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Covid 19 Pandemic

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Russia’s embassy in North Korea says the country has eased stringent epidemic controls in capital Pyongyang that were placed during the past five days to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses. North Korea has not officially acknowledged a lockdown in Pyongyang or a re-emergence of COVID-19 after leader Kim Jong Un declared a widely disputed victory over the coronavirus in August. But the Russian embassy’s Facebook posts have provided rare glimpses into the secretive country’s infectious disease controls. The embassy posted a notice Monday issued by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry informing foreign diplomats that the “special anti-epidemic period” imposed in Pyongyang since Wednesday was lifted as of Monday.

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Delaware Gov. John Carney has tested positive for COVID-19. The governor's office said Saturday that Carney tested positive late Friday using an at-home antigen test after experiencing mild symptoms. The 66-year-old Carney says he’s “feeling fine” and is isolating himself, and will work from home. This marks Carney’s second publicly announced bout with coronavirus in the past several months. He tested positive last May. Carney is barred by term limits from seeking reelection in 2024.

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Tyre Nichols was brutally attacked by police in Memphis after they pulled him over Jan. 7. Video of the deadly beating was released to the public on Friday. Family and friends remember Nichols as a generous, lovable man who worked hard to be a good father to his 4-year-old son. He was passionate about photography. He was an avid skateboarder and hailed from Sacramento, California. He got stuck in Memphis during the coronavirus pandemic, but didn't mind because he was with his mother. They were close, and she says she's still in shock he won't walk through her door anymore.

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Debts brought into a relationship can be ruinous for couples, but many decide to work as a team to conquer individual debts. You can help your partner in nonmonetary ways as an accountability buddy. You can also assist financially by gifting or loaning money, or covering more household costs while your partner focuses on making debt payments. But if you’re helping pay off a debt that’s 100% your partner’s responsibility, it’s important to consider how to keep things fair and not put your relationship — and your own finances — at risk.

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South Korea says it will continue to restrict the entry of short-term travelers from China through the end of February over concerns that the spread of COVID-19 in that country may worsen following the Lunar New Year’s holidays. South Korea had stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulates in China in early January. It did so after the virus surged in China late last year and the government there abruptly lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions. South Korea and other countries are worried the surge could create new variants of the coronavirus. In retaliation to Seoul's move, China also suspended South Korean short-term visa applications.

The U.S. is poised to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like a yearly flu shot. The Food and Drug Administration's scientific advisers are helping to decide if most Americans may need once-a-year boosters — and how and when to periodically update the shots’ recipe. COVID-19 vaccines have saved millions of lives and booster doses continue to help, but protection can wane and the virus still is rapidly mutating. FDA's advisers say vaccination should be made simpler. Next steps also will include a spring meeting on whether to update the vaccine recipe against new virus strains.

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Spain is set to end the mandatory use of face masks on public transport nearly three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias says that she will recommend that the government remove the health regulation when the Cabinet meets on Feb. 7 Face mask will remain obligatory inside hospitals, health clinics, dentist offices and pharmacies. Face masks became mandatory both indoors and outside in May 2020. That was eventually rolled back in April last year to just wearing them in public transport and healthcare centers.

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Airline and hotel elite status extensions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are expiring this year, and the companies are raising the requirements to earn status. In fact, one prediction says about 1 million Americans will lose airline status in 2023. As a small consolation, loyalty programs have introduced some nominal benefits for members who haven’t earned status but have reached lower spending milestones. To re-earn status in 2023, experts suggest looking for ways to transfer your status to another program, maximizing promotions or considering a credit card that offers automatic elite status or a faster way to earn elite status.

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Jill Biden's Inauguration Day outfits are now at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. She says the two dresses — one blue, one white — with matching coats and face masks were her “voice” on one of the most important days of her life. First ladies typically donate their inaugural ball gown. But President Joe Biden had no such celebrations. He took office in Jan. 20, 2021, at the height of COVID-19, when large indoor gatherings were discouraged. So Jill Biden donated the blue tweed dress and coat she wore for the inauguration, and an ivory silk wool dress and cashmere coat she wore later in the day at the White House.

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After surviving the worst of the pandemic, the nation's gyms and fitness centers have made a comeback, often using tricks learned during the downturn to lure back customers. Owners such as Julie Bokat and Jeanne Carter in Massachusetts say some longtime clients got bored working out in their basements and welcome the sense of community a gym offers. Some gyms still offer outdoor sessions while others are tailoring classes to a new clientele that hadn't been into exercising before the pandemic. While attendance at many locations is still below pre-pandemic levels, most owners are confident they've at least made it through the darkest days.

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A report by the United Nations shows growing numbers of people in Asia lack enough to eat as food insecurity rises with higher prices and worsening poverty. The report by the Food and Agricultural Organization and other U.N. agencies says nearly a half-billion people, more than eight in 10 of them in South Asia, were undernourished in 2021 and more than 1 billion faced moderate to severe food insecurity. It notes the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge setback, causing mass job losses, and the war in Ukraine has pushed prices for food, energy and fertilizer, putting an adequate diet out of the reach of many millions.

