The Latest: Cuba toughening virus restrictions for visitors
HAVANA -- Cuban authorities say they will tighten measures against the spread of COVID-19 to require tourists and other visitors to isolate at their own expense for several days until tests for the new coronavirus come out negative.
The announcement Saturday by Dr. Francisco Durán, Cuba’s director of epidemiology, came as the country announced 910 new infections of the new virus detected Friday, as well as three additional deaths.
Duran said that as of Feb. 6, arriving tourists and Cubans who live abroad will be sent to hotels at their own expense to wait for the results of a PCR test for the new coronavirus, which will be given on their fifth day in the country. A similar measure was imposed in the spring, and apparently helped stem the spread of the virus.
Cubans returning home from abroad will be housed in other centers at government expense to await test results.
Diplomats and some categories of foreign businesspeople will be allowed to isolate at home.
Cube has recorded 25,674 infections with the new coronavirus and 213 deaths since March.
Cuba had eased restrictions in November, opening airports to tourists and others, but the number of infections detected has risen sharply this month.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
An AP analysis finds racial disparities in the US vaccination drive. California surpasses 40,000 coronavirus deaths. New Mexico tribe sues US over hospital closure amid pandemic. WHO team visits second Wuhan hospital in virus investigation. CDC orders say travelers must wear masks on public transportation. COVID-19 vaccine news welcomed in South Africa.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BALTIMORE — Baltimore public health officials are canceling some COVID-19 vaccination appointments scheduled for next week after overbooking hundreds of first-dose appointments.
The city health department did not specify how many appointments would be canceled, or why the overbooking happened, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The department issued a statement saying it was working to identify potential issues in the state’s scheduling system, and the possibility that links to second-dose appointments were shared via email or social media.
“We are working to confirm that this situation will not occur moving forward,” the statement read.
Officials said they are prioritizing giving second doses to people who have already gotten their first shot because of limited inventory.
Meanwhile, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Saturday that state health officials have confirmed a case of COVID-19 caused by the new variant of the virus that was first detected in South Africa.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- City officials in Alaska say multiple crew members on a seafood factory trawler in the Aleutian Islands have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that the city of Unalaska said Friday that factory trawler Araho, owned by seafood company O’Hara Corporation, reported 20 of its 40 crew members tested positive.
City Manager Erin Reinders said a couple of crew members reported symptoms after the vessel arrived in Alaska from Seattle on Wednesday. Reinders said the city is developing a plan to coordinate care for infected crew members and determine what to do with the others.
BOSTON — Starting Monday, 500 vaccinations per day will be administered at Fenway Park. The goal is to reach as many as 1,250 eligible residents per day under Massachusetts’ vaccination plan.
The site at the home of the Boston Red Sox is expected to stay open through the start of baseball season in early April.
Appointments are open for those people under Phase 1 of the state’s vaccine distribution plan and those 75 and older, who will start getting shots on Monday as the rollout moves into Phase 2.
Health care workers started receiving the vaccine at Fenway this week. The state’s first mass vaccination site at Gillette Stadium – home of the New England Patriots -- opened this month.
State officials aim to open more than 100 public vaccination sites throughout Massachusetts.
AUGUSTA, Maine — Some 2,400 businesses and people in Maine have been approved for more than $221 million in forgivable loans in the first two weeks of the reopening of the Paycheck Protection Program.
Those figures apply to loans between Jan. 11 and Jan. 24, according to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, one of the politicians behind the program. The federal government provided $284.5 billion for the program in the most recent COVID-19 relief package.
Small businesses that employ 300 or fewer people and experienced a 25% or greater gross revenue loss because of the coronavirus are eligible to apply for a second forgivable loan under the program.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina is reporting its first known case of the Britain-based variant of the coronavirus.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control says the agency was notified Friday that a sample from an adult in the Lowcountry “with an international travel history” had tested positive for the variant.
On Friday, 434 cases of the U.K. variant had been reported in the U.S.
This week, health officials reported the first two U.S. cases of a South African coronavirus variant in South Carolina.
