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Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 135 cases and 2 deaths reported Thursday and Friday



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Alaska on Friday reported 135 new coronavirus infections identified in the past two days and two deaths related to COVID-19, one of which was recent, according to the state Department of Health and Welfare.

One of the deaths involving an Anchorage woman in her 40s occurred recently. The other was a Metlakatla man who was over 80 years old. His death was determined by a standard examination of death certificates.

A total of 372 Alaskans and seven non-residents have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic hit the state last spring. Alaska’s per capita death rate remains among the lowest in the country, although the size of the state, healthcare system, and other factors make national comparisons difficult.

The number of cases in Alaska has increased over the past three weeks – including the notable spike reported on Friday – after the state returned to medium alert on Wednesday. Health officials continue to encourage Alaskans to get vaccinated against the virus, noting that the vaccines have been shown to be highly effective in preventing serious illnesses from the virus, including its more contagious variants.

The recent surge in cases is likely due in part to the highly contagious Delta variant, which was first identified in India in December and Alaska in May, health officials said. Alaska’s epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said this week that he predicted that the Delta variant will soon become the dominant strain of coronavirus in the state.

By Friday, about 56% of the state’s population aged 12 and over had received at least their first dose of the vaccine, while 51% of all residents aged 12 and over were considered fully vaccinated. Out of all states, Alaska ranks 28th in the country for the most vaccinated population per capita.

Across the state, 28 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, including four who were on ventilators.

Of the 118 newly reported cases of residents, 71 were in Anchorage, 12 in Sitka, eight in Cordova, three in Fairbanks, two in Anchor Point, two in Ketchikan, two in Soldotna, and one each in Bethel, Eagle River, Homer, Hooper Bay, Kodiak, Palmer, Petersburg, Tok, Unalaska and Wasilla.

Among the smaller parishes there were four in the Bethel Census Area, two in the Kusilvak Census Area, and one each in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Prince of Wales and Hyder Census Area.

17 new cases were also reported among non-residents: six in Anchorage, three in Wasilla, two in Bethel and one each in Cordova, Petersburg, Sitka and Soldotna, and two in unidentified regions of the state.

Of all coronavirus tests completed in the state in the last week, 2.43% were positive.

Note: The health department now updates its coronavirus dashboard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, excluding public holidays.

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Thousands in Hong Kong volunteer to adopt hamsters amid COVID-19 fears



HONG KONG, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Thousands of people in Hong Kong volunteered to adopt unwanted hamsters on Wednesday after a government mass culling order raised alarm over COVID-19 fears that panicked owners would abandon their pets .

Authorities on Tuesday ordered the culling of 2,000 hamsters from dozens of pet shops and storage facilities after tracing a coronavirus outbreak to a worker at the Little Boss pet shop, where 11 hamsters subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

Scientists around the world and Hong Kong’s health and veterinary authorities said there was no evidence animals play a major role in transmitting the coronavirus to humans.

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But after adopting a zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19, Health Minister Sophia Chan said on Tuesday she couldn’t rule out possibilities of transmission and therefore the government couldn’t take any chances.

Soon after, health workers in hazmat suits were seen coming out of pet shops across the city, carrying red plastic bags into their vans. Around 150 pet shop customers were quarantined.

Public broadcaster RTHK said some hamster owners were seen dropping off their pets at a government facility in the New Territories, while groups quickly formed on social media to find new owners for unwanted rodents.

Ocean, 29, a hamster owner and admin of the Hong Kong the Cute Hamster Group on the Telegram social media app, said the group has been contacted by nearly 3,000 people willing to temporarily care for unwanted animals .

Three young owners were pressured by their families to get rid of their hamsters even though they’ve all owned them for more than half a year, said Ocean, who declined to give her last name because she feared angry reactions from those who wanted to cull them supported.

“Many pet owners don’t know the exact risks and give up their hamsters,” she says.

Bowie, 27, one of the volunteers in the group, is now the owner of two new hamsters.

“This is ridiculous,” said Bowie, who already owned three other hamsters. “Animal life is also life. Today it can be hamsters or rabbits, tomorrow cats or dogs.”

The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which runs veterinary clinics, told Reuters “numerous” concerned pet owners have reached out to them for advice.

“We urge pet owners not to panic or abandon their pets,” the SPCA said in a statement.

SPCA listed ways to maintain strict personal hygiene for human and animal safety, including never kissing, coughing, or snorting around pets, and washing hands after handling them.

The average lifespan of a hamster is about two years, according to animal welfare organizations.


Aside from ordering the culling, authorities have ordered dozens of pet shops to close while importing and selling small mammals has been suspended. Buyers of hamsters after December 22, 2021 have been asked to hand them over to the authorities for culling and not leave them on the street.

The authorities have set up a hotline for inquiries. It was unclear how many hamsters had been handed over.

Most Hong Kong newspapers on Wednesday featured images of people in hazmat suits outside pet shops and illustrations of hamsters on their front pages, with Ta Kung Pao daily showing a tiny rodent inside a spiked virus particle.

Vanessa Barrs, a professor of pet health at the City University of Hong Kong, said the move to kill the hamsters offered for sale may be justified on public health grounds, but fears of infection at home are overblown.

“Millions of people around the world have pets, and there have been no documented cases of pets transmitting infections to other people,” Barrs said.

“The theoretical risk is there, but it just doesn’t happen.”

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Additional reporting by Aleksander Solum; Letter from Marius Zaharia; Edited by Simon Cameron Moore

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Children account for less than 0.2% of Covid-19 deaths in the US, according to CDC data



Staff from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation investigate a Hong Kong pet shop Tuesday, January 18, 2022, which authorities said was closed after some pet hamsters tested positive for the coronavirus. Kin Cheung/AP

Hong Kong authorities say they will euthanize around 2,000 small animals – including all hamsters in pet shops – amid concerns over Covid-19 transmission.

On Tuesday, officials said they found 11 hamsters from the city’s Little Boss pet store had tentatively tested positive.

According to Dr. Leung Siu-fai, Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, imported from the Netherlands in two batches, one on January 7 and one on December 22.

The samples were taken after it was confirmed on Monday that a 23-year-old worker at the store in Hong Kong’s busy Causeway Bay district was infected with the Delta variant.

In general, health authorities have said that the risk of animal-to-human transmission is possible but low.

Environmental samples taken at the store’s warehouse where the small animals are kept also confirmed traces of the coronavirus, officials said.

Authorities have asked the store to hand over all of its small animals, including hamsters, rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs, and people who bought hamsters after December 22 to hand over their animals for testing and euthanasia.

In addition, pet shops that sell hamsters were asked to give up the animals. Imports of all small animals into the city have been suspended and all pet stores selling hamsters have been ordered to shut down immediately. Those pet shops can reopen once all of their small animals have been tested and their results found negative, authorities added.

Officials said Tuesday they would also review quarantine measures for imported small animals, including possible pre- and on-arrival testing.

“We cannot rule out that these animals already had the corona virus when they were imported. Against this background, we cannot rule out that people who come into contact with these animals are at greater risk [of infection]said Dr. Edwin Tsui, head of the Health Protection Center at the Ministry of Health, at a news conference on Tuesday.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 cases have been documented in animals likely to have contracted the virus from humans, but there is less evidence to suggest the possibility of animal-to-human transmission .

In November 2020, Denmark said it had found a mutant strain of the coronavirus in its mink population that had spread to humans. In response, the government announced the culling of 17 million mink to stop their spread.

The Hong Kong Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) says it is “shocked and concerned” by the decision to euthanize more than 2,000 small animals, adding that it “failed to consider animal welfare and the human-animal bond.” ”

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COVID-19 health emergency could be over this year, WHO says



GENEVA (AP) – The emergencies head at the World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic — deaths, hospitalizations and lockdowns — could be over this year if huge inequities in vaccinations and medicines are addressed quickly.

dr Michael Ryan said during a vaccine equity panel hosted by the World Economic Forum that “we may never end the virus” because such pandemic viruses “end up becoming part of the ecosystem.”

But “we have a chance to end the public health emergency this year if we do the things we talked about,” he said.

The WHO has called the COVID-19 vaccination imbalance between rich and poor countries a catastrophic moral failure. Less than 10% of people in low-income countries have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ryan told the virtual gathering of world and business leaders that the tragedy of the virus, which has so far killed more than 5.5 million people worldwide, would continue unless vaccines and other tools were shared fairly.

“What we need to do is get low disease incidence levels with maximum vaccination of our population so nobody has to die,” Ryan said. “The problem is, it’s death. It’s the hospital stays. It is the disruption to our social, economic and political systems that caused the tragedy – not the virus.”

Ryan also weighed in on the growing debate over whether COVID-19 should be considered endemic, a designation some countries like Spain have been calling for to be better able to live with the virus, or whether it is a pandemic nonetheless – which includes increased measures that many countries have taken to combat the spread.

“Endemic malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people; endemic HIV; endemic violence in our inner cities. Endemic by itself does not mean good. Endemic just means it’s there forever,” he said.

Public health officials have warned COVID-19 is highly unlikely to be eliminated, saying it will continue to kill people, albeit at much lower levels, even after it has become endemic.

Colleague Gabriela Bucher, managing director of the anti-poverty organization Oxfam International, referred to the “tremendous urgency” of a fairer distribution of vaccines and the need for large-scale production. She said resources to fight the pandemic were “hoarded by some companies and some shareholders.”

John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lamented the “total breakdown in global cooperation and solidarity” over the past two years and said it was “completely unacceptable” that only 7% of Africa’s population was fully vaccinated be.

He also sought to dispel the belief of some that vaccine hesitancy is widespread in Africa, citing studies showing that 80% of the continent’s population would be willing to get vaccinated if vaccines were available.

The comments came on the second day of the online alternative to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, which has been postponed over pandemic health concerns.

Speaking at the event, world leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed approaches to tackling the pandemic. He said his country, which was quick to launch a widespread vaccination campaign, had a strategy to be “at the forefront of medicines and vaccines” against COVID-19.

Citing the advanced research in Israel, Bennett said, “We want to be the first in the world to know how vaccines and the new variants interact.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said separately that his country has a high level of vaccination because society values ​​protecting the elderly and vulnerable. He plans to maintain strict border controls until the end of February.

He said he was trying to balance restrictions with keeping the economy open, but that “a so-called zero-COVID policy against the Omicron variant is neither possible nor appropriate”.

In a separate news briefing on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Omicron variant of COVID-19 “continues to sweep the world” and said 18 million new COVID-19 cases were reported last week.


Associated Press reporters Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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