MELBOURNE, Australia — Wearing masks became compulsory in Australia’s second-largest city of Melbourne on Thursday as coronavirus hot spot Victoria state reported 403 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and five deaths.
The daily infection tally for the state was down from a record 484 posted Wednesday.
Much of the spread is blamed on sick workers who do not take time off while they wait for coronavirus test results. The state government announced Thursday that workers who do not have sick leave will be eligible for a support payment of 300 Australian dollars while they await test results.
A large majority of Melbourne residents appeared to be complying with the new face covering regulation.
For the first week of the mask mandate, police will “exercise discretion” in imposing fines.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Florida adds nearly 10,000 new coronavirus cases
— Brazil president still tests positive for virus
— Study: Nearly half of Spaniards gained weight during lockdown
— California’s confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 409,000, surpassing New York for most in the nation. However, California has nearly 8,000 deaths compared to New York’s 32,000.
— The mayor of Washington, D.C., will issue an executive order making face masks mandatory outside the home. Mayor Muriel Bowser says the order will include possible fines for violations.
— A new poll finds very few Americans think schools should return to normal operations this fall, even as President Donald Trump pushes for a full reopening. The poll is from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BEIJING — China continues to see newly confirmed coronavirus cases in its northwestern region of Xinjiang, with 18 reported Thursday.
More than 50 people have been infected in China’s latest outbreak focused on Xinjiang’s regional capital and largest city of Urumqi. City leaders have restricted travel, locked down some communities and ordered widespread testing to contain the spread.
An additional three confirmed cases brought from outside China were reported by the National Health Commission.
China has reported a total of 83,729 cases of COVID-19, with 4,634 deaths.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 59 new confirmed COVID-19 cases following a dual rise in local transmissions and imported infections.
The figures by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday brought the national caseload to 13,938, including 297 deaths.
The agency says 43 of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May. Authorities have struggled to trace transmissions and predict infection routes as people increasingly venture out in public. New clusters have been tied to office buildings, churches, live-in facilities and door-to-door salespeople.
Officials say at least 20 cases were imported infections. South Korea mandates tests and enforces two-week quarantines on all people arriving from overseas.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will spend an additional $315 million on protective masks through a contract with a Chinese manufacturer.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the deal with BYD on Wednesday as he touted California’s efforts to procure masks for health care and other essential workers.
Newsom signed a $1 billion contract with BYD in April and the first masks began arriving last month after delays.
Newsom said California will soon launch a competitive bidding process to try to get more masks at lower prices. But he also acknowledged the masks aren’t always getting to workers that need them and pledged a more aggressive state response.
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s health ministry has reported a record 67,860 confirmed coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours.
The previous mark for one day was 54,771, set June 19.
The new high reported Wednesday comes as some regions of the South American nation are partially reopening for business while others that had previously controlled the spread of the virus are seeing increases.
Brazil has counted more than 82,700 deaths from COVID-19 and 2.2 million confirmed infections.
One of the infected is President Jair Bolsonaro, who said earlier Wednesday that he has tested positive for the virus for the third time in two weeks.
DALLAS — Southwest Airlines will soon test thermal cameras to spot travelers who are running a fever, a symptom of COVID-19.
The test will start in early August at Dallas Love Field and run one to three months.
City and airline officials said Wednesday that in the first phase of the test, temperature readings won’t be tied to individuals. Instead, the idea is to evaluate the cameras, where they should be placed, and how thermal screening could affect the flow of traffic at security checkpoints.
Southwest says it’ll decide later on additional testing.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says there is a strong need to reopen schools. He says keeping them closed will lead to depression, social isolation and a higher dropout rate. However, he adds that parents should be able to keep children at home if they fear the coronovirus.
In an address on a state-run television channel Wednesday, DeSantis also said that if school districts want to delay opening, or allow teachers to work remotely, they should be allowed to do so.
A Florida teachers union has filed a lawsuit seeking to block what it calls “reckless and unsafe reopening” of public schools for face-to-face instruction.
The governor acknowledged there are worries about returning children to school, but added that “it should also be asked how safe it is to keep schools closed.”
PHOENIX — Arizona’s top education official says the state’s school districts should be empowered to reopen campuses for the new school year based on public health data instead of committing now to specific reopening dates.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman says she has outlined her priorities to Gov. Doug Ducey. He is expected to announce the next steps for school reopenings this week.
Ducey previously announced that schools would not reopen until Aug. 17, weeks after they normally open. Hoffman says schools need guarantees of full funding for distance learning.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is casting wide blame for a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases, pointing to racial justice protests, travelers from Mexico and young bar-goers.
