Topic: COVID-19

Let’s developments about the 2019-nCoV coronavirus.

Vaccines reach COVID-ravaged Indigenous communities

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The first doses of the coronavirus vaccine are being administered in Native American communities from the desert highlands of New Mexico to a coastal fishing tribe outside Seattle as the federal government and states rush to protect one of the most vulnerable U.S. populations.The two-pronged effort includes a massive logistical operation by the federal government's Indian Health Service focusing on vaccinating health care workers at sovereign Indigenous nation clinics across the country and urban clinics serving off-reservation Native Americans.The agency's initial allotment of about 22,000 vaccine doses from Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech arrived Monday at distribution centers on vast portions of the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico and in urban places like Phoenix, where hundreds of health care workers who care for Native Americans got vaccinated on Thursday.But many tribes selected a separate route to receive vaccine deliveries through state health agencies that in some cases have more enduring and trusting relationships with tribal communities. That system is spiriting vaccinations to small tribes like the Acoma Pueblo, known for its mesa-top “sky city” in the New Mexico desert.Native Americans have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the pandemic — despite extreme precautions that have included curfews, roadblocks, universal testing and the suspension of business at casinos and artisanal trading posts.The Lummi Nation, a tribe of 5,000 members living on an oceanside Washington state peninsula, began vaccinating Thursday with 300 doses as it fights surging cases with a shelter-in-place order.Tribal elder James Scott, a facilities worker at the reservation's community clinic was the first to be vaccinated. In coming days, shots will go to tribal police, food program workers, long-term care residents and health care workers.“We are so happy I can’t even describe it,” said Dr. Dakotah Lane, medical director of the Public Health Department and a Lummi Nation member, as he stood in line to get his shot. The Lummi Nation managed to keep the virus at bay with broad testing and quarantine housing with food provided for those who tested positive, Lane said. There have been 133 cases of COVID-19 on the 20-square mile (52-square kilometer) reservation, with four hospitalizations and no deaths.The tribe decided to get vaccines through the Indian Health Service to avoid competition with hospitals and nursing homes that would be vying for the state’s allocation. Lane called the decision “a calculated gamble.”The Indian Health Service has said about 68,000 doses from Pfizer and an approval-pending shot from drug maker Moderna should be enough to protect front-line health workers at the 338 facilities serving Native Americans across the U.S. that signed up to work with the agency.Pfizer vaccinations began Tuesday among health workers at clinics across the Navajo and Hopi nations in portions of Arizona and New Mexico, where 3,900 doses were escorted by police to clinics.COVID-19 has roamed relentlessly among the Navajo Nation’s multi-generational rural households. Navajo health officials have confirmed 20,000 coronavirus cases across the reservation and at least 727 deaths since the pandemic began.Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in a statement called the vaccination delivery effort "a blessing for all of our people, including the doctors, nurses, and many other health care warriors.”Three Indigenous pueblos in New Mexico with populations as small 250 are getting doses of the vaccine through trusted relationships with state health officials.At Acoma Pueblo, the first round of shots Wednesday went to health care personnel, the elderly and workers on the front lines of food distribution and mental health visits to tribal members living in self-imposed isolation to protect against infection.The pueblo has funneled millions of dollars in federal relief toward its lockdown strategy for enduring the COVID-19 pandemic — closing its casino, installing 24-hour road blocks and stepping up food deliveries and virus contact tracing among homebound residents.Since the pandemic began, there have been 16 virus-related deaths at the pueblo of about 3,000 residents, said pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo. The infections happened despite pandemic precautions including near-universal pueblo virus testing and roadblocks to prevent tribal members from unauthorized travel and to keep visitors away.Vallo has left the pueblo only once since March, to help deliver food to tribal members living in Albuquerque. Vallo said Acoma Pueblo leaders doubted the local health care unit overseen by Indian Health Service would have enough medical personnel to administer the vaccine because of a recent reorganization that reduced local health services.Many tribes, federal and state health officials are contending with a legacy of distrust among Native Americans linked to routine frustrations with health care services and historical events dating back to the arrival of deadly diseases carried by European settlers.But the vaccine’s arrival at Acoma this week was greeted with gratitude and voluntary participation was enthusiastic, Vallo said.“The community also realizes or understands that there are limited quantities and so that it will take time to get everyone fully vaccinated," he said.Kailee Fretland, an Indian Health Service hospital pharmacist at the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, helped design distribution to Native Americans across the U.S. keeping in mind vaccination access gaps during the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus outbreak.“We went back and we reflected on what happened with H1N1,” she said an interview with the Native America Calling program broadcast on public radio stations. “The tribes were often not prioritized and we wanted to make sure that that did not happen with COVID.”Derrick Lente, a New Mexico state legislator and tribal member at Sandia Pueblo on Albuquerque's outskirts, said his neighbors are eager to get vaccinated.“Most people have said spike me, give it to me, I will take it,” Lente said. “They’ve seen the ugliness of what this pandemic has done to our community. They want a sense of security — if not for them, for their elders.”___Johnson reported from Washington state.

