By The Associated Press
Albany N.Y. — Faced with mounting criticism over the slow pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that, starting next week, New York would allow a much wider swath of the public to get inoculated, including anyone age 75 or older.
The governor warned that, initially, the supply of vaccines available to people other than health care workers and nursing home patients would be very limited.
Cuomo said a beefed up statewide distribution network will include pharmacies, doctors’ networks and county health departments. The 3.2 million New Yorkers newly eligible for the vaccine includes teachers, first responders and public safety workers.
“Caution, caution, caution, because the supply is a major problem,” Cuomo said at his regular briefing. “You’ll wind up having 3,000 distribution points in a couple of weeks, but none of them will have nearly enough vaccine.”
The announcement came as many local officials argued it was time to distribute the vaccine beyond health care workers. Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized the state government Friday for keeping New York City from immediately vaccinating people older than 75 against the coronavirus, saying the city had 270,000 doses that could be quickly administered.
Cuomo had been insisting on focusing on the state’s front-line health care workers as cases and hospitalizations surge this winter.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
President-elect Joe Biden plans to speed release of virus vaccines so more people can get first shot. The U.S. vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots; US tops 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus. UK regulators OK use of a third vaccine against coronavirus.
Meanwhile, WHO approves expanding time between virus shots up to six weeks and asks countries for equitable access to vaccines. A Pfizer study suggests the vaccine works against the virus variant.
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:
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford is in quarantine with his family after his wife tested positive for COVID-19, and he will not be able to fulfill his role of presiding over the Senate as the 2021 legislative session is getting underway.
Sanford’s spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, told the Bismarck Tribune that Sanford’s wife is asymptomatic and that Sanford planned to get his own COVID-19 test Friday, the session’s second day.
Nowatzki said Sanford is not showing any symptoms and is expected to return around the end of January.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, a Dickinson Republican, said senators haven’t been around Sanford or in meetings with him.
Sanford attended a joint legislative session on Tuesday, when Gov. Doug Burgum presented his State of the State address. Nowatzki said Burgum was not a close contact of Sanford, and that Sanford wore a mask the whole time and was socially distanced while seated in the chambers.
ATLANTA — Georgia ranks last among states for the share of available COVID-19 vaccines that it has administered, but Gov. Brian Kemp said the data is badly misleading as some hospitals have failed to report all the shots they’ve given.
Still, the Republican governor acknowledged Friday that the state is struggling with the vaccine rollout even as Georgia sets daily records for people hospitalized with the respiratory illness.
Kemp says he’s “not happy” with the effort. Georgia now has the capacity to administer 11,428 doses a day. At that rate, it would take more than two-and-a-half years to vaccinate every Georgia resident.
Amber Schmidtke, an epidemiologist who reports daily on Georgia’s outbreak, blamed the staggering start on “poor planning and execution of a mass vaccination strategy, if Georgia ever actually had one.” She said state government needs to call in more resources instead of pushing all the responsibility down to its 18 public health districts.
The struggles come even as the state is allowing people over 65 to be vaccinated starting Monday, leading to local health departments being overrun with people seeking appointments.
CHICAGO — Some in-person instruction at Chicago public schools will resume Monday for the first time in months, the city’s mayor and school chief reaffirmed Friday, warning teachers that their absence will have consequences.
The district is giving families the option for students in pre-kindergarten and some special education programs. K-8 students could return on Feb. 1. No date has been set for high school students.
About 6,500 students are expected Monday, the district said, still a fraction of the nation’s third-largest district.
Remote learning “is not sustainable, not over the long term, because it does not serve every student equally, especially those students who are younger, who require additional help and support and simply don’t have access to a sustainable learning environment,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
The Chicago Teachers Union, however, said many schools still carry risks for the coronavirus. Attendance by teachers this week has been uneven.
“Those individuals will be deemed absent without leave, and they will not be eligible for pay going forward,” said district chief executive Janice Jackson. “This is not a measure that we take lightly, and it can be avoided if staff chooses to return to school. We believe we’ve done every single thing within our power to ensure a safe return to school.”
Meanwhile, the state said 3,777 people with COVID-19 were in Illinois hospitals Thursday night, the fewest since Nov. 3.
An additional 126 people died, raising the Illinois total to 17,395, the state said. More than 1 million people have been infected.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma revenue collections for the calendar year 2020 declined by 3.8% as the coronavirus pandemic swept the state, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Friday.
