The Latest: Beijing reports further drop in new virus cases
BEIJING — China’s capital has recorded a further drop in new confirmed coronavirus cases as tightened measures to contain the spread remain in place.
Officials reported 22 new cases in Beijing on Saturday, along with five others elsewhere in the country. No new deaths were reported and 308 people remain hospitalized for treatment for COVID-19.
One of the Beijing cases is a nurse at a hospital in the suburban Changping district. The Peking University International Hospital where she worked is now under tightened restrictions, along with residential communities in the surrounding area.
A total of 205 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Beijing since the outbreak began last week, with at least two of them critically ill and 11 others in serious condition.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Confirmed cornavirus cases linked to Germany slaughterhouse surpass 800
— World Health Organizations chief says pandemic is “accelerating,” confirmed cases hit daily high
— Decline in new US virus deaths may be temporary reprieve
— A South African activist and doctor who died of COVID-19 spent his life fighting apartheid, the government’s denial of HIV/AIDS and rampant corruption. Loved ones say Clarence Mini knew the odds were against him but he was committed to what he believed was right. He died in May at age 69.
— The United Nations food agency i s warning that without immediate funding it will stop delivering masks, gloves and other critical equipment to tackle the pandemic to 132 countries by the third week of July.
— New York City restaurants will be allowed to open with outdoor seating on Monday as the city enters the second phase of easing coronavirus restrictions.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima County has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in Washington state and its hospitals are beyond capacity with sick patients.
The Yakima Health District said Friday that there was no space for more patients the previous night at Virginia Mason Memorial hospital in Yakima, which has more than 200 beds.
The Seattle Times reports that at least 17 patients had already been transferred out of Yakima County. That leaves 61 individuals in Yakima hospital beds with COVID-19 diagnoses, the county’s highest to date.
Yakima County accounts for 22% of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Washington state — 61 of 242 cases. It has more cases than King County, which is home to Seattle and has almost 10 times more people than Yakima Count.
SAO PAULO — Brazil’s government says the country has surpassed more than 1 million cases confirmed coronavirus cases. That is second only to the United States.
The country’s health ministry reported Friday that the total of cases had risen to 1.032.913, up more than 50,000 from the previous day. The ministry says the sharp increase was due to corrections from previous days.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro still downplays the risks of the virus after nearly 50,000 fatalities in three months. He says the impact of social isolation on Brazil’s economy can be more deadly.
Specialists believe that the actual number of cases could be up to seven times higher, with the coronavirus now heading into underequipped smaller cities inland, where health professionals are also fewer.
DETROIT — A federal judge in Michigan has ruled that gyms and fitness centers in the state can reopen next week, overturning a state government rule keeping them closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration failed to show any rational link between the coronavirus threat and the shutdown. The judge noted gyms are still closed in much of Michigan while restaurants, bars, barbershops and hair salons are back in business.
Maloney said the state’s approach on gyms has been “nothing beyond ’trust us, they’re still dangerous.” He says gyms can reopen at 12:01 a.m. next Friday.
Whitmer’s office says the governor will appeal the ruling. She had planned to reopen gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys by July 4.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Supreme Court has rejected an effort to require everyone attending President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa this weekend to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing inside the arena to guard against spreading the coronavirus.
The court ruled Friday the two local residents asking that the thousands expected at Saturday night’s rally be required to take the precautions couldn’t establish they have a clear legal right to the relief they sought.
Oklahoma has had a recent spike in coronavirus cases, but in a concurring opinion, two justices noted the state’s plan to reopen the economy is “permissive, suggestive and discretionary.”
The appeal was filed on behalf of two people described as having compromised immune systems and being particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix has adopted a measure requiring the use of face masks to ward off the spread of the coronavirus as Arizona hits an all-time high of new cases.
At an emergency meeting Friday, Mayor Kate Gallego and the Phoenix City Council voted to make masks or face coverings mandatory. The order goes into effect at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Arizona’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases surged again Friday, setting the third record in four days for daily high numbers of new cases.
Arizona became a national coronavirus hot spot after Gov. Doug Ducey lifted stay-home orders last month.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s new cases of the coronavirus have continued to skyrocket as the state reported its second-biggest daily increase in its case load.
At least 359 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, were reported on Friday. That comes after Thursday’s report of a state-record 450 new cases, according to statistics on the Oklahoma State Department of Health website.
The Friday total is a 3.8% increase to at least 9,706 in the state’s overall case load since the outbreak began in March. The actual number of people who have contracted the virus is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
One new COVID-19 fatality brings the Oklahoma death toll to 367.
