The Latest: Poland sends 1 million vaccines to Australia
SYDNEY — Poland has sent one million COVID-19 vaccines to Sydney where the delta variant continues to spread, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
The first of the Pfizer vaccines left Warsaw via the United Arab Emirates and will arrive in Sydney over Sunday night, Morrison said.
Australia bought the vaccines after weeks of negotiations between Morrison and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki. Morrison did not reveal the price.
“A key factor in being able to secure these doses from our Polish friends has been that we have had a significant outbreak in our largest city,” Morrison said.
Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26 due to an outbreak first detected 10 days earlier. Surrounding New South Wales state was entirely locked down from Saturday because of recent infections detected in regional towns and virus found in wastewater in the state’s north and west.
Residents aged 20-to-39 in Sydney’s worst-effected areas would be given 530,000 of the new doses. This age group was responsible for most of the virus spread, Morrison said.
The remaining doses would be shared with other Australian states and territories.
Only 25% of Australians aged 16 and older had been fully vaccinated by Friday. Australia has one of the slowest vaccine rollouts among wealthy countries.
New South Wales reported 415 new infections in the latest 24-your period on Sunday. A record 466 new cases were reported on Saturday. Sunday’s total was the second-highest tally of the pandemic.
Four people had died overnight, bringing the death toll in New South Wales from the latest outbreak to 46.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Coronavirus claims more young victims in U.S. as deaths climb
— Protesters in France denounce COVID-19 health pass for 5th straight Saturday
— COVAX only goes so far as rich countries dominate global vaccine allotments
— Iran will impose 6-day ‘general lockdown’ against coronavirus
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Anchorage Daily News reports that the Foo Fighters rock band is requiring that people who attend their upcoming shows in Alaska be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive a negative test result 48 hours before attending.
The 12-time Grammy-winning-band plans to perform in Anchorage on Aug. 17 and 19 at the Dena’ina Center and in Fairbanks on Aug. 21 at the Carlson Center.
Negative test results or proof of vaccination must be provided before entering — — either the original card or copy of card with an ID to match, according to a statement Saturday from Ticketmaster.
PHOENIX — Arizona on Saturday reported over 3,000 additional COVID-19 cases for the second straight day.
The state’s seven-day rolling averages for cases and deaths also continued to rise along with virus-related hospitalizations. The state’s coronavirus dashboard reported 1,601 hospitalizations as of Thursday, along with 3,418 additional cases and 27 more deaths.
In another development, the superintendent of the Scottsdale Unified School District said increased spread of COVID-19 threatens to end in-person learning.
Also, the Salt-River Pima-Community Indian Community announced residents and visitors must help curb spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks while visiting government offices, businesses and schools on the tribe’s Phoenix-area reservation.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Department of Health recommended a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people with severely weakened immune systems.
The recommendation Saturday comes as the delta variant surges in the country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that immunocompromised Americans can get an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for better protection.
The FDA’s announcement applies to about 3% of U.S. adults who are especially vulnerable because of organ transplants, certain cancers or other disorders. Several other countries, including France and Israel, have similar recommendations.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — President Joe Biden has called school district superintendents in Florida and Arizona, praising them for doing what he called “the right thing” after their respective boards implemented mask requirements in defiance of their Republican governors amid growing COVID-19 infections.
The White House said in a statement Saturday that the Democratic president had spoken with interim Broward Superintendent Vickie Cartwright in Florida and Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Chad Gestson in Arizona. Biden thanked them for their leadership and discuss their shared commitment to getting all students back in safe, full-time in-person instruction this school year.
Biden’s phone calls of support come as tensions build over whether local school districts can and should require face coverings for students and school staff as in-person classes resume. In Texas, several school districts — along with the state’s most populous county — won temporary legal victories Friday in seeking to override Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates, which they argued is making the COVID-19 pandemic worse.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico health officials say an increase in hospitalizations across the state has prompted them to put out an urgent call for volunteer nurses to help boost the state’s medical work force.
The New Mexico Department of Health late Friday called on nurses or anyone with a medical license to volunteer to help because they believe hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with patients. They want recently retired health workers or anyone qualified to sign up for the state’s Medical Reserve Corps.
Hospitals in New Mexico and across the nation are seeing increased hospitalizations because of long-postponed surgeries and a surge in COVID-19 patients. The delta variant of the coronavirus is much more contagious than previous strains.
The state Friday reported 798 additional COVID-19 cases and five new deaths. They bring the count of confirmed New Mexico virus cases since the pandemic began in early 2020 to 218,569 and the number of deaths to 4,446.
State officials said their modeling predicts more than 1,000 new cases a day in the next several weeks.
“We ask our nurses, and anyone with a medical license, to once again volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps,” Dr. David R. Scrase, the acting director of the state health department, said in a statement. “To get through this together, we need everyone who can provide patient care to work side by side with us during this critical time.”
