September 12

The Latest: Washington state vaccine mandate moves forward


Days after suing to block what is believed to be among the nation’s strictest COVID-19 employee vaccine mandates, Washington’s largest state labor union has announced a tentative agreement for Gov. Jay Inslee’s order for state workers.

The Northwest News Network reports the Washington Federation of State Employees has negotiated terms for Inslee’s mandate that all 46,000 of its union members be fully vaccinated by October 18 or lose their jobs.

The new agreement, which still needs to be ratified, was announced Saturday and defines the exceptions and religious and medical exemptions process for employees who can’t or won’t get their shots.

Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has announced that he’s calling the state’s Republican-led legislature into a special session to shape pandemic policies as the state struggles with a record surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The return of lawmakers to the state Capitol starts Tuesday and marks a dramatic power shift in coronavirus-related policymaking in the Bluegrass State following a landmark court ruling. Since the pandemic hit Kentucky, the governor mostly acted unilaterally in setting statewide virus policies, but the state Supreme Court shifted those decisions to the legislature.

“Now, that burden will fall in large part on the General Assembly,” Beshear said Saturday. “It will have to carry much of that weight to confront unpopular choices and to make decisions that balance many things, including the lives and the possible deaths of our citizens.”

Beshear wields the authority to call lawmakers into special session and to set the agenda. At a news conference Saturday, he outlined pandemic-related issues he wants lawmakers to consider, including policies on mask-wearing and school schedules amid growing school closures brought on by virus outbreaks. But GOP supermajorities in both chambers will decide what measures ultimately pass.

Lawmakers will be asked to extend the pandemic-related state of emergency until mid-January, when the legislature would be back in regular session, Beshear said. They will be asked to review his virus-related executive orders and other actions by his administration, the governor said.

On the issue of masks, the governor said he will “ask them to determine my ability to require masking in certain situations, depending on where the pandemic goes and how bad any area is.”

He also asked them to provide more scheduling flexibility for schools, as many districts have had to pause in-person learning because of virus outbreaks. And lawmakers will be asked to appropriate leftover federal pandemic aid to “further the fight” against the coronavirus.

Alabama schools reported nearly 9,200 coronavirus cases in students and staff in the past week.

A state dashboard was updated Friday with information from 84 of the 143 school districts. The surge is causing more schools to make a temporary switch to remote learning.

Superintendent Eric Mackey says the statewide spike in COVID-19 cases comes as schools were opening the academic year, creating a difficult mix. He says scores of schools are closed to in-person instruction. Mackey says they are trying to avoid long closures because upcoming test scores are expected to show student achievement declined last year with closures.

Over the last four weeks, people ages 5 to 17 accounted for 21% of all virus cases in Alabama, even though they constitute just 16% of the population.

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has not set statewide mask orders, instead leaving the decision to local school boards. Mackey estimated that 90% of Alabama school systems are requiring masks.


HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut nursing homes will once again be allowed to hire temporary nursing aides as they deal with staffing shortages during the pandemic.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday signed an executive order that revives the state’s nurses aides program that was used earlier during the pandemic.

Under the program, the temporary workers will be allowed to provide nursing-related services, but nothing that requires a license. The governor’s office said the idea is to use those aides to help serve residents who do not have COVID-19, allowing permanent staff to focus on patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The governor also extended his deadline for nursing home workers to receive their first vaccination shot from Sept. 7 to Sept. 27.


JACKSON, Miss. — Some Mississippi judges are urging people to follow their example and get vaccinated to slow the spread of COVID-19 — an effort aimed at keeping courts open.

Thirteen judges have made messages to air on TV and radio stations. That’s according to a news release from the state court system. The effort was coordinated by the state Department of Health.

Circuit Judge Stanley Sorey of Raleigh says his wife of 27 years died of COVID-19 last year, before the vaccines were available.


BERLIN — A man has injured two members of a vaccination team in eastern Germany after he demanded a vaccination certificate without wanting to get vaccinated and was denied it.

German news agency dpa reported that the man, whose identity was not given due to national privacy rules, attacked and injured a nurse and an assistant during a vaccination event at a shopping center Saturday in the eastern town of Gera.

Police said that the man walked up to the mobile vaccination team, refused to get vaccinated and then became violent when he didn’t get a certificate.

The two injured team members, who were also not identified by name, had to be treated in a hospital but were later released. The attacker was later detained by police in a nearby parking garage.

His identity was known to police because he had registered with his name for the vaccination in advance, dpa reported. He was also slightly injured during the attack.


