The Latest: Louisiana AG says mask mandate likely illegal
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has issued a legal opinion saying the governor’s statewide mask mandate and bar restrictions to combat the coronavirus outbreak appear to violate Louisiana’s constitution.
The Republican attorney general issued the assessment Wednesday while quarantining after a positive coronavirus test. His legal assessment doesn’t carry the force of law.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ order requires most people to wear face coverings, limits bars to takeout and delivery and bans gatherings of more than 50 people indoors.
Landry wrote that’s “likely unconstitutional and unenforceable.”
“Although the mask mandate and the 50-person limit may be good recommendations for personal safety, they may not be enforced with financial or criminal penalties,” Landry wrote.
The opinion comes a day after Vice President Mike Pence complimented Edwards’ virus response and suggested residents should comply with the regulations.
Edwards defended his coronavirus order as well within the scope of his legal authority.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Texas sets daily record for virus cases with nearly 10,800
— Oklahoma Gov. Stitt tests positive for coronavirus
— Organizers have canceled the 2021 New Year’s Day Rose Parade
— Walt Disney World is welcoming back visitors to two more theme parks that had been shuttered since March because of the new coronavirus. The Florida theme park resort reopened Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
— Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam’s Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and fellow Republican leaders of the House and Senate have joined forces to demand that schools open five days a week for in-person instruction.
Wednesday’s announcement at a news conference came as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the state.
McMaster says parents need to go back to work and children need to stop falling behind. Independently elected state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman says she doesn’t support the demand because of the virus spread.
The Palmetto State Teachers Association says the state has to get COVID-19 under control before students and teachers can return safely to classrooms.
DETROIT — The city of Detroit announced a memorial day to honor more than 1,400 residents who died from COVID-19 and invited families to share photos that will be enlarged and displayed at a state park.
The city’s director of arts and culture says the photos will be staked along the route of a memorial drive scheduled for Aug. 31.
“This is a very special thing for those of us who have lost people,” Riley said Wednesday. “We want to make sure we take a chance to take one last look at them.”
She says every person, church and community group in southeastern Michigan will be invited to ring bells for 15 minutes at 8:45 a.m.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has surpassed 300,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as the first wave of the pandemic crashes into the African continent.
South Africa’s 311,049 cases make up close to half of those across the 54-nation continent.
Already shortages of medical oxygen and hospital beds are being reported.
While more than 4,400 deaths in South Africa have been attributed to the virus, a report by the South African Medical Research Council says the country had nearly 11,000 excess deaths between May 6 and July 7.
The government this week tightened some restrictions, making face masks mandatory in public places and re-imposing a ban on alcohol sales.
LAKE ZURICH, Ill. — At least three dozen high school students in northern Illinois have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus after some attending summer sports camps showed symptoms of the disease.
Lake County health officials say investigations and contact tracing of the infections are tied to the camps held last week at Lake Zurich High School and multiple prior social gatherings.
Health officials said health screenings were conducted at the start of the camps on July 6 and some students who showed symptoms were turned away. But other students experienced symptoms during the camps and were sent home. Health and school district officials met the next day and decided to close the camps.
PASADENA, Calif. — Organizers have canceled the 2021 Rose Parade because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on long-range planning for the New Year’s tradition and the risk of spreading infections among its huge audience and participants.
The Pasadena, California, Tournament of Roses Association said the Wednesday decision was put off until organizers were certain that safety restrictions would prevent staging of the 132nd parade.
Planning for the Rose Bowl college football game that traditionally follows the parade is continuing, the association said.
The parade is held every Jan. 1 except when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday and the event is pushed to Jan. 2.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Walt Disney World welcomed back visitors to two more theme parks that were shuttered since March because of the coronavirus.
The Florida theme park resort reopened Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, completing a rolling opening of Disney World’s theme parks that started last weekend with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom welcoming back visitors.
The parks were the last of Orlando’s major theme parks to reopen. Both Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando opened their doors last month.
All parks require reservations and social distancing. Visitors and employees need temperature checks upon entering and must wear masks.
There are no live shows at Disney World because the reopening created a labor dispute between Disney and its actors and singers.
HELENA, Mont. — Montana reported a record 145 coronavirus cases on Wednesday.
That includes 72 in Gallatin County and 27 in Yellowstone County, bringing the state’s number of confirmed cases to 2,096.
Thirty-seven people are hospitalized, up from 29 on Tuesday. Gallatin County health officials say the 72 cases are the state’s tally from several days of test results. The reported cases are coming from all over the county and involve contacts with known cases, community spread and travel.
The county’s health board is scheduled to consider a mask mandate at a meeting Friday.
FARMINGTON, N.M. — Officials say a riot at a northwestern New Mexico jail sparked by demands for more coronavirus testing left one inmate injured.
Authorities say the disturbance at the San Juan County Adult Detention in Farmington, New Mexico, began Monday after 35 inmates barricaded themselves and started a fire. Officials say the inmates also were armed with shards of porcelain from broken toilets.
According to San Juan County authorities, inmates demanded to speak to an administrator Sunday about their concerns for more coronavirus testing and hot meals.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas set a record for confirmed new coronavirus cases in a single day with nearly 10,800.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott mandated face coverings this month. Some Texas sheriffs have said they won’t enforce the order.
