Visitors wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus arrive at the International Quarantine Expo in Goyang, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
LOS ANGELES — Authorities in Los Angeles say more than 2,600 officers and civilian employees in the police department will seek religious exemptions to vaccination against the coronavirus. An additional 300 want medical exemptions.
The city has mandated municipal employees get vaccinated by Oct. 5 unless they are granted an exemption. But it has not defined how it will judge if a religious belief is sincerely held or what will happen to employees who are not granted an exemption and refuse to be vaccinated.
Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday he “won’t comment on the sincerity level” of people claiming a religious exemption.
The chief says more than 6,500 members of the department have received at least one vaccine dose. Ten police department employees and three spouses of employees have died of COVID-19. Thousands in the department have tested positive for the virus.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— COVID-19 cases climbing in U.S., mostly in South among unvaccinated
— Russia's Putin in self-isolation due to coronavirus cases in inner circle
— UK recommends COVID-19 booster shots for those over age 50
— Judge blocks medical worker vaccine mandate in New York state
— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
FARGO, N.D. — An executive at the largest health care system in North Dakota says its hospitals in Fargo could use up to 300 additional nurses to handle COVID-19 cases and is bumping up incentives to fill the void.
“We really are in crisis,” said Dr. Doug Griffin, Sanford Health vice president and medical officer in Fargo, which serves a metropolitan area of about 250,000 people in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Hospitals across the region are filling up with both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, Griffin said. Fargo Sanford is about two to three weeks from reaching its peak hospitalization capacity.
Besides nurses, the system is short-staffed in patient services, respiratory therapy and even “people who draw blood,” Griffin said.
HELENA, Mont. — Seventeen Montana National Guard soldiers have volunteered to keep helping the state with its COVID-19 response.
Gov. Greg Gianforte says 10 soldiers will be assisting Billings Clinic while another seven will help the state lab in Helena.
Over the past 18 months, Montana National Guard members have aided with COVID-19 response at nursing homes and by testing visitors arriving at airports.
Montana reported another 1,249 confirmed cases on Tuesday, with 362 people hospitalized. At least 1,847 residents have died of COVID-19 in the past 18 months, with cases steadily rising since mid-July. The health department reported 47 deaths in the first two weeks of September.
More than 474,000 residents, 51% of the eligible population, are fully vaccinated.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported 2,609 coronavirus cases and 117 deaths on Tuesday, the most deaths in a single day since February.
Arizona’s daily deaths reports often are larger early in the week due to reporting delays over the weekend, a trend cited by Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott.
The additional deaths reported Tuesday were twice as many were reported the previous Tuesday and four times the state’s latest seven-day rolling daily average, according to Johns Hopkins University.
During the past two weeks, the number of hospitalizations remained above 2,000, with 2,090 COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds on Monday.
Arizona’s pandemic totals have reached 1.05 million confirmed cases and 19,304 confirmed deaths.
MISSION, Kan. — The number of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have returned to levels reached last winter, potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s argument for sweeping new vaccination requirements.
The U.S. is averaging more than 1,800 COVID-19 deaths and 170,000 new cases per day. That’s still well below the peak of about 3,400 deaths and 250,000 cases per day in January. But it’s frustrating health care leaders, nine months into the nation’s vaccination drive, who are watching hospitals fill up with unvaccinated patients.
The cases, driven by the delta variant and resistance among some Americans to get vaccinated, are concentrated mostly in the South.
While hot spots such as Florida and Louisiana are improving, infection rates are soaring in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, fueled by children back in school, loose mask requirements and low vaccination rates.
“Now in Kentucky, one-third of new cases are under age 18,” says Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency room physician in Lexington. He says some children brought it home from summer camp and spread it to the rest of the family, and “between day care and schools and school activities, and friends getting together, there are just so many exposures.”
JOHANNESBURG — After uncertainty about whether the coronavirus pandemic would force South Africa to postpone local government elections, the courts have ruled the vote should move ahead.
South Africa’s courts ruled this month the Independent Electoral Commission should hold the polls on Nov. 1, despite concerns about political rallies spreading the disease.
South Africa has recorded 2,640 new infections and 125 deaths in the last 24 hours. The nation accounts for more than 35% of coronavirus infections in Africa, with 2.8 million confirmed cases and 85,002 confirmed deaths.
The elections may see an erosion of support for the ruling party, the African National Congress, which failed to register candidates in about 90 municipalities across the country before the deadline. However, the electoral commission threw the ANC a lifeline by reopening registration for candidates to be councilors in cities across the nation.
More than 7 million people, or 12.5% of the South African population, have been fully vaccinated with either the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, according to Johns Hopkins University. Vaccines are offered to all adults 18 years and older as officials seek to vaccinate at least 40 million of the 60 million population by the end of the year.
However, South Africa is yet to reach its target of 300,000 daily vaccinations.
LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigerians eventually may get vaccinated at their churches and worship centers on Sundays.
The West African nation’s top health official says the government has introduced “Sunday vaccination” in the second phase of its vaccine rollout to ensure members can get the shot.
Faisal Shuaib didn’t say when the measure takes effect or whether it has started in mosques. His meeting on Tuesday with Christian leaders across the country is the latest measure Nigeria has introduced to drive full vaccination rates to at least 1% of its population of more than 200 million people.
