The Latest: Louisiana reports high rates of COVID-19 cases

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A delivery courier wearing a face mask to protect against COVID-19 is reflected in a window glass as she walks into a restaurant in Beijing, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s health department is reporting 6,797 new COVID-19 cases and 20 new deaths.

Tuesday’s figures also show hospitalizations up to 1,390. That’s the highest hospitalization count since early February.

The new figures come as state officials increasingly urge the public to get vaccinated as medical staffs again are stretched thin by the state’s fourth surge since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ronny Walker of the north Louisiana city of Ruston has been hospitalized with pneumonia related to a “breakthrough” case of COVID-19 after being vaccinated.

Walker tells the Ruston Daily Leader that he believes his illness would have been worse had he not been vaccinated.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— CDC recommendsindoor masks in some parts of US, at schools

— Tokyo hits record 2,848 daily virus casesduring Olympics

— Russia OKs testing on combinationSputnik, AstraZeneca shots

— UK spares key workers quarantine during staff shortages

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— 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:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In South Florida, the Broward County school board postponed a meeting Tuesday about whether students should wear masks in the classroom this fall when about 20 anti-mask protestors refused to don them. Board spokeswoman Kathy Koch told the South Florida SunSentinel that everyone who visits the district’s headquarters is required to wear a mask.

“Most of them said they had a medical waiver, but you cannot prove it nor can you ask for it,” Koch said. So for the safety of everyone, the discussion was rescheduled for Wednesday.

The delay angered the protestors, who called on Gov. Ron DeSantis, a strong mask mandate opponent, and the state government to override any mask mandate imposed by Broward or others school districts.

“We need a special session of the state Legislature to ban this kind of crap right now,” said Chris Nelson, 38, founder of the anti-mask group, Reopen South Florida. He threatened to go to the board members’ homes and neighborhoods to confront them directly.

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ST. LOUIS — As COVID-19 hospitalizations climb, St. Louis is offering incentives for some city employees to get immunized, while thousands are registering for a statewide vaccine lottery.

St. Louis said in a news release Tuesday that nearly 6,000 of its workers will be eligible to receive $100 in gift cards and can use paid time off to get vaccinated. The announcement comes one day after a mask mandate took effect in the city and St. Louis County.

Missouri has the nation’s fourth-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week, with one in every 360 people diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 remains the best way for St. Louisans to protect their families and greatly reduce their chance of ending up in the ICU, and we are using many different tools in our toolbox to encourage vaccination,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones in the release.

To help, the state rolled out a vaccine incentive program last week that includes $10,000 prizes for 900 lottery winners. About 250,000 people have registered so far, said health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox.

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NEW YORK — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new recommendations that vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.

Scientists cited new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people. The CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

The new guidance follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that have been especially high in the South.

The country is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. Most new infections and hospitalizations in the U.S. are among unvaccinated people.

But “breakthrough” infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people.

When earlier strains of the virus predominated, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of virus and were deemed unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

But with the more transmissable delta variant, “it is concerning enough that we feel like we have to act,” Walensky said regarding a return to wearing masks.

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PORTLAND, Maine — The number of daily coronavirus infections has quadrupled in Maine in the last four weeks, and the total count since the start of the pandemic has eclipsed 70,000 cases.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been 898 total deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen in the past two weeks from about 14 on July 11 to about 61 on Sunday. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen, from less than one death a day on July 11 to about two on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Maine authorities say about 68% of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated against coronavirus. That’s one of the highest rates in the country.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has the most confirmed daily cases in Asia, and airport records show thousands of foreigners have left in recent weeks.

The exodus is apparently spurred by a pandemic wave and general shortage of vaccines, which have gone to high priority groups first.

Indonesia’s confirmed daily death toll surpassed 2,000 for the first time on Tuesday, hitting 2,069. The Health Ministry reported 45,203 daily cases as the health system struggles to cope, and even patients fortunate enough to get a hospital bed are not guaranteed oxygen.

Nearly 19,000 foreign nationals have left through the airport in the capital since early this month. Airport records released Tuesday showed the number of foreigners leaving the capital increased significantly in the past three days alone.

Several countries have announced new bans or restrictions on travelers from Indonesia.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Another major North Carolina hospital system is preparing to require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals informed its staff last week of its decision and confirmed the plan to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The Raleigh-area system, with 946 beds across three acute care hospitals and one physical rehabilitation hospital, hasn’t announced when it will take effect. But it would apply to “all employees, providers and volunteers in the near future.”

“WakeMed has strong confidence in the science, safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and the available data continues to reinforce these beliefs,” WakeMed spokesperson Kristin Kelly said in a statement. “Throughout this pandemic, our number one priority has been to protect the health and well-being of our staff, patients, family members and the broader community and to reduce the risk for those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Science has demonstrated that the best way that we – as an organization and as individuals – can do this is through vaccination.”

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NEW ORLEANS — Prison officials in Louisiana have suspended visitation and volunteer programs to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

The announcement Tuesday was the latest result of a fourth surge of the disease in the state. Hospitalizations in Louisiana — more than 1,200 on Monday — have more than doubled in 10 days

At least two major hospital systems in Louisiana have announced the suspension of nonemergency surgeries that might require hospital admissions as COVID-19 hospitalization numbers grow.

Jefferson Parish officials say new cases are evident in areas of the parish where vaccination rates are low. Officials blame low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant for the surge in new cases and hospitalizations.

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — One of the largest public school districts in Kansas plans to require elementary students to wear masks this fall.

The Kansas City Star reports that Shawnee Mission’s school board acted Monday night after a health official in Johnson County warned the delta variant would lead to widespread COVID-19 among unmasked children.

