The Latest: UNLV now plans in-person spring graduation

The Associated Press
·14 min read

LAS VEGAS — The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is changing course and now plans in-person spring graduation ceremonies in May as the coronavirus outbreak slows.

UNLV President Keith Whitfield on Friday announced the change from plans announced in February to hold graduation virtually.

Whitfield said in a letter to students and staff that he firmly believes the university “can offer a traditional commencement while adhering to public health guidelines.”

“Graduation is the culmination of a student’s educational journey and is a significant milestone in their UNLV career. We need to make every effort to provide an experience our graduates so richly deserve,” Whitfield wrote.

Whitfield said there would be two ceremonies for spring 2021 graduates at 8 a.m. on May 14 and May 15 and a third ceremony for 2020 graduates on May 14 at 6:30 p.m.

All three ceremonies will be held at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Each graduate will be allowed up to four guests, with everyone required to follow social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings.

Whitfield said holding the in-person graduation ceremonies is contingent on approval from local and state authorities and COVID numbers continuing to decline.

Nevada on Saturday reported 271 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases with 10 more deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 300,951 cases and 5,171 deaths, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

The state’s seven-day rolling averages both declined over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The rolling average of daily new cases dropped from about 347 on March 4 to around 294 on Thursday and the rolling average of daily deaths dropped from 11.1 to 9.1 during the same period.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Half of UK adults have gotten one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

— Fans from abroad barred from Tokyo Olympics this summer

— Some NY nursing homes proved helpless in face of virus surge

— As vaccinations lag, Italy's elderly again pay the price.

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Follow 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:

PHOENIX — Arizona on Saturday reported 735 additional confirmed coronavirus cases with 42 more deaths amid indications of continued slowing of the coronavirus outbreak.

Arizona’s pandemic totals rose to 835,765 cases and 16,733 deaths, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Johns Hopkins University data showed the rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 1,265.1 on March 4 to 456.9 on Thursday while the rolling average of daily deaths declined from 62.2 to 24.6 over the same two-week period.

The state’s dashboard reported that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient beds rose to 700 as of Friday, up from 686 as of Thursday, but remained far below the Jan. 11 high of 5,082.

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BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo — The leading opposition presidential candidate in Republic of Congo was receiving oxygen at a private hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19, a family member said, casting Sunday’s election into doubt on the eve of the vote.

Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, 61, had skipped his final campaign event on Friday after telling some reporters a day earlier that he feared he had malaria. A relative who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter said plans were underway for Kolelas to be evacuated abroad for further treatment.

A video circulating on social media dated Friday showed Kolelas wearing an oxygen mask and with a blood pressure cuff on his arm as he lay in a hospital bed.

“My dear compatriots, I am in trouble. I am fighting death,” the candidate says in a weak-sounding voice after removing his oxygen mask. “However, I ask you to stand up and vote for change. I would not have fought for nothing.”

A campaign spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the video and Kolelas’ hospitalization. Two people at the hospital who had seen the Kolelas’ test results confirmed to the AP late Saturday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

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LONDON — The U.K. says half of the country’s adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

The National Health Service has put shots in the arms of 26.9 million people, or 51% of the adult population, according to the latest government statistics. The NHS passed the halfway point on Friday by delivering 589,689 doses.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Saturday that’s the highest daily total since the mass vaccination program began in early December.

The celebration comes amid growing concerns about the failure of wealthy countries to share scarce vaccine supplies with developing nations. The director of a London-based health policy think tank says while Britain should be proud of the success of its vaccination drive, it’s time to start thinking about the rest of the world. Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, says the country has the rights to enough doses to vaccinate its entire population twice.

He says ensuring the world is vaccinated is a scientific and economic imperative: “Science has given us the exit strategy, but it will only work if its benefits can reach the maximum number of people around the world.”

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SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile has reported its highest daily count of 7,084 coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic despite widespread restrictions and progress on vaccinations.

The government on Saturday reported cases topping the previous record in June. It says coronavirus has become the country’s leading cause of mortality, causing 26% of deaths this year.

Chile has given at least one vaccine shot to more than 29% of the population and both doses to 15% — far more than in other nations in the region. But Health Minister Enrique Paris says people should remain cautious since population-level immunity isn’t likely until about 80% are vaccinated, probably by the end of June.

