The Latest: Fauci says Moderna vaccine news ‘impressive’ – The Associated Press

JACKSON, Mich. — A Michigan congressman said Monday he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg said his symptoms were mild.

“It has been more than a week since I have attended a public event,” Walberg said. “In conjunction with health officials, my office and I are in the process of reaching out to individuals I had contact with before my self-isolation began.”

Walberg was reelected to a seventh term in the 7th District, which stretches from suburban Lansing to southern Michigan. He defeated Democrat Gretchen Driskell for a third time.

Walberg is the second House member from Michigan to disclose a coronavirus infection. Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga said he had it in October.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— More good news about a second COVID-19 candidate vaccine as Moderna says its shots appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data

— President-elect Joe Biden seeks information on US vaccine plans as Trump stalls handoff

— The European Commission says it has agreed to buy up to 405 million doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by the German bio-tech company CureVac

— Amnesty International says Belgium violated the human rights of nursing home patients by not taking infected elderly patients to the hospital for treatment

— Many African students are missing out on the new term in school as the pandemic impoverishes families

— British PM Boris Johnson is self-quarantining at the start of a crucial week for his government that includes discussions over a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union

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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:

MILAN — The number of new coronavirus cases in Italy narrowed on Monday to 27,354, in keeping with weekend dips reflecting lower testing numbers, but the infection rate remained a stubborn 18%.

Italy is still struggling to contain a second surge, with more than half of the country on partial lockdown.

Another 504 people died in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry figures, bringing the pandemic total of known deaths to 45,733, second in Europe behind Britain. Hospital admissions rose by nearly 500 while another 70 people were in intensive care.

Nationwide, more than half of the hospital beds were dedicated to COVID care, a level deemed critical by the government. The rates were highest in the north, where the health care system is generally more advanced.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization said preliminary results announced by the pharmaceutical Moderna on Monday that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine may be more than 90% effective is “quite encouraging” but that more data are still needed.

At a press briefing in Geneva, WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said “we need to wait and see what the final efficacy and the safety profile of this vaccine will be,” after participants in the vaccine trial have been followed for at least two months.

Swaminathan said WHO and its partners in the COVAX initiative, which aims to buy COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries, is currently in negotiations with several drugmakers, which she did not name.

Swaminathan said recent vaccine results were promising and added the U.N. agency and regulators still needed more details to determine if such vaccines should be rolled out broadly. She noted that further results from other companies are expected in the coming weeks.

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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says he will be reducing indoor and outdoor gathering limits because of the COVID-19 resurgence.

The Democrat told MSNBC on Monday that he will order indoor gatherings to fall from 25 to 10 and outdoor get-togethers from 500 to 150 people. The new indoor limit goes into effect Nov 17, while the outdoor level kicks in Nov. 23.

The lower levels come just before Thanksgiving and ahead of the winter holidays.

New Jersey’s coronavirus levels have been spiking, which Murphy has said amounts to a “second wave.”

The average increase over the first seven days of this month reached roughly 2,135, up from about 590 cases a day in early October. According to the state Health Department, the average caseload increase for the first week of September was nearly 340 cases.

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LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she has the authority to issue a second stay-at-home order to curb spiking coronavirus infections if necessary.

Whitmer also called “incredibly reckless” a comment by President Donald Trump’s science adviser Scott Atlas who urged people to “rise up” against Michigan’s latest restrictions. Atlas later tweeted that he “NEVER” would endorse or incite violence.

The Democratic governor spoke a day after announcing limits amid a surge of COVID-19 cases that has led to increased hospitalizations and deaths. She has urged the public to “double down” with precautions to avoid a shelter-in-place order like what was instituted in the spring.

Under the new restrictions that start Wednesday, Michigan high schools and colleges must halt in-person classes, restaurants must stop indoor dining and entertainment businesses must close for three weeks. Gathering sizes also will be tightened.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden has placed a nationwide limit of eight people for all gatherings in an effort to bring down coronavirus infections. The limit takes effect Nov. 24 and will last for four weeks.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on Monday urged fellow Swedes to cancel plans and stay at home because a ban is needed now more than ever to curb a record number of coronavirus infections in recent weeks that are burdening the country’s health care system.

Sweden had opted for a different – and much debated – approach to handling the pandemic by keeping large sections of society open.

But Lofven told a news conference that the situation will get worse and appealed to Swedes to “do your duty” and “take responsibility to stop the spread” of COVID-19.

