The Latest: Mississippi sees shortage of healthcare workers
JACKSON, MISS. — Mississippi health officials say almost 1,000 hospital beds that could be used to treat patients during the latest surge of coronavirus in the state are unstaffed because of a shortage of healthcare workers.
That’s while Mississippi is facing a record number of people hospitalized with the virus — 1,633 on Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health.
“We’re still nowhere near the staff we need for the beds we need,” said Jim Craig, senior deputy for the Mississippi Department of Health, during a virtual briefing with press Wednesday.
Craig said 73 hospitals in Mississippi requested over 1,451 staff members to treat patients. More than 250 people were waiting in Mississippi emergency rooms for beds Wednesday morning, according to health officials.
If those positions were filled, the state could staff 771 medical-surgical beds and 235 intensive care unit beds, Craig said.
Mississippi is one of the lowest-paying states for healthcare workers. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that is one reason why healthcare workers have left.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— AP Source: Biden to require vaccines for nursing home staff
— US health officials call for coronavirus booster shots for all
— WHO warns against boosters before 1st vaccines for other countries
— Mississippi opens second field hospital in Jackson amid surge
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The health department in Tennessee’s most populous county reinstituted a face mask requirement Wednesday for indoor public places such as restaurants, bars and other businesses as a surge in COVID-19 cases strains hospital resources and causes concern in schools.
A news release from the health department in Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said the mask requirement begins Friday and also applies to gyms, event venues and common areas of hotels and multi-residential buildings. The order also includes businesses such as retail shops, grocery stores and laundries, Shelby County Health Department spokeswoman Joan Carr said.
The move comes after strained Memphis-area hospitals sent a letter to government officials asking Shelby County to reimpose a mask mandate. Hospitals in Memphis and throughout Tennessee warned of a lack of staffing, and a dearth of intensive care and acute care beds, as the delta variant led to a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, including among children.
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate to include all public, charter and private school teachers and staff — plus those working at the state’s colleges and universities.
Those who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 risk losing their jobs, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday.
Inslee’s office said the latest mandate also applies to college coaches, including Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich, who said he has declined to be vaccinated for personal reasons. Rolovich is one of two state employees scheduled to make more than $3 million this year along with Washington football coach Jimmy Lake.
Inslee on Wednesday also expanded the statewide indoor mask mandate in place for non-vaccinated individuals to include those who are vaccinated.
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to require city workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have a medical or religious exemption.
The ordinance sets Sept. 7 as the last day to receive the first dose of a two-dose vaccine and Oct. 5 for the second dose in order to be in compliance. The last day to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is Oct. 5.
Employees or contractors hired by the city on or after Oct. 20 will have a clause in their contracts requiring vaccination if they will be doing in-person work.
Petitions for medical or religious exemptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and those who receive exemptions will have to have weekly COVID-19 tests, according to a statement from the office of City Council President Nury Martinez.
“We are the largest employer in the City of Los Angeles and we need to set an example,” Martinez said. “How can we urge Angelenos to get vaccinated if we won’t demand that of our own employees? No resident should be nervous that the city worker helping them is unvaccinated and may get them sick.”
City employees will also be required to get booster shots when they become available.
ST.. LOUIS — St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones on Wednesday ordered the city’s employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.
Jones said in a statement nearly 6,000 civil service employees will be expected to get the vaccine by Oct. 15 or they will be required to submit to weekly testing by the city’s health department. She said there will be no exceptions from the weekly testing for people who aren’t fully vaccinated.
“St. Louis is joining the ranks of major public and private sector employers across the country who are requiring vaccination to protect public health,” Jones said. “By encouraging vaccinations, we help keep our hospitals running, protect our children, and save lives.”
The mayor cited a growing number of cases, particularly among those 19 and younger, which she said comprise nearly a quarter of newly reported COVID-19 cases. She said children younger than 10 make up about 12% of all new cases, which is greater than at any point in the pandemic.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said that coronavirus booster shots will be available starting the week of September 20, pending approval by the FDA.
The shots will be free and will be provided to people eight months after they received their second shot of the vaccine, the president said.
The president downplayed criticism that Americans would be getting additional protection against COVID-19 while much of the world still waits for their first vaccination shots.
“There’s some world leaders who say America shouldn’t get a third shot until other countries got their first shot–I disagree,” Biden said in Wednesday remarks at the White House. “We can take care of America and help the world at the same time.”
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — All workers at Maryland hospitals and nursing homes will be required to get vaccinated or submit to regular coronavirus testing, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday.
The requirement affects the state’s 227 nursing homes and all hospital systems, though some of the largest systems already imposed vaccine mandates.
Workers must get their first dose of the vaccine no later than Sept. 1 or undergo regular screening and testing for the virus, Hogan said.
Nursing homes that don’t comply will face doubled fines, higher civil penalties and tougher enforcement actions, he said.
