The Latest: 1,200 Alabama students home after positive test
MOULTON, Ala. — More than 1,200 students at two Alabama schools will begin the year at home after a person connected with both schools tested positive for COVID-19.
While 12 other Lawrence County schools planned to begin traditional classes Wednesday, Superintendent Jon Bret Smith told the Decatur Daily that students from the elementary and middle schools in Moulton, located in north Alabama, would start the academic year taking classes online.
Education officials learned Monday that a person linked to both schools had tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. State health officials recommended delaying the reopening by two weeks. Combined, the schools have more than 105 workers.
School officials notified 10 people who were in contact with the person. Computers are being distributed for online classes.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— India adds more than 60,000 virus cases in 24 hours
— Companies test antibody drugs to treat, prevent COVID-19
— Science and politics tied up in global race for a vaccine
— What’s keeping Washington from a virus deal, explained. The impasse is denying money to the unemployed, state and local governments and schools struggling to reopen.
— As Britain navigates its way through the coronavirus pandemic, the government insists science is guiding its decisions. But a self-appointed group of independent experts says it sees little in Britain’s response that is evidence-based while cases tick up.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There’s been six more deaths announced Wednesday in West Virginia, bringing the total confirmed deaths in the state to 153.
Confirmed cases have tripled in the past seven weeks, surpassing the 8,000 mark on Wednesday.
Officials have blamed the recent surge in part on vacation trips to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a popular destination for West Virginians.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has constantly urged residents to wear masks but has resisted re-imposing additional restrictions.
ROME — Italy added another 481 coronavirus cases and authorities are weighing whether to impose tests or quarantines on Italian vacationers returning from coronavirus hotspots.
Some regional governors have announced plans or proposals to use rapid tests at airports or quarantines after Italians returning from vacation in Malta, Croatia, Spain and Greece tested positive once home. Other clusters have been traced to newly arrived migrants and migrant centers.
Italian news reports said the regional affairs minister, Francesco Boccia, was meeting with regional governors Wednesday.
France and Germany have announced tests-on-arrival after their daily cases topped 1,000. In Italy, where the virus first erupted in Europe in February, new cases are hovering around 300-500 per day.
Italy has 251,713 confirmed infections. With 10 more deaths, the total confirmed death toll stands at 35,225.
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.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romanian health authorities say the country has set another one-day high for new COVID-19 infections, with 1,415 confirmed cases reported in the last 24 hours.
Despite the rising trend, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban has said he believes Romania managed to stop the growing spread of the coronavirus pandemic and expects “no problem” in nationwide local elections being held at the end of September. The elections were initially planned to be held in June but were postponed due to the pandemic.
A report this week by the National Institute of Public Health predicts the number of daily cases could practically double to 2,800 by the first week of September.
As of Wednesday, Romania has reported 65,177 confirmed virus cases and 2,807 deaths.
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.
Annapolis’ relationship with Changsha began under a former city administrator. The two municipalities are now sister cities.
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.
Another note from Yani Xia, a representative in the Chinese city’s Foreign Affairs Office, accompanied the shipments. “We sincerely wish you and everyone in Annapolis continued good health, and the fortitude to persevere during this challenging period,” Xia’s note read.
BRUSSELS — Authorities in Brussels are introducing mandatory mask rules across the Belgian capital following a spike in cases.
Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort’s office says the number of new infections in the city had reached Belgium’s red line of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants on average over the last seven days.
A statement says the wearing of masks is from now on obligatory for all people age 12 and over in all public places and in private places accessible to the public.
Brussels is home to the main European Union institutions and the NATO military alliance and has a population of around 1.2 million people. Mandatory masks are also in place in the port city of Antwerp.
Belgium has one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates per capita in the world. Around 10,000 people have died in a country with a population of some 11.5 million.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has denounced a culture of individuality revealed by the pandemic, which has sacrificed the care of the weakest members of society.
