The Latest: DeVos downplays risks of return to schools

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is downplaying the risk of sending kids back to school despite surging coronavirus cases in many parts of the U.S.

Speaking in Sunday TV interviews, DeVos stressed that kids attending school in the fall should be the rule, not the exception.

She asserted that “there’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.”

But she was contradicted by public health experts who said the virus can still be dangerous to kids, even if the risk is lower. Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, said on “Fox News Sunday” that science is also unclear on how much kids can spread the disease to more vulnerable adults.

DeVos said the Trump administration is looking at “all the options” for pulling funding from schools if they don’t provide full-time in person learning, calling American investment in education “a promise to students and their families.”

She described Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for keeping schools safe, such as face coverings and social distancing, as “guidelines” meant to be flexible.

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

— Coronavirus deaths take a long-expected turn for the worse

—’Moving target:’ Schools deal with new plans, Trump demands

— Dengue prevntion efforts stifled by coronavirus pandemic

— Coronavirus surge in eastern Europe prompts new restrictions

— Doctors say virus spread, not politics, should guide school reopenings.

— As virus rages in U.S., New York guards against another rise.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME — Local outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers at a courier service in northern Italy and among migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea have helped swell an increase in the nation’s daily new cases.

Calabria, which in recent days had been registering a couple or even no new daily coronavirus infections, had 28 new cases on Sunday, stemming from as many infections among nearly 800 migrants rescued from human traffickers’ boats and brought to that region.

Calabria Gov. Jole Santelli called on the national government to safeguard the local population by requisitioning navy boats going forward and keeping rescued migrants offshore until they can be tested for coronavirus infection.

In the Emilia-Romagna region, 71 cases were registered on Sunday, according to the Health Ministry, a sizable jump from recent days, reflecting a hot spot of infections at a major courier service in Bologna.

In contrast, Lombardy, which during the pandemic saw daily new cases loads far over 1,000, registered 77 cases on Sunday. With the latest 234 cases nationwide, Italy now has 243,061 known cases. With nine deaths tallied on Sunday, the overall confirmed death toll is 34,954. Authorities say the actual number of cases and deaths is certainly higher.

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BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon has reported its highest daily count of coronavirus cases, including dozens of foreign workers who work at a cleaning company, the health ministry said Sunday.

The 166 cases came after three days in which the number was a record every day in Lebanon. The increase comes after Lebanon’s only international airport was reopened on July 1, after more than three months closure.

The country has eased a monthslong lockdown and people are going out more to restaurants, nightclubs, markets and beaches. A nighttime curfew to limit the spread of the pandemic was abolished last month.

The small country of about 5 million and over 1 million refugees has so far recorded only 36 deaths and 2,344 total infections detected.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan told the local LBC TV station that the figures will continue to be high during the coming days.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases in any one state since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to state Department of Health statistics, 15,299 people tested positive, for a total of 269,811 cases.

California had the previous record of daily positive cases — 11,694, four days ago. New York had 11,571 on April 15.

The numbers come at the end of a grim, record-breaking week in Florida, with 514 fatalities. On Sunday, 45 more deaths were reported.

Throughout May and into June, the state reopened much of its economy with some restrictions.

Testing has increased, but the percentage of people testing positive has risen even more dramatically. A month ago, fewer than 5% of tests came up positive on a daily average. Over the past week, the daily average exceeded 19%.

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PARIS — After images of thousands of people dancing provoked renewed debate in France over social distancing, the mayor of the Mediterranean resort of Nice announced Sunday that face masks will be obligatory at all of the city’s events from now on.

Video of dense crowds dancing at a DJ’s outdoor set on Saturday night drew hundreds of thousands of views and criticism that many partygoers didn’t wear masks or stay apart. The crowd’s behavior fueled concerns of growing indifference among the French for social distancing, even as the country’s COVID-related death toll has surpassed 30,000.

Health workers have expressed fears of a second wave of infections as the French revel in post-lockdown freedoms and embark on summer vacations.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi on Sunday defended the decision to allow the concert, saying efforts were made to limit the crowd-size to 5,000 people and messages were broadcast to urge them to distance.

But Estrosi also added that “we regret that these instructions were not sufficiently respected.”

He asked the government to make the wearing of masks obligatory at crowded events, including those outdoors. He said masks would now be required “for all our events” in Nice.

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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that President Donald Trump has “crossed a bridge” by wearing a face mask during a visit to a military hospital.

Pelosi told CNN’s “State of the Union” that she hopes it means the president “will change his attitude, which will be helpful in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.”

Trump wore a mask during a visit Saturday to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in suburban Maryland, where he met wounded servicemembers and health care providers.

It was the first time the president was seen in public with the type of facial covering recommended by health officials as a precaution against spreading or becoming infected by the virus.

