JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi health officials reported Monday that the state is seeing its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in months as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.

The state is also experiencing a sharp increase in the percentage of positive tests.

“Our positivity rate is now the same as it was during the worst of COVID-19 in January. Delta is hitting hard,” the Mississippi State Department of Health posted on Twitter.

The department said Monday that 3,608 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mississippi from Friday through Sunday. That compares to 2,326 reported from Friday through Sunday a week earlier — numbers that were highest in the state since February.

The increase is happening as some schools are starting classes and thousands are gathering for the Neshoba County Fair.

Gov. Tate Reeves, who lifted all of his orders for mask mandates months ago, is scheduled to speak there Thursday.

Dr. Dan Edney, the state Health Department’s chief medical officer, said last week that people over 65, even if they are fully vaccinated “need to double think” whether to attend the Neshoba County Fair or other big events

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Some French health workers resent, resist mandatory vaccines

— Pandemic leaves Indians mired in massive medical debts

— What happens when your Olympics COVID test gets taken 39 minutes early?

— Malaysian doctors walk off job in government hospitals

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BATON ROUGE, La. — One of Louisiana’s largest hospitals has temporarily stopped taking inpatients for nonemergency surgeries because of a steadily increasing influx of COVID-19 patients.

Baton Rouge-based Our Lady of the Lake said it will pause scheduling new nonurgent surgeries that require an inpatient bed for at least three weeks after admitting 25 new COVID-19 patients within the last 24 hours.

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Louisiana has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the nation. That is worsening the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.

Statewide, the health department said Monday the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 reached 1,221. That’s more than double the number 10 days ago.

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SAN FRANCISCO — California will require state employees and all health care workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or get tested weekly as officials aim to slow rising coronavirus infections, mostly among the unvaccinated.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new policy Monday. The mandate will affect at least 238,000 state employees, according to the California controller’s office, and at least 2 million health care workers in the nation’s most populous state.

About 62% of all eligible Californians are fully vaccinated, and the state has struggled to make significant progress in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the more contagious delta variant now makes up an estimated 80% of infections in California. Hospitalizations are on the rise, though still far below where they were during the winter peak.

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MADRID — Spanish health authorities say that the spread of the coronavirus is slowing down following weeks of a steep surge of infections driven mostly by young groups that are yet to receive vaccines.

The country has reported 700 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks, a level that Spain only recorded in the third major surge at the beginning of the year, when it peaked at 900 new cases per 100,000.

But Health Secretary Silvia Calzón said Monday that the one-week cumulative incidence had dropped to less than half the 14-day figure for the first time in weeks, leading officials to believe that contagion is receding.

The more contagious delta variant of the virus accounts since this week for most new cases, the Health Ministry said in a report on Monday.

With COVID-19 mortality at low levels, 98 deaths in the past week, hospitalizations are now the main concern, Calzón said during a regular press briefing, although proportionally they are far from levels seen in past contagion surges. According to the official, that’s because Spain’s relatively smooth vaccination rollout has targeted first the elderly and the groups at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Nearly 8% of hospital beds across the country are treating COVID-19 patients, although in ICUs the occupation rate is now already more than 16% and growing.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has recorded more than 15,000 new coronavirus cases, as the number of infections continue to surge.

Health Ministry figures on Monday showed another 16,809 new infections in the past 24 hours, the highest number of cases since early May. The ministry also reported 63 new deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 50,997.

“The rate of increase in the number of cases makes keeping the outbreak under control more difficult,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted on Monday, urging the public to observe coronavirus precautions and to get vaccinated.

Experts are warning that Turkey could face another peak with the highly contagious Delta variant and vaccination rates are not sufficient. Only about 26 percent of the country of 84 million people have been fully vaccinated, using China’s Sinovac and the Pfizer vaccines.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The mayor of the county that hosts Florida’s theme park mecca said Monday that “we are in crisis mode” when it comes to dealing with soaring numbers of COVID-19 infections.

Florida accounted for a fifth of the nation’s new infections last week, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now the home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort is seeing about 1,000 new cases a day, said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

A medical officer at one of Florida’s largest health systems said its number of COVID-19 patients is nearing an all-time high: 862, approaching the peak of 900 hospitalized patients with the virus in January.

