The Latest: LA mayor criticizes state over vaccination rules
By The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says a lot of pandemic deaths could have been prevented in California if the state had focused earlier on vaccinating people in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Garcetti also said Friday the federal and state governments haven’t given local officials like him enough freedom to inoculate who they feel are most at risk.
Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom are fellow Democrats and close friends. And while the mayor didn’t name Newsom, his comments ultimately are criticism of the governor and his initial tightly constrained approach to vaccinating residents by age and profession.
Newsom has since pivoted and set aside 40% of all doses for people in the state’s poorest areas.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
The U.S. reported 59,822 new coronavirus cases and 1,611 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s second to Brazil, which reported 86,982 cases and 2,724 deaths.
VACCINES: More than 75.4 million people, or 22.7% 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 40.9 million people, or 12.3% of the population, have completed their vaccination.
CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 62,263 on March 4 to 54,453 on Thursday, 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 from 1,784 on March 4 to 1,238 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
— US clears 100M vaccinations, President Biden next aims for 200M
— Happiness Report: World shows resilience in face of COVID19
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — The White House is canceling the annual Easter Egg Roll for the second straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesman for first lady Jill Biden said Friday the White House will mark the holiday by sending out 2021 commemorative Easter Egg Roll eggs in the coming days to vaccination sites and local hospitals.
President Rutherford B. Hayes started the tradition in 1878.
There have been a few other times when the event was either moved off the White House grounds or cancelled. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson suspended the Egg Roll, and Franklin Roosevelt did the same during World War II. President Harry Truman scratched the Egg Roll from 1948 to 1952, because of food rationing and renovations at the White House.
President Dwight Eisenhower restored the event in 1953.
ATLANTA — President Joe Biden has paid a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and used the appearance to celebrate his administration reaching the benchmark of injecting 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine since his inauguration.
Biden met with scientists at the CDC in Atlanta on Friday to express his gratitude for their work trying to stop the coronavirus, while also learning about variants of the virus and the unfolding medical situation.
Biden pumped his fist as the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said the 100 million vaccine-threshold had been reached.
The president told CDC staff: “We owe you a gigantic debt of gratitude and we will for a long, long long time. You are the army, you are the navy, the marines, the coast guard … you are the frontline troops.”
PHOENIX — Arizona’s top health official says state-run outdoor vaccination sites will switch to nighttime operations or shut down next month in anticipation of hotter temperatures.
State Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ said Friday that officials are already eying indoor venues to replace the parking lot operations at State Farm Stadium in Glendale and Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The state has already identified a site in Mesa that will replace the vaccination clinic at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
The University of Arizona site in Tucson, however, will continue administering vaccines outdoors.
State Farm Stadium will only give out doses between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. starting April 4.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany will have to apply an “emergency brake” to reverse some recent relaxations of pandemic restrictions as coronavirus infections accelerate.
Germany’s national disease control center says new infections are growing exponentially as the more contagious COVID-19 variant first detected in Britain has become dominant in the country.
Under an agreement with state governors two weeks ago, Merkel is supposed to reimpose restrictions in regions where the number of new weekly cases rises above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants. The nationwide average stood at 95.6 on Friday.
Merkel said that “unfortunately, we will have to make use of this emergency brake.”
ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says Italy won’t hesitate to adopt its own vaccine strategy — including evaluating the Russian vaccine Sputnik on its own — if the Europe Union’s response is not adequate.
Speaking Friday evening, Draghi emphasized that European coordination has “great added value,” but said that if the response regarding the health of Italians wasn’t working “then we need to go on our own.”
Italy’s premier defended the decision to join Germany and France in temporarily halting use of the AstraZeneca vaccine while European regulators ran additional checks, despite the possibility that may discourage some people from accepting the Anglo-Swedish vaccine. The 73-year-old premier said he would take that vaccine himself when his age group’s turn arrives.
WASHINGTON — The United States has cleared President Joe Biden’s goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus shots, more than a month before his target date of his 100th day in office.
This as the president prepared to set his sights higher in the nationwide vaccination effort. The nation is now administering about 2.5 million shots per day. Biden, who promised to set a new goal for vaccinations next week, suggested the possibility of setting a 200 million dose goal by his 100th day in office.
He told reporters Friday, “We may be able to double it.” His comments come as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson&Johnson to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.
The pace is likely to dramatically rise later this month with an expected surge in supply of the vaccines, putting a 200 million dose goal within reach.
BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Legislature has voted to shut down for several weeks due to an outbreak of the coronavirus.
At least six of the 70 House members have tested positive for the illness in the last week, and there are fears a highly contagious variant of COVID-19 is in the Statehouse.
Four of those who tested positive are Republicans. Another Republican lawmaker is self-isolating. The chamber has a super-majority of 58 Republicans, most of whom rarely wear masks. All the Democratic lawmakers typically wear masks.
Three of the infected lawmakers had participated in debates on the House floor this week. Lawmakers in the House and Senate made the decision despite significant unfinished business, including setting budgets and pushing through a large income tax cut.
Two senators had contracted the coronavirus but have recovered and returned to the 35-member Senate.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown announced she’ll accelerate Oregon’s COVID-19 vaccine eligibility timeline to allow vulnerable populations to receive shots ahead of May 1.
That’s when all adults will become eligible. Also on Monday, counties that have largely completed vaccinating residents who are 65 or older can begin administering shots to the next eligible groups, along with migrant and seasonal farmworkers working in the county.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s expert committee on coronavirus vaccines says its review of the AstraZeneca vaccine indicates it has “tremendous potential to prevent infections and reduce deaths.”
In a statement published Friday, the U.N. health agency said “the available data do not suggest any overall increase in clotting conditions” and the reported rates of blood clots after vaccination with COVID-19 shots are in line with the expected number of diagnoses of these conditions.
WHO says while some very rare clots have been detected after a few people received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe, “it is not certain that they have been caused by vaccination.”
Similar to advice issued by the European Medicines Agency and governments across the continent this week, WHO says health officials and patients should be vigilant in monitoring any potential side effects from vaccines and report them.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s opening COVID-19 vaccines to people age 50 and older on Monday.
The governor says the next step will be opening vaccines to anyone, likely before May 1. The governor’s announcement came a day after Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he’s opening vaccination sites to anyone 40 and older.
DeSantis criticized the decision on Friday.
“It’s not his decision to make,” DeSantis said. “Orange County is below the state average in seniors vaccinated. They’re at 63%. Trying to do healthy 40-year-olds over finding maybe some more seniors, to me, would not be the direction I would go.”
On Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she would open her county’s sites to those 40 and older.
WARSAW, Poland — Countries across Europe are resuming vaccinations with the AstraZeneca shot.
Leaders sought to reassure their populations it is safe following brief suspensions that cast doubt on a vaccine that is critical to ending the coronavirus pandemic.
France’s prime minister rolled up his sleeve to get the shot Friday, as did a handful of other senior politicians across the continent.
Inoculation drives in Europe have repeatedly stumbled and several countries are now re-imposing lockdowns as infections rise in many places. The suspensions came after reports of blood clots in some recipients of the vaccine. On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency said the vaccine doesn’t increase the overall incidence of blood clots.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia’s Health Ministry announced the country’s second and third confirmed deaths from COVID-19.
The third death was a 46-year-old Cambodian man who was admitted to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in the capital Phnom Penh on March 9 and diagnosed with the coronavirus the next day.
The second victim, whose death was announced earlier Friday, was a 62-year-old Cambodian woman who was admitted Wednesday and had underlying health issues including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Cambodia on March 11 confirmed its first death from COVID-19 as it battles a new local outbreak that has infected hundreds of people. The victim was a 50-year-old man Cambodian man who became infected last month while working as a driver for a Chinese company in the coastal city of Sihanoukville.
Cambodia has confirmed 1,578 cases of the coronavirus.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Finland decided Friday to pause the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for a week out of precaution while the Nordic country is investigating two suspected cases of blood clots.
Two women in their 20s “have reacted and we do not know why,” said Hanna Nohynek of the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare.
On Friday, the head of the Danish Health Agency said Denmark would wait another week before saying whether or not it would resume the vaccine. Norway and Sweden officials have said the same.
NEW YORK — U.S. health officials are relaxing social distancing recommendations for schools, saying students can sit as close as 3 feet apart in classrooms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, announced Friday, signal the agency’s turn away from the 6-foot distancing recommendation.
The new guidelines advise at least 3 feet of space between desks in elementary schools, even in towns and cities where community spread is high, so long as students and teachers wear masks and take other precautions.
It recommends 3 feet in middle and high schools, so long as there’s not a high level of spread in the community. If there is, spacing should be at least 6 feet.
The CDC says 6 feet should still be maintained in common areas, such as school lobbies, and when masks can’t be worn, such as when eating.