A worker wearing a mask to protect against the coronavirus walks past space themed displays promoting an online service in Beijing, China on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. An outbreak in China's far northwestern region of Xinjiang is continuing to subside. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The Latest: Mainland China, Hong Kong report fewer new cases

August 03, 2020 - 10:59 pm
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BEIJING — Both mainland China and Hong Kong reported fewer new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday as strict measures to contain new infections appear to be taking effect.

Mainland China announced 36 new cases across the country, down from 43 the previous day. Of those, 28 were in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and two in Liaoning province in the northeast.

Another six cases were brought by Chinese arriving from overseas. No new deaths were registered , leaving China’s total at 4,634 among 84,634 cases reported since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Hong Kong reported 78 new cases over the previous 24 hours, the first time in almost two weeks that new cases had fallen into double-digits.

Authorities in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city ordered mask wearing in public places, restrictions on indoor dining and increased testing to contain the outbreak.

China’s central government also sent a medical team to assist in efforts and an exhibition center has been converted into a temporary hospital in the event beds run short. Deaths from the disease in Hong Kong have risen to 38 among 3,589 total cases.

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

— Parents struggle as schools reopen amid coronavirus surge

— COVID relief bill remains up in air as negotiations resume

— Debate begins for who’s first in line for COVID-19 vaccine

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

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HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MELBOURNE, Australia— Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has banned people who should be self-isolating from exercising outside their homes and introduced tougher fines for people infected with COVID-19 who continue to go to work.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that military and health teams would repeatedly and randomly door-knock homes to ensure people who should be self-isolating were at home.

Teams had door-knocked more than 3,000 homes and could not find more than 800 people who should have been home because they were awaiting a test result or had tested positive to coronavirus.

Andrews said the government was removing the lawful excuse that someone who should be self-isolating had gone out to exercise.

“It’s difficult to enforce this if people have a lawful excuse and if some people are going to use that to try and justify other decisions -- they were at no point getting exercise,” Andrews said.

The government has also increased the fine for failing to self-isolate from 1,652 Australian dollars ($1,169) to AU$4,957 ($3,507). The most serious cases could also be taken to court and fined up to AU$20,000 ($14,151), Andrews said.

Victoria reported 439 new cases over night and 11 new deaths.

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LAS VEGAS -- Nevada will shift this week from broad restrictions in response to the coronavirus to an ongoing, county-by-county review where officials hope to target hot spots and specific businesses where the virus is spreading.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said Monday that the state would evaluate Nevada’s 17 counties weekly on their rates of new cases, positive tests and tests per day.

A new task force of state officials will review the data. If counties do not meet at least two of the criteria for two weeks in a row, the task force and county officials will come up with a response plan.

When asked if he would ever broadly shut down all the state’s casinos again, as he did in March, the governor said all options are open but casinos have been responsible and are not a major source of virus spread right now.

He said biggest problem Nevada officials have found with trying to stop the spread are two areas that are hard to control: family gatherings or people going to work when they’re sick or have tested positive.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom said California appears to be getting a grip on a resurgence of the coronavirus, though he warned the state is a long way from reopening some of the businesses it shuttered for a second time last month because of rising infections and hospitalizations.

The average weekly number of positive tests is down by a fifth, to 7,764 from its peak of nearly 9,900 a week ago. The seven-day rate of tests coming back positive statewide had peaked at nearly 8% late last month but has fallen to 6.1%, he said Monday, though the rate remains much higher in some hard-hit counties.

“It’s not where it needs to be, it is still too high, but again it is good to see this number trending down, not trending up,” Newsom said.

Hospitalizations, which had recently ballooned by 50%, have also fallen over the last 14 days, he said in his most upbeat briefing since the resurgence. The number of people in intensive care units because of coronavirus has also declined slightly.

Newsom credited the new restrictions that have locked down most indoor commercial activities in 38 of California’s 58 counties, as well as enforcement actions and increased compliance with his endlessly repeated cautions to maintain social distancing, wear face coverings and use proper hygiene.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gyms and fitness facilities in Washington state will need to nearly triple the minimum distance required for patrons exercising indoors, except for those practicing certain team sports.

New COVID-19 guidance issued late Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee increases the requirement of six feet of distance between patrons to 300 square feet — about 17 feet.

The number of people allowed in gyms, fitness facilities and fitness classes will be limited by the size of their space under this guidance, and occupancy in facilities and gyms that are larger than 12,000 square feet will be capped at 25 percent.

In addition, showers, hot tubs, saunas, and tanning beds at multi-use facilities will be closed, as will steam rooms, squash courts, and racquetball courts.

As of Monday, there have been more than 58,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. Nearly 1,600 people in Washington have died of complications from COVID-19.

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Mall of America says the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park inside the mall will reopen Aug. 10 after being closed nearly five months due to COVID-19.

Officials of the Bloomington, Minnesota mall said the seven-acre (2.8-hectare) theme park will reopen with significant changes aimed at maintaining a safe, healthy and comfortable environment.

To meet state guidelines, Nickelodeon Universe will operate with a reduced capacity of 250 visitors at any time. Guests will be allowed through a single entry point. Only guests who have bought a ticket will have access to walk through the park. Tickets will be limited to two hours.

Guests 3 years and older will be required to wear face masks at all times, including for the duration of each attraction.

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — At least two Indiana schools shut back down this week after students and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Other districts in the state also are reporting positive coronavirus tests among students and employees.

Elwood Junior Senior High School, a district of roughly 1,500 students about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis, is temporarily closing this week after “multiple staff” came back positive for the virus, Superintendent Joe Brown said.

The district saw “more positive cases from staff members than we anticipated,” Brown said, but said no students were believed to have been in close contact.

