The Latest: New Zealand PM assigns military leader to border
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has assigned a top military leader to oversee the nation’s border quarantine measures after what she described as an “unacceptable failure” by health officials in allowing two women who had recently returned from London to leave quarantine before they had been tested for the virus.
The women, who are New Zealand citizens, had flown home to visit a dying parent and were granted an exemption to leave their mandatory 14-day quarantine early on compassionate grounds. They then traveled by car from Auckland to Wellington, where they tested positive for the virus.
Health officials said the women had no contact with other people on their road trip. However, officials said they are contacting 320 people who may have come into contact with the women on their flight or in the hotel they stayed at during their time in quarantine.
Before the two new cases were announced Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without reporting any new cases and was considered virus-free.
Ardern has advocated tough border measures to prevent another outbreak and has cancelled quarantine exemptions on compassionate grounds while the case is investigated further.
She said she had appointed Air Commodore Digby Webb, the assistant chief of defense, to oversee all quarantine and managed isolation facilities.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Pandemic death toll in US surpasses American military casualties in World War I
— The German government wants to require any cases of the coronavirus in pets to be reported to authorities.
— Tanzania’s president says the country will reopen schools at the end of this month after claiming victory over COVID-19 and that divine intervention is key to stopped the virus.
— China reimposes some travel restrictions in the capital to contain a new outbreak, highlighting calls for vigilance as the U.S., Europe and Latin America continue to reopen.
— The global coronavirus crisis is disrupting summer internships for many university students and recent graduates even as economies slowly restart. About half of all internship openings in the United States have been scrubbed since COVID-19 arrived, and even more than that in the U.K. Summer internships are an important stepping stone to working life for many young adults. Some companies are making their internships virtual, - mirroring the work-from-home trend that’s swept office life during the pandemic. But that will not be quite the same for interns, who will lack the in-person networking that can help them get jobs. https://apnews.com/49f8f9427ed4f7bac9503ae76a41c80a
— Americans are unhappier today than they’ve been in nearly 50 years. That's the takeaway from the COVID Response Tracking Study conducted by University of Chicago researchers. It finds that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy, down from 31% who said the same in 2018. About twice as many Americans reported being lonely as did in two years ago, an unsurprising finding given lockdowns and stay-home orders.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne says China and Russia are using the heightened anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic to undermine Western democracies by spreading disinformation online.
Payne said in a speech at the Australian National University that the disinformation contributed to a “climate of fear and division” when the world needed cooperation and understanding.
She said “it is troubling that some countries are using the pandemic to undermine liberal democracy to promote their own more authoritarian models.” Payne referred to a Europe Union commission report Russia and China are flooding Europe with disinformation campaigns.
BEIJING — China’s capital reported a slight increase in the numbers confirmed new coronavirus cases Wednesday as it seeks to battle the recent outbreak with strict measures aimed at reducing human contact and the chances of a new wave of infections across the country.
The capital, which had seemed to have the outbreak under control, reported 31 cases, up from 27 the day before, primarily linked to the city of 20 million’s largest wholesale market in its southwest.
Nationwide, China reported 44 new cases, around the average for recent days. Eleven of those were brought from abroad by Chinese travelers, while one other local case was from Hebei province adjacent to Beijing and one in the eastern province of Zhejiang further south.
No new deaths were reported and just 252 people are currently in treatment for COVID-19, with another 113 being isolated and observed for being suspected cases or for testing positive for the virus without showing any symptoms.
MEXICO CITY — Even as Mexico announces plans for reopening churches and religious events, the country is posting near-record numbers of newly confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19.
The Health Department reported on Tuesday that confirmed cases rose by 4,599, the second-highest daily increase to date, to reach an accumulated total of 154,863.
Deaths rose by 730, the third-highest daily confirmation number, after one-day increases of 1,092 and 816 earlier this month. Those death tolls rivaled those of the United States.
Both case and death total — which now stands at 18,310 — are clearly undercounts, because Mexico does very little testing.
Health officials acknowledged Mexico is on a plateau with sustained rates of transmission and deaths, with few if any signs of a decrease. Despite that, business are beginning to reopen after mandatory lockdowns due to the coronavirus.
AUSTIN, Tx -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is insisting the state’s health care system can handle the fast-rising number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as it pushes forward with aggressive moves to reopen its economy.
Abbott also pointed to Texans who may have become lax in wearing masks or practicing other social distancing measures as the state hit new record highs in new cases and hospitalizations. He urged them to take greater responsibility for stopping the spread of the pandemic and to stay home as much as possible.
“It does raise concerns, but there is no reason right now to be alarmed,” Abbott said of the rising numbers of cases.
