The Latest: More school districts enact mask mandates
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Western Michigan’s two largest counties ordered masks in schools through sixth grade Friday, citing the risk of the COVID-19 delta variant and young children who don’t qualify for vaccines.
The orders came from health departments in Kent and Ottawa counties.
Teachers and staff members who are vaccinated still must wear masks in schools, the counties said.
Kent and Ottawa join at least three counties with similar school mask policies: Allegan, Kalamazoo and Genesee. Some school districts elsewhere are acting on their own.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declined to order a statewide mask mandate in schools, though her chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said it would likely reduce the spread of COVID-19.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— U.S. appeals court keeps CDC’s pause on housing evictions
— San Francisco: Full vaccination needed to enter restaurants, bars
— AP-NORC poll: Vaccine requirements favored in U.S.
— South Africa opens vaccines to all adults to boost participation
Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SALT LAKE CITY — The mayor of Salt Lake City has issued a mask order in the city’s schools as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Friday that she used her emergency powers to issue the order. She says she plans to work with health officials to determine when it can be lifted.
The order comes a week after the Salt Lake County Council overturned a school mask mandate that the county’s top health official issued. Mendenhall says the majority of council members had privately told her that they feared retaliation and urged her to issue the order.
Masks were required in classrooms last year, but under a new state law, school mask mandates are now banned. Local health departments can issue a rule but only with the support from elected county leaders, and anti-mask advocates have been vocal in their opposition.
JACKSON, MISS. — Mississippi’s only Level 1 trauma center and teaching hospital announced Friday it will mandate all employees and students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s policy requires employees and students be vaccinatedi by Nov. 1.
The policy is a reversal from a previous rule put in place last month that allowed employees or students to skip the vaccine if they agreed to wear a N95 mask while on campus.
In a letter Friday, a top official at the medical center said it’s time for the institution to take aggressive action. Mississippi has the highest per capita rate of new coronavirus cases in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Those who refuse vaccination may face “corrective action up to and including termination or dismissal,” according to the letter by Dr. Alan Jones, the center’s associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs. He adds those seeking accommodations must submit requests by Sept. 10.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has opened vaccine eligibility to all adults to step up the volume of inoculations amid a coronavirus surge fueled by the delta variant.
The nation started offering shots to everyone aged 18 and older Friday as the number of vaccinations stalled to less than 200,000 a day, down from 250,000 earlier this month. It’s significantly lower than the target of 300,000 the government had hoped to achieve by this time.
On Friday, South Africa recorded more than 13,000 new cases and 317 confirmed deaths. South Africa has 2.6 million confirmed cases, 35% of the Africa’s total.
South Africa has vaccinated more than 10 million of its 60 million people, of which more than 4.6 million are fully vaccinated. Nearly 80,000 people have died during the pandemic.
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco became the first major city in the nation to require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 on Friday for people dining inside restaurants, working out in gyms or attending indoor concerts.
Restaurants and bars posted signs and added extra staff to begin verifying people’s proof of vaccination before allowing them in.
The new rule goes beyond New York City, which requires people to be at least partially inoculated for a variety of indoor activities. Local business groups have supported the new vaccine mandate, saying it will protect their employees’ and customers’ health and keep them from having to limit capacity indoors.
The majority of 36,000 city workers say they are vaccinated, but about 4,300 have not. This week, the city sent letters recommending a 10-day suspension without pay for 20 employees in police, fire and sheriff’s departments who refused to report their vaccination status by the Aug. 12 deadline, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday allowed the COVID-related pause on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remain in place.
That sets up a likely showdown before the nation’s highest court. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a bid by Alabama and Georgia realtors to block the eviction moratorium reinstated this month.
The realtors are likely to appeal to the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 in June to allow the moratorium to continue through the end of July. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh — who joined the majority — warned the administration not to act further without explicit congressional approval.
As of Aug. 2, roughly 3.5 million people in the United States said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
The new moratorium temporarily halted evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of virus transmissions and would cover areas where 90% of the U.S. population lives. The court fight allows time for the distribution of $45 billion in rental assistance that’s been approved but not yet used.
BOSTON — The acting mayor of Boston says masks will be required for all indoor public places starting Aug. 27 to help contain rising coronavirus infections.
