The Latest: US concerned about adequate supplies for vaccine

WASHINGTON — A government watchdog agency says most states are concerned they won’t have adequate supplies to administer COVID-19 vaccines, which are expected to start becoming available for high-priority groups in the next few weeks.

The congressional Government Accountability Office said in a report Monday that 17 states are “greatly” or “completely” concerned about having adequate supplies to administer vaccines, while another 21 states said in an agency survey they were “moderately” concerned.

The federal government’s “Operation Warp Speed” campaign aims to start shipping vaccines within 24 hours of an emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration. But there’s concern about the final, local delivery links in getting vaccines finally into people’s arms, sometimes referred to as the “last mile” in the chain.

Initially vaccines are expected to go to health care workers, with nursing home staff and residents, and essential workers getting the next highest priority.

GAO said senior officials from six states stated they were specifically concerned about the federal government’s ability to supply needles given reports of shortages. Three of those states also said they were scrambling to maintain supplies of needles for flu vaccination.

The GAO report did not identify the states.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Moderna asking US, European regulators to OK its virus shots

— Fauci: US may see ‘surge upon surge’ of virus in coming weeks after Thanksgiving travel

— U.K. stocks up on vaccines, hopes to start virus shots within days

— Virus forces businesses to adapt or close down on the streets of London

— New York City to reopen its schools to in-person learning, tests students more for COVID-19

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

GENEVA — The World Health Organization chief is hailing the first weekly decline in global COVID-19 cases since September, citing the impact of measures mainly in hard-hit Europe and warning that “this is no time for complacency.”

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the “welcome news” still should be taken with caution and warned that death counts were still rising across the world — and cases were still rising in other parts of the world outside of Europe.

“This is no time for complacency, especially with holiday season approaching in many cultures and countries,” he said.

Tedros, an Ethiopian who goes by his first name, urged people to be careful during the festive season and said COVID-19 will “change the way we celebrate.”

But it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate,” he added, asking people to assess whether they “really need to travel” and advising shoppers to visit stores during lower-traffic times or favor online shopping. He advised avoiding gatherings with many different households — or meeting outdoors, wearing masks or keeping physical distance if such gatherings do occur.

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MADISON, Wis. — A Madison high school student has died after a brief coronavirus-related illness, according to officials.

In an email to students and families, East High School’s principal said junior Isai Morocho died unexpectedly during the Thanksgiving break.

Principal Brendan Kearney described Morocho as “a caring friend and family member with a ready smile and great sense of humor,” as well as “an excellent student who enjoyed theatre and had talked of becoming a chef and owning his own business.”

The Madison School District issued a statement Monday.

The high school has set up virtual meetings for Monday and Tuesday afternoons to provide support for grieving students and staff, the State Journal reported.

Another 22 people have died from COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and 3,831 more residents have been infected, state health officials said Sunday. That brings the statewide total up to 384,701 cases in Wisconsin since the pandemic began.

So far, there has been a total of 3,307 COVID-19 deaths.

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UNEAU, Alaska — A group of four nonprofit organizations in Alaska’s capital have been awarded a grant of more than $860,000 million to counter homelessness amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Juneau Empire reports that the grant from the Alaska Housing Financial Corporation will be shared by the groups in Juneau following their application to the corporation.

The award is part of a federal coronavirus recovery fund emergency solutions grant to help prevent those affected by the pandemic from experiencing homelessness.

The Glory Hall, Gastineau Human Services Corporation, Family Promise of Juneau and the Alaska Housing Development will split the $868,230 award.

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LOS ANGELES — Counties across California have enacted stricter COVID-19 restrictions after the state broke a record with more than 7,400 coronavirus hospitalizations.

Health officials are preparing for a wave of cases over the next two or three weeks that could be linked to holiday gatherings.

Los Angeles County is the nation’s most populous and imposed new rules calling for its 10 million residents to stay home as much as possible.

San Francisco and San Mateo counties moved to the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s pandemic blueprint for the economy. That tier forces most indoor activities to close and places residents under curfew starting Monday night.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Nearly three weeks of lockdown restrictions in Hungary have shown little sign of slowing the spread of COVID-19 as the country comes off a week of record-breaking hospitalizations and deaths that threaten to overburden its healthcare system.

Hungary’s emergency task force on Monday reported that 7,734 COVID-19 patients were currently hospitalized and 666 were being treated on ventilators, both record highs. The number of new daily cases hovered near the record mark for most of last week despite lockdown restrictions introduced on Nov. 11, which included a ban on events, the closure of high schools and universities and an overnight curfew.

Last week, 872 COVID-19 deaths were registered in Hungary, the deadliest week by far since the start of the pandemic. The number of deaths broke the daily record three days in a row between Friday and Sunday, and the single-day record of 156 deaths, set on Sunday, was scarcely lower than the total of 166 that died in all of September.

In an interview Friday with state broadcaster Kossuth Radio, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban predicted there would be “enormous pressure” on the country’s healthcare system in coming weeks as hospitalizations continue to rise.

