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UMass Lowell’s online programs get high marks in national ranking - Lowell Sun

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UMass Lowell’s online programs get high marks in national ranking - Lowell Sun UMass Lowell’s online programs get high marks in national ranking - Lowell Sun Posted: 31 Jan 2021 12:00 AM PST LOWELL — UMass Lowell's online education programs are again ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, which assessed more than 1,000 programs nationwide. UMass Lowell's online graduate program in criminal justice is No. 4 in the nation and No. 2 among all public colleges and universities, and offers the lowest price among New England-based programs appearing in the new ranking. UMass Lowell's online graduate program in information technology is No. 16 in the nation and is the highest ranked among all public institutions in New England. UMass Lowell's online graduate programs in education are ranked No. 23 nationally and the highest among New England colleges and universities. UMass Lowell offers multiple opt

Outreach, new opportunities emphasized in leadership report | Nebraska Today | University of Nebraska–Lincoln - Nebraska Today

Outreach, new opportunities emphasized in leadership report | Nebraska Today | University of Nebraska–Lincoln - Nebraska Today


Outreach, new opportunities emphasized in leadership report | Nebraska Today | University of Nebraska–Lincoln - Nebraska Today

Posted: 15 Feb 2021 01:04 PM PST

In a message following Chancellor Ronnie Green's State of Our University address, deans of all University of Nebraska–Lincoln colleges heralded their successes through a tumultuous year and looked forward to opportunities in learning, research and outreach.

"2020 was not the year we planned for, but I am proud we remained committed to three core values that define us: access, innovation and academic excellence," said Elizabeth Spiller, executive vice chancellor, in her opening remarks. "It is good to see strong and increasing national recognition of the reach and caliber of our academic programs reflected in our rankings and in the thousands of national and international students who are joining us as part of the Husker community."

Change was afoot on campus, as some deans spoke of upcoming or completed capital improvement projects, most recently the completion of the new Dinsdale Family Learning Commons on East Campus. University Libraries Dean Claire Stewart also announced the successful transition of library information to a cloud-based platform.

A running theme through many of the deans' comments was the outreach students, faculty and staff embarked on to help embattled communities in Nebraska and beyond.

In the College of Architecture, Dean Katherine Ankerson noted projects in Valentine, Nebraska, and the efforts to help Brownsville, Nebraska, recover from the historic March 2019 floods.

The College of Education and Human Sciences celebrated a rapid and successful transition to remote work for its many clinics that work with students and families in the Lincoln community.

"In response to COVID-19, our reading center rapidly transitioned its tutoring programs online and piloted a remote program with Sydney public schools," Sherri Jones, dean of the college, said. "When sports and other activities were cancelled, our extension faculty created a virtual marathon kids club with participants logging over 4,200 miles."

Nebraska Extension Interim Dean and Director Dave Varner also noted the successes of online programming, but also highlighted Extension's ability to host 4-H youth activities safely throughout the year.

Richard Moberly, dean of the College of Law, shared the recent work of the Civil Clinical Law program in establishing the Tenant Assistance Project with local non-profits, which paired student and volunteer attorneys with residents facing eviction.

"They leveled the legal playing field for tenants during the pandemic," Moberly said.

Looking ahead at research opportunities, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Mark Button said CAS faculty will play a large role in addressing some of society's most pressing problems, including systemic racism, climate change and rural drug addiction.

"The College of Arts and Sciences is united by a shared commitment to collaborate and the discovery of new knowledge, and to advance interdisciplinary solutions to challenges critical to Nebraska and the world," Button said.

Many deans noted the successful transition to online coursework, and Charles O'Connor, dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, also noted the successful outdoor student performance of the opera, "The Cunning Little Vixen," by the Glenn Korff School of Music.

"We continued to learn, teach, perform and exhibit the arts in a safe way," O'Connor said. "I'm very proud of how our college excelled during these challenging times."

