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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Vice President Pence: Confidence in vaccine important for US

Fauci apologizes for suggesting UK rushed vaccine decision

— As hospitals cope with a COVID-19 surge, cyber threats loom

A World War II veteran from Alabama has recovered from COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

RALEIGH, N.C. — A judge agreed on Friday to name a third-party expert to scrutinize the COVID-19 response within North Carolina’s prison system, which like the rest of the state is experiencing a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Ruling again in ongoing litigation about health and safety within prisons, Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier said he’s worried about the pressure the coronavirus is now placing upon correctional institutions.

The prison system closed temporarily three units over the last two weeks to handle staffing challenges, brought on in part by the upward swing in positive cases and the medical care prisoners need.

The Department of Public Safety said that 370 correctional staff testing positive for COVID-19 were out of work Friday, up 50 workers from last week. There were 667 active cases among the roughly 30,000 prisoners statewide. Twenty-five prisoners have died from COVID-19 related illnesses since the pandemic.

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ATLANTA — Georgia’s coronavirus infections are soaring above their worst peaks of the summer, pushing more people into hospitals and resulting in more deaths.

Hitting a new single-day record of more than 6,000 suspected and confirmed infections on Friday pushed Georgia’s rolling 7-day average of infections to nearly 4,300. That rolling average was above its previous July record for the second day in a row.

Hospitalizations have not yet reached their summer heights in Georgia, but beds are filling rapidly with COVID-19 cases. Nearly 2,400 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital Friday.

Deaths, which usually come after infections and hospitalization, are also rising. Georgia has now recorded 9,725 confirmed and suspected deaths.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama health officials have urged the state Friday to extend its statewide mask mandate, set to expire next week.

Dr. Sarah Nafziger, who teaches emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said it was “critically important” for Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to maintain the requirement, which is opposed by some who consider it an infringement on personal rights or discount the threat of the new coronavirus.

The president of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Donald Williamson, said the organization “absolutely” supports continuing the order as cases of COVID-19 rise statewide.

The order, which expires Dec. 11, requires anyone older than 6 to wear a mask when in public spaces indoors and outside if they can’t stay away from others. First imposed in July, health officials credit the rule with a sharp decline in cases until a recent spike began nationwide.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — States faced a deadline on Friday to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high in the U.S. on Thursday at 100,667, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That figure has more than doubled over the past month.

New daily cases are averaging 210,000 and deaths are averaging 1,800 per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Arizona on Friday reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases for the second straight day as the number of available intensive care unit beds fell below 10% statewide. Pennsylvania’s top health official says intensive care beds could be full this month.

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SALEM, Ore. — As Oregon reached a new record number for reported daily COVID-19 cases and deaths, lawmakers, advocates and others continue to call on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to declare a special legislative session.

The Oregon Health Authority on Friday reported 2,100 new COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths. The previous daily records have been 1,699 cases and 24 deaths. Oregon also surpassed 80,000 cases since the start of the pandemic in March.

Housing advocates in the state are asking the Legislature to act on a proposal to extend a statewide eviction moratorium until July 1. The current eviction moratorium, which was ordered at the beginning of the pandemic, is scheduled to lapse on Dec. 31.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas considers meatpacking plant workers and grocery store employees essential workers, putting them in the second phase for possible vaccinations.

Kelly says the Kansas vaccine plan calls for the first shots to go to front-line health care workers with a high risk of coronavirus exposure.

She says the second phase will focus on vaccinating essential workers, including first responders but also grocery store and meatpacking plant workers.

The Democratic governor says members of the Legislature will get vaccinated at different times, based on their risk of being exposed or developing serious complications.

Next week, the Food and Drug Administration will consider whether to grant emergency authorization for vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Kansas has reported 168,295 confirmed cases, an increase of 6,234 since Wednesday, and 1,786 total confirmed deaths.

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KYIV, Ukraine — About 1,000 representatives of small business rallied outside the Ukrainian parliament against possible new coronavirus restrictions.

Demonstrators in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv attempted to block access to the parliament building but were pushed back by police.

Ukraine, which is facing a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, tightened weekend restrictions last month but lifted them this week. The government is considering a lockdown in early January. Protesters are concerned the new restrictions could deal a harsh blow to small and medium business.

Ukrainian reported 15,131 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 787,891 confirmed cases. There’s been 13,195 confirmed deaths.

