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The Latest: Miss. deploys 1,000 out-of-state health workers

More than 1,000 out-of-state medical workers are starting to deploy to 50 Mississippi hospitals to help with staffing shortages as the state deals with a surge of COVID-19 casesBy The Associated PressAugust 24, 2021, 3:48 PM• 11 min read

3:16

On Location: August 24, 2021Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.

JACKSON, Miss. — More than 1,000 out-of-state medical workers are starting to deploy to 50 Mississippi hospitals to help with staffing shortages as the state deals with a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that 808 nurses, three certified nurse anesthetists, 22 nurse practitioners, 193 respiratory therapists and 20 paramedics have been hired under 60-day contracts that could be extended if need

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts to four companies of the 19 that submitted proposals when the state sought medical workers earlier this month.

Mississippi will pay $80 million for the contracts, and Reeves says he expects the federal government to reimburse the state for the entire expense.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Georgia Gov. Kemp orders National Guard to overwhelmed hospitals

— US outbreaks force early reversals on in-person learning at schools

— ACLU sues over South Carolina ban on school mask mandates

— Dr. Fauci recommends hospitals, doctors use more antibody treatments

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

DALLAS — Texas hospital systems are increasingly closing off-site emergency rooms and moving their staff to hospitals to help with a flood of COVID-19 cases.

Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston closed three suburban emergency rooms in Kingwood, Spring and Sienna to help ease the burden on its hospital staffs. St. Luke’s Health in Houston closed its Conroe ER to help meet surging admissions at its hospital in nearby The Woodlands.

Texas Health Hospital Rockwall near Dallas has moved the staff at its satellite ER to the hospital’s ER, and it also put up an air-conditioned tent outside to accommodate 10 to 15 overflow patients.

Of the 7,258 ICU beds in Texas hospitals, 6,746 were filled Wednesday. Of those, 3,592 were COVID-19 cases.

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HOUSTON — The National Rifle Association has canceled its annual meeting, which had been set to be held next month in Houston, due to concerns over the pandemic.

The NRA’s meeting had been set for Sept. 3 through Sept. 5 and would have been attended by thousands of people taking part in social gatherings and other events on acres of exhibit space.

The organization said Tuesday it made the decision after analyzing relevant data regarding COVID-19 in Harris County, where Houston is. Houston, like other Texas cities and communities, has seen a jump in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

The NRA says impacts from the virus “could have broader implications” for those attending if the event went forward.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A summer coronavirus surge driven by the delta variant is again straining some California hospitals, particularly in rural areas, but the trend shows signs of moderating and experts predict improvement in coming weeks.

The pattern is similar to the infection spikes California experienced last summer and much more severely over the winter, when intensive care units were overflowing. But this time the surge has come without the shutdown orders that previously hobbled California’s economy, businesses and schools.

The state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said Tuesday that “we’re hopeful, definitely.” Pan says the state’s latest projection “does look encouraging that we are plateauing and or peaking.”

More than 8,200 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 across California, with nearly 2,000 in intensive care. Deaths have begun increasing and state models project nearly 2,000 people will die within the next three weeks.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University will require all students, faculty and staff to complete the full coronavirus vaccination process by Nov. 15.

School President Kristina Johnson said Tuesday that the requirement is based on the decision by the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.

Ohio State is one of the country’s largest universities and a major employer in the state capital, Columbus.

Johnson says the vaccination requirement coupled with Ohio State’s mask mandate provides “the best chance of continuing to enjoy the traditions that we love throughout the academic year with higher vaccination rates in our campus community.”

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O’FALLON, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop school districts from enforcing mask mandates, requirements aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

A spokesman said Tuesday that the lawsuit names Columbia Public Schools along with the district’s Board of Education and board members, but is a class action lawsuit that “would apply to school districts across the state that have a mask mandate for schoolchildren.”

The new school year began Monday in several districts across the state, and with the delta variant causing a big spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, more than four dozen districts are requiring students, teachers and staff to wear face coverings.

The lawsuit cites the low death rate among school aged children.

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SALEM, Ore. — People in Oregon, regardless of vaccination status, will once again be required wear masks in most public outdoor settings — including large outdoor events where physical distancing is not possible — beginning on Friday.

The outdoor mask mandate, which was announced Tuesday by Gov. Kate Brown, is part of a growing list of statewide measures implemented in Oregon in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19. There was already an indoor mask mandate.

Over the past month coronavirus cases, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant, have overwhelmed hospitals in the Pacific Northwest state.

Health officials say part of the reasoning for the new mandate is because they are seeing instances where cases are clustering around outdoor events, such as music festivals.

On Monday there were just 47 adult intensive care unit beds available in the state, with 937 COVID-19 patients hospitalized. Currently more than 90% of the state’s ICU and hospital beds are full.

