MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has extended through the end of the October a COVID-19 state of emergency that relaxes some health care regulations to help hospitals with coronavirus patients.
The order was scheduled to expire Tuesday. The order was aimed at helping hospitals adjust to the caseload from the virus, al.com reported. Ivey first ordered the “limited, narrowly-focused” state of emergency on Aug. 12 because of a surge from the delta variant of the coronavirus and Alabama’s low vaccination rate.
The governor’s office said Friday’s proclamation relaxes regulation to allow expanded capacity in health care facilities and easier shipment of emergency equipment and supplies. It also allows out-of-state doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to practice in Alabama under expedited licenses or temporary permits.
The number of patients in Alabama hospitals with COVID-19 fell under 1,000 on Friday, the first time since July. The number of new daily cases in Alabama has dropped more than 70% since early September, the governor’s office said.
However, the governor’s proclamation says the pandemic “continues to present a serious threat to public health, taxing Alabama hospitals, many of which were already struggling to staff their facilities.”
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Marchers in Rome protest workplace vaccine rules, requiring “Green Pass”
— Brazil coronavirus deaths surpass 600,000, second globally behind U.S.
— Russia hits virus death record as autumn surge persists
— San Francisco to welcome cruise ships after 19-month hiatus
— See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ROME — Thousands of demonstrators marched down Rome’s Via Veneto and other main streets on Saturday, some clashing with police, to protest a government rule requiring COVID-19 vaccines or negative tests to access workplaces next week.
The certification in Italy, known as a “Green Pass,” takes effect on Friday and applies to public and private workplaces.
To obtain one, people must either have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, document recovery from the illness in the last six months or test negative in the previous 48 hours.
Both employees and employers risk fines if they don’t comply. Workers in the public sector can be suspended if they show up five times without a Green Pass. This summer, Green Passes were required in Italy to enter museums, theaters, gyms and indoor restaurants, and take long-distance trains and buses or domestic flights.
The protesters held an authorized protest in Piazza Del Popolo. Then some left the vast square and clashed with police as they went to an unauthorized march. Police in helmets and carrying shields and batons blocked them from marching down a street that runs past Premier Mario Draghi’s office.
As of Saturday, 80% of those 12 and older have been fully vaccinated in Italy.
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada this week became one of the last states to include rapid antigen tests in its coronavirus tallies.
Health experts say the change could provide a fuller picture of the pandemic. Health officials say they weren’t added earlier because their limited resources, with staff had focused on vaccines and contact tracing confirmed cases.
Nevada and Maryland were the last two holdouts that didn’t publicly report antigen tests in defiance of federal guidance. Concerns about the supply of rapid tests and varied ways states report them reflects the absence of a national testing strategy.
Nevada’s hospitals have been pushed to near capacity during the pandemic, its unemployment broke national records, and 435,000 people have tested positive for the virus. Nevada health officials acknowledge omitting rapid tests from its tally limited the public’s understanding of the pandemic’s spread in the state.
The rapid antigen tests, which detect the presence of viral proteins rather than the coronavirus itself, return results in minutes. Traditional molecular tests sent to labs can take days to process but are shown to be more accurate.
The rapid tests turnaround times have led to their widespread use in prisons, schools and nursing homes.
SAN FRANCISCO — Cruise ships are returning to San Francisco after a 19-month hiatus brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor London Breed announced the Majestic Princess will sail into the port of San Francisco on Monday. It’s the first cruise ship to dock in the San Francisco Bay Area since March 2020, when the Grand Princess captured the world’s attention. The ship was carrying people infected with the coronavirus, and thousands on board were quarantined as it idled off the California coast.
The Majestic Princess will sail from Los Angeles for a weeklong California coast voyage that will include an overnight stop in San Francisco. The port of San Francisco expects to welcome 21 cruise ships through the remainder of the year.
Passengers will have to show they were vaccinated at least 14 days before embarking on the cruise and have proof of vaccination. They must also have a negative COVID-19 test taken within two days of their embarkation, according to a statement from Princess Cruises, a Carnival Corp. subsidiary that operates the vessel.
The CDC’s latest cruise ship guidance recommends passengers show proof of vaccination and a recent negative test. It advises travelers who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness to avoid cruises.
HONOLULU — Honolulu will allow a limited number of fans at University of Hawaii football games as it begins easing coronavirus restrictions.