Pelosi said she’s “so glad that he obeyed the rules of the Walter Reed. You can’t go see our veterans who are there without wearing a mask.”

The only time Trump has been known to wear a mask was during a private part of a tour of a Ford plant in Michigan.

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WASHINGTON — A member of the White House coronavirus task force said Sunday that despite a surge in cases across the country, the situation “is not out of control.’’

Brett Giroir said it’s going to take “a lot of effort and everybody’s going to have to do their part’’ to combat the pandemic.

And the assistant secretary at the Health and Human Services Department said that “we have to have people wearing a mask in public. It’s absolutely essential.’’

Giroir told ABC’s “This Week” that officials would like to see something like 90 percent of people wearing a mask in public in areas that are hot spots.

He said that “if we don’t have that, we will not get control of the virus.’’ Giroir says there’s no downside to wearing a mask.

When Giroir was asked about whether states that are seeing a spike in cases should consider more stringent lockdowns, he said, “Everything should be on the table.”

And looking ahead, Giroir said it’s possible that the situation “could be worse in the fall” and he thinks that in the fall “we’re going to need tens of millions of more tests a month.” He also said there’s some data that people can get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time and “that’s not really good.”

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LONDON – British authorities are locking down 200 workers at a farm in central England after a fresh coronavirus outbreak.

Officials said Sunday that 73 of the workers tested positive for the virus at the AS Green and Co. vegetable farm in the village of Mathon, south of Birmingham.

The workers, who live on mobile homes at the farm, were hired to pick and pack produce. They’re being required to remain on the farm and self-isolate with their household groups, with the local council arranging deliveries of food and essential supplies.

The farm had put in place a number of infection control measures, including promoting social distancing in communal spaces and the indoor packaging area and providing personal protective equipment, officials said.

“Despite these measures, a small number of workers became symptomatic earlier this week and they and a few close contacts among the workforce were tested initially and found to be positive,” Katie Spence, health protection director at Public Health England Midlands, said in a statement.

The entire workforce was then tested and a “significant percentage” came back positive, despite the individuals not showing symptoms, she said.

The farm said its website that its management team and visitors have also been tested but those results came back negative.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — Muslim authorities in Kosovo on Sunday reimposed some limits on prayers at mosques due to rising numbers of infections from the new coronavirus.

A statement by the Islamic community of Kosovo, the highest local governing body of the faith, said mass gatherings would be suspended, with no more than 50 people at a time allowed to gather for prayers, and only for 10 minutes.

They will have to wear masks, remain at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart and use their own personal prayer rug.

People older than 65 and younger than 16 should pray at home.

Mosques had been closed earlier this year after the emergence of the pandemic, but were reopened two months ago.

Kosovo reported more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 a day over the past week. As of Sunday, there have been 4,715 confirmed cases in the country and 101 deaths.

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JOHANNESBURG — With surging confirmed cases of COVID-19, South Africa is now ranked as the ninth most affected country by the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University. South Africa has 264,184 cases, including 3,971 deaths, accounting for more than 40% of all the reported cases in Africa.

More than 30% of South Africa’s cases are in the economic hub of Gauteng province, which includes the largest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria. Johannesburg’s densely populated Soweto township is one of the hot spots. Public hospitals are expressing concerns about shortages of available beds and medical oxygen.

Africa’s 54 countries have reported 577,904 cases, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday. The continent’s confirmed cases are concentrated in four countries — South Africa, Egypt with 81,158 cases, Nigeria with 31,987 cases and Algeria with 18,712 cases – which together make up more than 65% of the continent’s cases.

The number of actual cases in Africa is believed to be much higher, as the testing rate is very low in many countries.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Hungarian government said Sunday that it will reimpose restrictions, such as mandatory two-week quarantines or bans, on people arriving from countries where the rate of coronavirus infections is considered to be moderate or high.

“We see worrisome signs about an increase in the number of cases in the neighboring countries, Europe and the whole world,” said Gergely Gulyas, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff.

Gulyas said only Hungarian citizens will be allowed to enter from countries in the “red” category — those with a high rate of infections — including Albania, Ukraine, Belarus and practically all of Asia, Africa and South and Central America. They will have to stay in quarantine for two weeks, but will be allowed out earlier if they get two negative test results 48 hours apart.

Both Hungarians and foreigners arriving from countries in the “yellow” category — which includes, among others, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania and Sweden, as well as Britain, Russia, Serbia, Japan, China and the United States — will have to quarantine for two weeks, but will be allowed out if they test negative for the virus: once in the case of Hungarians, or two negative tests 48 hours apart in the case of foreigners.