Officials say hospital bed usage has reached 94%, with rising numbers among those below 60 as older Chileans have been inoculated.

The government has imposed restrictions on three quarters of the country’s municipalities. Officials say Saturday they are tightening limits on people entering from abroad, especially from Brazil.

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DENVER — Colorado’s health department is moving to relax its statewide mask mandate and limits on gathering capacity.

Health officials say the state’s role in determining COVID-19 restrictions will lessen in favor of more local control as vaccination eligibility is extended.

For the majority of the state, masks will be required for indoor public places with 10 or more people, and the capacity restrictions remain in place.

The proposal would allow local authorities and “private entities” in the counties with the lowest coronavirus infection rates to determine whether masks would be required. It would end most restrictions on capacity for restaurants, retailers and outdoor events.

There are currently only two Level Green counties where this applies — the rural Crowley and Otero counties in southern Colorado — which means they have fewer than 15 cases per 100,000 people in a week.

Most of the state is in the next risk level up, while the Denver metro area is two levels higher than the least restrictive designation.

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WARSAW, Poland — Poland reported more than 25,000 coronavirus cases Saturday, compared to less than 15,000 in early March.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski blamed the increase on the British variant of the virus, which he described as “extremely infectious and vicious.” He urged Poles to observe restrictions that were reintroduced Saturday, closing hotels, shopping malls, theaters, galleries and sports centers.

Poland’s authorities have urged people to get vaccinated, saying they’re speeding up registration of more age groups for the inoculation. They use Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

Unlike many European countries, Poland never discontinued using the AstraZeneca vaccine, insisting it was medically approved and safe. However, many Poles were not turning up for their AstraZeneca inoculation and authorities blamed that on “panic” in other countries.

So far, more than 5 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines, including some 1.8 million second doses, have been administered in the nation of 38 million.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Several thousand people in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro rallied against anti-virus measures on Saturday, despite a rise in daily infections in the past weeks.

Protests in Croatia were held in the capital Zagreb and several smaller towns. Local media say participants refused to wear face masks or keep distance among themselves. while holding banners reading “Enough tyranny,” or “Give us back the flu.”

In Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, several hundred people protested after the Serbian government kept bars, restaurants and non-essential shops and businesses closed this week.

The state Montenegrin RTCG television reported about one hundred people came out in the rain to protest anti-virus rules. The report says that police urged them to respect distancing.

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BERGAMO, Italy — Promises to vaccinate all Italians over 80 by the end of March have fallen woefully short, amid well-documented interruptions of vaccine supplies and organizational shortfalls.

Just one third of Italy’s 7.3 million vaccine doses administered so far have gone to people in that age group. The new government of Premier Mario Draghi has pledged to accelerate the vaccination campaign. It is aiming to vaccinate 80% of the population by September.

On Friday, Draghi said Italy aimed to administer 500,000 shots a day by next month, from a current daily level of about 165,000.

Italy has recorded more than 104,000 confirmed deaths, the sixth-highest tally in the world. As of early March, two thirds of Italy’s virus-related deaths were among those over 80.

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BERLIN — Several thousand people participated in the protests regarding coronavirus measures in Kassel on Saturday.

German news agency dpa says protesters have clashed with police, with officers using pepper spray and batons against people trying to break through police barriers. There were also several scuffles with counter-protesters.

In Berlin, some 1,800 police officers were on standby, but only a few dozen protesters assembled at the city’s landmark Brandenburg Gate. Meanwhile, around 300 citizens gathered on Berlin’s Unter den Linden boulevard to protest against the far-right demonstration.

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TIRANA, Albania — The first Kosovar doctors and nurses on have traveled to neighboring Albania to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Albania offered to inoculate 500 Kosovo medical personnel as a gesture of solidarity. The shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine are being given over two days in Kukes, near the Kosovo border, where Kosovar doctors and nurses were taken by bus.

Vaccination has yet to start in Kosovo, which is expecting the first batch of vaccines from the Covax facility later this month. The government has ordered an overnight curfew and banned public gatherings of over 50 people.

Kosovo has reported 80,621 total confirmed cases and 1,744 confirmed deaths.

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TOKYO — Spectators from abroad will be barred from the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

The decision was announced after a meeting of the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese and Tokyo governments and other groups.

