MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has eased a coronavirus lockdown in the bustling capital and adjacent provinces to fight economic recession and hunger but still barred public gatherings this month, when many Roman Catholic summer religious festivals are held.
After an alarming surge in infections that started in March started to ease, President Rodrigo Duterte announced in televised remarks Thursday night that Metropolitan Manila and four nearby provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, would be placed under a so-called “general community quarantine,” which allows essential businesses and tourist destinations to expand operations, in the last half of the month. But he said religious fiestas in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation would remain prohibited.
“Forgo to congregate, to crowd and to hold,” Duterte said, warning village officials he would hold them responsible if quarantine restrictions were breached. “You go out, you just go hunting for the virus to enter your body and pass it on and that is a problem.”
Confirmed COVID-19 infections started to spike in March to some of the worst levels in Asia, surging beyond 10,000 daily and prompting Duterte to impose a lockdown in the capital and nearby regions in April. The Philippines has reported more than 1,120,000 infections with 18,821 deaths, the second highest totals in Southeast Asia.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors
— More school nurses, health corps part of $7.4 billion virus plan
— Britain's Johnson concerned about rise of Indian virus variant in UK
— Nations once lauded for virus successes lag in vaccinations
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SALEM, Ore. - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced that the state will immediately follow guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which ease indoor mask-wearing and social distancing for fully vaccinated people.
Brown said in a video statement Thursday that the new CDC guidance means Oregonians who are fully-vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces.
She also said the guidance makes clear that vaccines are the fastest way to get back to doing the things “we all love” and returning to a sense of normalcy. Mask requirements also will remain in place in Oregon schools this school year, Brown added.
The Oregon Health Authority in coming days will provide updated guidance for businesses, employers and others to allow the option of lifting mask requirements and physical distancing after verifying vaccinations status.
BEIJING — China has reported its first new cases of local COVID-19 transmission in days, both in the central province of Anhui that has largely avoided outbreaks. Another five cases were brought from outside the country.
The new cases brings China’s total number of cases to 90,815 with 4,636 deaths since the virus was detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
China has almost entirely eradicated local transmission of COVID-19 through strict masking rules, electronic case tracing, quarantines and lockdowns in areas where cases are detected.
Meanwhile around 325 million doses of vaccine have been administered to the population, while China along with Russia, has been active in providing doses to poorer nations that have struggled to procure enough for their citizens.
RENO, Nev. — Nevada is adopting the new mask-wearing guidance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday for fully vaccinated people. It allows them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
The updated guidance is effective immediately in Nevada under a directive Gov. Steve Sisolak signed on May 3. It aligned the state’s mask usage with the CDC recommendations, including any subsequent guidance the center issues.
Nevada also started making COVID-19 shots available to children as young as 12 years old for the first time on Thursday after federal health advisers endorsed use of Pfizer’s vaccine in kids.
LOS ANGELES -- Counties in California are waiting for guidance from the state after the federal government on Thursday said that fully vaccinated people can quit face coverings and social distancing in most situations.
California’s Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to questions about whether it would adopt new guidance announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s unclear what Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to do and when.
The state is on track to reopen its economy broadly next month, signaling an end to most pandemic restrictions. San Francisco and Riverside are among counties saying they expect updated guidance from the state.
U.S. health officials aren’t allocating any additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for next week, as a Baltimore contract manufacturer that’s the key supplier of the shots in the country remains under scrutiny for serious quality lapses.
But many states still have remaining supplies of the J&J vaccine because its use was paused for 11 days while health officials investigated unusual blood clots in a tiny number of the millions of vaccine recipients, federal officials said during a call with governors this week.
In Maryland, the health department said it was told it may not receive additional J&J shots in coming weeks either. The department said in a statement it’s asking providers to use about 88,000 remaining doses of the shots.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has so far accounted for a small percentage of the overall supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. Those were made at a company-owned factory in the Netherlands.
The J&J vaccine has the advantage of requiring just one dose that can be stored in regular refrigerators, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which must be kept frozen and require two doses a few weeks apart.
Because of its versatility, local officials would like to see shipments of the J&J vaccine resume eventually, said Dr. Marcus Plescia of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. .
Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on the supply issues, but said it’s focused on trying to win clearance of the Emergent BioSolutions factory after the Food and Drug Administration ordered the plant shut down four weeks ago due to serious quality problems. In a statement, Emergent BioSolutions said it has responded to the FDA with a comprehensive quality enhancement plan.
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico is now administering the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 12 to 15, as state health officials pushed Thursday for more people to get vaccinated.
The move by the state Health Department follows authorizations this week by the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state is encouraging families to register children on its vaccine website.
The expanded availability applies only to the Pfizer vaccine, which until now was only available to people ages 16 and older.
State officials say more than half of eligible residents are now fully vaccinated. The goal is to hit 60% next month, but vaccination rates for some parts of the state — including southeastern New Mexico and other rural areas — are trailing because not everyone wants a shot.
The state has been trying incentive vaccination. Health officials said employers are entitled to tax credits through the federal government for providing paid leave to employees who take time off related to COVID-19 vaccinations.
They also have set up a website where organizations and local groups can request vaccinations clinics.
OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington is on track to fully reopen its economy by June 30, and a full reopening could happen even sooner if 70% or more of residents over age 16 have gotten at least one dose of vaccine by then, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.
Inslee said the state will stay at 50% capacity for most indoor activities until it moves to full capacity at the end of the June.
He said his decision does not mean the state of emergency sparked by the coronavirus pandemic will end on June 30, and he said that if statewide intensive care capacity reaches 90% at at any point, he will roll back activities again.
Inslee’s linking faster easing of COVID restrictions to vaccination rates is similar to what Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recently announced. This week Brown said much of her state’s economy can reopen when 70% of eligible people 16 and older have received their first vaccine dose.
Inslee said that the plateau in COVID-19 activity the state saw a few weeks ago has now turned into a decline, allowing for a full reopening date.
MORGAN, Utah -- A school district in Utah has announced it is going against a continuing public health order and no longer requiring facial coverings in K-12 schools.
The Standard-Examiner reported that the Morgan School District school board voted Tuesday to change its mask policy to a recommendation that students and faculty wear masks, instead of a requirement. It is one of at least seven school districts in Utah to scale back mask requirements.
The decision came after several residents and students criticized the mandate during public comment. Some educators have argued to keep the mandate because many people rely on others to wear them to stay safe.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington authorities said Thursday all schools in the state must provide full-time, in-person education for students for the 2021-22 school year and that students and staff will still be required to wear masks.
The Washington state Department of Health released guidelines that included mitigation efforts they said were designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The mask directive could prove controversial, as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday moved to ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people. Currently people over the age of 12 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Washington state.
About 1.1 million students attend public schools in Washington state. The Washington state schools directive for fall calls for all people in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors – as well as outdoors if six feet of distancing can’t be maintained.
State authorities are recommending COVID-19 vaccinations and testing programs but are not requiring them for in-person instruction in the fall.
RENO — Nevada started making COVID-19 shots available to children as young as 12 years old on Thursday after federal health advisers endorsed the use of Pfizer’s vaccine in kids.
More than 177,000 Nevada residents are in the 12-16 age group now eligible for the vaccine To date, 10% of Nevada’s COVID-19 cases have been in the 10-19 age group.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says children account for one-fifth of all COVID-19 cases nationally. A year ago, they made up 3% of the total.
Health officials say adolescents and teens typically have more social contacts than adults. So there’s a bigger risk that they will spread the virus.
CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Nevada website the public uses to get information on coronavirus vaccines is packed with more ad trackers and third-party cookies than any state vaccination website in the country.
An investigation by technology publication The Markup found Immunize Nevada’s website implants third-party cookies and trackers that can potentially be used to track how visitors navigate the internet and collect data on them that can be sold for any number of purposes.
The state says most trackers are used to optimize user experience and evaluate their outreach efforts.
Privacy experts say the amount of trackers on Nevada’s site in comparison to other states goes beyond data-gathering applicable to outreach.
LOS ANGELES — The city of Los Angeles is launching a bilingual campaign featuring Latino artists encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations.
The public service announcement unveiled Thursday is called “Vacúnate Ya, Los Ángeles / Get Vaccinated, L.A.” and features artists Angélica María, Danny Trejo, Pepe Aguilar, Ángela Aguilar and Leonardo Aguilar.
“The goal of this campaign is simple: to get our hard-hit Latino community vaccinated — and help our city and country defeat this pandemic once and for all,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
The 30-second public service announcements will air on local TV news, starting with the Spanish-language version this week and followed by the English version next week. The PSAs will also appear on social media.
WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is easing indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks inside in most places.
The new guidance was announced at the White House. It will still call for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but could ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools.
The CDC will no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, says, “We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
The more people get vaccinated, the faster infections will drop and the harder it will be for the coronavirus to mutate enough to escape vaccines, according to health experts.
This move comes as nearly half of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of vaccine and coronavirus cases are at their lowest rate since September. Also, deaths are at their lowest point since last April.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says if smaller cruise lines want to leave the state, their void will be filled.
DeSantis made his remarks at a news conference Thursday, saying Norwegian Cruise Line isn’t one of the bigger cruise lines. However, the Miami-based Norwegian is the third largest cruise line in the world and has ports of departure in Miami, Port Canaveral and Tampa.
But Norwegian has said it might move departures elsewhere over a law that bans businesses from asking for proof of a coronavirus vaccination. Norwegian hasn’t operated in the U.S. since the federal government shut down all cruises last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government is getting ready to let cruises sail again, but only if nearly all passengers and crew are vaccinated against the virus. DeSantis recently signed a bill banning business from requiring proof of vaccination, prompting Norwegian to say it might move Florida departures to other states or Caribbean ports.