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ATLANTA — Vice President Mike Pence is trying to boost Americans’ confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines that are awaiting regulatory approval and distribution.

At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention main campus in Atlanta, Pence said Friday the Food and Drug Administration could approve the first vaccines “the week of Dec. 14” with the first wave of Americans being vaccinated “in all 50 states” within 48 hours of that approval.

Pence said “the confidence piece is so important” so that enough Americans will take the vaccine and ensure its maximum effectiveness. Pence called on “all of us in public life” to vouch for the process that got vaccines to the cusp of mass distribution.

“We’ve gone at record pace, but we’ve cut no corners in this,” Pence said, sitting beside CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “What we want to do is assure the American people that there’s been no compromise of safety or effectiveness in the development of this vaccine.”

Pence’s comments come the day after former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said they’d be willing to take a vaccine on television to boost confidence.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. health chief says positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials are encouraging but warns against poorer nations being left behind in “the stampede for vaccines.”

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Friday. He says vaccines must be shared “as global public goods.”

Referring to the upsurge in cases and deaths: “Where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self-interest, the virus thrives, the virus spreads.”

Tedros urged all nations to unite and build the post-pandemic world by investing in vaccines, preparedness against the next pandemic and basic public health.

Tedros says Covax, an ambitious but troubled global project to buy and deliver virus vaccines for the world’s poorest people, faces a $4.3 billion gap and needs $23.9 billion for 2021.

He says the total is less than one-half of one percent of the $11 trillion in stimulus packages announced by the Group of 20, the world’s richest countries.

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MILAN — Italy recorded another 814 coronavirus deaths on Friday. There were 24,099 new coronavirus cases reported among more than 212,000 tests.

While the rate of transmission in Italy has dropped below 1, signaling that the virus curve is under control, the government has imposed tight restrictions for the Christmas holiday.

They include a ban on traveling between regions from Dec. 21-Jan. 6, and a strong recommendation against hosting guests for holiday lunches and dinners.

New cases remain highest in Lombardy, the epicenter of both the spring peak and the fall surge, with 4,533 new cases. Neighboring Veneto followed with more than 3,700. There were 201 fewer new admissions to Italy’s intensive care units than a day earlier, dropping the total to 3,657 in ICU. Hospitalizations dropped by 600 to 31,200.

Italy has 1.6 million cases and 58,842 confirmed deaths, the second-highest death toll in Europe, behind Britain.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday.

As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. During President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away.

Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House.

On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska has returned to work after recovering from the coronavirus.

The Anchorage Daily News reported the 87-year-old Republican lawmaker was back at work in his congressional office in Washington on Wednesday.

Young announced Nov. 12 he had tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized.

Young previously dismissed it as the “beer virus,” but later said he didn’t grasp the severity of the illness. Last month, voters re-elected him.

Young has held his seat since 1973 and is the longest-serving Republican in congressional history.

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SEATTLE — Teams of registered nurses will help long-term care facilities across the state of Washington with staffing shortages caused by the pandemic.

The state Department of Social and Health Services announced it will send six “rapid response” teams to work at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes and other long-term care providers where employees tested positive for the virus or were quarantined.

On Thursday, health officials have reported 431 long-term facilities with at least one coronavirus infection.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Health is providing $5.8 million to continue free coronavirus testing statewide through the end of the year.

State health commissioner Dr. Lance Frye says there’s been an “unprecedented number of COVID-19 tests for Oklahomans” ahead of the holiday season. He urged citizens to keep getting tested, “especially if you plan to travel or gather with anyone outside of your household during the holiday season.”

Federal funding has been used to provide more than 2 million tests statewide at no charge since the start of the pandemic. There’s been about 515,000 tests since Nov. 1, the health department says.

Oklahoma has reported a total of 204,048 confirmed cases and 1,836 deaths.

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HONOLULU — The acting Hawaii state epidemiologist said the number of state contact tracers will shrink after the end of the year.

Sarah Kemble says the program is overstaffed and will downsize to match demand.

The state Department of Health currently has roughly 400 contact tracers. The state agency didn’t say how many tracers would be let go.

The health department had been criticized earlier during the pandemic for an inadequate contact-tracing program. Kemble says since then, the state has hired hundreds of contact tracers, but many are now inactive.