The COVID-19 pandemic also brought unique opportunities for students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, said Dean Shari Veil.

"(Our students) covered COVID-19 for The New York Times, and received national attention for in-depth reporting on the climate crisis," Veil said. "They covered Husker sports, even when they couldn't attend games."

Building out undergraduate and graduate offerings, College of Business Dean Kathy Farrell highlighted its expansion to offer a new law and business major, a human resource graduate certificate, and a new master's program in supply chain management.

New student opportunities were also highlighted by Dean Lance Perez, in the College of Engineering. Aside from the new state-of-the-art home to the college currently being constructed, the college also launched the Kiewit Scholars Program in January.

"We created the Kiewit Scholars Program, a full-tuition scholarship, combined with a rigorous leadership program that will support 40 undergraduate students," Perez said. "This program is unparalleled among our big 10 peers and other top-ranking colleges of engineering. We are living our values of community impact, and inclusion."

The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has also expanded its offerings to students, including at the high school level.

"We announced the new LPS-CASNR Early College and Career STEM program," said Tiffany Heng-Moss, dean of CASNR. "It offers Lincoln Northeast students the opportunity to earn early college credits and digital badges. We anticipate this program will be replicated across Nebraska."

The Latest: Vaccine makers figuring out tweaks - The Associated Press

Posted: 14 Feb 2021 09:58 PM PST

The World Health Organization has granted an emergency authorization to the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, a move that should allow the company's partners to ship millions of doses to countries worldwide as part of a U.N.-backed program to tame the pandemic.

In a statement Monday, the U.N. health agency said it was authorizing the AstraZeneca vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India and South Korea's AstraZeneca-SKBio.

WHO's green light for the AstraZeneca vaccine should trigger the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses to countries that have signed up for the U.N.-backed COVAX effort, which aims to deliver vaccines to the world's most vulnerable.

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Although WHO does not approve or regulate vaccines, it assesses their safety and effectiveness for developing countries that don't have a strong regulatory system.

___

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— COVID-19 conspiracy shows the reach of Chinese disinformation around the world

— Here's a look at the key superspreaders of virus disinformation

— In Germany, carnival organizers found other ways to have fun — including floats poking fun at the likes of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

Peru minister resigns amid uproar over government officials being vaccinated before country received 1M doses for health workers

—The coronavirus has shaken up the Champions League and Europa League again, causing five games this week to move to neutral venues across the continent

— A pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the college basketball season is also reshaping the curve, leaving powerhouse programs on the tournament bubble.

— Kansas is working to fix its troubled system for sending vaccine data to the federal government, saying glitches caused about 100,000 doses that were given to not be registered as being administered.

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Italy won't open its ski slopes due to fears of virus variants

— Follow all of AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

___

LONDON -- The daily number of people in the U.K. testing positive for the coronavirus has fallen below 10,000 for the first time since Oct. 2.

Government figures on Monday show that 9,765 people tested positive for COVID-19.

Infections have fallen sharply over the past few weeks from a high of 68,053 largely as a result of lockdown measures. The U.K.'s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines to the most at-risk groups has also helped. As of Monday, 15.3 million people in the U.K. have had their first dose of vaccine, or a little more than a quarter of the adult population.

In addition to the fall in infections, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 and dying have also come down.

The government said another 230 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19, the lowest figure since Dec. 26 when the number of deaths was also 230.

The U.K. has witnessed Europe's deadliest outbreak, with 117,396 people dying in the 28 days after testing positive for the virus.

___

WASHINGTON— A top American epidemiologist says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic are sufficient but schools will face major challenges in the coming weeks because of virus variants.

Michael Osterholm is head of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and was named to Joe Biden's coronavirus task force before Biden became president. Osterholm says there's low virus transmission at schools, especially for younger students, but virus variants are "a real red flag coming down the road."

