BEIJING — Shanghai has imposed lockdowns on two of China’s best-known hospitals after they were linked to new coronavirus cases.
Outpatient services have been suspended at Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center and Renji Hospital, both of which have been cordoned off along with some surrounding residential communities.
China now finds itself on guard against new clusters of coronavirus infections that have been emerging largely in the country’s frigid north.
Lockdowns have been imposed in parts of Beijing and other cities following outbreaks, schools are letting out early and citizens have been told to stay home for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.
China hopes to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by the middle of February.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
President Joe Biden signs burst of coronavirus orders, requires masks for travel. US Chamber of Commerce supports Biden’s virus plan. Dr. Anthony Fauci vows full US engagement with WHO. Angela Merkel sees signs of coronavirus decline in Germany, but extends restrictions until Feb. 14. India sends 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to Bangladesh.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is reporting its smallest daily increase in coronavirus infections in two months as officials express cautious hope that the country is beginning to wiggle out from its worst wave of the pandemic.
The 346 new cases reported Friday brought the national caseload to 74,262. There have been 1,328 deaths related to COVID-19.
Health authorities have clamped down on private social gatherings since late December, including setting fines for restaurants if they accept groups of five or more people. The tougher rules were imposed to slow a virus surge that erased months of hard-won gains. The 1,241 infections reported on Christmas Day were the country’s largest 24-hour jump of the pandemic.
Daily infections have slowed to around 400 to 600 in recent weeks.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico has posted new one-day highs for the pandemic, with 22,339 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,803 deaths related to COVID-19.
Mexico has recorded over 1.71 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 146,000 test-confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. However, official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000.
Officials also said Thursday that hospitals remained at 89% capacity in Mexico City, which is the current center of the pandemic in Mexico.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s top health officer says coronavirus vaccinations will be restricted for only state residents amid “extremely limited” supplies of vaccines.
In a two-page advisory, state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees advises counties to prioritize available doses to Florida residents, including so-called snowbirds who reside in the state part-time. The advisory says people seeking vaccination must provide a driver’s license or other document, such as rental leases and utility bills.
Florida was one of the first states to open vaccine eligibility to members of the general public over age 65.
So far, 41,000 of the 1.2 million people who have been vaccinated in the state were marked as out-of-state residents, but the data makes no distinction between visitors and “snowbirds.”
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky has reported its highest daily number of COVID-19 deaths as the governor presses the federal government to provide the state with more vaccine.
Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday the state recorded 58 more coronavirus-related deaths, pushing the total for the pandemic above 3,300. He called it a “staggering” loss and said a U.S. flag will be placed on the statehouse grounds Friday for each Kentuckian who has died from the virus.
As Kentucky has ramped up its vaccination campaign, demand has outpaced supply. That prompted Beshear this week to ask the federal government to double the state’s vaccine allotment. He said Thursday: “You give it to us, we can get it in people’s arms.”
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says the federal government has given too much coronavirus vaccine to pharmacies, which are struggling to use all their doses quickly.
Cox has mandated that vaccine doses be used within seven days. He said Thursday that public health departments are nearly meeting that benchmark but pharmacies partnered with the federal government are far behind.
The governor says that “this is a problem across the country."
One factor is billing private insurance, which will cover part of the cost of a vaccine but going through the process takes longer.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi has opened a drive-thru site for coronavirus vaccinations in the state capital, which officials hope will make shots more accessible to African-Americans, who have received the vaccine in much smaller numbers than whites.
The operation that opened Thursday at Smith-Wills Stadium is the first in the capital, and 19th drive-thru for the state. The Jackson area is the state’s most populous and has a Black majority.
The centers offer shots for health care workers, people 65 and older, and people who are at least 16 and have health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to the virus. Vaccinations are also continuing at long-term care facilities.
The state health department says only 15% of vaccinations administered so far in Mississippi have been to Black residents, with around 70% going to white residents.
SEATTLE — Amazon says it will host a one-day vaccination drive in Seattle this weekend looking to inoculate as many as 2,000 people.
The tech giant said Thursday that it is partnering with Virginia Mason Medical Center for the effort Sunday.
Anyone eligible for the vaccine, including those over 65 years old and front-line health care workers, will be able to attend the pop-up clinic at Amazon’s South Lake Union campus after registering for a vaccine wait list on Virginia Mason’s website. Virginia Mason will provide the vaccine and volunteers and schedule people for their second shots before they leave.
Meanwhile, Washington state health officials say they are moving ahead with plans to open four mass vaccination sites next week despite logistical concerns that include questions about vaccine supply.
