The Latest: Blood shortage forces New England surgery delay

BOSTON — Some New England hospitals are delaying or rescheduling surgeries because of a shortage of blood donations during the pandemic.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in about 30 or 40 years at least,” Dr. Vishesh Chhibber, director of transfusion medicine at UMass Memorial Health, told the Boston Globe.

Periodic, localized blood shortages are not uncommon, but this shortage is “unprecedented in its scope,” said Dr. Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer for the American Association of Blood Banks.

Officials point toward a number of factors including the typical summer drop in blood donations at a time when surgeries are increasing because of procedures that were postponed during the pandemic.

Nationwide, the Red Cross normally has a five-day supply of all types of blood, said Kelly Isenor, spokesperson for the Red Cross of Massachusetts,

Right now, the supply of the sorely needed type O blood would last only a half-day. “It’s going out faster than it’s coming in,” Isenor said.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Qatar to require fans at 2022 World Cup to be vaccinated

— US sending Taiwan 2.5 million vaccine doses, tripling pledge

— Uganda Olympic team member tests positive for coronavirus

— Afghanistan races to ramp up oxygen supplies as infections soar

— US families angered that coronavirus restrictions still keep them from loved ones in nursing homes even as elderly vaccinations are widespread

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese authorities have confirmed suspicions that the new delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a spike in new cases in the Lisbon region.

Portugal’s National Health Institute said Sunday that the highly infectious variant that was first found in India has a prevalence of 60% of new cases in the nation’s capital.

The recent surge in infections caused authorities last week to ban all travel in and out of Lisbon on the weekends. The measure went into effect on Friday. The Lisbon metropolitan area has around 2.8 million inhabitants.

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LONDON — London soccer stadiums have been transformed into “super pop-up” vaccination sites as Britain tries to get younger adults to be inoculated against COVID-19.

More than four-fifths of adults in the U.K. have had at least one shot of vaccine, and the government wants everyone 18 and up to have a jab by July 19, the date earmarked for the lifting of remaining social and economic restrictions.

Hundreds of people lined up Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur’s north London stadium, following similar events Saturday at venues including Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium in west London, and east London’s Olympic Stadium, home to West Ham United.

Britain is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the more infectious delta variant first identified in India.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it plans to allow social gatherings of up to six people and allow restaurants and cafes to operate until midnight in the densely populated Seoul area, starting from July 1.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said Sunday the eased distancing rules are aimed at “finding a balance between quarantine and (effort to) return to normal amid the prolonged COVID 19 pandemic.”

After a two-week transition period, health authorities plan to allow gatherings of eight people in the Seoul area from July 15. Currently, authorities allow gatherings of up to four people and permit restaurants, cafes and other businesses to operate until 10 p.m.

Restrictions on the number of people at private gatherings in the non-Seoul area will be lifted.

Kwon says about 30% of South Korea’s 52 million people have received their first dose of coronavirus vaccines. He says South Korea reported an average of 444 new virus cases each day last week, a 15% decrease from the previous week.

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BEIJING — China has announced that more than 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the country.

The National Health Commission did not say Sunday how many people had been vaccinated. As elsewhere, most of the vaccines in China are given in two doses.

The pace of vaccinations has accelerated in the country of 1.4 billion people after a slow start. The total number of doses given doubled from 500 million in less than a month, according to government tallies.

China has approved seven domestically developed vaccines and recently approved two of them for children as young as 3 years old. Regulators haven’t approved any non-Chinese vaccines so far, although they appear to be moving toward doing so for the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Anti-government protesters have taken to the streets in cities across Brazil as the nation’s confirmed death toll from COVID-19 soared past half a million.

It’s a tragedy many critics blame on President Jair Bolsonaro’s attempt to minimize the disease.

Thousands gathered Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, waving flags reading “Get out Bolsonaro.” Other marchers hoisted posters reading: “500 thousand deaths. It’s his fault.”

Similar marches took place in at least 22 or Brazil’s 26 states. They were promoted by left-wing opposition parties who have been heartened by Bolsonaro’s declining poll ratings with next year’s presidential race looming.

Bolsonaro’s supporters have taken more often to the streets over the past month, in large part because many agree with his dismissal of restrictions meant to stifle the coronavirus and anger that lockdown measures have hurt businesses.

