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The Latest: Arizona state health officials report decreases

PHOENIX -- State health officials on Tuesday reported 915 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 23 deaths.

That increased the state’s totals to 194,920 confirmed cases and 4,529 deaths.

The seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths in Arizona dropped over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press.

The cases average went from 2,239 on Aug. 3 to 926 on Aug. 17. The deaths average went from 68 on Aug. 3 to 50 on Aug. 17.

Wind from a monsoon storm Monday night ripped apart an outdoor coronavirus testing site in a parking lot in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb. The storm tore down tents and blew over tables at the Embry Womens Health site at Mesa Community College. No injuries were reported.

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

— Germany’s Merkel against relaxing of virus rules

— WHO: Herd immunity requires effective vaccine

— South Africa loosens coronavirus restrictions

— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gained a national following through his management of the coronavirus pandemic. Now he’s writing a book about it.

— Britain rates of depression doubled among adults during lockdown. The Office for National Statistics says 19.2% of adults were likely to be experiencing some sort of depression in June.

— South Korea will ban large public gatherings and shut down churches and nightspots in the greater capital area following an alarming surge in viral infections.

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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:

HARTFORD, Conn. — For-profit nursing homes in Connecticut had about 60% more coronavirus cases and associated deaths per licensed bed than nonprofit facilities in the state.

That’s according to a third-party review of how the state, its nursing homes and assisted living centers prepared for and responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report from the research firm Mathematica in Princeton, New Jersey, was released Tuesday. It also found early responses to the coronavirus outbreak were “undermined by gaps in scientific knowledge about the how the virus spreads.”

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont ordered the third-party examination in June. It included input from the operators of the long-term care facilities, unions representing the workers, patients, health experts and others.

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ROME — Italy reported 403 new coronavirus cases and five deaths on Tuesday.

There were 50 percent more tests performed on Monday, with nearly 54,000 swab tests carried out in the last 24 hours. Many were administered at Italy’s airports and ports on vacationers returning from trips abroad.

Last week, Italy made coronavirus testing mandatory for those who spent time Spain, Malta, Croatia and Greece in the last 14 days.

Italy has 254,636 confirmed cases and 34,405 confirmed deaths, sixthmhighest in the world.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s Health Regulatory Agency authorized a clinical coronavirus vaccine trial for a candidate produced by the Jansen Cilag branch of Johnson & Johnson.

The phase 3 study foresees 60,000 volunteers overall, with 7,000 of those in seven Brazilian states.

Brazil has more than 108,000 confirmed deaths and more than 3,350,000 confirmed cases, second highest in the world in both categories.

The vaccine candidate produced will be the fourth tested in the country. Brazil also has approved tests for versions developed by Oxford University, China’s Sinovac company and by Germany’s BioNtech with Pfizer.

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MEXICO CITY — A Mexican-made and designed ventilator, meant to overcome an international shortage of the machines and at a lower price, is in service at hospitals.

A device that operates with bottled oxygen, the ventilator known by the name of “VSZ-20-2” has its own back-up power source. It was designed at the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition and made by a consortium of about 15 companies.

Dr. Guillermo Domínguez Cherit, the institute’s head of critical care, says the machine is helping treat nine patients. Cherit says “this is a ventilator that was designed especially for the pandemic.”

Mexico had previously scrambled to import the machines, but Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard says now that won’t be necessary.

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BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho hospital is reporting the state’s first case of a pediatric inflammatory illness associated with the coronavirus.

St. Luke’s Regional Health System spokeswoman Anita Kissée says a 7-year-old child with no known previous health conditions has been diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, a potentially serious disease sometimes called MIS-C. The child is in the pediatric intensive care unit in Boise.

The illness is newly recognized and believed to be a delayed complication of coronavirus infection. It often causes a fever, evidence of inflammation and severe illness involving more than two organs.

Idaho has nearly 28,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 273 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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BERLIN — The international Red Cross says there have been at least 600 attacks and threats against health workers and patients across more than 40 countries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Geneva-based aid group says it gathered 611 first-hand accounts of “violence, harassment or stigmatization against health care workers, patients and medical infrastructure in relation to COVID-19 cases” between Feb 1. and July 31.

More than one in five incidents involved physical assaults. The International Committee of the Red Cross says the actual number of incidents is likely much higher.

It says fear of the spread of COVID-19, grievances sparked by a relative’s death and restrictions on burial rituals played a role in some of the incidents.

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HONOLULU — The world’s largest maritime military exercise is scheduled to be held this week in Hawaii but scaled back because of the coronavirus.

Hawaii Public Radio reports the 27th Rim of the Pacific international military exercise will be considerably smaller. The exercise will consist of training exclusively at sea with only minimal land personnel to prevent potential spread of the virus.

