The Latest: Louisiana lifts mask requirement for students
BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards is scrapping nearly every remaining coronavirus restriction in Louisiana and lifting the statewide requirement that students must wear a mask in the classroom and at school events.
The Democratic governor announced Tuesday that he’ll keep the statewide public health emergency declaration in place. But Louisiana will have almost none of the rules governing businesses and behavior over the last 15 months of the pandemic.
Edwards cited the wide availability of the coronavirus vaccine in Louisiana.
Masks still will be required on public transit, in health care facilities and in prisons. Schools, businesses and local government officials can decide if they want to mandate masks.
MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Mascots, prizes rally students to get vaccinated at US schools
— Moderna says its COVID-19 shot works in kids as young as 12
— Japan says US travel warning for virus won’t hurt Olympians
— Volunteers in One Good Thing keep on giving a year later
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WAILUKU, Hawaii — Police in Hawaii say an Oregon woman was arrested last week because she violated travel quarantine rules meant to protect the islands from the spread of coronavirus.
Maui police say 36-year-old Kelsey Newcomer didn’t have a negative COVID-19 test from an approved facility when she arrived on a flight from Seattle. Police say she also didn’t have approved lodging where she could complete at 10-day mandatory quarantine.
She was taken to a police station and later agreed to leave the island of Maui and return to Oregon. Travelers to Hawaii must comply with the state’s pre-travel testing program, even those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
She couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
HARTFORD, Conn. — A judge has upheld Connecticut’s requirement that children wear masks in schools, rejecting a challenge by some parents who say mask wearing can be harmful and education officials exceeded their authority.
A Superior Court judge in Hartford released his ruling Monday in response to a lawsuit filed by the CT Freedom Alliance and several parents and their children. The decision affirms the legitimacy of mask requirements in schools this academic year but does not give guidance for the next school year.
The CT Freedom Alliance says it will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, saying they can cause students distress and falsely claiming they are not useful despite assurances from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts that masks help prevent spread of the coronavirus.
DENVER — Colorado will have a weekly lottery for five residents to win $1 million to incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations.
Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday that the state is setting aside $5 million of federal coronavirus relief funds that would have gone toward vaccine advertising for five residents to win $1 million each. The drawings will take place every week starting June 4 until July 7.
Every resident who has been vaccinated by the end of May will be entered in the first drawing. In order to be eligible for the drawing, residents need to be at least 18 years old and have received at least one dose of the approved coronavirus vaccines.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas will be giving lottery tickets and gift certificates for hunting and fishing licenses to people who get the coronavirus vaccine.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson says $20 scratch-off lottery tickets or $20 Game and Fish gift certificates will be offered to residents who get the first dose of the vaccine starting Tuesday.
The incentives will be available starting June 1 at local health units or special events around the state.
Arkansas has had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and Tuesday’s announcement follows efforts in other states to offer incentives.
WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt says “we need to get to the bottom” of the origins of the pandemic pathogen and the World Health Organization and China need to do more to provide definitive answers for the global community.
The precise origin of the virus remains undetermined and speculation has reigned about whether it jumped from animals to humans or whether it could have escaped from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan, the city that saw the first outbreak.
“We need a completely transparent process from China,” Slavitt said at Tuesday’s coronavirus task force briefing. Full assistance from the WHO is needed, and “we don’t have that now.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci said “many of us” feel like it was a natural occurrence, but “we don’t know 100%” and it is imperative to investigate.
MEXICO CITY — San Diego County and private businesses have donated 10,000 coronavirus vaccines to vaccinate workers at U.S.-owned border assembly plants in Tijuana.
Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard says the program is aimed at helping equalize vaccination rates at closely connected points along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“This is the first cross-border agreement we have had. This is surely going to grow a lot,” Ebrard said. “We plan to replicate this all along the border.”
The vaccines are being administered by medical personnel from the University of California, San Diego, at the San Ysidro border crossing. The program started Monday with about 150 to 200 shots administered per hour.
Mexico has had a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, and has received only about 34.2 million doses for a population of 126 million. Since most vaccines require two doses, Mexico has only vaccinated about 15% of its population so far.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland held its first of 40 consecutive $40,000 lottery drawings on Tuesday for people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, one of several states using lottery prizes to encourage people to get inoculated.
The Maryland Lottery says the first winner lives in Baltimore County. There will be 39 more drawings for $40,000 in the $2 million total promotion, which ends with a $400,000 drawing prize on July 4.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 68.3% of Maryland adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Larry Hogan is hoping to reach 70% by Memorial Day.
Maryland’s statewide COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped below 2% for the first time during the pandemic. The state is reporting 160 new confirmed cases, the lowest number since March 26, 2020. Hospitalizations from the virus reached a seven-month low with 442, the lowest level since Oct. 19.
ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp says public agencies in Georgia can’t require people to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Republican governor issued an executive order Tuesday banning vaccine passports and saying state immunization records can’t be shared with any private company aiming to create such a record.
A number of Republican-led states have moved to ban vaccine passports, even though they are not in widespread use in the U.S. Kemp’s order mostly doesn’t apply to private businesses.
Spokesperson Cody Hall says the move won’t ban prisons, mental hospitals or juvenile justice facilities from asking whether inmates or patients have been vaccinated.
The order doesn’t ban the state from including an entry for COVID-19 vaccines on the standard immunization record for children entering childcare or school. The forms don’t currently have an entry.
The University System of Georgia already announced it won’t mandate vaccines for students or staff.
SAN DIEGO — A growing number of U.S. public schools are using mascots, food trucks and prize giveaways to encourage students to get vaccinated before summer vacation.
The massive effort to create a pep-rally atmosphere comes only weeks after the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was approved for younger adolescents ages 12 to 15. Administrators want to get as many shots in students’ arms as possible and hope it will pave the way to return to regular classes in the fall.
So far, about 14% of the nation’s 15 million kids ages 12 to 15 have received their first shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among 7.5 million teens ages 16 to 17, that number goes up to 34%, and about 22% have had both shots, according to the latest figures released Monday. The doses are scheduled about three weeks apart.
TOKYO — Tokyo officials were quick to deny a U.S. warning for Americans to avoid traveling to Japan will have an impact on Olympians.
Japan is determined to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 23. The U.S. cited a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan. Most metro areas in Japan are under a state of emergency .
Those areas are expected to remain so through mid-June because rising COVID-19 cases are putting pressure on the country’s medical care systems. That causes concern about how the country could cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Olympic participants if its hospitals remain stressed and so few of its population vaccinated.
About 2% of people in Japan have been vaccinated. No international fans are allowed at the Tokyo Olympics.
NEW YORK — U.S. health officials say coronavirus cases in fully vaccinated people remain rare.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a report on these “breakthrough” cases through the end of April, when 101 million Americans were fully vaccinated. Of those, about 10,300 breakthrough infections were reported — that’s about 1 infection in every 10,000 fully vaccinated people, based on the available data.
Nearly two-thirds were women, and the median age of all cases was 58. About 25% of the infections involved people who didn’t have symptoms. About 10% were hospitalized and about 2% died.
The report is based on voluntary reporting by 46 states and territories and isn’t considered a complete tally of all breakthrough infections that may have occurred. Health officials say no vaccine is perfect and infections were expected in some vaccinated people.
The CDC stopped reporting a total number at the end of April but has been posting weekly updates on breakthrough infections that resulted in hospitalization and deaths. As of May 17, the CDC listed reports of about 1,800 hospitalizations and 350 deaths.
WASHINGTON — The White House says the United States on Tuesday will reach 50% of American adults fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
President Joe Biden previously set a goal of having 70% of all adults receiving at least one dose of the vaccine by July 4th.
The White House has ramped up is vaccine distribution, and coronavirus case and deaths have dramatically fallen across the nation.
There are currently three vaccines in use in the United States. The Biden administration has increased the number of inoculations it is exporting to other nations.
— By Jonathan Lemire
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12.
The company released the preliminary findings Tuesday based on testing on more than 3,700 youths ages 12 to 17 in the United States.
There were no COVID-19 diagnoses in those given two doses of the Moderna vaccine compared with four cases among kids given dummy shots. In a press release, the company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says the vaccine appeared 93% effective two weeks after the first dose.
Moderna officials intend to submit its teen data to the Food and Drug Administration and other global regulators early next month. The company says its vaccine triggered the same signs of immune protection in kids as it does in adults, and the same mild, temporary side effects.
It’s a step that could put the shot on track to become the second option for that age group in the U.S. Earlier this month, the U.S. and Canada authorized a vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech for use, starting at age 12.
LONDON — The British government has been accused of introducing local lockdowns by stealth after it introduced tighter restrictions for eight local areas in England that it says are hot spots for the coronavirus variant first identified in India.
On Tuesday, lawmakers and local public health officials said they hadn’t been made aware of changes that the Conservative government published online last Friday.
In that updated guidance, it recommended that people within the eight localities, which includes Hounslow in west London, the city of Leicester and the towns of Blackburn and Bolton, shouldn’t meet up indoors or travel outside their areas.
Yasmin Qureshi, a Labour Party lawmaker in Bolton, said she hadn’t been informed of the changes, saying it was “typical of this government’s incompetence.”
Cabinet minister Therese Coffey says the updated guidance shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone as it just formalized “on the record” the outlines of what the government had been saying for days.