The Latest: California prisons to resume in-person visits

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California state prisons will soon resume limited in-person visits with inmates more than a year after they were halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said Tuesday that visits, with precautions, will start April 10 as the prison system stabilizes after outbreaks that killed 216 inmates and 26 employees.

The worst outbreak came after a botched transfer of inadequately tested inmates in late May that killed more than two-dozen inmates and a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco.

But corrections officials reported just 31 active inmate cases and 331 infected staff Tuesday.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

VACCINES: More than 82.7 million people, or 24.9% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 44.9 million people, or 13.5% of the population, have completed their vaccination.

CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 58,252 on March 7 to 54,307 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 1,693 on March 7 to 1,000 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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— Follow 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:

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day for the first time Tuesday amid calls for the government and the new health minister to take action to stem the nation’s resurgence of coronavirus infections.

In recent weeks, Latin America’s largest country has become the pandemic’s global epicenter, with more deaths from the virus each day than in any other nation. Tuesday’s record toll of 3,251 deaths was driven by the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous, which recorded 1,021 new deaths, far above the previous high of 713 last July.

The pandemic has brought the health systems of Brazilian states to near collapse, with hospitals watching their ICU beds fill up and stocks of oxygen required for assisted breathing dwindle. Most of the states in recent days adopted measures to restrict activity, over the fierce resistance of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Public health experts and economists have said Bolsonaro is presenting a false choice between preserving health and economic well-being.

On Tuesday, cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga was sworn in as health minister, becoming the fourth person to occupy the post since the beginning of the health crisis. He replaced active-duty army Gen. Eduardo Pazuello.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia on Wednesday began rolling out AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured locally.

The regulator, Therapeutic Goods Administration, on Tuesday approved 832,000 doses manufactured at CSL in Melbourne. The homemade batch exceeds the quantity of imported AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines available in Australia.

“The pace will increase dramatically,” chief regulator John Skerritt told Nine Network television of the Australian vaccine rollout that began in late February.

“If we were reliant upon Europe, it would be a mess for us here,” Skerritt added.

The first of the Australian doses would be administered on Wednesday or Thursday, he said. Australian manufacturing would peak a 1 million doses a week for a population of 26 million.

The European Union this month blocked a shipment or more than 250,000 AstraZeneca doses from Italy because of Australia’s relative success in containing the pandemic.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s governor plans to lift the statewide mask mandate and remaining COVID-19 business restrictions in two weeks.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a Tuesday evening speech that the state’s steep declines in coronavirus hospitalization and deaths rates along with the growing number of people fully vaccinated justify the steps starting April 6.

Holcomb said he hoped the state was seeing the “tail end of this pandemic” that has killed nearly 13,000 people in the state over the past year.

Holcomb said local officials would still have the authority to impose tougher restrictions in response to COVID-19 cases in their communities and that face mask use would still be required in K-12 schools for rest of this school year. He urged residents to continue wearing masks in public and that bars and restaurants continue to space out their tables.

Holcomb has faced public pressure and from conservative state lawmakers to ease restrictions, especially after governors in Texas and other states have done so recently.

But some health experts worry it is premature to lift the statewide restrictions.

“We put a lot of restrictions in place last year, there was some initial hesitation by some parts of the population to comply with some of those orders,” said Brian Dixon, an epidemiologist at Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health. “And then what we saw in the fall is that rates went up, they skyrocketed because people were not following precautions.”

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CHICAGO — Chicago city officials have cut ties with a vaccine distributor that “knowingly misallocated” more than 6,000 doses.

Innovative Express Care, a Chicago clinic, had a contract to vaccinate employees of Chicago Public Schools. However, the Chicago Department of Public Health said Tuesday that said non-CPS employees were vaccinated and vaccines set aside as second doses were used as first doses.

City officials say the clinic will no longer be administering first doses and new providers have already been found.

A message left Tuesday for Innovative Express Care wasn’t immediately returned.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday eased several restrictions that will soon allow businesses to open at greater capacity and more people to assemble indoors and outdoors.

Starting Friday, bars and sports and entertainment venues can open at 50% capacity indoors or outdoors, with the 11 p.m. cutoff for on-site alcohol consumption fully lifted. Restaurants, breweries, wineries, amusement parks, gyms and bowling alleys can fully reopen outdoors and at 75% capacity indoors. Museums, aquariums, retail businesses and shops, hair salons and personal care businesses can operate at 100% capacity indoors and outdoors.

Gatherings not otherwise included in the updated executive order set to expire April 30 will increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. The statewide mask mandate will remain in place, and the required six feet (1.8 meters) of physical distancing may not allow businesses to reopen at the capacity caps outlined.

“These are significant changes, but they can be done safely,” Cooper said at an afternoon news conference.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — People who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks at work in Anchorage when they are in their own workspace away from the public and unvaccinated colleagues, under an updated emergency order that took effect Tuesday.

The order was signed Tuesday by Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson. Her office, in a release, called the update an easing of an existing mask mandate “that balances vaccination progress in Anchorage with the importance of masks in reducing transmission of COVID-19.”

Under the order, employers would have to verify an employee’s vaccination status, “in a manner consistent with workplace anti-discrimination laws.”

Masks still are required in Anchorage in indoor public settings and communal spaces outside the home and at outdoor public gatherings.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider a person fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after receiving a one-dose vaccine.

In the Anchorage area, 27% of those 16 or older are considered fully vaccinated, information provided by the state health department shows.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — San Francisco, Marin and Santa Clara counties are among the counties moving to less restrictive tiers under California’s plan to reopen the economy as pandemic numbers continued improving.

