Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario to require COVID vaccination or regular tests in health-care, education; Province reporting 526 COVID-19 cases, 0 deaths

Carol E. Corker

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

12:12 p.m. The Canadian Press has learned that Ontario plans to introduce a set of policies requiring employers in education and several health-care settings to develop strict COVID-19 vaccination policies for their staff.

A senior government source with knowledge of the decision said cabinet approved the plans on Monday night, with an announcement from the province’s top doctor expected on Tuesday.

The source said Dr. Kieran Moore’s directive covering hospitals, ambulance services and community and home-care service providers won’t make vaccination mandatory, but those who decline the shots will be regularly tested for the virus.

Read the full story here.

11:00 p.m. U.S. experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot, to ensure lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.

That’s according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

An announcement was expected as soon as this week, with doses beginning to be administered widely once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves vaccines. That action is expected for the Pfizer shot in the coming weeks.

U.S. health officials recommended boosters last week for some with weakened immune systems.

8:35 p.m. Unvaccinated Ontarians are ending up in hospital with COVID-19 nearly 20 times as often as fully vaccinated individuals and in the last week have been about 70 times more likely to end up in intensive care, a Star analysis of provincial data has found.

“The fact that the unvaccinated represent the majority of people being hospitalized or ending up in the ICU is exactly what we would expect to see,” said Todd Coleman, an epidemiologist at Wilfrid Laurier University. “All the science behind the vaccines’ clinical trials is being backed up by what we are seeing here playing out in real life in our population.

“This should be evidence for the unvaccinated that the vaccine works.”

Read more here

7:45 p.m. British Columbia has 1,434 more cases of COVID-19 in the last three days for an average of 478 cases per day.

A statement from the Health Ministry on Monday says there are now 5,090 active infections across B.C., of which about 58 per cent are in the Interior Health region.

Just over half of the latest cases are also located in that region, where COVID-19 restrictions have been tightened in a number of central Okanagan communities.

One more person has died, pushing the death toll to 1,780, while 104 people are hospitalized with the illness, including 47 in intensive care.

There are 10 active outbreaks at assisted-living or long-term care homes, down from 11 since the last update from the province on Friday.

5:32 p.m. COVID-19-related hospitalizations are relatively stable across Quebec despite a steady rise in infections — a sign the province’s vaccination campaign is working, according to an immunology expert.

But Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, says that while it’s possible hospitalizations and deaths will not rise sharply along with new cases, he cautions that it’s too early to be certain.

“It’s not clear right now, are we seeing the calm before the storm, or are we seeing the storm and it may be just a rainstorm rather than a tropical storm?” he said in an interview Monday.

Over the past week, Quebec has reported an average of 365 new infections a day, up from an average of 235 the week before and an average of 139 on Aug. 1, according to the province’s Health Department.

Since Aug. 1, pandemic-linked hospitalizations have risen by 21, to 82. There have been three deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus since the 1st of the month.

3:48 p.m. Many Alberta post-secondary schools are not mandating COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff as requirements vary across the country.

The University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Mount Royal University in Calgary, and the province’s two major technical schools say they will strongly encourage vaccination, but won’t go so far as to require it.

A growing list of schools are doing the opposite — including major research institutions such as the University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, University of Saskatchewan and Western University.

Some post-secondary schools continue to debate the issue and have yet to offer a firm position with only weeks left until the return of classes.

2:58 p.m. Some children under the age of 12 are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Manitoba.

The province has announced that anyone born on or before Dec. 31, 2009, is able to get the vaccine.

The decision follows similar ones in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Manitoba says the move opens up eligibility to between 4,000 and 5,000 children.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the province’s vaccine team, says the group decided to make the change because of the current plan to take COVID-19 vaccines to all schools beginning in the fall.

She says it’s easier to vaccinate kids in cohorts based on birth year and grade rather than age.

1:55 p.m. Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE have submitted data to U.S. health regulators needed to clear a COVID-19 booster shot among the general public.

The companies said Monday they sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration results from a small, early-stage study showing a third dose of their vaccine generated higher levels of neutralizing antibodies against the original virus and against the Beta and Delta variants than the standard two-dose regimen.

The addition of the third dose also appeared safe in the trial, the companies said.