The state collected nearly $13.2 billion in taxes and fees for the year, $520.9 million less than the previous year.
“The state’s economy declined in 2020,” McDaniel said in a statement. “Hopefully, we will see improvement in the months ahead as the (coronavirus) vaccine becomes widely available.”
The state health department reported 320,586 total virus cases and 2,703 deaths Friday, including a one-day record increase of 5,232 cases and 31 more deaths.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Oklahoma has risen from 3,478.43 per day on Dec. 24 to 3,488.29, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The data ranks Oklahoma seventh in the nation in new cases per capita with 1,072.7 per 100,000, down from 1,096.5 per 100,000 and the fourth-highest rate in the nation reported Monday.
SALT LAKE CITY — New Gov. Spencer Cox unveiled a plan Friday to ramp up Utah’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution as the state sees a post-holiday surge in new cases.
Cox, a Republican, said he will issue an executive order requiring facilities to allocate their doses the week they are received and have local health departments manage distribution, with an expectation of administering 50,000 doses a week.
”This virus does not sleep,” Cox said at his first COVID-19 media briefing as governor. “This virus does not take weekends off. And neither should we.”
The state’s 50,000 teachers and in-person school staff will be eligible to receive the vaccine on Monday, Cox said. School districts will be expected to prioritize people over 65 or who have underlying health conditions.
Utah’s second phase of the vaccine rollout, which includes anyone 70 or older, will begin on Jan. 18. Former Gov. Gary Herbert, Cox’s predecessor, initially said people over 75 would be eligible.
The governor’s plan came as the state’s new COVID-19 cases continue to rise and ICU beds are nearly full. In the past week, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 26.8% to 32.7%, according to state data.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is moving ahead with vaccine distribution, expanding eligibility on Friday to people 75 and older as well as residents with underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk from COVID-19.
The expanded list under what is known as Phase 1B of the distribution plan also includes frontline essential workers who can’t work remotely and vulnerable populations. Shots also are still being given to health care workers, first responders and staff and residents at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Under the updated vaccination plan released Friday, state official acknowledged that the number of people now eligible to be inoculated is much larger than the available supply so the groups are being further prioritized. For example, frontline essential workers will be vaccinated in order ranging from family home caregivers and child care workers, followed by teachers involved in in-person learning, grocery store workers, agriculture workers, public transit workers and others.
New Mexico is requiring workers in each category to verify their employment and those with qualifying medical conditions also are expected to provide validation. That could include a note from a provider, hospital discharge paperwork or even a prescription bottle.
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon will be stepping up its vaccinations against COVID-19, including by administering thousands of doses at the state fairgrounds in Salem this weekend with the support of the National Guard, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday.
“The goal is to vaccinate 250 people per hour, vaccinating thousands of Oregonians,” Brown announced during a Zoom call with reporters.
Those eligible to receive the vaccination are in the top priority category set by the Oregon Health Authority, which includes hospitals, health care providers and residents at long-term care facilities; emergency medical service providers and other first responders.
On Friday, OHA recorded 7,994 doses of vaccine administered — including 578 second doses — raising the state’s total number of shots given to 74,914.
The agency also reported Friday that COVID-19 claimed seven more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,575. There were also 1,755 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 122,847 in a state with a population of around 4.2 million.
PHOENIX — A COVID-19 vaccination site will open Monday at the suburban Phoenix stadium that is home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals as the state with the worst diagnosis rate in the U.S. moves to expand the availability of vaccine doses.
State officials said the new site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale will be capable of vaccinating thousands of people daily.
The site will open as Maricopa County moves into an expanded eligibility phase that prioritizes people 75 and older as well as groups that include teachers and law enforcement personnel.
Arizona on Friday reported 11,658 new known infections and 197 more deaths.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s 82-year-old monarch King Salman has received the coronavirus vaccine, according to video and photos published by state media on Friday.
In a short video, the king was seen seated, dressed in the traditional male white thobe worn by men in Gulf with one sleeve rolled up, being given a shot in his left arm. It wasn’t immediately clear which of the coronavirus vaccines the king received, but state media said it marked his first dose.
Early on in the pandemic, the king decreed his government would cover hospitalizations related to the virus for all Saudi residents, including those in the country illegally or on expired visas.
The kingdom also plans to offer vaccines free of charge.
