- Associated Press - Monday, May 10, 2021

SEATTLE — Washington state’s Department of Health says preliminary data shows more people died of drug overdoses in 2020 than any other year in at least the last decade.

Authorities say the effects of the coronavirus pandemic likely led to a drug use surge.

The Seattle Times reports fatal drug overdoses increased by more than 30% last year compared to 2019. That’s an increase more than twice as large as any other year over the last decade.

Officials are still analyzing the preliminary data and causes of death in specific cases and expect the number of overdose deaths to grow even higher.



- In coastal Senegal, beginning of the fishing season renews hope for industry ravaged by COVID-19

- While wealthier nations stockpile vaccines, some of the poorest countries have yet to receive any, even for medical staff

- Joyful reunions among vaccinated parents and children marked this year’s Mother’s Day

- Concert advocating vaccine equity pulls in $302 million, exceeding its goal

Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine



SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Millions of Californians would get tax rebates of up to $1,100 under a proposal unveiled by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as part of a broader pandemic recovery plan made possible by an eye-popping $75 billion budget surplus.

Individuals and households making between $30,000 and $75,000 annually would get a $600 payment under Newsom’s plan announced Monday. All households making up to $75,000 with at least one child, including immigrants who file taxes, would get an extra $500 payment.

The payments are part of what Newsom is calling a $100 billion plan to drive the state’s economic recovery. It also comes as Newsom faces a recall election.

The massive budget surplus is largely due to taxes paid by rich Californians who generally did well during the pandemic, and marks a major turnaround after officials last year said they feared a deficit of more than $50 billion.

The payments will total an estimated $8.1 billion, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance. The proposal also includes $5.2 billion to pay back rent and $2 billion for overdue utility bills for people who fell behind during the pandemic.


PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland’s mass vaccination site will close on June 19 after giving hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 inoculations.

The All4Oregon site has been running since Jan. 20 at the Oregon Convention Center. The site began offering walk-in appointments last week but organizers say a drop in volume makes it clear that demand for a mass vaccination site is waning as shots become more widely available elsewhere.

All4Oregon will offer stop offering first doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine on May 27 and will offer second doses only in June. As of Friday, the site had administered 465,000 shots.


NEW ORLEANS — Organizers of a New Orleans vaccination event on Thursday will offer a free jab in the arm - and a free pound of boiled crawfish.

The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reports that the vaccine promotion is being arranged by local business incubator Propeller, City Councilman Jay Banks, the city health department and longtime local seafood dealer Cajun Seafood.

It’s one of numerous vaccination events held day to day in New Orleans, where as of late April roughly 43% of city residents had received at least one vaccine dose.


MADRID - Spain’s top coronavirus expert has delivered a stern warning to people who are acting as if the pandemic had ended just because the government has relaxed measures amid an accelerating rollout of vaccines.

Fernando Simón said Monday that he was unable to predict how the contagion rate in Spain will evolve in coming days following scenes of revelers partying in mass over the past weekend, in many cases without social distancing or masks.

The street celebrations followed the end of a state of emergency, a blanket national rule that allowed authorities take strict measures such as travel bans, curfews and curbs on social gatherings, which collide with fundamental freedoms.

Spain’s rate of contagion fell to 188 new cases in two weeks per 100,000 residents from 198 on Friday and, way down from a peak of nearly 900 at the end of January. The country accumulates over 3.5 million confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic and over 78,000 deaths.

Simón said that he expected that new infections would hit harder people under 60 years ago, an age group that barring those in essential jobs is not being vaccinated yet. The expert said that the impact in older people could be lower among the elderly.

Nearly one third of Spain’s 47 million residents has received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot and 6 million people, most of them above 70, are fully vaccinated.


LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that he has given the go-ahead for people in England to hug someone outside of their household bubble from next week as part of the latest easing of lockdown restrictions.

Johnson told a news briefing that he was able to sanction that much-needed contact from May 17 because new coronavirus infections have fallen sharply. However, he stressed that people should exercise common sense given that social contact is the main way the virus is transmitted.

The U.K. is now recording around 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day, compared with a daily peak of nearly 70,000 in January. Daily deaths have also plummeted with only four recorded on Monday.

Other easing measures included the reopening of pubs and restaurants indoors as well as cinemas and hotels, and allowing two households to meet up inside a home.

Johnson said this “unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road back to normality” and that he is confident of further easing on June 21.


PRAGUE - The Czech Republic is further easing coronavirus restrictions, opening bars and restaurants for outdoor dining amid falling numbers of coronavirus infections.

Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlicek says the establishments will reopen on May 17 for people who have a negative coronavirus test, have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. Only up to four people who are not relatives will be allowed to sit at one table.

