The Latest: Tennessee judge blocks Gov. Lee’s mask opt-out
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge handed down a second blow to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s order allowing parents to opt out of school mask requirements.
U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer on Friday ruled Knox County Schools must implement a mask mandate to help protect children with health problems amid the coronavirus pandemic. He also blocked Lee’s order from being implemented while the legal battle continues to move its way through court.
This is the second time in a week that Lee’s order has been placed on pause as families and advocates across the state have filed a handful of lawsuits amid spiking coronavirus case numbers in schools. In Shelby County, while the school district had implemented a strict mask mandate, a federal judge indefinitely banned Lee’s order after families argued the governor’s executive order endangered their children.
“It is real, and likely. Knox County students are being infected right now, every day, at a rate of 162 students every day … and the threat of harm is therefore (immediate),” Greer wrote.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Biden urges COVID-19 booster shots for those now eligible
— CDC: Studies show masks lessen school outbreaks
— More rental aid is reaching U.S. tenants to stave off eviction
— EXPLAINER: Who’s eligible for Pfizer booster shots in US?
See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW YORK — A live televised interview with Vice President Kamala Harris was slightly delayed Friday after two hosts of the “The View” learned they tested positive for the coronavirus just before she was to join them on the set.
Co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro were at the table for the start of the show, but were pulled from the set. Harris, who had planned to join the table, instead was interviewed remotely from a different room in the ABC studio in New York.
The White House says she didn’t have any contact with either host who tested positive. Colleagues said Hostin and Navarro had been vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from the new K-12 school year bolster the agency’s recommendation for masks in schools and in-person classes.
One study in two Arizona counties found coronavirus outbreaks were almost four times more common at public schools without mask mandates on the first day than at those that re-opened with a masking requirement.
Another study found case rates in children and teens increased more in U.S. counties where public schools had no mask mandates than in those where schools had that requirement. These studies lacked data on other measures that could have influenced the results.
A third study counted 1,801 coronavirus-related school closures through mid-September, most of them in the South, where many schools opened earlier than those in other regions.
Still, 96% of U.S. public schools have remained open with in-person classes, the researchers say, while acknowledging that data from some districts may be missing.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is urging those now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots to get the added protection. His plea comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. Biden praised the decision and aimed to set aside any unease about the vaccination by saying that he would get his own booster soon.
The advisers say boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — A Jackson County judge has ordered a restaurant in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, to shut down after the owner’s continued defiance of a mask mandate intended to fight the spread of COVID-19.
On Thursday, Judge Jennifer Phillips barred Rae’s Cafe in Blue Springs from operating, rejecting owner Amanda Wohletz’s argument of medical exemptions and attempt to operate as a private club. The judge also ordered the cafe to cease operations until it obtained a valid food permit.
This month, Judge James Kanatazar ordered a temporarily close after Wohletz ignored a health department order to close because of repeated violations of the county’s indoor mask requirement. But the business continued to operate, and its food permit was then suspended.
THESSALONIKI, Greece — A court in northern Greece sentenced and fined a 37-year-old anti-vaccination campaigner after he demanded his son attend elementary school classes without wearing a mask or undergoing a coronavirus test.
The parent, whose name has not been made public, was found guilty of insulting behavior and illegal entry onto state property, Thessaloniki court officials said.
His sentence of 15 months in jail was suspended for three years. The court imposed a 300 euro ($350) fine.
Under a government mandate, school children in Greece are obliged to wear face masks and use self-test kits distributed weekly by the government at pharmacies.
Anti-vaccination campaigners have organized protest rallies in Thessaloniki, Athens and other Greek cities, mostly demonstrating against restrictions in schools and vaccination mandates for health care workers.
ROME — Italian government workers will be heading back to offices to do their jobs after more than 18 months of remote work as part of coronavirus measures.
Premier Mario Draghi’s office says he signed a decree establishing Oct. 15 to resume in-person work. That’s the same date that all Italian workers – either in public or private employment – will need a COVID-19 Green Pass to access their workplaces.
Many public employees who serve citizens have already been working in offices. Receiving at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, having recovered from the illness in the last six months or presenting a recent negative test will secure the Green Pass.
The premier’s office says public offices “will assure that in-person return will happen in safe conditions.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg says most of the national coronavirus restrictions in the Scandinavian country will be eased.
The restrictions lifted include the requirement for serving patrons in restaurants and the 1-meter (3.3-feet) social distance rule. Eateries, bars and nightclubs will be allowed to remain open after midnight, schools and kindergartens can return to normal and “handshakes will again be allowed,” a smiling Health Minister Bent Hoeie said.
He stressed Norway will have “an increased preparedness” and local restriction will be imposed if there was a flareup.
Norway is the second Scandinavian country to end the restrictions after Denmark did so on Sept. 10.
More than 76% of Norway’s population of 5.3 million have gotten one vaccine, and nearly 70% have gotten both shots, according to official figures.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia — More than 50,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses have expired in Bosnia.
Public Health Institute of Republika Srpska, one of Bosnia’s two administrative parts, confirmed Friday it was in the process of selecting a partner to safely destroy 55,000 AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines.
The vaccines were part of a donation and two months short of the expiration date upon arrival in Bosnia, said Milka Mrdja from the Public Health Institute.
Local media reported some 350,000 additional vaccine doses in the country were set to expire in October. Only about 12% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Bosnia has the highest rate in Europe of coronavirus deaths at 4.5%, according to Johns Hopkins University. On Friday, 26 deaths were reported in the country.
The Balkan nation of 3.3 million people has registered 230,200 confirmed cases and more than 10,300 confirmed deaths.
LONDON — The World Health Organization is recommending a pricey antibody treatment for certain coronavirus patients in the latest update to its guidelines for treating people with COVID-19.
The new guidelines, published Friday in the journal BMJ, say the two antibodies – casirivimab and imdevimab = made by Regeneron should be given to people infected with COVID-19 who are at highest risk of hospitalization and to people whose own immune systems have not mounted a response.
The U.N. health agency said the new advice was based on evidence from experimental trials, including a British-run study that is the world’s largest for testing potential COVID-19 treatments.
In the U.S., the Regeneron treatment is mostly recommended for people with mild to moderate COVID-19, to prevent them from needing hospitalization.
Activists worried that the cost of the treatment – more than $2,000 in the U.S. – means it will mostly be unavailable to people in poorer countries. Doctors Without Borders called for Regeneron to ensure the antibody drugs are accessible to needy patients and for the company to license any proprietary rights and share technological know-how for how to make them.
SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Ministry of Health is tightening restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus amid a recent surge in new cases and deaths.
New regulations the Health Ministry announced Friday include reducing the number of people allowed to gather socially from five to two, and restricting restaurants to seating only two fully vaccinated people together.
The city-state in Southeast Asia has been lauded for its coronavirus response and has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with some 77% of its people fully vaccinated.
But in recent weeks Singapore has seen climbing case and death rates as it has sought to ease some restrictions to “transit toward a COVID-19 resilient nation.”
Its overall numbers are still very low, with 1,504 new cases reported Thursday and two more fatalities, bringing the country’s total to 70.
MOSCOW — Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit a record on Friday amid a steady increase in infections.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 828 deaths on Friday, the country’s highest daily number of the pandemic. The previous record of 820 daily deaths was registered on Aug. 26, and again on Thursday.
Russian authorities have reported some 7.3 million confirmed cases and morethan 202,000 deaths. However, reports by the government’s statistical service Rosstat, which tallies coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively, reveal much higher mortality numbers.
Daily coronavirus infections in Russia have fallen from more than 20,000 in late August to about 18,000 in mid-September but started creeping up again last week. On Thursday and Friday, the state coronavirus task force reported more than 21,000 daily cases.
Despite the increase, the Kremlin is not considering the possibility of imposing a nationwide lockdown at this point, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday. Hardly any restrictions are currently in place in Russia, which has had one lockdown that lasted for six weeks.
WARSAW — Health care workers have come to Warsaw from across Poland for an around-the-clock protest outside the prime minister’s office that has gone on for nearly two weeks.
With Poland on the cusp of a fourth surge of COVID-19 infections, the nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers and other health care workers are urging Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other authorities to make deep reforms to the health care system, arguing that it is in danger of collapse.
“The pandemic showed us how bad the health care system is,” said Gilbert Kolbe, a nurse and spokesman for the protest movement. “This is the last chance to do something before it will be too late. We won’t be able to avert a crisis coming in five, 10 years.”
Poland has the lowest number of working doctors in proportion to its population — just 2.4 to 1,000 inhabitants compared with 4.5 in Germany, according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development statistics.
NEW YORK — Hospitals and nursing homes in New York are bracing for the possibility that a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers could lead to staff shortages.
Doctors, nurses and support staff — like food service workers and cleaners — have been given until Sept. 27 to get at least their first vaccine shot.
As of Thursday, about 90% of Northwell’s 74,000 active personnel had been vaccinated. The hospital system says it doesn’t expect full compliance and had more than 3,000 retirees, volunteers and health care students on standby, should they be needed Monday.
Some hospitals and nursing homes were preparing contingency plans Friday that included cutting back on elective surgeries and trimming medical services.