The Latest: Indiana gov defends school reopening in pandemic

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is defending school reopenings in the face of mounting reports of students and education staff testing positive for the coronavirus since returning to classes.

Box said Wednesday that she “continue(s) to believe that our schools can safely reopen.” She says improved testing and hospital capacity are added safeguards for returning students for in-person learning.

The governor adds that her biggest recommendation to students and families is to know when to stay at home. I

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

— High demand for virus tests in South Carolina, but long waits

— Spain’s virus cases keep rising since easing lockdown

— Members, economy hurt as virus hits Choctaw Tribe in Mississippi

— Virginia has rolled out a smartphone app to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus. It’s the first U.S. state to use new pandemic technology created by Apple and Google.

— After more than a week of meetings, some clarity is coming to bipartisan Washington talks on a huge COVID-19 response bill.

— Chicago’s mayor says the nation’s third-largest school district will offer only remote instruction to start the school year.

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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:

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says schools in the much of the state should strongly consider online-only learning for students this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Inslee also urged Wednesday that they cancel or postpone sports and all other in-person extracurricular activities.

Health experts say the virus is still spreading too extensively in the state, which saw the nation’s first confirmed virus case in late January. Since then, Washington has recorded more than 59,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,600 deaths.

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MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont officials say nearly 150 Vermont inmates housed in a Mississippi prison have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Vermont houses 219 inmates at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Mississippi, because of a lack of capacity in its own prisons.

Late in July, six inmates who were returned to Vermont from the private Mississippi prison tested positive when they arrived at the Rutland correctional facility. That prompted Vermont’s Corrections Department to order that the remaining Vermont inmates in Mississippi be tested.

Interim Vermont Corrections Commissioner James Baker says there were 147 positive tests, 62 negative ones, two tests that are pending and eight inmates refused to be tested.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United States and seven European countries are calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions in Georgia and allow medical evacuations and aid deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The eight countries said after a closed U.N. Security Council session Wednesday that Russia’s presence further divides communities and puts at risk “the health and lives of the conflict-affected population” during the pandemic.

Deputy Russian Ambassador U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky tweeted that the statement is “only a fiction.”

Georgia made a botched attempt to regain control of its breakaway province of South Ossetia in 2008, setting off a short war with Russia. Moscow then recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and set up military bases there.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California officials say as many as 17,600 inmates may be released early due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That is 70% more than previously estimated and a total that victims and police say includes dangerous criminals who should stay locked up. However, prison officials say Corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz is likely to block the release of about 5,500, in part because many are serving life sentences.

Early releases also are causing consternation as probation officers and community groups scramble to provide housing, transportation and other services for inmates who may pose a public health risk because nearly 300 have been paroled while still contagious..

Officials have been under intense pressure from advocates, some state lawmakers and two federal judges to release more inmates.

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ATLANTA — Georgia has become the fifth U.S. state to record 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The milestone reported Wednesday comes amid signs that the pace of new infections in the current upsurge has slowed, although hospitalizations and deaths remain high. Georgia is nearing 4,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Gov Brian Kemp’s administration continues to express confidence in its efforts to contain the virus, pointing to opening more hospital beds as one achievement. Kemp has ignored pleas from some medical experts to take steps like mandating mask use and shutting down bars.

A spokesman on Wednesday repeated Kemp’s belief that voluntary action is enough to tame the outbreak and that the state must divide its focus between protecting health and the economy.

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A community group at the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota is doing everything it can to help people stay at home, fearing the coronavirus could take a disproportionate toll on an elderly population that maintains the language and culture of the tribe.

Before the pandemic, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation worked to teach the Lakota language to children as part of efforts in recent years to revive Lakota language and culture.

The group says less than 3% of the community’s members are fluent in the language. Many elderly Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation are still fluent but they are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

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FARGO, N.D. — The mayor of the city that was once the hot spot for the coronavirus in North Dakota is supporting an annual outdoor music festival set to go on as planned this weekend.

The 25th Fargo Blues Festival is scheduled Friday and Saturday at Newman Outdoor Field, home to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association baseball league. It usually draws up to 2,000 music fans.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney is a member of a task force that was assembled two months ago when North Dakota’s largest city saw a spike in virus cases. He says the show should go on because the virus numbers in the city have dropped thanks to increased testing and contact tracing. He cites statistics showing that Cass County, which includes Fargo, has held steady with a daily positive rate of 2% for 60 days.

“I hope people wear masks and social distance,” Mahoney said. “But we’ve been having some events that have more people and we have not seen the surge.”

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday that Wi-Fi hot spots will be set up around the state to give students the option to take virtual classes when schools are scheduled to reopen in September.

The Republican governor said counties will submit reentry plans this month for the state’s planned school reopening on Sept. 8, adding that he wants to give students and parents “total optionality” whether to attend classes in person or online.

Justice said he has committed $6 million to install more than 1,000 Wi-Fi hot spots at schools, libraries and state parks across the state so students can access online courses when schools restart.

Virus metrics have been on the rise in West Virginia, with hospitalizations, intensive care unit patients and ventilator use at some of the highest levels since the outbreak began. Around 7,100 people have tested positive and 124 people have died, according to state health records.

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BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little says he’ll call the part-time Legislature back into a special session in late August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican governor in a statement on Wednesday says the special session will start during the week of Aug. 24 and possibly include how to conduct the November general election.