Given the immune response boost from a third dose, the companies said, a booster shot within six months to a year after the second shot might help maintain protection against symptomatic Covid-19.

Pfizer and BioNTech are also conducting a larger late-stage study evaluating whether a third dose safely provides more protection. The companies said they expect those results shortly and will then submit the data to the FDA.

1:45 p.m. New York City will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday for anyone wanting to partake in much of public life including dining at an indoor restaurant, working out at a gym or strolling through a museum.

The list of public venues widened Monday, as Mayor Bill de Blasio moved forward with an unprecedented move by the country’s largest city to goad more people into getting vaccinated and control a pandemic that has wrought havoc on the economy and people’s day-to-day lives.

While the new requirement goes into effect Tuesday, enforcement won’t begin until Sept. 13 to give the public and employees more time to receive at least the required first shot.

De Blasio first announced the new initiative Aug. 3, but on Monday the mayor further clarified how the new rules would be rolled out — revealing that the list of establishments that would come under the vaccination mandate would be far wider than first thought.

Establishments that don’t comply could be fined.

As of Monday, the city reported that 5.2 million of the city’s 8.8 million residents have had at least one shot of a vaccine, with 4.7 million fully vaccinated.

1:30 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting nine new cases of COVID-19 Monday, most of which are connected to travel.

Health officials say five new cases were identified in the central region of the province, which includes the Halifax area, adding that three of them are travel related.

One case in the central region is connected to a previously reported infection, and the other is under investigation.

Officials say there are two new cases each in the eastern and northern zones, four of which are travel related.

Nova Scotia has 24 active reported COVID-19 infections and one person hospitalized in intensive care with the disease.

Government data indicates 77 per cent of all Nova Scotians have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and more than 68 per cent are fully immunized against the novel coronavirus.

1:15 p.m. Norwegian Cruise Line has joined the sailing party from Florida with only vaccinated guests thanks to a federal court injunction over a new state law that prohibits proof of vaccination.

The company’s return to the state was uncertain as it wanted to stick with its vaccinated-only guest policy despite the passage of the law on July 1 in Florida that would fine companies $5,000 per instance for demanding so-called vaccine passports.

A federal judge earlier in August granted a preliminary injunction against enforcing the law while the case continues. The state has appealed the injunction ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our No. 1 priority, today, tomorrow and forever,” said Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings President and CEO Frank del Rio after the ruling. “It’s not a slogan or a tagline, we fiercely mean it and our commitment to these principles is demonstrated by the lengths our company has gone through to provide the safest possible cruise experience from Florida.”

Del Rio earlier in 2021 had traded barbs with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over its cruise policies threatening to have the company’s cruise lines, which also include Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas, find other ports of departure than Florida. DeSantis had at one point referred to NCL a smaller, expendable cruise line. It’s the third-largest in the world behind Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Group.

“We want nothing more than to sail from Miami, the Cruise Capital of the World, and from the other fabulous Florida ports and we welcome today’s ruling that allows us to sail with 100 per cent fully vaccinated guests and crew which we believe is the safest and most prudent way to resume cruise operations amid this global pandemic,” Del Rio said. “The public health environment continues to evolve around the globe and our robust science-backed health and safety protocols, with vaccines at its cornerstone, allow us to provide what we believe is the safest vacation experience for people who long to get back to their everyday lives and explore the world once again.”

1 p.m. Kevin Benton has owned his Burlington home with a beautiful backyard pool for about 14 years.

But in May he began renting out his private paradise by the hour through California-based pool rental platform Swimply. That makes his saltwater pool one of about 300 Canadian Swimply listings — 200 of them are in Ontario and 78 in the Toronto area, according to a search of the Swimply site on Thursday.

The idea of renting pools by the hour has attracted surprising interest in Ontario, says the company’s vice-president of growth, Sonny Mayugba. Ontario was second only to California in the second quarter of this year in user acquisitions — people “who join up or download the app.” That’s after a first quarter in which Ontario didn’t even register among the Top 20 markets.

Swimply started in 2019. But the concept really took off in the pandemic.

Read the full story from the Star’s Tess Kalinowski

12:50 p.m. In a push to get more COVID-19 shots into students and teachers with the Delta variant surging, Ontario is directing school boards and regional public health units to set up vaccination clinics at or near schools.

