WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she doesn’t want to use lockdowns in the future and sees vaccinations as the “golden ticket” to navigating the pandemic.
Her remarks came as Auckland remained in a sixth week of lockdown following an outbreak of the coronavirus’ delta variant.
New Zealand has taken an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus and is trying to completely eliminate the outbreak in its largest city through drastic measures, at least until vaccination rates improve. Fifteen more local transmissions were reported Thursday.
Ardern says she sees a hopeful path in using vaccinations coupled with public health measures to prevent widespread hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. About 62% of New Zealanders have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Biden doubling vaccine purchase, calls for more global shots
— CDC panel considers who needs booster shots
— United Airlines says 97% of US-based workers fully vaccinated
— COVID-19 creates dire US shortage of teachers, school staff
— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SYDNEY — The Australian state of Victoria is reporting its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began as an outbreak in the city of Melbourne continues to grow.
Police in Melbourne are preparing for more protests against the pandemic lockdown, although the situation remains relatively calm Thursday afternoon.
Victoria reported a record 766 cases as well as four deaths from COVID-19.
The city of Sydney in New South Wales state is also dealing with a large outbreak. Officials report more than 1,000 new daily cases in the state and six COVID-19 deaths.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews says the state will ease lockdown rules by the end of the month, to allow people to return from Sydney and quarantine at home if they are fully vaccinated.
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan has recorded more than 1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic.
Officials said Wednesday that the state crossed that threshold by reporting 6,079 new cases over the last two days. There have been at least 20,781 deaths in Michigan linked to COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the virus.
The state health department says nearly 58% of eligible Michigan residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, meanwhile, tells The Detroit News that he worries another “major wave” of cases is coming this fall. He adds that because of staff shortages at hospitals, “I think we’re going to have a major problem in Michigan in the next couple of months.”
BOISE, Idaho — A lawyer has told an Idaho legislative committee the state should adopt a health policy making vaccine status a private medical record that employees could refuse to make available to employers as a way to thwart President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.
Attorney Christ Troupis told the legislature’s Committee on Federalism on Wednesday that such a policy would insulate employers from potential federal penalties involving coronavirus vaccine mandates.
The committee is looking for potential legislation that could draw enough support among lawmakers to reconvene the legislature before it meets for its regular session in January.
The committee that deals with state sovereignty issues took no action, but plans to meet again Tuesday.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s coronavirus vaccination figures have been adjusted sharply lower after officials discovered that numbers from a federal contractor had been double counted.
Authorities said Wednesday the revision shows that 63.7% of state residents over age 12 have received at least one dose of vaccine, rather than 74.3% as previously reported. The state’s figures kept the percentage of those 12 and older who are fully vaccinated at 60.1%.
An official says the state discovered a problem with contractor data from the CDC that had led the state to double count vaccination numbers since early in May. A CDC spokesman says the agency is working with the state to address the problem.
Gov. Jim Justice says the state now needs to find even more people who haven’t received their first dose of vaccine.
HOLLAND, Mich. — A western Michigan restaurant opened before sunrise Wednesday as the owner welcomed diners for the first time since she spent four nights in jail for ignoring pandemic orders.
Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland had been closed in March, but Marlena Pavlos-Hackney has recovered her food license.
One of the first customers in said of the owner: “She’s a hero.”
Pavlos-Hackney allowed indoor dining last winter despite state and local prohibitions. She also ignored other rules aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus. She said her customers’ health was up to them.
Pavlos-Hackney is appealing a $15,000 fine that had to be paid before she could leave jail. She said Wednesday that “it feels so good to see all my people, their smiling faces.”
HONOLULU — A judge in Hawaii has issued an arrest warrant for an Illinois woman after she failed to appear Wednesday for a virtual court hearing over her arrest for an alleged fake coronavirus vaccination card that misspelled Moderna as “Maderna.”
The 24-year-old woman was released without bail earlier this month charged with two misdemeanor counts of violating Hawaii’s emergency rules to control the spread of the virus.
Authorities say in court documents that in order to bypass Hawaii’s 10-day traveler quarantine, she uploaded a vaccination card with the glaring spelling error to the state’s Safe Travels program and arrived in Honolulu on Aug. 23.
It’s not clear if she has hired an attorney. The woman hung up on an Associated Press reporter who asked her to comment on the allegations Wednesday.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A day after assuming his job, Florida’s newly appointed surgeon general has signed new rules allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The guidelines signed Wednesday by Dr. Joseph Ladapo eliminate previous rules requiring students to quarantine for at least four days off campus if they have been exposed. Under the new rules, students who have been exposed can continue going to campus, “without restrictions or disparate treatment,” provided they are asymptomatic. They can also quarantine, but no longer than seven days, provided they do not get sick.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said said that “quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement.”
