The Latest: China easing into reopening as local cases wane
BEIJING — China says it has nine new confirmed coronavirus cases, all of them brought from outside the country, and no new deaths.
Thursday’s report buttresses growing signs the virus has been essentially contained inside the nation in which it first appeared late last year.
The near elimination of local virus transmission has allowed the reopening of most businesses and resumption of some social activities, including the holding of the crucial annual college entrance exams. Sports, tourism and cultural activities are also slowly starting to return.
The wearing of masks remains obligatory in most indoor spaces and a proof of health is required for entrance to many venues.
China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths among 83,581 cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— U.S. government to advise health care workers to reuse PPE
— Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker calls for national mandate on masks
— European Union urged to agree to ‘ambitious’ recovery fund
— Six months after COVID-19 started spreading around the globe, desperation rather than information is still driving many decisions about how to treat the disease. Two drugs have been shown to help but key questions remain about their use.
— Africa now has more than a half-million confirmed coronavirus cases. The continent-wide total is now over 508,000 after South Africa recorded another day of more than 10,000 confirmed cases as a new global hot spot.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 50 new cases of the coronavirus as new clusters continue to emerge across the country.
The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday brought the national total to 13,293 cases, including 287 deaths.
Nineteen of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May. Fifteen were reported from the southern city of Gwangju, where infections have been tied to various places, including a Buddhist temple, Christian churches and office buildings.
Twenty-two of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as the COVID-19 continues to spread in southern Asia, the United States and elsewhere.
BRISBANE, Australia — An Australian state has closed its doors to people fleeing a second lockdown in Australia’s second-largest city.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said Thursday that a number of people were willing to pay for their own 14-day hotel quarantine to be allowed to escape Melbourne and other parts of Victoria state, where a six-week lockdown began Wednesday night because of spreading coronavirus infections.
Miles said that beginning Friday, anyone who has been in Victoria in the previous two weeks will be barred from entering Queensland. However, the state will let in residents of Queensland who are coming home and a few other exceptions.
Miles says that “we need to reserve hotel accommodation for people who need to be quarantined.”
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has reported its deadliest day of the pandemic, with nearly 100 new deaths as newly confirmed cases continue soaring. Officials in the state capital of Austin have begun preparations to turn the downtown convention center into a field hospital.
The 98 reported deaths in Texas set a one-day record, surpassing the previous high of 60 a day earlier. Texas has recorded a total of 2,813 deaths. The state reported 9,979 new coronavirus cases after hitting a record 10,028 Tuesday.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continued to climb Wednesday, with 9,610 patients in hospitals across the state.
Gov. Greg Abbott aggressively began one of America’s fastest reopenings in May but has begun reversing course in recent weeks, ordering bars closed and mandating face coverings.
LONDON — The humanitarian group Oxfam says the coronavirus has worsened the hunger crisis in the world’s poorest corners and warns that up to 12,000 people could die each day from hunger linked to the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
The group’s report issued Thursday says mass unemployment, disruption to food production and declining aid as a result of the pandemic could push an estimated 122 million people to the brink of starvation this year.
The charity’s chief executive warns that the knock-on impacts of COVID-19 are far more widespread than the virus itself, affecting many in middle-income countries like India, South Africa and Brazil.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Los Angeles County’s public health director is urging local school officials to prepare for a possible delay of classroom instruction next month.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said that is a setback he would like to avoid by convincing more people to wear masks and avoid gatherings to slow the spread of the coroanvirus.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer urged school districts to have a “plan b” because of the uncertainty around the spread of the virus. Newsom said school districts will decide for themselves if they can safely reopen. He said he hopes the school year is not delayed.
NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana officials are sounding the alarm about coronavirus infections continuing to rise across the state, and officials in New Orleans say they will soon restrict bars and restaurants to table service in hope of reducing the disease’s resurgence.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday at his weekly pandemic briefing that “we have a statewide epidemic. It’s no longer one or two regions.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, meanwhile, issued new regulations ending table service at the city’s bars and restaruants. The new rules also limit indoor gatherings to 25 people. The mayor says the rules take effect at 6 a.m. Saturday.
The state health departments said Wednesday that bars have been identified as the focus of 36 coronavirus outbreaks that infected 393 people.
UNITED NATIONS — The leading U.S. infectious disease expert says he is cautiously optimistic that a coronavirus vaccine with some degree of effectiveness will be successfully developed by the end of the year or the beginning of 2021.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told a U.N. event Wednesday that Moderna’s vaccine will go into Phase 3 trials “sometime at the end of July and then others will follow in August, September and October.”