Francis, speaking at his Wednesday audience called on the faithful to “overcome our personal and collective individualism” as experts work to find a cure for the coronavirus, “which hit us all indiscriminately.”
The pontiff says ‘’the pandemic has revealed how vulnerable and interconnected we all are,” while also making us “more aware of the spread within our societies of a false, individualistic way of thinking, one that rejects human dignity and relationships, views persons as consumer goods and creates a ‘throw-away’ culture.”
He called on people to “look with care at our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer,’’ and recognize “human dignity in every person, whatever their race, language or condition.”
TAIPEI, Taiwan — U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar says the push to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is “not a race to be first.”
Azar’s comments during a visit to Taiwan on Wednesday follow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that his country was the first to approve a coronavirus vaccine, prompting doubts about the science and safety behind that purported achievement.
Azar says the U.S. is combining the powers of its government, economy and biopharmaceutical industry to “deliver as quickly as we can for the benefit of the United States’ citizens, but also for the people of the world, safe and effective vaccines.”
He says the U.S. has secured an advanced manufacturing contract for a vaccine being developed by the company Moderna and has supply agreements with five other firms who have vaccines in the works.
He says four of the six companies under contract have reported testing results showing they produce more antibodies for the virus than people who have survived COVID-19, without severe side effects.
Azar says two companies’ vaccine candidates have entered the third phase of trials while the Russian vaccine is just now embarking on that stage with no information having been disclosed.
He says the U.S. process should allow the production of a “gold-standard, safe and effective vaccine” available in the tens of millions of doses by the end of the year.
BERLIN — Germany’s heath minister expressed concern about the rising numbers of coronavirus infections in the country and called on his compatriots to adhere to social distancing and hygiene rules.
Health Minister Jens Spahn says smaller and bigger outbreaks have taken place in almost all regions.
He told Deutschlandfunk radio the infections were driven by travelers returning from abroad but also people partying or getting together for family gatherings.
He say, “This obviously — if we don’t all watch out now — can lead to a certain dynamic,” and the reemergence of the pandemic.
Germany’s Robert Koch-Institute, which tracks the coronavirus, registered 1,226 new infections on Wednesday. That’s the highest number since early May.
Spahn reiterated appeals to wear masks, keep distance and not go overboard in social settings.
He says, “When there’s alcohol involved, when a festive event turns into a party, it can go very, very quickly.”
Germany has been lauded for keeping the pandemic under control for a long time, but the easing of measures and the return of travelers have in recent weeks lead to an uptick of infections. In addition, summer vacations are over in several states and students are mostly back to regular classes and don’t have to wear masks.
Germany has recorded 218,519 confirmed cases and 9,207 deaths.
SINGAPORE — Singapore’s government says most foreign workers can now resume work as their dormitories have been cleared of COVID-19 after months of lockdown and virus testing.
People living in the crowded dormitories were the bulk of Singapore’s 55,353 cases. Only 27 deaths have been recorded in the city-state.
The Ministry of Manpower said in a statement late Tuesday that all the dormitories have been cleared, except for 17 standalone blocks, which serve as quarantine facilities.
It said all foreign workers living in the dormitories have either recovered or tested as virus-free, except for 22,500 workers in isolation. The majority can return to work, including 81% of the 387,000 workers in the construction, marine shipyard and process industries.
NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus caseload has topped 2.3 million after adding 60,963 in the last 24 hours.
India also reported 834 deaths on Wednesday for a total of 46,091. India has the third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil, but only the fifth-highest death toll, and authorities say the fatality rate has dropped below 2% for the first time.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video conference Tuesday with the top elected officials of 10 states that together account for about 80% of India’s total cases, urging them to rigorously apply the strategies of containment, surveillance and contact tracing to drive the fatality rate below 1%.
Modi also urged testing to be ramped up in several states as it has been in the capital region of Delhi.
The Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research body, said that more than 733,000 samples were tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday, but didn’t break down how many underwent the gold standard RT-PCR test compared to the antigen test, a cheaper and more efficient though less accurate blood test that looks for antibodies.