Taiwan has raised the COVID-19 alert level for the capital Taipei and the surrounding area of New Taipei city following its worst outbreak since the pandemic began.
The level 3 alert announced Saturday requires people to wear a mask outdoors and limits indoor gatherings to five people and outdoor gatherings to 10 people. The alert remains in effect for two weeks.
Health authorities said that 180 new locally spread cases had been confirmed through Friday, the majority in Taipei and New Taipei. The daily number of new cases had risen steadily from single digits early this week to 29 before the triple-digit jump announced Saturday.
“The epidemic is gaining intensity,” Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said, while noting that more cases are being identified as authorities hone in on hot zones.
Movie theaters, museums, indoor swimming pools and amusement parks were among the places ordered closed under the level 3 alert, as were community colleges and senior citizen activity centers.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— States, business sort out what new CDC mask guidance means
— Cuba rolls out mass vaccines while awaiting study results
— The unwitting are the target of COVID-19 falsehoods online
— A video promoting tourism in Turkey amid the pandemic has caused an uproar on social media for showing tourism employees wearing masks that read “Enjoy, I’m vaccinated.”
— Japan is further expanding a coronavirus state of emergency from six areas, including Tokyo, to nine as the government repeated its determination to hold the Olympics in just over two months.
— Southern European countries are racing to reopen their tourism services despite delays in rolling out a planned EU-wide travel pass.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW DELHI — India’s two biggest cities have reported a drop in daily infections but the government is warning that the devastating surge is spreading in rural areas, where nearly two-thirds of India’s 1.4 billion people live.
India reported 326,098 new confirmed cases and 3,890 deaths in the past 24 hours, though experts say both figures are an undercount. The Health Ministry had reported 343,144 cases on Friday and 362,727 on Thursday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday warned people to take extra precautions as the virus was spreading fast in rural areas. He said the government was mobilizing all resources, including the military.
News reports say hapless villagers have been rushing the sick to nearby towns and cities for treatment because health care facilities are limited in the countryside.
India’s capital has reported less than 10,000 new cases in a day for the first time in over a month. It recorded 8,506 cases in the past 24 hours.
After a peak of 11,000 daily infections, Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital, has been reporting less than 2,000.
SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico has adopted guidance on facemasks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or outside in most cases.
Under revisions Friday to the state’s emergency public health order, masks are no longer required of fully vaccinated people in many public settings, though businesses and workplaces may still make face coverings a requirement for all.
Public schools are still bound by universal mask requirements with allowances for meals, as the state gradually relaxes aggressive restrictions on public gatherings and some business operations.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that getting vaccinated is crucial to a safe future, with the statewide vaccination rate recently surpassing 50% for eligible residents 16 and over.
“We are close and getting closer. But that all depends on New Mexicans continuing to protect themselves and their community by getting vaccinated,” she said in a statement.
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska legislative leaders have voted to make mask-wearing optional at the state Capitol and then shed their own face coverings after the vote.
The decision by the Legislative Council followed new guidelines the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The council is composed of House and Senate leaders.
Under the new policy, masks are optional in legislative facilities, with some exceptions. For example, lawmakers can require masks in their respective offices.
The policy also further eases testing rules.
BATON ROUGE, La. --Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has further eased the state’s mask requirements.
Edwards largely dropped the state mask mandate on April 27, but there were exceptions. Friday’s order drops the requirement for entry into state office buildings for people who are fully vaccinated.
Masking is still required by the state in educational facilities from early childhood classes to universities, and at state correctional facilities and health care facilities.
New Orleans, which had a tougher mask mandate than the state’s, also did away with the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people Friday, with similar exceptions.
Word from federal health officials that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks in most situations may be leading to confusion among travelers.
Masks are still required under a Transportation Security Administration rule that will run into mid-September unless it is revoked before then. The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates airlines, felt the need to remind passengers of the TSA rule.
It issued a statement late Friday to “remind the traveling public that at this time if you travel, you are still required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.”
NEW YORK — Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said Friday that it won’t require vaccinated shoppers or workers to wear a mask in its U.S. stores, unless state or local laws say otherwise.
Vaccinated shoppers can go maskless immediately, the company said. Vaccinated workers can stop wearing them on May 18. As an incentive, Walmart said it is offering workers $75 if they prove they’ve been vaccinated.
Walmart said it won’t ask shoppers if they’ve been vaccinated. Workers, however, will need to tell the company if they’ve been vaccinated in order to go maskless.
JUNEAU, Alaska — The acting mayor of Anchorage says Alaska’s largest city is revoking its mask mandate, starting May 21.
Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson’s office says masks no longer will be required in indoor or outdoor settings but that people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are encouraged to wear masks.
The decision follows guidance released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday for people who are vaccinated.
Quinn-Davidson’s office says applying a mask mandate only to those who are not vaccinated in Anchorage would have created enforcement challenges and issues for businesses.
Meanwhile, in Juneau, city officials ease mask wearing rules for people who are fully vaccinated.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ capital city is dropping its requirement to wear a mask to combat the coronavirus following loosened federal guidance and a new state law that will ban local mandates, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said Friday.
Scott said the city’s mask mandate will end Saturday, though private entities, hospitals and churches can still enforce their own requirements on employees and patrons. People entering City of Little Rock indoor facilities will still be required to wear a mask, the mayor said.
“We strongly encourage residents to continue wearing face coverings in public until we reach the desired vaccination rate in our city, as outlined by healthcare professionals,” Scott said in a statement.
The decision comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
Arkansas dropped its mask mandate in March, but the governor allowed local governments to enforce their own. A new state law, however, takes effect in July that will ban any state or local mandates.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s 26 public universities and colleges do not currently plan to require students, faculty or staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the fall, according to guidance issued by the University System of Georgia.
The 340,000-student university system in March asked all campuses “to plan for resuming normal operations for the Fall 2021 semester.” Thursday’s guidance says fully vaccinated people won’t have to socially distance or wear masks, while unvaccinated people “are strongly encouraged to continue” socially distancing and wearing a mask inside.
The universities are supposed to make sure vaccinations are available, but schools won’t be “responsible for assessing current COVID-19 vaccination rates for their institution.”
The university system said it had made the decisions in concert with the state Department of Public Health and that they were subject to change.
The Board of Regents insisted on at least some in-person instruction in the fall and spring semesters. Those moves came despite resistance from some employees.