The Latest: California officials on hot seat over dinners

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California’s governor was there. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo went to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor dined outdoors just hours after voting to ban outdoor dining there.

All three local officials were on the hot seat Tuesday after various reports that they violated rules aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus — or at a minimum, violating the spirit of the rules as they repeatedly urged others to stay home.

Breed joined seven others at the three Michelin-starred French Laundry on Nov. 7 to celebrate the 60th birthday of socialite Gorretti Lo Lui, the mayor’s spokesman confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle. She dined in the same kind of partially enclosed indoor/outdoor room Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated in a day earlier.

Newsom, who has appealed to Californians to “do your part” and stay home, apologized when the 12-person dinner was reported, then again when photos emerged showing him, his wife and others sitting close together at the same table without masks.

Breed’s spokesman, Jeff Cretan, called the mayor’s French Laundry dinner a “small family birthday dinner.” He did not immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday inquiring whether the dinner involved more than three different households, which are prohibited under the state’s rules.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— U.S. panel to decide who should get the first COVID-19 shots

— BioNTech and Pfizer ask European regulator for expedited approval of coronavirus vaccine

— Americans face new COVID-19 restrictions after Thanksgiving

— At tiny rural hospitals, exhausted medical workers t reat friends and family

— Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton tests positive for coronavirus

— A pop-up school has blossomed to teach reading, writing, math and art to Central American children living in a camp of asylum seekers stuck at America’s doorstep

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly is trying to address the problem of 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea as a result of COVID-19 by adopting a resolution urging all nations to designate those working on ships as “key workers.”

The resolution adopted by consensus Tuesday by the 193-member world body stresses the very difficult conditions seafarers face at sea which have been exacerbated by the response to the pandemic that has impeded crew changes and repatriation of sailors to their home countries.

Indonesia’s U.N. Ambassador DianTriansyah Djani, who sponsored the resolution, said the work of two million seafarers “who have shown their dedication and professionalism during this crisis, ensuring that world trade and logistics continue to move properly” largely goes unnoticed.

The resolution acknowledged that “shipping has continued to transport more than 80 percent of world trade essential to the normal functioning of society, including vital medical supplies, food and other basic goods that are critical for the COVID-19 response and recovery.”

Djani said travel restrictions imposed by countries as a result of the pandemic “have generated difficulties for crew changes, and prevent the seafarers from embarkation and disembarkation,” resulting in hundreds of thousands stranded at sea. Designating seafarers and other marine personnel as “key workers” would ease their plight, he said.

The International Chamber of Shipping, which represents 80 percent of the world’s merchant fleet, estimated that nearly 400,000 sailors are stranded at sea because of the pandemic, many for more than a year and some for up to 17 months which is far beyond their contracts.

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SALEM, Ore. – Oregon reported 24 more deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high for a single day in the state.

The Oregon Health Authority said the “grim milestone” underscores that people should wear masks, keep physical distance and keep gatherings small. The increase raises the state’s known death toll to 936.

Officials in Silverton, a town east of Salem, are trying to monitor a potential outbreak among firefighters. The situation has underscored a weakness in Oregon’s response to the pandemic: a lack of a system for getting first responders tested rapidly, said Assistant Chief Ed Grambusch of the Silverton Fire District.

A member of the fire district who was taking part in training on Nov. 21 has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Twenty people who were trainees or instructors may have had a high risk exposure.

All have been advised to self-quarantine and get tested. When Grambusch, who coordinates local responses to infectious disease outbreaks, called the Oregon Health Authority, the agency confirmed he needed to talk to Marion County health officials about rapid testing. The county officials told him they don’t know of any such system, Grambusch said.

“The problem is — this is a big frustration of mine — is that we don’t have a system for rapid testing of our first responders,” Grambusch said. “And I’m just not sure why that’s the case. I would hope that we could send an email or make a phone call — one phone call — and send someone in to get a rapid test.”

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky reported record-high numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths Tuesday as the governor warned that the COVID-19 outbreak is “spreading like wildfire.”

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 4,151 more virus cases statewide and 35 additional virus-related deaths. He called it “the very worst day” since he started reporting daily virus numbers in March.

“COVID is spreading like wildfire, taking record numbers of people from us, infecting record numbers of people out there,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference.

Nearly 1,780 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including more than 440 in intensive care — both record numbers in the state, he said. Nearly 250 virus patients are on ventilators.

The statewide rate for positive tests reached 9.59%. Beshear warned that “a huge amount of virus” is spreading rapidly in every Kentucky county.

“Today is a terrible day that shows us how quickly this thing is spreading,” he said.

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JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI — Gov. Tate Reeves instituted mask mandates in 13 more Mississippi counties Tuesday but chose not to implement the measure statewide, a week after several prominent health care leaders called on him to do so.

During a press briefing, the Republican governor said he believes issuing mask requirements in counties with the highest number of new cases will encourage people to take the regulations more seriously than a blanket approach would. A total of 54 out of the state’s 82 counties now have a mask mandate.

“I almost feel like there are those out there who really, truly believe if I were to write an executive order, a statewide prohibition against hurricanes in 2021, that we won’t have any hurricanes,” Reeves said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Reeves instituted a statewide mask mandate in early August, but revoked the measure at the end of September when new coronavirus cases were declining in Mississippi. As cases have risen again in recent weeks, he has begun implementing mask mandates in individual counties.