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Some of Pennsylvania’s largest health systems are warning people that there isn’t enough coronavirus vaccine in the state to meet surging demand.
Pennsylvania expanded eligibility for the vaccine this week to include people age 65 and over as well as younger people with serious health conditions that put them at higher risk. The state had previously been directing the vaccine to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
Some 3.5 million people are now eligible to receive one of the two approved vaccines. But hospital officials said Thursday that the state’s weekly allotments are still extremely limited and there is no indication when the vaccine might begin arriving in sufficient quantity to allow them to increase the number of people getting shots.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi legislators are changing some of their work habits to try to avoid a repeat of last year’s coronavirus outbreak at the state Capitol when about four dozen lawmakers tested positive and a few were hospitalized.
In normal times, it’s common for lobbyists, journalists and state agency leaders to sit or stand shoulder to shoulder to watch legislators work during committee meetings. The goal now is to put more space between people.
Small rooms that crowd easily are now off-limits. And House and Senate leaders said Thursday that committees will conduct some business online starting next week.
Legislators will able to debate and vote on bills through a meeting app commonly used by businesses.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is back in the White House briefing room.
Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, was tasked by President Joe Biden to give an update on the coronavirus pandemic after largely being sidelined in recent months by former president Donald Trump.
Fauci said the new administration would “be completely open and honest” in dealing with the pandemic and, in an implicit rebuke to the Trump administration, said everything now would be “based on science and evidence.”
He also said in the Biden administration, the rule would be “if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess.”
Fauci, who repeatedly attacked by Trump for breaking with his rosy view of the pandemic, provided an update on the new, more contagious strains of the virus, which has now claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine announced Ohio will use $50 million in federal pandemic aid dollars to buy two million at-home rapid coronavirus tests to help local health departments respond faster to testing needs.
The Republican governor also said the state’s 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. pandemic curfew, due to expire in a couple days, will be extended, though he didn’t provide details. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov Jon Husted said the state is wrestling with huge numbers of fraudulent unemployment claims being filed for federal pandemic aid.
Husted said 1.4 million of those claims, nearly 800,000 have been flagged as fraudulent, including a claim someone made in Husted’s name.
The at-home test kit deal involves a partnership between the state, Miami-based digital health company eMed and Chicago-based medical device company Abbott Laboratories. Users can administer the BinaxNow at-home rapid antigen tests with results available in about 15 minutes.
A company spokesperson said users will receive online guidance to take the tests, and the results will be recorded with the Ohio Department of Health. Devine said local health departments have been asking for this type of rapid testing.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas is shifting into the second phase of coronavirus immunizations as the Republican-led state House approved a bill that would extend the state’s pandemic emergency declaration.
The 119-3 vote sends the bill to Gov. Laura Kelly, who has until Jan. 26 to act before the declaration expires. It expands the use of telemedicine and adds flexibility in health care licensing through March 31. But it also limits Kelly’s ability to close businesses and allows counties to opt out of mask mandates and other health orders she issues.
The move comes as Kelly said communities can move beyond immunizing health care workers and long-term care residents.
She urged patience in a news release, noting that the next phase includes about 1 million Kansans, including those ages 65 and older, prisoners and essential workers such as teachers and law enforcement officers. However, the next weekly shipment of vaccine from the federal government contains only about 45,000 new first doses.
Kelly said local health departments, will decide how their limited supply of the doses will be allocated by population groups.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is signing 10 executive orders aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic, including one broadening the use of the Defense Production Act to expand vaccine production.
Biden also signed an order Thursday mandating masks for travel, including in airports and planes, ships, trains, buses and public transportation, as well as one directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states for some costs related to their COVID-19 response and to provide funds to help reopen schools.
Biden is ordering FEMA to begin setting up vaccination centers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin a program to make vaccines available through local pharmacies starting next month. And he’s mobilizing the Public Health Service to deploy to assist localities in vaccinations.
The administration is trying to provide 100 million vaccine injections during the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency, an initial step toward getting the country inoculated from the disease so that schools and businesses can fully reopen.
TORONTO — The leader of Canada’s most populous province says he isn’t buying the excuse from Pfizer about why Pfizer deferred all its COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Canada next week.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says it unacceptable that other countries are getting the doses and Canada is not.
Pfizer announced a temporary reduction in deliveries last Friday so it could upscale its Puurs, Belgium plant, which supplies all shots delivered outside the United States. Ford says that’s “crap” and says Pfizer is messing up.
Governments in Europe also say the delay is costing critical time during the early stages of the rollout to care homes and hospital personnel.