The Latest: China rejects food imports after virus detected

BEIJING — New coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in China, and authorities are turning their attention to concerns that the virus could spread through imported food.

Those worries have risen since a June outbreak in Beijing that was linked to the city’s largest wholesale market.

Testing has been stepped up on incoming food shipments, and on Friday customs officials said they are halting imports from three Ecuadorian shrimp producers after tests showed the virus present in recent shipments.

Authorities say the coronavirus was detected on the outer packaging of the shipments July 3. The inner packaging and the shrimp themselves tested negative. Products from the three companies received after March 12 have been ordered to be returned or destroyed.

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

— Florida is facing an alarming surge in COVID-19, two months after businesses began reopening. Hospitals in June and July have seen their numbers of coronavirus patients triple.

— President Donald Trump swipes at China for virus, trade deal.

— Michigan Gov. Whitmer toughens mask requirement.

— Nevada adds bar restrictions in Reno, Las Vegas.

— The COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping through the leadership of Latin America, with two more presidents and an official testing positive this week.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 35 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its caseload to 13,373 infections and 288 deaths.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday that 13 of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May.

Infections were also reported in other major cities such Daejeon and Gwangju, where patients have been tied to various places, including churches, a Buddhist temple, churches, nursing homes and a sauna.

Fifteen of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as the virus continues to spread in Asia, North America and elsewhere.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor says a new requirement for people to wear face masks in public took effect at 5 p.m. Friday despite a judge’s restraining order related to pandemic restrictions though not specifically on the face covering rule.

Gov. Andy Beshear says the mask mandate is “mandatory, regardless of anything else that’s out there.”

The Scott County court judge issued an order Thursday blocking the governor from issuing executive orders related to the pandemic unless he first meets a list of requirements.

Beshear calls the restraining order “bizarre” and “not legal.” He says the ruling will be appealed and likely end up before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Newly reported cases of COVID-19 have increased in recent days in Kentucky, prompting Beshear to issue the 30-day order requiring masks in public places.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has given provisional approval to the drug remdesivir, an experimental medicine that has shown promise in the recovery time of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

The approval comes as Australia is seeing a sharp increase in coronavirus infections in the state of Victoria, which reported a record 288 new confirmed cases Friday.

Authorities say remdesivir will be available only to patients who are severely ill, require oxygen or high-level support to breathe, and are in hospital care. It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for people with severe illness from the coronavirus.

With a population of 26 million, Australia has recorded more than 9,000 coronavirus cases, with 107 deaths.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says “things will get worse” in the state as more than 10,000 patients are now hospitalized with the coronavirus.

The deadliest week of the pandemic yet in Texas continued Friday with 95 new deaths.

On the Texas-Mexico border, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera says his rural community is trying to get a refrigerated trailer because the local funeral home can’t keep up with more than two bodies a day.

Texas members of Congress are asking the Trump administration for a field hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. They warn in a letter sent Friday to the health and human services secretary Azar that there is “no indication that case counts will level out soon.”

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon health officials are urging people to limit indoor social gatherings to fewer than 10 people during the next three weeks amid a “troubling” surge in coronavirus cases.

New projections by the Oregon Health Authority predict that if transmission of the virus continues at the current pace, the estimated number of new daily, confirmed infections could reach anywhere from 1,100 to 3,600.

The director of the Oregon Health Authority says that “we are calling on Oregonians to take action, to help us bring down the spread of COVID-19 and get it under control so we can again bend the curve back down.”

Oregon officials reported 275 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total statewide to 11,454. There have been at least 232 deaths.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Confirmed coronavirus infections in Pennsylvania hit over 1,000 on Friday in the state’s highest one-day mark since May, with state health officials blaming the rising numbers on crowded bars and out-of-state travel to virus hot spots.

Pennsylvania reported more than 1,000 new confirmed infections for the first time since May 10. About 175 of the newly reported cases arose from a batch of private lab results, according to the state Health Department.

