Detroit to pay for driving residents to vaccine
DETROIT — Detroit is adding to the gig economy: Drivers who take a city resident for a COVID-19 shot can get $50.
There is a $150 three-person cap per vehicle, but there’s no limit on the number of trips. Compensation will come in the form of a prepaid debit card.
“There shouldn’t be a single barrier for any Detroiter to get a vaccination, and certainly not transportation,” Mayor Mike Duggan said Wednesday.
Nearly half of Michigan residents 16 and older have received at least one shot. But in Detroit, it’s just 30%.
Drivers must register and schedule a first-dose appointment for their passenger. If they bring the person back for a second dose, they’ll get another $50 card, the city said.
Michigan continues to have the nation’s highest seven-day case rate, but the situation is improving. The seven-day daily average was 4,167, down from around 7,000 two weeks ago.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— India’s death toll surpasses 200,000; hits record 362,000 daily cases
— Chinese companies consider mixing vaccines, booster shots
— BioNTech boss: Europe will reach herd immunity this summer
— Vaccination teams in Italy visit homebound to give vaccine shots
— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday said she expects New Mexico to open by the end of June as long as the state reaches its goal of having at least 60% of residents fully vaccinated by then.
She made the announcement during a virtual briefing, proclaiming that the state was “conquering COVID.”
The governor and state health officials said the pace of vaccinations has been as an overwhelming driver for the progress seen in recent months, as more than 60 people are vaccinated for every new case of COVID-19 that is reported. The latest state data shows more than 41% of residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated.
“This is cause for incredible celebration,” the governor said as she predicted that New Mexico would be among the first states in the U.S. — if not the first — to have such a high percentage of its population fully vaccinated.
While capacity limits at restaurants and other businesses would be lifted once the vaccination goal is reached, the governor said COVID-safe practices will stay, including guidance on when and wear masks should be worn.
SAN FRANCISCO — California, swimming in vaccine, is in far better shape than just weeks ago when scoring an appointment was cause for celebration.
Today, Los Angeles, San Diego and other populous counties are advertising that anyone can walk in for a shot, and the state is texting reminders that plenty of appointments are available. Rural Humboldt County even declined 1,000 extra doses last week due to lackluster demand.
More than 18 million of an estimated 32 million people eligible for vaccine in California are fully or partially vaccinated, including nearly half of people in economically vulnerable ZIP codes hardest hit by the pandemic and 73% of residents 65 and older. The country’s most populous state, like much of the U.S., appears to have hit a vaccine plateau.
But that doesn’t mean everyone who wants a vaccine can get one.
Marlies Mokhtarzadeh was turned away from a downtown Millbrae pharmacy offering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine by a clerk who told her to make an appointment online. But Mokhtarzadeh, 80, isn’t able to do that and her granddaughters have also failed to book her an appointment so she’ll wait for her San Francisco Bay Area physician to get the vaccine instead.
MADRID — Spain’s health officials say that vaccination efforts are picking up pace after a record week in both the arrival of doses and the number of shots administered.
Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias said Wednesday that the European country would receive 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week. That would be a high mark for Spain, whose vaccination campaign had suffered like the rest of the European Union from shipment delays by drugmakers.
Darias added that the 1.8 million shots administered over the past week was also a record for Spain.
Spain’s government is sticking to its pledge to get jabs in the arms of 70% of the population, some 33 million people, by the end of the summer. So far, 11.2 million of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants have received at least one shot.
Spain’s incidence rate remained steady at 230 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days. The nation’s state of emergency that has enforced mobility limitations and a nightly curfew is set to conclude on May 9.
ROME — A flight from New Delhi arrived Wednesday evening in Rome carrying 210 passengers, who will be placed in mandatory quarantine.
Officials said that a new ordinance signed earlier in the day by Health Minister Roberto Speranza requires that passengers arriving from India are quarantined for 10 days at a site indicated by Italian health officials, due to concerns about the deadly spike in that country.
The passengers were being tested upon arrival and anyone testing positive will be taken instead to a COVID hotel near Rome’s main Leonardo da Vinci International Airport. The 210 passengers include children.
