LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles leaders have voted to enact one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates.
The sweeping measure requires the shots for everyone entering bars, restaurants, nail salons, gyms and a Lakers game. The City Council on Wednesday voted 11-2 in favor of the ordinance that will require proof of full vaccination by Nov. 4.
Supporters say it’s a way of preventing more coronavirus surges. Critics say the measure raises concerns about enforcement.
The nation’s second-most populous city faced a huge rise in infections and hospitalizations last winter and a smaller surge this summer linked to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
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Mayor Eric Garcetti is expected to sign the ordinance into law. Garcetti expressed his support for a vaccine measure last week, saying: “I don’t want to bury another city employee, police officer, firefighter.”
The county reported 35 deaths and 964 virus cases on Tuesday. Current vaccine eligibility includes people age 12 and up. About 78% of the county’s 10 million residents have received at least one vaccine dose and 69% are fully vaccinated, according to public health officials.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Los Angeles OKs one of strictest US vaccination mandates
— US to increase at-home coronavirus rapid tests in coming months
— Scandinavians curb Moderna shots for some younger patients
— AP: Flush with COVID-19 aid, schools steer funding to sports
See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TOLEDO, Ohio — The number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. is falling and the number of new cases per day is about to dip below 100,000 for the first time in two months.
All are encouraging signs that the summer surge is waning. Government leaders and employers not wanting to lose momentum are looking to strengthen and expand vaccine mandates.
Los Angeles is poised to enact on Wednesday one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates. Minnesota’s governor is calling for vaccine and testing requirements for teachers and long-term care workers. Health experts say there are still far too many unvaccinated people. In New York, a statewide vaccination mandate for all hospital and nursing home workers will be expanded Thursday to home care and hospice employees.
Across the nation, deaths per day have dropped by nearly 15% since mid-September and are averaging about 1,750. New cases have fallen to just over 103,000 per day on average, a 40% decline in the past three weeks.
The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has declined by about one-quarter since its most recent peak of almost 94,000 a month ago.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to legislation requiring employers to let their workers opt out of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Senate approved the legislation on Wednesday despite opposition from the state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, business groups and hospitals. The bill is among several attempts to limit or prohibit vaccine requirements that have dominated the Legislature’s attention during a session intended to focus on congressional redistricting.
The proposals came primarily in response to President Joe Biden’s order that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly.
The bill approved by the Senate on a 22-12 vote would require a process for employees to opt out of vaccine requirements if they are tested weekly for the virus or can prove they have COVID-19 antibodies. Health officials say antibody testing should not be used to assess immunity against the coronavirus and people who have recovered from COVID-19 should still get vaccinated.
Some of the state’s largest employers, including Bentonville-based Walmart, have mandated vaccinations for some or all employees. It’s still uncertain whether the bill will take effect immediately or early next year, if it’s enacted.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says all domestic air travelers over age 12 will need to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative coronavirus test starting Oct. 30.
Beginning Nov. 30, travelers must be fully vaccinated and won’t have the option of a negative test.
Officials say all core federal government workers, members of Canada’s national police force and the armed forces must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 29. Federal public servants who aren’t fully vaccinated and don’t obtain medical exemptions must take unpaid leave.
The new policy will affect more than 267,000 core public-service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police workers and apply to those who work from home and outside of the country.
ANKARA, Turkey — The number of daily coronavirus cases in Turkey surpassed 30,000 on Wednesday, the highest number of infections since April 30.
The Health Ministry reported 30,438 new cases and 228 confirmed deaths. Fahrettin Koca, the health minister, says with the number of daily cases hovering between 28,000 and 30,000 since mid-September. There were approximately 300,000 active cases in the country during a 10-day period.
“We have to be aware that this situation presents a critical burden,” he said. “The fact that most of the current active cases are among the young means that our health system is not strained. Still, such high numbers of infected people is not acceptable.”
He urged people to get vaccinated. Nearly 73% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated, according to the ministry figures.
TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan health authorities have started vaccinating migrants in the country, in cooperation with the U.N. migration agency.
The vaccination campaign kicked off in Tripoli, with migrants received the first shot of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine at the National Center for Disease Control.
Federico Soda, the head of the International Organization for Migration in Libya, was present in the launching ceremony.
It wasn’t clear whether authorities would vaccinate thousands of migrants in detention centers. Tens of thousands of others live in the communities.
Libya has reported 34,440 confirmed cases and 4,720 confirmed deaths. The tally is likely higher in part due to limited testing.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania on Wednesday postponed the launch of the university school year by a week, urging all students to get the vaccine.
Authorities declared next week the “Week of the students’ mass vaccination.” The vaccine is mandatory for education and health staff, including students, or proof of a negative test. Many students have declined to take the shots so far.
Albania reported 617 daily cases and seven deaths on Wednesday. The country is maintaining an overnight curfew, masks in all closed areas and no gatherings of more than 50 people.
About one-third of the 2.8 million population has received two shots of the vaccine. Authorities are considering a booster shot for certain groups who have compromised health.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. is on pace to have about 200 million at-home COVID-19 rapid tests available per month beginning in December, about four times more than earlier this year.
The White House says the supply boost is the result of a new $1 billion federal investment, on top of the $2 billion committed to increasing the availability of the convenient diagnostic tests in September. It’s also due to the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of a new test from ACON labs this week.
