The Latest: First case-free day for New Zealand in 5 weeks

1010 WINS Newsroom
September 17, 2020 - 11:14 pm

Medical staff prepare to take a COVID-19 tests at a drive through community based assessment centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Health authorities in New Zealand are scrambling to trace the source of a new outbreak of the coronavirus as the nation's largest city, Auckland, goes back into lockdown. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has reported no new confirmed cases of the coronavirus for the first time in more than five weeks as hopes rise that an outbreak discovered in Auckland last month has been stamped out.

Friday’s report also marked the fourth consecutive day without any cases of community transmission. All recent cases have been found among quarantined travelers returning from abroad.

Authorities have still not pinpointed the origin of the August outbreak, which they believe was imported. Auckland was temporarily placed into lockdown as the country continued its strategy of trying to completely eliminate community spread of the virus.

New Zealand has reported a total of just over 1,800 cases and 25 deaths.

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

— University of Michigan teaching graduate students end strike

— Ex-CDC director concerned about White House politics involved in science

— Texas Govenor eases some virus restrictions; Utah virus numbers spike

— The U.S. House has voted to condemn racism against Asian Americans tied to the coronavirus outbreak.

— Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to 860,000, a historically high figure that reflects economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

— Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider took to social media to condemn anti-maskers who ripped off their masks inside a Florida store while blaring the group’s hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

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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:

BEIJING — China says imported coronavirus cases surged to 32 over the previous 24 hours.

Thirteen of the newly confirmed cases reported Friday were in the northern province of Shaanxi, whose capital Xi’an is a major industrial center. The eastern financial and business hub of Shanghai reported 12.

China has gone more than a month without reporting any cases of locally transmitted coronavirus cases within its borders.

But it remains highly vigilant for cases brought in from outside the country. It has suspended issuing new visas and anyone arriving from abroad is required to undergo a two-week quarantine.

Schools, businesses, transport and public services have largely resumed normal operations under social distancing, mask wearing and location tracking requirements.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has stayed in the 100s for a 16th consecutive day as authorities struggle to contain small-scale, sporadic local infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that the 126 confirmed cased added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 22,783, with 377 deaths.

The agency says 82 of the newly reported cases were from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a viral resurgence in South Korea since early last month.

South Korea’s caseload has been slowing recently, prompting authorities to relax elevated social distancing rules in the Seoul area. But the country’s daily jump remains in triple digits as cluster transmissions linked to churches, schools and elsewhere and some untraceable cases have been continuously detected.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California companies must pay workers compensation benefits to any employees that become infected with the coronavirus and they must warn employees of any potential exposure to the virus under two laws that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Thursday.

Business groups have criticized the measures as “unworkable.”

The law on informing employees requires that businesses tell workers whenever they they have been exposed to someone who has either tested positive, been ordered to isolate or died because of the virus. Companies must do so within one business day of learning of the exposures or they can face fines issued by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

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HONOLULU — Hawaii public schools will start combining stay-at-home and in-class instruction during the second school quarter, which starts Oct. 12. The teachers union is vowing to fight the plan announced Thursday.

Most Hawaii schools have been uing distance learning since the start of the school year in August, seeking to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The new guidelines suggest schools adopt in-person instruction or learning from home depending on the number of positive coronavirus cases on each island over a 14-day period. It provides thresholds that would trigger a reevaluation.

The president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association is calling the plan “dangerous” and says the union will ask the Board of Education to require remote learning at least until Jan. 4.

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LAS VEGAS — Bars in and around Las Vegas can reopen at midnight Sunday with limited capacity, while requiring customers to use facial coverings and obey social distance rules.

Nevada’s coronavirus response task force decided Thursday that drinking establishments also can reopen in remote Elko County.

The moves relieved a hot-button issue and relaxed the last of the bar closure orders that Gov. Steve Sisolak re-imposed more than two months ago to limit gatherings where alcohol is served in the state’s coronavirus pandemic hot spot areas.

Taverns, bars, breweries, distilleries and wineries were allowed to reopen earlier this week in the Reno area.

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TORONTO — Canada’s largest province will fine people who hold social gatherings in defiance of new limits.

Ontario reported 293 newly confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford blames such gatherings for spiking COVID-19 numbers in Toronto, Ottawa and a region just outside Toronto.

Starting Friday in those three areas, only 10 people will be allowed to gather indoors — down from the current limit of 25. The number for outdoor gatherings will drop to 25 from 100.

The penalty for organizers of events that violate the limits will be 10,000 Canadian dollars, or about $7,600 U.S. People attending the gatherings will be fined 750 Canadian dollars.

Ford says the new limits will not apply for restaurants, movie theaters or weddings held at banquet halls, where he says public health guidelines are being followed.

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ATLANTA — Georgia has surpassed 300,000 confirmed coronavirus infections amid indications a decline in new cases may be leveling out.

As of Thursday, Georgia is close to 301,000 confirmed virus cases, with 6,474 deaths from COVID-19.

Authorities say Georgia’s numbers remain mostly headed in the right direction, although the seven-day rolling average of new cases has drifted up for several days. Georgia ranks 12th among U.S. states in most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to data kept by The Associated Press.

