The Latest: Gov. Kemp blames Biden for low vaccination rate

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A worker installs partitions at field hospital set up inside a cargo building in Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, July 29, 2021. Health authorities raced on Thursday to set up yet another large field hospital in Thailand’s capital as the country recorded a new high in COVID-19 cases and deaths. The hospital, one of many already in use, was being set up at one of Bangkok’s two international airports after the capital ran out of hospital beds for thousands of infected residents. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sought to shift blame to President Joe Biden for Georgia’s poor vaccination rate Thursday as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continued to sprint upward.

The Republican, speaking to reporters, blamed the Democratic president for not doing enough to push the Food and Drug Administration to upgrade their emergency authorization for the vaccines to a permanent authorization. Kemp said urging people to use masks again is a “mixed message” that could discourage vaccination.

The governor reiterated his call for people to get vaccinated against the disease, saying he would only seek other solutions if Georgia hospitals began to get overwhelmed. Georgia ranks in the bottom 10 states for vaccination rates.

“We know that the vaccines work,” Kemp said. “I want to encourage people to get vaccinated if you’re comfortable doing that.”

Democratic State Sen. Michelle Au, an anaesthesiologist with a master’s degree in public health, said Kemp’s approach to increasing vaccination rates is unimaginative and passive.

Georgia recorded more than 4,800 positive tests for COVID-19 on Thursday, the worst number since Feb. 5. The state peaked on Jan. 8, with nearly 13,000 recorded cases.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— President Biden pushing federal workers to get vaccinated

— Brazil begins mass vaccine study in poor Rio neighborhood

— Israel to offer 3rd Pfizer booster shot to older citizens

— Global leaders pledges $4B to repair COVID-19 education damage

— Conservative 31-year-old Missouri manin hospital: Will get vaccine

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

TOPEKA, Kan. — A COVID-19 surge in Kansas fueled by the faster-spreading delta variant is filling up hospitals in some areas.

A survey from the Kansas Hospital Association said four times as many patients with confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized this week as were hospitalized in early June. The association said that 116 Kansas hospitals surveyed this week reported having 399 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. For early June, 125 hospitals reported having 99.

For about a month, the Salina Regional Medical Center has sometimes has been near full capacity and its chief medical officer says it has struggled to find beds for patients who have needed a higher level of care.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — State employees will receive $100 for getting the coronavirus vaccine and their spouses will receive $25 if they also get vaccinated, under a new incentive program offered by Gov. Mike DeWine.

The Republican governor announced the offer Wednesday as state vaccination efforts stall amid spiking case numbers and hospitalizations.

Only about 5.4 million people or 46% of the population have completed the vaccination process as of Thursday, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 319.43 new cases per day on July 13 to 874.57 new cases per day on July 27, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Also Monday, the Health Department’s chief medical officer said that while Ohio doesn’t plan to mandate masks in schools this fall, health officials strongly recommend that students and staff wear face coverings if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is announcing new requirements for federal workers and some contractors who do not attest to being fully vaccinated.

President Joe Biden is set to declare that any unvaccinated federal workers are subject to universal masking, getting tested weekly or twice weekly, physical distancing from employees and visitors, and restrictions on official travel.

The guidelines are aimed at boosting sluggish vaccine rates among the millions of Americans who draw federal paychecks and setting an example for employers around the country.

Rather than mandating that federal workers receive vaccines, the Biden administration’s plan would make life more difficult for those who are unvaccinated to encourage them to get the shot.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is asking states and localities to offer unvaccinated residents $100 to get their COVID-19 shots.

The cash reward for vaccination was one idea in Biden’s latest plan to boost lagging vaccination rates in many parts of the nation. Rolled out Thursday, the core of his new plan is a requirement for federal workers to disclose their vaccination status to their agencies.

Biden is pointing to anecdotal evidence that a $100 reward will get results. The White House says the Kroger grocery store chain tried it and saw vaccination rates jump to 75% from 50% among employees. New Mexico, Ohio and Colorado have also experimented with the idea.

Biden says states and localities can use money from his COVID relief law to pay for the incentive programs.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s Department of Health will carry out a text messaging campaign to encourage roughly 254,000 people in the state to follow through and get the second shot of the two-shot COVID-19 vaccine that they never received, officials said Thursday.

The campaign will begin early next week as the resurgent coronavirus in the form of the highly contagious delta variant is skyrocketing cases in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

The text message will tell the recipient that the “delta variant is here” and encourage them to check vaccines.gov to find a provider nearby. Those receiving the text will have gotten their first shot between Dec. 14 and May 14, said the state’s acting health secretary, Alison Beam.

Beam said the second dose will provide stronger protection against the delta variant. It’s not too late to get it, and it’s not necessary to start over with the first shot, she said.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is telling the Pentagon to determine how and when the COVID-19 vaccine will be made mandatory for members of the U.S. military.

Until now, defense leaders have said that the vaccine will remain voluntary for troops around the world until the Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to the drug. The White House on Thursday said Biden will tell the Defense Department to look at when the COVID-19 shot will be added to the list of vaccines already required for military service members.

Biden announced that every federal government worker and onsite contractor prove they are vaccinated or wear masks, stay socially distant and submit to testing once or twice a week. Those not vaccinated also would be subject to travel restrictions. Of the more than 4 million federal employees, nearly half are members of the military. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said at least 70% of the force has gotten at least one dose.

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SALEM, Ore. — The state of Oregon will require students and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors come fall.

Governor Kate Brown’s announcement Thursday follows this week’s updated national mask guidance in schools and a spike in COVID-19 cases in Oregon, due to the highly transmissible delta variant.

