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US boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages

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US boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages

In response to rising frustration about vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden announced that over the next three weeks, the U.S. is ramping up supplies to hard-pressed states and aims to have enough doses by the end of the summer or early fall to vaccinate 300 million Americans.

Biden, calling the push a “wartime effort,” said the administration was working on Tuesday to procure an additional 100 million doses of each of the two vaccines approved for coronavirus. He admitted that states have been left wondering how much vaccine they are going to have from one week to the next in recent weeks.

Shortages were so serious that tens of thousands of appointments for individuals looking for their first shot had to be cancelled by several vaccine sites across the U.S.

“This is unacceptable,” said Biden. “At stake are lives.”

In the next three weeks, he pledged an approximately 16 percent rise in deliveries to states.

The administration said it plans to purchase another 100 million doses each from Pfizer and Moderna drugmakers to ensure that it has adequate long-term vaccine. If federal researchers approve a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to request emergency authorization in the coming weeks, even more vaccinations may be available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the government plans to make available next week about 10.1 million first and second doses, up from the allotment of 8.6 million this week. Doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are reflected in the figures. It was not immediately clear how long it was possible to maintain the surge in doses.

Governors and top health officials have been steadily raising the alarm about insufficient stocks and the need for earlier and more accurate forecasts about how much vaccine is on the way so that they can prepare.

On Tuesday, Biden’s team held its first virus-related call with the governors of the nation and pledged to provide firm vaccine allocations to states three weeks before delivery.

The announcement by Biden came a day after he became more optimistic about reaching his vaccine promise to produce 100 million injections in his first 100 days in office, signalling that a rate of 1.5 million doses per day could soon be reached.

The administration has also pledged more transparency and said it would hold news conferences about the epidemic that killed over 420,000 Americans three days a week, starting Wednesday.

“We appreciate the administration stating that for the next few weeks it will provide states with slightly higher allocations, but we’re going to need a lot more supply,” said Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican.

Miscommunication and unexplained bottlenecks have marked the set-up inherited from the Trump administration, with shortages recorded in some places even as vaccine doses remain on the shelves.

West Virginia officials, which had one of the highest rates of vaccine administration, said they had less than 11,000 first doses on hand even after shipping this week.

“For more, “I’m shouting my head off,” Republican Gov. Jim Justice said.

California, facing criticism over a slow rollout of vaccinations, declared Tuesday that it is centralising its hodgepodge of county systems and streamlining sign-up, notification and eligibility for appointments. In various counties, people have been baffled by the various laws.

And Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said in Colorado that the federal government’s insufficient availability of vaccine is forcing the state to repurpose second doses as first doses, while he hopes that individuals scheduled for their second shot will still be able to retain their appointments.

On Monday nights, when federal officials review data on vaccine supply from suppliers to decide how much each state may have, the weekly allocation period for first doses begins. Allocations are based on the population of individuals 18 and older for each jurisdiction.

States are informed by a computer network named Tiberius and other networks on Tuesdays of their allocations, after which they can decide where they want doses to be delivered. The following Monday, deliveries start.

A similar but distinct second-dose ordering process, which must be administered three to four weeks after the first dose, starts on Sunday night each week.

The CDC announced as of Tuesday afternoon that just over half of the 44 million doses provided to states were placed in the arms of people. To achieve herd immunity and conquer the epidemic, that is well short of the hundreds of millions of doses that experts claim will need to be administered.

According to the University of Oxford, the U.S. ranks fifth in the world in the amount of doses given relative to the country’s population, behind No. 1 Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and Bahrain.

It is not fully clear why more of the available shots have not been dispensed in the U.S. But several vaccination sites obviously keep significant quantities of vaccine in reserve to ensure that the appropriate second one is administered on time by individuals who have already received their first shot.

Some state officials have also complained of a gap in reporting to the government their vaccination numbers and publishing the statistics on the CDC website.

Ochsner Health said Monday in the New Orleans region that insufficient supply forced the cancellation of 21,400 first-dose appointments last week, but that second-dose appointments were not affected.

Greensboro-based Cone Health announced in North Carolina that it is cancelling first-dose appointments for 10,000 individuals and transferring them to a waiting list due to supply issues.

Jesse Williams, 81, from Reidsville, North Carolina, said his Cone Health appointment was scrapped on Thursday, and he’s waiting to hear when it could be rescheduled. The former volunteer firefighter hoped that the vaccine would encourage him to resume church attendance, play golf, and see friends.

It’s just a disappointment that we wanted to have our shots and to be a little more robust to COVID-19,” he said.”

The roll-out of vaccines across the 27-nation European Union has also run into roadblocks and has also been criticised for being too late. As it upgrades its plant in Belgium to expand capacity, Pfizer is delaying deliveries. And it was disclosed by AstraZeneca that its initial shipment would be smaller than anticipated.

The EU, with its 450 million people, is calling on pharmaceutical firms to fulfil their obligations on time.

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Walz, top lawmakers, reach bipartisan deal to wrap session

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Walz, top lawmakers, reach bipartisan deal to wrap session

By STEVE KARNOWSKI

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders announced Monday that they struck a bipartisan deal on a broad framework for parceling out a massive budget surplus with a week remaining in the session.

The deal would devote $4 billion to tax relief, and another $4 billion to spending on education, public safety and health care. It would also leave $4 billion in the bank to guard against downturns amid the current economic uncertainty.

