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The Latest: School board suspended for not requiring masks

·11 min read

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A rural New Mexico school board has been suspended by the state Public Education Department for not going along with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s mask mandate for children as schools prepare for classes to resume.

The five-member Floyd school board voted last week to make masks and social distancing optional in the district, which has about 225 students. The board reaffirmed the decision in another vote Monday despite warnings from state officials that it could face suspension.

Education Secretary Ryan Stewart announced the decision Wednesday, saying the state agency has a responsibility to ensure a healthy environment for all staff and students.

Some of New Mexico’s largest districts already have imposed the state’s guidelines, but critics have raised concerns about parents not being given a choice.



— Largest U.S. nursing home operator to workers: Get vaccine or lose job

— Microsoft: US workers must be fully vaccinated

— Britain to expand vaccine to youth ages 16-17

— Unvaccinated, hospitalized: Patients now advocate for shots


— Find more AP coverage at and



RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s capital city is instituting a vaccine mandate for most of its several thousand employees.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney made the announcement Wednesday, saying it will ensure the health and safety of both city workers and the public at large. He says that “the vaccine is our greatest tool to save lives and truly beat this pandemic.”

The mandate will apply to about 3,600 workers. Vaccinated employees will have to prove their status. Workers who haven’t been gotten shots must begin the process so they are fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.

The city’s announcement says that who don’t comply “will be subject to disciplinary action,” though it adds that medical and religious exemptions will be considered.


NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s largest hospital system is seeing more pediatric COVID-19 patients as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads.

Ochsner Health said Wednesday the system had no pediatric COVID patients several weeks ago, but the number has been ranging from five to 15 the past two weeks.

However, Dr. William Lennarz who is head of pediatrics at Ochsner Hospital for Children says that doesn’t mean the delta variant is disproportionately affecting children. He says that “what is different is that children now make up the most susceptible population because children under 12 are 100% not vaccinated.”

Lennarz also says most of the hospitalized children aren’t critically ill with COVID-19. He says that is still a very rare occurrence for youngsters affected by the coronavirus.


LONDON -- Britain’s government is allowing holidaymakers to visit more European countries without the need to quarantine when they return as it further eases its international travel restrictions for the pandemic.

The government said Wednesday that beginning Sunday, its “green” travel list will be expanded to include Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway. That means any Britons returning from those countries can avoid quarantine regardless of vaccination status.

France had been placed under a special restriction category because of worries about the beta variant of the coronavirus there. But from Sunday, fully vaccinated travelers coming from France will also no longer have to quarantine.


PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon health care workers will be required to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday the new rule will apply beginning Sept. 30 — giving employers time to prepare for implementation and allow time for unvaccinated health care workers to become fully vaccinated.

As coronavirus infections surge across the country, leading health organizations in Oregon have been pressing state leaders to open the door for health care organizations to enact vaccination mandates.

Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority to issue the new rule applying broadly to personnel in health care settings who have direct or indirect contact with patients or infectious materials. The rule will require weekly coronavirus testing for personnel and can be waived with proof of vaccination.


ST. LOUIS — St. Louis area health leaders are asking adults to wear masks and get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect children as hospitals report admitting more young patients with the disease, including some in intensive care.

Spring Schmidt, deputy director of the St. Louis County health department, said Wednesday about one in five current total cases in county hospitals has been people under the age of 19.

Schmidt said the delta variant causing most of the current cases is as transmissible in children as it is in adults, unlike the alpha variant that drove most cases last year.


MADISON, Wis. — Anyone who gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at a clinic at the Wisconsin State Fair will get a free cream puff, Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday.

AMI Expeditionary Healthcare will run the free clinic at the fair in West Allis, the governor said. The clinic will offer Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Anyone who gets a shot there will receive a voucher for a free cream puff redeemable at the Cream Puff Pavilion.

The incentive comes as COVID-19 cases are surging across the state, driven largely by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus that causes the disease.

The fair begins Thursday and is scheduled to run through Aug. 15.


COSTA MESA, Calif. — A Southern California school board has announced plans to sue Gov. Gavin Newsom over a state mandate requiring K-12 students to wear masks in classrooms.

The Orange County Board of Education voted 4-0 in a closed session Tuesday in favor of filing a lawsuit against the Democratic governor over the coronavirus mandate.

The Orange County Register reports that the board says face coverings are harmful to children and the governor is abusing his power.

The board did not present any data as evidence of adverse effects of masking on children or acknowledge public health studies that have shown masking reduces the spread of the virus.

Last August, the same school board sued Newsom to reopen schools that had been closed due to COVID-19. A petition went to the state Supreme Court asking it to review the case, but was ultimately denied.


JACKSON, MISS. -- Healthcare systems across Mississippi are seeing a surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in individuals under 50, a shift from earlier in the pandemic when the virus was predominately impacting older adults.