The special session could also include legislation creating a liability shield for protection against lawsuits during declared emergencies such as the pandemic.

A timeline calls for lawmakers to give the governor specific legislation by mid-August. Little would then issue a proclamation on Aug. 17 detailing the exact issues to be considered.

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BOGOTA, Colombia — A spokesperson for the political party of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe says the ex-leader has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A representative of the Democratic Center party on Wednesday confirmed that Uribe, who is under house arrest, had tested positive in a WhatsApp message to The Associated Press. The representative communicated with the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

A Colombian court on Tuesday ordered Uribe to be placed under house arrest while he is investigated in an alleged witness tampering case. A medical team visited Uribe for 20 minutes on Wednesday.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The first cruise in an already decimated southeast Alaska cruise season came to a devastating end Wednesday when a small ship carrying 36 passengers had to return to Juneau because one of the guests had tested positive for COVID-19.

Once the Wilderness Adventurer returns to Juneau, the city says all 36 guests will quarantine at a hotel and the 30 crew members will quarantine on the ship.

The loss of large cruise ships has been devastating to Alaska’s tourism economy this summer.

Large cruise ship companies canceled their seasons, which was a big hit for a tourism industry that had anticipated 2.2 million visitors, many of them on cruises.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced additional steps to combat racism, declaring it a public health crisis.

Whitmer has ordered state employees to complete implicit bias training as the state confronts what she called systemic inequities highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. The governor also created an advisory council of Black leaders on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of work to do to eradicate the systemic racism that Black Americans have faced for generations. That’s going to take time,” she said at a news conference.

Black people account for 39% of Michigan’s nearly 6,500 confirmed and probable deaths related to COVID despite making up 14% of the population. In cases where race and ethnicity are known, the infection rate among Black residents is 14,703 per 1 million compared to 4,160 for white residents.

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CHICAGO — Chicago’s mayor says the nation’s third-largest school district will rely only on remote instruction to start the school year.

The city’s decision to abandon its plan to have students attend in-person classes for two days a week on Sept. 8 came amid strong pushback from the powerful teachers union and as school districts around the country struggle with how to teach their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

When Chicago officials announced their hybrid-learning plan last month, they said it was subject to change depending on families’ feedback and the coronavirus.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot attributed the change in plans to a recent uptick in confirmed cases in the city.

A survey also showed that 41% of the parents of elementary school students and 38% of the parents of high school students didn’t plan to send their children back to the classroom this fall, the district said in a news release. Under the original plan, parents could opt out of in-school instruction.

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Nearly a quarter of the 29,000 coronavirus cases in Kansas have been linked to cluster sites, according to state health officials.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment identified 360 outbreaks that infected 7,710 people and led to 243 of the state’s 365 COVID-19 deaths, the Kansas City Star reported Wednesday.

Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s top administrator, says he expects to see a rise in cases linked to gatherings following the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

The state’s clusters include 132 at private businesses, 95 at long-term care facilities and 54 from gatherings. Nursing facilities account for most of the deaths related to clusters at 193. Meat packing facilities and state prisons also accounted for some clusters.

The state health department reported Kansas 841 more cases since Monday for 29,717 confirmed cases. The state reported 368 total deaths, up three from Monday.

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MADRID — The number of new daily coronavirus infections in Spain continues increased to 1,772 cases on Wednesday.

That was up from 1,178 the previous day. More than 60% of the new cases were detected in the regions of Madrid and Aragon, in the northeast. Two of the country’s 19 autonomous regions didn’t report their numbers.

New cases have risen steadily in Spain since a three-month lockdown ended on June 21. By the end of July, the daily increase surpassed 1,000. That’s prompted some other European countries to demand travelers from Spain go into quarantine upon arrival.

Several regions of the country have imposed new restrictions on movement and mandates the wearing of masks.

Meanwhile, the government of the Canary Islands will become the first region of Spain to cover the expenses of tourists, both local and foreign, who test positive for the coronavirus while on vacation in the archipelago.

Local authorities say an agreement was reached with an insurance company to cover medical expenses, repatriation or extended stays if tourists have to self-quarantine.

Spain has confirmed more than 305,000 cases and nearly 28,500 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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PARIS – The French government is raising another glass to the wine industry.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced an additional 80-million-euro ($95 million) in financial help during a visit to the winemaking town of Sancerre in central France on Wednesday. He’s adding to the aid already given to the industry in May.

He says the aid will improve storage of surplus product and help unsold grapes be distilled into other materials. Winegrowers estimate that the coronavirus crisis has generated a shortfall of at least 1.5 billion euros due to the shutdown of bars, restaurants, festive gatherings and tourism.

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — In South Carolina, hospitals and the state health department say demand for coronavirus testing remains high even as testing numbers have dipped in the last two weeks.

In some cases, people may be deterred by the long wait times at certain testing sites. Others forego the tests when their health insurance won’t cover them, says Dr. Patrick Cawley, CEO of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Cawley told a state legislative committee Tuesday insurance companies typically don’t pay for tests for asymptomatic patients. It’s one of the biggest barriers to people getting tested in the state, Cawley says.

Health officials announced 1,168 new confirmed cases and 52 confirmed deaths Tuesday. The state has reported 93,604 confirmed cases and 1,774 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Categories: National/World