The Latest: Australia's PM cancels next parliament sitting
CANBERRA, Australia — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is moving to cancel the next two-week sitting of parliament because of the recent spread of the coronavirus in parts of the country.
Parliament has been scheduled to meet Aug. 4-13 and then sit again for a two-week session starting Aug. 24.
Morrison said Saturday that he has written to the parliamentary speaker asking for a cancellation, but the request is considered only a formality.
In a statement, the prime minister says acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has advised that there would be “significant risks” in holding a meeting of parliament due to increased community transmission of the coronavirus in Victoria state as well as trends in New South Wales.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Atlanta mayor questions timing of Gov. Kemp lawsuit.
— Nearly 10,000 African health workers had virus.
— British PM Johnson moves to ease virus restrictions.
— WHO says larger inquiry team to arrive later in China.
— The launch of NASA’s successor to the Hubble Space Telescope faces seven more months of launch delay, this time because of the pandemic and technical issues.
— Plans for the weeklong celebration of rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley on the 43rd anniversary of his death will be a combination of in-person and online events at Graceland next month.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
AUSTIN, Texas — The deadliest month of the pandemic in Texas continues, with state officials reporting 174 new deaths, the most in one day since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Texas also reported more than 10,000 confirmed new cases Friday for the fourth consecutive day. The rate of positive cases also climbed above 17% for the first time.
Officials on the Texas-Mexico border, which has been especially hard hit, say hotels could be converted into medical units as early as next week.
The grim markers were announced hours after Texas gave public schools permission to keep campuses closed for more than 5 million students well into the fall. Nearly a third of the more than 3,700 coronavirus deaths in Texas have come in July.
SACRAMENTO, Calif -- California has recorded its third-highest daily total of new coronavirus cases, two days after reporting its second most cases in a day.
The state reported nearly 10,000 new cases and 130 deaths Friday, during a week of seesawing positive case figures that ranged from 7,346 to as high as 11,126 on Wednesday.
The daily positive test rate went down a bit, to 7.1% over the past seven days, compared to 7.4% for the past 14 days. California tested more than 120,000 people a day during most of the past week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced strict criteria Friday for school reopenings that make it unlikely the vast majority of districts can return to classroom instruction in the fall.
CHICAGO — Most Chicago children would return to the classroom two days a week and spend the other three days learning remotely once the school year begins, under a tentative plan outlined Friday.
Chicago Public Schools officials called the hybrid approach a preliminary framework and asked parents, students and staff of nation’s third-largest school district to weigh in.
A final decision about in-person instruction for fall classes won’t come until late August, with classes set to begin Sept. 8.
“We have to be ready for any possibility,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “COVID-19 has been unpredictable from the start and we have a responsibility to be prepared for what the public health indicators dictate, whether that means remote learning, in-person learning or something in between.”
VAN METER, Iowa — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says she will require students to spend at least half of their schooling in classrooms despite the threat to teachers, students an their families from the surge in coronavirus cases in the state.
Reynolds’ proclamation Friday drew immediate criticism from the state teachers union, which called it short-sighted for unnecessarily exposing students and school employees to a health risk.
Her order made an exception for parents who want their children to shift completely to remote learning. it also said accommodations must also be made for any student to learn remotely if they, a caregiver, or a person they live with has a health condition that would increase their risk of COVID-19.
Reynolds’ decision will invalidate plans implemented by some districts, including the state’s largest, Des Moines, which planned to limit in-person classes to one day a week for most students, with online learning on other days.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Some hospital officials in South Carolina say the state is just weeks away from a COVID-19 medical crisis unless a six-week long spike of cases in the state slows down.
The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is increasing rapidly, while nurses and other workers are being infected by rising cases when they are off work, said Dr. Wendell James, a senior vice president with Prisma Health based in Greenville.
James says Greenville hospitals can handle the surge unabated for only about two more weeks.
South Carolina had 1,578 people hospitalized with the virus Thursday, nearly 1,000 more than a month ago, health officials said.
The state has been in the top four in the nation for new cases when adjusted by population for most of the past month.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is giving public schools permission to keep campuses closed for more than 5 million students well into the fall while the state tries to contain one of the largest resurgences of the coronavirus in the U.S.
The changes announced Friday come a day after Texas set a daily record for virus deaths, with 129, and reported more than 10,000 new confirmed cases for a third consecutive day. It also follows a backlash from teachers and parents who criticized the earlier timeline as rushed.
President Donald Trump and his administration have demanded schools fully reopen. But under the new guidelines in Texas, schools could hold online-only instruction for up to the first eight weeks of the school year. That potentially pushes a return to campus until November in big cities, including Dallas and Houston.
The largest teachers’ organization in Texas says it’s too soon to say when it might be safe to return to campus.
PHOENIX — The largest health system in Arizona announced it will add about 1,000 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists to its workforce to help with the coronavirus pandemic.
Banner Health Chief Human Resources Officer Naomi Cramer says the company will add 980 new workers, about twice the amount added during a busy flu season, because more care is needed for patients with COVID-19.
