SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s daily increase in coronavirus infections exceeded 2,000 for the second straight day as officials extended the highest level of social distancing restrictions short of a lockdown in large population centers.
The 2,052 new cases reported on Friday marked the 45th consecutive day of over 1,000 and brought the country’s caseload to 232,859, including 2,197 deaths.
The viral spread, driven by increased travel and the highly contagious delta variant, is a worrisome development in a country where a slow vaccine rollout has left more than half of the population still waiting for a first shot.
More than 1,300 of the new cases came from capital Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan region, where officials on Friday decided to enforce the strongest Level 4 social distancing rules for at least another two weeks. The rules prohibit private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. and force nightclubs and churches to close.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— U.S. schools open amid record coronavirus delta wave
— Maine Sen. Angus King tests positive for virus
— Africa WHO official knocks nations that ‘hoard’ vaccines
— 4 of Florida’s 5 largest school districts to require masks
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SYDNEY — Sydney’s lockdown was extended throughout September on Friday and tougher pandemic restrictions were imposed, including a curfew and compulsory mask wearing outdoors.
New South Wales state reported 642 locally acquired COVID-19 infections in the latest 24-hour period, the fourth consecutive day of tallies exceeding 600.
Australia’s largest city has been locked down since June 26, 10 days after the delta variant was first detected in an unvaccinated limousine driver who became infected while transporting a U.S. cargo aircrew from Sydney Airport.
Since then, 65 people have died from coronavirus in New South Wales, included four overnight.
The Sydney lockdown was to end on Aug. 28, but the state government announced it will continue until Sept. 30.
A curfew will apply from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday in the worst-effected Sydney suburbs.
Mask wearing will become compulsory across the state will outside homes. Masks haven’t been compulsory in all circumstances outdoors
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s first virus outbreak in six months has spread from the largest city of Auckland to the capital, Wellington.
Health authorities said Friday that three people in Wellington who recently visited Auckland had tested positive. They said the outbreak had grown to 31 cases, and that some patients were being diverted from an Auckland hospital after one patient may have unknowingly been infectious while being treated.
The government on Tuesday hurriedly put the entire nation into a strict lockdown after the first community case was found in Auckland. Genome testing has linked the outbreak to an infected traveler who returned from Sydney earlier this month and was quarantined, although health authorities say they don’t yet know how the virus escaped quarantine.
New Zealand is continuing to pursue an elimination strategy aimed at wiping out the virus entirely.
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court has declined to block restraining orders against Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban.
The justices remanded Attorney General Ken Paxton’s appeal to the 3rd Texas Court of Appeal in Austin for a hearing. The court did not issue an opinion for its Thursday decision.
The move comes the same day as the Texas Education Agency dropped, for now, enforcement in the state’s public school systems of Abbott’s mask mandate ban.
In a public health guidance letter issued Thursday, the TEA said enforcement was being dropped because of ongoing court challenges to the ban.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — More than 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccination cards have been confiscated at cargo freight facilities at the Anchorage airport as they were being shipped from China.
Officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized the cards in the last week as they arrived in small packages.
An agency spokesperson said there were between 135 to 150 packages found in Anchorage, all sent by the same person in China. Each package contained a small number of the fake cards, between 20 to 90 cards.
A high volume of counterfeit vaccination cards have been detected nationwide.
Another 3,600 fake cards were found recently at cargo facilities in Memphis. Federal law enforcement officers are investigating.
HONOLULU — Organizers of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii said Thursday this year’s contest will be postponed to February because of increasing COVID-19 cases in the state.
On Thursday, the state’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases hit 713, up 56% from two weeks ago.
A statement on the group’s website said COVID-19 in Hawaii is worse now than it has been at any point during the pandemic. The race had been scheduled for Oct. 9.
The Ironman competition is considered one of the most important Ironman triathlon events. Participants swim 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers), ride bikes for 112 miles (180.3 kilometers) and then run a marathon, which goes for 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers).
Organizers rescheduled the contest last year too, only to later cancel it completely because of ongoing coronavirus concerns and the risks of international travel. It was the first time in the triathlon’s four decade history that the event wasn’t held.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says all teachers, educators, support staff and volunteers in K-12 schools must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The announcement was made Thursday amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the state and as hospitals near capacity.
Teachers are the latest to be added to the growing statewide vaccine mandate, which also includes health care workers and state employees. They must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever is later.
