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Portland Man Charged with Hate Crimes, Robbery After Attacking Afghan Store Owner

Axios

Biden’s plan to replace government fleet with electric vehicles won’t be so easy

President Biden’s plan to replace the government’s fleet of 650,000 cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. by union workers is easier said than done. Why it matters: The populist “Buy American” message sounds good, but the vehicles Biden wants are still several years away and his purchase criteria would require an expensive overhaul of automakers’ manufacturing strategies, not to mention a reversal of fortune for labor organizers long stymied by Tesla and other non-union companies.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.Reality check: Right now, not a single model fits the president’s criteria: battery-powered, made in America, by union workers. * Tesla produces the vast majority of EVs in the U.S., and all of its models contain at least 55% American-made parts, according to federal data. But Tesla doesn’t have a union and CEO Elon Musk has run afoul of federal labor laws. * General Motors’ Chevrolet Bolt is the only U.S.-built EV made by union labor. But it’s made mostly with parts imported from Korea. Just 24% of the content is considered domestic. * The Nissan Leaf, another popular EV, is made in Tennessee. But the factory is non-union and only 35% of the parts are domestic. “Made in America” itself is confusing, because current rules governing “domestic” content include parts made in both the U.S. and Canada. * Under the American Automobile Labeling Act, passed in 1992, every car requires a label disclosing where the car was assembled, the percentage of equipment from the U.S. and Canada combined, and the country where the engine and transmission were built. * The newly passed US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement adds another layer of rules about the origin of parts.Biden wants to change the whole system of determining whether a federal vehicle is “American.” * Today, the government requires federal vehicles to have at least 50 percent of their components made in America, but loopholes allow the most valuable parts like engines or steel to be manufactured elsewhere, Biden told reporters Monday. * He wants a higher threshold and tighter rules that would directly benefit American workers. Be smart: It’s all doable, but definitely not within Biden’s four-year term in office. * “It just doesn’t add up,” said Joe Langley, a forecasting analyst for IHS Markit. “The product is still a few years away.” * And replacing 650,000 federal vehicles with EVs would require an increase in U.S. investment through the whole supply chain, including electric motors, batteries and vehicles — all of which will take time, Langley said. * Union leaders are glad Biden is focused on the industry’s future. “He sees new technology as a way to grow our industry and our economy,” a spokesperson for the United Auto Workers told Axios.Some of that investment is already happening. GM, for example, is overhauling several factories to produce electric vehicles in Tennessee and Michigan. Ford will make its upcoming e-Transit van in Missouri. * But GM, Ford and Stellantis (the newly merged FiatChrysler and Peugeot) just recently committed to build more EVs at union factories in Canada. * And Ford is ramping up production of its highly anticipated Mustang Mach-E in Mexico. What to watch: There could be some surprise winners from Biden’s plan. * A handful of well-funded EV startups such as Lordstown Motors, Rivian and Workhorse are developing plug-in commercial vehicles like vans and trucks — things that are often needed in government fleets. * “This could put wind in the sails of a lot of new startups,” said Langley.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.

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Zimbabwe holds burial for 3 top leaders who died of COVID-19

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe on Wednesday buried three top officials, including two cabinet ministers, in a single ceremony at a shrine reserved almost exclusively for the ruling elite as a virulent wave of the coronavirus takes a devastating toll on the country.

“COVID-19 has taught us an important lesson that we are all mortal,” said Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, presiding at what he described as a “unique triple burial” at the hilltop, picturesque shrine called National Heroes Acre.

“It does not discriminate between the powerful and the weak, the privileged and the deprived, the haves and the have-nots. It is a ruthless juggernaut that leaves a trail of despair and desperation,” he said.

Pallbearers in full COVID-19 protective gear wheeled the coffins of the two Cabinet ministers and a former head of Zimbabwe’s prisons on a red carpet for burial with military honors.

A few mourners, keeping a distance from each other and wearing face masks, attended the burial in line with regulations that limit the number of people at funerals.

One of the ministers buried, Sibusiso Moyo, was the country’s foreign affairs minister, but was best known as the military general who announced the coup against then-president Robert Mugabe on television in 2017. The coup ended Mugabe’s 37-year rule and he later died in Sept. 2019.