Officials at Mississippi’s only level-one trauma center and teaching hospital said Wednesday that 90% of the new cases and hospitalizations they are seeing are among unvaccinated individuals.

More than 1,000 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Mississippi Wednesday. University of Mississippi Medical Center Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Jonathan Wilson said there were only six available ICU beds in the entire state.

There have been moments when there are 60 people waiting for beds at the medical center, said Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. LouAnn Woodward.


RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina experts who released a frequently cited report showing minimal COVID-19 transmission within K-12 schools are growing alarmed as more districts defy public health recommendations and instead choose to make mask wearing optional for all students and staff.

Danny Benjamin and Kanecia Zimmerman, Duke University School of Medicine professors and co-chairs of the ABC Science Collaborative, warned in a virtual news conference with reporters on Wednesday that the 44 school districts that have decided to make masks optional may be flying blind as the delta variant surges. As a result, a several dozen children could die.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is urging districts to mandate mask wearing but is leaving up to local school boards to make their own decisions.

Benjamin said that the report he and his team wrote occurred when masking in classrooms was universal and before the more contagious delta variant began spreading rapidly.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates are at their worst levels in months


RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday announced his administration is still awaiting a response from a vaccine lottery winner who earned a $125,000 scholarship.

Audrey Chavous, an 18-year-old Winston-Salem resident and incoming Fayetteville State University freshman who works at a restaurant and axe throwing facility, won the pre-tax prize of $1 million.

The fourth and final winners of the scholarship and $1 million prize were chosen Wednesday and expected to be named next week.


PHOENIX — A Phoenix school district wants a lawsuit over its COVID-19 mask mandate, which could be a test case for other districts.

Attorneys for Phoenix Union High School District argued Wednesday at a preliminary hearing that a state law banning such policy isn’t in effect yet. They say the legislation that includes the ban doesn’t take effect until Sept. 29.

A biology teacher filed a lawsuit this week asking for a temporary restraining order on the measure, calling it unlawful. Both sides will give full arguments next week.

Since Phoenix Union’s decision, four more school districts have also gone against the law, including Tucson’s largest district.


HAVANA — Cuba’s hot spot for COVID-19 infections has shifted to the central province of Ciego de Avila, where officials are converting hotels into hospitals.

Instead of tourists, the Hotel Ciego de Avila will hold up to 240 low-risk pediatric patients, officials say, while the Las Canas Motel will have 53 beds for pregnant women with the coronavirus.

They are also ordering isolation of whole households when a virus is detected.

Cuba’s national direct of epidemiology, Francisco Durán, said Wednesday that the province accounted for 23 of the 98 new deaths from COVID-19 recorded the previous day in the country of 11 million people — the nation’s highest death toll yet in the pandemic.

The province of some 430,000 people had about twice as many deaths as in the capital of Havana, a city of 2 million.


SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean authorities and the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac announced plans to build a filling and packaging plant for Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccines in Chile.

Vaccines from the Chinese plant, which will come into operation in Santiago in the first quarter of 2022, will be exported to other parts of Latin America. The goal is to produce 50 million vaccine doses a year.

A vaccine research and development center will be built in Chile, government officials and Sinovac executives announced. The center will be located in the port of Antofagasta, some 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) north of Santiago.

Chile, which has 19 million people, has received 29.2 million vaccines, of which 19.6 million were from Sinovac. Chile has one of the highest rates for vaccination in the world.


NEW YORK — The nation’s largest nursing home operator told its workers this week they will have to get COVID-19 vaccinations to keep their jobs.

Genesis Healthcare has 70,000 employees at nearly 400 nursing homes and senior communities. That’s a possible shift in an industry that has largely rejected compulsory measures for fear of triggering an employee exodus that could worsen already dangerous staffing shortages.

Despite the terrible toll taken by the disease at nursing homes, many of the nation’s 15,000 such institutions have rejected mandatory vaccinations for fear large numbers of workers will quit. Nearly a quarter of nursing homes are already short of nurses or nurse’s aides

More than 130,000 nursing home residents in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, making such institutions by far the deadliest place during the pandemic. About 80% of residents have been vaccinated, double the rate for staff, according to the government.


MADRID — Some of the summer hires on the Mediterranean party island of Ibiza are different this year.

They include private detectives posing as tourists, who tip off the police about illegal parties during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ibiza officials say the gumshoes are needed to infiltrate a growing number of prohibited parties.

The city council of Eivissa, also known to visitors as Ibiza Town and the island’s largest city, has hired a detective agency to recruit sleuths who look like tourists. Hundreds of thousands of tourists have headed to the island in recent months as travel restrictions ease.

But gatherings in large numbers are outlawed in Ibiza to fight the spread of the coronavirus. The island has Spain’s highest infection rate, with 904 per 100,000 people over 14 days on Wednesday, compared with a national average of 633.

The Associated Press

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