SEATTLE — A rare winter storm that dumped a foot of snow on Seattle couldn’t keep a 90-year-old woman from her first appointment for the coronavirus vaccine.

This undated photo provided by Ruth Goldman shows Fran Goldman. The 90-year old woman walked six miles round trip to get her shot. Ruth Goldman via Associated Press

The Seattle Times reports that Fran Goldman walked six miles to get her shot.

“I have been calling to get an appointment anywhere, every morning, every afternoon and often I’ve been online at night,” Goldman said.

She finally secured a slot for Sunday morning, but Friday and Saturday a strong winter storm moved through the region, turning the city’s normally rainy streets into a winter scene of snowdrifts.

Goldman dressed in fleece pants and a short-sleeved shirt so that the nurse could get to her arm easily. Over that, she layered a fleece zip-up, then a down coat, then a rain jacket.

She then put on snow boots, took out her walking sticks and ventured onto the snowy streets.

“It was not easy going, it was challenging,” she told the newspaper.

But Goldman made it to her appointment, just 5 minutes late.

Her daughter Ruth Goldman, who lives in Buffalo, New York, wasn’t surprised by her mother’s actions.

“We’re outside people,” she said. “We love being outside. I was out yesterday at Lake Ontario with a wind chill of 6 degrees.”

Toilet paper is back on shelves, but here are some items that are scarce

DALLAS — If you’re buying furniture, a mountain bike, fishing gear or a car, expect to be greeted with this message: “Some deliveries may be delayed due to COVID-19.”

Winslow High School student Jameson Carey rides a new mountain bike equipped with giant sized tires as hockey players use new gear Wednesday during physical education class at Winslow High School. Students use new outdoor gear including snow shoes, mountain bikes with tires for snow and hockey gear. The gear was purchased with COVID-19 relief funds. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The year 2020 was marked by shortages of toilet paper, Clorox wipes and mac and cheese at the supermarket. But this year, new shortages are popping up as the pandemic tests the global supply chain in ways Americans haven’t had to worry much about before.

“Your furniture salesperson isn’t a liar,” said John Pinion, president of the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association. “We’re dealing with new challenges every second trying to get product to you.”

Pinion, who lives in Austin, posted a 34-second video on LinkedIn that illustrates one link in the chain that’s making promises hard to keep.

Taken from a beach in Los Angeles, a panoramic view shows one cargo ship after another floating in place, each holding as many as 20,000 20-foot shipping containers of parts, hardware and finished goods. A lot of it has already been purchased by consumers.

“We’re seeing as many as 20 to 40 vessels at the Port of Los Angeles waiting to be unloaded,” said Kimberly Duca, vice president of business development for Noatum Logistics.

COVID-19 outbreaks at ports have caused labor shortages, she said. “It’s tough to find new hires, then they may not be as efficient as the regular staff.”

Social distancing is keeping people in specific work groups so that one group can be quarantined instead of the whole port when there’s an outbreak, but there are still delays, said Duca, who works in the international freight forwarding company’s Houston office.

And the trucks set up to carry goods inland won’t just wait around, so they end up leaving without a load and shifting to other work.

Experts who study the global supply chain said the disruption is so severe that issues will spill into 2022 and maybe even later for some products. Peloton, which operates its customer service operation in Plano, paid $47.4 million to buy one of its major manufacturers in Taiwan in October to try to reverse its supply issues, but it’s still disappointing customers with delivery schedules.

Read the full story here.

Mardi Gras is muted, with closed bars, barricaded Bourbon Street

NEW ORLEANS  — Coronavirus-related limits on access to Bourbon Street, shuttered bars and frigid weather all prevented what New Orleans usually craves at the end of Mardi Gras season — streets and businesses jam-packed with revelers.

Parades and parties on Fat Tuesday and the days leading up to the annual pre-Lenten bash usually draw more than a million people to the streets.