Kim Janey’s office says the mandate will apply to everyone age 2 and older who enters a business, retail shop, club, government office or any other public venue.
Janey says the mask mandate comes ahead of the arrival of more than 50,000 college students from across the nation, and a return to classes for more than 50,000 Boston Public School students.
On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker said tens of thousands of state workers will need to prove they’re fully inoculated against COVID-19 by October or risk losing their jobs.
Massachusetts remains one of the most vaccinated states in the nation, with more than 64% of residents fully inoculated. But cases have been increasing in recent weeks.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — More than 200 University of Virginia students who didn’t comply with the school’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement have been disenrolled ahead of the fall semester.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that the school disenrolled 238 students, including 49 who were enrolled in fall courses. University spokesperson Brian Coy says the students were disenrolled after “receiving multiple reminders via email, text, phone calls, calls to parents that they were out of compliance.”
They can re-enroll if they comply with the vaccine requirement or file an exemption by Wednesday.
About 96% of students have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a news release. The university granted 335 permanent vaccine waivers for students with religious or medical exemptions. It granted 184 temporary vaccine waivers for students who couldn’t get vaccinated but intend to get a vaccine on campus. Exempt students must be tested weekly and wear a mask indoors and outdoors in common spaces.
NASHWILLE, Tenn. — When Congress sent states billions of dollars early in the coronavirus pandemic to help make schools safe, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee saw an opportunity.
He used part of the windfall to further his goal of offering school choice options for parents, sending millions to charter schools that operate without traditional public oversight. That included funneling more than $4 million to new charters that are not scheduled to open until at least next year.
It was an easy way for the Republican governor to advance a long-held priority. For Lee and some other GOP governors, the discretionary money was a chance to sidestep their state legislatures and advance school choice, which typically involves funding charter schools or offering vouchers so parents can use taxpayer money to pay private school tuition.
Teachers unions and other critics view the efforts as a way to siphon money away from traditional public schools.
ATLANTA — The mayors of some of Georgia’s largest cities are slamming Gov. Brian Kemp’s new order that aims to limit local efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
In an open letter on Friday, the mayors of Atlanta, Savannah, Athens-Clarke County and Augusta-Richmond County suggested the Republican governor was putting politics above public health. The four Democrats also defended masks as necessary during the state’s latest COVID surge.
Kemp signed an executive order Thursday that says cities cannot require businesses and sports teams to enforce local pandemic restrictions. The move came amid a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the delta variant among the unvaccinated.
NEW DELHI — India’s drug controller has given emergency use approval to Zydus Cadila’s COVID-19 vaccine, the country’s first for the adolescents in 12-18 age group.
ZyCoV-D, India’s home developed DNA-based vaccine, is a three-dose vaccine and can used for adults also, India’s Health Ministry said on Friday. This type of vaccine uses engineered DNA to trigger an immune response.
Interim results from phase-III clinical trials in more than 28,000 volunteers showed primary efficacy of 66% for symptomatic RT-PCR positive cases, the ministry said.
The company in a statement said it plans to manufacture 100-120 million annual doses of ZyCoV-D.
Pankaj R. Patel, Chairman, Cadila Healthcare Ltd., said “We are particularly happy that our vaccine will contribute to this fight against COVID-19 and enable the country to vaccinate a larger population especially in the age group of 12-18 years.”
India has vaccinated 570 million people, with barely 11% fully inoculated, according to the Health Ministry. India has nearly 1.4 billion people.
NEW YORK — New York City’s public schools will require COVID-19 vaccinations for student-athletes and coaches participating in “high-risk” sports including football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse and rugby.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says the students and coaches must get at least one dose before the start of competitive play. The mayor told radio station WNYC that bowling is on the list because it is indoors.
Masks will be required for all students and staff when school starts on Sept. 13. There is no vaccination requirement for teachers or eligible students.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization has issued a call for experts to join a new advisory group to address the agency’s attempts to further investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement on Friday, the U.N. health agency says the new scientific group would provide WHO with an independent analysis of the scientific work done to date to pinpoint the origins of COVID-19 and to advise the agency on necessary next steps. The experts also will provide guidance on critical issues regarding the potential emergence of other viruses capable of triggering outbreaks, such as MERS and Ebola.
