Los Angeles to temporarily close vaccine sites due to shortage; WHO recommends use of AstraZeneca vaccine. Latest COVID-19 updates

Los Angeles will temporarily close a majority of its vaccine sites on Friday and Saturday, including the megasite at Dodger Stadium, due to a shortage of shots.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the move in a video conference Wednesday, saying the city, among the hardest hit by the pandemic, only received 16,000 doses this week from the federal government.

“That is down 90,000 from the week before,” he said. “That is unacceptable.” The city expects to use all available Moderna vaccines for first-dose appointments this week by Thursday.

The Biden administration has vowed drug companies would make enough vaccine to immunize 300 million Americans by the end of the summer. They’ve started to boost shot production and immunization, but the process has been far from smooth.

The White House did announce three new mass vaccination sites at sports stadiums in Texas that could deliver a total of 10,000 shots per day. The sites in Dallas, Arlington and Houston will be operated by local health officials supported by federal troops starting Feb. 22. The action comes days after the National Football League said it was working with public health officials to allow use of its stadiums for mass vaccinations, and Biden’s activation of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program as part of the coronavirus vaccine effort, enabling distribution to retail locations throughout the country.

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In the headlines:

►New York has been the U.S. leader in COVID-19 deaths since March 19 of last year, but California may soon take the top spot. California is reporting about 300 deaths per day more than New York. The current totals: New York reports 45,312 deaths, and California reports 45,167, according to a USA TODAY analysis.

►Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute, Tulane University, LSU Health Shreveport and several other institutions said in a pre-publication report that 2020 Mardi Gras was responsible for tens of thousands of coronavirus cases after a single person likely brought it to New Orleans.

►The World Health Organization is recommending that the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford should still be used in countries where new variants of the coronavirus are circulating, even as South Africa halts use of the vaccine due to ineffectiveness.

►Two cases of a COVID-19 variant first found in South Africa have been identified in the Bay Area, the first cases of the variant in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

►Mexican regulatory authorities Wednesday night granted approval for the use of two Chinese coronavirus vaccines — Coronavac made by Sinovac and another made by CanSino.

►About 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll that some experts say is discouraging news if the U.S. hopes to achieve herd immunity and vanquish the outbreak. The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that while 67% of Americans plan to get vaccinated or have already done so, 15% are certain they won’t and 17% say probably not. Many expressed doubts about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 27.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 471,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 107.3 million cases and 2.35 million deaths. More than 65.9 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 44.7 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: How much rent relief will you get amid the COVID-19 pandemic? You’re more likely to get help if you’re white and live in rural America. Read the full story.

Sidney Johnson receives the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Crystal Durocher, a registered nurse, on Wednesday  at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, Vt.

Ohio to add up to 4K previously unreported COVID-19 deaths

Ohio will add as many as 4,000 previously unreported COVID-19 deaths to the state’s tally during the next week after the Ohio Department of Health discovered errors in how coronavirus deaths are confirmed. Most of these deaths occurred in November and December, the agency said in a news release.

State officials were still determining the cause of the problem but released some information Wednesday evening to be transparent, Gov. Mike DeWine’s spokesman Dan Tierney said.

“When there’s been issues, whether it’s spoilage with the vaccine or reporting issues like this, we’ve disclosed it to the public,” Tierney said.

CDC recommends double or tight-fighting masks

Wearing a tight-fitting mask or a double mask can dramatically decrease exposure to and spread of COVID-19, a crucial defense against emerging new variations of the virus, the CDC reported Wednesday.

In lab tests with dummies, exposure to potentially infectious aerosols decreased by more than 90% when tight or double masks were used, the CDC said.

“Cases hospitalizations and deaths are still very high,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a White House coronavirus briefing. “Now is not the time to roll back mask requirements.”

US colleges struggle to contain COVID-19 spread

The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced this week that the campus is now considered “high risk” and all students, whether in campus residences halls or in off-campus housing in the surrounding area, are directed to self-sequester. Students must stay in their residences except to get meals, undergo twice-weekly COVID testing, or to attend medical appointments.

At the University of California Berkeley, a self-sequester mandate was extended through least Feb. 15. The rate of new cases is declining, but a “significant” number of students remain in quarantine, the school said on its website. It is too early to be sure this current surge is contained, the school said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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