Epidemiologist Amber Schmidtke says infections “seem to have hit a leveling point” in the recent downward trend, adding that “we need more time to know.”

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has reiterated that he will not issue a statewide mask mandate despite a recommendation from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The governor noted Thursday that he has argued all along that an order requiring the use of face masks is unenforceable and adds: “I’m not going to mandate something that I don’t think you can enforce.”

Stitt says he supports individual cities in the state that have issued mask-wearing mandates, which include Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman. The governor also encourages people to wear masks.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Thursday reported 73,318 total confirmed virus cases and 930 deaths due to COVID-19. That was an increase of 1,034 cases and six more deaths for the previous 24 hours.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is warning that authorities “may have no choice” but to enact even tighter measures as the country heads into a second lockdown following a months-long rise in coronavirus cases.

In a televised address late Thursday, Netanyahu predicts that other countries will also be forced to impose new closures to contain the pandemic.

Israel’s government is imposing widespread restrictions starting Friday, with many businesses closed and people largely confined to their homes. A similar lockdown in the spring largely contained the outbreak, but the daily case numbers grew rapidly after the economy was reopened in May.

Israel has reported more than 172,000 cases since the start of the outbreak, including at least 1,163 deaths.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is considering a statewide mask mandate to fight a recent surge of virus cases in the state.

The governor said Thursday that he is alarmed by the increase, much of it in Utah County.

An infectious disease specialist says the surge was probably driven by high school and colleges resuming in-person learning. Dr. Eddie Stenehjem of the Intermountain Healthcare says that could lead to increased hospitalizations for older people in coming weeks.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new Utah coronavirus cases has increased about 54%.

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KANSAS CITY — Ten football fans who attended the Kansas City Chiefs game together last week have been told to quarantine after one of them tested positive for a coronavirus infection.

Kansas City health officials said Thursday that the person tested positive a day after the group watched the game from their box in Arrowhead Stadium’s lower level.

The Chiefs say in a statement that the people involved were wearing masks when they entered the stadium as required. The team says its contact tracing system allowed it to identify those sitting with the infected person, service staff who might have had contact with the person, and others near the person when he or she entered the stadium.

The Chiefs opened the NFL season last week against the Houston Texans with only 22% capacity — about 17,000 fans — at Arrowhead. Fans were required to wear masks and social distance and other safety precautions were in place.

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MOSCOW — Moscow’s mayor is urging employers to support employees working from home as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

The Russian capital on Thursday recorded 730 new cases, an increase of about 15% from early September. Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on state television the rise is apparently due to increased testing and the percentage of positives remains stable at about 1.5%.

He recommends “all heads of enterprises, regardless of the form of organization, if it is possible, and this is not seriously damaging to the work of the organization, continue to organize remote work.” Nationwide, Russia has recorded more than 1 million infections and 19,061 confirmed deaths.

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MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will meet with Madrid’s regional authorities to discuss the surging coronavirus.

Sánchez sent the letter on Thursday to Madrid regional leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who replied on Twitter that she’s happy to meet with the prime minister.

Díaz Ayuso has been one of the biggest critics of the Sánchez’s handling of the national crisis. But since the national government lifted a state of emergency that had reined in a devastating first wave of the virus in June, many regional governments such as Madrid have dealt with new outbreaks.

Spain is leading Europe with 287 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days. France is next with 166 per capita.

Spain’s health ministry reported Thursday that Madrid has confirmed 43,900 new cases in the last 14 days. Catalonia follows with 12,100 cases.

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LONDON — The U.K. government says travelers from Singapore and Thailand won’t need to quarantine for two weeks because of a lower coronavirus infection risk.

The government says Slovenia and Guadeloupe travelers must quarantine for two weeks starting Saturday because of an increase in confirmed cases.

The weekly changes have proven controversial, causing problems for hundreds of thousands of British travelers during the summer, prompting a dash home to avoid quarantine.

The U.K. continues its sharp increase in new confirmed cases, with 3,395 reported Thursday. On Wednesday, it was 3,991 cases. The seven-day average is nearly double the level of two weeks ago.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is easing some coronavirus restrictions in Texas but says bars will remain shut.

Abbott says restaurants, gyms and retail shops can expand to 75% capacity starting next week.

Texas has nearly 14,500 confirmed deaths, the vast majority occurring after the state embarked on an aggressive reopening in May.

The outlook has steadily improved in the past month as hospitalizations have fallen and the infection rate has dropped into single digits.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says there are more than 2,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in conflict-torn Yemen.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says a high-level meeting on Yemen on Thursday that the estimate takes into account that “war has decimated the country’s facilities.”

He said more than five years of war has reversed development in Africa’s poorest country “by decades,” left state institutions at “the verge of collapse.”

He said despite initial expressions of support by the warring parties to his call on March 23 for a global cease-fire to deal with the pandemic, “the conflict continues unabated” and “in recent weeks, conflict has unfortunately escalated.”

Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 100,000 people. More than 3 million people were internally displaced and two-thirds of the population relies on food aid.

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