By The Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s health safety council has approved the use of Cuba’s three-dose Abdala coronavirus vaccine.
The council said Wednesday that it has sufficient evidence the vaccine is safe and effective.
The approval for emergency use does not necessarily mean the Mexican government will acquire or administer the Abdala vaccine in Mexico. Mexico has approved 10 vaccines for use, but has made little use of some, like China’s Sinopharm.
Cuba has approved Abdala for use domestically and begun commercial exports of the three-dose vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
— Asia keeps omicron at bay, but a surge may be inevitable
— WHO: Global COVID cases up 11% last week, omicron risk high
— California 1st US state to top 5M cases amid omicron surge
— Stricter Canadian rules complicate NHL push through pandemic
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas has recorded more than 7,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until sundown Friday, just as she has every time Kansas has reported another 1,000 deaths.
State health department data showed that Kansas averaged 2,003 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases a day for the seven days ending Wednesday, its highest seven-day average since Jan. 14. The state also averaged 34 new hospitalizations and seven new deaths a day during the seven days ending Wednesday.
The delta variant has spread across the state, and 45 cases of the new omicron variant have been reported in 13 of the state’s 105 counties.
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas isn’t canceling or scaling back plans for New Year’s Eve gatherings.
More than 300,000 visitors are expected in town for events including a New Year’s Eve fireworks show on the Las Vegas Strip that was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic
Thousands of ticketholders also are expected at a multi-stage outdoor music event beneath a canopy light show at the downtown casino pedestrian mall.
In announcing Wednesday that the show will go on, Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft said: “If you’re sick, stay at home. If you’re indoors, wear a mask.”
Las Vegas regional health officials reported 2,201 new coronavirus cases — the most in one day since last Jan. 11. New cases and deaths in Las Vegas have been trending up.
TORONTO — Coronavirus infections are continuing to climb across Canada, prompting several provinces to impose more pandemic restrictions.
Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba provinces all reported record one-day highs for new cases Wednesday. Quebec had more than 13,000 infections in the previous 24 hours, Ontario listed 10,436 and Manitoba reported 947.
Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador province, meanwhile, say schools will shift to remote learning after the Christmas break.
And in Nunavut territory, officials are extending a lockdown as a rise in infections strains its health care system. Premier P.J. Akeeagok says the ban on indoor gatherings that began before Christmas is being extended to Jan. 17. Libraries, gyms, arenas and churches must also remain closed and restaurants are limited to takeout service only.
EDMONTON, Alberta — An outbreak of coronavirus cases among players at the world junior men’s hockey championship being held in Canada has led officials to cancel the event.
The International Ice Hockey Federation, Hockey Canada and the organizing committee announced Wednesday that the decision was made to call off the 11-day, 10-country tournament after a third game was forfeited in two days.
After two days of games, players testing positive for the virus had put defending champion United States as well as the teams for Russia and Czechia into mandatory quarantines.
Teams arrived in Alberta on Dec. 15. Players were quarantined and were tested before being allowed to skate.
NEW YORK — A surge of coronavirus cases in New York has forced the postponement of another signature event, the Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show.
The show announced Wednesday it has postponed its 146th annual event to have been contested in late January. The announcement didn’t give a new date for the show but said it would be later in 2022.
The dog show normally is held in February at Madison Square Garden but was moved to June last year and held at the Lyndhurst estate in suburban Tarrytown. Spectators weren’t allowed, and human participants had to be vaccinated or newly tested.
MILAN — The Italian government on Wednesday put fresh restrictions on the unvaccinated and reduced quarantine times for those with boosters as the number of new virus cases skyrocketed by one-quarter to a single-day total of nearly 100,000.
Under a decree aimed at preventing an economic slowdown, anyone with a booster shot or who has completed two doses within four months will not be required to quarantine after close contact with someone who is positive. A 10-day quarantine remains in effect for the unvaccinated.
The government is reducing the list of free-time activities available to the unvaccinated. Starting Jan. 10, the jab will be required to access public transportation of any kind, hotels, ski lifts, conventions and fairs, swimming pools and wellness areas. Until then, a negative 10 within 48 hours will remain sufficient.
NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s COVID-19 death toll edged toward 15,000 on Wednesday, and the zoo in New Orleans said half of its lions had been diagnosed with the disease.
Five deaths reported Wednesday brought the state total to 14,983. And hospitalizations, after doubling in the week that ended Sunday, have risen nearly 47% since then to 659, the Louisiana Department of Health dashboard indicated.
The three infected African lions are doing well and have normal appetites, the Audubon Zoo said in a news release Wednesday. Arnold, a full-grown male; Asani, one of two yearling males, and Kali, one of three females, were tested after they came down with coughs and nasal discharges. The other three are now being tested, the statement said.
“All symptoms have been intermittent and mild,” so no medication has been needed, senior veterinarian Bob MacLean said in a statement relayed by a zoo spokeswoman.
“We are prepared to start treatments if signs or animal comfort warrant,” he said.
The zoo said veterinarians don’t know how the lions became infected, but it’s likely that they got the coronavirus from an asymptomatic keeper in spite of numerous precautions. Employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19, and those working with susceptible animals must wear N95 or KN95 masks, the statement said.
