Latest: Los Angeles to require COVID-19 vaccinations at bars

LOS ANGELES — Public health officials in Los Angeles County will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for patrons and workers at indoor bars, wineries, breweries and nightclubs next month.

The new initiative in the nation’s most populous county begins Oct. 7, with proof of at least one vaccine dose required. According to the county’s Department of Public Health, proof of full vaccination will be mandatory by Nov. 4.

Health officials strongly recommend the same precautions for indoor restaurants but have not chosen to mandate proof of vaccination for them.

The new restrictions come ahead of the holiday season, which brought a massive surge in infections to Los Angeles last year.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— As COVID-19 vaccine mandates rise, religious exemptions grow

— Biden, business leaders discuss vaccine mandates at White House

— EU pledges 200 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa

— China imposes local lockdowns as COVID-19 cases surge

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— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WASHINGTON — U.S. government advisers will debate Friday if there’s enough proof that a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective.

It’s the first public step toward deciding which Americans may get an extra dose and when. The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday posted much of the evidence that it will ask outside experts to consider at Friday’s meeting.

But the agency struck a neutral tone in reviewing the data and discussing the rationale for boosters. That careful approach is notable given that White House officials have been previewing a booster campaign that they hoped to begin next week.

Pfizer is making the argument that while protection against severe disease is holding strong in the U.S., immunity against milder infection wanes somewhere around six to eight months after the second dose. The drugmaker is pointing to data from Israel, which began offering boosters over the summer.

The U.S. already offers an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to people with severely weakened immune systems.

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Hundreds of anti-vaccination protesters hurled flares at the parliament building in the Slovenian capital on Wednesday to protest a new measure that mandates a COVID-19 pass for entering almost any shop, service or a workplace in the country.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannons. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The small Alpine state has seen a surge in infections with daily cases exceeding 1,300 for two days in a row now, levels last seen in April, while the 14-day incidence per 100,000 population now stands at 533, one of the highest rates in Europe, the state STA news agency reported.

The COVID-19 pass is required for access to almost all services and workplaces and there have been reports throughout the day of store clerks being hassled, the agency reported.

Many complaints by disgruntled customers were targeted at petrol stations after the largest fuel retailer, Petrol, made it mandatory to show the pass — that mandates full vaccination or a COVID-19 test — before people could fill up their tank.

The pass is also mandatory for access to health services, except for emergency care. Community health centers have instituted a strict policy of compliance, while hospitals have offered on-the-spot testing for those who do not have it.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government will spend $470 million to learn more about long COVID-19, its causes and potential treatments.

The National Institutes of Health announced the plans Wednesday with a grant awarded to New York University and a goal of enrolling up to 40,000 adults and children nationwide. The effort, dubbed RECOVER, will involve researchers at more than 30 U.S. institutions.

‘’This is being taken with the greatest seriousness… at a scale that has not really been attempted with something like this,’’ Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, said at a briefing Wednesday.

Collins says its estimated 10% to 30% of people infected with COVID-19 may develop persistent, new or recurring symptoms that can last months or perhaps years.

Long COVID is an umbrella term for symptoms that linger, recur and show up for the first time four weeks or more after an initial infection. It also includes heart inflammation and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can occur in children after a COVID-19 infection.

Pain, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, chronic coughs and sleep problems are among the reported symptoms of long COVID. Possible causes include the virus lingers in tissues and organs or it overstimulates the immune system.

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WASHINGTON — Religious objections were once used only sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines. But some are using the loophole to avoid the COVID-19 shot.

About 3,000 Los Angeles Police Department employees are citing religious objections against the required COVID-19 vaccination. In Washington state, more than 3,800 state workers had requested religious exemptions. So far, 737 have been approved, but officials stressed that an exemption does not guarantee continued employment.

President Joe Biden announced sweeping new vaccine mandate last week that covers more than 100 million Americans, including executive branch employees and workers at businesses with more than 100 people on the payroll.

The administration acknowledges a small minority of Americans will use — and some may seek to exploit — religious exemptions. But it says even marginal improvements in vaccination levels will save lives.

It’s not clear yet how many federal employees have requested a religious exemption. The Labor Department has said an accommodation can be denied if it causes an undue burden.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota judge has rejected a request by concerned parents to force a stateside mask mandate in all schools.

Ramsey County District Judge Thomas Gilligan said the court was “gravely concerned” about the risks of COVID-19 for Minnesota children, but said in his ruling the court lacks the legal authority to order Gov. Tim Walz to issue the directive that the parents sought.

The longshot legal challenge was unique in that it sought to force the governor to declare a peacetime state of emergency and follow it with a mandate, Minnesota Public Radio reported. In other states, governors who’ve tried to prevent school districts from requiring mask use have been blocked by courts.

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PORTLAND, Maine — Two of the top-ranking Democratic members of the Maine Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the highest-ranking official in state government to contract the virus. Senate Major Leader Eloise Vitelli also says she had received a positive test.

Jackson says he’s isolating after testing positive. He hadn’t experienced symptoms but decided to undergo a rapid test after learning a close contact had the virus.

Jackson said he was grateful to be vaccinated since vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing severe symptoms and hospitalizations. Vitelli says she was experiencing only mild symptoms on Wednesday.

