The Latest: Las Vegas Strip rules to end for vaccinated
LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Strip and surroundings will fully reopen to vaccinated diners, dancers, shoppers and club-goers beginning June 1.
Clark County lawmakers on Tuesday followed CDC guidelines and dropped plans to tie business occupancy to coronavirus vaccination rates.
The unanimous vote came after public speakers expressed anger and frustration with pandemic restrictions — especially their effects on schoolchildren.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday aligned state requirements with CDC recommendations issued a day earlier. The CDC says fully vaccinated people can stop social distancing and mask-wearing outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
Most Las Vegas casinos have already returned to 100% occupancy and no social distancing under oversight of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Biden coronavirus adviser says teen son has lingering COVID-19 symptoms, encourages young to get shots
— UAE to offer booster shot to recipients of China’s Sinopharm vaccine
— Changed by pandemic, many US workers won’t return to old jobs
— India reports record day of virus deaths as cases level off
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian lawmakers have voted to dismiss the health minister who has faced criticism for the slow pace of the nation’s coronavirus vaccination effort.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal held Health Minister Maksym Stepanov responsible for the failure to quickly procure more vaccine. Shmyhal says the nation of 41 million people so far has received only 2.3 million doses, and only 948,3300 Ukrainians had received at least one shot as of Tuesday.
Stepanov argued in his defense that the ex-Soviet nation has faced tough competition as nations try to procure vaccines amid the pandemic. Supplies of the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine were suspended after infections in India surged.
Ukraine has registered more than 2.1 million infections and 48,469 deaths from COVID-19.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ governor says public schools must end mask requirements starting in June and is ordering Texas’ cities and counties to drop nearly all face covering mandates by the end of the week.
Tuesday’s announcement from Gov. Greg Abbott does not affect private businesses, which can still require customers or workers to wear masks. But the change is the biggest rollbacks of Texas’ pandemic safeguards since Abbott ended a statewide mask mandate in March.
Public hospitals, jails and state-supported living centers will still be allowed to require masks.
The move comes as Texas’ coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths continue to plunge and vaccines are being made available to children as young as 12.
Some Texas school have already ended mask mandates. The Texas State Teachers Association criticized Abbott’s decision as premature.
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico is mounting a final push to get all of the country’s 3 million school teachers vaccinated so it can reopen schools, perhaps by the second half of June.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday that getting kids back into classrooms is an urgent necessity, as much for their social development as anything else. He says: “School is like a second home, and we need all students at all levels to return to in-person classes..”
Officials estimate 2.1 million teachers at private and public schools have already been vaccinated, and hope to inject almost 520,000 this week and a similar number in the last week of May.
Schools in four of Mexico’s least-affected states have gone back to in-person classes, but on a very limited scale. The other 28 states have been giving online classes since early last year.
PORTLAND, Oregon -- Oregon health officials say businesses and churches can choose to no longer require masks and social distancing for fully vaccinated people, but those places must have individuals show proof of vaccination and review it.
Under new rules announced Tuesday, people will still be required to wear masks while on public transportation and in schools, hospitals and clinics, homeless shelters, correctional facilities and long-term care facilities.
Oregonians have been required since last summer to wear masks inside public spaces such as grocery stores, shops, gyms and restaurants and outside in situations where people cannot remain six feet apart.
CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire will end its participation in all pandemic-related federal unemployment compensation programs June 19 but will offer “signing stipends” totaling $10 million to encourage people to find jobs.
The state was among the first to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits when the pandemic first struck. Between March and April 2020, its unemployment rate jumped from 2.7% to over 16%, but as of this month, was back down to 2.8%.
Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday that unemployed workers who find full-time jobs will get $1,000 bonuses after completing eight weeks of work and part-time workers will get $800 until the $10 million bonus fund is depleted.
Connecticut is offering a similar incentive, though it is maintaining the federal $300 supplemental payments for those who remain unemployed.
LOS ANGELES -- Five more California counties will move to less restrictive pandemic rules because of improving COVID-19 conditions.
The state Department of Public Health said Tuesday that Orange, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Amador counties are moving from the orange, or moderate, tier to the yellow, or minimal, tier. Tehama County is improving from the red, substantial, tier to orange.
The moves will put 13 counties in yellow, 35 in orange and 10 in red. No counties are in the purple, or substantial, tier.
WASHINGTON — A top White House adviser for the coronavirus is encouraging young people to get vaccinated, sharing his son’s struggles after acquiring the virus.
Andy Slavitt revealed during a White House briefing Tuesday that one of his sons was diagnosed with the virus late last year and still suffers from lingering side effects.
He’s appealing to younger Americans to roll up their sleeves, even if they feel they’re at less risk than older Americans for serious medical consequences.
