The Latest: WH: Will increase vaccine supply next week
WASHINGTON — The White House is increasing the supply of coronavirus vaccines beginning next week, with an aim to ensure the equity of the distribution of doses.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of the White House’s COVID-19 equity task force, says that the federal government is devoting 1 million doses to begin distributing vaccines at 250 community health centers. It’s meant to be a first phase of a program to expand vaccinations to the more than 1,300 federally supported community health centers, which primarily care for low-income and uninsured populations.
COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients says, “Efficiency and equity are both central to what we’re doing.”
Zients also announced states will see their allocation of doses rise to 11 million per week beginning next week, up more than 2 million since President Joe Biden took office.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— WHO team: Coronavirus likely jumped to humans from animals.
— Evidence is mounting that having COVID-19 may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants.
— Authorities worry that raucous Super Bowl celebrations could fuel new outbreak s.
— South Africa seeks a new virus vaccination pla n after deciding not to use AstraZeneca jab, fearing it’s not effective enough against the country’s dominant variant.
— Follow all of 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:
TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says starting next week any non-essential traveler arriving in Canada by land will need to show a negative PCR-based COVID-19 test or face a fine.
Trudeau says customs officers can’t send Canadians back to the U.S. if they don’t have a test because they are technically on Canadian soil but he says the fine will be up to $3,000 Canadian ($2,370) and they will also be subject to extensive follow up by health officials.
Canada already requires people arriving by air to show a negative test within three days of arriving. Last month, Trudeau also announced stricter restrictions on air travelers in response to new, likely more contagious variants of the virus. It’s mandatory for air travelers to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense.
But the government hasn’t yet announced when the mandatory hotel stays will start. The air traveler would stay at a government designated hotel until the results of a test.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa public health officials have selected Microsoft to create an online COVID-19 vaccination scheduling system for a state that ranks 47th in administered doses.
The Iowa Department of Public Health posted a notice online Monday that it intends to award an emergency contract to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft.
Microsoft will be responsible for an online registration system for eligible residents to schedule vaccination appointments with approved providers. Its contract is expected to last through the end of the year.
Many essential workers and people 65 and older became eligible for shots on Feb. 1. But the slow rollout has infuriated some public school teachers, including many whose class sizes will double next week when Gov. Kim Reynolds’ new mandate for daily in-person learning takes effect.
On Friday, the Republican governor lifted a statewide mandate to wear masks, social distancing requirements for bars and limits on gatherings. That’s despite the new highly contagious U.K. variant recently found in the state. Several municipalities say they will still enforce local mask ordinances.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Oklahoma has fallen below 1,000 for the first time in three months.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health late Monday reported 937 people hospitalized with the virus, including 286 in intensive care. The health department had reported more than 1,000 hospitalizations daily since first topping the number on Nov. 3.
Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the seven-day rolling averages of both new cases and deaths have declined during the past two weeks. The state health department has reported totals of 3,817 deaths and 404,994 virus cases since the pandemic began.
OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska officials expect nearly 70,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines to be available in the state this week as they continue to work to distribute more shots.
The state said 69,600 vaccine doses total should be released in Nebraska this week, up from 61,750 a week ago. Most of those vaccines are being distributed through local health departments, but nearly 6,000 doses will go to a new program that is just getting started to distribute vaccines directly through some retail pharmacies.
Across the state, officials have started to vaccinate people 65 and older and some workers who can’t do their jobs remotely.
LONDON — Britain’s government has announced tougher quarantine and testing measures for U.K and Irish residents returning home from South American and African countries in a bid to limit coronavirus variants.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says those international arrivals will be required to take two coronavirus tests during their 10-day quarantine to enable authorities to better track new cases.
International travelers already must show proof of a negative test before they can re-enter the country.
A new hotel quarantine system will be put in place for U.K. and Irish residents who arrive from the British government’s 33 “red list” countries – mostly South American and African countries. Those travelers will have to pay for a 1750-pound ($2,411) package for the hotel stay.
