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Friday November 27th, 2020 2:40AM

The Latest: Germany to prioritize vaccinations in care homes

By The Associated Press
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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says nursing home workers and the people they are caring for will be among the first to get access to coronavirus vaccines.

Merkel said Saturday in her weekly video address that staff and residents of nursing homes will “receive priority” as soon as a vaccine is available.

Almost 1 million people in Germany live in nursing and care homes. The country is seeking to buy 100 million doses of a vaccine being developed by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and U.S. partner Pfizer.

Germany’s disease control agency reported a further 22,461 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to Saturday, as well as 178 additional deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has recorded 773,556 confirmed cases and 12,378 deaths.

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

— Oregon, New Mexico order lockdowns as other states resist

— Biden faces tough choice of whether to back virus lockdowns

— Trump, still not conceding defeat, trumpets vaccine progress

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ISTANBUL — Turkish health ministry statistics show 93 people died in a day of COVID-19 amid a surge in infections, bringing the daily death toll to numbers last seen in April.

In figures released late Friday, the health ministry also reported 3,045 new patients, referring to the number of confirmed cases presenting symptoms. Turkey has been criticized for only releasing the number of symptomatic cases in its figures since late July and the total number of confirmed infections is unclear.

The figures also show an upward trend in the number of critically ill patients. The total death toll has reached 11,326.

Turkey lifted temporary weekend lockdowns in late May and reopened travel, restaurants and other businesses. Officials have been urging people to stay at home but new restrictions so far have been limited to curtailing the movement of senior citizens in Istanbul and Ankara, closing businesses at 10 p.m. and banning smoking in crowded public places across the country.

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BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has ordered a statewide mask mandate and imposed several business restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has stressed the state’s hospital capacity.

The Republican governor’s executive order late Friday comes after months of pressure from health care professionals to require face coverings. The directive requires residents to wear face coverings in indoor businesses and indoor public settings, as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.

The order goes into effect Saturday. Failure to comply with the mandate is an infraction, with a penalty of up to $1,000, though it’s not clear how it will be enforced.

State health data show North Dakota reached a grim new milestone on Friday, as its COVID-19 death toll eclipsed the 700 mark. The state has reported more than 60,000 coronavirus infections.

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NEW DELHI — India’s overall tally of new coronavirus cases remained steady on Saturday, but officials were watching a surge of cases in the capital that comes as people socialize during the festival season.

India’s Health Ministry reported 44,684 new positive cases in the past 24 hours and 520 deaths. Of those, 7,802 new cases were reported in New Delhi, with 91 deaths.

India’s has seen 8.7 million infections since the pandemic began — the second-most in the world — but daily new infections have been on the decline from the middle of September. The county has also seen more than 129,000 virus deaths.

New Delhi has seen a spike in recent weeks, recording more new cases than any other Indian state. The rising numbers coincide with a busy festival season nationwide, with millions celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, on Saturday.

COVID-19 beds in government-run hospitals are nearly full and the availability of intensive care unit beds with ventilator support in the city has reached an all-time low, according to the government data.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is self-quarantining after his chief spokesperson tested positive for COVID-19.

The Democratic governor’s chief spokesperson, Max Reiss, identified himself as the senior staff member who had tested positive, in a release posted to Twitter late Friday. An initial news release from the governor’s office didn’t identify the staff member, but said that it was the first known case of the coronavirus in the governor’s office.

Reiss wrote he wasn’t sure how or where he contracted the virus, but added that his family had been self-quarantining after his children were exposed at school. He said none of his family was experiencing symptoms, but they will quarantine for the next two weeks.

Contact tracing has begun and all members of the administration who have been within 6 feet (2 meters) of Reiss for 15 minutes or more will self-quarantine for 14 days. In addition to Lamont, chief of staff Paul Mounds and chief operating officer Josh Geballe will self-quarantine. Reiss also encouraged journalists who had contact with him under those same parameters in the last 24 hours to “take the necessary steps.”

Lamont and senior staff are tested twice a week, the release from the governor’s office said, and there are no known additional positive cases.

Three U.S. governors — Republicans Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Mike Parson of Missouri and Democrat Ralph Northam of Virginia — had COVID-19 earlier this year. Another governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak of Nevada, announced Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

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CARSON CITY, Nev.— Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday said he has tested positive for COVID-19 as the virus surges to record levels in the state and across the U.S.

The 66-year-old Democrat is the fifth governor to report testing positive for the coronavirus this year. Three governors, two Republicans in Missouri and Oklahoma, and one Democrat in Virginia contracted COVID-19 this year.

Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive in August but received a negative test a few hours later. DeWine tested positive using a rapid test before testing negative later that day after using a more sensitive laboratory-developed test.

Sisolak said he was not experiencing any symptoms on a call with reporters and was swabbed for a rapid test on Friday morning as a matter of routine. After it yielded a positive result, he also underwent molecular testing and his sample is still being processed.

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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea’s soccer association says four players and a staff member of the men’s national team have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Austria for a friendly with Mexico.

Korea Football Association spokesperson Kim Min-soo said the rest of the team will be re-tested before a decision is made whether to cancel the match with Mexico, which was scheduled for Saturday night local time in Wiener Neustadt, south of Vienna.

The players who tested positive were Kwon Chang-hoon, a midfielder for German club SC Freiburg; Hwang In-beom, a midfielder for Russian club FC Rubin Kazan; Lee Dong-jun, a forward for South Korean club Busan I Park FC; Jo Hyeon-woo, a goalkeeper from South Korean club Ulsan Hyundai FC.

The KFA said none of the five who tested positive were showing symptoms and that players and staff were currently quarantining in their rooms.

At home, South Korean health authorities reported 203 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily jump in 73 days, causing concern in a nation that has eased its social distancing restrictions since October amid concerns over a weak economy.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama on Friday added almost 3,000 COVID-19 cases, the highest number reported in a single day since the pandemic began. Health officials believe many of those cases arose from Halloween parties, sporting events and other group gatherings.

“This is a new record for us,” State Health Officer Scott Harris told The Associated Press. “Overall, we believe the number accurately shows that Alabama is seeing increased community transmission of COVID-19.”

Harris said unlike past surges of that size, the increase is not due to a large data dump of previously backlogged reporting.

Health officials have expressed concern about an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths as the nation heads into the holiday season.

“When you see the kind of jump in cases we’re seeing now, that clearly demonstrates community transmission,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the state’s former longtime state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Several San Francisco Bay Area counties are joining San Francisco in banning all indoor dining and scaling back other activities as coronavirus cases surge nationwide, alarming public health officials as the holidays approach.

Santa Clara, Marin and Contra Costa counties announced Friday that they will halt indoor dining as of Tuesday.

Contra Costa County also is ordering indoor gyms and fitness centers to close. Santa Clara is requiring gyms to operate at 10% capacity and closing all outdoor bars, bowling alleys and other indoor family centers.

The Bay Area generally has been more cautious than the rest of the state in allowing activities during the pandemic, and health officers representing 7 million people implemented a stay-at-home order back in March ahead of a similar order by the state.

Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County, which is home to Silicon Valley, said it is “absolutely imperative” to take action given the steep increase in cases starting around Election Day. She said she expects the state to move the county back to a more restrictive tier of operation and would rather not wait to take action.

Businesses have pushed back on the idea that restaurants and gyms are to blame for virus transmission, and health officials have said that small, casual gatherings at home where family and friends are not wearing masks or socially distancing are to blame for the latest surge.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Some churches in Kansas have suspended indoor, in-person worship services and the capital city’s zoo even has tightened its rules as the the state set another record for new coronavirus cases.

The bishops of the two Episcopal Church dioceses that cover Kansas this week directed their congregations to suspend services and meetings. The United Methodist Church bishop for Kansas and Nebraska also encouraged its churches to suspend in-person services until further notice if they are in counties “identified as being in critical or dangerous statuses.”

And the Topeka zoo said that starting Saturday, all visitors will be required to wear masks, except when eating. The zoo had allowed visitors to take off their masks if they were outdoors and socially distanced.

Kansas averaged a record 2,553 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases a day for the seven days ending Friday. The state health department added 6,282 coronavirus cases to the state’s pandemic tally since Wednesday, increasing it to 115,507. The department also reported 41 additional COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the pandemic total to 1,256.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Health officials in Pennsylvania’s third-most populous county ordered schools Friday to temporarily halt classroom instruction in what they said was an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Montgomery County Board of Health mandated that all public and private K-12 schools in the suburban Philadelphia county offer virtual instruction for two weeks beginning Nov. 23. The order affects tens of thousands of students in more than 20 public school districts along with students of charter, private and parochial schools.

Spiking COVID-19 numbers are prompting other Pennsylvania school districts to take action. Pittsburgh Public Schools announced Friday that more than 800 students who resumed classroom instruction just this week would have to go back to remote learning.

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