The Swedish government said last week that it would impose a nationwide, 10:00 pm ban on the sale of alcohol in bars, restaurants and night clubs as of Nov. 20.

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WASHINGTON — The United States’ top infectious disease expert says news from Moderna that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 94.5% effective “is really quite impressive.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s “Today” on Monday that Moderna’s finding, along with similar results from Pfizer last week for its vaccine, “is something that foretells an impact on this outbreak.”

“So now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective, so I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control with this outbreak,” Fauci said.

Asked about the timeline for vaccinating people, Fauci projected that by the end of December, there will be doses available for people at high risk from the coronavirus.

Fauci said the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have different platforms than other vaccines now in the pipeline. But he said the other vaccine platforms are using the “spike protein” of the coronavirus which has been researched very intensively, giving him hope that more than two of these vaccines will also be effective.

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A second COVID-19 candidate vaccine is offering more good news about prospects to beat back the spread of the virus. Amid a coronavirus surge in the U.S. and around the world, Moderna said Monday its shots provide strong protection against the disease.

Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s still ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone” but said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.

If the Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s candidates, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year. Both require people to get two shots, several weeks apart.

Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for the U.S., by the end of 2020. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech expect to have about 50 million doses globally by year’s end.

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BRUSSELS — The European Commission says it has sealed an agreement to buy up to 405 million doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by the German bio-tech company CureVac.

The European Union’s executive arm said Monday that it’s also close to clinching a deal with U.S. firm Modena, whose COVID-19 vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to its preliminary data.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Monday that her services will authorize the contract with CureVac on Tuesday on behalf of the 27 EU countries.

She says that “if the vaccine has proven safe and effective against COVID-19, every (EU) member state will receive the vaccine at the same time on a pro rata basis and under the same conditions.”

It’s the fifth such contract with a potential vaccine supplier and comes after the commission signed a deal last week to secure up to 300 million doses of BioNTech and Pfizer’s experimental vaccine.

Von der Leyen says the commission has already concluded exploratory talks with Moderna and that it’s hoped that the contract will be finalized soon.

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THESSALONIKI, Greece — A senior clergyman in Greece’s Orthodox Church was buried after dying of COVID-19. Monday’s burial of Metropolitan Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas has revived a debate over the safety of receiving communion ahead of the Christmas holiday.

The 62 year-old Bishop was an outspoken advocate of maintaining communion ceremonies — at which worships are given bread as well as wine with a shared spoon — during the pandemic, arguing that there was no risk of transmission.

The town of Lagadas, outside Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki, is a northern region currently experiencing the highest rate of infection in the country.

Churches across Greece are currently closed as part of a three-week lockdown introduced nationwide on Nov. 7, but are due to reopen ahead of the Christmas holidays.

The Church’s governing Holy Synod said Monday that it was complying with public safety restrictions, and hit back at commentators and critics who have accused the church of acting irresponsibly.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government is asking Parliament to approve a plan to re-extend a state of emergency in order keep in place restrictions aimed at fighting the pandemic.

The Parliament is expected to vote on Thursday for another extension that will last until Dec 20.

The country of 10.7 million has been among the hardest hit by a new surge of coronavirus infections but the number of new cases has been declining since Nov 4.

The Czech Republic had 460,116 confirmed cases. Currently, 7,200 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals and 1,099 need intensive care. Those numbers have only slightly dropped from a maximum about two weeks ago, still putting the health system under strain.

The death rate is still high with 2,711 fatalities registered in November out of a total of 6,208.

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MOSCOW — Coronavirus infections in Russia have hit a new record as a region in Siberia has shut down some non-essential businesses for two weeks in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 22,778 new coronavirus cases on Monday and a total of over 1.9 million confirmed infections. The task force has also registered nearly 33,500 COVID-19 deaths. The resurgence of the virus has swept through the country since September, with the number of daily new cases increasing from roughly 5,000 in early September to over 22,000 this week.

Russian authorities have said there were no plans to introduce a second nationwide lockdown, but on Monday the Siberian republic of Buryatia became the first region to close a wide range of non-essential businesses.

Buryatia authorities have ordered shut cafes, restaurants, bars, malls, cinemas, beauty parlors and saunas starting Monday and until the end of the month. Grocery stores, pharmacies and shops selling essential goods will be allowed to operate.

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The Latest: Fauci says Moderna vaccine news ‘impressive’ – The Associated Press

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