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The Latest: Tennessee governor opposes vaccine passports

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | The Associated Press


In this undated photo, provided by NY Governor's Press Office on Saturday March 27, 2021, is the new "Excelsior Pass" app, a digital pass that people can download to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars, with Republicans portraying them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices. (NY Governor's Press Office via AP, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is joining other Republican governors who are speaking against so-called coronavirus vaccine passports, which are being developed in some areas to let inoculated people travel, shop and dine more freely.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Lee said: “I think vaccine passports are a bad idea. I do not believe that government should impose vaccine requirements or mandates in any way.”

The governor is urging Tennessee’s General Assembly to advance legislation this year to prohibit such requirements.

Lee adds that he hopes private businesses don’t impose vaccine passport mandates, but says he doesn’t believe “that government should impose itself in the private affairs of business practices.”

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Biden: All U.S. adults eligible for vaccines by April 19

— Most kids with serious inflammatory illness had mild COVID-19

— Spain prepares vaccine rollout surge as supplies gather pace

— California plans to lift mos t pandemic restrictions June 15

— Follow 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 — Coronavirus vaccinations in Philadelphia will be open to anyone 16 and older starting April 19, but city health officials are still asking younger healthy adults to wait to schedule appointments.

The city’s health commissioner announced the moved-up date for opening vaccines to the general public Tuesday.

Department officials had said previously that they wanted to wait until May 1 because they worried younger, tech-savvy Philadelphians would schedule appointments quickly, making it more difficult for those at most risk from COVID-19 to find appointments.

The announcement came a day after Philadelphia opened vaccinations to the last of its priority groups, which includes sanitation workers, postal workers and others.

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SANTIAGO, Chile — With new COVID-19 infections rising and hospital space critical, Chilean lawmakers approved postponing an election to select an assembly tasked with rewriting the country’s dictatorship-era constitution.

Under the approval Tuesday, the assembly election, along with local and gubernatorial elections, will be postponed until mid-May.

The elections had been originally scheduled for April 10-11, but with Chile experiencing the worst days since the arrival of the pandemic and intensive care units at 96% capacity, President Sebastián Piñera proposed delaying voting until May 15-16.

In an Oct. 25 plebiscite, nearly 80% of Chilean voters supported seating an assembly to rewrite the constitution inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet when the South American country returned to democracy.

Delays in approving the postponement of next weekend’s voting came after the opposition conditioned their acceptance of the proposal on expanding pandemic economic aid to more vulnerable groups and parts of the middle class.

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SAN FRANCISCO — California plans to lift most coronavirus restrictions on businesses and workplaces June 15, with officials saying enough people should be vaccinated by then to allow for life to almost get back to a pre-pandemic normal.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Tuesday that the mask mandate in the nation’s most populated state will remain in effect and cautioned that California will reopen more widely in mid-June only if vaccine supply remains sufficient and hospitalization rates remain stable and low.

The announcement comes as states across the country have lifted health restrictions as more people get vaccinated.

California had some of the nation’s strictest pandemic rules, becoming the first to institute a statewide stay-at-home order last spring and adopting a complex, color-coded tier system that dictated which businesses could open and at what capacity depending on how widespread the virus was in a county.

Businesses can open with “common-sense risk reduction measures,” including mandated masking and encouraging vaccinations. The state will continue contact tracing and testing. Ghaly says most capacity limits will be lifted, although large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed only with testing or vaccination verification requirements.

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TORONTO — Schools in Canada’s largest city will shut down Wednesday and move to online learning because of a third surge of coronavirus infections fueled by more contagious virus variants.

Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa says stronger public health measures are needed to reverse the surge. Ontario is seeing more than 3,000 new infections a day in recent days.

Toronto has one of the largest school boards in North America. Local health officials made the decision after the province declined to act. Ontario Premier Doug Ford says schools are safe.

The closures will be reevaluated later this month.

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ANKARA, Turkey — The daily coronavirus cases hit a record of nearly 50,000 in Turkey on Tuesday.

The Health Ministry reported 49,685 confirmed single-day cases. The number of daily deaths also reached the highest level this year, with 211 confirmed in the past 24 hours.

Infections in this country of 84 million have surged since the government eased restrictions at the start of March.

Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced renewed weekend lockdowns and the closure of cafes and restaurants for all but take out service during the Islamic month of Ramadan, which begins on April 13.

However, health groups say the measures are not strong enough to stem the spike.

About 75% of the infections in Turkey have been traced to the more contagious variant first identified in Britain, according to the health ministry.

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LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer got her first coronavirus vaccine shot, touting it as the most effective way to protect people and return Michigan to normalcy.

The 49-year-old governor was vaccinated with the Pfizer shot Tuesday at Ford Field’s mass clinic alongside her 19-year-old daughter, Sherry, a day after eligibility expanded to age 16 and older.

The state is experiencing the nation’s highest rate of coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, which the governor — who doesn’t plan to tighten restrictions — blames on pandemic fatigue and more contagious variants. One in 213 people was diagnosed with the coronavirus in the past week.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also joined the list of state leaders who have received their COVID-19 shots.

The Republican governor got his first dose of the vaccine at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Tuesday afternoon, receiving a dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The 64-year-old Baker has repeatedly said that he would not move to the head of the vaccination line, but would instead wait until he was eligible under federal guidelines.

Massachusetts on Monday opened vaccine eligibility to residents 55 and older, as well as to all adults with one of several medical conditions that puts them at greater risk from the disease.

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ROME — Restaurant owners and others frustrated by weeks pandemic lockdown have clashed with police during a protest outside Parliament in Rome.