Health experts say both variants possibly spread more easily and protective measures of wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings are recommended.
ROME — The Italian Medicines Agency known has approved the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for persons older than 18.
It says the “preferential use” would be for ages 18–55. The approval on Saturday came a day after the European Union’s counterpart agency recommended granting conditional marketing authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine in persons 18 years and older.
The Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) says data from the studies on the AstraZeneca vaccine showed a “level of uncertainty in estimating the efficacy in subjects older than 55” because that age group was “scarcely represented” in studies so far.
AIFA has already approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. So far, 1.8 million people have received one injection in the nation of 60 million. Italy has 2.5 million confirmed cases and more than 88,000 known dead, the second-highest death toll in Europe behind Britain.
HONOLULU — The Navy has announced about a dozen personnel assigned to a Pearl Harbor destroyer, now in San Diego, have tested positive for the coronavirus and were removed from the ship.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Cmdr. Sean Robertson says crew members aboard the USS Chafee who were in close contact with the infected sailors are off the ship and in quarantine while monitoring symptoms. None of the sailors have been hospitalized.
Robertson says there are plans to test all sailors abroad the vessel of 350 people.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported 5,119 coronavirus cases and 76 confirmed deaths on Saturday.
The Department of Health Services says the state’s pandemic totals increased to 753,379 cases and 13,098 confirmed deaths.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are slowing in Arizona. However, Arizona’s coronavirus diagnosis rate was the worst in the nation in the week ending Friday (1 in 178). South Carolina (1 in 192), Oklahoma (1 in 216) and Rhode Island (1 in 225) were next.
On Friday, the state announced that a potentially more contagious variant from Britain was confirmed in tests from three people.
The department says it is monitoring the situation and reiterated the need for people to wear masks and remain socially distance.
LOS ANGELES — California surpassed 40,000 coronavirus deaths as the state’s steepest surge of cases begins to taper.
The tally by Johns Hopkins University shows the state passed the milestone Saturday with 40,240 deaths. The deaths are surging at a record pace after recent declines in cases and hospitalizations. It took six months for California to record its first 10,000 deaths, then four months to double to 20,000.
In just five weeks, the state reached 30,000 and needed only 20 days to get to 40,000.
New York leads the U.S. with more than 43,000 confirmed deaths, followed by California, Texas at 36,000 and Florida at 26,000.
RENO, Nevada — Nevada’s governor and attorney general are denouncing resolutions approved by five rural counties that attempt to defy state restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus statewide.
Gov. Steve Sisolak and Attorney General Aaron Ford say the resolutions passed by Lyon, White Pine, Eureka and Elko Counties have no force of law and cannot override the governor’s emergency directives.
They say the directives have been issued under state law and upheld in courts several times. The two Democrats say everyone is tired of the pandemic, but every day Nevadans die due to COVID-19 in rural counties and urban areas.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico Indigenous tribe is suing the U.S. government, claiming federal health officials have violated the law by ending emergency and in-patient medical care at a hospital on tribal lands.
Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo says the tribe’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the lack of emergency health care services couldn’t have come at a worse time as coronavirus continues to take a toll on his community. Like other Native American communities across the U.S., the pueblo of about 3,000 people has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Acoma is asking a federal judge to overturn a decision by the Indian Health Service to shutter the facility. The agency argues it hasn’t violated the law. It says here aren’t enough health care workers to provide inpatient and emergency department services at the hospital, which serves Acoma and other neighboring tribal communities.
CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot says Chicago Public Schools plans to proceed with the reopening of elementary and middle schools on Monday despite the failure to reach an agreement with the teachers union.
School officials and the Chicago Teachers Union have been locked in negotiations for days to reopen schools closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The teachers union has opposed the school district’s plan over concerns for the health of its members. Lightfoot said late Friday that the two sides have agreed on several issues. The union rejected Lightfoot’s contentions, saying in a tweet that the mayor “wrecked it all” in the final hours.
The union wants a phased-in return with voluntary vaccination, testing for students and staff and accommodations for teachers whose household members are at higher risk of the coronavirus.
