By The Associated Press
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation on Saturday reported five additional COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.
A statement released by tribal officials said the additional deaths increased the tribe’s pandemic death toll to 1,356.
The statement did not provide an updated count of total cases among residents of the sprawling reservation that includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Tribal officials did not immediately respond to a query but a statement released Friday by the tribe had said that the number of positive cases stood at 31,012.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC
— Europe in vaccination race against COVID-19′s delta variant
— Indonesia caught between surge and slow vaccine rollout
— Thai virus surge prompts concern over ICUs, vaccine supply
— Some Venezuelans have gotten a shot in the arm thanks to a gift of Cuban-developed COVID-19 vaccines, bringing relief to some residents while simultaneously deepening the mystery around the country’s donation-dependent vaccination campaign.
— One Missouri hospital official is telling anyone making disparaging remarks about the COVID-19 vaccine to “shut up” as state officials ask for federal help dealing with a surge in cases that has some counties urging new precautions.
— A bipartisan proposal in the U.S. House would ban the farming of mink fur in the United States in an effort to stem possible mutations of the coronavirus.
— 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:
OAKLAND, Calif. — A San Francisco Bay Area zoo is inoculating its big cats, bears and ferrets against the coronavirus. The vaccinations are part of a national effort to protect animal species using an experimental vaccine developed and donated by a New Jersey company.
Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at the zoo, said none of the animals have gotten the virus, but they wanted to be proactive. Tigers, black and grizzly bears, mountain lions and ferrets were the first to receive the first of two doses. Next are primates and pigs.
The San Diego Zoo started inoculating primates with the Zoetis vaccine in January after a COVID-19 breakout among a troop of gorillas.
According to a press release, Zoetis is donating more than 11,000 doses for animals living in nearly 70 zoos, as well as more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions and government organizations located in 27 states.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s administration floated the idea of a statewide COVID-19 vaccination incentive program and the possibility of a “substantial grand prize” during a meeting of health officials.
Consideration of incentives comes as the fast-spreading delta variant ravages rural Missouri. The state has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission in the U.S.
The Kansas City Star reports that it obtained notes from a June 25 Zoom meeting of the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence during which a senior state Department of Health and Senior Services official shared the potential incentives program.
The notes compiled by the center’s secretary said a potential program would likely start in July. A Parson spokesperson said Friday only that work is continuing on potential incentive options.
MOSCOW — Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit a record on Saturday for the fifth straight day, with the authorities reporting 697 fatalities as the country faces a rapid surge of infections. The previous record on Friday was 679.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force on Saturday reported 24,439 new coronavirus cases — the highest daily tally since January and 1,200 more than the day before. Moscow, its outlying region and St. Petersburg accounted for nearly half of Saturday’s new cases.
The Kremlin insisted on Friday that the authorities are not discussing another lockdown. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted that the situation with the coronavirus remains “tense” in a number of regions, but said that “no one wants any lockdowns.”
Russia had only one nationwide lockdown last spring that lasted six weeks, and the government has since resisted shutting down businesses.
Russia’s coronavirus task force has reported nearly 5.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the pandemic and 137,262 deaths.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia will ease a coronavirus lockdown in five states next week in a bid to allow a quicker reopening of its economy.
The country has been under a national lockdown since June 1, the second in over a year that has severely bruised its economy.
The government initially said the lockdown will only be eased if daily infections fall below 4,000 and at least 10 percent of Malaysia’s population has been vaccinated. But Finance Minister Zafrul Aziz said Saturday states can now slowly reopen if they fulfil certain criteria.
He said states will be assessed based on the average number of infections per 100,000 people over seven days, as well as their intensive care capacity and vaccination rate.
Defense Minister Ismail Sabri said restrictions will be eased Monday in five states that have met the target, with more businesses such as barbers, computer outlets and bookshops allowed to reopen.
The decision to forgo a blanket ban and give states more flexibility comes as the lockdown was tightened Saturday for two weeks in the richest state of Selangor and some parts of Kuala Lumpur, where infections remain high. Malaysia recorded 6,658 new infections Saturday to bring its tally to 772,607 cases. A further 107 deaths were reported to raise the toll to 5,434.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka say state-run schools will reopen this month after being closed for nearly three months due to a surge of COVID-19.
As a first step, arrangements are being made to reopen schools which have fewer than 100 students, the education ministry said Saturday.
The ministry has identified nearly 3,000 such schools and they will reopen first, while other schools will follow in stages.
While the schools were closed, online classes were conducted, but criticism is rising over the lack of internet and computer facilities for some children who live in remote parts of the Indian Ocean island.
Sri Lanka came out of a monthlong lockdown a week ago. However, public gatherings are still banned and universities, libraries, places of worship, cinemas, pubs, bars, hotels and gyms remain closed.
Sri Lanka has seen a sharp increase in cases and deaths since April because of the celebrations and shopping during the traditional new year festival.
Since the start of the pandemic, Sri Lanka has recorded 260,972 confirmed cases, with 3,120 deaths.
NEW DELHI — Indian company Bharat Biotech says its late-stage testing of a COVID-19 vaccine has shown an overall efficacy of 77.8% and effectiveness against all variants.
The company in a statement says it is now in discussions with the World Health Organization to obtain emergency use listing for its vaccine, marketed as COVAXIN.
The results set at rest questions raised by health experts over Bharat Biotech’s vaccine when it was given emergency use authorization by the Indian government in January. They felt that the company didn’t have enough clinical trials, making it almost impossible for the firm to have analyzed and submitted data showing that its shots are effective in preventing illness from the coronavirus.
The company says the vaccine has already received emergency use authorizations in 16 countries including India, the Philippines, Iran and Mexico. Millions of Indian also have been inoculated with the same vaccine.
It says the late-stage trial showed the vaccine was 93.4% effective against severe symptomatic COVID-19 and showed effectiveness of 77.8% against symptomatic COVID-19. The data also demonstrated 65.2% protection against the delta variant, first identified in India.
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.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus is offering a holiday stipend from mid-July to mid-August to anyone who’s been vaccinated and will restrict access to soccer stadiums to those who have received their shots or have obtained a negative PCR or rapid antigen test 72 hours prior a match in a bid to encourage young people from getting inoculated against COVID-19.
The Cypriot government announced late Friday a string of incentives designed to spur a sizeable portion of the population that haven’t stepped up to be vaccinated. Officials say some 70% of those under 40 haven’t received their shots.
Other incentives include counting the day that government and private sector workers opt to get vaccinated as a bonus day off and offering an honorary five-day leave to army conscripts who choose to get the jab.
The government also decided to lessen the fun factor for those who aren’t vaccinated by requiring bar and restaurant patrons or anyone attending large gatherings such as weddings to display either a so-called Safepass indicating that they’re fully vaccinated, or to present a negative PCR or rapid antigen test taken 72 hours prior to the event.
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.
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 Fourth of July holiday.
Speaking to reporters 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.”