NEW DELHI — India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second-most populous country.India’s drugs regulator gave an emergency authorization for the vaccines developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and another developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech.Drugs Controller General Dr. Venugopal G Somani said both would require two doses and the decision was made after “careful examination” by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, India’s pharmaceutical regulator. Both vaccines are cheaper and easier to use than ones by Pfizer and Moderna since they do not require ultra-cold storage facilities.Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the vaccine approval a “decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight.” “Congratulations India,” Modi tweeted.India's initial immunization plan aims to vaccinate 300 million people — health care workers, front-line staff including police and those considered vulnerable due to their age or other diseases — by August. ___THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— India has approved two COVID-19 vaccines, paving the way for a massive inoculation program — Britain faces mounting pressure from the teachers to keep schools closed in England as it hit a record of more than 57,000 daily coronavirus cases. On Monday, it plans to ramp up vaccinations, using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.— Tokyo's Gov. Yuriko Koike is asking the national government to declare a “state of emergency” to curtail surging coronavirus infections. Concerns are growing ahead of hosting the Olympics in July. — In Ohio, a 95-year-old woman who made 1,700 masks took a short break while she recovered from coronavirus. During World War II, Miriam Looker inspected parachutes for the Army.___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:SYDNEY — More Australian states and territories are reimposing travel restrictions to prevent coronavirus spreading from new outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria states. The Australian Capital Territory has shut out non-residents who have been in the northern beaches of Sydney, where the outbreaks are most concentrated, Greater Sydney and other smaller centers, unless they have an exemption.The island state of Tasmania has barred anyone directly linked to the latest Victorian cases, listing exposure sites where confirmed cases are known to have been. The move followed Tasmania’s declaration of Greater Sydney and the Wollongong area south of Sydney as medium-risk zones, requiring travelers to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, while those from Sydney’s northern beaches are barred from entering.Victoria reported three new cases Sunday. In total, there have been 21 locally acquired Victorian cases over recent days, all linked to the New South Wales outbreak. Victoria’s border is now closed to all travelers from New South Wales.On Sunday, New South Wales recorded eight new local cases. There are 161 active cases in the state, most of them in the northern beaches of Sydney, and 13 emanating from a liquor store.___PHOENIX — Arizona’s Gov. Doug Ducey has rejected the state’s top education official’s call for Ducey to order public schools to use only online instruction for the next two weeks unless they have waivers from health officials.Amid a coronavirus surge in the state, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said Saturday that schools need a two-week “quarantine period” while educators and local officials review health data and decide what type of instruction is appropriate for their communities.A spokesman for the governor said Ducey wouldn’t issue the order because how schools open is a local decision.Arizona on Saturday reported nearly 8,900 additional known COVID-19 cases and 46 deaths.Ducey, a Republican, and Hoffman, a Democrat, were aligned last spring when he ordered schools closed because of the coronavirus, but she voiced reservations later as he urged schools to provide in-person learning. Many schools in Arizona are set to resume classes in the coming week after the winter holidays.___RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina has reported its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases yet.The state reported 9,527 confirmed cases on New Year’s Day. That went over the state’s previous high by more than 1,000 cases. It reported nearly as many on Saturday: 9,356 cases. Cases for both days were released by the state health department on Saturday.“We begin 2021 in our most dangerous position in this pandemic,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health secretary.North Carolina has reported a total of more than 558,000 cases.On Saturday, 15.5% of tests were positive, the highest rate since the start of the pandemic. In addition, a record 3,479 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 783 people were in the intensive care unit. With another 144 deaths reported, the state total came to nearly 6,900.___NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state has recorded more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.New York reached that figure as it reported about 15,000 new positive tests on Friday. Experts say the official number of coronavirus cases represents a significant undercount, since many people in the New York City area were infected with the coronavirus last spring when testing was largely unavailable.New York is the fourth state to report more than 1 million positive COVID-19 tests after California, Texas and Florida.New York reported 128 COVID-19 deaths on Friday.___LOS ANGELES — Hospitals struggling to provide enough oxygen for the sickest coronavirus patients in the Los Angeles area received some relief Saturday when U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crews arrived.Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says crews helped some aging hospitals update their oxygen delivery systems. Besides the shortage of oxygen, they’re also having difficulty keeping with demand for oxygen tanks for discharged patients to take home.The southern half of the state has seen the worst effects, with hospitals swamped with patients and full intensive care units. Makeshift wards are set up in tents, arenas, classrooms and conference rooms.California started the new year with a record 585 coronavirus deaths Friday in a single day. The state Department of Public Health on Saturday reported more than 53,341 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 2.3 million. There’s been 26,357 total confirmed COVID-19 deaths in California.___LONDON — The U.K. has registered a record 57,725 daily coronavirus cases.Government figures show the U.K. has recorded five straight daily highs — all above 50,000 and nearly double the levels of two weeks ago.Also, hospitals in Britain have started receiving batches of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, approved by British regulators this week.Some 530,000 doses of the vaccine will be available for rollout across the country that begins Monday. Nursing home residents and their caretakers, those over 80 and hospital staff are set to receive the first doses.The Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, part of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust in southern England, was among the first to get the vaccine. Dr. George Findlay, the trust’s chief medical officer, says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is “much easier” to administer than the Pfizer-BioNTech, which needs storage at extremely cold temperatures. Second doses of both vaccines will occur within 12 weeks rather than the 21 days initially planned, to increase the number of people who get the first vaccine. More than a million people in the U.K. have received their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine.Britain has seen 74,682 virus-related deaths in the pandemic, the second-highest total in Europe after Italy.___MEXICO CITY — A doctor in northern Mexico had a severe allergic reaction to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine and remains hospitalized in intensive care Saturday. The Health Department didn’t name the doctor, but said she was in stable condition and treated with steroids and anti-convulsion medications. It said late Friday that she suffered difficulty breathing, brain inflammation and convulsions a half-hour after getting the shot. The 32-year-old doctor had a known allergy to an antibiotic medication. ___PHOENIX — Arizona reported nearly 8,900 coronavirus cases, giving the state a two-day pandemic high.There were 10,060 cases reported Friday for a two-day confirmed total of 18,943. The state’s previous two-day high was 17,649 on Dec. 13-14.Arizona reported 46 deaths on Saturday, increasing the total death toll to 9,061.Arizona had the second-worst diagnosing rate in the past week, behind only California.___WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation has reported 266 confirmed coronavirus cases and seven more deaths.The figures reported late Friday increased the tribe’s totals since the pandemic began to 23,429 cases and 813 confirmed deaths.The number of infections is considered far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.The tribe’s reservation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The reservation was under a weekend lockdown that began Friday evening and ends Monday at 5 a.m.___LOS ANGELES — Southern California funeral homes are turning away bereaved families because they’re running out of space for the bodies.The head of the California Funeral Directors Association says mortuaries are being “inundated.”One funeral home is averaging 30 body removals a day, about five times more than usual. Mortuary owners are calling each other to see if anyone can handle overflow, and the answer is always the same - they’re full.Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis in California, has surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths. On Friday, California reported a record 585 coronavirus deaths.___ATHENS, Greece — Greece has tightened its lockdown for the next week, closing retail shops, hairdressers and bookshops.The restrictions come as the government plans to open all schools, from kindergarten to universities, on Jan. 11.Churches will remain closed and won’t celebrate the annual Epiphany holiday on Jan. 6, nor will priests conduct the traditional blessing of the waters. Also, the nightly curfew will start at 9 p.m. The new rules take effect Sunday and run until Jan. 11.Greece announced 40 deaths and 262 new coronavirus infections on Saturday.There have been 139,709 confirmed infections and 4,921 deaths since the start of the pandemic.___VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says it expects to start administering COVID-19 vaccinations in mid-January. A statement on Saturday says vaccines, “enough to cover the needs of the Holy See and of Vatican City State."The brief statement didn’t say if 84-year-old Pope Francis would be getting the vaccine. But it specified priority would go to Vatican health and security workers, to the elderly and to “the personnel most frequently in contact with the public.” Some 450 people, including the Swiss Guards, reside in Vatican City, while many others work in its offices, museums and other facilities. Vatican City has registered at least 27 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Some cases last fall included Swiss Guards, who generally attend events with the Pope.
TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) confirmed Sunday four new imported cases of COVID-19 in Taiwan. Those four...
NEW DELHI (AP) — India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second most populous country.India’s drugs regulator gave an emergency authorization for the vaccines developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and another developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech.Drugs Controller General Dr. Venugopal G Somani said that both vaccines will be administered in two dosages.The country’s initial immunization plan aims to vaccinate 300 million people — health care workers, front-line staff including police and those considered vulnerable due to their age or other diseases — by August 2021.The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company, has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses for developing nations, including India. On Friday, Britain became the first to approve the shot.The other vaccine known as COVAXIN is developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with government agencies and is based on an inactivated form of the coronavirus. The company has completed only two of three trial phases. The third, which tests for efficacy, began in mid-November. Early clinical studies showed that the vaccine doesn’t have any serious side effects and produces antibodies for COVID-19.India, with nearly 1.4 billion people, is the second-worst affected by the coronavirus after the U.S., with over 10.3 million confirmed cases and 149,435 deaths, though its rate of infection has come down significantly from a mid-September peak.An application for a vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. is still being reviewed.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is preparing to convene for the start of a new session, swearing in lawmakers during a tumultuous period as a relative handful of Republicans work to overturn Joe Biden's victory over President Donald Trump and the coronavirus surge imposes limits at the Capitol.Democrat Nancy Pelosi is set Sunday to be reelected as House speaker by her party, which retains the majority in the House but with the slimmest margin in 20 years after a November election wipeout.Opening the Senate could be among Mitch McConnell’s final acts at majority leader. Republican control is in question until Tuesday’s runoff elections for two Senate seats in Georgia. The outcome will determine which party holds the chamber.It’s often said that divided government can be a time for legislative compromises, but lawmakers are charging into the 117th Congress with the nation more torn than ever, disputing even basic facts including that Biden won the presidential election.Fraud did not spoil the 2020 presidential election, a fact confirmed by election officials across the country. Before stepping down last month, Attorney General William Barr, a Republican appointed by Trump, said fraud did not affect the election’s outcome. Arizona’s and Georgia’s Republican governors, whose states were crucial to Biden’s victory, have also stated that their election results were accurate.Nevertheless, a dozen Republicans bound for the new Senate, led by Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, and even more in the House have vowed to become a resistance force to Biden’s White House, starting with efforts to subvert the will of American voters. These GOP lawmakers plan to object to the election results when the Electoral College meets Wednesday to tally his 306-232 victory over Trump.Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing ahead, eager to partner with Biden on shared priorities, starting with efforts to stem the pandemic and economic crisis. They plan to revisit the failed effort to boost pandemic aid to $2,000 for most people.“This has been a moment of great challenge in the United States of America filled with trials and tribulations, but help is on the way,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said in an interview. “America is a resilient nation, filled with resilient people,” he said. “We will continue to rise to the occasion emerged from this pandemic and continue to march toward our more perfect union.”Among the House Republican newcomers are Trump-aligned Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has given nod to conspiracy Q-Anon theories, and gun rights advocate Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who circulated a letter of support to retain the right of lawmakers to carry firearms in the Capitol. Taylor Greene was among a group of House Republicans led by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama who visited with Trump at the White House during the holiday season about their effort to undo the election.The “Jan. 6 challenge is on,” Taylor Greene said in a tweet pinned to the top of her social media account. Boebert also tweeted support for those challenging Biden's victory.House Republicans boosted their ranks in the November election, electing a handful of women and minorities, more than ever. Some of the new GOP lawmakers are being called the “Freedom Force,” and a counter to the “squad” — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other liberal Democratic women who swept to office in the last session.Progressive Democrats bolstered their ranks with newcomers aligned with more liberal priorities.The Capitol itself is a changed place under coronavirus restrictions. Lawmakers are arriving in Washington from all parts of the country potentially exposed to the virus during their travel.Several lawmakers have been sickened by the virus. A memorial was held Saturday for newly elected Republican lawmaker Luke Letlow, 41, of Louisiana, who died of complications from COVID-19 days before the swearing in. The Office of the Attending Physician has issued several lengthy memos warning lawmakers off meeting in groups or holding traditional receptions to prevent the spread of the virus. Masks have been ordered worn at all times and Pelosi has required them to be used in the House chamber. Members are required to have coronavirus tests and have access to vaccines.“Do not engage any in-person social events, receptions, celebrations, or appointments, outside your family unit, and always wear a face covering outside your home,” the physician’s office warned in one memo. “You should strictly avoid any type of office-based reception or celebration during the days ahead.”Even the traditional swearing in ceremonies will be limited in the House. No more big family portraits with new lawmakers taking the oath of office. Instead, each representative-elect can bring one guest in line with social distancing protocols.The vice president typically swears in the senators.Pelosi, who is returning as speaker, faces a tight race, with the House split 222-211, with one race still undecided and one vacancy after Letlow's death. The California Democrat can endure some defections from her ranks, but only a few, barring absences. Some lawmakers are on quarantine after coronavirus infections or exposure. She needs to win a majority of those present and voting to retain the speaker’s gavel.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former CNN talk show host Larry King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel...
