The Latest: West Virginia governor encourages vaccination

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FILE – In this March 4, 2021 file photo, a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine rests on a table at a drive-up mass vaccination site in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine brought in more than $4 billion in second-quarter sales, Thursday, Aug. 5, pushing the vaccine developer into a profit. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said the rate of COVID-19 cases in his state is “probably going to continue to get tougher in the weeks ahead.”

Justice has said he will not consider reinstating an indoor mask mandate and has continued to urge residents to be vaccinated.

The number of active cases statewide has reached at least 4,010, after bottoming out at 882 cases on July 9, according to state health figures.

School began Monday in West Virginia’s largest county. Schools in many other counties are set to open their fall terms this month.

About 57% of state residents ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated, while about 69% have received one dose.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Canadabegins allowing vaccinated US citizens to visit again

— France widely introducesa virus pass that is needed to enter restaurants, trains

— The pandemic’s impact on Tokyo Games is making Olympians dream of Paris

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MIAMI — The superintendent of the school district in the capital of Florida said Monday that he will require masks amid an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fueled by the delta variant.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna said children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will be required to wear masks when classes resume in Tallahassee on Wednesday. He said students who want to opt out need a note from a physician or a psychologist.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order in late July for the education and health departments to come up with ways of punishing school districts that mandate mask-wearing in classrooms.

The Florida Department of Health issued a rule last week that districts must allow parents to decide. And the Florida’s Board of Education approved an emergency rule granting private school vouchers for children who feel they are being harassed by a district’s COVID-19 safety policies, including mask requirements.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The number of COVD-19 patients in Alabama hospitals topped 2,000 Sunday, the highest figure the state has seen since January.

Medical officials have blamed low vaccination rates for a rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations as the highly contagious delta variant of the virus spreads throughout the region.

On Sunday, there were 2,047 patients with COVID-19 in state hospitals, including 581 in intensive care units and 300 patients on ventilators, according to numbers provided by the Alabama Hospital Association.

Decatur Morgan Hospital is treating 26 COVID-19 patients, up from 15 last week, hospital president Kelli Powers said Monday. She said the ill included a 38-year-old person who is on a ventilator in intensive care and that the sickest patients infected by the virus aren’t vaccinated.

“We have a lot of people who are on their deathbeds begging for the vaccine, but at that point it’s too late,” she said.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s top public health official said Monday that as COVID-19 cases continue to surge with the highly contagious delta variant, no intensive care beds were available in 35 of the state’s top-level hospitals.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs also said that more than 200 people were waiting in hospital emergency rooms to be admitted. The wait times affect not only people with COVID-19 but also those with other health conditions.

The state Health Department said Monday that more than 6,900 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mississippi from Friday through Sunday.

“Keep in mind – this will translate into around 500 new hospitalizations in coming days,” Dobbs wrote on Twitter.

He said the intensive care units were full in Level 1, 2 and 3 hospitals in the state’s acute care systems. Those include the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson; North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo; Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg; Memorial Hospital in Gulfport and Singing River Health System in Pascagoula.

Lee Bond, chief executive officer of Singing River Health System, in a statement Thursday said Mississippi is experiencing a “hellacious wave” of COVID-19 cases that are stretching hospitals’ resources and causing extreme stress for health care workers.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — One of North Carolina’s most vaccinated areas is instituting a mask mandate for indoor public places, regardless of one’s vaccination status.

Durham’s city and county-wide emergency order, which takes effect at 5 p.m. Monday, is an effort to combat the rapid spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel on Monday said it’s time to go “back to the basics” to combat what he views as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He called face masks “a common-sense, non-economically damaging way of limiting transmission.”

Schewel said Durham typically enforces such orders “with a light touch” by having the city attorney write a letter notifying a business or person of their noncompliance before sending a police officer and sheriff’s deputy to further address the situation.

“We do have the power to cite someone, but we’ve had to do very little of that,” Schewel said.

Those who are under 5, who are actively eating or drinking or who have medical or behavioral conditions do not need to wear masks in Durham County while in “any indoor public place, business or establishment.”

The order has no expiration date, but Schewel said the city and county will reevaluate the order every week or two.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico will ask the United States to send at least 3.5 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine as the country faces a third wave of infections, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday.

The president said he planned to discuss a transfer of vaccine with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris during a call scheduled for later Monday.

