The Latest: Disneyland Hong Kong opens as city’s cases fall
BEIJING — Hong Kong Disneyland has reopened for the second time as the semi-autonomous Chinese city again appears to have brought new coronavirus cases down to near-zero.
The resort shut down during the initial stage of China’s outbreak when Hong Kong closed schools and offices. Disneyland reopened after cases dropped off but then was shut again once infections began to climb again over the summer.
The resort reopened Friday with social distancing measures for lines, restaurant seating, rides and other facilities, along with more frequent cleaning and disinfecting in the areas with the most visitors.
Hong Kong’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and the government has been moving steadily to bring back business without sparking new outbreaks in the densely populated city of 7.5 million.
Hong Kong reported seven new cases on Friday for a total of 5,056 and 104 deaths in the pandemic, according to China’s National Health Commission. Mainland China reported eight new cases, all brought from outside the country.
No new cases of local transmission have been reported in 40 days, with the death toll remaining at 4,634 among 85,322 cases recorded since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Virus disrupting Rio’s Carnival for first time in a century
— Chinese company says coronavirus vaccine ready by early 2021
— Fraud, backlogs disrupt US unemployment benefit payments
— Health authorities are asking Madrid residents to brace for tough weeks ahead as a sustained coronavirus spread that is hitting the Spanish capital hard brought the country’s total infections over the 700,000 mark.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — U.S.-based vaccine development company Novavax says it has begun a late stage trial of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom because the high level of novel coronavirus circulating in the country is likely to produce quick results.
Novavax said in a press release issued Thursday that it plans to test the effectiveness of its vaccine in a trial involving 10,000 people between the ages of 18 and 84. The company says at least 25% of the subjects will be over the age of 65. Some 400 participants will also receive a licensed flu vaccine.
The trial is being conducted in partnership with the U.K. government’s vaccine task force, which was created in April to help speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Novavax said: “With a high level of SARS-CoV-2 transmission observed and expected to continue in the U.K., we are optimistic that this pivotal phase 3 clinical trial will enroll quickly and provide a near-term view of (the vaccine’s efficacy.’’
MOSCOW — Moscow authorities have issued a recommendation for the elderly to stay at home and for employers to allow as many people as possible to work remotely, following a rapid growth of coronavirus cases in the Russian capital.
On Friday, health officials reported 7,212 new cases, the highest daily surge since June. In Moscow, the number of new daily infections started to grow last week and was up to over 1,500 on Friday from under 700 two weeks ago.
“None of us want to return to severe restrictions (that were in place) this spring. I hope we can avoid that,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote in his blog.
Sobyanin urged people over 65 years old and those suffering from chronic illnesses to stay at home starting from Monday, limit their contacts with others and leave their residence only when necessary. Employers are recommended to allow as many people as possible to work from home, disinfect the workplace regularly, observe social distancing guidelines and use personal protective equipment in offices.
NEW DELHI — India has reported another 86,052 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a declining trend with recoveries exceeding daily infections this week.
The Health Ministry raised the nation’s confirmed total to more than 5.8 million on Friday. The ministry said 1,141 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 92,290.
India is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States, where more than 6.9 million people have been infected.
The ministry said India’s recovery rate has crossed 81.55%. This includes five worst-hit states — Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, which account for more than 60% of the confirmed cases.
The new daily cases have remained below the 90,000 mark for five straight days after hitting a record number of 97,894 on Sept. 16.
Though there was a 12% dip in testing for five days, it picked up again to 1.1 million on Thursday, the ministry said.
The total number of tests has surpassed 67 million in the country with nearly 1.4 billion people.
SANTA FE, N.M. — Voters across New Mexico have submitted nearly 250,000 absentee ballot requests with especially strong demand among Democrats for alternatives to in-person voting amid the pandemic.
State election regulators on Thursday also said initial vote tallies could extend beyond Election Day if voters wait until late in the cycle to mail or hand deliver ballots.
Fewer than 8,000 absentee ballots were cast statewide in the 2016 presidential election.
In other pandemic developments, the governor cited a slight increase in the rate of spread for COVID-19 statewide and more substantially signs of spread in areas including Albuquerque and Sandoval County.
PHOENIX — Arizona will provide the state’s three public universities with $14 million in additional funding to boost their efforts to test, track and respond to the coronavirus.
Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday the money will help the universities build on their current efforts to track and contain the virus.
The funding comes as Arizona hospitals continue to get a break from the influx of coronavirus cases that nearly overwhelmed their ability to care for patients early in the summer. The state reported 566 new confirmed cases Thursday, bringing the total since the pandemic hit to 215,852. The state also announced 34 new deaths, bringing that total to 5,559.
