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The Latest: Missouri governor loosens school quarantine rule

O’FALLON, Mo. -- Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced new guidance aimed at keeping more kids, teachers and staff in school, even those who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The Republican governor says quarantines interrupt learning and create staff shortages.

Currently, those in a K-12 setting who is directly exposed to the coronavirus must quarantine for 14 days. The new guidance doesn’t require quarantining if both the infected person and the person exposed wore masks.

Those in contact with an infected person at a school without a mask mandate should quarantine at home for 14 days.

The new guidance still requires the person who tests positive to isolate at home.

The change comes as coronavirus numbers surge in Missouri. On Thursday, there were 4,603 confirmed new cases, 16 more deaths and a record 2,248 people in hospitals.

The positivity rate of 22.4% is more than four times the recommended benchmark by the World Health Organization.

Missouri has no statewide mask mandate, and the state doesn’t require masks in schools, although some districts do. The state allows districts to provide learning options, which includes hybrid learning -- at school and at home.

Missouri has 225,371 confirmed cases and 3,339 total deaths.

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

— Dr Fauci: Keep wearing masks, stay socially distant to avoid lockdown

World leaders speak to Biden about the pandemic even as Trump complicates transition

Italian hospitals face breaking point as fall virus surge sickens patients

California is nearing 1 million confirmed infections, the second US state after Texas

— The last virus-free places on Earth are one distant continent, a few Pacific island nations and two highly secretive states

— Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S COLUMBUS, Ohio — Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s statewide address has urged Ohioans to take the coronavirus more seriously.

The speech on Wednesday included threats to close bars, restaurants and gyms for a second time. But it stopped short of the type of severe crackdowns implemented in the spring.

The speech followed record numbers of coronavirus cases in recent weeks. DeWine also announced the state would take over monitoring businesses’ compliance with the statewide mask order.

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ROME — Italy’s daily coronavirus cases reached nearly 38,000 on Thursday.

A day after total cases surpassed 1 million, another 37,978 infections were reported by the Health Ministry.

Nearly 90 additional ICU beds were occupied with COVID-19 patients since the previous day, for a total of 3,170. Doctors say while Italy added thousands more intensive care beds capacity during the pandemic, there aren’t enough anesthesiologists and other ICU specialists to care for more than 5,000 patients at once.

Ambulances parked for hours outside hospitals in the Naples area and elsewhere in Italy because emergency rooms don’t have space for the patients.

Italy has 1.06 million cases and a confirmed death toll of 43,589, with 636 more deaths on Thursday.

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PORTLAND, Maine — Maine Gov. Janet Mills joined governors of six other states across the region in suspending interstate youth hockey games amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

Six New England states and New Jersey will suspend interstate competitions for public and private schools and youth hockey programs starting Saturday through the end of the year.

The six New England states involve Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Maine.WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Nurses Association says it doesn’t support a move to allow health care workers who have tested positive for the coronavirus but don’t have symptoms to remain on the job.

Gov. Doug Burgum supports the idea to ease stress both on hospitals and medical personnel amid skyrocketing coronavirus cases in North Dakota. Burgum says hospital administrators asked for the action and interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke amended an order to allow it to take effect.

The nurses’ association says guidance from the CDC says the decision should be left to the positive nurse whether to work. The association says other measures, such as mask wearing, should be used to reduce the demand on the health care system before implementing this strategy.

Burgum, a Republican, has not supported a statewide mask mandate. Instead, he’s stressed personal responsibility.

North Dakota has the highest number of new coronavirus cases per capita in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins data, with one in every 83 residents testing positive in the past week.

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DETROIT -- Michigan’s largest school district will suspend in-person classes next week, joining other districts shifting to online classes with the surge of coronavirus cases.

Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says he can’t ignore a climbing infection rate that reached nearly 5% last week. The suspension will last until Jan. 11.

Vitti faced criticism from some teachers and activists for offering an in-person option for the district’s roughly 50,000 students. He said families deserved choices.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer plans to speak about the coronavirus later Thursday. In a separate event, officials from major hospitals plan to speak about the impact of rising coronavirus cases.

The state reported 6,008 new infections Wednesday and 42 more deaths.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s largest school district will close its elementary schools because the coronavirus is leaving it short on staff and bus drivers.

The Anoka-Hennepin district will transition to remote learning. Elementary students have been attending in-person classes two days a week since Sept. 15.

Anoka-Hennepin’s middle and high schools switched from a hybrid schedule to remote learning Nov. 4, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

State guidelines recommend districts consider closing all schools when new case rates in the county exceed 50 per 10,000. The district said its two-week new case rate among employees is 86 per 10,000.

The district serves nearly 38,000 students. It hasn’t set a date for closing the elementary schools.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he doesn’t believe the United States will need to go into lockdown to fight the coronavirus if people double down on wearing masks and social distancing.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert says “the cavalry is coming” in the form of vaccines. He says, “Help is really on the way.”

Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday that vaccines being developed “are going to have a major positive impact” if they prove to be safe and effective. He says they may be deployed in December and early into next year. He says he hopes by April, May and June “the ordinary citizen should be able to get” a vaccine.

In the meantime, Fauci says there are fundamental things Americans can do to stem the spread of the deadly virus. They include “universal” wearing of masks, avoiding crowds, keeping social distance and washing hands. He says that sounds simple against a very difficult challenge but “it really does make a difference.”

Fauci’s message echoes that of President-elect Joe Biden, who this week signaled strongly that fighting the raging pandemic will be the immediate priority of his new administration.

The U.S. leads the world with more than 241,000 deaths and 10 million coronavirus cases.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week, has been hospitalized.