The shift is a significant change from past exercises that included large, land-based training events, shore leave for sailors and numerous social gatherings.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s health ministry says it has temporarily removed a hospital in the northern city of Thessaloniki from the designated coronavirus treatment facilities after 14 staff members tested positive.

A ministry statement says the hospital would be disinfected and all staff members tested. It says staff members returning to all Greek health facilities from summer holiday leave would be tested for the virus.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken out against further relaxing coronavirus restrictions in the country, citing the recent rise in the number of new cases.

Merkel says Germany is “in the middle of the pandemic” and called on Germans to respect social distancing and hygiene rules.

Speaking after a meeting with the governor and ministers of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, Merkel expressed support for uniform rules for some aspects of the pandemic.

Germany’s 16 states largely set their own rules, often leading to a mix-mash of differing regional regulations that have prompted confusion and frustration in the country of 83 million.

Merkel and Gov. Armin Laschet say possible future lockdowns shouldn’t unduly burden children and students.

Germany’s disease control agency on Tuesday reported 1,390 new confirmed coronavirus cases.

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HELSINKI — Finnish prime minister says she has self-isolated and will take a corona test due to mild symptoms of an infection.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin tweeted on Tuesday: “I have mild respiratory symptoms. I will take a corona test and work remotely.”

The 34-year-old Marin, who assumed Finland’s top job in December and was the world’s youngest serving head of government at the time, told the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that her child attended a daycare center after a summer break.

In recent weeks, the number of corona cases have gradually increased in Finland. Last week, the government for the first time recommended the use of masks in public.

Finland, a nation of 5.5 million, has so far recorded 7,776 confirmed corona cases with 334 deaths.

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LONDON — The British government is scrapping a public health agency that’s taken some of the blame for the country’s uneven response to the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the work of Public Health England will become part of a new body, the National Institute for Health Protection, which will guard against infectious diseases and biosecurity threats.

The new institute will be headed by Dido Harding, a former telecoms executive who leads the much-criticized test and trace program set up in recent months to help contain the coronavirus.

Hancock says it can learn from public health agencies in South Korea and Germany, which have been praised for their strong response to the pandemic.

Public Health England has been criticized for taking an overly centralized approach to testing and contact-tracing and abandoning widespread testing for the virus in mid-March because it lacked the diagnostic capacity.

Its defenders argue that Britain’s Conservative governments have been cutting public health budgets for years, leaving the country ill-prepared to deal with the pandemic.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s Civil Protection deputy minister says tourism is not to blame for a recent increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country.

Nikos Hardalias says the increase in confirmed infections was due mainly to a domestic spread from large gatherings and lax adherence to protective measures. Hardalias says 83% of the new cases were attributable to domestic transmission and 17% to arriving travelers.

New daily cases above 200 for several days have alarmed health officials and led to new restrictive measures imposed in certain areas, including popular holiday islands.

Hardalias says more than 2 million people had arrived in the country during the tourist season, with more than 319,000 coronavirus tests carried out on arriving travelers. Of those, 615 were positive.

Greece has a total of 7,222 confirmed cases and 230 deaths in the country of 11 million people.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization says the planet is nowhere near the amount of coronavirus immunity needed to induce herd immunity, where enough of the population would have antibodies to stop the spread.

Herd immunity is typically achieved with vaccination and most scientists estimate at least 70% of the population must have antibodies to prevent an outbreak. But some experts have suggested that even if half the population had immunity, there might be a protective effect.

WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan largely dismissed that theory at a press briefing on Tuesday, saying we should not live “in hope” of achieving herd immunity.

“As a global population, we are nowhere close to the levels of immunity required to stop this disease transmitting,” he said. “This is not a solution and not a solution we should be looking to.”

Most studies conducted to date have suggested only about 10% to 20% of people have antibodies.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, added that any mass immunization campaign with a COVID-19 vaccine would aim to cover far more than 50% of the world’s population.

“We don’t want to be wrong,” he said. “You want to plan to get high coverage and not get lulled into a dangerously seductive suggestion that (the herd immunity threshold) could be low.”

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa, which had one of the world’s strictest anti-coronavirus lockdowns for five months, relaxed its restrictions on Tuesday in response to a decrease in new cases.

The country loosened its regulations to permit the sales of alcohol and cigarettes, and the reopening of bars, restaurants, gyms and places of worship, all limited to no more than 50 people. Schools will reopen gradually starting Aug. 24.

With more than 589,000 confirmed cases, South Africa has more than half of all reported cases in Africa. The 54 countries of the continent reported a total of more than 1.1 million cases on Tuesday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Africa has recorded more than 11,900 deaths from COVID-19, while overall the continent has reported just over 25,800 deaths. The actual numbers of cases and deaths are estimated to be much higher, say health experts.

