The Latest: ICU beds filling up in Mississippi’s virus surge
JACKSON, Miss. — Officials in Mississippi say the state’s five largest hospitals had no intensive care unit beds available for patients by midweek because of a surge in coronavirus cases. Four more hospitals had 5% or less of ICU beds open.
Mississippi has one of the fastest-growing rates of new coronavirus cases in the U.S.
Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that starting early next week, he will require people to wear masks in public places in the 13 counties showing the greatest recent increases in cases. Business owners in those counties will be asked to screen employees for infections.
Reeves says he also will limit gatherings to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors in the 13 counties. The current statewide limit is 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Arizona death toll from coronavirus tops 2,000.
— UK reopens gyms, pools, as Treasury chief warns of recession.
— Israeli military says chief of staff in quarantine.
— WHO appoints 2 women to lead pandemic inquiry panel.
— The World Health Organization is acknowledging the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions. It comes at urging of 200 scientists in a published letter.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has hit a new high for coronavirus deaths in a single day and Gov. Greg Abbott says the numbers next week may be even worse.
The 105 new deaths reported Thursday makes this the deadliest week of the pandemic in what has rapidly become one of America’s virus hot zones. Texas reported a new high for hospitalizations for the 10th consecutive day.
Abbott moved to free up more hospital beds by banning elective medical procedures in hospitals that serve more than 100 counties in Texas. There are now more than 9,600 coronavirus patients in Texas hospitals, twice as many as just two weeks ago.
Abbott tells Houston television station KRIV that he thinks “the numbers are going to look worse as we go into next week.”
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Health authorities in Florida have reported 120 new deaths from the new coronavirus, the highest one-day total yet amid a surge in infections as the state tries to contain the outbreak.
The number of deaths reported Thursday surpassed the previous high of 113 set in early May. The cumulative death toll has now risen above 4,000, while confirmed cases climbed by nearly 9,000 to more than 229,000.
The state also reported the biggest 24-hour jump in hospitalizations, with 409 patients admitted. Intensive care units are quickly filling up, including those in some hospitals with the largest bed capacity, such as the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville and Tampa General Hospital. About 14% of the state’s ICU beds were available Thursday.
SAO PAULO — Two days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has made an online broadcast from the presidential residence as defiant as in previous occasions.
He coughed once in his appearance Thursday, but did not show other symptoms of the disease that has killed more than 69,000 people in Brazil during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bolsonaro repeated his view that the looming economic crisis from the pandemic is more dangerous than the virus. He said mayors and governors need to reopen the country for business, saying that “otherwise the consequences will be harmful for Brazil,”
Bolsonaro said said he is working from home and on Friday will appoint a new education minister.
LA PAZ, Bolivia — The interim president of Bolivia and Venezuela’s No. 2 political leader have both announced they are infected with the coronavirus.
Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez said Thursday that she strong and will continue working from isolation.
Her infection comes amid a spike in cases in the Andean nation, which has banned mass gatherings to try to limit the spread of the virus.
In Venezuela, socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello also reported that he is sick with COVID-19. He is considered the second-most powerful person in Venezuela after President Nicolás Maduro.
Venezuela has had fewer officially registered cases of the virus than much of Latin America, though the numbers have increased in recent weeks.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. secretary-general warns that Latin America and the Caribbean are facing their worst economic contraction in decades as they become “a hot spot” for the coronavirus pandemic.
Antonio Guterres said in a video and briefing report Thursday that Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to see economic activity shrink 9.1%, which he said would be the “largest in a century.” Unemployment is predicted to rise to 13.5% from 8.1% in 2019, and the poverty rate is expected to increase to 37.2% from 30.2%.
Guterres says those areas already face “gaping inequalities,” high levels of informal labor and fragmented health services. He adds that the region’s most vulnerable people “are once again being hit the hardest” by COVID-19.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentuckians will be required to wear face masks or coverings in public places beginning Friday.
The mask requirement announced by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear comes after Kentucky recorded two of the highest days of confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit the state. Kentucky announced 333 new cases and four deaths Thursday.
Beshear says the increased case counts from the last few days along with an “explosion” in other states prompted him to issue the executive order. About two dozen other states have issued mask mandates in public places.
CAIRO — Sudan has partially reopened its international airport and lifted other pandemic-related restrictions, even as its coronavirus case count continues to climb.
Sudan’s state-run news agency reported Thursday that the civil aviation authority decided to resume flights from Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to Khartoum’s international airport.
Aviation authority director Ibrahim Adlan says Sudan has begun “a gradual return to normalcy” following three months of a tight restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
Still, authorities will enforce a nighttime curfew in the capital of Khartoum and in its province.
The health ministry infection count on Thursday surpassed 10,000, including 641 deaths. But the government is keen to reopen for business because pandemic restrictions have worsened the country’s economic problems.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa announced Thursday its highest daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 13,674.
