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As weather delays 6M shots, Biden defends advancement on COVID

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As weather delays 6M shots, Biden defends advancement on COVID

 

On Friday, President Joe Biden toured a state-of-the-art coronavirus vaccine plant, aiming to show progress even as extreme winter weather across the U.S. handed his first major setback to his vaccination campaign, delaying shipment of about 6 million doses and causing temporary closures in many communities of inoculation sites.

“While acknowledging the weather is “slowing the distribution,” Biden said at the Pfizer plant in Michigan that he believes “by the end of this year we will approach normalcy.” His speech melded a recitation of the achievements of his administration facing the pandemic in its first month, a vigorous pitch for his $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and his predecessor’s criticism.

As three days’ worth of vaccine shipments were temporarily delayed, the disruptions caused by cold temperatures, snow and ice left the White House and states scrambling to make up lost ground. Due to a storm affecting the nation’s capital, even the president’s trip to see Pfizer’s largest plant was pushed back a day.

White House coronavirus response advisor Andy Slavitt said before the trip, the federal government, states and local vaccinators will have to redouble efforts after the interruptions to catch up. The setback comes just as it seemed that the vaccination campaign was on the verge of hitting its stride. In the next several days, all of the backlogged doses should be delivered, Slavitt said, still confident that the pace of vaccinations will recover.

In the first 100 days of his administration, Biden set a goal of administering 100 million shots, and he said Friday it’s still on track and it’s just a start.

He went on to say his administration could deliver 600 million doses to Americans by the end of July. Nevertheless, Biden warned that the timetable could change, citing the current weather delays and concerns about new virus strains, as well as the possibility of fluctuating production rates.

“By the end of this year, I believe we’ll be approaching normalcy,” he said. “This Christmas, God willing, will be different from last, but I can’t make that commitment to you.”

Taking a swipe at former President Donald Trump, whom he did not quote by name, Biden permitted two highly effective vaccines to be approved by the previous administration. But “having a vaccine at your disposal is one thing, the problem was how to get to people’s arms.”

One of the two federally approved COVID-19 shots is produced by the Pfizer plant that Biden toured near Kalamazoo. The delivery of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been impacted by weather-related delays.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, announcing Biden before the speech, called his administration “a great ally” and cited a number of actions that have benefited the company as it searched for ways to boost efficiency. The company said in a press release that it ships an average of 5 million doses a week in the U.S., and plans to more than double that by the end of March.

Biden walked through a “freezer farm” area of the factory, which houses some 350 ultra-cold freezers, each able to store 360,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. The president, double-masked, stopped to speak with some of the staff.

The scene contrasted sharply with the vibe across most of the nation, where change was on hold. Poor weather forced several injection sites, from Texas to New England, to briefly close, and held up shipments of required doses.

The storm stymied 77-year-old Bill Bayne in his search of his second dose in Memphis, a city where some of the doses were stuck. He got his first shot on Jan. 29 and was told that sometime this week he would hear back about the second. No notice came when local vaccination sites were shut down.

The eight inches of snow outside his home is the most he has seen in 50 years of living there, Bayne said.

Bayne said, “I want that shot badly enough.” “Some way, I would have gotten there.”

The 6 million doses delayed would not spoil and the vaccine is “safe and sound” under refrigeration, White House advisor Slavitt said.

But as shipments restart and ramp up, vaccinators will have to work overtime to get shots into weapons in neighbourhoods around the country. Slavitt told reporters at the White House coronavirus briefing, “We as a whole nation will have to pull together to get back on track.”

Slavitt said Friday about 1.4 million doses were being delivered as the work starts to clear the backlog.

A confluence of variables combining to throw off the vaccination effort. First, with snowed-in staff, shippers like FedEx, UPS and pharmaceutical distributor McKesson all faced challenges. Then, Slavitt said, road closures prevented trucks from delivering their assigned vaccine doses in several states. And eventually, in areas with power outages, there were more than 2,000 vaccination sites.

