South Korea reports highest jump in 3 months
SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea has recorded its highest daily jump in new COVID-19 infections in about three months, as officials urge the public to maintain vigilance.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Wednesday it’s confirmed 731 new cases over the past 24 hours. They brought the country’s total to 111,419 with 1,782 deaths.
The spike comes amid criticism of a slow vaccine rollout while people are increasingly venturing outdoors to take advantage of good weather.
Senior health official Yoon Taeho says an increased mobility last weekend was proof that South Korea’s public vigilance has loosened, and that elevating social distancing rules will be discussed in the next few days.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J shots in blow to vaccine drive
— Biden says pause on J&J shots shows gov’t putting safety 1st
— EXPLAINER: What’s known about COVID vaccines and rare clots
— The Dutch government has presented a roadmap for relaxing coronavirus lockdown measures, but caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte is stressing that it’s still too early to ease restrictions.
— France has suspended all flights between Brazil and France amid concerns over coronavirus variants.
— Israel says it will reopen the country to vaccinated foreign tourists in May, more than a year after closing its borders to most international visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has issued an executive order banning the development or use of vaccine passports in Montana.
Vaccine passports are documents that could be used to verify coronavirus immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine.
The move by Gianforte on Tuesday comes as vaccine passports have drawn criticism as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices. Gianforte says in a statement that he encourages all Montana residents to get vaccinated but that it is “entirely voluntary.”
Vaccine passports have been implemented in New York but the White House has said there will not be any federal vaccine passport program.
HOLLAND, Mich. — A western Michigan restaurant owner who spent four nights in jail for violating coronavirus-related orders is firing back weeks later with a demand that $15,000 in fines be refunded and contempt findings dropped.
An attorney for Marlena Pavlos-Hackney said her rights were violated during a contentious court hearing on March 19.
State regulators yanked Pavlos-Hackney’s food license in January for serving indoor diners and breaking other rules related to preventing the spread of COVID-19. But the restaurant, Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland, stayed open in defiance.
Pavlos-Hackney refused to turn herself in to face a contempt hearing. She was arrested and spent four nights in jail until authorities were convinced that her restaurant would stay closed.
Attorney Robert Baker, who wasn’t hired until Pavlos-Hackney was arrested, said a judge questioned her without recognizing that she had a lawyer. He said there was “no testing of any evidence” or an opportunity to cross-examine or produce witnesses.
A message seeking comment was sent to the attorney general’s office.
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government has presented a roadmap for relaxing coronavirus lockdown measures, but caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte is stressing that it is still too early to ease restrictions.
In a nationally televised press conference Tuesday, Rutte said hospitals in the Netherlands are as crowded with COVID-19 patients now as they were during the first wave of the pandemic last year and that it would be irresponsible to relax the country’s months-long lockdown now.
The government had previously said it hoped the first relaxation could have started April 21, but Rutte said that was too soon.
Earlier Tuesday, the Dutch public health institute said the number of new coronavirus infections rose 6% over the past week to 51,240, with the largest increase in positive tests recorded among children aged 13-17 years.
The increase comes despite the months-long tough lockdown in the Netherlands including a nighttime curfew, closed bars and restaurants and shuttered public institutions like museums and zoos.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health insurance customers may receive higher premium rebates than normal later this year partly because insurers had less care to cover after COVID-19 arrived in 2020.
Some individual insurance customers could receive premium credits or rebates of nearly $300 on average, according to an analysis of government data from the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation.
The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to give customers refunds or premium credits if they don’t spend certain percentages of the premiums they collect on care and costs related to it.
Kaiser’s analysis noted that last year hospitals and other care providers canceled surgeries and non-essential care early in the pandemic and then during subsequent COVID-19 spikes.
Kaiser Vice President Cynthia Cox said nearly half of customers in the individual market receive these annual rebates. Some people with employer-sponsored coverage also may get rebates that they share with their company.
Rebate totals will be finalized later this year. They generally are then delivered by the end of September. The totals will vary by market and depend on factors like whether an insurer has already offered premium breaks to counter the drop in care.
WASHINGTON — The nation’s capital city joined a growing list of states in suspending the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that’s become the focus of a federal examination of rare blood clots.
District of Columbia health director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt says she’s not aware of any cases of dangerous blood clots among the 16,000 Washingtonians who had received the J&J one-dose vaccine before the temporary halt recommended by federal health authorities.
“This pause means that the system is working properly,” Nesbitt says.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, echoed Nesbitt, saying Americans who’ve recently received a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine shouldn’t be anxious about the pause. Fauci called it a “testimony to how seriously we take safety.”
J&J said in a statement Tuesday it was aware of the reports of blood clots, but that no link to its vaccine had been established.
A CDC committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases. The FDA has launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts. There have been six reported clots among the 6.8 million shots administered.
U.S. health authorities cautioned doctors against using a typical clot treatment, the blood-thinner heparin. “In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous and alternative treatments need to be given,” the FDA and CDC say.
Washington state, Idaho, California, Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada and Alaska are among the states that have temporarily halted or have recommended pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson shot amid the investigation.
BERLIN — South Africa has suspended giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a “precautionary measure” following the FDA decision in the U.S. to pause the use of the vaccine while rare blood clots are examined.
All six cases were in women between ages 18 to 48, including one who died. The unusual clots occurred six to 13 days after vaccination.
South Africa has given more than 289,000 shots of the J&J vaccine to the country’s health workers without any reports of blood clots, Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize says.
He says South Africa is halting the use of the J&J doses “out of an abundance of caution.” He expects the questions regarding the J&J vaccine should “be cleared within a matter of days.”
Recently, the blood clot reports prompted several European Union countries in the 27-nation bloc to limit the AstraZeneca vaccine to older age groups.
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