The Latest: Pfizer looks at vaccine with fewest side effects
NEW YORK — Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will take its COVID-19 vaccine candidate with the fewest side effects into final-stage testing.
In an online report Thursday, Pfizer researchers compared data from early-stage testing of two vaccine candidates. Both revved immune systems similarly, and neither caused severe side effects.
But one candidate caused considerably fewer injection reactions, particularly in older adults -- symptoms such as fever, headache, chills or muscle pain that are temporary but unpleasant, Pfizer reported.
Final testing of Pfizer’s lead candidate has begun as researchers recruit about 30,000 people in the U.S. and other countries. It’s one of a handful of experimental vaccines to reach end-stage tests around the world.
It generally takes years to develop a safe and effective vaccine for widespread use and distribution. U.S. health officials hope to start offering vaccinations sometime next year.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Rise in jobless claims reflects still-struggling US economy
— WHO seeks more information about Russia vaccine
— India reports record high of 69,000 new infections in past 24 hours
— Working families enlist grandparents to help with the kids. As the school year gets under way for many kids with working parents, more grandparents have moved into daily caregiver roles.
— Two players on the South Africa cricket squad have tested positive for COVID-19. The positive tests came at a team camp involving more than 30 of the country’s top players.
— As hospitals care for people with COVID-19 and try to prevent its spread, more patients are opting to be treated where they feel safest: at home.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PARIS — France President Emmanuel Macron say the country will send millions of students back to school starting Sept. 1, despite the biggest weekly spike in virus infections in months.
France’s national health agency reported 4,771 new infections Thursday, and more than 18,000 new cases in the past week – the biggest weekly rise since April. The increase is attributed to summer vacation parties, family gatherings and clusters in workplaces as people returned to work.
Concerns are mounting among teachers and parents that schools can’t keep the virus at bay. A leading teachers’ union asked the government this week to delay the start of the school year.
LAWRENCE, Kansas — The University of Kansas says early testing of students and staff returning to the campus has turned up 89 coronavirus cases, with a majority in fraternities and sororities.
KMBC-TV reports 87 students and two faculty or staff members tested positive. Entry testing upon return to campus before the start of activities and classes showed a positivity rate of 1.25% for the 7,088 tests conducted so far.
Testing is mandatory for students, faculty, and staff on the university’s campuses in Lawrence or Overland Park before Sept. 7. The university plans targeted testing and random sampling later.
GREELEY, Colo — Two students at a Colorado high school have tested positive for coronavirus, prompting a two-week shutdown of the school just days after the start of the academic year.
The Greeley Tribune reports the Weld Re-8 School District announced the first confirmed case on its Facebook page and sent an email to parents announcing the second case.
Fort Lupton High School officials say the students were in separate groups on campus with more than 500 students combined, requiring a complete school shutdown. The high school has moved to remote learning and is scheduled to be closed through at least Sept. 7.
OMAHA, Neb. — Thirty-five confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported in Omaha-area schools in the early weeks of the school year, Douglas County health director Adi Pour says.
Seventeen students and 18 school staff members have tested positive. Another 152 students, staff and faculty who had close contact with those testing postiive were in quarantine, The Omaha World-Herald reported.
JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization has urged African governments to accelerate the reopening of schools, saying the continent’s youths will suffer from prolonged closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO officials warned that poor nutrition, stress, increased exposure to violence and exploitation and teenage pregnancies are among the problems faced by students remaining out of school in sub-Saharan Africa.
Only six African countries have fully opened schools, according to a survey of 39 countries by WHO and UNICEF. Many governments closed schools as part of measures to limit the transmission of the coronavirus. Some reopened and then had to close again when virus cases broke out in the schools.
MADRID — Spain’s top coronavirus expert is warning about surging infections mostly tied to nightlife and socialization during the summer holidays.
The head of Spain’s health emergency coordination center Fernando Simón says younger people should know they can infect older relatives who suffer more the consequences of COVID-19.
“Nobody should be fooled, things are not going well,” Simón says.
