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Sunday March 28th, 2021 6:23PM

The Latest: Panel to recommend who gets first U.S. vaccines

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK — An influential scientific panel is set to tackle one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: Who should get the first vaccines when they become available?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet in an open-to-the-public, virtual meeting to vote on a proposal that would give priority to health care workers and patients in nursing 凯发k8地址homes and other long-term care facilities. The two groups together represent around 23 million Americans out of a population of about 330 million.

About 2 million people live in nursing 凯发k8地址homes and other U.S. long-term care facilities. Those patients and the staff members who care for them have accounted for 6% of the nation’s coronavirus cases and a staggering 39% of the deaths, CDC officials say.

Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider approval of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Experts say the vaccines will probably not become widely available in the U.S. until the spring. There’s been more than 13.6 million confirmed cases and nearly 270,000 deaths in the U.S., the highest tallies in the world.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— U.S. panel to decide who should get the first COVID-19 shots

— BioNTech and Pfizer ask European regulator for expedited approval of coronavirus vaccine

— Americans face new COVID-19 restrictions after Thanksgiving

— At tiny rural hospitals, exhausted medical workers t reat friends and family

— Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton tests positive for coronavirus

— A pop-up school has blossomed to teach reading, writing, math and art to Central American children living in a camp of asylum seekers stuck at America’s doorstep

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron says France’s coronavirus vaccination program will likely start in early January on a focused population.

A French public health watchdog recommended the first vaccines go to nursing 凯发k8地址home residents. No vaccines have been approved yet.

Macron says the larger population is expected to get a potential vaccine between April and June.

France has 2.2 million cases, fifth highest in the world, and more than 52,000 deaths.

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PHOENIX — Arizona reported a record 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, which included delayed reporting because of the holiday weekend.

The state’s coronavirus dashboard reported 10,322 coronavirus cases and 48 deaths. Arizona’s previous single-day high was 4,878 on July 1.

Arizona’s latest seven-day rolling average of daily new cases was 3,499 on Monday.

Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continued to increase, reaching 2,594 on Monday, with 597 patients in intensive care unit beds.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada won’t lift restrictions at the U.S.--Canada border until the coronavirus is significantly under control throughout the world.

Canada has limited border crossings to essential travel since March. Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that Canada is fortunate that trade in essential goods like agriculture products and pharmaceuticals is still flowing back and forth.

Trudeau says it’s critical that people not travel. He says while President-elect Joe Biden has an “obvious” different approach on the pandemic than President Donald Trump, the situation in the U.S. remains serious. The United States leads the world with 13.6 million coronavirus cases and nearly 270,000 deaths.

About 400,000 people crossed the world’s longest international border each day before the pandemic closed it to nonessential travel nine months ago.

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BERLIN — Germany’s health minister toured a new vaccination center in Duesseldorf on Tuesday, preparing for possible mass vaccinations against the coronavirus in the coming weeks.

Vaccinations in Germany will be free, voluntary and people will receive letters about when it’s their turn for the shot, Health Minister Jens Spahn says.

The first shots will be given either in vaccination centers around the country or by mobile medical teams who will go to nursing 凯发k8地址homes to vaccinate the most vulnerable people. Later next year, doctors will vaccinate people at their local practices, the health minister says.

Spahn expects Germany to receive five to eight million doses of vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as by Moderna.

There will be 53 centers opened in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with 18 million people, where Duesseldorf is based. In Berlin, 凯发k8地址home to 3.6 million people, six centers are being prepared.

In Germany, there were 13,604 confirmed cases and 388 deaths in the last 24 hours.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island has opened two field hospitals with a combined 900 beds to deal with an expected increase of COVID-19 patients.

Care New England opened a field hospital with more than 300 beds in Cranston on Monday, the same day the state sent an emergency alert saying conventional hospitals had reached their coronavirus capacity.

A facility with nearly 600 beds opened Tuesday at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. It is run by Lifespan, the state’s largest hospital group.

There were 365 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals on Saturday, according to the state Department of Health. That’s down from a high of 381 on Nov. 23.

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ISLAMABAD — A top Pakistani health official says Islamabad plans to procure a COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter of next year.

The announcement Tuesday by Faisal Sultan came hours after Pakistan registered 67 more deaths and 2,458 new coronavirus cases.

Pakistan has allocated $150 million to acquire vaccine, which first will be administered to frontline health workers and elderly people.

The government has imposed a partial lockdown in many areas across Pakistan. ities have asked people to adhere to social distancing rules to avoid stricter measures.

Pakistan’s death toll stands at 8,091 and more than 400,000 confirmed cases.

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MADRID — Madrid officials held a ceremony to open part of a 1,000-bed hospital for emergencies. About 200 health professionals gathered Tuesday at the Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital, built in 100 days at a cost of 100 million euros ($119 million), twice the original budget.

Health workers’ unions say the investment should had instead gone to shore up an existing public health system run down by years of spending cuts.

The regional Madrid president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, says it will help alleviate pressure in other public hospitals by focusing on COVID-19 patients. Its located near Madrid’s international airport.

The conservative regional leader has been a critic of the pandemic’s handling by the leftist national government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, constantly objecting to preventative measures and advocating for restrictions to preserve economic activity. Some critics say the new hospital is no more than a vanity project for Díaz Ayuso, a building with beds not ready to receive patients.

The region’s 14-day infection rate has dropped from 500-plus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in October to 236 on Monday, below the national average of 275.

Spain has reported 1.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 45,000 confirmed deaths.

