SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s daily increase in coronavirus infections has exceeded 2,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, continuing an alarming spread despite the enforcement of strict virus restrictions in large population centers.
Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol on Wednesday pleaded for people to stay home during the holiday break around Liberation Day on Friday. He said that “in our fight against COVID-19, we are entering a new phase, a new crisis.”
Officials said more than 1,400 of the 2,223 new cases are in the Seoul metropolitan region. Kwon says transmissions are also spreading at faster speeds in other parts of the country.
South Korea has so far administered first doses of coronavirus vaccine to 42% of a population of more than 51 million.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Bangladesh vaccinating Rohingya refugees amid virus surge
— Pandemic prompts changes in how future teachers in US are trained
— COVID-19 vaccines to be required for military under new US plan
— Governor of Texas appeals for out-of-state help against COVID-19
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is ordering that students and employees in the state’s schools wear masks indoors, as the fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus brings more infections and hospitalizations.
Beshear’s executive order issued Tuesday applies to everyone in Kentucky schools for kindergarten through 12th grade, regardless of vaccination status. He says the requirement also applies to child care and pre-kindergarten programs.
The governor says that “we are to the point where we cannot allow our kids to go into these buildings unprotected, unvaccinated and face this delta variant.”
Beshear said he wants to avoid schools shutting down in-person teaching and shifted to remote learning as occurred earlier in the pandemic. The number of children infected with the virus has risen sharply in the latest outbreak, and children under age 12 aren’t eligible for coronavirus vaccines.
HOUSTON — The latest wave of coronavirus infections in Texas continues to tax the state’s health care systems as health officials report that 10,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 for the first time since early February.
State health officials reported Tuesday that 10,041 hospital patients in Texas were ill with COVID-19 as of Monday. That is the most since 10,259 COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported Feb. 4.
Meantime, a state district judge in San Antonio granted a temporary restraining order to allow the governments of San Antonio and Bexar County to require public school students to wear masks in class and to quarantine unvaccinated students exposed to the virus.
SALT LAKE CITY — The top health official in Utah’s most populous county plans to impose an indoor mask mandate for students under the age of 12, who are ineligible to be vaccinated.
Salt Lake County Health Director Angela Dunn says the order will officially be issued Wednesday, about a week before schools resumes. She made the announcement Tuesday next to Mayor Jenny Wilson, who said she supports the decision.
Last year masks were required in schools but under a new state law school mask mandates are banned. Local health departments can issue a rule but only with support from elected county leaders. The mandate will have to be confirmed by the city council.
Critics of mask have been vocal in their opposition.
RENO, Nev. -- Health officials in northern Nevada say current coronavirus trends mirror those that led to some of the worst times of the pandemic.
They warned Tuesday about the possibility of closing schools or limiting business capacities again if the steep trajectory of new cases doesn’t begin to flatten soon.
The Washoe County Health District also confirmed the first COVID-19 death of a fully vaccinated person in the Reno-Sparks area, a man in his 80s with multiple underlying conditions.
Nevada’s test positivity rate has risen from a low of 3.4% in mid-May to 16.3% on Monday. It has reached 17.1% in Clark County and 15.4% in Washoe County.
LOS ANGELES — Singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks has canceled appearances at five music festivals, citing coronavirus concerns.
Nicks released a statement Tuesday saying these are challenging times requiring challenging decisions. She says that while she is vaccinated, she is being extremely cautious with hopes of a brighter 2022.
Nicks had been scheduled to headline one day each at BottleRock Napa Valley in California and the Jazz Aspen Festival in Colorado in September. In October, she was to have played two days at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and one day at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says she is issuing two new pandemic mandates — a vaccination requirement for state employees and statewide indoor mask requirements.
Details about the statewide mask requirement will be released during a news conference Wednesday.
Under the new vaccine rule, state employees will be required to be fully vaccinated on or before Oct. 18 or six weeks after a coronavirus vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever is later.
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota health officials say the state has recorded at least 5,599 people vaccinated against the coronavirus who later became infected by the virus, with 514 of them requiring hospitalization for COVID-19. At least 57 died.
But officials stressed Tuesday that those cases represent a tiny fraction of the state’s immunized population.
The state health department says just over 3 million people in Minnesota have been fully vaccinated and about 200,000 more have gotten one dose.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s most populous county is considering mandating coronavirus vaccines or frequent tests for its employees, saying incentives to get protected against the virus aren’t working.
Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts tells WSB-TV that the commission could debate a mandate for employees later this week.
A number of hospital systems have mandated vaccines for employees in Georgia, as have some private colleges and universities and other private employers.
However, Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order in May saying public agencies in Georgia can’t require people to prove they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. He says that means no agency can require anyone to receive the vaccination.
It’s unclear if the policy to be considered by Fulton County could run afoul of that order.
