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Monday September 27th, 2021 12:12PM

The Latest: Pakistan starts vaccinating people 60 or older

By The Associated Press

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has started vaccinating people who are 60 years old or above to protect them from COVID-19 amid a steady increase in cases and fatalities from the disease.

Pakistan is currently using China's Sinopharm vaccine, which was donated to it by Beijing last month.

Pakistan hopes to start receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine this month under the World Health Organization's COVAX Facility. Authorities say Pakistan will receive 17 million doses of coronavirus vaccines under the scheme from March to June.

Fatalities and confirmed cases from the coronavirus have increased steadily since March 1, when Pakistan resumed regular classes at schools. On Wednesday, Pakistani authorities were expected to decide whether schools should again be closed.

Pakistan has reported 595,239 cases, including 13,324 deaths.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— After pandemic year, weary world looks back — and forward

— House set to vote on virus relief, Biden on cusp of triumph

— Los Angeles school district reaches deal to reopen classes

— Restaurants are big beneficiaries of COVID-19 relief bill

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— Follow 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:

BERLIN — A German doctors’ union is calling for its members to be able to vaccinate people with chronic illnesses against the coronavirus.

The Marburger Bund said in a statement Wednesday that GPs and specialists said people with chronic conditions are disadvantaged by Germany’s vaccine current priority lists.

Some German states have begun allowing doctors to administer the shots in a limited number of practices. Officials are discussing whether to allow all doctors practices to offer vaccines as the available supply increases in the coming weeks.

Germany’s disease control agency reported 9,146 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 overnight, and 300 additional deaths. Since the outbreak began, Germany has recorded more than 2.5 million cases and 72,489 COVID-related deaths.

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JUNEAU, Alaska -- Gov. Mike Dunleavy says Alaska will become the first state to drop eligibility requirements and allow anyone 16 or older who lives or works in the state to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Dunleavy, who made the announcement Tuesday following his own bout with COVID-19, hailed the move to open up eligibility as a historic step.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker shows Alaska leading states in the percentage of its population to have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The state last week vastly expanded eligibility to include those ages 55 to 64 and those 16 and older who are classified as essential workers, at or potentially at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or who live in multigenerational households or communities lacking in water or sewer systems.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Maryland will ease restrictions on restaurants and other businesses this week, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday, citing improving COVID-19 health metrics and increasing vaccinations.

Starting Friday at 5 p.m., capacity limits will be lifted on outdoor and indoor dining at restaurants and bars, though customers will still need to be seated and distanced, the governor said. Capacity limits also will be lifted for retail businesses, religious facilities, personal services like hair and nail salons and indoor recreation establishments like casinos and bowling alleys.

Maryland’s statewide mask mandate will remain in effect. It requires face coverings at any public indoor facility, including retail establishments, fitness centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, personal service establishments. Masks also are required in the public spaces of all public and private businesses across the state, and when using public transportation.

Larger outdoor and indoor venues will be able to expand to 50% capacity. That includes conference halls, wedding venues, theaters and sporting arenas like Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles baseball team plays.

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MIAMI — Hundreds of cars streamed bumper-to-bumper into a federally supported vaccination site that appeared to be offering shots to anyone who shows up, breaking from the eligibility requirements set by Gov. Ron DeSantis that were intended to put seniors at the head of the line.

The wider availability of the vaccine sowed confusion — and hope — among those wanting to protect themselves from a disease that has already infected more than 1.9 million Floridians and killed nearly 32,000.

State officials said they were sorting through the situation. It was unclear what authority state officials might be able to exert on federal facilities.

Already, federal sites in Florida are adhering to federally issued guidelines that allow teachers and other school workers to get vaccinated, instead of complying with the governor’s directive setting an age minimum of 50 for educators and school staff.

Because of initially low demand, another federally funded vaccination site in Florida City last weekend began administering shots to any takers, regardless of age. The site was inundated the following day, prompting officials there to reimpose age restrictions.

On Tuesday morning, a traffic jam of vehicles formed in a parking lot at Miami Dade College North. People waited hours, but by 10 a.m., officials at the site announced they had depleted their supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- California’s counties remain skittish over switching up their vaccine delivery systems to a new statewide one, with Santa Clara County saying it will not participate.

The Mercury News reports that County Executive Jeff Smith said late Monday that the county will not sign a contract giving Blue Shield control over COVID-19 vaccine distribution in California.

Some counties are also pushing for Newsom to reconsider a plan to distribute more vaccine to vulnerable areas.

The pushback to Newsom’s centralized plan for vaccine distribution comes as more of California reopens its economy and activities. Disney’s CEO says Disneyland will likely reopen by late April after a yearlong closure.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With Alabama trailing most of the nation in COVID-19 vaccinations, National Guard troops will begin work later this month administering doses in at least 24 rural counties, the state said Tuesday.

The Alabama National Guard, with two 55-member mobile vaccination teams that can provide 8,000 doses a week in all, will work with public health and local officials to determine exact sites and logistics, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said in a statement. Guard immunizations will start March 23.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 15.2% of Alabama’s 4.9 million residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine that protects against the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That was lower than any state other than neighboring Georgia, where 13.4% had gotten at least one shot.

Guard teams will rotate through counties to provide shots to more people, the statement said. Ivey asked for patience since the state is still trying to get more vaccine from the federal government.

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CASPER, Wyo. — County health officials in Wyoming have detected the coronavirus variant that originated in South Africa.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported Monday that the Teton County Health Department said a sample from a resident who tested positive for COVID-19 in January revealed the variant.

Health officials said the yet-unidentified person did not travel prior to becoming infected. State health officials have not announced any other cases of the variant.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell has encouraged residents to get coronavirus tests if they have symptoms or come in contact with someone who tested positive.

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