Tulsa County, Oklahoma’s second-most populous, continued to set the pace for the state’s new cases with 125 on Friday, bringing its outbreak total to 2,070, making it the first Oklahoma county to break 2,000 cases. Oklahoma County, the state’s most populous, reported 85 new cases to bring it’s case total to 1,946.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa and Ethiopia say they are recommending the limited use of a commonly available drug that appears to offer hope for people seriously ill with COVID-19.
South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said “this breakthrough is excellent news for us and we are especially fortunate that it came as we are preparing for our upcoming surge” in cases.
South Africa has about 30% of the virus cases on the African continent, or more than 87,000.
Mkhize says the country’s Ministerial Advisory Committee recommends the use of dexamethasone for all COVID-19 patients on ventilators or supplementary oxygen.
The minister said South Africa has three major local suppliers of the drug, and to have that local capacity “in the current global context is a real departure from the norm.”
African nations often have been pushed aside in the global competition for supplies needed in the pandemic. Ethiopia’s Health Minister Lia Tadesse tweeted that her ministry recommends the emergency use of the drug for COVID-19 patients who require ventilation or oxygen. Ethiopia has more than 4,000 virus cases.
GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala has replaced its health minister amid a spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the Central American country.
An official in the presidency who was not authorized to speak about the personnel change and requested anonymity said that Health Minister Hugo Monroy was replaced on Friday with Amelia Flores, a former vice-minister of health in an earlier administration.
Monroy, who had held the position since January, had been harshly criticized for his management of the pandemic.
Guatemala has reported more than 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 449 deaths.
President Alejandro Giammattei has been under growing pressure from the business sector to loosen restrictions. Earlier attempts to reactivate the economy were followed by a surge in infections, prompting Giammattei to clamp down again.
—By Sonia Perez D, Guatemala City;
PARIS — French authorities are keeping a close eye on signs of an accelerating spread of the coronavirus in Normandy, a region that’s until now been spared the worst of the outbreak that has hit Paris and the east of France particularly hard.
An indicator that authorities are watching closely is the so-called “R” number, which indicates how many people will be contaminated on average by an infected person.
In Normandy, that number has increased to 1.6 this past week, higher than the alert level of 1.5 set by French authorities.
However, health authorities said on Friday that the increase could be explained by the carrying out of mass-testing in the region and the discovery of several new clusters “that are being managed” in the Normandy town of Rouen.
PHOENIX — Arizona’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases has surged again, setting the third record in four days for daily high numbers of new cases.
The state Department of Health Services reported 3,246 additional cases on Friday, increasing the statewide total to 46,689.
Arisona has also reported 1,312 deaths from the virus, including 41 reported on Friday.
The state has become a national coronavirus hotspot since Gov. Doug Ducey lifted stay-home orders last month. Ducey on Wednesday reversed himself and allowed local governments to mandate use of face masks in public to slow spread of the coronavirus.
Tucson and Flagstaff are among cities that have imposed mandates and the Phoenix City Council planned Friday to consider imposing one.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s hard-hit hospitality industry in May clawed back some of the jobs lost amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as businesses across the state continue to reopen — and new COVID-19 case numbers continue to soar.
South Carolina’s Department of Employment and Workforce announced on Friday that the state’s jobless rate for the month of May stood at 12.5%, a slight improvement over a record-setting revised April rate of 12.8%. At that point, the coronavirus had wiped out nearly half of the state’s restaurant tourism and other hospitality jobs, with officials estimating that overall annual revenue from the $24 billion tourism industry would be cut in half for 2020.
Many of May’s gains came in the hospitality sector, which posted more than 36,000 new jobs. Employment and Workforce director Dan Ellzey pointed out that the May labor survey was conducted during the same week that Gov. Henry McMaster allowed restaurants in the state to re-open, a move that accounted for many of the hospitality job gains.
The news comes amid a record-setting week for new COVID-19 cases in South Carolina. On Thursday, state health officials announced an additional 982 people had tested positive for coronavirus — a new single-day record — for a total number of more than 21,500 across the state, resulting in 621 deaths.
TORONTO — Canada’s deputy prime minister says Canada has approved a National Hockey League plan to play in Canada amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan required an exemption as the U.S.-Canada border is currently closed to all non-essential travel until at least July 21 and those who enter Canada must self isolate for 14 days.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada’s top public health officer as well as the top health officers of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Toronto worked closely with the NHL to approve the plan. Freeland says it will be very important for the players to continue to work very closely with health officials and follow their instruction.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, says robust protocols such as group quarantining and testing will be in place. The league plans to have training camps open in July and to play games without spectators in a couple of cities in late July or August.
