The Latest: Gov. threatens funds for schools mandating masks
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is upping the pressure on public school districts defying a state ban on mask mandates by threatening to cut off some funds.
The governor said Tuesday that schools won’t get any cash from a $163 million grant program he controls if they don’t drop mask rules within 10 days. Schools also will lose out on the $1,800 per student if they have to close because of coronavirus outbreaks.
At least 16 districts teaching nearly a third of the state’s 1.1 million public school students now have mask rules. A judge ruled this week that the state ban does not take effect until Sept. 29.
Ducey also announced a $10 million program that will give $7,000 for a student to use for private schooling if their public school requires isolating or quarantining due to virus exposure, orders mask wearing or gives preferential treatment to vaccinated children.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Britain OKs Moderna vaccine for ages 12 and up
— New York City begins proof of vaccination at eateries, gyms, cultural venues
— Sources: U.S. to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters at 8 months
— New Zealand to enter lockdown after single virus case found
— Among France’s poorest, once-lagging vaccine rates increase
— More U.S. cities to require masks in public
— Hawaii’s largest private hospital system runs out of ICU beds
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
HOUSTON — At least four school districts in Texas have closed campuses due to coronavirus outbreaks early in the new school year.
The shutdowns are taking place as more districts and communities are requiring students and residents to wear face coverings indoors, defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.
The school district in Gorman in North Texas had been set to begin the school year Wednesday but is delaying that by a week. Campus shutdowns also were announced Tuesday by the districts in the East Texas towns of Bloomburg and Waskom.
Those moves came a day after the Iraan-Sheffield district in West Texas closed its schools for two weeks.
Mask wearing was optional in these four school districts. At least 21 other districts, including some of the state’s biggest, have instituted mask mandates, which are in violation of Abbott’s executive order banning such measures.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University is requiring masks to be worn in classrooms and labs for the next 30 days, saying not enough students and employees have submitted proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.
The university says the rule takes effect Wednesday, which is when classes start on the Morgantown campus. The mask requirement applies to everyone, even those who have been vaccinated.
While the university is not requiring its students and employees to be vaccinated, officials had set a vaccine verification goal of 80% by Sept. 1. Students, faculty and staff on all campuses were required to either provide a vaccine verification or a negative virus test result by Friday.
The school says only about two-thirds of students and staff have submitted the verification paperwork on the Morgantown campus and even less have done so on its Beckley and Keyser campuses,
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi state officials say they more children are being hospitalized with COVID-19 than earlier in the pandemic.
As of Friday, 18 children were hospitalized, and on Sunday five were in an intensive care unit, with four on ventilators.
The state Department of Health said Monday that health officials heard this week about the COVID-19 death of a child between age 11 and 17, raising the total of young people deaths to five since the start of the pandemic.
CHICAGO — Chicago will require masks in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status as daily COVID-19 case counts rise.
The mandate takes effect Friday citywide for everyone over age 2. Chicago’s top doctor said Tuesday that the city is reporting roughly 400 cases daily, which is a threshold public health officials say signals a higher transmission risk.
Still, public health officials say it’s much lower than a winter peak when it was over 3,000 cases a day.
Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady says no further restrictions or closures are currently planned and the goal is to remain open, but careful.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A major state employer, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System, said Tuesday it would require workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 12.
The requirement affects 16,000 employees and others working in hospitals and could help boost the state’s last-in-the-nation ranking for the shots.
Employees of UAB Health already are required to be vaccinated against other health threats including the flu, the system said, and COVID-19 is threatening its ability to provide care.
Nearly 100 doctors, nurses and other workers have contracted COVID-19 at UAB Hospital, a report showed.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is reinstating a mask mandate for all indoor public places, regardless of vaccination status.
Grisham’s office also announced Tuesday that more people will be required to get vaccinated, such as workers at hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile justice facilities and residential treatment centers.
All workers at schools in New Mexico must also get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
Officials noted that vaccination rates remain stagnant, but infections are rising.
ATLANTA — Parents in Georgia’s second largest school district plan to rally again to try to force school officials to require masks amid a statewide surge in coronavirus cases that has disrupted classroom instruction for thousands of students.
The plans for a rally on Thursday by Cobb County school parents come as coronavirus cases in the school system and other districts around the state continue to rise.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday reiterated his opposition to mask and vaccine mandates and said he has no plans for statewide school restrictions.
PHOENIX — A western Arizona school district is considering a proposal to ban any discussion between staff and students about vaccines and masks.
The Colorado River Union High School’s governing board is set to meet on the matter Tuesday night.
The measure would allow for disciplinary action to be taken against any district employee who speaks on “anything related to vaccine status or encouraging/discouraging vaccines or mask with students.”
