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The Latest: Australia court upholds state’s border closure

November 6, 2020 GMT
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People line up outside a popular pub and restaurant in St Kilda in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Melbourne, Australia's former coronavirus hot spot, emerged from a lockdown at midnight Tuesday, restaurants, cafes and bars were allowed to open and outdoor contact sports can resume. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
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People line up outside a popular pub and restaurant in St Kilda in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Melbourne, Australia's former coronavirus hot spot, emerged from a lockdown at midnight Tuesday, restaurants, cafes and bars were allowed to open and outdoor contact sports can resume. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s highest court on Friday upheld a state’s border closure and dismissed billionaire businessman Clive Palmer’s argument that the pandemic measure was unconstitutional.

The seven High Court judges ruled that Western Australia’s state border closure to non-essential travel applied during “a hazard in the nature of a plague or epidemic” complied with the constitution.

The state shut its border to the rest of Australia on April 5 and has maintained the travel restriction despite not recording a case of COVID-19 community transmission since April 11.

The state government argues the measure has enabled its iron ore miners to maintain output and earn their highest prices in six years while their main rivals in Brazil have had production disrupted by pandemic absenteeism.

Palmer, a mining magnate, took court action in May when he was refused permission to enter Australia’s largest state.

His lawyers had argued that the border restriction unreasonably infringed upon Australians’ constitutional right to free travel between states.

All Australian states and territories have used border restrictions to curb a second wave of infections and a court ruling against Western Australia could have impacted their pandemic responses.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— U.S. counties with the worst coronavirus surges overwhelmingly voted for Trump

— Britain extends salary support for unemployed because of virus restrictions

— Cal-Washington football game canceled after player’s positive test

— Greece announces 3-week, nationwide lockdown in the hopes of stemming an increase in hospitalizations

— In Spain, coronavirus puts the poor at the back of the line

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Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan warned of a major surge in coronavirus cases and urged residents Thursday to wear masks to prevent the virus’s spread.

Maryland’s statewide mask mandate remains in full effect, the Republican governor said during a news conference. Under this order, all Marylanders over the age of 5 are required to wear face coverings in the public spaces of all businesses across the state.

“It is the best way to keep you and your family members safe, keep people out of the hospital, save lives and to keep Maryland open for business,” Hogan said.

Hogan also said he didn’t believe new restrictions were needed on businesses, but he warned against complacency toward current rules now in place.

“I think right now, enforcing the existing laws that people aren’t following is more important than adding new ones,” he said.

While the governor said Maryland is in a much better position than in the spring and that the state is better prepared than most states, “the warning lights are starting to flash on the dashboard.”

Dr. David Marcozzi, the COVID-19 incident commander for the University of Maryland Medical System, said the state is “entering a period of high risk” in the next few months, because the virus spreads more easily when people gather indoors together.

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s chief health officer quit Thursday as COVID-19 continues to run rampant across the state, saying her job has been hard and she needs to pay more attention to herself and her family.

State Health Officer and Department of Health Services Interim Division of Public Health Administrator Stephanie Smiley is the second state health officer to resign in the last six months.

She announced her resignation would be effective Nov. 11 in a letter to local health departments. She wrote that she has accepted a position outside state service so she can focus more on her own health and family.

Smiley stepped into the health officer role after Gov. Tony Evers’ administration forced her predecessor, Jeanne Ayers, to resign in May.

The DHS reported an additional 5,922 confirmed cases Thursday, just 17 cases shy of the daily case record of 5,935 set Wednesday.

—- SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Health Authority reported 805 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday, breaking the state’s previous daily record of 600.

Officials described the increased spread of COVID-19 in the state as “unprecedented” and occurring “more rapidly” than they had hoped.

“Let me be clear, we cannot allow this disease to continue to spread so rapidly in our communities. Lives are at stake,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “Oregonians have made tremendous sacrifices to help each other throughout this pandemic, which is why Oregon has done relatively better than many other states at containing COVID-19. We can’t let up now.”

In addition, health officials said the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests last week was 8.5%.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Hospitals and healthcare systems across Minnesota are bracing for a wave of new patients as the state sees alarming growth in virus cases and hospitalizations are expected to follow.