Zimbabwe has now lost four cabinet ministers to COVID-19. President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the coronavirus is reaping a “grim harvest” in the country while presiding last week at the burial of one of the ministers who died from COVID-19 at the same shrine. Mnangagwa did not attend the triple burial Wednesday as he is taking annual leave.

Several other prominent political and business leaders have died from the virus in recent weeks, leaving the country scratching for answers. It appears that many of Zimbabwe’s elite did not take adequate precautions during the holiday season.

A government spokesman, Nick Mangwana, was this week forced to apologize after appearing to suggest some of the high profile people were being “eliminated” in hospitals by doctors he called “medical assassins” and “political activists hiding behind medical qualifications.”

Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, initially recorded low numbers of COVID-19 but has recently experienced a spike in cases. There are fears that a new, more infectious variant of the virus came to the country when scores of thousands of Zimbabweans living in South Africa returned home for the holiday season.

The country of 15 million recorded a total of 32,004 cases, including 1,103 deaths, on Jan.26, up from the slightly more than 10,000 cases and 277 deaths at the beginning of December, according to government figures.

Zimbabwe has not yet received any vaccines. Mnangagwa has said the government health officials are still deciding which vaccine to acquire.

Portia Manangazira, director of epidemiology and disease control in the ministry of health, told a parliamentary committee this week that Russia and China “might offer a small donation.”

The government has also said it expects to get some vaccines through the international COVAX initiative, but it does not have a firm date on when they will be delivered.

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US to indict Capitol rioters this week as FBI tracks down 400 suspects

National Review

Biden Backs Chicago Teachers Refusing to Return to School: ‘I Know They Want to Work’

President Joe Biden on Monday expressed support for the Chicago Teachers Union in its fight against reopening schools for in-person learning, saying, “I know they want to work.” The CTU voted Monday to defy the city school district and continue to work remotely. “They just want to work in a safe environment, and as safe as we can rationally make it, and we can do that,” Biden said. Biden’s comments came in response to a question about the union at a news conference after an event on American manufacturing, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. White House staffers were reportedly briefed about the ongoing standoff in the nation’s third-largest district by American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten. Asked if teachers should return to school, the president said, “we should make school classrooms safe and secure for the students, for the teachers and for the help that is in those schools maintaining those facilities.” The president added, “we should be able to open up every, every school, kindergarten through eighth grade, if in fact we administer these tests, and we’ll have the added advantage I might add, a putting millions of people back to work.” Biden did not mention Chicago or Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot in his response. He said widespread testing and functioning ventilation systems are key to reopening schools – both of which have fueled disagreements between Chicago Public Schools officials and the CTU, which is a local affiliate of the AFT. Weingarten said the White House is “really concerned about reopening and really concerned about doing it right.” “I felt it was my moral obligation to brief the White House this weekend, which I did,” she said, adding that she briefed Biden senior staffers on “what was going on in Chicago, from my perspective.” She indicated she was “very pleased” with his comments on Monday. Politically powerful national teachers unions make up a key part of Biden’s base. First Lady Jill Biden along with Weingarten and National Education Association President Becky Pringle held a virtual event with 11,000 teachers last week. About 70,000 elementary school students are scheduled to return to in-person learning on February 1 for the first time since schools closed in March 2020, according to the Chicago Public School’s coronavirus reopening plan. Around 10,000 elementary school teachers and staff were expected to report to work on Monday to prepare for the reopening. However, CTU members voted to stay at home due to disagreements with CPS over the reopening plan. Eighty-six percent of all CTU members cast ballots with 71 percent opting to continue to work from home. The union is advocating for members with medically vulnerable relatives at home to receive accommodations for remote work and for teachers to only be required to return to in-person instruction upon receiving a vaccination. It is also pushing for increased testing of staff and students as well as a public health metric that would determine when schools should reopen or close. Union members said they were encouraged to hear Biden’s comments on the situation, according to the Sun-Times. CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said Biden “is not taking sides” but is “prioritizing the safety of every stakeholder in every city in every state in this country.”

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Bus crash in western Cameroon kills more than 50 passengers

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — At least 53 people have died and 21 others were injured in Cameroon when a bus collided with a truck early Wednesday in a village in the western part of the country, officials said.

The accident occured in Santchou village and survivors were rushed to hospitals in the western towns of Dschang and Bafoussam, Awa Fonka Augustine, the governor of the West Region of Cameroon, confirmed.

