The Latest: San Francisco reopens indoor dining, others

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Mayor London Breed said indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms can reopen within 24 hours in the city.

Breed made the announcement as California gave the county the go-ahead to open up more of its economy as the rate of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths declines statewide.

San Francisco and Santa Clara counties in the Bay Area join five other counties in moving on from the most restrictive tier. Much of the state’s population, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, are limited to outdoor dining and outdoor museums.

California reported an additional 2,533 confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total known cases to nearly 3.5 million. Officials also announced an additional 303 deaths, raising that total to just under 52,500 fatalities in the state of nearly 40 million.

San Francisco, a city and county of roughly 900,000 before the pandemic, has among the lowest case and death rates in the country. It has reported a total of 34,000 confirmed cases and 422 deaths as of Tuesday.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— AP source: Merck to help produce Johnson & Johnson vaccine

— Vatican defends pope’s trip to Iraq, stadium mass for 10,000 people

— Chinese vaccines sweep across the world, despite some concerns

— Pandemic frustrations fuel attacks on health care workers around the world

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s health authorities say they are monitoring the condition of a man who mistakenly has received two doses of vaccines from two different producers.

Epidemiologist Branislav Tiodorovic says the man’s condition is ‘under control’ and that ‘something like this must not happen again.’

Serbian media have reported that the man from the southern town of Vranje first received a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but then got Chinese Sinopharm as the second dose in an apparent mix-up.

Tiodorovic said the incident happened because procedures were not followed fully. Serbia also has been using Russia’s Sputnik V and Astra-Zeneca in addition to China’s Sinopharm and Pfizer.

The Balkan nation of 7 million has vaccinated over 1.5 million people with at least one dose.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — The governor of Louisiana said bars can reopen indoors, restaurants can hold more customers and churches won’t have capacity limits for worship services starting Wednesday.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the “Phase 3” restrictions as the state’s new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have continued to drop.

Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate will remain.

Restaurants, salons, movie theaters and other nonessential businesses can move to 75% capacity. The exception is for gyms, which will stay at 50% capacity.

Bars will be able to let customers back inside at 25% of their occupancy limit, with a maximum of 250 people. If the bars are located in a parish that has seen low rates of coronavirus tests returning positive for two weeks, they can increase their indoor seating to 50% capacity, up to 250 people.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida isn’t expecting Spring Break travel to return fully back to normal, pre-pandemic levels, but is expecting many more travelers than last year when the U.S. outbreak was just getting started. At the time, images of Florida beach revelers raised alarms nationally and prompted the state to shut high-profile South Florida beaches while municipalities elsewhere in the state temporarily closed or restricted theirs.

The state has mostly been open since last summer, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis opposed to any return to “lockdown.” The governor made it clear during his annual State of the State speech in Tallahassee that he welcomes more visitors to Florida in his drive to keep the state’s economy thriving — though he didn’t mention spring break directly.

Still, municipalities can impose mask rules and curfews, restrict beach access and place some limits on bars and restaurants, though some of them have virtually none in place ahead of the season.

Miami Beach, however, is hoping to keep a lid on rampant revelry. The city requires masks both indoors and outdoors and will restrict the number of people allowed on the beach. The county remains under a midnight-to-6 a.m. curfew and with limits on indoor bar and restaurant capacity.

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AUSTIN, Texas — State officials said Texas is lifting its mask mandate, making it the largest state to end an order intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 42,000 Texans.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has faced sharp criticism from his party over the mandate, which was imposed eight months ago. It was only ever lightly enforced, even during the worst outbreaks of the pandemic.

Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock, also said Texas will no longer impose limits on the number of diners that businesses can serve indoors.

The decision comes as governors across the U.S. have been easing coronavirus restrictions, despite warnings from health experts that the outbreak is far from over. Like the rest of the country, Texas has seen a sharp plunge in cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.

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LANSING, Mich. — The governor of Michigan announced the further loosening of state coronavirus restrictions, easing capacity limits in restaurants and a host of other businesses while also allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings.

The revised state health department order takes effect Friday. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also said families will be able to visit nursing homes after being tested for COVID-19.

Restaurants and bars, now limited to 25% capacity inside, will have a 50% restriction. A 10 p.m curfew will shift to 11 p.m. Venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, banquet halls and casinos will have higher capacity limits, too.

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MONTPELIER, Vt. — The state of Vermont is expanding the number of people eligible to be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19 to include teachers.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott said that beginning next week Vermont will open vaccine eligibility to teachers, school staff and child care workers.

The state is also expanding eligibility to include people aged 16 to 64 who have pre-existing medical conditions that put them at higher risk of complications or death when infected with COVID-19.

Starting Monday, people with those conditions in the 55-to-64 age group will be able to make appointments. The younger group will be able to register the week after.

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WASHINGTON — The White House is announcing an increase in available coronavirus vaccines to 15.2 million doses a week, up from 14.5 million.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says only 8.6 million doses a week were available when Joe Biden became president in late January.

States are receiving 2.8 million doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. That means a total of 18 million doses will go out this week. Upcoming shipments of the J&J vaccine could be uneven during the next few weeks as the company ramps up production.

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SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco is poised to allow indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms with reduced capacity as the most recent coronavirus surge continues to decline.

It is expected to join several other counties Tuesday in moving to the less restrictive red tier from the current purple tier. More of California’s economy is opening back up for business throughout the state as more residents are vaccinated.

Several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area issued a strict-stay-at-home order nearly a year ago, in advance of a statewide shutdown. Public health officials in the Bay Area have been more cautious than peers in southern California and in other states about reopening the economy.

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MADRID — Spain’s rolling two-week incidence rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants keeps falling, with officials considering mid-April for a broad easing of restrictions.

Spain reported 168 cases per capita on Tuesday, that’s down from nearly 900 at the end of January.

Authorities hope Spain can reach a target of fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people in about six weeks.

Authorities say 10 of the country’s 17 autonomous regions and two autonomous cities have fallen below 150 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks.

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ATLANTA — Three leading health organizations say stronger efforts are needed to collect and report race and ethnicity data about Americans receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

That information was missing in almost half of vaccination records reported in the first month to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to an open letter from the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Pharmacists Association.

“This information will allow our nation to better understand whether we are providing access to vaccines to vulnerable populations and inform efforts to improve vaccine confidence,’’ the letter said.

“We encourage clinicians to share with patients in a transparent and culturally sensitive manner why collecting race and ethnicity information can help improve the health of their families and communities,” the groups said. “These actions reinforce our commitment to high-quality equitable care.”

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AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency says it will hold a meeting on March 11 to evaluate whether the single-dose coronavirus vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson should be authorized across Europe.

The Amsterdam-based drug regulator said an opinion could be issued on March 11 “provided that the data submitted on the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine are sufficiently robust and complete.”

Three other COVID-19 vaccines have already been licensed in the European Union, those made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, all of which require two doses. Despite having ordered hundreds of millions of vaccines, the EU is struggling to vaccinate its population quickly and has fallen behind other countries including Britain, the U.S. and Israel.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the J&J shot the green light on Saturday, saying the vaccine offered strong protection against hospitalization and death. One dose appeared to be about 85% protective in a massive study that included participants in South Africa, where a variant is spreading.

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PHOENIX — Arizona’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 16,000 on Tuesday as the state reported 81 more deaths and 849 confirmed infection cases. The daily increase in newly confirmed cases was the smallest in three months.

The latest figures reported by the state Department of Health Services increased the state’s pandemic confirmed totals to 818,670 cases and 16,080 deaths.

The rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 2,245 on Feb. 15 to 1,192 on Monday and the rolling average of daily deaths declined from 131 to 79 during the same period, according The COVID Tracking Project data.

On Monday, 1,202 COVID-19 patients occupied Arizona hospital inpatient beds, the lowest number since Nov. 7 and down from the pandemic high of 5,802 set on Jan. 11. The state currently operates vaccination sites in Phoenix and Tucson.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece has recorded a new spike in coronavirus infections, nearly half of which were recorded in the greater Athens region where hospital intensive care units are quickly filling up.

Health authorities on Tuesday reported 2,353 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to nearly 200,000. It was the highest number of new daily infections since December. Another 23 deaths were recorded, with the overall confirmed death toll at 6,557 in the country of 10.5 million.

More than 90% of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in the greater Athens area are now occupied.

Meanwhile, the government’s inoculation drive is proceeding with nearly 1 million doses of the vaccine administered so far.

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is defending Pope Francis’ decision to go ahead with his trip to Iraq this weekend despite rising coronavirus infections there and concerns about crowds wanting to see him.

The Vatican says health care precautions are being taken and the trip is an “act of love for this land, for its people, and for its Christians.”

Francis is due to visit Iraq Friday through Monday in his first foreign trip since the start of the pandemic. He plans to celebrate a Mass for an expected 10,000 people in the sports stadium in Erbil.

The 84-year-old pope, his 20-member Vatican entourage and the 70-plus journalists on the papal plane are all vaccinated. Iraq, however, only began its vaccination campaign Tuesday and most Iraqis who come to see the pope won’t be inoculated.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni was asked why the trip couldn’t be postponed a few months. Bruni noted Iraq has a predominantly young population, the number of infections was small compared to the overall population and papal events will follow Iraqi health protocols. Those include limited participation and social distancing.

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