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Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris answer questions during a news conference update on COVID-19 restrictions at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris answer questions during a news conference update on COVID-19 restrictions at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

Credit: Jake Crandall

Credit: Jake Crandall

Gov. Laura Kelly discusses the early stages of a distribution plan of 150,000 COVID-19 vaccines by the end of December during her press conference with Kansas health and environment secretary Lee Norman, right, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

Gov. Laura Kelly discusses the early stages of a distribution plan of 150,000 COVID-19 vaccines by the end of December during her press conference with Kansas health and environment secretary Lee Norman, right, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

Credit: Evert Nelson

Credit: Evert Nelson

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield exchange elbow bumps after a briefing at the CDC Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield exchange elbow bumps after a briefing at the CDC Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Doctor Luigi Cavanna and his nurse assistant Gabriele Cremona visit a patient in Piacenza, Italy, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Italy recorded another 814 deaths on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020 as the toll from the COVID-19 resurgence remained stubbornly high, bringing Italy’s pandemic total to 58,842. That is the second-highest death toll in Europe, behind Britain. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Doctor Luigi Cavanna and his nurse assistant Gabriele Cremona visit a patient in Piacenza, Italy, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Italy recorded another 814 deaths on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020 as the toll from the COVID-19 resurgence remained stubbornly high, bringing Italy’s pandemic total to 58,842. That is the second-highest death toll in Europe, behind Britain. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Credit: Antonio Calanni

Credit: Antonio Calanni

In this photo provided by Holly Wooten McDonald, World War II veteran and COVID-19 survivor Major Wooten holds a celebratory milkshake on his 104th birthday on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Madison, Alabama. Wooten was released from the hospital this week after contracting the illness caused by the new coronavirus before Thanksgiving. (Holly Wooten McDonald via AP)

In this photo provided by Holly Wooten McDonald, World War II veteran and COVID-19 survivor Major Wooten holds a celebratory milkshake on his 104th birthday on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Madison, Alabama. Wooten was released from the hospital this week after contracting the illness caused by the new coronavirus before Thanksgiving. (Holly Wooten McDonald via AP)

Credit: Holly Wooten McDonald

Credit: Holly Wooten McDonald

Elementary school music teacher Jami Brown, left, uses a mic to work with his class including third grader Walker Moore at Tibbals Elementary School in Murphy, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot's statewide mask order does not mandate face covering for children under the age of 10, allowing some school districts to not require masks for children leaving the choice of mask use up to the parents. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Elementary school music teacher Jami Brown, left, uses a mic to work with his class including third grader Walker Moore at Tibbals Elementary School in Murphy, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s statewide mask order does not mandate face covering for children under the age of 10, allowing some school districts to not require masks for children leaving the choice of mask use up to the parents. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Credit: LM Otero

Credit: LM Otero

Young Newari girls prepare for an Ihi ceremony in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. Ihi is a two-day ceremony performed for girls who have not reached puberty and involves purification rituals and marriage rituals with the Bael (or wood apple). Newari girls are married thrice in their life, to the bael fruit and the sun before marrying a human. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Young Newari girls prepare for an Ihi ceremony in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. Ihi is a two-day ceremony performed for girls who have not reached puberty and involves purification rituals and marriage rituals with the Bael (or wood apple). Newari girls are married thrice in their life, to the bael fruit and the sun before marrying a human. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Credit: Niranjan Shrestha

Credit: Niranjan Shrestha

Ciaran Kavanagh, one of the seventh generation of John Kavanagh's bar, makes preparations as they are preparing to reopen the lounge seven days a week. Thousands of restaurants, cafes and gastropubs are reopening their doors today as pandemic restrictions are eased ahead of Christmas. (Brian Lawless/PA via AP)

Ciaran Kavanagh, one of the seventh generation of John Kavanagh’s bar, makes preparations as they are preparing to reopen the lounge seven days a week. Thousands of restaurants, cafes and gastropubs are reopening their doors today as pandemic restrictions are eased ahead of Christmas. (Brian Lawless/PA via AP)

Credit: Brian Lawless

Credit: Brian Lawless

In this photo distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Dec. 3, 2020, A Russian navy sailor gets a shot of a Russian COVID-19 vaccine in Severomorsk, Russia. The Russian navy this week started vaccinating crews against the coronavirus before they sail off on a mission. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Dec. 3, 2020, A Russian navy sailor gets a shot of a Russian COVID-19 vaccine in Severomorsk, Russia. The Russian navy this week started vaccinating crews against the coronavirus before they sail off on a mission. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

