OMAHA, Neb. — Several states scaled back their reporting on the coronavirus this month just as cases in the nation tripled. The delta variant of the virus is spreading quickly among the unvaccinated in some states.
The shift to weekly instead of daily reporting in Florida, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota was accompanied by less detail about the virus in Florida and Nebraska. Some officials have characterized the move as part of a return to normal. However, the average number of new virus cases nationwide went from 11,500 on June 20 to nearly 38,000 this week.
In Florida’s last two weekly reports, the number of new cases increased from 23,000 to 45,000 and then 73,000 on Friday, an average of more than 10,000 day. Hospitals are starting to run out of space in parts of the state.
In Nebraska, the state stopped reporting on the virus altogether for two weeks after Gov. Pete Ricketts declared an end to the official virus emergency, forcing reporters to file public records requests or turn to national websites that track state data to learn about COVID statistics. Nebraska officials backtracked two weeks later and posted a weekly site that provides some basic numbers.
Public health communication expert Joseph Cappella says the spin that these reporting changes are part of a return to normalcy doesn’t fit with recent case numbers. State coronavirus dashboards have become a staple for closely tracking case counts and trends to navigate a crisis that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Some U.S. states scale back virus reporting despite case surge
— Tanzania gets 1 million J&J vaccines from U.S.
— Vietnam locks down capital Hanoi for 15 days as cases rise
— Britain’s summer getaway takes off but nothing like pre-coronavirus
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement are holding protests Saturday against new virus measures.
French lawmakers are debating a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
French virus infections are spiking and hospitalizations are rising anew. The government is trying to speed up vaccination to protect vulnerable populations, protect hospitals and avoid new lockdowns. Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority support the new measures.
But not everyone. Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures.
TOKYO — Olympics host cities often offer the tens of thousands of journalists excursions to advertise their tourist destinations.
But this time around, they are attempting to do so while keeping Olympic visitors within a carefully controlled bubble, cut off from Tokyo’s 14 million residents. The efforts include a lottery for nighttime tours to history museums and historic gardens, where journalists are required to pledge not to talk to locals.
A recent first stop was the 400-year-old Hama-rikyu Gardens on the edge of Tokyo Bay. About 600 people had visited that day. Then they closed the park, the locals went out and the visitors arrived.
Many trained their cameras on an exhibit about the 1964 Olympics, held less than two decades after World War II. At that opening ceremony, 8,000 white pigeons were released as a symbol of peace.
Now the games are here again, though less celebratory: In the world around them, a virus has killed more than 4 million people in less than two years.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Tanzania has received its first batch of 1 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by the U.S. government.
Tanzania had been among the few countries in Africa yet to receive vaccines or start vaccinating its population, mainly because its former leader had claimed prayer had defeated COVID-19 in the country. The vaccines were received by the foreign affairs minister and the U.S. ambassador at the airport in Dar es Salaam.
Former Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who died in March, had refused to accept vaccines after he claimed three days of prayer had healed the country of the virus in June 2020.
Magufuli’s deputy, Samai Suluhu Hassan, took over as president in line with the country’s constitution and became the first female president in Tanzania.
Hassan has reversed Tanzania’s practice of denying COVID-19′s spread in the East African country.
BEIJING — The Chinese government says everyone in a county in the southwest near Myanmar will be tested for the coronavirus following a spike in infections.
The announcement says businesses and schools in Jiangcheng County in Yunnan province will close Monday and Tuesday while nucleic acid testing is carried out. Travel into and out of the county will be prohibited.
Yunnan has reported a spike in infections traced to nearby Myanmar, where a military government that seized power in February is struggling to contain a surge in cases. The Yunnan health agency says 297 people are treated for the virus, including 218 who are believed to have been infected abroad.
MIAMI — Pandemic restrictions on Florida-based cruise ships are no longer in place under the latest ruling by a federal appeals court, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention try to fight a Florida lawsuit challenging the regulations.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had temporarily blocked a previous ruling last Saturday that sided with Florida officials, but the court reversed that decision on Friday, explaining that the CDC failed to demonstrate an entitlement to a stay pending appeal. Last weekend’s temporary stay had kept the CDC regulations regarding Florida-based cruise ships in place.
The lawsuit, championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, claims that the CDC’s multiple-step process to allow cruising from Florida is overly burdensome, harming both a multibillion-dollar industry that provides some 159,000 jobs and revenue collected by the state.
The CDC, however, said keeping the rules in place would prevent future COVID-19 outbreaks on ships that are vulnerable to the spread of the virus because of their close quarters and frequent stops at foreign ports.
“The undisputed evidence shows that unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, and that the harm to the public that would result from such operations cannot be undone,” the CDC said in a court filing.
HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam has announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region.
The lockdown order, issued late Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public. Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses can stay open.
Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases.
On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city’s highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country. Nearly 5,000 are from Vietnam’s largest metropolis, southern Ho Chi Minh City, which has extended its lockdown until Aug. 1.
SYDNEY — Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities to protest lockdown restrictions amid another surge in cases.
Police made several arrests after crowds broke through barriers and threw plastic bottles and plants. The unmasked participants marched from Sydney’s Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district, carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “the truth.”
There was a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities said was unauthorized protest activity. Police confirmed several arrests. New South Wales Police said it recognized and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.
LONDON — British schools are closed for the summer, though fewer families are heading off for warmer climes since before the coronavirus pandemic.
This weekend traditionally marks the high point of the great summer getaway from Britain. However, with travel to and from many popular destinations facing varying quarantine and testing requirements, it’s clear that many families think it’s all too much hassle and have opted again to holiday within the U.K.