The Health Ministry added 7,000 new cases to the tally Thursday, bringing it to nearly 378,000 confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic. It’s the highest number in Europe.
The total death toll rose to more than 28,800, with 16 new deaths.
ATLANTA -- New guidance from the President Donald Trump’s administration that declares teachers to be “critical infrastructure workers” could exempt teachers from quarantine requirements after being exposed to the coronavirus and send them back into the classroom.
Keeping teachers without symptoms in the classroom, as a handful of school districts in Tennessee and Georgia have already said they may do, raises the risk they’ll spread the coronavirus to students and fellow employees.
Multiple teachers can be required by public health agencies to quarantine for 14 days during an outbreak, which can stretch a district’s ability to keep providing in-person instruction.
South Carolina health officials also describe teachers as critical infrastructure workers, although it’s unclear if any district there is asking teachers to return before 14 days.
SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. — A suburban Phoenix school district forced by a teacher sickout to abandon plans for in-person learning this week is resuming virtual instruction only.
The J.O. Combs Unified School District board voted 4-1 Wednesday night to resume remote learning starting on Thursday. Superintendent Gregory Wyman says the district’s board will meet again Aug. 27 to review updated state coronavirus metrics on reopening schools and again consider whether to resume in-person instruction.
After teachers balked, the district dropped its plan to resume in-person learning this week and instead cancelled school for three days. Many say no Arizona counties met the state’s voluntary standards for in-person learning.
ROME — Italy has recorded another increase in coronavirus infections, adding 845 new cases to its confirmed toll.
Nearly 77,500 virus tests were conducted in the last day, compared to the estimated 50,000 daily tests in the first half of August. The additional testing attempts to catch new clusters before they increase.
The government has mandated testing for all people returning from Spain, Malta, Greece and Croatia and set up testing sites at airports to try to inform infected passengers upon arrival.
Sardinia has become its own hotspot, after an entire resort was locked down and 26 infections reported. Many young Italians reported they got infected after partying at discos on the island and other beach destinations without masks.
There are concerns ahead of the reopening of public schools. However, education Minister Lucia Azzolina says the reopening of schools on Sept. 14 was on track, with protective masks, desks spaced apart and modified classrooms.
Italy’s confirmed cases stand at 256,118. Another six people died in the last 24 hours, bringing the confirmed death toll to 35,418.
TRENTON, N.J. — The agency that oversees high school sports in New Jersey has decided that indoor fall sports will be delayed until early next year, but outdoor sports will start in about a month.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Sports Advisory Task Force released its “Return to Sports Plan” on Thursday. It features condensed schedules and will keep most contests local. The plan also prohibits out-of-state competition except for “exceptional circumstances” and states post-season play will be limited and local, with no statewide championships.
The task force noted if circumstances force the outdoor fall sports to be postponed, their seasons will be played during the spring.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Police in The Hague have arrested several people demonstrating outside the Dutch parliament against the government’s coronavirus containment measures.
National broadcaster NOS posted video on its website Thursday showing a riot officer hitting a woman twice with a baton and shoving her with his shield after she apparently ignored orders to move on.
Other video posted to social media showed demonstrators briefly clashing with police near parliament.
Hague police couldn’t immediately say exactly how many protesters were arrested.
Infections have been rising fast in the Netherlands in recent weeks. The Dutch public health agency says 529 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the last 24-hour period. The Netherlands has confirmed more than 6,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
LONDON — Scotland’s leader says it has recorded 77 more coronavirus cases, its highest daily number in almost three months.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland will remain in Phase Three of her four-part plan for easing lockdown restrictions.
She says moving to the next stage can only occur when her government is satisfied the virus is “no longer considered a significant threat to public health.”
Sturgeon will allow the reopening of gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports courts on Aug. 31.
BRUSSELS — The Belgian government has decided to relax some measures to contain the corona virus but maintain others.
While avoiding close contact, officials say shopping can happen with two people instead of alone and scrapping a time limit of 30 minutes in a shop.
Events indoors can be extended to 200 people instead of 100 and to 400 outdoors instead of 200 if social distancing rules can be respected.