Four health care leaders have said it’s time for Reeves to go a step further. They wrote a letter to Reeves on Nov. 24 calling for another statewide mask mandate.

“The statewide mask mandate, which was highly effective, needs to be reinstituted,” said a letter signed by Dr. LouAnn Woodward of the University of Mississippi Medical Center; Dr. Anita Henderson, president-elect of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Claude Brunson, executive director of the Mississippi State Medical Association; and Dr. James Griffin Jr., president of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians.

Reeves said Tuesday that he would not comment on the letter, but said he believes a county-by-county approach is best for Mississippi currently.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday called for Congress to approve money for businesses and families struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, but she said there are no plans to use available state funds as officials elsewhere have done.

Some legislatures including Colorado and New Mexico are considering allocating state funds as a stopgap measure until Congress agrees to additional federal relief.

Asked Tuesday whether she was considering calling lawmakers back into session to approve such a move, she said no.

“Unfortunately, there’s just not enough state funding to make everybody whole and that’s just a reality of what we’re dealing with,” Reynolds said. “This is something Congress needs to do. They need to step up and do their job.”

Iowa ended the fiscal year in September with a balance of $305.5 million in the general fund and cash reserves of more than $770 million.

The Iowa coronavirus infection rate showed signs of slowing Tuesday but the number of people hospitalized with illness and dying with COVID-19 remained high, according to public health data.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota is facing a surprising $641 million projected surplus in its current budget, which makes money available for a new coronavirus relief package, but officials cautioned Tuesday that the state is still facing a $1.3 billion shortfall for its next budget.

The not-so-bad projections from Minnesota Management and Budget came as a welcome turnaround from the agency’s last forecast, which was released in May as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold. Back then, it projected a $2.4 billion deficit in the current budget cycle and a $4.7 billion shortfall in the next.

The new forecast is expected to spur negotiations among Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders from both parties on an aid package targeted at struggling small businesses — and possibly workers and families — that lawmakers could approve in a special session sometime later this month if all sides can agree on what should be in it.

MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter and other budget officials said at a briefing that the updated projections are better than May’s partly because tax revenues are running higher than expected. Consumers are shifting their spending amid the pandemic away from services affected by social distancing that aren’t subject to the sales tax, and they’re buying more taxable goods such as electronics and furniture. And the blow to income tax collections was less than expected because lower-income workers, who don’t pay as much in taxes, suffered the most from the recession.

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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest drugmakers developing a vaccine against COVID-19, on Tuesday began the process of applying for emergency approval of its vaccine from the European Medicines Agency and Health Canada.

In what’s called a rolling submission, J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceutical business sent regulators in the EU and Canada early testing data from its experimental one-dose vaccine for preventing COVID-19. Rolling submissions are used to speed up evaluation of crucial drugs by giving regulators data as it becomes available, and while human testing is still ongoing, rather than submitting reams of data at once after testing ends.

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that the European Medicines Agency allowed the rolling submission mainly due to positive results from laboratory testing, which showed the vaccine triggered a robust immune response, creating antibodies that could fight the virus.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company also talking with regulators in other countries around the world about starting rolling reviews with them.

J&J is now in the final phase of testing its one-dose vaccine on human volunteers. Meanwhile, it recently began a second study looking at whether two vaccine doses work better than just one.

The company has said it will provide its vaccine on a not-for-profit basis throughout the pandemic emergency.

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MIAMI — Florida joined Texas and California in surpassing 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday as the governor has vowed not to adopt any further restrictions or impose closures like those enacted in the spring and summer.

Hospitalizations have also climbed in the state with 4,261 COVID-19 patients, up from 4,139 tallied on Monday.

The figure is still less than half what hospitals saw in late July, but it has steadily climbed since October after plateauing at about 2,000 hospitalizations daily for weeks following the summer surge of the virus.

The state’s health department on Tuesday reported 82 new virus deaths, raising the toll in the third-most populous state to at least 18,942 since the beginning of the pandemic.

While vaccines could arrive as early as this month, officials say it will be spring at the earliest before most people can receive the treatment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday on Twitter that the priority for the allocation of the new vaccines should be to residents of long-term care facilities who are “by far the most likely demographic to die with COVID.”

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SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco officials said Tuesday that they are considering more stringent restrictions on businesses and private gatherings as cases continue to spike.

Mayor London Breed said the speed with which the city’s rate climbed showed “how fast (COVID-19) can move.”

She acknowledged the sacrifices people have already made to tamp down two spikes in the spring and summer.

“If I’m honest, as someone who basically lives alone, it’s been a tough year for me personally. … I was so happy to tell everyone just a month ago that San Francisco has done such a good job with COVID that we were in the yellow” tier the state uses to measure case rates.

The city’s health director, Dr. Grant Colfax, said new orders could come as soon as Wednesday that may further limit outdoor dining, reduce capacity at local businesses and gyms and potentially impose a quarantine order like the one Santa Clara County adopted.

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DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis joined the nation’s top infectious disease expert and urged people to wear masks and socially distance to prevent stay-at-home orders and overwhelmed hospitals as cases of the coronavirus surge during the holidays.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Tuesday that Colorado isn’t alone in seeing a spike in cases. He pleaded with people not to travel or gather in large groups.

He said the country will likely see “a surge upon a surge” of cases, based on the number of people who traveled for Thanksgiving. About one in 41 Colorado residents is believed to be contagious with the virus.

Categories: National News