They will begin operating before schools resume in-person learning in early September and continue for several more weeks, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Monday as Ontario marked its fifth straight day with more than 500 new cases of the virus.

The effort is part of the government’s “last mile campaign to reach as many students and staff as possible and to keep schools as safe as possible,” Lecce added in a statement.

Currently, 69 per cent of kids aged 12-17 have one shot and 56 per cent have two doses. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination against COVID-19, although clinical trials are underway.

The clinics will also be open to the families of students in addition to teachers and other school staff, and can run before, during and after school hours.

Lecce has been under fire from critics for not doing enough to improve ventilation and other measures in schools, with the Star reporting 18 school boards will not have ventilation upgrades ready by September.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson

12:45 p.m. Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Catholic Church’s most outspoken conservatives and a vaccine skeptic, said he has COVID-19 and his staff said he is breathing through a ventilator.

Burke tweeted Aug. 10 that he had caught the virus, was resting comfortably and was receiving excellent medical care.

“Please pray for me as I begin my recovery,” the 73-year-old Burke said in the tweet. “Let us trust in Divine Providence. God bless you.”

On Saturday, his staff tweeted that he had been hospitalized and was on a ventilator, but that doctors were encouraged with his progress.

“(His Eminence) faithfully prayed the Rosary for those suffering from the virus … Let us now pray the Rosary for him,” his staff said.

The Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Burke became infected during a visit to Wisconsin and was hospitalized there. Burke was born in Richland Center in southwestern Wisconsin and served as bishop in the Diocese of La Crosse from 1995 to 2004.

12:30 p.m. CureVac (CVAC) shares rose sharply Monday after the German drug company and British partner GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced positive test results for CureVac’s mRNA COVID vaccine.

The results are “preclinical data investigating immune responses as well as the protective efficacy of CureVac’s first-generation vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, and second-generation vaccine candidate, CV2CoV, against SARS-CoV-2 challenge in non-human primates,” the companies said.

The results: “Better activation of innate and adaptive immune responses was achieved with CV2CoV, resulting in faster response onset, higher titres of antibodies and stronger memory B and T cell activation as compared to the first-generation candidate, CVnCoV,” the companies said.

“Higher antibody neutralizing capacity was observed with CV2CoV across all selected variants, including the Beta, Delta and Lambda variants.

“During challenge with the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, animals vaccinated with CV2CoV were found to be better protected based on highly effective clearance of the virus in the lungs and nasal passages.”

11:54 a.m. Quebec is reporting 409 new cases of COVID-19 today and 754 more infections identified on Friday and Saturday.

Health officials are reporting one more death linked to the novel coronavirus since their last report on Friday.

Hospitalizations rose by two since the last report, to 82, and the number of patients in intensive care remained unchanged at 27.

Officials say 35,987 doses of vaccine were administered within the past 24 hours, and Quebec’s public health institute says 73.5 per cent of residents 12 and older are considered adequately vaccinated.

Premier François Legault told reporters today he’s worried about lower vaccination rates in Inuit communities in northern Quebec.

Institut national de santé publique du Québec says about 48.9 per cent of residents 12 and older in the Nunavik region are adequately vaccinated.

11:25 a.m. The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales cooled for their fourth consecutive month in July as new supply fell in about three quarters of all markets across the country.

The association said Monday that seasonally adjusted home sales totalled about 48,686 in July, down 3.5 per cent from 50,459 in June and off 28 per cent from their peak in March.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, home sales totalled 53,870, down 15.2 per cent from 63,5000 during the previous July.

CREA said the month-over-month decline in sales July delivered was the smallest of four consecutive decreases since March, but the month was still the second-best July on record.

“Home sales continue to back off from extreme levels seen earlier in the year, but current activity is still historically strong and driving solid price growth in most markets,” BMO Capital Markets senior economist Robert Kavcic said in a report.

“One could argue that some of those shifts went too far during the height to of the madness, and we could see some undoing ahead, even if a lot of the underlying change is permanent.”

The seasonally adjusted number of newly listed homes dropped 8.8 per cent to 65,757 in July from 72,137 in June.

On a non-seasonally-adjusted basis, 69,322 homes were listed, an 18.9 per cent drop from 85,448 last July.

11:15 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 526 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths, according to its latest report released Monday morning.

