The Latest: N Korea says it still has no coronavirus cases
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea continues to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organization.
In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the WHO says North Korea has reported that it tested 23,121 people for the coronavirus as of April 1 and that all results were negative.
Outsiders have expressed doubt about whether North Korea has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline.
During the pandemic, North Korea has severely limited cross-border traffic, banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and mobilized health workers for quarantines of tens of thousands of people who showed symptoms.
North Korea this week became the first country to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics because of coronavirus fears.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Biden: All U.S. adults eligible for vaccines by April 19
— Most kids with serious inflammatory illness had mild COVID-19
— Spain prepares vaccine rollout surge as supplies gather pace
— California plans to lift mos t pandemic restrictions June 15
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported its highest daily jump in new coronavirus cases in nearly three months as concerns grow about another huge wave of the virus as the country wrestles with a slow vaccine rollout.
The 668 infections reported Wednesday were the most since Jan. 8 when officials reported 674 new cases. Since the pandemic began, South Korea has had 106,898 confirmed cases, with 1,756 deaths related to COVID-19.
South Korea had been struggling to keep transmissions under control following a major winter surge that erased months of hard-won gains.
There is also concern over the pace of the country’s vaccine rollout that is slower than many other developed economies after officials insisted on a wait-and-see approach because the outbreak wasn’t as dire as in America and Europe.
HONOLULU — The University of Hawaii is placing 81 football players in quarantine after eight players tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week.
The school says most players will quarantine at their places of residence. Thirteen players who live on campus will move off-campus temporarily. None of the eight who have tested positive live on campus or have in-person classes this semester.
The team started a month-long spring practice March 25. But the team will put practice on hold until April 14, when the quarantine is finished. A total of 33 student-athletes at the school have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2020.
PHOENIX — Arizona’s attorney general has issued a new opinion saying that Pima County can continue to enforce its pandemic face mask mandate in spite of Gov. Doug Ducey’s order blocking such local rules.
Tuesday’s opinion from Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office says the governor could order the state health department to issue rules barring local mandates.
Or the governor could ignore the opinion and try to enforce his executive order on his own.
The developments come as Arizona’s daily rate of new confirmed coronavirus infections continues to creep upward , though the daily rate of COVID-19 deaths is down.
BOZEMAN, Mont. — The wife of Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for a coronavirus infection a day after her husband announced he has COVID-19.
The governor’s office announced the results of Susan Gianforte’s test Tuesday. On Monday evening, the office reported the governor was tested after experiencing unspecified symptoms Sunday.
The governor has notified his close contacts since his last public event Thursday, including a staff member, a member of his security detail, family members and friends with whom he had dinner. Twenty-five members of the governor’s staff have been tested and all received negative results.
The Gianfortes plan to isolate for 10 days on the advice of doctors and public health guidance. The governor will be working from their home in Bozeman.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is joining other Republican governors who are speaking against so-called coronavirus vaccine passports, which are being developed in some areas to let inoculated people travel, shop and dine more freely.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Lee said: “I think vaccine passports are a bad idea. I do not believe that government should impose vaccine requirements or mandates in any way.”
The governor is urging Tennessee’s General Assembly to advance legislation this year to prohibit such requirements.
Lee adds that he hopes private businesses don’t impose vaccine passport mandates, but says he doesn’t believe “that government should impose itself in the private affairs of business practices.”
PHILADELPHIA — Coronavirus vaccinations in Philadelphia will be open to anyone 16 and older starting April 19, but city health officials are still asking younger healthy adults to wait to schedule appointments.
The city’s health commissioner announced the moved-up date for opening vaccines to the general public Tuesday.
Department officials had said previously that they wanted to wait until May 1 because they worried younger, tech-savvy Philadelphians would schedule appointments quickly, making it more difficult for those at most risk from COVID-19 to find appointments.
The announcement came a day after Philadelphia opened vaccinations to the last of its priority groups, which includes sanitation workers, postal workers and others.
SANTIAGO, Chile — With new COVID-19 infections rising and hospital space critical, Chilean lawmakers approved postponing an election to select an assembly tasked with rewriting the country’s dictatorship-era constitution.
Under the approval Tuesday, the assembly election, along with local and gubernatorial elections, will be postponed until mid-May.
The elections had been originally scheduled for April 10-11, but with Chile experiencing the worst days since the arrival of the pandemic and intensive care units at 96% capacity, President Sebastián Piñera proposed delaying voting until May 15-16.
In an Oct. 25 plebiscite, nearly 80% of Chilean voters supported seating an assembly to rewrite the constitution inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet when the South American country returned to democracy.
