BEIJING — Chinese authorities are asking residents in two cities south of Beijing to stay home for seven days as they try to stamp out a coronavirus outbreak in which more than 300 people have tested positive in the past week.
According to official notices on social media, the cities of Shijiazhuang and Xingtai in Hebei province are restricting people to their communities and villages and have banned gatherings.
Hebei reported 14 newly confirmed cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total in the outbreak to 137. It has found 197 other people without symptoms who also tested positive. China does not include asymptomatic cases in its confirmed count.
Beijing is requiring workers from Hebei to show proof of employment in Beijing and a negative virus test before entering the capital.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
President-elect Joe Biden plans to speed release of virus vaccines so more people can get first shot. The U.S. vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots; US tops 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus. UK regulators OK use of a third vaccine against coronavirus.
Meanwhile, WHO approves expanding time between virus shots up to six weeks and asks countries for equitable access to vaccines. A Pfizer study suggests the vaccine works against the virus variant.
Follow AP’s 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:
MEXICO CITY — Mexico has posted its third straight day of a new high for coronavirus infections, with 14,362 newly confirmed cases and a near-record of 1,038 more deaths.
The country has now topped 1.5 million total infections and over 132,000 deaths so far in the pandemic.
The country’s extremely low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is over 180,000.
Officials say 6,623 people were vaccinated against the coronavirus Friday, a rate similar to previous days.
Mexico has received only about 107,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and has pinned much of its hopes on cheaper, easier-to-handle vaccines made by China’s CanSino, though that vaccine has not yet been approved for use.
SAN DIEGO — San Diego County is opening what it calls a “vaccination super station” that aims to inoculate up to 5,000 health care workers daily with a coronavirus vaccine.
The effort that begins Monday is one of the most ambitious yet in California to accelerate the pace of vaccinations that Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week was “not good enough.” Only about 1% of California’s 40 million residents have been vaccinated against the virus.
Medical crews from the University of California, San Diego, will operate the station in a parking lot near the downtown baseball stadium.
Health care workers will remain in their vehicles while they are given the shot and then will be asked to remain on-site for 15 minutes to be monitored in case of any allergic reaction.
MISSION, Kan. — Kansas state prisons, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, will be given priority in the next phase of vaccinations.
Officials have reported 5,320 coronavirus infections in the state’s prison system, which houses about 8,600 inmates. In addition, 1,076 prison employees have tested positive. Thirteen inmates and four staff members have died.
Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday that inmates will be vaccinated after health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. She says the prisons are being prioritized based on guidance from doctors and public health experts.
The second vaccination phase also will give priority to people 65 and older and critical workers such as firefighters, law enforcement officers, meatpacking employees, grocery store workers, teachers and child care workers.
ALBANY, N.Y. — Faced with mounting criticism over the slow pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that starting next week, the state will allow a much wider swath of the public to get inoculated, including anyone age 75 or older.
The governor warned Friday that initially, the supply of vaccines available to people other than health care workers and nursing home patients will be very limited.
Cuomo says a beefed up statewide distribution network will include pharmacies, doctors’ networks and county health departments. The 3.2 million New Yorkers newly eligible for the vaccine includes teachers, first responders and public safety workers.
The announcement came as many local officials argued it was time to distribute the vaccine beyond health care workers.
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford is in quarantine with his family after his wife tested positive for COVID-19, and he will not be able to fulfil his role of presiding over the Senate as the 2021 legislative session is getting underway.
Sanford’s spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, told the Bismarck Tribune that Sanford’s wife is asymptomatic and that Sanford planned to get his own COVID-19 test Friday, the session’s second day.
Nowatzki said Sanford is not showing any symptoms and is expected to return around the end of January.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, a Dickinson Republican, said senators haven’t been around Sanford or in meetings with him.
