The Latest: US schools open amid record virus delta wave

NEW YORK — Children are filling hospital beds instead of classrooms in record numbers across the U.S., sick with COVID-19.

The surging virus is spreading anxiety, turmoil and infighting among parents, administrators and politicians, especially in Florida and Texas, where Republican governors have barred schools from requiring masks.

With millions of children returning to classrooms this month, health experts say the stakes are unquestionably high.

Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, noted more than 400 U.S. children have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. “And right now, we have almost 2,000 kids in the hospital, many of them in ICU, some of them under the age of 4,” Collins told Fox News on Sunday.

Health experts say adults who have not gotten their shots are contributing to the surge among grown-ups and children. It has been especially bad in places with lower vaccination rates, including parts of the South.



— U.S. schools open amid record coronavirus delta wave

— Maine Sen. Angus King tests positive for virus

— Africa WHO official knocks nations that ‘hoard’ vaccines

— 4 of Florida’s 5 largest school districts to require masks


— Find more AP coverage at and



PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown announced Oregon is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine requirement to include all teachers, educators, support staff and volunteers in K-12 schools.

Teachers are the latest to be added to the growing statewide vaccine mandate. It also includes health care workers and state employees be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Also, Brown announced weekly testing for health care workers will no longer be an option for those who want to avoid vaccination. The only opt-out of the requirement is either a medical or religious exemption.


RALEIGH, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says unvaccinated students and those who don’t disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status will be required to get tested for the coronavirus twice a week.

In a message to the community, the university says 87% of students have attested they are fully vaccinated. Those who become fully vaccinated and report their status to the university will no longer have to face twice-weekly testing.

The move comes as the state witnesses its worst levels of transmission of the virus in months.

North Carolina on Thursday registered more than 7,000 daily COVID-19 cases, the highest in seven months. More than 3,000 people are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19, the most since Jan. 28.


PHOENIX — A northwestern Arizona school district has banned employees from discussing vaccination status or mask- wearing with students.

The Mohave Daily News reports the governing board for the Colorado River Union High School District made the decision this week. The edict carries no repercussions for administrators, staff and teachers who violate it. That will be up to the district’s superintendent, who supported the motion.

The school board’s gag rule is rare. Vaccines and masks remain contentious topics across Arizona as students return to school.

On Thursday, the state reported 3,546 confirmed coronavirus cases and four more deaths.


AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday, a day after he began feeling ill, his office announced.

King, an independent, says he’s definitely “not feeling great” but doing better than if he hadn’t been vaccinated.

“I am taking this diagnosis very seriously, quarantining myself at home and telling the few people I’ve been in contact with to get tested in order to limit any further spread,” King said in a statement.

The 77-year-old King says throughout the pandemic, he’s worked to protect himself, family and staff through masks, social distancing, a “work-from-home mindset. ” He’s used Zoom meetings and, until recently, was driving instead of flying to Washington, D.C.

He urged people to follow guidance from health professionals and “get vaccinated if you haven’t been.”


SEATTLE — Authorities say there are more people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Washington state than at any time during the pandemic.

Cassie Sauer, president of the Washington State Hospital Association. says there were 1,240 people with coronavirus in state hospitals. The previous highest number was about 1,100 in December.

Sauer says until the recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the state had been holding steady at 300 to 350 people. The numbers began increasing in early July and have been doubling about every two weeks.


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Four of the five largest school districts in Florida are defying an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis barring them from imposing strict mask mandates in schools.

Board members took action Wednesday after seeing the numbers in Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties. School began a week ago and already thousands of children have been sent home because teachers and classmates are infected with the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Veterans Affairs Dr. J. Stacey Klutts says it’s necessary to wear masks indoors and avoid large group gatherings. He says unprotected students sitting for hours in classrooms could rapidly spread infection.

Statewide, Florida reported 23,335 new infections for Tuesday, according to the CDC. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dashboard reported 17,096 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients.

DeSantis, a Republican, also is in an escalating power struggle with the Democratic White House. After President Joe Biden ordered possible legal action Wednesday, the U.S. Education Department raised the possibility of using its civil rights arm against Florida and other states that have blocked public health measures meant to protect students.


JACKSON, Miss. — Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in isolation.

“Senator Wicker tested positive this morning for the COVID-19 virus after immediately seeking a test due to mild symptoms,” his communications director, Phillip Waller, said in a statement Thursday.

It says Senator Wicker is fully vaccinated, in good health and being treated by his Tupelo-based doctor.

“Everyone with whom Senator Wicker has come in close contact recently has been notified.”