“There are those who will disagree with the actions I’m taking today,” Brown, a Democrat, said during Thursday’s press conference. “But school is starting across the state and COVID-19 poses a threat to our kids. Our kids need to be protected and they need to be in school. And that’s why I’m willing to take the heat for this decision.”
In addition, Brown announced weekly testing for health care workers will no longer be an option for those who want to avoid vaccination. The only opt-out of the requirement is either a medical or religious exemption.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s Republican governor issued an executive order Thursday banning cities from requiring businesses to enforce local pandemic restrictions.
But what impact, if any, the measure would have on new mask requirements in Atlanta, Savannah and other cities was not clear.
At a news conference, Gov. Brian Kemp said his order will prevent local governments from forcing businesses to be the city’s mask and vaccine police. He said he was concerned about measures in Atlanta and Savannah. Both cities have mask requirements, but it was not immediately clear that either would be affected by the governor’s order.
The order comes amid an explosion in COVID cases in the state.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Officials in some Kansas communities are battling a rise in COVID-19 cases by mandating masks for kids, issuing emergency orders and requiring vaccines.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Kansas has risen over the past two weeks from 605 new cases per day on Aug. 3 to 797 new cases per day on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In the Lawrence area, Douglas County leaders approved a health order Wednesday that will require children ages 2 to 12 to wear masks while in indoor public spaces. The decision followed four hours of public comment that included jeering and interruptions from a largely maskless crowd, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
In the Wichita area, hospital status was changed to critical Wednesday, as about 150 COVID-19 patients fill beds there, The Wichita Eagle reports.
DENVER — Colorado U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper announced Thursday that he has tested positive for a “breakthrough” case of COVID-19.
The first-term Democrat issued a statement saying he tested positive after experiencing mild symptoms and is self-isolating at the direction of the attending physician for the U.S. Congress, Dr. Brian P. Monahan.
Infections and illnesses can happen even after being vaccinated. Experts say vaccination could help make any illnesses less severe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that newer versions of the coronavirus could be a factor in “breakthrough” cases.
Hickenlooper, 69, is a former brewpub entrepreneur, Denver mayor and two-term governor who defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in the 2020 election.
CLAYTON, Mo. — A judge on Thursday issued an order barring St. Louis County from enforcing a mask mandate while a lawsuit against it is litigated.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page issued the mandate last month, prompting the County Council to vote to rescind it. Page maintained that the mask requirement nonetheless remained in effect.
Circuit Judge Ellen “Nellie” Ribaudo then issued a temporary restraining order, finding that the state was likely to prevail in its argument that current law gives the council the authority to terminate the mask requirement. That order was in effect only until a decision was made on a preliminary injunction.
Ribaudo was critical of some who had claimed victory after the temporary injunction was issued.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee hospitals warned Thursday that the intensive care units are full in nearly every hospital in the state’s major metropolitan areas.
The Tennessee Hospital Association said in a statement that the hospitals with full ICUs are the same ones that normally accept transfers of sicker patients from smaller hospitals.
Hospital officials are pleading with Tennesseans to get vaccinated and wear masks.
Meanwhile, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona warned Tennessee in a letter sent Wednesday that Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of mask mandates might violate federal law.
Separately, a Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt School of Medicine report released Thursday found that hospitalizations have increased more than tenfold in a little more than a month, the fastest rate of increase seen during the pandemic.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s top prosecutor on Thursday sued the state’s capital city over a school mask mandate that officials allege violates state law.
The city of Columbia’s school mask order conflicts with a state budget requirement that went into effect July 1 and bans school districts from using appropriated funds to require face coverings, State Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a complaint filed with the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The lawsuit comes as average daily cases of COVID-19 have risen by more than 60% over the last two weeks, with hundreds of students across the state already required to quarantine for exposure to the virus.
Earlier this month, Columbia’s city council ratified an ordinance mandating the use of masks in the city’s elementary and middle schools for at least the beginning of the school year.
The Republican attorney general said days later that the emergency ordinance should be “rescinded or amended,” but city leaders said the mandate doesn’t violate state law because city, not state, funds are being used.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey will require all teachers, school administrators and other staff who have not been vaccinated to produce twice-weekly negative COVID-19 tests once schools reopen and resume in-person classes on Sept. 6, the president said.
Speaking following a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said universities would also demand regular PCR tests from unvaccinated students and teaching staff.
