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Monday October 19th, 2020 8:46PM

The Latest: Czech Republic imposes new rules amid case surge

By The Associated Press
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PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is imposing a new series of restrictive measures in response to a record surge in coronavirus infections.

Amid the spike, the number of deaths has surpassed 1,000 people.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis says all bars, restaurants and clubs will be closed starting on Wednesday, while drinking alcohol is banned at public places.

Babis also says all schools will be closed at least until Nov. 2, with the exception of schools remaining open for the children of doctors, nurses and rescue workers.

The government has also limited the number of people who can gather to six and made it mandatory to wear face masks at outdoor public transport stops.

There was a new record high of 8,618 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, marking the fourth straight day last week of a new record for single-day coronavirus infections.

As a result, new restrictive measures have been implemented since Monday, including closures of all theaters, cinemas, zoos, museums, art galleries, fitness centers and public swimming pools.

Also, all sports indoor activities are banned. Outdoors, only up to 20 people are allowed to participate in sport activities.

Government data shows the Czech Republic has had 119,007 confirmed cases with 1,045 deaths, on Monday. Of them, 256 people died last week.

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

— Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett faces Senate despite virus

— Trump insists he’s free of virus, ready for campaign trail

— Britain expected to tighten restrictions on hard-hit northern cities like Liverpool

— EU nations gear up to adopt traffic-light system to identify outbreaks

— Four Swiss guards who protect 83-year-old Pope Francis have the virus

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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:

NEW LONDON, Conn. — State and local officials on Monday urged southeastern Connecticut residents to get tested for COVID-19, noting a continued spike in cases in New London and elsewhere. They also called on people to be careful around friends, family members and co-workers.

Dr. Deidre Gifford is the acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health. She said contract tracers have found that people have become infected after taking off their masks in the car while carpooling, spending time with family members or in workplace lunch rooms. She urged anyone who tests positive or thinks they’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive to quarantine for 14 days.

Stephen Mansfield is the director of health at the Ledge Light Health District. He said more than 700 tests were conducted in New London over the weekend. Free testing also began Monday in neighboring Groton.

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A state official in Missouri said Monday, two days after a “database extract error” incorrectly showed a massive one-day increase in coronavirus cases in Missouri, the problem remains unresolved.

On Saturday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases, which would be nearly 3,000 more than the previous record for a single day. But on Sunday, the health department said that number was wrong, blaming the process of migrating data into a new system.

“The team is continuing to work through the issues today. We’re still working to pinpoint the cause as it’s a new issue related to the automated (rather than manual) entry of data,” agency spokeswoman Lisa Cox said in an email.

Because the system is being fixed, the state had not updated any data on Monday, including the number of new cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

In late September, the state began using a new dashboard for tracking COVID-19 that provides additional data, including per capita cases by jurisdiction, rankings of counties by infection rates, and comparing Missouri to other states on several metrics.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville officials are investigating a worship event outside the historic courthouse Sunday that packed together a big, largely unmasked crowd, despite rising new case counts of COVID-19 in Tennessee.

Nashville Health Department spokesperson Brian Todd says “appropriate penalties” will be pursued against the organizer, saying that person didn’t submit an application to health officials or permit application to any Nashville department.

“We have worked very hard to slow the spread of COVID by taking a measured approach to protect the community,” Todd said in a statement Monday. “The Health Department is very concerned by the actions that took place at the event and we are investigating and will pursue appropriate penalties against the organizer.”

Event leader Sean Feucht posted videos of the gathering on social media, calling it a protest. Feucht has been associated with similar gatherings elsewhere, including in California, Washington and Georgia.

“We had THREE venue changes and so much resistance BUT THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE SILENCED!” Feucht tweeted Sunday about the Nashville event.

Nashville is limiting gatherings without city approval to 25 people. Approved events can occur at 30% capacity, with 500 people maximum and masks required.

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BOISE, Idaho — People who had their coronavirus relief checks wrongly denied or seized because they were behind bars now have a few more days to apply to receive the money.

The Internal Revenue Service has extended the application deadline 15 days to Oct. 30 in response to a ruling by a federal judge who said the payments couldn’t be denied based solely on someone’s incarceration status. That has prison officials scrambling to make sure incarcerated people know they can qualify for the funds.

In Idaho, prison officials followed IRS guidance earlier this year and seized the payments from 48 inmates.

Now the prison officials are working to tell those and other inmates they can get the money after all.

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MANCHESTER, Tenn. — The mayor of a Tennessee city died early Monday after being hospitalized for 11 days with COVID-19.

The city of Manchester said in a Facebook post that Mayor Lonnie Norman died after putting up “a valiant fight against COVID-19."

News outlets report Norman was reelected to his third term, which was set to expire in 2024, in August.

Manchester, Tennessee is home to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The organization posted Saturday about Norman’s hospitalization on Twitter and expressed well wishes for the “incredible” mayor.

WPLN-FM reports he was the city’s first Black Mayor.

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BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says he expects a vaccination for the coronavirus to be ready to start rolling out in the first quarter next year.

Health Minister Jens Spahn and Research Minister Anja Karliczek had said in September that they hoped to be able to start vaccinating the most at-risk group of Germans in the first months of 2021, and Spahn said Monday that prognosis is on track.

“As things stand today, Oct. 12, I assume that we’ll be able to begin in the first quarter of next year,” Spahn said during a video conference with the Ifo Institute research think-tank.

Vaccinations would be voluntary, and go first to people with preexisting medical conditions, the elderly and people working in health care and nursing homes.

