The Latest: Surge affecting Minnesota nursing home staffing
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A current surge of COVID-19 cases throughout Minnesota is affecting staffing levels at many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
That’s forcing the state to send the National Guard to help out in some homes, while the administration is also asking state employees to consider volunteering in facilities with critical staff shortages.
The Star Tribune reports Wednesday that Minnesota Department of Health data shows 90% of the state’s nursing homes and 58% of assisted-living facilities have active outbreaks.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that 47 long-term care facilities are in “a crisis staffing situation” and are receiving active support from the state, including help from federal health nurses.
Gov. Tim Walz’s administration is also taking the unusual step of e-mailing all state employees and asking them to consider volunteering for two-week stints in long-term care facilities, particularly in greater Minnesota.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— EXPLAINER: China’s claims of coronavirus on frozen foods
— Restaurant employees out of work again as coronavirus surges anew
— A migrant’s odyssey from boat to COVID-19 nursing job in Spain
— Christmas traditions axed as pandemic sweeps rural Kansas
— Germany set to extend partial shutdown well into December
Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia has registered a record number of daily coronavirus cases as authorities consider additional measures to try to stem the outbreak.
The national COVID-19 response team said Wednesday that 3,603 infections have been registered in the past 24 hours and 56 patients have died.
Since Feb. 25, when the first case was registered in the country of 4 million, 111,617 persons have tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,501 have died.
Croatian media say that because of the latest outbreak, some hospitals are running out of beds and infected patients have had to be placed in tents.
Authorities are reportedly considering introducing new nationwide restrictive measures that could include closing cafes and restaurants.
MADRID — Hundreds of white taxis have gridlocked streets in downtown Madrid as drivers protested that their business is collateral damage from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Representatives of the taxi sector say it is “drowning” in the economic hardship caused by the limits on movement and social gatherings, restrictions for bars and restaurants, and more people working from home.
Taxis drove between two of the Spanish capital’s main squares Wednesday, demanding that Madrid authorities help them out.
BERLIN — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The ski resort of Ischgl in western Austria became a hotspot for infection in March, with foreign tourists from across Europe carrying the virus back to their home countries after authorities there failed to react swiftly to an outbreak.
But Kurz told reporters in Vienna on Wednesday that Austria’s ski resorts will be treated in the same way as other walks of life when a decision is made whether to relax lockdown measures after Dec. 6.
He says: “It depends on the infection risk and the same is true for all reopening steps.”
The governor of Germany’s neighboring state of Bavaria, Markus Soeder, called Tuesday for a Europe-wide agreement on whether to keep ski resorts shut or not. Soeder linked the issue of skiing to the question of open borders and stressed that those who go abroad to enjoy the slopes would likely have to quarantine for 10 days when they return.
ANKARA, Turkey — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a Turkish-developed vaccine against COVID-19 could be ready for use by April.
In an address to legislators from his ruling party Wednesday, Erdogan also said that, once ready, Turkey plans to share the vaccine with the world.
Erdogan said Turkey has repeatedly urged countries “not to sacrifice the vaccine to political and commercial ambitions” and to make it “the joint property of all humanity.”
He added: “We are planning to put the vaccine that we are developing in the service of all humanity under the best conditions possible.” He did not elaborate.
The vaccine, ERUCOV-VAC, is being developed by Erciyes University, in the central Turkish province of Kayseri, and is currently undergoing phase 1 of testing.
Erciyes University Rector Mustafa Calis said this week that phase 2 testing could start soon.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg says going home for Christmas has “a high value” in the government’s assessment of the virus situation.
But she says “we must see a clear decrease in infection and get better control before we consider opening (for) more social contact.”
Solberg’s comments Wednesday come as the government extends national measures another three weeks. The Scandinavian country has reported 33,183 cases and 314 deaths.
Solberg says: “We now see a hint of flattening in the numbers of new cases of infection and hospitalizations. This is positive news, but it is too early to say whether the infection control measures that were introduced at the beginning of November are sufficient.”
Solberg said she hoped that the situation soon will “allow for more social contact.”
BRUSSELS — Belgian health authorities are launching a new coronavirus testing strategy to try to halt the spread of the disease, incorporating rapid antigen kits with more reliable and standard molecular tests.