The government is also pushing forward with plans to open five new mass vaccination centres, one in Philadelphia and four more in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida.

In the week that ended Tuesday, the U.S. distributed an average of 1.7 million doses a day, proof that the speed of the vaccine programme was picking up. Now, the problem is how long it will take to recover from the effects of the delays associated with the weather.

The delays were so serious that Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts indicated that he would explore sending the national guard of his state to gather doses from icebound shipping hubs in Memphis, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky.

The Virginia Department of Health announced that about 90 percent of its planned 120,000 doses were expected to be delayed this week and cautioned that delays could ripple through next week.

The state health department said that none of the more than 163,000 first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine expected to arrive this week were delivered in North Carolina. Of the approximately 127,000 anticipated Pfizer vaccines, only a small number have been delivered.

In order to make up appointments from last week, Oklahoma moved to reschedule vaccine clinics to this weekend, when it expects its 110,000 doses to be shipped.

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Avalanche leads NHL in scoring but ranks 27th in defense. “We got to be better defensively. Doesn’t matter who’s in net”

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Avalanche leads NHL in scoring but ranks 27th in defense. “We got to be better defensively. Doesn’t matter who’s in net”

NEW YORK — Jared Bednar’s demeanor after Monday’s 7-5 victory at Philadelphia bordered on somber. The Avalanche had just improved to 2-1-1 on its five-game road trip, but its head coach wasn’t too thrilled for the third time in four games.

Sure, the high-scoring Avs can score goals. They lead the NHL at 4.14 goals per game and have reached seven goals a league-high four times. But they rank 27th in goals-allowed (3.45) and they’ve given up more goals (20) than they’ve scored (19) on the trip, which concludes Wednesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

“I know what we’re selling in the locker room,” Bednar said of defensive structure. “I think our team has a real good idea on what we have to do to have success long-term, but it just doesn’t seem like we’re following through on it for 60 minutes.”

The structure appears off, with the Avs allowing far too many opportunities on their send of the ice so far this season. Colorado had a league-low 25.4 shots against average last season. Currently, it is allowing 30.3, tied for ninth.

Goaltending could also be part of the problem, although Bednar didn’t acknowledge that. Throughout the trip, Colorado has used two guys who were pegged to begin the season in the minors (Jonas Johansson and rookie Justus Annunen) while Darcy Kuemper recovers from an upper-body injury and Pavel Francouz completes his minor-league conditioning assignment.

Johansson has a .884 save percentage in eight appearances and Annunen is at .892 in two. Kuemper (.903) isn’t much better and Francouz has yet to play in the NHL this season after suffering a lower-body injury in the preseason.

“We got to be better defensively. Doesn’t matter who’s in net,” Bednar said.

Avs players realize the problem — particularly the two defensemen who spoke at the post-game news conference in Philly.

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Douglas County School Board to vote on mask mandate in schools

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Douglas County School Board to vote on mask mandate in schools

The new school board overseeing the Douglas County School District will meet Tuesday to decide whether to end the mask requirements inside schools.

The resolution that the Board of Education will consider states that the district will not mandate masks in schools unless they are required by federal, state or local laws or public health orders. The school board will also not set a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students or district staff, according to the resolution.

“The (b)oard recommends, regardless of vaccination status, personal and parent choice with respect to whether or not children should wear face coverings while at school, while also allowing for appropriate and necessary accommodation of students with disabilities…,” reads the resolution.

The school board meeting starts at 5 p.m. and at least two hours of public comment scheduled. The board is not expected to vote on no-masks until around 8:10 p.m., according to the agenda.

The meeting comes a month after four new conservative members — all against mask mandates — were elected to the school board last month. They hold the majority on the seven-member board.

However, a federal judge blocked a mask exemption from Douglas County’s new health department in October, saying it violated the rights of students with disabilities, so it’s unclear what effect a vote in favor of ending the mandate will immediately have.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal masking inside school buildings for students and staff. The agency discovered that counties without face-covering requirements saw larger increases in COVID-19 cases in children after the start of school during the 2021-22 year, according to a Sept. 24 study.