Italian media reports say one officer was injured on Tuesday. Many in the crowd of a few hundred protests lowered their protective masks to shout “Work!” and “Freedom!”

Dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and cafes are currently banned under government measures through at least April. Only takeout or delivery services are permitted. Officers charged the protesters after they tried to breach a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined the protest, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

A surge in infections, driven mainly by virus variants, has produced daily caseloads in the tens of thousands and hundreds of COVID-19 deaths a day for months.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president announced a deal to buy 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the contract marks a “very important day for Ukraine.” He didn’t say when the deliveries will be made to the country of 41 million.

Authorities in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, tightened lockdown restrictions on Monday, closing all schools and kindergartens for two weeks and introducing special passes for medics and others using public transport.

Ukraine began vaccinations against the coronavirus in late February, after receiving 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Last month, the country also received 215,000 doses of a shot developed by Sinovac.

So far, only about 305,000 people have received the shots amid widespread public reluctance.

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WASHINGTON — The White House says more than 28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be delivered to states this week.

White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients made the announcement Tuesday during a weekly conference call with the nation’s governors. The allocation brings the total amount of vaccine distributed over the past three weeks to more than 90 million doses.

Vice President Kamala Harris joined the call from Chicago, where she is traveling Tuesday to promote equity in the distribution of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Harris discussed the administration’s response and highlighted President Joe Biden’s upcoming announcement that 150 million shots in arms have been administered since he took office. All adults will be eligible to receive a vaccine by April 19.

Also Tuesday, the White House stressed that it won’t back any system “that requires Americans to carry a credential” to show they’ve been vaccinated.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says “there will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential," adding that the White House wants to be sure that “American’s privacy and rights” are protected.

Psaki says the Biden administration will be issuing guidance around the matter soon.

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BOSTON — New research suggests the protection the Moderna vaccine gives against COVID-19 lasts for at least six months.

The report Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine echoes what Pfizer said last week about its vaccine, which works in a similar way.

Both reports were based on follow-up tests in dozens of people who received the shots during studies that led to the vaccines’ use. Those studies were done before troubling new variants, or versions of the coronavirus, had emerged and started to spread.

A separate report in the medical journal adds to concern about the variants. Scientists measured antibodies that can block the virus in 50 people who had been given the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines that were developed in China. Many showed total or partial loss of effectiveness against a virus variant first detected in South Africa.

The vaccines still seemed to protect against a variant first found in the United Kingdom that is now rapidly spreading in the United States and elsewhere.

Pfizer and Moderna have said they are working to update their vaccines, or possibly design a booster shot, in case they’re needed against variants.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Tanzania’s new president appears to be taking a scientific approach to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan says she will form a technical committee to advise her about the scope of COVID-19 infections in the country and how to respond to the pandemic. Hassan says COVID-19 is “not something we should be quiet about or refuse flatly or accept without doing a scientific examination.”

She said her government will do medical research to find out the scope of the problem and advise Tanzania about what the world is recommending as well as local expertise.

Hassan’s comments are a dramatic switch from the policy of her predecessor, the late President John Magufuli, who was one of Africa’s leading COVID-19 deniers. He dismissed scientific approaches to prevent and treat the disease. He discouraged the use of face masks and instead promoted prayer, physical fitness and herbal remedies.

Hassan was sworn in as Tanzania’s first woman president on March 19. Tanzania’s opposition leaders say the 61-year-old Magufuli died of COVID-19, the disease he had downplayed.

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BRUSSELS — Despite its slow vaccination drive, the European Union says it is still on target to reach what it calls “sufficient community immunity” by the end of June.

The European Commission has said it wants to vaccinate a minimum 70% of the entire adult population by the end of summer. But it is counting on a strong second quarter of vaccine production to reach a threshold of immunity already by the end of June, according to EU Commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker.

With some 107 million doses already distributed and up to 360 million slated for the next three months, the EU said Tuesday the target is within reach.

Our World in Data group says the share of people who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the EU is 12.8%. The U.K stands at 46% and the U.S. at 31%.

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NEW DELHI — The world’s largest vaccine maker, based in India, will restart exports of AstraZeneca doses by June if coronavirus infections subside in the country, its chief executive says.

But a continued surge could result in more delays because the Serum Institute of India would have to meet domestic needs, Adar Poonawalla says in an interview with The Associated Press.

The company is a key supplier for the U.N.-backed COVAX program that aims to distribute vaccines equitably in the world. COVAX says a surge in infections in India has caused the Serum Institute of India to cater to domestic demand, resulting in a delay in global shipments of up to 90 million doses.

The government has intensified its vaccination drive in recent weeks, but the shots have been slow to reach the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people.

India reported 96,982 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours on Tuesday. Deaths rose by 446, increasing the total to 165,547 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic. India reported 12.7 million total cases, the highest after the United States and Brazil.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said Tuesday.

Rowley was tested after experiencing flu-like symptoms on Monday, according to a government statement. He is isolated and under medical supervision.

Rowley had spent the Easter holidays in Tobago and was scheduled to be vaccinated on Tuesday, the same day the twin-island nation launched its vaccination program after receiving more than 33,000 AstraZeneca doses.

The country of 1.2 million people has reported more than 8,000 coronavirus cases and 145 confirmed deaths.

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Companies Mentioned in This Article

CompanyMarketRank™Current PricePrice ChangeDividend YieldP/E RatioConsensus RatingConsensus Price Target
Pfizer (PFE)2.1$40.21+0.5%3.88%25.94Hold$39.94
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