López Obrador said the U.S. government had initially offered the Moderna vaccine, but Mexican health authorities could not get the necessary approvals in time so now they are considering Pfizer or another approved vaccine.

Mexico has vaccinated more than 50 million people with at least one dose, representing about 56% of the adult population. It has received 91.1 million doses of five different vaccines.

In June, the U.S. donated 1.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Mexico is seeing more than 20,000 reported infections per day.

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BATON ROUGE, La. —Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have hit a record high again in Louisiana, with the state health department reporting 2,720 hospitalizations on Monday.

That’s 299 more hospitalizations than were reported in Friday’s figures.

The state hit a record number of coronavirus pandemic hospitalizations Tuesday, and the number has grown each day.

Monday’s report from the state health department says there have been 16,541 new cases reported since Friday and 50 more deaths. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the new infection figures include 3,106 children under age 18 since Friday.

The highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 is being blamed for the spread.

Rising case numbers have prompted the cancellation of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which was set for this fall, and this weekend’s annual Red Dress Run charity fundraiser in New Orleans.

According to the state health department, nearly 45% of Louisiana residents have had their first shot of vaccine and nearly 38% are fully vaccinated.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a devout Catholic, on Monday began three days of prayer and lunch fasting in honor of the state’s health care workers and those sick with COVID-19.

The Democrat urged others to join him.

“I will be praying that our sick may fight this illness, that the medical professionals caring for them can remain strong and safe, that our children, teachers and school support staff can safely begin the school year and that our people will do everything they can to help us slow the spread of this terrible virus,” he said in a statement.

Louisiana has the nation’s highest per capita rate of new COVID-19 cases over the last week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 693 new cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus authorities are investigating at least five instances where doctors allegedly issued false “SafePass” certificates that show the holder to have been vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from having contracted the virus or to have recently tested negative.

Cypriot Attorney General George Savvides said an arrest warrant was issued for one physician suspected of issuing a false certificate.

Savvides on Monday chaired a meeting bringing together the health minister, chief of police and Cyprus Medical Association officials to look into legal amendments that would empower the association to take action against members before any court proceedings to determine wrongdoing. Savvides pointed to a “legal void” among professional organizations, including the association, that prevents them for revoking their members’ licenses for any misconduct prior to a criminal conviction. He said his office would help draft legislation aimed at addressing that.

Some in Cyprus protest what they see as authorities’ attempts to limit where they go by making them display a “SafePass” in any place where people gather in numbers. That includes bars, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls and supermarkets.

Over 66% of Cyprus’ 900,000 people have been fully vaccinated, while 74% have received at least the first shot.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Face coverings will be required again starting Monday in indoor public places and businesses in Durham County, North Carolina, and the city of Durham due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

City and county leaders issued a new state of emergency that takes effect at 5 p.m. Monday in the county of more than 300,000 people northwest of Raleigh. The mask mandate also applies to those who are fully vaccinated.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide mask mandate ended July 30, but local governments and school systems can still enact restrictions.

State health data shows there were 4,500 new cases reported in North Carolina on Friday. More than 1,700 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized statewide as of Thursday, more than double the number from two weeks earlier.

The Durham city and county mask mandate provides exceptions, including for small children and people who shouldn’t wear one due to a medical condition.

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PARIS — France is now requiring people to show a QR code proving they have a special virus pass before they can enjoy restaurants and cafes or travel across the country.

The measure is part of a government plan to encourage more people to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot and slow down a surge in infections, as the highly contagious delta variant now accounts for most cases in France. Over 36 million people in France, or more than 54% of the population, are fully vaccinated.

The special pass is issued to people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, or have proof of a recent recovery from the virus or who have a recent negative test. The measure also applies to tourists visiting the country.

In hospitals, visitors and patients who have appointments are required to have the pass. Exceptions are made for people needing urgent care at the emergency ward.

The pass is also required on high-speed, intercity and night trains as well as on long-distance travels by plane or bus.

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MIAMI — A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Florida law that prevents cruise lines from requiring passengers to prove they’re vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the law is appears unconstitutional and won’t likely hold up in court.

The “vaccine passport” ban signed into law in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis fails to protect medical privacy or prevent discrimination against unvaccinated people, but it does appear to violate the First Amendment rights of Norwegian Cruise Lines, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams wrote.