Until now, the country has relied on standard kits, known as PCR tests, which detect the genetic material of the virus. Rapid antigen tests provide quicker results but are not as reliable.
Belgium’s top government coronavirus official Pedro Facon said Wednesday that a task force is being set afoot to move the country into what is dubbed testing strategy 2.0.
Facon says that “scientific studies are showing that in patients with symptoms, rapid antigen tests are almost as reliable as PCR tests if they are done in the first five days after the symptoms appear.”
He says that in cases where people are strongly suspected to have the disease but produce a negative rapid test, a separate PCR test will be conducted to reduce the risk of cases slipping through.
Belgium is one of the European countries worst hit by the virus in per capita terms. As of Wednesday, more than 561,000 people had contracted the disease in a country with a population of around 11.5 million people. Over 15,900 have died.
BERLIN — Austria’s leader says his country plans to start mass testing for the coronavirus next month in hopes of avoiding further lockdowns.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Wednesday that Austria’s westernmost provinces, Vorarlberg and Tyrol, will start carrying out mass tests on the first weekend in December, beginning with groups such as teachers and police officers who have particularly frequent contact with other people. The government is discussing dates with other provinces.
Austria’s current lockdown is due to run until Dec. 6. Kurz said that “we should take every opportunity that offers itself to avoid further lockdowns or at least to shorten them.”
Italy’s South Tyrol province, which borders Austria, already has conducted mass tests — following the example of Slovakia, which moved to slow infections and avoid a second lockdown by testing nearly two-thirds of its people in one weekend this month.
Kurz said that, even though a vaccine should be available in January, “that doesn’t mean everything will be solved in January.” He said that “we still have some hard months ahead of us.”
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says 60 new army recruits at a boot camp have tested positive for the coronavirus, the military’s largest cluster infection.
The Defense Ministry says in a statement the recruits had been taking basic training at an army unit in Yeoncheon, a town near the tense border with North Korea, at the start of their 18 months of mandatory military service.
The statement says one of the recruits was found to have contracted the virus on Wednesday morning before 59 others tested positive later in the day.
It says more tests are underway to determine whether 860 other recruits and troops at the Yeoncheon unit have been infected with the virus too.
South Korean health authorities on Tuesday recorded 382 new cases, taking the country’s’ total to 31,735 with 513 deaths.
LONDON — The World Health Organization says the coronavirus pandemic has “slowed down” in the past week although death rates continued to rise, with more than 67,000 new deaths reported.
The U.N. health agency said in its latest epidemiological update Wednesday that even though there was a “downward trend” in the number of cases in Europe, the region still has the biggest proportion of new cases and deaths globally. WHO noted that Africa reported the highest increase in new cases and deaths, driven by South Africa, Algeria and Kenya.
In the past week, WHO said, the number of new cases reported in Europe dropped by about 6% after a 10% decline the previous week, suggesting that lockdowns across the continent are effectively slowing transmission. Still, the region accounts for about half of new global deaths.
Britain’s caseload fell by about 13%, its first weekly decline since late August. There were about 1,600 people hospitalized every day in mid-November, but that remains far lower than the more than 3,000 patients admitted daily in early April.
In Asia, WHO noted that Japan reported the largest number of daily cases since the beginning of the outbreak, with more than 2,000 reported every day for five consecutive days, a 41% increase from the previous week. Myanmar reported a 74% jump in cases last week, with more than 11,000 new cases and a 36% increase in deaths, at 188.
MOSCOW — Russian authorities have registered a record number of coronavirus deaths for a second straight day.
The government coronavirus task force reported 507 new deaths on Wednesday, the country’s highest daily toll. The previous record of 491 deaths was reported on Tuesday. A total of 37,538 people have died from the coronavirus in Russia, according to the task force.
Russia has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed infections and deaths hitting new highs almost daily and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring.
The country’s authorities have rejected the idea of another nationwide lockdown or widespread closure of businesses, even as media reports from Russian regions showed that the healthcare system was under severe strain.
