The Latest: Native American vaccination clinic set for Tulsa
OKLAHOMA CITY — Health officials for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the federal Indian Health Service plan to provide 4,000 coronavirus vaccinations to Native Americans and members of their households during a two-day clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Officials said Wednesday that any member of a federally recognized tribe as well as members of their households, whether tribal members are not, are eligible for an appointment to receive the vaccine.
About 21,000 of the Creek nation’s estimated 65,000 Oklahoma citizens have received at least one vaccine dose and the clinic is an effort to reach out to a larger population of Native Americans.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases across the world rose over the past two weeks from 377,773.6 on March 2 to 438,497.9 on Tuesday according to Johns Hopkins University
DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths across the world did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 9,067.4 on March 2 to 8,578.3 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
VACCINES: More than 73.7 million people, or 22.2% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 39.9 million people, or 12% of the population, have completed their vaccination.
CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 65,396.7 on March 2 to 54,744.6 on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 1,944.4 on March 2 to 1,284.9 Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
— EU regulator ‘convinced’ AstraZeneca vaccine’s benefits outweigh risk
— Brazil’s Bolsonaro names 4th health minister during pandemic
— Australia gives COVID-19 shots to virus-hit Papua New Guinea
— Survivor: Woman with COVID-19 gives birth, gets new lungs
— Expanded testing part of Biden administration school plans
Follow AP’s pandemic 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:
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise is planning to reopen two of its casinos this week with reduced capacity.
The casinos in northwestern New Mexico near Gallup and Farmington will open Friday after being closed for a year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes as the tribe eases its restrictions on businesses and sees a downward swing in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The casinos will operate at 25% capacity, with no food or drink services, and only residents of the reservation will be allowed in.
The enterprise will keep two other casinos east of Flagstaff and in northwestern New Mexico closed in the meantime.
CHICAGO — Officials in Chicago say the city will expand coronavirus vaccine eligibility later this month to include people with underlying health conditions and more categories of workers including in food service, construction, retail, finance and higher education.
It is the last category before vaccines will be available to the general public.
The state of Illinois has already allowed people with some underlying health conditions and more essential workers to receive the shots, but Chicago and its surrounding counties have held off expanding eligibility because of limited supplies and difficulties in getting appointments.
KEWA PUEBLO, N.M. — The husband of Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband has joined tribal officials and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on a tour of a vaccination clinic at Kewa Pueblo.
The Indigenous community has been able to vaccinate the majority of its members and will use additional funding in the coming months to help with continued vaccine efforts for the broader community and other programs.
The pueblo’s health center has the capability of vaccinating about 200 people a day. Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, called the clinic a model.
MADRID — Spain’s health minister has defended the decision taken by her government and other European countries to put a hold on the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying it is necessary to “continue building confidence” in the continent’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Health Minister Carolina Darias said that she would be closely watching on Thursday when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) releases the initial results of its investigations into whether there is a connection between the vaccine and the blood clots.
Spain has detected three cases of people who had adverse reactions after receiving the AstraZeneca shot.
“We hope that tomorrow the decision of the EMA allows us to continue building confidence,” Darias said. “I believe it was the best decision to ensure that the vaccination program can move forward in a coordinated fashion… I understand the concern, but I also want to stress that in our country we are talking about three people of more than 980,000 who have received the vaccine.”
Spain has been very conservative in its use of AstraZeneca, limiting it to people 55 years and younger despite calls from some regions and doctors to include older groups.
BOISE, Idaho — The top member in the Idaho House on Wednesday said he’s concerned the Legislature might have to shut down if House members continue getting sick with COVID-19.
Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke said he’s asked House members to take precautions so that the Legislature can remain in session and wrap up business by March 26.
Three House members are currently out with COVID-19. All are Republicans who tend to rarely wear masks.
Rep. Bruce Skaug went out last week, and Rep. Lance Clow and Rep. Ryan Kerby went out this week.
Two Republican senators, Steve Bair and Van Burtenshaw, have each been out with COVID-19 but are back in the Senate.
The Legislature has significant unfinished business, including approving budgets, a bill with a large tax cut, and multiple pieces of legislation aimed at limiting a governor’s powers during an emergency declaration.
WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is releasing new guidance on coronavirus testing to give local health departments, school districts and others a better idea of how to effectively use various kinds of tests under different circumstances, whether screening groups of people or trying to diagnose an individual.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday the latest guidance also includes a detailed discussion of how testing can advance the goal of reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the pandemic, which has taken a disproportionately high toll among Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans.