Colorado saw a rise in COVID-19 cases among students after school returned in the fall, most notably among those — ages 5 to 11 years old — who were not eligible for a vaccine until November. Infections among children recently declined, but public health officials have warned that they could increase again as the holidays approach.

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DeVante Parker’s return can add another dimension to Dolphins’ offense

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DeVante Parker’s return can add another dimension to Dolphins’ offense

Before Sunday’s 20-9 victory over the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker had only played in one game over the previous two months with hamstring and shoulder issues.

He was away for a key stretch during Miami’s seven-game losing streak that included losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons, and then he missed the first four of the Dolphins’ five-game winning streak going into the bye week.

Now, after quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the offense found somewhat of a groove without him, his reinsertion into the lineup can bring an added dimension to the Dolphins.

Playing 71 percent of offensive snaps against the Giants, Parker caught all five passes thrown his way in his return for 62 yards. He made acrobatic sideline catches for first downs on both the touchdown drive at the end of the first half and a key fourth-quarter drive in sealing the win.

“It feels good being back on the field with my teammates,” Parker said in a web conference on Monday. “I’m just glad I was able to be a part of the win. I just wanted to help us get a W, and that’s what I did.”

Having Parker and his ability to make contested, possession-type catches against cornerbacks on the outside gives Tagovailoa that option, expanding on what he’s been able to do with Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, Mack Hollins and others.

“It creates a lot of defensive issues outside,” said co-offensive coordinator George Godsey on Tuesday. “He does a great job blocking in the run game. He’s got a lot of experience to help out the guys in the meeting room. … Having his experience and productivity out there is definitely a helpful thing for the whole unit.”

Tagovailoa enjoyed being able to throw it up to Parker when in single coverage to allow him to go up and get the ball.

“DeVante adds another vertical stretch for us offensively,” Tagovailoa said after Sunday’s win, “and he makes tough catches when you need him to, so really glad to have him back.”

Tagovailoa and Parker have established chemistry on back-shoulder throws on the sideline in their season-plus together that has been interrupted multiple times by injuries to each.

“You just throw it to the guy and let him catch it because he’s done that and he’s proven that in his career,” Godsey said. “There’s a lot of evidence on tape of guys that have his ability to just get up there and catch the ball, whether it’s behind them, in front of them, a jump ball. As many times as we can get the ball in his vicinity, we like it.”

Added Parker: “Any time you see any of us receivers out there pressed against someone, you assume they’ll want to go to you. It’s a one-on-one matchup. You just want to go to that.”

His presence, while it means targets getting further split, can also free up other Dolphins pass catchers.

“When he’s going, everybody is feeding off of him, everybody is feeding off his energy and it drives everyone else to play better, as well,” said fellow receiver Isaiah Ford. “He’s a special player. He has extremely good body control, ball skills and everything like that.”

And Parker is also coming back to a renewed Tagovailoa.

“He has a lot more confidence, and you see it in his throws,” Parker said. “The one-on-one coverage, he goes to it. That’s what we like to see. Just the confidence in him. That’s good for the team.”

Baker nominated

Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker was named the team’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which recognizes a player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.

One of the first recurring events Baker established after he was drafted by the Dolphins in 2018 was a Christmas event for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade. Born on Christmas Day himself, he hosts the event for children as a birthday gift and even made sure the event could be held virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic.

When a residential building collapsed in Surfside in June, Baker partnered with a minority-owned small business food truck to provide meals to first responders aiding in the recovery efforts. After an earthquake hit Haiti in August, Baker helped transport donation items to Haiti and supported a call for action for the public to deliver goods needed by the country.

When he was drafted in 2018, Baker established the Expand the Land Foundation to inspire youth and provide mentorship and programming in his hometown of Cleveland.

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