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Schools deal with virus-related staff shortages

Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, but the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

SAN FRANCISCO — Schools have welcomed students back to classrooms but face a new challenge: A shortage of teachers and staff the likes of which some district officials say they’ve never seen.

Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, but the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem. One school official in California calls it “the most acute shortage of labor” he’s ever seen.

Similar scenarios are playing out across the country as schools cope with a spike in retirements and a need to hire more teachers, counselors, tutors and aides to help children make up for learning losses.

The lack of teachers is “really a nationwide issue and definitely a statewide issue,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of California’s State Board of Education.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Biden doubling vaccine purchase, calls for more global shots

— CDC panel considers who needs booster shots

— United Airlines says 97% of US-based workers fully vaccinated

— Covid-19 creates dire US shortage of teachers, school staff

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— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana reported its 16th child death from Covid-19 on Wednesday.

The state health department says the victim was between the ages of 12 and 17. No other details were released. It was the seventh pediatric death from the disease since July. Another child’s death was reported five days ago.

The state reported a total of 99 new Covid-19-related deaths Wednesday.

The latest hospitalization figure was 1,221, much higher than the spring and early summer, but down from a peak of more than 3,000 in August.

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CHICAGO — United Airlines officials say 97% of its U.S. employees are fully vaccinated.

There’s less than a week to go before United employees face a deadline to get the shots or get fired. The Chicago-based airline with 67,000 U.S. employees is among a group of companies that announced they would require vaccinations.

The airline says a small number of employees are seeking a medical or religious exemption from vaccination. Employees who get an exemption will be placed on leave starting Oct. 2 and could eventually come back. However, they might have to wear a mask and undergo weekly testing for the coronavirus.

The airline said last month that up to 90% of pilots and nearly 80% of flight attendants were vaccinated. It didn’t give a companywide figure at the time.

United Airlines workers who apply unsuccessfully for an exemption will have five weeks after their denial to get vaccinated.

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CHICAGO — The Rev. Jesse Jackson is headed home a month after he was hospitalized for a breakthrough Covid-19 infection and following intensive physical therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

A spokeswoman for Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition confirmed Wednesday the civil rights leader left a downtown Chicago facility.

He and his wife, Jacqueline, were first hospitalized a month ago for Covid-19. While Jesse Jackson was vaccinated, his wife was not because of what he described as a pre-existing condition. She required oxygen and was briefly in the intensive care unit before being released earlier this month.

After about a one-week hospital stay, 79-year-old Jesse Jackson was transferred to a physical therapy hospital. He disclosed a Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2017.

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PHOENIX — Arizona reported more than 70 Covid-19 deaths for the second consecutive day and the fifth time this month.

There were 2,106 coronavirus cases and 74 confirmed deaths on Wednesday. The Covid-19 hospitalizations remained below 2,000 for the fifth straight day, with 1,897 coronavirus patients occupying hospital beds on Tuesday.

While the pace of additional cases has dropped during the past two weeks, the rate of deaths rose, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rose from 38 on Sept. 6 to 40 on Monday. The rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 3,267 to 2,467 during the same period.

Arizona’s pandemic totals have reached 1.07 million cases and 19,658 confirmed deaths.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the U.S. is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s Covid-19 shots to share with the world. The U.S. purchase of another 500 million shots brings the total U.S. vaccination commitment to more than 1.1 billion doses through 2022.

At a virtual “vaccine summit” on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Biden also embraced a goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year. Biden encouraged well-off nations to do more to get the coronavirus under control around the world.

“We need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges,” Biden said, adding wealthy countries should commit to donating, rather than selling the shots to poorer nations “with no political strings attached.”

World leaders, aid groups and global health organizations are growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to shots.

About 160 million shots supplied by the U.S. have already been distributed to more than 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world combined. The remaining American doses will be distributed over the coming year.

“To beat the pandemic here, we need to beat it everywhere,” Biden said. “For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world.”

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WASHINGTON — Influential government advisers are debating which Americans should get an extra dose of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine once regulators clear the booster shots.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to rule soon on Pfizer’s bid for extra doses, after its advisers last week dramatically scaled back the Biden administration's plans for boosters for everyone. Instead, that panel-backed booster shots for seniors and others at high risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the final word on who would qualify and convened its own advisers Wednesday to start deliberations.

The priority remains to vaccinate the unvaccinated, who the CDC says account for the vast majority of Covid-19 cases, now soaring to levels not seen since last winter. About 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, nearly 55% of the total population.

The government will decide later whether to allow extra doses of Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Travelers and authorities from India and many African countries are angry and confused about Britain’s new Covid-19 travel rules, calling them discriminatory.

The British government announced what it billed as a simplification of the rules last week, including allowing fully vaccinated travelers arriving in England from much of the world to skip quarantine and take fewer tests.

But the fine print on who was considered “fully vaccinated” is proving far more complicated. People vaccinated in India and African countries were among those left off the list.

