MADRID — Spain’s health minister says the European country has detected 11 cases of the new strain of the coronavirus first identified in India.
Minister Carolina Darias says the cases were two separate outbreaks discovered by health officials in recent days.
She added a plane carrying medical supplies, including oxygen and breathing machines, for hard-hit India will leave on Thursday. Last week, Spain’s government approved a shipment of seven tons of medical supplies to help India combat it surging wave of infections.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— U.S. virus toll projected to drop by end of July
— Canada approves Pfizer vaccine for ages 12 and older
— India’s virus surge damaging PM Narendra Modi’s tailored image of competence
— Professor helps students craft online multilingual coronavirus brochures
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WOONSOCKET, Rhode Island —CVS Health is now accepting walk-in customers for COVID-19 vaccinations at all 8,300 of its stores that are doling out shots.
The drugstore chain started accepting customers with no appointments this week. It also is offering same-day day appointments, which Walgreens started on Wednesday. Walgreens is also accepting walk-ins and expects to offer vaccines at all 9,200 of its U.S. stores by this weekend.
CVS Health is giving out vaccines at stores in 49 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. The company, which has nearly 10,000 retail locations, said it has given out more than 17 million doses through April.
WASHINGTON — The federal departments of health and housing have launched a joint project to provide coronavirus vaccines to the homeless and people living in low-income neighborhoods and subsidized housing.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge made the announcement on Wednesday during a visit to Community of Hope. It’s a service organization in an area of the nation’s capital that’s had high rates of coronavirus and relatively low rates of vaccination. The organization runs community health centers while also working to end homelessness among families.
“I think it is past time that this country understands that its government does care about them,” said Fudge, a former Ohio congresswoman. “We have gotten the low-hanging fruit — the people who really want the vaccines —now we have to go and do the next step.”
Becerra, who formerly served as California’s attorney general, says the Biden administration is trying various communication strategies. Those include directly reaching people who lack internet access and enlisting ministers, community leaders and sports figures as vaccination advocates.
NEW YORK — Health experts are projecting the coronavirus toll in the U.S. will wane dramatically by the end of July.
That’s according to research released by the government Wednesday. But health experts also warn a “substantial increase” in hospitalizations and deaths is possible if unvaccinated people don’t follow basic public health guidelines, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper included projections from six different research groups.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky notes the variants of the coronavirus are a “wild card” that could set back progress.
More than 56% of the nation’s adults, or close to 146 million people, have received at one dose of vaccine, and almost 41% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
The CDC is currently reporting an average of about 350,000 new cases each week, 35,000 hospitalizations and more than 4,000 deaths.
The U.S. death toll stands at more than 578,000. A closely watched projection from the University of Washington shows the curve largely flattening out in the coming months, with the toll reaching about 599,000 by Aug. 1.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has directed all state employees to return to in-person work in the office by May 17, after many spent most of the past 14 months working remotely.
Parson’s order, announced Wednesday, also requires all state buildings be open and accessible to the public during normal business hours.
The governor’s office says COVID-19 screening and testing protocols will remain in place and the state is encouraging all employees to consider vaccinations.
The state health department reported 454 new confirmed cases and four more deaths. The state has confirmed 504,069 coronavirus cases and 8,818 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
CAIRO — Egypt says it will impose new restrictive measures amid a spike in coronavirus cases in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madoubly says his government will ban all events, entertainment parties and other gatherings for two weeks, starting Thursday. He says restaurants, shops, cafes and malls and social clubs will close at 9 p.m. every day.
The country’s beaches, parks and other public areas will be closed during the five-day holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The holiday starts on May 12.
The country reported new cases surpassing 1,000 in the past week.
Egypt, with a population of over 100 million people, has registered more than 231,800 confirmed cases and 13,591 deaths.
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s tourism industry saw visitation drop by about 27% last year during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Maine Office of Tourism estimates the total economic impact dipped to about $9 billion from more than $12 billion the year before. A late-summer boost in travel made up for some of the lost ground early in the pandemic.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills praised health and business leaders for lessening the impact of the coronavirus. She says the state’s reputation as a safe place helped draw visitors.
MADISON, Wis. — The coronavirus pandemic caused a 30% decline in direct spending by tourists in Wisconsin in 2020, but officials are optimistic the industry will rebound this year.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, spending dropped about $4 billion last year to $9.8 billion. All of Wisconsin’s 72 counties experienced a decline in tourism activity last year compared to 2019.
Acting Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers says people are scheduling the vacations they missed, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
TORONTO — Canada’s health regulator has authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for ages 12 and older.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada, on Wednesday confirmed the approval of the vaccine for ages 12 to 15.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also is expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for the young by next week, setting up shots for many before the beginning of the next school year.
Preliminary results in late March from a Pfizer study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15 indicated there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 18 among those given dummy shots.
The Pfizer vaccine was previously authorized for anyone 16 or older.
