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Tuesday October 26th, 2021 8:33AM

The Latest: 2 Chinese cities urge people to stay at home

By The Associated Press
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BEIJING — Chinese authorities are asking residents in two cities south of Beijing to stay home for seven days as they try to stamp out a coronavirus outbreak in which more than 300 people have tested positive in the past week.

According to official notices on social media, the cities of Shijiazhuang and Xingtai in Hebei province are restricting people to their communities and villages and have banned gatherings.

Hebei reported 14 newly confirmed cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total in the outbreak to 137. It has found 197 other people without symptoms who also tested positive. China does not include asymptomatic cases in its confirmed count.

Beijing is requiring workers from Hebei to show proof of employment in Beijing and a negative virus test before entering the capital.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

President-elect Joe Biden plans to speed release of virus vaccines so more people can get first shot. The U.S. vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots; US tops 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus. UK regulators OK use of a third vaccine against coronavirus.

Meanwhile, WHO approves expanding time between virus shots up to six weeks and asks countries for equitable access to vaccines. A Pfizer study suggests the vaccine works against the virus variant.

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Follow AP’s 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:

MEXICO CITY — Mexico has posted its third straight day of a new high for coronavirus infections, with 14,362 newly confirmed cases and a near-record of 1,038 more deaths.

The country has now topped 1.5 million total infections and over 132,000 deaths so far in the pandemic.

The country’s extremely low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is over 180,000.

Officials say 6,623 people were vaccinated against the coronavirus Friday, a rate similar to previous days.

Mexico has received only about 107,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and has pinned much of its hopes on cheaper, easier-to-handle vaccines made by China’s CanSino, though that vaccine has not yet been approved for use.

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego County is opening what it calls a “vaccination super station” that aims to inoculate up to 5,000 health care workers daily with a coronavirus vaccine.

The effort that begins Monday is one of the most ambitious yet in California to accelerate the pace of vaccinations that Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week was “not good enough.” Only about 1% of California’s 40 million residents have been vaccinated against the virus.

Medical crews from the University of California, San Diego, will operate the station in a parking lot near the downtown baseball stadium.

Health care workers will remain in their vehicles while they are given the shot and then will be asked to remain on-site for 15 minutes to be monitored in case of any allergic reaction.

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MISSION, Kan. — Kansas state prisons, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, will be given priority in the next phase of vaccinations.

Officials have reported 5,320 coronavirus infections in the state’s prison system, which houses about 8,600 inmates. In addition, 1,076 prison employees have tested positive. Thirteen inmates and four staff members have died.

Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday that inmates will be vaccinated after health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. She says the prisons are being prioritized based on guidance from doctors and public health experts.

The second vaccination phase also will give priority to people 65 and older and critical workers such as firefighters, law enforcement officers, meatpacking employees, grocery store workers, teachers and child care workers.

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Faced with mounting criticism over the slow pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that starting next week, the state will allow a much wider swath of the public to get inoculated, including anyone age 75 or older.

The governor warned Friday that initially, the supply of vaccines available to people other than health care workers and nursing home patients will be very limited.

Cuomo says a beefed up statewide distribution network will include pharmacies, doctors’ networks and county health departments. The 3.2 million New Yorkers newly eligible for the vaccine includes teachers, first responders and public safety workers.

The announcement came as many local officials argued it was time to distribute the vaccine beyond health care workers.

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BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford is in quarantine with his family after his wife tested positive for COVID-19, and he will not be able to fulfill his role of presiding over the Senate as the 2021 legislative session is getting underway.

Sanford’s spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, told the Bismarck Tribune that Sanford’s wife is asymptomatic and that Sanford planned to get his own COVID-19 test Friday, the session’s second day.

Nowatzki said Sanford is not showing any symptoms and is expected to return around the end of January.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, a Dickinson Republican, said senators haven’t been around Sanford or in meetings with him.

Sanford attended a joint legislative session on Tuesday, when Gov. Doug Burgum presented his State of the State address. Nowatzki said Burgum was not a close contact of Sanford, and that Sanford wore a mask the whole time and was socially distanced while seated in the chambers.

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ATLANTA — Georgia ranks last among states for the share of available COVID-19 vaccines that it has administered, but Gov. Brian Kemp said the data is badly misleading as some hospitals have failed to report all the shots they’ve given.

Still, the Republican governor acknowledged Friday that the state is struggling with the vaccine rollout even as Georgia sets daily records for people hospitalized with the respiratory illness.

Kemp says he’s “not happy” with the effort. Georgia now has the capacity to administer 11,428 doses a day. At that rate, it would take more than two-and-a-half years to vaccinate every Georgia resident.

Amber Schmidtke, an epidemiologist who reports daily on Georgia’s outbreak, blamed the staggering start on “poor planning and execution of a mass vaccination strategy, if Georgia ever actually had one.” She said state government needs to call in more resources instead of pushing all the responsibility down to its 18 public health districts.

The struggles come even as the state is allowing people over 65 to be vaccinated starting Monday, leading to local health departments being overrun with people seeking appointments.

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CHICAGO — Some in-person instruction at Chicago public schools will resume Monday for the first time in months, and the city’s mayor and school chief are warning teachers that their absence will have consequences.

The district is giving families the option for students in pre-kindergarten and some special education programs. K-8 students could return on Feb. 1. No date has been set for high school students.

About 6,500 students are expected Monday, still a fraction of the nation’s third-largest district.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday that remote learning “is not sustainable, not over the long term, because it does not serve every student equally, especially those students who are younger, who require additional help and support and simply don’t have access to a sustainable learning environment.”

The Chicago Teachers Union said many schools still carry risks for the coronavirus. Attendance by teachers this week has been uneven.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma revenue collections for the calendar year 2020 declined by 3.8% as the coronavirus pandemic swept the state, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Friday.

The state collected nearly $13.2 billion in taxes and fees for the year, $520.9 million less than the previous year.

“The state’s economy declined in 2020,” McDaniel said in a statement. “Hopefully, we will see improvement in the months ahead as the (coronavirus) vaccine becomes widely available.”

The state health department reported 320,586 total virus cases and 2,703 deaths Friday, including a one-day record increase of 5,232 cases and 31 more deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Oklahoma has risen from 3,478.43 per day on Dec. 24 to 3,488.29, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The data ranks Oklahoma seventh in the nation in new cases per capita with 1,072.7 per 100,000, down from 1,096.5 per 100,000 and the fourth-highest rate in the nation reported Monday.

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SALT LAKE CITY — New Gov. Spencer Cox unveiled a plan Friday to ramp up Utah’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution as the state sees a post-holiday surge in new cases.

Cox, a Republican, said he will issue an executive order requiring facilities to allocate their doses the week they are received and have local health departments manage distribution, with an expectation of administering 50,000 doses a week.

”This virus does not sleep,” Cox said at his first COVID-19 media briefing as governor. “This virus does not take weekends off. And neither should we.”

The state’s 50,000 teachers and in-person school staff will be eligible to receive the vaccine on Monday, Cox said. School districts will be expected to prioritize people over 65 or who have underlying health conditions.

Utah’s second phase of the vaccine rollout, which includes anyone 70 or older, will begin on Jan. 18. Former Gov. Gary Herbert, Cox’s predecessor, initially said people over 75 would be eligible.

The governor’s plan came as the state’s new COVID-19 cases continue to rise and ICU beds are nearly full. In the past week, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 26.8% to 32.7%, according to state data.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is moving ahead with vaccine distribution, expanding eligibility on Friday to people 75 and older as well as residents with underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk from COVID-19.

The expanded list under what is known as Phase 1B of the distribution plan also includes frontline essential workers who can’t work remotely and vulnerable populations. Shots also are still being given to health care workers, first responders and staff and residents at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Under the updated vaccination plan released Friday, state official acknowledged that the number of people now eligible to be inoculated is much larger than the available supply so the groups are being further prioritized. For example, frontline essential workers will be vaccinated in order ranging from family home caregivers and child care workers, followed by teachers involved in in-person learning, grocery store workers, agriculture workers, public transit workers and others.

New Mexico is requiring workers in each category to verify their employment and those with qualifying medical conditions also are expected to provide validation. That could include a note from a provider, hospital discharge paperwork or even a prescription bottle.

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon will be stepping up its vaccinations against COVID-19, including by administering thousands of doses at the state fairgrounds in Salem this weekend with the support of the National Guard, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday.

“The goal is to vaccinate 250 people per hour, vaccinating thousands of Oregonians,” Brown announced during a Zoom call with reporters.

Those eligible to receive the vaccination are in the top priority category set by the Oregon Health Authority, which includes hospitals, health care providers and residents at long-term care facilities; emergency medical service providers and other first responders.

On Friday, OHA recorded 7,994 doses of vaccine administered — including 578 second doses — raising the state’s total number of shots given to 74,914.

The agency also reported Friday that COVID-19 claimed seven more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,575. There were also 1,755 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 122,847 in a state with a population of around 4.2 million.

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s 82-year-old monarch King Salman has received the coronavirus vaccine, according to video and photos published by state media on Friday.

In a short video, the king was seen seated, dressed in the traditional male white thobe worn by men in Gulf with one sleeve rolled up, being given a shot in his left arm. It wasn’t immediately clear which of the coronavirus vaccines the king received, but state media said it marked his first dose.

Early on in the pandemic, the king decreed his government would cover hospitalizations related to the virus for all Saudi residents, including those in the country illegally or on expired visas.

The kingdom also plans to offer vaccines free of charge.

After a surge in cases over the summer, the country of 30 million, which mandates public mask wearing and social distancing, recorded just 97 new cases on Friday and four deaths as infections there continue to decline. Overall, there have been some 363,000 cases recorded in Saudi Arabia since the start of the pandemic and 6,282 deaths from the virus.

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Active-duty military medical personnel have been sent to a Southern California hospital swamped with a surge of COVD-19 patients.

Riverside County authorities issued a press release Friday saying approximately 20 physician assistants, nurses and respiratory care practitioners from the Army and Air Force arrived Thursday at Riverside University Health System-Medical Center.

The county says the Department of Defense team is part of a response to a state request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal support to medical facilities throughout California.

Officials say the 439-bed hospital normally has a daily average of 350 patients but is averaging 450.

Jennifer Cruikshank, chief executive officer at Riverside University Health System-Medical Center and Clinics, says the help is bringing “renewed energy and hope into our team” and will “support the acute health care needs of more people in our region during this critical time.”

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