NEWARK, Del. — Officials at the University of Delaware say they are moving to cut personnel costs because of the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
School President Dennis Assanis said Thursday that without cost cutting, the university would have a $250 million gap between revenues and expenses this academic year. He says the school already has eliminated most discretionary expenses for this year and plans to draw $100 million from its endowment, but personnel actions must now be taken.
The new effort includes a voluntary retirement incentive program and encouragement for employees to temporarily scale back their work hours. But Assanis says planning is also underway for non-voluntary layoffs as well.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he will seek a “bill of rights” for college students in the wake of crackdowns on parties and other social gatherings that some people blame for a surge in coronavirus cases at campuses across the country.
DeSantis said Thursday that he understands university officials are trying to curb transmission of the virus, but added that he considers it “dramatically draconian that a student could get potentially expelled for going to a party.”
The governor also says he will move to block local governments from again closing restaurants. He says there is little evidence such closures have slowed the spread of the coronavirus.
Florida reported 2,541 more confirmed cases Thursday, bringing the statewide total to more than 693,000. The state also reported 177 more deaths from COVID-19, raising the toll in Florida to at least 13,795.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was one of the few major sporting events not canceled in March as the coronavirus began to take hold in the U.S. And now race officials now planning for every contingency possible as they make plans to hold the race again next March.
Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach says getting mushers from one checkpoint to another along the 1,000-mile trail in Alaska is the easy part.
He says the main focus for planners is protecting residents in Alaska villages that serve as checkpoints and the roughly 1,800 volunteers needed to stage the race. He says the goal is zero community transmission.
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon officials have reported the state’s highest one-day number of new coronavirus cases since mid-July.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 382 newly confirmed cases Thursday, raising the total for the pandemic to 31,865. The death toll is 539.
Nearly 25% of the cases reported Thursday were in Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county and home to Portland.
LANSING, Mich. — Leaders of Michigan’s three biggest research universities say online teaching will likely last for the entire academic year, keeping many students out of classrooms until next fall.
The presidents of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University voiced that prediction Thursday.
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel says development of coronavirus vaccines will be important for any return to normal in-class instruction. Only about 20% of the university’s classes now are in-person.
M. Roy Wilson of Wayne State says the winter semester will look like the current term because the pandemic “is going to be with us for a while.”
Most classes at Michigan State have been online since March.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa school districts have sent hundreds of students home for quarantine or isolation after coronavirus outbreaks, while a high school has switched to online classes after a fourth of students were absent amid a surge in cases.
State officials on Thursday reported 1,341 newly confirmed cases across the state in the previous 24 hours, along with six additional deaths.
One Iowa district has quarantined the entire kindergarten through sixth grade elementary building of about 130 students after a staff member tested positive. Another district has 201 students and staff in isolation or quarantine, with 18 students and eight staff members testing positive.
North Scott High School has gone to all online instruction because its absentee rate surged to 23% since school started Sept. 1.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Hospitals in Missouri’s third-largest city are approaching capacity due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
Officials at Springfield’s two major hospital systems, CoxHealth and Mercy, told the city council they are running out of staff and capacity, according to a report in the Springfield News-Leader.
Missouri is dealing with a surge in new coronavirus cases, with 1,580 more confirmed cases reported Wednesday. That puts the state’s total for the pandemic at 116,946. More than 100,000 of those cases have been reported since the state reopened for business in mid-June.
Among the new cases are Gov. Mike Parson and his wife, Teresa. Their positive tests were announced Wednesday.
PARIS — France’s health agency announced Thursday evening that the country has had 52 new reported deaths and has over 16,000 new reported cases of coronavirus in 24 hours.
The number of new infections — 16,096, up from 13,072 the day before — is among highest recorded figures in France of coronavirus transmissions since widespread and large-scale COVID-19 tests in France began this summer, according to Public Health France.
Around 10 millions tests have so far been carried out.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations for the second consecutive day as the state continued to see some of the nation’s fastest spread of COVID-19.
The Department of Health reported 463 new cases and 194 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Health officials also reported eight deaths, one of the largest single-day death tallies during the pandemic.
The new records in coronavirus numbers come two days after Gov. Kristi Noem on Twitter described the spread of COVID-19 as having “peaked” in the state. Her administration plans to continue to rely on people making personal decisions to stop the spread.
Over the last two weeks, the state has reported the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita. The rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by about 49% in that time.
But the surge in cases has not stopped Noem from pitching the state as a tourism destination. In a video posted on Twitter this week, she shoots at what appears to be a pheasant and says, “Less COVID, more hunting. That’s the plan for the future.”