The Latest: N. Carolina has 170 clusters in schools, centers

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina health officials on Tuesday released a report showing 170 ongoing COVID-19 clusters in K-12 schools or child care settings.

While the state Department of Health and Human Services said it does not have data on the number of pupils quarantined statewide or the share of those forced to miss school without a remote learning option, districts without mask-wearing requirements are seeing substantially more spread of the virus and hours of lost learning among students.

Union County Public Schools, which voted down a proposal last month to require mask wearing in the state’s sixth-largest public school district, reported about one in 8 of the more than 41,000 students in the district were under quarantine, as of Friday. The more than 5,200 students were placed under quarantine after 337 pupils tested positive for the virus last week.

Meanwhile, the Wake County Public School System, where masks are mandatory and which is four times larger than Union County Public Schools, has less than a fourth the number of students quarantined. Data from the Wake County district shows less than 1,300 of its more than 161,000 pupils were quarantined last week.

In Durham County, where face coverings are also mandatory, the public school district with nearly 31,000 pupils learning in person reported 97 new cases among students last week.

The weekly report state health officials updated on Tuesday shows the Union Academy Charter School in Monroe has the worst cluster in North Carolina, with 111 positive cases, including 98 among children. This amounts to about one in 20 of the charter school’s students being infected. Charter Day School in Brunswick County has the next highest cluster of 81 infected children, followed distantly by Emereau Charter School in Bladen County with 31 infections among students.


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ATLANTA — Another Georgia school district is switching to virtual learning, after three school bus employees have died from COVID-19 in recent weeks.

The 9,700-student Griffin-Spalding County school system made the announcement late Monday, citing a disruption in student transportation.

Districts across Georgia are struggling to line up enough drivers and monitors to keep buses running. In Savannah, some bus drivers staged a sickout for the second day on Tuesday after a similar protest Friday.

At least 210,000 Georgia students in 54 districts and charter networks have had their school schedules disrupted because of COVID-19. Some districts have taken days off, some shifted to every-other-day schedules and some sent home individual schools or grades. That’s more than 12% of Georgia’s 1.7 million public school students.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Georgia hospitals remains above 6,000, the highest level since the start of the pandemic. The number of newly reported cases has decreased in recent days, although cases remain near all-time high levels.

More than 34,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported among Georgia children aged 5-17 in the two weeks ended Sept. 2, according to state data, with more than 125 infection clusters reported in K-12 schools during that period.

SEATTLE — Fans attending most pro sporting events in Seattle will soon be required to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or that they’ve tested negative for the virus.

The NFL’s Seahawks, MLS’s Sounders, NHL’s Kraken and MLB’s Mariners, along with the University of Washington and Washington State University, all announced updated policies Tuesday for fans attending games this season.

The Seahawks will be the first to implement the requirements, starting with their Sept. 19 home opener against Tennessee. Fans will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test taken within 72 hours of the event to be granted entry.

Team president Chuck Arnold said in a statement that the measures will allow for a full stadium while keeping the experience safe.

Washington will begin an identical verification process for fans with its Sept. 25 home game against California. The Sounders will begin with their Oct. 3 match against Colorado. Washington State said its verification process will begin in October.

The Mariners said fans should plan to provide proof of vaccination for any potential postseason games the team hosts. The team also said all front office, event staff and Mariners employees at team operated facilities in the U.S. were told in late August they must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 4 as a condition of employment.

While the other Seattle teams are permitting a negative test to gain entry, the Kraken will only allow vaccinated fans at games.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — West Virginia’s largest annual festival will require most people in attendance to wear masks when Bridge Day is held next month.

The Bridge Day Commission says masks will be required at the festival regardless of vaccination status, and social distancing must be observed whenever possible.

Tens of thousands of people typically show up on the third Saturday of October to watch parachutists, zip liners and rappellers on the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville. Exceptions to the mask mandate include those thrillseekers at the time of their participation.

The announcement comes as officials in nearby Oak Hill are telling anyone who attended the Oak Leaf Festival to get tested for the virus after some workers and volunteers tested positive for COVID-19.

Last year’s Bridge Day event was canceled due to the pandemic.

