The Latest: North Carolina Sees Surge in Vaccine Interest | World News

Emilee Geist

RALEIGH, N.C. — Interest in COVID-19 vaccines has surged in the week since North Carolina’s governor announced that his administration would boost the financial incentive from $25 to $100 for unvaccinated residents who come in for their first shot this month. While a number of factors are contributing to people’s […]

RALEIGH, N.C. — Interest in COVID-19 vaccines has surged in the week since North Carolina’s governor announced that his administration would boost the financial incentive from $25 to $100 for unvaccinated residents who come in for their first shot this month.

While a number of factors are contributing to people’s decision to get vaccinated, including the rising spread of the more contagious delta variant, state health officials are hopeful even more people will choose to get vaccinated now that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has decided to follow President Joe Biden’s advice to give out $100 rewards.

“Many of our providers distributed all of their cards in a single day after we announced the shift to $100 last week,” said Catie Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. “One of our providers went from distributing 1,000 cards per week to 3,000 in two days.”

Drivers who take people in for their first shot remain eligible for one $25 prepaid credit card, while those who get the shot can now receive four cards in $25 denominations.

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About 38,000 $25 cards have been issued since the state launched its pilot program in May. Armstrong said the cards are shipped to vaccine providers on a weekly basis based on anticipated demand. The department has ordered roughly $1.8 million worth of cards for delivery this week, she said.

Data collected by the state health department and shared with The Associated Press shows nearly 18,000 page loads on the incentives section of the website during the entire month of July, when the cash reward being offered was $25. But since Cooper’s announcement last week, the section has seen more than 66,000 page loads — a 269% increase.

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HELENA, Mont. — Montana Health officials have reported 493 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number of cases tallied in a single day since January.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise, with more than 150 people hospitalized with the respiratory virus on Tuesday. That is nearly triple the average of 54 COVID-19 hospitalizations recorded per day in June. Hospitalizations remain below the peak of over 400 recorded last November.

Less than half of Montana residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are fully vaccinated. Of those hospitalized with the virus in June and July, nearly 90% were unvaccinated.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s governor on Tuesday gave about 25,000 employees of Pennsylvania’s prisons and state health care and congregate care facilities about a month to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or take weekly tests for the virus.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf gave them until Sept. 7 to get fully vaccinated. In addition to the Corrections Department, it applies to state hospitals, veterans’ homes, community health centers, prisons and homes for those with intellectual disabilities.

As an incentive, Wolf is also offering all state employees an extra day off of work as an incentive to increase the vaccination rate.

MADISON, Wis. — Opioid overdoses in Wisconsin have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a report the state Department of Health Services released Tuesday.

The analysis shows the rate of overdose incidents rose from about seven per 100,000 people in January 2019 to about 13 per 100,000 people this past March. Overdoses spiked in May 2020 to about 15 per 100,000 people.

Stress from the pandemic, a statewide stay-at-home order, increased access to drugs and social isolation may have led to more dangerous drug behaviors, the report said. The data shows overdoses rose sharply during the pandemic’s onset, then decreased and now appear to be rising again.

DHS officials said they plan to use $10.4 million that Wisconsin won as part of a multistate settlement to launch prevention programs for Black and American Indian communities, create health teams that will travel to areas of the state experiencing opioid spikes, reimburse counties for the costs of treating addicts, and cover housing for people in recovery.

The settlement, reached in February, resolved allegations consulting firm McKinsey & Company contributed to the opioid crisis by advising opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma on how to maximize profits by urging physicians to prescribe more OxyContin to patients.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa has tossed out tens of thousands of expired COVID-19 vaccine doses and could toss out hundreds of thousands more if demand for the vaccine continues to lag in the state.

Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand told the Des Moines Register on Monday that the state has tossed more than 81,000 doses of the vaccine.

The department warned last month that the state might have to discard around 217,000 doses by the end of August unless demand picked up.

Officials said they’ve seen some more interest in the shots recently, as the cases have surged over the summer. But demand is still far below what it was in April.

MEXICO CITY — The United States will send Mexico 8.5 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine as the delta variant drives the country’s third wave of infections, Mexican officials said Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the U.S. government will send AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, though the latter hasn’t yet been approved by Mexican regulators.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris informed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the new shipments during a call Monday, Ebrard said.

As Mexico’s third wave started, hospitalizations and deaths lagged significantly. But hospitalizations are starting to rise in parts of the country as infections expand rapidly and the health system grows more stressed.

Mexico has received 91.2 million doses of five different vaccines, about 73 million of which have been applied. Some 51 million people have received at least one dose and 27 million have been fully vaccinated.

GENEVA — A top official at the World Health Organization described the huge gap between access to COVID-19 vaccines in rich and poor countries as “the moral catastrophe of our time” and said it was up to about 20 political leaders, pharmaceutical CEOs and influential policymakers to change course.

To date, more than 4 billion coronavirus shots have been administered globally, but only about 1% of those have been in Africa.

“If we had tried to withhold vaccines from parts of the world, could we have made it any worse than it is today?” asked Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, during a social media session on Tuesday. Those responsible include the leaders of countries contracting COVID-19 vaccines and the companies producing the doses, Aylward said, without naming them.

