The Latest: Tennessee probe finds wasted vaccines

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The owner of a closed restaurant has placed plush panda bears at the tables in central Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, as Germany is still in a partiallockdown. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than 2,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Tennessee’s most populous county went to waste over the past month while local officials sat on tens of thousands of shots that they thought had already gone into arms, the state’s top health official announced Tuesday.

The finding comes after the Department of Health launched an investigation over the weekend into a report that recent winter storms caused 1,000 doses to be tossed in Shelby County, which encompasses Memphis.

But Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey on Tuesday revealed that the problems were far more widespread. She said issues dating back to Feb. 3 included multiple incidents of spoiled doses, an excessive vaccine inventory, insufficient record-keeping and a lack of a formal process for managing soon-to-expire vaccines. A federal investigation is also expected.

As a result, Shelby County’s local health department will temporarily no longer be allowed to allocate the vaccine. Instead, Memphis city officials, hospitals, clinics and other pharmacies throughout the county will handle the distribution. Meanwhile, the physical management of the vaccine will now be handled by hospital partners.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

Drug executives tell Congressional hearing an increase in vaccine supply is coming soon. The White House says states will get 14.5M doses of vaccine this week. Some British rush to book holiday plans amid plans to gradually end lockdown. Russia’svaccine rollout picks up speed but experts say it’s still moving slowly. “One Good Thing” keeps on giving to those in need, helpers.

— Follow all of 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:

BOSTON —Gov. Charlie Baker says Massachusetts is looking to get students back into classrooms in the next few months.

The Republican governor said Tuesday that with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations declining and vaccines underway, it’s time for the state to focus on eliminating remote learning by April, starting with elementary schools.

Baker’s comments echo those of state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley who said during the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education monthly meeting Tuesday that the state’s pool testing program would keep students and teachers safe. Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said those decisions should be left to local school boards.

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WICHITA, Kan. — Hospitality businesses who got loans through an emergency relief fund in Kansas at the beginning of the pandemic will no longer have to repay the money, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday.

Funding provided through the Hospitality Industry Relief Emergency Fund has been converted from bridge loans to grants, the governor said. The program was originally envisioned as a working capital loan program. Businesses that have made repayments will be reimbursed.

The fund was established last year to provide immediate help to Kansas hospitality businesses faced with revenue losses due to COVID-19. In total, $5 million went to 344 businesses statewide, according the governor’s office.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut economic development officials say thousands of new residents have come to the state during the coronavirus pandemic with workers in New York, Boston and elsewhere look to relocate as they work from home. The state Department of Economic and Community Development says more than 16,500 new residents moved into the state in 2020. That compares to a loss of 7,520 residents from Connecticut in 2019.

“People are rediscovering the Connecticut lifestyle a little bit and knowing what it means to have a little bit of extra space, maybe a little bit of a backyard,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “If you think this may not be the last time we ever have to quarantine, Connecticut’s not a bad place to be.”

Carol Christiansen, the president of the Connecticut Association of Realtors, said Connecticut home prices have risen by about 20% over the past year, with fewer houses on the market than people looking to buy.

The median sale price for Connecticut single-family home in 2020 was an all-time high $300,000, a 15.4% increase from 2019, according to a report earlier this month from The Warren Group, which tracks real estate data across the country.

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ROME — The Republic of San Marino, a city state surrounded by Italy, is welcoming the arrival of the first 7,500 Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines after its plans to get European Union-approved doses from Italy got delayed.

A pink and yellow truck escorted by police cars brought the vaccines across the frontier into San Marino on Tuesday. Eventually, officials said the Russian doses will be enough to vaccinate some 15% of the microstate’s population of around 33,800.

San Marino had to resort to what officials called their “Plan B” and buy Sputnik shots after an agreement to have Italy send a proportion of the vaccines it received via the European Union procurement system got delayed. San Marino isn’t an EU member, and as such was excluded from the quotas negotiated by the EU with pharmaceutical firms.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the administration expects to send millions of masks to people around the country “very shortly.”

Such a plan was considered and dropped by Donald Trump’s administration.

Biden didn’t provide details, including cost, timing and the type of mask to be shipped. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president confirmed the plan during a virtual roundtable discussion Tuesday with four Black essential workers: a St. Louis firefighter and EMT, a Chicago pharmacist, a child-care center employee in Columbus, Ohio, and a grocery store district manager in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Biden has asked everyone to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his term. He also required mask-wearing in federal buildings and on public transportation.

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WASHINGTON — Coronavirus vaccine makers tell Congress to expect a big increase in the delivery of doses over the coming month.

The companies indicated at a hearing they can provide enough vaccine for most Americans by summer. By the end of March, Pfizer and Moderna expect to have provided the U.S. government with a total of 220 million vaccine doses, up from the roughly 75 million shipped so far.

That’s not counting a third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to get approval from regulators soon.