Also next week on Monday, the elementary schools in the seven of the country’s 14 regions, including Prague will be able to abandon a rotating principle, with in-school attendance one week and distance learning the next.

At the same time, up to 700 people will be allowed to attend outdoor concerts and other outdoor cultural events. People will have to present a negative coronavirus test, be vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. All will have to wear a respirator.

Monday’s announcement comes on the day when all stores and shopping malls are reopening and most services return to business.


MILAN - The head of San Marino’s health authority says that new coronavirus cases in the tiny republic have nearly hit zero since the vaccine campaign was launched last month with the Russian-developed Sputnik V.

Alessandra Bruschi said on Monday that officials are “very satisfied with the preliminary data that show a high level of effectiveness.” She said the state hospital has just one COVID-19 patient, who is in a regular ward and not intensive care.

National statistics show just 25 active cases among the 34,500 citizens. San Marino has vaccinated 75% of its citizens with at least one dose, and is planning soon to begin offering jabs to tourists. It is also negotiating with Italy to vaccinate Italians who work in the republic, which is located along the border between the regions of Emilia Romagna and Marche, near the Adriatic Coast.


GENEVA - The head of the World Health Organization said the agency is seeing “a plateau” in the number of global coronavirus cases with recent declines in the Americas and Europe, the two worst affected regions.

At a press briefing on Monday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “any decline is welcome” but warned “we have been here before,” advising countries not to loosen their public health restrictions too quickly. He noted that developing countries have still only received about 7% of the hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines administered to date.

My message to leaders is to use every tool at your disposal to drive transmission down,” Tedros said, adding that even countries with downward epidemic trends should prepare for the possibility that new variants could undo the progress made in vaccination.

“My message to individuals is that every contact you have with someone outside your household is a risk,” he said. Tedros said how quickly the pandemic ends depends on how quickly the global population gets immunized and how consistently everyone follows public health guidance.


BERLIN - Germany’s top security official has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to his office.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter told the dpa news agency Monday that Minister Horst Seehofer had tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine at home.

Alter says the 71-year-old minister is exhibiting no symptoms.

The Interior Ministry could not be immediately reached for further comment.

Seehofer had previously told reporters he received his first shot of the coronavirus vaccine on April 14. He received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.


TOKYO - Japan’s government said Monday that it has agreed to purchase an antibody cocktail to be produced and marketed for COVID-19 treatment by a Japanese drug maker Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. which has a licensing deal with Roche.

Chugai Pharmaceutical concluded the agreement with Roche in December for the production and marketing in Japan of the antibody cocktail for the virus treatment.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters Monday that the government concluded the agreement with Chugai over the purchase of enough doses through March 2022 once the drug, now at final stages of clinical testing in Japan, is approved by the health ministry.

The antibody cocktail developed by Roche and a U.S. drug maker Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. was approved for emergency use in the United States for the treatment of high-risk, non-hospitalized patients with mild cases. Clinical testing started in Japan in March and if approved, it will be a new effective addition to Japan’s COVID-19 treatment, Kato said.

A cocktail of two virus neutralizing antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab are synthetically manufactured copies of antibodies that the body produces after an infection. It was given to U.S. President Donald Trump when he contracted the disease in October.


ANCHORAGE — Officials in Anchorage have reported that the city sewer system is clogging up because people are flushing wipes and other items.

It’s problem that’s been made worse by the pandemic because people spend more time at home. Alaska’s News Source reported that Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility spokesperson Sandy Baker said up to 6,000 pounds of wipes have entered the sewer system in Anchorage daily since the pandemic started.

The wipes can block pipes and cause sewage to back up into residents’ homes. Baker said part of the problem is that many brands of wipes claim to be flushable, but are not because they don’t break down.


CAPE TOWN, South Africa - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has dedicated his weekly letter to the nation to the issue of waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, saying it’s “necessary at this time” and “in direct response to an emergency.”

Ramaphosa’s message reflects his country’s hope that the waiver, first proposed by South Africa and India, may still happen despite opposition from nations like Germany.

Ramaphosa writes that the Biden Administration’s support for a waiver has given negotiations at the World Trade Organization “added momentum.” He compares the vaccine IP waiver issue to South Africa’s eventually successful fight two decades ago to ease IPs on life-saving antiretroviral drugs during the HIV/Aids crisis.

“And once again, South Africa is waging a struggle that puts global solidarity to the test,” Ramaphosa wrote.

European Union leaders have doubted the immediate benefit of a waiver of IPs on COVID-19 vaccines, saying many less developed countries, particularly in Africa, don’t have the capacity to manufacture vaccines even if the waiver is achieved.

Ramaphosa writes that South Africa is one of five countries in Africa with vaccine production capacity and a waiver would enable them to “bolster global vaccine manufacturing for COVID-19 and other major diseases.”

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