District officials did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s largest private hospital system has run out of ICU beds amid a surge of new coronavirus cases.
Jason Chang, chief operating officer of The Queen’s Health Systems and president of The Queen’s Medical Center, says all of the hospital system’s beds are completely full.
The hospitals were canceling some elective surgeries and procedures and diverting emergency patients to other hospitals, Chang said.
Hospital workers are tired and frustrated because most of the COVID-19 patients they are caring for are not vaccinated, Chang said.
Hawaii, with a population of nearly 1.5 million people, has averaged 652 new cases a day over the past week and has a 7.5% positivity rate, according to state data. In early July, the state was averaging 50 cases a day.
At least 308 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized statewide.
LAS VEGAS — Vaccine verification at major venues has become a coronavirus fighting front in Nevada.
Las Vegas’ biggest trade conference on Tuesday followed the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders announcing they’ll require attendees to prove they’re inoculated.
The sponsor of the CES gadget show said attendees in January will have to show they’ve been vaccinated to enter venues including the expanded Las Vegas Convention Center.
The announcement came a day after Gov. Steve Sisolak said indoor venues with 4,000 or more attendees can opt out of the state’s mask requirements if they opt in to a program ensuring that attendees have inoculations.
Sisolak said one dose of a two-dose vaccination will get people in the door, but they’ll still have to wear face coverings.
Fully vaccinated people won’t have to wear masks.
The Raiders unveiled their first-in-the-NFL policy to require fans to show proof of vaccinations beginning Sept. 13.
JACKSON, Miss. — A top Mississippi health official said Tuesday 20,000 students are currently quarantined for COVID-19 exposure in the state — 4.5% of the public school population, according to the state’s latest enrollment figures.
The data comes from reports made by 800 schools to the Mississippi State Department of Health last week, Mississippi State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said during a call with state pediatricians.
The school outbreaks have resulted in many school officials rethinking their policies after beginning the academic year without restrictions, like mask mandates. Around 600 schools have now implemented universal masking for indoor settings, Byers said.
But there are still many settings where many restrictions that could keep kids safer are not in place — or not enforced.
DES MOINES, Iowa — State Fairs in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin are offering COVID-19 vaccinations as the delta variant spreads across the country.
In Iowa, a vaccination booth nestled among corn dog and funnel cake stands vaccinated 150 people in the first four days of the fair in a state where only half of the population is fully vaccinated. All but three of Iowa’s 99 counties are experiencing a substantial or high rate of spread.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ policy of personal responsibility allows fairgoers to decide whether to be vaccinated or wear a mask. Public health officials recommend wearing a mask in crowds. The fair is on track to attract an estimated 1 million visitors.
At the Indiana State Fair, 304 vaccines have been administered since July 30. And at the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee, 608 people were vaccinated over 11 days, perhaps enticed by the promise of a free cream puff pastry.
PHOENIX — Five Arizona school districts have joined the growing list of districts requiring students and staff to wear masks, even though a state law bars such mandates.
Two districts in the Tucson area and three in metro Phoenix issued mask requirements after a Maricopa County judge ruled Monday that the state doesn’t take effect until Sept. 29.
A teacher who filed a lawsuit challenging a mask mandate at one Phoenix district argued it took after lawmakers approved it in late June. In all, at least 16 districts in Arizona are requiring students and staff to wear masks while indoors amid fears over the delta variant.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s Health Ministry reported 451 new cases and two deaths related to the coronavirus.
That is a significant increase compared to last month when there were less than 10 new cases per day.
Authorities have made August a free month for receiving a vaccine, urging all people 18 and older to get one. Albania uses Sinovac, Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and some Sputnik V vaccines. Albania has given 1.3 million shots to a population of 2.8 million.
Neighboring Kosovo is noting a serious increase in the daily numbers. Authorities reported 1,765 new cases and five deaths on Tuesday, a significant increase compared to July.
About one-third of its 1.8 million population has gotten at least one shot of the Pfizer or Astra Zeneca vaccine.
TORONTO — Canada’s largest province of Ontario is pausing all further reopenings, offering a third COVID-19 shot to vulnerable populations and encouraging health and education workers to get vaccinated against the virus or take regular tests.
The province’s top doctor announced the new measures as part of a response to the delta variant that has been driving a recent rise in infections. The government says it will pause any further lifting of public health restrictions and will remain in Step 3 of its reopening plan, maintaining capacity limits on businesses and other settings.
It also says transplant recipients, patients with certain cancers, and long-term care and retirement home residents will be offered third COVID-19 vaccine doses starting as early as this week.
Employers in health and education will need to have policies that ask staff to disclose their vaccination status and require those who are unvaccinated to take an education session and be subject to regular tests.
The province is also expanding eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to children born in 2009, who will turn 12 this year.