The Latest: Biden says his priority is pandemic and economy
WILMINGTON, Del. —President-elect Joe Biden says his priority is effectively combatting the twin crises of a pandemic and the sinking economy.
Biden said during a speech Thursday night that “we have to act now” to help the “millions of Americans, through no fault of their own,” who have lost “the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck.”
He discussed the framework of his $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” which includes $1,400 checks for most Americans and would extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September.
The proposal also includes plans to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses struggling with the prolonged economic fallout.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus plan will stress vaccines, masks in a speech on Thursday night. California counties want more coronavirus vaccine from Gov. Newsom. President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club’s failure to enforce Palm Beach County’s mask ordinance at New Year’s Eve bash results in warning but no fine.
Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JACKSON, Miss. — The U.S. surgeon general has urged Black leaders in Mississippi to get vaccinations for the new coronavirus and to ask others in their communities to do the same.
Dr. Jerome Adams spoke Thursday during an online forum hosted by Jackson State University. He said people distrust medical systems because of the government study that left Black men untreated for syphilis for decades, starting in the 1930s.
Adams, who is Black, says that “we have to acknowledge and validate those real historical reasons for concern, because when you tell people they’re silly to have those concerns, they immediately shut down.”
The Mississippi state health officer says that only 15% of vaccinations in the state so far have gone to Blacks, who make up about 38% of the population. He says it is a challenge that “we are working to address.”
NEW YORK — A false rumor that extra vaccine doses were available had people lining the sidewalks and cars filling the roadways near a New York City coronavirus vaccine site.
Messages spread online claimed several hundred doses had to be given out at the Brooklyn Army Terminal by Thursday evening and that any adult was welcome whether they had an appointment or not. The resulting chaos brought out police and city workers to tell people that it wasn’t true and vaccinations are appointment-only.
There is high demand for the vaccine, which in New York state is currently available only to people 65 and over, health care workers and those in certain key professions such as police officers and teachers.
LONDON — The United Kingdom is banning arrivals from South America following evidence of a new variant of the coronavirus in Brazil.
The government says that beginning at 4 a.m. Friday, arrivals will no longer be allowed from all South American countries as well as the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa and Panama in Central America.
Travel from Portugal also will be suspended, given its strong travel links with Brazil, though there are exemptions for truck drivers transporting essential goods.
The ban does not apply to British and Irish nationals and third country nationals with residence rights in the U.K. However, anyone returning from the banned destinations must quarantine themselves for 10 days with their households.
Many countries have banned travel from the U.K. over the past few weeks after the discovery of another variant of the virus around London and southeast England.
RENO, Nev. — A study in Nevada says about one-third of the state’s residents are unlikely to get vaccinated for the new coronavirus.
About 35% of the 5,000 Nevada residents who responded to the survey by the state and the University of Nevada, Reno stated they were not at all or not too likely to get vaccinated.
But one of the lead researchers in the study says people’s explanations of their reasoning suggests it is possible to persuade many to change their minds. Dr. Mark Riddle says safety and efficacy were the most important factors people cited. He thinks experts can make a case that the vaccine is safe and effective.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Disneyland is ending its annual pass program 10 months after the theme park in Anaheim, California, shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The park said Thursday it will begin issuing “appropriate” refunds to eligible passholders. It is not immediately clear how many people hold these passes.
The announcement comes the same week that Disneyland allowed county health officials to use its parking lot as a large-scale coronavirus vaccination site.
Disneyland closed in March and has not reopened since because virus transmission in the area where the park sits has not declined to the levels required by the state.
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden is unveiling a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to speed vaccines, revive the economy and reopen schools.
He plans to formally introduce the proposal, dubbed the “American Rescue Plan,” on Thursday evening from Wilmington, Delaware.
Ahead of that announcement, Biden officials said the economic aid would help sustain Americans through the vaccination process, but it would also provide a possible springboard for a stronger recovery once the pandemic wanes. More than $400 billion would go toward vaccinations, testing, public health jobs, reopening schools and family leave benefits, creating the infrastructure to achieve 100 million vaccinations in 100 days and even more going forward.
Eligible Americans would receive an additional $1,400 in direct payments. Unemployment insurance would pay an additional $400 weekly through September. The plan would also extend the eviction and foreclosure moratorium through September. It would expand tax credits for children and child care, in addition to providing aid for child care providers. The federal minimum wage would grow to $15 an hour, up from $7.25 currently.
The plan would offer $20 billion in aid to public transit agencies, as well as grants and loans to small businesses.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has distributed more than 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday as the state ramps up mass vaccination efforts while hospitals grapple with record numbers of patients.
Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state with nearly 30 million people, has boosted shot efforts in the last week by shifting doses to mass distribution centers that can handle thousands per day. State health records show 1,021,511 doses given with 132,396 people fully vaccinated.
