The Latest: Judge: Florida can’t enforce ban on school masks
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida judge has ruled the state cannot enforce its ban on mask mandates in public schools while an appeals court sorts out whether the ban is legal.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper lifted an automatic stay of his decision last week that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials exceeded their authority by imposing the blanket ban through executive order.
Cooper says the overwhelming evidence before him in a lawsuit by parents challenging the ban is wearing masks does provide some protection for children in crowded school settings, particularly those under 12 for whom no vaccine yet exists.
“We’re not in normal times. We are in a pandemic,” Cooper said during a remote hearing. “We have a variant that is more infectious and dangerous to children than the one we had last year.”
The case next goes before the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. DeSantis says he is optimistic the state will prevail.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— WHO chief urges halt to booster shots for rest of the year
— Judge: Florida can’t enforce ban on school mask mandates
— Vaccine alliance expects to ship 1.4B doses by end of year, down from 2B
— U.S. faces COVID-19 surge in summer, leading into fall
— Read AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona’s second most populous county is prodding its workforce to get COVID-19 vaccinations by requiring employees who refuse the shots to pay more for their health insurance.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to make unvaccinated employees lose discounts amounting to about $1,570 annually. Supervisor Steve Christy voted in opposition, saying the move was wrong and it’s illegal to penalize workers who choose to not get vaccinated.
The board previously authorized a $300 bonus plus three days of paid leave for county workers who have been vaccinated. On Wednesday, Arizona reported 2,222 confirmed coronavirus cases and 26 confirmed deaths.
MADRID — Spanish health authorities have authorized the use of an additional shot of a COVID-19 vaccine only for people with suppressed immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients.
The government’s board of experts deemed it was too early to recommend a booster shot for the population at large. Health Minister Carolina Darias says authorities will be studying other groups that could benefit from a third shot.
Nearly 73% of the population of Spain, a nation of 34 million people, are fully vaccinated.
WASHINGTON — The summer was supposed to mark America’s independence from COVID-19 but its ending with the U.S. firmly under the command of the coronavirus, with deaths per day back up to levels in March.
The delta variant is filling hospitals, sickening alarming numbers of children and driving coronavirus deaths in some places to the highest levels of the entire pandemic. School systems that reopened their classrooms are abruptly switching back to remote learning because of outbreaks.
The U.S. recorded 26,800 deaths and more than 4.2 million infections in August. The number of monthly positive cases was the fourth-highest total since the start of the pandemic.
The U.S. is averaging over 150,000 new cases per day, levels not seen since January. Deaths are close to 1,500 per day, up more than a third since late August. Overall, the outbreak is still well below the all-time peaks reached over the winter when deaths topped out at 3,400 a day and new cases at 250,000 per day.
The U.S. death toll stands at more than 650,000, with one major forecast model projecting it will top 750,000 by Dec. 1.
HONOLULU — A resort in the famed tourist mecca of Waikiki will be the first in Hawaii to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all employees and guests.
Starting Oct. 15, Alohilani Resort will require its employees, patrons and guests to show proof they’re fully vaccinated. The requirement will be in place for the six other Waikiki properties owned or operated by the Highgate real estate investment and hospitality management company.
Hotel officials say it’s the right thing to do as Hawaii struggles with a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations because of the highly contagious delta variant.
There was an average of 706 newly confirmed daily cases across Hawaii between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5, according to the state Department of Health. Hawaii’s vaccination rate stands at 64%.
OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska reported 5,649 new coronavirus cases last week, marking the 11th straight week of increases.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that’s up from 4,916 cases the week before and 3,464 cases the previous week.
The state was reporting 253 cases per week in late June when officials declared an end to the state coronavirus emergency.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska rose in the past two weeks from 575 per day on Aug. 23 to 693 on Monday.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is straining hospitals nearly full of other patients. As of last Thursday, the seven-day average number of people hospitalized was 337, up from 309 the previous week.
GENEVA — Switzerland will require people to show a “COVID certificate” of vaccination before attending indoor events or eating in restaurants.
The executive Federal Council announced expanded requirements to show such certificates that indicate a vaccination, recovery from the virus or recent negative test.
The new measure starts Monday and runs through Jan. 24. Swiss authorities will accept similar vaccination certificates from neighboring countries in the European Union. Switzerland is not in the 27-country bloc.
Switzerland has recorded a 14-day incidence of 409 cases per 100,000 people and reported Wednesday more than 3,500 new daily cases in the country of about 8.5 million. Hospital and intensive-care unit occupancy are running at about 80%.
Swiss authorities will examine a proposal on whether to allow into the country people who have not been vaccinated.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is calling on rich countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says he was “appalled” at comments by pharmaceutical manufacturers who say vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots and vaccinations in countries in dire need of shots but facing shortages.
The WHO chief says, “I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”
Tedros had previously called for a “moratorium” on booster shots through the end of September. But wealthy nations, including the U.S., Israel, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany and Spain, have begun or are considering plans to offer them to their vulnerable people.
The WHO chief says he received a message of “clear support” from health ministers at a meeting of the influential Group of 20 countries this month for a commitment to help hit a WHO target all countries vaccinate at least 40% of their people by year’s end.