In March, a WHO-led team of international experts issued a preliminary report that deemed it “extremely unlikely” the origins of COVID-19 were linked to a laboratory. Although most experts think it’s most probable the virus jumped to humans from animals, the theory that a laboratory was involved has gained traction in recent months. An intelligence review was ordered by U.S. President Joe Biden to examine the possibility.
WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged last month it was “premature” to rule out the lab leak theory. The agency’s team leader said during a trip to China that he was worried about safety standards at a facility close to where the first human COVID-19 cases were detected in Wuhan.
WHO says it is seeking up to 25 officials with relevant expertise to apply for its new scientific advisory group by Sept. 10.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is extending a ban on nonessential travel along the borders with Canada and Mexico to slow the spread of COVID-19.
That’s despite increasing pressure to lift the restriction. U.S. border communities dependent on shoppers from Mexico and Canada and their political representatives have urged the Biden administration to lift the ban.
Canada recently began letting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens enter the country.
But the Department of Homeland Security said in a tweet Friday the restrictions on nonessential travel were still needed to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant. It extended the ban until at least Sept. 21.
BERLIN — Germany is declaring Crete and other Greek islands popular tourist destinations a “high-risk area” for COVID-19, meaning that many people who haven’t been vaccinated will need to quarantine upon arrival.
Germany’s national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, says Crete and Greece’s southern Aegean islands will be added to the list of “high-risk areas” on Tuesday. Kosovo and North Macedonia, as well as part of Ireland and Dominica, will be added to the list on Sunday.
However, parts of Spain, including the Canary Islands, Catalonia and the Valencia region, are being dropped from the list.
People arriving from “high-risk areas” — the lower of two German COVID-19 risk categories — must quarantine for 10 days if they haven’t been vaccinated or recently recovered. That period can be cut to five days with a negative test.
ONEIDA, Wis. — Two American Indian tribes in northeastern Wisconsin will pay its members and employees to get a coronavirus vaccination.
The Oneida and Menominee tribes are offering a $500 incentive for vaccinations. That includes those who have already been inoculated.
For the Menominee Nation, members age 12 and older and tribal employees who are fully vaccinated on or before Oct. 31 are eligible to receive the incentive. Oneida tribal members and employees have until Sept. 30 to show proof of their vaccination to receive the $500.
Debbie Danforth, director of the Oneida Nation Division of Health, says the aim is 75% vaccination in the community.
DENVER — Anxiety in the United States over COVID-19 is at its highest level since winter.
The heightened worry is reflected in a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. It comes amid another nationwide spike in infections, spurred by the highly contagious delta variant.
More state governments and school districts are adopting masking and vaccination requirements and the nation’s hospital bed capacity is once again stretched to the limit.
The poll shows nearly 6 in 10 Americans want vaccination mandates for those attending movies, sports, concerts and other crowded events. They also want mandates for those traveling by airplane and for workers in hospitals, restaurants, stores and government offices.
The poll shows that 41% are “extremely” or “very” worried about themselves or their family becoming infected with the virus. That is up from 21% in June, and similar to January’s surge at 43%.
Nearly 200 million people, or just over 60% of the U.S. population, had received at least one vaccine dose, according to the CDC. Just over 50% are fully vaccinated. More than 620,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hospitals are overflowing with COVID patients in northeast Florida, the cite of the state’s latest surge.
But the patients rapidly filling wards in Jacksonville are younger than last summer’s peak outbreak. And they’re getting sick faster.
The caseload is more than double that surge at Baptist Health’s hospitals. They’re making do by converting empty spaces, adding more than 100 beds and working overtime to persuade people to get vaccinated.
Florida accounts for 1 in 5 cases nationwide as the highly contagious delta variant spreads. Baptist’s medical director says they’re “bracing for the worst.”
Duval County, which consists almost entirely of Jacksonville, is a racially diverse Democratic bastion. Nearly one-third of Jacksonville’s population is African American.
Pastor George Davis buried six church members under the age of 35 in just 10 days. All had been healthy, all unvaccinated. Now his church members can simply walk across the hall each Sunday and talk with a medical expert about their vaccine concerns. Davis also hosted two vaccination drives, where more than 1,000 people got shots.