By The Associated Press
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Hospitals in Iowa’s second-largest city are limiting elective procedures because of increased numbers of patients driven partly by a surge in COVID-19 admissions.
The Cedar Falls Gazette reports that both UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Medical Center confirmed Friday their facilities are preserving capacity because of high patient counts in recent weeks. Cedar Rapids hospitals had not delayed or postponed elective surgeries and procedures since last fall.
St. Luke’s is limiting surgeries that require a hospital stay to 10 per day.
Mercy officials confirmed that it also is temporarily reducing the number of elective procedures that require hospital stays after surgery.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Tale of two clinics: Lines in Kenya, few takers in Atlanta
— Crowded U.S. football stadiums create combustible mix this fall
— China pledges 3 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam
— Coronavirus infects several gorillas at Atlanta zoo
— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
OMAHA, Neb. — Four students are suing Creighton University over its requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to remain enrolled.
They argue that some of them feel pushed to violate their religious beliefs against abortion. The lawsuit filed this week in Douglas County District Court also alleges that some of the four students have medical conditions that make vaccines not recommended for them.
The Catholic university in Omaha mandated that all students get vaccinated in August.
The lawsuit says the students object because vaccines were developed or tested using cells from aborted fetuses.
The Vatican has declared that such vaccines are morally acceptable when others aren’t available. The university declined comment.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Most Wyandotte County residents will be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces into mid-November, and Kansas aviation companies are set to receive nearly $104 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
The mask requirement applies in Kansas City, Kansas, and to residents aged 5 and older, in businesses and houses of worship. Wyandotte County imposed the mandate in August, and it is now set to remain in place through Nov. 18. The county commission voted this past week to extend the mandate by two months.
The Wichita Eagle reports that 31 companies will receive federal relief funds to keep a total of nearly 4,300 jobs.
LOWVILLE, N.Y. — An upstate New York hospital will stop delivering babies later this month, in part because of employee resignations over a requirement they be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Six maternity staff members resigned from Lewis County General Hospital during the past week, worsening an existing staff shortage, the Watertown Daily Times reported. The department has seven other unvaccinated employees who also could decide to leave, hospital officials said.
“The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital,” Chief Executive Gerald Cayer said at a news conference Friday. “It is my hope that the (state) Department of Health will work with us in pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department.”
Services also may have to be curtailed in five other departments if staff members resign rather than be vaccinated by the state’s Sept. 27 deadline for health care workers, authorities said.
Cayer said 30 people have resigned since the vaccine mandate was announced last month, most of whom held clinical positions like nurses, therapists and technicians. Thirty others have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, he said.
“Essential health services are not at risk because of the mandate,” Cayer said. “The mandate ensures we will have a healthy workforce and we are not responsible for (causing COVID-19) transmission in or out of our facilities.”
GARFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A prosecutor has filed criminal complaints against two northern Michigan men in connection with an attack on a newspaper reporter covering a meeting by a group opposing masks and vaccination mandates.
Court records show misdemeanor assault or assault and battery complaints were authorized against Michael Adams, 55, of Kingsley, and Joseph Welsh, 51, of Traverse City, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported Saturday.
The charges were authorized Friday by Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg.
Record-Eagle education reporter Brendan Quealy said he was punched in the face Aug. 26 while covering an anti-mask event at a public recreation area just outside Traverse City in Garfield Township. Quealy said an event organizer pointed him out and told him to leave.
A Citizens Liberating Michigan organizer can be heard on an audio recording challenging the reporter’s presence and asking attendees to stand in front of him, according to the newspaper.
Quealy told investigators he was attacked when he refused to leave.
The Associated Press was unable to reach Adams or Welsh on Saturday. The AP left messages seeking comment from an attorney listed as representing Adams.
ISTANBUL — Thousands of people protested in Istanbul against COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday.
Unmasked crowds gathered in Maltepe, an open space on the city’s Asian side. A woman in the crowd held a placard that read: “we are born free and we want to live free.”
