The Latest: NYC to conduct weekly COVID-19 tests in schools
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.
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
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ROME — The Vatican is now requiring a coronavirus health pass for anyone who wants to enter the city state or see the Sistine Chapel.
Starting Oct. 1, Vatican residents, employees and visitors must show proof that they were vaccinated against COVID-19 or were cured of it, or have had a negative test result, in order to gain access to the walled city state in the center of Rome that is home to the Vatican Museums.
The decree published Monday contains an important exception: People coming to St. Peter’s for a Mass don’t have to show the so-called “Green Pass,” but must observe social distancing and mask requirements and stay only for the duration of the service.
The provisions follow moves by Italy to require the “Green Pass” for indoor activities, such as dining indoors and seeing movies, as well as for all public and private workers to enter their workplaces.
Pope Francis has been a keen proponent of vaccines and has urged widespread vaccination as an “act of love” toward other people.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is expanding its vaccination program to offer a third dose of a vaccine amid rising infections.
The Health Ministry has recommended the booster shot for anyone older than 60, health workers and other vulnerable groups.
On Monday, the first 8,000 people received a text message from the authorities that they are eligible for the third shot.
They can be given it no earlier than eight months after receiving their second dose of vaccine. Those whose immune systems are compromised and others who are seriously ill can get the booster shot as soon as four weeks after the second shot.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine will be administered at vaccination centers in hospitals and by general practitioners as most mass vaccination centers are being closed due to falling interest.
A total of 5.9 million people have been fully vaccinated in the nation of 10.7 million. The country offers vaccination for those over 12 and they will all be eligible to receive the booster.
Daily new COVID-19 cases exceeded 500 for three straight days last week, the highest numbers since May.
BERLIN — Austria will require people using ski lifts and cable cars this winter to be vaccinated against COVID-19, to have recovered recently from an infection or to have tested negative.
People using lifts also will have to wear full medical N95-type masks. The Austria Press Agency reported that Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger announced the decision on Monday.
Austrian authorities don’t plan capacity limits or distancing rules for lifts and cable cars in the upcoming ski season.
Like many other European countries, Austria has relaxed many of the restrictions imposed at the height of the coronavirus crisis but still retains some.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s largest city will remain in lockdown for at least two more weeks, although some restrictions will be eased from Tuesday.
Auckland has been in the strictest form of lockdown for just over a month, the longest stretch since the pandemic began.
New Zealand has taken an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus and has been trying to completely eliminate an outbreak of the delta variant. But the outbreak has proved stubborn, with the city continuing to report about 20 new local cases each day.
And the outbreak has spread beyond Auckland after an infected prisoner was bailed to his home in a small rural town.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she’s confident the lockdown is working and there isn’t widespread undetected transmission.
From Tuesday, Aucklanders will be able to buy takeaway restaurant food, and some workplaces can reopen. But most people will still be required to live and work from home, and schools will remain closed.
WASHINGTON — The National Institutes of Health director says a government advisory panel’s decision to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans 65 and older as well as those at high risk of severe disease is a preliminary step and predicts broader approval for most Americans “in the next few weeks.”
Dr. Francis Collins told “Fox News Sunday” that the panel’s recommendation Friday was correct based on a “snapshot” of available data on the effectiveness of Pfizer’s two-shot regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the U.S. and Israel continue to come in showing waning efficacy among broader groups of people that will need to be addressed soon.
Collins, who also appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said: “I think there will be a decision in the coming weeks to extend boosters beyond the list that they approved on Friday.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, on Sunday praised the advisory board’s plan for covering a “good chunk” of Americans. But he stressed that “this is not the end of the story” based on evolving data and said the recommendations will likely be expanded in the coming weeks to months.
The Food and Drug Administration will consider the advisory group’s advice and make its own decision, probably within days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also is set to weigh in this week.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Tens of thousands of devotees have packed the old palace courtyard in the heart of Nepal’s capital to celebrate the feast of Indra Jatra, marking the return of the festival season in the Himalayan nation after it was scaled down because of the pandemic.
Kumari, a young girl who is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal as the living goddess, left her temple palace for the first time in two years and was driven around the center of Kathmandu in a wooden chariot pulled by devotees.
Nepal’s president and highest officials also lined up to get her blessing, together with the tens of thousands of others. Last year’s festivals were scaled down amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
MACKINAW CITY, Mich. — A popular Halloween-themed event held annually in northern Michigan has been cancelled this fall due to concerns over the coronavirus, including the rising number of cases of the delta variant in the area.
Fort Fright at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City had been scheduled for October 8-9.
The event is drawn from a collection of short stories published by Mackinac State Historic Parks and based on French-Canadian folktales brought to the Mackinac Straits area by the voyageurs during the height of the French fur trade.
Staffing challenges and concerns about housing volunteers also played into the decision to cancel the event, according to organizers.
Colonial Michilimackinac is an 18th-century fort and fur trading village located along the Straits of Mackinac. It was reconstructed based on historic maps and more than 60 years of archaeological excavations.