The Latest: Biden pushing federal workers to get vaccinated

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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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 man in 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:

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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OSAGE BEACH, Mo. — A Missouri hospital with no people hospitalized with COVID-19 just two months ago is dealing with an onslaught of patients.

Daryl Barker said his conservative politics made him “strongly against the vaccine.” But he and several relatives got sick, and now the 31-year-old Barker is fighting for his life in an intensive care unit at Lake Regional Hospital.

The hospital workers in Osage Beach witnessed 22 people died from the coronavirus in the first 23 days of July. Barker and his wife, who have a 6-year-old son, plan to get vaccinated if he recovers.

Just 47.5% of Missourians have initiated vaccination, nearly 10% less than the national average. Around Osage Beach, a town of about 5,000 people that straddles two counties, state data shows only 38.6% of Camden County residents and 26.7% in Miller County have started the process.

Statewide, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have more than doubled since the start of June, and the number of ICU patients has more than tripled. Lake Regional Dr. Joe Sohal, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist, says nearly everyone hospitalized is unvaccinated.

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PHOENIX — Several major Arizona cities are reinstituting mask-wearing requirements for people in city-owned facilities in response to new CDC guidance aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero says she directed the city manager on Wednesday to require masks in city facilities, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

Mandates announced by Phoenix, Peoria and Tempe also apply whether people are vaccinated or not.

Peoria’s requirement took effect Thursday, while Tempe’s mandate takes effect Friday and exempts children under 6.

A similar requirement ordered by the Phoenix city manager for all city facilities takes effect Monday, the city said in a statement.

Most of Arizona, including the Phoenix and Tucson areas, meets the threshold for substantial community spread.

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NEW YORK — A spot check of U.S. stores and other data sources shows mask sales are rising again amid concerns about surging coronavirus cases from the delta variant.

Retail analysts expect mask sales will increase further after The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week recommended vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the cases are surging.

Sales of masks rose 24% for the week ending Tuesday, compared to the prior week, reversing weekly declines since May, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

The coronavirus is especially surging among the unvaccinated and in states with low vaccination rates.

Stores face challenges in figuring how much they should order, given so much uncertainty regarding the virus.

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PARIS — Social workers in France worry the growing use of virus passports will further marginalize migrants and other poor populations.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders has set up a tent this summer in Paris to vaccinate migrants, homeless people and others without access to health care. Aid workers are carrying out similar actions in other countries, too.

Migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan African countries lined up before the vaccinations started Thursday and many were glad to have the opportunity. Migrants and poor populations have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic.

France has confirmed 111,000 deaths from the virus, and infections and virus hospitalizations are rising again.

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DES MOINES — Health experts are concerned about next month’s Iowa State Fair, which will bring more than 1 million people to Des Moines.

Many will come from counties with low vaccination rates and increasing prevalence of the disease. Officials have encouraged people to get vaccinated, but Iowa’s Republican-majority legislature and governor have blocked local governments from imposing vaccination or mask requirements.

The CDC reported Wednesday that 49% of Iowans were fully vaccinated, ranking the state 21st in the nation. In at least 18 of Iowa’s 99 counties, fewer than 40% of the population is vaccinated. CDC data shows 35 counties with a high rate of spread and 12 counties with substantial spread of the virus.

There will be no capacity limits for the 11-day fair that starts Aug. 12.

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LEWISBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice surprised a retired health care worker with a $1 million check as the most recent winner of the state’s vaccination sweepstakes.

Wanda Coleman of Ronceverte got together with former co-workers at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, believing it was a ceremony to honor a recently retired staff member.

Justice made some remarks about the importance of vaccinations, and school officials honored Coleman for 10 years of service with the Robert C. Byrd Clinic. That’s when Justice revealed her name had been drawn for the million-dollar prize.

It was one of 50 prizes announced Wednesday. He also surprised two people with new custom-outfitted trucks. Other prizes included two full four-year scholarships to any public institution in the state, five lifetime hunting licenses, five lifetime fishing licenses, five hunting rifles, five hunting shotguns and 25 weekend getaways to West Virginia State Parks.

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BALTIMORE, Md. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is allowing the troubled factory of contract manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions to resume production of COVID-19 vaccine bulk substance, the company said Thursday.

The Baltimore factory was shut down by the FDA in mid-April due to contamination problems that forced the company to throw out the equivalent of tens of millions of doses of vaccine it was making under contract for Johnson & Johnson.

The bulk vaccine was contaminated with an ingredient for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which was made in the same factory. Emergent didn’t say when production will resume at the factory.

The productions problems forced J&J to import millions of doses from its factory in the Netherlands to the U.S. and to miss supply commitments. Emergent Chief Executive Robert Kramer said the company had fallen short of the public’s expectations.

The Biden administration has been working to find a different American manufacturing partner for British drugmaker AstraZeneca, whose COVID-19 vaccine isn’t authorized for distribution in the U.S.

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BEIJING — A disease-control official has called for increased testing of employees at China’s ports because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Roadblocks were set up to test drivers after a rash of coronavirus cases traced to a major airport. It’s rattled authorities who thought they had the disease under control.

The 171 new cases of the more contagious delta variant in the eastern city of Nanjing and surrounding Jiangsu province are modest compared with India and some other countries. But infections traced to Nanjing Lukou International Airport have spread to at least 10 cities.

Drivers who want to leave Jiangsu need to show a negative coronavirus test taken in the past 48 hours, the provincial transportation department announced Wednesday. It said 93 checkpoints were set up on highways.

Nanjing, a city of 9.3 million people northwest of Shanghai, ordered tens of thousands of people to stay home. It’s conducting mass testing while experts hunt for the source of the virus.

China has reported 92,811 confirmed cases and 4,363 deaths.

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