Spokeswoman Iuliia Mendel told The Associated Press his symptoms remain mild and there is “nothing serious” in his condition. Zelenskiy disclosed Monday he contracted the virus.

Mendel says he was moved to a hospital in Kyiv because “there are better conditions for self-isolation and care for coronavirus patients.”

Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, defense minister and the finance minister have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s government ordered non-essential businesses to shut down on weekends to stem the rapid growth of the outbreak.

Health officials reported another record 11,057 coronavirus cases on Thursday. Ukraine has reported a total of 500,865 confirmed cases and 9,145 deaths.

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TOKYO — Japan’s government will maintain reduced capacity at major athletic and cultural events for another three months amid a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura says the number of daily new cases has increased in recent weeks and nears its daily record of more than 1,600 in August.

On Thursday, 1,546 coronavirus cases were reported, bringing the total confirmed cases to 111,711. There have been 1,851 deaths in Japan.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa’s top public health official says the continent has seen an average 8% rise in new coronavirus cases over the past month as infections creep up again in parts of the continent of 1.3 billion people.

John Nkengasong says “we expected it to happen” and warns that when the virus comes back for a second wave, “it seems to come back with a lot of full force.”

The African continent is approaching 2 million confirmed cases, with just over 1.9 million now including more than 45,000 deaths.

Nkengasong says that “we are at a critical point in the response” and again urges governments and citizens to follow public health measures. Testing across Africa remains a challenge, with 19 million tests conducted so far. Countries with the highest increase of cases in the past week include Congo at 37%, Kenya at 34% and Nigeria at 17%.

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BERLIN — Germany’s national disease control center says it is seeing tentative signs that the country’s increase in coronavirus infections is slowing, but is warning that some hospitals could reach capacity limits in the coming weeks.

Germany embarked on a four-week partial shutdown on Nov. 2. On Thursday, the Robert Koch Institute, the disease control center, said 21,866 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours in the nation of 83 million. That’s short of a record of 23,399 set on Saturday, but nearly 2,000 more than a week earlier.

The institute’s head, Lothar Wieler, said Thursday that he is “cautiously optimistic” because “the curve is rising somewhat less steeply, it is flattening.” But he said “we don’t yet know whether this is stable development.”

Germany has more than 738,000 cases and ranks 14th in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. It has reported nearly 12,000 deaths, which ranks 19th.

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PARIS — Some doctors and France’s latest virus figures suggest the current wave of infections is peaking, and relief is in sight.

The French prime minister is giving a news conference Thursday evening about the impact of two weeks of a partial new lockdown, and is expected to announce that authorities are starting to regain control over the virus.

Businesses are pushing to reopen, but the confinement measures are scheduled to stay in place at least until Dec. 1.

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BERLIN — Germany’s flagship airline Lufthansa has started a test program that it is hoping will ensure passenger and flight crew safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, and encourage more people to fly.

The airline said Thursday that all passengers on a Munich to Hamburg morning flight took a so-called antigen test and were only allowed to board after the quick results showed they were negative for the coronavirus.

The passengers weren't charged for the test, but had to block out about an hour extra time for it to be carried out and for the results to be ready, the airline said.

For the twice-daily flight during the trial period, passengers who refuse to be tested or who can’t show they had a negative PCR test no more than 48 hours before boarding will be rebooked.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s interior ministry has banned smoking in public places across the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement late Wednesday, the ministry said smoking would be banned in busy streets, bus stops and public squares when necessary.

It said the nationwide mask mandate in public spaces must be followed at all times. It said smokers were routinely violating the mask rule, which has been in effect for several months.

The ministry also said provinces can decide to impose curfews on people older than 65 according to increases in the number of critical patients. The governors of Istanbul and Ankara have already reintroduced measures this week, allowing senior citizens to leave their homes only between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Turkey has seen a spike in infections since lifting partial lockdowns and reopening businesses in late May.

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SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court has granted bail for a religious sect leader who was arrested in August over allegations that he and his church disrupted the government’s anti-virus response.

The Suwon District Court on Thursday cited concerns about the health of 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and said he was no longer a serious threat to destroy evidence considering the prosecution’s progress in investigation. The court required Lee to wear electronic tracking devices and not to leave his home.

Prosecutors have accused Lee and his church of violating infectious disease laws by deliberately hiding some of the church’s membership and under-reporting its gatherings to avoid broader quarantines.

Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying that the church has been properly cooperating with health authorities.

More than 5,200 of the South Korea’s 27,942 coronavirus cases have been linked to the church.

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NEW DELHI — India has reported 47,905 new cases of coronavirus infection with New Delhi setting another daily record Thursday.

The surge of 8,593 cases in the nation’s capital is the highest for any major Indian city and comes as people crowd shopping areas ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, on Saturday.

Deaths, too, are climbing again, with 85 in New Delhi in the past 24 hours. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the impact of the virus, due to long periods of illness and medical treatment.

Overall, India’s new cases held steady. The Health Ministry also reported 550 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 128,121.

India’s tally of confirmed cases — currently the second largest in the world behind the United States — has exceeded 8.6 million.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Health officials in New Zealand have asked people who work in central Auckland to stay home on Friday or limit their movements while they continue to investigate a coronavirus case from an undetermined source.

Authorities say they’re urgently investigating the recent movements of the Auckland student who works at a clothing store. They say the student lives next door to a hotel where people arriving from abroad are being quarantined, some of whom have tested positive over recent weeks.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says authorities are testing the genome of the student’s case to see if there is a connection to the hotel cases, and they will announce Friday whether they’ll be changing New Zealand’s alert levels.

The case comes as a blow to a country which has been largely successful in its attempts to eliminate community spread of the virus.

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