The state’s Reserve Medical Corps has filled more than 139 requests during the pandemic, deploying 2,750 volunteers.
MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota System will join hundreds of colleges nationwide in requiring a COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff at its five campuses.
The mandate approved by the Board of Regents on Friday will take effect once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to a coronavirus vaccine and not just emergency use status. Full approval is expected in the coming weeks.
Faculty and staff at the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, Crookston and Morris campuses must either get vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing.
The university will allow medical and religious exemptions to this mandate. The University of Minnesota campuses educate about 67,000 students and employ 26,000 people.
System leaders said they will soon share more details about the vaccination requirement, including how much time students will have to get the shots after FDA approval and any consequences for not complying with the mandate.
OLATHE, Kan. — The most populous county in Kansas is requiring its employees to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing if they aren’t vaccinated.
Johnson County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson said that only 46% of county employees had reported being fully vaccinated as of Wednesday. Countywide, nearly 58% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
Beginning Aug. 23, government employees who are not fully vaccinated must get tested once a week. The Kansas City Star reports that employees who work in departments providing direct care to residents are subject to tests up to twice weekly. Similar requirements already have taken effect in school districts, businesses and cities elsewhere.
PARIS — Thousands of people, from families to far-right sympathizers, marched in cities across France for a fifth straight Saturday to denounce a COVID-19 health pass needed to enter restaurants and long-distance trains.
Some 1,600 police were deployed for three separate marches in Paris, a week after the health pass went into effect. “Liberty” was the slogan, with protesters saying the health pass limits their freedom.
Polls show most French people support the health pass.
The marches came as France is facing soaring numbers of new infections, driven by the more transmissible delta variant. In Montpellier, some 7,500 people marched. The city is in the region where the infection rate is above 600 per 100,000 people, among the highest in the country.
On Friday, 46.1 million people in France, nearly 68% of the population, had received at least one vaccine shot. More than 38.8 million, or 57%, had two shots.
NEW YORK — New York health officials say they’ll soon issue state guidance on giving additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to people with severely weakened immune systems, now that the federal government is allowing it.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker says the state’s vaccine task force met Friday to discuss the matter. Zucker says the group will complete its review quickly.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced transplant recipients and other similarly immune-compromised patients can get a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. It doesn’t apply to the general public.
New York, like some other states, has its own task force of scientists and health experts who review COVID-19 vaccines, a process the state says is meant to ensure New Yorkers’ confidence in the inoculations.
The FDA’s decision applies to an estimated 3% or less of U.S. adults, including organ transplant recipients. The CDC says others who could qualify include people with advanced or untreated HIV infections and cancer patients who are receiving certain chemotherapies.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The number of COVID-19 deaths in Alabama are increasing after a case surge fueled by low vaccinations rates and the highly contagious delta variant.
State Health Officer Scott Harris says Alabama is reporting double-digit death numbers for the first time in months. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Alabama rose to 21 deaths per day on Aug. 11, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Harris says the reported deaths were expected to rise as the state experiences a surge in cases and hospitalizations.
“Deaths are a lagging indicator. Deaths happen last. We see case numbers go up, we see hospitalizations go up and then we see deaths go up,” Harris says.
On Friday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a limited state of emergency aimed at giving medical providers flexibility on staffing and capacity decisions and easier shipment of emergency equipment and supplies. The Republican governor stressed she would not be issuing any closure orders or mask mandates.
DALLAS — Texas health officials reported 13,614 coronavirus cases and 144 deaths on Friday, the most deaths since Feb. 26.
State health officials registered 11,261 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas.
The state is quickly approaching its highest number of hospitalizations during the pandemic — 14,218 on Jan. 11, when it was in the throes of a winter surge.
Texas has totaled more than 2.7 million confirmed cases and 54,196 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.
SEDALIA, Mo. — Mostly unmasked crowds packed into the Missouri State Fair this week as it opened in Sedalia amid soaring COVID-19 numbers.
Fair officials decided in the spring to bring back the full fair after replacing it with a much smaller youth livestock show last year because of safety concerns, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
State Fair Director Mark Wolfe says his staff anticipated up to 340,000 attendees before the event ends Aug. 22.
Unlike the state fair in neighboring Illinois, masks are optional. Among the unmasked was Brian Eggers, a 55-year-old farmer who lives outside Chillicothe. He lost a close neighbor as well as aunts and uncles to COVID-19 but says he hasn’t gotten around to getting vaccinated.
“I’m not anti-vaccine, but I haven’t gotten it myself yet,” he says, watching a youth livestock show, adding: “If God wants to take me, that’s his choice.”
Jessica Miller, who helmed the vaccination station at the fair, say five patients were immunized in the first 2.5 hours of operation. Some told Miller their jobs were requiring the vaccine.