PHOENIX — Arizona’s Gov. Doug Ducey has rejected the state’s top education official’s call for Ducey to order public schools to use only online instruction for the next two weeks unless they have waivers from health officials.
Amid a coronavirus surge in the state, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said Saturday that schools need a two-week “quarantine period” while educators and local officials review health data and decide what type of instruction is appropriate for their communities.
A spokesman for the governor said Ducey wouldn’t issue the order because how schools open is a local decision.
Arizona on Saturday reported nearly 8,900 additional known COVID-19 cases and 46 deaths.
Ducey, a Republican, and Hoffman, a Democrat, were aligned last spring when he ordered schools closed because of the coronavirus, but she voiced reservations later as he urged schools to provide in-person learning. Guidelines issued by Ducey’s administration during the fall let students remain in in-person classes beyond what earlier guidance would have recommended.
Many Arizona school districts in recent months have provided hybrid learning that includes both distanced and in-person instruction, while others either were already on remote learning or returning to it this month.
Many schools are set to resume classes in the coming week after the winter holidays.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
The British government is facing mounting pressure from the teachers’ union to keep schools closed in England. The U.K. has reached a record of more than 57,000 daily coronavirus cases. On Monday, it plans to ramp up vaccinations, using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Tokyo’s Gov. Yuriko Koike is asking the national government to declare a “state of emergency” to curtail the surging coronavirus “in the name of valuing life.” Tokyo reported a daily record of 1,337 cases on New Year’s Eve and concerns are growing ahead of hosting the Olympics in July.
In Ohio, a 95-year-old woman who made 1,700 masks took a short break while she recovered from the coronavirus. During World War II, Miriam Looker inspected parachutes for the Army.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina has reported its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases yet.
The state reported 9,527 confirmed cases on New Year’s Day. That went over the state’s previous high by more than 1,000 cases. It reported nearly as many on Saturday: 9,356 cases. Cases for both days were released by the state health department on Saturday.
“We begin 2021 in our most dangerous position in this pandemic,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health secretary, said in a statement.
North Carolina has reported a total of more than 558,000 cases.
On Saturday, 15.5 percent of tests were positive, the highest rate since the start of the pandemic. In addition, a record 3,479 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 783 people were in the intensive care unit.
The state reported Saturday that there were 144 deaths over the last two days. That brings the total number of deaths from the virus in North Carolina to nearly 6,900.
NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state has recorded more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
New York reached that figure as it reported about 15,000 new positive tests on Friday. Experts say the official number of coronavirus cases represents a significant undercount, since many people in the New York City area were infected with the coronavirus last spring when testing was largely unavailable.
New York is the fourth state to report more than 1 million positive COVID-19 tests after California, Texas and Florida.
New York reported 128 COVID-19 deaths on Friday.
LOS ANGELES — Hospitals struggling to provide enough oxygen for the sickest coronavirus patients in the Los Angeles area received some relief Saturday when U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crews arrived.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says crews helped some aging hospitals update their oxygen delivery systems. Besides the shortage of oxygen, they’re also having difficulty keeping with demand for oxygen tanks for discharged patients to take home.
The southern half of the state has seen the worst effects, with hospitals swamped with patients and full intensive care units. Makeshift wards are set up in tents, arenas, classrooms and conference rooms.
California started the new year on Friday with a record 585 coronavirus deaths in a single day. The state Department of Public Health on Saturday reported more than 53,341 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 2.3 million.
There’s been 26,357 total confirmed deaths in California, making it the third state to exceed 25,000 deaths, behind New York (38,000) and Texas (28,000), according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
LONDON — The U.K. has registered a record 57,725 daily coronavirus cases.
Government figures show the U.K. has recorded five straight daily highs — all above 50,000 and nearly double the levels of two weeks ago.
Also, hospitals in Britain have started receiving batches of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, approved by British regulators this week.
Some 530,000 doses of the vaccine will be available for rollout across the country from Monday. Nursing home residents and their caretakers, those over 80 and hospital staff are set to receive the first doses.
The Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, part of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust in southern England, was among the first to get the vaccine. Dr. George Findlay, the trust’s chief medical officer, says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is “much easier” to administer than the Pfizer-BioNTech, which needs storage at extremely cold temperatures.
Second doses of both vaccines will occur within 12 weeks rather than the 21 days initially planned, following a change in guidance that aims to increase the number of people who get the first vaccine. More than a million people in the U.K. have received their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine.
The government says 445 people have died in the 28 days after testing positive for the coronavirus. That takes the confirmed total to 74,570, the sixth-highest death toll in the world.
MEXICO CITY — A doctor in northern Mexico had a severe allergic reaction to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine and remains hospitalized in intensive care Saturday.
The Health Department didn’t name the doctor, but in a statement said she was in stable condition and treated with steroids and anti-convulsion medications.