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MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s mayor has ordered mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for city employees. Mayor Tom Barrett made the announcement Tuesday afternoon. The requirement applies to general city employees as well as temporary employees and interns.

“We have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for all employees, and a vaccinated workforce is part of that,” Barrett, a Democrat, said in a news release.

The mandate will go into effect Sept. 1. Unvaccinated employees will receive up to two hours of paid leave to get vaccinated and will have until Oct. 29 to produce proof of vaccination. Workers who won’t comply will face 30-day unpaid suspensions. Workers who continue to refuse to get the shots will be fired. The city will provide exemptions from the shots based on medical or religious reasons.

The mandate doesn’t apply to unionized city workers. The mayor’s office says the city is negotiating with the unions on how the requirement will apply to members.

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OMAHA, Neb. — The health department for Nebraska’s most populous county has asked the state for approval to issue a countywide mandate requiring people to wear face masks indoors.

If approved, the order would apply not only to businesses, but to schools within the county’s borders, as well.

Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse told the County Board on Tuesday that she had sought the approval for the mask order from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Huse said the order, if approved, would require masking until community transmission drops below the substantial category and until eight weeks past the time a COVID vaccine is approved for children between the ages of 5 and 11.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging hospitals and doctors to make greater use of antibody treatments for people infected with COVID-19 as hospitalizations and deaths rise due to the spread of the delta variant.

Infusions of antibody drugs can keep patients who are experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms from getting so sick they need hospitalization, the government’s top infectious disease specialist said at Tuesday’s White House coronavirus briefing. They also can serve as a preventive treatment for people exposed to someone with a documented infection.

Three antibody products are available under emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and they’re free thanks to taxpayer support. But Fauci says they remain “a much-underutilized intervention.”

However, demand for the drugs increased five-fold last month to nearly 110,000 doses, with the majority going to states with low vaccination rates. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been among the patients treated with antibodies.

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NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s largest hospital system, Ochsner Health, says it’s requiring all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 29.

The announcement came a day after the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The state health department announced 3,814 new coronavirus cases statewide.

There were also 121 confirmed deaths reported Tuesday, along with 18 listed as “probable.” Hospitalizations ticked up again, increasing by 18 to 2,856.

“This policy is the right thing to do to protect our employees, their families, and our patients,” Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said.

Ochsner Health, based in suburban New Orleans, say 69% of its employees are already vaccinated.

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JERUSALEM — Palestinian health officials say they have received 500,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine donated by the United States through the COVAX initiative, a global vaccine-sharing initiative distributing vaccines to poorer nations.

The Moderna vaccines arrived Tuesday at a Palestinian health ministry facility in the city of Nablus; 300,000 were kept for vaccinating Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, while 200,000 were sent to the Gaza Strip.

At least 729,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have received a single dose of coronavirus vaccine, and more than 442,000 people have received two doses, according to health ministry figures.

The Palestinian Authority has been working to secure its own vaccine supplies, in large part through the U.N.-backed COVAX program. Vaccinations lag considerably compared to neighboring Israel, which has fully vaccinated more than 5.5 million of its 9.3 million people.

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LANSING, Mich. — A Catholic school in Lansing has lost an appeal over a Michigan policy that required masks on young kids earlier in the pandemic.

Although the statewide mandate ended, some counties are stepping in and requiring masks in schools when the 2021-22 year starts.

Resurrection School and some parents sued in 2020, saying a state mask order violated the free exercise of religion, among other objections. A judge, however, refused to intervene and issue an injunction.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision Monday.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney “correctly concluded that because the requirement to wear a facial covering applied to students in grades K–5 at both religious and non-religious schools, it was neutral and of general applicability,” the court said.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose department defended the policy, praised the decision.

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O’FALLON, Mo. — An estimated 300,000 people attended the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia over the 10-day period that ended Sunday, but just 53 took advantage of an on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinic, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Masks were not required at the fair. The event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“Obviously, we’d love to have vaccinated 1,000 people,” Pettis County Health Administrator JoAnn Martin told the Post-Dispatch. “But we are glad we made the effort.”

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ATLANTA — More than 100 National Guard personnel are being deployed to 20 hospitals across Georgia to help deal with the state’s latest surge of COVID-19 cases, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced TuesdayN.

The 105 medically trained Guardsmen and women will help staff at hospitals in Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, Brunswick, Albany and other cities across the state, Kemp said in a statement.

“These guardsmen will assist our frontline healthcare workers as they provide quality medical care during the current increase in cases and hospitalizations, and I greatly appreciate General Carden and his team for their willingness to answer the call again in our fight against COVID-19,” Kemp said.

The Guard is coordinating with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Community Health in the effort, Kemp said.

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