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Sunday September 26th, 2021 3:14AM

The Latest: Court reinstates Fla ban on school mask mandates

By The Associated Press
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The on-again, off-again ban imposed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to prevent mandated masks for Florida school students is back in force.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Friday a Tallahassee judge shouldn’t have lifted an automatic stay two days ago that halted enforcement of the mask mandate ban. The upshot is the state can resume its efforts to impose financial penalties on the 13 Florida school boards currently defying the mask ban.

The U.S. Department of Education has begun a grant program for school districts that lose money for implementing mandatory masks and other coronavirus safety measures.

DeSantis has argued the new Parents Bill of Rights law gives parents the authority to determine whether their children should wear a mask to school. School districts with mandatory mask rules allow an opt-out only for medical reasons, not parental discretion.

Charles Gallagher, attorney for parents challenging the DeSantis ban, says in a tweet, “students, parents and teachers are back in harm’s way.” ___

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Court: DeSantis ban on school mask mandates back in force

— President Biden: GOP governors ‘cavalier’ for resisting vaccine rules

— South Africa vaccinates some kids in test of Chinese vaccine

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

___

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

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SALT LAKE CITY — Thirteen Utah hospitals will postpone many non-emergency surgeries starting next week, citing health care workers overwhelmed by surging coronavirus cases.

Intermountain Healthcare announced Friday the hospitals will postpone non-urgent procedures for several weeks starting Sept. 15. The announcement comes a week after state hospital leaders made emotional pleas for vaccinations and universal masking to prevent the state’s ongoing virus surge fueled by the delta variant.

There were 516 people hospitalized for COVID-19 and ICUs were 93% full in Utah on Thursday, according to state data. That’s nearing its previous peak in December when ICUs were 104% full and 606 people were hospitalized.

About 62% of Utah residents age 12 and older were fully vaccinated. Utah reported 10 deaths on Thursday, bringing the confirmed total to 2,703.

___

JACKSON, Miss. — Doctors who spread misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine could have their license to practice medicine suspended or completely revoked, according to a new policy adopted by the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure.

The policy, adopted on Sept. 7, says doctors have an “ethical and professional responsibility” to practice medicine in the best interest of their patients and share factual and scientifically grounded information with them.

“Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk,” the policy reads.

Mississippi ranks among the lowest in the country with just 38% of its 3 million residents fully vaccinated. The department of health reported 1,892 confirmed cases and 35 deaths on Friday.

Mississippi has registered at least 460,000 cases and 8,905 confirmed deaths.

___

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is calling some Republican governors “cavalier” for resisting new federal vaccine requirements he hopes will contain the surging delta variant.

Biden visited Brookland Middle School on Friday, just a short drive from the White House. He was making the case for new federal rules that could impact 100 million Americans.

All employers with more than 100 workers must be vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus, affecting about 80 million Americans. About 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also must be fully vaccinated.

“I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities,” Biden said during the visit. “This isn’t a game”

Republicans and some union officials say he’s overreaching his authority. Asked about potential legal challenges to the new vaccine requirements, Biden responded, “Have at it.”

___

ATLANTA – Protests from faculty members continue at Georgia’s public universities, although leaders of Georgia’s university system are not backing down from their position that schools can’t require masks or vaccines.

Acting Chancellor Teresa MacCartney says those policies aren’t going to change, noting the system will follow the lead of Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican lawmakers who control the university system’s purse strings.

“We are fulfilling our institutional missions to deliver higher education and services for students in a way that is best for them,” MacCartney said. “Those expectations have been made clear since before the semester started. It should be no surprise. There are consequences for those not following through and doing their jobs.”

The remarks earned a round applause from regents, who were mostly unmasked. They were surrounded by dozens of university presidents and administrators, who were mostly masked.

MacCartney spoke Thursday, the same day faculty groups at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University passed resolutions calling for mask and vaccine mandates.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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