“As regards hospitals – because after all, saving lives is the number one priority – at the moment I can’t see any promising signs,” Orban said, but added he was “optimistic” that the curfew measures would soon show positive effects.

Authorities will reassess pandemic measures after they expire on Dec. 11, Orban said.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island’s hospitals reached their COVID-19 capacity on Monday, the same day the state’s two-week pause meant to control the rise in new coronavirus cases took effect.

The state pushed an emergency alert to residents’ cell phones that read: “Hospitals at capacity due to COVID. Help the frontline by staying home as much as possible for the next two weeks.”

Under the restrictions announced earlier in November by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, some businesses will be required to shut down for two weeks, while others are restricted.

Recreational businesses including bowling alleys, theaters, and casinos, as well as indoor sporting facilities and gyms must close. Bars and bar areas in restaurants are also required to close, while restaurants are limited to 33% of indoor capacity. Residents are also asked to close their social circles to only people in their own household.

“This will not be easy, but I am pleading with you to take it seriously. Choosing to gather with those outside your household will have ripple effects that will increase the strain on our hospitals and put lives at risk,” Raimondo said in a statement.

Raimondo did not rule out another economic shutdown if the pandemic get worse.

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ATHENS, Greece — The head of the Orthodox Church of Greece has been discharged from the Athens hospital where he was treated for 12 days after testing positive for COVID-19.

A statement from the Evangelismos hospital says Archbishop Hieronymos, 82 was released Monday afternoon. He had been treated in an increased care ward, largely as a precaution, after presenting mild symptoms.

Hieronymos is regarded as a moderate who has overall backed the government-ordered pandemic regulations, which many in the largely conservative church resisted.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian capital on Monday called off its official New Year fireworks, saying “the municipality cannot see how this should be resolved without it leading to accumulations of people and greater risk of infection,” the Norwegian news agency NTB wrote.

The city of Oslo this year had a budget of 500,000 kroner ($56,500) for fireworks and staff, according to NTB that added that the Norwegian capital of nearly 700,000 is now working on an idea to mark the New Year that is more in line with the infection control rules.

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HILO, Hawaii — The mayor of Hawaii County has announced that trans-Pacific travelers arriving without a negative COVID-19 test must quarantine for 14 days.

The new rule announced by Mayor Harry Kim was approved by Democratic Gov. David Ige and is expected to remain in effect through Dec. 31.

Trans-Pacific travelers awaiting test results previously were only required to quarantine until negative test results arrived.

The new rule also allows Hawaii County to conduct virus testing on 25% to 100% of travelers who previously had negative test exceptions. Randomly selected travelers must take a second coronavirus test upon arrival on Hawaii island.

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HONOLULU — A volunteer aid network in Hawaii has raised bail funds for pretrial detainees in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the state’s prison system.

CoronaCare Hawaii has partnered with the Hawaii Community Bail Fund to provide bail for 10 Native Hawaiian detainees from the Oahu Community Correctional Center, KITV-TV reported.

The group says the partnership was in honor of Hawaiian Independence Day that happened on Nov. 28.

CoronaCare plans to post bail for the detainees on Monday, with their release expected on Tuesday. Coronacare Hawaii organizers say they disagree with how the state Department of Public Safety has handled the pandemic.

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ROME — Out of concern of triggering crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis is canceling a cherished annual public appointment that kicks off the holiday shopping season for Romans.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni on Monday said Francis had decided against appearing near the Spanish Steps on Dec. 8, a church feast day in honor of the Virgin Mary.

Traditionally, the pontiff says prayers and makes brief remarks at the foot of a towering column which is topped by a statue representing Mary. The pope is then usually driven through the nearby narrow streets lined with chic fashion shops.

Instead, “Holy Father Francis will make an act of private devotion, entrusting to Mary the city of Rome, its inhabitants and the many ill people in every part of the world,” Bruni said.

“The choice not to go in the afternoon to the Spanish Steps square for the traditional act of veneration of the Immaculate (Virgin Mary) is due to the ongoing situation of health emergency and aims to avoid every risk of contagion triggered by crowding.”

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RAPID CITY, S.D. — Students in the Rapid Area School district are returning to in-person instruction Monday as the coronavirus continues to spread in South Dakota.

After several weeks of distance learning, students will be back in the classroom Monday through Thursday with virtual instruction on Friday. Sports and activities will also resume.

District spokeswoman Katy Urban says school officials have continued to monitor coronavirus case numbers throughout the Thanksgiving break and since they’ve stabilized, the COIVD-19 team feels a return to in-person instruction is appropriate.

Meanwhile, the Rapid City Council will consider a mask mandate at a special session meeting on Monday.

One ordinance would require face coverings in certain situations, but would have no penalties for violators. It also includes exemptions, including young children, law enforcement and those attending religious services.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem opposes mask mandates or other government interventions aimed at slowing the spread of infections. Cities across the state have moved to pass their own mask requirements.

State health officials on Sunday reported 700 new confirmed cases with 544 people hospitalized in South Dakota.

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