The Latest: China reports 16 new confirmed coronavirus cases
BEIJING — China on Saturday reported 16 new confirmed coronavirus cases including two authorities said were believed to have been acquired locally.
The two locally transmitted cases were in Guangdong province in the south, adjacent to Hong Kong, the National Health Commission reported. It said the other infections are believed to have been acquired abroad.
Mainland China’s death toll stands at 4,636 out of 91,061 confirmed cases, according to the NHC.
— CDC loosens mask guidance for kids at summer camps
— US, Britain seek new WHO look into COVID origins in China
— France’s Macron pledges vaccine help in visit to South Africa
— European regulator OKs Pfizer shots for kids 12-15
Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW YORK — Kids at summer camps can skip wearing masks outdoors, with some exceptions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the guidance Friday. Children who aren’t fully vaccinated should still wear masks outside when they’re in crowds or in sustained close contact with others – and when they are inside.
But fully vaccinated kids need not wear masks, indoors or outside. It’s the first in a wave of guidance updates that seek to incorporate recent CDC decisions to tell Americans they don’t have to be as cautious about using masks and social distancing outdoors.
MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Phillies will soon be able to pack their ballpark.
The city said Friday it will lift nearly all of its pandemic restrictions more than a week ahead of schedule, as new coronavirus infections decline to their lowest point since September.
Capacity limits for businesses and events and social distancing rules will go away on Wednesday.
The city had planned to eliminate the restrictions on June 11, but officials said the relatively low number of new cases and a test positivity rate of less than 3% made it possible to do it sooner than planned.
The city’s indoor mask mandate and an 11 p.m. last call at bars and restaurants will continue until at least June 11, the city said.
After the city’s announcement Friday, the Phillies announced that seating at Citizens Bank Park will be increased to 100% capacity starting June 4, the club’s next home series.
ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared Friday that public schools no longer have his permission to require masks for coronavirus protection, though his executive order fell short of banning such mandates outright.
The Republican governor’s written order came two days after Kemp gave a preview in a Fox News Channel interview Wednesday, declaring: “The time for mandates is over.”
“We’re not going to have a mask mandate for our kids,” Kemp said. “Our teachers have had the ability to get vaccinated. It certainly doesn’t keep anyone from wearing a mask.”
The actual order adjusting Georgia’s few remaining coronavirus restrictions isn’t so strongly worded.
Instead, Kemp’s order says Georgia school districts can no longer claim their authority to require masks comes from the governor.
It’s unclear how many Georgia districts ever required employees and students to wear masks. While a number of metro Atlanta school districts enforced the requirement, many districts in outer suburbs and rural areas only strongly recommended masks.
Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, said school boards can likely require teachers and staff to wear masks without the governor’s permission, much like they impose dress codes.
Kreis said Kemp’s order “punted this as a political issue back to the local school boards and said, `I don’t want you to do this and you can’t use me as your justification.'”
Kemp is running for reelection in 2022 and has been taking steps to shore up support among Republican voters still restive over claims that Kemp didn’t do enough to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory in Georgia.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Crew members of ships arriving at the California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are being offered COVID-19 vaccinations.
The vaccinations are administered without charge to international crews aboard ships visiting San Pedro Bay.
The Port of Long Beach said in a statement Friday that more than 450 crewmembers from 27 ships have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Nearly 480 more sailors on 29 ships are booked for vaccinations.
“It’s great to see our city helping these sailors who serve on the ships that carry the world’s cargo across the oceans and keep this industry moving,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “These men and women are an important part of the supply chain, and they travel all over the world.”
The vaccinations are a joint effort of the Port of Long Beach, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services and the National Guard.
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Friday issued an executive order repealing a mask mandate prohibition put in place while he was out of the state by the lieutenant governor, describing her actions as a tyrannical abuse of power and an “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt.”
The Republican governor up to now had been reserved in his comments about Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a member of the far-right who has worked to undermine Little’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week she announced her run for governor, challenging the first-term incumbent Little. Her executive order Thursday banning mask mandates in schools and public buildings is widely seen as part of that campaign, and she is already using that executive order in fundraising efforts.
Little has never issued a statewide mask mandate, but counties, cities and schools have issued their own directives. Many have been lifted as more Idaho residents have been vaccinated, but two counties and 10 cities still have them in place, as do multiple schools.
DENVER — Two sheriff’s deputies who contracted COVID-19 have died in less than two weeks.
The Denver Sheriff’s Department announced the death of Deputy Daniel “Duke” Trujillo on Thursday. The former Marine was a seven-year department veteran who worked for the city’s downtown jail. His death followed the death of Deputy James Herrera. Herrera worked for the department for 25 years and was also assigned to the downtown jail.
After Trujillo’s death was announced, criticism of some of his social media posts that seemed to express skepticism about coronavirus vaccinations surfaced. Like other workplaces, the department says employees aren’t required to be vaccinated.
TOPEKA, Kan.–Top Republican legislators are serving notice that they’re preparing to end the state of emergency in Kansas for the coronavirus pandemic and are accusing Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly of having no “exit strategy.”
Eight of the GOP-controlled Legislature’s leaders on Friday approved a shorter extension of the state of emergency than Kelly wanted until June 15. Six leaders are Republicans.
