WASHINGTON — About 1 in 5 Americans say they lost a relative or close friend to the coronavirus.
That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research a year after the start of the pandemic. The public’s worry about the virus is dropping even as people still in mourning express frustration at the continuing struggle to stay safe.
Communities of color were hardest hit by the coronavirus. The AP-NORC poll found about 30% of African Americans and Hispanics know a relative or close friend who died from the virus, compared with 15% of white people.
While vaccines offer real hope for ending the scourge, about 1 in 3 Americans don’t intend to get one. The most reluctant: Younger adults, people without college degrees, and Republicans.
The staggering death toll from the coronavirus has reached more than 529,000 people in the U.S.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— A year after declaring a pandemic, World Health Organization is struggling to fight vaccine nationalism and to keep up with the rapidly evolving science around COVID-19
— Four former US presidents and first ladies urge getting shots in ad
— Austria targets one hard-hit region with mass vaccinations to fight virus variant first found in South Africa
— Brazil’s hospitals falter as a highly contagious virus variant tears through the country
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation officials cited a declining number of coronavirus cases in announcing a public health order allowing a “soft reopening” of some businesses with restrictions.
T he daily curfew for residents of the tribe’s reservation from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. will remain in effect under a separate new health order, officials announced. Both orders will take effect Monday.
Officials cited testing availability, hospital capacity and contact tracing in addition to the decrease in new cases as factors in the transition to a status allowing some businesses to reopen with capacity limits.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says it’s a carefully crafted reopening at no more than 25% capacity.
The tribe, with a vast reservation that stretches across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, reported 13 coronavirus cases and one death. That increased the pandemic totals to 29,900 confirmed cases and 1,205 known deaths
PHOENIX — Arizona has reported 60 additional deaths from COVID-19 and with 1,835 newly confirmed cases after three straight days of fewer than 1,000 cases.
The figures released Thursday increased the state’s pandemic totals to 830,465 cases and 16,464 confirmed deaths.
The rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 1,559 on Feb. 23 to 1,239 on Tuesday. %he rolling average of daily deaths declined from 105 to 52 during the same period, according to data from the state’s coronavirus dashboard and Johns Hopkins University.
In other developments, Phoenix plans to start returning city workers to their offices later this month. Prescott is launching a program to reimburse large local healthcare providers for the costs of administering COVID-19 vaccinations.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Organizers say a veteran Iditarod musher was removed from the race Wednesday after he tested positive for the coronavirus.
The organizers say Gunnar Johnson, 52, of Duluth, Minnesota, was withdrawn from the event at the McGrath, Alaska, checkpoint.
Iditarod Race Marshal Mark Nordman, working with epidemiologist Dr. Jodie Guest, made the decision to remove Johnson based on the rules set in the race’s COVID-19 mitigation plan. The organizers say the asymptomatic Johnson is disappointed and said his 14-dog team looked great.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Duke University is seeing an uptick in the coronavirus following reports of positive cases stemming from students attending fraternity parties and events.
Administrators warn a curfew could be implemented or in-person classes could be halted if case numbers continue to worsen. UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University have seen more cases since the start of the pandemic.
Of the 102 undergraduate students who tested positive for the coronavirus from March 5-9, Duke says most “either have a known Greek affiliation and/or are first-year male students in the Class of 2024.”
Duke linked the cases to rush activities and off-campus parties hosted by fraternities, including Greek organizations that recently severed their affiliations with the university.
Campus officials warned in a message to students that those who host parties and flagrantly violate safety protocols could be suspended or expelled.
Duke will increase surveillance testing for all undergraduates and require those returning from travel to clear two rounds of testing before they can return to a physical classroom.
WASHINGTON — Four former U.S. presidents are urging Americans to get vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 doses are available.
Two public service announcements from the Ad Council and the business-supported COVID Collaborative feature Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter along with first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter.
All have received doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. One ad features photos of the former presidents and their spouses with syringes in their upper arms as they urge Americans to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” by getting vaccinated.
Obama, 59, says he’s looking forward to visiting his mother-in-law, “to hug her, and see her on her birthday.” Bush, 74, talks about “going to opening day in Texas Rangers stadium with a full stadium.”
AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency has authorized Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine, giving the European Union’s 27 nations a fourth licensed vaccine to try to curb the pandemic amid a stalled vaccination drive in the bloc. I
n a decision issued Thursday, the EU medicines regulator said it was recommending the vaccine be authorized “after a thorough evaluation” of J&J’s data found it met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.
The head of the regulatory agency says, “with this latest positive opinion, authorities across the European Union will have another option to combat the pandemic and protect the lives and health of their citizens.”
The EMA has already approved COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the J&J shot in late February. Health experts hope that having a one-dose vaccine will speed efforts to immunize the world against COVID-19, given the arrival of new variants in recent months.
WARSAW, Poland — New lockdowns have been ordered in two regions of Poland, one on the border with Germany and the other surrounding Warsaw, to fight a surge in coronavirus infections.
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski says the restrictions would be in effect March 15-28, saying they are needed as infections spike. The new lockdowns in the Lubuskie and Mazowiecki provinces come after two other lockdowns in northern Poland were recently imposed.
Earlier Thursday, the government reported over 21,000 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily number since November.
