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The Associated Press
WASHINGTON —- Biden administration officials say that half of U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17 have gotten at least their first COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have now hit a major milestone,” White House coron- avirus coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters at a Friday briefing. “This is critical progress as millions of kids head back to school.”
The vaccination rate among teenagers is growing faster than among any other age group, he added.
Among Americans of all age groups, 61% or nearly 203 million people, have received at least one shot. Vaccines are not yet authorized for children younger than 12.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the best way to protect the youngest children until they become eligible to get their shots is for the people around them to be vaccinated, “to effectively shield them.”
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC: — COVID-19 surge pummels Hawaii and its native population — More US states seeing record hospitalizations, rising toll on children
— Music industry weighs vaccine mandates, but politics collide
— Models forecast 100,000 more COVID-19 deaths unless US changes its ways
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PHOENIX —- Arizona has now had more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus infection cases.
State health officials on Friday reported 3,707 additional COVID-19 cases, putting the state beyond the grim milestone.
Arizona is the 13th U.S. state to hit that level of cases after reporting its first case in January of last year. Arizona is 13th in the country in cases per 100,000 people.
Arizona on Friday also reported 63 more COVID-19 deaths. Hospitals and public health officials are urging people to wear masks and get vaccinated amid debates and court fights over requiring shots and mask wearing.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — More than 3,100 active coronavirus cases have been reported in Arkansas public schools among students and employees, according to newly released numbers from the state.
Most students returned to the classroom last week — and the majority of public school students attend districts that are requiring masks. The mask requirements emerged after a judge in Little Rock temporarily blocked a state law that bans mask mandates in schools and public places.
The Arkansas Department of Health’s latest report on schools, released Thursday, found 3,102 active cases in 173 school districts in the state. The Bentonville, Springdale, Rogers, Cabot and Fort Smith districts all reported more than 100 active cases among students, faculty and staff.
A week ago, the state reported just under 1,800 active cases at schools.
Meanwhile, a judge in Lonoke County was expected to rule Friday on a lawsuit by some parents challenging Cabot schools’ mask requirement. Arkansas ranks fifth in the country for new virus cases per capita, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
HONOLULU — As Hawaii grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases, record high hospitalizations and stagnant vaccination rates, a public service announcement campaign is recalling a 19th century disease outbreak.
The campaign reminds Native Hawaiians that when Hawaii was a kingdom, its rulers pushed people to get vaccinated against smallpox in the 1850s. The state’s indigenous people are being hit hard by the virus.
Hawaii was once seen as a beacon of safety during the pandemic because of stringent travel and quarantine restrictions and overall vaccine acceptance that made it one of the most inoculated states in the country.
But the highly contagious delta variant exploited weaknesses as residents let down their guard and attended family gatherings after months of restrictions.
Some Hawaiians say distrust of government stemming from the U.S.-backed 1893 overthrow of the monarchy is a big reason why vaccination rates are lagging.
A group of businesses and nonprofits launched the public service campaign Thursday that is aimed at reducing vaccine hesitancy among Native Hawaiians.