The Latest: China's community virus cases hit single digits

The Associated Press
·13-min read

BEIJING — China’s newly confirmed community transmitted cases of coronavirus fell into the single digits on Wednesday, while Hong Kong saw another 33 cases of infection.

The National Health Commission said all nine new cases were found in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose capital Urumqi has been at the center of China’s latest major outbreak. Another 25 cases were brought by Chinese travelers arriving from abroad.

China has largely contained the local spread of the pandemic that is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year before spreading worldwide.

The government has recorded 4,634 deaths from COVID-19 among 84,737 cases. Hong Kong, a densely populated semi-autonomous southern Chinese city, also recorded another six deaths to bring its total to 58 among 4,181 cases.

Authorities have ordered mask wearing in public settings, restrictions on indoor dining and other social distancing measures in a bid to stem its latest outbreak. Those measures appear to have been successful in bringing numbers down from the more than 100 new daily cases reported at the end of last month.

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

— Georgia schools quarantine 800 students

— Florida reports 5,800 virus cases, daily high 276 deaths

— Russia clears virus vaccine despite scientific skepticism

— Transit systems around the world are requiring riders to wear masks and encouraging people to socially distance. Experts say the coronavirus spreads through droplets when people talk or cough, so the best prevention is a mask and staying 6 feet apart.

Kids give their opinion on whether they should go back to school in-person or online. They join parents, teachers, public health experts and President Donald Trump, who have weighed in on the topic.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SYDNEY, Australia — The Australian state of Victoria on Wednesday reported a record 21 virus deaths and 410 new cases from an outbreak in the city of Melbourne which has prompted authorities to impose a strict lockdown.

State Premier Daniel Andrews said 16 of the deaths were linked to aged-care facilities.

The number of new cases in Victoria is down from the peak, giving authorities some hope the outbreak is waning.

Meanwhile, three Melbourne vloggers were each fined more than $1,000 after posting a video to Chinese social media showing them breaching nighttime curfew rules for a McDonald’s run, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The five-minute video, since deleted, showed the international students walking through alleys, dodging police officers and dancing inside a McDonald’s restaurant at 2:30 a.m. Sunday, the ABC said. Victoria police confirmed each of the students was fined 1,652 Australian dollars ($1,178).

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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 54 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to stem transmissions amid increased social and leisure activities.

The figures announced by South Korea’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday brought the national caseload to 14,714 infections, including 305 deaths.

The KCDC says 35 of the new cases were local transmissions, all but three of them reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May.

The other 19 cases were linked to international arrivals. Health authorities have said imported cases are less threatening as they mandate tests and enforce two-week quarantines on all people arriving from abroad.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico reported a near-record 926 newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, bringing the country’s accumulated total to 53,929.

The Health Department reported 6,686 new coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases so far to 492,522.

At that rate Mexico will reach a half million confirmed cases soon, but given the extremely low rate of testing — less than 1.1 million tests in a country of almost 130 million inhabitants — the number would like be a vast undercount. For the most part, only people with considerable symptoms are tested in Mexico.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has won another legal victory defending his COVID-19 executive orders, this time when a judge rejected Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s demand that they be blocked by declaring his lawsuit as unlikely to succeed.

Judge Jim Gale rejected Forest’s request for a preliminary injunction on Tuesday.

The Republican lieutenant governor sued Cooper last month, alleging the Democrat’s orders limiting business activities and mass gatherings and mandating face coverings were unlawful because he failed to first get support from the Council of State. The 10-member council includes both of them, Attorney General Josh Stein and other statewide elected officials.

Cooper’s state attorneys argued that the governor acted properly under portions of the Emergency Management Act that don’t require the concurrence of the council.

Cooper and Forest are running for governor this fall.

Forest said in a news release that since the judge ruled “Cooper has 100% of the power during a declared emergency,” then the governor also “has 100% of the responsibility” for the results, including permanent business closings.

Cooper has said Forest’s legal actions, if successful, could worsen case and hospitalization numbers that have recently stabilized or improved.

“Gov. Cooper has taken decisive action with health and safety measures to save lives,” spokesperson Dory MacMillan wrote in an email.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said he plans to tell a visiting group from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that long delays in getting coronavirus test results have been “very problematic” and to press them for a strategic approach to deploying a vaccine once it is available.

Long waits across the country for the results of coronavirus tests renders them virtually useless in helping to contain the spread of the virus, public health officials say.

The group is doing a site visit in Philadelphia through Thursday, part of a tour of a handful of cities around the country, Farley said.

Farley said he views the visit as a way to show what the city has been doing in terms of prevention, contact tracing and social distancing efforts.

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JACKSON, MISS. - Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said college football is “essential” Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump tweeted in support of colleges moving forward with the football season as planned amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“What do opponents of football think, these kids will end up in a bubble without it? You can get COVID anywhere,” Reeves tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “There are forces who want to cancel everything to avoid risk at all societal costs. It’s foolish. We have to balance risk & costs.”

Two of college football’s five power conferences, Big Ten and Pac-12, announced Tuesday that teams won’t play football this fall because of concerns about COVID-19. Reeves lamented that decision, saying that in Mississippi, officials have been working with big football schools like Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi to design a season that does not compromise the safety of players or fans.

“I personally believe that we can play college football, I don’t think you can do it in a stadium with a hundred thousand people in it - that certainly doesn’t make sense,” he said at a press conference.

President Trump has adamantly said that he supports football seasons going forward as planned. On Monday, he tweeted, “Play College Football.”

Reeves said many of these players have been practicing for months over the summer and have built careers on football. Some have college scholarships riding on athletics.