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U.S. health officials want to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the annual flu shot. The Food and Drug Administration on Monday proposed a simplified approach so that most adults and children would get a once-a-year shot. Americans would no longer have to keep track of how many shots they’ve received or when. The proposal comes as boosters have become a hard sell. The FDA is asking a panel of outside vaccine experts to weigh in on the new approach at a meeting Thursday. The agency will present data suggesting most Americans have enough protection to move to a once-a-year shots.

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Conservative political commentator Lynette Hardaway died earlier this month of a heart condition, according to a death certificate obtained by The Associated Press. Known by the moniker “Diamond” of the pro-Trump commentary duo Diamond and Silk, Hardaway, 51, died Jan. 8 of heart disease due to high blood pressure. The cause of Hardaway's death had become a topic of widespread speculation. A torrent of social media users suggested COVID-19 was to blame, while noting the sisters’ promotion of falsehoods about the virus. COVID-19 was not listed as a cause or contributing factor on Hardaway's death certificate.

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Music streaming service Spotify said Monday it’s cutting 6% of its global workforce, or about 600 jobs. It's yet another tech company forced to rethink its pandemic-era expansion as the economic outlook weakens. CEO Daniel Ek announced the restructuring in a message to employees that was also posted online Monday. He said the company's operating costs last year grew at double its revenue growth and that it has tried hard to rein in costs but “it simply hasn’t been enough.” Ek said he took “full accountability for the moves that got us here today.”

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President Joe Biden is expected to name the man who ran his administration’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic as his next chief of staff. Word of Jeff Zients' hiring comes from two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Biden’s current top aide, Ron Klain, is preparing to leave the job in the coming weeks. Since his role as the administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Zients has returned to the White House in a low-profile position to work on staffing matters for the remainder of Biden’s first term.

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In crowded Hong Kong, where most apartments range from small to miniscule, rabbits are popular pets. And when their owners are away, there are rabbit lovers ready to look after their lonely pets at Bunny Style, a luxury rabbit resort. Rabbits scamper around a play area in a climate-controlled building. Some climb a castle made of wood while others explore a cotton tunnel. The lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Hong Kong is spurring a surge in travel for the Lunar New Year. Donna Li, owner of Bunny Style, says she's fully booked and keeps her charges happy with regular exercise, parties, spa treatments and lots of hay.

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People across China are ringing in the Lunar New Year with large family gatherings and crowds visiting temples after the government lifted its strict “zero-COVID” policy. It's the biggest celebration since the pandemic began three years ago. With the easing of most COVID-19 restrictions that had confined millions to their homes, people could finally make their first trip back to their hometowns to reunite with families. Larger public events also returned. The chief epidemiologist at China’s Center for Disease Control says the mass movement of people is unlikely to cause another surge because about 80% of the population has already been infected. The center reported 12,660 COVID-related deaths between Jan. 13 and 19, on top of 60,000 fatalities since early December.

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White House chief of staff Ron Klain is preparing to leave his job in the coming weeks. That word comes from a person familiar with Klain’s plans who spoke on condition of anonymity. Klain’s expected departure comes not long after the White House and Democrats had a better-than-expected showing in the November elections. But now that Republicans have regained a majority in the House, the White House is preparing to shift to a more defensive posture. GOP lawmakers are planning multiple investigations into the Biden administration. The White House did not return calls or emails seeking comment on Klain’s expected exit.

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The Navajo Nation has rescinded a mask mandate that's been in effect since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. New tribal President Buu Nygren had pledged to do so while campaigning for the office. He was sworn in earlier this month. The mandate was one of the longest-standing anywhere in the U.S. It applied broadly to businesses, government offices and tourist destinations on the vast reservation, which extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. The change was announced late Friday evening. A public health order says masks are still required in schools, nursing homes and health care facilities.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that two years into President Joe Biden’s administration, the United States is “in a better place in the world” and better positioned to address global issues including climate change, COVID-19 and dangerous opioids. Blinken’s comments came during a visit to Chicago this week, including Friday’s event on the Biden administration’s approach to foreign policy hosted by Democratic political strategist David Axelrod at the University of Chicago. Blinken also met with refugees at a Chicago cheesecake factory and leaders of groups helping Ukrainian refugees in the Chicago area during his trip.

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A rally for tech stocks applied some salve on Wall Street’s rough week, one dominated by worries about a weakening economy. The S&P 500 rose 1.9% Friday, but still ended with its first weekly loss in the last three. The Nasdaq added 2.7% and the Dow rose 1%. Google's parent company rose after saying it was slashing expenses by laying off workers. It's the latest Big Tech company to acknowledge expanding too quickly in recent years. Netflix surged after reporting a jump in subscribers. Markets mostly fell this week on worries the economy may not be able to avoid a painful recession.

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