Osterholm told CBS on Monday he thinks a virus variant from the United Kingdom in particular is going to cause such a surge in U.S. cases over the next 14 weeks that "a lot of schools are going to WASHINGTON — The makers of COVID-19 vaccines are figuring out how to tweak their recipes against worrisome virus mutations — and regulators are looking to flu as a blueprint if and when the shots need an update.

"It's not really something you can sort of flip a switch, do overnight," cautioned Richard Webby, who directs a World Health Organization flu center from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Viruses mutate constantly and it takes just the right combination of particular mutations to escape vaccination. But studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don't work as well against a mutant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions circulating around the world.

The good news: Many of the new COVID-19 vaccines are made with new, flexible technology that's easy to upgrade. What's harder: Deciding if the virus has mutated enough that it's time to modify vaccines — and what changes to make.

The CDC said Friday in-person schooling can resume safely with masks, social distancing and other strategies. The nation's top public health agency says vaccinating teachers is important but isn't a prerequisite for reopening schools.

Osterholm says health authorities don't have enough vaccine doses for everyone so he'd prioritize vaccinating older people over teachers.

___

BERLIN — The European Union's health agency is urging countries to address what it calls "pandemic fatigue" that is leading to increasing protests and unwillingness to follow virus restrictions.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said Monday that properly addressing pandemic fatigue was "a matter of urgency if further waves of infection are to be avoided."

The Stockholm-based agency said governments should emphasize the risk of more cases and deaths if hygiene measures are ignored and be transparent about uncertainties regarding issues such as the vaccine rollout, which has raised widespread hopes of an imminent end to lockdowns.

ECDC said that the appearance of variants of the virus in the Europe posed a particular concern and could undo the drop in cases seen on the continent in recent weeks.

The agency said countries should increase testing sequencing of samples for variants, warning that its analysis suggests unless pandemic restrictions such as mask wearing are continued or strengthened during the coming months, "a significant increase in COVID-19-related cases and deaths" in Europe can be expected.

___

GENEVA, Switzerland — The World Health Organization granted an emergency authorization to the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca, a move that should allow its partners to ship millions of doses to countries worldwide as part of a U.N.-backed program to stop the pandemic.

In a statement on Monday, the U.N. health agency said it was greenlighting the AstraZeneca vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India and South Korea's AstraZeneca-SKBio.

"Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk," said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products.

___

ZAGREB, Croatia - Croatia is another European Union state after Hungary that has shown interest in procuring Russian developed Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine after hiccups in deliveries of Western-made shots.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Monday that Russia is ready to provide the vaccine and Croatia's health authorities will decide on its use after approval from the European Medicines Agency.

Croatia earlier this month launched its vaccination campaign with AstraZeneca shots, imposing none of the age limits that have been put in place by some other EU states.

Hungary has become the first EU member to start using Sputnik V and hopes to deploy China's Sinopharm vaccine soon, despite neither having received approval from EU's medicines regulator.

Non-EU member Serbia has been the first to start administering both the Russian as well as Chinese vaccines in Europe, helping it become one of the top states on the continent in the speed of the vaccination rollout.

___

BEIRUT — Coronavirus case numbers are stabilizing in parts of the Middle East but the situation remains critical, with more than a dozen countries reporting cases of new variants, the World Health Organization said Monday.

Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO's eastern Mediterranean region, which comprises most of the Middle East, said in a press briefing from Cairo that at least one of the three new coronavirus variants was reported in the 13 countries in the region. He did not name the countries.

All three of the new variants are more contagious, according to WHO.

Al-Mandhari said there are nearly 6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the region and about 140,000 deaths. WHO urged people to continue taking precautionary measures against the virus.

___

LONDON — Britain's newly established quarantine hotels have received their first guests as the government tries to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from derailing its fast-moving vaccination drive.

Passengers arriving at London's Heathrow Airport on Monday morning were escorted by security guards to buses that took them to nearby hotels.

