The Latest: Study: Precautions help slow school virus spread
NEW YORK — Health officials say evidence continues to mount that it’s generally safe to have in-person schooling, if U.S. schools require mask wearing and other precautions.
The latest study looks at schools in rural Wisconsin and found cases linked to in-school transmission were very low even while infections were common in the same communities.
Margaret Honein of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says,
“Data has really accumulated over the last few months that with good prevention efforts ... we can keep transmission in schools quite low.”
The Wisconsin study was published online Tuesday by a CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It focused on 17 schools in Wood County in central Wisconsin and found cases were diagnosed at rate 37% lower than reported in the county overall.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Honein and other CDC scientists say it’s re-assuring that the kind of spread seen in nursing homes and other places hasn’t been noted in schools with prevention measures.
However, they say some extracurricular school-related activities, such as sports, have triggered coronavirus spread in some places.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
U.K. is first country in Europe to pass 100K deaths. Relative of virus victim asks to meet WHO experts in Wuhan. EU demands vaccine makers honor their commitments. COVID-19 variant brings new dimension to Europe’s pandemic fight. Some hospitals near capacity in hard-hit areas as Indonesia hits 1 million virus cases. Taiwan quarantines 5,000 people while looking for source of hospital cluster.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW YORK — New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Chokshi says the city is expecting 107,000 vaccine doses designated for use this week.
He says that’s enough to take care of the people whose appointments at city-run sites last week were bumped to this week. Chokshi says city officials will find out soon about the city’s allocation for next week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city had just 7,700 first doses on hand. He says he’d like to use designated second doses for first shots to “put those second doses into play.”
ATLANTA — A member of the Georgia state House has been removed from the chamber for not abiding by the legislature’s coronavirus testing policy.
Rep. David Clark, a Republican from Buford, was asked to leave the House floor Tuesday morning. Clark refused to leave on his own and had to be escorted out by police.
Members of the legislature undergo testing twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays. Clark told reporters he is abstaining from twice-a-week testing until it is available to everyone in Georgia, particularly teachers and first responders.
A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston issued a statement that didn’t name Clark. It said he had been “advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested at any point during this session.”
LONDON — More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom after contracting the coronavirus.
The health department said 100,162 people have died after testing positive, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday. Britain is the fifth country in the world to pass that mark, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest.
The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s. The U.K. toll is 30,000 more than the total number of British civilians killed during the six years of World War II.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is reporting new daily records of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations.
Health authorities on Tuesday attributed 291 deaths to the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, as total deaths surpassed 11,000. Coronavirus patients in hospitals, many of which are close to full, rose to a record 6,472.
Experts warn the peak of the surge may come only in mid-February.
GENEVA — Experts at the World Health Organization have announced plans for a Feb. 8 meeting to review AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, saying the timing could coincide with an emergency-use approval for it by the U.N. health agency.
Dr. Joachim Hombach, the executive secretary of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization, says it “tentatively” plans for the review which “would then be pretty much timed with the emergency listing process of WHO.”
That vaccine holds promise because it is cheaper than other vaccines currently being deployed, and it would not require conservation at ultra-low temperatures that some others do -- making it a more likely candidate for rollout in remote places and developing countries.
PARIS — Teachers and university students marched or went on strike Tuesday around France to demand more government support amid the pandemic.
Teachers want better virus protections at their schools, which have remained open since September because of the government’s concern about learning gaps. University students are frustrated that they’ve been barred from campuses since October. The protests were held in Paris, Marseille and other cities.
The education ministry says about 12% of teachers nationwide took part in a national call to strike Tuesday.
France has 3.1 million coronavirus cases, sixth in the world. It’s registered more than 73,000 confirmed deaths, seventh overall.
BRUSSELS — The European Union is warning pharmaceutical giants developing coronavirus vaccines to honor their contractual obligations.
Slow deliveries from two companies hampered its vaccine rollout in several nations. The bloc criticized pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, accusing it of failing to guarantee delivery of coronavirus vaccines without valid explanation. It’s facing delivery delays from Pfizer due to a plant upgrade in Belgium.
The EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with option on 100 million extra shots. Late last week, the company said it was planning to reduce a first contingent of 80 million to 31 million.
The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the AstraZeneca vaccine Friday ahead of its expected approval. The EU has signed six vaccine contracts for more than 2 billion doses, but so far only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use.
WUHAN, China — A relative of a coronavirus victim in China is demanding to meet a visiting World Health Organization expert team, saying it should speak with affected families who allege they are being muffled by the Chinese government.
Zhang Hai’s father died of COVID-19 in February 2020. He has been organizing relatives of victims to demand accountability from officials. Zhang says he’s worried the WHO might be used to provide cover for alleged Chinese missteps in the early days of the outbreak.