Tuesday marked the eighth time in nine days the state set a new high for hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients with 2,518 and a jump of nearly 200 patients from Monday. That’s more 1,000 more patients than Memorial Day, which had been the lowest day in more than a month.
State health officials also reported 2,622 new cases, a single-day high.
Texas began aggressively re-opening its economy on May 1 and the Republican Abbott has continued to relax restrictions.
SALEM, Ore. — A church in rural northeastern Oregon is now the epicenter of the state’s largest coronavirus outbreak, as 236 people tested positive for the disease, authorities said.
The outbreak also led to Oregon’s second consecutive record-setting daily case count. In response to the increasing case counts Gov. Kate Brown last week said she was putting all county applications for further reopening from her COVID-19 restrictions on hold for seven days.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 278 new statewide cases Tuesday — a 51% increase from Monday’s case count.
Officials cited the rise in cases due largely to increased testing, contact tracing, workplace outbreaks “as well as potential spread in the community.”
The largest outbreak, which was first made public Monday, is associated with Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Union County.
The Observer newspaper of La Grande reported the church held services in April and May even though Oregon COVID-19 restrictions limited gatherings. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach representatives of the church were not successful Tuesday.
ATLANTA — An increasing number of Georgians are getting infected by the new coronavirus and ending up in the hospital as Gov. Brian Kemp continues to ease restrictions on gatherings and businesses.
Figures posted Tuesday show that Georgia has reported an average of 777 infections over the last 14 days, the highest level since April, when widespread transmission was at its peak and had led to a statewide lockdown. After falling, the number of infected people in a hospital has been rising for the last 10 days, reaching 875 on Tuesday.
The number of deaths statewide passed 2,500 on Tuesday, and the state continues to average about 30 deaths a day. If people continue to die at the same rate, that would put Georgia on pace for about 8,500 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year.
“I see the numbers going back up and the restrictions in terms of policies going back down, which is nonsensical,” said Harry Heiman, a professor of public health at Georgia State University.
Kemp, a Republican, contends he remains focused on fighting the infection, saying Tuesday that Georgia has now tested every resident of a nursing home with 25 or more beds. In nursing homes, 1,139 residents have died, 45% of all deaths statewide. Of about 6,400 infected residents, 3,500 have recovered, the Department of Community Health said.
Across all long-term care facilities, says it has tested 77% of residents.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to ensure that vulnerable Georgians have the care and resources that they need as we work to limit exposure and spread,” Kemp said in a statement Tuesday.
___ CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A union representing U.S. coal miners has asked a court to force the federal government to take unspecified measures to protect them from the coronavirus.
The petition Tuesday asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for an expedited order against the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. It was filed by the United Mine Workers and the United Steelworkers unions.
If MSHA fails to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases that would be legally binding on all mine operators, it would put the lives and health of tens of thousands of miners in “grave danger,” the petition said.
“The situation confronting miners is urgent,” the petition said. “Miners have largely been designated as ‘essential’ workers and thus are currently working at mine sites across the country. Further, as government-imposed stay-at-home orders are lifted and demand for mine-produced resources increases, more miners will return to work at pre-pandemic levels.”
A U.S. Department of Labor spokeswoman said the agency is confident it will prevail in the court action.
The Trump administration says a recent rule change allows small business owners convicted of felonies to apply for government loans to help them weather the COVID-19 pandemic, but civil rights groups claim the program revision doesn’t go far enough.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued Tuesday to block the U.S. Small Business Administration from denying Paycheck Protection Program loans to small business owners with criminal records.
The federal lawsuit, filed in Maryland, says excluding business owners with criminal records from the $669 billion program has disproportionately harmed black and Hispanic business owners.
CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul says he has tested positive for the coronavirus, has mild COVID-19 symptoms and is self-isolating on the advice of his doctor.
Raoul revealed his virus test results on Tuesday and said he got tested a day earlier after experiencing symptoms.
He said in a statement that he is fortunate “to be otherwise healthy.”
The former state legislator is a Democrat who won his first term as state attorney general in 2018.
Raoul’s disclosure came as the number of confirmed virus cases in Illinois has been falling and the state has been taking gradual steps to reopen amid stay-at-home orders.
PHOENIX — Arizona has reported a new daily high of nearly 2,400 more confirmed coronavirus cases.
The state Department of Health Services reported 2,392 new cases and 25 additional virus-related deaths on Tuesday. A day earlier, the state recorded 1,104 new confirmed cases and eight deaths, bringing the state's totals in the pandemic to 39,097 cases and 1,219 deaths.
It’s unclear how many of the new cases are due to expanded testing.
Arizona has drawn national attention as one of several emerging virus hot spots. Some experts have criticized Gov. Doug Ducey and his administration for not doing more to stop the spread of the virus, such as enforcing the use of face masks and increasing contact tracing.
