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Friday October 22nd, 2021 3:23PM

The Latest: Wash. governor seeks military help for hospitals

By The Associated Press
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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state’s governor is asking the federal government to provide military personnel to help in staffing hospitals and long-term care facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter made public Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee says that “in Washington State, our hospitals are currently at or beyond capacity, and we need additional assistance at this time.”

The letter was sent Friday to Jeffrey Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator.

Inslee notes the state Department of Health has requested 1,200 clinical and non-clinical staff and says he is requesting deployment of military medical personnel “to assist with the current hospital crisis.”

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Same goal, different paths: U.S. and E.U. seek maximum vaccine rates

— Florida’s daily coronavirus cases drop from last month

— UN using honor system to check vaccinations for New York meeting

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WASHINGTON — Aiming to pressure wealthy countries to boost their investment in global COVID-19 vaccine sharing, the Open Society Foundations is devoting a new $30.5 million pledge to address inequity in the distribution of the live saving shots.

The funds will support vaccine access and distribution efforts in lower income countries and comes ahead of a virtual COVID-19 vaccination summit on Wednesday to be convened by President Joe Biden on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.

Mark Malloch-Brown, president of the Open Society Foundations, highlighted that well-off nations have fallen behind their global vaccine sharing pledges and are hoarding doses that could be administered immediately in poorer countries.

“Wealthy countries need to stop stockpiling doses, forcing the rest of the world to rely on handouts. Nations with means must do better,’” he said.

The new pledge brings the George Soros-backed nonprofit’s spending on COVID-19 to more than $230 million.

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OMAHA, Neb. — Gov. Pete Ricketts is resurrecting a version of Nebraska’s daily virus reporting dashboard website because the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has continued to rise through the summer.

The state eliminated its daily virus dashboard in June at the same time the last of Ricketts’ emergency orders related to the pandemic were allowed to expire and cases were low. At the end of June, the state was reporting 253 virus cases per week and 28 people were hospitalized statewide.

The state’s decision to stop providing daily COVID-19 updates was widely criticized by health experts who use the data to track the virus’ spread. A group of 11 state senators wrote a letter to Ricketts last month urging him to reinstate the daily virus dashboard.

The state launched a weekly website to report some virus numbers in July but it didn’t offer as much detail and information as the old daily site. As of the state’s most recent update last Wednesday, 415 people were hospitalized with the virus.

Over the past week, the number of people hospitalized with the virus accounted for more than 10% of the state’s available hospital beds, Ricketts said. About 28% of the state’s adult hospital beds and 23% of adult intensive care beds remained available statewide on Monday.

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WOONSOCKET, RHODE ISLAND — CVS Health aims to fill 25,000 openings at its drugstores nationally, as the chain gears up to deliver more COVID-19 vaccines as well as preventive shots for the flu this fall and winter.

The company said Monday that it is looking for full- and part-time pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and nurses for its stores. It also wants to fill temporary positions.

The Woonsocket, Rhode Island, company runs around 9,900 retail locations, including some pharmacies inside Target stores. It employs about 300,000 people.

CVS Health said the hiring campaign will help its stores deliver COVID-19 booster shots and continue to offer shots to those who have not been vaccinated. The company’s stores have administered more than 34 million COVID-19 vaccines so far.

President Joe Biden announced plans last month to deliver booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine to all Americans. But a key government advisory panel recommended last week that extra doses should be used only for those who are age 65 or older or run a high risk of severe disease.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to weigh in soon on the matter.

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WASHINGTON — In a major escalation of the District of Columbia’s COVID-19 virus protocols, Washington DC will require all adults who regularly enter schools or child care facilities to be vaccinated by Nov. 1.

The new rule, announced Monday by Mayor Muriel Bowser, rescinds the previous option that school teachers and staff could remain unvaccinated provided they submit to regular testing. Bowser said in a statement that the new requirement “will add another critical layer to the robust measures we have implemented to reopen our schools and keep our child care centers safe.”

The mayoral order will also require that student athletes age 12 and up must be fully vaccinated in order to participate in school-based athletics.

The abrupt change drew protests from the Washington Teachers’ Union, which said it had not been consulted in advance.

WTU President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons said in a statement that the union “supports the principle of a vaccination mandate,” but seeks a negotiated agreement “for those with legitimate religious or medical exemptions” and an agreement on how to handle staffers who don’t fall under these exemptions but wish to remain unvaccinated.