Critics say such messages, as well as Bolsonaro’s promotion of disproven treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, have contributed to the soaring death toll and a sluggish vaccine campaign that has fully inoculated less than 12% of the population. The country of some 213 million people is registering nearly 100,000 new infections and 2,000 deaths a day.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s national coronavirus taskforce on Saturday reported 17,906 new infections, more than double the daily tally from early June.

More than half of the new infections are in Moscow, where cases have tripled this month. The soaring case count has caused alarm among officials, who have increased measures to obstruct the spread.

Moscow, its outlying area and two other Russian regions this week ordered mandatory vaccinations for workers in retail, education and other service sectors. Moscow has closed food courts in shopping centers and restricted restaurants and bars in the capital to takeout orders from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Russians are widely resistant to vaccinations and only about 12% of the population has received a shot. Nearly 5.3 million cases have been reported in the country of 146 million, with 128,911 deaths, but experts consider both numbers undercounts.

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KABUL — Afghanistan’s is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of COVID-19 worsens, a senior health official told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.

The government is installing oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where up to 65% of those tested in some areas are positive, health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigir Nazari said. By WHO recommendations, anything higher than 5% shows officials aren’t testing widely enough, allowing the virus to spread unchecked.

Afghanistan carries out barely 4,000 tests a day and often much less.

Afghanistan’s 24-hour infection count has also continued its upward climb from 1,500 at the end of May when the health ministry was already calling the surge “a crisis,” to more than 2,300 this week.

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PARIS — French police clashed with party-goers as they tried to break up an unauthorized rave in western France, authorities said Saturday. A 22-year-old man lost his hand and several others were injured amid the violence, including police.

The tensions erupted in a field near the Brittany town of Redon on Friday night, just two days before France lifts an overnight virus curfew that’s been in place for more than eight months and has prompted growing frustration among young people.

Police repeatedly fired tear gas and charged clusters of violent partygoers who hurled metal balls, gasoline bombs and other projectiles at security forces, according to images shared online and comments by the top government official in the region, prefect Emmanuel Berthier. Local authorities estimated about 1,500 people took part in the event despite a local ordinance banning it.

France is lifting the overnight curfew on Sunday.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice declared an end to the state’s indoor mask requirement Sunday as a $1 million winner was revealed in a drawing for residents who have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Karen Foley of Mineral Wells won the top prize announced by on a sweltering Father’s Day at the Capitol Complex in Charleston during a celebration of the state’s 158th birthday.

Prizes in separate drawings included custom pickup trucks, state park weekend trips, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, and hunting rifles and shotguns. Two younger vaccinated residents won college scholarships.

Justice had projected last month that more than two-thirds of eligible residents ages 12 and over would be vaccinated by the time the mask mandate was removed. But the state fell short of that goal — 61.5% had received at least one dose by Sunday.

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BANGOR, Maine — Inspired by critical shortages during the pandemic, University of Maine chemical engineers are working to make sure people never run out of sanitizer again.

William DeSisto, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, worked with distillers around the state to get ethanol to make the sanitizer early in the pandemic when store shelves were bare.

His work is now focusing on a different kind of disinfectant, hypochlorous acid, the Bangor Daily news reported.

Hypochlorous acid is 70 to 80 times more effective than bleach and less toxic for people, but it needs to be produced locally because it has a shorter shelf life, DeSisto said. Since it’s made with salt water and electricity, it’s possible to find a way for people to produce it at home, he said.

DeSisto, who was awarded a federal grant for about $374,750, said the goal is to avoid future breakdowns in the supply chain. “We don’t want what happened last year to happen again,” DeSisto said of sanitizer shortages.

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MESA, Ariz. — A wig store in suburban Phoenix serves people who have lost their hair from chemotherapy and continues to require shoppers to wear masks to protect people with cancer from COVID-19.

But last month, the shop started receiving harassing phone calls after the founder of an anti-mask group tried to ruin the business by posting the store’s name, phone number and address on social media.

Since then, Sunny’s Hair and Wigs has received an outpouring of support from concerned citizens and even a visit from Mesa Mayor John Giles and city Councilman Francisco Heredia.

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