Health officials reported another 32 virus-related deaths, raising the statewide toll to 6,880.

State health officials warned in an alert to hospitals, doctors offices and other heath care providers that increasing numbers of young people are contracting the virus. The Health Department also said that local outbreaks are being traced to out-of-state travel and to parties, restaurants, bars and other social gatherings.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina state senator has tested positive for COVID-19, the first known case to involve a General Assembly member.

The senator wasn’t named in a statement from Senate leader Phil Berger, who says it’s a Republican male.

Berger says the senator had already taken a test that came back negative before returning to Raleigh this week. He took a second test Thursday because his spouse was scheduled for a medical procedure. That test came back positive Friday, according to Berger.

The senator hasn’t had any symptoms during this period. Berger says: “He is staying home and feels well.”

Legislators, especially Democrats, have sought more restrictions and criticized legislators — mostly Republicans — who have declined to wear face coverings indoors.

The full legislature isn’t expected to return to work until September.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is reporting another 12,348 confirmed coronavirus cases.

South Africa has 250,687 confirmed cases and 3,860 deaths. The epicenter has shifted to Gauteng province, home of Johannesburg, and the capital of Pretoria.

The government is stressing personal responsibility after easing a once-strict lockdown. Some people are not wearing masks, while some are appealing to citizens to protect themselves and others.

A popular musician, AKA, announced he tested positive for the virus. In a statement, he pleaded with South Africans to “be more careful.”

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BEIRUT — Lebanon has recorded its highest single day tally of coronavirus infections, announcing 71 people have contracted the virus.

The tally comes a day after another record number, when authorities reported 66 infections. The spike comes just over a week after Lebanon reopened its airport at limited capacity on July 1.

Four of the reported infected are among the newly returned to Lebanon. But the majority were locally infected. The country of about 5 million and more than 1 million refugees has so far recorded only 36 deaths and 2,082 total confirmed infections.

Firas Abiad, the lead doctor in the efforts to combat coronavirus, says Lebanon is witnessing a “very worrisome” trend, urging authorities to do “a better job” enforcing safety measures, including at the airport.

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NORMAN, Okla. — Some citizens are launching a recall petition against the Norman mayor and half the city council because they’re upset over cuts to police funding and orders to wear masks in public.

The group, “Unite Norman,” is unhappy with the council for its decision last month to reallocate $865,000 or about 3.6% of the police department’s annual budget. The money was shifted to community development programs and to create an internal auditor position to track police overtime spending and outlays.

City leaders voted on the proposal following an 11-hour city council meeting.

Many residents in Oklahoma’s third-largest city are upset with Mayor Breea Clark’s decision this week to impose a requirement that people wear masks in public following a surge in COVID-19 cases. Clark also came under fire for her decision to keep some businesses and houses of worship closed, even as the state loosened its restrictions.

A spokeswoman for the mayor says she plans to release a statement on the recall effort later Friday.

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MIAMI — President Donald Trump suggested work on the second phase of a U.S.-China trade deal has become a low priority, saying the two nation’s relationship has been “severely damaged” by Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, speaking aboard Air Force One on his way to Miami on Friday, repeated his persistent criticism that China could have done more to stop the spread of the virus, which originated in Wuhan province.

Trump did not completely rule out working on phase two of the deal but made clear that it was not a top concern.

“Honestly, I have many other things in mind,” Trump said.

The United States and China signed phase one of a trade agreement in January, boosting stock markets and seemingly ending a trade war. Trump has said he would like to wait until after the election to sign phase two because he thought he’d get a better deal.

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LONDON — The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization says the agency believes an unexplained pneumonia outbreak in Kazakhstan is likely due to the coronavirus.

Dr. Michael Ryan says Kazakh authorities have reported more than 10,000 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last week and just under 50,000 cases and 264 deaths as of Tuesday.