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SAKHIR, Bahrain — Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Mercedes team says Hamilton tested negative three times last week but woke feeling mild symptoms the morning after winning Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton took another test after being informed that a contact prior to arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive. The 35-year-old British driver returned the positive test Monday and the result has been confirmed by a retest.

Hamilton is in isolation in accordance with the health protocols in Bahrain and has mild symptoms, the team says.

Hamilton has won 11 races this season and clinched the drivers’ championship last month in Turkey. He’s the third F1 driver to test positive this season.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A three-month Dutch law to rein in the spread of the coronavirus began on Tuesday.

The law requires wearing face masks in public indoor areas, including stores, museums, libraries and theaters. Masks are now mandatory in all schools except primary schools, although they can be taken off once students are in classrooms.

Before the law, masks were only required when traveling on public transport.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Netherlands has eased slightly over the past two weeks from 32 new cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 16 to 28 on Monday.

Also Tuesday, the Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge says the Netherlands could begin coronavirus vaccinations by Jan. 4.

The minister says if the vaccine candidate by Pfizer and BioNTech is approved later this month, he expects delivery of about 1 million doses of its vaccine to the Netherlands in December and 1.6 million doses in the first quarter of 2021.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Islamic militant group Hamas says its leader in the Gaza Strip has contracted the coronavirus.

Hamas says Yehiya Sinwar was tested after he showed symptoms and the infection was confirmed. It says he is “in good health and conducting his work with adherence to safety measures.”

Hamas has ruled Gaza since taking over the territory from the rival Palestinian ity in 2007. Sinwar has led the group in Gaza, its central base, since 2017.

Previously, he spent two decades in Israeli prisons after being convicted of planning an operation in which two Israelis were killed. He was freed in a 2011 prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas.

Gaza, which is under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade, reported its first case of community transmission of coronavirus in August. Since then, the outbreak has quickly spread.

Health ities have confirmed 21,000 cases and 111 deaths, including a record nine deaths reported on Tuesday.

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TOKYO — Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is asking senior citizens 65 or older and those with underlying health conditions not to use the government’s GoTo discount campaign to travel in and out of Tokyo.

New cases in Tokyo and other major cities have spiked in recent weeks, with serious cases rapidly filling hospitals and impacting the treatment of other patients.

Koike says she is focusing on how to stop serious cases and prevent the medical systems from collapsing.

Koike issued a request for restaurants serving alcohol, bars and karaoke chains to close early until mid-December. Aichi, Osaka and Hokkaido have taken similar steps.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has been criticized for being slow to curb social and economic activity. Suga hasn’t taken tougher steps beyond basic safety precautions and wearing masks.

Japan managed to avoid a high number of cases with stay at 凯发k8地址home and business closure requests under a non-binding state of emergency in the spring. Some experts say it’s time to scale back business activity and urged the government to act quickly to avoid another state of emergency.

The health ministry says Japan has nearly 149,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 2,100 deaths.

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BERLIN — Germany’s science minister says the same safety standards are applied in the approval process for coronavirus vaccines as for other drugs.

Anja Karliczek says ensuring the same standards is key to gaining the widest possible public acceptance for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Karliczek noted that the European Medicines Agency will be holding a public hearing on Dec. 11 on an approval request by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer.

She says the vaccine will be voluntary and ities will work hard to inform the public about possible side effects that might be excepted after immunization, such as headaches, localized pain and fever.

Marylyn Addo, a doctor at Hamburg’s UKE hospital who is involved in the trials for a rival vaccine, says the rapid development of a vaccine was the result of enormous efforts by scientists, early funding and experience from previous vaccines.

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BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer say they have submitted an application for expedited approval of their coronavirus vaccine with the European Medicines Agency.

The two companies say the submission, which occurred Monday, completes the rolling review process they initiated with the agency on Oct. 6.

The move comes a day after rival Moderna said it was asking U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine.

BioNTech says if the vaccine, currently named BNT162b2, is approved, its use in Europe could begin before the end of 2020.

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ROUEN, France — Lockdowns that are forcing millions of people to once again stay 凯发k8地址home — cutting them off from families and friends, shuttering businesses they invested in, university classes that fed their minds and the nightspots where they socialized — has begun to turn back the coronavirus resurgence in France.

Still, in the country that passed the bleak milestone of 52,000 dead in November, the costs to mental health have been considerable.

With numbers now falling for COVID-19 patients in intensive care, psychiatrists are facing a follow-up wave of psychological distress. Health ities’ surveys point to a surge of depression most acute among people without work, those in financial hardship and young adults.

The Rouvray Hospital Center in the Normandy town of Rouen is among places where psychiatrists are on the front line of the pandemic’s mental-health fallout. They are fearful that a growing crisis of depression, anxiety and worse may be on the horizon as more livelihoods, futures and hopes are lost to the pandemic.

Associated Press journalists spent 10 hours in the sprawling 535-bed facility, the day after French President Emmanuel Macron laid out a blueprint stretching into mid-January for the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions.

“Being alone between four walls is terrible,” one patient says. “The halting of life like this, it reverberates on people. It is not good.”

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BRUSSELS — Nonessential shops in Belgium were reopening Tuesday in the wake of encouraging figures about declining daily coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions.

However, the government is concerned the change might lead to massive gatherings in the nation’s most popular shopping centers and streets. Over the weekend, pre-Christmas light festivals already led to crowded scenes in several cities, prompting warnings from virologists about the dangers of reopening too soon.

Belgium, host to the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union, has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe during the pandemic. Belgium has reported more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus during two surges in the spring and the fall.

Under the new rules, shopping time is limited to half an hour. Restaurants and bars remain closed.

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