Germany is supporting several efforts to develop a vaccine, and Spahn said eventually there should be more than enough to go around.

“If all the horses reach the finish line, we will have far too much vaccine,” he said.

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MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin judge on Monday allowed the state’s mask mandate to stand, rejecting an attempt by the Republican-controlled Legislature and a conservative law firm to overturn it even as cases are spiking.

The judge noted in his ruling that the Legislature could vote to overturn the order from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers if they wanted to, but they haven’t so far.

Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty President Rick Esenberg said the group, which brought the case, will appeal. Esenberg called the issue a “critical constitutional matter.”

Republican legislative leaders did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The Legislature filed a brief in support of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit argued that Evers overstepped his authority by issuing multiple emergency orders to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Evers said it was within his power to impose the mask requirement and that he followed the recommendations of public health experts.

Evers called the ruling a victory in the fight against COVID-19.

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MILAN — The number of new positives in Italy shrank to below the 5,000 level on Monday — typically a day that bucks trends as far fewer tests are administered.

Health Ministry figures showed 4,619 new cases in the last 25 hours, a dip of 15% from nearly 5,500 a day earlier, against an 18% drop in testing.

Italy has been hovering around 5,000 new cases a day, prompting the government to consider more restrictions after making masks mandatory also outdoors last week. Among the measures under discussion are early closing times for bars and limiting numbers at social gatherings.

Lombardy, the epicenter of the virus, saw a one-third drop in infections to just under 700, followed by Campania, where Naples is located, with 662.

Hospitalizations continued to nudge up, growing by 300, while 32 more COVID patients were in intensive care units. Italy’s total infections now stand at just under 360,000, while more than 36,200 people have died in the pandemic.

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LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization warned against the idea that herd immunity might be a realistic strategy to stop the pandemic, calling such proposals “unethical.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Monday that health officials typically aim to achieve herd immunity — where the entire population is protected from a virus when the majority are immune — by vaccination. Tedros noted that to obtain herd immunity from measles, for example, about 95% of the population must be vaccinated.

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said. “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak,” he said, calling the strategy “scientifically and ethically problematic.”

Tedros said that WHO estimates less than 10% of the population has any immunity to the coronavirus, meaning the vast majority of the world remains susceptible.

Tedros also noted countries had reported record-high daily figures of COVID-19 to the U.N. health agency for the last four days, citing surges in Europe and the Americas in particular.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus has brought back restrictions on public and private gatherings in its two most populous districts amid concerns over a spike in COVID-19 infections in workplaces and family get-togethers during the last few days.

Cyprus’ Health Ministry said Monday are gatherings in private homes and public areas in the Limassol and Nicosia districts are limited to 10 people, including children. Attendance at religious services is capped at 75 people, while spectators are prohibited from all sports events. Bars, restaurants, cinemas and theaters are limited to a maximum of 75 patrons indoors and 150 outdoors. Restaurant seating is also limited to 10 people at most per table. Wedding and baptism receptions are prohibited.

The restrictions are to last until Oct. 23. Cyprus has seen confirmed COVID-19 infections hover in the double digits in the last couple of weeks, relatively high for a country of 875,000 people.

The Mediterranean island nation has so far had a total of 2006 COVID-19 infections and 31 deaths virus-related deaths.

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LONDON — The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization said “appropriate measures” can be taken to ensure that in-person elections can be held safely and that the pandemic shouldn’t automatically scupper such plans.

“We’ve seen many examples over the last nine months where elections have actually been held very safely,” Dr. Michael Ryan said on Monday. He said WHO had worked with numerous countries to produce guidance that aims to minimize the spread of COVID-19 during any mass gathering, including an election.

“We don’t specify to any country what the proper choice is for the type of election (to be) run,” he said, adding that it is up to countries to conduct their own risk assessment to see how elections might be held safely.

Ryan said that it was entirely possible to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread to “an absolute minimum if everybody participates and if everybody adheres to what is an agreed method.” The problem, he pointed out, is when those practices are ignored. “And that’s essentially something that can’t be legislated for.”

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BEIRUT — Schools have resumed classes for the new school year in Lebanon starting grade 9 and above amid an increase of coronavirus cases in the tiny country.

The Ministry of Education said other classes will resume lessons over the coming three weeks.

On Monday, classes were split into morning and afternoon shifts in order to have a 50% capacity and abide by social distancing. Students had their temperature checked before entering schools and had to wear masks.

The move came as the Interior Minister ordered a lockdown in 169 towns and villages around Lebanon for a week to try limit the spread of the virus.

In those 169 towns and villages schools were closed.

Lebanon, a nation of 5 million, has registered 53,568 cases of coronavirus and 459 deaths.

Over the past three months, cases increased dramatically in Lebanon after the only international airport was reopened and a nationwide lockdown eased.

A massive explosion at Beirut’s port worsened the situation amid crowding at hospitals, funerals and anti-government protests.

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LONDON — The British government is giving 257 million pounds ($335 million) to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The money announced Monday is the first chunk of a Culture Recovery Fund totalling 1.57 billion pounds in all.

Recipients include major organizations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, which received 846,000 pounds, and tiny venues such as London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre, which got just under 60,000 pounds. Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where The Beatles shot to fame, received a grant of 525,000 pounds.

Britain’s museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country went into lockdown in March. Some have managed to reopen, with reduced capacity and at a financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.

Many arts workers also have not been supported by government job-retention programs because they are freelancers.

Julian Bird, chief executive of umbrella body U.K. Theatre, said the news was “warmly welcomed, and will help create work and retain jobs.”

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