The U.K. currently bans others travelers from these 33 countries.
The new measures take effect Monday. Those violating the rules could face fines up to 10,000 pounds ($13,780) and up to a 10-year prison sentence.
PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey says Arizona will launch a new federally funded program to provide rental assistance to people in need of housing help due to unemployment.
Ducey’s office says the Arizona program will start taking applications on Feb. 23 and provide help in 12 of the state’s 15 counties. According to Ducey’s office, Maricopa, Pima and Yuma are receiving federal funding directly and plan their own rental assistance programs.
The state program will provide direct payments for rent, utilities and other expenses related to housing stability. The federal government is providing a total of $492 million to Arizona, with $292 million going to the state and the rest to cities and counties.
The state on Tuesday reported 4,381 additional cases and 231 deaths.
BUDAPEST — Hungary’s prime minister says he expects the first shipments of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in the country as early as next week, which will make Hungary the first country in the European Union to receive a vaccine from China.
Viktor Orban, speaking at a virtual conference between other Central and Eastern European leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping, praised the Chinese scientific community for developing the Sinopharm vaccine. He thanked Hungarian medical experts for visiting production sites in China and consulting with Chinese experts.
Also, Hungary will begin administering a Russian COVID-19 vaccine to elderly residents of the country’s capital who have no underlying health conditions, the chief medical officer announced on Tuesday. Hungary currently has enough doses to treat 2,800 people.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Health authorities in Tel Aviv have started dispensing COVID-19 vaccines to foreign nationals and asylum seekers.
Dozens of asylum seekers and foreign workers lined up at a vaccination center set up in southern Tel Aviv on Tuesday to receive their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Israel has already vaccinated over 3.5 million of its population with the first shot, and at least 2.1 million people have received the second shot.
The country started easing lockdown restrictions on Sunday. However, the infection rate remains high.
Israel has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed cases and at least 5,192 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.
WUHAN, China — A World Health Organization team has concluded that the coronavirus most likely jumped to humans from an animal.
WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek announced that assessment Tuesday at the end of a visit by a WHO team that is investigating the possible origins of the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The first cases were discovered in Wuhan in December 2019. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has collected extensive virus samples, leading to allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has strongly rejected that possibility.
The WHO team is intended to be an initial step delving into the origins of the virus, which is believed to have originated in bats before being passed to humans through another species of wild animal, such as a pangolin or bamboo rat, which is considered an exotic delicacy by some in China.
The pandemic has killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide. China has reported more than 100,000 confirmed cases and 4,822 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world with more than 465,000 deaths.
BRUSSELS — Belgium will use the 443,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine the country will receive over the course of February to vaccinate people under the age of 55.
Regulators in the country of 11.5 million inhabitants have advised against the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for older people due a lack of data about its efficacy, so Belgium’s vaccination task force has reshaped its strategy.
It decided that the doses will go in priority to health care workers under 55 as well as residents and staff in collective care institutions in that age group. Sabine Stordeur, who co-chairs the task force, said on Tuesday that people from high-risk groups with underlying conditions and police officers working in the field will also be offered AstraZeneca injections.
People over 55 will continue to receive the two other vaccines approved in the EU, Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna.
Infection numbers have reached a plateau in Belgium, with new daily cases between 2,000 and 2,500, while coronavirus-related deaths are decreasing. So far, some 336,300 Belgium’s residents have received a first vaccine dose.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway has extended its global travel restrictions until April 15, advising against trips that are not strictly necessary and urging people to stay home for the Easter break.
“The infection situation globally means that very many countries have very strict restrictions on entry, as well as extensive infection control measures,” the Foreign Ministry in Oslo said.
“We are still far from a normal situation, and the infection situation in many parts of the world is changing rapidly,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told Norwegian News Agency NTB.
Neighboring Estonia on Tuesday lifted some of its travel restrictions saying travelers from Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Iceland and Norway are not subject to its 10-day quarantine starting Feb. 15.
JACKSON, Miss. — Officials in Mississippi say about 2% of the coronavirus vaccinations given so far in the state have gone to people with out-of-state addresses.
