The Latest: Hollywood unions announce pandemic agreement

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s unions have announced that they have reached an agreement on pandemic protocols with major studios that will allow the broad resumption of production of films and television after six months of stagnant sets and widespread unemployment.

The Directors Guild of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Basic Crafts unions and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on Monday jointly announced the deal reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers after months of planning and negotiating.

The deal includes mandatory and comprehensive use of personal protective gear and testing of cast and crew members, and a dedicated coronavirus supervisor to oversee it all.

It requires the use of a “zone system” that strictly limits interactions between people on sets based on their job’s requirements. Those who must deal with more people will be tested more frequently and have more strict protective equipment and spacing requirements. Actors will be tested especially often because their on-camera work won’t allow for many protective measures.

The agreement also gives 10 days of paid COVID-19 sick leave per employee, which can be used after positive tests or when quarantine is necessary, and says that employees who use the leave must be reinstated so long as their jobs still exist.

“The protocols pave the way for creative workers, who have been hard hit by the pandemic, to resume their crafts and livelihoods in workplaces redesigned around their health,” the unions said in a joint statement.

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

— Analysis: U.S. to hit 200,000 dead; Trump sees no need for regret

— New Zealand to begin lifting all remaining coronavirus restrictions

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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:

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas on Monday began relaxing some coronavirus restrictions, including allowing restaurants to let more people inside.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the changes last week. Bars though still remain closed indefinitely and a mask mandate is still in place following a massive summer spread that became one of the deadliest outbreaks in the U.S.

Under the new orders, restaurants and retail shops that until now have only been allowed to operate at half capacity were allowed to open up to 75% starting Monday in most of the state.

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Monday reported 1,742 new coronavirus cases and 24 more deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Health officials say there have been 698,387 reported cases in Texas so far. The death toll is at 14,917.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut is forming an advisory group to validate the safety of any coronavirus vaccines and how to distribute them to the public, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

Lamont said the goals are to make sure the vaccines are not harmful, the public can have confidence in them and they are distributed with priority going to certain populations such as nursing homes, first responders, schools and colleges while supplies are limited at first.

Lamont cited comments by Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that a vaccine is expected to be widely available by April.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill that would give school districts the sole ability to make decisions on sports, including whether and how many spectators to allow.

Lawmakers are planning to vote to try to override the Monday veto.

Legislation that cleared the House and Senate would have empower schools to make their own rules about the number of spectators permitted at games.

Wolf says his gathering limits of no more than 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors should apply to youth sports to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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WASHINGTON — The White House is urging U.S. governors to put politics aside and help the Trump administration promote future coronavirus vaccines as safe and effective.

Vice President Mike Pence urged governors Monday to use their bully pulpits and reassure the public that vaccines will be safe to take after a rigorous vetting process by the Food and Drug Administration.

“What we don’t want is people undermining confidence in the process,” Pence said in a private call with governors, the audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Trump has escalated his promise for a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day. But Democrats, independents and even some Republicans do not trust the Trump administration to produce a safe and effective vaccine on such an aggressive timeline.

Pence acknowledged the country is in the middle of a heated election season, but stressed that no corners would be cut in approving a vaccine and said his request for support was apolitical.

“I’m leaving the politics outside of the room here,” Pence said.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president, who has long called for a reform of the United Nations, said the world body has failed in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting, Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed the UN was late in “accepting the existence” of the pandemic and had failed to “make its presence felt” for nations requiring help to fight infections.

“The UN, which has fallen flat concerning crises from Syria to Yemen, as well as developments in fragile regions of Africa and South America, has also flunked during the pandemic,” he said.

His comments came as world leaders mark the 75th anniversary of UN General Assembly this week.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Spring break at Connecticut’s four state universities has been canceled and several public schools around the state were closed Monday because of the coronavirus.

State officials said they were canceling spring break next March to help ensure health and safety at Central Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University, Western Connecticut State University and Eastern Connecticut State University.

Several public schools in Connecticut were closed Monday because of positive coronavirus tests, including in Hartford, Bridgeport and Weston.

Connecticut Congresswoman Jahana Hayes said Monday that she developed a fever since testing positive for the virus over the weekend, and her breathing is labored.

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BOISE, Idaho — Idaho school districts vary widely when it comes to letting the public know about coronavirus cases in classrooms.

An investigation by the Idaho Statesman reveals that school districts across southwestern Idaho have wide-ranging levels of transparency when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases in local schools. Some notify the public of each case in each school, while others only provide that information at the district level. Others don’t track coronavirus cases at all, instead relying on the local health department to do it.

The Boise-area newspaper sent public record requests to districts across the Treasure Valley asking for the number of COVID-19 cases and related quarantines in each school. The newspaper did not ask for any personally identifiable information. Officials with the West Ada School District — the largest in Idaho — claimed federal privacy laws prevented them from sharing coronavirus case counts with the public.

But guidance from two federal agencies says the laws cited by West Ada do not prohibit schools from providing statistics.

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ROME — Italy added Paris and other parts of France to its COVID-19 blacklist on the same day it counted another 1,350 coronavirus infections of its own. Another 17 people died in the past day, bringing Italy’s official toll to 35,724, the second-highest in Europe after Britain.