Sanford attended a joint legislative session on Tuesday, when Gov. Doug Burgum presented his State of the State address. Nowatzki said Burgum was not a close contact of Sanford, and that Sanford wore a mask the whole time and was socially distanced while seated in the chambers.
ATLANTA — Georgia ranks last among states for the share of available COVID-19 vaccines that it has administered, but Gov. Brian Kemp said the data is badly misleading as some hospitals have failed to report all the shots they’ve given.
Still, the Republican governor acknowledged Friday that the state is struggling with the vaccine rollout even as Georgia sets daily records for people hospitalized with the respiratory illness.
Kemp says he’s “not happy” with the effort. Georgia now has the capacity to administer 11,428 doses a day. At that rate, it would take more than two-and-a-half years to vaccinate every Georgia resident.
Amber Schmidtke, an epidemiologist who reports daily on Georgia’s outbreak, blamed the staggering start on “poor planning and execution of a mass vaccination strategy, if Georgia ever actually had one.” She said state government needs to call in more resources instead of pushing all the responsibility down to its 18 public health districts.
The struggles come even as the state is allowing people over 65 to be vaccinated starting Monday, leading to local health departments being overrun with people seeking appointments.
CHICAGO — Some in-person instruction at Chicago public schools will resume Monday for the first time in months, and the city’s mayor and school chief are warning teachers that their absence will have consequences.
The district is giving families the option for students in pre-kindergarten and some special education programs. K-8 students could return on Feb. 1. No date has been set for high school students.
About 6,500 students are expected Monday, still a fraction of the nation’s third-largest district.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday that remote learning “is not sustainable, not over the long term, because it does not serve every student equally, especially those students who are younger, who require additional help and support and simply don’t have access to a sustainable learning environment.”
The Chicago Teachers Union said many schools still carry risks for the coronavirus. Attendance by teachers this week has been uneven.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma revenue collections for the calendar year 2020 declined by 3.8% as the coronavirus pandemic swept the state, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Friday.
The state collected nearly $13.2 billion in taxes and fees for the year, $520.9 million less than the previous year.
“The state’s economy declined in 2020,” McDaniel said in a statement. “Hopefully, we will see improvement in the months ahead as the (coronavirus) vaccine becomes widely available.”
The state health department reported 320,586 total virus cases and 2,703 deaths Friday, including a one-day record increase of 5,232 cases and 31 more deaths.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Oklahoma has risen from 3,478.43 per day on Dec. 24 to 3,488.29, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The data ranks Oklahoma seventh in the nation in new cases per capita with 1,072.7 per 100,000, down from 1,096.5 per 100,000 and the fourth-highest rate in the nation reported Monday.
SALT LAKE CITY — New Gov. Spencer Cox unveiled a plan Friday to ramp up Utah’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution as the state sees a post-holiday surge in new cases.
Cox, a Republican, said he will issue an executive order requiring facilities to allocate their doses the week they are received and have local health departments manage distribution, with an expectation of administering 50,000 doses a week.
”This virus does not sleep,” Cox said at his first COVID-19 media briefing as governor. “This virus does not take weekends off. And neither should we.”
The state’s 50,000 teachers and in-person school staff will be eligible to receive the vaccine on Monday, Cox said. School districts will be expected to prioritize people over 65 or who have underlying health conditions.
Utah’s second phase of the vaccine rollout, which includes anyone 70 or older, will begin on Jan. 18. Former Gov. Gary Herbert, Cox’s predecessor, initially said people over 75 would be eligible.
The governor’s plan came as the state’s new COVID-19 cases continue to rise and ICU beds are nearly full. In the past week, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 26.8% to 32.7%, according to state data.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is moving ahead with vaccine distribution, expanding eligibility on Friday to people 75 and older as well as residents with underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk from COVID-19.