The governor and the mayor say they’re relaxing rules for outdoor entertainment venues as vaccination rates rise and the decline of case counts, test positivity rates and hospitalizations. Starting Wednesday, outdoor venues can allow up to 1,000 attendees or up to 50% of their full capacity, whichever is smaller.
Attendees will need to be vaccinated, wear masks and maintain physical distance. Restrictions on indoor entertainment, outdoor weddings, golf tournaments and road races will be eased.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation reported 51 coronavirus cases and one death on Friday.
It was the third consecutive day the tribe reported at least one coronavirus-related death after going six days with no additional deaths.
Navajo officials are urging people to get vaccinated, wear masks in public and minimize travel. The tribe’s reservation is the country’s largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The latest numbers increased the tribe’s totals to 34,3350 confirmed cases and 1,454 confirmed deaths.
MOSCOW — Russia has reached another record daily death toll from COVID-19, with 968 deaths registered on Saturday.
The national coronavirus task force has reported a persistent rise, with nearly daily records in October. It’s about 100 more daily deaths than in late September.
The task force also reported more than 29,000 new daily infections. Authorities says the steep rise in cases and deaths is because of the nation’s low vaccination rate.
The deputy prime minister says 47.8 million Russians, or 33% of the population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
SAO PAULO — Brazil has topped 600,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, the second-highest global toll behind the United States.
However, recent fewer cases and deaths have encouraged mayors and governors to admit fans into soccer matches and allow bars and restaurants stay open late.
The country’s average daily death toll has hovered around 500 for a month, down sharply from more than 3,000 in April. Almost 45% of the population is fully vaccinated, and a booster shot is being administered to the elderly.
The U.S. has surpassed 710,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths.
ROME — Italy will offer a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine to all people over 60 who completed vaccination at least six months ago.
The Health Ministry says booster shots also will be offered to those with “fragile” health conditions, regardless of age. Italy already had approved giving a third dose of the vaccine to people over 80 or living in care homes, along with health care personnel, transplant recipients and those with depressed immunity.
Ministry authorities have said a third shot to all who have been vaccinated isn’t under consideration. In Italy, 80% of those 12 or older have been fully vaccinated.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The proportion of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations among vaccinated Pennsylvania residents has risen sharply in the past month, although the shot remains broadly protective.
That’s according to new statewide health data. The latest Department of Health statistics on so-called “breakthrough” infections show from Sept. 5 to Oct. 4, vaccinated people represented just over a quarter (26%) of more than 135,000 new infections and nearly 5,000 hospital admissions across the state.
That’s up from just 6% of cases and 5% of hospitalizations between January and September. Pennsylvania residents who remain unvaccinated are still far more likely to contract the coronavirus, become hospitalized and die than those who got the shot.
Dr. Denise Johnson, the state’s acting physician general, says the data reinforced the case for booster shots. Last month, U.S. health officials approved a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for all Americans 65 and older, along with younger people with health issues or those in high-risk, frontline jobs.
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County sheriff says he won’t enforce the county’s vaccine mandate in his agency.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva oversees the largest sheriff’s department in the county with roughly 18,000 employees. He said Thursday in a Facebook Live event that he doesn’t plan to carry out the county’s mandate.
Los Angeles County employees had to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The mandate was issued by executive order in August and allows only religious and medical exemptions.
Villanueva says his employees are willing to be terminated rather than get vaccinated. More than 26,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Los Angeles County.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s top health official is urging people who’ve not been vaccinated for the coronavirus to get a shot within the next week to help prevent another holiday spike of infections and deaths.
Dr. Scott Harris says it takes five or six weeks for someone to gain the maximum amount of immunity after the initial vaccine in a shot-two process. He says that means time is running out for people to have “the safest possible Thanksgiving.”
Harris says he was “cautiously optimistic” the holidays won’t be as deadly as last year because of vaccinations and the large number of people who have antibodies after contracting the virus.
NEW YORK — A panel of vaccine experts will meet in early November to consider whether to recommend the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children younger than 12.
The Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices scheduled a two-day meeting for Nov. 2-3, health officials said Friday. The Pfizer topic is expected to take up part of the agenda.
The experts are anticipating the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will have decided by then whether to authorize use of the Pfizer vaccine for children between ages 5 to 11. The committee’s job is to help the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention develop recommendations for doctors and the public about which vaccines should be used and how they should be given.
Currently, Pfizer vaccines are authorized only for people 12 and older.