The Latest: LA County says medical center broke virus rules

The Associated Press
·12-min read

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County officials say that the Northridge Hospital Medical Center violated county rules when it provided coronavirus vaccines to teachers and staff at the Wesley School in North Hollywood. Teachers and school employees are not currently authorized to receive doses for the vaccine.

The Wesley School’s interim head, Julie Galles, says the school did not seek out the vaccines but did not clarify how the inoculations occurred.

The Los Angeles Times reported the incident raised concerns about how equitable vaccine distribution is in the county, especially with shortages and other logistical issues hampering distribution. Parents at the school include the Northridge Hospital Medical Center’s chief financial officer, Douglas Brown.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

The U.S. aims to rely on more rapid home tests to fight pandemic. AP analysis: Federal executions likely a COVID-19 superspreader. California adding more mass vaccination clinics. China gives broader approval for the domestic-made Sinovac coronavirus vaccine. Supreme Court: California can’t enforce indoor church service ban, but can limit capacity at 25%.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The number of people hospitalized in Arkansas with the coronavirus fell below 700 on Saturday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

There were 690 virus hospitalizations, 22 fewer than Friday, the department reported, while the number of reported virus cases rose by 954 and there were an additional 40 deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

There have been a total of 312,562 cases and 5,252 deaths since the pandemic began.

Arkansas had the sixth most new cases per capita in the nation with 631.92 per 100,000 residents, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, while the rolling averages of new cases and deaths during the past two weeks has declined from 1,597 new cases per day to 983 and from 40 deaths per day to 23, according to the Johns Hopkins data.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — In a significant setback to New Zealand’s efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading in the community, three people from one family have tested positive with the source of the infections unknown, health officials announced Sunday. The news has prompted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to cancel appointments and return to Wellington for further briefings and decision-making. Officials say they’re keeping an open mind on how the Auckland mother, father and daughter caught the disease. They said the mother works at an airline catering company, and officials are investigating whether there is a link with returning passengers who are infected. Officials said the daughter’s high school will be closed on Monday and Tuesday as a precaution, but so far they have not announced any broader restrictions.

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SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says it will issue revised guidelines for indoor church services after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the state’s ban on indoor worship during the coronavirus pandemic. In the most significant legal victory against California’s COVID-19 health orders, the high court told California it can’t continue with a ban on indoor services during the coronavirus pandemic, but it can limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity and restrict singing and chanting inside. Newsom’s office said it will continue to enforce the restrictions the high court left in place.

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SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico on Saturday reported 424 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and eights deaths as the coronavirus outbreak in the state slows.

The latest figures released by the Department of Health increased the state’s pandemic totals to 177,214 cases and 3,386 but rolling two-week averages of daily new cases and daily deaths dropped over the past two weeks.

According to data from The COVID-Tracking Project, the rolling average of daily new cases dropped from about 847 on Jan. 22 to around 571 on Friday and the rolling average of daily deaths dropped from 29 to 18.6.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Normally, Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome would be preparing for its greatest time of the year: The world’s most famous Carnival parade.

But a week before the start, the coronavirus pandemic has replaced the pageantry. The celebration is on hold until next year as Rio struggles with a rise in coronavirus cases. The city on Saturday opened a drive-thru immunization station at the Sambadrome, where a line of cars queued up on a broad avenue built for floats.

“This is usually a place of pleasure. Today it is too, because we are exercising an act of citizenship and we are opening the Sambadrome to vaccinate, ” said Paulo Roberto Machado, a 68-year-old nurse who teaches at the Veiga de Almeida University.

Machado has taken part in 40 years of Carnival parades here. But on Saturday, he was coordinating 20 volunteer nursing and medical students to vaccinate people over age 90.

Rio has recorded more than 17,600 confirmed deaths -- the most of any city in Brazil, even topping Sao Paulo, which has nearly twice the population.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of reported coronavirus cases in Oklahoma has surpassed 400,000.

The state health department reported 2,053 new cases on Saturday. An additional 51 deaths raised the confirmed death toll to 3,761.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows Oklahoma was fourth in the nation in the number of new cases per capita, with 855 cases per 100,000 residents. The data shows the seven-day rolling average of deaths in the state fell during the past two weeks from 37 to 34 deaths per day.

More than a half million Oklahoma residents have received the coronavirus vaccine, including 114,208 who have received both doses, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

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WASHINGTON — The nation’s top health officials are sounding the alarm about Super Bowl gatherings as a potential coronavirus superspreader event.

They’re urging people to gather with friends over Zoom, not in crowds or at bars and parties. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs will play Sunday in a partly filled stadium in Tampa, Florida. The city has acquired 150,000 donated masks that officials will be handing out.

The game is happening during a drop in new coronavirus cases — a sign the infection spike from December holiday gatherings may be easing. However, health officials are concerned Super Bowl parties with people outside their household could spread new cases.

“We’ve seen outbreaks already from football parties,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “So, I really do think that we need to watch this and be careful.”

The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases decreased from 180,489 on Jan. 22 to 125,854 on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

However, the coronavirus is killing more than 3,000 Americans a day. The nation’s confirmed total death toll is 460,000.