The state’s health department reported 3,956 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 25 deaths on Thursday, breaking the single-day record for new cases for the third straight day. The state’s totals since the pandemic began now sit at 164,865 cases and 2,555 deaths.

Minnesota health officials said Wednesday that more than 800 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, with more than 200 in intensive care. As of Thursday morning, one in every five intensive care beds across the state was occupied by a COVID-19 patient, said Dr. Rahul Koranne, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association.

“The community spread that we are seeing is quite explosive, and that is directly translating into increasing number of COVID-19 patients that are hospitalized and increasing number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care units,” he said. “That is definitely worrisome and something we are closely watching.”

Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases expert and medical director for the Mayo Clinic’s pandemic preparedness efforts, said the healthcare system’s contingency planning revolves around space, staffing and supplies.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Deaths from coronavirus illness in Illinois topped a grim mark Thursday. With 97 additional deaths from COVID-19, the state pushed past 10,000 fatalities since the pandemic reached the state in February.

That forbidding number was accompanied by another — a single-day record of 9,935 fresh infections from the highly contagious and potentially deadly coronavirus.

“I cannot stress (enough) how important your individual actions are right now. What you do, what we all do, will determine how much worse the coming weeks will look,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at his daily coronavirus briefing in Chicago. “We are seeing record numbers of new COVID-19 cases across the state.

The daily total outpaced the previous record, set Saturday, by 26%. Since an autumn surge of COVID-19, has hammered Illinois, the eight highest daily totals of newly contracted cases have occurred in the last eight days.

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ALBUQUERQUE -- New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the state is reporting its highest daily count for deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic.

She announced an additional 23 deaths during a public briefing Thursday, saying the statewide total now stands at more than 1,080. Like other states, New Mexico has been dealing with a surge of cases, higher positivity rates and more hospitalizations.

Lujan Grisham says people can’t get numb to the troubling data or the threat of the state’s health care system being overwhelmed.

She says this “dramatic, critical situation” is what state officials had been warning about.

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OMAHA, Neb. — Gov. Pete Ricketts implored residents Thursday to follow Nebraska’s voluntary coronavirus safety guidelines as the number of new cases and hospitalizations surged, and he hinted that the state could reimpose some of the social distancing mandates that were lifted in September.

His comments came as the state’s top public health official warned that Nebraska needed to reduce the number of cases to avoid overwhelming hospitals.

Nebraska reported a record 1,828 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday and the number of daily hospitalizations soared to an all-time high of 698 on the same day, following a week of massive growth.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is launching a media campaign to encourage people to act to reduce the state’s surging coronavirus infection numbers but won’t impose any mandates or enforce new rules.

Reynolds also said Thursday that the success of Republican candidates in the general election proves that most Iowans support her decision to not require masks and quickly end most restrictions on businesses.

“I think the election reflects that Iowans somewhat agree with how we have handled not only COVID-19 but conservative fiscally responsible decisions that have been made,” she said.

The newspaper, television and radio advertising campaign will begin next week, Reynolds said. She didn’t specify how much it would cost nor the funding source.

Also Thursday, Iowa reported 4,562 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours and 20 more deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from 26% on Oct. 21 to over 39% on Nov. 4, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Iowa’s rate is second in the nation behind South Dakota.

Reynold attributed the rapid spread to Iowans growing weary of changing their lives to slow transmission.

“What is honestly happening is people are just experiencing pandemic fatigue,” she said.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert says he is “frustrated” as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue a streak of record highs in Utah.

Herbert says state health experts project the numbers will continue to rise dramatically and overwhelm hospitals if people don’t modify their behavior.

The state recorded 2,807 more confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the seven-day average of new cases to 1,943.

According to state data, Utah’s positivity average has increased from 18.1% to 19.5% in the past week.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana has notched a single-day high of new COVID-19 cases for the second straight day.

The state surpassed 4,000 new cases Thursday for the first time, and coronavirus hospitalizations also surged to a new high.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has resisted calls to reinstate restrictions he largely lifted in September, said following his landslide reelection that he’s not making any changes to state policy on the pandemic.

The 4,462 new COVID-19 cases the Indiana State Department of Health reported Thursday were the state’s highest since the pandemic hit.

