The Latest: UN chief says pandemic threatens new conflict
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that the cordonavirus pandemic not only threatens gains in fighting global poverty and building peace but risks exacerbating existing conflicts and generating new ones.
The U.N. chief told a Security Council meeting Wednesday that his March 23 call for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle the virus led a number of warring parties to de-escalate or stop fighting. But, he added, “regrettably, in many instances, the pandemic did not move the parties to suspend hostilities or agree to a permanent ceasefire.”
Guterres predecessor as secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, told the council it is astonishing that the world has locked down billions of people, closed borders and suspended trade, but has failed to put conflicts on hold.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— 1,200 Alabama students home after positive test
— Companies test antibody drugs to treat, prevent COVID-19
— Science and politics tied up in global race for a vaccine
— A top official at the Federal Reserve criticized the decision by many states to reopen businesses this spring before getting the virus fully under control, saying those choices have hindered an economic recovery in the U.S.
— More than half of participating Milan fashion houses are preparing to present in-person previews for Spring-Summer 2021. Fashion houses next month will have social distancing and mask requirements.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says his state will begin paying the extra $400 in weekly unemployment benefits that President Donald Trump announced in an executive order over the weekend weekend.
A $600 federal payment expired in late July, and Congress has not allocated the money for the additional payments, so it may take weeks for the federal government to provide guidance.
But Bullock said Wednesday that Montana will use some of its $1.25 billion in coronavirus relief money to begin providing the additional payments to the state’s unemployed.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The school year is underway at some of New Mexico’s largest public school districts as teachers, students and parents deal with remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Albuquerque Public Schools started Wednesday as schools in the district have been distributing technology to students, making virtual home visits, and providing guidance to staff, students and families. The Las Cruces district outlined its protocols for instruction, technology and nutrition services for an all-online start Wednesday.
Whether New Mexico students return to the classroom later in the year will depend on the pace of the pandemic in the state. The state reported an additional 180 COVID-19 cases and two deaths Wednesday.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is repeating his call to reopen the nation’s schools, and he again pressed Congress to steer future coronavirus funding away from schools that do not reopen this fall.
Trump made the remarks Wednesday at a White House discussion with parents, teachers and doctors who said they support a full return to the classroom.
Also joining Trump were Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence, who said the health risks tied to keeping children at home are greater than those associated with the coronavirus.
Most of the nation’s largest school districts are planning to start the year with remote instruction as virus cases continue to rise.
As Congress negotiates a new round of virus relief, Trump has said school funding should go to parents if their local schools do not reopen for in-person instruction. He said Wednesday that he wants money to follow students, while Democrats want it to follow unions.
DeVos, a longtime proponent of school choice, added her support for Trump’s proposal. She says families need “options that are going to work for their child and their child’s education.”
ROME — Italy is requiring coronavirus tests for people arriving from Croatia, Malta, Spain and Greece after a spate of new infections were registered in Italians returning home from vacation.
A health ministry ordinance approved Wednesday says travelers arriving from those four countries must show proof of a negative test in the past 72 hours, submit to a test upon arrival or go to the local Italian health service to be tested within two days.
The ordinance also adds Colombia to Italy’s blacklist: Visitors who have been to Colombia in the past 14 days are barred outright, as are visitors from around a dozen other countries.
Italy was the onetime epicenter of the European outbreak and is still seeing between 300-500 new cases a day.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has halted nursing home visits as both confirmed cases and deaths from the new coronavirus continue to surge.
Justice said at a news conference Wednesday that there are virus outbreaks currently at 28 nursing homes statewide.
Justice stopped nursing home visits in March and let them resume in mid-June. But the number of virus-related deaths in West Virginia has jumped 23% since Friday, pushing the total for the pandemic to at least 153. Multiple deaths have been reported this month at the Princeton Health Care Center nursing home in Mercer County.
Statistics show 26 of the 29 deaths reported statewide since Friday have involved people over age 70.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is seeking to reassure voters that nothing — including the coronavirus and skepticism about mail-in voting that’s been stoked by President Donald Trump — will stop the election and that it will be safe and secure.
The Republican issued on Wednesday a 48-point voting safety plan based on CDC guidelines to Ohio’s 88 county election boards that strongly recommends, but does not mandate, mask-wearing on Election Day.
He characterized the failure to wear a mask as rude and, like nose-picking, “just gross,” but said that his protocol makes accommodations to all voters. Those in-person voters who choose not to wear a face covering will be given options, including voting outside or using the curbside option, but they will not be stopped from voting inside if that’s their choice.
LaRose said requiring masks to be worn would step on people’s right to vote and place an unfair enforcement burden on poll workers.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s largest school district struggled Wednesday to launch online learning for its 180,000 students, with parents complaining students couldn’t log in to Gwinnett County’s system.
Meanwhile, Cherokee County has quarantined 1,156 students after trying in-school learning, adding about 330 students to yesterday’s total. They are home because of possible coronavirus exposure since classes resumed last week.
About 70 students and staff members in the 40,000-student Cherokee County district have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data posted Wednesday on the district’s website. It’s unclear whether any were infected at school.