Mississippi guidelines say vaccination is available to anyone 65 or older or to those who are least 16 years old and have underlying health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to the virus.
The state’s top public health officials says the vaccination is supposed to be limited to Mississippi residents, or to people from other states who work in Mississippi. However, they said people giving the shots do not check identification or verify that out-of-state residents work in Mississippi.
The New Orleans Advocate/The Times-Picayune recently reported that Louisiana residents are traveling to Mississippi to be vaccinated because Louisiana has tighter vaccination eligibility guidelines.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Hundreds of people have showed up at Alabama vaccination sites as the state drastically expands eligibility to receive immunizations against the coronavirus.
Starting Monday, people who qualify for vaccinations in Alabama include everyone 65 and older, educators, grocery store workers, some manufacturing workers, public transit workers, agriculture employees, state legislators and constitutional officers.
Only health care workers, first responders, nursing home residents and people 75 and older were previously eligible.
The change means as many as 1.5 million people in the state now qualify for shots, up from about 700,000. But vaccine supply is still limited, and officials are asking people who aren’t at high risk for becoming ill to let other people get vaccines first.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Appointments to receive the coronavirus vaccine in Oregon have been quickly booked as residents who are 80 years and older are now eligible to receive doses.
Seniors in Oregon have waited weeks to receive the vaccine, after the original eligibility date was delayed and then Gov. Kate Brown decided to prioritize educators ahead of the elderly.
The elderly have been the hardest hit group in state when it comes to the virus — people 60 years and older account for 90% of Oregon’s COVID-19 deaths.
On Monday, seniors 80 and older began to receive shots. And media reports say every available appointment for seniors were booked up.
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers have taken the first step toward overriding the governor’s veto of a bill blocking cities from regulating rental properties.
Gov. Eric Holcomb had said the law shouldn’t be adopted during the coronavirus pandemic, and critics of the measure argued it would prevent local officials from protecting tenants from abusive landlords.
The state Senate voted 30-17 on Monday to override the veto that Holcomb issued in March following last year’s legislative session. The bill’s supporters say it avoids a “hodgepodge” of local regulations.
The state House would also have to vote to override the veto for it to be overturned.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says the emergence of new COVID-19 variants has raised questions about whether or not existing vaccines will work, calling it “concerning news” that the vaccines developed so far may be less effective against the variant first detected in South Africa.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing that South Africa’s decision on Sunday to suspend its vaccination campaign using the AstraZeneca vaccine is “a reminder that we need to do everything we can to reduce circulation of the virus with proven public health measures.”
He said it was increasingly clear that vaccine manufacturers would need to tweak their existing shots to address the ongoing genetic evolution of the coronavirus, saying booster shots would most likely be necessary, especially since new variants of the virus are now spreading globally and appear likely to become the predominant strains.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris “virtually toured” a federally supported mass-vaccination site Monday in Glendale, Arizona.
The drive-thru 24-hour facility at the State Farm Stadium is giving one COVID-19 shot about every 10 seconds.
Biden and Harris have promised to open 100 similar sites across the country in the coming weeks and have called on Congress to provide funding for even more. Biden has ramped up federal support for the facilities through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pentagon.
The president said he is ahead of pace to deliver on his promise of providing 100 million injections in the first 100 days of his presidency, saying, “I think we’ll exceed that considerably.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that more than 22 million doses have been given since Biden’s inauguration less than three weeks ago.
SEATTLE — Dozens of Washington state hospitals have learned N95 respirator masks believed to be purchased from 3M Company are counterfeits that were not manufactured by the company.
The Seattle Times reported the Washington State Hospital Association alerted the state’s hospitals about a notification from 3M that some masks were knockoffs.
The association has asked the state’s 115 hospitals to sort through mask supplies and pull potentially affected equipment.
Several hospitals sent masks to 3M for testing and the company confirmed some were counterfeit.
It is unclear whether the counterfeit masks are less safe than those manufactured by 3M.