The Latest: Staffers in La Gov. Edwards office test positive

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.



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— Find more AP coverage at and



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.


TOKYO — Japan has expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to four more areas in addition to Tokyo on Friday, following record spikes in infections as the capital hosts the Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared an emergency in Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba, near Tokyo, as well as in the western city of Osaka, effective Monday until Aug. 31. Emergency measures already in place in Tokyo will be extended until the end of August, after the Olympics and well into the Paralympics which start Aug. 24.

Tokyo has reported a record increase in cases for three days in a row, including 3,865 on Thursday, before logging another 3,300 on Friday. The cases have doubled since last week.

Officials say 2,995 people are hospitalized in Tokyo, about half the current capacity of 6,000 beds, with some hospitals already full. More than 10,000 others are isolating at home or in designated hotels, with nearly 5,600 waiting at home while health centers decide where they will be treated. Tokyo is also setting up a facility for those requiring oxygen while waiting for hospital beds.

Nationwide, Japan reported 10,687 cases Thursday, exceeding 10,000 for the first time. It has reported 15,166 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, including 2,288 in Tokyo, since the start of the pandemic.


PARIS — France is deploying military medics and ICU units to the French Caribbean to relieve hospitals facing a coronavirus surge. Military planes are also bringing some critically ill patients to the French mainland for treatment.

The island of Martinique goes into partial lockdown Saturday. Martinique’s current infection rate is more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people, the highest in France, according to national health agency figures.

Citing “strong tension” in hospitals in Martinique, the French Defense Ministry says 50 military medical personnel are heading to the region and the military will bring 10 ICU beds over the next week.

The Indian Ocean island of Reunion is imposing new confinement measures. Infections are also spreading fast in Guadeloupe.

The rising cases are blamed in part on travel between the islands and the French mainland and summer festivities, plus a vaccination rate much lower than the mainland.


LONDON — Britain’s statistics office says the rate of coronavirus infections has increased in most of the country, though the rise may be starting to level off in England.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 1 in 65 people in England had the virus in the week to July 24, up from 1 in 75 the week before. Infection rates also rose in Wales and Northern Ireland but declined in Scotland.

The numbers reflect the first few days after remaining social restrictions, including mandatory mask-wearing, were lifted in England on July 19. Infection rates were highest among high school students and young adults, who are less likely to be vaccinated.

The data is based on a randomized sample of people across the country. Separate figures that record confirmed positive tests each day suggest infections have recently been falling.

Duncan Cook from the statistics office says, “there are possible signs that the rate of increase may have slowed” in England. But it’s too early to say “whether the current wave of infections is stabilizing or not.”


JERUSALEM — Israeli health authorities began administering coronavirus booster shots Friday to people over 60 who’ve already received both does of a vaccine, in a bid to combat a recent spike in cases.

The decision was announced Thursday by the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennet, making Israel the first country to offer a third dose of a Western vaccine to its citizens on a wide scale. The decision comes following rising infections caused by the delta variant.

More than 57% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received both doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and over 80% of the population over 40 is vaccinated.

The effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine wanes slightly over time but it remains strongly protective for at least six months after the second dose, according to company data released Wednesday.

Neither the U.S. nor the EU has approved coronavirus booster shots. The World Health Organization said this month that there’s not enough evidence to show that a third dose is needed.


BERLIN — In a bid to whet reluctant Germans’ appetite for the coronavirus shot, one vaccination center is offering a free bratwurst to all comers.

Public broadcaster MDR reported 100 people had turned up at the center in Sonnenberg during the first 4 hours Friday, a higher rate than usual. Sonnenberg is located in Thuringia state, which prides itself on its bratwurst tradition.

Official figures show 61% of the population in Germany has received at least one shot, and 51% are fully vaccinated.

But vaccination rates have slowed in recent weeks, prompting calls to offer incentives for more people to get the shot. They’ve ranged from free food and drinks to easing restrictions for people who can prove they’ve been inoculated.


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