Pogue Lyons said the union wants to “get clarity and work this out through bargaining immediately.”

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NEW YORK — New York City will begin conducting weekly, random COVID-19 tests of unvaccinated students in the nation’s largest school district in an attempt to more quickly spot outbreaks in classrooms.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement Monday, and said the changes followed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and would keep students from missing vital classroom time.

The changes come after the first full week of the school year in which nearly 900 classrooms, including those in charter schools, were fully or partially closed in the city’s 1,876 schools because of reports positive COVID-19 cases. One school entirely closed for 10 days after a cluster of cases.

Unlike other school districts, New York City is not offering any remote instruction this school year, despite concerns about the highly contagious delta variant’s ability to spread. De Blasio has said children need to be back in school for their mental and physical health and social development.

The new rules take effect on Sept. 27. That day is also the deadline for the city’s public school teachers and staff to get at least their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine under a city-wide schools mandate.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s COVID-19 health advisory body has recommended expanding the country’s booster shot program to people aged over 60, care home residents and health employees.

Greece has already started offering booster vaccinations to people who are immunocompromised.

On Monday, health officials said the new eligible categories will be able to get an additional shot from six months after they complete their initial full vaccination.

The country has so far vaccinated 65.6% of the eligible population.

By Monday, some 633,000 COVID-19 infections had been registered in Greece, and about 14,500 deaths.

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LONDON — Britain welcomed the U.S. announcement that it is lifting quarantine requirements for vaccinated international travelers, though the news appeared to have taken the U.K. government by surprise.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “delighted” by the news. He said: “It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again.”

Britain scrapped quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. and the European Union in early August, and has been pushing for Washington to ease its rules. But Johnson said Sunday that he did not expect the change to come this week.

Airlines hailed the U.S. decision as a lifeline for the struggling industry. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines U.K. said it was “a major breakthrough.”

Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said it was “a major milestone to the reopening of travel at scale, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the US with confidence.”

“The U.K. will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the US, boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues,” Weiss said.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will ease foreign travel restrictions into the U.S. beginning in November, when his administration will require all foreign nationals flying into the country to be fully vaccinated.

All foreign travelers flying to the U.S. will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of flight, said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, who announced the new policy on Monday. Biden will also tighten testing rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who will need to be tested within a day before departure to the U.S., as well as on their return.

Fully vaccinated passengers will not be required to quarantine, Zeints said.

The new policy replaces a patchwork of travel restrictions first instituted by President Donald Trump last year and tightened by Biden last year that restricted travel by non-citizens to the United Kingdom, European Union, China, India and other countries.

Biden will also require airlines to collect contact information from international travelers to facilitate contact tracing, Zients said.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Authorities in Burundi have decided to suspend all social events except on Saturdays and Sundays as concerns grow about a rising number of COVID-19 infections.

The country was one of the last in Africa to embrace vaccines after the administration of the late president was accused of taking the pandemic lightly.

In a letter to governors and mayors, the chair of the committee in charge of fighting COVID-19 says the limits on gatherings come after authorities realized how such events can spread the virus.

The mayor of Burundi’s economic capital, Bujumbura, is threatening to fine anyone who doesn’t wear a mask or respect social distancing. The mayor cites a worrying number of COVID-19 patients in the city.

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MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin officials say student vaccination rates for COVID-19 vary widely among the system’s campuses.

At the Madison campus, 91% of students are fully vaccinated, the highest number among the system’s universities. The lowest number of vaccinated students are at UW-Parkside where only 38% have been inoculated.

According to the Wisconsin Public Radio, other campuses range from 75% at La Crosse to 46% at Stevens Point.

UW System interim President Tommy Thompson has recently been touring campuses around the state to promote a scholarship drawing aimed at encouraging students to get vaccinated during the fall semester.

The campaign is offering 70 scholarships worth $7,000 to vaccinated students who attend system universities, other than UW-Madison, that reach a 70% student vaccination threshold. Students must submit their vaccination status by Oct. 15 to be included in the drawing.

The system’s data show three campuses have reached that 70% threshold — Madison, La Crosse and Milwaukee.

According to the state Department of Health Services, nearly 53% of Wisconsin’s overall population eligible for vaccination has been fully inoculated. That’s about 3 million people who are 12 years old and up.

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