The Latest: S Korea nearly matches its high for new cases

Health
Hollie Maloney

FILE – In this March 2, 2021, file photo, pharmacy technician Hollie Maloney loads a syringe with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine. The U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 2,155 new coronavirus cases, nearly matching a record daily increase set earlier this month amid an alarming spread of infections.

With Wednesday’s report, the country has tallied more than 1,000 new cases for 50 consecutive days, including a record 2,221 on Aug. 11.

The virus has shown no signs of slowing despite officials enforcing strong social distancing restrictions short of a lockdown in Seoul and other large population centers where private social gatherings are banned after 6 p.m.

The Health Ministry is concerned that transmissions could further increase during next month’s Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving when millions of people travel across the country to meet relatives. It is considering measures to reduce travel during the period, such as limiting train occupancy.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Georgia Gov. Kemp ordersNational Guard to overwhelmed hospitals

— US outbreaks force early reversals on in-person learning at schools

— ACLU sues over South Carolina ban on school mask mandates

— Dr. Fauci recommends hospitals, doctors use more antibody treatments

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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:

SYDNEY — Australia’s New South Wales state has recorded another new daily high of 919 coronavirus infections. It also has had two more deaths related to COVID-19.

New South Wales’s previous high for a 24-hour period was 830 infections reported Sunday.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said Wednesday that the health system in Australia’s most populous state is under pressure but is coping.

The COVID-19 death toll has reached 76 in New South Wales since the outbreak of the delta variant was first detected in Sydney on June 16.

Neighboring Victoria, Australia second-most populous state, reported 45 new infections Wednesday.

Both states are locked down.

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BOISE, Idaho — State leaders in Idaho are urging people to volunteer at hospitals to help health workers who are being swamped by a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch says hospitals need help with everything from housekeeping to delivering care, which could be provided by retired health workers.

The director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says volunteer help is badly needed to keep the state’s medical facilities operating.

Dave Jeppesen says that ”their level of capacity is so strained that we are talking about crisis standards of care — we’re dangerously close to that as this point in time.”

As of Friday, the number of coronavirus infections statewide had increased 31% compared to the previous week, and hospital admissions for COVID-19 were up about 30%, according to data from the CDC.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s top health official says he has received threats from people who are spreading lies accusing his family of receiving payments for him urging the public to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Mississippi has seen a rapid increase in cases since early July, driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus and the state’s low vaccination rate. State health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has been imploring people for months to get vaccinated.

On Tuesday, Dobbs wrote on Twitter that he has gotten threatening phone calls from people repeating unfounded “conspiracy theories” involving him and his family.

Dobbs says one lie is that his son, who is also a physician, receives a World Bank-funded kickback whenever Dobbs urges people to get vaccinated. In Dobbs’ words: “I get zero $ from promoting vaccination.”

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A poison control hotline in Alabama is fielding increasing calls about possible poisoning with ivermectin poisoning, an animal de-wormer that doctors are warning people not to try as a home remedy for COVID-19.

The Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama has fielded 24 ivermectin exposure cases so far this year, of which 15 were related to COVID-19 prevention and treatment. It says there have been five other calls seeking information about ivermectin.

By comparison, the center had six total calls involving the de-wormer in 2019 and 12 in 2020.

Federal regulators have approved ivermectin to treat people and animals for some parasitic worms and for head lice and skin conditions, but the drug is not approved for COVID-19. The human and animal formulations are not the same, and doctors say it is dangerous for people to self-dose, particularly with the large quantities given to animals.

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JACKSON, Miss. — More than 1,000 out-of-state medical workers are starting to deploy to 50 Mississippi hospitals to help with staffing shortages as the state deals with a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that 808 nurses, three certified nurse anesthetists, 22 nurse practitioners, 193 respiratory therapists and 20 paramedics have been hired under 60-day contracts that could be extended if needed.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts to four companies of the 19 that submitted proposals when the state sought medical workers earlier this month.

Mississippi will pay $80 million for the contracts, and Reeves says he expects the federal government to reimburse the state for the entire expense.

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DALLAS — Texas hospital systems are increasingly closing off-site emergency rooms and moving their staff to hospitals to help with a flood of COVID-19 cases.

Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston closed three suburban emergency rooms in Kingwood, Spring and Sienna to help ease the burden on its hospital staffs. St. Luke’s Health in Houston closed its Conroe ER to help meet surging admissions at its hospital in nearby The Woodlands.

Texas Health Hospital Rockwall near Dallas has moved the staff at its satellite ER to the hospital’s ER, and it also put up an air-conditioned tent outside to accommodate 10 to 15 overflow patients.

Of the 7,258 ICU beds in Texas hospitals, 6,746 were filled Wednesday. Of those, 3,592 were COVID-19 cases.