Ontario has administered 26,033 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 20,213,876 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 10,630,370 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 81.6 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 71.5 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The province says 9,583,506 people have completed their vaccinations, which means they’ve had both doses. That works out to approximately 73.5 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 64.5 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

10:50 a.m. The skyrocketing COVID-19 surge in Florida is shattering records and ravaging the state’s younger population.

Florida has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks because of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, which has led to a major increase in state hospitalizations. By next week, 68 per cent of hospitals are expected to reach a critical staffing shortage, according to an Aug. 9 survey by the Florida Hospital Association.

The majority of Florida’s new cases are among individuals between the ages of 20 and 39, who remain among the least vaccinated age groups in the state.

Hospital officials are also seeing an influx of young, healthy adults filling their wards across the state, many requiring oxygen. In the past week in Florida, 36 per cent of the deaths occurred in the under-65 population, compared with 17 per cent in the same week last year when the state was experiencing a similar COVID surge.

Kristen McMullen, a 30-year-old woman from West Melbourne, Florida, died earlier this month — a week after giving birth to her daughter via emergency C-section.

Statewide, Florida set a record last week, reporting 151,415 new COVID-19 cases, according to the state health department. The state reported an all-time high of 24,869 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.

Florida is the national leader in COVID-19 deaths, averaging more than 150 a day in the past week. Health officials say the number of deaths jumped significantly from 600, reported in the previous week, to more than 1,000 reported this week. New deaths tallied by the state health department raise the total coronavirus death toll to 40,766.

10:40 a.m. Two communities in the Northwest Territories are under a containment order after cases of COVID-19 were identified over the weekend.

There is one confirmed case and five probable cases in Fort Good Hope, while Colville Lake has two confirmed cases.

Both communities are under a 10-day containment order, with specific rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents.

Unvaccinated people who were in either community on or after Aug. 5 must isolate for 10 days and get a COVID-19 test, while vaccinated people need to monitor for symptoms.

Masks are mandatory, gatherings are banned and all non-essential businesses must close.

These are the first cases of COVID-19 in the territory since an outbreak at a Yellowknife school in June.

10:20 a.m. Ontario is reporting 526 COVID-19 cases and 0 deaths; 353 cases are in unvaccinated individuals and 60 in partially vaccinated individuals.

15784 tests were conducted, with a 2.7 per cent positive.

In Ontario, 20,213,876 vaccine doses have been administered; 81.5 per cent of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 73.5 per cent have two doses, according to Health Minister Christine Elliott.

108 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 (excluding ICU) and 119 people are in ICU due to COVID-19.

Ontario administered 26,033 vaccine doses Sunday; 5,947 were first doses and 20,086 were second doses. Ontario is averaging 45,000 doses per day, according to the Star’s Ed Tubb.

10:10 a.m. The European Medicines Agency has started an accelerated review process to determine if a common arthritis drug might help people hospitalized with severe COVID-19, months after the drug was granted an emergency use authorization in the U.S.

In a statement Monday, the EU drug regulator said it was assessing an application to extend the use of tocilizumab for adults suffering from severe coronavirus in the hospital, who were already being treated with other steroids or required extra oxygen, including via a ventilator. Tocilizumab is an anti-inflammatory drug currently used to treat adults and children with severe arthritis.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the drug an emergency use authorization and the World Health Organization recommended its use last month for people who are critically ill with COVID-19. The European regulator said it expected to make a decision by mid-October on tocilizumab, based on data from four large studies. The drug was first licensed in the EU in 2009.

9:55 a.m. On the eve of new vaccine mandates for hospital workers, Premier Doug Ford warns “we are not done with COVID yet.”

In a speech to delegates at the annual Association of Ontario Municipalities conference on Monday, Ford implored everyone in the province to get their shots.

“This is a virus that will exploit any opportunity, any weakness in the system to mutate and become even more lethal,” the premier said Monday.

“You only need to look south to see what can happen if we let our guards down and how quickly a variant can devastate an unvaccinated population,” he said, referring to a resurgence of COVID-19 stateside.

Ford’s comments come as Dr. Kieran Moore, the chief medical officer of health, is to announce Tuesday a vaccine mandate for doctors, nurses, and other “patient-facing” hospital workers.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

9:20 a.m. 4,459,788 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto, according to a tweet from Mayor John Tory.

