NEW ORLEANS — Mardi Gras joy is muted this year in New Orleans as authorities seek to stifle the spread of the coronavirus.
Bars were forced to close during the final weekend of the season, parades that generally start 12 days before the big day have been stilled, and Mayor LaToya Cantrell is promising a crackdown on large crowds.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the annual pre-Lenten bash celebrated along much of the Gulf Coast, with the biggest bashes in heavily Catholic New Orleans. Last year’s revelry is now believed to have contributed to an early surge that made Louisiana a southern COVID-19 hot spot.
Tourism officials are stressing safety for those who do come to this year’s celebration, while showcasing the house floats and online attractions to keep the city on the mind of future post-pandemic tourists.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— South African health care workers eagerly await Johnson & Johnson vaccine jabs
— Pandemic stresses take a huge toll on college students, who struggle to pay for food and housing as jobs and internships dry up
— U.S. Hospitals still ration medical N95 masks even as stockpiles swell by millions
— Vaccine delays leave grocery workers feeling expendable
— India’s dramatic fall in virus cases leaves experts stumped
— Explaining the UN vaccine plan for poor countries as it nears rollout
— 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
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
O’FALLON, Mo. — The snow, ice and bitter cold gripping Missouri has delayed people from coronavirus vaccinations, including those who signed up for mass inoculation events scheduled for this week.
The governor’s office said it was trying to reschedule the National Guard-run events, but that registrants should seek vaccinations elsewhere in the meantime.
The cancellations follow a storm that dumped several inches of snow in much of the state and sent temperatures plunging below zero. The cancellations are not expected to affect the weekly allocation of vaccines to each region.
Meanwhile, the health department in Memphis, Tennessee, suspended COVID-19 vaccinations for Tuesday after a winter storm dropped 4 inches of snow and left roadways difficult to maneuver.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration says delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries are likely because of severe weather across parts of the country.
The administration says the weather is expected to affect shipments from a FedEx facility in Memphis, Tennessee, and a UPS facility in Louisville, Kentucky. Both facilities serve as vaccine shipping hubs for multiple states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies are working with the jurisdictions, as well as manufacturing and shipping partners, to assess weather conditions and to help offset potential delivery delays and cancellations.
A winter storm overwhelmed power grids and immobilized the Southern Plains before it carried heavy snow and freezing rain to New England and the Deep South, leaving behind record-setting cold temperatures
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration is increasing coronavirus vaccine supplies sent to states to 13.5 million doses per week.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki says that represents a 57% increase from when Biden took office nearly a month ago on Jan. 20.
Psaki also says the administration is doubling, to 2 million doses per week, the amount of vaccine being sent to pharmacies across the country as part of a program to extend access into neighborhoods.
Jeff Zients, Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, made the announcements during a regular White House call with governors on Tuesday.
Psaki says the administration is monitoring severe weather across parts of the country that has forced some vaccination centers to close temporarily, and that could jeopardize the viability of the vaccines.
PHOENIX — Arizona is on the cusp of reaching a pandemic death toll of 15,000.
State health officials on Tuesday reported 1,132 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. That brings the overall number of cases in Arizona to 799,740 and the number of deaths to 14,981.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients who remain hospitalized and the number who are in the ICU continue to trend downward. According to the state dashboard, 2,047 people were hospitalized for the virus as of Monday. They amount to a 24% occupancy of all hospital beds. Around 600, or 34%, of all ICU beds are being used for COVID-19 patients.
MADRID — The COVID-19 pandemic in Spain continues its slow retreat, with the two-week infection rate dropping Tuesday to 385 cases per 100,000 residents, down from nearly 900 cases at the end of January.
Hospitalizations are also gradually falling. Health Ministry figures show that the share of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients has dropped from a 25% peak on Feb. 1 to 15.35%.
Intensive care unit occupation over the same period has gone from 45% to 37.4% of capacity.
Spain has officially reported more than 3 million virus cases -- just over 6% of the population -- and attributed more than 65,400 deaths to the virus.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations children’s agency is launching an initiative to get airlines to give priority to delivering COVID-19 vaccines, medicine and other critical supplies to respond to the global pandemic.
UNICEF said Tuesday that more than 10 airlines are signing agreements to support the priority delivery of coronavirus-related materials.
UNICEF said its Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative brings together airlines covering routes to over 100 countries, in support of the U.N.’s COVAX program to buy and deliver coronavirus vaccines for hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people.
Based on COVAX’s initial first-round allocation plan, UNICEF said the plan calls for 145 countries to receive doses to immunize around 3% of their populations, on average, starting in the first half of 2021.
AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency says it has received a request from Johnson & Johnson for its one-shot coronavirus vaccine to be authorized.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Amsterdam-based medicines regulator for the European Union said it could issue an opinion by the middle of March provided that company “data on the vaccine’s efficacy, safety and quality are sufficiently comprehensive.”
It is the fourth COVID-19 vaccine to seek approval in the EU, after earlier shots made by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca were all given the green light. But unlike those vaccines, the J&J vaccine requires only a single dose.
