NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee state health commissioner says children now account for more than a third of the state’s COVID-19 cases, a sharp rise from earlier as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.
Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Wednesday that Tennessee had 14,000 pediatric cases in the previous seven days, which she said was 57% more than the previous week. She says such cases now make up 36% of total COVID-19 cases, “when it’s historically been in the 10 to 15 percent range.”
The spike in cases among school-age children has brought calls from some health officials for more forceful protective measures such as mask mandates at schools. Gov. Bill Lee has resisted such suggestions.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Pfizer seeking FDA OK for COVID-19 vaccine booster dose
— WHO: Coronavirus origin window of opportunity stalled, ‘closing fast’
— New NY governor adds 12,000 deaths to publicized COVID-19 tally
— Treasury Department reports only 11% of rental assistance distributed
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has directed state employees to resume working remotely if possible because of the surge in infections from the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.
Kelly’s announcement Wednesday came after two months of steadily rising numbers of COVID-19 cases that have stressed hospitals. Her directive applies to state agencies under her control. Employees must resume remote work by Sept. 3 and continue at least through Oct. 4.
A memo from Kelly’s administration secretary says any employee who was able to work remotely earlier in the pandemic should do it again. Many state employees spent more than a year working remotely before normal operations resumed in June.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor says the state has set a new high for pandemic-related hospitalizations during its most severe wave yet of coronavirus infections.
Gov. Andy Bashear said Wednesday that 2,074 Kentuckians are hospitalized for COVID-19, which is up from 1,658 a week ago. There were 4,849 new coronavirus cases, the third-highest since the pandemic began.
The governor warns that “our hospitals are overrun.”
Officials say intensive care unit capacity in five of the state’s 10 hospital regions is above 80%.
SANTA FE, N.M. — Top health officials in New Mexico are warning that the state is about a week away from having to ration medical care as coronavirus infections continue to climb.
The state health secretary said Wednesday the state is tracking along with its worst-case projections when it comes to spread of the virus and hospitalizations for COVID-19. Dr. David Scarse says there was a 20% increase in pandemic patients needing care in just the past day.
Scarse says that the result may be that “we’re going to have to choose who gets care and who doesn’t get care, and we don’t want to get to that point.”
He says the biggest constraint right now is the shortage of health care workers.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Hospitals in the Raleigh region of North Carolina say younger and otherwise healthy adults are increasingly being hospitalized for COVID-19 amid the spread of the coronavirus delta variant.
The chief physician executive for WakeMed Health & Hospitals said Wednesday that the average age of patients it is treating for COVID-19 is almost 20 years younger on average than during the first surge of the pandemic.
The director of Wake County’s EMS agency says it is getting more calls for help than ever before, with daily totals often 33% higher than pre-pandemic levels of about 300 calls.
The chief medical officer at UNC REX Healthcare says the hospita’s ICU capacity is now full.
The more than 3,500 patients currently in North Carolina hospitals due to COVID-19 is the highest since Jan. 21.
RENO, Nev. — Nevada officials say the coronavirus positivity test rate is continuing a two-week decline statewide but has reached its highest level since December in northern Washoe County, where new daily cases and deaths continue to rise.
Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick says 30 new deaths have been reported so far in August in the Reno-Sparks area, compared to five each in the months of June and July.
The country’s positivity rate stood at 18.9% Wednesday, the highest since 20% on Dec. 20.
Statewide, the 14-day average for the positivity rate is at 14.1%, down from 16.4% on Aug. 13 after a steep climb from as low as 3.3% in early June. Statewide, Nevada’s positivity rate peaked Jan. 15 at 21% after a steady climb from 6.1% on Sept. 24.
NEW YORK — A study from Israel says COVID-19 carries a far higher risk of heart inflammation than Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.
Researchers in Tel Aviv estimate there were three cases for every 100,000 people vaccinated with the Pfizer shot. But risk of it was 11 per 100,000 in people who were infected with the virus.
The finding were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Grace Lee is an infectious disease expert at Stanford University and says the paper is the first to assess the potential risks of vaccination “in the context of understanding the potential benefits of vaccination.”
Previous reports have linked the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to inflammation of the heart muscle. The problem was mainly seen in male teens and young men, who developed chest pain a few days after vaccination.
U.S. health officials say they have confirmed about 800 vaccine-associated cases total of two types of inflammation — in the heart muscle and in the lining of the heart.
The Clalit Research Institute researchers looked at hundreds of thousands of people who were vaccinated and not vaccinated. Separately, they looked at unvaccinated people who were infected or not.
Since two different groups of people were studied, the researchers were limited in making comparisons. The study focused only on the Pfizer vaccine, and it did not provide breakdown of results by age or sex.
HONOLULU — The state of Hawaii says 88% of executive branch employees are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and 92% are expected to be within the next month.
The state released the data after Gov. David Ige this month began requiring state employees to either show proof of vaccination or get tested every week.
The data cover 14,000 employees. The figures exclude workers at the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii.
The state Department of Human Resources Development says of its 87 employees applied for exemptions from the vaccination or testing requirement. Eleven workers were placed on leave without pay because they didn’t comply with the requirement.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi health officials said Wednesday that a child younger than 5 has died from COVID-19.
Dr. Paul Byers, the state epidemiologist, said it was the sixth pediatric death from the virus in Mississippi since the pandemic began. He said the Health Department would not provide any identifying information, including where the child lived.
State Health Department spokeswoman Liz Sharlot also said Wednesday that law enforcement officers are investigating threats against the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs. He has been imploring people for months to get vaccinated, but Mississippi still has among the lowest vaccination rates in the United States.
