Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Latest: California enacts stricter COVID-19 restrictions

The Latest: California enacts stricter COVID-19 restrictions

LOS ANGELES — Counties across California have enacted stricter COVID-19 restrictions after the state broke a record with more than 7,400 coronavirus hospitalizations.

Health officials are preparing for a wave of cases over the next two or three weeks that could be linked to holiday gatherings.

Los Angeles County is the nation’s most populous and imposed new rules calling for its 10 million residents to stay home as much as possible.

San Francisco and San Mateo counties moved to the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s pandemic blueprint for the economy. That tier forces most indoor activities to close and places residents under curfew starting Monday night.



— Moderna asking US, European regulators to OK its virus shots

— Fauci: US may see ‘surge upon surge’ of virus in coming weeks after Thanksgiving travel

— U.K. stocks up on vaccines, hopes to start virus shots within days

Virus forces businesses to adapt or close down on the streets of London

New York City to reopen its schools to in-person learning, tests students more for COVID-19


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



BUDAPEST, Hungary — Nearly three weeks of lockdown restrictions in Hungary have shown little sign of slowing the spread of COVID-19 as the country comes off a week of record-breaking hospitalizations and deaths that threaten to overburden its healthcare system.

Hungary’s emergency task force on Monday reported that 7,734 COVID-19 patients were currently hospitalized and 666 were being treated on ventilators, both record highs. The number of new daily cases hovered near the record mark for most of last week despite lockdown restrictions introduced on Nov. 11, which included a ban on events, the closure of high schools and universities and an overnight curfew.

Last week, 872 COVID-19 deaths were registered in Hungary, the deadliest week by far since the start of the pandemic. The number of deaths broke the daily record three days in a row between Friday and Sunday, and the single-day record of 156 deaths, set on Sunday, was scarcely lower than the total of 166 that died in all of September.

In an interview Friday with state broadcaster Kossuth Radio, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban predicted there would be “enormous pressure” on the country’s healthcare system in coming weeks as hospitalizations continue to rise.

“As regards hospitals – because after all, saving lives is the number one priority – at the moment I can’t see any promising signs,” Orban said, but added he was “optimistic” that the curfew measures would soon show positive effects.

Authorities will reassess pandemic measures after they expire on Dec. 11, Orban said.


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island’s hospitals reached their COVID-19 capacity on Monday, the same day the state’s two-week pause meant to control the rise in new coronavirus cases took effect.

The state pushed an emergency alert to residents’ cell phones that read: “Hospitals at capacity due to COVID. Help the frontline by staying home as much as possible for the next two weeks.”

Under the restrictions announced earlier in November by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, some businesses will be required to shut down for two weeks, while others are restricted.

Recreational businesses including bowling alleys, theaters, and casinos, as well as indoor sporting facilities and gyms must close. Bars and bar areas in restaurants are also required to close, while restaurants are limited to 33% of indoor capacity. Residents are also asked to close their social circles to only people in their own household.

“This will not be easy, but I am pleading with you to take it seriously. Choosing to gather with those outside your household will have ripple effects that will increase the strain on our hospitals and put lives at risk,” Raimondo said in a statement.

Raimondo did not rule out another economic shutdown if the pandemic get worse.


ATHENS, Greece — The head of the Orthodox Church of Greece has been discharged from the Athens hospital where he was treated for 12 days after testing positive for COVID-19.

A statement from the Evangelismos hospital says Archbishop Hieronymos, 82 was released Monday afternoon. He had been treated in an increased care ward, largely as a precaution, after presenting mild symptoms.

Hieronymos is regarded as a moderate who has overall backed the government-ordered pandemic regulations, which many in the largely conservative church resisted.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian capital on Monday called off its official New Year fireworks, saying “the municipality cannot see how this should be resolved without it leading to accumulations of people and greater risk of infection,” the Norwegian news agency NTB wrote.

The city of Oslo this year had a budget of 500,000 kroner ($56,500) for fireworks and staff, according to NTB that added that the Norwegian capital of nearly 700,000 is now working on an idea to mark the New Year that is more in line with the infection control rules.


HILO, Hawaii — The mayor of Hawaii County has announced that trans-Pacific travelers arriving without a negative COVID-19 test must quarantine for 14 days.

The new rule announced by Mayor Harry Kim was approved by Democratic Gov. David Ige and is expected to remain in effect through Dec. 31.

Trans-Pacific travelers awaiting test results previously were only required to quarantine until negative test results arrived.

The new rule also allows Hawaii County to conduct virus testing on 25% to 100% of travelers who previously had negative test exceptions. Randomly selected travelers must take a second coronavirus test upon arrival on Hawaii island.


HONOLULU — A volunteer aid network in Hawaii has raised bail funds for pretrial detainees in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the state’s prison system.

CoronaCare Hawaii has partnered with the Hawaii Community Bail Fund to provide bail for 10 Native Hawaiian detainees from the Oahu Community Correctional Center, KITV-TV reported.

The group says the partnership was in honor of Hawaiian Independence Day that happened on Nov. 28.

CoronaCare plans to post bail for the detainees on Monday, with their release expected on Tuesday. Coronacare Hawaii organizers say they disagree with how the state Department of Public Safety has handled the pandemic.


ROME — Out of concern of triggering crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis is canceling a cherished annual public appointment that kicks off the holiday shopping season for Romans.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni on Monday said Francis had decided against appearing near the Spanish Steps on Dec. 8, a church feast day in honor of the Virgin Mary.

Traditionally, the pontiff says prayers and makes brief remarks at the foot of a towering column which is topped by a statue representing Mary. The pope is then usually driven through the nearby narrow streets lined with chic fashion shops.

Instead, “Holy Father Francis will make an act of private devotion, entrusting to Mary the city of Rome, its inhabitants and the many ill people in every part of the world,” Bruni said.

“The choice not to go in the afternoon to the Spanish Steps square for the traditional act of veneration of the Immaculate (Virgin Mary) is due to the ongoing situation of health emergency and aims to avoid every risk of contagion triggered by crowding.”


RAPID CITY, S.D. — Students in the Rapid Area School district are returning to in-person instruction Monday as the coronavirus continues to spread in South Dakota.

After several weeks of distance learning, students will be back in the classroom Monday through Thursday with virtual instruction on Friday. Sports and activities will also resume.

District spokeswoman Katy Urban says school officials have continued to monitor coronavirus case numbers throughout the Thanksgiving break and since they’ve stabilized, the COIVD-19 team feels a return to in-person instruction is appropriate.

Meanwhile, the Rapid City Council will consider a mask mandate at a special session meeting on Monday.

One ordinance would require face coverings in certain situations, but would have no penalties for violators. It also includes exemptions, including young children, law enforcement and those attending religious services.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem opposes mask mandates or other government interventions aimed at slowing the spread of infections. Cities across the state have moved to pass their own mask requirements.

State health officials on Sunday reported 700 new confirmed cases with 544 people hospitalized in South Dakota.


ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s largest medical association has criticized a decision by the country’s center-right government to impose price caps on coronavirus tests at private labs, warning that the measure could disrupt testing during a spike in infections.

The government last week set the price limits at 40 euros ($48) for regular swab tests and 10 euros ($12) for rapid tests, cutting current rates at most labs by more than half.

In response, the Panhellenic Medical Association said Monday that the measure would force many independent labs to stop providing COVID-19 tests, putting additional pressure on the state-run health service.

There was no immediate response from Greece’s Development Ministry to the complaint.

Greece suffered its highest daily death toll due to the pandemic at the weekend, with 121 deaths reported Saturday, while the cumulative death toll stands at 2,321 with more than two-thirds of all fatalities occurring in November.

Separately Monday, the government said it was looking for ways to help commercialize a state-supervised research project involving several Greek universities and research labs that has produced a new rapid test method for the coronavirus.


LONDON — Singer Rita Ora has apologized for breaking British lockdown rules by holding a birthday party, saying it was “a serious and inexcusable error of judgment.”

The Sun newspaper ran photos of Ora and others, including model Cara Delevingne, arriving at the Casa Cruz restaurant in London’s Notting Hill area on Saturday.

Under lockdown rules that end Wednesday, all pubs and restaurants in England must close except for takeout and delivery, and people are barred from meeting indoors with members of other households.

Ora said she held “a small gathering with some friends to celebrate my 30th birthday.”

She wrote on Instagram that “it was a spur of the moment decision made with the misguided view that we were coming out of lockdown and this would be OK.” Ora said she now realized “how irresponsible these actions were and I take full responsibility.”


Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.

Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths. Since first emerging nearly a year ago in China, the virus has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide.

Moderna is just behind Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in seeking to begin vaccinations in the U.S. in December. British regulators also are assessing the Pfizer shot and another from AstraZeneca.

Moderna created its shots with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and already had a hint they were working, but said it got the final needed results over the weekend that suggest the vaccine is more than 94% effective.


BISMARCK, N.D. — Plans to light North Dakota’s state Christmas tree have been altered this year to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Doug Burgum and his wife, Kathryn Burgum, plan to light the tree virtually on Tuesday evening with a livestream on Facebook.

The governor’s office says this year’s Christmas tree theme is “creating connections,” a reminder to stay socially connected this holiday season through a video chat, phone call or staying physically distanced.

The public is invited to see the lighted tree from their vehicles along the driveway of the Capitol Mall.

Hospitalizations due to complications from the coronavirus rose for a fourth straight day in North Dakota, according to data posted Sunday by state health officials.

A total of 725 positive tests were confirmed in the last day. Officials reported five new deaths, increasing the cumulative number of fatalities to 920.

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