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Sunday October 17th, 2021 11:51PM

The Latest: Senators want nursing home vaccine rates posted

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON -- Senior Democratic senators are pressing Medicare to make 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 nursing homes on its ‘Care Compare’ website, a familiar site for consumers.

“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. ___

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— South Africa vaccinates some kids in test of Chinese vaccine

— U.S. federal vaccine mandate on companies takes decision off employers

— Key parts of President Biden’s plan to confront delta variant surge

— Los Angeles schools mandate vaccines for 630,000 students

___

— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

Paris — France announced new restrictions for unvaccinated U.S. travelers.

Starting Sunday, unvaccinated travelers from the U.S. who could enter France with only a recent negative coronavirus test must 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 France.

None of these restrictions 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 tourists from the U.S. 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 night clubs, making it the last virus safeguard to fall.

More than 80% of people above the age of 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.

Jens Lundgren, a professor of viral diseases at the Copenhagen University Hospital, said the government would be “quite willing” to reintroduce restrictions if infections spike again.

___

BERLIN — Germany’s standing committee on vaccination is recommending that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The committee said on Friday that after evaluating of 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 told The Telegraph newspaper on Friday that immunity from the vaccine was holding up well — even against the delta variant.

While the elderly and those who are immune-compromised may need boosters, the standard two-dose regimen should protect most people, she says.

Gilbert says the world’s priority should be to get more vaccines to countries with limited supplies.

The comments come as 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.

—-

CAIRO — Egypt’s daily reported cases of coronavirus have surpassed 400 for the first time in months.

The Health Ministry on Friday reported 413 cases and 12 deaths in the past 24 hours. Daily cases have been spiking in recent weeks since the more contagious delta variant was detected in the country in July.

The latest increase is alarming for Egyptian authorities as schools are scheduled to open their doors for face-to-face classes next week.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with 100 million people, has reported 291,585 cases, including 16,836 confirmed deaths from the pandemic. However, the actual numbers are believed to be much higher since health authorities have done limited testing.

—-

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is doubling the fine for people who break the rule requiring masks on planes, trains and other forms of public transit to slow the spread of COVID-19, with President Joe Biden warning Thursday that violators should “be prepared to pay.”

First-time offenders would face a potential fine of $500 to $1,000 and second-time offenders could pay $1,000 to $3,000 under rules that the Transportation Security Administration said will go into effect Friday.

The fine currently starts at $250 and can go up to $1,500 for repeat offenders.

“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Biden said as he announced the increase during a speech outlining federal vaccine requirements.

___

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka is extending a lockdown for another week as it struggles against a coronavirus surge.

The COVID-19 committee chaired by President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa decided Friday to extend the lockdown that was to end Monday until Sept. 21, presidential spokesman Kingsly Rathnayaka said.

The lockdown was first imposed on Aug. 20. During that period, the government has allowed export-related factories to operate and for agriculture work to be done, in addition to essential services such as health, food distribution, communication and power.

Doctors and trade unions have warned that hospitals and morgues have reached their maximum capacities during the ongoing surge caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Sri Lanka has confirmed 474,870 cases and 10,689 deaths from the pandemic.

___

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says starting next week, the state’s indoor mask mandate will be expanded to include outdoor events with 500 or more attendees, regardless of vaccination status.

The new requirement — which takes effect Monday — comes days after a similar outdoor mask mandates took effect in the state’s two most populous counties, King and Pierce, due to rising coronavirus cases.

An indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status, has been in place in Washington since Aug. 23. Last month, Oregon was the first state to reinstitute a statewide mask requirement for outdoor public areas where people are close together.

___

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