The Latest: Vaccines to be required for Albania lawmakers

TIRANA, Albania — The Albanian Parliament decided Thursday to make the coronavirus vaccination mandatory for all lawmakers.

Taulant Balla of the governing Socialist Party said the leaders of every parliamentary group had agreed to make vaccines mandatory and also for most legislative committee hearings to be held online.

Vaccination is already mandatory for Albania's medical personnel, teachers, professors, and students. Health officials said another surge of infections could follow the start of the school year next week.

Public health measures, including an overnight curfew, indoor mask requirements and crowd limits for sports and cultural events have been extended.

Albania saw a significant increase of daily virus cases in August. About one-third of the country's 2.8 million population has been fully vaccinated.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— FDA backs Pfizer COVID-19 boosters for older adults, people at high-risk

— Success of Portugal's vaccination drive noticed abroad

— Experts say delta variant poses more of a risk to children

— Florida makes quarantine optional for exposed students

— COVID-19 creates dire US shortage of teachers, school staff

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See all of AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she doesn’t want to use lockdowns in the future and sees vaccinations as the “golden ticket” to navigating the pandemic.

Her remarks came as Auckland remained in a sixth week of lockdown following an outbreak of the coronavirus’ delta variant.

New Zealand has taken an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus and is trying to completely eliminate the outbreak in its largest city through drastic measures, at least until vaccination rates improve. Fifteen more local transmissions were reported Thursday.

Ardern says she sees a hopeful path in using vaccinations coupled with public health measures to prevent widespread hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. About 62% of New Zealanders have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.

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OEIRAS, Portugal — As Portugal closes in on its goal of fully vaccinating 85% of the population against COVID-19 in nine months, other countries in Europe and beyond want to know how it was accomplished.

A lot of the credit is going to Rear Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo. With his team from the three branches of the armed forces, the naval officer took charge of the vaccine rollout in February — perhaps the moment of greatest tension in Portugal over the pandemic.

Now, the county could be just days away from hitting its target. As of Wednesday, 84% of the total population was fully vaccinated, the highest globally, according to Our World in Data.

Along with the rising number of shots, the COVID-19 infection rate and hospitalizations from the virus have dropped to their lowest levels in nearly 18 months.

Previously unheralded outside the military, Gouveia e Melo is now a household name in Portugal, having made a point of going on television regularly to answer public concerns about the vaccination program.

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SYDNEY — The Australian state of Victoria is reporting its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began as an outbreak in the city of Melbourne continues to grow.

Police in Melbourne are preparing for more protests against the pandemic lockdown, although the situation remains relatively calm Thursday afternoon.

Victoria reported a record 766 cases as well as four deaths from COVID-19.

The city of Sydney in New South Wales state is also dealing with a large outbreak. Officials report more than 1,000 new daily cases in the state and six COVID-19 deaths.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews says the state will ease lockdown rules by the end of the month, to allow people to return from Sydney and quarantine at home if they are fully vaccinated.

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WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Police were called to a school board meeting in Washington state when a man refused to wear a mask and disrupted the proceedings, officials said.

The Walla School Board meeting Tuesday was halted and will resume in a virtual format next week, The Union-Bulletin reported.

Before the meeting, attendees were reminded that masks were required and one man refused to comply, officials said. According to a statement from the school district Wednesday, he was offered the option to watch the meeting online, but the man refused to leave.

A Walla Walla police officer escorted the man out and the meeting began. But he came back, and district officials decided to end the meeting, officials said.

According to district staff, the man claimed an exemption from the mask requirement.

Gov. Jay Inslee last month announced a statewide mask mandate for indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status after weeks of escalating COVID-19 case rates and increasing hospitalizations caused primarily by the highly-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreading among unvaccinated people.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan has recorded more than 1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic.

Officials said Wednesday that the state crossed that threshold by reporting 6,079 new cases over the last two days. There have been at least 20,781 deaths in Michigan linked to COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the virus.

The state health department says nearly 58% of eligible Michigan residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, meanwhile, tells The Detroit News that he worries another “major wave” of cases is coming this fall. He adds that because of staff shortages at hospitals, “I think we’re going to have a major problem in Michigan in the next couple of months.”

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A day after assuming his job, Florida’s newly appointed surgeon general has signed new rules allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The guidelines signed Wednesday by Dr. Joseph Ladapo eliminate previous rules requiring students to quarantine for at least four days off campus if they have been exposed. Under the new rules, students who have been exposed can continue going to campus, “without restrictions or disparate treatment,” provided they are asymptomatic. They can also quarantine, but no longer than seven days, provided they do not get sick.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said said that “quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement.”

The CDC says people who get infected can spread the virus starting from two days before they have any symptoms. The CDC recommends a student should quarantine for 14 days if they are unvaccinated.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that masks will be required inside temples to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Church leaders said Wednesday that masks will be required temporarily in an effort to keep temples open. The message was the latest in a series of statements from church leaders encouraging masking and vaccination efforts against COVID-19.

In Utah, where the church is based, a summer surge of the virus among unvaccinated residents has continued to grow while vaccination rates have slightly increased. About 64% of Utah residents ages 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Schools have welcomed students back to classrooms but face a new challenge: A shortage of teachers and staff the likes of which some district officials say they’ve never seen.

Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, but the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem. One school official in California calls it “the most acute shortage of labor” he’s ever seen.

Similar scenarios are playing out across the country as schools cope with a spike in retirements and a need to hire more teachers, counselors, tutors and aides to help children make up for learning losses.

The lack of teachers is “really a nationwide issue and definitely a statewide issue,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of California’s State Board of Education.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana reported its 16th child death from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The state health department says the victim was between the ages of 12 and 17. No other details were released. It was the seventh pediatric death from the disease since July. Another child’s death was reported five days ago.

The state reported a total of 99 new COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday.

The latest hospitalization figure was 1,221, much higher than the spring and early summer, but down from a peak of more than 3,000 in August.

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CHICAGO — The Rev. Jesse Jackson is headed home a month after he was hospitalized for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection and following intensive physical therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

A spokeswoman for Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition confirmed Wednesday the civil rights leader left a downtown Chicago facility.

He and his wife, Jacqueline, were first hospitalized a month ago for COVID-19. While Jesse Jackson was vaccinated, his wife was not because of what he described as a pre-existing condition. She required oxygen and was briefly in the intensive care unit before being released earlier this month.

After about a one-week hospital stay, 79-year-old Jesse Jackson was transferred to a physical therapy hospital. He disclosed a Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2017.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the U.S. is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world. The U.S. purchase of another 500 million shots brings the total U.S. vaccination commitment to more than 1.1 billion doses through 2022.

At a virtual “vaccine summit” on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Biden also embraced a goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year. Biden encouraged well-off nations to do more to get the coronavirus under control around the world.

“We need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges,” Biden said, adding wealthy countries should commit to donating, rather than selling the shots to poorer nations “with no political strings attached.”

World leaders, aid groups and global health organizations are growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to shots.

About 160 million shots supplied by the U.S. have already been distributed to more than 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world combined. The remaining American doses will be distributed over the coming year.

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