Africa’s most developed country is now a hot spot in the global pandemic with 238,339 total confirmed cases. Gauteng province, which contains Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, is home to more than a third of the total cases.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said South Africa could run out of available hospital beds within the month.
The African continent has more than 523,000 confirmed virus cases after having passed the half-million mark on Wednesday. But shortages in testing materials mean the true number is unknown.
BEIRUT — A Syrian group that helps deliver assistance in the rebel-held part of the country’s northwest is reporting the first case of coronavirus in the region that borders Turkey.
The Assistance Coordination Unit says the person who tested positive in Idlib province is being isolated along with people who mingled with him.
The Idlib Health Directorate also confirmed the case and urged residents of Idlib on Thursday to take precautionary measures.
Experts have long warned that an outbreak in Idlib, an area packed with 3 million people, many of them living in tents and encampments would be catastrophic.
In government-held areas, 372 cases have been registered as well as 14 deaths related to the virus. In Kurdish-held areas in Syria’s northeast, about half a dozen cases have been reported.
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has faced growing public anger over a deepening economic crisis, has announced a series of measures meant to help Israel’s unemployed.
In a televised address Thursday, Netanyahu pledged to provide stipends in the coming year to self-employed and unemployed workers along with business owners hurt by the coronavirus-induced crisis.
Israel was widely praised for moving quickly to seal its borders and impose tight restrictions on the public to contain the virus.
Those measures sent unemployment soaring to 25%, and since reopening, the economy has struggled to recover.
Critics have accused Netanyahu of bungling the exit strategy. Virus cases have spiked in recent weeks and the country’s economic troubles are deepening.
PHOENIX — Arizona’s death toll from the coronavirus topped 2,000 as state health officials reported new highs for hospitalizations and use of ventilators.
The Department of Health Services reported 75 more deaths, increasing state’s confirmed total to 2,038. The additional 4,057 confirmed coronavirus cases reported Thursday brought the total to 112,671.
Arizona has emerged as a national hotspot since Republican Gov. Doug Ducey loosened stay-home restrictions in mid-May.
The state had a record 3,437 patients hospitalized Wednesday, with a record 575 on ventilators. The 861 patients in ICU beds and the 1,980 emergency room visits for the virus were just short of records set this week.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida health officials reported 120 new deaths from the coronavirus, the highest one-day increase amid a surge in new infections.
The number of deaths announced Thursday was the highest since the 113 reported in early May. The total confirmed death toll has surpassed 4,000. New confirmed infections increased by nearly 9,000 to more than 229,000.
The seven-day average for deaths is about 56 per day, up from about 31 three weeks ago. It’s approaching the period in early May when that rate went as high as 60.
The state also reported Thursday the biggest 24-hour increase in hospitalizations, with more than 400 patients admitted.
LONDON — England has moved to further ease lockdown restrictions, announcing that the public can soon return to gyms, swimming pools and other sports facilities that have been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says that outdoor pools can begin re-opening beginning Saturday, with indoor pools, gyms and other sports facilities to follow on July 25.
The guidance will enable competitive grassroots team sports to resume, beginning with cricket this weekend.
Dowden also told a virtual news conference at Downing Street that outdoor arts performances -- including theatres, opera, dance and music -- can perform outside, though audiences will be subjected to social-distancing rules.
ROME — Italy’s health minister has issued an ordinance barring entry of people who have stayed in or traveled through 13 countries in the past two weeks.
The ordinance applies to travelers from the following countries: Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chile, Kuwait, North Macedonia, Moldova, Oman, Panama, Peru and the Dominican Republic.
Minister Roberto Speranza says the ordinance he signed aims to safeguard the “enormous sacrifices” Italians have made to reduce spread of coronavirus infection in their country, where Europe’s devastating outbreak began in February.
On Thursday, 12 deaths were confirmed and 229 new infections.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian authorities say they need to bring back some infection-control measures because coronavirus cases are rising.
Health Minister Kiril Ananiev announced all night clubs, piano bars and indoor discos must close. The minister says patrons may frequent any open-air establishments but only at up to 50% of capacity.
All sporting events will be played behind closed doors and the number of participants in public events will be limited to 30.
Ananiev says huge crowds at Premier League soccer matches and large gatherings at events such as school proms where social distancing and masks were widely ignored led to a new daily high for confirmed cases in Bulgaria.
As of Thursday, the country of 7 million had a total of 6,342 confirmed virus cases and 259 deaths.
ISTANBUL — The World Health Organization and Turkey have signed an agreement to launch a WHO office in Istanbul.
Speaking in the capital Ankara, Turkey’s health minister says the new office personnel would work to guide needs in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Fahrettin Koca says he expects the WHO to have a more “proactive” structure to respond to future emergencies.
Hans Kluge, the regional director of WHO for Europe, says his visit to Turkey was his first mission abroad since February. He praised Turkey for its health infrastructure, increased testing capacity, contact tracing and the production of protective equipment and ventilators to combat the pandemic and lower death rates.
Kluge also said Turkey was successful in protecting the elderly and called the higher death rate of senior citizens in Europe a “catastrophe.” Turkey imposed a full lockdown for people above 65 for several weeks and relaxed the measures in June, for some outdoor hours.
WHO already has a country office in Ankara. On Wednesday, the official statistics confirmed nearly 209,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 and 5,282 people have died in Turkey.
ATHENS, Greece -- Greece is reporting a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases detected, with 50 reported in the last 24-hour reporting period and nearly half from incoming travelers.
Greek health authorities say 24 of the newly confirmed cases were detected at entry points. Greece recently banned visitors from Serbia after a flare-up of coronavirus cases in that country and several positive cases reported among Serb tourists arriving in Greece.
The country’s overall confirmed cases now stand at 3,672 and 193 deaths -- none within the last three days.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas says authorities could re-impose public and travel restrictions, warning that safety guidance for the coronavirus has been frequently ignored.
ROME -- The number of deaths in May in Italy was slightly lower when compared to average number of deaths from 2015-2020.
Italy’s national statistics bureau ISTAT issued in a joint report with the Superior Health Institute. It says the slight dip in the number of deaths in May was remarkable because it held true in nearly all northern Italy. That’s where a majority of the country’s COVID-19 cases and deaths occurred this year.
According to the report, from the start of the outbreak in late February through May, the median age of COVID-19 patients was 60-64 years and remained unvaried. A third of those with confirmed infections were older than 75. It noted of Italy’s COVID-19 deaths through May, 1% occurred in patients younger than 50.
Although women accounted for 54.2% of all those confirmed cases, men accounted for 52% of COVID-19 deaths. According to Health Ministry, Italy counts 242,363 confirmed cases. With 12 more deaths, the toll nationwide stands at 34,926.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says its chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, has gone into quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus.
In a statement Thursday, the army says Kochavi was in the presence of an officer last week who later tested positive for the virus. Israel has been grappling in recent weeks with a surge in coronavirus cases.
The announcement means that both Israel’s military chief and its defense minister, Benny Gantz, are in isolation. Gantz, who is also Israel’s “alternate prime minister,” announced Wednesday that he was going into quarantine after possible exposure to the virus.
The army says Kochavi feels healthy but will be tested. He plans to maintain his regular schedule “whenever possible” while in isolation. Kochavi previously went into protective quarantine in March after attending a meeting with someone who was infected.
THESSALONIKI, Greece — Police in northern Greece say a 24-year-old train passenger has been detained after allegedly assaulting a railway staff member who instructed him to wear a mask.
The man was detained Thursday while traveling to the northern city of Thessaloniki from the town of Florina, also in northern Greece. Police and the Greek Railways say the 56-year-old staff member was taken to a hospital to receive first aid after being punched in the face.
Greece has relaxed most pandemic-related restrictions in recent weeks, but passengers are still obliged to wear a mask while using public transportation or face a fine of 150 euros ($170).
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark will lead a new panel to give an “honest assessment” of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the appointments to the newly created Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
“I cannot Imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process to help us understand what happened — an honest assessment and to help us understand also what we should do to prevent such a tragedy in the future,” he said Thursday.
The announcement comes after the WHO’s general assembly in May called for a comprehensive evaluation of the WHO and the world response to the outbreak. It comes after repeated criticism by U.S. president Donald Trump’s administration of the U.N. health agency over its handling of the pandemic and alleged deference to China, where COVID-19 first emerged.
BRUSSELS — Belgium government’s health advisers are recommending wearing mandatory masks in shops to keep the spread of the coronavirus at its current low level.
The health ministry’s scientific advisory body says face masks play a crucial role in limiting the diffusion of droplets of respiratory secretions potentially carrying the deadly virus.
Belgium has confirmed 9,778 deaths in the country with 11 million inhabitants. The number of infections has decreased over the past two months, with about 85 new cases confirmed every day.
Among the measures adopted to fight the virus, the Belgian government has made the use of masks compulsory on public transportation, but customers still have the option to run errands without any protection.
The Health superior council says it recommends masks in shops because physical distancing is difficult in stores.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say they are ready to re-impose public and travel restrictions next week, warning that safety guidance for the coronavirus is being frequently ignored.
Stelios Petsas, the government spokesman, said authorities were “determined to protect the majority from the frivolous few,” adding that the government was likely to announce new restrictions if needed on Monday.
Greece, which imposed strict lockdown measures, has kept infection rates low. But cases have crept up since restrictions were lifted and international travel resumed in recent weeks.
Pestas said authorities were focused on the rising number of cases in nearby, Balkan countries and tourists who traveled to Greece over the land border with Bulgaria, at the single crossing point that has been opened to non-essential travel.