Vaccinations have ramped in Canada, which expects to receive at least 10 million vaccines this month. More than 34% of Canadians have received at least one dose.
GENEVA — Germany and the World Health Organization say the country will set up and host a global monitoring center to help prepare for and prevent future public health threats like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “global hub for pandemic and epidemic intelligence” based in Berlin was announced Wednesday and will be coordinated by WHO. It aims to collect data, monitor risks and help drive innovations.
“The current COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we can only fight pandemics and epidemics together,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying the hub will bring together governmental, academic and private sectors.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the pandemic has “exposed gaps in the global systems for pandemic and epidemic intelligence.”
The hub, which will receive about 30 million euros ($36 million) from Germany and seek funds elsewhere, will build on existing monitoring mechanisms at WHO and elsewhere. Those include the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network and the Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources system.
BANGKOK — Health officials rushed to vaccinate thousands of people in Bangkok’s biggest slum on Wednesday.
Cases have spread through densely populated low-income areas in the capital’s central business district. The government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha is facing mounting criticism for its handling of a surge that began in early April. Thailand recorded 2,112 new cases and 15 deaths on Wednesday.
The country has been logging about 2,000 cases a day and double-digit deaths recently, in the third mass outbreak since the start of the pandemic. Bangkok and other regions have closed bars, parks and other facilities and imposed restrictions on dining out to fight spreading infections.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon has adopted a rule that indefinitely extends coronavirus mask and social distancing requirements for all businesses in the state.
State officials say the rule will be in place until it is “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.”
Last week Oregon recorded the fastest-growing COVID-19 infection rate in the nation. The rule includes requirements and guidelines regarding air flow, ventilation, employee notification in case of an outbreak, and sanitation protocols.
The rule has prompted a flood of angry responses, with everyone from parents to teachers to business owners and employees crying government overreach. Opponents have raised concerns that there is no sunset date or specific metrics for when the rule would automatically be repealed.
Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon’s department of Occupational Safety and Health, says the final rule includes more detail about the process and the criteria used to make the decision to repeal the rule.
So far, about one-third of Oregon’s population has been fully vaccinated.
NEW DELHI — India’s government, facing calls for a strict coronavirus lockdown to slow the devastating surge in infections, has been ordered by the top court to submit a plan on meeting New Delhi hospitals’ oxygen requirements within a day.
India is experiencing a vast coronavirus outbreak, with 382,315 new confirmed cases and 3,780 reported deaths in the last 24 hours, in what is widely believed to be an undercount.
The Supreme Court decided against immediately punishing officials for failing to end a two-week erratic supply of oxygen to overstretched hospitals. The presiding judge said, “Ultimately putting officers in jail or hauling officers for contempt will not bring oxygen. Please tell us steps to solve this.”
The court stayed the contempt notice issued to the government by a lower New Delhi High Court for defying its order on supplying adequate oxygen to more than 40 New Delhi hospitals.
LONDON — India’s foreign minister has pulled out of in-person meetings at a Group of Seven gathering in London because of possible exposure to the coronavirus.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted he was “made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases.” He added out of “abundant caution” he would attend Wednesday’s meetings virtually.
Britain’s Foreign Office didn’t immediately confirm whether any delegates had tested positive. Diplomats from the G-7 group of wealthy nations are meeting in London for their first face-to-face gathering in two years. India is not a G-7 member but was invited along with South Korea, Australia and South Africa to attend the group’s meeting as a guest on Wednesday night.
BELGRADE, Serbia — The Serbian government will offer money to people who have vaccinated as it seeks ways to boost the process.
Serbia has led the way in vaccination in the Balkan region, but interest has recently slumped. The government on Wednesday said it will pay 3,000 dinars (25 euros; $30) of state aid to everyone who received at least one vaccine dose by the end of May.
Previously, authorities have organized vaccination without an appointment and announced vaccination points in some shopping malls in Belgrade.
So far, around 2 million people have received at least one dose of Sinopharm, Pfizer , Sputnik V or AstraZeneca vaccines in the country of some 7 million people.
The government says “vaccination is the only way back to the life we remember before 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic.”
BERLIN — A German military cargo aircraft with a mobile oxygen production unit for India has departed from an airport in northern Germany to help Indian hospitals that are overwhelmed with coronavirus pandemic patients.
The plane will have a layover in Abu Dhabi and is expected to arrive in India on Thursday.
“We’re proud to contribute significantly with our airlift in the global fight against the coronavirus,” German air force Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz told German news agency dpa on Wednesday. ”Air transports are a routine for us but we all know that the fight against this pandemic is about human lives and that every single life counts.”
A team of 13 Germans arrived a few days ago in India already and will stay in the country for two weeks to train local members of the Red Cross in India on how to use the oxygen unit.
A second cargo plane is expected to leave Wunstorf air base on Thursday.