Authorities say Poland is in a third wave of the virus caused by the more transmissible virus variant first found in England. The numbers of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are also growing amid a shortage of health care workers.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The medical personnel from Belgium and Denmark are coming to Slovakia to help the struggling health system cope with coronavirus patients.
The Health Ministry says three doctors and five nurses from Denmark and two doctors and a nurse from Belgium are expected to arrive on Friday. They will all be based at the F. D. Roosevelt University Hospital in the central city of Banska Bystrica.
One of the hardest-hit European Union country asked other EU nations last month to send their medical staff to Slovak hospitals. A group of 14 doctors and nurses from Romania have been already working in Slovakia. At the same time, three Slovak COVID-19 patients have been transported for treatment to Germany while another five have been hospitalized in Poland.
The nation of 5.4 million has more than 331,000 confirmed cases and 8,244 confirmed deaths.
GENEVA — When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic one year ago, it did so only after weeks of resisting the term and maintaining the highly infectious virus could still be stopped.
A year later, the U.N. agency is still struggling to keep on top of the evolving science of COVID-19, to persuade countries to abandon their nationalistic tendencies and help get vaccines where they’re needed most.
WHO waved its first big warning flag on Jan. 30, 2020, by calling the outbreak an international health emergency.
Only when WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared a “pandemic” six weeks later, on March 11, did most governments take action, experts say. By then, it was too late, and the virus had reached every continent except Antarctica.
The agency made some costly missteps along the way: It advised people against wearing masks for months and asserted that COVID-19 wasn’t widely spread in the air. It also declined to publicly call out countries — particularly China — for mistakes that senior WHO officials grumbled about privately.
Globally, there’s been 118 million coronavirus cases and 2.6 million confirmed deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The United States leads the world with 29 million cases and more than 529,000 deaths.
DENVER — Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Denver on Tuesday to highlight the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passed by Congress.
The vice president’s office says details on the visit by Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, are still being worked out. Harris’ trip is part of an ambitious campaign by President Joe Biden’s administration to showcase the relief bill.
The campaign includes travel by the president, first lady Jill Biden and Cabinet secretaries. The U.S. House gave final congressional approval to the massive relief package along a near-party-line vote on Wednesday.
Harris’ office said she will address the aid package’s many aspects, among them an extension of $300 weekly emergency unemployment benefits into September and the shoring up of state and local government finances. Biden plans to sign the measure Friday.
SEATTLE — The city of Seattle will open a new mass COVID-19 vaccination site on Saturday, with the aim of eventually inoculating 22,000 people each day.
The site at the Lumen Field Event Center will run seven days a week. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says at full capacity, the operation will be the largest civilian run vaccination site in the country.
In January 2020, Snohomish County reported the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States.
Currently, vaccination eligibility is limited to people over 65, teachers and licensed childcare providers. The state Health Department says so far more than 750,000 people in Washington have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
More than 5,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Washington state, which has more than 345,000 confirmed cases.
BERLIN — The head of Germany’s disease control agency says measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have saved more than 100,000 lives in the country since the start of the pandemic a year ago.
In a lecture Thursday to students at the Technical University of Munich, Lothar Wieler said his agency had calculated the lethality of a COVID-19 infection to be about 1.14% for Germany, meaning a nationwide spread of the virus could have led to more than 800,000 deaths.
“In our country, we saved ten thousands, if not (a) hundred thousand lives already by these public health measures,” said Wieler, who heads the Robert Koch Institute.
The agency reported 14,356 confirmed cases and 321 deaths in Germany overnight, taking the total to more than 2.5 million cases and 72,810 COVID-related deaths.
Wieler said at the U.N. in Geneva on Wednesday that he believes a “third wave” of infections has begun in Germany.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Health officials in Hungary reported more than 8,300 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic.
Officials say the increase in new infections is likely due to a variant of the virus first discovered in Britain, which has led to a sharp surge in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Hungary has more patients being treated in hospitals now than at any other time during the pandemic, putting a strain on its understaffed healthcare system. Doctors at several hospitals say intensive wards are filling up, and that they are having to give priority to younger critical patients with higher chances of survival when determining who to admit to intensive care.
A new round of lockdown restrictions were introduced on Monday to curb the surge, including mandatory closure of most businesses and suspension of kindergartens and primary schools.
As of Thursday, 16,497 coronavirus-related deaths were confirmed in the country of fewer than 10 million.
BERLIN — Austria is embarking on an ambitious drive to inoculate residents of a district that has been particularly hard-hit by the virus variant first found in South Africa, a move that is part of a research project into vaccinations.
Some 48,500 of the 64,000 people eligible for vaccinations in Tyrol province’s Schwaz district have signed up to be vaccinated in the drive that starts Thursday, according to the Austrian news agency APA.
Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said the rollout will offer vaccine jabs to all people 16 and over.
The district, east of the provincial capital of Innsbruck and home to about 84,000 people, has been a source of concern for weeks. As of last week, it accounted for 66 of 88 active confirmed cases of the more transmissible variant in the province, APA reported.
The variant first identified in South Africa is a source of particular concern because of doubts over whether all vaccines currently available are fully effective against it.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the plan was Austria’s “opportunity to eliminate the variant in the Schwaz district.”
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