In a nearly 60-page ruling issued late Sunday, the judge said Florida failed to “provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate” for banning requirements that passengers prove they’ve been vaccinated. Norwegian has shown that suspending the requirement will jeopardize public health, potentially causing “superspreader” events wherever passengers disembark, she wrote.

Florida separately sued the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeking to block federal cruise ship vaccination requirements. The CDC lost on appeal, but then made its guidelines non-binding, and all cruise lines operating in Florida have agreed to keep following the CDC’s instructions on a voluntary basis, the judge wrote.

The CDC’s current guidelines, in effect until Nov. 1, say cruise lines can sail again with confirmation that at least 95% of passengers and crew have been vaccinated, the judge noted.

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ROME – Italian police have cracked down on sales of fake Green Passes needed in the country to access gyms, theaters, cinemas, bingo parlors or dine indoors.

The Italian postal police corps that specializes in internet and other cybersecurity crime said on Monday that the passes, which certify that holders have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine, recovered from the illness in the last six months or tested negative in the previous 48 hours, were being sold for prices ranging from 150 to 500 euros ($180-600).

The police said four suspects, including two minors, are under investigation. The suspects allegedly used the communications app Telegram to offer fake certifications.

Italy announced last month the virus rule would take effect on Aug. 6. The certification can also facilitate travel among European countries honoring the system. The postal police said the investigation was continuing to identify those who bought the phony passes.

Authorities noted that real Green Passes have QR codes that link up with health ministry data.

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BERLIN — German pharmaceutical maker BioNTech, which developed the first widely used coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer, saw its profits surge in the second quarter of 2021.

The Mainz-based company said Monday that it made a net profit of almost 2.8 billion euros ($3.3 billion) from April to June. This boosted first-half net profits to over 3.9 billion euros, compared with a net loss of almost 142 million euros in the first six months of 2020.

The company has said the windfall from its mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine will help it to develop drugs against cancer and other diseases.

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LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria has postponed the rollout of its second batch of COVID-19 vaccine due to “unforeseen circumstances,” a setback for Africa’s most populous nation as it faces a major surge in confirmed cases.

The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 made the announcement Sunday night, without providing further details about why the Tuesday launch was being delayed.

Less than 2 percent of the country’s 200 million citizens have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency.

Nigeria initially received about 4 million doses of AstraZeneca donated through COVAX, but exhausted its supply in mid-July. The country now has received 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the United States.

There has been a 553% increase in confirmed monthly infections since the delta variant was detected in the country in early July, according to data from the Nigeria Center for Disease Control.

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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia is reopening Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina to pilgrims from abroad to perform the smaller pilgrimage known as “umrah.”

State media reported that for the first time since the pandemic prompted the government to seal off Mecca to international travelers, the kingdom will begin gradually receiving requests for umrah pilgrims from various countries of the world starting Monday.

Travelers will need to prove they have been vaccinated and will need to quarantine if they are traveling from nations still red-listed by the kingdom, which include many of the countries that once sent the most pilgrims annually. The government plans to increase the capacity of pilgrims to 2 million per month.

The kingdom has allowed its own citizens and residents to perform the umrah since October of last year under certain conditions, and held dramatically downsized hajj pilgrimages last year and this year due to the pandemic.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has started a program to home-manage asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, abandoning its policy of hospitalizing almost everyone who tests positive, as the number of daily infections surges.

People aged between 2 and 65 will be observed by doctors manning call centers. Doctors will assess the patients daily and recommend admission if needed.

However, those who are obese or with a history of chronic heart, kidney or other major ailments will be hospitalized immediately.

Until recently, most people testing positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized in Sri Lanka. However, the country has seen a sharp surge in patients since late July with the emergence of the delta variant. The number of new daily cases is approaching 3,000, with almost 100 deaths daily on average.

Photos have circulated on social media over the past week showing crowded hospital wards with many patients on the floor, along corridors and even outdoors. The government says it has reserved more wards to help ease the congestion and refer asymptomatic patients for home care.

Sri Lanka has reported 329,994 COVID-19 positive cases so far including 5,111 deaths.

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TEHRAN — For the second straight day, Iran has shattered its single-day record for new coronavirus deaths and infections.