It said late Friday that she suffered difficulty breathing, brain inflammation and convulsions a half-hour after getting the shot.
The 32-year-old doctor had a known allergy to an antibiotic medication.
The reaction occurred at a hospital in the northern state of Nuevo Leon and included a rash and weakness.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported nearly 8,900 coronavirus cases, giving the state a two-day pandemic high.
There were 10,060 cases reported Friday for a two-day confirmed total of 18,943. The state’s previous two-day high was 17,649 on Dec. 13-14.
Arizona reported 46 deaths on Saturday, increasing the total death toll to 9,061.
Arizona had the second-worst diagnosing rate in the past week, behind only California.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation has reported 266 confirmed coronavirus cases and seven more deaths.
The figures reported late Friday increased the tribe’s totals since the pandemic began to 23,429 cases and 813 confirmed deaths.
The number of infections is considered far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
The tribe’s reservation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The reservation was under a weekend lockdown that began Friday evening and ends Monday at 5 a.m.
LAS VEGAS — Community advocates and health officials are working to engage with Nevada’s diverse communities and reach out in Spanish and other languages as the state plans for mass COVID-19 vaccinations.
Erika Marquez, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas public health professor and vice chair of the Nevada Minority Health & Equity Coalition, says merely translating information about the vaccine into other languages is not enough and there must be a conversation with the communities.
The Las Vegas Sun reports Marquez’s group is working on vaccine education materials in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese and Thai.
The group plans to release short videos in a few weeks featuring community leaders and culturally relevant information for Black, Latino, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander communities along with LGBTQ people and those who are deaf.
LOS ANGELES — Southern California funeral homes are turning away bereaved families because they’re running out of space for the bodies.
The head of the California Funeral Directors Association says mortuaries are being “inundated.”
One funeral home is averaging 30 body removals a day, about five times more than usual. Mortuary owners are calling each other to see if anyone can handle overflow, and the answer is always the same – they’re full.
Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis in California, has surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths. On Friday, California reported a record 585 coronavirus deaths.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Few Native American tribes have signed up to participate in clinical trials as coronavirus vaccines are developed.
The reasons range from suspicion and distrust tied to unethical practices of the past to the quick nature of the studies, which typically may need several layers of approval from tribes.
Researchers say without participation from Native Americans, tribes won’t know which vaccine might best be suited for their citizens.
About a handful of tribes have agreed to allow researchers to enroll their citizens in vaccine trials, including in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. They point to a need to slow the virus among a population that’s been disproportionately affected.
About 460 Native Americans participated in the trials for the vaccine by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, including Navajos.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece has tightened its lockdown for the next week, closing retail shops, hairdressers and bookshops.
The restrictions come as the government plans to open all schools, from kindergarten to universities, on Jan. 11.
Churches will remain closed and won’t celebrate the annual Epiphany holiday on Jan. 6, nor will priests conduct the traditional blessing of the waters. Also, the nightly curfew will start at 9 p.m. The new rules take effect Sunday and run until Jan. 11.
Greece announced 40 deaths and 262 new coronavirus infections on Saturday.
There have been 139,709 confirmed infections and 4,921 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin has died after contracting the coronavirus.
Lawmakers from around the state mourned Chafin’s death late Friday. The 60-year-old Republican state senator represented southwest Virginia and was from Russell County.
He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2013 and then moved to the state Senate in 2014. Gov. Ralph Northam says Chafin “loved the outdoors, and he loved serving people even more.”
Chafin is the first Virginia lawmaker to die from the virus.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says it expects to start administering COVID-19 vaccinations in mid-January.
A statement on Saturday says vaccines, “enough to cover the needs of the Holy See and of Vatican City State.”
The brief statement didn’t say if 84-year-old Pope Francis would be getting the vaccine. But it specified priority would go to Vatican health and security workers, to the elderly and to “the personnel most frequently in contact with the public.” Some 450 people, including the Swiss Guards, reside in Vatican City, while many others work in its offices, museums and other facilities.
Vatican City has registered at least 27 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Some cases last fall included Swiss Guards, who generally attend events with the Pope.
NEW DELHI — India has tested its COVID-19 vaccine delivery system with a nationwide trial as it prepares to roll out an inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
The exercise Saturday included data entry into an online platform for monitoring vaccine delivery, along with testing of cold storage and transportation arrangements for the vaccine.
The massive exercise came a day after a government-appointed panel of experts held a meeting to review the applications of potential vaccine candidates, including front-runner Covishield, developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca.
The government plans to inoculate 300 million people in the first phase of the vaccination program, which will include healthcare and front-line workers, police and military troops and those with underlying medical conditions over age 50.
India has confirmed more than 10.3 million coronavirus cases, second in the world to the U.S. More than 149,000 people have died in India, third behind the U.S. (347,000) and Brazil (195,000).