The Latest: 9 nuns at NY convent die from COVID-19 in month
LATHAM, N.Y. — Officials in upstate New York say nine nuns at a convent have died of causes related to COVID-19 in just over a month.
An Albany County spokesperson says in a statement to the Times Union newspaper that officials are aware of the deaths among the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Latham.
WNYT-TV reported earlier in December that 22 sisters had tested positive. The convent’s website says it is home to 140 nuns.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany says the convent is not ready to issue a statement.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— NYC mayor aims for 1 million people vaccinated in January
— Warp Speed effort to vaccinate millions in US off to slow start
— Britain uses ads to urge residents to ‘see in New Year safely at home’
— 2020 is finally ending, but New Year’s Eve revelries around the world will be muted by the coronavirus
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:
TOPEKA, Kan. —- Kansas ranks last among states in its reported COVID-19 vaccination rate, according to U.S. government data, and state officials attribute it to a lag in reporting by providers of the shots.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12,164 people had received the first of two vaccine doses in Kansas as of Wednesday, or 418 for every 100,000 of its 2.9 million residents. The CDC said Kansas had administered less than 11% of the vaccine doses it had received.
The figures sparked new criticism of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic from the Republican-controlled Legislature after months of conflict between her and top GOP lawmakers.
State health department spokeswoman Ashley Jones-Wisner said Thursday the vaccination numbers are not current because not all providers are fully trained on using a computer system for reporting inoculations.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas health secretary Dr. Jose Romero on Thursday extended the 11 p.m. closing time for bars, restaurants and clubs that serve alcohol for 30 days in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
An order issued Thursday by Romero says that in consulting with Gov. Asa Hutchinson it was deemed necessary to extend the 11 p.m. closing until Feb. 3 to help control COVID-19. The previous order issued in November was to expire Sunday.
The state health department reports that as of Wednesday there have been 222,430 total coronavirus cases and 3,637 deaths since the pandemic began.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says it has cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, meaning poorer countries may soon get access to the shot already available in Europe and North America.
Every country that has a drug regulatory agency will have to issue its own approval for any COVID-19 vaccine, but countries with weak systems usually rely on WHO to vet the shots.
The global body said late Thursday that the decision to issue its first emergency use validation for a COVID-19 vaccine “opens the door for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine.”
The U.N. health agency said its review found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has already received clearance in the United States, Britain, the European Union and a dozen other countries, “met the must-have criteria for safety and efficacy set out by WHO.”
The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at ultra-frozen temperatures, a big hurdle for developing countries where the required freezers and reliable electricity supply may not be available.
“This requirement makes the vaccine more challenging to deploy in settings where ultra-cold chain equipment may not be available or reliably accessible,” WHO said, adding that it was “working to support countries in assessing their delivery plans and preparing for use where possible.”
MIAMI — Health authorities are reporting the highest daily jump in COVID-19 cases ever detected in Florida, as the state known for attracting retirees grapples with overwhelming demand for the new vaccine among seniors.
The state’s Department of Health reported on Thursday 17,192 new confirmed cases and 133 new deaths, raising the toll to 21,857.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked anxious seniors for patience citing the vaccine is still in limited supply.
The top state official overseeing the vaccine distribution said the systems set up to sign up for the vaccine in the state “aren’t meeting the moment.”
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is further tightening restrictive measures amid a record surge of new coronavirus infections.
Health Minister Marek Krajci says the new restrictions include a ban on meeting of people from different households, including relatives.
At the same time, ski resorts and churches in this Roman Catholic stronghold have to be closed. People also have to stay inside their counties if they go out and work from home if possible.
Krajci says the new measures become effective on the New Year.
The country of 5.4 million had 179,543 confirmed cases with 2,138 deaths. The day-to-day increase hit a record of 6,315 cases on Wednesday, over 2,000 more than the previous record set on Dec 24.
PARIS — Under fire for a glacially slow rollout of its first coronavirus vaccine shots, France’s government is pledging to pick up the pace, offering quicker inoculation to a broader array of health care workers from next week.
President Emmanuel Macron intervened in what is becoming an increasingly sharp debate about the French start of vaccinations, using his traditional New Year’s address to the nation on Thursday night to promise that he will personally ensure that the program does not drag its heels.
Before Macron spoke, his health minister tweeted that shots would be offered from Monday to health care workers aged 50 and over.
Only a few hundred people were vaccinated in the days after the first shot was injected Sunday into the arm of a 78-year-old in a long-term care facility. Consent requirements have slowed up the process.
Officials are also treading cautiously because of widespread skepticism in France around the safety of the rapidly developed vaccines.
NEW ORLEANS — People 70 and over will be able to get vaccinated against the coronavirus starting next week. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday as he detailed plans for distributing the state’s next shipment of vaccines using a network of pharmacies.
The announcement came one day after the state saw a record one-day total of new coronavirus infections.
Starting next week, a network of about 100 pharmacies will start to receive limited doses of the Moderna vaccine. Seniors 70 and older and certain health care workers will be able to make an appointment at one of the participating pharmacies to get the first of the two-shot vaccine.
Edwards says there are nearly 500,000 people aged 70 and older in the state and stressed that the process will take time.
LOS ANGELES — California has surpassed 25,000 deaths from coronavirus, the third state to reach the number.
New York has nearly 38,000 deaths and Texas has more than 27,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
A surge has swamped hospitals with COVID-19 patients in Southern California and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley. Hospitals are housing patients in hallways, conference rooms, a cafeteria and gift shops. Makeshift hospitals are being set up in tents, arenas and schools.
This week, Los Angeles County had 274 deaths in 24 hours for a record toll of 10,056 deaths. The nation’s most populated county has about 40% of California’s virus deaths.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan’s Big House has been transformed into The Big Vaccine Clinic.