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PHOENIX — Arizona’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 14,000 on Saturday.

The Department of Health Services reported 63 new deaths, increasing the state’s confirmed total to 14,011. It also reported 3,471 more cases on Saturday.

Health officials are urging football fans to forego Super Bowl gatherings with members outside of their own households.

Arizona has registered decreases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the December holiday surge. However, public health officials have warned against complacency and urged caution on Super Bowl weekend.

Arizona has the 11th highest death toll in the U.S. New York leads with 44,000 deaths, followed by California (43,00), Texas (39,000), Florida (27,000) and Pennsylvania (22,000).

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden vows to get younger students back to the classroom by spring, and some health experts look forward to the U.S. refocusing coronavirus tests to rapid home screenings.

Biden is using the Defense Production Act to scale up supplies needed for rapid tests. On Friday, the White House announced six manufacturers will mass produce the tests, with the goal of providing 60 million by the end of the summer.

Some experts say rapid home tests are cheaper, faster and may improve the chances of identifying sick people during the early days of infection, when they are most contagious.

Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard University testing specialist, calls the rapid tests a “public health screening test.” An estimated 40% of people infected don’t develop symptoms. Mina says rapid tests have the clear advantage over the predominant genetic lab tests, which are more accurate but can take several days for results and allow for silent spreading of the virus.

Some universities and school systems have used rapid tests to help stay open during the pandemic.

The coronavirus is killing more than 3,000 Americans per day. The nation’s confirmed death toll is 460,000.

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WUHAN, China — The message was tucked into a bouquet of chrysanthemums left by a mourner at the back of Wuhan Central Hospital to honor a Chinese whistleblower doctor who died from the coronavirus a year ago.

It was simply the number of a Bible verse: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

A year ago, Dr. Li Wenliang died from the virus first detected in this Chinese city. A small stream of people marked the anniversary at the hospital. The 34-year-old became a beloved figure in China after it was revealed that he was one the whistleblowers who authorities had punished early for “spreading rumors” about the virus in a social media group.

The Chinese public embraced Li, whose presence online had painted a picture of an ordinary person who was soon to be a father.

China has reported more than 100,300 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,822 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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PARIS — French health facilities received their first batches of AstraZeneca vaccines on Saturday, with the first shots delivered at a Lyon hospital.

The batch for 117 facilities was small, 273,600 doses, and all reserved for health professionals under 65 years old. France is currently restricting the vaccine to those ages 50 to 64, despite guidance from the European Medicines Agency that it could be used for all adults.

It gives France a third vaccine and helps bolster a promise by President Emmanuel Macron that all French who wish will be vaccinated by summer’s end.

Austria received the first 36,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines on Saturday, public broadcaster ORF reported.

France gets a second batch of 304,800 doses next week. So far, about 1.8 million people had been vaccinated. The nation is still under a 12-hour curfew starting at 6 p.m., with restaurants and cultural venues closed for months and a full border closure with countries outside the EU.

France has registered 3.5 million confirmed cases and more than 78,700 confirmed deaths.

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WASHINGTON — The executions at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency likely acted as a superspreader event.

That’s according to records reviewed by The Associated Press. It was something health experts had warned could happen when the Justice Department insisted on resuming executions during a pandemic.

Of the 47 people on death row, 33 tested positive for the coronavirus between Dec. 16-20. Guards were ill. Traveling prisons staff on the execution team caught the virus. So did media witnesses, who may have unknowingly infected others when they returned home because they were never told about the spreading cases.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show employees at the Indiana prison complex where the 13 executions were carried out over six months had contact with inmates and other people infected with the coronavirus. However, they refused testing, declined to participate in contact tracing and were still permitted to return to their work assignments.

The Bureau of Prisons has repeatedly refused to say how many people tested positive for the coronavirus after the last three federal executions last month.

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NEW DELHI -- Some poorer countries are getting tired of waiting to get vaccines through a United Nations program, so they are striking out on their own.

Countries including Honduras, Serbia and Mexico have cut their own private deals. Experts are increasingly concerned that these go-it-alone efforts could undermine a United Nations-backed program to get COVID-19 shots to the neediest people worldwide.

In past disease outbreaks, less wealthy countries generally waited for vaccines to be delivered by the U.N. and others. Many are now taking matters into their own hands. Those deals could leave fewer vaccines for the program known as COVAX.

However, COVAX’s stated goal is to vaccinate less than 30% of people in poor countries, meaning that governments must seek other sources to obtain enough shots to achieve herd immunity.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — China has given broader approval for the domestic-made Sinovac coronavirus vaccine.

The decision on the Sinovac vaccine was announced Saturday. It expands who can receive the vaccine beyond the high-risk and priority groups already allowed under an emergency clearance.

The Sinovac vaccine has already been sold to at least 10 other countries and is being administered to people in at least five other countries.

In China, the shot was given emergency approval last July, allowing groups such as medical workers and employees of state-owned firms to receive it. The conditional approval means the vaccine now can be given to the general public.

It is the second locally made vaccine to be given conditional approval. Beijing authorized the state-owned Sinopharm vaccine in December.

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