WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the administration expects to send millions of masks to people around the country “very shortly.”

Such a plan was considered and dropped by Donald Trump’s administration.

Biden didn’t provide details, including cost, timing and the type of mask to be shipped. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president confirmed the plan during a virtual roundtable discussion Tuesday with four Black essential workers: a St. Louis firefighter and EMT, a Chicago pharmacist, a child-care center employee in Columbus, Ohio, and a grocery store district manager in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Biden has asked everyone to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his term. He also required mask-wearing in federal buildings and on public transportation.


THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

Drug executives tell Congressional hearing an increase in vaccine supply is coming soon. The White House says states will get 14.5M doses of vaccine this week. Some British rush to book holiday plans amid plans to gradually end lockdown. Russia’s vaccine rollout picks up speed but experts say it's still moving slowly. “One Good Thing” keeps on giving to those in need, helpers.

— 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:

WASHINGTON — Coronavirus vaccine makers tell Congress to expect a big increase in the delivery of doses over the coming month.

The companies indicated at a hearing they can provide enough vaccine for most Americans by summer. By the end of March, Pfizer and Moderna expect to have provided the U.S. government with a total of 220 million vaccine doses, up from the roughly 75 million shipped so far.

That’s not counting a third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to get approval from regulators soon.

Looking ahead to summer, Pfizer and Moderna expect to complete delivery of 300 million doses each, and J&J aims to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be more than enough to vaccinate every American adult, the goal set by the Biden administration.


MADRID — Spain has registered 7,461 new coronavirus cases and 443 more deaths.

The 14-day infection rate has decreased from nearly 900 cases to 235 per 100,000 residents in less than a month. That’s moved Spain from the “extreme risk” level to “high risk.”

But with hospitals and their intensive care units still grappling with high levels of occupation, health authorities have warned the rate of contagion needs to lower before restrictions are lifted.

Although it has taken Spain seven weeks to fully vaccinate 1.2 million people and administer the first of two shots to nearly 2 million, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Tuesday the country is still in track to vaccinate 20 million by the end of June and 33 million by the end of summer.

The country has reached a total of 3.1 million cases and 68,000 confirmed deaths.


MONTREAL — Quebec will begin vaccinating its general population aged 85 years and older starting next week.

Premier Francois Legault says anyone born in 1936 or before can begin registering for an injection on Thursday. Legault says authorities will focus on vaccinating people in the greater Montreal area because of the high number of infections in the region.

He made the announcement at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the site of one of the future mass vaccination clinics. Canada has had shortage of vaccines in recent weeks. But it received 643,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses this week and expects to get 6 million before the end of March and 29 million by July.


ROME — Officials have accelerated the coronavirus vaccination schedule in the northern Italian province of Brescia and imposed tough new lockdown restrictions after the area recorded a spike of infections blamed on the British variant.

Guido Bertolaso, in charge of the regional vaccination campaign, told the Lombardy regional council Tuesday that “the third wave is under way in Brescia.” He announced a targeted and accelerated vaccination campaign to try to stop the Brescia cluster, including using a delayed second dose so more of the population of around 120,000 people could get a first shot.

All schools were ordered closed in Brescia and some neighboring towns, with more restrictions on personal movement.

Italy added 356 more deaths to its official COVID-19 toll and 13,314 confirmed infections, in line with its average in recent weeks. Italy has registered 2.8 million total cases and more than 96,000 confirmed deaths, sixth highest in the world.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a $7.6 billion coronavirus relief package. The new laws will give at least $600 one-time payments to 5.7 million people while setting aside more than $2 billion in grants for struggling small businesses.

Newsom signed the law as Congress is debating a much larger stimulus package for the nation. California’s stimulus package will give up to $25,000 grants to small businesses with revenues between $1,000 and $2.5 million.

Most people will get the $600 payments by claiming the California earned income tax credit on their state tax returns.


PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered the lowering of flags for five days starting Tuesday to honor the thousands of lives lost due to the coronavirus.

Arizona’s death toll from the coronavirus passed 15,000 last week. Nationwide, the virus has killed more than 500,000 Americans.

Arizona on Tuesday reported 1,184 more cases and 148 confirmed deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 810,658 cases and 15,650 confirmed deaths.

The number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and rolling seven-day daily averages of new cases and deaths have continued a downward trend.


GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is criticizing the lack of access to coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poor.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “More than 210 countries are yet to administer a single dose.” Tedros spoke at an event organized by the charity Global Citizen, whose issues include the coronavirus and climate change.

“Vaccines will help to bring the pandemic under control, but we will still be left with many of the same problems that existed before,” Tedros says.

John Kerry, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said no country on its own could solve such problems. He described the upcoming November meeting on climate change in Glasgow as “our last best chance to get on track and get the job done.”


WASHINGTON — States will receive about 14.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine this week, marking a nearly 70% increase in distribution of doses over the last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

Limited supply of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines has hampered the pace of vaccinations -- and that was before extreme winter weather delayed the delivery of about 6 million doses this past week.

The number of doses states will receive will increase from the 8.6 million a week they received during Biden’s first week in office. Last week, the White House announced that states would receive 13.5 million doses of the vaccine.

