KENTUCKY GOVERNORN CALLS COVID SPECIAL SESSION
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has announced that he's calling the state's Republican-led legislature into a special session to shape pandemic policies as the state struggles with a record surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The return of lawmakers to the state Capitol starts Tuesday and marks a dramatic power shift in coronavirus-related policymaking in the Bluegrass State following a landmark court ruling. Since the pandemic hit Kentucky, the governor mostly acted unilaterally in setting statewide virus policies, but the state Supreme Court shifted those decisions to the legislature.
"Now, that burden will fall in large part on the General Assembly," Beshear said Saturday. "It will have to carry much of that weight to confront unpopular choices and to make decisions that balance many things, including the lives and the possible deaths of our citizens."
Beshear wields the authority to call lawmakers into special session and to set the agenda. At a news conference Saturday, he outlined pandemic-related issues he wants lawmakers to consider, including policies on mask-wearing and school schedules amid growing school closures brought on by virus outbreaks. But GOP supermajorities in both chambers will decide what measures ultimately pass.
Lawmakers will be asked to extend the pandemic-related state of emergency until mid-January, when the legislature would be back in regular session, Beshear said. They will be asked to review his virus-related executive orders and other actions by his administration, the governor said.
On the issue of masks, the governor said he will "ask them to determine my ability to require masking in certain situations, depending on where the pandemic goes and how bad any area is."
He also asked them to provide more scheduling flexibility for schools, as many districts have had to pause in-person learning because of virus outbreaks. And lawmakers will be asked to appropriate leftover federal pandemic aid to "further the fight" against the coronavirus.
ALABAMA SCHOOLS REPORT SURGE IN CASES
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama schools reported nearly 9,200 coronavirus cases in students and staff in the past week.
A state dashboard was updated Friday with information from 84 of the 143 school districts. The surge is causing more schools to make a temporary switch to remote learning.
Superintendent Eric Mackey says the statewide spike in COVID-19 cases comes as schools were opening the academic year, creating a difficult mix. He says scores of schools are closed to in-person instruction. Mackey says they are trying to avoid long closures because upcoming test scores are expected to show student achievement declined last year with closures.
Over the last four weeks, people ages 5 to 17 accounted for 21% of all virus cases in Alabama, even though they constitute just 16% of the population.
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has not set statewide mask orders, instead leaving the decision to local school boards. Mackey estimated that 90% of Alabama school systems are requiring masks.
CONNECTICUT NURSING HOMES CAN HIRE TEMPS
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut nursing homes will once again be allowed to hire temporary nursing aides as they deal with staffing shortages during the pandemic.
Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday signed an executive order that revives the state's nurses aides program that was used earlier during the pandemic.
Under the program, the temporary workers will be allowed to provide nursing-related services, but nothing that requires a license. The governor's office said the idea is to use those aides to help serve residents who do not have COVID-19, allowing permanent staff to focus on patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The governor also extended his deadline for nursing home workers to receive their first vaccination shot from Sept. 7 to Sept. 27.
BOOSTER SHOTS BY 9/20 MAY NOT HAPPEN
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden's plan to start delivery of booster shots by Sept. 20 for most Americans who received COVID-19 vaccines is facing complications that could delay the availability for those who received the Moderna vaccine, administration officials said Friday.
Biden announced last month that his administration was preparing to administer boosters to provide more enduring protection against the coronavirus, pending approvals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. He recommended boosters eight months after the second shot.
However, those agencies are awaiting critical data before signing off on the third doses, with Moderna's vaccine increasingly seen as unlikely to make the Sept. 20 date.
According to one official, Moderna produced inadequate data for the FDA and CDC to approve the third dose of its vaccine. The FDA has requested additional data that is likely to delay those boosters into October. Pfizer is further along in the review process, with an FDA panel review on boosters on Sept. 17.