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Sunday April 18th, 2021 5:14AM

The Latest: WHO announces nearly $1 billion to fight COVID

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK — The World Health Organization announced nearly $1 billion in new pledges on Wednesday for the effort to battle the coronavirus pandemic and make sure that poor countries get treatments and vaccines against COVID-19.

Sixteen major pharmaceutical companies are promising to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scale up manufacturing and ensure all countries have access to affordable COVID-19 tests, therapies and vaccines. Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky announced the company will donate up to 500 million doses of its COVID vaccine, if it’s proven safe and effective, around the middle of next year for developing countries. Late-stage testing of the vaccine began last week.

WHO and other partners said an additional $35 billion is needed to fund planned efforts by the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. About $15 billion of that is needed by year’s end to fund research, manufacturing, purchase of medicines and vaccines, and distribution.

The accelerator has a goal of producing 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million COVID treatments, and 500 million tests, and distributing them in low- and middle-income countries.

WHO noted that Canada, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the World Bank recently pledged about $946 million to help those countries fight the pandemic.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK

— UK lawmakers grumble but renew sweeping govt virus powers

— Wisconsin hospitals filling with patients as virus surges

— Virus outbreak pushes NFL's Steelers-Titans game to Monday or Tuesday

— Scientists are starting to unravel one of COVID-19′s scariest mysteries: Why are some people only mildly ill or have no symptoms and others rapidly die.

— The coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on student life across the globe. But in Brussels, the Belgian capital is using its famous Grand-Place square for graduation ceremonies of two universities.

— Scores of actors, technicians and theater staff marched through London’s West End to Parliament to the beat of showtunes, asking for plan to revive the arts.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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HONOLULU — A University of Hawaii student has died after contracting the novel coronavirus.

Jezreel Lowie B. Juan died on Friday the university said in a statement.

Juan had transferred to the West Oahu campus in 2019 as a junior after attending Honolulu Community College. A university spokeswoman on Wednesday said they did not have Juan’s age or hometown.

The statement said Juan was not on campus and did not expose the university community to the virus. The university statement also said Juan “took his studies very seriously and even in his last stages of fighting COVID-19 he worried about class assignments and constantly asked his father how he could make up for the work he was missing.”

Because of his student leadership, Juan was recently nominated to be a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success.

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FRANKLIN, N.C. — A North Carolina sheriff’s office has been identified as a COVID-19 cluster after a number of employees tested positive, a local health department said Wednesday.

The Macon County Health Department announced the cluster in a news release, but it didn’t say exactly how many workers at the sheriff’s office tested positive. The sheriff’s office would only say that “multiple employees” fell ill and were tested, and that some of the tests have come back positive.

All staff who could have been exposed to the sheriff’s office workers have been contacted and will be tested for the coronavirus, the health department said.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office, some of the workers were on duty when they became ill but went home immediately when they started displaying symptoms. The sheriff’s office said symptoms have ranged from mild to severe, with some workers showing no symptoms at all.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma remains third in the United States for the number of positive coronavirus tests per 100,000 people and is among the worst affected states for the number of new reported cases, according to a report released this week by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation for the number of new reported cases, according to the federal report dated Sept. 27 and released Wednesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The report recommends increased testing to identify those with COVID-19 and to isolate those infected to limit the spread of the disease. It also calls for better messaging to help residents protect themselves, including the wearing of face masks.

The report does not call for a statewide mask mandate, which Gov. Kevin Stitt has said he will not implement.

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NEW YORK — One of COVID-19′s scariest mysteries is why some people are mildly ill or have no symptoms and others rapidly die — and scientists are starting to unravel why.

An international team of researchers found in some people with severe COVID-19, the body goes rogue and attacks one of its own key immune defenses instead of fighting the coronavirus. Most were men, helping to explain why the virus is hitting men harder than women.

Separate research suggests children fare better than adults thanks to robust “first responder” immune cells that wane with age.

People’s wildly varying reactions also reflect other factors, such as their general health and how much exposure they had to the virus.

These are among the studies uncovering multiple features of the immune system’s intricate cascade that can tip the scales between a good or bad outcome. Next is figuring out if these new clues might offer much-needed ways to intervene.__

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota reported a decrease in the number of active cases to 3,658 on Wednesday as the state marked the end of its deadliest month of the pandemic.

Health officials have recorded 56 death during September. Over the past two weeks, the state reported the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita, with 567 infections per 100,000 people. The Department of Health reported 392 new cases on Wednesday.

The state’s test positivity rate has remained among the highest in the country. It reached 26% in the last seven days, according to data from the COVID tracking project.

Overall in South Dakota, there’s been 22,389 confirmed cases and 223 deaths.

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HONOLULU — Movie and television productions in Hawaii have started despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Work on new seasons of the television shows “Magnum PI” and “Temptation Island” on Oahu are beginning and other productions are expected to shoot on Maui and Hawaii island.

Maui Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett says a miniseries is expected to begin work soon and a Christmas movie is scheduled to starting filming toward the end of the year.

Hawaii Film Commissioner Donne Dawson says industry professionals have produced a pandemic protocol to safely return people to work.

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NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio says no one was fined for mask refusal on the first day of a promised crackdown in a handful of New York City neighborhoods that have seen a spike in coronavirus infections.

De Blasio says city employees distributed thousands of masks Tuesday in the Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods with rising infection rates. That was the first day that fines for refusing to wear a mask had been threatened.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared to disparage the effort. He says it was not enforcing compliance and mere “public education.” The two Democratic politicians are often at odds.

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ROME — Italy’s health ministry has given the go-ahead for public schools to use rapid coronavirus tests, with the aim of quickly isolating coronavirus clusters ahead of the flu season.

Italy added another 1,851 infections Wednesday to its confirmed toll. There were 19 more deaths, bringing its confirmed death toll to 35,894.

Italy’s laboratories have processed about 100,000 of the traditional virus tests per day. Getting the results have been delayed by a week or more in some regions. Local authorities and schools have turned to rapid tests to provide a first screening.

Italy has nearly 315,000 cases and 35,800 confirmed deaths, according to tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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AMMAN, Jordan —The Jordanian government has authorized mosques, churches, cafes and restaurants to reopen on Thursday, despite record levels of new coronavirus cases.

The kingdom on Wednesday reported 1,767 new cases, the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic, raising the overall number of cases to more than 11,800. It also reported four deaths, raising the death toll to 61.

Health officials say more than one-third of the new cases stemmed from a single source -- a garment factory where 600 foreign workers from Bangladesh tested positive for the virus.

The government also says it is reinstating mandatory two-week home quarantine for people returning from countries with high levels of outbreaks. Prime Minister Omar Razzaz also issued new orders to increase punishments for violators of health measures.

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LONDON — British lawmakers have renewed the government’s sweeping powers to impose emergency restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic, although many legislators criticized the way Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration has used them.

Legislators are increasingly unhappy about the government’s handling of the pandemic, which went from a national lockdown in March to a patchwork of local measures of varying stringency.

Johnson says it’s too soon to say whether restrictions introduced in recent weeks were working. The government has barred people from meeting in groups of more than six and banned millions of residents in northern England from mixing with people outside their household.

New hospitalizations for COVID-19 and virus deaths in Britain are rising again. There were 7,108 new infections reported Wednesday and 71 virus-related deaths, the same number of deaths confirmed the day before.

Britain’s official virus death toll has passed 42,000 — the highest in Europe.

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MILWAUKEE — Coronavirus patients are filling Wisconsin hospitals, forcing doctors to transfer patients to other facilities as the disease surges across the state.

The number of people hospitalized in Wisconsin stood at 646 on Tuesday, a new record, with 205 patients in intensive care units, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Case spikes in northern and northeastern Wisconsin are driving much of the hospitalizations.

Officials at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay say their facility is at 94% capacity. Aspirus Healthcare President and CEO Matthew Heywood says the Wausau hospital has had a 30% increase in COVID-19 patients between Monday and Tuesday.

State health officials say if cases don’t subside, patients could be directed to a 530-bed field hospital the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built on the state fairgrounds in West Allis in April.

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HILO, Hawaii — Hawaii officials say state contact tracers have received productive responses from about half the travelers in a program for screening and contact tracing.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported a House Select Committee on COVID-19 heard testimony that during phone calls to ensure traveler quarantine compliance, contact tracers have successfully engaged half of the time.

Hawaii Medical Service Association CEO Mark Mugiishi says travelers can be reluctant to respond because of several factors, including thinking contact tracing calls are scams and an unwillingness to provide personal information.

The state is expected to launch a pre-travel testing program Oct. 15.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is “urgently advising” people throughout the Netherlands to start wearing face masks in indoor public areas.

That includes wearing masks in shops, bars, museums, theaters and libraries to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Rutte says the government doesn’t plan to legislate to make masks obligatory. Instead, he says, “let’s make it an urgent advice and see how it goes.”

Under the current virus containment measures, facemasks are mandatory on public transport and advised in public indoor areas of the three major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.

More than 19,000 people in the Netherlands tested positive in the last week, a sharp increase from the nearly 13,500 a week earlier.

The country has nearly 126,000 confirmed cases and 6,456 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government has declared a state of emergency because of a record surge of coronavirus infections.

Health Minister Roman Prymula says it will be effective for 30 days, starting Monday.

The new restrictive measures include a limit on public gatherings for a two-week period. All public outdoor gatherings with more than 20 people are banned, along with more than 10 for indoor events. Theater performances and movie theaters are excluded from the bans.

Also, no fans at sports competitions and high schools at the most hard-hit regions will be closed for at least two weeks.

The Czech Republic has reported a total of 67,843 cases, with more than 43,000 testing positive in September. There’s been 636 confirmed deaths.

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