SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco has taken a dramatic step in its effort to get kids back in public schools, suing its own school district to try to force classrooms to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit is the first of its kind in California and possibly the country, as school systems come under increasing pressure from parents and politicians to end online learning. With support from Mayor London Breed, City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Wednesday sued the San Francisco Board of Education and the San Francisco Unified School District.
Teachers unions in many large school districts, including San Francisco, say they won’t go back to classrooms until they are vaccinated.
“Not a single San Francisco public school student has set foot in their classroom in 347 days,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera said at a news conference, calling it shameful and also unlawful. “More than 54,000 San Francisco schoolchildren are suffering. They are being turned into Zoom-bies by online school. Enough is enough.”
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
Spain surpasses 60,000 confirmed virus deaths. CDC: Schools can safely reopen without teacher shots; data indicates social distancing and wearing masks help prevent virus spread. Dr. Fauci suggests watching Super Bowl at home with household to avoid spreading coronavirus. Japan to enforce mandatory coronavirus orders with fines. British officials say Oxford study backs up their decision to delay second vaccine shot for up to 12 weeks. World Health Organization investigators visit Chinese virus lab that’s subject of speculation about coronavirus origins.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PORTLAND, Ore. — A judge has ordered all inmates in the Oregon prison system to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations — a move that should make prisoners immediately eligible for inoculation.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the preliminary injunction issued Tuesday orders all Oregon Department of Corrections inmates be offered a vaccine as part of phase 1A, group 2, of Oregon’s COVID-19 vaccination plan — putting prison inmates in the same category as people living in nursing homes and other congregate care settings.
The order should make prisoners eligible for vaccines now, but it’s not clear if they’ll move ahead of teachers or the elderly. But given that the Oregon Health Authority dictates where vaccines are shipped, the state has the ability to redirect doses for prisons. The order will allow adults in custody to “stand in the same line” as others in congregate living facilities with a high risk of COVID-19 infection, Chavez said.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio state senator says he left a committee hearing because so many members of the public weren’t wearing masks.
Sen. Cecil Thomas is a second-term Democratic senator from Cincinnati. He tweeted a picture of the largely unmasked crowd Wednesday in the state Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
Thomas stressed that the pandemic with a highly transmittable virus continues. He also says he has a daughter with a severely compromised immune system and won’t put her health at risk.
Mask wearing has been a partisan issue in state legislatures nationally and in Ohio for months, with many Republicans declining to wear masks, while some Democrats have unsuccessfully pushed measures to require them in the General Assembly.
LONDON — People up and down the U.K. took to their doorstep to honor Captain Tom Moore with a national clap, a day after the 100-year-old died after testing positive for COVID-19.
The British World War II veteran walked into the hearts of the nation during the first coronavirus lockdown last April when he shuffled up and down his garden to raise an astonishing 33 million pounds ($40 million) for health care workers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier urged the public to join in the clap “to show our appreciation for him and all that he stood for and believed in.”
Captain Tom’s family said they were “incredibly touched” by the gesture and took part outside their home in the village of Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey says it has detected two cases of the COVID-19 variant that was first found in South Africa and one case of the Brazilian variant.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday that all three patients with the South Africa and Brazil variants are being kept in isolation in hospitals, along with people they had been in contact with. He did not provide further information on the patients.
Koca also raised to 196 the number of people who have been infected with the variant which was first detected in southeast England.
Turkey had temporarily suspended flights from Britain, Denmark, South Africa and Brazil in a bid to prevent the spread of the variants, which researchers believe to be more infections.
LONDON — Researchers from Oxford University say AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine does more than protect people from falling seriously ill, it also appears to reduce transmission of the virus.
The study released on Wednesday suggested a single dose of the AstraZeneca formula provides a high level of protection for 12 weeks.
The preliminary findings from Oxford University, a co-developer of the vaccine, could vindicate the British government’s controversial strategy of delaying the second shot so that more people can get a first dose. Up to now, the recommended time between the first and second dose has been four weeks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, dismissed deliberately delaying second shots. He says the U.S. will “go by the science” and data from the clinical trials. The doses of the Pifzer and Moderna vaccines used in the U.S. are to be given three and four weeks apart.
Britain is using vaccines by AstraZeneca and Pfizer. AstraZeneca has also been authorized by the 27-nation European Union.
Pfizer has not endorsed the British government’s decision to lengthen the time between doses.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is joining with the federal government to open two new vaccination centers as test areas for President Joseph Biden’s effort to create 100 mass vaccination sites nationwide in 100 days.
Gov. Gavin Newsom says the sites at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and California State University, Los Angeles, will be jointly run with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The move comes as California’s most deadly pandemic surge eases but as the state struggles with vaccine shortages in a race to vaccinate the most vulnerable. Newsom pitched the new sites as part of the larger effort to target communities that might otherwise be left behind.
California reported 13,134 confirmed cases on Tuesday. The state has registered nearly 42,000 total deaths, second behind New York with 44,000 confirmed deaths.
MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaragua’s government says it has approved Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.
The government outlet El 19 Digital says, “Nicaragua is advancing in its negotiations with Russia to supply” the vaccine. It was the first vaccine approved in Nicaragua, which still awaits its first doses.
The government had said in January it had initiated efforts to acquire vaccines from various laboratories around the world and hoped to vaccinate 3.7 million people in an initial stage.
The government of President Daniel Ortega has been criticized for not implementing stricter health measures to slow the spread of the virus. Nicaragua has 170 confirmed deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
MADRID — The coronavirus pandemic has crushed Spain’s key tourism industry, with visitors dropping from 84 million to 19 million last year.
The decrease snapped a seven-year trend of annual records. The National Statistics Institute says income from tourism plunged to just 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in 2020, a 79% decrease.
It was estimated that tourism represented some 11% of Spain’s 1.1 trillion-euro GDP before the pandemic. It has long ranked among the top three tourism destinations, along with France and the United States.
Authorities hope Spain’s vaccination program will boost confidence among travelers.
Spain aims for 30% to 40% of its population vaccinated in the second quarter and 70% during the summer.
WASHINGTON — The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says schools can safely reopen even if teachers are not vaccinated for the coronavirus.
As some teachers’ unions balk at resuming in-person instruction before teachers are inoculated, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says, “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.” Walensky cited CDC data showing that social distancing and wearing a mask significantly reduce the spread of the virus in school settings.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients called on Congress to pass additional funding to ensure schools have the resources necessary to support reopening.
President Joe Biden has pledged to ensure nearly all K-8 schools will reopen for in-person instruction in the first 100 days of his administration.
Teachers are prioritized as “essential workers” under the CDC’s vaccination plans, though many have yet to receive doses as the nation continues to face a supply shortage of the vaccine.
MELBOURNE — All competition at six Australian Open tuneup events scheduled for Thursday was called off after a worker at one of the tournaments’ Melbourne quarantine hotels tested positive for COVID-19. Players preparing for the year’s first Grand Slam tournament must isolate at their hotels until they test negative for the illness caused by the coronavirus. The Australian Open is scheduled to begin Monday.
Any players, coaches or officials who quarantined at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Melbourne were deemed to be casual contacts of the 26-year-old infected man and required to remain in their hotels until they test negative.
The political leader of Victoria state called a late-night news conference to announce the case and urge anyone with symptoms in Melbourne to get tested. Daniel Andrews says he doesn’t expect any disruptions to the Australian Open.
TOKYO — Japan enacted legislation allowing officials to enforce coronavirus measures by punishing violators of mandatory orders with fines.
This comes as the country struggles to slow the latest wave of infections amid growing uncertainty about the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine considered key to holding the Olympics this summer.
The legislation was passed by the parliament and enacted into law the day after Prime Minister Yoshihide extended an ongoing non-binding state of emergency in Tokyo and nine other urban areas by one month until March 7.
Under the revised laws that take effect next week, restaurants, bars and other business owners that defy mandatory orders for shorter service hours or closures can be fined up to 300,000 yen ($2,860). Fines of up to 500,000 yen ($4,760) can be imposed on patients who refuse to be hospitalized, and up to 300,000 ($2,860) to those who refuse to cooperate with health authorities in contact tracing and other surveys.
Daily new cases have declined since January, but serious cases are still putting pressure on hospitals, experts say. The health ministry reports Japan had 393,836 confirmed cases and 5,912 confirmed deaths on Tuesday.
STOCKHOLM — The Swedish government says starting Saturday there will be an entry ban to Sweden for foreigners without a negative test within the past 48 hours.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says it’s an effort to contain the virus variants, “otherwise you will not enter the country.”
The move will affect the more than 1,600 kilometers (995 miles) long land border with Norway but also the border with Finland.
Last month, Norway temporarily closed its border with Sweden for the first time since 1954 to limit the spread of the mutation. Only Norwegian nationals and foreign nationals residing in Norway will be allowed to enter the country with a few exceptions.
WASHINGTON — When it comes to Super Bowl parties during this pandemic year, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s says to “just lay low and cool it.”
President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser says during TV interviews Wednesday that now isn’t the time to invite people over for watch parties because of the possibility that they’re infected with the coronavirus and could sicken others.
He says big events like Sunday’s game in Tampa, Florida, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are always a cause for concern. Fauci says the best thing people can do is watch the game on TV at home with the people in your household.
The NFL has capped the game attendance at 22,000 because of the pandemic and citywide coronavirus mandates.
GENEVA — A U.N.-backed program to deploy COVID-19 vaccines to the neediest people worldwide has announced plans for an initial distribution of more than 100 million doses by the end of the first quarter.
The COVAX Facility says it aims for nearly 200 million doses by the end of June. Most of the vaccines in the first phase will be from AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India.
Another 1.2 million doses of a vaccine from Pfizer are expected to be shared by 18 countries in the first quarter.
The AstraZeneca vaccine rollout needs “emergency use” approval by the World Health Organization, which is expected in mid- to late February. The rollouts are contingent on regulatory approvals and the readiness of nations to receive the vaccines, which recently have been in short supply worldwide.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Several thousand owners of restaurants, bars and other businesses shut down during the coronavirus pandemic have rallied in Croatia against the government measures.
The protests on Wednesday in Zagreb, the Croatian capital, was organized by an association of entrepreneurs who are demanding they be allowed to work while respecting the anti-virus rules.
Croatian businessmen say they have been devastated since they were ordered to close late last year during a surge in cases in the country.
Holding banners reading “#Let us work” or “It’s enough,” the demonstrators called for the resignation of the economy minister over what they described as “discriminatory” measures during the outbreak.
Croatia has registered more than 230,000 confirmed cases and 5,088 deaths.