The Latest: New US virus cases top 100K, 1st time in months

The seven-day average for new daily COVID-19 infections has surpassed 100,000 in the U.S., returning to levels not seen since the winter surge.

Cases and hospitalizations have skyrocketed in the last month, driven by the highly contagious delta variant. The country was averaging about 11,000 cases a day in late June. Now the number is 107,143.

The virus is spreading quickly through unvaccinated populations, especially in the Deep South. Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi have had hospitals overrun with patients.

The U.S. first crossed the 100,000 average number in November and peaked at about 250,000 in early January before bottoming out in late June.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Study: Vaccines give COVID-19 survivors big immune boost

— Vaccination form for federal workers adds penalties for lies

— Some US schools reopen with mix of masks in classrooms

— United Airlines will require US employees to be vaccinated

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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:

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut has become the latest state to mandate that workers in nursing homes be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday directed an executive order that requires all employees of long-term care facilities to receive at least the first dose of a vaccine by Sept. 7.

In a statement, he said it would “absolutely irresponsible” for staffers not to be vaccinated, given the vulnerability of the people in their care.

According to Lamont’s release, more than half of all nursing homes in Connecticut have a staff vaccination rate lower than 75%. Connecticut joins at least five other states that have issued similar mandates.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has announced another round of coronavirus vaccine incentives.

The California Department of Health Care Services on Friday said it would spend $350 million to vaccinate more people on the state’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is the joint state and federal health insurance program for people who are disabled or have low incomes.

About 76% of California residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. But only 45% of the state’s Medicaid population has been vaccinated.

The new incentives include up to $50 grocery store gift cards. About 13.8 million people are enrolled in California’s Medicaid program.

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LANSING, Michigan — Hundreds of people gathered outside the Michigan State Capitol on Friday to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Carrying signs with slogans such as “Jab or Job? Wrong!” and “Let me call my shots,” the demonstrators heard speakers criticize government officials and and urge their audience to contact elected representatives to express their opposition.

Ron Armstrong, president for Stand Up Michigan, one of the organizers of the rally, said they were fighting “for individuals’ rights to choose — that’s all — in the employment area, in the student area, in the schools, in the universities … or wherever else it is mandated.”

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HOUSTON — Houston area officials say the latest wave of COVID-19 cases is pushing the local health care system to nearly “a breaking point,” resulting in some patients having to be transferred out of the city to get medical care, including one who had to be taken to North Dakota.

Dr. David Persse, who is health authority for the Houston Health Department and EMS medical director, said some ambulances were waiting hours to offload patients at Houston area hospitals because no beds were available. Persse said he feared this would lead to prolonged respond times to 911 medical calls.

“The health care system right now is nearly at a breaking point … For the next three weeks or so, I see no relief on what’s happening in emergency departments,” Persse said Thursday.

Last weekend, a patient in Houston had to be transferred to North Dakota to get medical care. An 11-month-old girl with COVID-19 and who was having seizures had to be transported on Thursday from Houston to a hospital 170 miles away in Temple.

The rising hospitalization and positivity rate in the Houston area prompted Houston Independent School District Superintendent Millard House II on Thursday to announce that he plans to ask the school board during its meeting next week to approve a mandate requiring all students, teachers and staff to wear masks. Classes in the Houston school district, the state’s largest, begin Aug. 23.

“We know that we’re going to get pushback for this,” House said. If approved, the mask mandate would go against an executive order Gov. Greg Abbott repeated last month banning such mandates by any state, county or local government entity.

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LAS VEGAS — More than 6,000 people in Nevada have died of COVID-19, a grim milestone the state surpassed Friday as officials struggle to respond to another surge of the coronavirus.

Gov. Steve Sisolak called it “another significant and heartbreaking milestone” for the state and issued another plea for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Nevada reported 26 new deaths Friday and 1,299 new cases of COVID-19.

Since the pandemic began, the state has reported 363,574 COVID-19 cases and 6,005 deaths.

Sisolak and state health officials have been struggling to mitigate another resurgence of the virus in Nevada driven by the highly contagious delta variant and a still-lagging rate of vaccinations.

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NEW YORK — Even people who have recovered from COVID-19 are urged to get vaccinated, and a new study shows survivors who ignored that advice had twice the risk of getting reinfected.

The report Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes as scientists urge people to get vaccinated because of the highly contagious delta variant. That includes people who had a prior infection.

The report out of Kentucky adds to growing laboratory evidence that vaccines offer an important boost to natural immunity, including broader protection against new variants.

“If you have had COVID-19 before, please still get vaccinated,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others around you, especially as the more contagious delta variant spreads around the country.”

There’s little information yet on reinfections with the newer delta variant. But U.S. health officials point to early data from Britain that the reinfection risk appears greater with delta than with the common alpha variant, once people are six months past their prior infection.

“There’s no doubt” that vaccinating a COVID-19 survivor enhances both the amount and breadth of immunity “so that you cover not only the original (virus) but the variants,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert, said at a recent White House briefing.

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WASHINGTON — Federal employees who need to certify their vaccination status under a new policy instituted by President Joe Biden intended to encourage COVID-19 shots will face disciplinary action and potentially criminal prosecution if they lie on the form.

The Biden administration on Friday unveiled the attestation form that employees will need to fill out about whether they have been fully vaccinated against the virus, adding legal teeth to the president’s mandate.

Federal employees won’t be following the “honor system” but will instead be required to acknowledge that making a “knowing and willful false statement on this form can be punished by fine or imprisonment or both.”

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the form, which was distributed Friday to agency leadership.

— By Zeke Miller