PHOENIX — As the U.S. goes through the most lethal phase of the coronavirus outbreak yet, governors and local officials in hard-hit parts of the country are showing little willingness to impose any new restrictions on businesses to stop the spread.

Dawn Kaphingst, left, toasts to her cousin Jane Murray’s birthday as the two get together for the first time since summer at Longfellow Grill in Minneapolis on Monday, the first day restaurants were allowed to reopen. Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP

And unlike in 2020, when the debate over lockdowns often split along party lines, both Democratic and Republican leaders are signaling their opposition to forced closings and other measures.

Some have expressed fear of compounding the heavy economic damage inflicted by the outbreak. Some see little patience among their constituents for more restrictions 10 months into the crisis. And some seem to be focused more on the rollout of the vaccines that could eventually vanquish the threat.

The most notable change of tune came from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who imposed a tough shutdown last spring as the state became the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Theaters remain closed and there is no indoor dining in New York City, but Cuomo said Tuesday that if a system of rapid virus tests could be developed, it could allow those things to return safely.

In Arizona, where the pandemic is raging, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has been steadfast in his opposition to a statewide mask mandate or the closing of bars, gyms and restaurant dining despite repeated calls from hospital leaders to take such steps. And high school officials voted Tuesday to allow winter sports, reversing a decision made four days earlier to cancel the season.

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U.S. to require all arriving passengers to get COVID-19 test

NEW YORK — Anyone flying to the U.S. will soon need to show proof of a negative test for COVID-19, health officials announced Tuesday.

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People walk through a deserted check-in hall at the airport in Munich, Germany, in December. On Tuesday, the U.S. government said it will require airline passengers entering the country to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flights. It will take effect Jan. 26. Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirement expands on a similar one announced late last month for passengers coming from the United Kingdom.

COVID is already widespread in the U.S., with more than 22 million cases reported to date, including more than 375,000 deaths. The new measures are designed to try to prevent travelers from bringing in newer forms of the virus that scientists say can spread more easily.

The CDC order is to take effect in about two weeks, on Jan. 26. It requires air passengers to get a COVID-19 test within three days before their flight departs to the U.S., and to provide written proof of the test result to the airline. Travelers can also provide documentation that they had the infection in the past and recovered.

Airlines are ordered to stop passengers from boarding if they don’t have proof of a negative test or a prior infection.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a statement. “But when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.”

California turns stadiums, fairgrounds into COVID-19 vaccination centers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is transforming baseball stadiums, fairgrounds and even a Disneyland Resort parking lot into mass vaccination sites as the coronavirus surge overwhelms hospitals and sets a deadly new record in the state.

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California will vastly expand its effort with new mass vaccination sites at parking lots for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, shown here, Petco Park in San Diego and the CalExpo fairgrounds in Sacramento. Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

California’s COVID-19 death toll reached 30,000 on Monday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

It took six months for the nation’s most populous state to reach 10,000 deaths but barely a month to jump from 20,000 to 30,000 deaths. California ranks third nationally for COVID-19-related deaths, behind Texas and New York, which is No. 1 with nearly 40,000.

Public health officials have estimated about 12 percent of those who catch the virus will require hospital care, usually several weeks after infection as they get sicker.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and public health officials are counting on widespread vaccinations to help stem the tide of new infections, starting with medical workers and the most vulnerable elderly, such as those in care homes.

Newsom, a Democrat, acknowledged the rollout of vaccines has been too slow and he pledged 1 million shots will be administered this week, more than twice what’s been done so far.

That effort will require what Newsom called an “all-hands-on-deck approach,” including having vaccinations dispensed by pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, dentists, paramedics and emergency medical technicians, and members of the California National Guard.

Orange County, south of Los Angeles County, announced Monday that its first mass vaccination site will be at a Disneyland Resort parking lot in Anaheim. It’s one of five sites to be set up to vaccinate thousands of people daily.

The state will vastly expand its effort with new mass vaccination sites at parking lots for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Petco Park in San Diego and the CalExpo fairgrounds in Sacramento.

Cars lined up early Monday near the downtown stadium in San Diego, where officials aimed to inoculate 5,000 health care workers daily.

“It’s kind of like a Disneyland ride” with cars moving through, said Heather Buschman, spokeswoman for UC San Diego Health, whose medical staff was administering the shots.

She said people seemed eager to be vaccinated, with more than 12,500 health care workers in San Diego County initially scheduling appointments.

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Despite virus, thousands party maskless in streets after Alabama win

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Thousands of excited football fans partied in streets around the University of Alabama after the Crimson Tide defeated Ohio State 52-24 for the national championship, ignoring pleas for common sense and safety at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Students and others poured out of jam-packed bars near campus as time expired in Miami late Monday, traffic cameras and images posted on social media show, gathering on University Boulevard in an area called “The Strip.”

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Alabama fans celebrate in the street in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Monday night, Jan. 11, after Alabama defeated Ohio State 52-24 in the NCAA college football national championship game in Miami Gardens, Fla. Many of the fans didn’t take basic precautions against the coronavirus like wearing face masks. Benjamin Flanagan/Alabama Media Group via AP

Many of the fans screaming and cheering as they pressed against each other in the street didn’t wear face masks. The scene was exactly what officials feared before the game as they urged people to watch at home and celebrate privately.

More than 5,300 people have died in Alabama from the illness caused by the coronavirus, and about 404,000 have tested positive. About 14,200 people have tested positive in Tuscaloosa County, making it one of the worst in the state for the virus in overall numbers, and about 175 COVID-19 patients are being treated by DCH Regional Medical Center, located in the city.

“Cheer, celebrate, and enjoy the success of our team, but please do so responsibly and safely. Roll Tide!,” Police Chief Brent Blankley said in a statement beforehand. Police cars and officers are visible at the fringes of the throng in some images.

