The Latest: Virus cases decline in hard-hit Australia states
Australia's New South Wales state has recorded 10 new deaths and 667 locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, as its outbreak continues to ease.
“Three weeks ago we had 1,599 cases," state Health Minister Brad Hazzard said Sunday. "And just three weeks later today I am very pleased to be able to tell the community that we are down, I wanted it down to zero if we can get it there, but 667 today locally acquired cases.”
Meanwhile, the state of Victoria recorded 1,220 new community acquired cases of COVID-19 and three deaths in the past 24 hours. The state, Australia's second most populous, set a record of 1,488 new cases on Saturday.
“I want to thank each and every one of those more than 71,000 Victorians who went and got tested," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Sunday. "It is critical to us, knowing where this virus is, where it isn’t.”
There were 71,275 tests conducted Saturday in Victoria and 36,248 vaccine doses administered. There are now 11,785 active cases in the state.
The Australian Capital Territory recorded 38 locally acquired cases in the past 24 hours.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— COVID-19 deaths eclipse 700,000 in US as delta variant rages
— Russia: Antibody tests for COVID-19 remain popular, factor in low vaccine rate
— Far-right protesters in Romania reject virus restrictions
— California to require COVID-19 vaccines for schoolchildren
See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska on Saturday activated emergency crisis protocols that allow 20 health care facilities to ration care if needed as the state recorded the nation’s worst COVID-19 diagnosis rates in the U.S. in recent days, straining its limited health care system.
The declaration covers three facilities that had already declared emergency protocol, including the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.
Among the factors that led the state to activate the crisis of care standards include scarce medical resources within some facilities, limited staff and difficulty transferring patients to other facilities because of limited bed availability. Other factors included limited renal replacement therapy and oxygen supplies.
According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, one person in every 84 in Alaska was diagnosed with COVID-19 from Sept. 22 to 29. The next highest rate was one in every 164 people in West Virginia.
Statewide, 60% of eligible Alaskans are fully vaccinated.
ATLANTA — Four parents are suing the Cobb County school district on behalf of their children, saying the failure of Georgia’s second-largest school district to require masks means their students cannot safely attend in-person classes because of their disabilities.
The suit was filed Friday in federal court in Atlanta. It says the 107,000-student suburban Atlanta district is violating federal law governing how students with disabilities are treated in public schools. The lawsuit asks a judge to order the district to follow CDC guidelines on masks and other issues. The district has defended its stance amid repeated protests.
“Rather than using the known and available tools to mitigate the threat of COVID-19 and protect plaintiffs’ access to school services, programs, and activities, the district has acted with deliberate indifference to plaintiffs’ rights to inclusion, health, and education,” the complaint alleges.
The lawsuit asks that U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten Sr. order the district to follow CDC guidelines, including not only on masks but on issues like ventilation, physical distancing and contact tracing.
Whether to require masks in Cobb schools has been the focus of protest for months. Like many in Georgia, Cobb lifted its mask order at the end of last year. Many districts reimposed mask orders as school began this August, because of the rapid spread of the delta variant of COVID-19. Cobb, though, dug in saying that masks would only be strongly recommended.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State University says less than a third of its students submitted proof of vaccination for COVID-19 by a Thursday deadline to otherwise undergo weekly testing or leave the university.
While 72.3% of the university’s employees provided proof of vaccination, only 30% of students did, officials said Friday.
It’s not clear how many students who didn’t submit proof of vaccination by the deadline plan to submit weekly test results, officials said.
“We’re not where we want to be with our vaccinated students,” said Jon Webster, the school’s COVID-19 project manager. “We want to make sure we’re protecting all of our students.”
Failure to submit vaccination information or weekly test results can result in student suspension or staff termination, officials said.
Students can get vaccinated at any point in the semester and cease the weekly required testing once achieving full vaccination, Webster said.
He said the university was continuing to reach out to students through text message, email, social media and other channels.
Several students said Friday they were unaware of the mandate’s details, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden mourned “the painful milestone” of 700,000 American deaths from COVID-19, a day after the U.S. surpassed that mark on Friday.
