The Latest: Biden elevates science adviser to Cabinet level


A Kashmiri doctor receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a government Hospital in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden introduced his team of scientific advisers on Saturday, saying they will lead with “science and truth. We believe in both.”

Biden is elevating the position of science adviser to Cabinet level, a White House first. He called Eric Lander, a pioneer in mapping the human genome is in line to be director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, “one of the most brilliant guys I know.”

Lander is the founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and was the lead author of the first paper announcing the details of the human genome.

Lander says Biden has tasked his advisers and “the whole scientific community and the American public” to “rise to this moment.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris recalled her late mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher, who she credited with teaching her to think critically.

“The science behind climate change is not a hoax. The science behind the virus is not partisan,” Harris said. “The same laws apply, the same evidence holds true regardless of whether or not you accept them.”

As the rollout of coronavirus vaccines begins, the U.S. leads the world with 23.6 million cases and more than 393,000 confirmed deaths.



President-elect Joe Biden says hisadvisers will lead with ‘science and truth’ on the coronavirus pandemic. California opens mass vaccine sites but concerned about supply of doses. India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive. A study indicates in pandemic era, older adults isolated but resilient. China builds hospital in 5 days after surge in virus cases.


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HONOLULU — Health officials in Hawaii have partnered with local pharmacies to offer drive-thru and in-home coronavirus vaccinations for residents.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the Department of Health started scheduling licensed care homes in Oahu for vaccinations this week. Neighboring islands have already started drive-thru clinics, county hubs and other mobile services.

The health department is working with employers to identify front-line workers for the vaccination. The department is planning to launch an online portal where workers can register for the vaccine. Officials say more than 56,000 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Health officials reported 150 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and no new deaths on Friday. The state has more than 24,000 confirmed cases and more than 300 deaths since the start of the pandemic.


PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota is looking to build its coronavirus rollout by making shots available to a larger group of people.

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says the state will begin vaccinating people 80 and over and those with high-risk medical conditions. Some rural health care providers worry their patients will be missed by large hospital systems.

South Dakota has vaccinated 6.5% of the population, one of the highest rates in the country. Last fall, the state had one of the highest positivity rates in the nation.

The Department of Health reported 341 positive tests, raising the confirmed total to 105,278.


OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City school district is set to resume some in-person classes for the district’s youngest students and those in alternative education.

The district’s pre-kindergarten through 4th grade students and those in alternative education will begin returning Tuesday for alternating in-person and in-person classes. Students in grades 5-12 are scheduled to return on Feb. 1.

Oklahoma ranked fourth in the nation Saturday in the rate of new cases per capita with 1,448 per 100,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in the state has increased from 2,626 per day on Jan. 1 to 3,922 on Friday. The rolling average of deaths rose from 23 deaths per day to 31 according to the data.

The state health department on Saturday reported 3,621 coronavirus cases and 27 deaths for confirmed totals of 351,665 cases and 2,952 deaths.


DALLAS —A third person with a case of the coronavirus variant has been reported in Texas.

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported Saturday that a Dallas man in his 20s with no history of travel outside the United States has tested positive for the variant that originated in the United Kingdom.

Texas is among a handful of states with at least one known case of the new variant that appears to spread more easily. But state health officials say there is no evidence it causes more severe disease, and say current vaccines are expected to still be effective.

Texas reported a Houston-area man as its first case of a person infected with the new variant on Jan. 7.

The state health department on Friday reported confirmed totals of more than 2 million cases and more than 31,00 deaths in Texas.


RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil hasn’t approved a vaccine yet, and independent health experts who participated in its immunization program say the plan is still incomplete.

Members of the expert committee and former health officials interviewed by The Associated Press condemned the government’s unjustifiable delay in formulating a vaccination effort, in seeking syringe suppliers and months spent rejecting all but one possible vaccine manufacturer.

They also say President Jair Bolsonaro undermined the ministry’s effectiveness, pointing to the removal of highly trained professionals from leadership positions, replaced by military appointees with little or no public health care experience.

Bolsonaro, who said he had the coronavirus last year, has downplayed the need for face masks or restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.

Brazil is second in the world with more than 208,000 confirmed deaths, behind the U.S. with 392,000 deaths. It ranks third globally with 8.9 million confirmed cases in a nation of 211 million people.


NEW DEHLI — India has started inoculating health workers in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs.

India on Jan. 4 approved emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week

But there is no playbook for the enormity of the challenge. Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the U.S.

The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers to be followed by 270 million others over age 50 or with illnesses.

India has registered 10.5 million cases, second highest in the world behind the U.S. at 23.5 million. It’s 152,000 deaths ranks third behind the U.S. (392,000) and Brazil (208,000).


PHOENIX — Arizona reported more than 200 deaths from the coronavirus on Saturday as the state retained its worst-in-the-nation infection rate.

