The Latest: Korea PM apologizes for virus surge on destroyer
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s prime minister has offered a public apology over a large-scale coronavirus outbreak on a destroyer on an anti-piracy mission off East Africa.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Tuesday the government is “very sorry for failing to carefully take care of the health of our soldiers who are devoting themselves to the country.”
The Defense Ministry says 247 of the destroyer’s 301 crew members have been infected. It’s the largest cluster for South Korea’s military since the pandemic began.
South Korea sent two military planes to bring back all 301 sailors.
On Tuesday, South Korea reported 1,278 new virus cases, taking the total caseload to 180,481, with 2,059 deaths from COVID-19. It was the 14th day in a row that South Korea has confirmed more than 1,000 new cases.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Olympic athlete tests positive in Tokyo days before 1st game
— Scientists, many Britons, apprehensive as ‘Freedom Day’ arrives in England
— French Holocaust survivor denounces anti-vaccination protesters comparing themselves to Jews during Nazi era
— Bangladesh lifts lockdown to celebrate Eid al-Adha, exasperating experts
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — The United States has upgraded its travel warnings for Britain, Indonesia and three other destinations, advising Americans not to travel there due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
The CDC and the State Department issued revised advice to U.S. travelers Monday alerting them to the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 in Britain, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Fiji and the British Virgin Islands. Previously, all had been covered by a less severe advisory to “reconsider travel.”
The advisories are recommendations that are constantly under review and are not binding, although they may affect group tours and insurance rates.
The warning for Britain, for example, has fluctuated between Level 3, or “reconsider travel,” and Level 4, or “do not travel,” several times this year already.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s top public health official says the state is seeing a rapid increase in coronavirus infections.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs tweets that the “4th wave is here.”
The Mississippi State Department of Health said Monday that 2,326 new cases were confirmed Friday through Sunday. That is largest three-day increase reported in the state since February.
Mississippi has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the nation.
State Rep. Jeramey Anderson of Moss Point posted the Health Department numbers Monday on Twitter and lashed out at people who haven’t been vaccinated.
In the legislator’s words: “Consequences of not getting vaccinated and poor mask wearing. Well Mississippi — you wanted it here it is. This is ridiculous and the deaths that will definitely follow were completely avoidable.”
TOPEKA, Kan. — The health department in the most populous county in Kansas is urging the county’s public schools to require students and staff who aren’t vaccinated against the coronavirus to wear masks indoors when classes resume for the fall.
The guidance Monday from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment in the Kansas City area came with confirmed cases of the faster-spreading delta variant continuing to rise across Kansas and fueling larger numbers of new COVID-19 cases.
The state reported Monday that confirmed delta variant cases increased 20% since Friday, up 158 to 950.
State data also show that Kansas averaged 440 new COVID-19 cases for the seven days ending Monday.
HONOLULU -- Oahu restaurants and bars have the option to do away with social distancing if customers provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test.
But Hawaii News Now reports that many restaurant operators aren’t doing so because diners don’t want to show their vaccination cards or present test results.
Restaurants say they are short-staffed already and it would be difficult for workers to check documentation. They also don’t want employees to have to manage angry and confused customers who don’t agree with the program.
Don Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bar and Grill in Chinatown, says he noticed nearby restaurants asked patrons for vaccination cards but received backlash.
He said: “They got eaten alive on social media. I don’t want to put my staff through that.”
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations up sharply over the last month in Alabama but still far below when the pandemic was at its worst early this year, school officials have said vaccines won’t be required in the fall and local systems can decide on their own whether to require masks or other precautions.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that schools require face masks for children older than 2 and all adults, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey disagrees, an aide said.
“Governor Ivey believes students need to be in the classroom without any type of mask requirement. She continues to encourage all eligible Alabamians to roll up their sleeves and get the vaccine to make COVID-19 a distant memory,” spokeswoman Gina Maiola said Monday.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ hospitalizations due to the coronavirus jumped by 106 over the weekend as the state led the nation in new cases per capita.
The state Department of Health said virus hospitalizations increased to 787. Of those, 291 patients are in intensive care. There are 124 patients on ventilators. The state’s virus cases increased over the past three days by 2,552 to 365,132 total since the pandemic began. The state reported 15 new deaths.
The state’s surge in cases has been fueled by the delta variant and its low vaccination rate. Only 35% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge is allowing Indiana University to continue with its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all students and employees.
A ruling from a judge in South Bend rejects a request from eight IU students who sought to block the requirement while they pursued a lawsuit claiming that the university’s policy violates their constitutional rights by forcing them to receive unwanted medical treatment.
The judge wrote in a ruling dated Sunday that evidence IU has pursued a reasonable policy in the “legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff.”
An attorney for the students said he would appeal the ruling.
SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah, where COVID cases are steadily increasing, experts are raising the alarm as the state plans to reopen schools without masks in less than a month.
About 38% of Utah kids ages 12 to 17 have gotten at least one shot, a number that compares well with other states, but is still far below herd immunity.
University of Utah professor of pediatric infectious diseases Adam Hersh says: “I think it’s highly likely that we’ll see substantial levels of in-school transmission outbreaks in schools, resulting in school closures, quarantines of large numbers of individuals. And an even greater disruption that we saw last year and even greater disruption at younger levels.”
Utah is one of several states that ban individual school districts from implementing their own mask mandates, a law that passed after anti-mask activists took over a suburban Salt Lake City school board meeting in May.
TORONTO — Canada announced Monday it will begin letting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens into Canada on Aug. 9, and those from the rest of the world on Sept. 7.
Canadian officials said the 14-day quarantine requirement will be waived as of Aug. 9 for eligible travelers who are currently residing in the United States and have received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said a date for the U.S. to allow fully vaccinated Canadians to cross the land border isn’t yet known. Any Canadian can currently fly to the U.S.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government says it is donating 745,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to countries in need that have appealed to the Netherlands for help.
The government announced Monday that Tanzania and Namibia will be among countries to receive shots. The Dutch government will arrange transport of the vaccines.
Most people getting vaccinated in the Netherlands get either the shot made by Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.
The government still has stocks of AstraZeneca in cold storage and is using very little of the vaccine. Earlier Tuesday, the health ministry announced that people who have had one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine can choose to have a second shot of Pfizer/BioNTech instead.
MADRID — Spanish officials are celebrating that half of Spain’s residents, or roughly 24 million people, have been fully vaccinated already, although they say that a steep increase in contagion is sending worrying numbers of patients into hospitals.
The occupation rate in Spanish hospitals climbed on Monday to 5.4% of all beds tending COVID-19 patients and 11.4% of the intensive care unit beds. Although there is still plenty of room, admissions have increased 65% in regular beds and 45% in ICUs only in one week, according to an officiall with the Health Ministry’s emergency coordination center.
María José Sierra said hospitalizations will likely continue increasing but officials expect they will remain proportionally much lower than in previous contagion waves due to the high vaccination levels.
The latest health ministry’s data show that 50.7% of Spain’s 47 million residents were fully vaccinated by Monday and an additional 5 million are waiting for their second dose of the coronavirus jab.
NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he does not plan to reinstate a citywide mask mandate even as COVID-19 cases increase, opting instead to focus on vaccinating more residents.
There have been calls for New York City to follow the lead of Los Angeles County, which announced last week that it will require masks be worn indoors amid a sharp increase in virus cases.
But de Blasio insisted vaccinations are a better strategy for the nation’s most populous city.
“Masks have value, unquestionably, but masks are not going at the root of the problem. Vaccination is,” the mayor said during an livestreamed press briefing. “So we do not intend a mask mandate. We do intend to double down on vaccination.”
LONDON — Anti-lockdown protesters scuffled with police and hurled bottles and outside Parliament in London on Monday, the day all remaining social restrictions were lifted in England.
Hundreds of demonstrators espousing a range of anti-mask, anti-vaccine and conspiracist views gathered in Parliament Square, chanting “freedom,” and moved into the road, blocking traffic.
A police officer put a lock on one of Parliament’s gates as protesters chanted “shame on police” and “arrest Boris Johnson.”
The Metropolitan Police force said officers had been “met with hostility” and 11 people had been arrested.
As of Monday, there are no mandatory mask-wearing or social-distancing rules in England, though the government is still advising people to wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — With the delta variant causing a surge of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in southwestern Missouri, health officials have taken to going door-to-door in an effort to encourage vaccinations.
The Kansas City Star recently followed along as health officials knocked on doors in Springfield, handing out brochures. The effort was non-confrontational and the officials always took “no” for an answer, the newspaper reported, despite concerns raised by Gov. Mike Parson and other Republican leaders that the outreach would be heavy-handed.
Southwestern Missouri has seen an alarming rise in illnesses caused by COVID-19 in recent weeks. There was a tinge of good news Monday: The number of people hospitalized dipped slightly both in southwestern Missouri and across the state, according to Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services data.
After several days of more than 1,000 newly confirmed cases, the state reported 826 on Monday, bringing the total for the pandemic to 545,551. No new deaths were reported, keeping the total at 9,474.
Southwestern Missouri lags well behind the national average for vaccinations.
ST PETERSBURG, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida said Monday he has tested positive for COVID-19 even though he was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The congressman’s announcement came as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a “seasonal pattern” affecting mainly Sun Belt states is largely to blame for a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida.
DeSantis opposes virus-related mandates, but says that nonetheless it is important for people to get vaccinated.
Buchanan said in a news release he got the test recently after experiencing “very mild flu-like symptoms.” The congressman said he is quarantining at home.
The congressman’s announcement comes amid a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida and around the country. One statistic released by the White House estimated 20% of new cases last week occurred in Florida.
DeSantis told reporters Monday that the increase was expected in Florida in mid-summer.