South Africa’s new confirmed cases have dropped from an average of 12,000 per day at the peak in July to less than 5,000 per day last week. The country confirmed 2,541 new cases on Tuesday.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will ban large public gatherings and shut down churches and nightspots in the greater capital area following an alarming surge in coronavirus cases.

In a nationally televised announcement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said strengthening social distancing restrictions for the Seoul metropolitan area — home to around half of the country’s 51 million people — was inevitable because a failure to slow transmissions there could result in a major outbreak nationwide.

The measures, which will take effect Wednesday in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province and the city of Incheon, prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Nightclubs, karaoke rooms, buffet restaurants, computer gaming cafes and other “high-risk” facilities will be shut, while churches will be required to entirely convert their worship services online.

Chung or other government officials didn’t immediately say how long the measures would be in place.

South Korea reported 246 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, raising its total for the last five days to 959. The national caseload rose to 15,761, including 306 deaths.

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BERLIN — German soccer club Union Berlin is hoping that coronavirus tests for fans will allow it to hold a preseason friendly match with 3,000 spectators.

The Bundesliga side says it has applied to local Treptow-Köpenick health authorities for permission to hold the game with an altered hygiene plan including the new measure on Sept. 5.

“A preventative test for all spectators is intended to replace the currently valid social distancing rules,” Union said in a statement Tuesday.

German soccer clubs previously outlined plans to resume games with some socially distanced fans attending in seated areas, but Union’s Stadion An der Alten Försterei has mostly standing terraces, meaning it could have far fewer fans attending than its competitors.

Union announced in July it was working toward having a full stadium for its first home game of the new season, and that it can achieve that aim by testing all staff and 22,012 ticket holders in the 24 hours before kickoff.

“We want to ensure as best we can that nobody is infected at our sold-out stadium – this applies to Union club members and the away supporters,” Union president Dirk Zingler said at the time.

It’s unlikely that any fans will be allowed attend Bundesliga games before Oct. 31 at the earliest after health officials rejected the clubs’ plans. National health minister Jens Spahn warned against taking “unnecessary risks.”

Germany has reported 226,804 coronavirus infections, and a relatively low 9,240 deaths compared to France, Spain and Italy. But concern has been growing about a recent increase in the daily rate of new infections.

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LONDON — Rates of depression appear to have almost doubled in Britain since the country was put into lockdown in late March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the country’s official statistics agency.

The Office for National Statistics said 19.2% of adults were likely to be experiencing some sort of depression in June, up from 9.7% between July 2019 and March.

The agency, which assessed the same 3,527 of adults before and during the pandemic, said feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way adults were experiencing some form of depression.

During the height of the lockdown, which has been eased over the past couple of months, people were isolated from friends and family. Many also fretted about their jobs and future financial well-being as the economy nosedived in the face of the restrictions on everyday life.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s health minister says his country will receive around 3 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, in batches beginning in December.

Speaking on Greece’s Skai TV on Tuesday, Vassilis Kikilias said the country of around 11 million people would initially receive 700,000 doses of the vaccine, which is currently in advanced trials, at the end of December, and would receive the rest in batches in the following months.

Kikilias referred to an announcement by European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, who tweeted on Aug. 14 that the Commission had concluded the “first agreement” on the purchase of up to 400 million doses of the future vaccine.

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BEIJING — The head of a major state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company says its coronavirus vaccine will be commercially available by the end of the year.

Liu Jingzhen, the chairman of SinoPharm, told a Chinese Communist Party newspaper that the vaccine would cost less than 1,000 yuan ($140) and be given in two shots, 28 days apart. He said that students and workers in major cities would need to get the vaccine, but not those living in sparsely populated rural areas.

“Not all of the 1.4 billion people in our country have to take it,” he said in an interview published Tuesday in the Guangming Daily.

SinoPharm, which has two vaccines in trial, has an annual manufacturing capacity of 220 million doses, Liu said.

Liu, who is also the company’s Communist Party secretary, told the paper that he had been injected with the vaccine. Reports that Chinese researchers and executives have received shots of their vaccines have raised ethical questions in some scientific circles.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s leader has hit back at President Donald Trump’s claim that New Zealand is experiencing a big surge in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Trump’s comments were “patently wrong.”

“I think for anyone who’s following COVID and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand’s nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States' tens of thousands,” Ardern said.

Trump made the comments Monday at a campaign stop in Mankato, Minnesota. He says some countries held up as models for their virus response were now saying “whoops.”

“You see what’s going on in New Zealand,” Trump said. “They beat it, they beat it. It was like front page, they beat it. Because they wanted to show me something. The problem is, big surge in New Zealand. So, you know, it’s terrible, we don’t want that.”

The U.S., with a population of about 330 million, has reported more than 170,000 virus deaths. New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has reported 22 deaths.

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