A few hundred University of Michigan medical professionals and students who work in health care settings received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday at Michigan Stadium, one of the nation’s largest sporting venues.
The Michigan Stadium clinic is not open to the public. Those who visited on Thursday’s opening day did so by appointment only and fall into the vaccine priority group Phase 1A category. The university says its employees and students will receive a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose at the football stadium clinic, which hosted up to 100,000 people on football Saturdays and has plenty of parking.
The rollout of vaccines started earlier this month across the state.
Michigan reported more than 4,200 new virus cases Wednesday and 51 deaths. More than 12,000 residents have died since March.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee ends the year ranked first in coronavirus cases per capita.
There were 1,426 cases per 100,000 Tennesseans over the past two weeks, which ranks first in the nation for new cases per capita, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.
Those numbers coupled with delays in the state’s virus vaccination rollout are causing health leaders to stress diligence in social distancing and mask wearing in 2021.
Tennessee allowing people 75 and older to be immunized on Thursday and resulted in long lines.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis skipped a New Year’s Eve thanksgiving prayer service because of back pain and acknowledged some might question why give thanks during a pandemic.
A Vatican cardinal stood in for the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday evening and read aloud the homily that Francis had prepared before a bout of sciatica forced him to scrap the appearance.
Francis encouraged those trying to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all its death and suffering, to instead summon up compassion to take care of those in need. He offered thanks for doctors, nurses and volunteers on the front lines in caring for patients. Francis also expressed gratitude to school officials and teachers.
JOHANNESBURG — Many South Africans will light candles to mark New Year’s Eve amid coronavirus restrictions, including a nighttime curfew and a ban on liquor sales.
Instead of ushering in 2021 at packed events with dance music and fireworks, many South Africans are responding to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to light a candle to honor those who have died and the health workers who are on the frontline of battling the disease.
South Africa’s current resurgence of the coronavirus is fueled by a new, possibly more infectious variant. The country announced a record 17,710 new cases and 465 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total cumulative number of cases to more than 1 million and 28,033 confirmed deaths.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will broadcast a candle lighting ceremony from a hospital in Durban. The mayor of Johannesburg will light a candle at the city’s Nelson Mandela bridge.
NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has set an ambitious goal of vaccinating 1 million residents with the coronavirus vaccine in January.
The mayor noted Thursday that meeting the target would require outside cooperation and the city dramatically increasing access to the vaccine. Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi says officials want to double citywide access points to at least 250 sites. Those would include hospitals, community health centers and urgent care clinics.
The city also plans to double its 150,000-dose-a-week capacity during January. The city has vaccinated 88,000 people since doses became available Dec. 14.
While there won’t be crowds of cheering spectators in New York City’s Times Square, de Blasio vowed “it’s going to be a joyous night, if ever there was one.”
“Goodbye, 2020. Here comes something better: 2021,” the Democrat added, reflecting on a year when the U.S.’ most populous city became an epicenter of the pandemic in spring and has tallied over 25,000 deaths from the virus to date.
ATLANTA — People exposed to a coronavirus patient who stay well for 10 days still have a 7% chance of getting sick, but a U.S. government recommendation on shorter quarantines is not changing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday published results of a study of 185 households in Tennessee and Wisconsin where a person in the house had the coronavirus.
The study shows 7% of household contacts who did not have symptoms and tested negative through 10 days of quarantine went on to have symptoms and a positive test within the next four days.
The CDC says people who leave quarantine before 14 days should avoid close contact and wear masks when around others.
The CDC in early December shortened its quarantine recommendation from 14 days to 10 days, or 7 days with a negative test result. At the time, health officials said shorter quarantines would get more people to comply.
The study is based on households in Nashville, Tennessee, and Marshfield, Wisconsin. People in the study kept track of their symptoms and collected nasal swab samples for testing.
PARIS — French health authorities are reporting the country’s first coronavirus infection with the more contagious 501.V2 variant from South Africa that has driven its surge in cases.
A Health Ministry statement Thursday said the infected man lives in eastern France close to its border with Switzerland and tested positive after a trip to South Africa. The man self-isolated and is now recovered. No contact cases were discovered.
The South African variant is considered more infectious than the original and may have fueled an infection spike there past 1 million confirmed cases.
France requires travelers from South Africa to produce proof of a negative test no older than 3 days. France has recorded more than 64,000 deaths from the coronavirus, the seventh-highest death toll in the world. The U.S. leads with more than 343,000 dead.
ROME – Italy recorded 23,477 confirmed cases on Thursday, the highest in nearly a month.
That’s nearly 7,300 more than the previous day. There were just under 17,000 more swab tests done in the last 24 hours compared to the previous day.
Italy has reached 2.1 million confirmed cases. There were 555 confirmed deaths recorded on the final day of the year, raising the total to 74,159. That’s the fifth-highest death toll in the world, and highest in Europe.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian media says the country is negotiating the purchase of coronavirus vaccines from China.
The semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi as saying: “We are reaching agreement with China for buying 4 million doses.”
Vaezi said the process would take around two months. Iran has already discussed buying vaccines from both Russia and India. China on Thursday authorized the Sinopharm vaccine for general use, after it had already approved its use earlier to health care professionals and essential workers under emergency-use guidelines.
Vaezi said Iran will also buy 16.5 vaccines from COVAX, the global vaccine consortium.
Iran on Tuesday began the first study of the safety and effectiveness of Coviran, the country’s first home-made coronavirus vaccine.
Also Thursday, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said Iran and Cuba are working together on a vaccine and would test its safety and effectiveness on 50,000 volunteers in February.
Iran has 1.2 million confirmed cases and more than 55,000 confirmed deaths.