The Latest: No mask mandate for South Carolina schools
COLUMBIA, South Carolina — South Carolina education officials say recently enacted legislation will prevent them from requiring students and employees to wear masks inside schools as a result of a new recommendation from the CDC that even vaccinated people should use face coverings in regions with increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.
A budget proviso that went into effect July 1 prohibits the state’s school districts from using any appropriated funds “to require that its students and/or employees wear a face mask at any of its education facilities.”
The measure was backed by Gov. Henry McMaster, who earlier this year called it “the height of ridiculosity” for a school district to require a mask over any parent’s wishes.
The state Department of Education says on its official Facebook page that it can only encourage the use of face coverings and other COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— CDC recommends indoor masks in some parts of US, at schools
— Tokyo hits record 2,848 daily virus cases during Olympics
— Russia OKs testing on combination Sputnik, AstraZeneca shots
— UK spares key workers quarantine during staff shortages
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is rejecting new federal government recommendations about wearing masks to help slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus delta variant.
In a statement Tuesday, the governor said that “the Biden Administration’s new COVID-19 guidance telling fully vaccinated Iowans to now wear masks is not only counterproductive to our vaccination efforts, but also not grounded in reality or common sense.”
She was reacting to a recommendation from the CDC advising people in regions with increasing infections to wear masks in public indoor settings.
Reynolds adds that she is concerned the federal guidance could result in mask mandates for schools.
TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t commented on the new CDC guidance recommending masks in schools and other indoors places in areas with rising coronavirus infections.
But already this week he opposed the idea of mandating their use in schools and expressed fear the federal government might try to force their use.
At a meeting Monday, DeSantis also predicted Florida lawmakers will hold a special session “to be able to provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely and don’t want to be suffering under these masks during the school year.”
A spokeswoman released a statement Tuesday saying that “Governor DeSantis believes that parents know what’s best for their children” and thinks the decision should be left to them. It adds that “fortunately, the data indicate that COVID is not a serious risk to healthy children.”
ATLANTA — Georgia’s largest school district has joined the growing ranks of those that will require students and employees to wear masks regardless of vaccination status as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the state.
The 177,000-student Gwinnett County school district became the latest to reverse a mask-optional policy, citing new guidance from the CDC on Tuesday recommending mask use in area where infections are increasing.
The Savannah-Chatham and Clarke County school systems also said everyone must wear a mask, while Emory University said all employees must get vaccinated.
The state Department of Public Health reported more than 3,700 new cases. That was more than double Monday’s total and the highest number since late February. The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide rose above 1,500 for the first time since early March.
LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has resumed wearing a mask at indoor events, citing revised guidance from the CDC and a recommendation from Michigan’s chief doctor.
However, Whitmer added Tuesday that she does anticipate reinstating a mandate requiring the use of face coverings — “not in the near future and maybe not ever.” The governor is vaccinated.
While daily COVID-19 cases have been rising in Michigan, the state’s two-week rate is lower than in all but three states.
Whitmer says that “I wear it not because I’m worried about me but because I worry about those who aren’t vaccinated yet.”
TOPEKA, Kan. — Officials in two major Kansas health care systems are urging people to resume wearing masks indoors even if they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus because of the faster spreading delta variant.
The comments from administrator-doctors at Stormont Vail Health in northeast Kansas and the University of Kansas Health System came just before the CDC recommended that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in places where the coronavirus is surging.
Their comments came a day after the board of education in one of Kansas’ largest public school districts approved a mandate for elementary students to wear masks when classes resume in mid-August.
Kansas has seen its average number of new COVID-19 cases a day increase for nearly five weeks because of the delta variant, to numbers last seen in mid-February.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says that requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus is “under consideration,” as the more infectious Delta variant surges across the United States and a significant chunk of Americans still refuse the shot.
Speaking Tuesday after delivering remarks at the office of the Director of National Intelligence, Biden affirmed that his administration was considering the possibility in response to a reporter’s question.
His comments come the day after the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require its healthcare workers receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Earlier Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki left the door open to more agencies implementing similar requirements, saying that the administration would “continue to look at ways to protect our workforce and save more lives.
NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s health department is reporting 6,797 new COVID-19 cases and 20 new deaths.
Tuesday’s figures also show hospitalizations up to 1,390. That’s the highest hospitalization count since early February.
The new figures come as state officials increasingly urge the public to get vaccinated as medical staffs again are stretched thin by the state’s fourth surge since the pandemic began.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ronny Walker of the north Louisiana city of Ruston has been hospitalized with pneumonia related to a “breakthrough” case of COVID-19 after being vaccinated.
