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The Latest: La. hospitals say COVID-19 cases filling beds – Burnaby Now

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BEIJING — New coronavirus cases in northern China’s Hebei province have more than doubled as officials move to lock down an area that is home to about 75 million people.

Officials announced 51 new cases Thursday, bringing Hebei’s total to 90 since Sunday. Most of the cases have been in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital that is due to host some events of next year’s Winter Olympics.

Rail, air and highway connections to Shijiazhuang have been suspended, control measures tightened for urban communities and villages in the region, and classes have been suspended.

Authorities have imposed similarly tight measures in the cities of Shenyang and Dalian in Liaoning province just to the north.

Wary of a new wave of infections, China is discouraging travel for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday and beginning school holidays a week early.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the government will begin allowing more drugstores to start giving shots to speed coronavirus vaccinations. Some governors and other politicians are turning up the pressure after a slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the U.S. could soon give 1 million vaccinations a day. The U.S. reports 29 severe allergic reactions to the vaccines.

The European Union has given approval to the Moderna vaccine. The decision gives the 27-nation bloc a second vaccine to use against the coronavirus. The U.K. says it has vaccinated 1.3 million people and plans to have almost 1,000 vaccination centres operating by the end of this week.

— Follow AP’s 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:

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana hospitals warn that they are running dangerously short of beds because of the influx of COVID-19 patients and the situation is expected to worsen because of the holidays.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and public health officials said Wednesday that efforts are being made to speed up vaccinations for the coronavirus. But they add that nothing will happen quickly enough to lower Louisiana’s coronavirus outbreak except the precautionary measures they have been preaching for months.

Virus restrictions are scheduled to expire next week, and the governor says he doesn’t know whether he will toughen the rules or renew them as is. New Orleans announced new restrictions Wednesday.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan will begin administering coronavirus vaccines to seniors and front-line workers such as teachers and police next week.

The state had planned to next immunize people 75 and older and essential workers including first responders, prison guards and child care providers. But officials said Wednesday that residents ages 65 to 74 will be included, too.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that “every shot in the arm is a step closer to ending this pandemic.”

The first stage of Michigan’s vaccination program has been limited to health care workers and nursing home residents. At least 152,000 people in the state have received the first dose in just over three weeks. Michigan will move to the next phase Monday.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has reported a new daily high for COVID-19 deaths, with 326.

The total reported Wednesday was far more than the previous high of 278 deaths reported July 23. It raised the state’s pandemic death toll to 28,545.

Texas officials reported 19,535 new confirmed coronavirus cases.

A record 13,628 people were reported in hospitals for treatment of COVID-19, the 10th consecutive day a new high has been set in Texas.

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SEATTLE — Washington state officials say everyone over 70 years old and anyone over 50 who lives in a multigenerational household will be the next priorities for coronavirus vaccinations in the state.

The state Department of Health made that announcement Wednesday in an online media briefing.

Newly installed Secretary Umair Shah reiterated that Washington remains in the first phase of vaccine distribution, with high-risk health care workers, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities first in line. But he says that within two to three weeks, the state should be able to move to the next phase focusing on the state’s older residents.

So far, state officials have administered 126,602 of the 522,550 doses the state has received.

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NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans officials say they will forbid most public gatherings or special events involving people who are not members of the same household beginning Friday.

It’s a tightening of current restrictions that limit indoor special events to 75 people and outdoor events to 150. The tightening of coronavirus restrictions announced Wednesday also will limit occupancy at businesses to 25%.

The harsher restrictions take effect Friday at 6 a.m.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and city health director Jennifer Avegno say the changes are being made because the percentage of positive coronavirus test results has doubled in about one week, surpassing 10%. Rising positivity rates had already led to a shutdown of indoor bar service last week in the city.

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MONTREAL — Quebec’s premier is imposing a provincewide 8 p.m. curfew beginning Saturday as a way to curb surging coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

The province will become the first in Canada to impose a curfew for addressing the pandemic.

