Some school leaders not assuming fall reopening

Parents of schoolchildren learning from home shouldn’t necessarily count on reclaiming the dining room table any time soon.

After seeing two academic years thrown off course by the pandemic, school leaders around the country are planning for the possibility of more distance learning next fall at the start of yet another school year.

“We have no illusions that COVID will be eradicated by the time the start of the school year comes up,” said William “Chip” Sudderth III, a spokesperson for Durham, North Carolina schools, whose students have been out of school buildings since March.

President Joe Biden has made reopening schools a top priority, but administrators say there is much to consider as new strains of the coronavirus appear and teachers wait their turn for vaccinations.

And while many parents are demanding that schools fully reopen, others say they won’t feel safe sending children back to classrooms until vaccines are available to even young students.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will virtually tour the mass COVID-19 vaccination site set up at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

— Virus variants are prompting new travel restrictions, dashing hopes of an industry recovery

__Poultry workers in Delaware are now prioritized as essential employees under the state’s Phase 1B of vaccine distribution

—The prosecutor investigating last year’s massive explosion at the port of Beirut has summoned several people for questioning as Lebanon began easing a strict 25-day nationwide lockdown

— South Africa seeks a new virus vaccination plan after deciding not to use AstraZeneca jab, fearing it’s not effective enough against the country’s dominant variant

— Tom Brady and Tampa Bay win Super Bowl, capping NFL season that had no cancellations despite pandemic

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador returned to his daily morning news conferences following a two-week absence after catching the coronavirus, but vowed not to wear a mask or require them.

López Obrador revealed Monday that he received experimental treatments, which he described as an “antiviral” medication and an anti-inflammatory drug. The president revealed he twice tested negative in rapid tests widely used in Mexico, before a more thorough test — apparently PCR — came back positive.

López Obrador has held the news conferences almost every working day for more than two years, and this was the longest he has been absent from them.

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ISLAMABAD — A top Pakistani health official on Monday announced the results of clinical trials of Chinese COVID-19 vaccine CanSino Biologics, saying tests done on 30,000 Pakistanis showed the vaccine had nearly 75 percent efficacy in preventing symptomatic cases of coronavirus.

Faisal Sultan said analysis of the data of clinical trials done in Pakistan in recent months also indicate the Chinese vaccine had 100 percent efficacy in preventing severe disease.

The announcement comes hours after Pakistan’s military said the People’s Liberation Army in neighboring China had given a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine to Pakistan’s armed forces. However, the army will contribute all of the donated vaccine to health workers.

About a week ago, Beijing donated 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine to Pakistani authorities, who are using it to vaccinate front-line health workers.

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SAO PAULO — A minority of Brazilians will be able to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine if an association of private clinics can close a deal to bring 5 million shots to Latin America’s most unequal country.

President Jair Bolsonaro, under fire for his government’s handling of the pandemic, has promised not to interfere.

Amid the government’s stumbling vaccine rollout, many moneyed Brazilians want to find a swift path to vaccination, sparking backlash from some public health experts and igniting debate on social media, editorial pages and talk shows.

There has been concern globally that the privileged could game the system to get themselves vaccinated before others. Brazil has had its reports of line-jumpers, too, but the nation stands apart because maneuvering isn’t only done in the shadows.

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LISBON, Portugal — Hopes are rising in Portugal that the worst of a devastating pandemic surge might be over, as the number of COVID-19 deaths reported Monday was the lowest in three weeks.

The country’s pandemic picture is mixed, however, as hospital admissions rose for the first time in a week. Still, the spread of COVID-19 has by some metrics been slowing since the end of January.

Portugal became the world’s worst-hit country last month, with a deluge of new daily deaths and cases engulfing the public health system. Data collated by Johns Hopkins University on Monday showed Portugal still recording the most daily deaths per 100,000 population and having the world’s fourth-highest rate of new cases.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s left-wing opposition leader has accused the country’s prime minister of showing contempt for lockdown rules after attending a large outdoor lunch gathering.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on a weekend visit to the Greek island of Ikaria attended an outdoor lunch hosted by a local lawmaker. A video of the event posted on social media showed at least 25 people in attendance, while traditional island music, with drums and bagpipes, could be heard in the background.

The government toughened lockdown measures at the weekend, expanding curfew hours to start at 6 p.m. in greater Athens and Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, in response to a surge in COVID-19 infections that started in late January.

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TAMPA, Fla. — So much for the mayor’s order requiring masks at Super Bowl parties. Throngs of mostly maskless fans took to the streets and packed sports bars as the clock inside Raymond James Stadium ticked down on a hometown Super Bowl win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

To meet coronavirus protocols, the NFL capped the crowd at under 25,000 in a stadium that normally holds some 66,000 fans.

But outside the stadium, crowds of fans who weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing could be seen celebrating the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.

In hopes of curbing so-called super-spreader events, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor had signed an executive order requiring people wear face coverings during the Super Bowl festivities, even while they’re outdoors.

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonian authorities say they have signed a deal to procure 200,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, with which they hope to launch the country’s vaccination program later this month.

The Health Ministry said Monday that it could provide no other details of the deal because of a confidentiality clause.

As North Macedonia has yet not started vaccinations, many citizens with dual Serbian citizenship have applied to have the jab in neighboring Serbia where inoculation started last month.

Health authorities say a first shipment of over 103,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines under the U.N.-backed COVAX program will arrive no earlier than March.

The small Balkan country of about 2.1 million has reported about 95,000 confirmed infections and over 2,900 deaths.

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BERLIN — The Austrian federal government is warning against travel to the country’s Tyrol province amid concern over cases there of the more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa.

The move by the government in Vienna came after Tyrol earlier Monday drew up a list of measures that included calls for people to avoid nonessential travel and a proposal to require negative antigen tests before people can use ski lifts.

Some 165 infections with the South African variant have already been confirmed in Tyrol and politicians have been discussing for several days whether extra restrictions are required in the region. Tyrol, which borders Germany, Italy and Switzerland, is usually a popular skiing destination — though hotels and restaurants are closed at present, meaning that’s not practical for anyone except locals.

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BERLIN — The German government is giving its official blessing to allowing some people to jump the vaccination queue if it’s a choice between that and letting vaccines go to waste.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said new vaccination regulations that took effect Monday specifically envision limited departures from the set order of vaccinations if, for example, doses left over in the evening would go to waste.

He suggested that local authorities draw up systems allowing individuals such as health and emergency service officials, and perhaps firefighters and police, to be prioritized for such jabs.

Spahn added that he can “only recommend those who have political responsibility to set a good example” and wait their turn, given that politicians are expecting people to be patient amid a slow start to vaccinations.

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NEW YORK — New York City’s public middle school buildings will open this month after being closed since COVID-19 cases began to surge in November.

City officials said Monday that the 62,000 students in grades 6 through 8 whose families have chosen in-person learning will be back in their classrooms on Feb. 25.

Families in New York City’s massive public school system were given the choice of all-remote learning or a hybrid system with students in their classrooms part time when when the school year started in September, but rising coronavirus cases prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to close all school buildings on Nov. 19.

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation health officials have reported 23 new COVID-19 cases and one death.

The latest numbers released Sunday raised the totals to 28,897 cases and 1,057 known deaths since the pandemic began.

U.S. President Joe Biden recently signed a long-awaited major disaster declaration for the Navajo Nation.

It will provide more federal resources and prompts the release of federal funds for the reimbursement of emergency funds expended to address the COVID-19 pandemic on the Navajo Nation which covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Greece’s prime minister says Cyprus backs his government’s proposal for the European Union to adopt a vaccination certificate procedure by summer so that prospective vacationers inoculated against the coronavirus can freely travel to the tourism-dependent countries.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after talks with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on Monday that he’s asking the EU to “standardize and simplify” the procedure so that vacationers can present the certificate as proof of their COVID-19 vaccination to ease their travel and re-introduce a “normality” to the tourism industries of Greece and Cyprus.

Visitor arrivals to Greece in between Jan-Nov 2020 dropped by 76.3% over the previous year. In Cyprus, where tourism revenue directly accounts for 13% of the country’s economy, holidaymaker arrivals last year slumped by 84% relative to 2019.

Last month, the International Air Transport Association which represents the world’s airlines threw its support behind the Greek proposal. In a letter to top EU officials, the Association said a vaccination certificate would boost confidence among governments to open their borders and encourage passengers to travel without the quarantine hurdle.

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TIRANA, Albania – The Albanian government warned of imposing harsher lockdown measures on Monday following a recent significant rise of the newly virus infected cases.

Prime Minister Edi Rama blamed businesses and new virus mutations for the recent increase.

During the last week Albania, with a 2.8 million population, noted more than 1,000 new cases a day and deaths higher than a dozen a day.

Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu reported the two-week trend to 459 per 100,000 people, adding however that it has not threatened virus-related hospital beds coverage.

One-fifth of the beds in the four virus-related hospital remain free and two-thirds of the ICUs too.

The Health Ministry reported 1,460 deaths, 85,336 positive cases from the start and 32,432 remaining active cases as of Sunday.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Sri Lanka health ministry said Monday it would receive the first part of the COVID-19 vaccines provided under the U.N.-backed COVAX program this month.

Dr. Hemantha Herath said under COVAX, Sri Lanka is expected to get 8 million doses, enough to cover 4 million people, 20% of the Indian ocean island nation’s population. He did not name which vaccine Sri Lanka was getting.

Led by the World Health Organization, a coalition for epidemic preparedness known as CEPI and a vaccine alliance called GAVI, COVAX was created to distribute COVID-19 vaccines fairly. Countries can join either to buy vaccines or to get donated shots.