Florida hospitals under strain; South Africa registers 13,777 new cases

Florida hospitals under strain; South Africa registers 13,777 new cases
Learners adhere to Covid-19 regulations at Monde Primary School on 3 August 2021 in Ekurhuleni, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Laird Forbes)

South Africa registered 13,777 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,497,655. A further 458 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 73,873. A total of 8,377,606 people have been vaccinated.

Florida’s hospitals were strained by a deluge of Covid patients as its governor fights off sweeping public-health measures.

BlackRock and Wells Fargo are pushing their return-to-office plans back a month to early October, while Amazon says corporate employees won’t have to return to the office regularly until January, joining US companies in delaying their resumption of regular work habits as infections from the Delta variant surge.

Chile will start to vaccinate residents with a third dose against coronavirus next week in a campaign that mixes shots from different providers, as the government seeks to protect the population from the Delta variant. Moderna said its vaccine remained 93% effective through six months after the second shot.

Key developments

Florida schools buck governor’s mask rule

Some school districts in Florida are pushing back against Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s executive order that forbids them from mandating students to wear masks.

DeSantis signed the order on July 30 dictating that schools should leave masking decisions to parents. It also said that if the State Board of Education determines a district is unwilling or unable to comply with the order, the board can withhold the transfer of state funds until the district complies.

“The fairest thing to do is to let parents make the decision,” DeSantis said during a press conference on Thursday.

Hospitals must track, report staff vaccination rate

Hospitals will be required to track and report vaccination status for their healthcare personnel to comply with a rule from the Biden administration.

The requirement is an effort to “support public health tracking and provide patients, beneficiaries, and their caregivers important information to support informed decision making,” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Hospitals are required to report certain quality measures to the CMS or risk losing funding.

Amazon delays return-to-office plan until January

Amazon says corporate employees won’t have to return to the office regularly until January, becoming the latest big company to postpone its resumption of regular work habits as infections from the Delta variant surge in the US.

The largest online retailer told employees in an email on Thursday that they should plan to begin going to offices the week of January 3. Amazon had previously said its office workers in the US and several other countries should resume their jobs mostly on-site beginning the week of September 7.

Montana says unvaccinated made up 89% of hospitalised

Montana health authorities said 89% of the rural state’s hospitalised Covid-19 patients in June and July were unvaccinated and that the number of admissions and positive tests are on the rise.

The median age of the 358 patients was 64, Adam Meier, state public health director, said in a statement on Thursday. More than 445,000 residents are fully vaccinated, about 48% of Montana’s eligible population.

The average daily number of hospitalisations “has slowly started to trend upward” to 95 patients, including a 44% increase from late July, according to the statement. In November, Montana’s average daily hospitalisations peaked at 427.

Chile to administer third vaccine dose

Chile will start to vaccinate residents with a third dose against the coronavirus next week in a campaign that mixes shots from different providers, as the government seeks to protect the population from the Delta variant.

Starting on August 11, people aged 55 and older who received two doses of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine earlier this year will start to receive an AstraZeneca shot, said Paula Daza, the country’s health undersecretary. In September, the population under the age of 55 that’s already been inoculated with the China-made vaccine will receive a booster from Pfizer-BioNTech.

Chile joins countries from Uruguay to Israel in announcing third doses as the world moves to deal with the rapid spread of the Delta variant. They are looking past the World Health Organization’s calls for a moratorium on booster shots to enable poorer countries to catch up in inoculation rates.

France’s mortality count increases

French officials said that another 52 residents died of Covid-19, bringing the official toll to 112,133. The nation reported 26,460 new cases in the past day.

Meanwhile, 65% of the general public have received at least one vaccine dose, as have 75% of people aged 12 and over and 85% of those most at risk, such as the elderly, Health Minister Olivier Veran said during a visit to a hospital in Aix-en-Provence.

“The ICU unit here is full of people who regret not being vaccinated,” Veran said, adding that hospital staff told him it feels “a bit like before a tsunami” as the Delta variant bears down.

BlackRock, Wells Fargo delay return to office

BlackRock and Wells Fargo are pushing their return-to-office plans back a month to early October, as Wall Street grapples with rising Covid-19 rates across the US.

BlackRock is allowing workers to choose whether to come into US offices through October 1, according to a memo. Wells Fargo, with almost 260,000 employees, will now begin bringing back staffers who have been working remotely starting on October 4 rather than September 7, as previously announced, according to an internal memo on Thursday from Chief Operating Officer Scott Powell.

The shift from both the world’s largest money manager and the company with the largest workforce of any US bank signals the financial industry is rethinking its return-to-office plans as the highly contagious Delta variant sweeps across the country. While the biggest US banks have so far stopped short of requiring their employees to be vaccinated, BlackRock has only allowed fully inoculated workers to come back.

Florida hospitals desperate for oxygen

Florida hospitals are struggling to get oxygen due to a rise in Covid-19 cases and Governor Ron DeSantis’s decision not to declare a State of Emergency.

A shortage of truck drivers who are qualified to transport oxygen, as well as restrictions around how they can be on the road mean that the supply isn’t getting to the institutions that need it most.