On Wednesday, officials reported 23,765 new confirmed cases. Russia currently has the world’s fifth largest coronavirus caseload of over 2.1 million.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Legislature has approved a $330 million economic relief package aimed at helping unemployed workers and businesses that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Passage came Tuesday night as lawmakers rushed to wrap up a one-day session that was called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
If the Democratic governor signs the measure, the state could distribute $1,200 stimulus checks to people who are unemployed or who have run out of unemployment this year. Smaller payments will be distributed to residents who missed out on federal stimulus checks, including dependents and immigrants in the country without legal permission.
Most of the proposed spending will be made possible by federal relief funding previously assigned to New Mexico.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s governor says that once coronavirus vaccines become available, they will be optional in the state’s K-12 public schools.
Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday that vaccines will be very important for Tennessee to “ultimately really be able to handle” the pandemic. But he says he doesn’t foresee vaccine mandates for school districts in Tennessee.
In his words, “Vaccines are a choice and people have the choice and will have the choice in this state as to whether or not they should take that vaccine.”
The state’s health commissioner says the first doses could arrive in Tennessee around Dec. 15. The first wave will be reserved for frontline health care workers and first responders. She says widespread availability would likely be in late spring or early summer.
EL PASO, Texas — Officials in El Paso County in Texas plan to impose a new curfew in hopes of combatting a surge in coronavirus cases that is overrunning the border area’s hospitals and funeral homes.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has said Gov. Greg Abbott’s office has approved the curfew. In a letter sent last week to Abbott, Samaniego said the curfew would be limited in nature and would not interfere with people seeking to access essential or nonessential services.
The county judge and state officials have been at odds over Samaniego’s efforts to implement rules to slow the virus’ spread in the border city of El Paso.
Earlier this month, an appeals court overturned an El Paso County order that would have closed nonessential businesses, including gyms and salons.
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana has nearly recorded its most COVID-19 deaths for a single month with a week remaining as health officials on Tuesday added 103 more deaths to the state’s pandemic toll.
The Indiana State Department of Health’s daily update included the new deaths mostly occurring over the past several days through Monday, and which push November’s total to at least 991.
Indiana’s monthly high for COVID-19 deaths was 1,041 in April, when at most the state’s moving seven-day average was 42 fatalities a day. That daily average has now reached 51 as Indiana’s hospitals are treating nearly double the number of coronavirus patients as at any point since seeing their first infections in March.
Coronavirus hospitalizations have reached a level where health care leaders say the system is becoming overwhelmed and some hospitals have started rationing care to treat those most severely ill.
ATLANTA — Although White House officials are pushing Georgia to do more to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday that the responsibility rests with individual Georgians, as he implored them to take precautions over Thanksgiving.
The holiday comes at a perilous moment for the state. Although the virus is spreading more slowly in Georgia than in 40 other states, according to figures kept by The Associated Press, the number of infections is still rising rapidly and approaching the peak Georgia saw in late July.
The Republican governor repeated the same guidance he’s been giving Georgians since summer, that they should wear masks, keep their distance from others, wash their hands, and follow Kemp’s rules, including bans on large gatherings. The governor said he wasn’t planning any other measures, such as a statewide mask mandate, or renewed restrictions on businesses.
Also on Tuesday, a second member of Congress from Georgia tested positive for COVID-19.
Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Allen of Evans announced Tuesday that a test shows he has the coronavirus. Allen represents the 12th District stretching from Augusta across all or part of 19 counties.
He says he has no symptoms and will isolate at home. Republican U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson of West Point tested positive in October after experiencing mild symptoms. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler had isolated after she got a positive COVID-19 test on Friday, but has since gotten two straight negative tests.
LOS ANGELES — A California judge has rejected a request from a restaurant industry group to block the nation’s most populous county from reinstating a ban on outdoor dining, a plan the group said would devastate businesses and workers.
The California Restaurant Association asked a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Tuesday to block the order until county health officials provide medical or scientific evidence that it poses an unreasonable risk to public health.
The group challenged an order issued Sunday in light of soaring coronavirus cases that prohibits restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars from providing in-person, outdoor dining.
The new rule scheduled to take effect Wednesday would restrict restaurants, bars and other businesses in the county to takeout and delivery.