The expanded list under what is known as Phase 1B of the distribution plan also includes frontline essential workers who can’t work remotely and vulnerable populations. Shots also are still being given to health care workers, first responders and staff and residents at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Under the updated vaccination plan released Friday, state official acknowledged that the number of people now eligible to be inoculated is much larger than the available supply so the groups are being further prioritized. For example, frontline essential workers will be vaccinated in order ranging from family home caregivers and child care workers, followed by teachers involved in in-person learning, grocery store workers, agriculture workers, public transit workers and others.
New Mexico is requiring workers in each category to verify their employment and those with qualifying medical conditions also are expected to provide validation. That could include a note from a provider, hospital discharge paperwork or even a prescription bottle.
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon will be stepping up its vaccinations against COVID-19, including by administering thousands of doses at the state fairgrounds in Salem this weekend with the support of the National Guard, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday.
“The goal is to vaccinate 250 people per hour, vaccinating thousands of Oregonians,” Brown announced during a Zoom call with reporters.
Those eligible to receive the vaccination are in the top priority category set by the Oregon Health Authority, which includes hospitals, health care providers and residents at long-term care facilities; emergency medical service providers and other first responders.
On Friday, OHA recorded 7,994 doses of vaccine administered — including 578 second doses — raising the state’s total number of shots given to 74,914.
The agency also reported Friday that COVID-19 claimed seven more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,575. There were also 1,755 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 122,847 in a state with a population of around 4.2 million.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s 82-year-old monarch King Salman has received the coronavirus vaccine, according to video and photos published by state media on Friday.
In a short video, the king was seen seated, dressed in the traditional male white thobe worn by men in Gulf with one sleeve rolled up, being given a shot in his left arm. It wasn’t immediately clear which of the coronavirus vaccines the king received, but state media said it marked his first dose.
Early on in the pandemic, the king decreed his government would cover hospitalizations related to the virus for all Saudi residents, including those in the country illegally or on expired visas.
The kingdom also plans to offer vaccines free of charge.
After a surge in cases over the summer, the country of 30 million, which mandates public mask wearing and social distancing, recorded just 97 new cases on Friday and four deaths as infections there continue to decline. Overall, there have been some 363,000 cases recorded in Saudi Arabia since the start of the pandemic and 6,282 deaths from the virus.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Active-duty military medical personnel have been sent to a Southern California hospital swamped with a surge of COVD-19 patients.
Riverside County authorities issued a press release Friday saying approximately 20 physician assistants, nurses and respiratory care practitioners from the Army and Air Force arrived Thursday at Riverside University Health System-Medical Center.
The county says the Department of Defence team is part of a response to a state request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal support to medical facilities throughout California.
Officials say the 439-bed hospital normally has a daily average of 350 patients but is averaging 450.
Jennifer Cruikshank, chief executive officer at Riverside University Health System-Medical Center and Clinics, says the help is bringing “renewed energy and hope into our team” and will “support the acute health care needs of more people in our region during this critical time.”
The Associated Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Virden Empire Advance
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Alberta has recorded 301 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, along with three additional deaths.
According to the province’s website, 29 of its new cases come from the virus variatn first identified in the United Kingdom.
The province has 4,584 active COVID-19 cases and 250 patients currently hospitalized with the virus.
Alberta is reporting a test positivity rate of four per cent.
Prince Edward Island is entering a 72-hour lockdown starting at midnight as the province struggles to contain an outbreak of COVID-19.
The short-term public health order was announced this afternoon as officials reported five new infections of the disease, for a total of 17 cases in the past five days.
The new infections include two males, both in their 20s, and three females, two in their 20s and one in her 50s.
Health officials have identified two clusters of COVID-19 in the cities of Summerside and Charlottetown, and say it’s possible the island has community spread of the virus as many infections cannot be linked to travel.
Saskatchewan is reporting 141 new COVID-19 cases today, but no new deaths linked to the virus.
The province says its seven-day average of new cases is 146, which it says works out to 11.9 new cases per 100,000 people.
There were 1,662 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the province on Saturday, raising the total number to 78,226 delivered so far.