People who have not been vaccinated and want to travel on buses and planes or to go to concerts, theaters and cinemas will also face mandatory COVID-19 testing, Erdogan added.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the tests would be conducted free-of-charge at state-owned hospitals.
RALEIGH, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says unvaccinated students and those who don’t disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status will be required to get tested for the coronavirus twice a week.
In a message to the community, the university says 87% of students have attested they are fully vaccinated. Those who become fully vaccinated and report their status to the university will no longer have to face twice-weekly testing.
The move comes as the state witnesses its worst levels of transmission of the virus in months.
North Carolina on Thursday registered more than 7,000 daily COVID-19 cases, the highest in seven months. More than 3,000 people are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19, the most since Jan. 28.
PHOENIX — A northwestern Arizona school district has banned employees from discussing vaccination status or mask- wearing with students.
The Mohave Daily News reports the governing board for the Colorado River Union High School District made the decision this week. The edict carries no repercussions for administrators, staff and teachers who violate it. That will be up to the district’s superintendent, who supported the motion.
The school board’s gag rule is rare. Vaccines and masks remain contentious topics across Arizona as students return to school.
On Thursday, the state reported 3,546 confirmed coronavirus cases and four more deaths.
The Associated Press
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More than half of Manitoba's 64 new COVID-19 cases unvaccinated – CTV News Winnipeg
While more than half of Manitoba’s new COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated, the province reported 20 breakthrough infections.
On Thursday, Manitoba public health officials reported 64 new COVID-19 cases – including 36 unvaccinated cases and eight partially vaccinated cases. Twenty of the cases were among people who had been fully vaccinated.
“No vaccine is 100 per cent effective. However, people who are fully vaccinated typically have a better outcome than individuals who are not vaccinated,” a spokesperson told CTV News in an emailed statement.
“Public health continues to recommend that the best defence against COVID-19 is to get immunized.”
As of Thursday, 84 per cent of eligible Manitobans have rolled up their sleeve for at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Seventy-nine per cent of eligible Manitobans are vaccinated with two doses.
The spokesperson said while breakthrough cases can occur, the outcomes are typically not as severe as they are for non-vaccinated individuals. They said fully vaccinated people who get infected typically do not need to go to ICU.
As of Thursday, 62 people in Manitoba are in hospital with COVID-19, including 26 people who have active cases. Of those active cases, 20 are not vaccinated, four are partially vaccinated and two are fully vaccinated.
There are five people in the intensive care unit with active cases of COVID-19, all of whom are unvaccinated.
Data from the province obtained by CTV News shows there have been 728 infections and 16 deaths among the 915,200 people fully immunized in the province.
Of the 986,054 people who have been partially immunized in Manitoba, the data shows there have been 2,215 infections and 45 deaths.
The Southern Health region saw the most cases in the province on Thursday, with 23 new cases reported.
The Northern and Winnipeg health regions both reported 15 new cases. Winnipeg is sitting with a 1.2 per cent five-day test positivity rate.
The Prairie Mountain Health Region reported six new cases and the Interlake-Eastern health region reported five new cases.
The new cases bring Manitoba’s total to 59,526, including 599 active cases and 57,724 recoveries. Seven cases were removed from the total due to data corrections.
The provincial five-day test positivity rate is now 2.5 per cent.
The province also released some details of two deaths that were announced on Wednesday – both of which were linked to variants of concern. The deaths include a woman in her 70s from the Interlake-Eastern health region, linked to the Delta variant, and a man in his 80s from Winnipeg linked to an unspecified variant.
The total number of people who have died with COVID-19 sits at 1,203, including 201 deaths that have been linked to variants of concern.
In total, Manitoba has linked 18,065 cases to variants. 370 variant cases are active, and 17,494 have recovered.
Goodbye Pfizer, hello Comirnaty: top COVID-19 vaccines renamed in Canada – KitchenerToday.com
It’s pronounced koh-MIHR’-nuh-tee. Never heard of it? Well, get used to it. It’s what Canada will be calling the Pfizer vaccine from now on, at least officially.
Health Canada has approved new monikers for Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines and announced the change on social media today.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has now been dubbed Comirnaty, which the company says represents a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity.
The Moderna vaccine will go by SpikeVax and the AstraZeneca vaccine will be named Vaxzevria.
Pfizer and Moderna say the change marks the full approval of the vaccines by Health Canada, which were previously approved under an interim order that was set to expire today.