“A speeding truck illegally transporting fuel ran into the 70-seat bus transporting passengers from the coastal commercial city of Douala to Bafoussam, the capital of Cameroon’s West region,” he said. “A collision between the truck and the bus sparked uncontrollable fire which ravaged the truck, the bus and its occupants.”

The truck driver, however, escaped after the crash and Augustine has called for his arrest.

Hundreds of people are rushing to Santchou to see if their relatives are dead or alive.

“It is impossible to identify any of the corpses I have seen. They are burned beyond recognition,” said 54-year-old businessman Honore Nzali who is searching for his brother.

Road accidents are common in Cameroon. The government blames reckless drivers and the poor state of vehicles, while drivers blame the bad conditions of the roads.

In December, 37 people died and 18 others were seriously injured in an accident in the western village of Makenene.

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German lockdown beginning to take effect, new CDU leader says

DUSSELDORF (Reuters) – Germany’s coronavirus lockdown is starting to take effect, the new leader of the ruling Christian Democrats said on Wednesday, noting that the seven-day infection rate had fallen to 97.2 per 100,000 in his state of North Rhine Westphalia.

“The current development is encouraging,” Armin Laschet, also state premier, told the regional parliament, adding that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and regional leaders were working on a “sequence of steps for possible openings” after the current lockdown is due to end on Feb. 14.

But he said there should be no hasty decisions.

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 13,202 to 2,161,279, data showed on Wednesday, down from a rise of 15,974 a week ago, although the reported death toll rose by 982 to 53,972.

The CDU chose Laschet last week as the new leader of Merkel’s party. Merkel has said she will not run for chancellor again in September’s federal election.

Merkel said last year that Laschet, 59, had “the tools” to run for chancellor, the closest she has come to endorsing anyone.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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German woman charged with plotting attack on Muslims, others

BERLIN (AP) — A German woman has been charged with preparing a far-right attack and other crimes on allegations she was in the process of building a bomb to target Muslims and local politicians in Bavaria, Munich prosecutors said Wednesday.

Susanne G., whose last name wasn’t given in line with privacy laws, also faces charges of making threats and violations of weapons laws, among other things. She has been in custody since her arrest.

Prosecutors allege that the woman started planning a firebombing attack no later than May 2020, motivated by her xenophobic and extreme-right views.

She is alleged to have downloaded information on bomb building online and have gathered materials for the construction, including gasoline, fireworks and fuses, by the time of her arrest in September.

Between December 2019 and March 2020 the suspect is alleged to have sent six anonymous letters, five including a live bullet, with death threats to a local politician in the Nuremberg area, a Muslim community association, and an asylum seeker aid organization.

During the summer of 2020, she started focusing on local police officers and a different local politician than the one threatened by letter as other possible targets, and began scouting their homes and cars.

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France’s Sanofi to help make rival vaccine

PARIS — French drug maker Sanofi says it will help manufacture 125 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by rivals Pfizer and BioNTech, while its own vaccine candidate faces delays.

Germany-based BioNTech will initially produce the vaccines at Sanofi facilities in Frankfurt, starting in the summer, according to a Sanofi statement Wednesday. The company did not reveal financial details of the agreement.

The French government has been pressing Sanofi to use its facilities to help make rival vaccines, given high demand and problems with supplies of the few vaccines that are already available.

Sanofi and British partner GlaxoSmithKline will start a new phase-2 trial of their COVID-19 vaccine next month, Sanofi said. The two companies said last month that their vaccine won’t be ready until late 2021 because the shot’s effectiveness in older people needed to be improved.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— U.S. boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages

— U.K. becomes first country in Europe to pass 100,000 coronavirus deaths

— U.S president says he’s ‘bringing back the pros’ for virus briefings

— IOC, Tokyo Olympics to unveil rule book for beating pandemic

— 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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BEIJING — China has given more than 22 million coronavirus vaccine shots to date as it carries out a drive ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday, health authorities said Wednesday.

The effort, which began six weeks ago, targets key groups such as medical and transport workers and has accelerated vaccinations in China. About 1.6 million doses had been given over several months before the campaign began.

