The Latest: Feds shift focus of Native American vaccinations
WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump is slamming two of his most prominent coronavirus advisers. He says Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx are “two self-promoters trying to reinvent history.”
Fauci is the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, and in a statement released Monday evening, Trump calls him “the king of ’flip-flops.” He accuses Fauci of “moving the goalposts to make himself look as good as possible.”
Birx managed the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, and Trump says she “is a proven liar with very little credibility left.”
Trump’s comments come in response to a documentary that aired on CNN on Sunday. In the film, Birx says the U.S. did not act aggressively enough to fight the spread of the coronavirus, saying that deaths “could have been mitigated or decreased substantially” after the initial wave.
Fauci told CNN it seemed like the Trump virus team was “fighting with each other rather than fighting the virus.”
In his statement, Trump says “Dr. Fauci would always talk negatively about (Birx) and, in fact, would ask not to be in the same room with her.”
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
VACCINES: More than 93.6 million people, or 28.2% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 51.5 million people, or 15.5% of the population, have completed their vaccination.
CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. increased over the past two weeks from 53,670 on March 14 to 63,239 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks decreased from 1,363 on March 14 to 969 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SANTA FE, N.M. — The Indian Health Service is shifting its vaccine distribution system to target individual hospitals and clinics with high demand for shots and tapering off supplies to vaccination hubs where most eligible patients have received doses.
The federal agency said Monday the shift is designed to improve efficiency after a drop-off in vaccine demand in some regions.
Native Americans have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the pandemic and are now at the forefront of federal vaccination efforts.
The Indian Health Service has administered more than 940,000 vaccine doses across the U.S. and plans to hit the million-dose mark before April.
Over a year after the nation’s first reported coronavirus case, more than 80,000 Navajo Nation members have been fully vaccinated on the sprawling reservation that overlaps portions of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A spokeswoman for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey says the state’s mask mandate will end April 9 despite the request by President Joe Biden for states to reinstate, or maintain, restrictions.
Spokeswoman Gina Maiola issued a statement Monday saying that “we have made progress, and we are moving towards personal responsibility and common sense, not endless government mandates.”
The comment came after the White House asked states to maintain restrictions. Biden and a top health official appealed for mask requirements and other restrictions to be maintained or restored to stave off a new surge of coronavirus infections.
Alabama has kept a mask mandate in place longer than surrounding states, but the governor has made clear it will not be extended.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has opened coronavirus vaccine eligibility to all adults, joining a rapid national expansion as state health officials continue monitoring whether spring break will change a downward trend in cases.
At least a half dozen states opened eligibility to anyone age 16 and older on Monday.
Texas officials say the state is receiving more than 1 million new doses this week, and shipments are expected to increase in April. Vaccination rates in Texas have lagged behind much of the nation. Although officials put some blame on data reporting delays, they acknowledge that some appointment slots are going unfilled.
Texas has administered more than 10 million vaccine doses.
ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is in isolation after exposure to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend, though the governor has tested negative.
In a statement on Twitter, spokesman Cody Hall said the governor’s office was informed that someone the governor had been near when he was touring storm damage Saturday in the town of Newnan tested positive Monday. Hall said the governor took a “rapid-response antigen test” Monday and it was negative.
This is the second time the governor has had to go into isolation over exposure to the virus. Last year he was exposed at a campaign event.
On Friday, Kemp was given a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
TOPEKA, Kan. — State legislators in Kansas are working on a plan for setting aside potentially several hundred million dollars in federal pandemic relief funds to pay businesses harmed by restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would set up a state fund to pay claims from businesses that either were shut down or had their operations curtailed by state restrictions.
The measure also would require counties and cities that imposed restrictions to set up similar funds. The state, cities and counties would be required to set aside 25% of their federal COVID-19 relief funds that aren’t dedicated to a specific purpose.
The measure is designed to end the threat that the state, counties and cities could face a larger total payout from lawsuits from business owners.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor says he plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions in the state.
Gov. Brian Kemp says that his administration will outline plans to rescind remaining coronavirus restrictions.
Those include capacity limits, restrictions on large-scale gatherings and dozens of safety guidelines for restaurants, bars, entertainment and other venues, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The move is a “critical step” in moving the state back to normalcy, Kemp said. He pointed to recent declines of new infections and rising numbers of Georgians getting vaccinated.