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HOUSTON — The National Rifle Association has canceled its annual meeting, which had been set to be held next month in Houston, due to concerns over the pandemic.

The NRA’s meeting had been set for Sept. 3 through Sept. 5 and would have been attended by thousands of people taking part in social gatherings and other events on acres of exhibit space.

The organization said Tuesday it made the decision after analyzing relevant data regarding COVID-19 in Harris County, where Houston is. Houston, like other Texas cities and communities, has seen a jump in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

The NRA says impacts from the virus “could have broader implications” for those attending if the event went forward.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A summer coronavirus surge driven by the delta variant is again straining some California hospitals, particularly in rural areas, but the trend shows signs of moderating and experts predict improvement in coming weeks.

The pattern is similar to the infection spikes California experienced last summer and much more severely over the winter, when intensive care units were overflowing. But this time the surge has come without the shutdown orders that previously hobbled California’s economy, businesses and schools.

The state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said Tuesday that “we’re hopeful, definitely.” Pan says the state’s latest projection “does look encouraging that we are plateauing and or peaking.”

More than 8,200 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 across California, with nearly 2,000 in intensive care. Deaths have begun increasing and state models project nearly 2,000 people will die within the next three weeks.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University will require all students, faculty and staff to complete the full coronavirus vaccination process by Nov. 15.

School President Kristina Johnson said Tuesday that the requirement is based on the decision by the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.

Ohio State is one of the country’s largest universities and a major employer in the state capital, Columbus.

Johnson says the vaccination requirement coupled with Ohio State’s mask mandate provides “the best chance of continuing to enjoy the traditions that we love throughout the academic year with higher vaccination rates in our campus community.”

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O’FALLON, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop school districts from enforcing mask mandates, requirements aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

A spokesman said Tuesday that the lawsuit names Columbia Public Schools along with the district’s Board of Education and board members, but is a class action lawsuit that “would apply to school districts across the state that have a mask mandate for schoolchildren.”

The new school year began Monday in several districts across the state, and with the delta variant causing a big spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, more than four dozen districts are requiring students, teachers and staff to wear face coverings.

The lawsuit cites the low death rate among school aged children.

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SALEM, Ore. — People in Oregon, regardless of vaccination status, will once again be required wear masks in most public outdoor settings — including large outdoor events where physical distancing is not possible — beginning on Friday.

The outdoor mask mandate, which was announced Tuesday by Gov. Kate Brown, is part of a growing list of statewide measures implemented in Oregon in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19. There was already an indoor mask mandate.

Over the past month coronavirus cases, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant, have overwhelmed hospitals in the Pacific Northwest state.

Health officials say part of the reasoning for the new mandate is because they are seeing instances where cases are clustering around outdoor events, such as music festivals.

On Monday there were just 47 adult intensive care unit beds available in the state, with 937 COVID-19 patients hospitalized. Currently more than 90% of the state’s ICU and hospital beds are full.

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MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s mayor has ordered mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for city employees. Mayor Tom Barrett made the announcement Tuesday afternoon. The requirement applies to general city employees as well as temporary employees and interns.

“We have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for all employees, and a vaccinated workforce is part of that,” Barrett, a Democrat, said in a news release.

The mandate will go into effect Sept. 1. Unvaccinated employees will receive up to two hours of paid leave to get vaccinated and will have until Oct. 29 to produce proof of vaccination. Workers who won’t comply will face 30-day unpaid suspensions. Workers who continue to refuse to get the shots will be fired. The city will provide exemptions from the shots based on medical or religious reasons.

The mandate doesn’t apply to unionized city workers. The mayor’s office says the city is negotiating with the unions on how the requirement will apply to members.

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OMAHA, Neb. — The health department for Nebraska’s most populous county has asked the state for approval to issue a countywide mandate requiring people to wear face masks indoors.

If approved, the order would apply not only to businesses, but to schools within the county’s borders, as well.

Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse told the County Board on Tuesday that she had sought the approval for the mask order from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Huse said the order, if approved, would require masking until community transmission drops below the substantial category and until eight weeks past the time a COVID vaccine is approved for children between the ages of 5 and 11.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging hospitals and doctors to make greater use of antibody treatments for people infected with COVID-19 as hospitalizations and deaths rise due to the spread of the delta variant.

Infusions of antibody drugs can keep patients who are experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms from getting so sick they need hospitalization, the government’s top infectious disease specialist said at Tuesday’s White House coronavirus briefing. They also can serve as a preventive treatment for people exposed to someone with a documented infection.

Three antibody products are available under emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and they’re free thanks to taxpayer support. But Fauci says they remain “a much-underutilized intervention.”

However, demand for the drugs increased five-fold last month to nearly 110,000 doses, with the majority going to states with low vaccination rates. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been among the patients treated with antibodies.

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