Manitoba is reporting two new deaths in people with COVID-19.
One was in his 80s, the other was in her 90s, and both were from the Winnipeg health region.
The province says there were 50 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed as of 9:30 a.m. this morning.
Most of Manitoba’s new cases are in the Winnipeg and Northern health regions, with each recording 21 new infections.
So far, the province says it has recorded five cases of the virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 in the province today.
Health officials say the cases are spread out across the province, with the central, eastern and northern regions each recording one new infection.
Officials say one of the cases is a close contact of a previous case, while two are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.
Nova Scotia has 38 active cases of COVID-19, with two people currently in hospital.
Health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador have diagnosed seven new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total number of active infections to 262.
The province says all seven cases are in the Eastern Health region, which includes St. John’s.
Officials say four of the infections were identified in individuals aged 20 to 39, while one patient was under 20 years old, one was aged 40 to 49 and one was aged 50 to 59.
The new cases identified include three females and four males.
Officials say there are currently 10 people in hospital with COVID-19, with six of those patients in intensive care.
Quebec is reporting 737 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths due to the virus.
Four of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours, while the rest took place earlier.
Hospitalizations rose by two to 601. Of those, 117 patients are in intensive care, which is five more than a day earlier.
The province gave 12,469 doses of vaccine on Saturday for a total of more than 432,000 since the pandemic began.
Health officials in New Brunswick say a 90-year-old resident of an adult residential facility in Edmundston has died as a result of underlying complications including COVID-19.
The case brings the total number of deaths in the province related to the novel coronavirus disease to 27.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says the loss of another New Brunswicker is a sad moment for the province and is something that never gets easier.
The number of active cases in New Brunswick stands at 38, with one patient currently hospitalized in intensive care.
Ontario is expanding its list of vaccine recipients to include those experiencing homelessness even as it passes a bleak new milestone in the fight against COVID-19.
The province has officially logged more than 300,000 COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic and is just shy of 7,000 total deaths.
Ontario added 1,062 new infections to its count today for a total of 300,816, while 20 new deaths bring the overall toll to 6,980.
Meanwhile Toronto says it willbegin vaccinating residents of its shelter system this week after getting the green light from the province over the weekend.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.
Cautious optimism over downward COVID trend – Winnipeg Free Press
For the first time since the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic gripped Manitoba, the test positivity rate in Winnipeg has dropped below three per cent — a goalpost the province’s top doctor said long ago indicates widespread community transmission.
Public health officials announced two new deaths, 50 additional cases of the virus and 1,866 tests complete as of Sunday morning.
A man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s, both from Winnipeg, are among the now 895 Manitobans who have died from the virus.
The total number of lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba sits at 31,859, of which 1,194 are active.
A total of 192 people are in hospital, while 26 are in the intensive care unit, with 72 and 11 of those cases accounting for active COVID-19 patients, respectively.
No new cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, of which there are five cases to date, were reported over the weekend.
The majority of new cases reported are in Manitoba’s north and capital; in both regions, there were 21 new cases.
Also Sunday, the province reported the current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 3.7 per cent provincially and 2.7 per cent in Winnipeg.
Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr called the latest figures “good news,” especially on the variant front.
“I’m always cautious about reacting to one day of data, particularly over a weekend. I like to look at how many people are tested and what the positivity rate is, but certainly, the trend that we’re seeing is a continued, real reduction that we’re sustaining,” said Carr, founder of Winnipeg-based EPI Research Inc.
Manitoba only began publishing the test positivity rate — the percentage of people who have tested positive for the virus of the total number tested during a five-day period — in Winnipeg in late October, saying it is less reliable than the provincial rate because of the smaller sample size.
At that point, the figure was more than triple the current percentage, at 9.9 per cent.
Winnipeg’s test positivity rate peaked at 14.9 per cent in early December.
