The Latest: Alabama sees sharp increase in child COVID cases

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama is seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in school-age children, with more than 5,000 cases reported last week — an increase officials say is likely fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and is causing some schools to temporarily switch to remote learning.

The Alabama Department of Public Health said last week, 5,571 children ages 5 to 17 were reported to have COVID-19. That compares to 702 cases in school-aged children during the same week last year, a time when more than half of students were studying remotely and a less contagious variant was circulating.

State Health Officer Scott Harris pointed to delta variant as “the most likely explanation.”

“The numbers are staggering,” Harris said of the increase “We want to remind people that everyone needs to be vaccinated who is eligible, that is everyone 12 and up. We strongly recommend universal masking in schools.”

Hospitalizations and deaths in children remain relatively rare, according to state numbers. Of the nearly 2,900 patients in state hospitals with COVID-19 on Thursday, fewer than 50 were children, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— U.S. may reach 100,000 more COVID-19 deaths by Dec. 1.

— AP-NORC poll: Half of US workers favor vaccine, mask mandate in workplaces

— Illinois Gov. Pritzker requires educators, health workers to get vaccine

— U.S. virus surge breaks hospital records amid rising toll on kids

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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:

O’FALLON, Mo. — Missouri is opening antibody treatment centers in several counties in the hopes that they’ll keep some high-risk patients with COVID-19 from dying or becoming critically ill.

Monoclonal antibody infusion treatment will be available for 30 days at sites in Jackson, Pettis, Scott, Butler and Jefferson counties. Two more sites will be added later in the St. Louis area. The state is spending $15 million on the centers and believes they could treat up to 4,000 people over the next month.

The initial site was set up last month in southwestern Missouri, a region hit hard by the delta variant surge. Health officials said 588 people have been treated at an infusion center in Springfield. Katie Towns, the health director for Springfield and Greene County, said in a news release that the treatment “has undoubtedly saved lives in our community.”

The drugs are lab-made versions of virus-blocking antibodies that help fight off infections. Antibody treatments are among the few therapies that can lessen the effects of COVID-19, and they are seen as an option for those with mild-to-moderate cases who aren’t yet in hospitals.

On Thursday, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed that hospitalizations rose by 84, to 2,352. The state cited 2,161 newly confirmed cases, bringing its pandemic total to 622,081. The state also has reported 10,409 COVID-19 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.

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DETROIT — The head of the 397,000-member United Auto Workers union says it’s against requiring members to be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.

New President Ray Curry says if any of the 700 companies that employ union members wants to impose such a requirement, it would be subject to bargaining with union officials.

Curry told reporters Thursday that the union encourages members to get vaccinations and consider boosters when they are available. But the union respects members’ wishes if they don’t want to be vaccinated for religious, medical or personal reasons, he said.

The UAW would be against mandates even if infected workers could endanger fellow employees, Curry said. “We also believe that the employers and the employees that we represent in those locations still have a voice, and we will have to take those things under consideration,” he said.

No employers have contacted the union about requiring vaccines or imposing additional health care costs on employees who aren’t vaccinated, Curry said.

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MOSCOW — Russia reported a one-day record of 820 coronavirus deaths.

The national coronavirus taskforce says the number of new daily infections reached 19,630. That follows a consistent ebb since the beginning of the month when 22,800 cases were reported.

The previous record for deaths was 819 on Aug. 14.

Russia has reported more than 6.8 million confirmed cases and 179,243 confirmed deaths.

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NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana teenager has died of COVID-19.

The coroner in East Baton Rouge Parish on Thursday confirmed the death of 14-year-old Patrick Sanders III from the city of Baker. Baton Rouge media report that Sanders, who died Wednesday, was a football player at Baker High School. Sanders’ death came days after the state reported the death of an infant.

Children under 18 made up about 30% of cases reported Thursday in Louisiana. The state reported more than 5,100 new probable and confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday and 72 confirmed deaths.

Hospitalizations statewide stand at 2,729, down from more than 3,000 earlier this month. Vaccinations in Louisiana are increasing, with nearly 60,000 doses administered since Monday. First shots have been given to about 49% of the state’s population.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky and Texas have joined a growing list of states that have surpassed their record for hospitalized coronavirus patients.

The two states on Wednesday reported the most COVID-19 patients in their hospitals since the start of the pandemic. At least six other states — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, Mississippi and Oregon — have already surpassed their records amid a national surge in the virus.

The latest spike is fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus among those who are unvaccinated. In areas with low vaccination rates, doctors have pleaded with their communities to get inoculated to spare overburdened hospitals. They have also sounded the alarm about the growing toll of the delta strain on children and young adults.

Nationwide, COVID-19 deaths are averaging more than 1,100 a day, the highest level since mid-March. New cases per day are averaging over 152,000, turning the clock back to the end of January.

