NEW YORK — New York City is asking restaurants, gyms, museums and many other indoor venues to have patrons show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
The new rules are part of the city’s latest campaign to control a pandemic that had crippled the city’s economy. The rapid spread of the delta variant has caused infections and hospitalizations to soar in recent weeks. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes the new rules will persuade more people to get vaccinated.
If not, the mayor says they risk being shut out from much of the city’s amenities, including restaurants, bars, gyms, public performances, museums and other cultural venues.
The new rules went into effect Tuesday, but enforcement won’t begin until Sept. 13. The mayor announced about 100 pop-up vaccination sites and more than 600 canvassers to help in public outreach. New York City averaged 2,000 daily coronavirus cases in the past seven days, up from around 200 in late June.
Leon Ellis, the owner of Chocolate, a restaurant in the Harlem neighborhood, says sacrifices are needed to keep the coronavirus from wreaking more havoc on businesses. He says, whatever the guidelines are, “we will comply.”
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Sources: U.S. to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters at 8 months
— New Zealand to enter lockdown after single virus case found
— Among France’s poorest, once-lagging vaccine rates jump
— U.S. shipping 488,000 vaccine doses to Rwanda
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
CALLAHAN, Fla. — A surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations hitting Florida is scaring some skeptics into rethinking their opposition to the vaccines.
In rural western Nassau County, newspaper columnist Roger West had written that he didn’t trust the federal government and adamantly opposed the coronavirus shots. Then two friends got sick from the virus in mid-July, and another died.
After prayer and pleas from relatives, he got his first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Others are doing the same
State health data shows that nearly 4,400 people got vaccinated in Nassau County in the three-week period ending Aug. 12, enough to increase the county’s total vaccinations by nearly 11%. At the end of July, the county had the highest rate of new infections in Florida.
Some residents who thought the pandemic had all but ended have seen multiple family members infected during the latest wave. One young woman in Callahan, a town of about 1,000 people, saw her fiancé, her mother and her grandmother all die from COVID-19 within a week.
LE BOURGET, France — The poorest region in mainland France has dramatically improved its COVID-19 vaccination rate.
That’s notably thanks to walk-in pop-up centers aimed at reaching people where they live and work. The multicultural, working-class region of Seine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris, initially struggled spreading the word on vaccines.
The region had France’s highest rise in mortality when the coronavirus first hit but now its vaccination rates are above the national average.
Many residents are immigrants who don’t speak French or lack access to regular medical care. More than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.
Manuela Buval, 53, waited for her teenage son, who got his first vaccine shot Friday in a public park in Le Bourget. “Everybody in the neighborhood walks through the park … whether on their way to work or to come play with their children,” she says.
WASHINGTON — The United States this week is shipping the first vaccine doses of the 500 million COVID-19 global sharing commitment it made at the Group of Seven summit in June.
The U.S. is sending 488,370 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Rwanda, of which 188,370 come as the first batch of the half-billion dose order placed by the U.S. to share with lower and moderate-income countries.
The White House says the balance of the doses will come from existing U.S. surplus of shots.
The U.S. has already shared more than 110 million surplus doses this summer. The Pfizer order is expected to make available at least 200 million doses through the end of this year to be donated around the world, with 300 million more delivered in the first half of 2022.
The announcement comes as the U.S. is expected to recommend a third dose of the mRNA vaccines for all ages, approximately 8 months after the second dose, to boost protection against the coronavirus.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s largest school district will likely require students to wear face masks when classrooms open next week, following the recommendation of a task force of medical experts and defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on mandatory face mask rules.
The Miami-Dade County School Board is expected to approve the measure on Wednesday. “My mind is pretty made up on the way to move forward,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.
Students in neighboring Broward County will be wearing masks when they return for the fall semester on Wednesday. People in both districts have been keeping an eye on the Tampa area, where classes started last week. The Hillsborough County School Board, which has not required masks in classrooms, scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday to discuss additional protections against COVID-19.
NEW YORK — Americans cut back on spending last month as a surge in COVID-19 cases kept people away from stores.
Retail sales fell a seasonal adjusted 1.1% in July from the month before, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday. It was a much larger drop than the 0.3% decline Wall Street analysts had expected.
The report is the first glimpse into whether a surge in COVID-19 cases in July has kept people from heading out to shop. According to Tuesday’s report, spending fell at stores that sell clothing, furniture and sporting goods.
The Commerce Department reported even online sales have started to stall, falling 3.1% from the month before. Companies have reported a slowdown after astronomical growth last year as people stayed home and shopped more online during the pandemic.
Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, said online sales grew 13% in its most recent quarter, the company’s smallest quarterly online sales growth in two years.
AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency says it is deciding whether a third dose of coronavirus vaccines will be needed, in light of U.S. regulators considering booster shots.
The EU drug regulator says it’s “engaging with vaccine developers” to coordinate submission of the necessary data and says it is aware numerous European countries are considering giving booster shots to their already immunized populations.
“At this stage, EMA has not yet determined if and when a booster dose for COVID-19 vaccines will be needed,” the agency said in an email. “Further data from companies marketing the vaccines are expected in the coming weeks and EMA will be reviewing the product information on that basis.”
