The Latest: Washington state to give Pfizer boosters to some

Health

Shiranthi, wife of Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, centre, comforts a child who is being administered the COVID-19 vaccine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. Sri Lanka began inoculating children with congenital diseases above twelve years. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state Department of Health says it will immediately start offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to certain people after recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other groups.

State health officials said Friday that at least six months after completing the primary Pfizer vaccine series, people age 65 and older; people age 18 and older living in a long-term care setting; and people age 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions or at increased risk of social inequities, should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Officials say there are not yet recommendations for people who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

___

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Biden urges COVID-19 booster shots for those now eligible

— CDC: Studies show masks lessen school outbreaks

— More rental aid is reaching U.S. tenants to stave off eviction

— EXPLAINER: Who’s eligible for Pfizer boostershots in US?

___

See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SANTA FE, N.M. — Recriminations about face-mask mandates are creating new tension between Democratic candidates in the election campaign for mayor in Santa Fe.

In a flier distributed by mail Friday, incumbent Mayor Alan Webber highlighted a dissenting vote by mayoral candidate and City Councilor Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler last year in the creation of a city ordinance requiring face masks.

The ordinance reinforced a statewide mask mandate from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the early months of the pandemic, before vaccines were available.

Vigil Coppler says she considered the ordinance impractical but never opposed state mask requirements and called the ad a distortion.

__

LAS VEGAS — Thousands of hotel, casino and restaurant workers marched Friday on the Las Vegas Strip to highlight their call for employers to rehire more people who were furloughed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the reopening of casinos and hotels, Culinary Union officials said about one-third of its members — or about 21,000 workers — remain out of work some 19 months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nevada.

Many idled employees have now exhausted public unemployment benefits, they said.

“Workers in Las Vegas have built the hospitality industry over the Culinary Union’s 87 years and they should be centered as the economy recovers from the devastating impacts of COVID-19,” the union said in a statement ahead of the evening event scheduled to coincide with shift changes on a busy weekend of Strip sports and entertainment.

“This march is not a protest against any casino company,” union spokeswoman Bethany Khan said Friday. “It is a march, not a strike, rally, action, or a demonstration.”

Workers chanted “full-service restaurants” and “full-service cleaning” as they started marching Friday evening from Flamingo Road on Las Vegas Boulevard where police closed off sections of The Strip.

The union statement said the goal was to highlight that hospitality workers “are ready to prepare and serve great food in full-service restaurants, make and serve quality drinks and beverages, and ensure guest rooms are cleaned and sanitized daily.”

___

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s daily increase in coronavirus infections exceeded 3,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic as the country comes off its biggest holiday of the year.

The 3,273 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday marked the 81st consecutive day of over 1,000 and were about 840 cases more than the previous one-day record of 2,434 set a day earlier.

More than 2,500 of the new cases were from capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, where transmissions have accelerated despite officials enforcing the country’s toughest social distancing rules short of a lockdown since July, banning private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. unless participants are fully vaccinated.

Officials believe the virus spread further beyond the capital region during the Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving which began on the weekend and continued through Wednesday, a period during which millions usually travel across the country to meet relatives. Officials say the country may see even bigger daily jumps next week as more people get tested.

Less than 45% of a population of more than 51 million were fully vaccinated as of Saturday morning.

___

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska reported more than 1,700 resident COVID-19 cases Friday. But state health officials says that includes reports from earlier this month as they work to clear a backlog that has built up during the latest case surge.

Health officials encourage looking at cases by their symptom onset date versus the date they were submitted to the state health department.

The state epidemiologist says Alaska is in the biggest surge that it has experienced during the pandemic.

A weekly report from the department says the state had more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than it did at the peak of a prior surge late last year.

____

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — The Ironman World Championship will be held outside Hawaii for the first time in four decades.

That is due to uncertainty over whether the Big Island will be able to host the triathlon as scheduled in February because of the coronavirus pandemic. West Hawaii Today reports triathletes will instead head to St. George, Utah, to compete on May 7.

Organizers plan to bring the contest back to the islands in October 2022. Ironman participants swim, ride bikes and run a marathon. The first race was held in Honolulu in the 1970s. It moved to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island in 1981.

___

BOISE, Idaho — An advocacy group for older adults has filed a civil rights complaint against Idaho over state crisis standards of care guidelines for hospitals overwhelmed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The group Justice in Aging wants the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate Idaho’s health care rationing plan.

The group in the complaint filed Tuesday says the plan discriminates against older adults by using factors like age in prioritizing which patients may get access to life-saving care.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Greg Stahl says the department was unaware of the complaint. Stahl says Idaho’s standards are rooted in ethical obligations for care and stewarding resources.

___

HELENA, Mont. — Montana hospitals that reach capacity due to a surge in COVID-19 cases may be able to transfer patients to the Fort Harrison VA Medical Center west of Helena, Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Friday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency granted the state’s request for access to use up to two acute care beds and four medical beds for non-veterans, as hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to increase.

The beds at Fort Harrison can be used to care for patients with or without COVID-19. The VA will accept patients if it has the capacity and ability to provide required care, Gianforte’s office said.

The state’s hospitals reported they were caring for 416 COVID-19 patients on Friday, up from 402 on Thursday. Montana averaged 427 daily hospitalizations in November 2020, before vaccines were available.

