JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said President Joe Biden’s effort to require millions of U.S. workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is “ill conceived, divisive, and un-American.”
“At a time in which we are called to work together, forced medical procedures run counter to our collective sense of fairness and liberty,” the Republican said in a statement. “My administration is aggressively identifying every tool at our disposal to protect the inherent individual rights of all Alaskans.”
The statement did not describe what that might entail.
Dunleavy has butted heads with the Biden administration on resource development issues. Dunleavy has faced some criticism in Alaska for not mandating masks or for not implementing a new disaster declaration to deal with a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. He has instead asked lawmakers to act on legislation aimed at addressing staffing concerns raised by health care facilities.
In his statement Friday, Dunleavy said that it is “clear from the data and empirical evidence over the last year that the vaccine is the most effective way to fight COVID-19. From what we are seeing in our hospitals, the very ill are mostly those who are unvaccinated.”
“As Governor, and as someone who had COVID and has been vaccinated, I will continue to recommend that Alaskans speak to their healthcare providers and discuss the merits of the vaccine based on their individual healthcare needs,” he said.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Virus claims Black morticians, leaving holes in communities
— Biden presses states to require vaccines for all teachers
— Court: DeSantis ban on school mask mandates back in force
— South Africa vaccinates some kids in test of Chinese vaccine
— Key parts of Biden’s plan to confront delta variant surge
— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Friday that President Joe Biden’s new federal vaccine requirements are “clearly unconstitutional” and that he believes Biden issued the mandate to distract Americans from the fallout over his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.
“This is the same bait and switch,” Reeves said at a press conference outside the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson. Biden “wants us to talk about anything but Afghanistan, and sadly, he’s willing to trample on the rights of 100 million Americans to try to help himself politically. That, to me, is disgusting.”
Reeves said a member of the executive branch of government does not have the authority to mandate workers be vaccinated. “It’s clearly unconstitutional for the president, to unilaterally with one signature, decide something of this magnitude,” he said.
He said he expects the Supreme Court to strike down the requirement and that Mississippi will join other states in filing a lawsuit.
“In essence, what the president saying is… hard-working Americans — many of whom work here and live here in Mississippi — hard-working Mississippians have to choose between either injecting themselves with something and potentially having the ability to earn a living to produce food for their family,” he said. “That’s a ridiculous choice.”
HELENA, Mt. — Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen has promised to fight the new federal vaccine mandate in court.
The Republican said on Friday that once the full guidelines for the mandate are released, he will file a lawsuit to strike it down.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday the vaccine mandate that could affect as many as 100 million Americans, including all workers in businesses with 100 or more employees.
The new mandate appears to conflict with a Montana law passed earlier this year that makes it illegal for private employers to mandate vaccines as a condition for employment. But University of Montana law professor Anthony Johnston says federal law will take precedence over state law if there is a direct conflict.
DETROIT — A major health care provider in southeastern Michigan says 92% of its employees have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by a Friday deadline and another 3% have gotten a first shot.
Under Henry Ford Health System’s policy, employees will be suspended if they don’t get at least one dose by midnight or schedule an appointment. They will lose their jobs if they’re not fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. There are some exceptions.
Henry Ford Health says in a statement: “We remain confident that vaccination, along with masking, remains the most powerful tool we have against the pandemic.”
Separately, a lawsuit challenging the vaccine policy was suddenly dropped Friday ahead of a hearing in federal court.
The Detroit-based health system employs more than 30,000 workers and has five acute care hospitals, four in the Detroit area and one in Jackson. It has treated thousands of COVID-19 patients.
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.
HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. David Ige is requiring government contractors and visitors to state facilities to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
State contractors must attest to their employees’ vaccination status or provide weekly tests for unvaccinated staff. Contractors also must wear masks and maintain physical distance while on state property.
The order also applies to visitors to state facilities, but not to beaches or outdoor state properties. Inmates at correctional facilities, patients at state hospitals and children under 12 or students attending state public or charter schools are exempt, as are travelers arriving at airports.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Ige’s executive order takes effect Monday.
Hawaii has had a recent record surge of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
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.”
SALT LAKE CITY — Thirteen Utah hospitals will postpone many non-emergency surgeries starting next week, citing health care workers overwhelmed by surging coronavirus cases.
Intermountain Healthcare announced Friday that the hospitals will postpone non-urgent procedures for several weeks starting Sept. 15. The announcement comes a week after state hospital leaders made emotional pleas for vaccinations and universal masking to stem a virus surge fueled by the delta variant.
There were 516 people hospitalized for COVID-19 and ICUs were 93% full in Utah on Thursday, according to state data. That’s nearing its previous peak in December when ICUs were 104% full and 606 people were hospitalized.
