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Monday October 25th, 2021 10:53AM

The Latest: Conn. lawmakers extend governor's COVID powers

By The Associated Press
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HARTFORD — Connecticut lawmakers have voted to extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency powers during the pandemic to May 20, overriding objections from critics who argued it is time for the legislature to take back its authority.

The Senate voted 24-10 Tuesday to authorize the governor to renew the state’s public health and civil preparedness emergency declarations through May 20. They were set to expire April 20. The measure already cleared the state House.

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney noted health officials reported more than 3,200 new confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus infections over the weekend. In his words, “We do not have this pandemic in the rear-view mirror as of yet.”

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

VACCINES: More than 95 million people, or 28.6% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 52.6 million people, or 15.8% of the population, have completed their vaccination.

CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. increased over the past two weeks from 55,332 on March 15 to 65,789 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks decreased from 1,364 on March 15 to 989 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

— WHO team: Patience, more studies needed of coronavirus origin

— More than a dozen US states to open up vaccinations to all adults

— German leaders meet as some halt AstraZeneca for under age 60

— US states struggle to get rent relief to tenants amid pandemic

— 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:

LAS VEGAS -- MGM Resorts International is bringing the coronavirus vaccine to employees at its casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

It is opening an inoculation clinic at the Mandalay Bay resort convention center for thousands of hotel and hospitality workers.

MGM Resorts is the largest employer in Nevada, with nine major resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. It also is offering vaccinations to workers at its MGM Grand Detroit hotel-casino.

The move comes as the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is setting a July 1 date to return to in-person activities and city workers are responding to the lifting of sports restrictions by installing basketball hoops again at city parks.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas House is formally registering opposition to Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan for encouraging counties to keep mask mandates in place as a potentially more infectious strain of the coronavirus becomes more widespread in the state.

The House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a resolution telling legislative leaders to revoke any order from Kelly for a statewide mask policy, which they can do under a new law that took effect last week.

Kelly imposed a statewide mask policy in November. It expires Wednesday, and the governor has said she will issue a new version Thursday.

Legislative leaders argue a new mask policy is unnecessary given a sharp decline in new COVID-19 cases in recent months.

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A coronavirus variant first identified in Britain has been found on the Navajo Nation.

Tribal health officials said that the United Kingdom strain was confirmed in a sample obtained in the western part of the reservation.

The Navajo Department of Health is working with states and other public health entities to identify any more variant cases.

Navajo President Jonathan Nez says the finding reinforces the need for social distancing, wear masks, washing hands and limiting travel. The person who tested positive for the variant on the Navajo Nation had been fully vaccinated and is now recovering.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — The governor of Louisiana said he intends to keep the state's face covering requirement firmly in place even as several states have shed their mask mandates.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards also said he is ending many other coronavirus restrictions for businesses.

Customer limits on bars, restaurants, salons, gyms, malls, casinos and other nonessential businesses will be removed, though they’ll be required to use social distancing. Direct table service still will be required at bars, but an 11 p.m. alcohol curfew will end.

The changes represent the fewest restrictions for businesses since the pandemic began. The new rules start Wednesday. Local officials could choose to enact tougher limits.

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BERLIN — German health officials have agreed to restrict the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in people under 60, amid fresh concern over unusual blood clots reported in a tiny number of those who received the shots.

Health Minister Jens Spahn and state officials agreed unanimously to only give the vaccine to people aged 60 or older, unless they belong to a high-risk category for serious illness from COVID-19 and have agreed with their doctor to take the vaccine despite the small risk of a serious side-effect.

Several German regions — including the capital Berlin and the country’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia — had already suspended use of the shots in younger people earlier Tuesday.

Berlin’s top health official Dilek Kalayci says the decision was taken as a precaution after the country’s medical regulator announced 31 cases of rare blood clots in people who had recently received the vaccine. Nine of the people died.

Some 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in Germany so far.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The governor of Arkansas said the state will open up coronavirus vaccinations to anyone 16 and older, and is dropping its mask mandate immediately.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the moves as the state saw its virus cases and hospitalizations continue to decline. The state had previously made the vaccine available to people 65 and older as well as several other categories, including teachers, health care workers and food service employees.

Hutchinson last month lifted most of the state’s virus restrictions, including restaurant and bar capacity limits, and had said the mask mandate would expire at the end of March if the state met goals for test positivity and hospitalizations.

Hutchinson is lifting the mask mandate despite President Joe Biden urging states to reinstate or maintain such restrictions to stave off another surge of the virus.

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin health officials plan to make everyone in the state 16 and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations next week.

Gov. Tony Evers tweeted that anyone 16 or older can get shots beginning April.

Currently health care workers, people over 65, nursing home residents and staff, educators and people with underlying health conditions are eligible.

State health officials on Monday announced more than 1 million people in the state, about 17% of Wisconsin’s population, have completed their vaccination cycles.

State Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said that the general public is actually a smaller group than people with underlying conditions.

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LOS ANGELES — Universal Studios Hollywood announced plans to reopen to the public under California COVID-19 restrictions next month.

The park will resume operations on April 16, following an event the day before for annual and season pass members.

Under current restrictions, Universal Studios Hollywood will only be open to California residents and all guests must undergo temperature checks. Visitors with temperatures exceeding 100.4 degrees (38 Celsius) will not be allowed to enter. Other protocols include face coverings and capacity limits to ensure physical distancing.

As of Monday, Los Angeles County’s daily COVID-19 test positivity rate was 1.4% and 655 people were hospitalized, figures far below numbers seen in the most recent surge. Public health officials, however, urged the public and businesses to maintain safety practices.

In neighboring Orange County, Disney earlier announced that Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will reopen on April 30 with limited capacity and other restrictions.

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GENEVA — The United States and more than a dozen other countries are expressing concerns about a World Health Organization study into the possible origins of the coronavirus in China, pointing to delays and a lack of access to samples and data.

A joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 published Tuesday says transmission of the coronavirus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and a lab leak is “extremely unlikely.”

It called for further study, and the WHO chief has said all hypotheses remain open.

After the study’s release, the State Department said 14 countries were calling for “momentum” for a second-phase look by experts and pointed to the need for further animal studies “to find the means of introduction into humans” of the coronavirus.

The countries expressed support for WHO’s experts and staff, citing their “tireless” work toward ending the pandemic and understanding its origins to help prevent a future one. But they said the study had been “significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.”

Critics say China’s government it took too long to allow a WHO-convened team of experts into the country earlier this year.

The State Department said Australia, Britain, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Slovenia and South Korea released the joint statement.

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NEW YORK — Concerned about a wave of evictions, states announced plans last year to get millions of dollars into the hands of cash-strapped tenants.

So far, the results are mixed. Many tenants were helped through the more than $3 billion in federal coronavirus relief. Yet housing advocates say many programs fell far short of their goals. Some were overwhelmed by demand and others were undermined by burdensome criteria that denied needy renters. Last year, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kansas were among the states that struggled to distribute rental assistance.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in July that New York would spend $100 million in federal coronavirus relief to help cash-strapped tenants pay months of back rent and avert evictions.

By the end of October, the state had doled out about $40 million, reaching only 15,000 of the nearly 100,000 people looking for help. More than 57,000 applicants were denied because of criteria set by New York lawmakers that many say was difficult to meet.

That included tenants showing they were paying over 30% of their income toward rent. Applicants also had to show a loss of income from April to the end of July, when some saw an increase from extended unemployment and other benefits.

New York has since expanded the program’s eligibility and will reconsider applicants who were initially denied.

___

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Pfizer has moved up its vaccine delivery schedule so Canada will receive 5 million more doses in June.

Trudeau expects every adult who wants a vaccine to get one by the end of June. The prime minister says Canada’s vaccine procurement has been heavily weighted toward getting Pfizer and Moderna doses.

On Monday, Canada suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under age 55 following concerns it might be linked to rare blood clots.

Trudeau says Canada is getting a million Pfizer vaccines every week over the next two months and the number will rise to 2 million a week for the month of June.

Canada doesn’t have domestic production and gets its Pfizer and Moderna doses from Europe. Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada will start getting Johnson & Johnson vaccines by the end of April.

___

PHOENIX — Arizona’s confirmed death toll from the coronavirus outbreak is approaching 17,000.

The state on Tuesday reported 586 cases and 23 more deaths, increasing the pandemic totals to 841,078 cases and 16,941 confirmed deaths.

Arizona’s death toll ranks 13th among the states by total deaths and sixth among the states in deaths per 100,000 population, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The COVID-related hospitalizations dropped to 549 on Monday, far below the pandemic record of 5,082 on Jan. 11, according to the state’s pandemic dashboard.

Nearly 2.1 million people, 29.1% of the state’s population, have received at least one dose. Almost 1.3 million are fully vaccinated.

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