While making six more beds available is important, Gianforte said, “the best solution to this crisis remains Montanans talking with their doctor or pharmacist and getting vaccinated against COVID-19.”

___

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County began making booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine available to eligible population groups Friday following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsement of a third shot for those who got their second shot at least six months ago.

“Starting today, eligible Los Angeles County residents can begin receiving their booster dose at any of the hundreds of sites offering the Pfizer vaccine,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

County residents seeking the booster shot must bring proof they received two previous Pfizer doses.

Eligible groups include people who are 65 years or older, residents of long-term care facilities, people 18 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions and those 18 to 64 years with high institutional or occupational risk.

The latter group includes healthcare workers, first responders, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers and workers in homeless shelters or prisons.

___

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge handed down a second blow to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s order allowing parents to opt out of school mask requirements.

U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer on Friday ruled Knox County Schools must implement a mask mandate to help protect children with health problems amid the coronavirus pandemic. He also blocked Lee’s order from being implemented while the legal battle continues to move its way through court.

This is the second time in a week that Lee’s order has been placed on pause as families and advocates across the state have filed a handful of lawsuits amid spiking coronavirus case numbers in schools. In Shelby County, while the school district had implemented a strict mask mandate, a federal judge indefinitely banned Lee’s order after families argued the governor’s executive order endangered their children.

“It is real, and likely. Knox County students are being infected right now, every day, at a rate of 162 students every day … and the threat of harm is therefore (immediate),” Greer wrote.

___

NEW YORK — A live televised interview with Vice President Kamala Harris was slightly delayed Friday after two hosts of the “The View” learned they tested positive for the coronavirus just before she was to join them on the set.

Co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro were at the table for the start of the show, but were pulled from the set. Harris, who had planned to join the table, instead was interviewed remotely from a different room in the ABC studio in New York.

The White House says she didn’t have any contact with either host who tested positive. Colleagues said Hostin and Navarro had been vaccinated.

___

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from the new K-12 school year bolster the agency’s recommendation for masks in schools and in-person classes.

One study in two Arizona counties found coronavirus outbreaks were almost four times more common at public schools without mask mandates on the first day than at those that re-opened with a masking requirement.

Another study found case rates in children and teens increased more in U.S. counties where public schools had no mask mandates than in those where schools had that requirement. These studies lacked data on other measures that could have influenced the results.

A third study counted 1,801 coronavirus-related school closures through mid-September, most of them in the South, where many schools opened earlier than those in other regions.

Still, 96% of U.S. public schools have remained open with in-person classes, the researchers say, while acknowledging that data from some districts may be missing.

___

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is urging those now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots to get the added protection. His plea comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. Biden praised the decision and aimed to set aside any unease about the vaccination by saying that he would get his own booster soon.

The advisers say boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.

___

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — A Jackson County judge has ordered a restaurant in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, to shut down after the owner’s continued defiance of a mask mandate intended to fight the spread of COVID-19.

On Thursday, Judge Jennifer Phillips barred Rae’s Cafe in Blue Springs from operating, rejecting owner Amanda Wohletz’s argument of medical exemptions and attempt to operate as a private club. The judge also ordered the cafe to cease operations until it obtained a valid food permit.

This month, Judge James Kanatazar ordered a temporarily close after Wohletz ignored a health department order to close because of repeated violations of the county’s indoor mask requirement. But the business continued to operate, and its food permit was then suspended.

___

THESSALONIKI, Greece — A court in northern Greece sentenced and fined a 37-year-old anti-vaccination campaigner after he demanded his son attend elementary school classes without wearing a mask or undergoing a coronavirus test.

The parent, whose name has not been made public, was found guilty of insulting behavior and illegal entry onto state property, Thessaloniki court officials said.

His sentence of 15 months in jail was suspended for three years. The court imposed a 300 euro ($350) fine.

Under a government mandate, school children in Greece are obliged to wear face masks and use self-test kits distributed weekly by the government at pharmacies.

Anti-vaccination campaigners have organized protest rallies in Thessaloniki, Athens and other Greek cities, mostly demonstrating against restrictions in schools and vaccination mandates for health care workers.

___

ROME — Italian government workers will be heading back to offices to do their jobs after more than 18 months of remote work as part of coronavirus measures.

Premier Mario Draghi’s office says he signed a decree establishing Oct. 15 to resume in-person work. That’s the same date that all Italian workers – either in public or private employment – will need a COVID-19 Green Pass to access their workplaces.

Many public employees who serve citizens have already been working in offices. Receiving at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, having recovered from the illness in the last six months or presenting a recent negative test will secure the Green Pass.

The premier’s office says public offices “will assure that in-person return will happen in safe conditions.”

___

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg says most of the national coronavirus restrictions in the Scandinavian country will be eased.

The restrictions lifted include the requirement for serving patrons in restaurants and the 1-meter (3.3-feet) social distance rule. Eateries, bars and nightclubs will be allowed to remain open after midnight, schools and kindergartens can return to normal and “handshakes will again be allowed,” a smiling Health Minister Bent Hoeie said.

He stressed Norway will have “an increased preparedness” and local restriction will be imposed if there was a flareup.

Norway is the second Scandinavian country to end the restrictions after Denmark did so on Sept. 10.

More than 76% of Norway’s population of 5.3 million have gotten one vaccine, and nearly 70% have gotten both shots, according to official figures.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.