9:11 a.m. In their second major ad of the nascent federal election campaign, the Liberals are touting their record in government through the COVID-19 pandemic — a matter that has been hotly debated for the duration of the crisis.

The 30-second video advertisement, which the Liberals are calling “Pull Together,” is set to start airing across Canada on TV and online Monday morning. Under bright music and voice-over from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, the ad features a series of clips, including a syringe pulling liquid out of a glass vial, boxes getting loaded off a plane and people packing crates of food.

“Together, we helped families and businesses get through the pandemic. We made sure vaccines were available for everyone, and we worked as a team to keep our loved ones healthy and safe,” Trudeau says.

“Let’s keep working to make things better and leave no one behind.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Alex Ballingall

8:13 a.m. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resigned amid criticism over his COVID-19 policies, bringing renewed uncertainty to a government that has been marked by political infighting since Malaysia’s longtime ruling party lost in the wake of one of the world’s largest financial scandals.

In a speech Monday, Muhyiddin said his last ditch effort to shore up political support so he could see through the pandemic recovery had failed. “There were those who were greedy for power instead of prioritizing the lives and livelihoods of the people,” he said of political rivals.

Muhyiddin, a veteran politician, took the helm a year and a half ago after breaking with the ruling coalition and Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s then-94-year-old prime minister. Muhyiddin formed a government with conservative members of the opposition, who had been defeated in the country’s 2018 national election.

This new coalition came into power with a thin majority and without holding a new election, making it unstable from the start. In recent weeks, it was weakened by defections, with former supporters citing the failed handling of the pandemic, among other reasons, as cause for leaving.

8 a.m. Before the pandemic, Jessie Olsen had an active dating life. At the time, Olsen, who is nonmonogamous, had two secondary partners whom she saw regularly but was looking for a primary partner.

“I was going on at least one date with someone new at least once every two weeks,” explains Olsen. She met people through dating apps, like Tinder and OkCupid, in addition to in-person encounters in bars and at events. “Sometimes, I’d go through phases where I would go on six dates with six new people.”

When the pandemic hit, Olsen cut off relationships with her secondary partners. “It was me trying to be socially responsible,” she recalls. After a couple of months, she returned to dating and had a few “monogamish” connections with single partners, but none lasted and she eventually took a six-month break from dating. During that time, she channelled her romantic frustrations into the launch of a dating podcast called “Your Place or Mine.”

Read the full story from Andrea Yu

7:45 a.m. Japan’s “state of emergency” for curbing surging COVID-19 cases will continue through Sept. 12 rather than ending at the end of this month as initially planned, the government decided Monday

With the pandemic continuing to spread in the country, the emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa, and three other regions which started in July would be prolonged and expanded.

The measures were enforced throughout the recently-concluded Tokyo Olympics, which took place with no spectators from the general public allowed in the stands. With the latest extension, they emergency will remain in force the Tokyo Paralympics, which open Aug. 24 and close on Sept. 5.

“The surge in infections is reaching alarming record highs,” , Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters after meeting with other ministers about the move.

The decision will become official Tuesday, Suga said, adding that beefing up hospital care was “a priority,” and people waiting at home to get hospitalized were getting checkups by phone.

Japan’s emergency centers around asking eateries and bars to close at 8:00 p.m. and to not serve alcohol. The measure will also be expanded to apply to several prefectures such as Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, currently under a less severe cautionary “quasi-emergency.”

Daily reported cases have been reaching record highs in many areas, hovering at about 5,000 each day during the last week for Tokyo. The tally was lower on Monday at under 3,000, but still a a record for a Monday, when, which cover the previous 24 hours are generally lower following the weekend.

Local mayors and governors have prodded the national government to get emergencies declared to send a stronger message to discourage people from going out.

7:33 a.m. Emerging from a pandemic that threw many lives into chaos, Shawn Lackie considers himself one of the lucky ones. The only real disruptions to life for the managing sales representative of Coldwell Banker R.M.R.’s Lindsay office were personal.

“If anything, work got busier,” said Lackie. “Real estate was one of the few industries that could carry on during the lockdown.”

The booming housing market allowed him to maintain his regular routine and keep his income flowing.

“I still had the bedrock of going into the office, even though none of the realtors came in,” Lackie said. “I just did the same work I always did.”