But Abbott has increasingly emphasized face coverings as the way out of avoiding another lockdown, which he has not ruled out.
“If we were two shut down for two weeks, as some people are asking, once we open back up you would then see things begin to spread again,” Abbott told Houston television station KTRK on Wednesday. “Until there are medications to slow the spread of the coronavirus, there is only one thing that can slow the spread and that is by people adopting the use of wearing a face guard of some sort whenever they go out.”
ROME — Italy’s main nursing federation says 40 nurses with coronavirus died during the peak of the outbreak.
The National Federation of the Order of Nursing Professions released a breakdown of the deaths on Wednesday, based on reporting from its regional chapters in March, April and May. “It’s obvious that the lack of PPE, including the FFP2 masks, was one of the principal causes of infection transmission among nursing personnel,” the report said.
The toll adds to 172 doctors with coronavirus who have died, according to a tally kept by Italy’s main doctors’ association. Both associations included retired personnel.
The nursing group says 32 nurses died of COVID-19. For four others, coronavirus was a determining factor. Of four suicides, two were in hardest-hit Lombardy region.
Italy’s Superior Institute of Health has confirmed 29,768 positive cases among health care workers. Overall, Italy has 243,506 confirmed cases, with 163 infections and 13 deaths recorded Wednesday.
MADRID — Authorities in Spain’s Balearic Islands are pulling the plug on endless drunken nights to the beat of techno music by closing bars and nightclubs in beachfront areas popular with young and international visitors.
To slow the spread of the coronavirus, regional authorities closed all establishments near the beach of Palma de Mallorca and the nearby Magaluf.
The region’s tourism minister, Iago Negueruela, says it wants to shake off a reputation of no social distancing and no masks that went virual and made headlines in Germany and Britain.
Spain has confirmed at least 28,400 deaths from the virus. It’s dealing with dozens of outbreaks reopening last month.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt says he’s tested positive for the coronavirus and is isolating at home.
The first-term Republican governor has backed one of the country’s most aggressive reopening plans, has resisted any statewide mandate on masks and rarely wears one.
Stitt attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month, which health experts have said likely contributed to a surge in coronavirus cases there.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama will require masks in public after a surge of coronavirus cases filled hospitals.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced the rule Wednesday, a day after the state reported a high of 40 confirmed deaths.
Officials say the mask requirement starts Thursday for people age 6 or older in public and within 6 feet (2 meters) of someone who is not a relative.
There are exceptions, including for people with certain medical conditions, exercising and some work activities. Ivey previously called a statewide mask order unenforceable.
LONDON — More countries have signed up for a global coronavirus vaccine initiative to ensure any vaccine is fairly distributed.
The vaccines alliance Gavi says 75 rich countries will join its new “Covax facility,” along with 90 low-income countries, which hope to receive donated vaccines. The Associated Press reported this week the plan may allow rich countries to reinforce their own coronavirus vaccine stocks while leaving fewer shots for more vulnerable populations.
When Gavi approached donor countries last month, it advertised the plan as an “insurance policy” for rich countries that have already struck deals with drug makers for experimental candidates.
Gavi told donor governments when an effective shot is found within its pool of coronavirus vaccines, all countries will receive enough to cover 20% of their populations, including rich countries that may have their own stockpiles.
It says countries would be encouraged, but not required, to give up any vaccine they might not need.
Gavi says it is aiming to raise $2 billion to buy vaccines.
BRUSSELS — The Belgian government has decided to postpone a further relaxation of its coronavirus lockdown because of a recent increase in cases.
Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes says despite the recent weekly 8% increase kept the overall numbers relatively low, the trend “is not good.”
Wilmes says, “the epidemic is gaining in strength,” and delayed until next week any decision on bigger indoor and outdoor events or the opening of night clubs.
Last weekend, the government imposed the mandatory wearing of masks in shops, museums, swimming pools and cinemas.
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has committed to holding an “independent inquiry” into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic at some point.
The U.K. leader mentioned it during his weekly question and answer session in the House of Commons. His Downing Street office later didn’t offer any details on the timing or conditions for such a probe.
Johnson has been under pressure to hold an inquiry in hopes of learning lessons to stave off a “second wave’’ of infection. Johnson says he doesn’t believe it is “the right moment to devote huge amounts of official time to an inquiry,’’ given the country is still battling the pandemic.
But he added “we will seek to learn the lessons of this pandemic in the future and certainly we will have an independent inquiry into what happened.”
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s president says he hopes the country will have a vaccine for the coronavirus by the end of this year.
Aleksandar Vucic says it would cooperate with an unspecified country. Media reports in Serbia have indicated it could be China.
Vucic says the vaccine would be a “savior for Serbia and our economy.”
He added: “We are currently in talks with one country in connection with the vaccine. Its testing is done and it is being given to those exposed.”
Serbia has developed close political and trade relations with China. At the start of the pandemic, Vucic blasted the European Union and the West for allegedly showing little solidarity with Serbia — an EU member candidate country — while China quickly provided help in medical equipment and experts.
Nearly two dozen possible vaccines are in various stages of testing around the world.