Arizona’s coronavirus case rate was 1 in every 116 residents from Jan. 8 to Friday.

The Department of Health Services reported 8,715 cases and 208 deaths, increasing the pandemic totals to 666,901 confirmed cases and 11,248 confirmed deaths.

There were 4,849 hospitalized COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient beds on Friday, down from Monday’s record 5,082.


BERLIN — Germany has carried out more than a million vaccinations as new infections and deaths remain high and officials mull whether to increase lockdown measures.

Figures released by the national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, on Saturday showed nearly 1.05 million vaccinations have been recorded — 79,759 more than a day earlier — in the nation of 83 million people.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors will consult Tuesday on how to proceed with lockdown measures, which are currently due to expire on Jan. 31.

On Saturday, Germany recorded 18,678 confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours and another 980 deaths. It says there have been 139 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days — far above the maximum of 50 authorities want to reach.


LOS ANGELES — California officials are touting a new mass vaccination site at Dodger Stadium while acknowledging it’s unclear how much more supply is coming from the federal government.

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’s trying to find out how much will be delivered. Governors says the Trump administration promised it would send hundreds of thousands of doses from its stockpile, but now says it can’t deliver that amount.

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles is expected to handle 12,000 vaccinations a day. San Francisco officials say the city can handle 10,000 people a day at mass vaccination sites. However, they say they can’t put plans in motion because it’s unclear how many doses will be available.

California has received more than 3.5 million doses of the vaccine and administered over 1 million doses in a state with nearly 40 million people.

Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, says without a steady and predictable supply, long-range planning for vaccine distribution is challenging.

Los Angeles county — the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents — is struggling to vaccinate its 800,000 health workers. Simon says the county doesn’t anticipate providing large-scale inoculations of its 1.3 million people 65 and older until February.

California has the second-highest number of deaths in the nation at more than 33,000, behind New York at 40,000.


BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s health minister says the government is standing by its pledge to vaccinate a large part of its population by the summer despite the delay in the distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Spain reported 49,197 new cases on Friday, its highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.

Minister Salvador Illa says although Spain will only receive 56% of the expected doses next week from Pfizer, Spain’s vaccination program has reached “cruising speed.”

U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced Friday it will temporarily reduce vaccine deliveries for three to four weeks to European countries while it upgrades production capacity.

Illa says despite this hiccup “there is no change to our supply calendar. Between now and the summer we will ensure that 70% of Spaniards receive the vaccine.”

Spain has administered 768.000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It is also rolling out the Moderna vaccine, with fewer than 500 doses administered so far.


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has logged a record daily high number of coronavirus cases for the fourth day in row as the Health Ministry reported 14,224 new infections over the 24 hours to Saturday.

The country’s daily virus count first topped 11,000 cases on Wednesday, then climbed to 11,557 on Thursday and 12,818 cases on Friday.

Indonesia’s official COVID-19 tally nationwide reached 896,642 on Saturday, making it the largest number in Southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s 10.5 million cases. The figure includes 25,767 deaths.

Jakarta remains the worst-hit province in the country with nearly 224,000 cases and 3,705 deaths, followed by neighboring West Java province with more than 111,000 cases and 1,336 deaths.

The government has began efforts to vaccinate millions of people across the vast archipelago nation. Health workers and other at-risk groups will get priority under an ambitious plan to inoculate nearly 182 million people over the next 15 months.

Indonesia has already signed deals for nearly 330 million vaccine doses from a string of pharmaceutical companies including UK-based AstraZeneca, American company Pfizer and Chinese suppliers including Sinopharm and Sinovac.


UNITED NATIONS — A new U.N. report estimates the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of international migrants by 2 million by the middle of 2020 because of border closings and a halt to travel worldwide — an estimated 27% decrease in expected growth.

Clare Menozzi, principal author of the report by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, says for the second half of 2020 “we have a sense that it will be probably comparable, if not more so.”

She says international migration had been projected to grow by 7 to 8 million between mid-2019 and mid-2020. Border closures and travel clampdown starting in March, as the pandemic circled the globe, meant zero growth for four months, Menozzi says.

By August 2020, Population Division Director John Wilmoth noted, “there had been more than 80,000 travel restrictions imposed by 219 countries or territories across the world.”

Wilmoth says according to estimates, “the number of international migrants worldwide reached 281 million persons in 2020, up from 173 million in 2000,” They account for 3.6% of the total global population, he says.


MEXICO CITY — Mexico posted a record spike in coronavirus cases on Friday, with 21,366 newly confirmed infections, about double the daily rate of increase just a week ago. The country also recorded 1,106 more deaths.

It was unclear if the spike was due to the presence of the U.K. virus variant, of which only one case has so far been confirmed in a visiting British citizen.

The country has nearly 1.61 million confirmed total infections and registered more than 139,000 confirmed deaths.

The country’s low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000.


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