The Latest: Union auto workers return to wearing masks

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden arrives at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, after spending the weekend at Camp David. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

DETROIT — Unionized auto workers in the U.S. will go back to wearing masks in all factories, offices and warehouses starting Wednesday because of the spreading delta coronavirus variant.

The decision by a task force of representatives from General Motors, Ford, Stellantis and the United Auto Workers was announced on Tuesday. It includes all workers regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated.

The move comes just under a month after vaccinated union workers were allowed to shed their masks. But the union says in a statement the decision was made for worker safety due to a change in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask guidelines. The statement says the delta variant’s “alarmingly high” transmission rate is making the return of masks necessary.

The task force encourages all workers to get vaccinations so mask requirements can be relaxed. About 150,000 factory workers from all three companies wore masks at work from May 2020 until the requirement ended July 12.

“We will continue to closely monitor this situation to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep our families, members and employees safe,” the union said in a statement.

Last week, the CDC changed course on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where cases are surging.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— New York City: Vaccination proof needed for indoorevents, dining, gyms

— WH: US shipped abroad more than 110M doses of vaccines

— China orders mass coronavirus testing for Wuhan

— U.S. landlords, tenants fill courts as eviction moratorium ends

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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:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida has risen to an all-time high of 11,515 patients.

The figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show 2,400 of those patients are in ICU beds. The previous day, the data showed there were 10,389 COVID-hospitalizations in the state.

The new number breaks a previous record for current hospitalizations set more than a year ago before vaccines were available. Last year, Florida hit its previous peak on July 23, with 10,170 hospitalizations.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis insisted the spike will soon abate and he won’t impose any business restrictions or mask mandates.

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NEW YORK — New York City will soon require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for indoor activities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the move Tuesday, the first big city in the U.S. to impose such restrictions.

The new requirement starts Aug. 16. It applies to indoor dining, gyms and indoor entertainment venues.

De Blasio said Monday he was making “a strong recommendation” that everyone wear a mask in public indoor settings but stressed that the city’s “overwhelming strategic thrust” remained getting more people vaccinated.

Official data indicates about 66% of adults in New York City are f

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Carnival Mardi Gras has docked in Puerto Rico — the first cruise ship to visit the U.S. territory since the start of the pandemic.

Some cautiously celebrated Tuesday’s visit. The ship arrives as Puerto Rico is reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases blamed on the delta variant. It’s also seeking to restart its tourism sector, which depended on record numbers of cruise ship passengers visiting in recent years.

Executive director of Puerto Rico’s Tourism Company Carlos Mercado tells The Associated Press the government has taken precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including allowing only the fully vaccinated to disembark.

He says the ship was traveling at 70% capacity, with some 4,500 people aboard. He estimates a total of 3,500 will disembark.

Mercado noted 95% of the ship’s passengers are vaccinated, with children younger than 12 making up the majority of those not inoculated.

The Carnival Mardi Gras departed Port Canaveral, Florida, and Puerto Rico was its first stop. Some 1.9 million cruise ship passengers visited Puerto Rico in 2019, a record for the island, said tourism spokeswoman Astrid Rolón.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A South Florida school district that voted last week to require masks when in-person learning resumes now says it will comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order preventing mask mandates in schools.

The Broward County Public Schools board unanimously voted last week to require students, teachers and staff — even those who are vaccinated — to wear facial coverings inside schools when classes begin Aug. 18.

But Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an order empowering the state’s Board of Education to withhold funding from districts that enforce a mask mandate. DeSantis says he wants parents to decide whether their children should wear a mask to school. He also claimed the outbreak is seasonal.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Japan is donating 1.4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Sri Lanka, which has been facing a severe shortage of AstraZeneca vaccine to complete the second dose.

The Japanese donation follows a personal request made by Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the Japan prime minister Yoshihide Suga, said a statement from the president’s office.

The first of consignment — amounting to 728,460 doses — was flown into the Indian ocean island nation on July 31, under the COVAX Facility. The next batch of AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive on Aug. 7.