The three joined neighboring Santa Mateo County on Tuesday as the latest Bay Area counties to move into California’s “moderate” tier for coronavirus restrictions. That means fewer limits on businesses, including the reopening of indoor bowling alleys and outdoor bars that do not serve meals.

Multiple shifts among California’s 58 counties mean 94% of the most populous state’s residents no longer are under the most severe restrictions. Kern, Nevada, and Stanislaus counties moved out of the most restrictive limits.

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VIRGINIA — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that the state will soon relax some coronavirus-related restrictions for social gatherings and entertainment venues.

Starting April 1, Northam said, social gatherings such as weddings may have up to 50 people indoors. Outdoor gatherings can have up to 100 people.

Indoor entertainment venues will be able to operate at 30% capacity or with up to 500 people. Outdoor venues can operate at a 30% capacity with no limits on the actual number of people.

For example, a baseball stadium that holds 9,500 fans will be able to host a crowd of roughly 3,000. That will give people room to socially distance, Northam said.

Indoor recreational sporting events will be able to have 100 people per field or 30% capacity. Outdoor events will be able to accommodate 500 people per field or 30% capacity.

“These are measured changes,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. “We still have a strict gathering limit and a universal mask mandate and capacity restrictions both indoors and outdoors.”

Social gatherings in the state are currently limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Some in the wedding business say that relaxing the limits to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors may still be too restrictive.

More than 1,200 new coronavirus cases were reported in the state on Tuesday. But that’s far below the nearly 10,000 cases that were reported on Jan. 17 following the holiday season, according to the Virginia Department of Virginia’s website.

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CHICAGO — Chicago is seeing an significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the past week. It’s triggered fresh concerns from top health officials in the nation’s third-largest city.

Chicago’s average number of confirmed daily cases was 350 Tuesday, which was up 23% from the average of 285 the week before.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady says the biggest driver behind the increase is young adults.

She says the good news is COVID-19 infection rates by race now more closely match the population. Throughout the pandemic, case rates among Black and Latino Chicagoans have been disproportionately high.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The governor of Ohio has vetoed a GOP-backed bill that would limit Ohio governors’ ability to issue orders during a public health emergency, a move promising a showdown with members of his party who have vowed to override him.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine made good on his earlier promise to veto the latest iteration of the proposal, marking the second time in four months the longtime officeholder has shut down attempts by his fellow Republicans to limit his powers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The executive action came one day after DeWine sent a letter to Rep. Scott Wiggam, of Wooster, pleading with him and majority Republicans to reach a compromise on the proposal.

The Senate bill in question would allow state lawmakers to rescind public health orders issued by the governor or the Ohio Department of Health as soon as they take effect, as well as prevent the governor from reintroducing similar orders for at least 60 days. The bill would also limit state of emergency orders to a period of 90 days but allow lawmakers to extend them in 60-day increments indefinitely.

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BERLIN — Authorities in the German capital said staff in secondary schools will get coronavirus vaccinations sooner than previously planned, following demands from teachers that they should be prioritized for the shots.

Berlin authorities had already given priority to some 100,000 staff in elementary schools and kindergartens, arguing that the close contact they have with hundreds of children each week meant they should be protected against the virus.

Secondary school teachers argued they deserved the same and launched an online petition seeking equal treatment.

State authorities said about 40,000 school staff would receive invitations for vaccine appointments next month.

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PHILADELPHIA — The city of Philadelphia is canceling tens of thousands of vaccination appointments for the Federal Emergency Management Agency-run vaccination clinic after links for people to get second doses were shared with others seeking first appointments.

The FEMA site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center has shifted for the next three weeks to giving second doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to the about 122,000 people who had received first doses earlier this month at the site.

Philadelphia Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the appointment links with a QR code sent to people who need to come in for the second dose of vaccine were shared or taken from social media posts and have led to thousands of people trying to schedule first appointments that no longer exist.

Farley said city health officials are sending emails and making efforts to contact people who scheduled first appointments to tell them not to come. If people without email access do show up, he said clinic workers will help them sign up for other vaccination sites if they are currently eligible under the city’s priority restrictions or will help them register on the vaccination interest database if not.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Daily COVID-19 infections in Turkey surged above 26,000, weeks after the government eased restrictions in dozens of provinces under a so-called “controlled normalization” program.

The Health Ministry reported a total of 26,182 new infections on Tuesday — a level previously seen in December. The death toll reached 30,316, with 138 new deaths — the highest one-day fatality since January.

The government on March 1 divided Turkey’s provinces into four risk categories and allowed restaurants and cafes to re-open in low, medium and high-risk provinces. Weekend lockdowns were also eased in those provinces although nighttime curfews, introduced in late November, are still in place across the country.

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WASHINGTON — The White House says 27 million doses of coronavirus vaccines will be distributed next week, more than three times the number when President Joe Biden took office just over two months ago.

Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors on their weekly conference call that 23 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna and about 4 million of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine will be shipped next week.

About 18 million of those shots will be given directly to states and jurisdictions to administer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki says. Most of the remainder will go to the federal retail pharmacy program, with a smaller share to federally qualified community health centers.

The administration expects supplies to continue to increase in the coming weeks, which comes as more states are relaxing eligibility criteria for shots. Biden is directing all adults be eligible for vaccines nationwide by May 1, and the U.S. remains on track to have enough supply to cover all adults by the end of May.

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