The Latest | Hong Kong to close more schools to fight virus

HONG KONG — Hong Kong has suspended in-person classes for lower primary school students after the city’s top health official said the coronavirus situation in the city was rapidly deteriorating. Classes for primary 1 to 3 students will be suspended for two weeks from Monday. The suspension comes just over a week after kindergartens were ordered to close following an outbreak of upper respiratory tract infections. Hong Kong confirmed 26 new coronavirus infections on Friday, 21 of which are local cases. “I would appeal to people to stop all unnecessary gathering activities because the situation is severe now in Hong Kong,” Hong Kong health minister Sophia Chan said.Hong Kong is due to launch an air travel bubble with Singapore on Sunday. Currently, the air travel bubble remains on track, although it could be suspended according to the agreement between Singapore and Hong Kong if the seven-day moving average for untraceable coronavirus infections exceed five in either city.___ HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— India’s total number of coronavirus cases crosses 9 million, though daily numbers are declining— CDC urges Americans to avoid travel at Thanksgiving and not spend holiday with those outside household— Heading into holidays, U.S. COVID-19 testing strained again— Mexico tops 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, 4th country to do so— Health experts clash over use of certain drugs for COVID-19___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:BEIJING — Authorities in China’s northern city of Tianjin have sealed off a hospital, a residential compound and a kindergarten after the city found four new local cases of the coronavirus Friday. Three of the confirmed cases were a set of parents and their son. The fourth was an individual who worked in the same residential compound. On Tuesday, the city had found a COVID-19 case in the same residential compound, bringing the total to five confirmed cases. China does not count asymptomatic patients as confirmed cases. Health authorities said they are sealing off the entire residential compound and classifying the area as high-risk. They’ve also sealed off the hospital where one of the patients went for his diagnosis and the kindergarten that the granddaughter of one patient attends. Parents and teachers of the kindergarten are being quarantined at home.___HONOLULU — Anyone flying to Hawaii will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to their departure for the state, with the new rule going into effect two days before Thanksgiving, Gov. David Ige announced Thursday.Until now, passengers flying to the islands using a pre-travel testing program were permitted to arrive and then upload their negative test results to a state database, allowing them to skip two weeks of quarantine. However, some travelers who arrived in Hawaii without their test results wound up later testing positive. That, in part, prompted the rule change, Ige said at a news conference, The new program goes into effect Tuesday, just ahead of the holiday.To bypass the 14-day quarantine, travelers must have the correct type of COVID-19 negative test results from one of the state’s trusted testing partners, Ige said.“If test results are not available before boarding the final leg of their trip, the traveler must quarantine for 14 days or the length of the stay, whichever runs shorter,” he said.Those who arrive without having their negative test results before departure will not be able to skip quarantine, even if their negative results become available shortly after they arrive. Passenger have always had the option to not get tested at all and quarantine in their hotel rooms or homes upon arrival. Travelers will continue to have that option. ___SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s prime minister has urged the public to avoid social gatherings and stay at home as much as possible as the country registered more than 300 new virus cases for a third consecutive day. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday the 363 cases reported in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 30,017 with 501 deaths since the pandemic began. South Korea’s caseload has been on a steady rise after it relaxed its physical distancing rules last month. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Friday asked people to minimize year-end parties and gatherings and called on businesses to let their employees work from home. Local authorities on Thursday toughened distancing guidelines in the greater Seoul area, the southern city of Gwangju and some parts in the eastern Gangwon province.___CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Health officials said Thursday that three more people have died of coronavirus complications linked to a series of convocation events at a North Carolina church last month, raising the death toll to 12.Large crowds attended events at the United House of Prayer for All People in October in west Charlotte. In that time, public health contact tracers and Mecklenburg County officials have connected 213 COVID-19 cases to the events, which includes attendees and people who came in close contact with participants, The Charlotte Observer reported.Of the deaths, 10 were from Mecklenburg County and two were from Gaston County, officials said in a statement.___SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico’s governor is calling a special legislative session next week in the hope of providing new economic relief to the unemployed and small businesses that are reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and aggressive emergency health restrictions.Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham made the announcement Thursday as daily infections statewide surged to a new record of 3,675 positive COVID-19 tests. The proposed $300 million package would funnel federal relief funds already assigned to New Mexico toward unemployment assistance, individual housing costs and grants to small businesses. She said the plan includes a weekly $300 supplement to the unemployed. Democratic state House speaker Brian Egolf commented: “You can support your people while we have to take difficult but critical steps in public health.”___CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada health officials reported a record-high 2,416 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and six additional deaths as the virus continues to surge throughout the state. The latest figures increased the state’s totals to 127,875 cases and 1,953 known deaths since the pandemic began. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. The Nevada Hospital Association reported 1,288 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized. Both the number of reported daily cases and total hospitalizations are the highest since the start of the pandemic in Nevada.___SACRAMENTO — California is imposing an overnight curfew on most residents as the most populous state tries to head off a surge in coronavirus cases it fears could tax the state’s health care system, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.What officials are calling a limited stay-at-home order requires nonessential residents to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Saturday.It affects counties with the most severe restrictions, 41 of the state’s 58 counties that are in the “purple” tier under California’s color-coded system for reopening the economy. That covers 94% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents.The move comes only days after the state imposed restrictions limiting business operations in those 41 counties, which have the most significant increases in virus cases. “The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement. The order will last one month, until Dec. 21, but could be extended if infection rates and disease trends don’t improve.___EL PASO, Texas — Health care workers in the border city of El Paso, Texas, where the coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed hospitals, are joining the nation’s top public health officials in urging people not to gather for Thanksgiving.Surgical technologist Michelle Harvey said Thursday that personal protective equipment is in high demand at the hospital where she works. She and colleagues are frustrated that they often receive only one N95 respirator for 10- to 12-hour shifts and often have to reuse shoe covers.There is a time-consuming process to request new equipment from locked storage units, Harvey said, and sometimes “the patient just doesn’t have enough time to wait for you to get new stuff.”Harvey said she usually has 10 to 15 people in her home for the Thanksgiving holiday, but that this year she won’t.“If you don’t take these precautions, this might be the last time,” said Harvey, 49. “This might be your last holiday with them.”___SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority reported three grim COVID-19 record high’s Thursday, the state’s largest daily number of confirmed cases, most daily deaths and people hospitalized for the virus. There were 1,225 new confirmed COVID-19 cases increasing the state total to 60,873. There were 20 new deaths reported, surpassing the 800 death toll since the start of the pandemic. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oregon is 414, the highest number since the pandemic began and a 142% increase since the beginning of November, according to state health data released Thursday.
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Kim's sister slams Seoul over questioning zero-virus claim

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lambasted South Korea's foreign minister for questioning the North’s claim to be coronavirus free, warning Wednesday of potential consequences for the comments. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said over the weekend that it’s hard to believe North Korea’s claim that there has been no virus outbreak on its soil. She added that the North has been unresponsive to South Korea’s offer for cooperation to jointly tackle the pandemic.The North Korean leader's sister, Kim Yo Jong, responded in a statement carried by state media.“It can be seen from the reckless remarks made by her without any consideration of the consequences that she is too eager to further chill the frozen relations between North and South Korea,” she said.“Her real intention is very clear. We will never forget her words and she might have to pay dearly for it,” Kim said.The remarks show how sensitive North Korea is to what it considers any outside attempt to tarnish its image as its guards against the pandemic and the economic fallout. Despite its zero-virus case claim, North Korea’s state media have repeatedly said there is a “maximum emergency” anti-epidemic campaign in which it has closed its international borders, flown out diplomats and isolated residents with suspected symptoms.The North’s border closure with China, it’s biggest trading partner, is wrecking its already fragile economy. The North has admitted it’s facing “multiple crises” due to the pandemic, a spate of natural disasters last summer and persistent U.S.-led sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.Experts have said a major disease outbreak in North Korea could cause a humanitarian disaster because of its fragile health care system. South Korea's foreign minister told a forum in Bahrain on Saturday that the pandemic had "made North Korea more North Korea — that is, more closed, very top-down decision-making process where there is very little debate on their measures in dealing with COVID-19.” “They still say they do not have any cases, which is hard to believe," Kang said. "So, all signs are the regime is very intensely focused on controlling the disease that they say they do not have.”Also this week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun is in Seoul for talks on North Korea and other issues. South Korea’s spy agency recently told lawmakers that Kim Jong Un had ordered diplomats overseas to refrain from any acts that could provoke Washington because it is worried about President-elect Joe Biden’s expected new approach toward North Korea. Some observers say North Korea could still do something provocative to try to draw Biden’s attention and create the need to restart stalled nuclear talks in which it could win concessions.