Nonetheless, he missed going out to dinner with his wife, playing in his classic rock band and spending time with his grandchildren.

Now, as life gradually becomes more normal, Lockie says seeing family is his first priority, but he’s also eager to do his part helping out the economy by purchasing some tickets to live concerts and travelling.

Read the full story from Elaine Smith

7:15 a.m. People in England who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or are under 18 years of age, will no longer have to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The change, which came into effect on Monday, has been welcomed by businesses, many of which have suffered staff shortages as a result of the requirement for people to spend 10 days in quarantine if they have been a contact of a positive case.

Nearly 77 per cent of people in the U.K. aged over 18 have received two jabs.

The change to the rules applies to those who received their final dose at least 14 days prior to contact with a positive case.

People are still advised, though not compelled, to take a PCR test if they find out they have been in contact with a positive case. People who test positive will still be legally required to self-isolate.

The other nations of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are taking, or have taken, similar steps.

Monday 4 a.m. Carlee Simon, the superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools in Florida, looked forward to welcoming students to the new school year — one in which they would not be required to wear masks and could, at last, see one another’s faces again.

But as the hyper-transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus coursed through her district in the north-central part of the state this summer, she began to see a spike in cases and hospitalizations. On July 31, a high school custodian died of COVID-19. Two days later, a custodian at a different high school also died from the respiratory illness.

In the last two weeks, 55 students and 50 teachers in the district of nearly 30,000 students have tested positive for the virus, more than in the previous five months combined. More than 530 students were quarantined. On Monday, the day before children went back to school, 10 children in Alachua were in hospitals with COVID-19, some in intensive care.

For Simon and the Alachua school board, the decision early this month to require students and staff to wear masks was easy.

“We have a very strong constitutional mandate to provide a safe and secure public education to all students,” Simon said in an interview. “Universal masking is the most effective strategy that we have, besides vaccination.”

Simon is among school officials who have taken on the role of guardians of public health, insisting that children wear masks in schools. Those officials tend to be in line with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued new guidance recently recommending that all children wear masks indoors in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

More than 30 states have left the decision up to school districts. At least 10 states, including California, plus the District of Columbia, require all students and teachers to wear masks in public schools.

But eight mostly Republican-controlled states — Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Utah — have enacted laws or issued executive orders prohibiting school districts from requiring students to wear masks.

Sunday 9 p.m. The Texas Supreme Court stepped in Sunday evening to block lower-court orders that had allowed Dallas and San Antonio to impose mask mandates contrary to an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The temporary restraining orders, issued by separate District Court judges and upheld Friday by intermediate appellate courts, had halted enforcement of Abbott’s July 29 edict that prohibited cities, counties, school districts and public health officials from requiring face masks to be worn indoors.

A growing number of local officials have defied Abbott’s order as the highly contagious delta variant has produced a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections, overrunning intensive care units in adult and children’s hospitals across Texas. Many local mask requirements focused on schools because children under 12 lack access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some of those local mask mandates were based on a statewide temporary restraining order, issued by state District Judge Tonya Parker in Dallas County, that prohibited Abbott from enforcing his ban on required masks.

The Supreme Court action Sunday, however, blocked Parker’s restraining order — and it was unclear how school districts will react, particularly those where school doors will open on short notice early Monday morning.

Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are challenging local mask mandates as illegal under the governor’s emergency powers during a declared disaster. Those challenges remain before the Supreme Court and are expected to be decided later.

“Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all (school districts) and local officials that the governor’s order stands,” Paxton said on Twitter. “Local mask mandates are illegal.”

Abbott, who has said Texans — not government — must be responsible for their own health, also took to Twitter to announce the ruling, adding: “The ban doesn’t prohibit using masks. Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, including in schools.”

Sunday’s Supreme Court action did not stop the next step in the legal process — trial court hearings Monday in San Antonio and Aug. 24 in Dallas on whether to issue temporary injunctions that would allow mask mandates. The now-blocked restraining orders were intended to allow masking requirements to continue until the injunction matters are settled.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who last week required that masks be worn inside schools and businesses, said the legal fight is far from over.

“We won’t stop working with parents, doctors, schools, business and others to protect you and intend to win that hearing” on Aug. 24, he said in a tweet.