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Thom Karamus shows his paper mache head of the hookah-smoking caterpillar from “Alice in Wonderland,” in January in New Orleans. All around the city, thousands of houses are being decorated as floats because the coronavirus pandemic has canceled parades that usually take place on Mardi Gras.  Janet McConnaughey/Associated Press

But traffic was light on St. Charles Ave., ordinarily blocked off as a parade route. The median that usually is a sea of picnickers and parade watchers was empty but for an occasional bundled-up jogger.

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This combination of photos from Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, left, and Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, shows Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Mardi Gras day. Between cold weather and COVID-19, morning streets were nearly empty rather than jam-packed with picnickers and parade watchers. Gerald Herbert, Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

Downtown Canal Street also was all but empty. The French Quarter’s Bourbon Street, where Mardi Gras crowds are usually the most crowded and rowdy, was blocked off by police barricades at the end of each block.

Bars were closed. Police were told that only people who lived or worked in the area or were staying in hotel could go on Bourbon Street.

Michael Bill was getting a fast-food breakfast from a takeout window just off Canal Street at the edge of the French Quarter. He surveyed the empty street.

“The cold doesn’t bother anyone. It’s the COVID,” Bill said. He said he has been a ghost tour guide for 10 years but was furloughed because of business slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

He didn’t blame New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell for the restrictions that canceled parades and have shuttered many businesses.

“The mayor’s doing the best she can,” Bill said.

Cantrell recently ordered bars closed. Even bars that had been allowed to operate as restaurants with “conditional” food permits were shuttered for five days that began Friday. Take-out drinks in “go-cups” also are forbidden — no more strolling the French Quarter with a drink in hand.

Various estimates showed hotels were likely to be anywhere from one-third to more than half full — far below the 90%-plus bookings of most years. And city and state officials all but warned tourists away.

“If people think they’re going to come to Louisiana, anywhere, or New Orleans and engage in the kind of activities they would have pre-pandemic then they are mistaken and quite frankly they are not welcome here to do that,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a recent news conference.

The scene was a stark contrast to Mardi Gras crowds last year that were later blamed for an early Louisiana outbreak of COVID-19.

Parades also were canceled this year in Mobile, Alabama, which boasts the nation’s oldest Mardi Gras celebrations. There was no plan to close bars there, but some streets were to be shut down Tuesday to control traffic and allow for more outdoor seating and service at restaurants and bars.

FEMA opens mass vaccine sites as bad weather hampers efforts

FEMA opened its first COVID-19 mass vaccination sites Tuesday, setting up in Los Angeles and Oakland as part of an effort by the Biden administration to get shots into arms more quickly and reach minority communities hit hard by the outbreak.

Snowy and icy weather across much of the U.S., meanwhile, forced the cancellation of some vaccination events and threatened to disrupt vaccine deliveries over the next few days. Houston’s public health agency lost power and had to scramble to give out thousands of shots before they spoiled.

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Motorists wait to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a federally-run vaccination site set up on the campus of California State University of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb. 16. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The developments came as the vaccination drive ramps up. The U.S. is administering an average of about 1.67 million doses per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, deaths are down sharply over the past six weeks, and new cases have plummeted.

Nearly 39.7 million Americans, or about 12% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 15 million have gotten both shots, the CDC said.

Deaths are running at about 2,400 per day on average, down by more than 900 from their peak in mid-January. And the average number of new cases per day has dropped to about 85,000, the lowest in 3 1/2 months. That’s down from a peak of almost a quarter-million per day in early January. The overall U.S. death toll is at nearly 490,000.

In the early morning in Los Angeles, several dozen cars were already lined up with people sitting inside reading newspapers and passing the time, a half-hour before the 9 a.m. opening of the country’s first mass vaccination site run with assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Troops in camouflage fatigues stood around the sprawling parking lot at California State University, Los Angeles, where some 40 white tents were erected and dozens of orange cones put in place to guide traffic.

The site, set up in heavily Latino East L.A. as part of an effort to reach communities that have suffered disproportionately from the coronavirus, aims to vaccinate up to 6,000 people a day. Another such site opened at the Oakland Coliseum, near working-class Black and Latino neighborhoods.

Hard-hit California has overtaken New York state for the highest death toll in the nation, at over 47,000.

Read the full story here.

Hospitals still ration medical N95 masks even as stockpiles swell

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of medical-grade N95 face masks are pouring out of American factories and heading into storage, yet doctors and nurses say there still aren’t enough to keep them safe.

An Associated Press investigation found a logistical breakdown at the heart of the perceived mask shortage, rooted in federal failures to coordinate supply chains and provide hospitals with clear rules about how to manage their medical equipment.

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This Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 photo provided by Prestige Ameritech shows boxes of the company’s N95 masks in warehouse storage at North Richland Hills, Texas, outside of Fort Worth. One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S.  finds itself with many millions of N95 masks pouring out of American factories and heading into storage. Yet there still aren’t nearly enough in ICU rooms and hospitals. Chris Tarrant/Prestige Ameritech via AP

Exclusive trade data and interviews with manufacturers, federal regulators, hospital procurement officials and frontline medical workers reveal a communication breakdown — not an actual shortage — that is depriving doctors, nurses and others risking exposure to COVID-19 of first-rate protection.

In Fort Worth, Texas, medical-grade mask manufacturer Prestige Ameritech’s warehouse is piled high with cases of N95s. It can churn out 1 million every four days. But there aren’t orders for nearly that many, so Prestige recently got government approval to export them.

“I’m drowning in these respirators,” owner Mike Bowen said.

Meanwhile, Mary Turner, a COVID-19 intensive care nurse at a hospital outside Minneapolis, strapped on the one disposable N-95 respirator allotted for her entire shift.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Turner threw out her mask after each patient to prevent the spread of disease. Now she wears one mask from each infected person to the next because N95s — which filter out 95% of infectious particles — have supposedly been in short supply since last March.

Turner’s employer, North Memorial Health, said in a statement that supplies have stabilized, but the company is still limiting use because “we must remain mindful of that supply” to ensure everyone’s safety.

Internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press show there were deliberate decisions to withhold vital information about new mask manufacturers and availability.

Before the pandemic, medical providers followed guidelines that called for N95s to be discarded after each use. As the masks ran short, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modified guidelines to allow for extended use and reuse if supplies are “depleted,” a term left undefined.

Hospitals have responded in a variety of ways, the AP has found. Some are back to pre-COVID-19, one-use-per-patient N95 protocols, but most are doling out one mask a day or fewer to each employee. Many hospital procurement officers say they are following guidelines for depleted supplies, even if their own stockpiles are robust.

Read the full story here.

EU says Moderna to fill vaccine gap by March

BRUSSELS — The European Commission says it expects Moderna to make up a shortfall in deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine by next month.

EU Commission spokeswoman Vivian Loonella told reporters that Moderna told E.U. authorities about delays in vaccine deliveries for this month, but that “it’s likely” the U.S. company “will be caught up in March.”

Spanish media reported on Tuesday that Spain will be receiving just under half of the 400,000 Moderna doses it was expecting this week. The Spanish Health Ministry told the AP that a similar reduction has been announced across Europe.

World Health Organization experts recommend that the two doses of the Moderna vaccine be taken 28 days apart, but say that giving the second shot can be extended to 42 days.

Delivery delays have considerably slowed down the rollout of vaccines in the 27-nation bloc and sparked criticism against the EU’s vaccine strategy in several member states.

The EU commission has signed six contracts for more than 2 billion doses of various coronavirus vaccines, but only three of them have been approved for use so far.

Vaccine delays leave grocery workers feeling expendable

As panicked Americans cleared supermarkets of toilet paper and food last spring, grocery employees gained recognition as among the most indispensable of the pandemic’s front-line workers.

