The Latest: Tropical Storm Eta causes major damage

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Florida officials say one of the major COVID-19 testing sites in the state suffered major damage due to the extensive rain dumped by Tropical Storm Eta in South Florida.

Samantha Bequer, spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said parts of the Hard Rock Stadium’s site were trapped beneath 16 inches of rain. Throughout the pandemic, it has been one of the state’s busiest places for people to get a coronavirus diagnosis.

All of the testing sites in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties managed by the state government closed on Sunday and Monday due to the tropical storm. State officials said testing sites in Lee County also were forced to close due to the storm’s impact. The state has not officially said when it would reopen any of them.

___

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

— Pfizer says an early peek at its vaccine data suggests the shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19

— Hungary unveils toughest virus measures yet, Portugal enters new state of emergency to fight rising infections

— Belgian health authorities are confident a renewed surge of hospital admissions related to COVID-19 has peaked in the hard-hit country.

— With the campaign over, President-elect Biden is pivoting to fighting the coronavirus pandemic

— Germany says increase in new coronavirus infections appears to be levelling off, too early to talk about a reversal of the trend.

___

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

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia has smashed weekly records for confirmed coronavirus cases, while the death toll was pushed higher Monday after more than two dozen previously unreported fatalities were discovered, health officials said.

The state reported 2,418 new positive cases over the six-day period ending Saturday, a 5% increase from the previous week’s record of 2,304 confirmed cases set in a seven-day period.

Figures for Sunday were not posted Monday morning due to a technical glitch, and health officials said they hoped to get those posted later in the day. The record easily could be adjusted higher as daily probable cases are confirmed.

The state has set weekly high marks in four of the past five weeks as the coronavirus continues to tighten its grip on the state and the country. West Virginia set daily records three times last week, including at least 530 confirmed cases on Friday. Nationally, more than 10 million infections have been reported since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials reported a record 44 virus-related deaths last week alone, and a revision made Monday to include previously unreported virus fatalities brought the state’s death toll to at least 530.

Over the weekend, the Department of Health and Human Resources’ vital registration office flagged more than two dozen deaths that happened weeks or months ago and hadn’t been reported as coronavirus-related, said Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state’s health officer.

COVID-19 deaths are supposed to be filled out on a separate form and reported to the state immediately. Most of the deaths that were flagged occurred in hospitals and nursing homes, Amjad said at a news conference Monday.

“If that death report is not filled out, we don’t know about it,” Amjad said. “As you can imagine, it was a shock to us as well that those were not in our system.”

___

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin health officials reported another dip in new COVID-19 infections Monday from a record high over the weekend.

The Department of Health Services reported 4,360 new confirmed infections. That’s up from 4,280 on Sunday but still dramatically fewer than the record 7,065 cases recorded on Saturday. The disease was a factor in another 17 deaths.

The state has now seen 271,770 cases and 2,329 COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic began in March. As of Sunday the state ranked fourth in the nation in per capita cases over the last two weeks with 69,244 cases per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association reported that as of Monday afternoon 2,003 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 396 in intensive care and 574 on ventilators.

___

NEW ORLEANS — The health director for the city of New Orleans notes two possible factors behind the city’s success in avoiding the sort of spike in coronavirus cases that is plaguing other parts of the nation.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno said Monday that relatively warm south Louisiana weather is likely one reason.

Another is the willingness of residents to comply with the city’s requirement to wear masks in public places.

She said mask-wearing has been normal in New Orleans for months and she credits it with saving “countless lives,” while allowing businesses to open.

She spoke as New Orleans officials announced the latest plan to ease virus-related restrictions — including allowing bars to start serving customers indoors, with a 25% limit on capacity.

Avegno warned that residents cannot become complacent, especially as the colder winter months approach.

___

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Top medical officers for some of New Mexico’s largest hospital systems said Monday they’re now at or above normal capacity as the coronavirus pandemic surges across the state.

They said during a briefing that they are seeing the strain on staff and that the current pace of caring for increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients and those hospitalized for other illnesses and trauma will be unsustainable over the long-term.

Presbyterian Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Mitchell said the state’s hospitals are operating under contingency plans that include bringing in health care workers from other states, redeploying staff from clinics and setting up inpatient units in areas where they normally wouldn’t be.

“We are now at the point where we are using every single lever that we have,” he said.

More than 1,200 additional cases have been reported in each of the last three days as hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise. A Bernalillo County man in his 30s was among the 14 additional deaths reported Sunday.

“I know as this continues everyone will become exhausted,” Mitchell said. “This is not a marathon where you can see the end and you know it’s five more miles. This is a sprint and a sprint and a sprint and right now we don’t know where that end is going to be.”

Despite having some of the toughest public health restrictions since the pandemic started, New Mexico has been struggling with exponential increases over the past month. The total number of cases for the state is close to topping 55,000, with more than 14% of those being reported in just the last week.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she will likely impose stricter mandates this week.

___

SALT LAKE CITY — Deeply conservative Utah began a major shift in fighting the coronavirus pandemic Monday, implementing a statewide mask mandate for the first time and planning a dramatic increase in testing.