PARIS — French doctors and scientists are calling on authorities to take action against the insults and threats — including death threats — that they have frequently received during the pandemic.

The doctors say they fear someone from the world of conspiracy theories will act not just against them but against other medical professionals. They condemn what they call silence by authorities.

Physician Jerome Marty, who heads a union for doctors in private practice, says some have been receiving regular death threats for months via social media, email, telephone or the postal service.

Some have engaged bodyguards, Marty says: “We are targets.”

BROOKFIELD, Ill. — Animals at Brookfield Zoo in suburban Chicago are getting their own COVID-19 vaccinations.

Primates, small carnivores, big cats and bears will be among the first to get shots.

Dr. Mike Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine at the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo, says it is known that a variety of species can transmit and be sickened by coronaviruses.

Adkesson says “vaccinating animals is not only important for their own health, but healthy animals help keep humans healthy, too.”

Similar vaccination programs have started at zoos in Detroit and elsewhere. Like humans, the animals get two doses about three weeks apart.

The Zoetis-made vaccine has been authorized by the federal government and Illinois officials.

OMAHA, Neb. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is announcing that meatpacking workers and farm workers who were severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic will be eligible for grants of up to $600 per person as part of a new $700 million aid program.

Officials say the grants are meant to defray some of the costs workers bore as many of them bought their own protective equipment or took unpaid leave as the virus tore through their industries even as they were required to keep showing up for work.

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, says meatpacking plants saw some of the deadliest outbreaks and their workers deserve support.

“While the rest of America could work from home,” Perrone said, “these brave men and women continued to show up for work every single day to ensure that we all food on our tables that we could eat.”

The UFCW union, which represents roughly 80% of the nation’s beef and pork workers and 33% of its poultry workers, estimates that at least 132 meatpacking workers died of COVID-19 and at least 22,000 workers were infected with or exposed to the virus.

PHOENIX — Arizona’s attorney general says Tucson’s vaccine mandate for city employees is illegal.

Mark Brnovich’s decision gives the city 30 days to repeal the mandate or lose millions of dollars in state funding.

Brnovich cites a state law approved this summer banning local governments from mandating vaccines for their employees. It takes effect later this month. Brnovich also cites an August executive order signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Last month a Pima County judge rejected a Tucson police union’s challenge of the mandate.

A spokesman for Tucson Mayor Regina Romero did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho public health leaders have activated “crisis standards of care” for the state’s northern hospitals because there are more coronavirus patients than the institutions can handle.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is warning residents they may not be able to get the care they expect because of a severe shortage of staffing and available beds caused by a massive increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The measure includes 10 hospitals and health care systems in north-central Idaho and the panhandle. It lets hospitals allot scarce resources like intensive care unit rooms to those most likely to survive.

GENEVA — The head of a top association of pharmaceutical makers says they are now churning out coronavirus vaccine doses at a rate of about 1.5 billion per month, so wealthy governments that have been sitting on stockpiles “no longer need to do so.”

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations says rising production can help offset gaping inequalities in vaccine access that have left developing countries far behind.

IFPMA director-general Thomas Cueni says 7.5 billion doses have been produced so far. He adds that an independent adviser projects that 12 billion would be available worldwide by year-end and nearly twice that by next June.

At those rates wealthy G7 nations could vaccinate their populations sufficiently — including booster shots — and still have enough to donate 1.2 billion doses to other countries.

Critics have accused the industry of putting profits over people. Key manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna have reported huge surges in revenues and earnings behind sales of their mRNA vaccines.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly called on governments and manufacturers to do more to ensure that vaccines are distributed more equally. It says the pandemic can fester and worsen, such as with the emergence of new variants, if large parts of the world remain unvaccinated. The WHO has also praised the industry’s rapid development and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

LONDON — The U.K. has reported its biggest daily rise in coronavirus deaths in six months, at a time when new infections are expected to rise further with children returning to school.

Government figures on Tuesday show 209 new coronavirus-related deaths, taking the country’s overall total to 133,483. It’s the largest daily increase since March 9, when the country was in a strict lockdown.

Figures reported on Tuesdays throughout the pandemic have tended to be higher because of weekend reporting lag effects. Over the past week, deaths are up 39% on the preceding week to 948.

Deaths are still lower than in previous waves of the pandemic, with nearly two-thirds of the U.K. population fully vaccinated.

Health officials are expected to decide soon whether children aged 12-15 will be able to get vaccinated.

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romanian health authorities say the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus now has “sustained” community transmission in the country, where new infections are surging.

The National Institute of Public Health says in a Tuesday report that of 2,563 “variants of concern” reported by seven laboratories, 807 were determined to be the delta strain. Of those delta cases, 184, or 22.8%, involved fully vaccinated people.

Where just a few dozen infections were being reported daily in mid-July in Romania, home to about 19 million people, on Tuesday more than 2,000 new cases were reported.

Overall, Romania has recorded more than 1.1 million COVID-19 infections and 34,762 deaths.

MADRID — Over 8 million schoolchildren in Spain are returning to classes this week with masks social distancing as authorities try to boost vaccination rates among students.

The staggered return to schools varies by region and age group. It has been a cause of concern because vaccinations among the youngest started only in the past few weeks.

About 40% of students over 12 have received the two vaccine doses required to build the optimum level of immunization. Although Spain has little vaccine hesitancy, the government has launched campaigns on social media to motivate teenagers to get inoculated.

Officials are betting on in-class education for this year with no remote classes. Pupils will need to wear masks in classrooms and during recess time.

HELSINKI — Finland will lift all remaining coronavirus restrictions after at least 80% of people over age 12 are fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin says that goal will likely be reached in October, at which time “we will open the (Finnish) society and keep it open.”

Marin says her government’s updated COVID-19 strategy is more oriented toward reopening than its previous strategy of “testing, tracking and quarantining,” and the key to achieving it is more vaccinations.

Some 53% of Finland’s over-12 population have received both vaccine doses and over 72% have had one jab.

Some coronavirus restrictions will begin phasing out gradually.

Restrictions on restaurants and pubs remain in effect in many parts of Finland. In the capital, Helsinki, they must shut down at 11 p.m.

STOCKHOLM — Swedish officials say most coronavirus restrictions, including limits on gatherings and a work-from-home advisory, will be lifted Sept. 29.

Citing high vaccination rates, Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren says that “we are heading a toward a normal everyday life, toward a society free of restrictions.”

Officials say 70% of people over age 15 have gotten both vaccine shots and nearly 82% have received at least one dose.

Sweden, which had opted to keep large sections of society open during the pandemic, has seen more than 1.1 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 14,700 deaths. It has stood out among European nations for its comparatively hands-off response to the pandemic.

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Bosnian authorities say only about 12% of the country’s people have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, among the lowest rates in Europe.

The Civil Affairs Ministry reports that as of Sept. 3 some 600,000 people, about 18% of the population, have also received their first dose.

Vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sinopharm and Sinovac are available in the Balkan nation, whose health system is still recovering from the civil war in the 1990s.

Bosnia has recorded about 218,000 coronavirus cases overall and nearly 10,000 deaths.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan health authorities say 62% of people above age 20 have been fully vaccinated as the country grapples with amid an unprecedented surge of coronavirus cases and deaths due to the delta variant.

The government hopes that everyone over 20 will be fully vaccinated before the end of October. Sri Lanka has been using the Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Sputnik V vaccines.

Aiming to hinder the spread of the virus, the country has imposed a pandemic lockdown from Aug. 20 through Sept. 13.

Doctors have warned that hospitals and morgues are reaching capacity.

NOUMEA, New Caledonia — The French overseas territory of New Caledonia has reported its first three confirmed COVID-19 infections.

The remote Pacific Ocean archipelago had been coronavirus-free until now. Dr. Sébastien Mabon of the Department of Health and Social Affairs says the first cases were confirmed Monday and “the virus has been circulating for a few days.”

Authorities have responded by enacting a strict confinement measure for an initial period of 15 days. It is the third confinement in 18 months, following two that were implemented even before there were any confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Over 30% of the territory’s population of some 270,000 have been vaccinated.

Categories: AP Spanish, National/World