The ordinance signed Monday by Health Minister Roberto Speranza requires proof of negativity or tests on arrival from anyone coming from Paris, Provence, Corsica or several other French regions. Infections in France reached a new record-high this weekend with over 13,000 new cases in 24 hours. France and Spain lead the European Union with the most new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks.

Italy, the onetime European epicenter of the outbreak, already requires tests-on-arrival or a negative tests in the previous 72 hours for anyone coming from Spain, Croatia, Malta or Greece. Speranza said the data from other parts of Europe must not be underestimated, given the efforts Italians made during a three-month spring lockdown to tame the virus: “Italy today is better off than other countries, but we still need to be prudent to not render the sacrifices we made in vain.”

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LONDON — The World Health Organization and partners said countries comprising more than 60% of the world’s population have signed up to its international initiative to buy coronavirus vaccines, but said they still need billions of dollars to pay for the shots.

At a press briefing on Monday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Covax facility, which it is heading along with vaccines alliance GAVI and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations, will help bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

“The fastest route to ending the pandemic and accelerating the global economic response is to ensure some people are vaccinated in all countries, not that all people are vaccinated in some countries,” Tedros said.

Tedros said Covax was aiming to provide 2 billion doses of vaccine available by the end of next year, although rich countries have reserved more than half of the world’s global capacity to produce such shots. Numerous countries that have signed their own bilateral deals with vaccine makers have declined to participate or to use the facility to secure their own vaccines, including China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, said the agency is hoping that any vaccine used globally might be at least 70% effective, but that a vaccine with 50% efficacy would also be considered.

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MADRID — Spain is recording 31,428 new coronavirus cases since data was last updated on Friday, bringing the total tally of confirmed infections to 671,468, official health ministry data showed Monday.

Nearly four out of ten new cases were in Madrid, the European region where the virus is currently spreading faster. A quarter of the region’s hospitals are currently treating COVID-19 patients, while the national share stood at nearly 10% of hospital capacity.

“Right now is primary care that is treating most of the mild cases but we are starting to notice the pressure in hospitals,” said Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s health emergency coordination center.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities have announced a new record high for daily confirmed COVID-19 infections, which hit 453 over the past 24 hours, although a large part of these was from a pre-existing outbreak on a camp for asylum-seekers on the eastern island of Lesbos.

Health officials also recorded another six deaths Monday, bringing the total toll in the country of about 10 million to 344. The total recorded infections are now around 15,600.

The new infections include 184 among migrants and refugees moved to a new camp on Lesbos after the overcrowded Moria facility that housed about 12,500 people was burnt down. Greek authorities say the fire was started by residents angry at a lockdown order after 35 COVID-19 cases were recorded at Moria.

People left homeless after the fire refused for days to move to the new camp at Kara Tepe, triggering fears that the virus would spread unchecked on the island.

More than 7,000 people are now at Kara Tepe, and all were tested for COVID-19 upon entry. Officials say 243 were found positive, most without symptoms, and 184 of these infections were recorded over the past 24 hours.

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LONDON — Britain’s chief medical officers have raised the nation’s official COVID-19 alert level, meaning the virus is in general circulation and transmission is high.

The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland say cases are rising “rapidly and probably exponentially.”

They say they are acting on the advice of the Joint Biosecurity Center and raising the level from three to four, the second-highest rung.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce further curbs to slow the spread of the virus on Tuesday.

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ROME — Italians have turned out in droves to vote in regional elections and on a referendum on cutting the number of parliamentarians by a third, despite the coronavirus and strict hygiene protocols at all polls.

Turnout at the close of voting Monday indicated that in some regions nearly 60%-75% of eligible voters cast ballots, including those who voted from home or hospitals because they were sick with COVID-19 or quarantining. An army of volunteers, wearing head-to-toe protective equipment, made house calls to ensure even virus-affected Italians could cast their ballots.

Those who made it to polling centers had to follow strict protocols on facemasks and social distancing, with the elderly given precedence in lines and hand sanitizer ubiquitous.

Voters were choosing new regional administrators in seven regions as well as mayors in 1,000 towns and cities. Italians also voted on a referendum to reduce the number of national lawmakers in the lower house from 630 to 400 and those in the Senate from 315 to 200.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian capital of Oslo on Monday banned crowds of more than 10 people in private homes after a spike in cases and “strongly urged” people to wear face masks when travelling on public transportations amid strike among bus drivers.

“The situation in Oslo is serious. This development must be stopped, and we have to do it now,” mayor Raymond Johansen said.

A strike that broke out Sunday among more than 8,000 Oslo bus drivers that sent commuters to take the tram instead had health officials worrying.

“It is obvious that if 300,000 people who should have taken the bus, take the tram instead during rush hour, it will increase the risk of infection significantly,” Robert Steen who is in charge of the health in the city told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Oslo has nearly 700,000 inhabitants, and there have been recorded more than 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

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PARIS — French health authorities have started opening new testing centers in the Paris region to try to reduce queues and delays as the number of virus infections is steadily increasing in the country.

In total, 20 new testing centers were scheduled to open in the French capital and its suburbs this week.

The facilities will reserve certain hours to people considered as having priority access: patients with a medical prescription, those who have been in close contact with a person infected and medical staff.

In Paris on Monday, some testing centers were warning people results could take up to seven or ten days.

French health minister Olivier Veran said getting the results within 24 hours has been set as a goal for priority patients.

Categories: National/World