Still, Gatwick Airport is expecting its busiest weekend of the year so far. Spain remains the most popular foreign destination, with between 60 and 70 flights a day, while around 30 planes will depart each day for Greece.
U.K.’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines that has seen nearly 70% of the adult population receive the requisite two doses. That’s important for Britain’s travel sector, one of the worst affected, as well as many destinations in Europe which have relied heavily on the millions of British holidaymakers.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of newly reported coronavirus cases in Oklahoma topped 1,000 for a third consecutive day on Friday and the seven-day average of new cases has nearly quintupled in less than a month, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health figures.
The department reported 1,194 new cases for a total of 471,176 cases since the pandemic began, and a seven-day average of 938 cases, compared to a seven-day average of 196 on June 25.
Oklahoma ranked ninth in the nation with 249.8 new cases per 100,000 residents, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of hospitalizations reached 495 and health officials have estimated about 90% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. The CDC reported Oklahoma was 39th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia with 46.6% of the population having at least one vaccination.
SEATTLE — The top public health official in Washington state’s most populous county is asking everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces because of the rise of the COVID-19 delta variant — even if they have been vaccinated.
Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer at Public Health – Seattle & King County, made the recommendation Friday.
Washington state’s top epidemiologist, Dr. Scott Lindquist, is urging people to use common sense and to try to not be in places with poor ventilation but is not issuing a state mask recommendation for vaccinated people.
Lindquist said Friday there are discussions about a broader recommendation but at this point the state is comfortable with local health officials making such decisions.
(This item has been updated to CORRECT that Washington state officials are not recommending vaccinated people wear masks indoors but are leaving such decisions to county officials. It also removes inaccurate figures about weekly case counts in Washington.)
WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the United States has shipped 22 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to other countries this week.
The total was a weekly record as vaccines went to 23 countries. Psaki says the recipients included Pakistan, Vietnam, Guatemala, Panama, Senegal, Cameroon and Morocco, among other nations. By this weekend, roughly 80 million doses in total will have shipped from the United States to other countries.
Psaki stressed at Friday’s White House news briefing that the United States is “donating more to the world than any other country.” Still, there is a global vaccine gap between wealthier nations and poorer ones, a reflection of the economic might of American and European countries as well as the pressure to address the needs of domestic populations.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is encouraging everyone, whether vaccinated or not, to wear masks indoors if they can’t stay distanced from others.
His guidance released Friday comes as Louisiana sees more 1,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state.
But the Democratic governor stopped short of issuing any face covering mandates or new restrictions on activities and businesses.
Louisiana’s in its fourth spike of COVID-19, driven this time by the highly contagious delta variant. The state has among the nation’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates and is seeing thousands of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness each day.
Edwards said Louisiana has the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation.
O’FALLON, Mo. — St. Louis city and county officials say they will require masks in some public places starting Monday, citing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases spurred by the delta variant.
Masks will be mandatory in indoor public places and on public transportation for everyone age 5 or older, even for those who are vaccinated, officials said in a news release on Friday. Masking outdoors “will be strongly encouraged,” especially in group settings.
The decision comes as both of Missouri’s urban areas are seeing a big uptick in cases in hospitalizations that began in rural areas of the state, especially in southwestern Missouri. The Kansas City Star reported Friday that medical leaders in that region appear to be on the verge of calling for a new mask mandate there as well.
Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the city of St. Louis, said more than 500 St. Louisans have already died from COVID-19, “and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems.”
ISTANBUL — Turkey has recorded another increase in daily COVID-19 infections with 11,094 positive cases and 60 deaths in the past 24 hours.
The seven-day average is hovering above 8,660 cases, according to health ministry statistics. The total reported death toll is at 50,821.
Turkey’s government eased the majority of restrictions on July 1, lifting nighttime and Sunday curfews and opening nearly all businesses. While mask mandates remain, compliance has visibly dropped. People travelled for a nine-day holiday to seaside towns where distancing and masking rules were not followed.
Experts are worried the highly contagious delta variant could have spread across the country. The most recent figures for variant cases were released by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on July 13, when he said there were 750 infections in Turkey — up from 284 a week earlier. The minister tweeted Friday that people should “return from relaxation to strict precautions” and urged vaccinations.
Though more than 65 million jabs have been administered using Sinovac and Pfizer vaccines, only about 26% of the 84 million population have been fully vaccinated.
NEW YORK — A new poll shows that most Americans who haven’t been vaccinated against the coronavirus say they are unlikely to get the shots. About 16% say they probably will get the vaccine.
Most also doubt they would work against the aggressive delta variant, despite evidence they do. Those findings underscore the challenges facing public health officials as soaring infections in some states threaten to overwhelm hospitals.
The poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found 35% of adults who have not yet received a vaccine say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not.
That means “that there will be more preventable cases, more preventable hospitalizations and more preventable deaths,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
Just 3% of unvaccinated Americans say they definitely will get the shots, though another 16% say they probably will. Some 37% of those under age 45 say they haven’t and likely won’t get the shots. Those without college degrees compared to those who graduated say they aren’t and won’t be vaccinated, 30% to 18%.
Nationally, 56.4% of all Americans, including children, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC. Vaccinations are starting to increase in some lagging states where cases are rising — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada.
“What I learned from my patients is that when a loved one dies, that’s a tragedy,” says Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. “But when a loved one dies and you know it could have been prevented, that tragedy haunts you forever.”