There is “plenty of oxygen, just not in the right area,” Brigadier-General David Sanford, director of the White House supply chain task force, said in an interview.

New York hospital cases take a leap

New York City’s daily hospitalisations due to suspected Covid-19 virus totalled 127 on August 3, a 27% jump from the previous day and the most since late April, according to Health Department data.

Confirmed and probable cases of the virus averaged 1,365 over seven days as of August 3, after hitting 1,436 the previous day, the department reported on Thursday.

The caseloads and hospitalisations have risen even as city officials have ordered municipal workers to get vaccinated or get tested weekly, and mandated that only vaccinated people will be admitted or allowed to work inside at restaurants, bars, theaters and other indoor activities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has also urged all New Yorkers to wear masks in public indoor and crowded outdoor settings. More than 80,000 first vaccine doses were given last week, compared with 57,000 in the first week of July, De Blasio said during a Thursday news briefing. About 4.6 million New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated, according to the Health Department.

“The whole discussion is vaccination,” De Blasio said. “The whole ballgame.”

Florida hospitalisations tick higher from record

The number of Florida adult inpatients with confirmed Covid-19 rose by 3.9% to a record 12,373, according to US Department of Health and Human Services data. About 40% of adult intensive-care unit beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients, up from 39% a day earlier.

About 15% of the 261 facilities reporting said they had a critical staffing shortage, and an equal number expected to have a shortage within a week.

Centene pushes back return to office

Centene will delay the start of its return to offices from September 13 to October 18, the St Louis-based health insurer said. The company, one of the largest US health insurers, will require new employees to be vaccinated against the virus and unvaccinated workers will have to be tested regularly and don masks in company offices.

Moderna shot’s lasting protection

Moderna’s final analysis of the company’s late-stage study, described in a statement on Thursday, suggests its vaccine’s protection remains stable for long after recipients complete the standard two-dose regimen. The 93% effectiveness level is just short of the shot’s initial efficacy of 94%.

Beijing tightens curbs

Beijing halted the use of community spaces for entertainment, limited the number of visitors allowed at parks and scenic areas and implemented a two-week quarantine for visitors from high-risk areas. Officials also curbed train service and subway usage. Public transport and taxi services were curtailed in 144 of the worst-hit areas nationwide.

Tokyo hits record cases

Tokyo reported a record 5,042 new cases, as the Olympics entered its final few days in the Japanese capital.

The leap from the previous day brought the seven-day moving average to about 3,646, while the number of serious cases rose to 135 from 115 the previous day, government data showed. While the number of cases directly linked to the Olympics remained low, the government’s top virus adviser said the event may have made people more relaxed about precautions.

Hong Kong’s Covid-free streak ends

Hong Kong’s streak of infection-free days came to an end with the first local case in 58 days, just as the government began easing restrictions on international travel. A 43-year-old man with no symptoms and no recent travel history was found with Covid antibodies in his blood despite not having been vaccinated, said government officials.

The city is now testing his close contacts to fend off the risk of local spread.

Melbourne locks down for sixth time

About two-thirds of Australia’s population is in lockdown as the Delta variant spreads across the nation, with authorities in Melbourne enforcing stay-at-home orders for the sixth time since the pandemic began.

Melbourne and the rest of Victoria state will enter a seven-day lockdown from 8pm local time on Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters. The nation’s second-largest city last year endured one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns, and only emerged from its most recent one on July 28. Sydney, meanwhile, has issued stay-at-home orders until at least August 28.

IOC says Winter Olympics may not have fans

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing could proceed without spectators, International Olympic Committee Executive Director Christophe Dubi said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

“Let’s see how the pandemic evolves around the globe and especially in China, and then let’s look at the consequence of participation for spectators,” he said on Thursday. “We have heard a number of the athletes say, ‘What matters is that we can compete, and we’ve gotten used to participating even without spectators.’ But if you have the choice, you would prefer to have spectators.”

Beijing 2022 organisers haven’t said anything about whether foreign or domestic spectators will be allowed to attend, and tickets aren’t on sale yet.

In just two weeks, confirmed cases – people infected and sickened by the virus – have grown to more than 500. The infections can be traced back to three cluster areas in China: an outbreak among airport cleaning staff in eastern city Nanjing, another found at a hospital treating Covid patients in Zhengzhou and sporadic cases detected in Yunnan, the province bordering Myanmar.

Sydney’s Delta outbreak hits record

Sydney reported a record number of new daily Delta variant cases on Thursday, with authorities to enforce stay-at-home orders beyond Australia’s largest city as Covid-19 spreads north into other regions.

New South Wales state recorded 262 new cases, the vast majority in Sydney, which has been in lockdown for almost six weeks. Five more people died, and four of them weren’t vaccinated, Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

“Every jurisdiction around the world is finding Delta challenging,” Berejiklian said. “We can try and eliminate it but we know the vaccine is critical to stopping the spread.” DM

–With assistance from Vincent Del Giudice, Stephen Merelman, Valentina Fuentes and Matthew Malinowski.


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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