Britain has given a first dose of coronavirus vaccine to almost a quarter of the population, but health officials are concerned that vaccines may not work as well on some new strains of the virus, including one first identified in South Africa.

Under the new rules, people arriving in England from 33 high-risk countries must stay in designated hotels for 10 days at their own expense, with meals delivered to their door. In Scotland the rule applies to arrivals from any country.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Some 500 people have gathered in a theater in the central Dutch city of Utrecht for the first in a series of test events aimed at charting a path toward a post-pandemic normality for large-scale gatherings.

Economic Affairs Minister Mona Keijzer says that, "returning to normal, whether it's a conference with your colleagues, a sports match or a concert: everyone wants that."

When that might be possible remains unclear. The Netherlands is in a tough lockdown until at least next month, with large-scale gatherings banned altogether, shops, bars, restaurants and museums closed and sports like professional soccer happening behind closed stadium doors.

Participants in Monday's trial had to present a negative COVID-19 test result, had their temperatures taken on arrival and will have to undergo another test after attending the event.

The government says it will use data gathered at the event to help decide "how to work toward safe and responsible events" in the future.

The event came with Dutch infections on a gradual downward trend in recent weeks and vaccinations ramping up after a slow start that made the Netherlands become the last of the 27 European Union nations to begin its vaccination campaign.

___

BERLIN — German authorities say police have turned back some 5,000 people at the country's borders with the Czech Republic and Austria's Tyrol region since tight controls were introduced on Sunday.

Germany imposed checks to slow the spread of the British coronavirus variant from the Czech Republic and the South African variant from Tyrol. It is restricting entry to German citizens and residents, truck drivers, transport and health service workers and a few others including cross-border commuters working in "systemically relevant sectors." All have to show a negative coronavirus test.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said, by Monday morning, federal police had checked about 10,000 people and turned back some 5,000.

The checks have prompted strong criticism from Austria.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, defended the German measures. He said that "the German government had to act here" to prevent the rapid spread of more contagious virus variants.

___

BRUSSELS — The EU's anti-fraud office, OLAF, is urging member states to be vigilant against scammers offering to sell fake COVID-19 vaccines as the 27-nation bloc faces delays in the supply of shots.

In a statement Monday, OLAF said it was made aware of a number of reports of scammers offering to sell vaccines in a bid to defraud EU governments trying to speed up the pace of vaccination.

The EU has been criticized for a slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in comparison with other parts of the world, lagging behind the pace of countries like Britain or Israel. The EU commission has signed six contracts for more than 2 billion doses of various coronavirus vaccines, but only three of them have been approved for use so far and the delivery of shots has been disturbed by production delays.

___

BELGRADE, Serbia — Authorities in Serbia's capital Belgrade on Monday held an emergency meeting over a surge in night clubbing that has drawn thousands of partygoers in violation of rules against the new coronavirus.

Belgrade's mayor announced stepped-up controls of clubs, cafes and other venues that are allowed to operate until 8p.m. with limited capacity. but have widely flouted government restrictions.

Serbian police said they detained five people over the weekend after breaking up two big parties in different parts of the city. A party in central Belgrade gathered about 1,000 people and the other, held in a new part of the city, around 600, police said.

Before the virus outbreak, Belgrade was known for its wild nightlife that centers on clubs situated on rafts on the capital's two rivers, the Danube and Sava.

___

MADRID — Police across Spain have wrapped a weekend of cracking down on parties and boozing in public contravening restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Large parties ignoring social distancing, mask wearing and existing curfews were closed down in Ibiza, northeastern Tarragona and many other parts of the country, which has only recently slowed down the sharp increase of contagion seen after the end-of-year celebrations.

In Madrid alone, police fined 450 people for street alcohol consumption in groups and busted 418 illegal parties in entertainment venues and private homes from Friday to Sunday, including a rave in a warehouse with 55 adults and 11 minors who were not wearing masks and were using drugs.

