The Latest: Hawaii emails reveal strain over contact tracing

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An Afghan doctor checks a COVID-19 patient at the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 30, 2021. Afghanistan is battling a brutal third wave of COVID infections, while health officials plead for vaccines, expressing deep frustration at the inequities of the global vaccine distribution. Positive COVID cases jump from eight percent to 60 per cent in some parts of the country. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

HONOLULU — A review of Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s emails shows the state epidemiologist spent key weeks in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic resisting suggestions and requests that she boost contact tracing to control the spread of COVID-19.

They also showed Dr. Sarah Park repeatedly telling her superiors that the state’s failure to adequately fund the division she headed was preventing her from quickly expanding their work to respond to the crisis.

The Associated Press obtained the emails last month in response to a May 2020 request submitted under Hawaii’s open records law.

Contact tracing was especially difficult for many states. The effort aims to alert people who may have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus and prevent them from spreading it to others. Health experts say it’s key to containing the virus.

The governor’s records show that University of Hawaii President David Lassner emailed administration officials on April 16, 2020, to say university researchers had written a report about the need to boost contact tracing and other steps to control COVID-19.

Park didn’t outright reject more contact tracing but replied: “I am increasingly disturbed that people seem to think contact tracing is somehow easily accomplished as a simple task when it is a part of the practice of applied epidemiology.”

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— New England’s success against COVID-19 could be a model

— Amid brutal case surge, Afghanistan hit by vaccine delays

— Pilgrims return to Spain’s ‘El Camino’ paths after pandemic

— Heart reaction probed as possible rare vaccine effect in teens

— Experts see strides on AIDS, but COVID-19 halted progress

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Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia bike riders won’t need shirts, pants, skirts or underwear — just a mask.

Organizers of the Philly Naked Bike Ride say this year’s event will take place Aug. 28 and will require masks, based on the city’s earlier coronavirus restrictions.

The city lifted most of those restrictions this week, citing increased vaccinations and decreased cases. But ride organizers say they haven’t chatted since the city’s guidelines changed so for now, they’re sticking with their initial mask guidance.

Ride participants usually gather in a park to undress before carefully hopping on their bikes to promote body positivity and cycling safety and protest fossil fuel dependency.

Organizers canceled the 2020 event, saying it was “the most responsible thing to do.”

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BANGKOK — Trade ministers from the Pacific Rim were discussing ways to build back better from the pandemic in an online meeting Saturday hosted by New Zealand.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has long focused on dismantling trade barriers. The meeting of its trade ministers was convened virtually, given travel restrictions in the region as coronavirus outbreaks flare in many countries still struggling to obtain and deploy enough COVID-19 vaccines.

On the agenda was a statement on aiding the movement of essential goods needed to fight the pandemic, in line with global trade rules that have been strained in recent years, especially during the administration of President Donald Trump who favored striking trade deals with individual countries.

The trade ministers conferred with business leaders on Friday on ways to better manage the health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

“We must ensure that trade plays a role in combatting the worst, continuing effects of COVID-19 through open and unrestricted trade in vaccines, essential medical supplies and associated products,” said Rachel Taulelei, chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council.

In many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the share of people vaccinated so far is in the low single digits. That includes places like Thailand and Taiwan that initially managed to avoid initial massive outbreaks but now are contending with their worst flare-ups.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is welcoming the Biden administration’s announcement that it will be donating millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the U.N.-backed COVAX facility as well as to individual countries and U.N. front-line personnel in challenging and dangerous locations.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is also “extremely grateful” to the U.S. government for including U.N. personnel and diplomats and staff of the 193 U.N. member nations in the U.S. vaccination program.

Biden announced Thursday the U.S. will swiftly donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas through the COVAX program, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries. Overall, the White House has announced plans to share 80 million doses globally by the end of June, most through COVAX.

Dujarric said the donation to U.N. frontline personnel will allow staff members “to stay and deliver critical services to vulnerable people around the world in a safe and effective manner.”

Guterres renews his call for countries to share vaccines, particularly with countries struggling with new surges and variants, Dujarric said.

“There is an urgent need for increased global solidarity to ensure that vaccines are available to everyone, everywhere,” he said.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials said Friday they will use 1 million U.S. doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to inoculate people along the border.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says the vaccinations along Mexico’s northern border with the United States is part of an effort to fully reopen border crossings, which are currently restricted to essential travel.

“There is going to be a special vaccination plan in the border communities of our country on the northern border, with the aim of getting border transportation back to normal,” López Obrador said.

Mexican officials say they will have to obtain another 2 million doses of the one-shot vaccine — which they might purchase from Johnson & Johnson — to vaccinate 3 million border residents between 18 and 40 years old.

Presumably, those older than 40 will be covered by Mexico’s regular nationwide campaign, which does not use Johnson & Johnson, although the shot has been approved for use in Mexico.

On Thursday, an official said some doses might also be used at coastal resorts frequented by Americans, but that possibility was not included in the plan announced Friday.

The announcement came on the same day that Mexico City announced the gradual lifting of a partial coronavirus lockdown that began more than a year ago.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he will not lift the coronavirus state of emergency on June 15.

Newsom has said he will lift most of the virus restrictions on that date. But Friday, Newsom said he will not lift the state of emergency that gives him broad authority to issue alter or suspend state laws and regulations.

California has been under a state of emergency since March 4, 2020. Since then, according to a resolution authored by Republican state senators, Newsom has authorized billions of dollars in emergency spending and issued at least 47 executive orders to alter or suspend 200 state laws and regulations because of the virus.

Newsom, a Democrat, said he won’t end the state of emergency because the virus “is not taking the summer months off.”

Republicans in the state Senate have tried repeatedly to pass a concurrent resolution to end the state of emergency. But Democrats in the majority have always blocked their efforts.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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