Delays in approving the postponement of next weekend’s voting came after the opposition conditioned their acceptance of the proposal on expanding pandemic economic aid to more vulnerable groups and parts of the middle class.
SAN FRANCISCO — California plans to lift most coronavirus restrictions on businesses and workplaces June 15, with officials saying enough people should be vaccinated by then to allow for life to almost get back to a pre-pandemic normal.
Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Tuesday that the mask mandate in the nation’s most populated state will remain in effect and cautioned that California will reopen more widely in mid-June only if vaccine supply remains sufficient and hospitalization rates remain stable and low.
The announcement comes as states across the country have lifted health restrictions as more people get vaccinated.
California had some of the nation’s strictest pandemic rules, becoming the first to institute a statewide stay-at-home order last spring and adopting a complex, color-coded tier system that dictated which businesses could open and at what capacity depending on how widespread the virus was in a county.
Businesses can open with “common-sense risk reduction measures,” including mandated masking and encouraging vaccinations. The state will continue contact tracing and testing. Ghaly says most capacity limits will be lifted, although large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed only with testing or vaccination verification requirements.
TORONTO — Schools in Canada’s largest city will shut down Wednesday and move to online learning because of a third surge of coronavirus infections fueled by more contagious virus variants.
Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa says stronger public health measures are needed to reverse the surge. Ontario is seeing more than 3,000 new infections a day in recent days.
Toronto has one of the largest school boards in North America. Local health officials made the decision after the province declined to act. Ontario Premier Doug Ford says schools are safe.
The closures will be reevaluated later this month.
ANKARA, Turkey — The daily coronavirus cases hit a record of nearly 50,000 in Turkey on Tuesday.
The Health Ministry reported 49,685 confirmed single-day cases. The number of daily deaths also reached the highest level this year, with 211 confirmed in the past 24 hours.
Infections in this country of 84 million have surged since the government eased restrictions at the start of March.
Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced renewed weekend lockdowns and the closure of cafes and restaurants for all but take out service during the Islamic month of Ramadan, which begins on April 13.
However, health groups say the measures are not strong enough to stem the spike.
About 75% of the infections in Turkey have been traced to the more contagious variant first identified in Britain, according to the health ministry.
LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer got her first coronavirus vaccine shot, touting it as the most effective way to protect people and return Michigan to normalcy.
The 49-year-old governor was vaccinated with the Pfizer shot Tuesday at Ford Field’s mass clinic alongside her 19-year-old daughter, Sherry, a day after eligibility expanded to age 16 and older.
The state is experiencing the nation’s highest rate of coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, which the governor — who doesn’t plan to tighten restrictions — blames on pandemic fatigue and more contagious variants. One in 213 people was diagnosed with the coronavirus in the past week.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also joined the list of state leaders who have received their COVID-19 shots.
The Republican governor got his first dose of the vaccine at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Tuesday afternoon, receiving a dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
The 64-year-old Baker has repeatedly said that he would not move to the head of the vaccination line, but would instead wait until he was eligible under federal guidelines.
Massachusetts on Monday opened vaccine eligibility to residents 55 and older, as well as to all adults with one of several medical conditions that puts them at greater risk from the disease.
ROME — Restaurant owners and others frustrated by weeks pandemic lockdown have clashed with police during a protest outside Parliament in Rome.
Italian media reports say one officer was injured on Tuesday. Many in the crowd of a few hundred protests lowered their protective masks to shout “Work!” and “Freedom!”
Dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and cafes are currently banned under government measures through at least April. Only takeout or delivery services are permitted. Officers charged the protesters after they tried to breach a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined the protest, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
A surge in infections, driven mainly by virus variants, has produced daily caseloads in the tens of thousands and hundreds of COVID-19 deaths a day for months.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president announced a deal to buy 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the contract marks a “very important day for Ukraine.” He didn’t say when the deliveries will be made to the country of 41 million.
Authorities in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, tightened lockdown restrictions on Monday, closing all schools and kindergartens for two weeks and introducing special passes for medics and others using public transport.
Ukraine began vaccinations against the coronavirus in late February, after receiving 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Last month, the country also received 215,000 doses of a shot developed by Sinovac.
So far, only about 305,000 people have received the shots amid widespread public reluctance.
WASHINGTON — The White House says more than 28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be delivered to states this week.
White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients made the announcement Tuesday during a weekly conference call with the nation’s governors. The allocation brings the total amount of vaccine distributed over the past three weeks to more than 90 million doses.
Vice President Kamala Harris joined the call from Chicago, where she is traveling Tuesday to promote equity in the distribution of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Harris discussed the administration’s response and highlighted President Joe Biden’s upcoming announcement that 150 million shots in arms have been administered since he took office. All adults will be eligible to receive a vaccine by April 19.