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is warning of a January surge in COVID-19 infections as hospitalizations from the virus continue to rise.
Hochul says more than 67,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 across the state on Tuesday. About 6,700 were hospitalized with the virus. That’s more than double the number in hospitals a month ago when the highly contagious omicron variant first emerged as a variant of concern.
Hochul urged New Yorkers to keep New Year’s Eve celebrations small in order to prevent further spread of the virus. New COVID-19 cases across the country have risen to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day.
MADRID — Spain is reporting over 100,000 infections in 24 hours for the first time in the coronavirus pandemic, although authorities are working to streamline the data amid a backlog caused by a high number of positives confirmed with home testing kits.
Health Minister Carolina Darias called during a press conference Wednesday for self-diagnosed positive COVID-19 cases to be reported to health authorities. She also said that the omicron variant is now responsible for most new infections.
With 100,760 new infections, the 14-day cumulative incidence rose Wednesday to 1,508 cases per 100,00 residents, up from 199 only one month ago.
Darias said that despite the share of cases that need hospitalization in intensive care units is “significantly lower” in this surge, the high contagion rate “is slowly increasing occupation in hospitals.”
Fearing further disruption of economic activity, Spanish authorities have shortened from 10 to seven days the mandatory isolation period for people who contract COVID-19 but show no symptoms and those unvaccinated who have been in contact with infected people.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has reached a pandemic record high in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday as he ordered additional members of the state National Guard into hospitals to help with the surge. The state also saw another record number of new coronavirus cases.
Ohio had 5,356 people in the hospital with the coronavirus Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began in March 2020, accounting for more than one of every five hospital beds. That’s also the highest per-capita hospitalization rate in the country, said Robert Wylie, chief medical operations officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
More than nine of every 10 people hospitalized with COVID-19 since June have been unvaccinated, DeWine said.
“If you’re vaccinated, the chances of you ending up in the hospital are pretty darn slim,” the governor said.
DeWine is ordering the deployment of 1,250 members of the Ohio National Guard to help hospitals. That’s on top of the more than 1,000 members of the Guard that DeWine called up earlier this month.
A total of 20,320 new coronavirus cases were reported Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 7,592.86 new cases per day on Dec. 13 to 12,525.57 new cases per day on Dec. 27, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cyprus will be muted after the government banned dancing and ordered bar, restaurant, reception hall and nightclub patrons to remain seated amid a third day of record daily COVID-19 infections.
Cyprus’ Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela said Wednesday that the daily infection rate now hovers at a record high of around 2.5% as the omicron variant has now taken a firm hold on the country and is projected to increase infections as well as hospital admissions.
Hadjipantela said that as of Thursday, the maximum number of patrons at bars, restaurants and nightclubs will be capped at 300 vaccinated persons. Anyone who hasn’t received a booster shot is required to have a negative rapid test 24 hours prior to attending any function.
Between Jan. 4 and Jan. 15, all inbound travelers will be required to undergo a PCR test 48 hours prior to their departure which they will pay for themselves.
Also next month, 40% of all staff at offices will be required to work from home, while attendance at sports stadiums will be capped at 50% capacity with all fans needing to wear masks. All visits to hospitals, hospices and nursing homes are also banned, while additional PCR testing will be required for health sector professionals who haven’t been fully vaccinated.
The Cypriot Health Ministry said nearly 83% of those receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19 are not vaccinated.
JACKSON, Miss. — COVID-19 outbreaks in Mississippi nursing homes have almost doubled in the past week, an indicator that the state is likely heading into another major surge of virus cases and hospitalizations, a top health official said Wednesday.
There were 63 outbreaks in Mississippi nursing homes Monday, around twice the number of nursing home outbreaks reported in the state last week, state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers wrote in a memo to Mississippi hospitals and health care providers. There were 8,344 new COVID-19 cases reported last week, an 80% increase from the week before. Byers said a growing proportion of Mississippi cases are fueled by the omicron variant of the virus.
The data points to “very rapid growth of COVID-19 infection and transmission and indicate that we have now entered our 5th wave of COVID-19 in the state,” Byers wrote.
Last week, the omicron variant accounted for around 13% of all samples sequenced in the state, up from around 8% in the previous week.
“This likely represents an underestimate of the impact of Omicron on the state, with samples collected in the last two weeks still pending sequencing,” the state epidemiologist said, noting that the omicron variant is significantly more infectious than the delta variant.
LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia’s main cities canceled any public activities for New Year’s Eve after the country reached a record 4,939 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number for one day in all the pandemic in the South American nation.
The celebrations were called off for the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and El Alto after local authorities said it would be irresponsible to allow public festivities.
“The pandemic is escalating, and life is first,” said Iván Arias, mayor of La Paz. “It’s preferable to be safe than sorry.”
Bolivia has not detected the omicron variant, but the health authorities have said that the surge in cases can be attributed to people not following some measures such as social distancing or wearing masks.
President Luis Arce issued a decree requiring people to show a vaccination certificate before entering some public places, like restaurants. The measure will take effect on Jan. 1.
Only a little bit more than 38% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to online research website Our World in Data. Bolivia, a country of 11.5 million people, has reported more than 585,000 infections and more than 19,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
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