The Latest: Fauci: Hospitals use more antibody treatments

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging hospitals and doctors to make greater use of antibody treatments for people infected with COVID-19 as hospitalizations and deaths rise due to the spread of the delta variant.

Infusions of antibody drugs can keep patients who are experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms from getting so sick they need hospitalization, the government’s top infectious disease specialist said at Tuesday’s White House coronavirus briefing. They also can serve as a preventive treatment for people exposed to someone with a documented infection.

Three antibody products are available under emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and they’re free thanks to taxpayer support. But Fauci says they remain “a much-underutilized intervention.”

However, demand for the drugs increased five-fold last month to nearly 110,000 doses, with the majority going to states with low vaccination rates. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been among the patients treated with antibodies.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Georgia Gov. Kemp orders National Guard to overwhelmed hospitals

— US outbreaks force early reversals on in-person learning at schools

— ACLU sues over South Carolina ban on school mask mandates

— Dr. Fauci recommends hospitals, doctors use more antibody treatments

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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:

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s largest hospital system, Ochsner Health, says it’s requiring all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 29.

The announcement came a day after the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The state health department announced 3,814 new coronavirus cases statewide.

There were also 121 confirmed deaths reported Tuesday, along with 18 listed as “probable.” Hospitalizations ticked up again, increasing by 18 to 2,856.

“This policy is the right thing to do to protect our employees, their families, and our patients,” Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said.

Ochsner Health, based in suburban New Orleans, say 69% of its employees are already vaccinated.

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JERUSALEM — Palestinian health officials say they have received 500,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine donated by the United States through the COVAX initiative, a global vaccine-sharing initiative distributing vaccines to poorer nations.

The Moderna vaccines arrived Tuesday at a Palestinian health ministry facility in the city of Nablus; 300,000 were kept for vaccinating Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, while 200,000 were sent to the Gaza Strip.

At least 729,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have received a single dose of coronavirus vaccine, and more than 442,000 people have received two doses, according to health ministry figures.

The Palestinian Authority has been working to secure its own vaccine supplies, in large part through the U.N.-backed COVAX program. Vaccinations lag considerably compared to neighboring Israel, which has fully vaccinated more than 5.5 million of its 9.3 million people.

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LANSING, Mich. — A Catholic school in Lansing has lost an appeal over a Michigan policy that required masks on young kids earlier in the pandemic.

Although the statewide mandate ended, some counties are stepping in and requiring masks in schools when the 2021-22 year starts.

Resurrection School and some parents sued in 2020, saying a state mask order violated the free exercise of religion, among other objections. A judge, however, refused to intervene and issue an injunction.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision Monday.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney “correctly concluded that because the requirement to wear a facial covering applied to students in grades K–5 at both religious and non-religious schools, it was neutral and of general applicability,” the court said.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose department defended the policy, praised the decision.

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O’FALLON, Mo. — An estimated 300,000 people attended the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia over the 10-day period that ended Sunday, but just 53 took advantage of an on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinic, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Masks were not required at the fair. The event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“Obviously, we’d love to have vaccinated 1,000 people,” Pettis County Health Administrator JoAnn Martin told the Post-Dispatch. “But we are glad we made the effort.”

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ATLANTA — More than 100 National Guard personnel are being deployed to 20 hospitals across Georgia to help deal with the state’s latest surge of COVID-19 cases, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced TuesdayN.

The 105 medically trained Guardsmen and women will help staff at hospitals in Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, Brunswick, Albany and other cities across the state, Kemp said in a statement.

“These guardsmen will assist our frontline healthcare workers as they provide quality medical care during the current increase in cases and hospitalizations, and I greatly appreciate General Carden and his team for their willingness to answer the call again in our fight against COVID-19,” Kemp said.

The Guard is coordinating with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Community Health in the effort, Kemp said.

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NEW YORK — A new report from California finds that COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths continue to be far more common in unvaccinated people than those who got the shots.

But it also indicates fully vaccinated people accounted for a higher proportion of hospitalizations and deaths than previous reports.

Health officials looked at about 43,000 reported coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County residents, ages 16 and older, that were reported in May, June and July. They found that about 25% were fully vaccinated people.

Infections tended to be more common and more severe in unvaccinated people, the report concluded. People who were unvaccinated were nearly five times more likely to be infected and 29 times more likely to be hospitalized.

But the report also found about 12% of the infected people who were hospitalized and about 12% who died were fully vaccinated.

The L.A. County report – which the CDC released on Tuesday – found fully vaccinated people who died after infection tended to be older and more frail than the unvaccinated people who died. The median age of the vaccinated people who died was 78, compared with 63 for the unvaccinated people. Also, one quarter of the 24 fully vaccinated people who died had weakened immune systems i

Last month, federal officials said only about 3% of hospitalized patients and fewer than 1% of deaths were vaccinated. The CDC officials noted the proportion of Americans who are fully vaccinated has been rising, and therefore they expected to see a rise in infections among vaccinated people.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas doesn’t have any intensive care unit beds available for COVID-19 patients as the state’s coronavirus cases continue to surge, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday.

Hutchinson says it’s the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began that no ICU beds were available for COVID-19 patients. Virus patients make up about half of the state’s ICU beds. The number of virus patients in ICUs and on ventilators reached a new high in the state on Monday.

“Everyone should know the strain this puts on our hospitals and the need to get our vaccinations and how critical our bed space is,” Hutchinson said at a news conference.