Countries like Kenya, which has received hundreds of thousands of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Britain, were left wondering why their vaccination programs don’t appear to be good enough.

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BERLIN — Germany will stop sick pay for unvaccinated people who have to go into quarantine because of Covid-19.

Previously, Germans could claim for income lost due to having to go into quarantine after returning from abroad or coming into contact with a positive case.

Health Minister Jens Spahn says the move was a matter of “fairness,” arguing that by the time the new rule comes into force on Nov. 1, everyone who wants a vaccine will have had an opportunity to get the shot.

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Those who choose not to “will need to bear responsibility for this then, including the financial costs,” he says.

Germany has fully vaccinated 63.4% of its population. The government says it wants to achieve a vaccination rate of 75% to prevent a sharp rise in cases during the winter months.

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LONDON — Britain’s government has announced plans to share more than a million doses of coronavirus vaccine with South Korea in a “vaccine swap.”

The U.K. plans to ship more than a million doses of its stockpile of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to South Korea in the coming weeks. South Korea is attempting to fully vaccinate 70% of its population by the end of October.

The Department of Health says the vaccine doses are not immediately required in the U.K. and won’t affect Britain’s program to roll out booster shots for parts of the population this fall and winter. South Korea will return the same number of doses to Britain by the end of the year.

Officials add the doses swapped with South Korea are not part of Britain’s commitment to send 100 million vaccines overseas.

Britain has donated 10.3 million vaccines to other nations, including 6.2 million through the vaccine-sharing facility COVAX. The rest were donated bilaterally to countries in need.

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GENEVA — The number of new coronavirus cases fell again last week, with 3.6 million cases reported globally, down from 4 million the previous week, according to the World Health Organization.

Last week’s drop marked the first substantial decline for more than two months, with falling cases in every world region. In its latest update on the pandemic released on Tuesday, WHO said there were major decreases in cases in two regions: a 22% fall in the Middle East and a 16% drop in Southeast Asia.

The U.N. health agency said there were just under 60,000 deaths in the past week, a 7% decline. Southeast Asia reported a 30% decrease in Covid-19 deaths and the Western Pacific region reported a 7% increase. The most coronavirus cases were seen in the U.S., India, Britain, Turkey and the Philippines. WHO said the faster-spreading delta variant has reached 185 countries and is present in every part of the world.

The organization also revised its list of “variants of interest,” or those that it believes have the potential to cause big outbreaks; WHO said it’s tracking the lambda and mu variants, which both arose in Latin America but have yet to cause widespread epidemics.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — As coronavirus infections plummet and vaccinations accelerate in the United Arab Emirates, authorities have loosened a long-standing face mask mandate.

The Gulf Arab sheikhdom said Wednesday that residents no longer need to wear masks while exercising outdoors or visiting beaches and pools in the country. Those who receive medical or beauty treatments may also forgo the mask. However, face masks will still be required in indoor spaces like shopping malls and public transportation.

It’s the first time the Emirati government has relaxed the strict nationwide mask mandate, violations of which result in an $800 fine.

Virus cases have steadily declined in recent weeks, with health authorities now recording some 300-400 cases a day. About 80% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

The move comes just a week before Dubai hosts the long-awaited World Expo, which was pushed back a year because of the pandemic.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Coronavirus infections in Slovakia are rising steeply, surpassing 1,000 people testing positive in one day for the first time since April.

The Health Ministry says the daily increase in new cases reached 1,180 on Tuesday, the highest number since April 7. It was 474 a week ago.

Nine more people died of Covid-19 on Tuesday for a confirmed total of 12,589 in the nation of 5.5 million.

Some 2.3 million people in Slovakia have been fully vaccinated. The country has one of the slowest vaccination rates among the European Union countries.

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BEIJING — Officials in the northeast China city of Harbin say national level health officials have been sent to the city to deal with what may be a coronavirus outbreak.

The city of 9.5 million people reported three infection cases Wednesday, a day after discovering a first case of community transmission.

After the initial finding, authorities started mass testing and closed schools. The city also ordered businesses like mahjong parlors, cinemas and gyms to shut. City authorities say residents must display a negative virus test to leave for only essential travel. Otherwise, people are being told to stay home.

China has kept the virus from transmitting widely within its borders through a costly and strict strategy that relies on lockdowns and mass testing.

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HONOLULU — A man who helped organize a Hawaii group that opposes coronavirus vaccines and pandemic restrictions says he now has regrets after contracting Covid-19.

Chris Wikoff told Hawaii News Now this week that he helped start the Aloha Freedom Coalition last October. He says he believed government shutdowns and other restrictions were threatening liberties and harming businesses.

But then he and his wife contracted Covid-19, the disease that is sometimes caused by the virus. Wikoff says he thought he was going to die and he still has trouble breathing. He is considering getting vaccinated because his family and doctors recommend it.

Wikoff says he no longer wants to be associated with the Aloha Freedom Coalition. He's warning others in the group not to gather.

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