The changes are expected to take effect Thursday, the newspaper reported.
NEW YORK — The top public health agency in the U.S. has added drug addiction to the list of conditions that can increase the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
It means people with alcoholism or addiction to other drugs can be counted as a priority group for vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
The change means there are now 17 conditions that can qualify for COVID-19 vaccines. Besides drug addiction, the CDC also added Down syndrome, dementia and other neurological conditions, liver disease, HIV infection, stroke and Type 1 diabetes.
DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has announced that residents over age 16 will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine starting Friday.
All Colorado residents who want vaccines will be able to get them by mid to late May, Polis said on Monday.
The Democratic governor says there will be six mass drive-in sites for the state’s eligible population and four mobile bus clinics to distribute vaccines to underserved communities.
He says more than 1 million Colorado residents have been fully vaccinated and over 1.5 million have received their first vaccine doses. Despite expanded eligibility, Polis says vaccine providers have been ordered to prioritize people in higher risk groups.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Public health officials in Iowa acknowledged some counties have already started providing COVID-19 vaccinations to individuals ages 16 and older a week before Gov. Kim Reynolds plans to make all adult Iowans officially eligible for the shots.
The state had planned to open vaccines to people 16 and older starting next Monday.
Iowa is currently eighth in the nation for the percent of its population that is fully vaccinated at 19%, or 598,935 people out of 3.1 million.
Nationally, 15.8% of the U.S. population — or roughly 52.6 million people — are fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Like many U.S. states, Iowa is seeing a recent increase in virus activity, reporting on Monday 110 new confirmed cases and seven additional deaths.
MADRID — With the number of new COVID-19 cases in Spain creeping higher, officials are urging people to prevent the pandemic from surging out of control by complying with restrictions on movements and gatherings over Easter.
Fernando Simón, who heads the country’s pandemic response, said he believed Spain can keep a lid on the slow but steady rise while a vaccination campaign continues, as long as people remain disciplined over the Easter break.
Spain reported an incidence rate of 149 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days. That’s up from 129 cases per 100,000 a week ago. That key pandemic indicator reached a peak of 900 at the end of January before dropping amid limits on travel and gatherings. This month the indicator levelled off and in recent days has started ticking higher.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson says it’s agreed to provide up to 400 million doses of its one-dose COVID-19 vaccine to African countries, starting this summer.
The drugmaker said under its agreement with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, the company will provide up to 220 million vaccine doses for the African Union’s 55 member countries, with delivery beginning in the July-to-September quarter. The trust will be able to order 180 million additional doses from J&J, for a total of up to 400 million shots through 2022.
The company’s vaccine still must receive authorization from regulators in the African countries, but the World Health Organization approved it for emergency use on March 12.
In late-stage testing, J&J’s vaccine prevented about 67% of symptomatic infections with the coronavirus and was 85% effective at preventing severe disease, beginning 28 days after vaccination.
WASHINGTON — The head of the CDC making an impassioned plea to Americans not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, warning of a potential “fourth wave” of the virus as cases in the U.S. rose 10% over the last week.
Speaking during a White House briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky grew emotional as she reflected “on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”
She added: “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now, I’m scared.”
Walensky appealed to elected officials, community leaders and everyday Americans to maintain social distancing measures and mask-wearing. She said, “Just please hold on a little while longer.”
She added: “We are not powerless, we can change this trajectory of the pandemic.”
BOSTON — Hotels in the Boston area were hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than just about any other major U.S. city, and hospitality industry officials said the recovery could take years.
The Boston Globe reported that the occupancy rate in Boston and Cambridge fell to less than 26% last year, driving revenue per available room — the performance measure used in the industry — down more than 80%, according to the hotel consultant Pinnacle Advisory Group.
Only New York fared worse. The area’s hotels are projected to hit 42% occupancy this year, half of what it was in 2019, while hotel revenues aren’t expected to get back to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.
About 8,000 hotel employees in the area are still out of work. More than a dozen hotels in Boston and Cambridge remain closed, including the 1,200-room Sheraton Boston Hotel, the biggest property in the city.