The Latest: Israel expands booster shots to 12 and older
JERUSALEM — Israel has expanded its coronavirus booster shot program to include anyone over 12.
The decision, approved Sunday, is the latest phase of a booster program that began last month with Israelis over 60. It was expanded in phases over several weeks to people in their 50s, 40s and 30s. Some 2 million people — more than 20% of the country’s roughly 9 million people — have received a third dose.
Israel was one of the first countries to vaccinate its population early this year, allowing the government to drop almost all restrictions on public activities. But it now has one of the world’s highest rates of infection due to the rapid spread of the delta variant, even among the vaccinated, and has reinstated mask mandates and limits on crowd sizes.
Israel approved the booster program after experts concluded the vaccine’s effectiveness wanes over time. It is now offering boosters to anyone vaccinated over five months ago. Early data has indicated that the booster is slowing the spread of the delta variant and preventing serious illness among the vaccinated.
“The third vaccination works,” said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as he appealed to the public to get vaccinated. “There are already results: The increase in severe morbidity has begun to slow. However, the peak of the campaign is yet before us.”
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
__ Louisiana hospitals are packed with COVID-19 patients, fear the arrival of Hurricane Ida
— Croatia thrilled at summer tourism season success despite COVID-19
— Russia’s virus-related deaths hit record of over 50,000 in July
— Once a beacon of safety, Hawaii is seeing a surge of coronavirus cases driven by delta variant
— U.S. intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the coronavirus
— U.S. battle over masks in schools has shifted from school boards to courts
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana hospitals already packed with patients from the latest coronavirus surge are now bracing for a powerful Category 4 hurricane, which is expected to crash ashore later Sunday.
“Once again we find ourselves dealing with a natural disaster in the midst of a pandemic,” said Jennifer Avegno, the top health official for New Orleans. She called on residents to “prepare for both.”
Hurricane Ida is forecast to slam into the state late Sunday along the Louisiana coast. It is expected to be at Category 4 strength at landfall with fierce winds up to 150 mph (240 kph).
The storm comes as hospitals and their intensive care units are already filled with patients from the fourth surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, this one sparked by the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates statewide.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said evacuation of hospitals in threatened areas is something that would normally be considered under other scenarios, but it’s impractical as COVID-19 patients fill beds in Louisiana and elsewhere.
“That isn’t possible. We don’t have any place to bring those patients. Not in state, not out of state,” Edwards explained.
TEHRAN, Iran — The police chief for Iran’s capital says a gang of thieves has robbed scores of COVID-19 vaccines after attacking a hired car carrying the doses, media reported.
The robbery comes as Iran, with over 106,000 virus-related deaths, has the highest death toll in the Mideast but only 8% of its people are fully vaccinated.
Tehran police chief Hossein Rahimi said robbers attacked and seized 300 vaccines after a courier service left a Health Ministry medical storage facility south of the capital.
He did not say which vaccine was stolen. Iran generally uses the Chinese-made Sinopharm, although it also has used some Russian made Sputnik-V, AstraZeneca and its own domestic CovBarekat vaccine.
On Sunday, Iran registered 581 daily deaths and more than 31,000 new cases. Last week on Tuesday, Iran hit a record of 709 patients dying in a single day.
The country is struggling through a fifth wave of the disease driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
DUBROVNIK, Croatia — Summer tourism has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations in Croatia this year. Beaches along the country’s Adriatic Sea coastline are swarming with people.
Guided tours are fully booked, restaurants are packed and sailboats were chartered well in advance.
Croatia’s tourism industry was caught by surprise. There had been fear that the coronavirus pandemic would discourage people from traveling.
A tour guide in the southern city of Dubrovnik that is known for its Old Town and nightlife and is Croatia’s most popular destination said this week that “it’s almost like 2020 never happened.”
The success of the summer season is essential to Croatia’s economy, which is among the weakest in the European Union.
TOKYO — Japan’s minister in charge of the vaccine rollout has promise a timely administering of booster shots for the coronavirus as the nation aims to fully vaccinate its population by October or November.