In-person classes were canceled this week for about 3,200 pre-K and special education students when teachers refused to work in classrooms. Officials say they expect those students to return to class on Monday.
RALEIGH, N.C. — A racial gap has opened up in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, with Black Americans in many places lagging behind whites in receiving shots.
That’s according to an Associated Press analysis. An early look at the 17 states and two cities that have released racial breakdowns finds Black people are getting inoculated at levels below their share of the general population.
In North Carolina, Black people make up 22% of the population and 26% of the health care workforce but only 11% of the vaccine recipients so far. White people, a category in which the state includes both Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, are 68% of the population and 82% of those vaccinated.
Among the reasons given: deep mistrust of the medical establishment among Black Americans because of a history of discriminatory treatment. The gap is deeply troubling to some, given the coronavirus has taken a disproportionate toll in severe sickness and death on Black people in the U.S.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s neighbors have started restricting international travel amid concern about the spread of a new coronavirus variant that experts say may be more contagious.
Guyana’s government closed its border with South America’s largest country on Friday, two days after Colombia halted passenger flights to and from Brazil. Both nations cited the new variant as their reason. Argentina’s government decided to cut in half the number of flights to Brazil starting Feb. 1, according to a Jan. 27 report in state news agency Telam.
Peru on Jan. 26 banned air traffic from Brazil. The governor of Peru’s Loreto department bordering Brazil called on the government to shut down land crossings, too.
ATLANTA — The CDC has issued an order requiring travelers to wear a mask on public transportation in the U.S., echoing an executive order by President Joe Biden shortly after he took office.
The CDC order takes effect Monday. It states passengers on airplanes, trains, buses, subways, ships, ferries, taxis and ride-shares must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth while getting on such vehicles, during the ride and while getting off.
Additionally, people must wear masks on the premises of transportation hubs such as airports, train and subway stations, bus and ferry terminals, seaports and ports of entry. Masks must stay on while people await, board, travel and disembark public transportation.
Biden’s executive order issued Jan. 21 already mandated masks on certain modes of public transportation such as commercial aircraft, trains and ferries. The president also mandated masks on federal property.
The CDC order prompts drivers, conductors and crew members to only transport people who are wearing masks.
WUHAN, China — Members of a World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic have visited another Wuhan hospital that treated early coronavirus patients.
The facility was one of the city’s first to deal with patients suffering from a then-unknown virus and is a key part of the epidemiological history of the disease. The team’s first face-to-face meetings with Chinese scientists took place on Friday, before the experts visited another early site of the outbreak, the Hubei Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine Hospital.
WHO says all hypotheses are on the table as the team visits hospitals, markets and labs. It’s a politically charged mission as China seeks to avoid blame for alleged early missteps.
BERLIN — Germany says drugmakers will deliver at least 5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to the country in the next three weeks.
The Health Ministry says on Twitter that Germany has already received 3.5 million doses in the past five weeks and administered 2.2 million shots.
Health Minister Jens Spahn says the new figures for deliveries from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca were “good news after a difficult start.” Germany has given the first shot to about 2.2% of its 83 million population. Nearly half a million people had received both shots by Saturday. It’s recommended the second shot be given 21 to 28 days after the first.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has summoned the governors of Germany’s 16 states, which are responsible for organizing the vaccine drive, to discuss the slow rollout on Monday.
In her weekly video address Saturday, she acknowledged families have had a particular burden in the current lockdown but indicated it’s still too early for Germany to reopen schools and daycare centers.
FORT LAUNDERDALE, Fla. — The predominantly Black farming communities on the shore of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee will get a coronavirus vaccine station.
That announcement Friday came after a public outcry over a decision to give the Publix supermarket chain sole local distribution rights, a move that left lower-income families isolated and facing drives of 25 miles to reach the nearest store.
State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz told The Associated Press the state will set up a vaccine station in Belle Glade to serve it and its neighboring towns of Pahokee and South Bay. The station will get 5,000 doses, which is about how many people 65 and older live in the area.