By The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Housing attorneys say people living in U.S. hotels and motels are facing a heightened risk of homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Job losses have made it harder for millions of Americans to make rent. But hotel guests are excluded from a federal moratorium on evictions for people facing financial hardship during the coronavirus outbreak.
Long-term hotel and motel residents in California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and Virginia have reported being kicked out or threatened with eviction over the past year. In some cases, staff have cut off utilities.
Hotel owners say they have also taken a hit during the pandemic and need paying customers to cover expenses.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention excludes hotels or motels rented to a “temporary guest or seasonal tenant” — terms it leaves local laws to define — from its eviction moratorium in place through March. Some states have stepped up to try to protect motel dwellers.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
VACCINES: More than 91.7 million people, or 27.6% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 50.1 million people, or 15.1% of the population, have completed their vaccination.
CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. increased over the past two weeks from 54,773 on March 12 to 60,876 on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks decreased from 1,341 on March 12 to 991 on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
— Now vaccinated, older adults emerge from COVID hibernation
— Shots and a musical serenade at NYC vaccination center
— Follow 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:
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Flagstaff City Council is casting a critical eye on Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order barring local governments from enforcing mask-wearing mandates to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The council on Friday issued a statement saying it doesn’t plan to rescind the city’s proclamation requiring mask-wearing but won’t enforce it while studying Ducey’s order that also lifted the state’s remaining coronavirus restrictions on businesses and events.
The Flagstaff council says the virus continues to spread, and Ducey’s order ”is not in the best interest of public health.”
The COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped to 581 on Friday, down from 626 the day before.
Arizona reported 776 confirmed cases and 14 more deaths on Saturday. That increased the state’s totals to 839,334 confirmed cases and 16,912 confirmed deaths.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Thousands of vaccine-seekers from countries neighboring Serbia have flocked to Belgrade after Serbian authorities offered free coronavirus shots to those who showed up on the weekend. Long lines of Bosnians, Montenegrins and North Macedonians formed in front of the main vaccination center in the Serbian capital on Saturday as police kept watch.
Most of Serbia’s Balkan neighbors have been struggling with shortages and have barely started mass vaccination drives. Serbia boasts of having ample supplies and one of Europe’s highest per capita vaccination rates.
Critics of populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic contend he is trying to spread his influence in the Balkans and polish the ultranationalist image he acquired during Yugoslavia’s bloody breakup.
ISTANBUL — Turkey will begin vaccinating people over 60 and some risk groups as daily infections climb, the country’s health minister says.
Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter the spouses of people above 60 are also eligible. The risk groups included in this round of vaccinations are people with underlying conditions.
Turkey rolled out its vaccination program in January with CoronaVac by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac and has administered more than 14.6 million shots. This week, the country also received approximately 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Despite daily infections reaching more than 30,000 Saturday, Turkish officials have continued to relax coronavirus restrictions. Another 151 new deaths were registered, bringing the total confirmed death toll to 30,923.
HONOLULU — Weddings on Oahu in Hawaii can be held outside with a maximum of 100 people after an easing of public health orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi says the easing of the 10-person wedding restriction is effective immediately. A limit of 10 people will continue for indoor weddings.
For outdoor weddings, all must wear face masks and each wedding must be supervised by “event planning professionals.” Temperature checks will be required.
The news was applauded by members of the state’s wedding industry, which was dramatically affected by the pandemic.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The confusing maze of websites and phone numbers required to sign up for an COVID-19 immunization in the U.S. is presenting a challenge for people who are visually impaired or hard of hearing.
Providers are using different systems that can vary by state and even cities. The blind and deaf says that often forces them to rely from others to help them get in line.
In Oregon, Carla McQuillan can’t see and couldn’t use screen reader to make an appointment. Dante Little says he helped 20 disabled people in Alabama who couldn’t otherwise get shots.
The CDC reports an estimated 12 million Americans over age 40 have impaired vision, including 1 million who are blind. The National Association of the Deaf says a 2011 study found 48 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing.
BERLIN — Health Minister Jens Spahn says Germany needs a strict lockdown last at least 10-14 days to reduce the rapid rise of coronavirus infections, which has been fueled by a more contagious variant.
The country’s disease control agency announced 20,472 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 157 additional deaths on Saturday. The head of the Robert Koch Institute said Friday that Germany could see as many as 100,000 infections daily if infections keep rising exponentially.
This week, the governors of Germany’s 16 states resisted imposing stricter rules demanded by medical experts. Some states have also refused to implement an “emergency brake” previously agreed with Chancellor Angela Merkel when weekly case numbers rise above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Spahn said at a public meeting Saturday, “if we look at the numbers, including the developments today, we need another 10-14 days, at least, of properly driving down contacts and movements, a lockdown if you want to call it that, like we had for Easter last year.”
PORTLAND, Maine — Spring has arrived, and many older adults in the U.S. who have been vaccinated are emerging from a hibernation imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
They are relishing the little things like shopping and going to the gym, along with the big things like visiting relatives. Older adults who suffered the most during the pandemic are beginning to move forward with getting their lives on track.
Seventy-nine-year-old Florida resident Ken Hughes says there’s an “extra level of confidence” among those who have been vaccinated. And many are able to see grandchildren. Bill Griffin of Maine got to hug his 3-year-old granddaughter for the first time in a year.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil accounts for a quarter of the daily coronavirus global deaths, more than any other nation.
There is growing recognition among experts, mayors and governors that shutdowns are no longer avoidable. Restrictions on activity they implemented last year were half-hearted and consistently sabotaged by President Jair Bolsonaro.
The nation’s seven-day average of 2,400 deaths stands to reach to 3,000 within weeks, experts told the Associated Press. Spikes of daily deaths could soon hit 4,000; on Friday there were 3,650 deaths.
Bolsonaro remains unconvinced of any need for clampdown, which leaves local leaders pursuing a patchwork of measures to prevent the death toll from spiraling. However, a more contagious variant is rampaging across Brazil. New daily cases topped 100,000 for the first time on Thursday.
Brazil’s state-run science and technology institute, Fiocruz, on Tuesday called for a 14-day lockdown to reduce transmission. Delivery delays from AstraZeneca have slowed vaccines, with only 2% of the nation fully vaccinated.
There have been 12.4 million confirmed cases and more than 307,000 confirmed deaths in Brazil, second only to the United States.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan officials say the country could face a worse situation than the first wave of the coronavirus if the current surge isn’t controlled.
That’s according to the Pakistan minister for planning and development Asada Umar. Pakistan has reported 4,668 new cases and 67 death in the last 24 hours, where eastern Punjab province and northern Pakistan are experiencing a third wave.
Umar says, “If the increase continues at this rate then in the next few days or next week, we will go beyond the level and peak we saw in the first wave in June.”
Umar says disregard for precautionary measures has become a big reason for the sudden rapid increase in the spread of this disease. He warned of strict actions if people don’t follow guidelines to counter the spread of the virus.
Pakistan has reported 649,824 total confirmed cases and 14,158 confirmed deaths.
LONDON — Britain’s vaccines minister says booster shots designed to fight new variants of the coronavirus should be ready for distribution to people over 70 by September.
Nadhim Zahawi told the Daily Telegraph newspaper the government is expecting up to eight different shots to be available by the autumn, including some that may protect against variants.
He said booster shots would be given first to the frontline health workers, the elderly and people with serious health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
While much of Europe is seeing a new surge in the pandemic, Britain is counting on a rapid mass-vaccination program to help it end lockdown and curb Europe’s coronavirus outbreak.
Nearly 30 million people in the U.K., accounting for 55% of all adults, have received a first dose of vaccine. The U.K. has recorded more than 126,000 confirmed deaths.
AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas judge is allowing the City of Austin to continue to require face coverings in local businesses weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott ended a statewide mask mandate and other COVID-19 safety measures.
The ruling Friday by state District Judge Lora Livingston is at least a temporary victory for local leaders in the liberal state capital who have repeatedly clashed with Abbott over his handling of the pandemic.
Face coverings have been loosely enforced in Texas, which earlier this month became the biggest state to drop COVID-19 restrictions. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to appeal the ruling.
The roughly 3,400 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas is the lowest number since October. On Monday, Texas will begin making all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccinations.
GENEVA — A leader of the U.N.-backed program to ship coronavirus vaccines to needy people in low- and middle-income countries has expressed disappointment about supply delays from a key Indian manufacturer, but says he hopes the United States can begin sharing shots soon.
Dr. Seth Berkley is the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and he says doses for health care workers and other high-risk groups in such countries to be delivered through the COVAX program will be set back weeks.
He elaborated on an announcement from Gavi and partners that as many as 90 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India will be delayed through the end of April as India’s government grapples with a spike in cases.
Berkley says “we had hoped to reach all health care workers and high-risk groups by the end of March.”
He says talks continue with India’s government and SII “with the hope that we can get some of those doses freed up and be able to then move back into full swing scale-up later, in perhaps May.”
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s lower house of Parliament has voted to extend the state of emergency in one of the hardest hit European Union countries till April 11. The house’s approval enables the government to keep in place a tight lockdown through Easter that ends on April 5.
Among the restrictions that became effective on March 1, people have been banned from traveling to other counties unless they go to work or have to take care of relatives. They are part of the measures that are believed to contribute to slowing down the spread of a highly contagious virus variant first found in Britain.
The day-to-day increase of new cases reached 7,853 on Thursday. It was the lowest number for a week day since Feb 8, and about 25% less than the same day a week ago.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the 14-day case notification rate of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants was 1,328 in the Czech Republic, still the second highest in the EU after Estonia. The nation of 10.7 million had 1.5 million confirmed cases with 25,639 deaths.
ATHENS, Greece — Authorities in Greece said students and teachers will have to use self-test kits for COVID-19 in order to attend classes when schools reopen.
Greece is planning to make the test kits freely available on a weekly basis to every resident of the country with a social security number, starting next month. The program is designed to allow for the reopening of schools as well as restaurants and retail businesses which have remained mostly closed since the lockdown was imposed in early November.
Vassilis Kontozamanis, the deputy health minister, said a legislative amendment in parliament would be needed to make testing mandatory for school attendance.
Greece is currently grappling with a surge in coronavirus infections which has seen many hospitals run by the state health system reach capacity. The country’s center-right government says it plans to launch the tourism season in mid-May but has not yet given a date for schools and retail businesses to reopen. School children of all ages are currently attending compulsory online classes.