MONROE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, who recently died from COVID-19 complications, was remembered Saturday as a man who loved people and felt called to serve others.“This is a gentleman who cared about nothing but others,” said former Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, who hired Letlow as chief of staff during his tenure in Washington and later backed Letlow's bid for Congress. “He was a true servant's servant. We never want to forget what he's done for our state, what he's done for me and my family."Letlow, an incoming Republican member of the U.S. House, died Tuesday at 41. Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered flags flown at half-staff on Saturday for Letlow, who is survived by his wife, Julia Letlow, and their children, Jeremiah, 3, and Jacqueline, 1.More than 200 people gathered at North Monroe Baptist Church for the memorial. Abraham acknowledged the presence of other members of the state's congressional delegation in attendance, including U.S. Reps. Clay Higgins and Garret Graves. Abraham noted that Letlow was known for the relationships he forged. “Luke loved Louisiana. He loved traveling down country roads with potholes, going to Lea's in Lecompte for pie and milk and talking to the locals,” he said. Abraham urged friends and family to plant a tree in Letlow's memory. “Plant a tree that you have to water and nurture and watch grow. And every time you pass that tree, you'll remember Luke and smile and embrace that warm feeling that comes to your heart as you go about your day. He wants us to be happy, courageous and strong. The way we honor and remember Luke Letlow is to build that type of life.”Letlow, from the small town of Start in Richland Parish, was elected in a December runoff election for the sprawling 5th District U.S. House seat representing central and northeastern regions of the state, including the cities of Monroe and Alexandria. He was to fill the seat being vacated by Abraham.Jonathan S. Wagner, pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church, said the number of people present and watching the service via livestream was a “testament to Luke's impact during his 41 ears on this earth.”“The tributes speak to his genuineness, his work ethic, his playful spirit, his love for Louisiana and his love for people. He was a great man and it was a great privilege to have known him,” Wagner said. Wagner said Letlow cared deeply about public service.“People knew he was not just trying to get his name out there,” during his campaign travels, Wagner said. “He was genuinely interested in meeting people and hearing their stories. He wanted to know what shaped them and made them who they were. Those stories shaped him and changed the way he lived. He went into politics to be a public servant in the purest sense. He wanted to help others because he loved them deeply and sincerely and was driven by his faith.”Jeffrey Thomas, a friend of Letlow's and lead pastor at Start Baptist Church, described Letlow as “God's special possession.”“The love of God flowed through Luke,” Thomas said. “Julia, he loved you and he loved those babies. ... Whatever memories you have of him, words spoke by him or whatever service he gave you, he did it out of love. God gave us a special gift in Luke. He made the most of every opportunity and wanted to make sure that you and I had the absolute best.”