Tennessee withdraws from Liberty Bowl due to COVID testing

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has withdrawn from the Liberty Bowl because of COVID-19 test results, becoming the first team to back out since bowl berths were announced. Tennessee released a statement Monday, a day after agreeing to play West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31. Tennessee paused all football activities after receiving the results of Sunday's testing.“The test results revealed an increase in positive cases among student-athletes and staff and subsequent contact tracing,” the statement said. “The decision was made in consultation with health officials, the Southeastern Conference and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.”The Volunteers will end their season at 3-7 with losses in seven of their final eight games. They lost 34-13 to No. 5 Texas A&M on Saturday.Third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt is among those who tested positive. Pruitt said he was informed earlier Monday that he had tested positive and began isolating at home. “I am experiencing mild symptoms but doing fine,” Pruitt said. “We are obviously disappointed that we will not be able to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, but the health and safety of our student-athletes will always remain our top priority.”Bowl officials did not immediately announce a replacement for Tennessee. ___More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Snags on COVID-19 relief may force weekend sessions

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a hurry up and wait moment on Capitol Hill as congressional negotiators on a must-pass, almost $1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package struggled through a handful of remaining snags. The holdups mean a weekend session now appears virtually certain, and a top lawmaker warned that a government shutdown this weekend can't be ruled out.All sides appeared hopeful that the wrangling wouldn't derail the legislation, even as the chances for announcing a deal Thursday slipped away. After being bogged down for much of the day, negotiators reported behind-the-scenes progress Thursday night.The central elements of a hard-fought compromise appeared in place: more than $300 billion in aid to businesses; a $300-per-week bonus federal jobless benefit and renewal of soon-to-expire state benefits; $600 direct payments to individuals; vaccine distribution funds and money for renters, schools, the Postal Service and people needing food aid.But a temporary funding bill runs out Friday at midnight and the Senate's No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Thune, said if there isn't a deal by then, some Republicans might block a temporary funding bill — causing a low-impact partial weekend shutdown — as a means to keep the pressure on.Lawmakers were told to expect to be in session and voting this weekend.“We must not slide into treating these talks like routine negotiations to be conducted at Congress’ routine pace," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “The Senate is not going anywhere until we have COVID relief out the door."The hangups involved an effort by GOP conservatives to curb emergency lending programs by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve, a Democratic demand to eliminate local government matching requirements for COVID-related disaster grants, and myriad smaller disagreements over non-pandemic add-ons, lawmakers and aides said. The delays weren't unusual for legislation of this size and importance, but lawmakers are eager to leave Washington for the holidays and are getting antsy. The pending bill is the first significant legislative response to the pandemic since the landmark CARES Act passed virtually unanimously in March, delivering $1.8 trillion in aid and more generous $600 per week bonus jobless benefits and $1,200 direct payments to individuals. The CARES legislation passed at a moment of great uncertainty and unprecedented shutdowns in a failed attempt to stymie the coronavirus, but after that, many Republicans focused more on loosening social and economic restrictions as the key to recovery instead of more taxpayer-funded aid. Now, Republicans are motivated chiefly to extend business subsidies and some jobless benefits, and provide money for schools and vaccines. Democrats have focused on bigger economic stimulus measures and more help for those struggling economically during the pandemic. The urgency was underscored Thursday by the weekly unemployment numbers, which revealed that 885,000 people applied for jobless benefits last week, the highest weekly total since September.The emerging package falls well short of the $2 trillion-plus Democrats were demanding this fall before the election, but President-elect Joe Biden is eager for an aid package to prop up the economy and help the jobless and hungry. While Biden says more economic stimulus will be needed early next year, some Republicans say the current package may be the last.