PARIS — A group of rowdy protesters angry at France’s virus rules descended on a big Paris shopping mall Saturday and resisted police efforts to disperse them.

The incident at the Les Halles shopping center in central Paris came as protests were held across the country against government efforts to boost vaccinations, and against virus passes required to enter restaurants and other venues.

Protesters shouting “Liberty!” and pumping their fists forced their way passed security guards into the underground mall. Some wore yellow vests or armbands, in a reference to the 2018-2019 yellow vest movement against perceived economic injustice and President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

.Earlier Saturday, thousands of people marched under a canopy of French tricolor flags at a rally organized by far-right figure Florian Philippot. Other protests were held in Marseille and other cities.

While such protests have been held every Saturday for weeks, a majority of French people support the virus rules, some 73% have had a first vaccine dose and 67% are fully vaccinated.

France’s latest surge in infections started receding after the virus passes came into effect, and hospitalisations are also declining.


ANKARA, Turkey — A 116-year-old woman in Turkey has survived COVID-19, according to her son, making her one of the oldest patients to beat the disease.

Ayse Karatay has now been moved to a normal ward, her son Ibrahim told the Demiroren news agency on Saturday.

“My mother fell ill at the age of 116 and stayed in the intensive care unit for three weeks… Her health is very good now and she’s getting better,” he said.

French nun Sister Andre recovered from COVID-19 in February, days before her 117th birthday. She is the world’s second-oldest living person.

Ayse, from Emirdag in Afyonkarahisar, western Turkey, was treated in Eskisehir City Hospital after falling ill and testing positive for COVID-19 last month.

Ibrahim said she had only received one shot of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine before she became sick, adding that she was probably infected by a family member.

Ayse was born during the Ottoman Empire, when exact dates of birth were rarely officially recorded.


MIAMI — Florida is in the grip of its deadliest wave of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, a disaster driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

While Florida’s vaccination rate is slightly higher than the national average, the Sunshine State has an outsize population of elderly people, who are especially vulnerable to the virus; a vibrant party scene, and a Republican governor who has taken a hard line against mask requirements, vaccine passports and business shutdowns.

As of mid-August, the state was averaging 244 deaths per day, up from just 23 a day in late June and eclipsing the previous peak of 227 during the summer of 2020. Because of both the way deaths are logged in Florida and lags in reporting, more recent figures on fatalities per day are incomplete.

Hospitals have had to rent refrigerated trucks to store more bodies. Funeral homes have been overwhelmed.


BERLIN — Germany’s top health official has called on more citizens to get vaccinated, warning that if the numbers don’t go up, hospitals may get overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients toward the end of the year.

Health Minister Jens Spahn tweeted that “we need at least 5 million vaccinations for a safe autumn and winter.”

More than 61% of the German population, or 50.9 million people, are fully vaccinated. However, the daily vaccination rate has been dropping while infection cases have been going up again for weeks.

On Saturday, Germany’s disease control agency reported 10,835 new COVID-19 cases, up from 10,303 a week ago.

The health minister told daily Hannoversche Zeitung that “the number of people who have been vaccinated is too low to prevent an overburdening of the health system.” He said that currently 90 % of COVID-19 patients in intensive care are unvaccinated, German news agency dpa reported.


LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — A group of virus deniers and anti-vaccination protesters have broken into the building of Slovenia’s public broadcaster, triggering a police intervention.

The confrontation happened Friday night evening in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana. Local media say about 20 people burst into the RTV Slovenia building and managed to push their way into a news studio before police arrived and drove them out.

The studio wasn’t on the air when the protesters broke in demanding to be allowed to broadcast their opinions. Vaccine opponents have gathered outside the building for months, often disrupting journalists coming to or from work, the STA news agency reported.

The head of RTVS, Andrej Grah Whatmough, described Friday’s incident as “a grave attack on our media house and public media outlet, which we condemn in the strongest terms.” Whatmough says RTVS management will beef up security.

Slovenia has seen an increase in daily reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand reported its first coronavirus death in more than six months on Saturday, while the number of new cases continued to trend downward.

Health authorities said the woman who died was in her 90s and had underlying health problems.

Authorities reported 20 new community cases, all in the largest city of Auckland.

New Zealand remains in lockdown as it tries to eliminate an outbreak of the delta variant that began last month.

New cases in the outbreak have steadily fallen from a peak of more than 80 each day. New Zealand has so far escaped the worst of the pandemic and has reported just 27 coronavirus deaths since it began.


SAO PAULO — Some cities in Brazil are providing booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, even though most people have yet to receive their second jabs.