The nurses and respiratory therapists are traveling health care workers who will take assignments across the country. The Arizona Republic reported that Banner Health has also hired 49 physicians and expects to hire 20 more to help with demand resulting from the pandemic.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Albuquerque to protest the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it an infringement of their rights and freedoms.
KOB-TV reported the Protest for Freedom demonstration at the Civic Plaza on Thursday included members of Cowboys for Trump, the New Mexico Civil Guard, business owners and religious leaders.
“Big government telling us we can’t sit in a restaurant, but we can sit outside or we can crowd into Walmart,” Scott Chandler said. “None of it makes sense.”
Chandler is running for a seat on the state House of Representatives to represent District 32, which covers Chaves, Eddy and Otero counties.
The protest was about 2 hours and remained peaceful.
PRAGUE — Workers from three European Union countries -- Bulgaria, Romania and Portugal -- will need to present a negative coronavirus test to their Czech employers.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the directive starts Monday after a growing number of international workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
A negative test is also required from citizens of Sweden -- the only EU country -- and those from non-EU countries not on EU green lists. Otherwise, people must quarantine upon arrival.
The Czechs also re-imposed restrictive measures to contain local outbreaks in the northeastern region. Starting Friday, people in the region must wear face masks on public transportation and inside public places. Public gatherings, inside or outside, are limited to 100 participants.
The country has 13,682 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 358 deaths.
LONDON — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says it is “unrealistic” to expect a larger team to arrive in China this month to investigate the animal origins of the coronavirus.
Last week, two WHO staffers flew to Beijing as part of an advance team to plan more studies into how COVID-19 first emerged. Experts believe the virus most likely moved to humans from animals. The investigation aims to prevent future outbreaks.
Dr. Michael Ryan says WHO was trying to put together a bigger team to visit China but doubted it would happen soon. WHO’s two experts are quarantined in a Beijing hotel. The U.N. health agency says there are no plans for them to visit Wuhan, where the outbreak was first detected late last year.
Field investigations at the origin of an outbreak are essential to determining an epidemic’s origins.
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini filed a lawsuit against Pinellas County for its mask ordinance.
About 100 people in support of Sabatini’s stance rallied in front of the Pinellas County Courthouse when he filed the lawsuit Friday. Many held signs saying, “No mask - I have an immune system,” and “mandatory masks are unconstitutional.”
On June 23, the Pinellas County Commissioners voted 6-1 to require people to wear face coverings at indoor establishments to help stop the spread of the virus.
Sabatini, a lawyer who lives in the Orlando area, has sued Hillsborough County over a similar ordinance.
LONDON — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says Brazil has an opportunity to take control of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Dr. Michael Ryan says officials are no longer recording the explosive growth of cases in April and May and numbers appeared to have plateaued. However, he cautioned that stopping the epidemic would still require major interventions.
“What’s not happening yet is that the disease is not heading down the mountain,” he said. “Brazil is still very much in the middle of this fight.” He adds about 11% of all cases involved health workers.
Ryan says the lack of exponential growth offered Brazilian authorities a chance to reverse the trend of previous months.
“We need to set the rules for the virus now,” he said. “That opportunity exists now for Brazil to do that, but it is going to take a very sustained, concerted action for that to happen.”
ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sued the city of Atlanta over its face-mask requirement just after President Donald Trump arrived in the city without wearing a mask, says Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
In an interview on CBS “This Morning,” Bottoms questioned the timing of the lawsuit filed shortly after Trump’s visit on Wednesday.
“I pointed out that Donald Trump violated that order when he landed at our airport and did not wear a mask,” said Bottoms, who was recently diagnosed with the coronavirus.
She said Kemp “is a Trump loyalist and he seems to work very hard to please the president of the United States, and that is often at the expense of the people in our state.”
Kemp defended the lawsuit during a press conference Friday, accusing Atlanta officials of playing politics and not enforcing state orders already in effect. The Republican governor says the lawsuit was filed “on behalf of business owners, their employees and hardworking Georgians throughout the region who continue to struggle to make ends meet.”
He added: “Mayor Bottoms mask mandate cannot be enforced, but her decision to shutter businesses and undermine economic growth is devastating.”
Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, in a state court suit filed late Thursday, argued that Bottoms has overstepped her authority and must obey Kemp’s executive orders under state law. Bottoms and mayors of other Georgia cities say they’ll continue enforcing their mandates and were prepared to go to court.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Kentucky judge signaled he’ll sign an order blocking all of Gov. Andy Beshear’s emergency orders stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron says a judge in Boone County indicated he’ll require the Democratic governor to “follow the legal process” when taking executive actions.
Cameron says in a social media post that the ruling wouldn’t “hamper the ability of public health officials to ensure the safety and well-being of Kentuckians.”
Beshear’s office acknowledged Friday it was anticipating a court order that would “void all of the orders the governor has issued to keep us safe.”
“We are awaiting a written order and will be ready to take further action,” said Crystal Staley, the governor’s spokeswoman. “The lives of many Kentuckians are on the line.”