“We need these 20 people to lead the world’s effort to change this disgraceful effort,” he said, citing the WHO target of vaccinating at least 10% of every country’s population, a goal that is likely to be missed.

Aylward said WHO would be launching an appeal on Wednesday aimed at raising nearly $8 billion to help poor countries survive the surging delta variant.

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s health minister announced Tuesday that the coalition government has agreed to stimulate its national vaccination campaign by offering people food vouchers in exchange for rolling up their sleeves to get jabbed against COVID-19.

“We agreed on a measure that was proposed, namely meal vouchers for those who are vaccinated,” health minister Ioana Mihaila said after a government meeting Tuesday.

The minister said that the food vouchers will likely be worth around 20 euros ($23 dollars) per full vaccination. The announcement comes as Romania, a country of more than 19 million, has fully vaccinated only 25% of its population, one of the slowest vaccination campaigns in Europe.

Vaccine uptake in the Eastern European country has dropped off dramatically from a mid-May high of around 120,000 doses administered per day to around just less than 15,000 per day in recent weeks. The health ministry announced Tuesday that only 70% of doctors in public hospitals have so far been vaccinated.

Since the pandemic began, Romania has recorded more than a million coronavirus infections and 34,323 people have died.

BALTIMORE — The public school district in Maryland’s Baltimore County will now require masks to be worn by all students, staff and visitors, officials announced Tuesday.

“As we prepare to welcome students and staff back to school for in-person learning, universal masking is an important step to help maintain our community’s health and safety,” Superintendent Dr. Darryl Williams said in a statement.

The mask requirements begin Tuesday.

The local COVID-19 case rate has risen from about 17 cases per 100,000 residents to about 61 cases per 100,000 residents over the last three weeks, according to county figures.

School districts in neighboring Maryland counties have also issued requirements mandating masks in schools. Baltimore County is a collection of suburban communities that ring the city of Baltimore, which has recently reinstated indoor masking for all.

DENVER — Several of Denver’s trendiest restaurants are joining other dining establishments and bars in requiring employees and customers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

KUSA-TV reports that the latest include the Bonanno Concepts group of eateries, which will impose the requirement on Sept. 30. The group operates Mizuna, Luca, Osteria Marco and other establishments.

Chef and proprietor Frank Bonanno noted that masks were required and customers had to sign health declarations when his restaurants reopened last year after a temporary closure.

“For our restaurants that are mostly reservations, you sign a health declaration and if you want to lie to us and come in, yeah, you could be that person. We’re not going to fight you, we’re not going to be the police on this,” he said. “It just seems like it’s the right thing to do.”

The Triangle Denver bar, Bar Max and To the Wind Bistro are implementing or have implemented similar policies, asking patrons to present vaccination cards.

With delta variant cases surging and hospitalizations rising, Denver is mandating that all city employees and private sector workers in high-risk settings — including hospitals, schools and universities — be fully vaccinated Sept. 30.

DOVER, Del. — Democratic Gov. John Carney is imposing a mask mandate for all public and private school students and staff in Delaware effective next Monday.

The indoor mask mandate announced Tuesday applies to everyone kindergarten age or older, regardless of vaccination status.

The mandate also extends to child care homes and centers for everyone kindergarten age and older. Child care centers and homes are strongly encouraged to require masks for children as young as 2 years old.

Carney’s office said the mask requirement will be formalized later this week and is consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Carney also said state employees and visitors to Delaware government facilities must wear masks indoors starting Monday. Additional vaccination and testing requirements for state employees and others are expected to be announced in the coming days.

While the mask mandates apply regardless of vaccination status, Carney said “vaccination remains the best way to finally put an end to this pandemic.”

LONDON — Health officials in Britain say more than three-quarters of adults in the U.K. have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine, a milestone that Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as a “huge national achievement.”

Latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care on Tuesday showed that 39.7 million people have now been double-jabbed. More than 47 million, or 89% of the adult population, have received a first dose.

The U.K. has seen its average number of daily confirmed cases fall in recent weeks. A further 25,161 cases were reported on Monday. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Tuesday that the vaccine rollout has created a “wall of defense” that’s “massively reduced” hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

Javid also said that officials are preparing to offer coronavirus booster jabs from early September to the most vulnerable groups. He said the plan is for the seasonal flu jab to be offered at the same time as COVID-19 booster jabs to those over 50.

MONTREAL — U.S. drug maker Moderna has signed an agreement with the Canadian government to build an mRNA production plant in Canada.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel signed a memorandum of understanding with federal Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne in Montreal on Tuesday.

Moderna was founded 11 years ago to research and produce messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines and therapeutics, and its COVID-19 vaccine is its first product ever authorized for widespread use.

Canada was entirely reliant on imported vaccines to slow COVID-19 but is now one of the most fully vaccinated populations in the world. Champagne says every country in the world wants a COVID-19 vaccine made in their country.

Bancel says they will open the first Moderna plant outside of the U.S. in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to call a federal election soon.

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