In a statement from the Oregon Department of Education officials say they are working to create a rule requiring face coverings in all indoor school settings — both public and private — for all individuals two years and older. This includes students, staff, contractors, volunteers and visitors.

Officials say the rule will take effect upon adoption, but the exact date is unclear.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday decided to reverse course from guidance he issued last week and will now urge all K-12 public school students and staff to be masked, even if they have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

The Democratic governor and the state’s top public health official, Dr. Mandy Cohen, pinned much blame on unvaccinated people and renewed calls for them to get the shot.

But at a time when nearly all available metrics show spread of the virus at its worst levels in months, Cooper said he’ll let the statewide mask mandate expire on Friday.

Cooper on Thursday announced that cabinet workers will be asked to show proof they got a COVID-19 vaccine.

Unvaccinated officials will be required to wear a mask and get tested every week, he said.

“This order directs state government cabinet agencies to verify whether their employees are vaccinated,” Cooper said. “Unvaccinated employees will be tested at least once a week and required to wear a mask.”

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — More than a dozen vaccinated southwest Missouri patients have died of COVID-19 amid a surge of cases that has led the University of Missouri to reinstate a mask mandate and some St. Louis restaurants to only permit the immunized to eat indoors.

“High risk, immune compromised and sadly couldn’t muster an immune response,” tweeted Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, in announcing Thursday that there had been six COVID-19 pneumonia deaths among vaccinated patients at its hospitals in southwest Missouri.

Another eight fully vaccinated Mercy Springfield patients have died since June 1, spokeswoman Sonya Kullmann said in a text. She said seven of the patients were over the age of 75 and one was over the age of 65.

“They all had other serious health conditions,” she wrote. “For context, we’ve had 68 total deaths in that same time frame. 88% were in unvaccinated individuals.”

Officials at both health systems have pushed hard to get people vaccinated, saying the vast majority of patients aren’t immunized.

Just 47.7% of Missouri residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, far lower than the national rate of 57.1%, state and federal data shows. Many counties in southwest Missouri have vaccination rates that are less than less than half the state average.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will announce strict new testing, masking and distancing requirements for federal employees who aren’t vaccinated.

He’s hoping to boost sluggish vaccine rates among the millions of people who draw federal paychecks and set an example for private employers around the country.

The move by the federal government — the nation’s largest employer — comes in a week when major corporations and some local governments are implementing new requirements. But most have not, despite surging coronavirus rates in the U.S.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University Law School, thinks the new requirement might work.

“People would much rather roll up their sleeves and get a jab, than undergo weekly testing and universal masking,” he says. “In many ways, this is really not a mandate, it’s giving workers a choice.”

According to the Office of Personnel Management, the executive branch employed more than 2.7 million civilians in 2020, with some of the most significant numbers in Republican-led Southern states including Texas and Florida, where substantial vaccine resistance remains.

About 60% of American adults have been fully vaccinated. Biden had set a July 4 goal to get at least one shot in 70% of adults, and it’s currently at 69.3%.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian authorities have begun the mass immunization of Rio de Janeiro’s Mare neighborhood in a bid to help poor communities while studying vaccine effectiveness and the prevalence of variants.

The bayside Mare complex is comprised of more than a dozen favelas home to some 130,000 people, and the study is Brazil’s first to target a low-income area.

The Brazilian government’s Fiocruz Institute aims to inoculate more than 30,000 Mare residents ages 18 to 33, bringing vaccine coverage of the adult population to near 100%, and recruit 2,000 families to its study.

The study will evaluate the vaccine’s effectiveness against new variants, such as the delta variant.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s largest school district will require all students, employees and visitors to wear masks when in school facilities and school buses, whether individuals are vaccinated or not.

The Albuquerque Public Schools board’s 5-1 vote Wednesday to impose the requirement follows new federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued Tuesday.

“We’ve said all along that we’ve tried to follow the science,” says Superintendent Scott Elder.

The blanket policy is to avoid dividing students into groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated and not have principals and teachers serve as “the vaccination patrol,” Elder says.

The district says students and staff aren’t required to wear masks outdoors. It encourages students over age 12, employees and families to get vaccinated.

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WASHINGTON — The nation’s capital is reinstating mandatory indoor mask requirements, regardless of vaccination status.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the new regulations begin Saturday and apply to everyone over age 2.

“I know that D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines and they will embrace this,” Bowser said. “We will continue to do what is necessary to keep D.C. safe.”

The move had been expected in the face of local infection numbers and new guidance from the Center for Disease Control, which now encourages vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas classified as having “substantial community transmission” levels. That includes Washington and the neighboring Virginia communities of Alexandria and Loudon counties.

The city’s public health emergency expired this week, but a general state of public emergency remains in place. Bowser says the only exception to the new rules are when people are “actively eating and drinking.”

D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt says there will be a renewed vaccination push because shots “continue to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

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JERUSALEM — A leading Israeli health provider says it will soon begin offering a third booster COVID-19 shot to patients over age 60 who have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Maccabi, one of Israel’s four publicly funded health maintenance organizations, says the vaccinations will start on Sunday.

The announcement came shortly ahead of a nationally televised news conference by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is expected to unveil a nationwide booster shot program. It would make Israel among the first countries to launch a widespread campaign offering its vaccinated citizens a third dose.

The effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine wanes slightly over time but it remains strongly protective for at least six months after the second dose, according to company data released Wednesday.

More than 57% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and more than 80% of the population over 40 is vaccinated.

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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