The Latest: Australia capital’s lockdown until no more virus
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s capital Canberra will remain locked down until there are no more COVID-19 infections in the city, a government leader said on Friday.
The Australian Capital Territory, which comprises Canberra and two villages, locked down for a week after a man tested positive on Thursday.
The tally of infections rose to six on Friday, with more than 1,800 people identified as close contacts of the original case since he became infectious, officials said.
Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the lockdown would last until all new cases had been in isolation throughout their entire infectious period.
“We would want to see no additional community transmission, we want to go back to zero,” Barr said.
The recent infections are the first cases of community transmission in the city of 460,000 since July 10 last year.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— San Francisco mandates proof of vaccination when indoors
— WHO expert ‘had concerns’ about lab near 1st COVID cases
— Dr. Fauci: Booster shot recommended for weakened immune systems; expect more children to get the virus
— US Health & Human Services orders shots for it workers in patient care
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SYDNEY - The government of Australia’s most populous state on Friday reported a daily record 390 new locally-acquired COVID-19 infections and warned that the high infection rate would continue for days.
Two people had died overnight, bringing the death toll in New South Wales from an outbreak of the delta variant first detected in Sydney in mid June to 38.
The previous highest infection tally was 356 reported on Tuesday.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said at least 60 of the new cases had been infectious in the community before they were isolated.
“I anticipate, given the large number of cases we’ve had in the last few days, that unfortunately this trend will continue for at least the next few days,” Berejiklian said.
“I’m not going to shy away from the fact that increasing case numbers is a horrible situation and not one we want to be in. But please be reassured that our absolute commitment is to reduce those case numbers whilst we’re increasing the vaccination rate,” she added.
Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26 and the government had hoped that the spread would be halted by Aug. 28.
LAS VEGAS -- A coronavirus pandemic mask mandate in Nevada has drawn a federal lawsuit from attorneys seeking class-action status for claims that the constitutional rights of thousands of parents and children at Las Vegas-area schools are being violated.
The complaint filed Thursday against Gov. Steve Sisolak, state Attorney General Aaron Ford and the Clark County School District invokes rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It seeks an immediate court order to invalidate a directive the governor enacted last week requiring K-12 students and school employees in the Las Vegas and Reno areas to wear masks on buses and inside school buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
ATLANTA — Fights over masks in schools continue to tear at Georgia communities even as hospital leaders again warned of shrinking bed space amid rising COVID-19 cases.
More than 100 protesters gathered Thursday at the Cobb County school board headquarters in Marietta. Most of them were trying to push Georgia’s second largest school district, with 110,000 students to mandate masks.
The district, which has a sharp division on its school board, has stuck to its mask-optional policy, like the majority of other Georgia school districts, even as infections led the district to send the fifth grade home at one of its elementary schools earlier this week.
Djenaba Pershay, who lives in Mableton, said her daughter, now in fifth grade, had attended remotely all last year. When she chose in the spring to send her back to school in person this year, Pershay said the 107,000-student Cobb County district was still requiring masks. It dropped that requirement shortly afterward.
“I’m here not just fighting for her,” Pershay said. “I’m fighting for all the kids.”
But there were counter-protesters Thursday holding signs saying “My body, my choice.” In Monroe County, between Atlanta and Macon, school board members voted 6-0 on Wednesday to roll back a mask mandate that had been in place for only 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the Fulton County district, which currently mandates masks for all its students, announced it would open a school for up to 500 students who wouldn’t have to wear masks, a concession to parents and students angered over the masking order.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi has broken its single-day records of COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive-care use and new coronavirus cases.
The state Health Department said Thursday that 1,490 people were hospitalized Wednesday and 388 were in intensive care because of COVID-19. It also said 4,412 new cases were confirmed.
The state’s previous record for hospitalization was 1,444 on Jan. 4 and for intensive care was 360 on Jan. 12 — before COVID-19 vaccinations were widely available.
The new cases reported Thursday are a 26% increase over the 3,488 cases the department reported in the state Tuesday. The numbers reported Wednesday also exceeded 3,000.
The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said based on trends, the new virus cases reported Thursday are likely to cause about 93 more deaths, more than 300 new admissions to already-strained hospitals.
“Let us be very clear that the vast majority of cases and hospitalizations and deaths are unvaccinated,” Dobbs said.
COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have risen sharply in recent weeks because of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.
SEATTLE -- Local health officers throughout Washington state have issued a joint statement recommending all residents wear facial coverings in indoor public settings where the vaccination status of other people is unknown.
The health officers from all local health jurisdictions in Washington on Thursday urged everyone to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
Thurston County health officials went a step further Thursday, joining Snohomish County in requiring residents ages 5 and up to wear masks in indoor public settings.
Officials say masking will help reduce the risk of COIVD-19 to the public, will help stem the rise in cases and hospitalizations, and decrease the spread of the delta variant.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor says any local education officials choosing to defy masking requirements in schools will be “held accountable” if their students or staff get infected as the fast-spreading delta variant drives up COVID-19 cases.
Gov. Andy Beshear issued an emergency regulation requiring anyone inside a public K-12 school to wear a mask. The state school board backed up his mandate.
Beshear’s executive action came after some Kentucky school districts left it up to parents to decide whether their children should mask up. Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron has called the order an “unlawful exercise of power” and challenged it in the state’s Supreme Court.
Statewide, daily COVID-19 cases surged from about 200 a month ago to nearly 3,000 on Wednesday.
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco will require proof of full vaccination against coronavirus for indoor activities, including restaurants, bars and gyms.
Mayor London Breed made the announcement Thursday, saying it is needed to protect the health of workers, customers and the city overall. The move is more stringent than the requirement announced by New York City’s mayor last week. San Francisco will require proof of full vaccination for all customers and staff, while New York is requiring proof of at least one shot for indoor activities.
It will take effect next Friday, but businesses will have two months to verify employees’ vaccination status “to preserve jobs while giving time for compliance.” It doesn’t apply to people ineligible for vaccines, including kids under 12.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported 2,970 new coronavirus cases Thursday, the most reported in a single day in the past six months.
Along with reporting over 2,000 additional cases for the ninth day this month, the state reported six more virus deaths as the pandemic totals increased to 955,767 cases and 18,412 confirmed deaths.
The last time Arizona reported more cases on a single day was 4,381 on Feb. 9.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, the rolling average of daily new cases rose in the past two weeks from 1,42 cases on July 27 to 2,450 cases on Tuesday.
There were 1,527 virus patients occupying hospital beds as of Wednesday, a level last seen in February.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s launching a rapid response unit to expand the use of monoclonal antibodies and relieve pressure at hospitals with COVID-19 patients.
“This is probably the best thing that we can do to reduce the number of people that require hospitalization,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Jacksonville, noting vaccines were still encouraged and effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
The drugs are delivered intravenously or by injection and made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. It concentrates doses of lab-made antibodies to fight COVID-19 and are geared toward people who are at high risk.
DeSantis mentioned good candidates were elderly people and those with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, morbid obesity and sickle cell.
The Republican governor says he believes the monoclonal antibody treatment isn’t as well known because it received federal emergency use authorization about the same time as the mRNA vaccines were approved.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he’s extending the state-of-emergency order that gives public health officials and other government leaders some flexibility in responding to the coronavirus.
The Republican governor says he would extend the order for 30 days. It was set to expire Sunday.
“There will be no lockdowns and there will be no statewide mandates,” Reeves wrote on Twitter.
He said extending the order will allow the state to continue coordinating the transfer of patients to hospitals where treatment is available. He also says it will keep options open for Mississippi National Guard members to be called back into service, if needed, for pandemic duties. Guard members spent months running COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru sites until Reeves ended that in mid-July.
On Thursday, the state reported 4,412 cases, its largest single-day total, an increase from the 3,488 cases it reported Tuesday.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina says it has begun to produce and distribute the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine.
Chief Cabinet Minister Santiago Cafeiro says more than 1 million doses of the vaccine will be produced by the local Laboratorios Richmond, calling it “a reason for pride.”
Argentina was the first country to authorize Sputnik V in December 2020 and the first to enter full production, although Mexico produced a pilot lot of the vaccine last month.
More than 6 million Argentines, most over 60, have received at least the first dose of Sputnik V. The government recently said those who had received a first shot of Sputnik V could use a different vaccine, from AstraZeneca or Moderna, as the second dose.
The large majority of the shots initially produced in Argentina will be of the first dose.
The government says 26.4 million of Argentina’s nearly 45 million people have received a first dose of a vaccine, although only 10 million have received both.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is applauding the efforts of private employers, state governments and universities to require vaccination against COVID-19.
However, the federal government will not facilitate a registry of vaccinated people, which some experts say would greatly help verify individuals’ claims to have gotten their shots.
“There will be no federal database,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said at Thursday’s briefing. As with all other vaccines, the information will be held at the state and local level, he added.
Earlier in the briefing, Zients praised employers, colleges, hospital systems, and government entities requiring vaccine mandates.
“Clearly vaccination requirements are gaining momentum across the country,” Zients said. “Employers have the power to help end the pandemic.”
NEW YORK — Federal officials are poised to OK an additional dose of coronavirus vaccine for people with weakened immune systems, according to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering allowing another dose for cancer patients, organ transplants recipients and other conditions.
A CDC expert advisory committee is scheduled to discuss the matter Friday, “following FDA’s decision,” according to Walensky.
Growing evidence suggests a benefit of an additional dose of vaccine for vulnerable people who have already received the two recommended doses of the Pfizer and Moderna shots. The FDA is working with the two companies to allow third shots for those patients who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, she says.
She stressed a small proportion of people would be eligible for the extra doses -- less than 3% of adults.
CHICAGO — Chicago health officials say they’ve found 203 cases of coronavirus connected to Lollapalooza, but aren’t yet reporting any hospitalizations or deaths.
The four-day music festival, which started two weeks ago, drew about 385,000 people to the city’s lakefront. Critics questioned holding an event with packed crowds during the pandemic.
But city officials have defended the decision, saying there were enough safety protocols in place. Festival goers had to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady says the number of cases wasn’t a surprise or considered a “superspreader.”
Among those who tested positive, city officials say 138 were Illinois residents from outside Chicago, 58 were from the city and seven were from out of state. Nearly 80% of those who tested positive were under 30, and about 62% were white, Arwady says.
LONDON — Britain reported 33,074 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest daily rate since July 23.
The numbers are fueled by the delta variant, which is dominant throughout the U.K. Health experts say Britain needs to achieve a much higher level of vaccination if it hopes to control the disease. About 60% of the U.K. population has been fully vaccinated.
Cases have risen to an average of around 25,000 a day, more than 10 times higher than early May. The seven-day average for coronavirus-related hospital admissions is about eight times higher than in May and deaths are 15 times higher.
British scientists are warning the public not to be complacent, saying high levels of coronavirus infection in the community may lead to another spike in cases this fall.