The Latest: Savannah reinstates indoor mask mandate

SAVANNAH, Ga.— The largest city on Georgia’s coast has reimposed a requirement that people wear masks in public, citing a “steep and alarming rise” in cases of the COVID-19.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson made the announcement Monday in a news conference, saying people now must wear masks any time they are indoors with people who are not members of their immediately families.

Johnson said his order doesn’t apply to schools and colleges, but called on them to do the same, saying rates of COVID-19 have roughly tripled in Chatham County in the last two weeks.

The county saw a big spike in new cases at the end of last week according to state Department of Public Health data, pushing transmission rates to levels last seen in March. Reported new cases are roughly nine times where they were when they bottomed out in late June.

Statewide case rates in Georgia are almost five times as high as they were in late June.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Some French health workers resent, resist mandatory vaccines

— Pandemic leaves Indians mired in massive medical debts

— What happens when your Olympics COVID test gets taken 39 minutes early?

— Malaysian doctors walk off job in government hospitals

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WASHINGTON — Some 60 leading medical and health industry groups are calling for health care employers to require their workers to get COVID-19 vaccines as the more aggressive delta variant spreads across the nation, and some communities report troubling increases in hospitalizations among unvaccinated people.

The groups include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Nursing, the American Public Health Association and, for the first time, a nursing home industry group. LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit nursing homes and elder care facilities, had previously advocated educating nursing home employees about the benefits of getting their shots.

“Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated,” the groups said in a statement. “We stand with the growing number of experts and institutions that support the requirement for universal vaccination of health workers.”

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PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — Provincetown officials approved an indoor mask mandate during an emergency joint meeting on Sunday in an effort to fight an outbreak in the vacation haven at the tip of Cape Cod.

Officials say the new cases stem from a busy Fourth of July weekend. The cluster has grown to more than 550 cases, including some caused by the more infectious delta variant. Of the new cases, about 70% were fully vaccinated and most had no or only mild symptoms. Only three have required hospitalization.

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NEW YORK — New York City will require all of its municipal workers — including teachers and police officers — to get coronavirus vaccines by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the new rule Monday. It is expected to affect about 340,000 city employees, making the city one of the largest employers in the U.S. to take such action.

The Sept. 13 deadline coincides with the start of public school, when the Democratic mayor has said he expects all pupils to be in classrooms full time.

The move comes as the city battles a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. Since the end of June, the daily average of new cases has increased by more than 300%.

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ST. LOUIS — Mask mandates took effect again in the St. Louis area Monday amid a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases spurred by the delta variant.

Masks now are mandatory in indoor public places and on public transportation in St. Louis city and St. Louis County for everyone age 5 or older — even for those who are vaccinated.

Masking outdoors is strongly encouraged, especially in group settings.

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PARIS — Enforcing France’s new virus pass could prove a logistical challenge for restaurants and other venues, but managers and diners hope it helps avoid another dreaded lockdown.

At the helm of La Brigade, a pocket-sized steak house in Paris’ hip Oberkampf district, Noémi Arevalo can’t imagine having to struggle through another weeks-long closure.

“We prefer having to work with rules and be stricter with our customers than having to close and not being able to work,” she told the Associated Press from behind her counter.

France’s parliament approved a law early Monday requiring special virus passes for all restaurants and domestic travel, and mandating vaccinations for health workers. To get the pass, people must be fully vaccinated, have a negative virus test or prove they recently recovered from COVID-19.

The government’s measures have prompted protests and political tensions. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say they’re needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government is ruling out multiple-day festivals this summer and tightening rules for people returning from vacations in hopes of preventing another spike in coronavirus infections.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the new measures Monday. Rutte said that even though confirmed cases are declining after hitting more than 10,000 per day this month, “the situation remains tense because we still see numbers rising in hospitals.”

Rutte says that banning multiple-day festivals until at least Sept. 1 was done in part because of logistical difficulties in testing all attendees every 25 hours. He says the move also gives clarity to festival organizers.

The government also is tightening rules for returning vacationers. All people over 12 years old will have to provide proof of a negative virus test, that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge says that mobile teams will carry out checks at the borders and travelers will be fined if they return without a negative test or proof of full vaccination or recovery.

Just under 60% of Dutch adults are fully vaccinated and 83.5% have had an initial vaccine dose.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan on Monday received 3 million more doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States under the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative, according to the U.N. children’s agency.

UNICEF used Twitter to announce the latest vaccine delivery to Pakistan, saying it brought the number of COVID-19 doses supplied to the country under the COVAX facility to 8 million.

Earlier this month, Pakistan received 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the U.S. as part of the global vaccine initiative.

The coronavirus positivity rate in Pakistan jumped from 2% to about 7% percent in the past month, according to government data.

Pakistan has reported 100,8446 confirmed cases and 230,48 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s president says the government has lifted a ban on liquor sales and relaxed other pandemic restrictions.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation Sunday night that a recent spike in coronavirus cases has passed its peak and the daily number of new confirmed cases dropped 20% last week.

