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Sunday September 26th, 2021 2:10AM

Latest: Alaska's biggest hospital begins rationing treatment

By The Associated Press
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska’s largest hospital has begun rationing care, saying it has been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

Providence Alaska Medical Center said Tuesday it will prioritize resources and treatment to those patients who have the potential to benefit the most.

Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw is chief of staff at the hospital and says that “we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help,”

Alaska, like other places, has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Providence is one of only three hospitals in Anchorage, a city of 300,000 people. Walkinshaw says Providence’s emergency room is overflowing and patients have to wait for hours in their cars to see a doctor for emergency care.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— COVID-19 cases climbing in U.S., mostly in South among unvaccinated

— Russia's Putin in self-isolation due to coronavirus cases in inner circle

— UK recommends COVID-19 booster shots for those over age 50

— Judge blocks medical worker vaccine mandate in New York state

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported a record daily increase in coronavirus infections in the Seoul region just days before the nation enters its biggest holiday of the year.

Officials said Wednesday that 2,080 new cases were confirmed nationwide, exceeding 2,000 for the eighth time in a span of a month. The 1,663 cases reported in the capital and nearby areas were the most since the start of the pandemic.

Officials are concerned transmissions could worsen nationwide during the Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving that begins this weekend. Millions usually travel across the country to meet relatives.

Health officials are urging residents in the Seoul region not to travel to other areas during the holidays and to avoid relatives who aren’t fully vaccinated. About 40% of a population of more than 51 million was fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.

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SYDNEY — Australia’s New South Wales state has hit a coronavirus vaccination milestone, with 80% of the target population receiving a shot, and the government says a curfew will be lifted in the worst-affected parts of Sydney.

Australia intends to open its borders and no longer resort to lockdowns once 80% of the population aged 16 and older is fully vaccinated.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Wednesday that infection rates have plateaued in the 12 worst-affected local areas in Sydney and the curfew will end for those areas Wednesday night.

Australia’s outbreak of the delta variant began in Sydney in June and New South Wales leads the rest of the country in vaccinating its population.

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UNITED NATIONS -- The new president of the U.N. General Assembly says his top priority is the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and getting every single person in the world vaccinated by the end of 2022.

After taking his oath of office Tuesday, Abdulla Shahid said: “I believe that we can do it, and I call upon leaders of all countries to come together and get this done.”

Shahid says he plans to hold a high-level meeting in early 2022 with government leaders, vaccine producers, the scientific community, civil society, and others to work on closing the gap to vaccine access.

The former foreign minister of the Indian Ocean island nation of The Maldives says that “we cannot accept that only 3% of Africa has yet been immunized.”

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BOISE, Idaho — Public health officials in Idaho say crisis standards of care are imminent for the state’s most populated region as hospitals continue to be overrun with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, says southern Idaho including the Boise metropolitan area could join northern Idaho in rationing health care at any moment.

Last week, the state formally enacted “crisis standards of care” in northern Idaho, giving overwhelmed hospitals permission to direct scarce resources like intensive care unit beds to the patients most likely to survive. At Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, some COVID-19 patients are being treated in a field hospital at a conference center.

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LOS ANGELES — Authorities in Los Angeles say more than 2,600 officers and civilian employees in the police department will seek religious exemptions to vaccination against the coronavirus. An additional 300 want medical exemptions.

The city has mandated municipal employees get vaccinated by Oct. 5 unless they are granted an exemption. But it has not defined how it will judge if a religious belief is sincerely held or what will happen to employees who are not granted an exemption and refuse to be vaccinated.

Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday he “won’t comment on the sincerity level” of people claiming a religious exemption.

The chief says more than 6,500 members of the department have received at least one vaccine dose. Ten police department employees and three spouses of employees have died of COVID-19. Thousands in the department have tested positive for the virus.

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FARGO, N.D. — An executive at the largest health care system in North Dakota says its hospitals in Fargo could use up to 300 additional nurses to handle COVID-19 cases and is bumping up incentives to fill the void.

“We really are in crisis,” said Dr. Doug Griffin, Sanford Health vice president and medical officer in Fargo, which serves a metropolitan area of about 250,000 people in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Hospitals across the region are filling up with both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, Griffin said. Fargo Sanford is about two to three weeks from reaching its peak hospitalization capacity.

Besides nurses, the system is short-staffed in patient services, respiratory therapy and even “people who draw blood,” Griffin said.

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HELENA, Mont. — Seventeen Montana National Guard soldiers have volunteered to keep helping the state with its COVID-19 response.

Gov. Greg Gianforte says 10 soldiers will be assisting Billings Clinic while another seven will help the state lab in Helena.

Over the past 18 months, Montana National Guard members have aided with COVID-19 response at nursing homes and by testing visitors arriving at airports.

