The Latest: Washington state to ease restrictions Monday

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says some pandemic restrictions will be eased next week and the state will change its reopening plan to move from a county-based oversight system to one focused on regions.

Inslee said Tuesday that the new guidelines will include “a small resumption of some activities statewide.” He says some live entertainment with very tight capacity restrictions and some fitness programs will be allowed.

Also, instead of having each of Washington’s 39 counties treated separately, the state will be divided into eight geographic regions based on health system resources when considering virus oversight.

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been more than 256,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in Washington and more than 3,480 deaths related to COVID-19.



Seniors citizens in Florida camped overnight in vehicles to get in line for vaccinations in Daytona Beach. Distribution hiccups and logistical challenges have slowed the initial coronavirus vaccine rollout in California. The vaccination drive enters new phase in U.S. as some start receiving final dose.

England is facing its third lockdown, while other countries are taking steps against the coronavirus and vaccinating citizens. Germany extended its national lockdown as coronavirus deaths mount. Meanwhile, Wall Street wobbles after its sharp slide to start 2021.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says the state is taking steps to speed up coronavirus vaccinations.

Some 270,150 doses were distributed to frontline vaccinators over the last three weeks, but as of Tuesday, only 76,916 people had been vaccinated. That is about 1.3% of the state’s population.

The governor says that starting Wednesday, the National Guard will begin sending support teams across the state to help local health departments expand vaccination capacity.

Hogan also is ordering all providers to report data to the state within 24 hours after vaccines have been administered so officials can determine better where help is needed. He says any facility that has not administered at least 75% of its initial vaccine supply may have future allocations reduced until they can speed up vaccinations.


SAN FRANCISCO — A hospital in Northern California quickly vaccinated 850 people after a freezer that was holding doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine failed, prompting officials to do an emergency distribution before the shots spoiled.

The Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Mendocino County told the Ukiah Daily Journal that it sent 200 doses to the country that were dispensed to county workers, including sheriff’s deputies and jail staff. Jail inmates also received shots.

Eighty doses were sent to nursing homes.

Hospital spokeswoman Cici Winiger says the rest were distributed at four makeshift clinics on a first-come, first-serve basis after the hospital sent out a social media blast alerting people that vaccinations were available.


HELENA, Mont. — Montana’s governor says he will lift the statewide mask mandate for the coronavirus after more vulnerable people are vaccinated. He adds that the legislature will also have to send him a bill to protect businesses, schools and churches from lawsuits if they follow public health guidelines.

Gov. Greg Gianforte did not say how many or what percentage of the most vulnerable will have to be vaccinated to trigger the lifting of the mask mandate put in place by then Gov. Steve Bullock.

Gianforte did indicate he will soon be lifting some restrictions on bars and restaurants, which are currently limited to 50% capacity and must close by 10 p.m.


OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s Republican-led House has rejected an attempt by Democrats to require members to wear masks on the House floor and take other steps to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

The vote came as the House and Senate each convened Tuesday for a constitutionally mandated organizational day to formally elect leaders and seat members. The legislative session begins Feb. 1.

During discussion of House rules, Democratic leader Rep. Emily Virgin proposed several amendments, including a requirement that members wear masks and to allow remote participation in meetings and floor votes. The amendments were rejected on mostly party-line votes.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has ordered state employees and visitors to state buildings to wear masks and maintain social distance, but the rule technically doesn’t apply to members of the House and Senate.


NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are offering competing strategies for ramping up New York’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

De Blasio says vaccine eligibility should be widened. Cuomo says hospitals need to do a better job of vaccinating the health care workers who are eligible now.

Only health care workers and nursing home residents and staff members are currently being vaccinated in New York.

De Blasio said Tuesday that it’s time to broaden eligibility to include people older than 75 and essential workers.

But Cuomo says vaccinations are lagging because some hospitals are just better managed than others.


RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s top public health official said Tuesday that most nursing home workers are refusing to take coronavirus vaccines being offered in a state that has now become one of the slowest in the nation to get doses into peoples’ arms.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, attributed some of the sluggishness behind rollout to staffing shortages, lack of familiarity with the state’s technological systems and logistical hurdles of working with dozens of hospitals and 100 different counties throughout the state.

Her comments came shortly after the governor announced Tuesday the deployment of National Guard members to accelerate the administration of doses.

“We have a decentralized system in North Carolina,” Cohen said. “We have 83 local public health departments, we have 100 counties. We have great pride in that, but when you decentralize things, it does create slowness. We’re trying to find that right balance of recognizing the strengths in our local areas but also recognizing where are the challenges.”


WARSAW, Poland — The number of visitors to the Auschwitz Memorial fell to some 500,000 last year due to the pandemic, compared to some 2.5 million visitors the year before, the museum’s press office said Tuesday.