Shawnee Mission joins the public school districts in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, in requiring masks for at least some students, but it is the only district among six in Johnson County to do it. Johnson County is the most populous county in Kansas.

The Shawnee Mission board’s vote Monday night was 6-1 in favor of mandating masks in elementary schools. It has about 26,000 students and is the third-largest school district in Kansas, behind Wichita and Olathe.

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CLEVELAND — Teens are more likely to experience heart inflammation if they develop COVID-19 than the exceedingly rare risk after vaccination, researchers reported Tuesday.

The risk of heart inflammation in male teens was nearly six times greater from the coronavirus than from vaccination, and for females the virus risk was 21 times greater, the research team concluded.

The side effect has been reported in several hundred people younger than 30, mostly males, after getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. U.S. officials and independent medical experts said last month the benefits of those shots far outweigh that small risk.

The Pfizer shot is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine available for kids as young as 12 in the U.S.

Because heart inflammation sometimes occurs with COVID-19, researchers at Case Western Reserve University pulled electronic medical records from 48 large U.S. health systems to check 12- to 17-year-olds diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The findings were posted online Tuesday and have not undergone full scientific review. Co-author Dr. David Kaelber, a Case Western pediatrician, said he got his own 12-year-old vaccinated after doing the calculations.

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BRUSSELS — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the EU has reached a major goal by providing at least one coronavirus shot to 70% of adults across the 27-nation bloc.

She says 57% of adults are now fully vaccinated. But von der Leyen is warning countries to step up their vaccination rates to combat fast-spreading variants of the disease. Vaccination rates vary around Europe, with Bulgaria and Romania notably slow.

Von der Leyen says “these figures put Europe among the world leaders.” But she warned against complacency given the well-established presence in Europe of other variants.

“The delta variant is very dangerous. I therefore call on everyone — who has the opportunity — to be vaccinated. For their own health and to protect others,” von der Leyen said.

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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic says it will require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by mid-September, becoming one of the latest health systems to do so as delta variant cases rise around the country.

The Rochester-based medical system says the “vast majority” of its employees are already vaccinated. But it says all employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or complete an opt-out process by Sept. 17.

“Our patients expect to be safe when they come to Mayo Clinic, and we need to do everything we can to protect everybody,” Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, the clinic’s president and CEO, said in a statement Monday.

Staff who decline to be vaccinated must complete education modules and will be required to wear masks and socially distance at work.

Mayo says it is joining dozens of health systems nationwide in requiring vaccinations because of increasing cases of COVID-19 nationally, poor vaccination rates in many communities and the threat of variants.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s health officials have given a go-ahead to testing a combination of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot and the single-dose version of the domestically developed Sputnik V vaccine.

The country’s registry of approved clinical trials shows the small study was scheduled to start July 26 and to enroll 150 volunteers. The AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines use a similar technology.

Russian officials introduced Sputnik V last year as a two-shot vaccine using different viruses in each dose, but they also have separately marketed the first shot as a single-dose alternative dubbed Sputnik Light.

The developers of Sputnik V proposed combining the shots to AstraZeneca in November, suggesting it could increase the effectiveness of the British vaccine.

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LONDON — Britain is easing coronavirus quarantine rules for essential workers including prison guards, veterinarians and garbage collectors in an attempt to end staff shortages that are hobbling parts of the economy.

About 26 million Britons have downloaded a phone app that tells them to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The system has caused employee absences and led to gaps on supermarket shelves. The U.K. has recently recorded tens of thousands of new virus cases a day. The government says many key workers can now be tested daily instead of self-isolating.

Cases have fallen for six straight days, with Monday’s figure of 24,950 confirmed infections down more than a third from a week earlier. Britain has given 70% of adults both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has recorded more than 34,900 new coronavirus infections, setting the nation’s single-day record for cases.

This comes as vaccinations lag, public complacency deepens and the country struggles through an outbreak. The previous record of 31,814 infections was set Monday, providing a sense of how quickly Iran’s latest surge, fueled by the contagious delta variant, is mounting.

The alarming spread of the variant prompted new anti-virus restrictions last week. The government ordered the closure of state offices, public places and non-essential businesses in the capital of Tehran. But as with previous government measures, the lockdown looked very little like a lockdown at all. Tehran’s malls and markets were busy as usual and workers crowded offices and metro stations.

Health authorities recorded 357 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the confirmed total death toll to 89,479, the highest in the Middle East.

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TOKYO — Tokyo has reported its highest number of coronavirus infections, four days after the start of the Olympics.

The Japanese capital reported 2,848 new cases, exceeding its record of 2,520 daily cases in January. It brings Tokyo’s total to more than 200,000 since the start of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged people to avoid non-essential outings but says there is no need to consider a suspension of the Games.

Tokyo is under its fourth state of emergency, which is to continue through the Olympics. Experts have warned the more contagious delta variant could cause a surge during the Olympics, which started Friday.

Nationwide, Japan reported 5,020 daily cases Monday for a total of 870,445 and 15,129 confirmed deaths.

Japan has kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries. Its seven-day rolling average of cases is about 3.57 per 100,000 people, compared to 2.76 in India, 17.3 in the United States and 53.1 in Britain, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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LISBON, Portugal — Hungary has delivered to 200,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Portugal, which will send to six of its former colonies.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva says his country is buying excess vaccines from other countries and providing them to its five former colonies in Africa and to East Timor, in Southeast Asia.

Portugal initially planned to send 1 million shots to the former colonies but announced last weekend it is increasing that to 3 million.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó offered the vaccines to Portuguese authorities at an official ceremony at a Portuguese Air Force base in Lisbon on Tuesday.

Hungary has a vaccine surplus after also purchasing COVID-19 vaccines from outside the European Union’s common procurement program, including China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V.

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

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