Looking ahead to summer, Pfizer and Moderna expect to complete delivery of 300 million doses each, and J&J aims to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be more than enough to vaccinate every American adult, the goal set by the Biden administration.

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MADRID — Spain has registered 7,461 new coronavirus cases and 443 more deaths.

The 14-day infection rate has decreased from nearly 900 cases to 235 per 100,000 residents in less than a month. That’s moved Spain from the “extreme risk” level to “high risk.”

But with hospitals and their intensive care units still grappling with high levels of occupation, health authorities have warned the rate of contagion needs to lower before restrictions are lifted.

Although it has taken Spain seven weeks to fully vaccinate 1.2 million people and administer the first of two shots to nearly 2 million, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Tuesday the country is still in track to vaccinate 20 million by the end of June and 33 million by the end of summer.

The country has reached a total of 3.1 million cases and 68,000 confirmed deaths.

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MONTREAL — Quebec will begin vaccinating its general population aged 85 years and older starting next week.

Premier Francois Legault says anyone born in 1936 or before can begin registering for an injection on Thursday. Legault says authorities will focus on vaccinating people in the greater Montreal area because of the high number of infections in the region.

He made the announcement at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the site of one of the future mass vaccination clinics. Canada has had shortage of vaccines in recent weeks. But it received 643,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses this week and expects to get 6 million before the end of March and 29 million by July.

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ROME — Officials have accelerated the coronavirus vaccination schedule in the northern Italian province of Brescia and imposed tough new lockdown restrictions after the area recorded a spike of infections blamed on the British variant.

Guido Bertolaso, in charge of the regional vaccination campaign, told the Lombardy regional council Tuesday that “the third wave is under way in Brescia.” He announced a targeted and accelerated vaccination campaign to try to stop the Brescia cluster, including using a delayed second dose so more of the population of around 120,000 people could get a first shot.

All schools were ordered closed in Brescia and some neighboring towns, with more restrictions on personal movement.

Italy added 356 more deaths to its official COVID-19 toll and 13,314 confirmed infections, in line with its average in recent weeks. Italy has registered 2.8 million total cases and more than 96,000 confirmed deaths, sixth highest in the world.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a $7.6 billion coronavirus relief package. The new laws will give at least $600 one-time payments to 5.7 million people while setting aside more than $2 billion in grants for struggling small businesses.

Newsom signed the law as Congress is debating a much larger stimulus package for the nation. California’s stimulus package will give up to $25,000 grants to small businesses with revenues between $1,000 and $2.5 million.

Most people will get the $600 payments by claiming the California earned income tax credit on their state tax returns.

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PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered the lowering of flags for five days starting Tuesday to honor the thousands of lives lost due to the coronavirus.

Arizona’s death toll from the coronavirus passed 15,000 last week. Nationwide, the virus has killed more than 500,000 Americans.

Arizona on Tuesday reported 1,184 more cases and 148 confirmed deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 810,658 cases and 15,650 confirmed deaths.

The number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and rolling seven-day daily averages of new cases and deaths have continued a downward trend.

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GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is criticizing the lack of access to coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poor.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “More than 210 countries are yet to administer a single dose.” Tedros spoke at an event organized by the charity Global Citizen, whose issues include the coronavirus and climate change.

“Vaccines will help to bring the pandemic under control, but we will still be left with many of the same problems that existed before,” Tedros says.

John Kerry, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said no country on its own could solve such problems. He described the upcoming November meeting on climate change in Glasgow as “our last best chance to get on track and get the job done.”

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WASHINGTON — States will receive about 14.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine this week, marking a nearly 70% increase in distribution of doses over the last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

Limited supply of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines has hampered the pace of vaccinations — and that was before extreme winter weather delayed the delivery of about 6 million doses this past week.

The number of doses states will receive will increase from the 8.6 million a week they received during Biden’s first week in office. Last week, the White House announced that states would receive 13.5 million doses of the vaccine.

The White House announced last week that it’s in the process of doubling to 2 million the number of doses sent directly to pharmacies. Psaki also noted White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients told governors on Tuesday that pharmacies will see an increase in allocation by about 100,000 doses this week.

President Joe Biden has said that every American who wants a vaccination can get one by the end of July.

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center will allow hundreds of fans to attend some sports and entertainment events starting Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced stadiums and arenas with a capacity of 10,000 people or more can reopen with limited spectators for sports and entertainment. Both outdoor and indoor arenas can reopen at 10% of their normal capacity.

Barclays Center has about 17,700 seats for basketball games and plans to fill 300 seats. The New York Knicks and New York Rangers say they plan to host about 2,000 fans at Madison Square Garden, which has a maximum capacity of about 20,000. All staff and spectators must receive a negative coronavirus lab test within 72 hours of the event.

The plan has drawn concern from public health experts who point to high rates of COVID-19 infections, the higher risk of transmission indoors and the threat of more contagious variants.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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