PHOENIX -- Arizona’s state-run COVID-19 vaccination sites, which were touted as a national model, will be shutting down later this month.
The state Department of Health Services announced Thursday all its mass vaccination sites are gradually winding down operations and will be closed by June 28.
Health officials pointed to the growing number of options for people to get vaccinated including pharmacies, doctors’ offices and pop-up clinics.
Approximately 1.6 million vaccine doses have been administered across state mass vaccination sites. The very first one, which opened in State Farm Stadium in Glendale, drew praise from President Joe Biden.
More than 5.9 million doses so far have been administered in the state. Around 3.3 million people have received at least one dose. More than 2.8 million have gotten both doses -- that’s less than half of the state’s population eligible to receive vaccines.
MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Biden offers international COVID-19 vaccine sharing plan
— Slow to start, China mobilizes to vaccinate at headlong pace
— 1st cruise ship sails through Venice since start of pandemic
— Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated?
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
DENVER -- About 500 people remain hospitalized in Colorado with COVID-19 even though the pandemic seems to be receding.
Health officials say nearly all of them share a common trait: They’re unvaccinated.
Colorado Public Radio reports COVID-19 vaccines now in use and available to just about anyone 12 and older provide near universal protection against the illness and even greater protection against severe cases leading to hospitalizations.
Doctors in hospitals treating COVID-19 patients in the state can’t recall a single death of a vaccinated person. Still, health officials are struggling to convince some groups to get the vaccine, particularly younger people and minorities.
Hispanic and Black residents continue to be hospitalized at disproportionately high rates, according to state health officials.
Hispanics make up about 20% of the state’s population, but in recent weeks have made up roughly 28% of those hospitalized. Black residents account for nearly 4% of the state’s population but have been hospitalized in recent weeks at double that figure.
OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington is the latest state to offer prizes to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announcing a series of giveaways during the month of June that include lottery drawings totaling $2 million, college tuition assistance, airline tickets and game systems.
The incentive program, called “Shot of a Lifetime,” ends June 30 and applies to those who start the vaccination process this month as well as residents who are already vaccinated.
Washington joins several other states — including California, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon — that have already created lotteries in hopes of increasing the pace of vaccination, which has slowed in recent weeks.
Starting next Tuesday, the state Lottery will hold one drawing a week for four weeks, with a prize of $250,000. At the end of the fourth week, a final $1 million drawing will held.
In addition, the state’s public four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges will receive nearly $1 million to run their own drawing for free tuition and expenses for vaccinated students.
SAN FRANCISCO -- There’s one pandemic change that Californians are sure to toast: The to-go cocktail.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will allow restaurants to continue selling take-out alcohol and keep expanded outdoor dining through the end of the year.
Restaurants turned to takeout and outdoor seating during the last year as coronavirus restrictions limited indoor service.
The state’s department of Alcoholic Beverage Control relaxed regulations to allow them to keep selling alcohol, which can be a big money maker.
Lawmakers could permanently extend the allowance of to-go cocktails through a bill by state Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat. He said his proposal would boost income for struggling restaurants and give customers greater choice.
The state is set to drop all capacity limits on businesses, indoor and outdoor, on June 15.
WASHINGTON — White House officials say U.S. producers of vaccine materials and ingredients will no longer have to prioritize orders from three companies working on COVID-19 shots.
The change is expected to ease global shortages of key vaccine materials for overseas companies and governments.
Officials say the government is dropping its use of the Defense Production Act to prioritize supply orders from AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi. Those three companies have not yet won U.S. authorization for their COVID-19 shots, despite receiving funding from the federal government for development and manufacturing.
Administration officials say the U.S. now has enough vaccines to protect all Americans. President Joe Biden has faced increasing pressure to make more U.S. vaccines and supplies available to struggling countries.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The World Health Organization says COVID-19 vaccine shipments have ground to “a near halt” in Africa while coronavirus cases have spiked 20% over the last two weeks.
South Africa alone had a more than 60% rise in new cases last week as the country with the highest coronavirus caseload in Africa continued to face delays in its effort to roll out the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
More than 1 million J&J doses remain on hold at a pharmaceuticals plant in South Africa because of contamination concerns at a U.S. factory. The head of the Africa CDC said he expects an announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on those contamination issues soon.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s top vaccines expert says that immunizing children against the coronavirus “is not a high priority” given the extremely limited global supply of vaccines.
Dr. Kate O’Brien says vaccinating children “is not a priority from a WHO perspective,” even as increasing numbers of rich countries authorize their COVID-19 shots for teenagers and children. O’Brien says since children are not typically at risk of getting severely ill or dying from COVID-19, vaccinating them during the pandemic is mostly aimed at stopping transmission, rather than protecting them from disease.
Canada, the U.S. and the European Union have all recently approved some COVID-19 vaccines for children age 12 to 15 as they approach their vaccination targets for adults. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has previously urged rich countries to donate their COVID-19 shots to poor countries rather than immunize their adolescents and children. Fewer than 1% of COVID-19 vaccines administered globally have been used in poor countries.
O’Brien says it’s not necessary to vaccinate children before sending them back to school if the adults in contact with them were immunized.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden plans to share COVID-19 vaccines with the world, including directing 75% of excess doses through the UN-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program.