Premier Francois Legault spoke of the need to take drastic action as he announced a four-week curfew prohibiting people from leaving their homes between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they are going to work.

He says officials have concluded the virus is being spread through gatherings in residences, and the curfew is meant to prevent that.

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JERUSALEM — The Israeli Cabinet has agreed to tighten a lockdown in hopes of slowing a raging coronavirus outbreak.

Most schools and businesses will be closed, public gatherings restricted and public transportation limited for a two-week period beginning at midnight Thursday night. Thousands of police are expected to be deployed to enforce the closure.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the decision late Wednesday.

Israel has jumped out to a fast start in vaccinating its population, inoculating 15% of its 9 million people in just over two weeks. But at the same time, it is facing one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus infections.

Israel’s Health Ministry has reported over 462,000 cases of the coronavirus, including more than 8,000 new cases on Wednesday. It also has reported over 3,500 deaths.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday announced a three-week extension of a 10 p.m. curfew aimed at helping slow the spread of the coronavirus as some counties experienced a bumpy rollout of vaccines for residents over age 75.

As the state moved beyond healthcare workers and those in nursing homes and shifted to the new phase of vaccine distribution for certain elderly members of the general public, some sites quickly ran out of supplies or experienced long lines or crowds.

Not all counties had begun the new phase because key healthcare workers who regularly come into contact with COVID-19 haven’t all had the opportunity to get their first dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

At a time when data from the state Department of Health and Human Services shows 96 of North Carolina’s 100 counties with substantial or critical community spread, Cooper warned residents to remain vigilant.

“No matter where you live, work, worship or play, COVID-19 remains a deadly threat, and we’ve got to treat it that way,” Cooper said.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida began converting one of its major testing locations into a vaccination site and Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that residents over 65 should be soon able to receive a shot at other large-scale venues, churches, and even some grocery stores around the state.

DeSantis spoke at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, and some first responders were vaccinated. He called Wednesday a “soft opening” that will last a few days until the site opens to the regular public.

More than 329,000 people have been vaccinated in Florida — or about 1.5% of the population — almost all of them either health care workers, residents in care homes, or people over the age of 65.

“We believe putting seniors first is the right policy as a matter of public health,” DeSantis said.

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The drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens both said Wednesday that they expect to finish delivering the first round of COVID-19 vaccine doses at nursing homes on schedule by January 25.

CVS said it was roughly halfway done as of Tuesday. It is working with 7,822 nursing homes nationwide and had completed nearly 4,000 first-dose clinics.

All told, CVS said it has administered 351,231 vaccines in nursing homes as of Tuesday, including nearly 30,000 in big states like California and Florida.

There are more than 15,000 nursing homes nationally, and the drugstore chains focused first on vaccinating at those locations in part because residents there are more vulnerable and require more care than people staying at other long-term care locations.

CVS and Walgreens also are expanding their vaccine delivery into those other locations, which include assisted living facilities. CVS said it has completed nearly 700 first-dose clinics at those locations and administered more than 26,000 shots.

But the drugstore chain said it was still waiting on eight states — Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin — to set start dates before it can begin working in those locations.

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BOISE, Idaho — An 87-year-old south-central Idaho man has filed a federal lawsuit against Republican Gov. Brad Little and the state’s health department seeking to force the state to put people 65 and over at the front of the line for the coronavirus vaccination.

Richard Byrd of Rogerson in the lawsuit filed Monday says it’s a life-and-death issue for older people who tend to die at much higher rates than younger people if they get COVID-19.

Byrd contends denying him access to the vaccine immediately is a violation of his rights under the U.S. Constitution. The Idaho attorney general’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin was released from a hospital Wednesday after being treated for COVID-19 and planned to continue recovering from the illness and quarantining at home.

Woodfin, 39, was admitted to Princeton Baptist Medical Center on Monday with pneumonia in his left lung caused by COVID-19. He said a grandmother who died of the illness caused by the new coronavirus was being laid to rest as he was being discharged.