The hospital system went into a “code red” status this week, postponing elective surgeries to free up capacity for COVID-19 patients.

The median age of Orange County patients who have died from COVID-19 is 59 and trending younger, with almost all the new infections in unvaccinated people, said Dr. Raul Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

More than 73,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in Florida over the previous week, according to the state health department, nearly seven times the 12,000 reported a month ago. Florida had 341 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, second only to Louisiana, according to CDC data.

Despite this latest surge, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida will not return to government mandates.

Demings, a Democrat, said he hasn’t ruled out reintroducing masking rules for the county.

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ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis area has become one of the first in the United States to reinstate mask requirements amid a rise in cases that health officials are blaming on low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.

Despite pushback from some elected officials, face coverings became mandatory Monday in indoor public places and on public transportation in St. Louis city and St. Louis County for everyone ages 5 or older — even for those who are vaccinated. Wearing masks outdoors is strongly encouraged, especially in group settings.

“For those who are vaccinated this may feel like punishment, punishment for doing the right thing,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday. “I’ve heard that and I feel that frustration. While the vaccination can protect against serious illness, it can’t protect you from being infected with COVID-19 and passing it onto someone else, someone who may be more vulnerable.”

The decision comes as both of Missouri’s urban areas see a big uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations that began in rural areas of the state, especially in southwestern Missouri.

Missouri ranks fourth nationally in the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on Monday said it’s reached a new peak of COVID-19 patients at its hospital as a surge in coronavirus cases continued in the state.

UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson tweeted that the hospital had 66 COVID-19 patients, surpassing the record it reached in January when it had 63. The Department of Health said the number of people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 rose by 44 on Sunday to 919. The state’s COVID-19 cases rose by 1,022 and its deaths increased by six.

The rolling average number of daily new cases in the state has increased by 161% over the past two weeks, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. Only 36% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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CHICAGO — “It is critical that all people in the health care workforce get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the safety of our patients and our colleagues,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, immediate past president of the American Medical Association.

“With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States and nearly 4 billion doses administered worldwide, we know the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19. Increased vaccinations among health care personnel will not only reduce the spread of COVID-19 but also reduce the harmful toll this virus is taking within the health care workforce and those we are striving to serve.”

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Second shots are safe for most people who develop signs of allergy to their first COVID-19 vaccinations, a study published Monday suggests.

As many as 2% of people develop these reactions to the first dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, with symptoms including flushing or redness in the face, dizziness or hives. Potentially life-threatening reactions including breathing difficulty, swelling of the tongue and face and rapid heart rate are much less common.

The study included 189 people who contacted allergy specialists at five U.S. centers after developing any of these symptoms after their first dose. Most received a second shot within several weeks. Allergy-like symptoms occurred soon after in 32, or 30%, but they were milder than after the first shot and the researchers said all tolerated the second dose well.

The results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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NEW ORLEANS — Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana, a critic of mask mandates and public health restrictions during the pandemic, said he, his wife and son have contracted the coronavirus.

He made the announcement on Facebook Sunday night and said he and his wife had been infected last year, but this time around is much more difficult. He has not said whether he has been vaccinated.

“This episode is far more challenging. It has required all my devoted energy,” he said. “We are all under excellent care, and our prognosis is positive.”

Higgins is the second member of Congress to announce in the last week that they’d contracted the virus. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican who represents parts of southwest Florida, said July 19 that he had tested positive. Buchanan said he had been fully vaccinated and was experiencing mild symptoms.

Elsewhere in the Louisiana delegation, Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died December 29 at the age of 41 from COVID-19 complications. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise waited until July 18 to get vaccinated, saying he thought he had immunity because he tested positive awhile back for coronavirus antibodies

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says that people grappling with the long term effects of COVID-19 will have access to disability protections.

The president announced the initiative Monday at the White House as he marked the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Biden says the initiative is the first of its kind. Lingering challenges from the coronavirus such as breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue could rise the level of a disability. So Biden says he’s bringing federal agencies together to ensure that people who had the virus will know their rights and available resources as they navigate work, school and the medical system.



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