The Latest: US in tricky phase of giving 1st and 2nd doses

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The need to give each person two doses a few weeks apart vastly complicates the country’s biggest-ever vaccination campaign. And persistent uncertainty about future vaccine supplies fuels worries that some people will not be able to get their second shots in time.

For about the past month, the U.S. has administered an average of 900,000 first doses each day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Associated Press. Now many of those people are due for second doses, and the average number of Americans getting second shots hit an all-time high Tuesday — 539,000 per day over the past week.

So far, about 10% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, About 3% has received both doses, the AP analysis showed.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

Spain surpasses 3 million coronavirus cases, seventh highest total in the world. The Biden administration says it will increase vaccine supply next week. WHO team: Coronavirus likely jumped to humans from animals. Evidence is mounting that having COVID-19 may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants.

— Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

Counties in California and other places in the U.S. are trying to ensure they vaccinate people in largely Black, Latino and working-class communities that have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nationwide, states are struggling to distribute vaccines equitably even as officials try to define what equity means.

California’s governor said Tuesday that mass vaccination sites in Oakland and Los Angeles will be for people living in working-class communities and warned wealthier people to stay away.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that 14 counties, including the Portland tri-county area, will be moving to a lower risk category as COVID-19 cases decrease in the state — allowing restaurants to open for indoor dining and gyms to increase capacity.

Every two weeks state epidemiologists assess each county’s risk levels, based on COVID-19 spread in the area, and assigns safety measures and restrictions based on that level.

Restaurants in certain counties will now be allowed to open for indoor dining and gyms can increase the amount of people inside. The capacity for both restaurants and gyms cannot exceed 25% maximum occupancy or 50 people, whichever is smaller.

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MADRID — Spain has surpassed 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases, the seventh highest total in the world.

The Health Ministry announced 16,402 new infections since Monday, one of the lowest daily increases of recent weeks. However, the ministry reported 766 deaths, the highest daily increase in the latest resurgence. Spain has totaled more than 63,000 deaths.

The U.S. leads the world with 27.1 million confirmed cases, followed by India (10.8), Brazil (9.5), Britain (3.9), Russia (3.9) and France (3.4).

Health Minister Carolina Darias says the high rate of ICU bed occupancy by coronavirus patients was “worrying,” but hoped this would descend next week. The occupancy percentage rate edged down Tuesday to 42%.

Spain also extended restrictions on passengers allowed on flights from Britain, Brazil and South Africa until March 2.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s prime minister says a new lockdown in the greater Athens region will close all schools and most shops from Thursday through the end of February.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis says decision was dictated by an increase in hospitalizations in the area, which is home to about 4.5 million people, as well as the spread of coronavirus variants first detected in England and South Africa.

Health officials say hospital intensive care units for COVID-19 patients in the greater Athens area are at 71% capacity, up from 62% a week ago.

Health officials reported 1,526 new confirmed infections Tuesday — half in the greater Athens region — and another 20 deaths. The country of 10.5 million has nearly 17,000 total cases and a confirmed death toll surpassing 6,000 people.

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MADISON, Wis. — A second case of a new, possibly more contagious form of the coronavirus has been detected in Wisconsin, less than a month after the England variant was first discovered.

The variant was first detected on Jan. 12 and was identified again on Sunday by lab partners of the state Department of Health Services. Wisconsin chief medical officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard calls the development “concerning” and says there are likely “many more cases” in the state than has been detected.

The variant was first discovered in England in November and December. It’s since turned up across the United States and in other countries.

Wisconsin currently ranks 10th in the percentage of population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC.

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NEW YORK — Players, on-field staff and non-playing personnel at ballparks must wear electronic tracing devices from the start of spring training or face discipline for violations.

Spring training starts Feb. 17 in Florida and Arizona. Players will be encouraged to get vaccines but are not required to get them. They’ll undergo PCR testing for a second straight season, mostly by saliva samples, but with a provision allowing nasal swabs.

Blood samples will be occasionally collected for serology or rapid antibody testing. PCR testing will take place at least every other day starting in spring training and continue as long as a player’s team advances until the postseason ends. There will be daily temperature and symptom screening.

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WASHINGTON — The White House is increasing the supply of coronavirus vaccines beginning next week, with an aim to ensure the equity of the distribution of doses.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of the White House’s COVID-19 equity task force, says that the federal government is devoting 1 million doses to begin distributing vaccines at 250 community health centers. It’s meant to be a first phase of a program to expand vaccinations to the more than 1,300 federally supported community health centers, which primarily care for low-income and uninsured populations.

COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients says, “Efficiency and equity are both central to what we’re doing.”

Zients also announced states will see their allocation of doses rise to 11 million per week beginning next week, up more than 2 million since President Joe Biden took office.

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TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says starting next week any non-essential traveler arriving in Canada by land will need to show a negative PCR-based COVID-19 test or face a fine.

Trudeau says customs officers can’t send Canadians back to the U.S. if they don’t have a test because they are technically on Canadian soil but he says the fine will be up to $3,000 Canadian ($2,370) and they will also be subject to extensive follow up by health officials.

Canada already requires people arriving by air to show a negative test within three days of arriving. Last month, Trudeau also announced stricter restrictions on air travelers in response to new, likely more contagious variants of the virus. It’s mandatory for air travelers to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense.

But the government hasn’t yet announced when the mandatory hotel stays will start. The air traveler would stay at a government designated hotel until the results of a test.

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa public health officials have selected Microsoft to create an online COVID-19 vaccination scheduling system for a state that ranks 47th in administered doses.

The Iowa Department of Public Health posted a notice online Monday that it intends to award an emergency contract to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft.

Microsoft will be responsible for an online registration system for eligible residents to schedule vaccination appointments with approved providers. Its contract is expected to last through the end of the year.

Many essential workers and people 65 and older became eligible for shots on Feb. 1. But the slow rollout has infuriated some public school teachers, including many whose class sizes will double next week when Gov. Kim Reynolds’ new mandate for daily in-person learning takes effect.

On Friday, the Republican governor lifted a statewide mandate to wear masks, social distancing requirements for bars and limits on gatherings. That’s despite the new highly contagious U.K. variant recently found in the state. Several municipalities say they will still enforce local mask ordinances.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Oklahoma has fallen below 1,000 for the first time in three months.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health late Monday reported 937 people hospitalized with the virus, including 286 in intensive care. The health department had reported more than 1,000 hospitalizations daily since first topping the number on Nov. 3.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the seven-day rolling averages of both new cases and deaths have declined during the past two weeks. The state health department has reported totals of 3,817 deaths and 404,994 virus cases since the pandemic began.

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OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska officials expect nearly 70,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines to be available in the state this week as they continue to work to distribute more shots.

The state said 69,600 vaccine doses total should be released in Nebraska this week, up from 61,750 a week ago. Most of those vaccines are being distributed through local health departments, but nearly 6,000 doses will go to a new program that is just getting started to distribute vaccines directly through some retail pharmacies.

Across the state, officials have started to vaccinate people 65 and older and some workers who can’t do their jobs remotely.

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LONDON — Britain’s government has announced tougher quarantine and testing measures for U.K and Irish residents returning home from South American and African countries in a bid to limit coronavirus variants.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says those international arrivals will be required to take two coronavirus tests during their 10-day quarantine to enable authorities to better track new cases.

International travelers already must show proof of a negative test before they can re-enter the country.

A new hotel quarantine system will be put in place for U.K. and Irish residents who arrive from the British government’s 33 “red list” countries – mostly South American and African countries. Those travelers will have to pay for a 1750-pound ($2,411) package for the hotel stay.

The U.K. currently bans others travelers from these 33 countries.

The new measures take effect Monday. Those violating the rules could face fines up to 10,000 pounds ($13,780) and up to a 10-year prison sentence.

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PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey says Arizona will launch a new federally funded program to provide rental assistance to people in need of housing help due to unemployment.

Ducey’s office says the Arizona program will start taking applications on Feb. 23 and provide help in 12 of the state’s 15 counties. According to Ducey’s office, Maricopa, Pima and Yuma are receiving federal funding directly and plan their own rental assistance programs.

The state program will provide direct payments for rent, utilities and other expenses related to housing stability. The federal government is providing a total of $492 million to Arizona, with $292 million going to the state and the rest to cities and counties.

The state on Tuesday reported 4,381 additional cases and 231 deaths.

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BUDAPEST — Hungary’s prime minister says he expects the first shipments of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in the country as early as next week, which will make Hungary the first country in the European Union to receive a vaccine from China.

Viktor Orban, speaking at a virtual conference between other Central and Eastern European leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping, praised the Chinese scientific community for developing the Sinopharm vaccine. He thanked Hungarian medical experts for visiting production sites in China and consulting with Chinese experts.

Also, Hungary will begin administering a Russian COVID-19 vaccine to elderly residents of the country’s capital who have no underlying health conditions, the chief medical officer announced on Tuesday. Hungary currently has enough doses to treat 2,800 people.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Health authorities in Tel Aviv have started dispensing COVID-19 vaccines to foreign nationals and asylum seekers.

Dozens of asylum seekers and foreign workers lined up at a vaccination center set up in southern Tel Aviv on Tuesday to receive their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Israel has already vaccinated over 3.5 million of its population with the first shot, and at least 2.1 million people have received the second shot.

The country started easing lockdown restrictions on Sunday. However, the infection rate remains high.

Israel has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed cases and at least 5,192 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

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WUHAN, China — A World Health Organization team has concluded that the coronavirus most likely jumped to humans from an animal.

WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek announced that assessment Tuesday at the end of a visit by a WHO team that is investigating the possible origins of the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The first cases were discovered in Wuhan in December 2019. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has collected extensive virus samples, leading to allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has strongly rejected that possibility.

The WHO team is intended to be an initial step delving into the origins of the virus, which is believed to have originated in bats before being passed to humans through another species of wild animal, such as a pangolin or bamboo rat, which is considered an exotic delicacy by some in China.

The pandemic has killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide. China has reported more than 100,000 confirmed cases and 4,822 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world with more than 465,000 deaths.

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BRUSSELS — Belgium will use the 443,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine the country will receive over the course of February to vaccinate people under age 55.

Regulators in the country of 11.5 million inhabitants have advised against the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for older people due a lack of data about its efficacy, so Belgium’s vaccination task force has reshaped its strategy.

It decided that the doses will go in priority to health care workers under 55 as well as residents and staff in collective care institutions in that age group. Sabine Stordeur, who co-chairs the task force, said on Tuesday that people from high-risk groups with underlying conditions and police officers working in the field will also be offered AstraZeneca injections.

People over 55 will continue to receive the two other vaccines approved in the EU, Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna.

Infection numbers have reached a plateau in Belgium, with new daily cases between 2,000 and 2,500, while coronavirus-related deaths are decreasing. So far, some 336,300 Belgium’s residents have received a first vaccine dose.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Officials in Mississippi say about 2% of the coronavirus vaccinations given so far in the state have gone to people with out-of-state addresses.

Mississippi guidelines say vaccination is available to anyone 65 or older or to those who are least 16 years old and have underlying health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to the virus.

The state’s top public health officials says the vaccination is supposed to be limited to Mississippi residents, or to people from other states who work in Mississippi. However, they said people giving the shots do not check identification or verify that out-of-state residents work in Mississippi.

The New Orleans Advocate/The Times-Picayune recently reported that Louisiana residents are traveling to Mississippi to be vaccinated because Louisiana has tighter vaccination eligibility guidelines.

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