LANSING, Mich. — Two of Michigan’s largest health systems are requiring all employees, volunteers and medical providers at their hospitals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Spectrum Health, a 14-hospital network in western Michigan, and eight-hospital Beaumont Health on the other side of the state announced the mandates Wednesday. At least four hospital systems in the state now have announced the requirement.
Grand Rapids-based Spectrum has 31,000 employees. Beaumont is headquartered in Royal Oak and has more than 33,000 employees. They join the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and Livonia-based Trinity Health in requiring vaccinations.
A spokesperson says about 70% of Spectrum’s onsite staff are vaccinated.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— U.S. states, businesses reconsider masks amid surge
— NY to require state employees to get vaccines or get tested
— Google delays return to office, mandates vaccines
— England, Scotland end quarantine for vaccinated from US, EU
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ANKARA, Turkey — The number of new coronavirus cases in Turkey climbed above the 20,000 mark on Wednesday, reaching a level previously seen in early May.
The country reported 22,291 infections in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry figures. It also recorded 76 deaths — the highest number of daily fatalities since mid-June.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a televised address that 87% of all active cases and 95% of hospitalized patients consisted of people who were not fully vaccinated, and renewed a call for people to get their shots.
The government has no immediate plans to reimpose restrictions, the minister said, but he did not rule out the possibility of re-introducing measures in the future.
Only about 30 percent of the country’s 84 million people have been fully vaccinated, using China’s Sinovac and the Pfizer vaccines.
The country had reached a record high of more than 63,000 cases in one day in mid-April.
NEW ORLEANS — Lisa Beaudean of St. Louis, Missouri strolled the French Quarter holding a cup from Café du Monde. She was happy to not be wearing a mask and disappointed to hear that many states, including Louisiana, are again asking residents to mask up indoors, even if they’re vaccinated.
“I’m frustrated,” Beaudean said. “I’m very frustrated. You know, for the last 18 months, maybe even longer, I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do…And there are no repercussions for those who haven’t done what they’re supposed to do.”
She had a mask in a back pocket Wednesday in case she was asked to put it on at one of the restaurants or establishments while in town.
“Do I think it’s right? No.”
“I don’t know what the answer is. I really don’t. But, forcing everybody to wear a mask – again, for those who have been vaccinated – is not going to make those who have not been vaccinated, get vaccinated.”
She says she’s worried about the country entering another lockdown and “making me pay the price for the average citizen that doesn’t want to get vaccinated for whatever reason.”
Beaudean says said incentivizing the general population may help.
Misinformation and conspiracy theories have kept many from getting vaccination, and she’s concerned because only about 40% of her state has been vaccinated.
“If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated, for the love of Pete and all that is holy. Get vaccinated. Nobody is tracking you,” she said.
CHICAGO — The hordes of people expected to descend on Chicago’s Grant Park for the Lollapalooza music festival this week will be required to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 or tested negative for the disease within the last three days.
The four-day festival starts Thursday and is expected to be back at full capacity, with roughly 100,000 daily attendees. After missing last summer because of the threat of the coronavirus, it will easily be Chicago’s largest gathering since the pandemic started, and one of the country’s.
This year’s festival will look very different than in the past. To gain entry, attendees will have to present their vaccination cards or a printed copy of a negative COVID-19 test that is no more than 72 hours old. That means that anyone with a four-day pass who isn’t vaccinated will have to get tested twice. Furthermore, anyone who isn’t vaccinated will have to wear a mask.
Public health officials and others have raised concerns that such a large gathering, even outdoors, risks turning into a super-spreader event. Officials in the Netherlands were shocked after a much smaller music festival attended by 20,000 people over two days early this month led to nearly 1,000 cases of COVID-19, CNBC reported. That festival had similar safeguards to Lollapalooza’s.
WASHINGTON – The State Department says Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met the head of the World Health Organization to press for additional studies into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic in China.
Blinken and WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus met Wednesday in Kuwait City, Kuwait, where Blinken is wrapping up an overseas trip.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken told Tedros that any follow-up probe into the COVID-19 outbreak must be “be timely, evidence-based, transparent, expert-led, and free from interference.”
Blinken also stressed the importance of international unity in order to understand the pandemic and to prevent future ones, Price said in a statement. He added that Blinken and Tedros had both committed to work together with all members of the WHO to “make meaningful, concrete progress in strengthening global health security to prevent, detect, and respond to future pandemics and health threats.”