The National Police also found over 50 people in a small apartment rented for tourists in the center of the Spanish capital.

The parties are increasingly better organized to attract foreign visitors and avoid scrutiny, the local police say, with no cash exchanged and payments via phone. In contrast with much of Europe, where entertainment venues have been closed, bars and restaurants in Madrid are allowed to open until 9 p.m.

Spain has managed to lower its 14-day rate of infection per 100,000 residents, from nearly 900 cases in Jan. 27 to less than 500 on Friday, but experts are warning against relaxing restrictions too fast, given that COVID-19 wards in hospitals are still grappling with high occupation rates.

___

BERLIN — Officers trying to bust a clandestine Carnival celebration in eastern Germany were left red-faced when most of the revelers escaped police on skis.

German news agency dpa reported Monday that police in the town of Marienberg, near the border with the Czech Republic, received information that about 100 people were partying Sunday without abiding by the requirements to wear face masks or respect minimum social distancing.

Police were unable to determine how many people had broken the law, however, because their arrival prompted a hasty on-ski departure by most of the party-goers.

Saxony, where Marienberg is located, has the second-highest infection rate of Germany's 16 states. Germany has restricted entry from the neighboring Czech Republic and Austria's Tyrol state to prevent the spread of variant viruses from those countries.

Police across Germany have broken up numerous Carnival celebrations across the country in recent days.

Daily Crunch: Parler is back online - TechCrunch

Posted: 15 Feb 2021 03:11 PM PST

Parler returns from limbo, Uber lobbies Europe and we have more details about Notion's outage. This is your Daily Crunch for February 15, 2021.

The big story: Parler is back online

The social network known for its far-right user base was dropped by infrastructure provider Amazon Web Services for posts advocating violence. Now it's back online, albeit with all old posts and content removed for reasons that are currently unclear.

The company says the new site is built with "sustainable, independent technology and not reliant on so-called 'Big Tech' for its operations."

In addition to a new website, Parler also has a new chief executive. Following the ouster of John Matze, Parler is now led by interim CEO Mark Meckler, founder of the Tea Party Patriots — one of the groups involved in organizing the January 6 pro-Trump demonstration that turned into a storming of the U.S. Capitol.

The tech giants

Uber lobbies for 'Prop 22'-style gig work standards in the EU — The ride-hailing and on-demand food delivery giant has published a white paper in which it lobbies European policymakers for what it describes as a "new standard" for platform work.

GM unveils a refreshed Chevy Bolt EV and its bigger, yet compact crossover sibling — The new vehicles share much of the same DNA but have their own distinct differences.

Google slapped in France over misleading hotel star ratings — Google has agreed to pay a €1.1 million fine over misleading star ratings for hotels.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Notion's hours-long outage was caused by phishing complaints — With the company's domain offline, users were unable to access their files, calendars and documents.

Delivery company goPuff is in talks to acquire the UK's Fancy — Fancy has a strikingly similar model to its potential buyer, leading some to describe it as a mini goPuff.

Private equity firm Marlin snatches up e-commerce optimization platform Lengow — For merchants using Lengow, the platform is the glue that makes all the moving parts of e-commerce stick together.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Investors' SPAC push could revamp the private market money game — Is this venture capital's natural evolution?

From dorm rooms to board rooms: How universities are promoting entrepreneurship — Earlier this year, 15 top U.S. universities joined forces to launch a one-stop shop where corporations and startups can discover and license patents.

The Series A deal that launched a near unicorn: Meet Accel's Steve Loughlin and Ironclad's Jason Boehmig — Their episode of Extra Crunch Live streams on Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST/12 p.m. PST.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Examining the 'pipeline problem' — An AI Now researcher analyzes the history behind a common excuse for the lack of diversity in tech.

India lifts restrictions on mapping and surveying to help local firms — The Indian government said local firms will no longer need a license or other permission to collect, generate, store and share geospatial data of the country.