Health workers move a patient that is believed to be suffering from COVID-19 off a speed boat ambulance that provides medical care for riverside communities on the Amazon river, in the port city of Breves, located in the island of Marajo, Para state, on the mouth of the Amazon river, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Brazil is expecting a second wave of COVID-19 cases nationwide, with the state of Para reporting high numbers of people infected and more than 63 thousand dead from the disease so far. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Health workers move a patient that is believed to be suffering from COVID-19 off a speed boat ambulance that provides medical care for riverside communities on the Amazon river, in the port city of Breves, located in the island of Marajo, Para state, on the mouth of the Amazon river, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Brazil is expecting a second wave of COVID-19 cases nationwide, with the state of Para reporting high numbers of people infected and more than 63 thousand dead from the disease so far. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Credit: Eraldo Peres

Credit: Eraldo Peres

Passengers without masks to curb the spread of the new coronavirus chat during a boat trip to the city of Breves, located in the island of Marajo, Para state, on the mouth of the Amazon river, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The city of Breves is a hub for river traffic, with boats coming from the cities of Belém, Manaus and Macapá, with a large concentration of passengers who largely do not respect health guidelines and do not wear protective masks. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Passengers without masks to curb the spread of the new coronavirus chat during a boat trip to the city of Breves, located in the island of Marajo, Para state, on the mouth of the Amazon river, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The city of Breves is a hub for river traffic, with boats coming from the cities of Belém, Manaus and Macapá, with a large concentration of passengers who largely do not respect health guidelines and do not wear protective masks. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Credit: Eraldo Peres

Credit: Eraldo Peres

A passenger wears a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during a boat trip to the city of Breves, located in the island of Marajo, Para state, on the mouth of the Amazon river, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The city of Breves is a hub for river traffic, with boats coming from the cities of Belém, Manaus and Macapá, and a large concentration of passengers who largely do not respect health guidelines and do not wear protective masks. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

A passenger wears a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during a boat trip to the city of Breves, located in the island of Marajo, Para state, on the mouth of the Amazon river, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The city of Breves is a hub for river traffic, with boats coming from the cities of Belém, Manaus and Macapá, and a large concentration of passengers who largely do not respect health guidelines and do not wear protective masks. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Credit: Eraldo Peres

Credit: Eraldo Peres

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2020, file photo, Jamillette Gomes holds her two-year-old son, Avian, as he receives a COVID-19 test in Lawrence, Mass. States faced a deadline on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths, while hospitals were pushed to the breaking point — with the worst feared yet to come.(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

FILE – In this Dec. 3, 2020, file photo, Jamillette Gomes holds her two-year-old son, Avian, as he receives a COVID-19 test in Lawrence, Mass. States faced a deadline on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths, while hospitals were pushed to the breaking point — with the worst feared yet to come.(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

Credit: Elise Amendola

Credit: Elise Amendola

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2020, file photo, a flashing sign on Court Street in Athens, Ohio, reports the number of active COVID-19 cases in the community. States faced a deadline on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths, while hospitals were pushed to the breaking point — with the worst feared yet to come. (Doral Chenoweth/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

FILE – In this Dec. 2, 2020, file photo, a flashing sign on Court Street in Athens, Ohio, reports the number of active COVID-19 cases in the community. States faced a deadline on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths, while hospitals were pushed to the breaking point — with the worst feared yet to come. (Doral Chenoweth/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

Credit: Doral Chenoweth

Credit: Doral Chenoweth

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, registered nurse Chrissie Burkhiser, left, hands medication to a COVID-19 patient inside the emergency room at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Mo. States faced a deadline on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths, while hospitals were pushed to the breaking point — with the worst feared yet to come. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, registered nurse Chrissie Burkhiser, left, hands medication to a COVID-19 patient inside the emergency room at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Mo. States faced a deadline on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths, while hospitals were pushed to the breaking point — with the worst feared yet to come. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Dr. William Sterett, right, with Vail-Summit Orthopedics talks with Sheika Gramshammer in the new Vail-Summit Orthopedics room on the opening of the new facility, in the new East Wing of Vail Health Hospital, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Vail, Colo. (Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily via AP)

Dr. William Sterett, right, with Vail-Summit Orthopedics talks with Sheika Gramshammer in the new Vail-Summit Orthopedics room on the opening of the new facility, in the new East Wing of Vail Health Hospital, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Vail, Colo. (Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily via AP)

Credit: Chris Dillmann

Credit: Chris Dillmann





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