The Latest: Australia state easing rules as vaccine goal met

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A motorcyclist rides past a tanker spraying disinfectant in an effort to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus, in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

SYDNEY — Authorities in Australia’s New South Wales state say they will ease pandemic restrictions for vaccinated adults next month even as they are reporting a record 1,029 coronavirus infections and three deaths from COVID-19.

The record reported Thursday surpassed the previous high for a 24-hour period of 919 infections just a day earlier.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the slight easing of restrictions is coming because the state reached 6 million vaccine doses in a population of 8.2 million.

Beginning Sept. 13, families in the highest-risk parts of Sydney will be allowed to leave their homes for an hour of recreation as long as any adults are fully vaccinated. The recreation hour is in addition to the hour people are already allowed out to exercise.

Elsewhere in the state, groups of five will be allowed to congregate as long as all adults are fully vaccinated.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Pfizer seeking FDA OK for COVID-19 vaccine booster dose

— WHO: Coronavirus origin window of opportunity stalled, ‘closing fast’

— New NY governor adds 12,000 deaths to publicized COVID-19 tally

— Treasury Department reports only 11% of rental assistance distributed

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has reported 68 new community cases of the coronavirus, the largest daily increase since April of last year as an outbreak of the delta variant continues to grow.

The government put the nation into a strict lockdown last week as it tries to stamp out the outbreak, which has grown to a total of 277 infections.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday that she is confident the lockdown is working and new cases will soon begin to drop.

Also on Thursday, national carrier Air New Zealand reported an annual loss of 440 million New Zealand dollars, or about $306 million U.S., after revenue dropped nearly 50% due to the pandemic-induced plunge in international travel.

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OLYMPIA, Wash, — Washington state health officials say the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is doubling every 18 to 19 days in the state.

Dr. Umair Shah is the state secretary of health and said Wednesday that the surge driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus has “stressed, stretched and strained” hospital resources across the state,.

One hospital official said hospitals throughout the state are facing their highest levels of occupancy ever, and the impact has been especially hard on regional and rural hospitals where there are no critical care beds left.

According to the state Department of Health, 1,346 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday. There have been more than 488,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in Washington state during the pandemic, and 6,448 deaths related to COVID-19.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee state health commissioner says children now account for more than a third of the state’s COVID-19 cases, a sharp rise from earlier as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.

Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Wednesday that Tennessee had 14,000 pediatric cases in the previous seven days, which she said was 57% more than the previous week. She says such cases now make up 36% of total COVID-19 cases, “when it’s historically been in the 10 to 15 percent range.”

The spike in cases among school-age children has brought calls from some health officials for more forceful protective measures such as mask mandates at schools. Gov. Bill Lee has resisted such suggestions.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has directed state employees to resume working remotely if possible because of the surge in infections from the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Kelly’s announcement Wednesday came after two months of steadily rising numbers of COVID-19 cases that have stressed hospitals. Her directive applies to state agencies under her control. Employees must resume remote work by Sept. 3 and continue at least through Oct. 4.

A memo from Kelly’s administration secretary says any employee who was able to work remotely earlier in the pandemic should do it again. Many state employees spent more than a year working remotely before normal operations resumed in June.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor says the state has set a new high for pandemic-related hospitalizations during its most severe wave yet of coronavirus infections.

Gov. Andy Bashear said Wednesday that 2,074 Kentuckians are hospitalized for COVID-19, which is up from 1,658 a week ago. There were 4,849 new coronavirus cases, the third-highest since the pandemic began.

The governor warns that “our hospitals are overrun.”

Officials say intensive care unit capacity in five of the state’s 10 hospital regions is above 80%.

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Top health officials in New Mexico are warning that the state is about a week away from having to ration medical care as coronavirus infections continue to climb.

The state health secretary said Wednesday the state is tracking along with its worst-case projections when it comes to spread of the virus and hospitalizations for COVID-19. Dr. David Scarse says there was a 20% increase in pandemic patients needing care in just the past day.

Scarse says that the result may be that “we’re going to have to choose who gets care and who doesn’t get care, and we don’t want to get to that point.”

He says the biggest constraint right now is the shortage of health care workers.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Hospitals in the Raleigh region of North Carolina say younger and otherwise healthy adults are increasingly being hospitalized for COVID-19 amid the spread of the coronavirus delta variant.

The chief physician executive for WakeMed Health & Hospitals said Wednesday that the average age of patients it is treating for COVID-19 is almost 20 years younger on average than during the first surge of the pandemic.

The director of Wake County’s EMS agency says it is getting more calls for help than ever before, with daily totals often 33% higher than pre-pandemic levels of about 300 calls.

The chief medical officer at UNC REX Healthcare says the hospita’s ICU capacity is now full.

The more than 3,500 patients currently in North Carolina hospitals due to COVID-19 is the highest since Jan. 21.