“We’re looking at the actual testing and the quality of testing to make sure that there haven’t been false negative tests for some of those other pneumonias that are provisionally tested negative,” Ryan said. He added that many pneumonia cases were likely to be COVID-19 and “just have not been diagnosed correctly.”

Ryan says WHO was working with local authorities to review X-rays and look at the pattern of pneumonia cases to see if they were consistent with COVID-19.

“While we believe that many of these cases will be diagnosed as COVID-19, we keep an open mind,” says Ryan, noting a WHO team was already in Kazakhstan.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak says the state will reimplement restrictions on bars and restaurants in certain counties to prevent further spread of the coronavirus after a “spike” in confirmed cases.

Sisolak’s newest order begins Friday at midnight. It requires bars that do not serve food to close their doors. Restaurants will stop serving parties of six or more. Sisolak didn’t provide a list of counties where the directive would be in effect but says it would include Washoe and Clark County, home to Reno and Las Vegas.

The directive is the second time Nevada has tightened restrictions since the state began reopening, including allowing bars and casinos to reopen in early June. The number of confirmed cases rose throughout the month, prompting the governor to announce a statewide mask mandate on June 24.

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ATHENS, Greece — Public health officials in Greece have reported another rise in the rate COVID-19 infections, most of them tourism-related.

The Health Ministry said 60 new confirmed cases had been recorded in the latest 24-hour reporting period, 40 from incoming travelers.

It was the highest daily total since late April and brought the overall number of confirmed infections to 3,732. No new deaths were reported and the pandemic death toll in Greece remained at 193.

The rise in cases prompted Greek authorities Friday to announced tougher border checks for tourists as well as more frequent inspections at businesses where crowds are likely to gather.

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ROME — Italy registered its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases in 15 days with 276 infections.

The Italian Health Ministry says the cases were confirmed from a day earlier, raising to 242,639 the total of Italy’s known cases in the pandemic.

Recently, infections have been confirmed in dozens of workers returning from their homeland in Bangladesh to Rome and other Italian cities; among Bulgarian farm workers working in Italy’s south; an Italian businessman who drove back from a trip to the Balkans and another northern Italian businessman who flew back from a work trip to Africa.

On Thursday, Italy announced travelers who had stayed or passed through 13 countries with outbreaks cannot enter Italy, nor can any flights arrive from those nations.

Hospitalized coronavirus patients total just over 900 nationwide, including 65 in intensive care. At the height of the outbreak, more than 30,000 coronavirus patients were in the hospital. There were 12 deaths recorded Friday, bringing the overall confirmed total to 34,938.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has toughened a requirement to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic, mandating businesses open to the public deny service or entry to customers who refuse to wear one.

The governor also expanded where people must have a face covering beyond indoor public spaces. Starting immediately, they must wear one outdoors if they cannot consistently keep 6 feet from non-household members. A mask is needed while using public transportation, a taxi or a ride-sharing vehicle, with some exceptions.

“No shirts, no shoes, no mask — no service,” Whitmer wrote in an order. Violators will be subject to a misdemeanor fine.

Whitmer points to “stalled” progress in suppressing the virus. Cases have risen in Michigan and she says spotty compliance with her monthslong mask requirement is a “big part of the reason.”

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — A top Kosovar politician and a former prime minister says he was infected with the virus and called on the people to stay alert and respect prevention steps.

Isa Mustafa, leader of the governing Democratic League of Kosovo, posted in his Facebook page that he tested positive. He says he had fatigue but no other symptoms. His other family members were not infected. Mustafa says he would remain isolated in the next days.

Kosovo has noted a spike of the daily infections, reaching 207 new confirmed cases and eight deaths on Thursday .

Since the lockdown eased by end of May, Kosovo’s 1.8 million population has had higher daily new cases. On Sunday, the Kosovar government re-imposed the curfew time from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. in the capital, three cities and four northern communes recording higher new cases.

Categories: National News