Turkey’s mask mandate outdoors and in public places remains in place after reopening in July after a lockdown. The country has seen a rise in cases and deaths since then, with daily infections increasing from around 5,000 to more than 20,000.
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico reported 20 more deaths from the coronavirus, the largest single-day increase since May.
The state also reported 885 confirmed cases, the largest one-day increase in a week.
Health care officials have expressed concern about New Mexico’s hospital capacity during the current coronavirus surge.
The state’s pandemic totals increased to nearly 240,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,600 confirmed deaths.
ATLANTA — Atlanta’s zoo says at least 13 western lowland gorillas have tested positive for the coronavirus.
That includes 60-year-old Ozzie, the oldest male gorilla in captivity. Zoo Atlanta says employees noticed the gorillas had been coughing, had runny noses and showed changes in appetite.
A veterinary lab at the University of Georgia returned positive tests for the respiratory illness. Zoo Atlanta says it’s waiting on confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Lab in Iowa. The zoo says it I s treating the gorillas at risk of complications with monoclonal antibodies.
Zoo officials say they believe an asymptomatic employee passed on the virus. The employee had been fully vaccinated and was wearing protective equipment.
HANOI, Vietnam — China plans to donate 3 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine to Vietnam.
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the pledge Saturday as he wrapped up a two-day visit to Hanoi. The visit comes amid a virus lockdown in Vietnam to contain a coronavirus surge.
About 23 million Vietnamese students started a new school year this week, most in virtual classrooms.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh says the two countries should use dialogue to work out any differences, state broadcaster VTV reported. Vietnam has previously accused China of obstructing its gas exploration activities in the South China Sea.
Wang’s visit comes two weeks after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris travelled to Vietnam to strengthen ties.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations remained above 2,000.
There were 3,355 cases and 36 deaths on Saturday, according to the Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard.
The state reported that 2,085 coronavirus patients occupied hospital beds on Friday, topping 2,000 for nearly two weeks.
Arizona’s pandemic totals increased to 1.04 million cases and 19,183 confirmed deaths.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration is gearing up for another major clash between federal and state rule over its sweeping new vaccine requirements that have Republican governors threatening lawsuits.
While many details about the rules remain unknown, some experts say Biden appears to be on firm legal ground to issue the directive in the name of protecting employee safety.
Republicans swiftly denounced the vaccine mandate that could impact million Americans as government overreach and vowed to sue.
Currently, the highly contagious delta variant is driving 1,500 deaths and 150,000 cases a day. Some 80 million Americans remain unvaccinated.
There are now about 300% more daily infections, two-and-a-half times the hospitalizations and nearly twice the deaths as the same time last year – before vaccines were available.
CHALMETTE, La. — Some of the hardest-hit victims left in deadly Hurricane Ida’s wake are Louisiana residents already devastated by the pandemic. Many impoverished people, especially those of color, already lost livelihoods.
They were on the brink before Ida and don’t know how they’ll rebound. One such woman is Natasha Blunt. She lost her banquet-hall job and faced eviction. She’s suffered strokes. She moved from New Orleans to an apartment a few miles away and was getting settled when Ida hit.
Her home lost power; belongings were destroyed. Now she faces eviction again. She wants to leave Louisiana but doesn’t have the means. Advocates try to help Blunt and others like her but say it’s an uphill battle and systemic change is needed.
INDIANAPOLIS — Health experts say this fall’s crowded college and professional football stadiums could create ripe conditions for COVID-19 to spread among unvaccinated fans.
Many football stadiums aren’t requiring fans to wear masks or be vaccinated. The chances of a fan being exposed will depend on where the stadium is and whether the game is outdoors, among other factors. Experts say the single biggest way to manage the risk before attending a game is to get fully vaccinated.
Most football stadiums hold from 65,000 to 100,000 fans.