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STORRS, Conn. — There’s been a mix of coronavirus requirements at universities and colleges in the U.S.

At most of the largest public universities, students aren’t obligated to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Some schools do require vaccines, but with leniency for those who opt out. Still others have expelled students who don’t comply.

An analysis by The Associated Press shows 26 of the nation’s 50 largest public universities aren’t requiring the vaccination.

Universities with vaccine mandates are concentrated in the Northeast and California. Most without mandates are in states that restricted the ability to implement vaccine requirements, including Florida, Texas and Arizona.

As a new semester begins amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, administrators and faculty nationwide see high vaccination rates as key to bringing some normalcy back to campus. Where mandates face political opposition, schools are relying on incentives and outreach to get more students vaccinated.

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ST. LOUIS — A child has died of COVID-19 in Missouri as the coronavirus sickens record numbers of youths in the state.

According to officials with the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, the child died last week in the St. Louis area. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports task force officials wouldn’t reveal more information, such as the child’s age, citing privacy concerns.

The death brings the total number of Missouri children younger than 18 who have died from COVID-19 to six, according to state health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox.

On Sept. 7, there were a record 1,133 positive test results for Missouri children younger than 18, topping 940 set on Nov. 9, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Missouri Hospital Association.

Some local health departments in the St. Louis area have reported up to a third of new cases are among children.

Dr. Clay Dunagan, chief clinical officer for BJC HealthCare, cited the more infectious delta variant and schools not taking steps to reduce spread, such as requiring masks. Children younger than 12 aren’t eligible for vaccines, and vaccination rates among teens lags that of adults.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has invited CEOs and business leaders to the White House to discuss COVID-19 mandates.

The meeting Wednesday follows Biden’s announcement last week that the Labor Department is working to require that businesses with 100 or more employees order their workers to be fully vaccinated or submit a negative COVID-19 test at least weekly. Biden said 100 million workers would be subject to the requirement.

Some business groups, including the Business Roundtable, welcomed the president’s announcement.

“America’s business leaders know how critical vaccination and testing are in defeating the pandemic,” Josh Bolten, president and CEO of the Business Roundtable, said in a statement.

Numerous corporations, including Amtrak, Microsoft, United Airlines and Walt Disney issued vaccine mandates for their workforces before Biden’s announcement last week.

Some Republicans accused Biden of overstepping his authority and have threatened to sue the administration over the vaccine mandate.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union is committing 200 million more vaccine doses to Africa.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the donation comes on top of 250 million already committed and underscores the EU resolve to boost global vaccination.

Von der Leyen called it an “investment in solidarity and it is an investment also in global health.”

African health officials have said they need about 800 million doses to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s population. As of last week, 145 million doses had been procured, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only 3.5% of the continent of 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated, the CDC says, amid frustration over distribution, export controls and the rollout of booster shots in richer countries.

Von der Leyen says on top of delivering 700 million doses to Europeans and meeting the goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated this summer, the 27-nation bloc had sent the same number of doses to a combined 130 nations.

“With less than 1% of global doses administered to lower income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious,” says Von der Leyen, adding the bloc is investing 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to boost vaccine production capacity in Africa.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization says there were about 4 million coronavirus cases reported globally last week, the first major drop in new infections in more than two months. In recent weeks, there were about 4.4 million cases.

In its weekly update released on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency says every region in the world saw a drop in cases compared to the previous week.

Although the worldwide number of deaths decreased to about 62,000, with the sharpest decline in Southeast Asia, there was a 7% increase in deaths in Africa. The highest numbers of cases were seen in the U.S., Britain, India, Iran and Turkey. The highly contagious delta variant has been reported in 180 countries.

WHO says children and teenagers continue to be less affected by COVID-19 compared to adults, adding that deaths of people under 24 due to the disease account for fewer than 0.5% of global deaths.

WHO has previously said children should not be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations given the extreme global vaccine shortages.

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia will launch a campaign Friday to begin giving COVID-19 vaccinations to children between ages 6 and 11.

Prime Minister Hun Sen says it will allow children to return safely to school after a long absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an audio message to province and municipality chiefs posted on his Facebook page, he says more than 1.8 million children were expected to get their jabs under the program, which will use Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine.

He’s also considering having children ages 3 to 5 be vaccinated soon. Cambodia began vaccinating children ages 12 to 17 at the start of August.

On Wednesday, Cambodia’s Health Ministry reported 653 new cases and another nine deaths.

Nearly 72% of Cambodia’s almost 17 million people have received at least one COVID-19 shot since vaccinations began in February. China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines account for most inoculations.

Cambodia has registered 101,443 confirmed cases and 2,067 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported a record daily increase in coronavirus infections in the Seoul region just days before the nation enters its biggest holiday of the year.

Officials say 2,080 new cases were confirmed nationwide, exceeding 2,000 for the eighth time in a span of a month. The 1,663 cases reported in the capital and nearby areas were the most since the start of the pandemic.

Officials are concerned transmissions could worsen nationwide during the Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving that begins this weekend. Millions usually travel across the country to meet relatives.

Health officials are urging residents in the Seoul region not to travel to other areas during the holidays and to avoid relatives who aren’t fully vaccinated. About 40% of a population of more than 51 million was fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.