The Republican governor called it the “biggest vaccination effort we have ever undertaken,” but refused to order new lockdowns even amid rising numbers of new cases and hospitalizations.
State health officials say Texas had more than 14,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals and its death toll has passed 30,000.
HELENA, Mont. — Republican leaders in Montana’s Legislature are refusing to require lawmakers to wear masks while meeting with legislative staffers in their offices to discuss bill drafts or other issues.
The Legislature’s COVID-19 response panel met Thursday to further discuss rules to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the state Capitol.
House Minority Leader Kim Abbott proposed a mandate, rather than an agreement, that lawmakers wear masks in legislative staff offices. She said she’s heard anecdotal reports that it’s not always happening.
The panel chair is Senate President Pro Tem Jason Ellsworth and he called the motion “wordsmithing.” It was rejected on a 6-2 party line vote.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina will now allow medical students, retired nurses and other qualified professionals to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says the temporary rule change is to make sure the state has enough people trained to administer the shots once the vaccine becomes more widely available.
Health officials say the state is currently receiving about 64,000 doses weekly from the federal government. The limited number of available doses has frustrated South Carolinians as the state opened up vaccine access to those 70 and older this week, leading to a rush for shots. Some hospitals ran out of vaccine spots for seniors just hours after they opened up appointments.
South Carolina has 924 sites currently enrolled in the federal program to administer the vaccine. The health department said there are 286 currently activated.
PARIS — All of France will be under a stricter curfew starting Saturday at 6 p.m. for at least 15 days to fight spread of the coronavirus.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex also announced strict new controls for those arriving in France from countries outside the European Union. Starting Monday, they must produce a PCR test with negative results and self-isolate for seven days followed by a new, negative test.
France wants to coordinate a response with the European Union about arrivals from EU countries, he says. The French government is trying to avoid a third lockdown with partial measures like curfews the prime minister calls both “preventative” and “reactive.”
Most regions were under an 8 p.m. curfew, but now “everyone must be home at 6 p.m.,” Castex says. That means that stores must close by then. Bars and restaurants have been closed for months.
The average contamination rate for the coronavirus stands at about 16,000 people per day. France has one of the highest death counts in Europe, at more than 69,000, and ranks No. 7 in the world.
MADRID — Spain reported 35,878 confirmed coronavirus cases and 201 new deaths from the coronavirus.
That increases the totals to 2.2 million cases and more than 53,000 since the start of the pandemic.
Fernando Simón, who heads Spain’s health emergency coordination center, is at odds with independent experts who say the spiraling contagion requires a stricter lockdown.
Spain’s 14-day cases for 100,000 inhabitants surged to 522 on Thursday.
ROME — Italy’s vaccination program is moving faster than expected, with those over age 80 receiving their first injection this week instead of early February.
Health officials say by Thursday evening, more than 900,000 people in Italy had received a shot of one of the two vaccines so far approved for use by the European Union. The vaccination process first began with doctors, nurses and other health services.
The government’s special commissioner for the pandemic, Domenico Arcuri, says if EU approval comes later this month for a third manufacturer’s vaccine, as many as 50 million people in Italy could be vaccinated this year. Italy has a population of 60 million.
Italy on Thursday registered 17,246 new infections, raising the total to 2.3 million confirmed cases. There were 522 confirmed deaths since Wednesday, bringing the overall known death toll to 80,848, one of the highest in Europe and sixth highest in the world.
PHOENIX — Arizona is expanding its COVID-19 vaccination program with plans for opening another state-run site in metro Phoenix.
Officials say the vaccination site will open Feb. 1 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium near the Phoenix-Tempe border, with registration starting Tuesday.
The state’s vaccination program was slow to get off the ground. But officials say the first state-run large site, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, is administering thousands of doses daily.
The state announced Wednesday that people 65 and older starting can sign up next week to get vaccinated. Arizona had the worst state diagnosis rate the past week, with one of every 107 people diagnosed with the coronavirus from Jan. 6 to Wednesday.
Arizona on Thursday reported 7,311 confirmed cases and 182 more deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 649,040 cases and 10,855 deaths.
CHICAGO — The city of Chicago is opening six mass coronavirus vaccination sites that expect to deliver roughly 25,000 weekly shots once fully operational.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot visited a new site Thursday at a community college. Most sites will be at City Colleges of Chicago campuses. All six sites are expected to open later this month. Lightfoot says Chicago needs far more doses from the federal government so more people can be vaccinated quickly
Chicago has been receiving fewer doses each week, she says. From about 38,000 first doses two weeks ago to about 32,000 last week. Lightfoot says at the current rate, it’ll take 1.5 years to vaccinate all Chicagoans.
Currently, shots are going to health care workers and residents and employees of long-term care facilities. The next phase includes residents age 65 and older and essential workers, but health officials haven’t said when that will begin.