Preliminary results from a large trial in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa suggested J&J’s vaccine was safe and offered strong protection against moderate to severe COVID-19. The shot is also being vetted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whose expert panel will meet on Feb. 26 to publicly debate the vaccine’s data.
OSLO, Norway — The Norwegian government said Tuesday that it is removing most of the restrictions in its capital, Oslo, and nine surrounding municipalities that were imposed to contain the spread of the new variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.
The situation “is now so clear that the government has decided to end the regional measures,” Health Minister Bent Hoeie said. The restrictions will be lifted Thursday at midnight.
Last month, the government announced measures in the capital area that included closing shopping centers and other non-essential stores, halting organized sports activities, and ordering schools to rely increasingly on remote teaching.
BRUSSELS — The European Commission says it expects Moderna to make up a shortfall in deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine by next month.
EU Commission spokeswoman Vivian Loonella told reporters that Moderna told E.U. authorities about delays in vaccine deliveries for this month, but that “it’s likely” the U.S. company “will be caught up in March.”
Spanish media reported on Tuesday that Spain will be receiving just under half of the 400,000 Moderna doses it was expecting this week. The Spanish Health Ministry told the AP that a similar reduction has been announced across Europe.
World Health Organization experts recommend that the two doses of the Moderna vaccine be taken 28 days apart, but say that giving the second shot can be extended to 42 days.
Delivery delays have considerably slowed down the rollout of vaccines in the 27-nation bloc and sparked criticism against the EU’s vaccine strategy in several member states.
The EU commission has signed six contracts for more than 2 billion doses of various coronavirus vaccines, but only three of them have been approved for use so far.
BRUSSELS — Belgium’s health authorities are urging residents to refrain from buying COVID-19 vaccines online, in shops or directly in the streets from unknown sellers.
Sabine Stordeur, who co-chairs Belgium’s vaccination task force, told a news conference on Tuesday that those doses are very often fake vaccines primarily originating in Russia.
She said their efficacy and security have not been approved and that the only safe and effective vaccines are administered in vaccination centers, hospitals and nursing homes.
Belgium is using the three coronavirus vaccines approved so far in the European Union that include Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. More than 370,000 people have received a COVID-19 shot in the country with 11.5 million inhabitants.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia now leads the world in COVID-19 deaths by size of population following a surge of a highly contagious coronavirus variant.
Despite a tough lockdown, the seven-day rolling average of daily COVID-19 fatalities in Slovakia has risen from 1.68 deaths per 100,000 people on Feb. 1 to 1.78 deaths per 100,000 people on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Portugal, which topped the global table for more than three weeks, dropped to second with 1.48 deaths per 100,000.
The Health Ministry says another 111 people died of COVID-19 on Monday for a total of 6,063 in the nation of 5.4 million.
Slovakian government authorities have said that the fast-spreading coronavirus variant of first identified in Britain has become the dominant in the country.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says the coronavirus variant first reported in Britain represents nearly half of analyzed cases in the country during the second week of February.
Heunicke posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday that he understands the growing need to re-open the country, but “we need to follow the plan of gradual steps so that we maintain epidemic control.”
Earlier this month, Danish schools resumed in-class teaching of kids from pre-school to the fourth grade amid a steady decrease of COVID-19 infections.
Denmark in December extended restrictions that shuttered all shops except food stores and pharmacies and put a ban on public gatherings of more than five people.
BUDAPEST— A shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine produced in China arrived in Hungary Tuesday morning, making the country the first in the European Union to receive a Chinese vaccine.
A jet carrying 550,000 doses of the vaccine, developed by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm, landed in Budapest after flying from Beijing. The shipment is enough to treat 275,000 people with the two-dose vaccine, head of the Epidemiology Department of the National Public Health Center, Dr. Agnes Galgoczy, said at a press conference.
Hungary expects to receive 5 million total doses of the Sinopharm vaccine over the next four months. The country has sought to purchase vaccines from countries outside the EU’s common procurement program, claiming that delays in the bloc’s rollout is costing lives.
The Sinopharm vaccine, which the developer says is nearly 80% effective, is already in use in Hungary’s non-EU neighbor Serbia, where around half a million ethnic Hungarians have already received the jab.
Hungary has also agreed to purchase 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which hospitals began administering in Budapest last week.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch court has ordered the government to end the curfew it imposed last month to rein in the spread of the coronavirus, saying the ruling coalition was not entitled to use emergency powers to enforce the restrictive measure.
In a written statement, The Hague District Court on Tuesday called the curfew a “far-reaching violation of the right to freedom of movement and privacy” that also indirectly curtails the rights of freedom of assembly and demonstration.
The court adds that “This requires a very careful decision-making process.”
The government extended the 9 p.m.-to-4:30 a.m. curfew to March 2 last week. It used a law allowing it to bypass the usual legislative process in emergencies.
However, the court says the introduction of the curfew did not require the use of the fast-track process as it had been discussed at length during the coronavirus crisis.
The Dutch government said it is studying the ruling.