“At any sort of large event like at a football stadium, without question there will be many infected people there,” said Ryan Demmer epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
The NFL doesn’t have a blanket policy for masks or vaccination status for fans. That creates a patchwork of guidelines developed by each of the 32 teams. The Las Vegas Raiders requires proof of vaccination for all fans 12 and over. The New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks requires fans show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Wearing masks and using hand sanitizer at the game is also a good idea, said Dr. Sharon Wright, chief infection prevention officer at Beth Israel Lahey Health in Boston.
The highly contagious delta variant has triggered a summer surge in infections. The seven-day rolling average for daily cases in the U.S. sits at about 150,000 after starting September above 167,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Plans for COVID-19 booster shots in some Western countries are highlighting vast disparities in access to vaccines around the world.
Wealthier nations are awash in vaccines, while they are scarce in poorer countries, and many people are still waiting for their first shot.
Just over 3% of people across Africa have been fully vaccinated. Health officials and citizens in Africa often have little idea if vaccines will be available from one day to the next.
In Nairobi, Kenya, several hundred people line up daily outside the city’s largest hospital to wait for a shot. Halfway around the world in Atlanta, a clinic had only one person show up over a six-hour period Wednesday to get vaccinated.
The disparity comes as the U.S. is moving closer to offering booster shots to large segments of the population even as it struggles to persuade Americans to get vaccinated. About 53% of the U.S. population is vaccinated.
Margaret Herro, the Georgia director of relief organization CORE, says the group has seen an uptick in vaccinations at its pop-up sites in recent weeks amid the delta case surge and the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s chief health officer says a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations appears to have stabilized but the state still faces a “real crisis” of an overwhelming number of patients needing intensive care, nearly all of whom aren’t vaccinated.
Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health reports that after threatening to reach an all-time high for coronavirus hospitalizations, state hospitals have seen a slight decline in recent days.
He says he’s thankful that there has been “a little bit of a plateau over the last week. … The numbers aren’t great. But the numbers at least have not continued to go up,” he said.
Still, Harris says, demand for intensive care beds is exceeding the state’s capacity. Patients who normally would be treated in ICU wards are instead in emergency rooms, normal beds or even gurneys left in hallways.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The on-again, off-again ban imposed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to prevent mandated masks for Florida school students is back in force.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Friday that a Tallahassee judge shouldn’t have lifted an automatic stay two days ago that halted enforcement of the mask mandate ban. The upshot is the state can resume its efforts to impose financial penalties on the 13 Florida school boards currently defying the mask ban.
The U.S. Department of Education has begun a grant program for school districts that lose money for implementing mandatory masks and other coronavirus safety measures.
DeSantis has argued the new Parents Bill of Rights law gives parents the authority to determine whether their children should wear a mask to school. School districts with mandatory mask rules allow an opt-out only for medical reasons, not parental discretion.
Charles Gallagher, attorney for parents challenging the DeSantis ban, says in a tweet, “students, parents and teachers are back in harm’s way.”
JACKSON, Miss. — Doctors who spread misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine could have their license to practice medicine suspended or revoked, according to a new policy adopted by the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure.
The policy says doctors have an “ethical and professional responsibility” to practice medicine in the best interest of their patients and share factual and scientifically grounded information with them.
“Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk,” it reads.
Mississippi ranks among the lowest in the country with just 38% of its 3 million residents fully vaccinated. The department of health reported 1,892 confirmed cases and 35 deaths on Friday.
Mississippi has registered at least 460,000 cases and 8,905 confirmed deaths.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is calling some Republican governors “cavalier” for resisting new federal vaccine requirements he hopes will contain the surging delta variant.
Biden visited Brookland Middle School on Friday, just a short drive from the White House. He was making the case for new federal rules that could impact 100 million Americans.
All employers with more than 100 workers must be vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus, affecting about 80 million Americans. About 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also must be fully vaccinated.
“I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities,” Biden said during the visit. “This isn’t a game.”
Some Republicans and some union officials say he’s overreaching his authority. Asked about potential legal challenges to the new vaccine requirements, Biden responded, “Have at it.”
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Author: Associated Press