“The carrying out of vaccination has been ongoing in a steady and orderly manner,” Zeng Yixin, vice chairman of the National Health Commission Said at a news conference.

He said that 22.76 million doses had been administered as of Tuesday. It’s not clear how many people that represents since the vaccine is given in two doses, and some may have received their second shot.

China, which largely stopped the spread of the virus last spring, has seen fresh outbreaks this winter in four northern provinces. About 1,800 new cases have been reported since mid-December, including two deaths.

Authorities are strongly discouraging people from traveling during the Lunar New Year holiday, a time when Chinese traditionally return to their hometowns for family gatherings.

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NEW DELHI — India has vaccinated 2 million health workers in less than two weeks and recorded 12,689 new coronavirus positive cases in the past 24 hours, a sharp decline from a peak level of nearly 100,000 in mid-September.

The health Ministry said the daily new cases had fallen below 10,000 on Tuesday with 9,102 cases. The daily new positive cases were 9,304 on June 4 last year.

India’s fatalities dropped to 137 in the past 24 hours from a peak level of 1,089 daily deaths in September. India’s total positive cases since the start of the epidemic have reached 10.6 million, the second highest after the United States with 25.43 million cases.

India started inoculating health workers on Jan. 16 in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. Authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported new 559 cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily increase in 10 days, as health workers scrambled to slow transmissions at religious facilities, which have been a major source of infections throughout the pandemic.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday brought the national caseload to 76,429, including 1,378 deaths.

The agency said 112 of the new cases came from the southwestern city of Gwangju where more than 100 infections have so far been linked to a missionary training school. An affiliated facility in the central city of Daejeon has been linked to more 170 infections.

Nearly 300 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where infections have been tied to various places, including churches, restaurants, schools and offices.

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska has detected the state’s first known case of the coronavirus variant identified last year in the United Kingdom, officials said Tuesday.

The infected person is an Anchorage resident who had traveled to a state where the variant had already been detected, the Alaska health department said. The person first experienced symptoms on Dec. 17, was tested three days later and received a positive result on Dec. 22.

The resident lived with another person in Anchorage, who also became ill. Both isolated and have since recovered, officials said.

It was not yet clear if the second person also was infected with the variant.

Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, said in a news release that the discovery of the variant is not surprising because viruses “constantly change through mutation.”

He said this is one of several “variants that has been carefully tracked because it appears to spread more easily and quickly than other strains of the virus.”

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said it is likely the variant will be detected again soon.

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BOSTON — In his annual State of the Commonwealth address, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker defended his vaccine distribution plan, which some have criticized for being confusing and too narrowly focused at first.

Baker said the state is prepared to distribute and administer all the vaccine shots delivered by the federal government and is rapidly expanding the number of vaccination sites.

“Vaccinating 4 million adults in Massachusetts as the doses are allocated by the federal government is not going to be easy. But be assured that we will make every effort to get this done as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said. “We can only move as fast as the federal government delivers the vaccines.”

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SEATTLE – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday touted big improvements in distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, but he also urged residents to remain vigilant as new, more contagious variants of the disease spread in the state.

Inslee said more than 36,000 doses were administered in Washington on Sunday and 39,000 on Monday — a big jump from about 16,000 a week earlier, and on the way toward the state’s goal of 45,000 per day.

The number of vaccines actually administered could be even higher, given lags in reporting, but as of Monday more than 500,000 doses had been administered statewide, with four mass vaccination sites due to open this week.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the federal government is boosting vaccine supplies to the states by 16% over the next three weeks, giving states more certainty about upcoming deliveries than the one-week notice the Trump administration had been providing.

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Health workers become 1st to get COVID-19 vaccine in Nepal

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Thousands of health workers lined up across Nepal to get the coronavirus vaccine Wednesday as the Himalayan nation began a three-month vaccination campaign.

At the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, doctors were encouraging hesitant colleagues to get the vaccine.

“We have to initiate this. If we will not take, then who will take this vaccine? We can’t say we will not take this as we are doctors,” said Dr. Poonam Sharma.

Hospital director Dr. Dinesh Kafle said 300 staffers were set to get the vaccine on Wednesday and the remaining 2,000 within a week.

Nepal received as a gift from neighboring India 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine manufactured under license by the Serum Institute of India.