Gulyas said the new measures, which will take effect Wednesday, will be reviewed at least once a week

Hungary registered five new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, with no new deaths linked to the pandemic. In total, Hungary has registered 4,234 cases, including 595 deaths.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is repeating his promise to provide speedy financial help for self-employed workers after thousands protested against what they see as a failed government response to the economic crisis wrought by the coronavirus.

Netanyahu said at his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday that workers would receive an immediate stipend and could expect a safety net for the next 12 months. He said he would work to ease bureaucratic hurdles and would hold dialogues with workers’ representatives to solve outstanding issues.

Netanyahu’s remarks come after some 10,000 people demonstrated in central Tel Aviv on Saturday, demanding that the government fulfill the promises it made to assist Israelis imperiled financially because of virus restrictions.

The protest came as anger has swelled over Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis. Critics say the money promised in previous plans hasn’t been doled out or has been insufficient.

Israel recently reimposed restrictions because of a spike in coronavirus cases, closing bars, events spaces and other venues.

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is highlighting the plight of maritime workers during the pandemic, saying bans on shore leave are severely stressing crews stuck aboard ship, some to the point of suicide.

Cardinal Peter A. Turkson, who heads a Vatican office dealing with issues of human development, said in a message Sunday that maritime workers “really deserve our esteem and gratitude” for ensuring movement of goods for a “healthy global economy” while much of the world is in lockdown to combat spread of COVID-19 infection.

He said that tens of thousands of seafarers who were due to fly home for leave between long stints at sea were prevented from doing so due to lockdown rules.

Similarly, thousands of seafarers due to head to sea on new tours of duty were stranded in hotels and dormitories.

Turkson lamented that those stranded on board vessels “suffer isolation, severe physical and mental stress that brings many crews on the verge of desperation and, unfortunately” suicide.

The cardinal said Catholics worldwide during August are being encouraged to pray for all those who work and live from the sea, including sailors and fishers and their families.

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MADRID — Spaniards in two northern regions are voting in regional elections Sunday amid tight security measures to avoid more outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Regional authorities in both Basque Country and Galicia have prohibited over 400 people who have tested positive for the virus from leaving their homes to vote.

Spain’s Supreme Court backed the decision in a ruling Friday in response to a complaint by opposition parties in both regions.

Voters must wear face masks to vote and remain 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart in polling stations, which are equipped with hand sanitizers.

Both regional governments originally called elections to be held on April 5 but postponed them due to the rapid rise in infections that Spain could only rein in by locking down the country until June.

Health authorities are watching small outbreaks in both regions, as well as in other parts of Spain. Over 28,000 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed in Spain.

The conservative Popular Party in Galicia and the Basque regionalist party PNV are hoping to remain in power.

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NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus caseload is nearing 850,000 with a record surge of 28,637 in the past 24 hours, prompting authorities to announce a weeklong lockdown in the key southern technology hub of Bangalore.

The new confirmed cases took the national total to 849,553. The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported another 551 deaths for a total of 22,674.

India has overtaken Russia in the number of cases and is currently behind the United States and Brazil, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Southern Karnataka state, whose IT hub Bangalore is home to Microsoft, Apple and Amazon offices, extended Sunday lockdowns to one week beginning Tuesday.

New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Pune are among the key Indian cities witnessing a surge in infections. Several states also have announced stringent lockdowns in high-risk areas.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada lawmakers have pumped the brakes on their emergency special session because someone in the legislative building has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Gov. Steve Sisolak has convened the session so lawmakers can balance the state budget amid a projected $1.2 billion shortfall stemming from the economic damage of the pandemic.

But on Friday staff members announced that someone in the building is infected with the virus, though the person shows no symptoms.

On Saturday, 13 Nevada lawmakers decided they would now participate remotely in the emergency session and both chambers agreed to recess until Monday morning. That will give time for legislators time to get tested and staff to answer a long list of questions that lawmakers have asked in hearings.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan has wrapped up an annual film festival with an awards ceremony as it stages more public events after keeping its coronavirus outbreak to a few hundred cases.

Actors and others lined up for photo shoots with no social distancing Saturday night, and participants didn’t wear face masks in historic Zhongshan Hall in the capital of the self-governing island off China’s east coast.

Government officials say there have been 451 confirmed coronavrius cases and seven deaths on the island, which has a population of about 23 million people.

Also on Saturday, a baseball game in the city of Taichung drew more than 10,000 fans for the first time this season. Health authorities have been gradually allowing larger crowds since the baseball season began in April with no fans.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas authorities have reported a state-record of 1,061 newly confirmed coronavirus cases for a single day but no new deaths related to the virus.

State health officials said Saturday that the total for COVID-19 cases now stood at 27,864. The state says the death toll remainw at 313 for the outbreak for which tracking began in early March.

The true number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Arkansas’ virus cases have dramatically risen since May, when the state began allowing businesses to reopen.

Categories: National/World