The government is allowing retail alcohol sales to resume from Monday through Thursday, while bars and restaurants also will be permitted to sell alcoholic beverages.

Schools have fully reopened, and social and religious gatherings are again allowed for a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. A nighttime curfew has been reduced to 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

South Africa, which has a population of 60 million, has administered over 6.3 million vaccine doses. The rate of inoculations needs to increase for the country to reach its target of having 67% of the population fully vaccinated by February.

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CANBERRA, Australia — AstraZeneca has backed the advice of Australia’s immunization expert body that Sydney residents should take any COVID-19 vaccine they can get.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, known as ATAGI, recommended on July 13 that adults under the age of 60 take Pfizer because of the increased risk in younger adults of blood clotting caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine. Pfizer and AstraZeneca are the only COVID-19 vaccines registered in Australia.

But with a delta variant cluster growing in Sydney since mid-July, ATAGI on Saturday recommended adults in Australia’s largest city as young as 18 “should strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available vaccine,” including AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca on Monday said it supported ATAGI’s advice, adding that regulatory authorities around the world agreed that the benefits of using the vaccine significantly outweighed the risks across all adults age groups.

Australia has abundant stocks of locally-manufactured AstraZeneca, but imported Pfizer is in short supply.

Because Australia has been relatively successful in containing COVID-19 outbreaks before the more contagious delta variant arrived in Sydney with a U.S. air crew, many Australians are prepared to wait months for Pfizer rather than risk AstraZeneca.

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NEW DELHI — Life has been tentatively returning to normal in India as coronavirus cases declined. But, for many, the worst may lay ahead as they deal with the crushing financial aftermath of huge piles of medical bills.

Most Indians don’t have health insurance and costs for COVID-19 treatment have left them drowning in debt. In New Delhi, a father is pleading online for help from strangers on a crowdfunding website after his son’s medical bills surpassed $50,000. In the northeastern town of Imphal, a woman is facing a similar struggle after losing her sister, her mother and the family’s savings to the pandemic.

Experts say such losses are bound to hinder a revival of the country’s battered economy. The pandemic has devastated India’s economy, bringing financial calamity to millions at the mercy of its chronically underfunded and fragmented healthcare system.

Indians pay about 63% of their medical expenses out-of-pocket. That’s typical of many poor countries with inadequate government services. Data on global personal medical costs from the pandemic are hard to come by, but in India and many other countries, treatment for COVID-19 is a huge added burden at a time when hundreds of millions of jobs have vanished.

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PARIS — While most French health care workers are vaccinated against the virus, a small but vocal minority is holding out. With infections exploding, a new law requiring them to get the shots is exposing the divide.

The French government, which has declared that the nation has officially entered its “fourth wave” of the pandemic, pushed the law mandating COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers, to protect hospitals and avoid a new lockdown. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal says the move isn’t meant to stigmatize reluctant health care workers but to limit risks to the vulnerable people they care for.

The law, adopted by parliament early Monday, also sets up a “health pass” for everyone in order to access restaurants and other public venues. Both measures have prompted intense debate and two straight weekends of protests around France. Health care workers in white coats have been among the demonstrators.

Many cite incorrect information about the vaccines circulating on the internet, worry about their long-term effects or want more time to decide. Several health workers said they took issue with the mandate, not the vaccines themselves.

At one Paris protest, some carried signs reading “My body, my choice,” and a health worker dressed as the Statue of Liberty called it an “act of violence” to force people to get vaccinated.

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BEIJING — New coronavirus cases continue to grow in the major eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, with another 38 reported on Monday, bringing the total to more than 60 over recent days.

Tens of thousands of people are under lockdown and authorities are conducting mass testing of the population, standard practices in China that have generally been successfully in controlling the spread of the virus.

One other case of local transmission was reported in the nearby city of Suqian and one in the northeastern province of Liaoning. Both were classified as being linked to the Nanjing outbreak.

Another 36 imported cases were reported, half of them in Yunnan province near the border with Myanmar, which is facing a severe outbreak. All those newly diagnosed in Yunnan had crossed the border from Yunnan at some point before June 30 and July 24.

China has recorded 87,228 total cases since the initial outbreak in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 741 currently in treatment. The death toll has stayed steady for months at 4,636.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has deployed special police teams to arrest people who fail to wear face masks and maintain social distancing in public places amid a surge in COVID-19 patients.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said Monday that intelligence officers had reported some people do not wear face masks at public places while some fail to wear it properly.

Rohana said such people “are dealt with according to quarantine laws” and will be arrested and produced before courts.

Under Sri Lanka’s quarantine laws, those who are arrested for not wearing face masks and also not maintaining social distancing in public could face a penalty of LKR 10,000 ($54), six months’ imprisonment or both.

The move comes as health officials warn of a rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide.

Sri Lanka has seen a sharp increase in positive cases and deaths since April, in part because of celebrations and shopping during the traditional new year festival. Total confirmed cases have reached 294,850 with 4,054 fatalities.

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