The Latest: New coronavirus cases stabilizing in Beijing
BEIJING — New coronavirus cases remained stable in China’s capital Friday, a day after a public health official declared Beijing’s latest outbreak under control.
Beijing recorded 25 new cases, up by just four from Thursday, out of a total of 32 cases reported nationwide.
Beijing has confirmed 183 new cases over the past week, but an official of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that the daily numbers should begin to decline soon. Wu Zunyou said such outbreaks are inevitable, though this one was larger than expected because it spread from Beijing’s main wholesale market.
Classes in the city have been suspended and opening-up plans for everything from sports events to art exhibitions are hold.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Europe sees a rash of new local outbreaks including hundreds of infections at a German meatpacking plant
— China says infections are waning, including at Beijing market
— Is it safe to stay in hotels as reopenings get underway?
— Study ties blood type to COVID-19 risk; O may help, A hurt
— Spain to inject $4.7 billion aid package into its beleagured tourism industry.
— Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic is “a cause for celebration,” but a new poll finds more than half of Americans calling it fair or poor. The Gallup and West Health survey out Thursday shows that 57% of U.S. adults rate the national response to COVID-19 as fair or poor, particularly because America has the world’s most expensive health care.
— As work on potential coronavirus vaccines intensifies, rich countries are placing advance orders for the inevitably limited supply to guarantee their citizens are immunized first. That is leaving significant questions about how long it will take developing countries to get any vaccines.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations’ food agency says ít needs immediate funding to prevent a shutdown in late July of the global transport system that has been delivering tons of masks, gloves and other critical equipment for the coronavirus pandemic in 132 nations.
The World Food Program’s director of operations said Thursday that the agency also would have to ground aircraft that have transported 2,600 humanitarian and health workers free of charge to 40 destinations across Africa, Asia and the Middle East since the pandemic began.
Amer Daoudi says the WFP requested $965 million to sustain its transport services through 2020 but so far has received only $132 million even though “the entire humanitarian and health community is relying on WFP’s logistic services now more than ever.”
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will require people to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when distancing isn’t possible under a statewide order issued Thursday.
The order comes as California broadly reopens the economy; in most counties, people can now shop, dine in at restaurants, get their hair done and go to church, among other things. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are increasing, something the state says is expected as more people get tested. More than 3,400 people were in the hospital as of Wednesday, the most patients hospitalized since April.
The order will require people to wear masks when inside or in line for any indoor public spaces, in healthcare settings like hospitals and pharmacies, while waiting for or riding public transportation and in outdoor spaces where its not possible to stay 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart from other people.
Until now, the Democratic governor had let local governments decide whether to mandate masks, an issue that’s become politically fraught as some Americans resist orders to wear them. He said he’s issuing the order now because too many people are going out in public without face coverings as businesses, restaurants and other sectors of the economy reopen.
There are exceptions for children under age two, people who can’t wear masks for medical reasons and if it would violate workplace safety guidelines.
NEW YORK — Restaurants, a key part of New York City’s identity, will be allowed to open with outdoor seating Monday as the city enters the second phase of easing coronavirus restrictions, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
The outdoor seating plan will provide a lifeline for New York’s crucial restaurant industry as the city emerges cautiously from lockdown.
“We have to save this industry,” he said. “It’s part of our identity.”
Restaurateurs will be able to go online starting Friday to apply to open with seating on the sidewalk, in a backyard patio or using parking spaces. He estimated that 5,000 restaurants employing 45,000 workers would be able to open starting next week.
Offices, hair salons, retail stores and playgrounds in public parks will also be allowed to open during Phase 2 of the reopening, de Blasio said. He said 150,000 to 300,000 more people should be back at work.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had indicated that the city would be ready for Phase 2 on Monday, but de Blasio had said previously that he thought it might take longer. De Blasio said Thursday that he has spoken with the governor’s office about the reopening plan and that “there’s been a high degree of unity.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Beale Street Music Festival, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and other Memphis in May events were canceled Thursday due to the new coronavirus outbreak in the Tennessee city.