Officials say the risk was too great to admit fans from overseas during the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers say 600,000 tickets were sold to fans from outside Japan and about 4.45 million tickets were sold to Japan residents. Several surveys of the Japanese public indicated up to 80% opposed holding the Olympics and a similar percentage opposed fans from overseas.

The ban on fans from abroad comes just days before the Olympic torch relay starts Thursday from Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan. It will last for 121 days, crisscross Japan with 10,000 runners and end on July 23 at the opening ceremony at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

The Olympics and Paralympics involve 15,400 athletes entering Japan. They will be tested before leaving home, upon arrival in Japan and tested frequently while residing in a secure “bubble” in the Athletes Village alongside Tokyo Bay. Most athletes will be vaccinated, but it’s not mandatory.

Japan is officially spending $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics. Several government audits say the actual cost may be twice that much. All but $6.7 billion is public money, and a University of Oxford study says these are the most expensive Olympics on record.

Japan has recorded 8,800 confirmed deaths to COVID-19 and controlled the virus better than most countries.

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BERLIN — The European Union’s executive arm is increasing its pressure on pharmaceutical companies to speed up their vaccine delivery to the continent as virus numbers are rising again in many member countries.

The European Commission says AstraZeneca in particular could face export bans to countries outside the EU if it didn’t quickly deliver the promised amount of vaccines to the 27-nation bloc.

“We have the possibility to ban planned exports,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday in an interview with German media group Funke.

She said the commission had sent a “formal reminder” to AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is one of three vaccines that’s approved in the EU. However, its usage has been overshadowed by several problems, including a slow start, recurring delivery problems and a temporary ban for several days earlier this week in many of the bloc’s member countries after reports of blood clots in some recipients of the vaccine.

Most countries in the EU resumed giving shots of AstraZeneca again Friday as infection numbers were spiking again across the continent.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has tested positive for the coronavirus, two days after he received his first vaccine dose.

Dr. Faisal Sultan, Khan’s special assistant on health, said Saturday the prime minister has quarantined himself at his private home on a hilltop in the Islamabad suburbs.

There has been a spike in COVID-19 in the capital and in eastern and northern Pakistan where authorities have reported 42 new deaths and 3,876 new cases of COVID-19 during past 24 hours across the country, taking the total deaths to 13,799 and total infected cases to more than 623,000.

Since February, Pakistan has been using a COVID-19 vaccine donated by neighboring China. Health workers have been vaccinated and now older people are receiving the jab.

Media reports say a private Pakistani pharmaceutical company has imported 50,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, but it was unclear at what price the vaccine will be available to people.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says a lot of pandemic deaths could have been prevented in California if the state had focused earlier on vaccinating people in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Garcetti also said Friday the federal and state governments haven’t given local officials like him enough freedom to inoculate who they feel are most at risk.

Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom are fellow Democrats and close friends. And while the mayor didn’t name Newsom, his comments ultimately are criticism of the governor and his initial tightly constrained approach to vaccinating residents by age and profession.

Newsom has since pivoted and set aside 40% of all doses for people in the state’s poorest areas.

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WASHINGTON -- The White House is canceling the annual Easter Egg Roll for the second straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman for first lady Jill Biden said Friday the White House will mark the holiday by sending out 2021 commemorative Easter Egg Roll eggs in the coming days to vaccination sites and local hospitals.

President Rutherford B. Hayes started the tradition in 1878.

There have been a few other times when the event was either moved off the White House grounds or cancelled. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson suspended the Egg Roll, and Franklin Roosevelt did the same during World War II. President Harry Truman scratched the Egg Roll from 1948 to 1952, because of food rationing and renovations at the White House.

President Dwight Eisenhower restored the event in 1953.

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ATLANTA — President Joe Biden has paid a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and used the appearance to celebrate his administration reaching the benchmark of injecting 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine since his inauguration.

Biden met with scientists at the CDC in Atlanta on Friday to express his gratitude for their work trying to stop the coronavirus, while also learning about variants of the virus and the unfolding medical situation.

Biden pumped his fist as the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said the 100 million vaccine-threshold had been reached.

The president told CDC staff: “We owe you a gigantic debt of gratitude and we will for a long, long long time. You are the army, you are the navy, the marines, the coast guard ... you are the frontline troops.”

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