WHO says 5.5 billion coronavirus vaccines have been administered so far, but 80% of those have been to upper- and middle-income countries. Rich countries have offered to donate 1 billion vaccine doses to other countries, but under 15% of those doses have “materialized,” Tedros says.
PARIS — Some 300,000 people in France have signed up to receive a third COVID-19 vaccine shot since the government started offering them a week ago.
Prime Minister Jean Castex says France will start a booster shot program in nursing homes next week.
While some health officials have argued against booster shots until more of the world is vaccinated, France is recommending people with pre-existing health problems and those over 65 receive a third shot six months after their second dose.
According to French government statistics, 88% of people 65 and above are fully vaccinated. Across all age groups, 68% are fully vaccinated and 73% have had at least one dose.
The European Union’s infectious diseases agency last week played down the need for booster shoots, urging countries to push ahead with their primary coronavirus vaccination programs.
France’s fourth surge of infections has been receding in recent weeks as the government has stepped up vaccination efforts.
GENEVA — The U.N.-backed program to get vaccines to the neediest people in the world has again scaled back its target to ship doses this year, projecting about 1.4 billion doses will available through by the end of the year.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says the COVAX program that it runs has faced setbacks. Those include export restrictions from hard-hit India, a key producer of vaccines, as well as regulatory hurdles for some vaccine candidates and manufacturing troubles elsewhere.
Still, Gavi says COVAX deliveries are ramping up significantly and another 1.1 billion doses are expected to become available beyond the 330 million doses it has already delivered. Most of the 1.4 billion doses are destined for the poorest developing countries.
Gavi had originally projected 2 billion doses could be shipped through COVAX this year, then in July lowered that projection to about 1.8 billion. Rich countries and others with vaccine production capabilities like Russia and China have already shipped billions of doses to their people, and the World Health Organization has repeatedly insisted that poor countries and health care workers in some places need better access to help stop new variants from emerging.
A top pharmaceutical industry association on Tuesday projected 12 billion doses will be produced this year. However, WHO officials say many are not being shipped where they are needed most.
BANGKOK — A medical research institute in Thailand on Wednesday opened registrations for schools to get COVID-19 vaccinations for students ages 10 to 18.
The Chulabhorn Royal Academy announced on its Facebook page it would vaccinate up to 50,000 children with China’s Sinopharm vaccine starting Sept. 20. Bangkok’s city government previously announced it will allow children 12 to 18 with underlying medical conditions to receive the Pfizer vaccine starting Sept. 21, ahead of the upcoming school year.
A campaign to combat a third wave of the coronavirus has resulted in more than 90% of Bangkok residents receiving at least one vaccine dose and 22% receiving two.
A mobile vaccination unit converted from an old bus was deployed for the first time Wednesday to bring shots to people unwilling or unable to travel to fixed venues to get inoculated. It serves mostly residents with mobility issues or whose jobs that make it inconvenient to travel to vaccination centers.
Some 100 people in western Bangkok received the AstraZeneca vaccine during the inaugural 45-minute mission.
Health authorities reported 14,176 confirmed cases and 228 confirmed deaths on Wednesday. There have been 1.3 million cases and 13,511 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Official Norwegian figures show 54% of coronavirus cases among children between ages 6 to 12, saying children and young people have the most reported cases of infection among the population.
Norway has offered school children between 12 to 15 one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. The shot in Norway is voluntary and free.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health says 89% of those over 18 had received their first shot and 77% had the second shot. For teens ages 16 to 17, the figures were 56% and 11%, and those 12 to 15, 3% and 0.4%, respectively.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia has removed the United Arab Emirates from its COVID-19 banned list after two months, a ban that fueled tension between the neighbors.
The official Saudi Press Agency says starting Wednesday, Saudi citizens can travel to the UAE, among other destinations previously branded as red zones because of their high levels of infection. Those who violated the restrictions faced a three-year travel ban from the kingdom.
Although Saudi officials had attributed the July flight ban on the UAE to a surge in coronavirus cases, the move came as economic competition and political friction emerged between the Gulf Arab heavyweights, injecting uncertainty into their long-standing alliance.
The end of the flight ban comes just weeks ahead of 2020 World Expo held in Dubai, which was pushed back a year because of the pandemic.
Despite the coronavirus, the UAE is counting on Expo to draw millions of visitors and billions of dollars to stimulate the economy and showcase its achievements on the world stage. Dubai expects an influx of Saudi tourists for the massive in-person event, with Saudi Arabia due to have one of the Expo’s largest pavilions.
BERLIN — The head of Germany’s disease control agency says the vaccination rate needs to increase to avoid another wave of the coronavirus, warning “the pandemic is not over yet.”
Lothar Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute says Germany could experience another wave in cases in the fall, with the potential of overwhelming the country’s health system. On Wednesday, the institute reported 13,565 confirmed cases.
While infection rates have been stagnant in recent days, the number of hospitalizations has increased in Germany. The number of patients in intensive care has almost doubled to more than 1,300 in the last two weeks, Wieler says.
Most hospital patients are younger than early in the pandemic and the majority aren’t vaccinated. Wieler says everyone who doesn’t get vaccinated likely will contract the virus at some point in the pandemic.
More than 61% of the population are fully vaccinated in Germany. That’s less than in several other European countries.
There’s been more than 4 million confirmed cases and 92,448 confirmed deaths in Germany since the start of the pandemic.