JACKSON, Miss. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and the Mississippi Center for Justice filed a lawsuit over concerns about the state’s absentee voting law.
They filed suit against Secretary of State Michael Watson, who is the state’s top elections officer, and against circuit clerks in Hinds and Rankin counties.
The lawsuit asks a judge to issue a statewide declaration to allow absentee voting by people with health conditions that could put them in extra danger because of the virus. Mississippi only allows absentee voting for a few reasons. Plaintiffs include people who have had cancer or have other conditions, including lupus and asthma. The groups say the law is confusing and could be applied inconsistently during the coronavirus pandemic.
Legislators made a change that allows absentee voting by people quarantined with COVID-19 or caring for someone with the virus. The lawsuit says election officials could interpret the law differently in different places.
ATHENS, Greece — Health authorities in Greece have announced 262 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily number since the outbreak began.
Two more deaths were announced, bringing the total death toll to 216. The total number of confirmed cases is 6,177.
Greece imposed an early lockdown that kept the number of infections and deaths low. But there’s been significant increase in the number of confirmed cases since restrictions were lifted and the country reopened to international visitors.
Authorities have imposed new restrictions in some areas, including ordering bars, restaurants and cafes in some of the country’s top tourist spots to shut between midnight and 7 a.m.
BRASILIA, Brasil — The grandmother of Brazil’s first lady died Wednesday after more than a month fighting COVID-19 in a public hospital on the outskirts of Brasilia.
Maria Aparecida Firmo Ferreira, 80, was the grandmother of Michelle Bolsonaro, who is married to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. She had been hospitalized since July 1, having tested positive for the coronavirus.
The health secretariat of Brazil’s federal district confirmed her death.
President Bolsonaro and Michelle Bolsonaro were diagnosed with COVID-19 last month. The president, who has recovered, has consistently downplayed the severity of the virus.
Brazil has more than 3.1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 103,000 deaths, ranking second highest in the world.
BERLIN — Switzerland plans to permit public gatherings of more than 1,000 people at sports events and concerts starting Oct. 1.
Organizers will have to apply for permission and meet social distancing requirements.
Switzerland was one of the first countries in Europe to ban large scale events on Feb. 28 to combat the coronavirus.
The Swiss government says any decision on whether to allow individual events will be up to Switzerland’s 26 cantons (states) and depend on the local virus situation.
In a statement following its weekly Cabinet meeting, the Swiss government says, “this careful reopening step takes into account the needs of society and the economic interests of sports clubs and cultural venues.”
Government officials also decided to make wearing of masks compulsory on all scheduled and charter flights taking off from or landing in Switzerland, starting Saturday.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg advised against traveling abroad, adding countries to its list of European nations where non-essential travels is not recommended.
Norway’s red list of countries included the Netherlands, Poland, Cyprus, Iceland, Malta, and parts of Sweden and Denmark including the Faeroe Islands.
Norway had earlier listed as red: France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria.
People from those countries must quarantine for 10 days.
Last week, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said nearly half the cases in Norway come from abroad.
Norway has 9,750 confirmed cases and 256 deaths.
MADRID — Spain’s army is setting up a field hospital in Zaragoza as the northern city struggles to stop a new spike in coronavirus cases.
The region of Aragón, home to Zaragoza, has led Spain over the past seven days with 242 hospitalizations and 32 deaths from COVID-19.
The army says it responded to a request by Aragón’s government to set up the field hospital in the parking lot of one of its hospitals in Zaragoza. The army says it should be ready for use if needed by Friday.
Regional health authorities say the field hospital is a precaution in case the hospitals reach capacity as they did in many parts of Spain during the months of March and April when the pandemic first hit.
During that first wave of the virus, the army put up several field hospitals in Spanish cities.
Spain had managed to reign in the virus until a steady uptick in cases in the northeast and central areas in recent weeks.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s health minister is warning young people about the ease of transmission of the coronavirus.
New daily cases have been in the triple digits for several days. Vassilis Kikilias tweeted the average age of those sickened by the virus in Greece in August had fallen to 36.
The government has imposed new restrictions on some areas, ordering bars and restaurants to shut between midnight and 7 a.m. in some of the country’s top tourist destinations.
Greece initially was credited with handling the coronavirus outbreak well, imposing an early lockdown that kept infections and deaths at low levels. But it has seen a resurgence of the virus after lifting restrictions and opening to visitors as it tries to bolster tourism.
On Wednesday, Greece reported 196 new coronavirus cases and one new death, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 5,942 and the death toll to 214.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A municipal government in China has donated 40,000 medical-grade face masks to Maryland’s capital city amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The donations from Changsha, China, were first offered to Annapolis city officials in April, when the need for the masks among public safety workers was high in the beginning of the pandemic, Annapolis City Manager David Jarrell said Tuesday.
The masks arrived this month, with one of the boxes featuring American and Chinese flags with a message that read: “Go, City of Annapolis! Best Wishes from Changsha! True unity inspires people to work as one to overcome adversity,” The Capital Gazette reported.