The president says in a statement “the astonishing death toll is yet another reminder of just how important it is to get vaccinated.” He says the nation has “made extraordinary progress” in the fight against the coronavirus in the past eight months because of vaccines.
Biden says thanks to vaccines, “hundreds of thousands of families have been spared the unbearable loss that too many Americans have already endured during this pandemic.”
He notes more than three-quarters of all Americans age 12 and up have received at least one vaccine dose, including nearly 94% of all seniors.
Biden says: “If you haven’t already, please get vaccinated. It can save your life and the lives of those you love. It will help us beat COVID-19 and move forward, together, as one nation.”
RENO, Nev. -- Employees at all public universities and colleges in Nevada are required to get COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 1 or face potential termination.
All new hires must prove their vaccination status under the new policy. Meanwhile, coronavirus case trends are improving in urban areas but have worsened in most rural parts of the state where vaccination rates are the lowest.
The Desert Research Institute has the highest vaccination rate at 87% followed by the University of Nevada Reno at 82%. UNLV reported 75%. Rural Elko-based Great Basin College had the worst rate at 66%.
On Wednesday, about 64% of all state employees had been fully vaccinated, in accordance with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order in July that required shots or proof of negative coronavirus tests, says DuAne Young, the governor’s policy director.
Nearly 65% of residents age 12 and older have one vaccination and 56% are fully vaccinated, according to state data.
SALT LAKE CITY — The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints thanked members who have followed church guidance, which has been to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Church President Russell M. Nelson spoke Saturday at a conference taking place again without full attendance due to the pandemic. For the first time in two years, leaders were back at the faith’s 20,000-seat conference center, with several hundred people watching in person and others on television. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square returned to the conference.
The Utah-based faith has repeatedly encouraged its 16 million members worldwide to limit the spread by getting vaccines and wearing masks. Last week, church officials announced masks will be required inside temples to limit the spread of the virus.
Utah experienced a summer surge among unvaccinated residents, causing hospital ICUs to reach near capacity in early September. Data from the Utah Health Department showed in late September that state residents who are unvaccinated are nearly six times more likely to die from COVID-19 and seven times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are vaccinated.
About 64% of Utah residents ages 12 and older were fully vaccinated.
BUCHAREST, Romania — More than 5,000 far-right protesters have gathered in Romania’s capital of Bucharest to reject new pandemic measures following a surge of coronavirus infections.
Daily infections in the nation of 19 million have skyrocketed from approximately 1,000 cases a day a month ago to a record 12,590 new cases on Saturday.
That was Romania’s highest daily number of infections since the start of the pandemic. The increase is putting hospitals under pressure as intensive care units reach their capacity.
The mostly mask-less marchers blocked traffic, honked horns and chanted “Freedom!”
PHOENIX — Arizona reported nearly 100 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, a day after the state’s pandemic death toll passed 20,000.
The state coronavirus dashboard reported 95 deaths and 2,942 confirmed cases, increasing Arizona’s pandemic totals to 20,134 confirmed deaths and 1.1 million cases.
Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rose by a third in the past two weeks, increasing from 33 on Sept. 16 to 43 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The rolling average of daily new cases declined during the same period, dropping from 2,742 to 2,621.
The state also reported the number of COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds increased slightly to 1,798 on Friday.
JACKSON, Miss. — The leader of a Mississippi pediatricians’ organization is urging school districts to keep mask mandates in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Anita Henderson of Hattiesburg is president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She says about 30% of youths ages 12 to 17 in the state are vaccinated, and “now is not the time to let our guard down.”
Mississippi has reported nine pediatric deaths from COVID-19. Some school districts are repealing mask mandates. Among them are the Madison County and Rankin County districts in central Mississippi and the Ocean Springs district on the Gulf Coast.
Mississippi had a significant surge in COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations starting in July. Numbers have slowly decreased in recent weeks. However, Mississippi is among the lowest vaccinated states in the nation.