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Eric Ebron and reserve linebacker Cassius Marsh on the reserve/COVID-19 list, putting the players' status for the playoffs in jeopardy.The move also leaves the AFC North champions further depleted for their regular-season finale in Cleveland on Sunday. The Steelers (12-3) are already assured of finishing no worse than third in the AFC while Cleveland (10-5) can end an 18-year playoff drought with a victory.The team announced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, outside linebacker T.J. Watt, defensive end Cam Heyward and center Maurkice Pouncey will not make the trip to give them additional rest ahead of the postseason. Kicker Chris Boswell and safety Terrell Edmunds are also out due to injury.Mason Rudolph will start at quarterback in place of Roethlisberger with J.C. Hassenauer likely filling in for Pouncey at center. Matthew Wright will kick for Boswell, who will miss his third game in a month with hip/groin issues. Justin Layne or Cam Sutton could fill in for Haden at cornerback.To provide some depth, the Steelers promoted offensive tackle Anthony Coyle and wide receiver Deon Cain to the active roster and elevated tight end Kevin Rader and Wright from the practice squad as COVID-19 replacements.Per NFL COVID-19 protocols, a player placed on the reserve list due to contact tracing can return after five days provided they continue to test negative. A player who tests positive for the novel coronavirus but does not show symptoms needs to wait 10 days to return to football activities or test negative twice within a 24-hour period. A player who tests positive and is symptomatic must wait at least ten days from the time symptoms first appeared, and at least 24 hours since he last experienced symptoms before returning to football activities.The Browns have been dealing with COVID-19 issues of their own. They were unable to practice most of the week and will be down at least five players and three assistant coaches.___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
CLEVELAND (AP) — Down at least five players and three assistant coaches, the Cleveland Browns will try become a playoff team again.Unable to practice most of the week due to COVID-19 cases and protocols, the Browns said Saturday that offensive line coach Bill Callahan and assistant line coach Scott Peters will both miss Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as Cleveland tries to lock up its first postseason berth since 2002.On Friday, the team said wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea will also miss the dramatic regular-season finale after he tested positive. He'll be replaced by chief of staff Callie Brownson, who earlier this season became the first female to handle in-game sideline coaching duties in an NFL game.Assistant Ryan Cordell will take over for Callahan, the former Raiders and Nebraska coach in his first season with Cleveland. Callahan has been widely praised for his work with the Browns' front, which has helped the club become one of the league's best rushing teams.The Browns will return to the playoffs for just their second time in their expansion era with a win over their hated rivals, who will sit quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, defensive stars T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward and other starters.That should help Cleveland's cause, but the Browns, who had just two abbreviated on-field indoor practices this week, are far from full strength.Top cornerback Denzel Ward tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and is out along with linebackers B.J. Goodson, Malcolm Smith, safety Andrew Sendejo and tight end Harrison Bryant. Goodson's positive test last week led to other players being sidelined as close contacts.The Browns' thin secondary got a needed reinforcement as safety Karl Joseph was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.Unlike last week, the Browns will have their four leading receivers back. Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge were activated on Thursday. They were all ruled out against the New York Jets as high-risk after spending time around Goodson in the team's recovery whirlpools.Browns coach Kevin Stefanski's plan to have a walk-through on Saturday was scrapped when the team closed its building — for the third time in four days — to conduct contact tracing.Stefanski was forced to improvise last week in New Jersey, holding a game day walk-through in a fifth-floor parking garage at the team's hotel.“It was like a wind tunnel out there,” Pro guard Joel Bitonio said with a laugh Friday. "It was the first time we were in the huddle with most of the receivers that game at that time. It was one of those things where we just want to get used to the calls and make sure everybody is on the same page. "It was definitely different. That will be one that we talk about a few years from now.”___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL___Belas.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — As communities across the country feel the pain of a surge in coronavirus cases, funeral homes in the hot spot of Southern California say they must turn away grieving families as they run out of space for the bodies piling up.The head of the state funeral directors association says mortuaries are being inundated as the United States nears a grim tally of 350,000 COVID-19 deaths. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.