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Monday November 23rd, 2020 11:40AM

The Latest: South Dakota breaks its COVID-19 cases record

By The Associated Press
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota on Wednesday broke its record for coronavirus hospitalizations and new cases, and the state has already had more deaths from the disease less than halfway through October than it had in any other month.

Despite the grim prognosis — South Dakota had the nation’s highest rate of positive tests over the last 14 days, according to the COVID Tracking Project — Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has resisted pressure to step up the state’s response to the disease, explaining Tuesday that the surge in case numbers was “expected” because the state was conducting more tests.

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said she thinks the state is doing a good job conducting enough tests to detect outbreaks.

However, the COVID Tracking Project says South Dakota’s 14-day average positivity rate of nearly 24% is more than four times the national average of 5.1%.

State Epidemiologist Josh Clayton said that the increase in testing led to more positive cases being identified. But he also acknowledged that infections are spreading in communities across the state.

The state’s hospitals are feeling the effects, with some seeking backups. Roughly 34% of general care beds and 39% of intensive care units statewide remain available, according to the Department of Health.

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

— Dr. Fauci criticizes ‘herd immunity’; suggests people rethink Thanksgiving travel

— France sets curfew at 9 p.m. Friday; health workers march in Paris

— More Swiss Guards, who attend to the Pope, test positive at Vatican

— Coronavirus cases around world climb to all-time highs of more than 330,000 per day, with surges across Europe and outbreaks in U.S.

— Kamala Harris suspends in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the U.S. vice presidential nominee's campaign tested positive for coronavirus.

— Queen Elizabeth II carries out her first public engagement outside of a royal residence since early March.

— 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:

CIUDAD DEL ESTE, Paraguay — Brazil and Paraguay reopened their borders Thursday after more than six months shut due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brazil’s Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement that international traffic on the Friendship Bridge between Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este is the first step in a gradual plan to lift restrictions.

Foz do Iguacu saw some 5,700 jobs lost as a result of the pandemic-driven border closings, while 18,000 positions were furloughed or had reductions in salaries or hours, according to the city’s commercial and business association.

“Thank God they reopened the bridge,” said Maicon Santana, a Brazilian tourist in Ciudad del Este. “Each country depends on the other, and we hope they never close again.”

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa set a record Thursday for people being treated in hospitals for the coronavirus, but Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said the health care system was managing well and there was no need for new actions to slow the virus' spread.

The number of people hospitalized rose to 482 as the state reported 1,410 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours. There were 13 more deaths, raising the state’s death toll to 1,505 since the pandemic began.

Despite the increasing hospitalization numbers and persistently high number of cases, Reynolds said hospitals hadn’t sought additional help and that she doesn’t plan to re-impose restrictions that she has eased in recent months.

Reynolds took questions from reporters a day after participating in an outdoor rally for President Donald Trump at the Des Moines airport. Thousands of supporters packed closely together for several hours, and while masks were given to participants, many didn’t appear to wear them.

The governor said she wore a mask most of the time but occasionally removed it.

Asked why she would promote and attend an event that appeared to violate her own health emergency proclamation against large gatherings, Reynolds said her orders were never intended to keep people from exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceably gather.

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin hit a new daily high for confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday for the second time this week, a surge that the state’s chief health officer called a crisis.

There were 3,747 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases reported Thursday, breaking the record of 3,279 set on Tuesday. To date, the state has had more than 162,000 confirmed cases and 1,553 deaths from the disease since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations were at a daily high of 1,017 on Wednesday, the same day the state opened a field hospital outside of Milwaukee to handle overflow patients.

Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said the field hospital had yet to admit anyone as of Thursday.

Wisconsin’s surge began in early September when the seven-day average of new cases was around 700. Palm said two weeks later, that had doubled and it is now 2,927.

Wisconsin’s death toll is the nation’s 29th highest and the 42nd highest per capita. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by nearly 22%. There were nearly 625 new cases per 100,000 people in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, which was the fourth-highest of any state.

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ATLANTA — Election officials said nearly a quarter of the workers in a warehouse where election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied for Georgia’s most populous county have tested positive for the coronavirus.

But Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said Thursday that the positive COVID-19 tests for 13 of the 60 workers at the county election preparation center shouldn’t delay election operations.

Barron said the county is working to hire replacement staff and implement more mitigation measures, including daily rapid testing.

The state Department of Public Health said Georgia had 1,686 cases and 23 deaths reported Thursday.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Thursday for the first time since mid-August, after Gov. Tate Reeves instituted a statewide mask mandate.

The day of high case numbers comes just two weeks after the Republican governor repealed that same statewide mask mandate, citing declining numbers of virus cases.

For most of the last two months, Mississippi has seen lower infection numbers, ranging between around 200 to 800 cases a day. In mid-to-late July, the state was regularly reporting between 1,000 and 1,500 cases a day on average.