The meeting, which had not been previously announced, came after China rejected WHO calls for a second investigation into the virus.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor announced Wednesday that all public employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus starting next month as the U.S. territory reports a new rise in cases.
The executive order goes into effect Aug. 16 with few exceptions. Those who refuse to get inoculated will be required to submit a negative virus test weekly. If an employee refuses to get tested, they will be forced to use their vacation days and eventually may not be paid, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said.
“To finish defeating the pandemic, this is the step to follow,” he said. “Vaccination is the solution.”
Some 27,000 government employees are affected by the order, which comes a day after Pierluisi ordered that masks once again be worn indoors.
The island of 3.3 million people has reported more than 124,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 2,500 deaths related to COVID-19. More than 76% of the population has received at least a first vaccine dose.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was defiant Wednesday as he criticized the new CDC guidance about mask-wearing indoors and in schools.
“I think it’s very important we say, unequivocally, ‘No to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions, no to mandates,’” he said in Salt Lake City during a gathering of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that pushes conservative policies in Republican-controlled state legislatures.
His address prompted enthusiastic applause from a mostly mask-less crowd of about 1,400.
Florida leads the nation in the rate of new COVID-19 cases and deaths over the past 14 days, driven by the delta variant and a full reopening of the state. Just 48 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
Health experts say masks are an important tool in reducing transmission of the virus, especially among children who are too young to be vaccinated.
DeSantis did acknowledge that some school districts and parents have taken a different approach on mask-wearing, and said he was OK with that.
He boasted that Florida had “tangled with the Biden administration” in court over cruise line shutdowns and so-called vaccination passports.
“In Florida, we’ll continue to stand firm,” he said. “We’ll be holding the line. We will not back down.”
Reported by Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City.
TOPEKA, Kan. — A central Kansas school district is requiring masks in its buildings and public health officials in two of the state’s most populous counties are recommending that even vaccinated residents wear masks in at least some indoor public spaces.
The developments in the Salina school district and Shawnee and Douglas counties in northeast Kansas came quickly after a surge in new COVID-19 cases tied to the faster-spreading delta variant prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its guidance on masks.
The Salina school district appears to be the first in Kansas outside the Kansas City area to impose a mask mandate. Douglas and Shawnee counties are only recommending masks and not requiring them.
State health data showed that Kansas averaged 743 new COVID-19 cases a day for the seven days ending Wednesday. The daily average dropped below 100 new cases a day just after top Republican lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature ended a state of emergency for the pandemic in mid-June.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Following the federal government’s lead, California is recommending that people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Wednesday’s announcement comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that fully vaccinated people mask up in public indoor settings in places where community spread is high or substantial.
California officials said more than 90% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents live in such areas of community spread.
RALEIGH, N.C. -— North Carolina’s health department will require workers, volunteers and others at 14 state-run health care facilities to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Sept. 30 unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption, according to a memo.
The Associated Press obtained a departmental FAQ about the vaccine mandate that says those who don’t get fully vaccinated or exempted by the deadline could face “disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, for unacceptable personal conduct.”
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore first shed light on the development through a news release Tuesday evening. Although he is vaccinated and encourages others to get the shots, he believes residents should have the ability to make their own decisions without fear of reprisal.
The speaker also noted that none of the available COVID-19 vaccines the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use have thus far received full FDA approval.
North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services did not comment on Moore’s criticism, but confirmed it will require many within the Division of State Operated Health Facilities to get vaccinated.
WASHINGTON — The effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine wanes slightly over time but it remains strongly protective for at least six months after the second dose, according to company data released Wednesday.
The findings are one piece of evidence that U.S. health authorities will consider in deciding if and when booster doses might be needed. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have said they plan to seek authorization for boosters.
The new data comes from the 44,000-person study that initiated the widespread use of the vaccine, showing its highly effective in the first few months after immunization. Now the companies have tracked those study participants for six months and counting.
Most important, protection against severe COVID-19 remains very high, at nearly 97%, researchers found. Overall, protection against symptomatic COVID-19 was 91% over the six-month period, the study found.
But a closer look shows that efficacy against any symptomatic infection dropped gradually every two months, from a peak of 96% two months after study participants got their second dose. By month four, efficacy was 90% and by six months, it was about 84%.
The study results were posted online but haven’t undergone full scientific review. They don’t single out how the vaccine works against the highly contagious delta variant. However, the companies cite separate testing and real-world data showing the shots counter it.