Indiana also had 1,948 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the most since officials began releasing those counts last spring.

State health officials added 45 more coronavirus-related deaths Thursday, raising the overall toll to 4,511 including confirmed and presumed infections.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Gov. Gina Raimondo has issued an advisory aimed at keeping people home late at night and other new restrictions to slow the increasing spread of coronavirus in Rhode Island.

Starting Sunday, the Democrat says, residents will be asked to remain at home from 10 p.m. until the next morning. Restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses must end in-person service at 10 p.m.

State health officials are reporting more than 500 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths.

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska’s state labor department will begin distributing an additional $300 a week per person in jobless benefits for a period dating back to the summer after technical challenges complicated the pandemic relief program’s rollout.

The department says it will start distributing the funds Friday. The program applies to people who were eligible for at least $100 in weekly unemployment benefits from the week ending Aug. 1 to the week ending Sept. 5.

Patsy Westcott, director of the department’s Division of Employment and Training Services, said an estimated 35,000 Alaskans are expected to benefit.

An executive order by President Donald Trump allowed for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for states to provide the extra $300-a-week benefit after a $600-a-week benefit approved by Congress expired.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have reached single-day highs in Oklahoma.

The State Department of Health reported 2,101 new cases and 1,055 hospitalizations, nearly 400 more cases than the previous high from July and surpassing the 1,026 hospitalizations reported Wednesday.

The department also reported 21 more COVID-19 deaths.

Dr. George Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, says the state is seeing “the worst hospital crisis we’ve ever had.”

The association and other medical groups have repeatedly urged Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to impose some kind of mask mandate, but he has resisted, citing concerns about how such an order would be enforced.

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ROME — Italy has recorded a new daily high of 34,505 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The health ministry also reported 428 deaths Thursday, the highest since May.

The previous day, the country announced four two-week regional “red zone” lockdowns to ease pressure on hospitals and allow for more effective contact tracing.

Italy, formerly the European epicenter of the pandemic, has seen a resurgence of the coronavirus with more than 790,000 confirmed cases and over 39,000 deaths, the sixth highest worldwide.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama is extending through Dec. 11 an order requiring face masks in public but lifting business occupancy limits despite worsening hospitalizations and deaths.

Occupancy caps are ending for retailers headed into the holiday shopping season, along with entertainment spots and fitness centers. Businesses including restaurants, hair salons and barbershops won’t have to follow the 6-foot social distancing requirement if people wear masks and are separated by a barrier or partition.

The 1,848 new cases reported Wednesday were the most for the state since early August. More than 1,020 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of 45% since late September.

Alabama’s total cases surpassed 200,000 and the death toll topped 3,000 this week.

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PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s governor has issued an executive order requiring people wear face coverings in public settings regardless of their ability to physically distance from others.

Janet Mills, a Democrat, beefed up an earlier executive order mandating mask use when it’s difficult to maintain social distance.

Owners and operators of public places must post signs notifying people they can be denied entry for non-compliance to the mask rule.

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MADRID — Spain has nearly 22,000 new coronavirus infections and 368 deaths.

The country’s Health Ministry says COVID-19 patients occupy 16% of hospital beds, including 29% in ICUs. Spain has a 14-day average of 527 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, one of the highest in Europe.

The ministry reports a total of nearly 1.3 million confirmed cases and almost 38,500 deaths.

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GENEVA — Switzerland has surpassed 10,000 new coronavirus cases in the last day, putting the total at more than 200,000 since the start of the pandemic.

Swiss health officials have expressed concerns about hospitals filling up, saying the impact of higher case counts generally takes about 10 days to translate into increased hospitalizations.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. will hold a summit Dec. 3-4 on the COVID-19 pandemic’s spread and its “unprecedented” effects on societies, economies, jobs, trade and travel.

The General Assembly voted 150-0 on Thursday to authorize the meeting, with the United States, Israel and Armenia abstaining. It will include recorded speeches by world leaders and a presentation and discussion led by World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Assembly President Volkan Bozkir called the high-level special session “a historic moment and a test for multilateralism” that “will be defined by our collective action on one of the most critical issues of our time.”