About 62% of Utah residents age 12 and older have been fully vaccinated. Utah reported 10 deaths on Thursday, bringing the confirmed total to 2,703.
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”
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.”
ATLANTA — Protests from faculty members continue at Georgia’s public universities, although leaders of the state’s university system are not backing down from their position that schools can’t require masks or vaccines.
Acting Chancellor Teresa MacCartney says those policies aren’t going to change, noting the system will follow the lead of Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican lawmakers who control the university system’s purse strings.
“We are fulfilling our institutional missions to deliver higher education and services for students in a way that is best for them,” MacCartney said. “Those expectations have been made clear since before the semester started. It should be no surprise. There are consequences for those not following through and doing their jobs.”
The remarks earned a round applause from regents, who were mostly unmasked. They were surrounded by dozens of university presidents and administrators, who were mostly masked.
MacCartney spoke Thursday, the same day faculty groups at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University passed resolutions calling for mask and vaccine mandates.
WASHINGTON — Senior Democratic senators are pressing Medicare to make information on nursing home COVID-19 vaccination rates easily accessible for consumers.
Although the Biden administration is requiring vaccination for all nursing home staff, Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania say it could take months. They’re asking Medicare to post vaccination rates among residents and staff of individual facilities on its Care Compare website.
“These data reside on entirely separate (government) websites,” the senators wrote Medicare head Chiquita Brooks-LaSure on Friday. “Even if a person could find these websites, the vaccination data for individual facilities are not prominently displayed, creating additional barriers.”
Medicare officials say they’re working on the problem.
The senators cited an Associated Press report on outbreaks attributed to unvaccinated staff. Wyden and Casey chair the Finance and Aging committees, respectively.
PARIS — France has announced new restrictions for U.S. travelers who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Starting Sunday, unvaccinated travelers from the U.S. who previously could enter with only a recent negative test must now show “pressing grounds for travel.”
These grounds also apply broadly to returning French citizens, legal residents, relatives of French citizens, foreign health professionals coming to assist in the fight against COVID-19, transportation and diplomatic workers, and people transiting through the country.
The restrictions do not apply to fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S.
The decision follows the European Union’s recommendation last week that its 27 nations reinstate restrictions on U.S. tourists because of rising coronavirus infections there.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has started vaccinating children and adolescents as part of the global Phase 3 clinical trials of China’s Sinovac Biotech shot for children 6 months to 17 years.
The global study will enroll 2,000 participants in South Africa and 12,000 others in Kenya, the Philippines, Chile and Malaysia. The first children in South Africa were inoculated at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in the capital Pretoria to kick off the trials.
The Sinovac company says others will get shots at six different sites across the country.
South Africa has recorded 6,270 infections and 175 confirmed deaths in the last 24 hours. The 2.8 million total infections account for more than 35% of cases in Africa. The nation has 84,327 confirmed deaths.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark’s high vaccination rate has enabled the Scandinavian country to become one of the first European Union nations to lift all domestic restrictions.
The return to normality has been gradual, but as of Friday, the digital pass — a proof of having been vaccinated — is no longer required when entering nightclubs, the last virus safeguard to fall.
More than 80% of people above age 12 have had the two shots. As of midnight, the Danish government no longer considers COVID-19 “a socially critical disease.”
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said last month that “the epidemic is under control” but warned: “we are not out of the epidemic” and the government will act as needed if necessary.
BERLIN — Germany’s standing committee on vaccination is recommending that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The committee said Friday that after evaluating the available evidence, it is issuing a draft recommendation that women from the second trimester of pregnancy onward and breastfeeding mothers get two doses of an mRNA vaccine.
It also recommended that all those of child-bearing age who haven’t yet been vaccinated get inoculated so they are protected from the coronavirus before any pregnancy.
About two-thirds of Germany’s population has received at least one vaccine dose and 61.9% have been fully vaccinated. The pace of vaccinations has slowed to a crawl recently, and officials are keen to encourage more people to get the shots before the winter.
LONDON — A leading scientist behind the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine says booster shots may be unnecessary for many people.
Oxford University Professor Sarah Gilbert tells The Telegraph newspaper that immunity from the vaccine is holding up well, even against the delta variant.
She says that while older adults and those who are immune-compromised may need boosters, the standard two-dose regimen should protect most people.
Gilbert says the world’s priority should be to get more vaccines to countries with limited supplies.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, a panel of experts that advises the British government, is expected to make recommendations in the coming days on the scale of any booster program.
The Associated Press
Coronavirus cases in Quebec rise by 821 with three new deaths and two more hospitalizations – CTV News Montreal
Quebec reported Saturday that 821 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, bringing the overall number of infections to 402,283.