“That pains me. I can’t be there, and I miss her. She was 87 years old and she died of COVID-19,” he said in a statement. “If you don’t have to be out, don’t be out. Wash your hands. Wear your masks and practice social distancing.”

Woodfin received Remdesivir and convalescent plasma therapy during his stay in the hospital.

Woodfin fell ill at the same time three other Alabama mayors from Auburn, Decatur and Florence were fighting the illness.

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Mission, Kan. — Kansas State University has warned that the spring semester could begin online because the coronavirus continues to rage in the surrounding community and statewide.

President Richard Myers said in a written statement that the COVID-19 indicators the university monitors to make decisions are “not moving in a positive direction.”

The number of cases in Kansas rose by 5,501 from Monday to 236,818, and the number of deaths jumped by 130 to 3,027.

Jon Rolph, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents who leads a state regional COVID-19 reporting effort, said intensive care unit beds in hospitals that can handle acute-care patients are “at a premium right now.”

At Labette Health in southeast Kansas, staff members are growing fatigued after months of fighting the virus and extra staff have been brought in to help, said CEO Brian Williams.

Williams, an Army veteran said the ICU sometimes resembles a front-line battlefield. “I think we naively in the beginning assumed we wouldn’t lose any COVID patients, that we were that good, our ICU nurses were that good,” he said. “I think it is hurtful when reality sets in.”

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CHICAGO — Illinois will make COVID-19 vaccinations available to residents age 65 and older in the next inoculation phase.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave the update Wednesday as Illinois neared 1 million infections. The age is lower than a government advisory panel’s recommendation of 75.

Pritzker says it was lowered to make the process more equitable, citing data showing elderly Black and Latino residents die younger from COVID-19.

Currently, workers in health care and long-term facilities are eligible, representing roughly 850,000 people.

The next phase, expected to begin in weeks, includes elderly residents and essential workers. Roughly 3.2 million people will be eligible in that phase.

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COVID deaths rise to 53 in Northern Health – Prince George Citizen

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One more person in the Northern Health region has died from COVID-19, according to B.C. Centre for Disease Control numbers issued Tuesday.

The fatality increased the total to 53 in the region since the pandemic broke out and was among 12 deaths reported province-wide, increasing that total to 1,090 deaths. Seven of those new deaths were in Fraser Health, raising the total there to 611.

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Active cases in Northern Health stood at 525, down by six from the day before, with 40 in hospital, no change from Monday, and 17 of them in intensive care, up by one.

For B.C. as a whole, active cases rose by six to 4,331, with Fraser Health accounting for 1,737, up 34, and Vancouver Coastal 818, down 35. Interior Health stood at 1,055, Vancouver Island at 184 and out of Canada at 12 with marginal changes in those totals from Monday.

Meanwhile, Northern Health reported a new exposure D.P. Todd Secondary School. It is for Jan. 11-12 and is the second time the school has been put on the list.

“If your child’s school has been notified of an exposure, no action is required unless you are contacted by Public Health or are otherwise directed by school officials,” Northern Health says in the posting. “Public Health will contact you directly in case of any school exposure involving your child.”

In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix stressed good practices while people wait for the vaccine rollout.

“The vaccines are our path forward to the brighter days ahead. However, until that path is wide enough for everyone, we must continue to focus on our individual efforts,” they said.

“To get to the finish line faster and to make our communities safer, we must stop the spread in our communities today. We do that by following the measures we have in place: washing our hands, staying home when we are ill, getting tested and always using our layers of protection.

“Let’s choose safety by continuing to do our part to protect everyone in our province.”

Also on Tuesday, Dix said B.C. is still on track to begin administering second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine despite the news that no vials will be delivered to Canada next week.

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COVID-19 update: B.C.'s health ministry to reveal latest new cases, deaths, outbreaks – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
British Columbia reported another 465 cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths related to the disease on Tuesday.

