NEWS BRIEFS

Garden City Telegram

San Francisco resumes indoor dining as coronavirus cases fall

SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco will resume indoor dining on Wednesday as the city moves out of the most restrictive coronavirus tier for reopening.

"We are in an amazing place," said a jubilant Mayor London Breed at an outdoor news conference on Tuesday. "We are not completely where we want to be, but better than we have been since October of last year."

A sharp decline in coronavirus cases is moving San Francisco from the most restrictive purple tier for widespread prevalence of the virus into the next level, red, for substantial spread. In the past, the city allowed indoor dining only when cases had dropped to the point that it qualified for the lower orange tier, for counties where virus spread is moderate.

This time, restaurants can reopen for indoor services at 25% capacity with tables limited to parties of no more than four people, all from a single household. Indoor dining will close at 10 p.m. but later hours will be permitted for eating outdoors.

Breed said San Franciscans will once again be able to get facials, visit museums and theaters and ride the huge Ferris wheel at Golden Gate Park.

More than 20% of San Franciscans have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to city officials, compared with 16% of the population statewide. Nearly two-thirds of those 65 and older in San Francisco have received at least one shot.

"As we continue to gradually reopen, we need to be aware of the risks and to stay vigilant, especially while vaccines remain limited and the growing presence of more contagious variants pose an increased risk of greater community spread," said Dr. Grant Colfax, the city's public health director.

During the past seven days, San Francisco has reported an average of 65.3 cases a day, a nearly 39% drop from two weeks ago, according to the Los Angeles Times' COVID-19 tracker. - Los Angeles Times

WHO advises against using hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatment

A World Health Organization panel has officially advised against the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-inflammatory drug previously touted by the Trump administration, for patients infected with COVID-19.

The international health agency revealed that a group of experts recently concluded with “high certainty” that the drug, typically used to treat malaria, ”had no meaningful effect” on deaths or admissions to hospitals, and “moderate certainty” that it actually increases the risk of adverse effects.

The WHO’s findings were published Monday in the medical journal BMJ and were based on clinical trials of more than 6,000 people.

“The panel considers that this drug is no longer a research priority and that resources should be used to evaluate other more promising drugs to prevent COVID-19,” the WHO said in a statement.

It added that more than 80 trials slated to enroll at least 100,000 participants for additional research are unlikely to uncover any benefits and should be canceled.

Hydroxychloroquine was launched into the spotlight last year, amid the surging coronavirus pandemic in the United States. At the time, there was little known about the fast-spreading disease, and the drug initially seemed to quell some symptoms.

It was also heavily touted by then-President Donald Trump. - New York Daily News

SC lawmakers to debate bill allowing handgun owners to carry in public

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina House is expected to debate on the floor in two weeks a mostly Republican-backed proposal that would allow handgun owners to open carry their weapon with a permit.

But more conservative Republicans hope to use the debate to advance another long-held priority: removing any requirements on gun owners to get permits to carry their weapons in public, concealed or not.

The legislation cleared another hurdle in the House Tuesday after a 16-8 House Judiciary Committee vote.

Filed by upstate Republican Rep. Bobby Cox, the proposal would allow South Carolinians with a permit to openly carry their hand guns where already allowed in the state. Gun owners still could not openly carry inside the State House or schools, for example.

South Carolina is one of five states without some degree of open carry law on the books, and Republicans are eager to change that.

Bolstered after wins in November, legislative Republicans have this year sought to push through measures that both State House chambers have been uneasy to pass in years past. The Republican-controlled General Assembly increased its membership this year after flipping five legislative seats.

But some lawmakers want the Legislature to take the bill even further, broadening it to allow open carry regardless of a permit, called constitutional carry. State Rep. Jonathon Hill, R-Anderson, has publicly criticized his colleagues for not taking more aggressive stances on traditional Republican-backed measures, including open carry and abortion legislation.

The bill does not have much support from some of the top officials in the law enforcement community. - The State

Hundreds of girls freed in Nigeria days after kidnapping

Hundreds of girls abducted from their school in northwestern Nigeria last week have been released, a government official said Tuesday.

"The girls have been released," Zamfara State Commissioner for Security and Home Affairs Abubakar Dauran told dpa, referring to 317 children who had been kidnapped on Friday by unidentified gunmen in the town of Jangebe.

Thirty-eight of the kidnapped girls, however, still seemed to be missing on Tuesday, according to Zamfara State governor Bello Matawalle.

The governor said 279 girls had been freed and were in safety.

"This news bring overwhelming joy. I am pleased that their ordeal has come to a happy end without any incident," President Muhammadu Buhari said on Twitter, promising government would focus on preventing such crimes in the future.

"We are working hard to bring an end to these grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping," Buhari said.

But the president also criticized local governments for paying ransom to release abductees, and asked them to improve security instead.

"State Governments must review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles. Such a policy has the potential to backfire with disastrous consequences. States and Local Governments must also play their part by being proactive in improving security in & around schools," Buhari said in his post.

There has been a sharp increase in kidnappings by armed gangs in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, in past months.

In mid-February, at least 44 people, most of them children, were abducted from a school near the community of Kagara in west-central Niger State.

Three days earlier, unknown gunmen kidnapped some 20 people on their way home from a wedding in the same state.

Both groups and several other people who had been detained even longer, were released earlier this week.

But some 300 schoolboys, abducted in northwestern Katsina State in December, are still missing.

No group has claimed responsibility for any of the abductions. It is not known whether the government paid a ransom for the releases. - dpa