WASHINGTON – The capital of the United States is moving to the second phase of its reopening next week.
Washington, D.C., officials say the anticipated spike in COVID-19 infections appears to have been successfully blunted by months of social restrictions.
Playgrounds, libraries, gyms and nail salons will be able to reopen on a limited basis starting Monday. All nonessential businesses will be allowed to let customers inside up to 50% capacity. Restaurants also will be able to seat diners indoors, also at 50% capacity.
Theaters, cinemas and concert venues will remain closed but they can apply for a special waiver from the District government. Public pools will reopen on a limited basis, although Washington Mayor Bowser said earlier this week that it may take a few weeks to properly prepare the facilities.
Indoor gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed, and houses of worship can hold in-person for 100 people or 50% capacity — whichever number is smaller.
As of Friday, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington stood at 9,952, including 530 deaths.
MILAN — Italy added 251 new corinavirus cases in 24 hours, bringing the national total to 238,011 as of Friday.
Italy’s civil protection agency says two-thirds of the new confirmed cases, or 157, were in the Lombardy region.
The agency said virus-related deaths rose by 47 between Thursday and Friday, for a total death toll of 34,561 since Italy’s outbreak started.
Six weeks after the Italian government began easing its lockdown measures, 21,543 people are currently positive for corinavirus.
Experts believe the number is much higher as testing has been limited to those with severe COVID-19 symptoms, people hospitalized, health care workers and nursing home residents.
A Chinese tourist couple who were treated as Italy’s first known COVID-19 patients have donated $40,000 to the Italian infectious diseases hospital where they spent weeks receiving treatment.
Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital Health Director Francesco Vaia said on Friday that the married couple asked that their gift be used to help combat COVID-19.
LONDON — The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization has confirmed that China shared coronavirus sequences from its latest outbreak with the global community and says it appears the virus was imported to Beijing from strains circulating in Europe.
At a press briefing on Friday, Dr. Michael Ryan noted that “strains and viruses have moved around the world” throughout the pandemic. Ryan said that many viruses in New York “were of European origin” but that doesn’t mean Europe necessarily was the original source.
He says analysis of the genetic sequences so far suggests that the virus spread to people in China from other humans instead of jumping from animals directly into humans.
Ryan called for a detailed investigation into the recent Beijing outbreak to determine how the imported cases sparked such a large cluster.
After the new coronavirus was first detected in people in Wuhan in late December, officials guessed that it likely jumped into people from a wildlife market, although the species responsible has never been identified.
BERLIN — German authorities say the number of confirmed coronavirus infections linked to an outbreak at a slaughterhouse has risen to 803.
Officials in Guetersloh county in western Germany said Friday that 463 tests so far have been negative. They have tested over 3,500 people so far at the Toennies Group site in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, and are awaiting the results of the remaining tests.
The number of confirmed cases was up from 730 on Thursday. The source of the infections remained unclear.
The flurry of cases at the site contributed to Germany’s biggest daily increase in virus cases in a month.
Following a series of earlier coronavirus clusters at abattoirs, the German government pledged to crack down on the practice of using subcontractors, who often hire migrant workers and house them in cramped accommodation. But some lawmakers have warned of the risk that jobs might move abroad.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization said the coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” and that more than 150,000 cases were reported yesterday — the highest single-day number so far.
In a media briefing on Friday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said nearly half of the newly reported cases were from the Americas, with significant numbers from South Asia and the Middle East.
“We are in a new and dangerous phase,” he said, warning that restrictive measures are still needed to stop the pandemic. “Many people are understandably fed up with being at home (and) countries are understandably eager to open up their societies.”
But Tedros warned that the virus is still “spreading fast.” He noted the toll would be especially great on refugees, more than 80% of whom live in mostly developing nations.
“We have a shared duty to everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to the transmission of COVID-19 detected among refugees in hospitals.”
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s government is lashing out at some of its European Union partners who have barred Portuguese from entering their country due to fears over the spread of COVID-19.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said Friday that some countries are basing their risk evaluation solely on the number of new cases reported each day.
Portugal has in recent weeks been reporting around 300 new infections a day due to a spate of isolated outbreaks, and Portuguese are now shut out of a half-dozen other EU countries.
Santos Silva said in a statement that Portugal has been carrying out more tests than most EU countries, with its tally of 98,700 tests per million inhabitants making it the sixth-highest in the EU. He said that strategy increases the number of cases detected.
Also, he noted that Portugal’s COVID-19 death toll is relatively low in EU terms, at 149 per million inhabitants.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak