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The Latest: NYC mayor plans to keep ordering vaccines

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WPXI Pittsburgh
WPXI Pittsburgh
 2021-05-06
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NEW YORK — New York City plans to keep ordering as many doses as it can from the federal government.

While the average number of daily shots administered has dropped about 40% since peaking at over 95,000 at one point in mid-April, “we want to have a steady supply,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

The city aims to keep a reserve in case of supply interruptions, and it’s is trying various new strategies to get more people inoculated, he said.

Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said keeping up supply would allow the city to distribute more vaccine to doctors’ offices, neighborhood pharmacies and other smaller providers that may appeal to people who haven’t gone to mass vaccination sites.

The officials say doses are not going to waste, as they can last for months when properly frozen. They say tens of thousands of people a day are still coming in for second doses, as well as first.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— EU proposes joint approach to develop COVID-19 treatment drugs

India hits another grim record, adding 400,000 new cases

— Support grows for intellectual property waiver on virus vaccines; snags remain

— Vatican health conference features Dr. Fauci, Pope Francis — and Aerosmith

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Follow more of AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

NEW YORK — A new attempt to estimate the death toll of COVID-19 puts the number at 6.9 million deaths globally, or more than double official counts.

Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, announced the estimates on Thursday.

The estimates by researchers at the University of Washington also suggests the U.S. death count is more than 905,000. The official government count is about 575,000 American deaths.

Official COVID deaths statistics are undercounts, for a variety of reasons, health experts say. Governments may miss deaths that don’t occur in hospitals or where a confirming COIVID test wasn’t done on the patient.

The University of Washington researchers believe the largest undercounts are in India, which may have close to three times more deaths than the 221,000 official government death count, and in the Russian Federation, which they calculate had more than five times the 109,000 official government count.

“We basically have five countries with more than half a million people that have died,” Murray said. “The one that’s been the most under-recorded is the Russian Federation.”

The other countries in the top five are Brazil and Mexico.

The University of Washington estimates are based on a comparison of pre-pandemic death trends with all-cause deaths during COVID, but with adjustments to remove deaths that couldn’t be directly attributed to the virus.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota will lift nearly all its coronavirus restrictions just before Memorial Day weekend and drop its statewide mask requirement once 70% of residents age 16 and older get their first dose of vaccine, but no later than July 1.

Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, announced the moves Thursday, citing the state’s progress in vaccinating people.

The first step in his three-phase timeline starting Friday removes capacity limits for outdoor dining, events, and other get-togethers, and ends outdoor mask requirements except for large venues with more than 500 people. It also eliminates a mandatory closing time for bars and restaurants.

Remaining capacity limits will end May 28. Masks will be required indoors until the state hits the 70% target for vaccinations – or until July 1, whichever comes first.

About 59% of Minnesota’s population 16 years and older has received at least one vaccine shot, and nearly 46% have completed the series. The governor’s office says the state is on track to hit the 70% first-shot mark by the end of June.

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MADRID — The health expert leading Spain’s response to the coronavirus pandemic says restrictions and vaccination efforts have helped keep the virus in check.

Fernando Simón, the director of Spain’s health emergencies and alerts coordination center, says “in the coming days we are going to see a continued decline in the number of infections.”

Spain is preparing for the end of a six-month state of emergency on Sunday. The extraordinary powers established by national authorities in the form of nightly curfews and restrictions on movement between regions will fall.

Each region will again be responsible for controlling the coronavirus with other measures, such as limiting the number of people in restaurants or other spaces. Some regions had asked for the national government to extend the state of emergency. Without it, they will need to get the backing of a court for each of the measures.

Spain set a goal of vaccinating 70% of its adult population -- some 33 million people -- by the end of August. Almost 13 million people Spain have gotten at least one shot.

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NEW YORK — A new survey by The Actors Fund illustrates the depths of need created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the arts community. The Fund provides a national safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals in the fields of film theater, television, music, opera, radio and dance.

The survey of 7,163 people helped by the organization found 76% of respondents lost income and 40% reported reduced food security. Some 28% fell behind in rent or mortgage and 20% were forced to change housing. Ten percent of respondents had to sell a large asset, such as a house or a car.

“We see the pandemic as having a long tail on its impact on performing artists and entertainment professionals, and especially people involved in live entertainment,” Joe Benincasa, CEO of The Actors Fund, said to The Associated Press.

Last year, the served more than 40,000 individuals, a 71% increase from 2019. It distributed more than $19 million in direct cash to about 15,000 individuals.

The median household income among all survey respondents was $34,186. The survey was conducted by Morey Consulting.

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ROME — The Vatican is opening a three-day health conference featuring a star-studded lineup. It includes Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is leading the U.S. coronavirus response, soprano Renee Fleming, the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna and the lead guitarist of Aerosmith.

The conference is addressing COVID-19 and other global health threats, and how science, solidarity and spirituality can address them. Fauci says the key to overcoming current vaccine hesitancy is pairing the right medical message with the right messenger.

“You have someone who’s a deeply religious person who will listen to their clergy. That’s different than me with a suit going into an area telling people to do something,” he said.

Organizers say the conference, which runs Thursday through Saturday, has taken on more relevance amid a growing appreciation of the need for global access to health care, advances in vaccine technology and greater understanding of mental health during the pandemic.

Pope Francis sent a special message of prayer to India amid its coronavirus surge. Francis says he is thinking especially of all those who have lost loved ones, and praying for “perseverance, strength and peace” for hospital workers, ambulance drivers and others tending to the sick.

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MOSCOW — Russian authorities have given regulatory approval to a single-dose version of the country’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Named Sputnik Light, the new version is identical to the first dose of the two-dose Sputnik V and has yet to complete the advanced testing needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko says authorizing the shot will help speed possible herd immunity against the virus. Official records show Russia started human trials of Sputnik Light in January, and the studies are still ongoing. Sputnik Light is the fourth domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine approved in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, “It’s nice to know that this range of tools (against COVID-19) is expanding.”

Russia is lagging behind a number of nations in terms of its vaccination rates. According to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, 13.4 million people in Russia, or just 9% of Russia’s population of 146 million, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. About 9.4 million, 6% of the population, have been fully vaccinated.

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NEW DEHLI — Infections in India hit another grim daily record of more than 400,000 cases on Thursday.

The demand for medical oxygen has increased sevenfold and the government denied reports it was slow in distributing life-saving supplies from abroad.

The number of new confirmed cases breached 400,000 for the second time since the devastating surge began last month. The 412,262 new cases pushed India’s official tally to more than 21 million.

The Health Ministry also reported 3,980 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the confirmed total to 230,168. Health experts believe both figures are an undercount.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus has unveiled a phased rollback of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions over the next month, including a shortened curfew and a reopening of all schools next week.

The country will enforce proof of vaccination, virus testing or convalescence from the disease in areas where people gather, including restaurants and churches.

A strict, two-week lockdown has curbed the record-high number of infections. Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou says the rollback will begin May 10 and “lift the spirits of the public after months of sacrifices.”

He says the aim is to keep some restrictions in place until at least the end of June when it’s hoped 60-65% of the population will be vaccinated.

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BRUSSELS — The EU’s executive arm has proposed EU nations join forces to develop and deploy COVID-19 treatments across the 27-nation bloc.

The European Commission says vaccines will not eradicate coronavirus “overnight” and efficient drugs will still be required to treat patients in hospitals or at home, including those with long-haul symptoms after COVID-19.

The Commission wants to set up a portfolio of 10 potential COVID-19 treatments with the aim of authorizing three new drugs by October to treat COVID-19. The executive branch says two more treatments could get approved by the end of the year.

The Commission says it will invest 90 million euros ($108 million) in studies and clinical trials and an extra 40 million euros ($48 million) to support manufacturing and access for COVID-19 drugs and treatments.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said this week that a quarter of all EU residents had received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine. She says the bloc has secured enough doses to vaccinate 70% of all adults in the EU by the end of July.

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ROME — Pope Francis is resuming his weekly general audiences with the general public after a six-month pause due to the pandemic.

The Vatican says Francis’ May 12 audience would be held in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. The office of the Papal Household says health care measures would be followed.

Francis last held a public general audience in late October. Since then, Francis continued the Wednesday morning appointment, livestreaming it from his private library with just a handful of translators present.

Francis’ return to public audiences comes as Italy’s COVID-19 caseload has slowed to around 10,000 cases a day, and its vaccination campaign has accelerated.

Also Friday, the office of Italy’s virus czar says a mass vaccination campaign will target the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily and Isola Capraia off the Tuscan coast.

The Italian government has announced Italy “is ready to welcome back the world” in time for the peak summer tourist season.

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BRUSSELS — European Union leaders say in the wake of the U.S. backing patent waivers for COVID-19 vaccine technology, the 27-nation bloc immediately will start discussing whether they should join such a move.

The leaders’ first opportunity to mold a common view will come as soon as a two-day summit in Porto, Portugal, that starts Friday. EU member nations have long insisted they were in the vanguard of helping the rest of the world obtain vaccines. They’ve been wary of how the United States effectively banned such exports.

The EU on Thursday welcomed President Joe Biden’s position, but it didn’t immediately echo it.

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech are donating doses to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.

Delivery of doses is set to begin this month to give Olympic delegations time to be fully vaccinated with a second shot before arriving in Tokyo. The games are scheduled to open on July 23.

It’s the second major vaccination deal for the International Olympic Committee. An agreement was announced in March between the IOC and Olympic officials in China to buy and distribute Chinese vaccines ahead of the Tokyo Games and next year’s Beijing Winter Games.

Meanwhile in Japan, an online petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled has gained tens of thousands of signatures in a few days. Tokyo, Osaka and several other areas are under a state of emergency with rising coronavirus infections. The headline in English of the petition reads: “Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives.”

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron is joining the Biden administration in saying that he backs the sharing of the valuable technology behind COVID-19 vaccines. But Macro is also insisting that the immediate priority for wealthier countries should be first donating more doses to poorer countries.

Speaking on a visit Thursday to a vaccine center, the French leader said he “completely” supports opening up intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. Macron said that “evidently, we must turn this vaccine in a global public good.”

But he also argued that even if patents are waived, pharmaceutical companies in places like Africa aren’t currently equipped to make COVID-19 vaccines and that donations of doses should be prioritized instead.

Macron claimed that the European Union is leading the way in vaccine donations and called for the United States and Britain to share more, too.

He said that “Europe is the most generous continent with the rest of the world,” having exported 45 million doses, and expressed hope that “the British, the Americans and others will follow.”

He added that, “in the short term, this is what will allow us to vaccinate.”

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