About two weeks ago, Hogan announced that state employees at prisons, hospitals and other congregate settings would be required to get vaccinated or get tested regularly.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Just 61 of about 30,000 Oklahoma City public school students have opted out of a newly adopted mask requirement, a district spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Santa Fe South charter school reported no opt-outs among its approximately 3,600 students.
Both districts announced masking policies last week with opt-out options for reasons such as medical or religious restrictions.
Oklahoma City district spokesperson Crystal Raymond said district officials declined to speculate on why fewer than 1% of students have chosen to opt out as of the end of the day Tuesday.
Santa Fe South Superintendent Chris Brewster said more parents may eventually choose to exempt their children from masking, but they currently see it as a good idea.
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s top doctor said Wednesday she had told Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state health director that reinstating a mask requirement in K-12 schools would likely lessen the spread of COVID-19, but she added there are other factors at play.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and chief deputy health director, reiterated that she is “concerned” about the coronavirus’ potential impact on schools as the delta variant takes hold.
The state Department of Health and Human Services last week strongly recommended universal masking in schools regardless of vaccination status but stopped short of requiring it.
Many county health departments are recommending masks, but just three — Genesee, Kalamazoo and Allegan — have mandated them countywide, specifically for K-6 students, teachers and staff.
Republican lawmakers last week warned the health department in Kent, the state’s fourth-largest county and home to Grand Rapids, that requiring masks could cost it state funding.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Disney World is tweaking its face mask policy.
Starting Thursday, the theme park resort in Florida will allow visitors to chose whether or not to wear face coverings in outdoor lines, outdoor theaters and outdoor attractions. Masks had been required previously.
Face coverings will remain optional in outdoor common areas. They will still be required for visitors age 2 and up at all indoor locations, such as restaurants, theaters and transportation with the exception of ferry boats.
Disney World closed for two months last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopened more than a year ago with strict safety guidelines that involved masking, social distancing and crowd limits.
Last spring, Disney World officials started allowing visitors to go without masks in outdoor common areas.
Last month, Disney officials said the company will be requiring all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. who work on site to be fully vaccinated.
HONOLULU — Officials on Hawaii’s Big Island are considering closing beaches and cancelling the Ironman World Championship in response to a surge of coronavirus cases on the island.
West Hawaii Today reports Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth’s administration is revising its emergency rules and will submit the changes to Gov. David Ige for approval.
That revision could include a return to restrictions at parks and beaches that allow people to only cross the sand to get to the ocean to surf, swim or fish, but not to gather or sit.
The Ironman World Championship is currently set for Oct. 9 in Kailua-Kona. Mayor Roth said a decision would be made soon about whether the event could go on.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look too positive for Ironman this year,” Roth said. “The question with Ironman is what do you do with all the people who come to spectate.”
ATLANTA — Georgia’s surging coronavirus caseload is prompting new local restrictions amid ongoing opposition to mask and vaccine mandates by the governor.
The city of Decatur next to Atlanta began requiring masks inside grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses on Tuesday.
That ordinance, however, does allow them to opt out.
In Atlanta, organizers of September’s Dragon Con convention said they will require attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
And the top judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit suspended some jury trials through August. Georgia is in the midst of a surge in infections fueled by the delta variant of the virus.
OMAHA, Neb.: Nebraska officials are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak at a state correctional facility as virus cases surge statewide.
After 33 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center in Lincoln, officials paused all visits and volunteer activities there and asked county jails to delay sending new inmates if they can. All adult men who enter the state prison system go through the facility.
Officials said all inmates who test positive for the virus are being housed away from other inmates to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
The state Department of Correctional Services has also started providing bars of soap, which inmates had to purchase before the pandemic, and masks to inmates who request them.
Department Director Scott Frakes said the increase in cases in the prison system — which lists 36 active cases — follows an increase in the community.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska rose over the past two weeks from 372 new cases per day on Aug. 2 to 451.29 new cases per day on Monday.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A requirement for everyone attending the upcoming New Mexico State Fair to show proof of vaccination is drawing criticism.
The mandate was announced Tuesday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as part of a new public health order that also requires vaccines for health care workers and others.
She also is reinstating a statewide mask mandate for indoor spaces.
An official with the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association said Wednesday that the vaccine requirement for the fair comes with short notice and may cost some juniors a year of work if they can’t get vaccinated in time and aren’t allowed to participate.
Cliff Copeland, the association’s northeast regional vice president, said the governor’s office had given no indication through the summer months that a COVID-19 vaccination would be required for the fair, which begins Sept. 9.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The intensive care unit system in Alaska’s largest city is near capacity, amid a rise in COVID-19 cases during what is typically a busy season for hospitals.
Incidents involving tourists, vehicle accidents or outdoor recreation often contribute to busy summers for hospitals, and Anchorage is a medical hub in Alaska.
The Anchorage Daily News reports the city’s critical care units have seen extended periods of capacity concerns compounded by short staffing and a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
Figures reported Tuesday by the state health department showed six available adult ICU beds in Anchorage and 35 available adult non-ICU beds.