The White House announced last week that it’s in the process of doubling to 2 million the number of doses sent directly to pharmacies. Psaki also noted White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients told governors on Tuesday that pharmacies will see an increase in allocation by about 100,000 doses this week.

President Joe Biden has said that every American who wants a vaccination can get one by the end of July.


ALBANY, N.Y. — Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center will allow hundreds of fans to attend some sports and entertainment events starting Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced stadiums and arenas with a capacity of 10,000 people or more can reopen with limited spectators for sports and entertainment. Both outdoor and indoor arenas can reopen at 10% of their normal capacity.

Barclays Center has about 17,700 seats for basketball games and plans to fill 300 seats. The New York Knicks and New York Rangers say they plan to host about 2,000 fans at Madison Square Garden, which has a maximum capacity of about 20,000. All staff and spectators must receive a negative coronavirus lab test within 72 hours of the event.

The plan has drawn concern from public health experts who point to high rates of COVID-19 infections, the higher risk of transmission indoors and the threat of more contagious variants.


WASHINGTON — The top developers of U.S. COVID-19 vaccines are facing questions from Congress about limited supplies of the shots needed to end the pandemic.

The pace of vaccinations is picking up nationwide, but demand for the shots continues to outpace limited supplies distributed by the U.S. government. The Energy and Commerce Committee panel began hearing testimony from the five companies with contracts to supply COVID-19 shots to the U.S. — Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax.

Johnson & Johnson revealed ahead of the hearing that initial supplies of its one-shot vaccine will be limited to 20 million doses by the end of March. The company plans to tell lawmakers it faces “significant challenges” in scaling up production.

However, federal health officials say a total of 700 million doses is still slated for delivery by late July. That would be enough to reach the goal of providing enough shots for every American adult.

The pandemic has killed more than 500,000 Americans.


LONDON — Britons rushed to book overseas vacations after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled plans to slowly ease a national lockdown.

That boosted optimism that travel restrictions will be removed in time for the summer holiday season. TUI, the U.K.’s largest tour operator said bookings increased six-fold Monday, the company’s busiest day in more than a month.

Discount airline easyJet said demand for flights more than tripled, and package holiday company Thomas Cook said traffic on its website increased 75%.

Still many business leaders were disappointed at the slow pace of re-opening of some sectors, with some restrictions expected to remain in place until June 21.


ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities have reported a spike in new coronavirus cases, about half of which were in the greater Athens region.

A total 2,147 new infections were recorded Tuesday, up from 880 a day earlier despite the ongoing lockdown. It brings the total to just over 180,000.

Authorities also recorded 22 new deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total to 6,343 confirmed deaths.

A total 357 people are intubated in intensive care units.

Greece remains in lockdown until the end of February. It’s unclear whether the restrictions will be extended. So far, about 750,000 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine.


JERUSALEM — Israel says it has decided to share a small quantity of its coronavirus vaccines with the Palestinians and other unidentified countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says although Israel has purchased vaccines for its own population, it has accumulated a small surplus of unused COVID-19 vaccines. “Therefore, it has been decided to assist Palestinian Authority medical teams and several of the countries that contacted Israel with a symbolic quantity of vaccines,” it said.

Early this month, Israel transferred 2,000 doses of Moderna vaccines to the Palestinians for West Bank medical workers. In all, it has pledged to share 5,000 doses.

Israel has come under some international criticism for not sharing significant quantities of vaccines with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel says under interim peace accords from the 1990s, it is not responsible for providing health care to Palestinians in those areas.

Israel has already given at least one dose of the vaccine to roughly half of its 9.3 million people, one of the highest per capita rates in the world.


LISBON, Portugal — A second team of Germany army medics has arrived in Portugal to help with intensive care patients during the pandemic.

A COVID-19 surge in January made Portugal the worst-hit country in the world by size of population. The surge has ebbed, but hospitals are still under pressure.

The eight German doctors and 18 nurses arrived Tuesday to relieve a previous team that flew to Portugal at the start of February.

A handful of medics from France and Luxembourg are also helping at Portuguese hospitals.


STOCKHOLM — Authorities in Sweden’s capital of Stockholm urged people to use face masks when on public transportation, shops and workplaces.

“We want people to use face masks in public transport around the clock, especially during rush hour,” says the city’s infection control doctor Maria Rotzen Ostlund. Stockholm has had a 27% infection increase in recent weeks.

Swedish chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell says Sweden “unfortunately is seeing an upswing again,” adding the variant first reported in Britain “has increased at a very fast pace.”

Sweden has reported 12,713 confirmed deaths. It’s totaled 642,099 confirmed cases, an increase of 10,933 cases since Friday.


BUCHAREST, Romania — Hundreds of Romanian policemen have marched in protest of planned austerity measures that may freeze salaries in the public sector.

The Romanian government has announced a strict budget this year to counter the fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic on the country’s economy. The austerity package is yet to be approved in Romania’s parliament.

The measure has angered workers’ unions in the public sector, particularly the medical workers who have carried much of the burden of the outbreak while treating COVID-19 patients.

Other public staff unions also have announced protests. They are demanding annual salary increases remain intact and bonuses be introduced in some cases, particularly for the health staff in COVID-19 wards or the families of medical workers who died in the pandemic.

Romania has registered nearly 800,000 coronavirus cases and more than 20,000 confirmed deaths in the country of 19 million.


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

Trending Video