“If we address the critical needs right now, and things improve next year as the vaccine gets out there and the economy starts to pick up again, you know, there may be less of a need," Thune said. The details were still being worked out, but the measure includes a second round of “paycheck protection" payments to especially hard-hit businesses, $25 billion to help struggling renters with their payments, $45 billion for airlines and transit systems, a temporary 15% or so increase in food stamp benefits, additional farm subsidies, and a $10 billion bailout for the Postal Service. Some Democrats also mourned the exclusion of a $500 million aid package to help states run their elections. The money was seen as urgent this summer to help states more safely administer their elections in the middle of the pandemic. But with the election over, momentum for the money has gone away.The emerging package was serving as a magnet for adding on other items, and the two sides continued to swap offers. It was apparent that another temporary spending bill would be needed to prevent a government shutdown. That was likely to pass easily, though possibly not until the last minute.The emerging package would combine the $900 billion in COVID-19 relief with a $1.4 trillion government-wide funding bill. Then there are numerous unrelated add-ons that are catching a ride, known as “ash and trash" in appropriations panel shorthand. One leading candidate is an almost 400-page water resources bill that targets $10 billion for 46 Army Corps of Engineers flood control, environmental and coastal protection projects. Another potential addition would extend a batch of soon-to-expire tax breaks, including one for craft brewers, wineries and distillers.The end-of-session rush also promises relief for victims of shockingly steep surprise medical bills, a phenomenon that often occurs when providers drop out of insurance company networks. “It’s been very thoroughly vetted," said retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., of the surprise medical billing measure. That measure, combined with an assortment of other health policy provisions, generates savings for federal funding for community health centers. A key breakthrough occurred earlier this week when Democrats agreed to drop their much-sought $160 billion state and local government aid package in exchange for McConnell abandoning a key priority of his own — a liability shield for businesses and other institutions like universities fearing COVID-19 lawsuits. The addition of the $600 direct payments came after recent endorsements from both President Donald Trump and progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., along with ambitious GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. The idea isn't very popular in other corners since it's extremely costly and would give money to millions of people who may not need it, but it has enormous political appeal and proved difficult to stop.

Taoyuan airport passenger levels fall below SARS numbers: NIA

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The Latest: Lions place DE Griffen on COVID-19 list

The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:___Detroit Lions defensive end Everson Griffen was placed on the COVID-19 list a day before he was expected to play a key role against Green Bay.The Lions announced Griffen is on the list created for players who either test positive for the coronavirus or have been in close contact with an infected person. The team says no other players were affected by the league’s coronavirus protocols going into its home game against the Packers on Sunday.Detroit elevated defensive end Kareem Martin and offensive tackle Dan Skipper from the practice squad Saturday. Safety Bobby Price was also elevated from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement.The Lions acquired Griffen from Dallas in October and he has 2 1/2 sacks and three passes defended in five games.___Miami Dolphins leading rusher Myles Gaskin went the COVID-19 list Saturday, a blow to the playoff-contending team on the eve of its game against Kansas City.Running backs Matt Breida (COVID-19 list) and Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) were already sidelined. DeAndre Washington and Patrick Laird are expected to get the bulk of the carries against the Chiefs.Miami elevated running back Elijah McGuire for the game, along with tight end Chris Myarick and defensive end Tyshun Render.The Dolphins rank last in the NFL with an average of 3.7 yards per carry.___California’s game at Washington State was canceled less than two hours before kickoff on Saturday because of a case of COVID-19 on the Cal team, the Pac-12 said.It’s the third Washington State game that has been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.Cal was not able to field enough scholarship players to meet the minimum threshold in order to play the game, the Pac-12 said. The Golden Bears had one player test positive and then additional players were sidelined because of contact tracing.The case was confirmed via a PCR test on Saturday, the league said. The game was declared a no contest.Cal (1-3) and Washington State (1-2) are struggling to qualify for postseason play. Neither team has an opponent set for next weekend.___More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports