The Latest: Cases surge in Thailand, Sydney’s beach suburbs

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BANGKOK – Thailand on Sunday reported two new local infections, a day after identifying more than 500 cases south of Bangkok in a country that had largely brought the pandemic under control.

The 548 cases on Saturday, most of them linked to the country’s biggest wholesale seafood market, come after Thailand saw only a small number of infections over the past several months due to strict border and quarantine controls.

On Sunday, a 78-year-old seafood vendor in Bangkok who had visited the shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province tested positive. The other case was a woman in central Thailand who worked at a beauty parlor in the north.

Health officials say most of the cases at the seafood market are migrant workers from Myanmar. The governor imposed a night curfew and other travel restrictions in Samut Sakhon province until Jan. 3.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

– General sorry f or ‘miscommunication’ over vaccine shipments

– UK nixes Christmas gatherings, shuts London shops over virus

– Another US coronavirus record; vaccine shipments reduced

– As companies around the globe race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and nations scramble to secure millions of doses, questions about the use of pork-derived ingredients has begun to play a role in the purchasing and planned distribution.

– California hospitals are battling to find beds to house patients amid fears that the exploding coronavirus infection rate will exhaust resources and health care workers.

– Israel’s prime minister has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, making him the first Israeli and among the world’s first leaders to be inoculated.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for the fifth consecutive day, putting pressure on authorities to enforce the toughest distancing rules that would further hurt the economy.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says it’s found 1,097 additional cases over the past 24-hour period, the highest daily tally since the pandemic began. That puts the national caseload at 49,665, including 674 deaths.

About 70% of the new cases come from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a viral resurgence.

The pace of the spread has already met government conditions for raising social distancing rules to their highest level. But officials have been reluctant to move forward with the measure out of worries for the economy. The new step would ban a gathering of more than 10 people and shut hundreds of thousands of non-essential businesses.

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SYDNEY – The outbreak in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs has grown to 70 cases with an additional 30 in the last 24 hours, and authorities say they may never be able to trace the source.

While the numbers are rising, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sunday there hasn’t been evidence of massive seeding outside the northern beaches community. A new list of cases, however, shows the virus had spread to greater Sydney and other parts of the state.

The government has imposed a lockdown in the area until Wednesday. Residents will only be permitted to leave their homes for five basic reasons, including medical care, exercise, grocery shop, work or for compassionate care reasons.

State Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said that contact tracers are yet to locate patient zero, but an extensive investigation is underway.

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HOUSTON – Texas on Saturday surpassed 25,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, the second-highest total in the country.

State health officials reported 272 new deaths due to COVID-19, bringing Texas’ death toll to 25,226.

Cases of COVID-19 and virus-related hospitalizations continue to rise in the state. On Saturday, the state reported 9,796 people hospitalized with the virus, an increase of nearly 23% over the last month.

Officials reported 12,914 new cases on Saturday. That comes two days after the state set its one-day record of new cases – 16,864 – on Thursday.

The increase in cases and hospitalizations comes as state health officials announced Friday that Texas will receive 620,000 more doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the next week. More than 224,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have already been delivered in Texas.

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SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico on Saturday reported 1,442 additional known COVID-19 cases and 27 additional deaths.

The statewide totals increased to 128,930 cases and 2,155 as seven-day rolling averages for daily new cases dropped and daily deaths rose over the last two weeks.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project, the rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 1,869 on Dec. 4 to 1,542.1 on Friday while the rolling average of deaths rose from 28.9 to 34.1.

A pandemic-high 48 daily deaths were reported Thursday as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said daily deaths could grow even higher over the year-end holidays.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The 2021 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will be about 140 miles shorter than normal as a result of complications stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Race officials announced Friday that teams will no longer embark on a 1,000-mile journey to Nome but instead will take a roughly 860-mile loop that starts and ends in Willow.

Every musher must also test negative for the coronavirus before the race begins. They will also be tested again during the race.

Facial coverings and social distancing will be mandated at checkpoints.

The race is scheduled to begin on March 6.

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ATLANTA – U.S. health officials closely tracking possible side effects of the first authorized COVID-19 vaccine say they have seen six cases of severe allergic reaction out of more than a quarter million shots given.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 272,000 shots of the Pfizer vaccine were given nationwide as of Saturday morning. The half-dozen cases of allergic reaction were reported as of Friday night, and included one person with a history of vaccination reactions.

Health officials are keeping close watch for such side effects.

U.S. vaccine recipients are supposed to hang around after their injections in case signs of an allergy appear. The CDC says all cases occurred within the recommended observation window and were promptly treated.

The numbers were discussed at a meeting of a committee that advises the CDC on vaccines. The group on Saturday endorsed Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which was granted emergency authorization on Friday.

Less severe side effects have also been rare. Among the first 215,000 people to get vaccinated in the U.S., fewer than 1.5% of them had problems that left them unable to perform their normal activities or required medical care.

Many vaccines can cause temporary discomfort, such as a sore arm or certain flu-like symptoms. COVID-19 vaccines tend to cause more of those reactions than a flu shot, and some hospitals are staggering the times their employees get vaccinated to avoid staffing problems.

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MONROE, La. — Louisiana’s newest member of Congress was admitted to a hospital for monitoring on Saturday, one day after announcing that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Republican Rep.-elect Luke Letlow was admitted as a precaution, spokesman Andrew Bautsch told The News-Star. Bautsch also is fighting the disease, the newspaper said.

Letlow, who is from the northeast Louisiana town of Start, was elected earlier this month to the 5th District seat representing northeast and central Louisiana. He is scheduled to be sworn in next month.

He had announced Friday that he had been infected by the coronavirus and was quarantining at home.

Letlow was the third high-profile Louisiana politician in two days to say he had been infected. Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is leaving to become a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s White House staff, and Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser both said Thursday that they had tested positive for the virus.

Two Republicans in Louisiana’s congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson – have publicly said they’ve recovered from the disease.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The United States added a record of nearly a quarter million coronavirus cases in the past day.

Health experts says the record could increase as cases surge in various parts of the country and health care systems struggle to keep up.

Along with 249,709 new cases, there were an additional 2,814 reported deaths nationwide in the past 24 hours. That pushed the confirmed U.S. death toll past 313,000, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

California led the case surge with 48,221 more infections. Almost 17,000 people are hospitalized in California and health officials are scrambling to find enough beds for patients. Texas, Florida, New York and Tennessee all registered more than 10,400 new cases.

The seven-day rolling average for new cases in the U.S. rose in the past two weeks from 183,787 to 219,324 on Friday, an increase of nearly 20%.

Health officials are concerned about future cases brought on by travel and gatherings during the holidays and New Year’s.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State health officials say 2,711 COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered so far in Tennessee, the worst state in the country for new cases per capita.

The Tennessee Department of Health on Friday unveiled its online vaccination dashboard, which will be updated on Tuesdays and Fridays. Tennessee frontline hospital health care workers on Thursday began receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

There were 1,640 new cases per 100,000 people in Tennessee in the past two weeks, which ranks first in the nation, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rose from 50 on Dec. 4 to 74 on Friday.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee has declined to require a mask order. Only a dozen other states lack a statewide mask requirement.

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PHOENIX – Arizona residents are being told to “shrink their circles” of personal contacts and gatherings to help the state’s health care system handle coronavirus cases.

Arizona reported a record 4,104 COVID-19 related hospitalizations. It also added more than 5,500 coronavirus cases on Friday.

State and local governments need to do more to reduce the coronavirus’ spread, because one of Banner Health’s hospitals is using a refrigerated truck trailer to augment its now full morgue, says Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the hospital chain’s chief clinical officer.

Only 8% of all beds and intensive care unit beds were available, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

The Department of Health Services reported 118 more deaths, increasing the statewide totals to 448,231 confirmed cases and 7,937 confirmed deaths.

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WASHINGTON – With coronavirus numbers setting new daily records, the nation’s capital is temporarily suspending all indoor dining in restaurants over the holidays.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an executive order Friday night banning indoor dining for three weeks, starting Wednesday at 10 p.m. and extending through Jan. 15.

The District of Columbia will remain in phase two of its reopening plan, and the government described the move as a “holiday pause.”

The order also extends Washington’s public health emergency through March 31 and orders all museums to close. The entire Smithsonian network of museums, which includes the National Zoo, already shut down voluntarily in late November.

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WASHINGTON – An Army general in charge of COVID-19 vaccines apologized Saturday for “miscommunication” with states on the number of early doses delivered.

Gen. Gustave Perna’s remarks came a day after a second vaccine was added in the fight against the coronavirus. Governors in more than a dozen states says the federal government has told them next week’s shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be less than originally projected.

“I want to take personal responsibility for the miscommunication,” he said. “I know that’s not done much these days. But I am responsible. … This is a herculean effort and we are not perfect.”

Perna says the government now is on track to get approximately 20 million doses to states by the first week of January, a combination of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. He says 2.9 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses have been delivered so far.

The coronavirus has killed more than 313,000 people in the U.S., the highest death toll in the world.

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