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.

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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.”

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— 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


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new high for the second day in a row on Tuesday as a surge in coronavirus cases continued to overwhelm the state’s health system.

The state Department of Health reported its 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.

There are 507 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units around the state and 295 on ventilators.

The department said 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.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday defended his administration’s handling of the delta variant, which is surging through unvaccinated communities across the country.

Biden spoke after the Senate passage of a bipartisan infrastructure bill he championed. He was asked if his administration acted too slowly to recommend reimposing face mask requirements and other distancing measures to slow the spread of the highly transmissible variant.

Biden said the issue is not the variant but the reluctance of 90 million eligible Americans to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We knew how the variant spread and we know the vaccines prevent the spread,” Biden said. “What is disappointing is that more people were not willing to take the vaccine.”

MILWAUKEE — One of the country’s most popular music festivals will require attendees to have a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend the concerts.

Organizers at Summerfest in Milwaukee released a revised entry protocol policy Tuesday. They announced that those attending the lakeside festival will need proof of vaccination or negative results from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of attending.

The annual concert runs Sept. 2 to 4, 9 to 11, and 16 to 18.

Last month, Lollapalooza, the large music festival on Chicago’s lakefront, put in place similar restrictions. On Tuesday, the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 2-5 in Tennessee, also announced requirements for vaccination or testing.

OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska’s largest public school district will require students to wear masks indoors when they return to classrooms next week.

The Omaha Public Schools board voted 8-1 Monday to require all people to wear masks indoors at school, effective Tuesday, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The resolution made note of recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools in an effort to fight the growing spread of COVID-19 cases.

The Omaha district joins a growing number of Nebraska school districts requiring face masks when school starts this fall.

O’FALLON, Mo. — More than 375,000 Missouri residents have entered the state’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery program, but vaccinations continue to lag, especially in rural areas.

State officials said the first of five drawings will be Friday. In all, 800 adults will win $10,000 cash prizes, and 100 people ages 12-17 will win education savings accounts worth $10,000. Entries for the first drawing are due Wednesday. Only those who have initiated vaccination are eligible.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced the incentive program last month. About 120,000 people registered within 24 hours of the announcement, and vaccinations have risen nearly 50% in the past month, said Robert Knodell, acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

But Missouri continues to trail most states in vaccinations. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 49.4% of Missouri residents have had at least one shot, nearly 10 percentage points below the national average. Fewer than 25% of residents in 14 Missouri counties have initiated vaccination.

Meanwhile, the delta variant of the virus continues to create new and serious illnesses. The state on Tuesday reported 1,754 new confirmed cases and a seven-day average of 1,880 new cases, bringing the pandemic total to 589,733.

The state also reported 142 new deaths, including one from June and 105 from July that were previously not reported. All told, 9,970 Missourians have now died from COVID-19. Hospitals across the state are filling up with patients, in places big and small. Intensive care unit capacity statewide is at 17%.

WASHINGTON — The nation’s capital will require that all local government workers and public school teachers be fully inoculated by Sept. 19.

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s policy, announced Tuesday, largely mirrors those adopted recently by the federal government and U.S. military. Those who opt out of the vaccine must submit to weekly self-testing.

The policy does not apply to teachers in the city’s robust charter school network, which holds about half of D.C. students. But it has been endorsed by the local teachers union and local AFL-CIO chapter.

Virus metrics have spiked in D.C. and the larger DMV area of northern Virginia and southern Maryland. But health officials maintain that new infections are predominantly among the unvaccinated, saying breakthrough infections among the vaccinated among are rare, and then milder and less infectious.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The superintendent of Alaska’s largest school district says she has no intention to reexamine a policy requiring students and staff to wear masks indoors even though the new mayor of Anchorage has urged the district “immediately reconsider” the plan.

“Having schools open and students learning and engaging with peers is of the highest priority to me,” Superintendent Deena Bishop said in a statement Monday.

She added that according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, “properly masked students will not be required to quarantine if deemed a close contact. My goal is to provide a high quality education to students and in order to do this, the schools need to keep their doors open. Masking helps us accomplish this goal.”

Mayor Dave Bronson, who took office July 1, has opposed COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates and criticizing the city’s previous restrictions was a central part of his mayoral campaign platform, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Bronson in a social media post last Friday said he is against “mandates masking our residents and children.”

“Anchorage residents should be free to make their own decisions about their health care, about their families, and about their children’s education,” Bronson said. “Therefore, I strongly oppose the Anchorage School District’s back to school mask mandate and strongly encourage them to immediately reconsider.”

The Anchorage School Board last week approved Bishop’s COVID-19 mitigation plan, which includes requiring masks for everyone, in most cases, inside the district’s buildings as of this week. Approval came after hours of testimony, which the Daily News reported was largely from people opposing the masking mandate. Classes start next Tuesday.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Interest in COVID-19 vaccines has surged in the week since North Carolina’s governor announced that his administration would boost the financial incentive from $25 to $100 for unvaccinated residents who come in for their first shot this month.

While a number of factors are contributing to people’s decision to get vaccinated, including the rising spread of the more contagious delta variant, state health officials are hopeful even more people will choose to get vaccinated now that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has decided to follow President Joe Biden’s advice to give out $100 rewards.

“Many of our providers distributed all of their cards in a single day after we announced the shift to $100 last week,” said Catie Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. “One of our providers went from distributing 1,000 cards per week to 3,000 in two days.”

Drivers who take people in for their first shot remain eligible for one $25 prepaid credit card, while those who get the shot can now receive four cards in $25 denominations.

About 38,000 $25 cards have been issued since the state launched its pilot program in May. Armstrong said the cards are shipped to vaccine providers on a weekly basis based on anticipated demand. The department has ordered roughly $1.8 million worth of cards for delivery this week, she said.