“I’ve been in the funeral industry for 40 years and never in my life did I think that this could happen, that I’d have to tell a family, ‘No, we can’t take your family member,’” said Magda Maldonado, owner of Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles.Continental is averaging about 30 body removals a day — six times its normal rate. Mortuary owners are calling one another to see whether anyone can handle overflow, and the answer is always the same: They’re full, too.In order to keep up with the flood of bodies, Maldonado has rented extra 50-foot (15-meter) refrigerators for two of the four facilities she runs in LA and surrounding counties. Continental has also been delaying pickups at hospitals for a day or two while they deal with residential clients. Bob Achermann, executive director of the California Funeral Directors Association, said that the whole process of burying and cremating bodies has slowed down, including embalming bodies and obtaining death certificates. During normal times, cremation might happen within a day or two; now it takes at least a week or longer. Achermann said that in the southern part of the state, “every funeral home I talk to says, ‘We’re paddling as fast as we can.’" “The volume is just incredible and they fear that they won’t be able to keep up,” he said. “And the worst of the surge could still be ahead of us.” Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis in California, has surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths alone. Nationally, an average of just over 2,500 people have died of COVID-19 over the past seven days, according to Johns Hopkins data. The number of daily newly reported cases in that period has averaged close to 195,000, a decline from two weeks earlier. It's feared that holiday gatherings could fuel yet another rise in cases. Arkansas officials reported a record of more than 4,300 new COVID-19 cases Friday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted that the state is “certainly in the surge after Christmas travel and gatherings” and added, “As we enter this new year, our first resolution should be to follow guidelines.” In Louisiana, a funeral was being held Saturday for a congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 complications. Republican Luke Letlow died Tuesday at age 41. His swearing-in had been scheduled Sunday. He leaves behind his wife, Julia Letlow, and two children, ages 1 and 3.In Texas, state officials say they have only 580 intensive care beds available as staff treat more than 12,480 hospitalized coronavirus patients, a number that has risen steadily since September and has set record highs this past week.In Window Rock, Arizona, the Navajo Nation remained in the midst of a weekend lockdown to try to slow the rate of infection. The tribe late Friday reported another seven deaths, bringing its totals since the pandemic began to 23,429 cases and 813 deaths. The reservation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. Arizona on Saturday reported 18,943 new cases Friday and Saturday, a record for the state in any two-day period. It also reported 46 new deaths Saturday.
Here’s what’s happening Saturday with the pandemic in the U.S.:THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY: — Few Native American tribes have signed up to take part in clinical trials as coronavirus vaccines are developed. The reasons range from suspicion and distrust tied to unethical practices of the past to the quick nature of the studies, which typically may need several layers of approval from tribes. Researchers say that without participation from Native Americans, tribes won’t know which vaccine might best be suited for their citizens. About a handful of tribes have agreed to allow researchers to enroll their citizens in vaccine trials, including in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. They point to a need to slow the virus among a population that’s been disproportionately affected. — As communities across the country feel the pain of a surge in coronavirus cases, funeral homes in Southern California say they must turn away grieving families as they run out of space for the bodies piling up. One funeral home is averaging six times its normal rate, or about 30 body removals a day. The head of the California Funeral Directors Association says mortuaries are being “inundated."— A 95-year-old Ohio woman who became a prolific mask maker during the coronavirus pandemic took a short break this fall while she recovered from COVID-19 herself. Miriam Looker started making masks in the spring at the request of her stepson, a doctor who wanted his patients to wear them. Looker, a longtime quilter, got in the habit of making at least 10 a day. Looker took a month off when she came down with the coronavirus in November. Now she’s feeling like herself again and back to her mask production.BY THE NUMBERS: The death toll has climbed to 348,411 and the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 20,205,931. But there is a glimmer of hope as the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases fell from 219,345.9 on Dec. 18 to 194,737.7 on Jan. 1 and the seven-day rolling average of daily new deaths dipped slightly from 2,580 to 2,506 during the same period. QUOTABLE: “I’ve been in the funeral industry for 40 years and never in my life did I think that this could happen, that I’d have to tell a family, ‘No, we can’t take your family member,’” said Magda Maldonado, owner of Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles. ICYMI: The Senate wrapped up a rare New Year’s Day session with Republicans rejecting President Donald Trump’s demand for $2,000 COVID-19 aid checks. They also overrode his veto of a sweeping defense bill. Together, it was an unusual one-two rebuke at the end of a chaotic Congress. ON THE HORIZON: Health experts are debating what to tell study volunteers who got a dummy shot instead of a COVID-19 vaccine. Should they be offered the real thing now? Others warn that giving them that option could hurt the long-term results of the studies. ___Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic