The Latest: COVID hospitalizations strain Florida ambulances

A health worker receives a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Bangkok Metropolitan Administration General hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — COVID-19 cases have filled so many Florida hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departments are straining to respond to emergencies.

In St. Petersburg, some patients wait inside ambulances for up to an hour before hospitals can admit them — a process that usually takes about 15 minutes, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said.

While ambulances sit outside emergency rooms, they are essentially off the grid.

“They’re not available to take another call, which forces the fire department on scene at an accident or something to take that transport. That’s caused quite a backlog for the system,” Burton said.

He stressed that the most serious cases, like heart attacks and strokes, still get prompt attention in emergency rooms. And he says the county is working with fire rescue officials to find more ambulances and have extra staff on hand.

The strain is being felt across Florida, where COVID-19 hospitalizations surpassed the pandemic’s worst previous surge in late July and set a new record of 13,600 on Monday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Bangladesh vaccinating Rohingya refugees amid virus surge

— Pandemic prompts changes in how future teachersin US are trained

— COVID-19 vaccines to berequired for military under new US plan

— Governor of Texasappeals for out-of-state help against COVID-19

— 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:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The pandemic is already leaving its fingerprints on the education of future teachers in the United States. Across the country, teaching programs are giving more emphasis on how to plan and implement quality virtual learning.

Though formal changes to standards and curriculums happen more slowly, many teacher preparation programs are incorporating more about digital tools, online instruction and mental and emotional wellness.

The focus reflects takeaways from the pandemic experiences of schools even as they are resuming in-person classes. Changes are happening not just in what aspiring educators are learning, but how.

More programs are using tools such as computer simulation training and virtual field supervision of student-teaching, and they say they might continue to do so regardless of whether circumstances require it.

While school system leaders are hoping to offer in-person instruction as widely as possible this year, experts say the emphasis on technology will have benefits regardless of the pandemic’s course.

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MADISON, Wis. — Nearly 70% of eligible inmates in Wisconsin prisons have been fully vaccinated for the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Corrections.

DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said cases of COVID-19 have declined sharply since the early months of the pandemic because of the high vaccination rate for eligible youth and adult prisoners.

The vaccination rate is about 20% higher than the rate for the general population statewide, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Health Services.

There haven’t been more than three active COVID-19 cases in state prisons on any day since mid-June, Carr said. The department reported having only one active case as of Monday afternoon.

Early in the pandemic, the coronavirus spread rapidly through some prisons, including the Green Bay Correctional Institution where more than a quarter of inmates tested positive for the virus.

Prisoners were among the first groups prioritized for shots in Wisconsin, because of their close living quarters.

There are about 20,000 inmates currently in Wisconsin prisons, according to state statistics.

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LISBON, Portugal – Portugal is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine rollout to all children between the ages of 12 and 15.

The General Directorate for Health’s announcement Tuesday came after days of uncertainty about the move. Authorities initially limited shots in that age group to children with chronic illnesses.

Officials said the hesitancy was due to a lack of data, but Director General for Health Graça Freitas said studies in the European Union and the United States have dispelled doubts in Portugal.

Classes are set to resume in Portugal’s schools in about four weeks. Officials estimate there are just over 400,000 children in the 12-15 age group.

The European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, has recommended that the coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna be expanded to children older than 12.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Two more of the largest school districts in the U.S. state of Texas have announced mask requirements in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning such mandates.

The Dallas and Austin school districts announced mask requirements Monday for students, staff members and visitors as COVID-19 cases surge in the state, fueled by the delta variant.

The announcement came the same day Abbott asked for out-of-state medical personnel to help overwhelmed Texas hospitals.

The schools superintendent of Houston has also announced plans for a school mask mandate, pending approval this week from the district’s school board.

Guidance issued last week from the Texas Education Agency reiterated that schools can’t require masks for students or staff under Abbott’s order. It also said schools are not required to conduct contact tracing when positive COVID-19 cases are identified.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A court in Norway sentenced a man to 10 years and six months in prison for smuggling 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of an amphetamine into the country inside a van with stickers for a company that developed a coronavirus vaccine.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK said Tuesday that the Polish man in his 50s had arrived from Denmark to southern Norway by ferry in a white van rented in Germany that had stickers with the name BioNTech on the front and sides.

A binder on the dashboard carried the logo of the German company that with American drugmaker Pfizer developed the first COVID-19 authorized for use in Britain, the United States and the European Union.

Inside the van, customs officers in Larvik found the amphetamine.

Prosecutor Christer Gangsoe told NRK that the amount represented about 10% of the amphetamine seized annually in Norway.

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JERUSALEM — Israel has reported more than 6,000 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily increase since February.

Israel rolled out one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns starting late last year, but in recent weeks has been battling a surge in new cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

Authorities have ramped up travel restrictions and restored mask mandates for indoor settings.

More than 85% of Israel’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, and authorities are now calling on those over 60 to get a third dose. The Health Ministry says 577,899 people have received a booster shot.

The ministry recorded 6,275 new confirmed cases on Monday, with 4.84% testing positive out of more than 130,000 tests. Data released by the Israeli government shows the unvaccinated, especially those over 60, are far more likely to become seriously ill.

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BANGKOK — Thailand’s government backed down Tuesday from widely-criticized regulations to broaden its ability to restrict media reports and social media posts about the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had long sought to crack down on what he deems fake news. But the new regulations, enacted at the end of last month, included the ability to prosecute people for distributing “news that may cause public fear.”

They also gave Thai regulators the ability to force internet service providers to turn over the IP address of the person or entity distributing such news, and to “suspend the internet service to that IP address immediately.”

Thailand is struggling with its worst wave yet of the coronavirus pandemic, and Prayuth said the new regulations were necessary to combat the spread of inaccurate rumors that could impede government efforts to vaccinate the population and implement measures to slow the pandemic.

But Thai media organizations said the restrictions were overly broad and an attack on freedom of expression, giving authorities license to crack down on the public or news organizations for publishing factual reports that the government didn’t like.

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LAHORE, Pakistan— A provincial education minister in Pakistan on Tuesday asked teachers working at private and public schools in the eastern Punjab province to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by August 22 to prevent school closures.

Punjab Education Minister Murad Rass said if any teachers are found unvaccinated after that date, authorities will shut the school where they teach.

The warning comes amid a steady surge in the confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pakistan.

Pakistan on Tuesday reported 3, 884 new daily cases and 86 deaths. The country has reported 1,075,504 confirmed cases and 24,004 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors are set to meet to decide on how to handle pandemic measures amid a discussion about whether people who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 should have greater freedoms than those who aren’t vaccinated.

While Germany has relatively low numbers of virus cases compared with other European countries, cases are rising again and authorities fear that especially young people who are not vaccinated yet may contract and spread the virus in the coming weeks and months.

On Monday, the country’s disease control agency registered 2,480 new cases, about 700 more than a week ago. Some 45.6 million people or almost 55 % of the population are fully vaccinated.

In response to a drop in vaccinations, officials have begun pushing for more vaccine clinics at megastores and in city centers, or offering other incentives to get people to show up for shots.

Merkel and the state governors are also expected to decide Tuesday whether free antigen tests that are available everywhere and can be used to access restaurants or cultural venues should be paid for again.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s Supreme Court has issued an order encouraging anyone entering a judicial facility to wear a mask in response to rising COVID-19 cases caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

The order issued Monday applies to judicial centers, courthouses or other judicial facilities. It’s in line with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, court officials said.

The order says the use of masks or other facial coverings is strongly encouraged for anyone entering a judicial facility.

The order also states that a chief circuit judge can mandate masks for a judicial facility.

The Administrative Office of the Courts — the operations arm of the state court system — supports the activities of nearly 3,300 court system employees and more than 400 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks.

The delta variant has caused a surge in coronavirus cases across Kentucky, leading to increased hospitalizations and concerns that the death toll will spike.

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SYDNEY — Australia’s most populous state is reporting a new daily high of 356 coronavirus infections.

The New South Wales government also reported four more COVID-19 deaths Tuesday. The death toll since the latest outbreak was detected in Sydney in mid-June is now 32. One of the latest deaths is a man in his 80s who was infected overseas, while the rest caught the virus locally.

More than 80% of the state’s 8.2 million people are in lockdown, including the greater Sydney region. The Sydney lockdown began June 26, and hopes are fading that restrictions will be eased as planned on Aug. 28.

Only 22% of Australian adults had been fully vaccinated by Monday. Officials hope that by getting the number above 70% will enable restrictions to be eased even if the virus is continuing to spread.

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

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