The plan signed by Walz, Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller and Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman includes $1 billion for education, $1 billion for health care and human services, $450 million for public safety and the judiciary, and $1.5 billion in other spending.

It also calls for $1.5 billion for a public works construction package known as a bonding bill that would use $1.4 billion in borrowing and $150 million in cash.

The leaders were expected to provide further details later Monday, but they said the full plan would be finalized in the days to come. The Legislature, which struggled all session to reach bipartisan agreements on how to use the state’s $9.25 billion budget surplus, must adjourn by next Monday.

“With an unprecedented surplus, we have the ability to make significant investments in the things that will improve Minnesotans’ lives, like health care, public safety, and education, while also providing tax cuts and putting money in Minnesotans’ pockets,” Walz said in a joint statement.

Miller indicated that Republicans got at least part of what they had been seeking — permanent tax cuts.

“Getting money back to the people has been a top priority for Republicans this session and I’m very happy we were able to accomplish this with permanent ongoing tax relief for hardworking Minnesotans, families, and seniors,” Miller said in the announcement.

Hortman indicated that Democrats also got some of the new spending they were seeking. She said in the statement that the deal includes “strong investments in families’ economic security, education, health care, and public safety.”

Before Monday, the biggest bipartisan compromise of the session was a deal that rolled back an unemployment insurance tax increases, which was a top GOP priority, and $500 million in bonuses that Democrats sought for 667,000 frontline workers who were at extra risk during the pandemic.

“This is a positive step forward, but there is a lot more work ahead of us in this final week of the legislative session,” Hortman said.

Next Monday’s end of the session will mark the start of campaign season, with both parties heading into a critical midterm election.

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Clay Holmes is the Yankees best reliever right now

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Clay Holmes is the Yankees best reliever right now

CHICAGO — With a two-run lead to protect heading into the ninth inning on Sunday, Aaron Boone wanted Clay Holmes on the mound. The Yankees’ right-handed reliever has pushed himself into the manager’s circle of trust very quickly. The 29-year-old could very easily be closing games as this season goes on.

“He’s throwing a bowling ball out there,” one American League scout said. “I will admit it, my (scouting report) on him from the Pirates did not see this happening. They’ve eliminated his four-seam fastball and that sinker is just a heavy bowling ball.”

Since being acquired by the Yankees from the Pirates, Holmes has unlocked something that has made him one the most effective relievers the Yankees have these days. By eliminating the four-seam fastball, Holmes can focus on the sinker, slider and occasionally a curveball.

That has given him an outrageous ground ball percentage of 81.8% and a just over 2% fly ball rate.

Holmes has the lowest walk rate (3.1) of his career and the second-highest strikeout rate (26.6) of his career.

This comes on the heels of Aroldis Chapman struggling when the Yankees are already looking to use different relievers in the ninth inning.

On Saturday night, Chapman gave up the walk-off single, after walking a batter, in the Yankees only loss in this four game series. While his velocity is still among the top in baseball, Chapman’s average fastball velocity is down almost two miles per hour.

His command has been an issue the last few years. In 11.1 innings pitched this season, he has already walked nine batters. He’s among the bottom 3% in walks per nine innings in the majors right now. His hard-hit % is the highest since 2015, when Statcast began recording it.

The Yankees sat down with Chapman, 34, this spring and talked to him about being used in different, high-leverage positions. That meant they would need other relievers to step up and close at times.

“(Jonathan Loaisiga) can be in there. We’ve seen (Chad Green) in there,” Boone said. “It kind of depends where we’re at, what team we’re facing, where we are in their order and what they have on the bench. But today if we’re coming back around to the top of their order with those good right-hand hitters, and it was that spot I was gonna go with Clay.”

Right now, he’s their best option.

Loaisiga is pitching to a 5.93 ERA with eight walks and nine earned runs over 13.2 innings pitched. He’s given up three home runs. Green has been better with a 3.38 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched over 12 appearances. He has also struggled a bit with the walks, issuing five.

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Panthers-Lightning Eastern Conference semifinal schedule has potentially six games played on same day as Heat-Celtics | Schedule

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Panthers-Lightning Eastern Conference semifinal schedule has potentially six games played on same day as Heat-Celtics | Schedule

The NHL released its Eastern Conference semifinals schedule for the Florida Panthers-Tampa Bay Lightning series early Monday morning, and the league placed six of the potential seven games on the same days as Heat-Celtics games in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals.

The one variation is the Heat play their Game 3 on Saturday, while the Panthers play their Game 3 on Sunday afternoon. Also, because of the previously scheduled Kane Brown 7 p.m. Saturday concert at Amalie Arena, the NHL has scheduled Panthers-Lightning Games 3 and 4 as a back-to-back set on Sunday and Monday.

Game 1: Tuesday — Tampa Bay at Florida, 7 p.m., TNT

Game 2: Thursday — Tampa Bay at Florida, 7 p.m., TNT

Game 3: Sunday — Florida at Tampa Bay, 1:30 p.m., TNT

Game 4: Monday, May 23 — Florida at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m., TNT

Game 5: Wednesday, May 25 — Tampa Bay at Florida, TBD, TBD*

Game 6: Friday, May 27 — Florida at Tampa Bay, TBD, TBD*

Game 7: Sunday, May 29 — Tampa Bay at Florida, TBD, TBD*

* if necessary

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