Data collected by the state health department and shared with The Associated Press shows nearly 18,000 page loads on the incentives section of the website during the entire month of July, when the cash reward being offered was $25. But since Cooper’s announcement last week, the section has seen more than 66,000 page loads — a 269% increase.

HELENA, Mont. — Montana Health officials have reported 493 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number of cases tallied in a single day since January.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise, with more than 150 people hospitalized with the respiratory virus on Tuesday. That is nearly triple the average of 54 COVID-19 hospitalizations recorded per day in June. Hospitalizations remain below the peak of over 400 recorded last November.

Less than half of Montana residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are fully vaccinated. Of those hospitalized with the virus in June and July, nearly 90% were unvaccinated.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s governor on Tuesday gave about 25,000 employees of Pennsylvania’s prisons and state health care and congregate care facilities about a month to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or take weekly tests for the virus.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf gave them until Sept. 7 to get fully vaccinated. In addition to the Corrections Department, it applies to state hospitals, veterans’ homes, community health centers, prisons and homes for those with intellectual disabilities.

As an incentive, Wolf is also offering all state employees an extra day off of work as an incentive to increase the vaccination rate.

MADISON, Wis. — Opioid overdoses in Wisconsin have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a report the state Department of Health Services released Tuesday.

The analysis shows the rate of overdose incidents rose from about seven per 100,000 people in January 2019 to about 13 per 100,000 people this past March. Overdoses spiked in May 2020 to about 15 per 100,000 people.

Stress from the pandemic, a statewide stay-at-home order, increased access to drugs and social isolation may have led to more dangerous drug behaviors, the report said. The data shows overdoses rose sharply during the pandemic’s onset, then decreased and now appear to be rising again.

DHS officials said they plan to use $10.4 million that Wisconsin won as part of a multistate settlement to launch prevention programs for Black and American Indian communities, create health teams that will travel to areas of the state experiencing opioid spikes, reimburse counties for the costs of treating addicts, and cover housing for people in recovery.

The settlement, reached in February, resolved allegations consulting firm McKinsey & Company contributed to the opioid crisis by advising opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma on how to maximize profits by urging physicians to prescribe more OxyContin to patients.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa has tossed out tens of thousands of expired COVID-19 vaccine doses and could toss out hundreds of thousands more if demand for the vaccine continues to lag in the state.

Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand told the Des Moines Register on Monday that the state has tossed more than 81,000 doses of the vaccine.

The department warned last month that the state might have to discard around 217,000 doses by the end of August unless demand picked up.

Officials said they’ve seen some more interest in the shots recently, as the cases have surged over the summer. But demand is still far below what it was in April.

MEXICO CITY — The United States will send Mexico 8.5 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine as the delta variant drives the country’s third wave of infections, Mexican officials said Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the U.S. government will send AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, though the latter hasn’t yet been approved by Mexican regulators.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris informed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the new shipments during a call Monday, Ebrard said.

As Mexico’s third wave started, hospitalizations and deaths lagged significantly. But hospitalizations are starting to rise in parts of the country as infections expand rapidly and the health system grows more stressed.

Mexico has received 91.2 million doses of five different vaccines, about 73 million of which have been applied. Some 51 million people have received at least one dose and 27 million have been fully vaccinated.

GENEVA — A top official at the World Health Organization described the huge gap between access to COVID-19 vaccines in rich and poor countries as “the moral catastrophe of our time” and said it was up to about 20 political leaders, pharmaceutical CEOs and influential policymakers to change course.

To date, more than 4 billion coronavirus shots have been administered globally, but only about 1% of those have been in Africa.

“If we had tried to withhold vaccines from parts of the world, could we have made it any worse than it is today?” asked Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, during a social media session on Tuesday. Those responsible include the leaders of countries contracting COVID-19 vaccines and the companies producing the doses, Aylward said, without naming them.

“We need these 20 people to lead the world’s effort to change this disgraceful effort,” he said, citing the WHO target of vaccinating at least 10% of every country’s population, a goal that is likely to be missed.

Aylward said WHO would be launching an appeal on Wednesday aimed at raising nearly $8 billion to help poor countries survive the surging delta variant.

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s health minister announced Tuesday that the coalition government has agreed to stimulate its national vaccination campaign by offering people food vouchers in exchange for rolling up their sleeves to get jabbed against COVID-19.

“We agreed on a measure that was proposed, namely meal vouchers for those who are vaccinated,” health minister Ioana Mihaila said after a government meeting Tuesday.

The minister said that the food vouchers will likely be worth around 20 euros ($23 dollars) per full vaccination. The announcement comes as Romania, a country of more than 19 million, has fully vaccinated only 25% of its population, one of the slowest vaccination campaigns in Europe.

Vaccine uptake in the Eastern European country has dropped off dramatically from a mid-May high of around 120,000 doses administered per day to around just less than 15,000 per day in recent weeks. The health ministry announced Tuesday that only 70% of doctors in public hospitals have so far been vaccinated.

Since the pandemic began, Romania has recorded more than a million coronavirus infections and 34,323 people have died.

BALTIMORE — The public school district in Maryland’s Baltimore County will now require masks to be worn by all students, staff and visitors, officials announced Tuesday.

“As we prepare to welcome students and staff back to school for in-person learning, universal masking is an important step to help maintain our community’s health and safety,” Superintendent Dr. Darryl Williams said in a statement.

The mask requirements begin Tuesday.

The local COVID-19 case rate has risen from about 17 cases per 100,000 residents to about 61 cases per 100,000 residents over the last three weeks, according to county figures.

School districts in neighboring Maryland counties have also issued requirements mandating masks in schools. Baltimore County is a collection of suburban communities that ring the city of Baltimore, which has recently reinstated indoor masking for all.

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