Dobbs wrote Tuesday on Twitter that he has received threatening phone calls from people promoting false “conspiracy theories” about his family.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon will deploy “crisis teams” of hundreds of nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics and nursing assistants to regions of the state hardest hit by a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations that have stretched hospitals to the limit.
Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday that up to 500 health care providers from a medial staffing company will head to central and southern Oregon, as well as 60 additional nurses under a different contract provider.
State health officials say COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 990% in Oregon since July 9.
The personnel will head to Bend, Redmond, Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass and Roseburg and can move around the state as conditions require.
CHICAGO — Chicago officials say all city employees must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by mid-October.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the rule Wednesday, saying employees will have to submit proof of vaccination via an online portal by Oct. 15.
The city has already required employees in public schools, including teachers and principals, to be vaccinated by the same deadline. City officials say employees can apply for a religious or medical exemption, which will be individually reviewed.
Lightfoot says getting vaccinated is the best way to make it possible to recover from the pandemic.
NEW ORLEANS — A child under age 1 is among the latest reported COVID-19 deaths in Louisiana.
The state health department didn’t provide the child’s exact age or where the death occurred. The child’s death was one of 110 in the Wednesday report, which said 85 of the deaths were listed as “confirmed” COVID-19 deaths and 25 as “probable.”
“We last reported a COVID death in a child 6 months ago,” the health department said on Twitter. “In total, 11 children younger than 18 have died from COVID in Louisiana.”
The department reported more than 6,619 confirmed and probable cases on Wednesday. Statewide hospitalizations dropped by 12 to 2,844.
The disease is blamed for more than 12,000 confirmed deaths in Louisiana.
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s top education official is urging everyone headed into school buildings to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks.
Jill Underly says those steps will help ensure schools don’t have to shut down amid a spike in new cases. The state superintendent of schools wrote an editorial Wednesday urging a united front against the virus. She noted the situation was different from last year thanks to the availability of vaccines.
Many schools in Wisconsin didn’t open in-person learning in the fall of 2020, taking a hybrid approach for at least part of the year.
Wisconsin’s two largest districts, Milwaukee and Madison, were both looking into a vaccine mandate for teachers, something Democratic Gov. Tony Evers says he supports. Evers is a former teacher, school administration and state superintendent for education.
A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicates a majority support nationwide for mask and vaccine requirements in schools.
ST. PAUL — Minnesotans who get their first COVID-19 vaccine dose at the State Fair can walk away with a $100 Visa gift card.
Democratic Gov. Tim Walz announced the State Fair edition of the state’s $100 reward program Wednesday. The first 3,600 Minnesotans to get their first dose at the fair can immediately claim their gift cards. The fair opens Thursday and runs through Labor Day.
The State Fair deal follows a $100 incentive program where nearly 80,000 Minnesotans claimed gift cards.
Anyone 12 or older who needs their first or second dose can get vaccinated at the fair clinic, which offers both the two-shot Pfizer and single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Only Minnesotans receiving their first dose qualify for the reward.
NEW YORK — Pfizer is seeking U.S. approval of a booster dose of its two-shot COVID-19 vaccine.
The drugmaker announced Wednesday it has started the approval process for a third dose of its vaccine for Americans ages 16 and older. The company says it expects to complete its application with the Food and Drug Administration by the end of this week.
U.S. health officials announced last week plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant of the coronavirus. Pfizer’s vaccine received full regulatory approval this week.
While health officials say vaccine protection against coronavirus infection wanes over time, the three vaccines used in the U.S. made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still providing strong protection against hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
Earlier this month, U.S. regulators said transplant recipients or others with weakened immune systems can get an extra dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
ATLANTA — More than half of all Georgia public school students are required to wear masks in class, according to district announcements tracked by The Associated Press.
At least 55 of Georgia’s 180 traditional school districts are requiring masks in at least some schools, up from only a handful of districts before class started in August. The rules cover at least 945,000, or about 55%, of Georgia’s 1.7 million public school students.
The shift began in late July, when Atlanta and Gwinnett County schools joined DeKalb and Clayton counties in saying they would require masks. But many other districts tried to open their doors as mask-optional in early August. Some switched positions within days, while others held out for weeks.
During that time, infections leaped. More than 1% of school-age children in Georgia have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past two weeks. Children between the ages of 5 to 17 are now more likely than adults as a whole to test positive. The state Department of Public Health reported more than 30 infection clusters in schools statewide, the highest since the start of the epidemic.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s higher education leaders say coronavirus vaccinations among college students are increasing as the state offers $100 cash cards for those who get the shots amid campus immunization requirements.
Presidents of Louisiana’s four public college systems spoke Wednesday at the Board of Regents meeting. They praised the governor’s “Shot for $100” campaign that has persuaded more than 2,000 students to get immunized against COVID-19.
Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed says those numbers are only expected to increase as 12 campuses started classes this week.
All of Louisiana’s four-year universities are requiring students get vaccinated, though the state has broad exemptions.
LONDON — The international scientists dispatched to China by the World Health Organization to find out where the coronavirus came from say the search has stalled and warned the window of opportunity for solving it is “closing fast.”
In a commentary published in the journal Nature, the WHO-recruited experts say the origins investigation is at “a critical juncture” requiring urgent collaboration but has instead come to a standstill.
They noted among other things that Chinese officials are still reluctant to share some raw data, citing concerns about patient confidentiality.
In their analysis, published in March, the WHO team concluded the virus likely jumped to humans from animals, and they described the possibility of a laboratory leak as “extremely unlikely.”
But the WHO experts say their report was intended only as a first step, adding further delays “will render some of the studies biologically impossible.”
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