He says Moderna’s vaccine has shown “very promising” results, “which makes me cautiously optimistic, although you could never, ever predict with any certainty whether a vaccine is going to be safe and effective.”
Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He says “a strategic approach” has been adopted to test multiple vaccine candidates using the same standards and measurements.
OKLAHOMA CITY — President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa in late June that drew thousands of people, along with large protests that accompanied it, “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, health officials said Wednesday.
Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed cases on Monday, a new record one-day high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday.
County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said those large gatherings “more than likely” contributed to the spike.
A reporter who attended Trump’s rally is among those who have tested positive for COVID-19, along with six of Trump’s campaign staffers and two members of the Secret Service.
Statewide, Oklahoma health officials on Wednesday reported 673 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the state’s second-highest daily total since the start of the pandemic.
RENO, Nev. -- The first coronavirus antibody study conducted in Nevada suggests COVID-19 test results dramatically underestimate the number of people who actually have been infected by the disease.
The joint study by the Washoe County Health District and researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno concludes that four to five times more people have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 than have been formally confirmed as positive cases to date in the Reno-Sparks area.
Based on blood tests for antibodies, the June study indicates 2.3% of adults in Washoe County had an infection or exposure resulting in an immune response to the virus.
SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile will begin easing lockdown measures in two southern regions on Monday with 800,000 people able to resume some of their activities and those over 75 able to go out once a day.
Restaurants, cinemas, theaters and cafes will be allowed to open at 25% capacity. Sporting activities can be carried out without an audience and can include up to 10 people in enclosed spaces and 50 in the open.
The new measures will apply in the Los Ríos and Aysén regions in the country’s south. If a new outbreak occurs in either region, the government said tighter restrictions will be considered.
The number of people with confirmed infections of the new coronavirus surpassed 300,000 in the South American country, the sixth highest figure in the world.
JOHANNESBURG — A health official in South Africa’s new coronavirus hot spot of Gauteng province says authorities are preparing over 1.5 million gravesites as confirmed cases rise.
Bandile Masuku, a medical doctor and member of the province’s executive council, said it was the public’s responsibility to make sure the gravesites were not needed.
“It’s an uncomfortable discussion,” he said. Gauteng province includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.
The number of confirmed virus cases in Gauteng is now over 71,000, or 33% of South Africa’s cases. The country has more than 215,000 confirmed cases and is posting some of the world’s highest daily totals of newly reported cases.
Meanwhile, the easing of lockdown measures continues.
ANKARA — Turkey is preparing to appoint “observers” at weddings and engagement parties to ensure that social distancing practices are adhered.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters following a weekly meeting of the country’s scientific advisory council on Wednesday that the decision was reached after several recent COVID-19 outbreaks were traced back to weddings.
Authorities in eight provinces have banned traditional send-off ceremonies for young men starting their military service—considered another source for coronavirus infections.
Meanwhile, religious authorities were considering measures to ensure social distancing at funerals gatherings, Koca said.
Turkey saw an uptick in daily confirmed infections and deaths in mid-June, after it eased restrictions aimed at curbing the virus’ spread.
On Wednesday, the total number of infections in Turkey rose to 208,938. The death toll now stands at 5,282.
ATLANTA — Atlanta’s mayor says she will sign an executive order mandating masks in Georgia’s largest city, defying Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to encourage voluntary masking.
Spokesman Michael Smith says Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms plans to sign an order requiring masks, which could set up a confrontation with the Republican Kemp.
Like several other local leaders in Georgia, Bottoms has unsuccessfully appealed to Kemp to change his order that local governments can’t exceed the state’s requirements. Bottoms announced she tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday.
“Other cities have taken the approach that they are going to defy the governor’s executive order. Savannah has done it, some other cities have done it, and Atlanta is going to do it today,” Bottoms told MSNBC in a Wednesday interview. “Because the fact of the matter is that COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on our cities, specifically black and brown communities with higher death rates.”
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Federal prosecutors say a Florida man and his three sons are facing federal charges that they illegally sold a bleach-like chemical mixture as a miracle cure for the coronavirus and other diseases.
Prosecutors say the substance was sold nationwide through an entity called the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Bradenton, Florida. A Miami federal judge in April ordered the self-styled church to stop selling the substance, but authorities say they ignored the order.
Charged in the criminal complaint are 62-year-old Mark Grenon and his sons with two conspiracy counts and criminal contempt. Court records didn’t list attorneys for them.
PHOENIX — Arizona residents sat in cars up to 13 hours to get coronavirus testing. Others say they’ve waited weeks for results.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego called the situation “desperate.” She told local and national outlets this week that FEMA dismissed her pleas for a testing blitz in the nation’s fifth-largest city.
So far, Arizona has reported more than 108,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state from more than 827,000 tests. Experts say more tests are needed beyond just the sickest people if Arizona wants to get a handle on its surge.
FEMA administrator Robert Fenton said Tuesday the agency is doubling the number of testing supplies it plans to ship to Arizona this month. The federal government plans to provide more manpower to do contact tracing and clinical care.
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is considering issuing a statewide mask mandate after discussing the issue with state legislators this week.
The Republican governor raised the possibility of a statewide order last week because of a spike in coronavirus cases. He held a virtual meeting with House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President J. Stuart Adams on Tuesday to discuss a potential state measure.
Herbert is also facing mounting pressure from the Utah Hospital Association, which sent a letter urging the legislative leadership to require Utah residents to wear masks.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government has eased more coronavirus restrictions, ending a six-person limit per table at restaurants and allowing visitors to shop at malls without wearing a mask.
The measures were announced as infection rates remain generally low in most of the country, despite some concern about the growing number of cases among tourists.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 33 new cases, 24 from people visiting the country since tourism was allowed.
The total number of confirmed cases reached 3,622, while the death toll reached 193.
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. government will issue guidance encouraging front-line health care workers to reuse personal protective equipment.
Pence, speaking at White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Wednesday, added that PPE supplies remain “very strong” but the Trump administration will be encouraging healthcare workers “to use some of the best practices” to “preserve and reuse” face masks and other protective equipment.
The head of the White House task force says Americans in states that have seen a recent spike in cases need to do more to clamp down on gatherings in order to stem spread of the virus.
Dr. Deborah Birx says in addition to closures of bars, ceasing indoor dining and wearing face coverings, Americans in hot spots should stop holding or cut down on the size of gatherings they hold in their homes.
WASHINGTON -- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is calling for a national mandate on masks, saying that it “might be the most important thing we can do to save lives.″
Illinois mandated masks in public spaces on May 1, one of the first U.S. states to do so. Pritzker, a Democrat and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, says his state’s move “aligns with our most significant downward shifts in our infection rate.″
The governor told a U.S. House committee on Wednesday: “It’s not too late for the federal government to make an impact – in fact, it’s more important than ever.″
Pritzker testified before the House Homeland Security Committee.
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be issuing new guidance for the reopening of schools in the fall.
School districts across the United States are struggling with how to safely reopen as the coronavirus continues to surge in some states. The vice president, speaking after a meeting Wednesday of the White House coronavirus task force at the Education Department, called it “absolutely essential” for students to return to the classroom for in-person learning.
Pence announced plans for new CDC guidelines shortly after President Donald Trump took to Twitter to criticize the public health agency for asking schools “to do very impractical things.”
Arizona, Florida and Texas are among states in recent weeks that have seen some of the biggest spikes in coronavirus infections.
MADRID — Spain says that the daily coronavirus infection count has doubled up in the past 24 hours amid dozens of small outbreaks.
Contagion was up Wednesday with 257 confirmed infections, from 124 the day before and to more than 252,500 since the pandemic hit the country, official Health Ministry statistics showed. There have been at least 28,300 confirmed deaths, nine of them recorded since Tuesday.
Admissions into hospitals and intensive care units are increasing, the data showed, especially in parts of the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia. That’s where authorities have made mandatory the use of face masks even when social distancing can be maintained.
Infection clusters around the Catalan city of Lleida, population 200,000, have led to the first localized lockdown since Spain emerged from a nationwide stay-at-home order.
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Ministry of Health says the country has recorded 2,741 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily total yet.
The number of cases has risen dramatically despite a prolonged lockdown followed by weekly weekend curfews.
The country with a long history of conflict and fragile health system is gripped by a severe economic crisis brought on by plummeting oil prices, and its hospitals are now overflowing with coronavirus patients.
Doctors are running low on medical equipment, including key protective gear and large numbers of medical staff have reportedly been infected.
Field hospitals have been set up throughout Baghdad, where infections are highest, to cope with the exponentially rising number of virus patients.
The total number of confirmed cases in the conflict-torn country stands at 67442 , with 2,779 deaths.