Meet the Black Female Founders from TC Include at TC Sessions: Justice 2021 — Don't miss your chance to meet some founders currently participating in TechCrunch's Include program.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch's roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you'd like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

The Latest: WHO gives emergency authorization for vaccine - Lincoln Journal Star

Posted: 15 Feb 2021 05:37 AM PST

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Dr. Anthony Fauci has won the $1 million Dan David Prize for "defending science" and advocating for vaccines now being administered worldwide to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Israel-based Dan David Foundation on Monday named President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser as the winner of one of three prizes. It said he had earned the recognition over a lifetime of leadership on HIV research and AIDS relief, as well as his advocacy for the vaccines against COVID-19.

In its statement, the private foundation did not mention former President Donald Trump, who undermined Fauci's follow-the-science approach to the pandemic. But it credited Fauci with "courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging COVID crisis."

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— COVID-19 conspiracy shows the reach of Chinese disinformation around the world

— Here's a look at the key superspreaders of virus disinformation

— In Germany, carnival organizers found other ways to have fun — including floats poking fun at the likes of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

Peru minister resigns amid uproar over government officials being vaccinated before country received 1M doses for health workers

—Washington state's Sound Transit system faces an $11.5 billion budget shortfall caused in part by the coronavirus pandemic

— A pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the college basketball season is also reshaping the curve, leaving powerhouse programs on the tournament bubble

— San Francisco is the latest California city to temporarily shutter a mass vaccination site due to lack of vaccine

Italy won't open its ski slopes due to fears of virus variants

HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

GENEVA — It's nearly launch time for COVAX, the United Nations' unprecedented program to deploy COVID-19 vaccines for hundreds of millions in need around the globe.

More than two months after countries like Britain and the United States started immunizing their most vulnerable people, the U.N.'s health agency gave its approval to a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which should trigger the release of hundreds of millions of doses by COVAX.

COVAX missed its own target of starting vaccination in poor countries at the same time as immunizations were rolled out in rich countries, and numerous developing countries have signed their own deals to buy vaccine, fearing the program won't deliver.

The World Health Organization and partners hope COVAX can finally start shipping out vaccines later this month.

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines on Monday and will soon begin to vaccinate its population of 50 million people, the third largest in Latin America.

The government says it aims to vaccinate 35 million people this year including hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants and refugees who are currently living in the South American country.

On Monday, a yellow DHL plane carrying Colombia's first 50,000 vaccines arrived at Bogota's international airport and was welcomed personally by President Ivan Duque and his health minister. The shots were supplied by Pfizer, which has a contract to sell 10 million vaccines to Colombia.

"Today I want to thank God, I want to thank science" Duque said from a podium set up on the runway. "We will now walk forward with the "v" of vaccines. With the "v" of victory."

Colombia will be one of the last countries in Latin America to start vaccinations.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico began vaccinating senior citizens in more than 300 municipalities across the country Monday after receiving some 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Most of the effort was concentrated in remote rural communities, but in a few far-flung corners of the sprawling capital, hundreds of Mexicans over the age of 60 lined up before dawn for the chance to get vaccinated.

The government has designated 1,000 vaccination sites, including schools and health centers, mostly in the country's poorest communities.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador conceded Monday that bad weather and snow had kept the vaccine from arriving to some isolated areas in Mexico's northwest. He said the armed forces, which are in charge of logistics for the vaccination campaign, were working to access those areas.

Mexico started vaccinating health workers in mid-December with some 726,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

MADRID — Spanish hospitals are starting to discharge more COVID-19 patients than the ones they admit in, although authorities say that a waning rate of infection remains too high to relax pandemic restrictions.

Health Ministry data showed that the share of hospital beds treating COVID-19 patients went from a 25% peak on Feb. 1 to 16.5% on Monday, with intensive care unit occupation in the same period dropping from 45% to 38% of the total, expanded capacity.