KANSAS CITY -- The health department in Kansas City, Missouri, says only 35 of the more than 70,000 people who attended Garth Brooks’ concert there Saturday took advantage of a chance to get a coronavirus vaccination.
The mobile vaccination clinic operated for four hours in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot before the concert, and fans were offered a chance to get upgraded floor seats to the concert if they got a shot.
Brooks says he is fully vaccinated, and he encouraged his fans to get the shot.
The health department says it will continue to partner with community events in an effort to increase vaccinations, including at the upcoming Planet Comicon Kansas Cit, scheduled for Aug. 20-22.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi is approaching its pandemic high for COVID-19 hospitalizations as the coronavirus continues spreading rapidly in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.
The state Health Department reported Tuesday that 1,410 patients with COVID-19 were in Mississippi hospitals Monday. The state’s highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for a single day was 1,444 on Jan. 4, before vaccines against the virus were widely available.
Officials say that as of Tuesday, 35% of Mississippi residents were fully vaccinated, compared to about 50% nationally.
The Health Department says that between July 13 and Monday, unvaccinated people made up 97% of those newly diagnosed with COVID-19, 89% of those hospitalized with it and 85% of those who died from it.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco school district has reversed course, saying it will require its 10,000 teachers and other staff to get vaccinated for the coronavirus or be tested weekly.
The announcement makes the San Francisco Unified School District the latest in California to issue a vaccine or testing mandate for staff as schools across the state return to in-person classes amid a troubling surge in infections because of the highly contagious delta variant.
The San Jose and Long Beach Unified school districts have issued similar requirements in recent days.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified district is requiring all students and employees to undergo weekly virus testing regardless of vaccination status. It is California's largest school district.
MIAMI — The Florida Hospital Association says nearly 70% of the state's hospitals are expecting critical staffing shortage in the next seven days.
Association president Mary Mayhew says an influx of COVID-19 cases is hitting at a time when Florida hospitals are seeing “unusually high numbers of very ill non-COVID patients.”
Mayhew says that “our front line health care heroes are finding themselves stretched thin and physical and mental exhaustion is taking its toll.”
She says that many of those being hospitalized for COVID-19 during the latest surge in cases are in their 20s and 30s.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina — South Carolina's top prosecutor has advised authorities in the state capital that they are prohibited by law from instituting a school mask mandate as a way to protect children who are age-ineligible for the coronavirus vaccine.
Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a Tuesday letter to the Columbia city council that its recently approved measure is “in conflict with state law and should either be rescinded or amended.” He is giving officials until Friday to make changes.
The Columbia council ratified an ordinance last week requiring the use of masks in the city’s elementary and middle schools for at least the beginning of the school year.
But a state budget proviso that went into effect July 1 bars South Carolina educational institutions from using appropriated funds to mandate masks.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says it is “vital” that Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the nation heads into the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Biden attended a White House briefing of emergency management and scientific advisers. He said getting vaccinated is part of preparing for the possibility of damaging storms this year, in addition to taking other preparedness measures.
He says: “A vital part of preparing for hurricane season is to get vaccinated now.”
Biden encouraged Americans living in vulnerable areas to remind themselves of their evacuation zones and to visit Ready.gov for additional information on how to be ready in case a storm hits.
Getting vaccinated would guard against the chances of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 should someone need to evacuate to a shelter during a storm.
He added: “Get vaccinated. Make a plan.”
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new high for the second day in a row Tuesday as a surge in coronavirus cases continued to overwhelm the state’s health system.
The state Department of Health says virus hospitalizations rose by 59 to 1,435. A day earlier, the state broke the record it set in January for total COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Arkansas’ latest surge has been brought on by the highly contagious delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate.
Arkansas’ reported coronavirus cases rose by more than 2,600 from Monday to Tuesday, and COVID-19 deaths increased by 24.
The department says there are only 12 ICU beds available in the state.
Arkansas ranks third in the country for new virus cases per capita, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s governor on Tuesday gave employees of the state’s prisons and its health care and congregate care facilities about a month to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or begin taking weekly tests.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement affects about 25,000 employees.
Wolf set a Sept. 7 deadline for the employees to get fully vaccinated. In addition to the Corrections Department, the announcement applies to state hospitals, veterans’ homes, community health centers and homes for those with intellectual disabilities.
Wolf also announced what is intended as an incentive toward vaccination: starting Oct. 1, vaccinated state employees will be eligible for an additional paid day off.
HELENA, Mont. — Montana state employees will be required to return to in-person work starting Sept. 7.
The Montana State News Bureau reported Tuesday that the requirement was announced by the state Department of Administration in an email to workers last week.
The plans come as Montana health officials reported 493 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the highest number of cases tallied in a single day since January.
Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles encouraged employees to get vaccinated though vaccination against COVID-19 is not required.
Less than half of eligible Montana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.