Iranian authorities on Monday reported 588 new fatalities, surpassing the previous day’s record by nearly four dozen. Another 40,800 new virus cases were recorded, with more than 6,500 people in critical condition.

Over a year and a half into the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, Iran is in the midst of its deadliest wave yet, fueled by the rapid spread of the delta variant.

The pandemic has killed more than 94,000 people in Iran, overwhelming hospitals in major cities as mass vaccination remains far off. Roughly 4% of Iran’s more than 80 million people have been fully vaccinated.

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal has begun a campaign to fully vaccinate all over-65s in the country Monday against COVID-19 following the arrival of AstraZeneca vaccines donated by Japan.

The 1.4 million citizens over 65 had been given the first dose of the vaccine in March but they had to wait for many months for the second one because of India’s refusal to export any vaccine made there. Japan’s donation follows Nepal government’s desperate appeals to foreign governments for AstraZeneca vaccines.

Nepal is attempting to boost its vaccination campaign, which struggled for months due to a shortage of all vaccines. It received 4 million Sinopharm doses from China last month and 1.5 million Johnson and Johnson jabs gifted by the United States.

The government is warning of the possibility of a new wave of infections in the Himalayan country. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nepal is 714,877 since the pandemic began last year.

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CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government says Moderna next month will become the third COVID-19 vaccine available in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian vaccine regulator approved the Moderna shot Monday for adults.

The first million doses will arrive in Australia in late September and 10 million Moderna shots are scheduled to be delivered to Australia this year, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Australia has a shortage of the Pfizer vaccine and a glut of locally manufactured AstraZeneca, which many are refusing to take because of the slight risk of blood clotting. New South Wales and Victoria states, where cities are in lockdown due to virus outbreaks, have stockpiles of more than a million unwanted doses of AstraZeneca, media reported.

Only 22% of adults among an Australian population of 26 million people had been fully vaccinated by Monday. The government expects to have provided a vaccine to every Australian adult who wants one by the end of the year.

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BEIJING — More than 30 local officials have been fired or received other punishments for shortcomings in handling China’s latest virus surge.

Among the officials fired for failing to fully implement anti-pandemic measures were a vice mayor, heads of city districts and health commissions, and staff from hospital management, airport and tourism departments.

China’s National Health Commission said Monday 94 new cases of domestic transmission had been recorded over the previous 24 hours. Of those, 41 were in the central province of Henan, which has been slammed by deadly flooding in recent weeks.

Another 38 cases were reported in Yangzhou, a neighboring city to Nanjing, where China’s widest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic was traced. The highly contagious delta variant spread among Nanjing airport workers and has since spread from tropical Hainan province in the south to Inner Mongolia in the far north.

While the number of total cases in the outbreak hovers around 1,500, a small number relative to those occurring in other countries, Chinese authorities have renewed travel restrictions, locked down communities and sealed off the entire city of Zhangjiajie, with a population of 1.5 million.

China has administered more than 1.7 billion doses of vaccine domestically, although it doesn’t disclose how many of its 1.4 billion people are now fully protected. Questions have been raised about the efficacy of the domestic jabs as the delta variant continues to spread.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria state in Australia is lifting its pandemic lockdown beginning Tuesday, except in the city of Melbourne.

Australia’s second-most populous state imposed a seven-day lockdown last Thursday due to concerns about the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

But Victoria Premier Daniel Andrew says all the cases detected in Victoria in recent days have been in Melbourne, with 11 more reported there Monday. So the lockdown will end in the rest of the state at the end of Monday.

Neighboring New South Wales state on Monday reported 283 new coronavirus infections and one COVID-19 death in the latest 24-hour period. The death toll from the latest outbreak that was first detected in Sydney on June 16 is now 29.

Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26 and will remain under tight pandemic restrictions until at least Aug. 28.

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NEW ORLEANS — With new coronavirus cases surging in Louisiana, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival won’t be returning this year.

The festival is traditionally held in the spring but it had been scheduled to run Oct. 8-10 and Oct. 15-17 after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But organizers on Sunday cited “current exponential growth” of new cases in the city and region in announcing that the festival will not occur as planned.

They say next year’s dates are April 29-May 8.

Jazz Fest celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. The music encompasses nearly every style imaginable: blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, contemporary and traditional jazz, country, bluegrass and everything in between.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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