Sri Lanka has been facing a shortage of more than 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine after the producer in the neighboring India failed to deliver the promised shots amounting to nearly 13 million, because of the surge of the virus in India. The nation has experienced a sharp increase of positive cases and deaths since April because of the celebrations and shopping by the people during the traditional new year festival.

Sri Lanka’s total cases have reached 313,769 and 4,571 confirmed deaths.

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WASHINGTON — The White House says the U.S. has shipped more than 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Zambia.

President Joe Biden was expected to discuss that milestone and more Tuesday in remarks about the U.S. strategy to slow the spread of the coronavirus abroad. The president’s announcement will come amid a rise in infections in the U.S., fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.

Biden has promised the U.S. will be the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world, and it has shipped the most vaccines abroad of any donor nation. While notable, the 110 million doses donated largely through a vaccine program known as COVAX represent a fraction of what is needed globally.

The White House says in a statement the U.S. will begin shipping at the end of August the half a billion doses of Pfizer vaccine it has pledged to 100 low-income countries.

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BEIJING — Chinese authorities have announced mass coronavirus testing in Wuhan as an unusually wide series of COVID-19 outbreaks reached the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.

The provincial capital of 11 million people in central China is the latest city to undergo city-wide testing. Three cases were confirmed in Wuhan on Monday, its first non-imported cases in more than a year.

China has largely curbed COVID-19 at home after the initial outbreak that devastated Wuhan and spread globally. Since then, authorities have tamped down and controlled the disease whenever it pops up with quick lockdowns and mass testing.

The current outbreaks are still in the hundreds of cases in total, but have spread much more widely than previous ones. Many of the cases have been identified as the highly contagious delta variant.

The National Health Commission says Tuesday that 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s top health official says his country for the first time has administered 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine across the country in the past 24 hours.

Faisal Sultan made the announcement on Twitter on Tuesday.

He congratulated all those who made it possible for Pakistan to inoculate people in such a large number on Monday.

Sultan said Pakistan since March has administered 30 million vaccine doses and 10 million doses were administered in only the past two weeks.

The latest development comes days after Pakistan imposed a lockdown in the southern port city of Karachi and in other high-risk areas to contain the spread of coronavirus.

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SYDNEY — Australia’s Qantas Group says it expects Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown to last for at least another two months and it will furlough 2,500 staff due to an associated downturn in domestic flights.

Sydney and Brisbane, Australia’s biggest and third-biggest cities, respectively, are in lockdown due to growing clusters of the delta variant.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says 2,500 staff from Qantas Airways and budget subsidiary Jetstar will be furloughed for an estimated two months. The airlines employ 26,000 staff in Australia.

Joyce sas based on current daily tallies of new infections, “it’s reasonable to assume that Sydney’s borders will be closed for at least another two months.”

Sydney, where Qantas is headquartered, and surrounding cities in New South Wales state have been locked down since June 26. The lockdown will continue until at least Aug. 28.

New South Wales on Tuesday reported 199 new cases in the latest 24-hour period. Brisbane and surrounding municipalities in Queensland state locked down on July 31 until Aug. 8. Queensland on Tuesday reported 16 new cases in the latest 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Australia’s prime minister has dismissed an opposition proposal to pay people to be vaccinated as an insult to Australians.

Only 19% of Australian adults had been fully vaccinated by Monday. Most would prefer Pfizer, which is in short supply. Many are concerned about the slight risk of blood clotting caused by AstraZeneca, the only alternative in Australia.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is recommending students and staff wear masks in schools, but has stopped short of requiring them.

The governor also ordered state workers must wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status amid a rise in infections with the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Beshear warns workers “face a much higher likelihood that they get COVID and they get really sick” if they don’t use masks.

About 62% of Kentucky residents ages 18 and older have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. But only 37% of those 18-29 have received at least one dose, compared to 83% of residents 65 and older.

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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