The move reflects the concern in the country over the highly contagious delta variant. Rio de Janeiro, currently Brazil’s epicenter for the variant and home to one of its largest elderly populations, began administering the boosters Wednesday.

The northeastern cities of Salvador and Sao Luis started on Monday, and the most populous city of Sao Paulo will begin Sept. 6. The rest of the nation will follow the next week.

France, Italy, China and Chile are among those countries offering boosters, but much greater shares of their populations are fully inoculated than the 30% in Brazil.

A U.S. plan to start delivery of booster shots by Sept. 20 for most Americans is facing complications that could delay third doses for those who received the Moderna vaccine, administration officials said Friday.


PAPEETE, Tahiti — France’s worst coronavirus outbreak is unfolding 12 times zones away from Paris, devastating Tahiti and other idyllic islands of French Polynesia.

The South Pacific archipelagos lack enough oxygen, ICU beds and morgue space – and their vaccination rate is barely half the national average. Simultaneous outbreaks on remote islands and atolls are straining the ability of local authorities to evacuate patients to the territory’s few hospitals.

“The problem is, there are a lot of deaths before we get there,” lamented Vincent Simon, the head of the regional emergency service.

French Polynesia is France’s latest challenge in juggling resources to battle the pandemic in former colonies that stretch around the world. With more than 2,800 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, it holds the national record for the highest infection rate.

And that’s only an estimate: Things are so bad that the multi-ethnic territory of about 300,000 residents stopped counting new infections as local health authorities redeployed medical staff to focus on patient care and vaccination instead of testing.


MADRID — Spain is tweaking its travel entry rules from next week to require vaccination certificates from U.S. tourists, adjusting to recent European Union advice on stricter rules due to growing anxiety over coronavirus contagion in the U.S.

The European Council’s decision earlier this week to remove the U.S. from a safe list of countries for nonessential travel also came amid unanswered calls from European officials for “reciprocity” in travel rules. Despite the EU’s move to open its borders to U.S. citizens in June, the U.S. didn’t allow EU tourists in.

Spain, a major tourism destination, is among a handful of EU countries that has announced steps to adjust its entry rules to the Council’s recommendation.

The country published Friday the new guidelines on its official gazette, also removing Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia from the safe list.

Under the rules, U.S. tourists will no longer be admitted from Monday, Sept. 6, unless they can show proof of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days before their trip.


ATLANTA — A nurse staffing crisis is forcing many U.S. hospitals to pay top dollar to get reinforcements to handle the crush of COVID-19 patients this summer.

The problem, health leaders say, is twofold: Nurses are quitting or retiring, exhausted or demoralized by the crisis. Many are leaving for lucrative temporary jobs with traveling-nurse agencies that can pay $5,000 or more a week.

In Texas, more than 6,000 travel nurses have flooded the state to help through a state-supported program. But the same time 19 travel nurses started work at a hospital in the northern part of the state, 20 other nurses there gave notice they’d be leaving for a traveling contract, said Carrie Kroll, a vice president at the Texas Hospital Association.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s plan to start delivery of booster shots by Sept. 20 for most Americans who received COVID-19 vaccines is facing complications that could delay the availability for those who received the Moderna vaccine, administration officials said Friday.

Biden announced last month that his administration was preparing to administer boosters to provide more enduring protection against the coronavirus, pending approvals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. He recommended boosters eight months after the second shot.

However, those agencies are awaiting critical data before signing off on the third doses, with Moderna’s vaccine increasingly seen as unlikely to make the Sept. 20 date.

According to one official, Moderna produced inadequate data for the FDA and CDC to approve the third dose of its vaccine. The FDA has requested additional data that is likely to delay those boosters into October. Pfizer is further along in the review process, with an FDA panel review on boosters on Sept. 17.


MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s $100 reward program for those receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will be extended two weeks until Sept. 19.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers says extending the incentive will give an opportunity for more people to get vaccinated. The program began Aug. 20 and was originally scheduled to end Monday.

Between Aug. 20 and Sept. 1, more than 65,000 people received their first dose. Evers launched the program amid a spike in cases across the state caused by the more infectious delta variant. The level of new cases and hospitalizations are at a level not seen since January.

On Aug. 22, the day before Evers announced the program, the seven-day average of vaccinations in Wisconsin was 8,360. That grew to 9,712 as of Wednesday. More than 3 million people are fully vaccinated in Wisconsin, about 52% of the total population. Among adults age 18 and over, more than 62% are fully vaccinated.



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