In March, Memphis in May events were pushed to late September and October in hopes that the virus outbreak would have slowed down.
But virus cases and hospitalizations in Memphis have risen in recent days, delaying a planned move to ease restrictions on businesses such as restaurants and retail stores this week.
Memphis in May’s board of directors met on Thursday and decided to cancel this year’s events due to public safety concerns, a statement posted on its website said.
Both the music festival and the barbecue cooking contest are the cornerstones of the city’s monthlong tourist event in May. They attract music fans and barbecue cooking teams from around the world.
This Mississippi River city relies heavily on tourism revenue from Memphis in May.
“The annual Memphis in May is an important part of the cultural fabric of our city, but this pandemic has impacted large scale public events worldwide and Memphis is no exception.” said James L. Holt, president of the Memphis in May International Festival, in the statement.
The Lumineers, Three 6 Mafia, The Avett Brothers, Lil Wayne and The Smashing Pumpkins were among the musical acts scheduled to perform at the music festival before the postponement.
UNITED NATIONS — Kenya has defeated Djibouti for an African seat on the powerful U.N. Security Council in a second round of voting held under dramatically different procedures because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first round of voting on Wednesday, neither country received the required two-thirds majority in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly. In a second round on Thursday, where a two-thirds majority of 128 votes was required, Kenya received 129 votes and Djibouti received 62 votes.
Kenya will now join Norway, Ireland, India and Mexico, who were elected Wednesday as non-permanent members of the Security Council for two-year terms starting Jan.1.
In previous years, ambassadors from all U.N. member states have gathered in its vast General Assembly chamber to vote by secret ballot, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world body to adopt new rules. To avoid a large gathering and ensure social distancing, ambassadors wearing masks were given time slots for voting and spread out in the chamber to mark their ballots.
The 15-member Security Council has five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and 10 elected members with seats allocated to regional groups and five new members elected every year.
Because of its powers including authorizing war and imposing sanctions, winning a seat on the Security Council is considered a pinnacle of achievement for many countries. It gives them a strong voice on issues of international peace and security ranging from conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Africa and Ukraine to the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran, and attacks by extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida.
PARIS — France announced a plan on Thursday to resume domestic paracetamol production for the first time in more than a decade, to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers after the common painkiller was briefly rationed at the height of the coronavirus crisis.
France currently has zero domestic producers of paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen and sold under brand names such as Tylenol. Instead, the core ingredients are produced in countries such as China.
The French government unveiled a plan with drug makers Sanofi, Upsa and Seqens to ensure the entire paracetamol production chain in France within three years.
It’s part of 200 million euros in investment in French vaccines and other drugs that President Emmanuel Macron announced earlier this week.
Despite having one of the world’s best public health care systems, France was hit particularly hard by the virus, and suffered mask shortages and had to ration some medicines.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State University is rolling out plans for students, faculty and staff as they prepare to return to campus in the fall.
The document released this week outlines the steps the university will take to ensure what officials said would be a welcoming and functioning campus environment when classes begin on Aug. 19.
University officials say the plan is a living document and can be updated as more is learned about the novel coronavirus and as best practices evolve. The university planned a town hall for Thursday afternoon. The number of positive tests in New Mexico surpassed 10,000 on Wednesday.
PHOENIX — Arizona’s count of known COVID-19 cases has jumped again, a day after Gov. Doug Ducey reversed himself by saying local governments could make wearing face masks mandatory.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 2,519 additional cases as of Wednesday and 32 new deaths. That raised the state’s total to 43,443 with 1,271 deaths.
The increases in cases reported on Thursday broke a record daily high increase of 2,392 reported Tuesday.
Ducey faced pressure as the state became a national virus hotspot, and he said Wednesday that Arizona cities and counties can make wearing face masks mandatory to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Allowing local governments to decide would work better than a statewide mandate, he said.
Ducey previously resisted allowing cities to do more than the state allows to slow the virus spread, saying statewide directives avoid a patchwork of regulations.