WHO says the visit is a scientific mission to investigate the origins of the virus, not an effort to assign blame. The WHO team is expected to begin field work later this week.
On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the U.S., told the World Economic Forum that the origins of the virus are still unknown, “a big black box, which is awful.”
Keiji Fukuda, a public health expert at the University of Hong Kong and a former WHO official says, “it all comes down to what will the team have access to. Will they really be able to ask the questions that they want to ask?”
PARIS — France abandoned plans to space out coronavirus vaccinations by six weeks instead of three.
Health Minister Olivier Veran announced maintaining the time between two injections of the Pfizer vaccine at 21 to 28 days, which is in line with WHO recommendations.
Alain Fisher, president of the scientific committee advising the government on vaccines, says the effects of a longer gap between injections remain unclear and the first shot only provides limited immunity.
He says spacing out injections could be risky at a time when France faces growing COVID-19 hospitalizations and fast-spreading new virus variants.
In early January, French Prime Minister Jean Castex had announced extending the time between shots to six weeks to allow more people to get the initial shot.
France has registered 3.1 million cases and reported 445 new deaths Monday, bringing the total at least 73,494 confirmed deaths.
BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian officials say Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo has died from complications of COVID-19. He was 69.
President Ivan Duque says Holmes Trujillo died early Tuesday, adding: “His life was a reflection of his vocation for public service.”
Holmes Trujillo became defense minister in November 2019, after serving as foreign minister. He was also the mayor of Cali from 1988-1990.
Colombia reported more than 15,000 new cases per day in mid-January, up from about 7,000 cases in early December.
Colombia has more than 50,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s health minister says authorities are considering asking other European Union countries for help amid a steep surge in coronavirus cases.
Portugal has had the world’s worst rate of new daily cases and deaths per 100,000 people for the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Health Minister Marta Temido says sending patients to other EU countries is not uncommon in the bloc. But, she says, Portugal has the disadvantage of being geographically remote and hospitals across the continent are under pressure from the pandemic. She says the country may instead be asking for medical workers to be sent.
Portuguese hospitals are under severe strain, Temido told public broadcaster RTP. “We have beds available,” she said. “What we’re struggling with is finding staff.”
That request may be difficult to fulfill, because all countries in the 27-nation bloc are dealing with their own pandemic strains, made more difficult now because of the emergence of virus variants.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed 1 million on Tuesday, and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.
Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced new daily infections rose by 13,094, bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468. Jakarta continues to be hardest-hit city in Indonesia.
The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesian launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world’s fourth most populous country.
Officials say Indonesia will require almost 427 million doses, due to an estimate that 15% of doses may be wasted during the distribution process in the vast nation of more than 17,000 islands, where transportation and infrastructure are limited in places.
STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s foreign minister says people in the Scandinavian country shouldn’t expect to travel globally during Easter. as Sweden extended its advice to avoid unnecessary trips to countries outside the European Union and Europe’s Schengen travel area.
“Our assessment is that there will be uncertainty for several months globally. It is an overall assessment that is about what the situation at the destinations will look like,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Tuesday.
Linde said the recommendation to avoid trips outside the EU will last until April 15. Easter is at the beginning of April. She added traveling inside the 27-member EU is “in no way risk-free” although it is not advised against.
Sweden, which has opted for a much-debated approach of keeping large parts of society open, has 11,005 confirmed virus deaths and more than 547,100 cases.
LONDON — The U.K. is set to announce changes to its quarantine rules later Tuesday that could see anyone arriving in the country having to spend 10 days in a hotel at their own expense.
Vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said there will be an “announcement on this issue later on today,” but would not be drawn on what the changes would entail.
The British government has been reviewing its quarantine policies amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus. Whether the changes will be universal and apply to everyone arriving, including British citizens, or just to those arriving from high-risk coronavirus countries, is unclear.
Zahawi told Sky News that “as we vaccinate more of the adult population, if there are new variants like the South African or the Brazilian variants, we need to be very careful.”
BEIJING — Chinese airlines are offering refunded tickets as the coronavirus continues to spread in the country’s northeast.
The offer Tuesday from the government’s aviation authority comes amid a push to prevent people traveling during the Lunar New Year holiday next month.
China has largely curbed the virus’ spread in most areas, but travel limits remain in place where outbreaks have been detected, including in the capital Beijing. Schools are going on break a week early and migrant workers have been told not to travel back to their hometowns.
The country’s death toll from COVID-19 rose by one to 4,636 among 89,197 cases, the National Health Commission reported, with most new cases in the northeast where winter temperatures are well below freezing.
The National Health Commission on Tuesday reported 53 new cases in Heilongjiang province, with another seven in Jilin province just to the south. Beijing and the business hub of Shanghai both reported two new cases.