The regulator says it was already working with other European health officials, including national immunization groups “in case booster doses may become necessary.” It said it was waiting to assess real-world effectiveness data from Europe and other regions. Countries, including Israel and France, have recently begun giving third doses to some people whose immunity may have faded.
The World Health Organization has urged rich countries to hold off administering third doses so unvaccinated populations can get immunized.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has officially expanded and extended the nation’s coronavirus state of emergency as government advisers recommend legal changes that would allow penalties for violations.
The measures, approved by a government task force, add seven prefectures to the six areas already under a state of emergency and extend it to Sept. 12.
Ten other prefectures were put under a “quasi-emergency,” bringing about two-thirds of the nation under some form of emergency. Hospitals have been stretched thin and some seriously sick people have been turned away. The government has taken pride in avoiding compulsory measures or a lockdown, but some experts and critics are wondering if voluntary measures are enough.
The emergency measures center around asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and not serve alcohol. Under the latest measures, department stores and shopping malls will be asked to restrict the number of customers to reduce crowding.
Requests remain in place for people to work from home, but some bosses require staff to work in the office. Commuter trains and Tokyo streets remain crowded, although most people wears masks.
Tokyo has been the worst hit, with 4,377 new cases recorded on Tuesday.
PRAGUE — The schools in the Czech Republic will open the school year with a series of testing for the coronavirus.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the schoolchildren will undergo three tests on Sept. 1, which starts the school year, and again on Sept. 6 and Sept. 9.
Those who refuse testing will be required to wear face coverings in classes.
In one of the hardest-hit European countries, the Czech schools were closed most of the last school year. They fully reopened on May 24, just week before the summer break began on July 1.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot.
The goal is to ensure protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country. That’s according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
An announcement was expected as soon as this week, with doses beginning to be administered widely once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves the vaccines. That action is expected for the Pfizer shot in the coming weeks.
Among the first to receive them could be health care workers, nursing home residents and other older Americans, who were some of the first Americans to be vaccinated last December.
Global health officials, including the World Health Organization, have called on wealthier and more-vaccinated countries to hold off on booster shots to ensure the supply of first doses for people in the developing world.
— By Zeke Miller
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has detected its first community transmission of the coronavirus in months, triggering urgent meetings among top lawmakers.
Health officials say the positive case was found in Auckland on Tuesday afternoon and has no known link to outside the country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised a tough approach, including possible lockdowns, for any outbreaks of the delta variant as New Zealand continues to pursue a zero-tolerance approach toward the virus.
The last community outbreak was in February and New Zealand has reported just 26 virus deaths since the start of the pandemic.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong will tighten entry restrictions for travelers arriving from the United States and 14 other countries beginning Friday, increasing the quarantine period to 21 days.
Previously, the 15 countries, which also includes Malaysia, Thailand, France and the Netherlands, were classified as medium risk, and travelers served only seven days of quarantine if they were fully vaccinated.
A resurgence of coronavirus cases in these countries due to the delta variant has led to Hong Kong’s about-face. The change comes after a domestic worker who returned to Hong Kong from the U.S. this month tested positive for the coronavirus despite receiving two shots of vaccine.
SYDNEY — Australia’s most populous state has reported its third-highest daily count of coronavirus infections in the pandemic, and the government leader says the spread of the delta variant in Sydney has not yet peaked.
There were 452 new infections reported in New South Wales on Tuesday, down from 475 on Monday and 466 on Saturday.
An unvaccinated woman in her 70s had died in a Sydney hospital Monday, bringing the death from the outbreak discovered in mid-June to 53.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she expects daily infections counts to remain high. She adds “our challenge is to make sure that we keep vaccination rates up.”
About half New South Wales’s population has had at least one injection of the two-shot Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine. The government wants 80% of the population fully vaccinated before it eases Sydney’s lockdown, which began on June 26.
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama’s intensive care units are near capacity amid the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases.
The head of the Alabama Hospital Association says the state has 1,562 intensive care unit beds and 1,560 patients needing intensive care Monday. Dr. Don Williamson says that “this is the greatest demand on the ICU system we’ve ever had.”
Alabama has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus and the state’s low vaccination rate. Infections and hospitalization numbers are quickly approaching what they were at the winter peak of the pandemic.
Williamson says COVID-19 patients accounted for 48% of Alabama’s ICU patients Monday. He says the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Another local government in South Carolina is joining the state capital in requiring masks in schools despite a state budget proviso that bans districts from doing so without risking funding.
The Richland County Council voted Monday evening to mandate masks for students and for educators who work with children ages 2 through 14 in public and private schools and at day care centers. The ordinance says schools aren’t required to use public funds to provide face coverings.
Columbia’s city government already made masks mandatory for schoolchildren too young to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Columbia’s mayor has said the measure relies on local funds, not state appropriations.
Education groups are pushing for state lawmakers to repeal the state budget provision that went into effect July 1 and prohibits South Carolina educational institutions from using appropriated funds to mandate masks.
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