JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s only level-one trauma hospital and academic medical center will require all employees and students who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear an N95 mask while inside, a decision that a top official acknowledged would not be popular with everyone in the country’s least vaccinated state and may result in the loss of employees.
University of Mississippi Medical Center Vice Chancellor Dr. LouAnn Woodward said the university has responsibility and an obligation as “the place that takes care of the sickest patients” to set the example for others in health care across the state.
“I feel strongly that this is the right thing to do,” she said, emphasizing that the vaccines are safe and offer strong protection against contracting the potentially life-threatening disease.
The policy will require all of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s 10,000 employees and 3,000 students to either be vaccinated or wear an N95 mask at all times while at any hospital-affiliated facility. The new rule will also apply to contractors, vendors and anyone else who might come into contact with patients.
Visitors will continue to be required to wear masks whether they are vaccinated or not.
The policy will go into effect gradually over the course of three months beginning July 26.
Everyone should be fully vaccinated or wearing an N95 mask at all times by November 1, according to the medical center.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— UK daily infections top 50,000, ahead of easing virus rules
— CDC leader: US in ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’
— Moscow lifts dining restrictions; Russia hits record deaths
— Two NFL teams remain under 50% vaccinated, AP learns
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LAS VEGAS — Masks are back in Las Vegas, after regional health officials on Friday cited a rising number of coronavirus cases and advised everyone — vaccinated or not — to wear facial coverings in crowded indoor places.
The recommendation from the Southern Nevada Health District isn’t a requirement. But it could affect casinos, concerts and clubs where business has boomed since restrictions were lifted and the state fully returned pandemic control measures to counties about seven weeks ago.
“With the rise in cases and slowing vaccine rates in Clark County, the Health District’s recommendation to wear masks in crowded public settings including grocery stores, malls, large events and casinos is a step to fully utilize the tools we have available to stop the pandemic,” the district said in a Friday statement.
The mask recommendation in Las Vegas came after Nevada health officials on Thursday reported 938 new cases of COVID-19 statewide — the biggest one-day coronavirus case jump since February — and 15 new deaths.
The number of new cases reported Friday in Nevada was 866, and six new deaths. That brought to 5,758 the number of lives lost in the state to COVID-19 since March 2020
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana announced the first winners of its COVID-19 vaccine lottery Friday, a celebratory moment of cash and scholarship awards darkened by the worries caused by a new surge in cases of the coronavirus illness primarily among the unvaccinated.
Gov. John Bel Edwards urged his state’s residents to embrace the shots to lessen the impact of the fast-spreading delta variant, which is driving the latest spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in a state that has been hard hit by prior outbreaks.
The Democratic governor and state health officials hoped the lottery, which will provide $2.3 million in cash prizes to 14 winners, would turn around Louisiana’s lagging vaccination rates. Two winners were announced Friday. Four more weeks of winners will be announced, with a $1 million grand prize to be awarded in mid-August.
But that news was muted against the grim information presented by Edwards, Kanter and Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, about the burgeoning fourth surge of coronavirus cases since the outbreak began in 2020.
O’Neal starkly said: “We only have two choices. We’re either going to get vaccinated and end the pandemic, or we are going to accept death, a lot of it.”
The number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed each day in Louisiana has been rising for the last four weeks, according to Kanter, while the percentage of tests returning positive topped 6% this week after remaining below 5% since February. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has more doubled in two weeks, reaching 563 Friday.
TROY, Idaho — The governor of Idaho says lawmakers should not reconvene to consider legislation to prevent employers from requiring workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little said Thursday that he needs to know more about it, but his default position is that it’s usually best for employees and employers to work out disagreements.
The Lewiston Tribune reported that three large health care providers announced policies last week requiring employees to get vaccinations.
That has prompted some lawmakers to call for the state Legislature to reconvene to pass a laws dealing with such requirements.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the state will “probably” provide funding for a site to help handle the overflow of COVID-19 patients in Springfield, where hospitals are struggling to keep up with a surge driven by the delta variant and vaccination hesitation.
The Republican governor suggested that federal stimulus money also could help pay for the alternative care site health leaders in the southwestern Missouri city requested. Parson, who was in Springfield on Thursday for an unrelated bill signing, told the Springfield News-Leader that the state will “for the most part probably” fulfill the request.