Spain has halved its 14-day of infection rate following a sharp post-Christmas contagion surge by avoiding a strict lockdown and choosing instead to restrict inter-regional mobility, impose night-time curfews and limit social gatherings. The two-week rate dropped from nearly 900 cases per 100,000 residents at the end of January to 417 infections on Monday.

The level is still considered of high risk and, according to Spain's top coronavirus expert, Fernando Simón, "well above the goals established to relax some of the measures."

PRAGUE — The Czech government has approved a plan for children and students to gradually return to schools in March.

Education Minister Robert Plaga says the first to return on March 1 should be the students of the final grade at high schools and schoolchildren of the final grade of elementary schools.

All students still will have to get tested at schools on a regular basis with the government ready to supply all the necessary tests.

Monday's announcement comes a day after the heads of all 14 regions in the country made it possible for the government to extend the state of emergency and keep in place coronavirus restrictions despite a previous refusal of Parliament to do so. The school reopening was one of the key conditions requested by the governors.

Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic remain at high levels. The nation of 10.7 million, has had more than 1 million confirmed cases, with 18,250 deaths.

LONDON -- The daily number of people in the U.K. testing positive for the coronavirus has fallen below 10,000 for the first time since Oct. 2.

Government figures on Monday show that 9,765 people tested positive for COVID-19.

Infections have fallen sharply over the past few weeks from a high of 68,053 largely as a result of lockdown measures. The U.K.'s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines to the most at-risk groups has also helped. As of Monday, 15.3 million people in the U.K. have had their first dose of vaccine, or a little more than a quarter of the adult population.

In addition to the fall in infections, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 and dying have also come down.

The government said another 230 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19, the lowest figure since Dec. 26 when the number of deaths was also 230.

The U.K. has witnessed Europe's deadliest outbreak, with 117,396 people dying in the 28 days after testing positive for the virus.

WASHINGTON— A top American epidemiologist says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic are sufficient but schools will face major challenges in the coming weeks because of virus variants.

Michael Osterholm is head of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and was named to Joe Biden's coronavirus task force before Biden became president. Osterholm says there's low virus transmission at schools, especially for younger students, but virus variants are "a real red flag coming down the road."

Osterholm told CBS on Monday he thinks a virus variant from the United Kingdom in particular is going to cause such a surge in U.S. cases over the next 14 weeks that "a lot of schools are going to

WASHINGTON — The makers of COVID-19 vaccines are figuring out how to tweak their recipes against worrisome virus mutations — and regulators are looking to flu as a blueprint if and when the shots need an update.

"It's not really something you can sort of flip a switch, do overnight," cautioned Richard Webby, who directs a World Health Organization flu center from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Viruses mutate constantly and it takes just the right combination of particular mutations to escape vaccination. But studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don't work as well against a mutant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions circulating around the world.

The good news: Many of the new COVID-19 vaccines are made with new, flexible technology that's easy to upgrade. What's harder: Deciding if the virus has mutated enough that it's time to modify vaccines — and what changes to make.

BERLIN — The European Union's health agency is urging countries to address what it calls "pandemic fatigue" that is leading to increasing protests and unwillingness to follow virus restrictions.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said Monday that properly addressing pandemic fatigue was "a matter of urgency if further waves of infection are to be avoided."

The Stockholm-based agency said governments should emphasize the risk of more cases and deaths if hygiene measures are ignored and be transparent about uncertainties regarding issues such as the vaccine rollout, which has raised widespread hopes of an imminent end to lockdowns.

ECDC said that the appearance of variants of the virus in the Europe posed a particular concern and could undo the drop in cases seen on the continent in recent weeks.

The agency said countries should increase testing sequencing of samples for variants, warning that its analysis suggests unless pandemic restrictions such as mask wearing are continued or strengthened during the coming months, "a significant increase in COVID-19-related cases and deaths" in Europe can be expected.

