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Tuesday May 18th, 2021 8:00PM

The Latest: WHO experts to arrive in Wuhan this week

By The Associated Press
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BEIJING — China says World Health Organization experts will begin their fact-finding visit this week in the central city of Wuhan where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Tuesday that the experts would fly from Singapore to Wuhan on Thursday. Other details of their schedule haven’t been announced and the central government’s National Health Commission offered no further information.

The visit has been expected for months and WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week expressed frustration that arrangements were taking so long to finalize. After China announced the visit Monday, Tedros said the scientists, who hail from several nations, would be focusing on how COVID-19 first jumped to people.

An Associated Press investigation recently found that China has been strictly controlling all research into the origins of the coronavirus, and the WHO team will have its agenda and any visits within China approved by the Chinese government. China has dismissed calls for an independent investigation, while promoting fringe theories that the virus may have actually been brought to China from outside.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— The U.S. is expanding the biggest vaccination drive in its history by opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to inoculate more people

— Malaysia’s king has approved a coronavirus emergency that will suspend parliament at least until August and halt any bids to seek a general election

— China expands lockdowns, postpones local political conference in a province next to Beijing amid recent COVID-19 outbreak

— The coronavirus death toll in California has reached 30,000, another staggering milestone as the nation’s most populous state endures the worst surge of the pandemic

— Health expert says worst time for Britain's National Health Service is hitting now

— 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:

LISBON, Portugal — The office of the Portuguese president says that Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tested positive for coronavirus although the veteran politician has no symptoms.

Rebelo de Sousa, who took office in 2016 and is 72, is seeking a second term in the country’s presidential election on Jan. 24.

A laboratory test with the so-called PCR technique late on Monday revealed that the president was positive for the virus, despite an antigen test having come out negative earlier in the day, his office said in a statement.

The president is self-isolating in a residential area in Belem, in the west of central Lisbon and has suspended all his agenda for coming days, it said.

As the head of state, the president is largely a figurehead in Portugal, where the prime minister and his cabinet are in charge of the day-to-day affairs. He wields large influence nevertheless, and he holds the authority to appoint the prime minister and dissolve parliament.

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AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency says it has received an application from AstraZeneca and Oxford University to authorize their coronavirus vaccine.

The Amsterdam-based regulator said Tuesday that it would assess the request at an accelerated pace because the vaccine is already part of a rolling review.

The EU agency has already authorized rival vaccines made by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna.

The AstraZeneca vaccine received emergency authorization in Britain last month but is not yet been given the OK by the FDA.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The small Pacific nation of Micronesia has reported its first case of the coronavirus after a crewmember on an arriving ship tested positive.

Home to 100,000 people, Micronesia had been among a dwindling handful of island nations to have avoided the virus altogether.

In an address to the nation, President David Panuelo said many people had heard the “alarming news” but the case has been contained at the border.

Panuelo said one crewmember aboard the government ship Chief Mailo had tested positive after the ship had returned from the Philippines following more than a year of drydock repairs.

He said the crewmember has been isolated on board, that all other crew remain on board, and that the ship is being monitored daily by law enforcement.

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NEW DELHI — India has started shipping COVID-19 vaccines to multiple cities, four days ahead of the nationwide inoculation drive.

The first consignment of vaccines developed by the Serum Institute of India left the Indian city of Pune on Tuesday. The vaccines rolled out from Serum Institute of India’s facility in temperature-controlled trucks to the city’s airport from where they were loaded into private air carriers for distribution all over the country.

Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri called the shipping of vaccines a “momentous mission.”

Beginning Saturday, India will start the massive undertaking of inoculating an estimated 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. The effort will then turn to inoculating around 270 million people who are either older than 50 or have secondary health conditions that raise their risks of dying from COVID-19.

The first vaccine shipments contain the COVISHIELD vaccine made by the Serum Institute and developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand will soon require that travelers from most countries show negative coronavirus tests before they leave for New Zealand.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says New Zealand is in a fortunate position to have stamped out community spread of the virus, but takes nothing for granted.

The new rules will require travelers to have a negative test within 72 hours of departure.

The rules will be imposed on travelers from the U.S. and the U.K. beginning Friday and most other countries soon after. Travelers from Australia and some Pacific nations will be exempted.

Until now, New Zealand has relied on placing new arrivals into a mandatory two-week quarantine.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada is making changes to its distribution plan for coronavirus vaccines in an effort to get shots into residents’ arms more quickly.

The state received its first vaccine shipment four weeks ago but has been struggling to get people inoculated at the rate officials initially anticipated.

Public health officials announced plans Monday to replace the state’s distribution plan and direct providers to concurrently vaccinate high-risk groups. That includes residents with underlying medical conditions and front-line workers the state deems essential, such as teachers, service industry workers, state legislators and mining industry workers.

The plan also lowers the age threshold for priority distribution from 75 to 70.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials have created a website to help people find where they can get antibody drugs for COVID-19, medicines that may help prevent serious illness and hospitalization if used early enough after infection occurs.

Two of these drugs — from Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals — have been authorized for emergency use in the U.S. but red tape, health care staff shortages and other problems have prevented many patients and doctors from getting them.

Department of Health and Human Services officials said Monday that only 25% of the more than 641,000 treatment courses distributed to states and local health sites have been used as of last week.

A big problem has been finding a place that has the drugs. The web site includes a tool where people can find locations administering the treatment within 50 miles. Doctors will determine if patients meet the criteria. Treatment must start within 10 days of first symptoms.

The drugs are free, although people may be charged a fee for the IV infusion, a one-time treatment that takes about an hour.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut will open its first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the University of Connecticut’s football stadium within the next 10 days as the state prepares to administer shots to residents ages 75 and older, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

Rentschler Field in East Hartford will be providing mass vaccinations along with about a half-dozen other large sites that will open over the next two weeks to provide the shots, the governor said.

Vaccinations also will be available at private providers’ offices and health clinics. Connecticut also plans to offer the shots through mobile vaccination units for poor and other underserved communities.

Health care workers have been among the first to be vaccinated in Connecticut, and the state recently finished vaccinating nursing home residents.

Advanced registration for vaccinations for people 75 and older is scheduled to begin Thursday, with the group receiving shots beginning next Monday, Jan. 18.

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Texas will be able to rapidly increase the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations by using new mass hubs for getting shots, but the effort is still limited by the supply of medicine coming from the federal government.

Texas is one of several states opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.

The state has seen a surge in newly confirmed coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. State health officials report more than 13,000 coronavirus patients currently in hospitals statewide, and nearly 30,000 deaths since the pandemic started.

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PHOENIX — Under sunny skies in the Glendale stadium parking lot, Arizona Department of Health Services director Dr. Cara Christ marked a “soft launch” of the drive-thru site by helping vaccinate two dozen teachers and state troopers.

The site will fully transition to an around-the-clock operation at midnight. The goal is to vaccinate 6,000 people per day, Christ said.

“Today as we mark the opening of this facility, it’s my privilege as a medical doctor to administer some of the first doses of vaccine,” said Christ, who previously received both doses herself and reported no side effects.

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ATLANTA — Georgia’s plan to expand access to the coronavirus vaccine for people over 65 is off to a rocky start.

The websites of at least two public health districts crashed Monday, and other districts reported overwhelming demand for appointments. The state was already struggling with its vaccine rollout before the latest woes.

Coastal Health District Director Lawton Davis said he understood people were frustrated, but health departments were stretched thin. Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday he wasn’t happy with the state’s progress in administering the vaccine, and officials had to “keep moving the needle.”

The state has now opened up vaccine access to law enforcement, firefighters and first responders in addition to people over 65.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana is boosting its distribution of coronavirus vaccines to the elderly.

The state on Monday increased the number of doses available to people ages 70 and older this week and expanded the locations where they can get the shots to include every parish of the state.

The Department of Health’s list of pharmacies offering the vaccine to the elderly numbered 107 last week. It has grown to 209 pharmacies and health clinics this week.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’s administration also is steering thousands more doses to the facilities for vaccinations of people 70 and older.

Demand remains certain to exceed supply. People need to make an appointment to get vaccinated.

___

SAN DIEGO — Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first cases among such primates in captivity.

Lisa Peterson, the park’s executive director, told The Associated Press on Monday that eight gorillas at the park are believed to have the virus and several have been coughing.

It appears the infection came from a member of the park’s wildlife care team that also tested positive for the virus but has been asymptomatic. Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas who are all together in their habitat at the park, north of San Diego.

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