Belgium has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates per capita in the world. About 10,000 people have died in a nation with a population of some 11.5 million. Greece has nearly 11 million people and 255 confirmed deaths.
LONDON — The World Health Organization’s Europe office says it has begun discussions with Russia to try to get more information about the coronavirus vaccine that Russia approved last week before the shot had passed the advanced trials normally required to prove it works.
Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency official at WHO Europe, says“this concern that we have around safety and efficacy is not specifically for the Russia vaccine, it’s for all of the vaccines under development.”
She acknowledged WHO was taking an “accelerated approach” to try to speed development of coronavirus vaccines but says “it’s essential we don’t cut corners in safety or efficacy.”
Smallwood says WHO has begun “direct discussions” with Russia and WHO officials have been sharing “the various steps and information that’s going to be required for WHO to take assessments.”
BERLIN — Germany’s foreign ministry has issued a travel warning for parts of Croatia as coronavirus risk areas.
That follows the Robert Koch Institute declaring the Croatian regions of Sibenik-Knin and Split Dalmatia as risk areas. Risk areas means people returning from there to Germany are required to get tested for the virus.
Croatia is a popular vacation destination for Europeans. Last week, Austria already issued a travel warning for Croatia, which led to a mass exodus of Austrian vacationers.
Another 1,707 new cases were reported Thursday in Germany, reflecting similar spikes across Europe after a period of less virus activity in June and early July.
The spike in new cases in Germany is mostly related to travelers returning from abroad, but also to bigger crowds of people getting together for family gatherings and other celebrations. Also, several German states have students going back to school.
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office says the region is “on a trajectory of its own” and noted coronavirus cases have been steadily increasing every week in the last two months even as the epicenter of the pandemic has shifted to the Americas.
At a press briefing on Thursday, Dr. Hans Kluge says while European countries had made “phenomenal efforts” to contain the virus after being hit hard earlier in the year, there were now about 26,000 cases every day across Europe.
Kluge says new clusters of the virus are mainly occurring in localized settings, like long-term nursing homes, food production facilities or sparked by travelers.
Kluge noted the region was in a “much better position to stamp out these localized virus flare-ups” and ”can manage the virus differently now than we did when COVID-19 first emerged.”
Kluge also called for schools to be reopened where possible and says WHO Europe would be convening a virtual meeting of its 53 member countries on Aug. 31 to discuss how schools across the region might be reopened safely.
BERLIN — The conductor of a high-speed train in Germany called police after a far-right lawmaker refused to wear a mask, then locked himself in the bathroom.
Wearing simple mouth and nose coverings is mandatory on public transport, but rail firm Deutsche Bahn has struggled to enforce the rule with a small number of travelers who object to wearing masks.
Stephan Brandner, a member of the Alternative for Germany party, confirmed the incident took place on Aug. 12 but mocked reports that he tried to hide on the toilet.
German news agency dpa quoted a police spokesman Wednesday confirming that officers responded to a request for help from the conductor after two travelers on a train from Berlin to the Baltic town of Binz refused to put on masks.
Brandner wrote on Twitter that he had been enjoying a pastry when the conductor asked him to put on a mask, whereupon he responded: “Can’t, I’m eating right now, I’ll think about it afterward.”
CAIRO — The Egyptian government announced worshipers can soon attend mosque for Friday prayers now the daily tally of confirmed new virus cases is plateauing at below 200.
Egypt’s Minister of Religious Endowment Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa says weekly congregational prayers may be held starting Aug. 28. The gatherings have been suspended for nearly five months.
Worshipers are expected to observe social distancing and wear face masks to prevent another viral outbreak, Gomaa said in a statement Wednesday.
He says the Friday sermon, which usually lasts for nearly an hour, will be reduced to 10 minutes.
Starting in August, the number of new cases in Egypt has dropped significantly to less than 200 new cases a day.
On Wednesday, Egypt reported 161 confirmed cases and 13 deaths. Overall, Egypt has reported nearly 97,000 confirmed cases and more than 5,000 deaths.