The CDC acted as the Biden administration announced $10 billion in funding for states to expand COVID-19 testing in schools, as part of its push to get more schools open five days a week before the end of the school year.
Testing has been a chronic problem in the U.S. dating to the earliest days of the pandemic. Ideally, testing can be used to identify outbreaks early and contain them before entire communities are affected. But the latest figures show the volume of testing in the U.S. has been going down.
LONDON — Public health officials in England say the number of people getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will be “significantly constrained” from April because of a reduction in the vaccine supply to the country.
A letter to regional health leaders said they should expect a “significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers” beginning from the week of March 29. The reduction will continue for four weeks, it said.
When asked about the issue, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday that supply was “always lumpy.” He added that the supply from the European Union is “fulfilling contractual responsibilities and we fully expect those contracts to be delivered on.”
He did not explain whether the expected supply reductions is related to the EU chief’s warning Wednesday that the bloc would not hesitate to take action – including possible export restrictions – to ensure it receives the reliable supply of vaccines it was promised. The U.K. is on track to offer a first dose to all those in the top priority groups by mid-April, Hancock added.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is working to make a leading COVID-19 therapy available to even more Americans.
Dr. Marcela Nunez-Smith, the White House COVID-19 equity task force chair, says the administration is spending $150 million to broaden access to monoclonal antibodies. When administered early in the course of infection, the treatments can dramatically reduce serious illness or hospitalization.
Nunez-Smith says the treatments are available in 5,000 locations across the country already, with more locations — particularly in hard-hit communities to follow in the coming weeks.
The administration is also increasing its outreach to caregivers to encourage them to utilize the therapies to prevent deaths and hospitalizations.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska Department of Corrections is allowing attorney-client visits to resume within its facilities after a yearlong suspension related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The department says visits can resume starting Wednesday, with limits. For example, the person who is imprisoned must be fully vaccinated and attorneys will be subject to screening, including temperature checks.
Face coverings and appointments will be required. Alaska Public Media reports that for the past year, those in the department’s custody have had to rely on phone calls from lawyers to discuss their cases.
One defense attorney who has pushed for greater access called the policy change a “big deal.”
ATLANTA — A government report suggests the U.S. is falling short of the White House goal of increasing COVID-19 vaccine coverage in poor, struggling communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report, released Wednesday, indicates 31 states are failing to meet the goal. In contrast, Arizona and Montana are achieving equity in vaccine coverage, directing vaccines to counties with more economic and social disadvantages. Three other states – Alaska, Minnesota and West Virginia – are doing fairly well by that measure, the report said.
The CDC looked county-by-county at the proportion of people getting at least one dose of vaccine. Coverage was lower in counties with more economic and social disadvantages as measured by the CDC’s social vulnerability index. That’s a measure combining factors such as poverty, education, crowded housing and racial and ethnic minority population.
The CDC analyzed vaccine coverage through March 1 and included data representing 49.2 million people who had at least one dose. Hawaii did not systematically report county of residence, so the state was omitted from the analysis.
The national average of vaccine coverage 15.1%, the report said. In better-off counties, coverage was 15.8%. In worse-off counties, coverage was 13.9%.
WASHINGTON — Federal health officials are actively looking at studies on physical distancing in schools and will update its 6-feet guidance when it has “concise and consistent evidence,” the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director, said during a congressional hearing that studies looking at distancing of 3 feet in schools got underway after it became clear that the agency’s 6-feet distancing recommendation would be difficult.
“Whenever there are challenges, that’s when science emerges,” she said.
So far, Walensky noted there has only been one published study indicating students with masks can be seated as close as 3 feet apart, without increasing the risk of infection. But she noted other studies have been in progress.
During the hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci also said high school students could start being vaccinated by the beginning of fall, pending results from ongoing studies. He anticipates younger children could start being vaccinated starting by early 2022.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s health minister says that unless at least 200 private doctors volunteer to help the public health service’s battle against COVID-19 in the next 48 hours, he will recommend the prime minister orders the requisitioning of their services.
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias made the announcement as Greece announced a new daily record of coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, despite lockdown-related measures being in place since early November.
The country announced 3,465 new coronavirus cases and 56 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to just under 230,000 cases in this country of 11 million. More than 7,200 people have died.