Hutchinson says hospitals in the state were working to open more ICU beds for virus patients.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — The number of daily coronavirus cases in Israel is nearing the record set in January.

The government reported Tuesday that 9,831 new cases had been registered a day earlier, the highest since the record of 10,000 new cases was set in mid-January.

The number is notable because more than 5.5 million of Israel’s 9.3 million have received two doses of the vaccine, one of the fastest vaccination drives in the world. In recent weeks, the delta variant has driven a surge of infections and with it, new restrictions. Nearly 1.6 million people have received a third jab.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning “we may never get to herd immunity” against COVID-19 given what is known about the coronavirus.

John Nkengasong spoke to African health ministers on Tuesday about infections that occur in people despite vaccinations. The Africa CDC has aimed to vaccinate 60% of the continent of 1.3 billion people, up to 30% of them this year.

But the more infectious delta variant is driving a resurgence in cases and forcing governments around the world to reconsider lockdowns and other measures. The slow and limited flow of vaccines to African nations while richer nations secure supplies has complicated efforts to contain the pandemic.

The Africa CDC director for months has warned against allowing COVID-19 to become endemic on the continent with some of the world’s least-equipped health systems.

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PORTLAND, Maine — A spokesman for independent Sen. Angus King says the senator is feeling better as he recovers from the coronavirus.

The 77-year-old King announced Aug. 19 he had tested positive for the coronavirus. King was vaccinated for the disease earlier this year.

Spokesman Matthew Felling said Tuesday that King is “feeling better, quarantining and resting at home, following doctor’s orders.”

Maine health officials have reported 95% of state residents who are in their 70s have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. More than 70% of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Maine CDC has reported more than 74,000 total cases and 924 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — People who oppose mask requirements or restrictions on public gatherings imposed by Kansas counties can challenge them in court and obtain a ruling within 10 days.

That’s the result of a decision Tuesday by the state Supreme Court. The court said the state for now can enforce a COVID-19-inspired law enacted in March by the Republican-controlled Legislature to restrict the power of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and county officials in emergencies.

A judge in Johnson County declared last month that the law violated the state constitution, but GOP state Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed. The Supreme Court is blocking the county judge’s order while it considers the appeal.

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NEW ORLEANS — Getting into a Louisiana State University football game this fall will require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID test.

The requirement announced Tuesday in Baton Rouge comes a day after the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. LSU’s announcement says the university will require all Tiger Stadium guests 12 years old and older to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of entry.

Meanwhile, Louisiana State University students have until Sept. 10 to submit proof of their first vaccine or file paperwork to opt out of the vaccination requirement. Under Louisiana law, students can provide a doctor’s note citing a medical condition that precludes getting the vaccine or a “written dissent” form objecting to the shot.

LSU students have until Oct. 15 to submit proof of full vaccination.

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit over a South Carolina law that bans school districts from imposing mask mandates.

The lawsuit argues the ban effectively excludes vulnerable students from public schools and disproportionately impacts students with underlying health conditions or disabilities, who are at risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract COVID-19.

Current guidance from the CDC recommends everyone in a school building, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors. Public health officials have pleaded with the governor and legislators to lift the ban on mask mandates.

South Carolina legislators included a provision in the state’s general budget that prevented school districts from using state funding to mandate masks in schools. Gov. Henry McMaster has said parents should have the choice regarding whether children wear masks in schools.

Under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, public schools cannot exclude students with disabilities or segregate them unnecessarily from their peers. Schools are also required to provide reasonable modifications to allow students with disabilities to fully participate.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida’s Walt Disney World will require union employees as well as non-union and salaried workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to keep their jobs at the theme park.

The deal was reached Monday with a union coalition, shortly after the Pfizer vaccine earned full Food and Drug Administration approval. It requires the workers to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 22 to remain employed, although employees can request exemptions for medical or religious reasons, a union statement says.

Any employee who doesn’t comply, and doesn’t request an exemption, will be “separated from the company with a ‘yes’ rehire status,” according to the Service Trades Council Union. Before layoffs and furloughs due to the pandemic, the coalition covered about 43,000 of 77,000 Disney World workers.

Disney announced last month that all non-union hourly and salaried employees would be required to receive the vaccine within 60 days. The company also asked all employees who were working from home to show proof of vaccination before returning to work.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The European Union’s drug regulator has approved new manufacturing sites for COVID-19 vaccines, boosting production in the EU by nearly half a billion shots this year.

The European Medicines Agency’s human medicines committee on Tuesday approved an additional site in Saint Remy Sur Avre in France that is expected to produce an additional 51 million doses this year of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The French manufacturing site is operated by Delpharm. The agency has also approved a new manufacturing line at BioNTech’s existing site in the German town of Marburg, which increases capacity by some 410 million doses this year.

The EMA also approved an additional manufacturing site for the Moderna vaccine in Bloomington, Indiana.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he’s hoping for an uptick in the administration of COVID-19 vaccinations following U.S. government approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

The top infectious disease expert in the U.S. says the Food and Drug Administration’s decision Monday should encourage people who cited lack of approval as a reason for not getting vaccinated. The FDA previously had cleared the Pfizer shots for use on an emergency basis.

Fauci told NBC’s “Today Show” that FDA approval will mean more “enthusiasm” for vaccine mandates by workplaces, colleges and universities, and the military. He says it will help boost U.S. vaccination rates.

The FDA’s decision clears Pfizer to advertise the vaccine, which Fauci says should help. Government data show just under half of the U.S. population remains unvaccinated.

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