After a surge in cases over the summer, the country of 30 million, which mandates public mask wearing and social distancing, recorded just 97 new cases on Friday and four deaths as infections there continue to decline. Overall, there have been some 363,000 cases recorded in Saudi Arabia since the start of the pandemic and 6,282 deaths from the virus.
NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is criticizing the state government for keeping the city from immediately vaccinating people older than 75 against the coronavirus.
He says the city has 270,000 doses that could be quickly administered. The sharp language from the mayor comes amid a public disagreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over who gets priority for the vaccine.
Cuomo has insisted on focusing on the state’s front-line health care workers as cases and hospitalizations surge this winter. There was no immediate comment from the Cuomo administration.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Active-duty military medical personnel have been sent to a Southern California hospital swamped with a surge of COVD-19 patients.
Riverside County authorities issued a press release Friday saying approximately 20 physician assistants, nurses and respiratory care practitioners from the Army and Air Force arrived Thursday at Riverside University Health System-Medical Center.
The county says the Department of Defense team is part of a response to a state request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal support to medical facilities throughout California.
Officials say the 439-bed hospital normally has a daily average of 350 patients but is averaging 450.
Jennifer Cruikshank, chief executive officer at Riverside University Health System-Medical Center and Clinics, says the help is bringing “renewed energy and hope into our team” and will “support the acute health care needs of more people in our region during this critical time.”
ROCKAWAY, N.J. — Gov. Phil Murphy and health officials have opened what’s being called a vaccine megasite at a former Sears store in Morris County.
Health officials hope to eventually vaccinate more than 2,000 people per day there. The 30,000-square-foot lower floor of the former Sears store at the Townsquare Mall in Rockaway features 20 vaccine stations. Some of them are behind curtains for privacy.
About 1,000 people per week will get the vaccine. Officials hope to see that number rise to about 2,400 per day in the next several weeks. However, it will depend on how many doses the state receives from the federal government.
NEW YORK — Millions of U.S. business owners are about to get additional help weathering the coronavirus outbreak.
The Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department are reviving the Paycheck Protection Program five months after its first two rounds of funding ended. Businesses that received loans last year will be able to borrow up to $2 million if they have no more than 300 employees and suffered at least a 25% drop in quarterly revenue.
First-time borrowers with no more than 500 workers can borrow up to $10 million. The loans, which can be forgiven, will have five-year terms and carry an interest rate of 1%.
MADRID — Spain’s Health Ministry registered 25,456 new coronavirus infections on Friday, a day after the nation surpassed the 2 million cases.
Spain reported 199 more deaths Friday to total nearly 52,000. Health Minister Salvador Illa called the situation “preoccupying” and recommended reducing mobility and contacts.
Illa says he remained hopeful about vaccinating 70% of the population – or 33 million people — by the end of the summer. He believes that will require the approve of new vaccines.
Spain expects to distribute about 460,00 doses per week from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in the next six weeks.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported 11,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 200 deaths on Friday.
Arizona had one person of every 111 diagnosed with coronavirus from Dec. 31 to Thursday, the higest rate in the country.
With the surge stressing Arizona hospitals, 4,907 COVID-19 patients occupied inpatient beds on Thursday, including a pandemic record 1,122 in intensive care beds, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.
Arizona’s vaccination program expanded eligibility, offering shots to police, teachers, childcare workers and people 75 or older. Those eligible in the first phase last month included health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
The state registered 11,658 cases and 197 deaths on Friday, increasing the pandemic totals to 596,251 cases and 9,938 deaths.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden says he’ll speed release of coronavirus vaccines when he takes office Jan. 20.
His office says Biden will curtail the current practice of holding back vaccine doses to guarantee that people who get their first shot can also get a required second shot three weeks later.
Under the Trump administration’s approach, the government has been holding back a supply of vaccines to guarantee that people get the booster shot.
After an initial glow of hope when vaccines were approved last month, the nation’s vaccination campaign has gotten off to a slow start. Only 5.9 million of 29.4 million available doses have been distributed (27%), according to the CDC.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization has appealed to manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines and the wealthier countries to make them available to everyone in need.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says 42 countries are rolling out coronavirus vaccines — mostly high-income and a few “middle-income” countries. He appealed to countries with more vaccine than needed to make them available to the COVAX facility, the U.N.-backed project to get vaccines deployed widely.
He’s urging “countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX.”
Tedros also asks manufacturers to make data about their vaccines available, which is needed for WHO to provide “emergency use listings” that can expedite their deployment.
The lack of such data “blocks the whole system of procurement and delivery,” he says.
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