BOSTON — A Massachusetts congressman who has received both doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has tested positive for the virus.
The office of U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch said Friday that the lawmaker had had a negative test result before attending President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The office says Lynch’s positive test result came after a staff member in his Boston office tested positive earlier this week.
A statement says Lynch isn’t displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. Lynch will self-quarantine and vote by proxy in Congress in the coming week.
Lynch is the second member of the state’s congressional delegation to test positive in as many days. On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan announced she had tested positive after repeatedly testing negative.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
Dr. Fauci sees vaccination for kids by late spring or the summer. Johnson & Johnson 1-dose shot appears to prevents virus, but less than some others. WHO team visits Wuhan hospital that had early coronavirus patients. Dubai blamed by several countries for spreading the coronavirus abroad after the city welcomed New Year’s revelers. Philadelphia's problematic vaccine rollout raises larger questions.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PHOENIX -- Arizona has surpassed 13,000 deaths related to COVID-19, just a week after rising above the 12,000 mark.
The Department of Health Services on Friday reported 203 additional deaths. The state also reported 5,028 additional confirmed coronavirus cases, increasing the state’s totals to 748,260 cases and 13,022 deaths.
COVID-19 related hospitalizations and the state’s seven-day rolling averages of new known daily cases and daily deaths have slowed recently. But hospital officials this week urged Arizonans against becoming complacent about mask wearing and social distancing.
FORT LAUNDERDALE, Fla. — The predominantly Black farming communities on the shore of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee will get a coronavirus vaccine station.
That announcement Friday came after a public outcry over a decision to give the Publix supermarket chain sole local distribution rights, a move that left lower-income families isolated and facing drives of 25 miles to reach the nearest store.
State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz told The Associated Press the state will set up a vaccine station in Belle Glade to serve it and its neighboring towns of Pahokee and South Bay. The station will get 5,000 doses, which is about how many people 65 and older live in the area.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Most North Carolina prisoners can get five days knocked off their sentences if they receive coronavirus vaccinations.
State prison officials said Friday that the package of incentives such as extra visitations and a free 10-minute phone call is aimed at motivating inmates to obtain the two necessary doses.
Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee says about 21,000 of the 29,000 offenders behind bars are eligible for sentence reductions. Those who aren’t would receive $5 prison canteen credits for undergoing vaccination.
Vaccinations are voluntary for prisoners and staff. Officials say 850 inmates have received their first dose so far and about 2,800 prison workers have done so.
About 530 prisoners have active COVID-19 cases, and eight are hospitalized. Forty-two prisoners have suffered COVID-related deaths.
SEATTLE - The schools chief in Washington state is pushing for teachers to get vaccinated for the coronavirus when it’s their turn but also insisting they get back to classrooms immediately, shot or not.
“The bottom line is a vaccine is a tremendous safety net but it is never the thing that is going to create the perfect scenario,” said Chris Reykdal, the state’s superintendent of public instruction.
Reykdal on Friday announced a partnership with Kaiser Permanente to offer vaccinations to the state’s 143,000 public school employees and 12,000 private school employees.
The health care company and medical provider is pledging to open its doors to all educators and school employees in the state when they become individually eligible under the state’s vaccine rollout.
Currently, that includes people who are at least 65 — or 50 and older in a multigenerational household.
The latest announcement is in line with Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision not to put teachers ahead of the general population as an entire workforce category.
DENVER -- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says the state will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to people ages 65 to 69 and school personnel on Feb. 8.
The announcement came Friday as the state updated its distribution plan to include these groups in “Phase 1b 2.” In addition to preschool through 12th grade teachers, childcare providers, bus drivers, safety workers and paraprofessionals will be eligible to receive the vaccine.
State officials say there are 408,000 people in this group, and the goal is to vaccinate 55% of them by March 5.
Adults 65 to 69 can schedule appointments through providers, and educators will get vaccines through their employers.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is banning foreigners from entering the country for non-essential reasons in an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The Foreign Ministry says the ban, which becomes effective on Saturday, applies for all countries.
The exceptions to the ban includes those who work or study in the country. Trips to the country to visit relatives and nursing homes, receive medical care and attend weddings and funerals also are allowed.
The ban is part of a series of new restrictive measures that are tightening the country’s lockdown. They have been approved with a goal to further limit people’s contacts and movement.
Earlier in January, the day-to-day increase in coronavirus cases in the country was gradually declining since hitting a record high of nearly of nearly 18,000 on Jan 6. But the numbers didn’t drop enough and started to rise again this week.
The government is also worried about the potential impact of the more contagious British variant on the health system, which has been under serious pressure for months.
PARIS — France is closing its borders to people arriving from outside the European Union starting Sunday to try to stop the spread of new variants of the coronavirus.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the measure Friday night after an emergency government health security meeting at the presidential palace, warning of a “great risk” from the new variants.