Holding his second briefing on the virus in as many days after a three-month hiatus, Trump sought on Wednesday to explain the rise in confirmed cases across the nation’s South, Southwest and West.
Trump says cases among young Americans first started to rise “shortly after demonstrations.” He says the protests following the death of George Floyd “presumably triggered a broader relaxation of mitigation efforts nationwide.”
He also says a “substantial increase in travel” around Memorial Day and summer vacations was also a driver of new cases.
Further, he says, “Young people closely congregating at bars and probably other places, maybe beaches,” likely also led to new cases.
Trump also blames travelers crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for spikes, saying cases in Mexico are surging.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says his administration is providing an additional $5 billion to nursing homes, which have borne a disproportionate share of the death toll in the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump made the announcement Wednesday at the White House. He said the money is in addition to other actions, such as a push to facilitate testing of nursing home staff and a commitment to share inspection data on low performing nursing homes with state authorities.
The White House move follows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s recent unveiling of a family caregiver plan that aims to greatly expand and subsidize alternatives to institutional care for frail older adults.
Both men are retooling their messages to seniors against a backdrop of eroding political support for Trump among older Americans.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota are the latest states to require residents statewide to wear masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Wednesday requiring Minnesotans to wear a face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public settings. The order takes effect Saturday.
Indiana will have a statewide face mask mandate starting Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday. The order will apply to anyone ages 8 and older in any indoor public or business areas and at outdoor public spaces when sufficient distancing can’t be maintained.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state’s mask requirement will be expanded statewide. It goes into effect Thursday evening for people 10 and older. He had resisted making the order statewide but said more counties are seeing increasing numbers.
In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown announced she is expanding the state’s mask order to also apply to children 5 years and older. She also decreased the capacity for bars, restaurants, churches and other indoor places from 250 people to 100. The new mandates go into effect Friday. Currently anyone who is 12 years or older must wear masks
“When we see the numbers rise, we must respond,” Brown said.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday she will issue an executive order making face masks mandatory outside homes — an unprecedented step in the nation’s capital.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s largest public school district will delay the start of its school year by three weeks and have online learning until at least November.
The Board of Education for Oklahoma City Public Schools voted to delay the start of the school year from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31.
Superintendent Sean McDaniel says, “The best education is when we have teachers and students face to face and we want to get there as quickly as we can. But we want to be safe and thoughtful about it.”
McDaniel says a recent study revealed nearly 30% of the district’s 45,000 students were without either internet or computer access. But the district has used federal coronavirus relief funds to purchase 1,500 internet hot spots and will distribute computers to all students.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Local school boards in Kansas will be able to reopen schools in mid-August if they want to, despite a surge in coronavirus cases in the state.
The Republican-controlled State Board of Education rejected Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to postpone the start of classes for three weeks until after Labor Day.
The 10-member elected board’s action leaves decisions about when to reopen to the state’s 286 local school boards. The GOP has an 8-2 majority on the board, and five Republicans voted against Kelly’s proposal, saying conditions with the virus differ across the state.
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas area schools won’t resume classroom instruction when the semester starts next month.
Clark County school trustees cited concerns of spreading the coronavirus and unanimously decided to begin the school year using online education.
The vote came despite concerns about a shortage of laptops, lack of internet access for some students and the possibility of losing federal funds if schools don’t open.
District administrators considered two days of classroom attendance and three days of online instruction each week. But the superintendent says keeping the more than 350 schools closed a matter of health and safety.
The schools chief in Seattle also has rejected returning students to the classroom.
Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau announced Wednesday that she’s recommending a fully remote learning model when school resumes in the fall. The school board is expected to vote on how to proceed at its next scheduled board meeting next month.
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University will reserve one dorm for students who test positive for the coronavirus.
Students who test positive can move to Akers Hall or return home. The dorm can hold roughly 500 people, according to Kat Cooper, spokeswoman for Residential and Hospitality Services.
Students, staff and visitors are required to wear masks on campus and maintain social distance.
The fall term starts Sept. 2.
SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s government is letting its elderly out of the house after a four-month ban on people 75 and older in public.
The government says the elderly will be allowed to leave their homes just for an hour three times a week.
The age-based restriction was one of the strictest, though it’s not clear how much it helped. The South American nation’s hospital critical care units remain 82 percent occupied.
The country of 19 million has recorded 336,000 confirmed infections of the coronavirus and 8,700 deaths.
GENEVA — The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says many people who develop moderate illness from COVID-19 face long-term health issues.
Dr. Michael Ryan says an inflammatory process in air sacs and small blood vessels during coronavirus infection can cause the lungs to take a long time to regain normal function, along with the cardiovascular system.
Fatigue, lower exercise tolerance and lower lung function, including in otherwise healthy young people, can result and take months to fully recover.
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