The province has now recorded a total of 61,912 coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic and 1,090 fatalities.

In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix offered condolences to “everyone who lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Another 443 people have recovered from the disease since B.C.’s last update, leaving 4,331 active cases across the province.

That includes 329 patients in hospital, 70 of whom are in intensive care.

The province has seen an average of 479 cases per day over the last week, which is similar to the number of infections that were being identified at end of December.

The rolling seven-day average increased to 582 cases per day after the first week of January, but has been gradually decreasing since.

Tuesday’s COVID-19 update came hours after the federal government confirmed Canada would not be receiving any new shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week. The country received 82 per cent of its expected shipment this week as a result of previously announced delays.

B.C. was expecting to receive about 5,800 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, though Dix said the province still expects to be able to deliver second doses as scheduled.

Health officials have decided on a 35-day interval between doses, and Wednesday will mark 36 days from when B.C. began administering its first shots.

The province should be receiving 25,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine per week after the shortage ends, according to Dix.

While British Columbians await their turn to get immunized against COVID-19, Henry and Dix stressed the need to continue their individual efforts to limit the spread of the disease.

“To get to the finish line faster and to make our communities safer, we must stop the spread in our communities today. We do that by following the measures we have in place: washing our hands, staying home when we are ill, getting tested and always using our layers of protection,” they said.

“Let’s choose safety by continuing to do our part to protect everyone in our province.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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City of Winnipeg allowed employees to use its gyms during code red – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
The City of Winnipeg has been allowing its employees to use gyms and fitness centres at its facilities amid code red restrictions due to an exemption for governments in health orders.

The City of Winnipeg confirmed to CTV News on Tuesday evening that fitness facilities in Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and Winnipeg Police Service stations, along with six other facilities, have been open and operating for city employees only under a reduced capacity limit.

The city said these centres were used predominantly by first responders working in or near the buildings.

Under current health orders that have been in place in Manitoba since Nov. 12, all indoor sporting or recreational facilities, including gyms and fitness facilities, must be closed. Though some restrictions are expected to be eased when health orders expire on Friday, the province said gyms and fitness centres will be required to remain closed for now.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said while the City of Winnipeg was not specifically given permission to operate its in-house gyms, the health orders that required gyms and fitness centres to close do not apply to any level of government.

“We expect governments to be able to regulate and so we’re not going to tell governments how they function,” Roussin said. “If they feel that they could have limited capacity and run these gyms for their employees for certain reasons, then we’re not regulating that.”

Roussin said if gyms and fitness centres were allowed to open across Manitoba, it could cause cases to spike.

He said he was aware that health inspectors visited some of the gyms operating at City of Winnipeg facilities, and found them safe.

Transcona Coun. Shawn Nason blew the whistle on social media about the city’s operation of fitness centres during code red restrictions.

“I’m disappointed in myself for being so distracted with the business at City Hall to have not raised the issue sooner than when I became aware today that the City was not covered under the blanket rules assigned by (the) Province,” Nason said in a statement to CTV News.

“Even though I didn’t access the gym at any time during the Code Red restrictions, we should respect the provincial orders and align ourselves with so many that have had to shutter their businesses due (to) this unprecedented time.”

A spokesperson for the city told CTV News the city was not aware until today that it was being allowed to operate its fitness centres solely because it is a municipal government.

“Several months ago, we sought clarification from provincial public health officials on whether fitness facilities within civic workplaces accessible only to, and for City employees, could remain open,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“The province advised us that these facilities could in fact continue to operate provided posted capacity limits and physical guidelines were maintained and adhered to.”

Despite the exemption, they said effective immediately the city is closing its employee fitness centres.

Fitness centres at Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and Winnipeg Police Service stations will continue to operate because “mandatory fitness standards are a requirement of first responders’ jobs.”

“We will continue to encourage our employees to explore alternative ways of maintaining their physical health while adhering to public health guidelines,” they said.

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