The memorial site of the former Nazi German death camp was closed for more than five months in 2020 due to the anti-COVID-19 restrictions. In the opening months the number of visitors was also reduced due to the need for social distancing and sanitary precautions.

At the same time, the number of virtual online visits to the museum rose to some 330,000 or double the number from 2019.

Director Piotr M. A. Cywinski was quoted as saying that 2020 was an “exceptionally difficult year” and an “unprecedented and exceptional situation” for the memorial site, causing a “severe slump in the Museum’s budget” that led to the discontinuation of many projects.


OKLAHOMA CITY — The health department in Oklahoma’s most populous county on Tuesday announced that it will begin providing coronavirus vaccinations to residents aged 65 and older on Thursday.

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department said those residents can now sign up for vaccine appointments online, and by late Tuesday morning the site said all slots for appointments were taken.

Those eligible for vaccinations do not yet include people younger than 65 with diseases that make them susceptible to COVID-19.

The state health department on Tuesday reported 1,497 additional virus cases and 19 more deaths due to COVID-19, for totals of 308,268 cases and 2,571 deaths since the pandemic began. There were 1,909 people hospitalized with the illness, the department reported.

Oklahoma currently ranks fifth in the U.S. in new cases per capita during the past 14 days, with 1,099 cases per 100,000 residents, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.


BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s health department is encouraging hospitals to use their extra coronavirus vaccine doses to immunize people aged 70 and older.

Hospitals across Louisiana have received thousands of Pfizer vaccine doses for their own workers and continue to receive new doses weekly.

The health department said Tuesday that any excess should be steered to those newly eligible. That’s an effort to boost the limited supply available to the estimated 640,000 elderly and outpatient health care workers on that newly eligible list.

It wasn’t clear Tuesday how many doses were available at hospitals to administer to them, but it was certain to be a small number.


PHOENIX, Ariz. — Arizona reported a record 253 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, along with hospitalization highs and the fastest rate of new infections.

The previous one-day record of 172 occurred July 30, according to the Department of Health Services.

A record 4,789 COVID-19 patients occupied hospital beds on Monday, an increase of more than 200 from Sunday, according to the state’s coronavirus data. On Monday, there was a record 1,096 COVID-19 patients in intensive care beds.

The state has the worst coronavirus diagnosis rate in the nation, with one person in every 126 diagnosed with the virus in the past week.

Arizona reported 5,932 daily coronavirus cases on Tuesday, raising the state’s totals to 567,474 cases and 9,317 confirmed deaths.


RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced he’s calling in the North Carolina National Guard to help accelerate coronavirus vaccinations.

Cooper says ensuring vaccines are given to individuals “is our top priority right now.”

“We will use all resources and personnel needed. I’ve mobilized the NC National Guard to provide support to local health providers as we continue to increase the pace of vaccinations,” Cooper said in a signed tweet.

Nearly 108,000 people in North Carolina had received their first dose as of Tuesday morning, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly 500 people had received a second dose.


BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she has agreed with state governors to extend the country’s current lockdown by three weeks until Jan. 31.

Merkel says they are tightening curbs on social contacts, in line with measures imposed in March, and calling for new restrictions on movement for people living in areas with particularly high infection rates. Germany launched a nationwide partial shutdown on Nov. 2, closing restaurants, bars, leisure and sports facilities.

The decision Tuesday came amid an increase of coronavirus cases and deaths, with Germany reporting 944 more deaths.

Vaccinations in Germany and the rest of the 27-nation European Union started over a week ago. In Germany, a nation of 83 million, nearly 265,000 vaccinations had been reported by Monday, the Robert Koch Institute said.


LONDON — Britain’s statistics office says about one in every 50 people in England had the coronavirus in the last week.

The Office for National Statistics says in London the figure is even higher. It estimates that one in 30 people in private households in the British capital had the coronavirus in the week between Dec. 27 – Jan 2. The figure doesn’t include people in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson put England into a national lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus and the country is accelerating its vaccination program.

Johnson says 1.3 million people have received at least one shot of the two-dose inoculation regime since injections began in early December. That includes almost a quarter of people over 80 in England.

The government aims to vaccinate more than 13 million people, including those over 70, by Feb. 15.


GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says he is “disappointed” that Chinese officials have not finalized permissions for the arrival of team of experts into China to examine origins of the coronavirus.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a rare critique of Beijing, says members of the international scientific team have begun over the last 24 hours to leave from their home countries to China as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government.

“Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” he said at a news conference Tuesday in Geneva.

He says he’s “very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials.”


MADRID — Spain is reporting 23,700 new coronavirus infections and 352 confirmed deaths Tuesday.

Spain has nearly 2 million infections and almost 51,500 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.

The 14-day cumulative index watched by epidemiologists rose to 296 per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 272 a day earlier. It’s less than the second-wave high of 529 on Nov. 9.

Intensive care unit occupation by coronavirus patients remains at 23%.

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