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The Latest: Fauci apologizes for saying UK rushed vaccine

LONDON — America’s top infectious disease has apologized for suggesting U.K. authorities rushed their authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying he has “great faith” in the country’s regulators.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had sparked controversy with an earlier interview in which he said U.K. regulators hadn’t acted “as carefully” as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Fauci said late Thursday that he meant to say U.S. authorities do things differently than their British counterparts, not better, but his comments weren’t phrased properly.

Elementary school music teacher Jami Brown, left, uses a mic to work with his class including third grader Walker Moore at Tibbals Elementary School in Murphy, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot's statewide mask order does not mandate face covering for children under the age of 10, allowing some school districts to not require masks for children leaving the choice of mask use up to the parents. (AP PhotoLM Otero)

Fauci told the BBC: “I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community at the U.K., and anyone who knows me and my relationship with that over literally decades, you know that’s the case.”

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Fauci apologizes for suggesting UK rushed vaccine decision

Masked students work on computers at Tibbals Elementary School in Murphy, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot's statewide mask order does not mandate face covering for children under the age of 10, allowing some school districts to not require masks for children leaving the choice of mask use up to the parents. (AP PhotoLM Otero)

— Jobs report will show how much pandemic is squeezing hiring

— California ties new COVID-19 rules to hospital capacity

— A World War II veteran from Alabama has recovered from COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday.

Nurse Jen Molstead, left, gives volunteer Melissa Harting of Harpursville, N.Y., a nasal swab test as the world's biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. (AP PhotoHans Pennink)

— Authorities say a couple were arrested at a Hawaii airport after traveling on a flight from the U.S. mainland despite knowing they were infected with COVID-19.

— The U.N. chief is warning that the social and economic impact of COVID-19 “is enormous and growing.” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it’s foolish to believe a vaccine can undo damage from the global pandemic that will last for years or even decades.

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

FILE - A waiter wears a mask and face covering at a restaurant with outdoor seating Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. The U.S. services sector, where most Americans work, registered its sixth consecutive month of expansion in November. The Institute for Supply Management reported Thursday that its index of services activity declined slightly to a reading of 55.9 last month, from a reading of 56.6 in October. (AP PhotoMarcio Jose Sanchez, File)

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

UNITED NATIONS — The White House coronavirus response coordinator says Americans must not gather indoors with outsiders or take off their masks at any time when they are outdoors -- even when they are eating and drinking.

Dr. Deborah Birx says people also have to observe social distancing and wash their hands to contain the coronavirus pandemic. She says some states are taking these measures, but in others it’s “not happening at the level that they need to happen.”

EMT Lori Ann Goode, right, administers a COVID-19 test to a woman as people wait in line, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Lawrence, Mass. (AP PhotoElise Amendola)

Birx says that even once vaccines are approved, it will take weeks to months before “the most vulnerable individuals in America” can be immunized.

She made the comments after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir at U.N. headquarters in New York on Thursday.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has recorded 629 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily tally in about nine months.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that 600 of the newly confirmed patients were domestically transmitted cases — nearly 80 % of them in the densely populous Seoul area, which has been at the center of a recent viral resurgence.

It says the 629 new cases took the country’s total to 36,332 for the pandemic, with 536 deaths related to COVID-19.

After successfully suppressing two previous outbreaks this year, South Korea has been grappling with a fresh spike in infections since it relaxed stringent social distancing rules in October. Last week, it toughened distancing restrictions in the greater Seoul area and other places.

DOVER, Del. — Delaware’s governor is issuing a stay-at-home advisory and implementing a universal mask mandate requiring people to wear cloth face coverings even in their own homes if someone outside the immediate household is present.

Gov. John Carney on Thursday also recommended that schools suspend in-person instruction from Dec. 14 to Jan. 8 and resume hybrid learning on Jan. 11. Winter sports competitions will be prohibited during that period.

The mask mandate will require all Delawareans to wear cloth face coverings anytime they are indoors with anyone outside their immediate household. Delaware has had a public mask mandate since April 28 requiring use of face coverings in public settings where social distancing is not possible.

A spokesman for the governor says officials are relying on voluntary compliance with the mask mandate.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois public health officials have reported 10,959 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and a second consecutive day of near record deaths from COVID-19.

The 192 fatalities announced Thursday matched the 24-hour toll reported May 13, at the height of the initial wave of the pandemic in Illinois. The number is second only to the 238 deaths reported Wednesday.

Illinois has now reported 12,830 deaths among 759,562 coronavirus infections.

MONTREAL — The Quebec government is cancelling its plan to allow gatherings over four days of the Christmas holidays.

Premier Francois Legault announced Thursday that the province will no longer permit multi-household gatherings of up to 10 people from Dec. 24 through Dec. 27 as had been planned.

Legault first announced the Christmas plan on Nov. 19, saying people could get together as long as they quarantined for a week before and a week after the holiday period. But coronavirus infections, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise and the province’s health system is deemed fragile due to a lack of staffing.

Legault says it’s not realistic to think the numbers will go down sufficiently by Christmas.

The French-speaking Canadian province reported 1,470 coronavirus cases Thursday.

PHILADELPHIA — Hospital beds are filling up and medical staffs are being stretched as Pennsylvania’s health care system copes with a growing number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

State health officials say nearly half of all hospitals in the south-central region of the state and a third in the southwest anticipate staffing shortages within a week.

Pennsylvania’s top health official said Thursday that modeling indicates the state will run out of intensive care beds this month. More than 85% of the state’s ICU beds are occupied now.

But Dr. Rachel Levine added that she is even more concerned about hospital staffing. She notes that hospitals’ medical-surgical beds can be converted into ICU beds, but the supply of medical workers is “not infinite.”