Officials indicated that they were primarily Indian nationals who are residents in Italy.
DETROIT — A judge on Wednesday rejected a request to stop coronavirus testing of Michigan school athletes and other steps ordered by the state health department.
An injunction isn’t appropriate at this stage because a group called Let Them Play Michigan and its allies are unlikely to win the case, said Judge Michael Kelly of the Court of Claims.
The group argued that health department orders, especially quarantines and weekly virus testing for athletes ages 13 to 19, should have gone through a formal rule-making process.
But Kelly said state law “plainly gives” authority to the health director to issue emergency orders in response to a pandemic.
Spring lacrosse and soccer players must wear masks at all times. Athletes in baseball, golf, softball, tennis and track must wear a mask when on the sideline but not when actively competing, according to the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico will begin bottling and packaging the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Wednesday during a visit to Russia.
Mexico has already received more than 1 million doses of Sputnik V in recent months. Ebrard says the state-owned company Birmex is working with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to prepare the bottling operations.
Mexico has already been bottling the Chinese-developed CanSino vaccine.
The domestic finishing of vaccines is part of Mexico’s efforts to obtain more shots. In addition to Sputnik V and CanSino, Mexico has been using the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines.
The country has received 16.6 million doses and given some 12 million shots, coverng about 9.4% of the population. Mexico has vaccinated many of its senior citizens and plans to begin vaccinating people between ages 50-59 in May.
LONDON — Britain says it is buying 60 million more doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to give booster shots in the fall.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the new supply, which takes Britain’s total for the Pfizer shots to 100 million, will be part of the booster shot program later this year.
The government says the “most vulnerable” would be offered a booster shot before the winter, although it hasn’t identified those groups.
Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and tens of millions more of several other vaccines, not all of which have been approved for use. U.K. scientists are conducting a study on the effects of mixing different types of vaccine.
Like other countries, Britain has been hit by shortfalls in promised vaccine supplies. However, almost 65% of adults have received a dose of vaccine, while 25% have received both doses.
LONDON — Prince Charles says he is “deeply saddened” by the surge in coronavirus deaths in India and urged people to back a charity appeal to buy oxygen equipment to help the stricken nation.
In a message to the people of India, the heir to the throne says “as India has helped others, so now must we help India.”
Britain has a huge Indian diaspora community of about 1.4 million people, and many have sought to support their home country during this crisis.
The British Asian Trust, a charity Charles founded in 2007, launched an emergency appeal called “Oxygen for India” to buy oxygen concentrators, which can extract oxygen from the air when hospital infrastructure struggles to cope. The funds will be sent to the charity’s local partners in India to procure oxygen equipment for the seriously ill in both cities and harder to reach rural areas.
A first British government shipment of 200 pieces of medical equipment, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, arrived in Delhi on Tuesday, and the rest is due to arrive by Friday.
ROME — Italy is sending India an oxygen production system that can be used to re-supply either traditional or field hospitals.
Italian Premier Mario Draghi announced Italy will send specialized personnel to guarantee the running of the system. India’s health ministry reported a record single-day 362,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday.
Draghi expressed his “deep closeness to the Indian people” and “Italy’s support won’t be lacking in this moment of difficulty.”
This week, Italy relaxed several pandemic restrictions as daily caseloads have lowered. On Wednesday, the Italian health ministry reported 344 confirmed deaths in the last 24 hours.
Italy has Europe’s second-highest known death toll at 120,000, after Britain with 127,000.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has resumed giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to health care workers after a more than two-week pause in the use of the only vaccine in the country.
South Africa restarted its drive to inoculate its 1.2 million health care workers with the J&J vaccines as part of a large-scale study. South Africa suspended its use of the J&J vaccine on April 13 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that it might be linked to rare blood clots.
Before the halt, South Africa had given more than 290,000 shots to health care workers. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize urged all health care workers to get the vaccine.