The count has slowly been rising again. The state health department reported more than 1,300 new cases Thursday. Mississippi has had more than 108,000 virus cases and at least 3,152 virus-related deaths.

COVID-19 hospitalizations were also rising slightly, with 500 people reported to be hospitalized in the state on Tuesday, compared to 393 on Oct. 3. Mississippi’s state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Monday that six hospitals have no beds available in their intensive care units.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Thursday that the state's four-week average of unemployment claims has fallen below 100,000 for the first time since the jobless rate skyrocketed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The rolling average for the week ending Oct. 10 was 90,445, down from 100,464 the previous week and the unadjusted number of initial claims was 4,840, down by 940 from the prior week’s revised total 5,780.

A record of more than 182,000 continuing claims were reported in late June as the state reopened following Gov. Kevin Stitt’s shutdown of many businesses to stem the spread of the virus.

The state health department on Thursday reported 1,221 additional virus cases and 11 more deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the disease, for a total of 103,836 cases and 1,143 deaths since the pandemic began.

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O’FALLON, Mo. — The number of people hospitalized for the coronavirus in Missouri reached another record Thursday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was more than triple the benchmark suggested by the World Health Organization.

The state health department’s COVID-19 dashboard showed other alarming numbers, too: 1,875 new confirmed cases and 22 deaths. According to the dashboard, Missouri ranks fourth nationally in reported deaths over the past seven days, and eighth in the number of new cases. All told, Missouri has reported 150,554 confirmed cases and 2,442 deaths since the pandemic began.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate was 17.9%. Johns Hopkins University data shows the national seven-day positivity rate was at 5.1%. The WHO has set 5% as the benchmark.

Meanwhile, 1,443 people were hospitalized in Missouri on Wednesday, setting a new record for the third straight day. Hospitalizations have risen dramatically since the state loosened restrictions in mid-June. On June 16, 626 people were hospitalized, and that number dropped to 375 on July 7. It has nearly quadrupled since then.

Dr. Marc Larsen, who oversees the COVID-19 response at Kansas City-based St. Luke’s Health System, said the system’s rural hospitals are seeing surges just as bad as the hospital on the Plaza in Kansas City.

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MADRID — Spain added more than 13,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Spain’s health ministry reported 6,603 new infections diagnosed in the previous 24 hours. The other cases were diagnosed in recent days but not reported until now by regional officials.

The government’s top virus expert, Fernando Simón, says while “no province is where we want it to be” in terms of infections, “we have the sensation that we are in a process of stabilization.”

Spain leads Europe with 921,374 confirmed cases. It’s recorded 33,553 deaths. However, health experts believe the actual number is higher due to a shortage of tests early in the pandemic.

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HONOLULU — Struggling business owners in Hawaii will be watching as tourists return to the islands on Thursday without having to quarantine upon arrival.

A new pre-travel testing program allows visitors who test negative to come to Hawaii and avoid two weeks of mandatory quarantine. The state-run coronavirus testing program is an effort to stem the downturn on Hawaii’s tourism-based economy.

However, gaps in the program coupled with increasing cases across the U.S. and the world have raised questions about whether Hawaii is ready to safely welcome back vacationers.

Critics say a single test 72 hours before arrival -- especially when coupled with the option to fly without a test and still quarantine -- is not enough to keep island residents safe.

Hawaii, which has 1.4 million residents, reported 10 coronavirus deaths and more than 100 confirmed cases on Wednesday.

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation health officials are reporting 40 new confirmed coronavirus cases but no deaths.

That brings total cases to 10,780, with the known death toll remaining at 571.

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.

Tribal health officials say a total of 113,985 people have been tested on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon’s Health Ministry says the country registered a daily record of 1,550 coronavirus cases.

The record raises the total to 58,645 cases. The ministry added two new deaths, increasing the total to 501.

Lebanon has had a surge in cases since early July after a lockdown was eased and its only international airport opened. The situation worsened following a massive blast on Aug. 4, that killed and wounded many people and caused damage worth billions of dollars.

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VATICAN CITY — Seven more Swiss Guards have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing to 11 confirmed cases within the small army that protects Pope Francis.

The Swiss Guards say there’s more testing within the 135-member corps, with a reshuffling of schedules to “avoid all risks of contagion.”

The Swiss Guards, the world’s oldest standing army, provide ceremonial duty during papal Masses and stand at the Vatican gates. The Vatican confirmed Monday four guards had tested positive.

The 83-year-old pope, who had part of a lung removed in his 20s due to illness, would be at high risk for COVID-19 complications. He’s been reluctant to wear a face mask and appeared without one Wednesday, even though many of his entourage and all the Swiss Guards wore a mask.

Masks are required in Italy, both indoors and outdoors. While Francis was seen donning a mask a few weeks ago, the Vatican hasn’t responded to questions about why he isn’t wearing one.

Francis often seems out of breath and speaks in a whisper, suggesting that wearing a mask might be particularly uncomfortable.

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