The Latest: Navajo Nation new virus cases on downward trend

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South Korean traditional band members wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus pray during a ceremony to celebrate Jeongwol Daeboreum, or Great Full Moon Day, the first full moon of the Lunar New year, at the National Folk Museum of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation has continued on a downward trend in the number of daily coronavirus cases.

Tribal health officials on Friday reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. The latest numbers bring the total to 29,710 cases since the pandemic began. The death toll is 1,165.

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A curfew remains in effect for residents on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to prevent the spread of the virus.

Health facilities on the reservation and in border towns are conducting drive-thru vaccine events or administering doses by appointment.



Vaccination passports may open society, but at cost of inequity. Canada regulators have approved AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. Japan is partly ending pandemic emergency, keeps it for Tokyo. Third US vaccine option expected in Johnson & Johnson shot; raises the question: Which shots are best?


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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported another new 405 cases of the coronavirus as it began vaccinating tens of thousands of workers at frontline hospitals in the second day of its mass immunization program.

The daily increase reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the national caseload to 89,321, including 1,595 deaths.

Most of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which was hit hardest by a devastating winter surge that erased months of hard-won epidemiological gain and sparked public criticism about the country’s vaccine rollout that has been slower than many nations in the West.

The government had insisted it could maintain a wait-and-see approach as its outbreak still wasn’t as dire as in the United States or Europe.

The KCDC said 18,489 residents and workers at long-term care facilities received their first injections of two dose vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University during the first day of public vaccinations on Friday.


RENO, Nev. — The average number of new daily cases reported in Nevada over the past two weeks has fallen to its lowest level since mid-September and dropped by nearly 90% since a peak of more than 2,700 a day in mid-December.

The 314 new daily cases reported on average over the previous 14 days is the lowest since an average of 312 were reported on Sept. 16, state health officials said Friday.

That’s down from a peak of 2,716 reported on Dec. 11. The daily average dropped below 2,000 in mid-January and has steadily declined ever since.

The state’s positivity rate also has dropped to 8.3%, the lowest since 8.2% on Oct. 19. The rate is based on a 14-day rolling average with a seven-day lag. It peaked at 21.6% on Jan. 13.


DENVER -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says anyone 60 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus beginning March 5 followed by those 50 and older toward the end of the month.

The governor said Friday the state has already administered nearly 883,000 first doses of the vaccine and more than 423,000 second doses.

An increase in vaccine supply is expected in the coming weeks as pharmaceutical companies ramp up production.

More than 424,000 people in the state have tested positive and nearly 6,000 have died from the virus since it started its rapid spread last spring, and Polis warned Friday to stay vigilant.


BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday that Connecticut still has “a long way to go” to improve COVID-19 vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic residents, as new data show whites are getting inoculated at higher rates.

Lamont appeared with Black clergy members at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport to try to convince people the vaccines are safe and effective. Several church leaders received vaccinations Friday.

“We have a long way to go,” the Democratic governor said. “We’re doing better than we did two weeks ago, but not good enough.”

New data released by the state Thursday shows 39% of white state residents ages 65 and older have received the first of two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, compared with 21% of Black residents and 27% of Hispanic citizens 65 and older.


SACRAMENTO, Calif: Gov. Gavin Newsom expects California to start administering the new Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine next week.

At a Fresno news conference Friday, Newsom said the Biden administration plans to send California more than 1.1 million of the single-dose shots in the next three weeks.

The vaccine, still in the final federal approval process, has fewer handling restrictions than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now being used.

Those vaccines require two doses to be fully effective and must be stored at extremely low temperatures.

Addition of the J&J vaccine would come as California is seeing dramatic drops in virus cases and hospitalizations after record highs in early January.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- In an unusual example of the effectiveness of social distancing, residents of a Southeast Alaska fishing community have so far escaped the coronavirus pandemic without any infections.

Alaska Public Media reports that the town of Pelican is one of the Alaska communities that has avoided the illness by remaining isolated.

Pelican can only be reached by bush plane or boat.

The community has no recorded cases of COVID-19 and has vaccinated more than half of its adults.

Interviews and social media posts indicate there are at least 10 virus-free communities statewide.


UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable the unhindered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination of millions of people in conflict areas.

The British-drafted resolution, cosponsored by 112 countries, reiterated the council’s demand last July 1 for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts on the Security Council agenda from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia.

It expressed concern that an appeal for cease-fires in all conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which was first made by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, “was not fully heeded.”

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the current council president, announced the result of the email vote because the council has been meeting virtually, saying the resolution “will help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict areas or displaced by conflict.”


NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans’ mayor says coronavirus pandemic restrictions are being relaxed, starting Friday.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office says the past 30 days have shown a sustained decrease in case counts, transmission rate, and positivity rate. The statement says groups of up to 75 may gather indoors and 150 outdoors. Restaurants, bars and other businesses can seat up to 15 people at a table.

Indoor stadiums may admit up to 15% of the maximum number of fans usually allowed, with outdoor stadiums admitting up to 25%.

New Orleans’ changes bring city guidelines closer to the state’s, the city says. New Orleans has averaged around 50 new cases a day with less than 2% of tests indicating infection. Case counts in January averaged more than 170 a day.

There were 679 people hospitalized statewide on Thursday, compared to more than 2,000 in January.


PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown says all Oregonians who are 16 and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations no later than July 1.

Health officials say people who are 45 to 64 with underlying health conditions will be eligible starting March 29. Brown says the next round of vaccine distribution will occur in multiple waves.

Currently people who are eligible for vaccine are healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities, educators, seniors 70 and older and adults in custody. On Monday, people who are 65 or older will be eligible for the vaccine.

The Vaccine Advisory Committee has stated one of their goals is to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to minority communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Last week health officials reported significant disparities. White people represent 75% of Oregonians. While they only comprise about 48% of coronavirus cases, they account for 74% of vaccinations.


MADRID — Spain’s health authorities say people under 55 who have had a coronavirus infection will only receive one of the two doses of a vaccine six months after their recovery.

Spain has fully vaccinated nursing home residents, their caretakers and frontline health workers, a total of 1.2 million of its 47 million residents. Additionally, 2.4 million have received at least one shot. Vaccination efforts are currently focused on those over 80 and police.

The new update to the country’s vaccination guidelines released Friday also state the next group to receive the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots will be people older than 60. AstraZeneca will be administered to those ages 45 to 55.

With 8,341 new coronavirus infections and 329 deaths for the coronavirus confirmed Friday, Spain’s pandemic tally rose to nearly 3.2 million cases and more than 69,000 deaths.


GENEVA — The U.N. health agency chief is calling on member states of the World Trade Organization to authorize the lifting of intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines for wider use.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “We can’t beat COVID without vaccine equity. The sharing problem can be addressed effectively if production is increased -- and to increase production, there are trade barriers or other barriers: That has to be addressed.”

South Africa and India in October presented a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on vaccines. Rich countries with big pharmaceutical industries including Britain, Switzerland and the United States have resisted or raised questions about the proposal, which would need consensus under WTO rules.


DETROIT — A Whole Foods Market store in Detroit is receiving rapid COVID-19 testing for all its 196 employees after 23 tested positive for the coronavirus.

Chief Detroit public health officer Denise Fair says the outbreak hit the store in the city’s Midtown. She says has made a commitment that no workers or close contacts of any employee who has tested positive will be allowed back to work until they have produced a negative test result.

Whole Foods Market says it is “diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities.”

Mayor Mike Duggan announced this month that food service workers, including grocery store workers who live or work in Detroit, are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.


COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s largest hospice provider is partnering with state health officials to pilot an effort to vaccinate eligible residents who rarely, if ever, leave their homes.

Agape Care and the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced they’ll launch the pilot program in Hampton and Jasper counties, largely rural areas at the southern tip of the state.

After scheduling and receiving a Moderna shot, the nurse will return 28 days later to administer the second shot.

If a live-in caregiver is also eligible, he or she can get vaccinated, too.


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration and major U.S. business organizations are launching a joint educational campaign to reinforce basic COVID-19 do’s and don’ts with their customers and employees.

White House coronavirus senior adviser Andy Slavitt says it’s part of an effort to get the whole country working together to contain the virus and encourage Americans to get vaccinated.

The strategy has three parts. First, requiring masking and social distancing on business premises. That’s already the case in nearly all supermarkets, drug stores, offices and other types of commercial establishments. But masking is not always adhered to in some smaller workplaces.

Second, removing roadblocks to get employees vaccinated. Businesses could use flexible scheduling and paid time off to encourage workers to get their shots.

Finally, using business platforms like websites and some products to echo public health advice about getting vaccinated and wearing masks.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and leading associations of minority-owned businesses are participating in the effort.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas is lifting most of its coronavirus safety restrictions, except for the state’s mask mandate.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the decision as he extended the public health emergency he declared last year because of the pandemic. Hutchinson is extending the order until the end of March.

The rules being lifted include capacity limits for restaurant, bars, gyms and large venues.

Hutchinson has faced pushback from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature over the virus safety rules.

Hutchinson says the mask mandate will be lifted at the end of March if the state’s positivity rate is below 10%, with at least 7,500 tests on an average daily basis. If the state has fewer tests, the mandate would end if hospitalizations are below 750 patients.

On Thursday, Arkansas had a test positivity rate of about 10% and reported 522 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19.


WASHINGTON — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm that recent gains against the coronavirus may be stalling.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the CDC is looking at data that COVID-19 cases have been increasing the past three days, but more time is needed to see if that is a blip or the start of a trend.

Walensky spoke at the White House coronavirus briefing Friday, noting virus mutations spreading in the U.S. are among the CDC’s biggest concerns. Along with a more transmissible strain first detected in Britain, scientists here are tracking variants in New York and California, which also appear to spread more easily.

“We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” says Walensky, stressing now is not the time to relax protective measures like wearing masks and avoiding gatherings.

Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since the January peak that followed the winter holidays. Deaths have also declined. But Walensky says those gains could be in jeopardy because the background level of cases is still too high.


PARIS — French authorities have ordered a local weekend lockdown starting on Friday evening in the French Riviera city of Nice and the surrounding coastal area to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Nice reported this week a rate of almost 800 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people, nearly four times the national average.

The measure comes in addition to a national 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The northern port of Dunkirk is under similar restrictions. In both places, numbers of infections have spiked and hospitals are overwhelmed, with some patients being transferred to other French regions.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi announced the ban on the beaches and the famous Promenade des Anglais esplanade to ensure the restrictions will be fully respected. The weekend lockdown also includes nearby coastal towns of Cannes and Antibes.