During the interim order, the vaccines didn’t go by their brand names, but now that new and more long-term data has been submitted and approved they will go by their permanent name.
“Health Canada’s approval of COMIRNATY for individuals ages 12 and older affirms the vaccine’s safety and efficacy shown in longer term data submitted to Health Canada — and hopefully that licensure may improve vaccine confidence among Canadians,” Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou wrote in a statement.
It’s the first time SpikeVax, until now known as the Moderna vaccine, has been fully approved anywhere in the world, Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, said in a press release Thursday.
Health Canada points out the vaccines themselves are not changing — only the names are.
Although the name change has been approved, Canada will still receive vials labelled Pfizier-BioNTech for the next several months.
The FDA approved new names in the United States earlier this summer, and the vaccines have been going by their brand names in the EU since the spring.
Story by Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
How concerning is the latest COVID-19 Mu variant in B.C.? – News 1130
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A new strain of the COVID-19 virus is now in the province, and it is leading to questions around potential risk.
The B.1.621 — or Mu — variant was first discovered in Colombia in January and has been found in more than 40 people in B.C. since June. The World Health Organization has now classified the strain as a “Variant of Interest.”
The case numbers are minimal compared to the highly transmissive Delta variant, which has exploded across the country, leading to more COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
In B.C. alone, nearly all the new cases of COVID-19 are linked to the Delta variant.
Still, there was a time when the impact of that strain was not known, prompting many to worry that the new Mu variant could be just as dangerous as Delta.
Sally Otto, a UBC zoology professor and modelling researcher, says right now, that’s not the case and there is no need to panic.
“Mu hasn’t actually been rising in frequency, it’s been kind of hovering under about two per cent frequency, relative to what we saw with Delta, which was once it got established, [there was] really rapid exponential growth,” Otto said.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to it, we absolutely should keep an eye on it. But it’s not taking off. Right now, Delta is the main player, the main variant that is the most transmissible and the most worrisome in this country,” Otto said.
Dr. Birinder Narang, co-founder of This is Our Shot campaign, agrees. “It is not showing a significant impact in B.C., we need to watch,” he wrote on social media.
9/ #COVID19BC – Variants of Concern
99.5% of cases have been from Delta Variant (unsurprisingly).
Alpha variant has all but disappeared.
Mu is now a variant of interest and there have been 46 cases since June, but it is not showing a significant impact in BC, need to watch. pic.twitter.com/wkUoIrzJNq
— Dr. Birinder Narang MBBS (Hons), CCFP (@DrBirinderSingh) September 16, 2021
The bigger concern than the variant itself, Otto says, is how slow Canada is at sharing data from mapping virus sequences to discover variants of interest present in the population.
A new report found Canada among the worst for sharing data on genome sequencing.
Canada takes three months to present collected data to the global database, compared to the United Kingdom which is able to do it in just two weeks.
The data is then studied by public health officials, scientists, and other experts around the world to examine what variants are present, and how fast they are spreading.
“There could absolutely be more variants. Now to be honest, Canada doesn’t have as much cases as there are globally so the chances are the variant of concern is going to arise somewhere else. But if a variant of concern arises in Canada, we can’t tell.”
She says the delay in information impacts making real-time decisions on public policy surrounding the virus.
This is the type of analysis, providing early warning signals of more transmissible variants, that would be great to conduct with Canadian #COVID19 data! But with a median lag before uploading sequences of ~3 months, the early warning becomes a long-after-the-fact warning. https://t.co/tiVIayGhpy
— Sarah Otto (@sarperotto) September 14, 2021
“We can’t tell within Canada if there are subtypes of the Delta that are spreading faster than others, and that’s something we need to know,” she said about the mutations and which ones to pay attention to.
Otto says the disconnect of information sharing is even happening in Canada between provinces and territories.
“Here in British Columbia we are sequencing almost every single case of COVID to try and identify what exactly the genetic changes are inside the genome of the virus. But unfortunately that is not then being shared globally, and it’s not even being shared across Canada. And that means that scientists like me who aren’t inside the public health office, we can’t use our skills to look for the changes that are happening in these genomes,” she said, adding the last time B.C. updated their data was two months ago.
Despite fears, the BC Centre of Disease Control says the current vaccines protect against all variants of concern, including Delta, and because variants spread more easily, it is even more important for the majority of the population to be vaccinated.
“This helps protect people who cannot get vaccinated, including children under 12,” the BCCDC explained.
With files from Nikitha Martin