The Latest: Louisiana gov: both vaccinations, masks needed

NEW ORLEANS — Vaccinations and masks are both needed to slow a skyrocketing rate of new COVID-19 infections that is stressing health care facilities in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday, but Edwards stopped short of ordering a statewide mask mandate.

Having recommended statewide masking last week, Edward said he and state health officials would pore over the latest federal data before making a decision on a mandate, adding that an announcement would likely come Monday.

“But, to a very large extent, whether it s a mandate or a recommendation, the people of Louisiana ought to be doing this,” Edwards said at a news conference with state health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter.

Looming over his decision will be new findings from a big COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts. Scientists who studied the outbreak concluded that vaccinated people who got so-called breakthrough infections carried about the same amount of the coronavirus as those who did not get the shots.

Officials still stress that vaccines help protect against infections and, when infections occur, against serious illness requiring hospitalization.

Edwards and Kanter both said there was some good news on the vaccination front. The rate of people getting their first vaccine dose has hit more than 10,000 a day, up from around 2,000 a day a month ago.



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TORONTO — The Public Health Agency of Canada says two travelers who arrived in Toronto from the U.S. have been fined close to CDN$20,000 (US$16,029.37) for providing fake COVID-19 proof of vaccination documents and lying about pre-departure tests.

The pair also didn’t comply with requirements to stay at a government-authorized hotel or to get tested upon arrival, the agency said in a new release Friday.

The travelers arrived last week and were handed four fines totaling CND $19,720 ( US$15,804.96) each.

“For all travelers coming to Canada, it is important to be informed and to plan in advance,” the release said. “It is the traveler’s responsibility to ensure they are eligible to enter Canada and that they meet all of the mandatory requirements.”

Canada eased quarantine requirements on July 5 for fully vaccinated Canadians and foreign nationals with an exemption to enter the country, but they must upload their proof of vaccination documents to the ArriveCAN app before entry.

Those who are not fully vaccinated are still required to stay for three days at a government-approved hotel, quarantine for 14 days and undergo tests pre-departure, post-arrival and eight days later.


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis barred school districts Friday from forcing students to wear masks when classes resume next month even as the state’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to skyrocket toward levels not seen since before vaccines became widely available.

The Republican governor said parents should decide whether their child should be masked, saying he has seen no studies that show mask-wearing lowers the chance of outbreaks in schools.

DeSantis is seeking re-election next year and has been positioning himself nationally for a possible 2024 presidential bid.

His decision comes after the Broward County school board this week voted to require masks and other districts and colleges around the state were considering it. The state’s confirmed coronavirus cases have grown nearly tenfold over the last month as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

Florida is responsible for about 20% of the new cases reported nationwide over the last three weeks, even though it makes up 6.5% of the population.

On a per capita basis, Florida is second nationally in both new cases, behind Louisiana, and hospitalizations, behind Nevada. While rare, pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 are also increasing statewide, studies show.


MADRID — Spain announces a drop in the 14-day accumulated caseload of COVID-19 cases as part of prevailing downward trend in new infections, while the percentage of the Spanish population fully vaccinated hits 56.8%.

The health ministry reported Friday it had registered 326,127 new cases in the last 14 days, reflecting an incidence rate of 687 cases per 100,000 people.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the nation has also ordered 3.4 million extra Pfizer vaccines, with the aim of vaccinating 70% of the population by the end of August.

The new data comes as some Spanish regions push for vaccine certificates or negative COVID-19 tests to enter bars and restaurants, though they are facing legal challenges.


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says she has no plans to ratchet up her messaging to urge people to get a COVID-19 vaccine, even as Republican leaders across the country try to persuade vaccine skeptics to roll up their sleeves and take the shots in response to a new, more contagious variant that has sent caseloads soaring in some parts of the country.

The Republican governor told The Associated Press this week she believes her messaging has reached “a saturation level where people start to tune you out.”

South Dakota’s Department of Health is trying a targeted approach to reach groups where vaccine uptake has been low. But it has been months since the governor used her position to encourage the vaccine, even with infections rising again in the state after a steep decline in the spring and early summer.

Noem’s rise as a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential ticket has been mostly fueled by her hands-off approach to the pandemic.

The governor acknowledged the delta variant poses a new risk.

“We might need to really step up our communication so that people understand how the variant is different,” she said. “You might see more communication from us if we start seeing cases dramatically increase.”


PHOENIX — Arizona has reported 1,965 new COVID-19 cases, the most in a single day since early March.

It comes as virus-related hospitalizations continued to climb. The additional cases and 24 deaths reported Friday come as health officials in Arizona and across the country cite low vaccination rates and the fast-spreading delta variant for increasing numbers.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Department of Health Services director spoke more about her departure next month during an interview on KTAR-FM.

She denied there was any rift between her and Gov. Doug Ducey and plans to take a senior position with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.


BATON ROUGE, La. — Two staffers in Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The announcement Friday from Edwards’ office says both are at home, in isolation, in accordance with state and federal health guidelines.

The release gave no details on their condition of the staffers. It says both had been vaccinated and noted “breakthrough” cases of vaccinated people “typically do not result in serious illness.”

The governor, a Democrat, has previously been vaccinated and isn’t in quarantine.

Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in Louisiana are soaring amid urgent requests by government officials and health care providers for residents to get vaccinated.

Earlier, Edwards’ administration announced it is requiring Louisiana’s executive branch employees and visitors to state office buildings to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.


LOS ANGELES — Frustrated would-be travelers are overwhelming U.S. offices as easing COVID-19 travel restrictions have unleashed a pent-up demand for passports.

At the West Los Angeles Federal Building, hundreds of passport applicants camped out overnight this week for same-day appointments — only to be told that walk-ins were no longer being taken.

Wait times for new passports and renewals are now up to 18 weeks, causing many to seek expedited appointments at understaffed agencies for travel in the next few weeks. But even expedited appointments can take up to 12 weeks. Officials encouraged those without immediate travel plans to renew their passports by mail.


DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has no plans to offer $100 incentives to Iowans to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett says the governor doesn’t plan to follow up on President Joe Biden’s offer to states to spend $100 in federal funds for each newly vaccinated person to help slow the spread of the coronavirus delta variant.

While many states and some Iowa counties have offered incentives for citizens to get a COVID-19 vaccination, Iowa’s governor continues to call for citizens to get vaccinated, repeating it’s their choice.

Iowa had 49.5% of the population fully immunized Thursday, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That ranks Iowa 21st in the nation.

Vaccination rates have fallen rapidly in Iowa since the spring, from a seven-day average of 17,000 people becoming fully vaccinated in May to 1,402 in recent days.


ORLANDO, Fla. — A large hospital network in Florida announced it will postpone elective procedures due to the sharp rise in admissions.

Dr. Neil Finkler, chief clinical officer at AdventHealth in central Florida, says the network currently has 1,060 patients with COVID-19 of the 9,300 currently hospitalized in the state.

“We have peaked above any previous wave, and it is straining our system, our physicians and all of our clinicians and team members,” he said. “Throughout the week, we hoped we would see a sign of slowing down. Unfortunately, we have not.”

Dr. Finkler says he’s imploring to the community to get vaccinated this weekend.

“It really is remarkable, over 90% of our COVID inpatients are unvaccinated,” he said. “None of these patients thought they would get the virus. But the delta variant has proven to be so highly contagious that even the young and the healthy, including pregnant patients, are now starting to fill up our hospitals.”


NEW YORK — Vaccinations for COVID-19 and masks will be required for all Broadway audience members when theaters reopen in the coming weeks.

The Broadway League announced audience members must wear face coverings and show proof they’re fully vaccinated when they enter the theaters. There’ll be exceptions to the vaccine rule for children under 12 and for people with a medical condition or religious belief that prevents vaccination. Those individuals will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Vaccinations will be required for performers, crew members and theater employees. The move comes a day after Actors’ Equity Association, the union which represents nearly 52,000 actors and stage managers, said it would require cast and crew members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Company members who are not vaccinated must wear masks, practice physical distancing and undergo testing at least twice a week. The protocols apply to both Broadway productions and Equity-backed shows across the nation.


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’ll issue an executive order barring local school districts from forcing students to wear masks when classes resume next month.

That’s despite skyrocketing coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state. The Republican governor says it should be up to parents to decide whether their child should be masked. He says he has seen no studies that show mask-wearing lowers the chance of outbreaks in schools. He didn’t say when he would issue the order.

This week, the Broward County school district in Fort Lauderdale voted to require masks. Other districts and colleges around the state were considering masks as the confirmed cases have grown nearly tenfold in the last month.

Florida is responsible for about 20% of the new cases reported nationwide in the last three weeks, although just 6.5% of the total population.

On a per capita basis, Florida is second nationally in new cases (behind Louisiana), and hospitalizations (behind Nevada). While rare, pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 are also increasing statewide, studies show.


NEW YORK — New evidence showing the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox has prompted U.S. health officials to consider changing advice on how the nation fights the coronavirus.

Recommending masks for everyone and requiring vaccines for doctors and other health care providers are among measures the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering. That’s according to internal documents obtained by the Washington Post. The presentation for CDC staff tells them to “acknowledge the war has changed.” It also notes that infections in vaccinated people may be as transmissible as in the unvaccinated.

The internal documents also cite studies from Canada, Singapore and Scotland showing the delta variant may pose a greater risk for hospitalization, intensive care treatment and death than the alpha variant, first detected in Britain.

The CDC emphasized the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing infections, severe disease and death. It says “breakthrough” infections after vaccination are uncommon.


BERLIN — Germany will require people entering the country to show a negative coronavirus test if they haven’t been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19.

People crossing into Germany by means other than air transportation must prove their status. Authorities are expected to conduct spot checks at land borders rather than blanket controls.

The change approved by the Cabinet starts Sunday and applies to people ages 12 and above. It comes amid increasing concern about infections brought back from summer vacations pushing up Germany’s case rate. School holidays in some German states will end in about a week.

Currently, unvaccinated people traveling by air are required to test negative before they head to Germany, regardless of where they are coming from.

Germany’s disease control center said in a report this week that more than four-fifths of infections in Germany are still domestic. But there has been an increase in infected people who were likely exposed to the virus abroad — particularly in Spain and Turkey.

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