Sunday 8 p.m. Germany added the United States to its “high-risk” area list and will soon tighten entry restrictions for unvaccinated travelers who had recently been in the U.S.

Starting Sunday, travelers who have recently spent time in the U.S. will need to be fully vaccinated or demonstrate an “important reason” for entering. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to show proof of recovery will need to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival. The quarantine period can end on the fifth day with proof of a negative coronavirus test.

Previously, unvaccinated travelers had to show a negative coronavirus test to enter Germany.

The change comes as the U.S. faces its fourth wave of COVID-19, driven by the highly contagious delta variant. The country reported more than 900,000 new COVID cases in the past week with nearly 52% of its population vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.

Israel, Turkey and Vietnam and other countries were also added to Germany’s high-risk list, joining destinations like the United Kingdom, Spain, India and Mexico.

Germany has been open to tourists from the U.S. since June 20, shortly after the European Union added the United States to a list of countries it believed could see the gradual lifting of travel restrictions. The recommendation is not binding, and each country in the bloc can enforce its own travel restrictions.

Sunday 7:19 p.m. Los Angeles County officials on Sunday continued to report a surge in coronavirus cases as schools prepared to open.

The Department of Public Health on Sunday recorded 3,356 new cases of the virus and eight related deaths but said the real number is likely higher due to weekend reporting delays.

There were 1,653 COVID-19 patients in county hospitals as of Saturday, an increase of nearly 51% from two weeks before, when there were 1,096 patients.

Officials said last week that the surge fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant is showing some signs of slowing in L.A. County, but that cases are likely to continue rising in the weeks ahead, in part due to ramped-up testing as schools, colleges and universities welcome students back for the new term.

Some institutions are requiring regular testing, making it more likely that asymptomatic infections that would have otherwise gone undetected will be identified.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered that all California school employees must be vaccinated or submit to a weekly test. L.A. Unified, whose schools open Monday, has gone a step further and is requiring weekly testing of all students and employees, whether or not they are vaccinated.

Due to the increase in testing, health officials said, a more revealing metric of the county’s progress against the surge is the positivity rate, the proportion of conducted tests that return a positive result.

As of Saturday, the county’s daily test positivity rate was 3.96%, down from 4.8% the Saturday before and from 4.4% Tuesday, according to the public health department.

Although more fully vaccinated people are becoming infected due to the high rates of community transmission, they are about 14 times less likely to be hospitalized than those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, and almost no fully vaccinated people are dying from COVID-19, officials said.

In addition, unvaccinated people are still almost four times more likely to become infected as those who are vaccinated, according to the public health department.

Times staff writers Luke Money, Rong-Gong Lin II and Howard Blume contributed to this report.

Sunday 4 p.m. A man who was stabbed during a fight that broke out at an anti-vaccination rally in front of Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday has been released from the hospital, police said.

The man was not identified and no information was given about the extent of his injury. No arrest has been reported in connection with the stabbing, or in an attack on a journalist that was also reported at the rally, said Officer Mike Lopez of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The violence has drawn condemnation from elected officials.

“Not wearing a mask and being anti-vax isn’t patriotism — it’s stupidity,” Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement. “We have to be able to have differences of opinions without resorting to violence. Attacking counter-protesters and journalists has no place in a democracy and certainly no place in Los Angeles.”

A crowd of several hundred people, many holding American flags and signs calling for “medical freedom,” had descended on City Hall around 2 p.m. for the planned rally. A few dozen counterprotesters had amassed nearby.

A fight erupted on the corner of 1st and Spring streets shortly after 2:30 p.m., as counterprotesters in all black and anti-vaccine demonstrators draped in American flag and Trump garb traded punches and threw things at one another. It was not immediately clear how the fight started, though each side quickly blamed the other.

Sunday 2:35 p.m.: Warning of tough days ahead with surging COVID-19 infections, the director of the National Institutes of Health said Sunday the U.S. could decide in the next couple weeks whether to offer coronavirus booster shots to more Americans this fall.

Dr. Francis Collins also pleaded anew for unvaccinated Americans to get their shots, calling them “sitting ducks” for a delta variant that is ravaging the country and showing little sign of letting up.

“This is going very steeply upward with no signs of having peaked out,” he said.

Read more here

Read Sunday’s coronavirus news.

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