The Latest: Florida’s amusement parks loosen mask wearing
ORLANDO, Fla. — Visitors to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios-Orlando were allowed Saturday to remove their masks when outdoors, except when on attractions, in line or riding transportation.
Florida’s major theme parks are adjusting face mask policies after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its recommendations on Thursday as more people get vaccinated for the coronavirus. Masks remain mandatory indoors, except in restaurants when seated or actively eating and drinking.
SeaWorld Orlando and its sister park, Tampa’s Busch Gardens, are allowing guests who say they are fully vaccinated to remove their masks throughout the parks. The two parks will not require proof of vaccination but are asking guests to “respectfully comply.”
The CDC guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— UK races to test, vaccinate as virus variant threatens plans
— Success story Taiwan faces its worst outbreak in pandemic
— Detroit tourism seeks rebound after year lost to pandemic
— Florida’s amusement parks loosen pandemic mask requirements
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MILAN — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was released from Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital on Saturday, where he was treated for complications related to an earlier bout with coronavirus.
The 84-year-old Berlusconi, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 last September, has been in and out of the hospital in recent weeks. He was most recently admitted last Monday. He also spent 24 days in the hospital under medical supervision in April.
The three-time former premier and media mogul left the hospital without passing in front of photographers and television cameras waiting outside. Last year, Berlusconi spent 10 days at the same hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19. He also received a pacemaker several years ago.
PHOENIX — Arizona’s Pima County officials dropped the mandatory mask mandate for fully vaccinated people in line with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tucson’s mayor will ask the City Council to do the same in the coming days. Mask ordinances in Phoenix and other cities remain in place but are likely to be eased as well.
Arizona health officials on Saturday reported 474 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths amid growing vaccination rates. That increased the totals to 872, 496 confirmed cases and 17,459 confirmed deaths.
The state Department of Health Services reported 474 new cases, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 872,496. The 12 new deaths brought the total number tallied in Arizona to 17,459.
NEW YORK — Yale University is requiring its faculty and staff to get coronavirus vaccinations before the fall term, extending a requirement already imposed for students.
The private university says faculty members, staffers and academic trainees must be fully inoculated by Aug. 1, although there are provisions for exemptions for reasons based on medical conditions or religious or “strongly held” personal beliefs.
More than 350 colleges and universities around the country are requiring vaccinations for students, at least those living on-campus. However, requirements for employees are somewhat rare. That’s according to information compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
DETROIT — Tourism leaders in Detroit are banking on a return of conventions and business meetings shut down last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Groups and companies already are booking dates for this year and next. The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau has designed Detroit-specific packages that feature high-end hotels and restaurants to attract short-term visitors from nearby states.
Not many big conventions are expected this year, but 2022 promises to be a rebound year, said Claude Molinari, president and chief executive of the Detroit convention and visitors’ bureau.
Professional Convention Management Association President Sherrif Karamat says losses in the U.S. due to COVID-19 are estimated at $300 billion.
BEIJING — China has canceled attempts to climb Mount Everest from its side of the world’s highest peak because of fears of importing coronavirus cases from neighboring Nepal.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency says the closure was confirmed in a notice from China’s General Administration of Sport. The move reflects the abundance of caution China has taken in dealing with the pandemic.
While China has mostly curbed domestic transmission of the coronavirus, Nepal is experiencing a surge with record numbers of new infections and deaths.
China had issued permits to 38 people to climb Mount Everest this spring, and Nepal to 408 climbers. In Nepal, several climbers have reported testing positive for the coronavirus after they were brought down from the Everest base camp.
The month of May generally has the best weather for climbing Everest. Scores have reached the summit this week and more are expected to make attempts later this month once the weather improves. Two climbers have died on the Nepalese side, one Swiss and one American.
LONDON — Britain says it will host an international meeting next month to combat misinformation about coronavirus vaccines and build global confidence in their use.
The U.K. government says officials, scientists and academics will meet virtually at the Global Vaccine Confidence Summit on June 2 to discuss ways to counter vaccine skepticism.
Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says “no single government, academic institution or organization can tackle this challenge alone.”
She adds to ensure the high levels of vaccine uptake needed to help end the pandemic, efforts must be made “to build trust across the various relationships – from scientists and health authorities to business partners and communities.”
Britain has one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns, with more than two-thirds of adults receiving at least one dose since December.
WARSAW, Poland — Across Poland people are taking off masks and making toasts as restaurants, bars and pubs reopen for the first time in seven months.
The reopening, limited now to the outdoor consumption of food and drinks, officially took place at midnight between Friday and Saturday. Many people on Friday couldn’t wait for midnight and were out on the streets of Warsaw and other cities hours earlier in the evening to celebrate.
Bar owners say they were bombarded with reservation requests leading up to the opening.
LONDON — Britain is deploying public health officials, supported by the army, to distribute coronavirus tests door-to-door in two northern England towns to help contain a fast-spreading variant that threatens lockdown-easing plans.
Cases of a strain first identified in India have more than doubled in a week. Government scientific advisers say the variant is likely more transmissible than the U.K.’s dominant strain, though it’s unclear by how much.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the variant “could be a serious disruption to our progress.” He says the next stage of lockdown-easing measures will take place as planned on Monday but warned the variant might delay plans to lift all restrictions on June 21.
Labour Party lawmaker Yvette Cooper said the government had not barred visitors arriving from India until April 23, a decision that let in “many hundreds of new variant cases.”
More than two-thirds of British adults have received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 37% have had both doses. The government is shortening the gap between doses for people over 50 from 12 to eight weeks in a bid to give them more protection.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — As coronavirus infections decline in parts of the world and the summer holiday season tentatively begins, the Dutch government has eased travel restrictions for a group of popular vacation destinations.
Among the countries with a lower risk of infections that can be visited starting Saturday are Portugal, Malta, Ireland, Thailand, Rwanda, the former Dutch colonies of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten and a large group of Greek islands.
They previously were designated code orange, meaning the government advised only traveling there if it was urgently necessary. The Greek mainland and Crete remain under code orange.
The destinations are now yellow code, meaning Dutch travelers can visit without having to undergo a COVID-19 test and go into self-isolation on their return.
However, the foreign ministry is stressing that travelers still have to adhere to local rules and restrictions in the countries they visit, which can include showing a negative coronavirus test and self-isolating on arrival.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — 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.
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 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.
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, says 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 says 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.