JUNEAU, Alaska — A spokeswoman says ConocoPhillips plans to resume normal production operations on Alaska’s North Slope in July after a reduction this month that the company attributed to low prices caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a global oversupply of oil.
ConocoPhillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said the company in late May began a ramp-down ahead of plans to cut production by about 100,000 barrels a day for the month of June. She said that reduction currently is in effect.
Lowman said the company does not provide month-to-month production levels so she could not predict what production might be in July. But she said the company expected to resume normal production operations then. She says decisions on any further production reductions would be made on a month-to-month basis.
North Slope oil prices that were around or below $10 a barrel in late April were around $40 a barrel last week.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 now exceeds the number of American service members who died in World War I.
The current pandemic mortality tally for the United States from Johns Hopkins University reached 116,526 on Tuesday. The number of Americans who died in World War I is 116,516.
Both figures are far from precise, due to a lack of testing during the pandemic and the challenges of counting the dead in the trenches of World War I a century ago.
But historians and the Congressional Research Service believe that 116,516 is the best figure for WWI battlefield deaths.
PRISTINA, Kosovo - Health officials in Kosovo have warned that a worrying increase in new coronavirus cases may overwhelm hospitals and increase the number of deaths.
Kosovo reported its highest daily number of new confirmed cases on Tuesday with 141, The small Balkan nation's National Institute of Public Health blamed people not respecting social distancing guidelines.
Most lockdown measures were lifted about two weeks ago. In the past week, Kosovo has registered significantly higher daily case numbers.
New case clusters have been identified at public and private companies and institutions which authorities had been advised to close.
As of Tuesday Kosovo had a total of 1,756 confirmed cases and 34 deaths.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The prospect of hosting the first rally for U.S. President Donald Trump in months would be a delight for many mayors in deep-red states like Oklahoma, but Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum isn’t celebrating.
Other Oklahoma GOP officials are hailing Trump’s planned rally at Tulsa’s 19,000-seat BOK Center arena on Saturday. But Bynum finds himself in a precarious position, balancing partisan politics, the city’s deep racial wounds and a spiking coronavirus infection rate.
The mayor has been strident about avoiding large group and says he won’t attend the Trump rally. Bynum said in a statement posted Tuesday on Facebook that he had no plans to prevent the event by invoking civil emergency authority.
He also said he was unaware of plans for a rally until arena management reached out to the city regarding police support.
The mayor wrote: “I would have loved some other city to have proven the safety of such an event already.”
LAS VEGAS — Nevada is reporting its single largest daily increase of new cases of coronavirus after the governor announced he would hold off on easing any more restrictions in the state.
Health officials said Tuesday that 379 new confirmed cases were reported statewide Monday. Before that, the largest one-day increase was 295 cases on May 22.
The state Department of Health and Human Services said the increase can be partially attributed to delayed reporting from the weekend but is also part of an upward trend of new cases in the last three weeks.
Nevada’s casinos reopened almost two weeks ago after being shuttered for 11 weeks. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday night that current customer limits for businesses, social distancing guidance and limits on gatherings of more than 50 people would remain in place at least until June 30.
MILAN — The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Italian intensive care units has dropped to its lowest levels since Italy's government ordered a nationwide lockdown.
The number of ICU patients in Italy's hospitals dropped below 200 for the first time since March 2, to 177. That’s an 80% improvement from the March peak.
About 3,300 others also remained hospitalized on Tuesday, nearly 200 fewer than a day earlier.
The civil protection agency said Italy added 210 new confirmed cases from Monday to Tuesday, bringing its epidemic total to 237,500. There also were another 34 deaths.
Experts have said those figures are likely to be much lower than the real infection level, because only people hospitalized or showing strong symptoms are tested.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania has recorded a third straight day of fewer than 400 positive coronavirus tests, according to Department of Health data.
That's the longest such stretch since new confirmed cases in the state began regularly exceeding that number l in late March.
Still, the number of people dying with the virus every day remains in the dozens.
Officials reported 33 additional deaths and 362 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. That brings the state’s totals to nearly 80,000 cases and 6,276 deaths since early March.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
MEMPHIS, Tenn.— The number of COVID-19 patients in Tennessee hospitals has reached its highest level at more than 400, but Vanderbilt University researchers report the increase has not put acute strain on the state’s hospital system.
A report from the Nashville-based university’s hospital and medical school issued Tuesday said increases in hospitalizations in June were mostly concentrated in the Memphis area and southeast Tennessee, including Chattanooga.
Around 400 patients were hospitalized between June 7 and June 13, a jump of nearly 30% from a week earlier, the report said.
Increasing numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in recent days have led the cities of Memphis and Nashville to delay plans to reopen more businesses and to raise customer limits at restaurants and retail stores.