In the early days of the pandemic, provincial chief medical officer Dr. Brent Roussin warned of the prospect of a three per cent test positivity rate, which he said would signify widespread community transmission and trigger increased restrictions.
Last week, Roussin said the province is considering a further rollback of restrictions when the current public health order expires Friday.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
COVID-19 lockdowns or spring break: provinces split on next steps against pandemic – Global News
Canada’s COVID-19 hotspots showed diverging approaches to handling the crisis on Sunday, as Ontario and Prince Edward Island prepared for new lockdowns while Quebec entered a week of spring break complete with some activities meant to ease the monotony of life during a global pandemic.
Prince Edward Island announced it was entering a 72-hour lockdown starting at midnight as the province struggled to contain an outbreak of COVID-19.
The short-term public health order was announced as officials reported five new infections of the disease in a province that has seen few cases for most of the pandemic. The Island has now recorded 17 new infections over the past five days.
Health officials identified two clusters of COVID-19 in the cities of Summerside and Charlottetown, and said it’s possible the island has community spread of the virus. The province has a total of just 132 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
The three-day lockdown requires residents to stay home as much as possible and will close all kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, with post-secondary education moving online only.
“We would rather go harder and stronger now than wait for an outbreak like we have seen in other provinces that could put us in an extended period of lockdown for weeks or even months,” Premier Dennis King said late Sunday during a briefing with reporters.
Ontario, meanwhile, passed the 300,000 case mark on Sunday as the government prepared to hit a so-called ’emergency brake’ in two northern public health units grappling with surging case numbers.
The Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka District health units will enter the lockdown phase of the province’s pandemic response plan on Monday in order interrupt transmission of COVID-19 at a time when new variants are gaining steam.
The province has also pushed back its spring break until April in an effort to limit community spread.
Navigating a tax season complicated by COVID-19
Quebec, in contrast, has allowed movie theatres, pools and arenas to open with restrictions in place to give families something to do as the traditional winter break kicks off, even as most other health rules remain in place.
The province opted to allow students and teachers the traditional March break, even though Premier Francois Legault has said he’s worried about the week off and the threat posed by more contagious virus variants.
Quebec’s health minister said the situation in the province was stable on Sunday, with 737 new cases and nine additional deaths _ even as confirmed cases linked to variants of concern jumped by more than 100 to 137.
Most of the variant cases have been identified as the B.1.1.7 mutation first identified in the United Kingdom, including 84 in Montreal.
Ontario, meanwhile, reported 1,062 new infections linked to the pandemic on Sunday as it became the first province to record more than 300,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.
The country’s chief public health officer urged Canadians on Sunday to continue following public health measures as a way of buying critical time as vaccine programs ramp up.
“Aiming to have the fewest interactions with the fewest number of people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance possible is a simple rule that we can all apply to help limit the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement.
Canada’s immunization program received a boost last week with the approval of a third COVID-19 vaccine, raising hopes that provinces will be able to inoculate their most vulnerable populations before the more contagious variants can fully take hold.
Trudeau says COVID-19 case counts, presence of variants being looked at with Canada-U.S. border restrictions
Toronto announced Sunday that it was expanding the first phase of its COVID-19 vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness, noting that they have a higher risk of serious health impacts due to COVID-19 and are vulnerable to transmission in congregate settings.
Quebec, meanwhile, is set to begin vaccination of the general population on Monday, beginning with seniors 80 and over in the Montreal area, or 85 and over in the rest of the province.
While some regions with extra doses began administering shots late last week, the pace of inoculation will ramp up on Monday when mass vaccination clinics in Montreal throw open their doors.
Case counts were more stable elsewhere in the country.
Manitoba reported just 50 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday and two new virus-related deaths, while Saskatchewan saw its overall tally climb by 181 but did not log any new deaths.
Alberta reported three new virus-related deaths and 301 new infections, including 29 identified as variants of concern.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia logged three new cases while officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported seven.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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