“There is risk in all of life. There are things we can do to manage it without destroying society,” he said.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis wants college football to be played in Florida this fall despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking Tuesday at Florida State’s practice facility, DeSantis said the sport can be played safely. The players are tested weekly and are told not to socialize with outsiders.

He said if the season is canceled, the players won’t have that discipline and will be more likely to catch the virus. His push came shortly after the state announced 277 more deaths from the virus. That is a one-day record, but likely includes deaths from the weekend and earlier and is not a pure 24-hour total.

DeSantis’ football push happened hours before the Big 10 became the first major conference to postpone its season to the spring, something the smaller Mid-American and the Mountain West conferences already had done. The Pac-12 also postponed its season, but the South’s two primary conferences, the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast, are planning to play.

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SAN DIEGO -- California’s second-largest school district announced stricter reopening guidelines than the state, and officials say it will be months before students can return to campus.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the San Diego Unified School District will not reopen until there are fewer than seven community outbreaks over a week-long period. That requirement is on top of the California state measure that requires counties have a case rate of 100 or fewer cases per 100,000 people for two weeks before allowing public or private schools to reopen.

San Diego County had 105 cases per 100,000 people Tuesday and 24 community outbreaks over the week-long period.

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MIAMI — The Pan American Health Organization has expressed reservations over reports that institutions in the region were negotiating to manufacture and distribute a new COVID-19 vaccine announced by Russia that has yet to go through standard, extensive safety and efficacy trials.

The organization’s deputy director, Jarbas Barbosa, said in an online news conference Tuesday from Washington that any vaccine should be carefully evaluated to ensure the product is safe and effective.

In Brazil, Parana state’s government said it is negotiating with the Russian Embassy to participate in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and will be holding a technical meeting Wednesday with Russia’s ambassador.

Nicaragua earlier announced plans to produce a Russian vaccine and on Monday, Vice President Rosario Murillo, wife of President Daniel Ortega, again said the country was in contact with Russian institutions to produce and even export a COVID-19 vaccine.

Barbosa said the vaccine has not yet gone through all the steps needed so that it could be recommended by the World Health Organization or the Pan American Health Organization. He said global health officials were talking with Russian officials to review their data and clinical trials.

“Only after that review, having access in a transparent way to those data and all the information, are we going to take a position,” he said.

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CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has issued an executive order requiring masks to be worn at scheduled gatherings of more than 100 people.

Sununu, a Republican, had resisted calls to mandate the use of face coverings to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. With Tuesday’s order, all six New England states have some kind of mask mandate.

In general, they are far more restrictive than New Hampshire and require masks to be worn in public when social distancing isn’t possible.

The order will be tested later this month at the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week, which typically attracts thousands of people to the state. Sununu recently formed a task force on ensuring safety at the event, which is set for Aug. 22-30.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, the first governor in the nation to test positive for the coronavirus, says he has donated plasma to help other virus patients recover.

Stitt says he made the donation recently at an Oklahoma Blood Institute center in Enid. Convalescent plasma is being researched as a potential treatment for the virus. Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith was infected with the virus and she says she’s donated plasma.

Oklahoma has reported 44,728 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 618 deaths.

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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The Big Ten Conference won’t be playing football this fall because of concerns about COVID-19.

Conference officials made the announcement Tuesday. The conference includes historic programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State.

Six days ago, it released a revised conference-only schedule that it hoped would help navigate a fall season with potential COVID-19 disruptions.

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JUNEAU, Alaska — A crew member on an Alaska state ferry has tested positive for the coronavirus, which caused a cancellation of the service in Southeast Alaska.

The Alaska Marine Highway System says the planned run of the ferry M/V LeConte in Lynn Canal near Juneau was canceled Sunday after the diagnosis was obtained. The ferry system says the crew member recently returned home after a two-week rotation on the LeConte.

The remainder of the LeConte’s crew was not cleared to travel until the early Sunday, leading to the decision to postpone the sailing to Haines and Skagway until Wednesday.

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Three of the eight drive-through coronavirus testing sites in Iowa were damaged from Monday’s windstorm and are temporarily closed.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says the closure of the sites in Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown and Davenport has temporarily reduced access to testing in those areas, just as students and educators prepare to return to public schools.

Reynolds says six elderly coronavirus patients from a central Iowa nursing home were evacuated during the storm.

She says the state hoped to reopen the Test Iowa sites quickly, and those needing tests could also seek out other options. The governor says she doesn’t believe test samples were destroyed during the storm.

Iowa has more than 49,200 confirmed coronavirus cases and 939 deaths.

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ATLANTA — A Georgia school district has quarantined more than 800 students because of possible exposure to the coronavirus since it resumed in-person teaching last week.

Data updated Tuesday by the Cherokee County School District outside Atlanta also show it has quarantined 42 staff members since the start of the year on Aug. 3. The district serves more than 42,000 students.

A district spokeswoman says the district anticipated the possibility of positive tests among students and staff and put a system in place to quickly contact trace and mandate quarantines. Other Atlanta-area school districts scrapped in-person learning amid a spike in cases of COVID-19 in Georgia.

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DOVER, Del. — Delaware officials are using $40 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to help people struggling to make their rent or mortgage payments because of the pandemic.

Officials announced Monday that they are reopening the Delaware Housing Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance for renters affected by COVID-19. The program was initially launched in March but halted in April following an overwhelming number of applications.

Under the revised program, up to $5,000 will be available for those with a maximum household income post-pandemic at or below 60 percent of the area median. Applications must now be submitted by landlords or property owners on behalf of tenants, and payments will be made directly to the property owners.

The Delaware State Housing Authority also is providing emergency assistance of up to $5,000 to homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through the Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, which was established several years ago. Funding for the housing assistance is being split equally between the state and New Castle County using Coronavirus Relief Funds received from the federal government.