ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis area has become one of the first in the United States to reinstate mask requirements amid a rise in cases that health officials are blaming on low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.
Despite pushback from some elected officials, face coverings became mandatory Monday in indoor public places and on public transportation in St. Louis city and St. Louis County for everyone ages 5 or older — even for those who are vaccinated. Wearing masks outdoors is strongly encouraged, especially in group settings.
“For those who are vaccinated this may feel like punishment, punishment for doing the right thing,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday. “I’ve heard that and I feel that frustration. While the vaccination can protect against serious illness, it can’t protect you from being infected with COVID-19 and passing it onto someone else, someone who may be more vulnerable.”
The decision comes as both of Missouri’s urban areas see a big uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations that began in rural areas of the state, especially in southwestern Missouri.
Missouri ranks fourth nationally in the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
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— Malaysian doctors walk off job in government hospitals
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on Monday said it’s reached a new peak of COVID-19 patients at its hospital as a surge in coronavirus cases continued in the state.
UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson tweeted that the hospital had 66 COVID-19 patients, surpassing the record it reached in January when it had 63. The Department of Health said the number of people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 rose by 44 on Sunday to 919. The state’s COVID-19 cases rose by 1,022 and its deaths increased by six.
The rolling average number of daily new cases in the state has increased by 161% over the past two weeks, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. Only 36% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CHICAGO — “It is critical that all people in the health care workforce get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the safety of our patients and our colleagues,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, immediate past president of the American Medical Association.
“With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States and nearly 4 billion doses administered worldwide, we know the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19. Increased vaccinations among health care personnel will not only reduce the spread of COVID-19 but also reduce the harmful toll this virus is taking within the health care workforce and those we are striving to serve.”
Second shots are safe for most people who develop signs of allergy to their first COVID-19 vaccinations, a study published Monday suggests.
As many as 2% of people develop these reactions to the first dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, with symptoms including flushing or redness in the face, dizziness or hives. Potentially life-threatening reactions including breathing difficulty, swelling of the tongue and face and rapid heart rate are much less common.
The study included 189 people who contacted allergy specialists at five U.S. centers after developing any of these symptoms after their first dose. Most received a second shot within several weeks. Allergy-like symptoms occurred soon after in 32, or 30%, but they were milder than after the first shot and the researchers said all tolerated the second dose well.
The results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
NEW ORLEANS — Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana, a critic of mask mandates and public health restrictions during the pandemic, said he, his wife and son have contracted the coronavirus.
He made the announcement on Facebook Sunday night and said he and his wife had been infected last year, but this time around is much more difficult. He has not said whether he has been vaccinated.
“This episode is far more challenging. It has required all my devoted energy,” he said. “We are all under excellent care, and our prognosis is positive.”
Higgins is the second member of Congress to announce in the last week that they’d contracted the virus. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican who represents parts of southwest Florida, said July 19 that he had tested positive. Buchanan said he had been fully vaccinated and was experiencing mild symptoms.
Elsewhere in the Louisiana delegation, Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died December 29 at the age of 41 from COVID-19 complications. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise waited until July 18 to get vaccinated, saying he thought he had immunity because he tested positive awhile back for coronavirus antibodies
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says that people grappling with the long term effects of COVID-19 will have access to disability protections.
The president announced the initiative Monday at the White House as he marked the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Biden says the initiative is the first of its kind. Lingering challenges from the coronavirus such as breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue could rise the level of a disability. So Biden says he’s bringing federal agencies together to ensure that people who had the virus will know their rights and available resources as they navigate work, school and the medical system.
SAVANNAH, Ga.— The largest city on Georgia’s coast has reimposed a requirement that people wear masks in public, citing a “steep and alarming rise” in cases of the COVID-19.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson made the announcement Monday in a news conference, saying people now must wear masks any time they are indoors with people who are not members of their immediately families.