More than 18 months into the pandemic, the U.S. trails other nations in supplies of at-home tests, which are widely used overseas as part of regular testing programs to catch asymptomatic infections. While less accurate than PCR tests, at-home kits are cheaper and faster, allowing for serial screening of schoolchildren, long-term care residents and office workers.
The White House says it is also working to double the number of local pharmacies offering free coronavirus testing to 20,000 in the coming weeks to improve access to testing.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A growing number of school districts in the U.S. are using federal pandemic funding on athletics projects. One school district in Wisconsin is spending $1.6 million on new synthetic turf fields. One district in Iowa is spending $100,000 on a weight room renovation.
School officials argue the projects support students’ physical and mental health, but critics tell The Associated Press the spending clashes with the intent of the pandemic relief. Education experts say the funding should go toward tutoring and other costs to help students recover learning loss.
The funding is part of the American Rescue Plan signed in March by President Joe Biden that sent money to schools, giving larger shares to those with higher poverty. It’s the latest of several rounds of funding Congress funneled to the states to address education needs. The AP has tracked more than $157 billion distributed so far to school districts nationwide.
Schools have wide flexibility in how they use the money but only three years to spend it, a deadline that has led some to look for quick purchases that won’t need ongoing funding after the federal money is gone.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania hit a record of 328 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, a day after reaching more than 15,000 confirmed cases.
Romania is the second-least vaccinated country in the EU with just 35% of adults fully vaccinated. Government data indicates that more than 90% of the 328 who died were unvaccinated against COVID-19.
President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday called the unfolding coronavirus situation a “catastrophe.”
Romania, a country of 19 million, has confirmed more than 1.3 million cases and 38,260 confirmed deaths.
HELSINKI — Latvia has reported 1,671 coronavirus cases, the second-highest number since the start of the pandemic.
Latvian health officials said Wednesday that 16 deaths were reported. A record of more than 1,800 cases were registered on Dec. 31, 2020.
The cumulative 14-day number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 population stands at 68, according to health officials. In the past two weeks, 12,884 people have tested positive.
Latvia, a nation of 1.9 million, has registered 164,810 confirmed cases and 2,773 confirmed deaths.
MOSCOW — Russia’s daily coronavirus death toll has surpassed 900 for the first time in the pandemic.
The record reported Wednesday comes amid a low vaccination rate and the government’s reluctance to impose tough restrictions to control new cases.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 929 new COVID-19 deaths and 25,133 new confirmed infections on Wednesday.
The Kremlin has blamed the surge on too few Russians getting vaccinated. Almost 33% of Russia’s 146 million people had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine and 29% are fully vaccinated.
Russian officials have rejected the idea of imposing a lockdown and say regional authorities would take local steps to stem the spread of the virus. On Tuesday, the presidential envoy in the Ural Mountains district — a part of central Russia that encompasses six regions — said 95% of the hospital beds for COVID-19 patients have been filled.
“The situation is very dire,” Vladimir Yakushev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Overall, Russia’s coronavirus task force has reported over 7.6 million confirmed cases and more than 212,000 confirmed deaths. However, reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat suggests that’s an undercount.
STOCKHOLM — Swedish health authorities decided Wednesday to suspend the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for those born in 1991 and later, saying it was a precautionary measure related to heart inflammation.
The Swedish Public Health Agency says the reason is “signals of an increased risk of side effects such as inflammation of the heart muscle or the pericardium. ” That’s the double-walled sac containing the heart and the roots of the main vessels. The agency added the risk is very small.
U.S. and European regulators have cautioned about Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and an extremely rare reaction in teens and young adults of chest pain and heart inflammation. The Swedish agency says the vaccine from Pfizer is recommended for these age groups instead. Its decision to suspend is valid until Dec. 1.
In Denmark, people under 18 won’t be offered the Moderna vaccine out of precaution, according to the Danish Health Authority on Wednesday. The agency says data, collected from four Nordic countries, show there is a suspicion of an increased risk of heart inflammation when vaccinated with Moderna. It adds the number of cases of heart inflammation remains very low.
PRAGUE — Czechs are casting ballots from their cars in the parliamentary election, a novelty forced by the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of 82 drive-in temporary ballot stations have been established by the armed forces across the country for those ordered to quarantine due to coronavirus infections or those who need to self-isolate.
Those who cannot use a car can ask for a visit of a special electoral committee with a mobile ballot box at their homes. The measure was first tested a year ago at the regional elections.
Besides the vote in cars on Wednesday, the rest of the Czechs will select a new lower house of Parliament in a ballot on Friday and Saturday.
The nation of 10.7 million has nearly 30,500 confirmed deaths.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says the number of newly reported coronavirus cases fell in the last week, continuing a declining global trend that first began in August.
In its latest assessment of the pandemic, the U.N. health agency reported Tuesday that there were 3.1 million new COVID-19 cases, a 9% fall, and about 54,000 deaths in the last week, roughly similar to the week before. WHO said there were declines in case numbers in all world regions except for Europe, where the number was about the same as the previous week.
COVID-19 cases fell by about 43% in Africa, by about 20% in both the Middle East and Southeast Asia and 12% in the Americas and the Western Pacific. The largest decline in deaths was seen in Africa, where numbers decreased by about a quarter.
WHO also said nearly a third of African countries managed to vaccinate at least 10% of their populations by the end of September. The WHO chief has repeatedly urged rich countries to pass on giving booster doses until at least the end of the year.
On Monday, the European Medicines Agency gave its endorsement to EU countries offering a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to people 18 and over.
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