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RENO, Nev. — Nevada officials say the coronavirus positivity test rate is continuing a two-week decline statewide but has reached its highest level since December in northern Washoe County, where new daily cases and deaths continue to rise.

Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick says 30 new deaths have been reported so far in August in the Reno-Sparks area, compared to five each in the months of June and July.

The country’s positivity rate stood at 18.9% Wednesday, the highest since 20% on Dec. 20.

Statewide, the 14-day average for the positivity rate is at 14.1%, down from 16.4% on Aug. 13 after a steep climb from as low as 3.3% in early June. Statewide, Nevada’s positivity rate peaked Jan. 15 at 21% after a steady climb from 6.1% on Sept. 24.

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NEW YORK — A study from Israel says COVID-19 carries a far higher risk of heart inflammation than Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

Researchers in Tel Aviv estimate there were three cases for every 100,000 people vaccinated with the Pfizer shot. But risk of it was 11 per 100,000 in people who were infected with the virus.

The finding were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Grace Lee is an infectious disease expert at Stanford University and says the paper is the first to assess the potential risks of vaccination “in the context of understanding the potential benefits of vaccination.”

Previous reports have linked the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to inflammation of the heart muscle. The problem was mainly seen in male teens and young men, who developed chest pain a few days after vaccination.

U.S. health officials say they have confirmed about 800 vaccine-associated cases total of two types of inflammation — in the heart muscle and in the lining of the heart.

The Clalit Research Institute researchers looked at hundreds of thousands of people who were vaccinated and not vaccinated. Separately, they looked at unvaccinated people who were infected or not.

Since two different groups of people were studied, the researchers were limited in making comparisons. The study focused only on the Pfizer vaccine, and it did not provide breakdown of results by age or sex.

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HONOLULU — The state of Hawaii says 88% of executive branch employees are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and 92% are expected to be within the next month.

The state released the data after Gov. David Ige this month began requiring state employees to either show proof of vaccination or get tested every week.

The data cover 14,000 employees. The figures exclude workers at the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii.

The state Department of Human Resources Development says of its 87 employees applied for exemptions from the vaccination or testing requirement. Eleven workers were placed on leave without pay because they didn’t comply with the requirement.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi health officials said Wednesday that a child younger than 5 has died from COVID-19.

Dr. Paul Byers, the state epidemiologist, said it was the sixth pediatric death from the virus in Mississippi since the pandemic began. He said the Health Department would not provide any identifying information, including where the child lived.

State Health Department spokeswoman Liz Sharlot also said Wednesday that law enforcement officers are investigating threats against the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs. He has been imploring people for months to get vaccinated, but Mississippi still has among the lowest vaccination rates in the United States.

Dobbs wrote Tuesday on Twitter that he has received threatening phone calls from people promoting false “conspiracy theories” about his family.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon will deploy “crisis teams” of hundreds of nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics and nursing assistants to regions of the state hardest hit by a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations that have stretched hospitals to the limit.

Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday that up to 500 health care providers from a medial staffing company will head to central and southern Oregon, as well as 60 additional nurses under a different contract provider.

State health officials say COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 990% in Oregon since July 9.

The personnel will head to Bend, Redmond, Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass and Roseburg and can move around the state as conditions require.

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CHICAGO — Chicago officials say all city employees must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by mid-October.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the rule Wednesday, saying employees will have to submit proof of vaccination via an online portal by Oct. 15.

The city has already required employees in public schools, including teachers and principals, to be vaccinated by the same deadline. City officials say employees can apply for a religious or medical exemption, which will be individually reviewed.

Lightfoot says getting vaccinated is the best way to make it possible to recover from the pandemic.

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NEW ORLEANS — A child under age 1 is among the latest reported COVID-19 deaths in Louisiana.

The state health department didn’t provide the child’s exact age or where the death occurred. The child’s death was one of 110 in the Wednesday report, which said 85 of the deaths were listed as “confirmed” COVID-19 deaths and 25 as “probable.”

“We last reported a COVID death in a child 6 months ago,” the health department said on Twitter. “In total, 11 children younger than 18 have died from COVID in Louisiana.”

The department reported more than 6,619 confirmed and probable cases on Wednesday. Statewide hospitalizations dropped by 12 to 2,844.

The disease is blamed for more than 12,000 confirmed deaths in Louisiana.

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s top education official is urging everyone headed into school buildings to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks.

Jill Underly says those steps will help ensure schools don’t have to shut down amid a spike in new cases. The state superintendent of schools wrote an editorial Wednesday urging a united front against the virus. She noted the situation was different from last year thanks to the availability of vaccines.

Many schools in Wisconsin didn’t open in-person learning in the fall of 2020, taking a hybrid approach for at least part of the year.

Wisconsin’s two largest districts, Milwaukee and Madison, were both looking into a vaccine mandate for teachers, something Democratic Gov. Tony Evers says he supports. Evers is a former teacher, school administration and state superintendent for education.

A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicates a majority support nationwide for mask and vaccine requirements in schools.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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