Johnson said his order doesn’t apply to schools and colleges, but called on them to do the same, saying rates of COVID-19 have roughly tripled in Chatham County in the last two weeks.
The county saw a big spike in new cases at the end of last week according to state Department of Public Health data, pushing transmission rates to levels last seen in March. Reported new cases are roughly nine times where they were when they bottomed out in late June.
Statewide case rates in Georgia are almost five times as high as they were in late June.
WASHINGTON — Some 60 leading medical and health industry groups are calling for health care employers to require their workers to get COVID-19 vaccines as the more aggressive delta variant spreads across the nation, and some communities report troubling increases in hospitalizations among unvaccinated people.
The groups include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Nursing, the American Public Health Association and, for the first time, a nursing home industry group. LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit nursing homes and elder care facilities, had previously advocated educating nursing home employees about the benefits of getting their shots.
“Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated,” the groups said in a statement. “We stand with the growing number of experts and institutions that support the requirement for universal vaccination of health workers.”
PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — Provincetown officials approved an indoor mask mandate during an emergency joint meeting on Sunday in an effort to fight an outbreak in the vacation haven at the tip of Cape Cod.
Officials say the new cases stem from a busy Fourth of July weekend. The cluster has grown to more than 550 cases, including some caused by the more infectious delta variant. Of the new cases, about 70% were fully vaccinated and most had no or only mild symptoms. Only three have required hospitalization.
NEW YORK — New York City will require all of its municipal workers — including teachers and police officers — to get coronavirus vaccines by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the new rule Monday. It is expected to affect about 340,000 city employees, making the city one of the largest employers in the U.S. to take such action.
The Sept. 13 deadline coincides with the start of public school, when the Democratic mayor has said he expects all pupils to be in classrooms full time.
The move comes as the city battles a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. Since the end of June, the daily average of new cases has increased by more than 300%.
PARIS — Enforcing France’s new virus pass could prove a logistical challenge for restaurants and other venues, but managers and diners hope it helps avoid another dreaded lockdown.
At the helm of La Brigade, a pocket-sized steak house in Paris’ hip Oberkampf district, Noémi Arevalo can’t imagine having to struggle through another weeks-long closure.
“We prefer having to work with rules and be stricter with our customers than having to close and not being able to work,” she told the Associated Press from behind her counter.
France’s parliament approved a law early Monday requiring special virus passes for all restaurants and domestic travel, and mandating vaccinations for health workers. To get the pass, people must be fully vaccinated, have a negative virus test or prove they recently recovered from COVID-19.
The government’s measures have prompted protests and political tensions. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say they’re needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government is ruling out multiple-day festivals this summer and tightening rules for people returning from vacations in hopes of preventing another spike in coronavirus infections.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the new measures Monday. Rutte said that even though confirmed cases are declining after hitting more than 10,000 per day this month, “the situation remains tense because we still see numbers rising in hospitals.”
Rutte says that banning multiple-day festivals until at least Sept. 1 was done in part because of logistical difficulties in testing all attendees every 25 hours. He says the move also gives clarity to festival organizers.
The government also is tightening rules for returning vacationers. All people over 12 years old will have to provide proof of a negative virus test, that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge says that mobile teams will carry out checks at the borders and travelers will be fined if they return without a negative test or proof of full vaccination or recovery.
Just under 60% of Dutch adults are fully vaccinated and 83.5% have had an initial vaccine dose.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan on Monday received 3 million more doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States under the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative, according to the U.N. children’s agency.
UNICEF used Twitter to announce the latest vaccine delivery to Pakistan, saying it brought the number of COVID-19 doses supplied to the country under the COVAX facility to 8 million.
Earlier this month, Pakistan received 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the U.S. as part of the global vaccine initiative.
The coronavirus positivity rate in Pakistan jumped from 2% to about 7% percent in the past month, according to government data.
Pakistan has reported 100,8446 confirmed cases and 230,48 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.