The Latest: India vaccinates 2 million health workers
NEW DELHI — India has vaccinated 2 million health workers in less than two weeks and recorded 12,689 new coronavirus positive cases in the past 24 hours, a sharp decline from a peak level of nearly 100,000 in mid-September.
The health Ministry said the daily new cases had fallen below 10,000 on Tuesday with 9,102 cases. The daily new positive cases were 9,304 on June 4 last year.
India’s fatalities dropped to 137 in the past 24 hours from a peak level of 1,089 daily deaths in September. India’s total positive cases since the start of the epidemic have reached 10.6 million, the second highest after the United States with 25.43 million cases.
India started inoculating health workers on Jan. 16 in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. Authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Vaccine appointments canceled in U.S. amid confusion over supply.
— U.K. is first country in Europe to pass 100K deaths.
— EU demands vaccine makers honor their commitments.
— Virus variant brings new dimension to Europe’s pandemic fight.
— Some hospitals near capacity in hard-hit areas as Indonesia hits 1 million virus cases.
— Taiwan quarantines 5,000 people while looking for source of hospital cluster.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported new 559 cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily increase in 10 days, as health workers scrambled to slow transmissions at religious facilities, which have been a major source of infections throughout the pandemic.
The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday brought the national caseload to 76,429, including 1,378 deaths.
The agency said 112 of the new cases came from the southwestern city of Gwangju where more than 100 infections have so far been linked to a missionary training school. An affiliated facility in the central city of Daejeon has been linked to more 170 infections.
Nearly 300 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where infections have been tied to various places, including churches, restaurants, schools and offices.
The country throughout the pandemic has repeatedly seen huge infection clusters emerge from religious groups, including more than 5,000 infections tied to the secretive Shincheonji Church of Jesus that drove a major outbreak in the southeastern region in spring last year.
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska has detected the state’s first known case of the coronavirus variant identified last year in the United Kingdom, officials said Tuesday.
The infected person is an Anchorage resident who had traveled to a state where the variant had already been detected, the Alaska health department said. The person first experienced symptoms on Dec. 17, was tested three days later and received a positive result on Dec. 22.
The resident lived with another person in Anchorage, who also became ill. Both isolated and have since recovered, officials said.
It was not yet clear if the second person also was infected with the variant.
Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, said in a news release that the discovery of the variant is not surprising because viruses “constantly change through mutation.”
He said this is one of several “variants that has been carefully tracked because it appears to spread more easily and quickly than other strains of the virus.”
Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said it is likely the variant will be detected again soon.
BOSTON — In his annual State of the Commonwealth address, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker defended his vaccine distribution plan, which some have criticized for being confusing and too narrowly focused at first.
Baker said the state is prepared to distribute and administer all the vaccine shots delivered by the federal government and is rapidly expanding the number of vaccination sites.
“Vaccinating 4 million adults in Massachusetts as the doses are allocated by the federal government is not going to be easy. But be assured that we will make every effort to get this done as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said. “We can only move as fast as the federal government delivers the vaccines.”
SEATTLE – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday touted big improvements in distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, but he also urged residents to remain vigilant as new, more contagious variants of the disease spread in the state.
Inslee said more than 36,000 doses were administered in Washington on Sunday and 39,000 on Monday — a big jump from about 16,000 a week earlier, and on the way toward the state’s goal of 45,000 per day.
The number of vaccines actually administered could be even higher, given lags in reporting, but as of Monday more than 500,000 doses had been administered statewide, with four mass vaccination sites due to open this week.
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the federal government is boosting vaccine supplies to the states by 16% over the next three weeks, giving states more certainty about upcoming deliveries than the one-week notice the Trump administration had been providing.
ALABAMA — Alabama will receive an additional 10,000 first doses in its upcoming delivery, State Health Officer Scott Harris said, but supply remains the chief obstacle to getting more people vaccinating.
The state which had been receiving about 60,000 first doses each week, but will see that jump to 70,000 in the coming week.
Harris said he was happy to have the increase, although the state had been expecting 112,000 weekly doses based on initial conversations with federal officials last year.
“Yes, it is less than the original 112,000 amount we had expected, but we are glad to see any increase at all,” Harris wrote in a message to The Associated Press.
Harris said Friday that the state has approved nearly 900 pharmacies, doctors’ office and other locations to distribute vaccine, but 500 sites have not distributed any vaccinations because the state doesn’t have doses to give.
“Every state had the idea that they were going to get much more vaccine than they ultimately got,” Harris told reporters during a Friday briefing.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Health providers who have seen their coronavirus vaccine supplies substantially cut or temporarily halted because of the state’s abrupt shift favoring mass vaccination clinics will soon receive more doses, North Carolina’s top public health official said Tuesday.
“This week is going to feel particularly tight, with many providers getting small or no allocations,” Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said at a news conference. “But we know that our providers need as much stability as we can give them in what is a very unstable environment.”
As part of the department’s plan, the state will guarantee 84,000 new first doses of vaccines to counties each week based on population for the next three weeks. The remaining 36,000 weekly doses will be used to balance out distributions to counties and improve access for racial and ethnic minorities.
Cohen and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper have pinned the recent vaccine instability on the federal government. Local officials, in turn, have criticized the state for creating a distribution system it believes is ever-changing, poorly communicated and inequitable.
President Joe Biden’s administration will raise the minimum weekly supply to states over the next three weeks from 8.6 million to 10 million, or by 16%. Cohen said on Tuesday afternoon that it’s not yet clear what North Carolina’s new supply count will be. But with nearly all supplies exhausted and more mass vaccination events forthcoming, thousands of North Carolinians with postponed appointments could see further delays.
TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it would be very worrying if the European Union blocked Canada from getting COVID-19 doses from Europe.
The EU has threatened to impose export controls on vaccines produced within its borders, and warned pharmaceutical companies that have developed coronavirus vaccines with EU aid that it must get its shots on schedule. All of Canada’s vaccines come from Europe.
Trudeau says he spoke to the chief executive of Moderna and he says it was “very clear” that the Canadian contract will be respected. Canada isn’t getting any deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine made in Europe this week, shipments are set to resume next week.
Trudeau says he will work with European allies to ensure there are not any disruptions to the Canadian supply chain.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health regulators announced new steps Tuesday to block imports of Mexican-made hand sanitizers after repeatedly warning that many brands contain dangerous contaminants.
The Food and Drug Administration said U.S. inspectors will now be able to stop any shipment of the products at ports of entry, under a nationwide import alert intended to protect U.S. consumers. Importers will be able to present documentation to show that the products meet U.S. standards
The FDA said nearly 85% of alcohol-based sanitizers from Mexico sampled by agency scientists did not meet U.S. requirements for quality and safety. The FDA said Tuesday there have been reports of hospitalizations and death linked to the sanitizers reported to U.S. poison control centers and state health departments.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is announcing that the U.S. is purchasing an additional 100 million doses each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines for delivery this summer, with the government expecting to be able to deliver enough of the two-dose regimens to states this summer to vaccinate 300 million people.
The additional purchases from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna come as the Biden administration is trying to ramp up vaccine production and states’ capacities to inject them into arms. Biden is also announcing that vaccine deliveries to states and territories will be boosted to at least 10 million doses per week over the next three weeks.
Seeking to address concerns from state and local leaders that supplies have been inconsistent, prompting last-minute cancellations of booked appointments, the White House is also pledging to provide states with firm vaccine allocations three weeks in advance of delivery to allow for accurate planning for injections.
LOS ANGELES — California is revamping its vaccine delivery system mid-stride, centralizing what has been a hodgepodge of county systems and streamlining appointment sign-up, notification and eligibility for its 40 million residents.
The state’s health agency on Tuesday said third-party administrators would take over ordering and distributing vaccine doses with a new state secretary in charge of logistics. The move comes after California faced criticism for a slow rollout as coronavirus cases soared and hospital beds filled up with patients in much of the state.
Residents have been baffled by the varying systems as some counties will vaccinate people 65 and older while others are limited to the more restrictive 75 and up.
WASHINGTON — “Several hundred” White House staffers have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as the Biden administration looks to create a safe workspace for the new president.
Spokesman Kevin Munoz said the White House has provided the first of the two-shot vaccination to those who work on-site and is working toward vaccinating all staffers in the coming weeks.
President Joe Biden completed the two-dose regimen a week before his swearing-in, and Vice President Kamala Harris was given her second shot Tuesday at the National Institutes of Health.
Both she and President Joe Biden got the vaccine live on television to help alleviate public resistance to the vaccine and reassure Americans of its safety.
RALEIGH, N.C. — An increasing number of COVID-19 vaccination sites around the U.S. are canceling appointments because of vaccine shortages.
States are expected to find out their latest weekly allocation of vaccines on Tuesday. The White House plans to hold a call with governors to discuss the vaccine supply.
Governors and top health officials have been concerned about inadequate supplies and the need for more reliable estimates of how much is on the way so that they can plan accordingly.
On Tuesday, the CDC reported just over half of the 41 million doses distributed to states have been put in people’s arms. Some vaccination sites have canceled appointments for first-dose shots. Many are likely holding large quantities of vaccine in reserve to make sure people who have already gotten their first shot receive the required second shot on schedule, three to four weeks later.
SAN DIEGO — Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park appear to be recovering weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus, including a silverback who received antibody treatment.
The park’s executive director Lisa Peterson says the eight western lowland gorillas are eating, drinking and active after being exposed by a zookeeper who tested positive for coronavirus in early January.
Peterson says fecal samples from the gorillas are no longer testing positive for the virus. She says some of the gorillas will get the COVID-19 vaccine from a supply made specifically for animals.
NEW YORK — Health officials say evidence continues to mount that it’s generally safe to have in-person schooling if U.S. schools require mask-wearing and other precautions.
The latest study looks at schools in rural Wisconsin and found cases linked to in-school transmission were very low even while infections were common in the same communities.
The Wisconsin study was published online Tuesday by a CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It focused on 17 schools in Wood County in central Wisconsin and found cases were diagnosed at rate 37% lower than reported in the county overall.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Margaret Honein of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other CDC scientists say it’s reassuring that the kind of spread seen in nursing homes and other places hasn’t been noted in schools with prevention measures.
However, they say some extracurricular school-related activities, such as sports, have triggered coronavirus spread in some places.
ATLANTA — A member of the Georgia state House has been removed from the chamber for not abiding by the legislature’s coronavirus testing policy.
Rep. David Clark, a Republican from Buford, was asked to leave the House floor Tuesday morning. Clark refused to leave on his own and had to be escorted out by police.
Members of the legislature undergo testing twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays. Clark told reporters he is abstaining from twice-a-week testing until it is available to everyone in Georgia, particularly teachers and first responders.
A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston issued a statement that didn’t name Clark. It said he had been “advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested at any point during this session.”
LONDON — More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom after contracting the coronavirus.
The health department said 100,162 people have died after testing positive, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday. Britain is the fifth country in the world to pass that mark, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest.
The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s. The U.K. toll is 30,000 more than the total number of British civilians killed during the six years of World War II.