All those arriving from other EU countries will be required to produce a negative virus test, he says. France will close all large shopping centers starting Sunday and limit travel to and from its overseas territories.
Castex ordered stepped up police checks of those who violate France’s 12-hour-a-day curfew, hold secret parties or reopen restaurants in defiance of a closure order in place since October.
Virus infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been rising steadily but not sharply in recent weeks. Many doctors have been urging a new nationwide shutdown like those imposed in several other European countries.
Castex says the measures are an attempt to avoid the economic cost of a third lockdown. Currently, more than 60% of intensive care beds are occupied by coronavirus patients. France has reported more than 75,000 deaths, seventh highest in the world.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi residents scrambled to book appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced Friday that 15,000 new openings were available for the first of two doses.
“I’m sure they will be booked quickly!” Reeves wrote on Twitter. “Stay safe and God bless!”
In just over two hours, all of the appointments were filled.
Laurie Bertram Roberts, who splits time between her home in Jackson and a job in Alabama, told The Associated Press she and one of her daughters went online Friday and booked vaccination appointments for themselves and six other family members.
Roberts said they managed to get appointments for five people in Jackson, where they live. But, they had to book one appointment in Vicksburg, which is about an hour’s drive one way, and two in Natchez, which is about a two-hour drive in one direction.
Coronavirus vaccinations in Mississippi are currently available for people 65 and older, health care workers and those who are at least 16 and have health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to the virus.
Inoculations are being done at hospitals, community health centers, private clinics and at 19 state-run drive-thru sites.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law that extends eviction protections through the end of June.
Newsom signed the law on Friday, one day after it was approved by the state Legislature.
Last year, Newsom signed a law that banned evictions for unpaid rent for tenants who paid at least 25% of their rent owed after Sept. 1. The law Newsom signed Friday extends those protections through June 30.
The law will also use federal stimulus dollars to pay off 80% of some tenants’ unpaid rent, but only if landlords agree to forgive the remaining 20%.
People who earn more than 80% of the area median income are not eligible for the money.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York City restaurants can reopen for indoor dining at a quarter of capacity by Valentine’s Day, and big weddings can return statewide in March if infection rates continue to drop.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcements are part of a gradual loosening of economic restrictions in New York state as a post-holiday bump in infections slows down. Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by 916 since Jan. 19 to 8,357.
Cuomo says the indoor dining ban at city restaurants that went into effect Dec. 14 is on track to be partly lifted on Feb. 14. The 50-person limit on wedding receptions may increase to 150 on March 15, as long as the venue remains at 50% capacity or under.
MADISON, Wis. — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers lashed out at rival Republicans who tried to repeal his statewide mask mandate.
Evers says Republicans were trying to throw out one of the only tools he has left to limit the spread of the coronavirus. GOP lawmakers and conservative groups last year convinced the state Supreme Court to kill Evers’ stay-at-home order and the limits he placed on the size of indoor gatherings.
“It is important for people to remember that masks save lives,” the governor said. “It is not about individual liberty, as others would say.” He added people aren’t at liberty to go 100 mph on highways.
Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to end the governor’s health emergency declaration, which would kill the mask mandate. Assembly Republicans were expected to follow suit Thursday but delayed a vote after learning that ending the emergency declaration would cost the state $49 million in federal food assistance.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey says it has detected the possibly more infectious coronavirus variant first found in southeast England.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says on Twitter that 128 people have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus variant in 17 cities across the country.
“We have to be vigilant about the threat of mutations,” tweeted Koca, adding that new mutations could pose a threat to the country’s vaccination drive.
The country has reported 2.4 million coronavirus cases and nearly 26,000 confirmed deaths.
ALGIERS, Algeria — Algeria received its first coronavirus vaccines Friday, a shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V, according to the health minister.
Minister Amar Belhimeur didn’t indicate how many arrived, although the government has said it had ordered a first batch of 500,000 doses. The government also is negotiating acquisition of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the communications minister.
Algeria will start vaccinations Saturday at a hospital in the town of Blida, where the first cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in March.
The campaign will start with health care workers, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.
Algeria has registered more than 106,000 coronavirus cases and 2,881 confirmed deaths.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says the emergence and increasing spread of coronavirus mutations means vaccine makers must be ready to make new shots to stay ahead of the public health crisis.
The government’s top infectious disease expert spoke Friday during a White House coronavirus briefing.
“This is a wake-up call to all of us,” says Fauci, noting government scientists will be working to keep pace with virus mutations.
The nature of viruses is to change in ways that promote their spread, Fauci says. The evolution of mutant versions means scientists need to be “nimble” and ready to make tweaks to vaccines. So far, the mutants haven’t overwhelmed the protective power of vaccines.
Fauci says it is important to vaccinate people as quickly as possible to keep new mutations from developing.