It’s aiming to get 72% of its 30 million people vaccinated within three months and is making the two-dose vaccine free to citizens.

On the first day, 12,000 doctors, nurses, custodians, ambulance drivers and other health workers will be vaccinated, with the number increasing in the next few days, Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi said. The 120 vaccination centers in use will be doubled.

It plans to vaccinate 430,000 health workers in the next 10 days before expanding the campaign and is working to get more shipments.

Nepal has reported 270,092 cases of coronavirus infection and 2,017 deaths from COVID-19.

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US boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages

Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. is ramping up deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall.

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

Shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites around the U.S. had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot.

“This is unacceptable,” Biden said. “Lives are at stake.”

He promised a roughly 16% boost in deliveries to states over the next three weeks.

The administration said it plans to buy another 100 million doses each from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to ensure it has enough vaccine for the long term. Even more vaccine could be available if federal scientists approve a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to seek emergency authorization in the coming weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the government plans to make about 10.1 million first and second doses available next week, up from this week’s allotment of 8.6 million. The figures represent doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It was not immediately clear how long the surge of doses could be sustained.

Governors and top health officials have been increasingly raising the alarm about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much vaccine is on the way so that they can plan.

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

Biden’s announcement came a day after he grew more bullish about exceeding his vaccine pledge to deliver 100 million injections in his first 100 days in office, suggesting that a rate of 1.5 million doses per day could soon be achieved.

The administration has also promised more openness and said it will hold news briefings three times a week, beginning Wednesday, about the outbreak that has killed over 420,000 Americans.

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

The setup inherited from the Trump administration has been marked by miscommunication and unexplained bottlenecks, with shortages reported in some places even as vaccine doses remain on the shelf.

Officials in West Virginia, which has had one of the best rates of administering vaccine, said they have fewer than 11,000 first doses on hand even after this week’s shipment.

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

California, which has faced criticism over a slow vaccine rollout, announced Tuesday that it is centralizing its hodgepodge of county systems and streamlining appointment sign-up, notification and eligibility. Residents have been baffled by the varying rules in different counties.

And in Colorado, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said that the limited supply of vaccine from the federal government is prompting the state to repurpose second doses as first doses, though he expects that people scheduled for their second shot will still be able to keep their appointments.

The weekly allocation cycle for first doses begins on Monday nights, when federal officials review data on vaccine availability from manufacturers to determine how much each state can have. Allocations are based on each jurisdiction’s population of people 18 and older.

States are notified on Tuesdays of their allocations through a computer network called Tiberius and other channels, after which they can specify where they want doses shipped. Deliveries start the following Monday.

A similar but separate process for ordering second doses, which must be given three to four weeks after the first, begins each week on Sunday night.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC reported that just over half of the 44 million doses distributed to states have been put in people’s arms. That is well short of the hundreds of millions of doses that experts say will need to be administered to achieve herd immunity and conquer the outbreak.

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

The reason more of the available shots in the U.S. haven’t been dispensed isn’t entirely clear. But many vaccination sites are apparently holding large quantities of vaccine in reserve to make sure people who have already gotten their first shot receive the required second one on schedule.

Also, some state officials have complained of a lag between when they report their vaccination numbers to the government and when the figures are posted on the CDC website.

In the New Orleans area, Ochsner Health said Monday that inadequate supply forced the cancellation last week of 21,400 first-dose appointments but that second-dose appointments aren’t affected.

In North Carolina, Greensboro-based Cone Health announced it is canceling first-dose appointments for 10,000 people and moving them to a waiting list because of supply problems.

Jesse Williams, 81, of Reidsville, North Carolina, said his appointment Thursday with Cone Health was scratched, and he is waiting to hear when it might be rescheduled. The former volunteer firefighter had hoped the vaccine would enable him to resume attending church, playing golf and seeing friends.

“It’s just a frustration that we were expecting to be having our shots and being a little more resilient to COVID-19,” he said.

The vaccine rollout across the 27-nation European Union has also run into roadblocks and has likewise been criticized as too slow. Pfizer is delaying deliveries while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase capacity. And AstraZeneca disclosed that its initial shipment will be smaller than expected.

The EU, with 450 million citizens, is demanding that the pharmaceutical companies meet their commitments on schedule.

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Associated Press writers around the U.S. contributed to this report.

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Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic