The Latest: China reports 22 newly confirmed cases of virus
BEIJING — China has reported 22 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 13 in Beijing, a day after a city government spokesperson said containment measures had slowed the momentum of an outbreak in the capital that has infected more than 200 people.
Another nine cases were brought by Chinese travelers from outside the country, seven of them on board a flight from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia that arrived in the western city of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, according to a notice from the provincial government. No new deaths were reported by the National Health Commission.
Current numbers of confirmed cases in treatment rose by 10 to 359, while another 114 people were in isolation and being monitored for being suspected cases or having tested positive for the virus without showing any symptoms.
China has reported 4,634 deaths from the virus among 83,418 total cases since it was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. While the situation in Beijing is headed in the right direction, “the prevention situation remains grave and complex,” city spokesperson Xu Hejian said at a Monday news conference.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— The WHO chief is warning world leaders not to politicize the pandemic.
— As virus surges, Pakistan says there’s no choice but to open.
— From shopping to dining out, New York City reopens but some remain wary.
— Coronavirus lockdowns have increased wildlife poaching in Asia and Africa, and it may worsen as countries reopen.
— Young baseball players, deprived of a treasured tournament, get a memento from the stadium.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
COLUMBIA, South Carolina — A South Carolina city has voted to require people to wear masks in grocery stores and pharmacies, becoming the first in the state mandating face coverings to fight COVID-19.
The Greenville City Council passed the rule unanimously hours after placing it on the City Council’s regular agenda.
All employees in restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores and pharmacies would have to wear masks. Customers in grocery stores and pharmacies would need coverings over their noses and faces. Anyone convicted of breaking the rule would be fined up to $25.
Greenville has had some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the state in recent weeks, while South Carolina has had at least 900 new COVID-19 cases each of the past five days -- the only days of the pandemic with that many cases. The state is among the top five in the nation in new infections divided by population.
Mayor Knox White said the city carefully chose to only require masks in businesses that everyone has to use, whether they are trying to isolate themselves or not. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster again said Monday that he isn’t considering a statewide mask requirement because it might violate people’s rights.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ surging coronavirus numbers are not slowing down the state’s reopening.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday instead prescribed a renewed emphasis on face coverings to curtail sobering trends, including hospitalization rates that have more than doubled over the past month. Monday marked the 11th consecutive day Texas set a new high for COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Abbott didn’t rule out reimposing lockdown orders but described it as a last resort. He says the virus is spreading at an “unacceptable rate” in Texas but stopped short of mandating face masks in public.
Big cities in Texas have begun mandating that businesses require customers to wear masks, including Houston, where the order went into effect Monday.
MIAMI — Mayors of some of the largest municipalities in hard-hit Miami-Dade County, gathered at a press conference on Monday and challenged Florida governor’s contention over the weekend that a spike in cases in the state could be attributed to an increase in testing and positive test results from people without symptoms.
They announced they will start requiring people to wear masks the moment they step out of their homes.
“This is a real spike. This is a real trajectory,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. “People can argue about the number of positives, being related to more testing, but they can’t argue with the percentage at now over 10%, which is what the CDC says tells you you have too much virus in your community.”
BOISE, Idaho -- Idaho is experiencing a sharp increase in confirmed coronavirus cases, with 544 new cases reported in a five-day span.
That brings the state’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to more than 4,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little ordered a statewide stay-at-home order in late March, and those restrictions have been gradually lifted over the last several weeks. The state is currently in the fourth and final stage of Little’s reopening plan, with gatherings of more than 50 people allowed.
However, the numbers of people becoming infected have climbed as more businesses reopened and more people resumed normal activity levels. One outbreak in the Boise area was tied to young people going to downtown bars as they reopened. Health districts in the Twin Falls region and in eastern Idaho have all seen a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in people under the age of 50, Boise State Public Radio reported.
LOS ANGELES -- The head of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department says expressions of hatred and daily threats against herself and public health professionals across the country are worrisome and disheartening.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday that the death threats against her started last month during a COVID-19 Facebook Live briefing when someone casually suggested that she should be shot.
Ferrer said she didn’t immediately see the threat but her husband, children and colleagues did. She said threats against the public health agency by email, public postings and letters have been going on since March.
Ferrer conducts televised briefings that have made her the public face of efforts to fight the virus in Los Angeles County.
“The virus has changed our world as we know it, and people are angry,” Ferrer said in a statement. “And while frustration boils over in our communities as people are done with this virus, this virus is not done with us.”
Two more members of President Donald Trump’s campaign working on his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The president’s campaign put out a statement Monday that said the two staffers, part of the advance team for Saturday’s rally, tested positive before they boarded their flight out of Oklahoma.
The two were then quarantined and the campaign began contact tracing protocols. These positive tests follow the news that six other staffers, including two Secret Service agents, tested positive in the hours before Saturday’s rally.
The rally was believed to be the largest indoor event in the nation since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The White House did not immediately plan any specific infection monitoring for the event.
LIVINGSTON, La. — Laine Hardy, the 2019 winner of “American Idol,” says he has been diagnosed with COVID-19 but his symptoms are mild and he is recovering under home quarantine.
“This wasn’t what I expected on the first day of summer,” the 19-year-old singer from Livingston, Louisiana, wrote on his Facebook page and on Instagram. “My doctor confirmed I have Coronavirus, but my symptoms are mild.” He ended his tweet: “Y’all stay safe & healthy!”
Hardly had performed Friday, singing the national anthem at swearing-in ceremonies for Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard’s third term, The Advocate reported.
Hardy also recently completed a virtual tour that was watched by more than 2 million viewers. And his next livestream is scheduled Thursday evening.
Acoustic versions of his new songs “Ground I Grew Up On” and “Let There Be Country” will debut on Friday.
ATLANTA — The number of people hospitalized in Georgia because of COVID-19 hase risen to 1,000, erasing a month’s worth of progress and showing that an accompanying increase in confirmed infections is leading to serious illness.
Coronavirus infections have been rising throughout June and are now at the highest level since the pandemic began. Georgia has averaged 1,073 infections reported daily over the last seven days, according to figures kept by The Associated Press. Since Friday, the average has been higher than the previous peak of 857 set on April 13.
Almost 66,000 Georgians have now been infected since the start of the outbreak, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported, and 2,648 people have died statewide.
The surge in infections comes nearly two months since Georgia began lifting restrictions April 24 on hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys and other businesses that had been forced to close to slow the virus. Restaurants, retail stores and bars have since reopened as well.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said Monday he’s so alarmed by the rapidly increase in infections that he wants to require people to wear masks in public places. He asked the city’s attorney to begin drawing up an emergency order to make face coverings mandatory.
PHOENIX — Demand for tests has been growing especially in underserved communities of color in Arizona, which the COVID Tracking Project says has now has a 7-day average positive test rate above 20 percent.
On Saturday, dozens of people waited for as long as 13 hours in triple-digit temperatures outside a sports complex for free drive-up COVID-19 testing in the sprawling west Phoenix community of Maryvale, a predominantly working class neighborhood of Hispanic families.
Tomás Leon, senior vice president for Equity Healthcare, said staff had to turn people away as night approached, after nearly 1,000 tests were administered by the private firm that focuses on equitable health care.
“I’ve never heard of that many people showing up to any of the testing events,” said Leon, who attended the event. “Usually it’s about 100 people.”
Equity Health plans another free testing event for people without insurance at the same Maryvale site next Saturday, Leon said.
“We were really overwhelmed by the response to our grassroots effort to get out the word,” said Leon.
He said a testing event that Equity Health held May 16 at an African American church in downtown Phoenix drew more than 300 people.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana won’t be further easing its restrictions on businesses because the state is seeing a troubling, recent uptick in coronavirus cases.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that he’ll keep in place the current limitations on restaurants, bars and retailers enacted on June 5, which were set to expire Friday. He’s extending the restrictions until July 24.
The decision comes as Louisiana exceeded the grim mark of 3,000 deaths from the outbreak.
The Democratic governor was considering moving Louisiana from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of reopening under the White House guidelines. But he decided against the move based on the latest surge in cases of the COVID-19 disease and hospitalizations over the last week.
“We do have a new normal, whether we like it or not,” Edwards said. “There are a lot of people out there saying they are done with this virus. Well, the virus isn’t done with us.”
The regulations that will be renewed keep churches, restaurants, coffee shops, bars with a food permit, gyms, hair and nail salons, museums and other businesses limited to 50% capacity. Bars that don’t have a food permit will remain limited to 25% occupancy.
HOUSTON — COVID-19 hospital admissions in Houston have tripled since Memorial Day to more than 1,400 admissions across eight hospital systems, said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital.
“It is snowballing,” Boom said. “We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike.”
In three weeks, Boom predicted, hospitals could be overwhelmed and “although we may not have a government, official shutdown, we may be in an effective shutdown.” He pleaded with Houston residents to wear masks and practice social distancing.
“It is possible to open up at a judicious pace and coexist with the virus, but it requires millions and millions of people to do the right thing. Right now, we don’t have that” because people have let their guards down.
Other hospital officials share his concern, Boom said. “None of us sees an end in sight,” he said.
ROME — Italy added another 218 coronavirus infections to its official count, evidence that the virus is still circulating in the one-time European epicenter.
Another 23 people died in the past day, one of the lowest day-to-day death tolls and bringing Italy’s total number of confirmed victims to 34,657.
Hard-hit Lombardy again counted most of the new infections with 143. But about half of them were in people who got tested only because they did a blood test that showed they had coronavirus antibodies.
In Italy, anyone who tests positive for the antibodies must be tested for the virus. Lombardy welfare chief Giulio Gallera said these cases are considered “weak positives” since people might have been infected a long time ago, but simply haven’t shed all the virus from their systems.
MADRID and RABAT, Morocco — A Spanish official has welcomed Morocco’s decision to cancel the visit by millions of residents in Europe to their relatives in the north African country in order to avoid further spread of the coronavirus.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita announced Monday that the annual “Marhaba operation” across the Strait of Gibraltar to facilitate the return of nationals who live and work in Europe wouldn’t take place.
Fernando Simón, who heads Spain’s response to the outbreak, said Monday that Rabat’s decision was “a big favor” given that most of the 3 million travelers who depart use ferries on Spain’s southern coast after traveling by car across Europe.
Over 3.3 million people, most of them Moroccans residing in Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy, traveled last year in about 760,000 vehicles to visit relatives and friends back home during their summer holiday.
In March, when countries around the world closed their borders to foreigners to keep out the virus, Morocco barred its own citizens from returning home.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said that by the end of the week the north African country will have repatriated 7,800 citizens stranded abroad during the country’s rigid lockdown measures.
Moroccan diasporas wishing to return home will have to undergo a compulsory nine-day quarantine and two tests for infection, he said in Parliament.
Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita also announced in Parliament the annual “Marhaba operation” across the Strait of Gibraltar to facilitate the return of nationals who live and work in Europe would not take place this summer.
OKLAHOMA CITY — A day after President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, the Oklahoma State Department of Health urged people who have attended large-scale events recently to be tested for the coronavirus.
The department didn’t specify any event in the statement it released. The president’s rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa was attended by nearly 6,200 and the vast majority, including Trump, didn’t wear face masks which, along with social distancing, is encouraged by the department.
“Personal responsibility remains key in protecting yourself and our local communities from COVID-19. We continue to encourage Oklahomans to consider wearing a mask, to routinely wash hands, and to use physical distancing measures,” interim state Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in the statement. The state reported at least 10,733 cases Monday, including 218 new infections.
GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Monday that 151 of the people who work at his official residence have tested positive for COVID-19, and one has died.
Many of the infections were found among workers in the Secretariat of Administrative Affairs and Security at the presidential residence, which includes his offices, in downtown Guatemala City. Giammattei said 69 of those infected have recovered and at least five, who had been in critical condition, have improved.
The president, himself a physician, hasn’t tested positive.
Nationwide, Guatemala has reported 12,614 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 531 deaths.
GENEVA — The record levels of new daily COVID-19 cases are due to the fact that the pandemic is peaking in a number of big countries at the same time and reflect a change in the virus’ global activity, the World Health Organization said.
At a media briefing on Monday, WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said that “the numbers are increasing because the epidemic is developing in a number of populous countries at the same time.”
Some countries have attributed their increased caseload to more testing, including India and the U.S. But Ryan dismissed that explanation.
“We do not believe this is a testing phenomenon,” he said, noting that numerous countries have also noted marked increases in hospital admissions and deaths — neither of which cannot be explained by increased testing.
“There definitely is a shift in that the virus is now very well established,” Ryan said. “The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries.” He added the situation was “definitely accelerating” in a number of countries, including the U.S. and others in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese authorities are providing crack addicts with pipes free of charge as part of an effort to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.
Officials said Monday the crack pipes are being bought for 78,000 euros (about $88,000) and distributed to nongovernmental health workers who deal with addicts.
The Intervention Service for Addictive Behaviors, a government body, said in an email to The Associated Press that crack use has increased in recent years and users can contaminate each other with diseases such as COVID-19, HIV and hepatitis.
Portugal has won renown for its innovative approach to drug addiction and use. A ground-breaking 2001 law sent drug users into the public health system, instead of to the criminal courts. Though drug use remains illegal, the change in tactics was successful in substantially reducing the country’s problems with addiction, especially heroin.
Authorities have been providing heroin addicts with clean syringes to stop the spread of disease since the early 1990s.