The governor also told the newspaper that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention halted the state’s plan to implement an incentive program to encourage vaccinations. Only 45.8% of Missourians have initiated vaccination, which is 10 percentage points below the national average.
A spokeswoman for Parson on Friday didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional details about the Missouri plan and why the CDC denied it.
LONDON — Britain has recorded more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time in six months.
Government figures showed another 51,870 confirmed lab cases, the first time surpassing the 50,000 level since mid-January.
Despite the surge, the British government on Monday will lift all remaining legal restrictions in England on social contact and mask-wearing in most indoor settings, including shops, trains, buses and subways.
The government says the rapid rollout of vaccines will keep a lid on the number of people becoming seriously ill. However, some leading international scientists joined forces at an emergency international summit on Friday and called the moves “reckless.”
NEW YORK — Pfizer announced U.S. regulators have agreed to a “priority review” of whether its COVID-19 vaccine should be fully approved, with a decision set for no later than January.
More than 186 million doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have been administered in the U.S. alone since December. Many more doses have gone to other countries that have authorized emergency use of the vaccine during the pandemic.
Vaccines cleared for emergency use still must undergo the stringent full approval process, a step that might help persuade some people who aren’t yet immunized to roll up their sleeves.
The Food and Drug Administration’s January deadline is a formality. The decision could come far sooner given how closely the agency has been monitoring the vaccine’s widespread use.
Pfizer’s application, submitted in late May, includes the latest data from a large study that tracked participants 16 and older for six months after their second dose. The vaccine is given to people as young as 12, and Pfizer also intends to submit data needed for full approval in that age group.
WASHINGTON — The White House says it’s in no hurry to lift COVID-19 international travel restrictions, a day after President Joe Biden said he hoped to have an updated timeline for easing them.
Speaking during a White House briefing, COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said: “We must remain vigilant, particularly about the spread of variants and we’ll reopen when the medical folks and health experts believe it’s safe to do so.”
Zients adds any decision about opening international travel will be guided by a review of coronavirus cases, vaccination rates and virus variants.
European allies have chaffed at the restrictions, given in some places their vaccination and case rates are better than the U.S., and other parts of the world are not subject to the stiff entry requirements. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Biden on the matter Thursday during their Oval Office meeting.
WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Speaking during a White House briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says cases in the U.S. are up about 70% over the last week, hospital admissions are up 36% and deaths rose by 26%. Nearly all hospital admissions and deaths, she says, are among the unvaccinated.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients echoed the pandemic is “one that predominantly threatens unvaccinated people.”
He says the Biden administration expects cases to increase in the weeks ahead because of spread in communities with low vaccination rates. Four states accounted for 40% of new cases last week, with one in five coming from Florida.
But Zients says there are signs that increased cases are driving more people in those communities to seek vaccination at rates faster than the national average.
TOKYO — Japan’s top medical adviser for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government urged authorities to step up virus measures ahead of the Olympics and asked the people to avoid trips.
Tokyo registered 1,271 new cases Friday, the day after recording a six-month high of 1,308.
Dr. Shigeru Omi, who heads a government COVID-19 taskforce, says the next two months will be the “most crucial stage” in Japan’s fight against the pandemic. He urged people to watch the Olympics on TV at home with family members or close friends in small groups.
Omi says the ongoing upsurge in the Tokyo region is likely to accelerate, with the summer vacation, the Olympics and the Buddhist holiday week in August when people are likely to travel.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week declared a fourth state of emergency in Tokyo, which started Monday and lasts until Aug. 22. Nationwide, Japan has reported 830,000 cases and 15,000 confirmed deaths.
PARIS — The Eiffel Tower is reopening for the first time in nine months even though France is under new rules aimed at taming the delta variant.
This week, President Emmanuel Macron announced COVID-19 passes would be required to enter restaurants and venues such as the Eiffel Tower. Starting Wednesday, all visitors over 18 will need to show a pass proving they’ve been fully vaccinated, had a negative virus test or recently recovered from COVID-19.
The “Iron Lady” of Paris was ordered shut in October as France contended with its second virus surge of the pandemic. The tower stayed shut for renovations after most of the major tourist draws reopened last month.
MOSCOW — Daily coronavirus deaths in Russia have hit another record, with the authorities reporting 799 deaths. It’s the fourth straight day of record number of deaths.
