The Latest: Michigan governor: State’s surge may be ending

Yehoshua Datsinger

Holocaust survivor Yehoshua Datsinger places tefillin on his arm above the Auschwitz concentration camp identification number tattoo, during morning prayer at a synagogue limited to 20 people during lockdown, in Bnei Brak, Israel, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. Photographer Oded Balilty said he was struck that even though older people were the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, Datsinger still went to synagogue every morning to pray. “He survived this latest war as well,” Balilty said. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says her state could be seeing a drop in infections after leading the nation’s COVID-19 daily case rate for weeks.

Whitmer has extended a pandemic order that limits business capacity and requires masks in public, but the Democrat has avoided further restrictions in place during previous surges, including suspending indoor restaurant dining.

She told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that cases could be beginning to slow down. She didn’t discuss specific data and Michigan doesn’t release coronavirus-related data on Sundays. Health officials said Friday that the seven-day average positivity rate had dropped in recent days to 17.1%, but remained above a December peak of 14.4%.gov

Whitmer has urged a voluntary pause on activities like dining out and pushed for more vaccinations from the White House, which has said it would help with other logistics but continue allocating based on population.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— CDC says half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

— AP PHOTOS: As global toll tops 3 million, 15 photographers each reflect on a single shot of the pandemic

— Iran sees highest daily death toll in months as virus surges

— Fashion industry evolves, as virus forces a rethink

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WASHINGTON — Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to meet this coming Friday to discuss the pause in Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, and the top U.S. infectious disease expert says he’d be “very surprised if we don’t have a resumption in some form by Friday.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that “a decision almost certainly will be made by Friday. I don’t really anticipate that they’re going to want it stretch it out a bit longer.”

Fauci tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that one possibility would be to bring the one-and-done shots back “with some form of restrictions or some form of warning. …I believe by Friday we’re going to know the answer to that.’

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is in limbo in the U.S. after federal health advisers said last week they needed more evidence to decide if a handful of unusual blood clots were linked to the shot — and if so, how big the risk is.

The reports are rare — six cases out of more than 7 million inoculations with the J&J vaccine in the United States. The clots were found in six women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died.

Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “I doubt very seriously if they just cancel it. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

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ISTANBUL – Turkey recorded 318 deaths due to COVID-19 on Sunday, the Health Ministry said, the highest daily count since the start of the pandemic.

The figure for the previous 24 hours took the country’s total death toll to 35,926. There were 55,802 new daily infections, pushing the overall figure to nearly 4.27 million, the ministry added.

Weekly data also released Sunday showed the northwest province of Canakkale had the highest rate of cases in the country, with 962.98 infections per 100,000 people.

Turkey has seen rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths since restrictions were eased at the start of March, when daily cases were below 10,000. The government has blamed the rising numbers on coronavirus mutations.

A partial closure was re-introduced on April 13, with tighter controls such as an extended evening weekday curfew, a return to online education and a ban on unnecessary intercity travel.

Earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had also re-imposed weekend lockdowns and ordered restaurants and cafes shut during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

A vaccination program was launched in mid-January and Erdogan said Saturday that 20 million doses had been administered in the country of nearly 84 million.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says he is happy to be back greeting the faithful in St. Peter’s Square for his traditional Sunday noon blessing after weeks of lockdown measures.

Italy later this month will start gradually lifting some anti-pandemic restrictions, allowing, for example, outdoor dining at cafes and restaurants in areas of the country where the COVID-19 outbreak has been showing signs of improvement.

A couple of hundred people, including nuns and families, standing a safe distance apart in the vast square, turned out to see the pope speak from a window of the Apostolic Palace. “Thank God, we can gather in this square again,” Francis said. “I have to say, I miss the square.”

The past weeks have seen Francis standing at a lectern inside the palace to deliver his Sunday noon remarks via TV, radio and internet.

“Thank God and thank you for your presence,” Francis told those who showed up despite clouds threatening a downpour in Rome.

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JERUSALEM — Israel has lifted a public mask mandate and fully reopened its education system in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions following its mass vaccination drive.

All primary and secondary school grades returned to classrooms on Sunday, and health officials ended a year-long requirement to wear a mask in public spaces. Masks are still required indoors and in large gatherings.

Israel has speedily inoculated a majority of its population against the coronavirus in a world-leading vaccination campaign. It has lifted most of its coronavirus restrictions and announced last week that it would be reopening the country to vaccinated foreign tourists starting in May.

Israel’s coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash, told Israeli public radio on Sunday that removing the mask requirement outdoors and reinitiating in-class studies was a “calculated risk.”

Since the start of the pandemic last year, Israel has recorded over 836,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 6,331 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Over 53% of its 9.3 million citizens has received two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

In the months since Israel launched its vaccination campaign in December, serious cases and deaths have fallen precipitously and allowed the economy to fully reopen.

The vaccination campaign in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza has been slow to get off the ground, with Israel facing criticism for not sharing more of its supplies.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has reported its highest single-day death toll from COVID-19, bringing the country’s total deaths in the pandemic to nearly 162,430.

Federal authorities on Sunday said 149 new deaths were recorded in 24 hours confirmed. They also confirmed over 6,000 new coronavirus cases since the day before, bringing Pakistan’s total confirmed cases to more than 756,285.

Authorities in Pakistan decided Saturday to start vaccinating people aged 50 to 59 next week.

Pakistan has largely relied on donated or imported Chinese vaccines, which had been offered only to health workers and elderly people. But those groups have not responded in overwhelming numbers to the vaccination campaign, prompting officials to offer the vaccines to a younger cohort.

Pakistan, with a population of 220 million, hopes to receive 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses through the U.N.-backed COVAX program by next month.

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HUTCHINSON, Minn. — Prosecutors have charged a Minnesota man with felony assault and allege that he attacked a home improvement store employee and a police officer after the store worker told him to wear a mask.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the incident began Wednesday afternoon when a cashier at a Menards in Hutchinson told 61-year-old Luke Oeltjenbruns that he couldn’t check out unless he put on a mask, according to a criminal complaint. Oeltjenbruns tried to leave with his merchandise, prompting the cashier to grab his cart.

The complaint alleges that Oeltjenbruns hit the cashier with a piece of lumber. Police later found Oeltjenbruns sitting in his pickup truck in another store’s parking lot.

After a slow-speed chase, officers surrounded his truck with their squad cars, but he refused to get out. Officer Steven Sickmann got up on the truck’s running board and reached through the window. The complaint says Oeltjenbruns closed the window on the officer’s arm, trapping him, and drove off, crashing into squad cars.

The complaint says Sickmann tried to use a rescue hammer to break the window, but Oeltjenbruns took it from him and hit him on the head with it.

Oeltjenbruns was eventually arrested. The complaint says the officer’s injuries included a head wound.

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TORONTO — New pandemic restrictions imposed by Canada’s most populous province have immediately ran into opposition. Police departments insisted Saturday they wouldn’t use new powers to randomly stop motorists and health experts complained the rules focus on outdoor activities rather than more dangerous indoor settings.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government announced Friday it was giving police authority to require anyone not at home to explain why they’re out and provide their address. Tickets can be written.

But at least a dozen forces throughout Ontario, including in the capital of Toronto, said there will be no random stops of people or cars.

“We are all going through a horrific year of COVID-19 and all associated with it together. The (department) will NOT be randomly stopping vehicles for no reason during the pandemic or afterwards,” Halton Police Chief Steve Tanner tweeted.

The new rules limit outdoor gatherings to those in the same household and close playgrounds and golf courses. The decisions sparked widespread criticism in a province already on lockdown. Restaurants and gyms are closed as is in-class schooling. Most nonessential workers are working from home.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that will determine who is eligible to receive more than $530 million in federal virus relief funding set aside for tribes more than a year ago.

More than a dozen Native American tribes sued the U.S. Treasury Department to keep the money out of the hands of Alaska Native corporations, which provide services to Alaska Natives but do not have a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The question raised in the case set for oral arguments Monday is whether the corporations are tribes for purposes of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which defines “tribes” under a 1975 law meant to strengthen their abilities to govern themselves.

The case has practical impacts. Native Americans have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the pandemic — despite extreme precautions that included curfews, roadblocks, universal testing and business closures — and historically have had limited financial resources. About $530 million of the $8 billion set aside for tribes hasn’t been distributed.

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HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe has begun releasing about 3,000 prisoners under a presidential amnesty aimed at easing congestion to reduce the threat of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails.

About 400 prisoners were released from Chikurubi prison and other jails in the capital, Harare, on Saturday with more coming from other prisons countrywide.

Zimbabwe’s prisons have a capacity of 17,000 prisoners but held about 22,000 before the amnesty declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Those to be released had been convicted of nonviolent crimes.

The amnesty “will go a long way” to reduce expenditure and the threat of the spread of the virus in prisons, said Alvord Gapare, the commander for prisons in Harare. He said prisons in the capital had recorded 173 confirmed infections and one death.

Zimbabwe has recorded 37,534 cases of COVID-19, including 1,551 deaths by Apr. 17, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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RICHMOND, Va. — The first cases of the so-called Brazil COVID-19 variant have been identified in two samples from residents of Virginia, state health officials said Friday.

In a news release, the Virginia Department of Health said one case involving the P.1 variant was identified in an adult resident of the Northwest Region who had a history of domestic travel during the exposure period. The second case was identified in an adult resident of the Eastern Region with no history of travel, the department said.

According to the department, neither case had a record of COVID-19 vaccination prior to the onset of the illness.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — State health officials say more than 8 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Illinois.

The state’s Department of Public Health said Sunday that the seven-day average of daily shots is just over 125,000. The news comes as the state on Sunday added 2,666 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease and logged 10 additional deaths.

Illinois has reported 21,663 deaths from COVID-19 with more than 1.3 million infections overall. On Friday, Chicago officials announced plans to open a vaccination program at a hospital where vaccine shipments were paused after reports the hospital acted with favoritism in dispensing the treatment.

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