LOS ANGELES -- California on Sunday reported another 481 coronavirus deaths, a day after the statewide death toll topped 40,000 even as the rates of new infections and hospitalizations continue to fall.
The state said that the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 slipped below 14,850 — a drop of more than 25% in two weeks.
The 18,974 new confirmed cases are about one-third the mid-December peak of 54,000.
With hospitalizations and confirmed cases falling, health officials are optimistic that the worst of the latest surge is over.
Deaths remain staggeringly high, however, with more than 3,800 in the last week.
It took six months for California to record its first 10,000 deaths, then four months to double to 20,000. In just five more weeks the state reached 30,000. It then took only 20 days to get to 40,000. On Sunday deaths rose to 40,697, while total cases topped 3.2 million.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Thousands flout virus restrictions at Israel funeral
— Anxiety grows as long-term facilities await COVID-19 vaccines
— Fans who've been to every Super Bowl making plans again this year
— Even if schools reopen by late April, millions of students, many of them minorities in urban areas, may be left out.
— A World Health Organization team looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic is visiting a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan
— The U.S. is backing off for now on a plan to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to the 40 prisoners held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
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
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is acknowledging that Black and Latino New Yorkers are receiving COVID-19 vaccines at far lower rates than white or Asian residents.
Data released by the city’s health department shows that 48% of the city residents who have gotten at least one vaccine dose are white. That’s far higher than the roughly one-third the city’s population that is non-Hispanic white.
Just 11% of vaccine doses administered to New York City residents went to Black people and 15% to Latinos. The vaccine numbers are incomplete because about 40% of people who have been vaccinated in the city haven’t provided demographic information.
Still, the figures mirror vaccination data from other cities and states.
“Clearly, we do see a profound disparity that needs to be addressed aggressively and creatively,” de Blasio said in a conference call with reporters. “We’ve got a profound problem of distrust and hesitancy, particularly in communities of color.”
BOSTON — Businesses like gyms, movie theaters, museums and sight-seeing harbor cruises can resume Monday in Boston under its coronavirus pandemic reopening plan.
The businesses can reopen, following a 25% capacity limit, given the improvement in the number of COVID-19 cases and in the city’s positivity rate.
Other sites include aquariums, indoor recreational venues with the potential for low contact, such as batting cages and bowling alleys, and gaming arcades.
“While there has been some improvement in recent weeks, it’s still vital that everyone remains vigilant,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement last week.
LIMA, Peru — Peru began what was supposed to be a severe lockdown Sunday to combat surging COVID-19, but the order was widely ignored in the nation’s capital.
President Francisco Sagasti went on television urging Peruvians “to make an extra effort to contain the growing wave of infections and deaths.” His government told people in the capital and nine other regions to limit trips outside the home to 60 minutes and it closed churches, gymnasiums, museums, libraries and other institutions.
But marketplaces were crowded. Even some bus drivers ignored mandatory face mask rules. Seventy percent of Peruvians have no income if they stay home. The government says it will give $165 each to 4 million families — but only after the two-week quarantine.
Hundreds of people crowded bus stations in Lima to head for less-restricted rural regions before terminals close later this week. Flights from Brazil and Europe have been cancelled.
Lima Police Chief Jorge Angulo said his agency would try to enforce restrictions, and he noted that 540 of his officers already have died of the virus.
The country of 33 million people has recorded more than 1 million infections and more than 40,000 deaths from COVID-19.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch elementary schools and childcare centers will reopen from a weeks-long coronavirus lockdown on Feb. 8.
The government announced the move Sunday following guidance from a team of experts that advises on policies to tackle the pandemic that has killed just over 14,000 in the Netherlands.
Education Minister Arie Slob says, “it’s a relief that the schools can open again. For parents and teachers but, of course, especially for the students.”
The Netherlands, which has been in a tough lockdown since mid-December and under a 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew for just over a week, has seen rates of infections fall slowly in recent weeks, but the government remains concerned that new, more transmissible variants are gaining ground and will lead to a new rise in infections.
The education ministry says that when classrooms open again, any child with symptoms of COVID-19 will have to stay home, and if a student tests positive the whole class will have to go into isolation.
No date has been set for a reopening of high schools.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities have confirmed the first detection of the South African variant of the new coronavirus in the country, prompting top health officials to fly to the area where it was found for meetings on Sunday.
The minister leading the government response to the pandemic and the head of the country’s public health body met with doctors and the local bishop in the northern city of Thessaloniki. The variant is believed to be more contagious than the original type and it was detected in a 36-year-old deacon in a suburb of the city.
“We will be doing screenings to isolate the persons who have been in contact with the patient,” said Panayiotis Arkoumaneas, head of the National Public Health Organization.
There have also been 173 cases of people affected with a variant first detected in the U.K., authorities said Sunday.
Authorities announced 484 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, as well as 17 deaths. The total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic is 156,957, with 5,796 fatalities.
Experts warn there could be a resurgence in February and March and say the situation will remain volatile until a large number of vulnerable people are vaccinated.
“The virus is playing the drums and we are dancing to its beat,” said Nikos Sipsas, member of the state advisory committee on the pandemic.
ROME — For the first time in weeks, the number of daily new admissions of COVID-19 patients to intensive care wards in Italy has dipped below 100, according to the Health Ministry’s figures on Sunday.
The total number of COVID-19 ill in ICU beds nationwide stood at 2,215. While that number is far lower than the nearly 4,000 patients receiving intensive care in any day in late November, Italy has been struggling with a surge of coronavirus infections since autumn.
With 88,516 known dead, Italy has Europe’s second-highest known toll, after Britain’s. Italy, a nation of 60 million, has registered more than 2.5 million confirmed infections in the pandemic.
BRUSSELS — Belgian protesters denouncing coronavirus restrictions staged a demonstration on Sunday in central Brussels and local media say police arrested about 300 people who tired to join the unauthorized action.
Brussels police on Twitter repeatedly called on people not to gather and later dispersed the demonstration, which ended peacefully.
Authorities had warned that riots in the Netherlands over coronavirus restrictions could spark similar protests in neighboring Belgium.
Belgium’s tough lockdown includes a 9 p.m. curfew and a ban on nonessential travel in and out of the country, which has had one of Europe’s worst outbreaks.
Authorities have reported over 21,000 confirmed virus deaths in a nation of 11 million.
HARTFORD, Conn. — A top Connecticut official says that COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to enough nursing home residents in the state to potentially stop the transmission of the virus among those residents.
Josh Geballe, chief operating officer for the state, said Saturday that Connecticut nursing homes are reporting that 90% to 100% of residents have received at least the first of two vaccine shots.
He said the number of weekly COVID-19 cases in nursing homes has declined by 66% in the last three weeks. Geballe said some vaccine doses that had been earmarked for nursing homes are being reallocated to hospitals and retail sites.
LISBON, Portugal -- Portugal on Sunday reported 9,498 new cases and 303 more deaths as the country battles a raging surge in new coronavirus infections.
The figures came as Portugal and Spain began applying border restrictions for a period of two weeks. Portugal is in lockdown and has banned all nonessential travel abroad for its citizens.
The country has had the world’s worst rate of new daily cases and deaths per 100,000 population for more than a week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Portuguese health authorities say total fatalities are now at 12,482 and the total number of cases has surpassed 720,500.
Virus patients in hospitals, many of which are close to full, are at 6,694.
Experts say the peak of the latest surge in Portugal may not come until mid-February, as a fast-spreading variant first identified in Britain takes hold.
BEIJING — China recorded more than 2,000 new domestic cases of COVID-19 in January, the highest monthly total since the tail end of the initial outbreak in Wuhan in March of last year.
The National Health Commission said Sunday that 2,016 cases were reported from Jan. 1-30. That does not include another 435 infected people who arrived from abroad. The tally for Jan. 31 is due to be released Monday.
Two people have died in January, the first reported COVID deaths in China in several months.
Most of the new cases have been in three northern provinces. Hardest-hit Hebei province, which borders Beijing, has reported more than 900 cases. Beijing, the Chinese capital, has itself had 45 cases this month.
The numbers, while low compared to many other countries, have prompted officials to tighten restrictions and strongly discourage people from traveling during the Lunar New Year, a major holiday when people typically return home for family reunions.
Train trips were down nearly 75 percent in the first three days of the holiday travel season, the official Xinhua News Agency said Sunday, citing the state railway company.
BERLIN — Austria and Germany say they will provide medical assistance to Portugal as the country struggles with a surge in coronavirus cases.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Sunday that the Alpine nation will receive intensive care patients from Portugal, without specifying a number.
Kurz said in a tweet that “swift, unbureaucratic help” was required to save lives, adding that Austria has previously taken in patients from France, Italy and Montenegro.
Meanwhile, the German military plans to send medical aid and doctors to Portugal in the coming days.
Defense Ministry spokesman Christoph Czwielung said the military “will provide personnel and material support” though details on the extent and timing were still being finalized.
CAIRO — Egypt on Sunday received its first shipment of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines, airport officials said.
The 50,000-dose shipment arrived at Cairo international airport on a flight from Dubai, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Dr. Mohammed Awad Tag el-Din, Egypt’s presidential health advisor, said the AstraZeneca shipment originated in the company’s factory in India.
It was the second shipment of coronavirus vaccines received by Egypt. The first was 50,000-doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine that was delivered last month.
Egypt, a county of more than 100 million people, has reported more than 165,400 confirmed cases, including 9,263 deaths. However, the actual numbers of COVID-19 cases, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher, in part due to limited testing.
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