Montana reported another 1,249 confirmed cases on Tuesday, with 362 people hospitalized. At least 1,847 residents have died of COVID-19 in the past 18 months, with cases steadily rising since mid-July. The health department reported 47 deaths in the first two weeks of September.

More than 474,000 residents, 51% of the eligible population, are fully vaccinated.

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PHOENIX — Arizona reported 2,609 coronavirus cases and 117 deaths on Tuesday, the most deaths in a single day since February.

Arizona’s daily deaths reports often are larger early in the week due to reporting delays over the weekend, a trend cited by Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott.

The additional deaths reported Tuesday were twice as many were reported the previous Tuesday and four times the state’s latest seven-day rolling daily average, according to Johns Hopkins University.

During the past two weeks, the number of hospitalizations remained above 2,000, with 2,090 COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds on Monday.

Arizona’s pandemic totals have reached 1.05 million confirmed cases and 19,304 confirmed deaths.

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MISSION, Kan. — The number of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have returned to levels reached last winter, potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s argument for sweeping new vaccination requirements.

The U.S. is averaging more than 1,800 COVID-19 deaths and 170,000 new cases per day. That’s still well below the peak of about 3,400 deaths and 250,000 cases per day in January. But it’s frustrating health care leaders, nine months into the nation’s vaccination drive, who are watching hospitals fill up with unvaccinated patients.

The cases, driven by the delta variant and resistance among some Americans to get vaccinated, are concentrated mostly in the South.

While hot spots such as Florida and Louisiana are improving, infection rates are soaring in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, fueled by children back in school, loose mask requirements and low vaccination rates.

“Now in Kentucky, one-third of new cases are under age 18,” says Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency room physician in Lexington. He says some children brought it home from summer camp and spread it to the rest of the family, and “between day care and schools and school activities, and friends getting together, there are just so many exposures.”

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JOHANNESBURG — After uncertainty about whether the coronavirus pandemic would force South Africa to postpone local government elections, the courts have ruled the vote should move ahead.

South Africa’s courts ruled this month the Independent Electoral Commission should hold the polls on Nov. 1, despite concerns about political rallies spreading the disease.

South Africa has recorded 2,640 new infections and 125 deaths in the last 24 hours. The nation accounts for more than 35% of coronavirus infections in Africa, with 2.8 million confirmed cases and 85,002 confirmed deaths.

The elections may see an erosion of support for the ruling party, the African National Congress, which failed to register candidates in about 90 municipalities across the country before the deadline. However, the electoral commission threw the ANC a lifeline by reopening registration for candidates to be councilors in cities across the nation.

More than 7 million people, or 12.5% of the South African population, have been fully vaccinated with either the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, according to Johns Hopkins University. Vaccines are offered to all adults 18 years and older as officials seek to vaccinate at least 40 million of the 60 million population by the end of the year.

However, South Africa is yet to reach its target of 300,000 daily vaccinations.

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LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigerians eventually may get vaccinated at their churches and worship centers on Sundays.

The West African nation’s top health official says the government has introduced “Sunday vaccination” in the second phase of its vaccine rollout to ensure members can get the shot.

Faisal Shuaib didn’t say when the measure takes effect or whether it has started in mosques. His meeting on Tuesday with Christian leaders across the country is the latest measure Nigeria has introduced to drive full vaccination rates to at least 1% of its population of more than 200 million people.

Africa’s most populous country has only vaccinated 5.7 million people, according to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. Only 1.7 million have received their second shot. The average daily cases has decreased to about 550 in the last two weeks.

Government tallies indicate more people are turning up at vaccination centers nationwide. Authorities have said Nigeria expects at least 52 million doses of vaccines by the second quarter of 2022.

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HONOLULU -- Hawaii’s governor says the state’s high COVID-19 vaccination rate means there will not be another full-scale shutdown.

Gov. David Ige tells the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that doesn’t mean there won’t be more restrictions put in place if hospitalization rates increase or more people are moved to intensive care units.

Ige says there are signs the recent surge in cases is abating and the rate of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 is stable.

The state’s seven-day average for new cases is 567, a 37% drop from two weeks ago. The number of people hospitalized or in the ICU has slightly dropped as well.

Nearly 77% of Hawaii’s eligible population is fully vaccinated and just over 86% has received at least one shot.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization and partners say they hope to provide Africa with about 30% of the COVID-19 vaccines they need by February, half of the 60% goal African leaders had aimed for by the end of this year.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the vast disparity in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries a “solvable problem.”

He again called for pharmaceutical companies to prioritize the U.N. backed initiative known as COVAX to share vaccines globally. Currently, fewer than 4% of people in Africa have been fully immunized. Most of the 5.7 billion doses administered have gone to about 10 countries.

Most vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna have gone to wealthy countries, many of whom are considering plans to use booster shots. Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of vaccines alliance Gavi, says the COVAX program expects to have 1.4 billion doses ready for delivery by the end of this year, about one quarter fewer than its original goal.

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