The state of emergency was set to expire Friday. State law required Kelly to get lawmakers’ approval to retain it. She sought the longest extension the law allows at one time, 30 days, until June 27.
Democrats say it’s still too early to end the state of emergency.
MIAMI — It’s going to be crowded at airports and on the road this Memorial Day weekend, fueled by increased vaccinations and easing of social distancing guidelines.
More than 1.8 million people went through U.S. airports on Thursday, and the number could top 2 million over the weekend, the highest mark since early March of last year.
More people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Some states eliminating their remaining pandemic restrictions amid improving numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The U.S. Commerce Department said consumer spending increased in April, although not as much as in March.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is telling travelers to expect long lines at airports. AAA expects a 60% jump in travel over Memorial Day last year despite higher prices for airline tickets, gasoline and hotels.
BOSTON — Massachusetts public schools will be required to offer full-time, in-person learning this fall, with most coronavirus-related restrictions lifted.
Schools will not be allowed to offer remote learning as a standard learning model, according to the guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released Thursday. Social distancing guidelines will be lifted, although some younger students may still be required to wear masks.
The agency also recommended that schools maintain ventilation upgrades, continue hand hygiene practices, and extend policies that encourage students and staff to continue staying home when sick. The changes were announced two days before the state plans to lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions, and about two weeks before the state of emergency is lifted on June 15.
RIO DE JANEIRO — A fire broke out Friday in the COVID-19 ward of a hospital in the northeastern Brazil city Aracaju, killing several patients, according to a statement from city hall.
The fire was quickly controlled, but not before dozens of patients were exposed to smoke inhalation. Four of them died and 35 were transferred to other hospitals, at least some of which aren’t designed for COVID-19 patients, the statement said.
Images on local television showed patients on gurneys outside the municipal hospital in Sergipe state’s capital, which is home to 665,000 people.
Aracaju’s city government said it was seeking another facility to guarantee care for the patients.
The cause of the fire was still being investigated, according to Aracaju’s press office.
GENEVA — The United States and Britain are stepping up calls for the World Health Organization to take a deeper look into the possible origins of COVID-19, including a new visit to China, where the first human cases were detected.
WHO and Chinese experts issued a first report in March that laid out four hypotheses about how the pandemic emerged. The joint team said the most likely scenario was the coronavirus jumped into people from bats via an intermediary animal, and the prospect that it erupted from a laboratory was deemed “extremely unlikely.”
Late Thursday, the U.S. mission in Geneva issued a statement saying the first phase of the study was “insufficient and inconclusive” and called for a “timely, transparent, evidence-based and expert-led Phase 2 study, including in the People’s Republic of China.”
The statement — coming in the middle of the WHO’s annual assembly in Geneva — demanded access for independent experts to “complete, original data and samples” relevant to the source of the virus and early stages of the outbreak.
Also Thursday, the British ambassador in Geneva, Simon Manley, said the first phase study was “always meant to be the beginning of the process, not the end.”
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in an e-mail that a technical team — led by Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO team in China that co-authored the first report — was preparing “a proposal for the next studies that will need to be carried out.”
Jasarevik says that proposal would be presented to Tedros “for his consideration,” but says there was no timetable such a presentation.
TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province is shortening the interval between doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, starting with adults aged 80 and older next week.
Ontario says it’s making the change because 65% of all adults have at least one shot and Ontario now has a steady supply of vaccine. The province says the shortened interval could be as small as 28 days for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the coming months.
Those who got a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered a second dose after 12 weeks, though it could be a different vaccine depending on awaited federal guidance.
Ontario has been administering COVID-19 shots for four months and will continue to administer by age groups. Those between the ages of 12-25 will become eligible in early August.
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security says there won’t be any federal vaccination database nor any mandate that requires people to get a single vaccination credential. It says there are no plans for anything like a U.S. passport.
DHS made the announcement Friday seeking to clarify what Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said earlier in response to a question in a TV interview. Mayorkas had said the agency was “taking a very close look” at the possibility of vaccine passports as the coronavirus pandemic eases and Americans begin to travel overseas.
A DHS spokesperson says the agency is looking at how to ensure Americans traveling abroad have a quick and easy way to enter other countries.
Mayorkas was asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” if there could be “vaccine passports for travel internationally, either into or out of the U.S.” He replied, “We’re taking a very close look at that.” He added that a guiding principle during the pandemic has been “making sure that any passport that we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised.”
The DHS statement said Mayorkas was referring to “ensuring that all U.S. travelers will be able to easily meet any anticipated foreign country entry requirements.” It did not elaborate on how that would be accomplished. And it did not directly address the question of vaccine passports.
Many conservatives oppose vaccine passports, calling them an intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices.
LONDON — The U.K. has authorized for use another coronavirus vaccine amid growing concerns about a rise in new infections as the variant of the virus first identified in India spreads around the country.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency says the single-dose vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson has met “the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.”
That takes the number of vaccines in the U.K.’s armory to four following earlier approvals for the two-dose regimens developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and Moderna.
The latest approval has come at a time when the U.K. has seen a modest uptick in new cases in recent days as a result of the so-called Indian variant, which is considered to be more transmissible.
The U.K. has been rapidly rolling out vaccines since December, with nearly 58% of the population having received at least one dose of vaccine and 35% having received two.
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