Of the new infections, 609 people were unvaccinated when they received their positive result, 49 received one dose of vaccine more than two weeks prior, and 163 were double-vaxxed more than a week before the test.
Hospitalizations rose by two bringing the total number of people receiving care in the province’s hospitals to 264. The ministry reports that 36 people checked in for care, and 34 were discharged. Of the 36, 28 were unvaccinated, two received one vaccine dose more than 14 days prior and six got both jabs more than a week before entering the hospital.
There are 89 people in intensive care wards, which is six fewer than on Friday.
Three more people have died due to COVID-19, bringing that total to 11,321 since March 2020.
There are 508 active outbreaks in the province.
Quebec’s vaccination rate remains at 88 per cent for one dose of the eligible population and 82 per cent for both doses.
Spike in COVID-19 cases is pushing New Brunswick's health-care system to the limit – CTV News Atlantic
MONCTON, N.B. —
New Brunswick’s jump in COVID-19 cases has overloaded the health-care system this week.
The Horizon Health Network is now looking to hire more staff across the province to help with the growing demand for testing and vaccinations.
The health network has seen an increased demand in testing as COVID-19 cases have soared over the last month.
“Two weeks ago, if you wanted a test, you could walk in or call and get it at almost anytime you wanted,” said Dr. Jeff Steeves with New Brunswick’s Medical Society.
But now, assessment centres are seeing long line ups and delays in testing.
Steeves wants people to get the jab and practice caution during this time to prevent overloading the system even more.
“Remember, we were running short even before COVID, so we’re trying to maintain that,” Steeves said. “Therefore, we can’t divert the staff like we did before, hence the call for new staff.”
Horizon Health’s vice-president said in a statement Friday that they are currently looking to recruit staff at vaccination clinics, assessment centres and school clinics in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.
“Given the recent rise in COVID activity in New Brunswick, and the increased demand for these services, we are hoping to replenish our pool of available clinicians and administrative support staff as we ramp up activity at these locations,” said Jean Daigle.
Since the province announced proof of vaccination requirements this week, public health has reported a significant jump in vaccination appointments.
On Wednesday, 1,700 appointments were booked, while yesterday there were 1,929.
Health officials say prior to Wednesday’s number, the recent average for vaccinations was 600 bookings per day. On Thursday, 600 additional vaccines had to be delivered to a clinic in Moncton.
“Things have picked up dramatically,” said Fredericton pharmacist Alistair Bursary, who says they’ve been busy taking calls from people looking to get their first or second dose.
“So, whereas we were doing perhaps 10 patients a day on average now we are probably going to hit 40-50 just at our pharmacy alone,” Bursary said.
While the demand for services continue to climb, those working on the frontlines hope to get the help they need sooner rather than later.
Quebec reports 821 COVID-19 cases, three deaths – Winnipeg Free Press
MONTREAL – Quebec reported 821 new COVID-19 cases and three further deaths in its latest data on Saturday, as authorities expanded plans to use rapid tests in elementary schools to more regions of the province.
Health officials said hospitalizations increased by two to 264, while the number of patients in intensive care dropped by six to 89.
The province said about 80 per cent of new infections involve people who were not adequately vaccinated.
Quebec administered 19,662 vaccine doses on Friday and officials said 88 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received a first dose while 82 per cent have gotten both shots.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said in a tweet more than 1,000 of those doses went to health-care workers, with the province remaining firm on a plan to have all sector employees adequately vaccinated Oct. 15 or face reassignment or suspension without pay.
“It’s never too late to get the vaccine, it’s the best way to protect yourself and others,” Dubé wrote on Saturday.
The province conducted more than 32,000 tests on Friday and the positivity rate is 2.4 per cent.
Late Friday, Quebec’s Health Department said rapid testing in elementary schools will now extend to several administrative regions of the province where masking in classrooms is already mandatory.
In a statement, officials said the deployment will take a few weeks and include nearly 1,600 schools.
The provincial government came under criticism from opposition parties and school administrators on the rollout of the testing program.
The province appointed Daniel Paré, head of the vaccination campaign, to co-ordinate the deployment.
The Health Department said schools will have the tests and PPE needed to use the tests, reserved for students who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the day and training and protocols are being set up.
“They are a complementary tool to quickly detect cases and further protect students and school staff and ensure that young people continue to receive their education at school,” the department said.
The tests, which provide a result in 15 minutes, have been used in four neighbourhoods in Montreal and Laval since Monday.
Schools are expected to begin using the tests widely by the end of the month, when training of staff to use the tests is complete.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021.
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