GENEVA, Switzerland — The World Health Organization granted an emergency authorization to the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca, a move that should allow its partners to ship millions of doses to countries worldwide as part of a U.N.-backed program to stop the pandemic.

In a statement on Monday, the U.N. health agency said it was greenlighting the AstraZeneca vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India and South Korea's AstraZeneca-SKBio.

"Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk," said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products.

ZAGREB, Croatia - Croatia is another European Union state after Hungary that has shown interest in procuring Russian developed Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine after hiccups in deliveries of Western-made shots.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Monday that Russia is ready to provide the vaccine and Croatia's health authorities will decide on its use after approval from the European Medicines Agency.

Croatia earlier this month launched its vaccination campaign with AstraZeneca shots, imposing none of the age limits that have been put in place by some other EU states.

Hungary has become the first EU member to start using Sputnik V and hopes to deploy China's Sinopharm vaccine soon, despite neither having received approval from EU's medicines regulator.

Non-EU member Serbia has been the first to start administering both the Russian as well as Chinese vaccines in Europe, helping it become one of the top states on the continent in the speed of the vaccination rollout.

BEIRUT — Coronavirus case numbers are stabilizing in parts of the Middle East but the situation remains critical, with more than a dozen countries reporting cases of new variants, the World Health Organization said Monday.

Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO's eastern Mediterranean region, which comprises most of the Middle East, said in a press briefing from Cairo that at least one of the three new coronavirus variants was reported in the 13 countries in the region. He did not name the countries.

All three of the new variants are more contagious, according to WHO.

Al-Mandhari said there are nearly 6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the region and about 140,000 deaths. WHO urged people to continue taking precautionary measures against the virus.

LONDON — Britain's newly established quarantine hotels have received their first guests as the government tries to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from derailing its fast-moving vaccination drive.

Passengers arriving at London's Heathrow Airport on Monday morning were escorted by security guards to buses that took them to nearby hotels.

Britain has given a first dose of coronavirus vaccine to almost a quarter of the population, but health officials are concerned that vaccines may not work as well on some new strains of the virus, including one first identified in South Africa.

Under the new rules, people arriving in England from 33 high-risk countries must stay in designated hotels for 10 days at their own expense, with meals delivered to their door. In Scotland the rule applies to arrivals from any country.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Some 500 people have gathered in a theater in the central Dutch city of Utrecht for the first in a series of test events aimed at charting a path toward a post-pandemic normality for large-scale gatherings.

Economic Affairs Minister Mona Keijzer says that, "returning to normal, whether it's a conference with your colleagues, a sports match or a concert: everyone wants that."

When that might be possible remains unclear. The Netherlands is in a tough lockdown until at least next month, with large-scale gatherings banned altogether, shops, bars, restaurants and museums closed and sports like professional soccer happening behind closed stadium doors.

Participants in Monday's trial had to present a negative COVID-19 test result, had their temperatures taken on arrival and will have to undergo another test after attending the event.

The government says it will use data gathered at the event to help decide "how to work toward safe and responsible events" in the future.

The event came with Dutch infections on a gradual downward trend in recent weeks and vaccinations ramping up after a slow start that made the Netherlands become the last of the 27 European Union nations to begin its vaccination campaign.

BRUSSELS — The EU's anti-fraud office, OLAF, is urging member states to be vigilant against scammers offering to sell fake COVID-19 vaccines as the 27-nation bloc faces delays in the supply of shots.

In a statement Monday, OLAF said it was made aware of a number of reports of scammers offering to sell vaccines in a bid to defraud EU governments trying to speed up the pace of vaccination.

The EU has been criticized for a slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in comparison with other parts of the world, lagging behind the pace of countries like Britain or Israel. The EU commission has signed six contracts for more than 2 billion doses of various coronavirus vaccines, but only three of them have been approved for use so far and the delivery of shots has been disturbed by production delays.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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