The country’s drug regulatory body determined the J&J vaccine is safe, and the Cabinet approved resuming its use. Mkhize says the J&J vaccine is most effective against the COVID-19 variant dominant in South Africa.
With more than 1.5 million confirmed cases and 54,237 confirmed deaths, South Africa accounts for more than 30% of Africa’s 4.5 million cases and more than 40% of the 120,802 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved in principle to produce Chinese and Russian vaccines locally to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Shahida Aktar, a spokeswoman for the government’s Cabinet Division, says Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm will be produced in Bangladesh, using the facilities and logistics of different private pharmaceuticals companies.
She says Bangladesh will purchase vaccine technology directly from Russia and China to facilitate the production. The names of the Bangladeshi companies were not disclosed.
The decision came after Indian imposed ban on exporting AstraZeneca vaccines produced by Serum Institute of India amid devastating surge in India.
Also Wednesday, Bangladesh officials extended the ongoing lockdown untill May 5 across the country.
Bangladesh recorded 77 deaths and 2,955 positive cases in the last 24 hours. The nation has registered more than 754,000 confirmed cases and more than 11,000 confirmed deaths.
BEIRUT — Lebanese authorities on Wednesday recommended a ban on travelers arriving from India and Brazil unless they had been out of the two countries for more than two weeks.
The national committee concerned with measures to curb the pandemic didn’t say how long the ban would be against India and Brazil, which are grappling with a major surge in infections and deaths from thecorona virus.
There is a large Lebanese diaspora in Brazil and a significant migrant workers community from South Asia lives in Lebanon. In recent weeks, Lebanese authorities have successfully brought down infections and deaths rates following restrictions that included a lockdown.
The small Mediterranean nation of 6 million recorded over 52,000 confirmed infections, including more than 7,000 confirmed deaths.
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive branch says the first hearing in its legal case against coronavirus vaccine-maker AstraZeneca will take place in a Brussels court on May 26.
The European Commission says it’s taking the British-Swedish firm to court for failing to respect the vaccine delivery commitments in its contract with the 27-nation bloc.
AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU, which the Commission signed on behalf of the member countries last August, foresaw an initial 300 million doses for distribution among member countries.
The company had hoped to deliver 80 million doses in the first quarter of 2021, but only 30 million were sent. According to the Commission, the drug maker is now set to provide 70 million doses in the second quarter, rather than the 180 million it had promised.
AstraZeneca says it will “strongly defend” itself in court.
BERLIN — The head of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech says Europe can achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus within the next four months.
While the exact threshold required to reach that critical level of immunization remains a matter of debate, experts say a level above 70% would significantly disrupt transmission of the coronavirus.
BioNTech developed the first widely approved COVID-19 vaccine with U.S. partner Pfizer.
BioNTech’s chief executive, Ugur Sahin, says “Europe will reach herd immunity in July, latest by August.”
He says data from people who have received the vaccine show the immune response gets weaker over time, and a third shot will likely be required 9-12 months after the first and again every 12-18 months.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chinese vaccine makers are looking at mixing their shots and whether a booster shot could help better protect against COVID-19.
Sinovac and Sinopharm, the two manufacturers that combined have exported hundreds of millions of doses globally, say they’re are considering combining their vaccines with those from other companies.
This month, the head of China’s Center for Disease Control, Gao Fu, said current vaccines offer low protection against the coronavirus and mixing them is among strategies being considered to boost their effectiveness.
Gao later tried to walk back his comments, saying he was talking in general about improving vaccine efficacy. Sinopharm says its vaccines are 79% and 72% effective, respectively. Sinovac is said to have a 50% efficacy rate.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Tens of thousands of people left the Nepalese capital Wednesday, a day ahead of a 15-day lockdown imposed by the government because of spiking coronavirus cases in the country.
The lockdown will be imposed in most of the major cities and towns in the country starting Thursday. The government says both public and private vehicles won’t be allowed on the streets and grocery and essential stores will be open only for a few hours.
Schools are closed, public and private gatherings are banned.
Information Minister Parbat Gurung says the land borders will be closed to foreign nationals, but citizens of neighboring India will be allowed with a negative test and 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel.
Nepal has recorded 312,699 confirmed cases and 3,211 confirmed deaths.
WASHINGTON — Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says it’s likely as coronavirus cases go down, guidelines aimed at protecting people against the spread will be loosened.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a large crowd of strangers.
Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday as cases decrease, “you are definitely going to see the CDC come back and be more flexible.” Fauci says, “They’re going to be pulling back on some of the restrictions — guarantee it.”
The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. has not increased during the last two weeks, according to data through April 27 from Johns Hopkins University.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky tells ABC’s “Good Morning America” she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the coronavirus situation in the U.S., as cases appear to have “plateaued.”
But she says the virus is opportunistic, so health officials need to make sure there’s uniform vaccination across the country and there aren’t any largely non-vaccinated communities.
NEW DELHI — The COVID-19 death toll in India has topped 200,000 amid a surge in the pandemic.
The health ministry on Wednesday reported 3,293 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing India’s total deaths to 201,187.
The country also reported 362,757 new infections, a global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million cases.
India has the fourth most deaths, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico. The current surge is sending its health systems toward collapse. Hospitalizations and deaths have reached record highs.
Patients are dying because hospital oxygen supplies have run out. Fires at overwhelmed crematoriums are lighting up night skies.
TOKYO — Japanese officials are asking the people to stay home during a string of “golden week” holidays beginning Thursday in a nationwide effort to curb the rapid resurgence of coronavirus cases less than three months before the Tokyo Olympics.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike warned Thursday that the infection rate could explode if people continue to travel, dine out and meet with others during the holidays.
“We are at a crucial turning point,” Koike said. “In order to slow the infections and keep them from becoming explosive, we must reduce the people’s movement.”
Koike urged people to stay home and avoid barbecuing and drinking outdoors even though bars and restaurants serving alcohol are closed under emergency measures imposed Sunday. She also asked employers in Tokyo to allow up to 70% of their employees to work from home.
Tokyo reported 925 new confirmed cases on Thursday, its highest daily number since late January.
Experts from a Tokyo prefectural task force said a rapid spread of the more contagious virus variant first detected in Britain could send daily cases as high as 2,000 within two weeks.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland is gradually lifting pandemic restrictions starting Saturday and aiming to allow restaurants and hotels to reopen at 50% capacity next month.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Wednesday this “cautious” plan was possible as a result because a decreasing number of new coronavirus cases and deaths suggest “the third wave is probably receding.”
Morawiecki said that immunization has a crucial role in overcoming the pandemic and noted that he has received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Saturday is the start of a long holiday weekend in Poland, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said open-air sports centers will open that day for events of up to 50 people and indoors sports facilities can open at half their normal capacity.
On Tuesday, shopping malls, theaters, cinemas, art galleries and churches will be permitted to open at reduced capacity. Hotels and spas will be able to serve customers at 50% capacity with the exception of their restaurants.
A week later, outdoor restaurants and event venues will be allowed to open to half of their capacity. Face masks will no longer be required outdoors when distance can be observed, Niedzielski said.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chinese vaccine makers are looking at mixing their jabs and whether a booster shot could help better protect against COVID-19.
Sinovac and Sinopharm, the two Chinese manufacturers that combined have exported hundreds of millions of doses all over the world, say they’re are considering combining their vaccines with those from other companies.
Earlier this month, the head of China’s Center for Disease Control, Gao Fu, said that current vaccines offer low protection against the coronavirus and mixing them is among strategies being considered to boost their effectiveness.
Gao later tried to walk back his comments, saying he was talking in general about improving vaccine efficacy.
China National Biotech Group has a plan for future “sequential use” of their vaccines, Li Meng, the head of international cooperation for the company, said Wednesday at an international conference.
The company, a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm, made two inactivated COVID-19 vaccines and a third in clinical trials.
Sinovac, a private company based in Beijing, also said they were in preliminary discussions with investigators, including China’s Center for Disease Control, about combining the doses of their vaccine, CoronaVac, with others.