Africa’s most populous country has only vaccinated 5.7 million people, according to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. Only 1.7 million have received their second shot. The average daily cases has decreased to about 550 in the last two weeks.
Government tallies indicate more people are turning up at vaccination centers nationwide. Authorities have said Nigeria expects at least 52 million doses of vaccines by the second quarter of 2022.
HONOLULU -- Hawaii’s governor says the state’s high COVID-19 vaccination rate means there will not be another full-scale shutdown.
Gov. David Ige tells the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that doesn’t mean there won’t be more restrictions put in place if hospitalization rates increase or more people are moved to intensive care units.
Ige says there are signs the recent surge in cases is abating and the rate of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 is stable.
The state’s seven-day average for new cases is 567, a 37% drop from two weeks ago. The number of people hospitalized or in the ICU has slightly dropped as well.
Nearly 77% of Hawaii’s eligible population is fully vaccinated and just over 86% has received at least one shot.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization and partners say they hope to provide Africa with about 30% of the COVID-19 vaccines they need by February, half of the 60% goal African leaders had aimed for by the end of this year.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the vast disparity in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries a “solvable problem.”
He again called for pharmaceutical companies to prioritize the U.N. backed initiative known as COVAX to share vaccines globally. Currently, fewer than 4% of people in Africa have been fully immunized. Most of the 5.7 billion doses administered have gone to about 10 countries.
Most vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna have gone to wealthy countries, many of whom are considering plans to use booster shots. Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of vaccines alliance Gavi, says the COVAX program expects to have 1.4 billion doses ready for delivery by the end of this year, about one quarter fewer than its original goal.
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is in self-isolation after people in his inner circle became infected with the coronavirus.
The Kremlin said Tuesday that Putin tested negative for the coronavirus. Putin, who is fully vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V, held several public engagements indoors Monday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov say Putin is “absolutely healthy” but came in contact with someone who contracted the coronavirus. Peskov didn’t say when Putin began self-isolating, when he tested negative, how long he would remain in self-isolation or who among the president’s contacts was infected.
On Monday, Putin met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose hand he shook. Assad tested positive for the coronavirus in March and later recovered; it’s not clear if he is vaccinated. Putin also shook hands with Russian Paralympians and pinned medals on them and attended military exercises alongside other officials.
Russia’s daily coronavirus cases have fallen in the past month from 20,000 to about 17,000. However, few virus restrictions are currently in place in Russia.
On Friday, only 32% of the population had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine and only 27% had been fully vaccinated.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported a total of 7.1 million confirmed cases and 194,249 confirmed deaths. Health experts have called into question how Russia is tallying cases and deaths.
BERLIN — Berlin officials announced a change in coronavirus rules, favoring vaccinated people while restricting access to some venues for people who haven’t received the COVID-19 shot.
Berlin’s top health official says authorities will give restaurants, bars, sports venues, zoos, gambling halls and other recreational venues the option of allowing in only people who have a vaccine or recovery certificate, known as the ‘2G’ rule in Germany. Alternately, they also can continue to apply the 3G rule of letting in people with negative test results.
Those venues that choose to apply the tougher 2G rule won’t need to require that patrons wear masks or respect minimum distancing. Night clubs were already required to only let in people who are vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus.
Several of Germany’s 16 states are not allowing sick pay for unvaccinated people who are ordered to quarantine.
About 62% of the country’s population has received shots to qualify for a vaccine certificate. The government wants a rate of at least 75% heading into fall to prevent a surge of infections.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish health authorities says they’ll offer vaccinations at cultural events after experiencing success with one-day pop-ups in supermarkets.
“There are still a number of young people aged 20-34 who have not yet been vaccinated, and the Danish Health and Medicines Authority continues its efforts to increase vaccination support in this age group as well,” said Niels Sandoe of the National Board of Health.
He called it “incredibly positive” that 386 people were vaccinated in supermarkets last Saturday, saying it “shows that there are still citizens who want to be vaccinated when they receive a local offer.”
The next pop-up vaccination will take place on Sept. 17 at the SPOT festival of Danish and Nordic music.
More than 80% of people above age 12 have been fully vaccinated. Sandoe has said Denmark’s target of 90% vaccinated by Oct. 1 is reachable.
LONDON — An expert advisory panel has recommended the U.K. government offer a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to everyone over age 50 to protect against the coronavirus.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization’s recommendation came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepared to announce the government’s new plan for combating the pandemic.
The World Health Organization has asked wealthy nations to delay booster shots until every country has vaccinated at least 40% of their populations.
The JCVI say booster shots were needed to ensure vulnerable people are protected against COVID-19 because studies have shown that the immunity conferred by vaccines slowly weakens over time.
CULLMAN, Ala. — As hundreds of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients filled Alabama intensive care units, hospital staff in north Alabama contacted 43 hospitals in three states to find a specialty cardiac ICU bed for Ray Martin DeMonia, his family writes in his obituary.
The resident of Cullman, Alabama, was finally transferred to Meridian, Mississippi, about 170 miles (274 kilometers) away. The 73-year-old antiques dealer died Sept. 1 because of the cardiac event he suffered.
Now, his family is making a plea.
“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non-COVID related emergencies,” his obituary reads. After describing the search for an ICU bed for DeMonia, the obituary adds: “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”
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