A year later, most of those workers are waiting their turn to receive COVID-19 vaccines, with little clarity about when that might happen.

A decentralized vaccine campaign has resulted in a patchwork of policies that differ from state to state, and even county to county in some areas, resulting in an inconsistent rollout to low-paid essential workers who are exposed to hundreds of customers each day.

“Apparently we are not front-line workers when it comes to getting the vaccine. That was kind of a shock,” said Dawn Hand, who works at a Kroger supermarket in Houston, where she said three of her co-workers were out with the virus last week. She watches others getting vaccinated at the in-store pharmacy without knowing when she’ll get her turn.

Texas is among several states that have decided to leave grocery and other essential workers out of the second phase of its vaccination effort, instead prioritizing adults over 65 and people with chronic medical conditions.

Focusing on older adults is an approach many epidemiologists support as the most ethical and efficient because it will help reduce deaths and hospitalizations faster. People over 65 account for 80% of deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.

Joseph Lupo

Lidl employee Joseph Lupo makes his rounds tidying up in the Long Island grocery store where he works in Lake Grove, N.Y. on Feb. 4. AP Photo/Kathy Willens

“Our main goals with vaccines should be reducing deaths and hospitalizations,” said William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. “In order to do that, we need to begin vaccinating those at the highest risks.”

But many grocery workers have been surprised and disheartened to find that they’ve been left out of such policies, in part because a CDC panel had raised their expectations by recommending the second phase of the vaccine rollout — 1B — include grocery and other essential employees.

Even when grocery workers are prioritized, they still face long waits. New York opened up vaccines to grocery workers in early January, along with other essential employees and anyone 65 and over. But limited supply makes booking an appointment difficult, even more so for the workers who don’t have large companies or unions to advocate for them.

Read the full story here.

Belgian officials advise people not to buy vaccine on their own

BRUSSELS — Belgium’s health authorities are urging residents to refrain from buying COVID-19 vaccines online, in shops or directly in the streets from unknown sellers.

Sabine Stordeur, who co-chairs Belgium’s vaccination task force, told a news conference on Tuesday that those doses are very often fake vaccines primarily originating in Russia.

She said their efficacy and security have not been approved and that the only safe and effective vaccines are administered in vaccination centers, hospitals and nursing homes.

Belgium is using the three coronavirus vaccines approved so far in the European Union that include Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. More than 370,000 people have received a COVID-19 shot in the country with 11.5 million inhabitants.

Slovakia leads world in COVID-19 deaths per capita

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia now leads the world in COVID-19 deaths by size of population following a surge of a highly contagious coronavirus variant.

Despite a tough lockdown, the seven-day rolling average of daily COVID-19 fatalities in Slovakia has risen from 1.68 deaths per 100,000 people on Feb. 1 to 1.78 deaths per 100,000 people on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Portugal, which topped the global table for more than three weeks, dropped to second with 1.48 deaths per 100,000.

The Health Ministry says another 111 people died of COVID-19 on Monday for a total of 6,063 in the nation of 5.4 million.

Slovakian government authorities have said that the fast-spreading coronavirus variant of first identified in Britain has become the dominant in the country.

UK virus variant represents more than half of Denmark’s cases

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says the coronavirus variant first reported in Britain represents nearly half of analyzed cases in the country during the second week of February.

Heunicke posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday that he understands the growing need to re-open the country, but “we need to follow the plan of gradual steps so that we maintain epidemic control.”

Earlier this month, Danish schools resumed in-class teaching of kids from pre-school to the fourth grade amid a steady decrease of COVID-19 infections.

Denmark in December extended restrictions that shuttered all shops except food stores and pharmacies and put a ban on public gatherings of more than five people.

Hungary receives vaccine from China, 1st in EU

BUDAPEST— A shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine produced in China arrived in Hungary Tuesday morning, making the country the first in the European Union to receive a Chinese vaccine.

A jet carrying 550,000 doses of the vaccine, developed by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm, landed in Budapest after flying from Beijing. The shipment is enough to treat 275,000 people with the two-dose vaccine, head of the Epidemiology Department of the National Public Health Center, Dr. Agnes Galgoczy, said at a press conference.

Hungary expects to receive 5 million total doses of the Sinopharm vaccine over the next four months. The country has sought to purchase vaccines from countries outside the EU’s common procurement program, claiming that delays in the bloc’s rollout is costing lives.

The Sinopharm vaccine, which the developer says is nearly 80% effective, is already in use in Hungary’s non-EU neighbor Serbia, where around half a million ethnic Hungarians have already received the jab.

Hungary has also agreed to purchase 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which hospitals began administering in Budapest last week.

Long lines of young people line up for food aid in Paris

PARIS — The long lines of young people waiting for food aid that stretch through Paris neighborhoods several times a week are a dramatic symbol of the toll the coronavirus has taken on France’s youth.

On a recent evening, Leïla Ideddaim waited to receive a bag of food, along with hundreds of other French young people who are unable to make ends meet. She saw the chitchat that accompanied the handout as a welcome byproduct, given her intense isolation during the pandemic.

The 21-year-old student in hotel and restaurant management has seen her plans turned upside down by the virus crisis. With restaurants and tourist sites shuttered and France under a 6 p.m. curfew, her career prospects are uncertain. Odd jobs that were supposed to keep her going during her studies hard to come by.

The pandemic has devastated economies the world over. In France, the economic fallout has weighed particularly heavily on young people — and their woes have only been compounded by disruptions to their studies and social interactions.

Nearly a quarter of French young people can’t find work — two-and-a-half times the national unemployment rate and one of the highest in the European Union’s 27 nations. Many university students now rely on food aid and several organizations have rallied to meet the need.

Australia approves AstraZeneca vaccine 

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s regulator on Tuesday approved the AstraZeneca vaccine as its second for use against COVID-19.

Pfizer’s product will be available in Australia next week. It will be given in two doses three weeks apart, while AstraZeneca’s will be administered in two doses 12 weeks apart.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the regulator, found the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and effective.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent serious COVID-19 illness.

Morrison will be vaccinated with the Pfizer product and Hunt with AstraZeneca in a demonstration of confidence in both vaccines.

Australia has contracted 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 50 million of those will be manufactured in Australia.

The government has also secured 20 million Pfizer vaccines for a population of 26 million.

New Zealand reports no new virus cases in middle of 3-day lockdown

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand reported no new virus cases in the community for a second day, raising hopes a lockdown in Auckland will be lifted Wednesday.

The three-day lockdown of New Zealand’s largest city was the nation’s first in six months.

Lawmakers say their final decision on whether to lift the lockdown will depend on any new information or cases that crop up over the next day.

The lockdown was prompted by the diagnoses of three family members, but how they got it remains a mystery.

The mother in the family works at a catering company that does laundry for airlines, and a possible link to infected passengers is being investigated. So far, other people at her workplace have tested negative, officials said.

Health officials have ramped up testing, administering more than 15,000 tests on Monday and processing the results of nearly 6,000.

Mexico begins vaccinating seniors

MEXICO CITY — Mexico began vaccinating senior citizens in more than 300 municipalities across the country Monday after receiving some 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Most of the effort was concentrated in remote rural communities, but in a few far-flung corners of the sprawling capital, hundreds of Mexicans over the age of 60 lined up before dawn for the chance to get vaccinated.

The government has designated 1,000 vaccination sites, including schools and health centers, mostly in the country’s poorest communities.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador conceded Monday that bad weather and snow had kept the vaccine from arriving to some isolated areas in Mexico’s northwest. He said the armed forces, which are in charge of logistics for the vaccination campaign, were working to access those areas.

Mexico started vaccinating health workers in mid-December with 726,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.


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