WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden praised the ability of sports and athletes to bring a nation together in a time of crisis as he hosted the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers at the White House on Friday.
The Dodgers, who captured the title by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays last October, were the first team to be honored at the White House since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the first since Biden took office.
“I think what we discovered is that we need sports more than we ever realized,” said Biden, who praised baseball in “one of the most challenging years” in the nation’s history.
The president saluted the team for using its stadium as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC
— Lots of travelers expected in U.S. during July 4 holiday; Biden concerned about unvaccinated
— Thai virus surge prompts worries over ICU capacity, vaccine supply
— Vatican and World Medical Association seek all-out effort to combat vaccine hesitancy
— Woman’s crusade for international kids resumes after pandemic pause
— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is rescinding a series of executive orders issued during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican governor says most are no longer needed because the Legislature put them into law in the session that ended this week.
Some of the orders would remain in place until legislation takes effect in 90 days. Those include orders preventing cities, towns and counties from issuing orders for businesses that are more stringent than those Ducey issues. Other orders ending after new legislation takes effect bar universities from requiring coronavirus vaccines or masks for unvaccinated students.
Republicans, who control the Legislature, were adamant that they would block any coronavirus-related actions they considered were restricting freedoms. They passed laws banning mask orders in K-12 schools and state universities and blocking some future health orders. Democrats called the moves short-sighted, saying they may be needed amid a new surge of virus cases.
NEW YORK — Elissa Montanti’s Global Medical Relief Fund was thwarted by COVID-19 after more than two decades of beating the odds to obtain medical care for children injured in war and crises around the world.
The pandemic put a hold on international travel and services to the more than 450 kids who have passed through her care. Prosthetics needed fitting. Surgeries required scheduling. Now the New York woman is reviving her charity. She’s recruiting volunteers and professionals, bringing children to the U.S. again for medical care.
Montanti started the charity in 1997 in the wake of the sudden deaths of her grandmother, mother and childhood sweetheart. She’s lobbied at the United Nations, written a memoir and built a sprawling network of charitable doctors and professionals.
The charity says it has taken in children from 50 countries, mostly from Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says he’s concerned lives will be unnecessarily lost to COVID-19 as unvaccinated people contract and transmit the coronavirus over the July 4 holiday.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Biden emphasized that for most Americans who are vaccinated, the holiday weekend will be worth celebrating.
Says Biden: “This year is different than the Fourth of July of last year and it’s going to be better next year.”
But the president says he’s worried about those who haven’t yet gotten a shot.
“I am concerned that people who have not gotten vaccinated have the capacity to catch the variant and spread the variant to other people who have not been vaccinated. But I am concerned. Lives will be lost.”
JOHANNESBURG — Driven by the delta variant, a new wave of coronavirus is sweeping across the African continent where cases, hospital admissions and deaths are increasing.
Case numbers are doubling every three weeks in Africa, according to the World Health Organization. South Africa is leading the surge, with more than 20,000 new cases reported Friday.
That has increased South Africa’s total to 1.9 million confirmed cases and 66,323 confirmed deaths. It represents more than 30% of the 5.5 million cases reported by Africa’s 54 countries, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, says Africa’s third wave has large speed and scale. The delta variant, reported in 16 African countries, has become dominant in South Africa. WHO says the delta variant has been detected in 97% of samples sequenced in Uganda and 79% of samples in Congo.
Less than 2% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people have received one dose of a vaccine.
MOSCOW — Russian authorities have reported a record 679 new coronavirus deaths, a fourth day in a row with the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.
On Friday, Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 23,218 new cases. But the authorities are not discussing a lockdown, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.
Russia has struggled to cope with a surge in infections and deaths in recent weeks that comes amid slow vaccination rates. Daily new infections have more than doubled over the past month, soaring from around 9,000 in early June to over 20,000 this week.
BERLIN — Germany is recommending all people who get a first shot of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine switch to a different type of vaccine for their second shot.
The aim is to increase the speed and effectiveness of vaccinations as the more contagious delta variant spreads. Health Minister Jens Spahn conferred with his colleagues from Germany’s 16 states on Friday, the day after the country’s standing committee on vaccination issued a draft recommendation.
In a statement, the committee says study results show the immune response from a mixture of AstraZeneca with an mRNA vaccine of Pfizer or Moderna was “significantly superior” to two doses of AstraZeneca.
BEIRUT — Lebanon is reporting the first cases of the coronavirus delta variant in the country.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan says three cases of the highly contagious delta variant were reported in Lebanon. He urged the country’s residents to get vaccinated.
The reports of the variant come as tens of thousands of tourists and expatriates are flying into Lebanon.
Lebanon, a nation of 6 million people, including a million Syrian refugees, has eased lockdowns in recent months as the vaccination campaign intensified and cases dropped. The nation has registered 545,000 confirmed cases and 7,854 confirmed deaths.
Lebanon has administered more than 1.3 million vaccination shots so far.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says the world is in “a very dangerous period” of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the more contagious delta variant is identified in nearly 100 countries.
At a press briefing on Friday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the delta variant, first found in India, is continuing to evolve and mutate, and it is becoming the predominant COVID-19 virus in many countries.
“I have already urged leaders across the world to ensure that by this time next year, 70% of all people in every country are vaccinated,” he said, adding that would effectively end the acute phase of the pandemic.
He noted 3 billion doses of vaccine have already been distributed and, “it’s within the collective power of a few countries to step up and ensure that vaccines are shared.”
Of the vaccine doses given globally, fewer than 2% have been in poorer countries. Although rich countries including Britain, the U.S., France and Canada have pledged to donate 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines, WHO estimates 11 billion doses are needed to immunize the world.
LONDON — Public Health England says cases of the more contagious delta variant have increased fourfold in the U.K. in less than a month.
It says a total of 161,981 confirmed and probable cases of delta variant have been identified in Britain — up 46% on the previous week.
The delta variant, which was first identified in India, continues to account for around 95% of confirmed cases of coronavirus across the U.K.
Though cases have been rising sharply in recent weeks, the number of people requiring hospitalization for COVID-19 has not risen as much. That indicates the link between infections and mortality has weakened following the rapid rollout of vaccines in the country.
Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s medical director, says most new cases are among younger age groups who are less likely to be hospitalized.
ROME — The Vatican’s bioethics academy and the World Medical Association are calling for an all-out effort to combat vaccine hesitancy and correct the “myths and disinformation” that are slowing the fight against the coronavirus.
In a joint statement on Friday, the groups say some vaccine reluctance in poorer countries is rooted in historical inequalities and suspicions of Western pharmaceutical companies. But they say “a more pernicious form” of hesitancy is being driven by fake news, myths and disinformation about vaccine safety.
They demanded that “all relevant stakeholders exhaust all efforts to … confront vaccine hesitancy by sending a clear message about the safety and necessity of vaccines and counteracting vaccine myths and disinformation.”
The statement also repeated calls from the Vatican and the medical establishment for vaccine equity, ensuring the poorer nations have the same access to shots.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan received 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States on Friday, easing pressure on Islamabad in overcoming the shortage of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to a U.S. embassy statement, the vaccines were delivered to the Pakistani people in partnership with the COVAX global vaccine initiative, UNICEF, and the government of Pakistan.
It says this donation was part of the 80 million doses the United States was sharing with the world, “delivering on our pledge to facilitate equitable global access to safe and effective vaccines, which are essential to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The latest development comes days after hundreds of Pakistani expatriate workers rallied in Islamabad, demanding they should be quickly vaccinated with the Moderna, Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines so they can travel abroad.
Pakistan has mostly relied on Chinese vaccines, but some Middle Eastern countries want travelers to produce a certificate to show they’ve received specific vaccines.
BANGKOK — Health authorities in Bangkok reported 6,087 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, setting a record for the second straight day.
Around 90% of total cases and 95% of the deaths have been recorded during a third wave of the coronavirus that began in April. There were 992 deaths in June this year, more than 15 times Thailand’s total for all of 2020.
The government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration says there’s been a nationwide increase during the past two weeks in the number of patients in ICUs and on ventilators. There are 2,002 people in ICUs, including 566 on ventilators.
Sixty-one related deaths were reported Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 270,921 and 2,141 confirmed deaths.
ROME — For the first day in nine months, the northern Italian region hardest hit in pandemic has registered no COVID-19 deaths.
“Today zero deaths for COVID in Lombardy, hasn’t happened since Oct. 6,” tweeted Lombardy Vice Gov. Letizia Moratti on Friday.
It was in Lombardy where the first Italian case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in February 2020. As of July 1, the region had tallied 33,782 confirmed deaths, far more than any other region. Lombardy’s hospitals, once overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in ICU beds, on Thursday admitted only one new patient to an intensive care ward.
However, Italian health officials are warning the delta variant has been steadily gaining traction in the country since May. They are expressing concern that people will relax safe-distancing and other practices to combat the pandemic while vacationing this summer.
Some 35% of people older than 12 in Italy are fully vaccinated, and the country is aiming to raise that to 80% by summer’s end.
NEW DELHI — India has confirmed 400,000 deaths from COVID-19, half in the past two months, as the virulent delta variant infected hundreds of thousands daily.
The grim figure announced Friday is believed to be a fraction of the true total. It is second only to the United States and Brazil.
The Health Ministry says 853 people died in the past 24 hours, raising total confirmed deaths to 400,312 since the start of the pandemic. The first known COVID-19 death in India happened on March 12, 2020, in southern Karnataka state.
India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, has confirmed more than 30.4 million infections. There have been 46,617 new cases detected in the past 24 hours. That total also is believed to be an undercount.
New cases are on the decline after exceeding 400,000 a day in May. But authorities are preparing for another possible wave of infection around September and are trying to ramp up vaccination.
Less than 5% of India’s people are fully immunized. Over 340 million doses have been administered since mid-January, according to the ministry.
About 2 billion doses could be available by December with India’s two main suppliers, Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech, ramping up production and five other vaccines potentially available in the coming months.
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