Taro Kono said Pfizer and Moderna booster shots will arrive early next year in time for medical workers and the elderly, who were prioritized and mostly got their second shots by July.
“Japan is aiming for 80% vaccination levels,” Kono said on a nationally broadcast Fuji TV show.
A digital system for proof of vaccination will be available later this year, he added.
Japan has lagged among developed nations on vaccinations, with its fully vaccinated now at about 43%.
WASHINGTON — The rancorous debate over whether returning students should wear masks in the classroom has moved from school boards to courtrooms.
In at least 14 states, lawsuits have been filed either for or against masks in schools. In some cases, normally rule-enforcing school administrators are finding themselves fighting state leaders.
Legal experts say that while state laws normally trump local control, legal arguments from mask proponents have a good chance of coming out on top. But amid protests and even violence over masks around the United States, the court battle is just beginning.
Mask rules in public schools vary widely. Some states require them; others ban mandates. Many more leave it up to individual districts.
Big school districts that want to require masks are in court and battling governors in Florida, Texas and Arizona. Worried parents are suing over similar legislative bans on mandates in Utah, Iowa and South Carolina.
Lawsuits fighting mask requirements have popped up in Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Montana.
HONOLULU — Kuulei Perreira-Keawekane could barely breathe when she went to a Hawaii emergency room. Nausea made it difficult for her to stand and her body throbbed with pain.
Like many Native Hawaiians, she was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Perreira-Keawekane’s situation highlights the COVID-19 crisis that is gripping Hawaii as hospitals are overflowing with a record number of patients, vaccinations are stagnating and Hawaiians are experiencing a disproportionate share of the suffering.
Hawaii was once seen as a beacon of safety during the pandemic because of stringent travel and quarantine restrictions and overall vaccine acceptance that made it one of the most inoculated states in the country. But the highly contagious delta variant exploited weaknesses as residents let down their guard and attended family gatherings after months of restrictions and vaccine hesitancy lingered in some Hawaiian communities.
On Friday, the state reported a record high 1,035 newly confirmed cases.
Now the governor is urging tourists to stay away and residents to limit travel, and leaders are re-imposing caps on sizes of social gatherings. And in an effort to address vaccine hesitancy, businesses and nonprofits launched a public service campaign aimed at Native Hawaiians, many of whom harbor a deep distrust of the government.
BEND, Oregon — Oregon’s emergency management department says the U.S. state’s death toll from COVID-19 is climbing so rapidly that two counties have requested refrigerated trucks to hold the bodies.
Department spokeswoman Bobbi Doan said Saturday that Tillamook and Josephine have requested the trucks.
Tillamook County Emergency Director Gordon McCraw wrote in his request to the state that the county’s sole funeral home “is now consistently at or exceeding their capacity” of nine bodies. He added that virus cases among staff have made them unable to transport bodies to other counties.
The refrigerated truck arrived in the county on Friday. Doan said that it was loaned by Klamath County.
The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners says there were six COVID-19 deaths in the county from Aug. 18 to Aug. 23. The number surpassed the five total COVID-19 deaths that occurred during the first 18 months of the pandemic.
WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the coronavirus but believe China’s leaders did not know about the virus before the start of the global pandemic, according to results released Friday of a review ordered by President Joe Biden.
According to an unclassified summary, four members of the U.S. intelligence community say with low confidence that the virus was initially transmitted from an animal to a human. A fifth intelligence agency believes with moderate confidence that the first human infection was linked to a lab. Analysts do not believe the virus was developed as a bioweapon and most agencies believe the virus was not genetically engineered.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Friday that China “continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the United States.” Reaching a conclusion about what caused the virus likely requires China’s cooperation, the office said.
LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas hospital has opened a clinic to provide ongoing care to people with long-term medical complications from COVID-19.
University Medical Center said its clinic is the first of its kind in Nevada and will also help patients enroll in clinical trials for new therapies to treat long-term symptoms, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Long-term symptoms include heart and lung conditions, pain and cognitive impairment.