On Friday, officials reported 25,704 new coronavirus cases. Daily new infections in Russia have soared from around 9,000 in early June to more than 25,000 last week.
Officials blamed the surge on the spread of the delta variant and a sluggish vaccine uptake that has remained lower than in many Western countries. As of Tuesday, 28.6 million Russians — or just 19.5% of the 146 million population — have received at least one shot of a vaccine.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported more than 5.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a total of 146,868 confirmed deaths in the pandemic. However, reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat, which tallies coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively, reveal much higher numbers.
LONDON — The British government’s top medical adviser has warned that number of people in hospital with the coronavirus could reach “quite scary” levels within weeks as cases soar from the delta variant and the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
Professor Chris Whitty spoke on a webinar hosted by London’s Science Museum, saying the U.K. is “not out of the woods yet.” His comments came in the wake of government figures showing that coronavirus infections have struck another six-month high and the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 and subsequently dying are at their highest level since March.
There were 3,786 people in hospital with COVID-19 and another 63 virus-related deaths reported Thursday. Another 48,553 confirmed lab cases were reported Thursday, the biggest daily figure since Jan. 15. The government has stated that daily infections could hit 100,000 this summer.
At the height of the second wave earlier this year, some 40,000 people were in hospital with COVID-19 and deaths reached 1,500 people a day.
ISLAMAB — Pakistan’s planning minister asked countrymen to avoid gatherings during the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday to help contain the spread of coronavirus.
Asad Umar also urged people to get vaccinated for their own safety and avoid becoming a source of the spread. He says the people who avoided the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason were risking their life apart from becoming a danger to their loved ones.
He says unvaccinated people won’t be allowed to visit tourist sites before and after Eid al-Adha or feast of sacrifice, which begins in Pakistan next week. Umar made these comments at a news conference amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Pakistan reported 31 new deaths and 2,327 new cases in the past 24 hours. That brings the totals to 22,720 confirmed deaths and 983,719 confirmed cases.
MOSCOW — Authorities in the Russian capital have walked back on their order for restaurants to only admit customers who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or could produce a negative test.
The decision announced Friday by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin becomes effective Monday. It retracts the measure that has been in place since late June, obliging restaurants and cafes to check. Sobyanin argued that the city officials were able to revise the decision because the pace of contagion has slowed down.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s government will provide citizens with the option to receive a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine beginning in August, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.
The third shot will be made available to all people regardless of age, health or which vaccine they received initially, Orban said in an interview with public radio. The government recommends, but does not require, the third dose to be administered at least four months following the second. Doctors may choose whether to provide patients with a different vaccine than previously received.
Hungary is the latest country to offer booster shots amid concerns that some jabs do not provide full protection from COVID-19 to all recipients. In May, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced they would offer third shots to some people who received China’s Sinopharm following concerns over insufficient development of antibodies, which protect against the virus.
In Hungary, which also uses the Sinopharm vaccine, some have expressed worry that they are not fully protected from COVID-19, and have demanded third doses.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has received 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the U.S. through the U.N.-backed COVAX facility.
It was the second shipment to Sri Lanka from the global COVAX effort after an AstraZeneca delivery in March. Sri Lanka has given 36% of its population their first vaccine dose while 13% have received both doses.
Its vaccination campaign was set back by halted shipments of AstraZeneca from the Indian producer. It then turned to Sinopharm, Sputnik V and Pfizer to get its population inoculated.
Sri Lanka has confirmed 279,059 coronavirus infections with 3,611 confirmed deaths.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean officials are pushing for tightened pandemic restrictions beyond the hard-hit Seoul as they wrestle with a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum called for all local governments outside the greater Seoul area to simultaneously enforce four-person limits on gatherings after 6 p.m. to slow the viral spread.
Permitted social bubbles are even smaller in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province and Incheon, where officials are enforcing the strongest “Level 4” restrictions that prohibit gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m., ban visitors at hospitals and nursing homes, and shut down nightclubs and churches.
Lee Ki-Il, deputy minister of health care policy at South Korea’s Health Ministry, says national government officials will discuss Kim’s proposal with local governments and could announce a decision over the weekend.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported another 1,536 coronavirus cases, the 10th straight day of more than 1,000. The totals stand at 175,046 confirmed cases and 2,051 confirmed deaths.