Slavitt says his teenage son was “young and fit and in the prime of his life. But six months later, he still suffers from tachycardia, shortness of breath, and ongoing and frequent flu-like symptoms. His hands are cold to the touch.”
Slavitt adds: “Many young people are in this situation, and many, many have it worse. According to the CDC, more than 3 million kids under 17 have contracted COVID-19.”
ATLANTA — A U.S. government report finds rural counties are behind urban counties in their coronavirus vaccination efforts, a gap that could slow the fight against the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that 39% of adults in rural counties had received at least one shot compared to 46% in urban counties as of April 10. The rural lag holds up in women, men and both younger and older adults.
Polling suggests rural Americans are more likely than others to say they’ll avoid vaccination. The CDC report says rural Americans may have more trouble traveling to distant vaccination sites.
Early in the pandemic, the coronavirus hit large cities. By September, it spread throughout the country and case rates in rural areas eventually surpassed urban centers. Some research suggests rural Americans may be more vulnerable to serious infection and death from COVID-19.
The CDC says public health departments should work with doctors, pharmacies, faith groups and employers in rural areas to address the gap in coverage.
WASHINGTON — Federal health officials are releasing $3 billion to help states cope with rising substance abuse and mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The money approved by Congress in President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief bill will be equally divided between the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, roughly tripling the federal commitment to the programs, officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported 90,000 overdose deaths for the 12-month period ending last September, which represents 20,000 additional lives lost compared with the same period a year earlier.
Reported episodes of anxiety and depression were up sharply last year, and more people experienced suicidal thoughts. But there was a drop in the use of mental health and substance abuse treatment. Although people are using mental health services again, it hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The money will be distributed through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates says it will offer booster shots six months after vaccination for those who received the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm shot.
The announcement Tuesday comes after some in the UAE received a third shot amid concerns of a low antibody response from the vaccine.
Last month, China’s top disease control official, in a rare acknowledgement, said current vaccines offer low protection against the coronavirus.
China has distributed hundreds of millions of doses of domestically made vaccines abroad and is relying on them for its own mass immunization campaign. The state-owned company has not publicly published peer-reviewed data on the final stage clinical trial research and been criticized for a lack of transparency.
The UAE initially said the vaccine was 86% effective in the first public release of information on the shot’s efficacy. But in the time since, it has offered no study data to support its figures.
NEW DELHI — The Serum Institute of India says it hopes to start delivering coronavirus vaccine doses to the U.N. backed effort known as COVAX and to other countries by the end of the year, which will significantly set back global efforts to immunize people against COVID-19.
In March, India’s Serum Institute, the world’s biggest vaccine maker and the main supplier of COVID-19 vaccine doses to COVAX, said it was postponing all exports of coronavirus vaccines to deal with the explosive surge of cases on the subcontinent. At the time, the World Health Organization and Gavi announced the delay would affect about 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but they expected deliveries to resume by June.
“SII has delivered more than 200 million doses,” the company said in a statement posted to its Twitter account. It says in the past few days, there’s been “intense discussion” on the decision of the Indian government and vaccine manufacturers about the possible export of vaccines.
“We continue to scale up and prioritize India,” the company says. “We also hope to start delivering to COVAX and other countries by the end of the year.”
GENEVA — More than 60 countries want the World Trade Organization member states to temporarily ease protections on the know-how behind vaccines, medicine and tests for the coronavirus.
They are appealing to approximately 140 other members to step forward “as soon as possible” to flesh out a text for the proposal. The 62 WTO member states -- mostly developing countries -- have rallied around a proposal first made by India and South Africa that garnered some support from the Biden administration when it comes to vaccines.
A joint statement from the countries says they’ll “soon” present a revised proposal on the issue that aims to get coronavirus help to the neediest people -- whether in rich or poor countries.
The 62 states also pledged flexibility on the issue to “ensure swift outcomes” that would suit a majority of WTO member states. However, the WTO operates by consensus -- meaning any single country could block the proposal. Some have expressed strong opposition.
Wealthy countries with strong pharmaceutical industries say such a temporary “intellectual property waiver” could have a long-lasting impacting innovation and would take months to carry out -- rendering it ineffective against urgent supply shortages faced in many countries. They say a better solution would be immediate donations of vaccines from rich countries that have extra doses.
Proponents insist capacity to scale up production of vaccines exists, but the protections under WTO rules prevent it.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ health minister says private doctors can administer the AstraZeneca shot against COVID-19 to anyone over age 20 to expedite its vaccination program.
Constantinos Ioannou says the government’s online vaccination appointment program will re-open for all ages so anyone who missed out the first time around can make the arrangement.
So far, 45.2% of its 875,000 population has received at least one shot and 15.5% have completed their vaccination. Ioannou says the government’s target to vaccinate two-thirds of the population by the end of June remains on track.