As of this week, the number of people in the hospital with the coronavirus was around 85,000, a level not seen since early February.

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NEW YORK — The U.S. is projected to reach nearly 100,000 more COVID-19 deaths by Dec. 1.

That’s the prediction from the nation’s most closely watched forecasting model. But health experts say that toll could be cut in half if nearly everyone wore a mask in public spaces.

Some behavior changes already may be flattening the curve in a few places in the South where the coronavirus has raged this summer. An Associated Press analysis shows the rate of new cases is slowing in Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Arkansas.

The projection from models at the University of Washington indicates deaths will rise to nearly 1,400 a day by mid-September, then decline slowly.

Deaths are currently averaging 1,100 a day in the U.S., turning the clock back to mid-March. The projection is an additional 98,000 Americans will die by the start of December, for an overall U.S. death toll of nearly 730,000.

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CHICAGO — Illinois will require all educators from kindergarten through college and health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines or submit to weekly testing.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker also announced Thursday a new statewide mandate on wearing masks indoors in response to a spike in cases. Pritzker says hospital systems are becoming overwhelmed in areas with low vaccinations rates and where there are fewer hospitals.

The rules overlap in some places, with masks already required in schools and Chicago schools requiring teacher vaccines. The mask order begins Monday and applies to those over age 2, regardless of vaccination status.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee’s most populous county has reached the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic.

Hospitals in Shelby County, which includes Memphis, were treating 701 coronavirus patients, with 515 in acute care and 186 in intensive care, county health department director Michelle Taylor said during a news conference. Most of those patients were not vaccinated, officials say. The previous high was 661 patients on Jan. 6.

The seven-day rolling average of cases has increased in recent weeks in Shelby County to 744 cases on Wednesday. Taylor says a mask requirement for indoor public spaces set to expire Aug. 31 will be renewed.

Because of a lack of staff, more than 30 National Guard medics were helping treat hospital patients in the Memphis area, officials say.

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LONDON — Travel measures for England and Scotland were tweaked on Thursday, with eased restrictions for passengers from Canada, Denmark and Switzerland.

The three countries were moved to the so-called “green list,” along with Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania and the Portuguese Azores.

People arriving from green-listed areas only need to provide a negative COVID-19 test before and after their entry. The changes take effect Monday.

Montenegro and Thailand were each added to the “red list” for the heaviest restrictions. Travelers coming in from red-list countries must isolate in government-managed quarantine hotels and cover the cost.

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WASHINGTON — Black lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to donate 100 million more COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, where only 2% of the population is fully vaccinated and the death rate is the highest in the world.

“The longer it takes to vaccinate the world, the more variants we will see and the longer this pandemic will continue,” Reps. Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, California Democrats, wrote Biden on behalf of members of the influential Congressional Black Caucus.

The Biden administration’s recent call for already vaccinated Americans to get booster shots met with disapproval from many global health advocates.

In June, administration officials said the U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine for donation to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year. The U.S. has delivered about 20 million doses to African nations so far, the lawmakers say.

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AUTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order banning any state or local mandates requiring people to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

He’s also calling on legislators to vote it into law during the current special session. The move comes as Texas reported the most COVID-19 patients in its hospitals since the start of the pandemic.

Nine counties, dozens of school districts and the city of El Paso have defied Abbott’s ban on mask mandates. Dallas County is the latest county to obtain a court order blocking its enforcement.

“Vaccine requirements and exemptions have historically been determined by the Legislature, and their involvement is particularly important to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates across Texas,” Abbott said on the governor’s office website.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 79% of the 85,874 Texas intensive-care unit beds are full, about 30% with COVID-19 cases. Overall COVID-19 hospitalizations were a record 14,255 on Wednesday, beating the Jan. 11 record of 14,218 reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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LAGOS, Nigeria — The Africa director of the World Health Organization says the continent tripled its COVID-19 vaccination rate in the past week, helped by more donations of doses from developed countries.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti says 13 million doses were administered in the past week. Still only 2.4% of Africans are fully vaccinated, and WHO officials say getting that figure even to 10% remains “a very daunting task.”

Moeti says the continent had 248,000 new confirmed cases in the past week, with at least 28 countries seeing a surge in infections driven by the delta variant.

Africa will receive 117 million doses in the coming months, but an additional 34 million will be needed to reach the 10% vaccination target, she says.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said it’s “unconscionable” some countries are now offering booster shots “while so many people remain unprotected.”

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says 80% of people over age 12 have been vaccinated in Denmark.

”Thank you to the more than 4 million Danes who have accepted the offer to be vaccinated,” Heunicke wrote on Twitter. He called it a “new, grand vaccine milestone.”

Getting the shot in Denmark is voluntary, available to people 12 and older and free of charge.

This week, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said “everything points at no new nationwide shutdown will be necessary” because of the high vaccination rate in Denmark.