The move came a couple of days after the presidential race was called for Democrat Joe Biden, but Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said the mask mandate’s timing wasn’t political. He said it was an essential move to avoid disaster with a surge already threatening to overwhelm hospitals ahead of the holiday season.

He says politics has gotten in the way of addressing the crisis effectively.

Utah joins more than 30 other states that have implemented statewide mask orders since the pandemic began.

___

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — More than 700 people in Maryland were hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Monday morning, an increase of 52 in a 24-hour period and the highest since mid-June, the state reported.

Of the 707 people in the hospital, the state reported 168 were in intensive care. Hospitalizations have climbed in recent weeks. On Oct. 1, there were 331 people hospitalized.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who warned of a surge in coronavirus cases at a news conference last week, said Monday on Twitter that the state has reached “a critical point” in the fight against COVID-19.

The governor said Maryland’s seven-day positivity rate exceeds 5% for the first time since June 24.

“While our state has been preparing for this fall surge for the past eight months, we cannot afford to let our guard down,” the Republican governor said. “Wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.”

___

ROME — Several regions in Italy, from north to south, are being put under semi-lockdown restrictions by the government, struggling to tamp down a several weeks-long surge in COVID-19 infections.

Governors of the regions said they were informed about the measures, which will take effect on Wednesday, including a ban on leaving one’s town except for essential reasons and closing restaurants, bars and cafes except for takeout and delivery orders.

Getting the “orange-zone” designation will be Liguria, a seaside region in northwest Italy; the north central regions of Umbria and Tuscany; the south-central region of Abruzzo, and Basilicata in the southern “instep” of the boot-shaped peninsula.

Italy’s health minister was expected to formalize the designation on Monday night.

Last week, four regions became “red zones,” which endure the most severe restrictions currently in Italy, which greatly limit the reasons citizens can leave their homes.

The government on Tuesday was expected to decide whether to make southern Campania, whose chief city is densely populated Naples, a red zone.

For days now in Naples, people with COVID-19 have lined up in cars outside overtaxed emergency rooms to receive oxygen from medical personnel going from car-to-car.

Campania’s Gov. Vincenzo De Luca on Monday decried the “scandalous” crowds of Neapolitans, many of them mask-less, thronging the city’s waterfront over the weekend.

___

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has confirmed more than 10 million coronavirus cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as infections continue to rise in nearly every state.

The U.S. hit the milestone on Monday.

New daily confirmed cases are up more than 60% over the past two weeks, to an average of nearly 109,000 a day. Average daily cases are on the rise in 48 states.

The U.S. accounts for about one fifth of the world’s 50 million confirmed cases.

U.S. coronavirus deaths are up 18% over the past two weeks, averaging 939 every day. The virus has now killed more than 237,000 Americans.

___

PARIS — France counted 551 deaths linked to Covid-19 in hospitals in the last 24 hours, a record number since the start of the second wave of the virus sweeping across the country, France’s health chief said Monday.

“The spike is ahead of us. The second wave is still progressing,” Jerome Salomon said at a news conference.

The latest count brought the total number of people who have died in France since the start of the pandemic to 40,987.

France holds the grim distinction of being the 4th country in the world in number of cases — more than 1.8 million as of Monday — since the coronavirus began stalking the globe in early 2020. However, Soloman attributed the figure to increased testing, with 2.3 million tests carried out this week.

The health chief also noted a glimmer of hope: signs of a possible slowing of infections in areas where additional measures to curb the virus spread were put in force.

France has entered a second lockdown but with schools remaining open this time. But a curfew also was recently put in force in Paris and some other areas which means, for instance, that there can be no takeout deliveries of food after 10 p.m.

___

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans will this week allow bars to open at 25% capacity as it further eases restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday.

Other changes include an increase in the number of people allowed at indoor gatherings from 50 to 100. At outdoor gatherings, the limit goes from 100 to 150.

The new “Phase 3.3” restrictions take effect Wednesday.

The city eased restrictions and let bars open for a time earlier this year, only to shut them down again amid a second surge of the coronavirus. Since then, the city has incrementally eased restrictions — for example allowing outdoor seating at bars allowing take out alcoholic beverages and allowing bars that operate as restaurants to have limited indoor service.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the city health director, said the city is in a position to further ease restrictions this week because New Orleans has so far avoided the latest resurgence of case that has occurred in much of the nation. “We’re an outlier,” she said. “We are a good outlier and we want to remain it.”

Avegno said the city’s priority remains maintaining safety at schools. Public schools in the city have gradually increased in-school classes since mid-October and city officials have stressed that restrictions will be tightened if need be to protect that progress.

Officials also addressed the Monday announcement from Pfizer that early results from its coronavirus vaccine suggest it may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, putting the company on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Once a vaccine is available to the general public, she said— noting that health care workers and vulnerable populations such as nursing home residents will get high priorities — distribution in the city will be similar in many ways to public testing, with efforts to make vaccinations available for many at drive-through and walk-up locations.

___

Categories: National News