ORLANDO, Fla. — The number of U.S. tourists who came to Florida in the second quarter of this year has returned to pre-pandemic levels, though the international market is still lagging.

Figures released Thursday show 30.6 million domestic visitors came to Florida from April through June of this year. That’s a 6% increase over the same time in 2019, and a 216% rise from the same time last year during the height of pandemic closures.

Florida welcomed only 1.1 million visitors from overseas and Canada in the second quarter of this year, compared to 3.5 million visitors in the second quarter of 2019.


WALTHAM, Mass. — Blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors didn’t help newly infected patients when tested against a dummy infusion, doctors reported.

The results of the experiment are the latest disappointment for a treatment known as convalescent plasma. The experimental treatment is not currently recommended in U.S. guidelines and it’s been difficult to study in a controlled way.

The new study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, ran a test in about 500 patients with COVID-19 symptoms in hospital emergency rooms. Half received antibody-rich plasma donated by recovered COVID-19 patients. Half received a dummy infusion.

Outcomes were about the same. About 30% in both groups got sick enough to come back to the hospital. Five patients in the plasma group died compared to one death in the other group.


RICHMOND, Va. — A surge of COVID-19 cases is prompting U.S. federal courts to impose new restrictions and requirements for mask-wearing and vaccinations.

At the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, an order went into effect Monday requiring everyone who enters the court’s buildings to verify their vaccination status. Visitors who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last three days, while those who work there and aren’t fully vaccinated must be tested at least once a week.

That is the same circuit where a three-judge panel in July ruled that Florida-based cruise ships didn’t have to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 restrictions.


ASHLAND, Mo. — A Missouri state lawmaker running for Congress has announced her husband died after the couple was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Republican State Rep. Sara Walsh, of Ashland, thanked everyone who had prayed for her husband, Steve Walsh, in announcing Thursday in a tweet that he had died. He was 63.

Sara Walsh, who is running for U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s 4th congressional district seat, said over the weekend she had recovered and was out of quarantine. Neither she nor her husband, who served as Hartzler’s press secretary, had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Walsh said previously she didn’t get the vaccine because it has not been fully approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and she was concerned about risk factors, although research has shown it is safe.


BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania reported 595 coronavirus cases, its highest daily number in three months, amid one of the European Union’s slowest vaccination campaigns.

It was the third day in a row the country of more than 19 million recorded more than 500 infections per day, which compares to just a few dozen daily infections a day in mid-July.

So far Romania has vaccinated 26% of its population — the EU’s second-slowest vaccine campaign after Bulgaria — as concerns grow over vaccine hesitancy.

Beatrice Mahler, the manager at the Marius Nasta Institute of Pneumology in the capital Bucharest told The Associated Press that some people fear the vaccines because of “false information circulated on social media.”

“The difficulties (in hospitals) will be noticed at the start of September,” she told the AP. “I am referring to the increase in the number of cases that will require an increase in the number of beds allocated to COVID.”

Romania has registered nearly 1.1 million COVID-19 cases and 34,379 confirmed deaths.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and the first lady will get a COVID-19 booster shot, following their first two doses in December.

The president told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that it’s “past time” for him to get a booster. U.S. health officials announced Wednesday recommendations that Americans who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine get a booster shot eight months after their second dose.

U.S. health officials say it is “very clear” the vaccines’ protection against infections wanes over time. They announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection against the surging delta variant.

The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20.


LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s health minister says the country has reached its target of 70% of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health Minister Marta Temido says Portugal hit the milestone on Wednesday, some two weeks earlier than anticipated. Now the government is mulling when to further relax restrictions on gatherings and movements.

The 70% goal, about 7 million people, was established for achieving herd immunity before the highly infectious delta variant appeared. Temido told the S.I.C television channel Thursday that the parameters for herd immunity now need to be adjusted.

Portugal reported more than 2,500 new cases Thursday. Its infection rate per 100,000 population over 14 days, a key pandemic metric, stands at 314. Hospital admissions for the coronavirus have remained at manageable levels.


NAIROBI, Kenya — The Africa director for the World Health Organization sharply criticized the decisions by some richer countries to roll out COVID-19 booster shots.

Matshidiso Moeti says the decisions “threaten the promise of a brighter tomorrow for Africa.” She adds “as some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery of vaccine equity.”

The U.S. on Wednesday announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans. Moeti and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had warned against booster shots as less than 2% of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion people is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The situation in Africa remains “very fragile” as the more infectious delta variant is dominant in most of the continent’s 54 countries, she says. Africa has reported than 7.3 million cases and more than 186,000 confirmed deaths.


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