconstitutional. The UMass Boston student also alleged she was improperly denied a religious exemption.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper said Friday the schools have a strong interest in reducing the spread of the disease. And she found that despite the students’ assertion that the policy is “arbitrary or not based in science,” the schools “based the decision upon both medical and scientific evidence and research and guidance and thus is at least rationally related to these legitimate interests.”
The judge also noted that students who refuse to get vaccinated may still take online classes or defer their enrollment a semester. But she said even if the policy meant they would be deprived of a UMass education, their argument still fails.
BERLIN —- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that her country is more than doubling the number of coronavirus vaccine doses it is giving to poor countries this year.
Merkel told reporters that Germany will give the international COVAX initiative 70 million doses this year, up from 30 million previously announced.
Germany has seen a slump in demand for the shot, with just under 60% of the population fully vaccinated. Some doctors have reported having to throw away unused doses after they expired.
Speaking at a meeting with African leaders in Berlin, Merkel said it was important to resolve the “dramatic injustice” of vaccine shortages in Africa, where only 2% of the population is vaccinated.
South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, said there was “a lot of unhappiness about this inequality” and called again for the suspension of intellectual property rights so vaccines can be produced in poor countries as well.
“Africa needs to be given the opportunity and the right to produce vaccines. It is a matter of life and death,” he said.
Merkel, who has opposed suspending such patents, said she believes “there will be a possibility to produce in Africa and also to transfer technology step by step,” citing projects for doing so in Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. —- A judge in Wyoming is offering defendants a break in their court fines if they agree to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Casper Star-Tribune reports that Natrona County Circuit Court Judge Steven Brown began offering the deal earlier this summer after seeing vaccination rates stagnate. Fewer than 40% of eligible people in Wyoming are fully vaccinated, putting it among the bottom five states in vaccination rate.
The city of Casper has a community service program that works with courts to offer a $10 reduction in fines per hour of work for local charities, nonprofits and other organizations.
Getting vaccinated is “just another form of community service,” Brown said Thursday.
One woman making an appearance in Circuit Court on Monday was offered a $200 reduction in her $560 fine if she was fully vaccinated within 30 days. Brown said he doesn’t require vaccination, just incentivizes it.
LYNCHBURG, Va. —- Liberty University announced a temporary campus-wide quarantine Thursday amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.
News outlets report that the quarantine is set to begin Monday and last until Sept. 10. The university’s online COVID-19 dashboard showed 159 known active cases among students, faculty and staff as of Wednesday.
As the fall semester began this week, the university, which doesn’t require vaccination, lifted building capacity restrictions and distancing and masking requirements. The protocol changed late Thursday with the announcement of the campus-wide quarantine, moving classes online and suspending large indoor gatherings.
The university will encourage masking and social distancing and host vaccine clinics on campus, but it didn’t indicate it would mandate those measures.
Outdoor events will continue as scheduled. Worship services will move to the stadium.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. —- School districts in Florida may impose mask mandates, a judge said Friday, ruling that Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority by issuing an executive order banning the mandates.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The governor’s order gave parents the sole right to decide if their child wears a mask at school.
Cooper said DeSantis’ order “is without legal authority.”
The judge’s decision came after a three-day virtual hearing. At least 10 Florida school boards have voted to defy DeSantis and impose mask requirements with no parental opt-out.