Walker tells the Ruston Daily Leader that he believes his illness would have been worse had he not been vaccinated.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In South Florida, the Broward County school board postponed a meeting Tuesday about whether students should wear masks in the classroom this fall when about 20 anti-mask protestors refused to don them. Board spokeswoman Kathy Koch told the South Florida SunSentinel that everyone who visits the district’s headquarters is required to wear a mask.
“Most of them said they had a medical waiver, but you cannot prove it nor can you ask for it,” Koch said. So for the safety of everyone, the discussion was rescheduled for Wednesday.
The delay angered the protestors, who called on Gov. Ron DeSantis, a strong mask mandate opponent, and the state government to override any mask mandate imposed by Broward or others school districts.
“We need a special session of the state Legislature to ban this kind of crap right now,” said Chris Nelson, founder of the anti-mask group Reopen South Florida. He threatened to go to the board members’ homes and neighborhoods to confront them directly.
ST. LOUIS — As COVID-19 hospitalizations climb, St. Louis is offering incentives for some city employees to get immunized, while thousands are registering for a statewide vaccine lottery.
St. Louis said in a news release Tuesday that nearly 6,000 of its workers will be eligible to receive $100 in gift cards and can use paid time off to get vaccinated. The announcement comes one day after a mask mandate took effect in the city and St. Louis County.
Missouri has the nation’s fourth-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week, with one in every 360 people diagnosed with COVID-19.
To help, the state rolled out a vaccine incentive program last week that includes $10,000 prizes for 900 lottery winners. About 250,000 people have registered so far, said health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox.
NEW YORK — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new recommendations that vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
Scientists cited new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people. The CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The country is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. Most new infections and hospitalizations in the U.S. are among unvaccinated people.
But “breakthrough” infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people.
PORTLAND, Maine — The number of daily coronavirus infections has quadrupled in Maine in the last four weeks, and the total count since the start of the pandemic has eclipsed 70,000 cases.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been 898 total deaths.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen in the past two weeks from about 14 on July 11 to about 61 on Sunday. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen, from less than one death a day on July 11 to about two on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Maine authorities say about 68% of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated against coronavirus. That’s one of the highest rates in the country.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has the most confirmed daily cases in Asia, and airport records show thousands of foreigners have left in recent weeks.
The exodus is apparently spurred by a pandemic wave and general shortage of vaccines, which have gone to high priority groups first.
Indonesia’s confirmed daily death toll surpassed 2,000 for the first time on Tuesday, hitting 2,069. The Health Ministry reported 45,203 daily cases as the health system struggles to cope, and even patients fortunate enough to get a hospital bed are not guaranteed oxygen.
Nearly 19,000 foreign nationals have left through the airport in the capital since early this month. Airport records released Tuesday showed the number of foreigners leaving the capital increased significantly in the past three days alone.
Several countries have announced new bans or restrictions on travelers from Indonesia.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Another major North Carolina hospital system is preparing to require workers to get a coronavirus vaccine.
WakeMed Health & Hospitals informed its staff last week of its decision and confirmed the plan to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The Raleigh-area system, with 946 beds across three acute care hospitals and one physical rehabilitation hospital, hasn’t announced when it will take effect. But it would apply to “all employees, providers and volunteers in the near future.”
WakeMed spokesperson Kristin Kelly says in a statement that “WakeMed has strong confidence in the science, safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and the available data continues to reinforce these beliefs.”
NEW ORLEANS — Prison officials in Louisiana have suspended visitation and volunteer programs to guard against the spread of COVID-19.
The announcement Tuesday was the latest result of a fourth surge of the disease in the state. Hospitalizations in Louisiana — more than 1,200 on Monday — have more than doubled in 10 days
At least two major hospital systems in Louisiana have announced the suspension of nonemergency surgeries that might require hospital admissions as COVID-19 hospitalization numbers grow.
Jefferson Parish officials say new cases are evident in areas of the parish where vaccination rates are low. Officials blame low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant for the surge in new cases and hospitalizations.
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — One of the largest public school districts in Kansas plans to require elementary students to wear masks this fall.
The Kansas City Star reports that Shawnee Mission’s school board acted Monday night after a health official in Johnson County warned the delta variant would lead to widespread COVID-19 among unmasked children.
Shawnee Mission joins the public school districts in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, in requiring masks for at least some students, but it is the only district among six in Johnson County to do it. Johnson County is the most populous county in Kansas.
The Shawnee Mission board’s vote Monday night was 6-1 in favor of mandating masks in elementary schools. It has about 26,000 students and is the third-largest school district in Kansas, behind Wichita and Olathe.