African Union purchases 270 million Covid vaccine doses
The African Union has purchased a provisional 270 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from manufacturers for member states to bolster its efforts to combat the pandemic.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the continental union of 55 countries, vowed that at least 50 million vaccine shots will be available starting this April, in a statement released by his office after meeting with Africa’s vaccine task force. The vaccines will be supplied by Pfizer, Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
The news comes as African nations are battling a second wave of COVID-19. Cases have risen to at least 3.1 million and the death toll is at 74,600 across the continent.
China reports first Covid death since May
China has recorded its first Covid-19-related death in more than seven months, according to figures released by the country’s National Health Commission Thursday.
The death was recorded in Hebei province Wednesday, as China recorded its biggest jump in cases in over 10 months. The latest figures come as approximately 28 million people are in lockdown across China, the majority in Hebei province.
It took just 39 new coronavirus cases for health authorities in China to put almost 11 million people into lockdown in the city of Shijiazhuang last week. China has been praised for its handling of the pandemic, as much of the world struggled to keep infection rates low.
Lebanon imposes all-day curfew as the coronavirus spins out of control
BEIRUT— Lebanese authorities began enforcing an 11-day nationwide shutdown and round the clock curfew Thursday, hoping to limit the spread of coronavirus infections spinning out of control after the holiday period.
For the first time, residents were required to request a one-hour permit to be allowed to leave the house for “emergencies,” including going to the bakery, pharmacist, doctor, hospital or airport.
Authorities came under pressure to take a tougher approach after the country’s hospitals ran out of beds with daily infections reaching an all-time high of 5,440 cases last week in the country of nearly 6 million people.
He unknowingly had Covid-19. Now his blood contains rare antibodies.
With his roommate in dire health from the coronavirus last spring, it did not take much for John Hollis to believe he would also contract the highly infectious, deadly disease. He was so concerned about what could happen that he penned a letter to his teenage son, Davis, in case “things went downhill fast,” Hollis said.
It turned out that Hollis unknowingly already had Covid-19 and may have unwittingly infected his roommate.
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Workplace outbreaks rise in Los Angeles County
The Covid-19 surge in Los Angeles County is contributing to a rise in outbreaks at workplaces, including grocery stores, warehouses and manufacturing plants, public health officials said Wednesday.
In just over a month, outbreaks at these worksites increased from nine a week on Nov. 1 to 44 a week on Dec. 6, nearly a fivefold jump, they said in a statement.
The nation’s largest county is also experiencing a rise in outbreaks in schools and daycare settings, where they increased from about 20 in mid-November to 70 by mid-December, the health officials said.
“As the percentage of people who are positive with COVID-19 increase, there is a larger pool of infected people walking around without symptoms who now expose a greater and greater percentage of people to this virus,” they said.
About 14,000 people in the county are testing positive everyday, and 10 percent to 12 percent of them will become sick enough to require hospitalization, they said.
Team from WHO heads to China in search of virus origins
SINGAPORE — An international team of scientists led by the World Health Organization was set to arrive in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday to investigate the origins of the coronavirus that sparked the pandemic.
The United States, which has accused China of having hidden the extent of its initial outbreak a year ago, has called for a “transparent” WHO-led investigation and criticized the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts have done the first phase of research.
Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s top expert on animal diseases that cross to other species, who went to China on a preliminary mission last July, is leading the 10 independent experts, a WHO spokesman said.
UN: Herd immunity unlikely in 2021 despite vaccines
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned that even as numerous countries start rolling out vaccination programs to stop Covid-19, herd immunity is highly unlikely this year.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said this week it was critical countries and their populations maintain strict social distancing and other outbreak control measures for the foreseeable future. In recent weeks, Britain, the U.S., France, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and others have begun vaccinating millions of their citizens against the coronavirus.
“Even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we’re not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” Swaminathan said. “Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world.”
Scientists typically estimate that a vaccination rate of about 70 percent is needed for herd immunity, where entire populations are protected against a disease. But some fear that the extremely infectious nature of Covid-19 could require a significantly higher threshold.
Nurse who works in Covid-19 unit wins $1 million in North Carolina lottery
A North Carolina nurse who works in the Covid-19 unit at a long-term care facility received a welcome surprise when she won $1 million in the state lottery.
The nurse, Terri Watkins, had entered the $300,000,000 Supreme Riches second-chance drawing but didn’t think she would actually win.
“I’m a nurse and I work in the Covid unit at a long-term care facility. Just seeing some of the things that I’ve had to see, I am very thankful,” she said. “I had been praying for something to help me with this situation. It really is a great thing. I’m very blessed.”
As of now, Watkins said she is still considering how she’ll spend the money. She said a new home would be nice, but she wants to “take time and put it in the right place.”
Nearly 200 arrested in Los Angeles County by ‘superspreader’ task force
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrested 182 people on Jan. 9, the agency announced on its Facebook page Monday.
The arrests were made by the agency’s superspreader task force at two underground parties, which violated the county’s Covid-19 safety protocols. All 182 people who were arrested were cited and released, the department said.
“Sheriff Alex Villanueva has made it clear he will seek out & take law enforcement action against ALL underground party events occurring anywhere within Los Angeles County,” the department wrote on its Facebook page. “The goal of these enforcement actions is to reduce the spread of #COVID19 and the risk to our vulnerable populations.”
Los Angeles County is currently seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The county has reported more than 945,000 cases and more than 12,000 deaths from the virus.