In Southern Indiana, four students from Lanesville Junior-Senior High School have tested positive and an additional 50 have been quarantined since it opened Wednesday. The school district says it held a virtual learning day on Monday and classes will resume in-person Tuesday.

The school district already elected to temporarily move all classes in its largest high school online after a teacher tested positive for the coronavirus and exposed other school staff last month.

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RAPID CITY, S.D. — The South Dakota Department of Health says the number of confirmed coronavirus cases at a Christian youth summer camp in the Black Hills has grown to 96.

Health officials said Monday that 93 South Dakota residents and three out-of-state residents have COVID-19 after attending Camp Judson near Keystone. The camp shut down several weeks ago.

State epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said 328 people had been at the camp. He said 44 of the 93 South Dakota cases have recovered, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Clayton said the average age among the church camp’s cases is 15 years old, with some as young as 5 to 9 and as old as 70 to 74 becoming infected. Of the South Dakota cases, 59 were women and 34 were men. None have been hospitalized, he said.

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WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says she’s watching so-called “yellow states” where cases are increasing and expressed concern about Missouri and Tennessee.

Vice President Mike Pence, chair of the task force, said he and Birx have been counseling the heartland states and fully support measures they’re taking to slow the spread.

Pence, Birx and other members of the task force commented during a private conference call Monday with governors. The Associated Press obtained a recording of the discussion.

Birx said she’s seeing improvement in Sun Belt states and singled out Arizona for praise. Pence told everyone to “just keep up the good work.”

Pence also encouraged governors to reopen schools. He said his visit last week to a North Carolina classroom almost brought a tear to his eye.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana has released coronavirus safety guidelines for movie and TV productions as filming is expected to start returning to the virus outbreak hot spot this month.

Louisiana’s economic development department issued the rules Monday.

The regulations say movie and TV productions should have a coronavirus compliance officer, provide testing for workers and require everyone except performers to wear masks. The department calls for using temperature checks to enter production areas, distancing people at the locations and using digital scripts when possible.

Most filming in Louisiana has been on hold since March. But Louisiana’s economic development department says some productions are readying to resume filming this month and in September.

Trey Burvant, president of the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association, said 15 shows were filming in the state before the pandemic.

Louisiana has had one of the highest per capita infection rates in the United States, with more than 120,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since early March.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More than a dozen sites are opening across Alabama to test about 200,000 students before they head to college and university campuses statewide.

Officials said Monday the program will help stem the spread of the new coronavirus only if students abide by guidelines at school.

Finis St. John, head of the board that oversees the three-campus University of Alabama System, said that while the mass testing program will screen all students before they arrive on campuses, the work “will have been for nothing” if they ignore rules about wearing masks and social distancing.

Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who helped design the program, said that with 14 testing sites scattered across the state opening Tuesday, no one should have to travel farther than 60 miles (95 kilometers) to get to one. Test results should be available in a day.

Some students coming to an Alabama school from other states will receive an at-home test they can submit, and some will be able to submit test results from doctors’ offices or commercial laboratories.

The program is funded by $30 million in federal coronavirus assistance.

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LEBANON, N.H. — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, warned against reopening schools in coronavirus hot spots.

Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, spoke via video conference Monday to physicians and medical students at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He said while the nation’s “default principle” should be that children return to school, “to say that every child has to go back to school is not really realizing the fact that we have such a diversity of viral activity.”

He said there may be some areas where the level of virus is so high that it would not be prudent to bring children back to school.

Determined to reopen America’s schools despite coronavirus worries, President Donald Trump recently threatened to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall. He and top White House aides also have been ramping up attacks against Fauci, with Trump saying Fauci has “made a lot of mistakes.”

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WASHINGTON — The White House announced Monday that random coronavirus testing of its staff is becoming mandatory.

The White House said the measure was “part of our ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety” of the White House Complex.

It says such testing had previously been handled on a voluntary basis.

Last week, the White House disclosed that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had tested positive for the virus, making O’Brien the highest-ranking official to test positive so far.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are tested regularly for the coronavirus, as are any guests who will be physically close to the president or vice president whether they are at the White House or on travel around the country.

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SUWANEE, Ga. — Officials for Georgia’s largest public school district say more than 250 employees have reported testing positive for the coronavirus or being exposed to it about a week before the school year is set to begin.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers began in-person planning Wednesday at facilities.

Officials confirmed to news outlets that one day later, some 260 employees had called in to report a positive COVID-19 test or possible exposure and are now excluded from work.

The system’s superintendent announced last month that all classes will be taught online for the 180,000-student district in suburban Atlanta when instruction begins Aug. 12.

The county, the state’s second-most populous, had more than 17,780 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Sunday, and nearly 240 deaths.

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BERLIN — Children have returned to school in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the first in the country to start the new school year following nationwide shutdowns at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek has advocated mask requirements inside school buildings. But the school system is largely a matter for the 16 state governments in Germany, and as students returned to class in cities like Rostock and Schwerin on Monday, regional officials had not yet implemented such a rule.

Since schools largely closed down in mid-March, parents, teachers and children have eyed the reopenings warily.

Many children voluntarily wore masks Monday as school began, and several schools implemented their own mask rules and handed them out to children who forgot them.

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ROME -- The number of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Italy fell below 200 for the first time in a week, with 159 cases registered on Monday, according to Health Ministry figures.

That brings the total number of cases in Italy to 248,229 and deaths to 35,166.

Lazio, the central region that includes Rome, now has the highest number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Italy’s 20 regions. Health officials said nine of the region’s new cases were brought by travelers from Romania, Ukraine, the Dominican Republic, Iran, India and Bangladesh.

Two clusters of infections have also been traced to popular seaside areas near Rome. Monday figures tend to be lower since they often don’t include tallies from the weekend.

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