Mayors in Phoenix, Tucson and other cities said they would move quickly to require masks.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska’s governor has told local governments they will get no federal money meant to help fight the effects of the coronavirus pandemic if they require people to wear masks in public buildings.
The mandate from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts seems at odds with his usual message encouraging people to wear masks to slow the spread of the virus, the Omaha World-Herald reported. But his spokesman, Taylor Gage, said the governor “does not believe that failure to wear a mask should be the basis for denying taxpayers’ services.”
Some $100 million has been allotted to Nebraska counties as part of the federal economic rescue law.
MILAN — Italy has recorded 333 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, two-thirds of them in the hardest-hit Lombardy region, bringing the total in the epidemic to 238,159.
Another 66 people died, for a total of 34,514, the civil protection agency reported on Thursday.
The regions of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna had the next highest numbers of new infections, at 31 and 32, respectively, while all the other regions were single digits or zero new cases. Authorities have said the actual number of infections is likely to be higher as only those with severe symptoms, people hospitalized, health workers and nursing home residents have been regularly tested.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida has shattered its previous record for the number of coronavirus cases recorded in a day, according to data released Thursday.
The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported 85,926 coronavirus cases statewide, a daily jump of 3,207 cases, the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic in March. The previous record — 2,783 cases — occurred Tuesday. The state has had at least 3,061 related deaths.
At least some of the increase reflects expanded testing especially among people who are younger and without symptoms. But the rate of positive tests also has been ticking upward in recent days, raising alarm.
The announcement came shortly after federal officials revealed that more than 86,000 Floridians applied for new jobless benefits last week, a drop of almost 30% from the previous week as pandemic-related restrictions continued easing up across the state.
The easing of restrictions meant to stop the spread of the new coronavirus has accompanied new outbreaks around Florida, forcing some local leaders to pull back.
OXFORD, Mass. — A central Massachusetts town has cut off power and water to a gym that defied government orders and reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mark Reich, a lawyer for the town of Oxford, told WBZ-TV on Thursday that “domestic water and electricity service have been discontinued” at Prime Fitness & Nutrition. A judge this week ordered the town to shut down the facility, which opened last month even though gyms are supposed to remain shuttered at least through June 29.
The gym’s owner, Dave Blondin, told WBZ on Wednesday that he “will continue to fight, if this goes on two years, then so be it.”
“Mr. Blondin is flouting the law and making no effort to respect public health and safety guidelines,” Reich told The Boston Globe on Wednesday. An email seeking comment was sent to the gym Thursday.
LONDON — A chicken-processing plant in Wales says it has halted production and sent all staff home to self-isolate after dozens of staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
The 2 Sisters Food Group said that from Thursday, production at its factory in Llangefni, Anglesey, is suspended for 14 days after 51 employees tested positive for the virus. It said all 560 staff are self-isolating.
The company said the factory was a “small site” that does not supply its retail clients like supermarkets or KFC. The poultry goes mainly to the hospitality sector and local government contracts, it said.
The first reported case of COVID-19 at the factory was on May 28, it said.
Earlier this week, unions said they were aware of 13 cases among staff at the 2 Sisters factory, with 110 people self-isolating as a precaution.
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say they are phasing out an emergency program of using cargo planes to quickly import huge quantities of critical medical supplies from around the world in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said the effort dubbed “Project Airbridge” will be wound down by the end of June after more than 200 flights of medical supplies since late March.
FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor and Adm. John Polowczyk of the federal supply chain task force told reporters Thursday that the government can now rely on traditional shipping methods for any needed supplies. The cargo flights were intended from the start to be a temporary solution to nationwide shortages of protective masks and other supplies as well as treatments and tests for COVID-19.
Members of Congress have criticized Project Airbridge, accusing FEMA and the task force of not providing enough information about how they decided to allocate medical supplies and accusing the administration of giving priority to politically connected people. Gaynor denied those allegations and said supplies were distributed to where they were needed most amid global shortages.