The White House has previously stated its intent to share 80 million vaccine doses with the world by the end of June. The administration says 25% of doses will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.
Of the first 25 million doses, the White House says about 19 million will go to COVAX. That includes about 6 million for South and Central America, 7 million for Asia, and 5 million for Africa. The doses boost the lagging COVAX effort, which so far has allocated just 76 million doses to needy countries.
The vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped significantly and global inequities in supply have become more glaring. So far, more than 63% of American adults have received at least one dose.
BRUSSELS — The European Union is urging countries around Europe to begin lifting restrictions on non-essential travel for people from Japan.
The EU gave no details about Thursday’s decision, but adds countries to its safe traveler list based on the extent of the spread of the coronavirus, how the nation is managing the disease and the reliability of its health data.
Last Friday, Japan extended a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas for 20 more days, as infections showed little sign of slowing as the country prepares to host the Olympics in just over a month.
Japan now joins Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand on a list of countries whose nationals the 27 EU nations should ease travel restrictions – along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The EU also lift non-essential travel bans on people from China, Hong Kong and Macao, provided the authorities there reciprocate by making it easier for Europeans to enter.
LONDON — Britain has removed Portugal from its list of coronavirus-safe travel destinations, meaning thousands of U.K. residents currently on vacation there will have to quarantine on return.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says the “difficult decision” was prompted by rising case rates in Portugal and worries about new strains of the virus that could prove resistant to vaccines. The change will take effect Tuesday.
Portugal is a major destination for sun-seeking British, and was the only large tourism destination on the U.K. government’s “green list,” announced last month, of destinations that can be visited without the need to self-isolate on return.
Tourism is a mainstay of Portugal’s economy, accounting for about 15% of annual gross domestic product.
SOAVE, Italy — A cruise ship traveled down the Giudecca canal in Venice for the first time since the pandemic, despite repeated government pledges to reroute the huge vessels on safety and environmental grounds.
The 92,409-ton MSC Orchestra passed through the basin in front of St. Mark’s Canal around 6 a.m. under tugboat and port authority escort, ahead of the first post-pandemic cruise ship departure from Venice, scheduled for Saturday. Protests are ramping up against the renewal of cruise traffic just 2 ½ months after Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, vowed a definitive stop to the passage of big ships through the heart of the city.
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico state finance authorities say demand appears to be building for minimum-interest loans aimed at helping small businesses that lost income or experienced major disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic.
New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority CEO Marquita Russel told a panel of state legislators on Wednesday that about 865 businesses have applied to the program since an overhaul in March. That could result in new loans worth $65 million.
New Mexico’s small business recovery loans are repaid at half the prime rate of interest that commercial banks charge their most creditworthy customers. Zero interest is accrued during the loans’ first year.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is set to fully reopen in less than two weeks and do away with almost all mask and social distancing requirements for vaccinated people, but those who regulate workplaces in the state aren’t ready to go that far and that has business groups upset.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board meets Thursday and will consider new workplace rules that would only allow workers to go maskless if everyone in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The rules could remain in place into early next year even though coronavirus cases have fallen dramatically after a severe winter spike and as more people are vaccinated.
Recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance says that fully vaccinated people can skip face coverings and distancing in nearly all situations, and the state is set to follow that recommendation starting June 15.
LONDON — Britain risks failing young people with its “half-hearted” effort to bolster schools after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the former education recovery chief who resigned over the government’s funding announcement.
Kevan Collins criticized the 1.4 billion pound ($2 billion) education recovery fund that was announced Wednesday, describing it as a fraction of what is needed to meet the scale of the challenge.
Children across the U.K. lost an average of 115 days of classroom time during the pandemic, curtailing academic achievement and social development. Collins reportedly recommended that the government plow an extra 15 billion pounds into education over the next three years to help students catch up.
With the funding announced this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has pledged about 3.1 billion pounds to the education recovery effort, or about 400 pounds ($566) per pupil. That’s in contrast to the U.S., which has allocated the equivalent of 1,600 pounds ($2,265) per student, or the Netherlands, which has announced plans to spend over 2,500 pounds ($3,540) per student.
Central to Collins’ plan is a proposal to extend each school day an average of 30 minutes so children can get the extra academic help they need without sacrificing enrichment programs such as music and sports.
BRUSSELS — The European Union unveiled plans Thursday for a digital ID wallet that residents could use to access services across the 27-nation bloc, part of a post-pandemic recovery strategy that involves accelerating the shift to an online world.
The European Digital Identity Wallet proposed by the EU’s executive commission is a smartphone app that would let users store electronic forms of identification and other official documents, such as driver’s licenses, prescriptions and school diplomas.
The bloc’s 450 million residents would be able to use the wallet to access public or private services both online and offline while maintaining control of their personal data.
Officials envision the wallet allowing a customer renting a car at an airport, for example, to complete the necessary ID checks and documents digitally and thereby skip the usual wait at an agency counter. Nightclub-goers could show the app to security guards at the door to prove their ages.
Other potential uses include opening bank accounts, signing apartment leases and enrolling in universities outside an individual’s home country.