By The Associated Press
SEATTLE — A Washington state trooper who helped develop the agency’s use of drones has died after a battle with COVID-19 contracted on duty.
The Washington State Patrol said Detective Eric Gunderson died Sunday surrounded by his family and friends. He was 38. Gunderson frequently traveled around the country to speak about the state patrol’s use of drones.
The patrol said he contracted COVID-19 on one of those trips. Gunderson helped investigate the 2017 Amtrak derailment in DuPont and his work is credited with reopening roads more quickly after crashes.
He is survived by a wife and two sons. Gunderson’s death is the first line of duty death for the agency since it marked its 100th anniversary a few weeks ago, Chief John Batiste said. “How I had hoped our second century of service would be more forgiving. But serving the public, as we do, has inherent dangers and this pandemic has been a foe to our agency and indeed our state and nation,” he said.
Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted his condolences to Gunderson’s family, friends and colleagues.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— U.S. has enough COVID-19 vaccines for boosters, kids’ shots
— UK counts on vaccines, ‘common sense,’ to keep virus at bay
— EXPLAINER: Who’s eligible for Pfizer booster shots in US?
See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LOS ANGELES — Public health officials have identified more than 200 coronavirus outbreaks at police or fire agencies throughout Los Angeles County since the start of the pandemic, according to data obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The 211 outbreaks, accounting for more than 2,500 cases between March 2020 and last month, represent 9% of total workplace outbreaks across the county, the newspaper reported Sunday. However, they have continued to occur regularly even as vaccination rates increased among police and fire personnel and the number of individual coronavirus cases per outbreak has fallen since last winter.
The data showed 38 outbreaks at public safety agencies were identified in April of this year — the most in any month since the start of the pandemic. A month later, 35 outbreaks — the second most — were recorded by the county Department of Public Health.
Overall, more than half of the outbreaks occurred at the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department, where some employees have filed lawsuits challenging a new rule requiring them to be vaccinated by next month. Thousands have filed notice that they intend to claim a medical or religious exemption from the mandate.
Vaccination rates for LAPD an LAFD employees generally lag behind the 68% of eligible county residents who have gotten their shots.
Critics have accused the police officers and city firefighters of ignoring public safety — and their sworn duties to uphold it — by refusing to get vaccinated.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — School districts around Connecticut are holding their breath as more than 200 school bus drivers could walk off the job in response to a vaccination mandate that goes into effect Monday.
That could worsen an already problematic driver shortage that is affecting school districts in the state and around the country. School superintendents are warning parents that buses may experience significant delays, and are suggesting parents drive their kids to school, the New Haven Register reported.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order going into effect Monday also covers state employees, K-12 teachers and day care workers. A Lamont spokesperson said that state agencies are seeking to qualify new drivers, and the Department of Transportation is considering using some CT Transit and regional-service vehicles to fill gaps.
In a letter to acting Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker last week, the Connecticut School Transportation Association, which represents school bus drivers, warned of a “catastrophe” on Sept. 27 and asserted that 227 of 1,558 unvaccinated drivers would refuse to follow the mandate.
The state’s education department is expediting requests for background checks and training for potential new drivers, the Register reported.
Not all school districts are convinced their transit systems will be disrupted. Transit officials in Danbury and New Haven, as well as in Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington, told the newspaper they don’t believe a rumored job action will adversely affect them.
WASHINGTON — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says she recognizes there’s some confusion now in the United States about who should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster.
For starters, the just-approved booster is intended for people originally vaccinated with shots made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.
Last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky sided with most of the recommendations from CDC advisers on giving boosters six months after the last Pfizer dose for certain groups of people.
That includes people 65 and older, nursing home residents and people ages 50 to 64 with chronic health problems such as diabetes. People 18 and older with health problems can decide for themselves if they want a booster.
But Walensky also overrode advisers’ objections and said people at increased risk of infection because of their jobs or their living conditions could qualify for a booster now. That includes health care workers, teachers and people in jails or homeless shelters.
“I recognize that confusion right now,” Walensky told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“We are evaluating this science in real time,” she said.l “We are meeting every several weeks now to evaluate the science. The science may very well show that the rest of the population needs to be boosted and we will provide those guidances as soon as we have the science to inform them.”
People who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are waiting to hear when they might be eligible for a booster.
WASHINGTON — Pfizer’s CEO says “it’s a question of days, not weeks” before the company and German partner BioNTech submit data to U.S. regulators for federal authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for children age 5 to 11.
That would be an important step toward starting vaccinations for those youngsters, especially with kids now back in school and the delta variant resulting in a big jump in pediatric infections.
Pfizer said last week that its vaccine works for that age group and that it tested a much lower dose of the vaccine that’s already available for anyone 12 and older. The company said that after children age 5 to 11 got their second dose during testing, they developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults getting the regular-strength shots
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Sunday that if the Food and Drug Administration approves the company’s application, “we will be ready with our manufacturing to provide this new formulation of the vaccine.”
And when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, he told ABC’s “This Week” that within a year, “I think we will be able to come back to normal life. I don’t think that this means that variants will not be continuing coming. And I don’t think that this means that we should be able to live our lives … without having vaccinations, basically.”
Bourla also said “we will have vaccines that … will last at least a year’ and that “the most likely scenario, it is annual revaccinations.”
HELSINKI — Police in Norway have reported dozens of disturbances and violent clashes, including mass brawls in the Nordic country’s big cities, after streets, bars, restaurants and nightclubs were filled with people celebrating the end of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Norwegian government abruptly announced Friday that most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions would be scrapped from Saturday and that life in the nation of 5.3 million would return to normal.
The unexpected announcement by Prime Minister Erna Solberg late Friday afternoon to drop coronavirus restrictions the next day took many Norwegians by surprise and led to chaotic scenes in the capital, Oslo, and elsewhere in the country on Saturday.
Rowdy celebrations across Norway by hundreds of citizens started Saturday afternoon and lasted until the early hours of Sunday. Police said unrest was reported in several places, including in the southern city of Bergen and the central city of Trondheim, while the situation was the worst in Oslo.
PHOENIX — Health officials in Arizona on Sunday reported 2,579 more COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths.
The latest numbers pushed the state’s totals to 1,804,369 cases and 19,812 known deaths since the pandemic began.
On Saturday, Arizona had reported 2,916 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 69 more deaths as the pace of virus deaths has nearly doubled over the past two weeks.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 dashboard, there were 1,834 COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient hospital beds as of Friday — a level below the current surge’s peak of 2,103 on Sept. 12.
More than 4.1 million people (57.7% of the state’s population) have received at least one dose of vaccine and over 3.6 million residents are fully vaccinated (51.1% of the population).
NEW YORK — New York City schools have been temporarily blocked from enforcing a vaccine mandate for its teachers and other workers by a federal appeals judge days before it was to take effect.
The mandate for the the nation’s largest school system was set to go into effect Monday.
But late Friday, a judge for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary injunction and referred the case to a three-judge panel an an expedited basis.
Department of Education spokesperson Danielle Filson said officials are seeking a speedy resolution by the circuit court next week.