The CDC says people who get infected can spread the virus starting from two days before they have any symptoms. The CDC recommends a student should quarantine for 14 days if they are unvaccinated.
HELENA, Mont. — Gov. Greg Gianforte said he will deploy Montana National Guard soldiers to help overburdened hospital staff in Great Falls.
Wednesday’s announcement comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations near 400 and a southwestern Montana hospital reports crisis standards of care are imminent. Gianforte announced the upcoming deployment of 20 Guard members to Benefis Health System, starting next weekend.
On Tuesday, the governor announced 70 Guard members were being sent to fulfill requests for additional help at six hospitals. Under the current requests, Montana will have 107 Guard members assisting with the state’s COVID-19 response. Montana hospitals are reporting 395 patients with COVID-19. The governor’s office anticipates more requests for Guard assistance.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that masks will be required inside temples to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Church leaders said Wednesday that masks will be required temporarily in an effort to keep temples open. The message was the latest in a series of statements from church leaders encouraging masking and vaccination efforts against COVID-19.
In Utah, where the church is based, a summer surge of the virus among unvaccinated residents has continued to grow while vaccination rates have slightly increased. About 64% of Utah residents ages 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday.
SAN FRANCISCO — Schools have welcomed students back to classrooms but face a new challenge: A shortage of teachers and staff the likes of which some district officials say they’ve never seen.
Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, but the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem. One school official in California calls it “the most acute shortage of labor” he’s ever seen.
Similar scenarios are playing out across the country as schools cope with a spike in retirements and a need to hire more teachers, counselors, tutors and aides to help children make up for learning losses.
The lack of teachers is “really a nationwide issue and definitely a statewide issue,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of California’s State Board of Education.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana reported its 16th child death from COVID-19 on Wednesday.
The state health department says the victim was between the ages of 12 and 17. No other details were released. It was the seventh pediatric death from the disease since July. Another child’s death was reported five days ago.
The state reported a total of 99 new COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday.
The latest hospitalization figure was 1,221, much higher than the spring and early summer, but down from a peak of more than 3,000 in August.
CHICAGO — United Airlines officials say 97% of its U.S. employees are fully vaccinated.
There’s less than a week to go before United employees face a deadline to get the shots or get fired. The Chicago-based airline with 67,000 U.S. employees is among a group of companies that announced they would require vaccinations.
The airline says a small number of employees are seeking a medical or religious exemption from vaccination. Employees who get an exemption will be placed on leave starting Oct. 2 and could eventually come back. However, they might have to wear a mask and undergo weekly testing for the coronavirus.
The airline said last month that up to 90% of pilots and nearly 80% of flight attendants were vaccinated. It didn’t give a companywide figure at the time.
United Airlines workers who apply unsuccessfully for an exemption will have five weeks after their denial to get vaccinated.
CHICAGO — The Rev. Jesse Jackson is headed home a month after he was hospitalized for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection and following intensive physical therapy for Parkinson’s disease.
A spokeswoman for Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition confirmed Wednesday the civil rights leader left a downtown Chicago facility.
He and his wife, Jacqueline, were first hospitalized a month ago for COVID-19. While Jesse Jackson was vaccinated, his wife was not because of what he described as a pre-existing condition. She required oxygen and was briefly in the intensive care unit before being released earlier this month.
After about a one-week hospital stay, 79-year-old Jesse Jackson was transferred to a physical therapy hospital. He disclosed a Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2017.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported more than 70 COVID-19 deaths for the second consecutive day and the fifth time this month.
There were 2,106 coronavirus cases and 74 confirmed deaths on Wednesday. The COVID-19 hospitalizations remained below 2,000 for the fifth straight day, with 1,897 coronavirus patients occupying hospital beds on Tuesday.
While the pace of additional cases has dropped during the past two weeks, the rate of deaths rose, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rose from 38 on Sept. 6 to 40 on Monday. The rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 3,267 to 2,467 during the same period.
Arizona’s pandemic totals have reached 1.07 million cases and 19,658 confirmed deaths.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the U.S. is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world. The U.S. purchase of another 500 million shots brings the total U.S. vaccination commitment to more than 1.1 billion doses through 2022.
At a virtual “vaccine summit” on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Biden also embraced a goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year. Biden encouraged well-off nations to do more to get the coronavirus under control around the world.
“We need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges,” Biden said, adding wealthy countries should commit to donating, rather than selling the shots to poorer nations “with no political strings attached.”
World leaders, aid groups and global health organizations are growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to shots.
About 160 million shots supplied by the U.S. have already been distributed to more than 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world combined. The remaining American doses will be distributed over the coming year.
“To beat the pandemic here, we need to beat it everywhere,” Biden said. “For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world.”
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