People lined up to get into the bars an hour before kickoff despite the warnings, The Tuscaloosa News reported. “All bars are open and we’re ready to roll over Ohio State,” said a tweet by Gallettes, a popular student bar, long before the game began.

Despite the threat of COVID-19, the celebration eclipsed the size of previous ones during coach Nick Saban’s string of titles at Alabama.

U.S. asking states not to hold back 2nd doses of vaccine

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is asking states to speed delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to people 65 and older and to others at high risk by no longer holding back the second dose of the two-dose shots, officials said Tuesday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that “the administration in the states has been too narrowly focused.”

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Nurse Christine Philips, left, administers the Pfizer vaccine to Vera Leip, 88, a resident of John Knox Village, Wednesday, Dec. 16, in Pompano Beach, Fla. AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

As a result, he said, the Trump administration is now asking states to vaccinate people age 65 and over and those under 65 with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk. He said the vaccine production is such that the second dose of the two-shot vaccine can be released without jeopardizing immunization for those who got the first shot.

“We now believe that our manufacturing is predictable enough that we can ensure second doses are available for people from ongoing production,” Azar told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “So everything is now available to our states and our health care providers.”

Each state has its own plan for who should be vaccinated, based on recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommendations give first priority to health care workers and nursing home residents.

But the slow pace of the vaccine rollout has frustrated many Americans at a time when the coronavirus death toll has continued to rise. More than 376,000 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins database.

Azar said it was now time to move “to the next phase on the vaccine program” and expand the pool of those eligible to get the first dose.

That also means expanding the number of places where people can be vaccinated by adding community health centers and additional drug stores.

“We’ve already distributed more vaccine than we have health care workers and people in nursing homes,” Azar said. “We’ve got to get to more channels of administration. We’ve got to get it to pharmacies, get it to community health centers.”

He said the federal government “will deploy teams to support states doing mass vaccination efforts if they wish to do so.”

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WHO experts heading to China to investigate origins of virus

BEIJING — Experts from the World Health Organization are due to arrive in China this week for a long-anticipated investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Monday.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, expressed disappointment last week over delays regarding the origins investigation. Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP

The experts will arrive on Thursday and meet with Chinese counterparts, the National Health Commission said in a one-sentence statement that gave no other details.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the experts will travel to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

Negotiations for the visit have long been underway. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed disappointment last week over delays, saying that members of the international scientific team departing from their home countries had already started on their trip as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China had approved the visit following consultations between the sides and called it an opportunity to “exchange views with Chinese scientists and medical experts on scientific cooperation on the tracing of the origin of the new coronavirus.”

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Lawmaker gets COVID-19, blames maskless colleagues in Capitol riot lockdown

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat and lung cancer survivor, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Watson Coleman, 75, of Ewing, believes she was exposed after sheltering with several maskless colleagues during last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol, according to a statement from her office.

She said she received a positive rapid test Monday and is awaiting the results of PCR testing. She previously received the first dose of the Pfitzer/BioNTech vaccine when it was made available to all Congress members.

Watson Coleman, the first Black woman to represent New Jersey in Congress, is serving her third term in the U.S. House.

Video taken during Wednesday’s attack shows Republican members of Congress spurning offers of masks, which rules require. They included Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.

The Capitol’s attending physician, Brian Monahan, said in a statement Sunday that members who had gathered in an unspecified isolation room should get tested.

“During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection,” Monahan wrote.

U.S. to ramp up vaccinations to get doses to more Americans

The U.S. is entering the second month of the biggest vaccination drive in history with a major expansion of the campaign, opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.

After a frustratingly slow rollout involving primarily health care workers and nursing home residents, states are moving on to the next phase before the first one is complete, making shots available to such groups as senior citizens, teachers, bus drivers, police officers and firefighters.

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Medical professionals from Oregon Health & Science University load syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru vaccination clinic in Portland, Oregon on Jan. 10. Kristyna Wentz-Graff/Pool Photo via AP, File

“Every shot in the arm is a step closer to ending this pandemic,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

Similarly, in Britain, where a more contagious variant of the virus is raging out of control and deaths are soaring, seven large-scale vaccination sites opened Monday at such places as a big convention center in London, a racecourse in Surrey and a tennis and soccer complex in Manchester.

Across the U.S., where the outbreak has entered its most lethal phase yet and the death toll has climbed to about 375,000, politicians and health officials have complained over the past several days that too many shots were sitting unused on the shelves because of overly rigid adherence to the federal guidelines that put an estimated 24 million health care workers and nursing home residents at the front of the line.

As of Monday morning, about 6.7 million Americans had received their first shot of the vaccine, or 2% of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts say as much as 85% will have to be inoculated to achieve “herd immunity” and vanquish the outbreak.

Many states are responding by throwing open the line to others and ramping up the pace of vaccinations, in some cases offering them 24-7.

Read the full story here.

Worldwide virus infections double in 10 weeks, pass 90 million

BALTIMORE — Coronavirus infections have now surpassed 90 million confirmed cases, as more countries braced for wider spread of more virulent strains of a disease that has now killed nearly 2 million worldwide.

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Father Stephan, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church priest, wearing a special suit to protect himself against coronavirus enters an intensive care unit of the emergency hospital to visit visiting patients with COVID-19 in Lviv, Western Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 9. AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

The number of infections worldwide has doubled in just 10 weeks, according to a tally by John Hopkins University on Sunday. COVID-19 infections had hit 45 million as recently as late October.

As of early Monday, John Hopkins counted 90,260,464 infections confirmed by government and other entities tracking cases.

The United States, now with more than 22.2 million infections, has confirmed the most cases and most deaths in the world. The number of U.S. cases was more than double that of India, which has recorded nearly 10.5 million infections.


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