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Tuesday July 14th, 2020 4:03AM

The Latest: SKorea reports 17 new cases, fewest in month

By The Associated Press
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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 17 new cases of COVID-19, the first time its daily jump came down to the teens in nearly a month, as health authorities scramble to contain a resurgence of the virus centered around the greater capital area.

The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday brought the national caseload to 12,438 cases, including 280 deaths.

The country over the past two weeks has been reporting 40 to 50 new cases per day amid increased public activity and eased attitudes on social distancing. There has also been an uptick in imported cases, mostly from passengers arriving from southwest Asia, prompting authorities to halt providing new visas for travelers from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Twelve of the new cases reported Monday were from the Seoul metropolitan area where authorities have struggled to keep track of hundreds of transmissions linked to nightspots, restaurants, church gatherings and low-income workers such as door-to-door salespeople and warehouse employees who couldn’t afford to stay home. Six of the new cases, including five in the capital area, were linked to international arrivals.

The monthlong rise of infections in the densely populated capital area have raised concerns that the country is sleepwalking into another major crisis after containing its first wave centered around the southeastern city of Daegu.

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

— White House adviser says Trump spoke tongue in cheek during “light moment” at rally when he said he asked for slower virus testing

— Spain has reopened its borders for European tourists

— Pope Francis encourages grassroots movements to protect the environment after lockdowns reveal “the beauty of so many places"

— Daily counts of new virus cases in the U.S. are the highest they’ve been in more than a month, but public health experts say “second wave” is probably the wrong term to describe what’s happening. “When you have 20,000-plus infections per day, how can you talk about a second wave?” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. “We’re in the first wave."

— Zimbabwe’s health minister has appeared in court to face allegations of illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for COVID-19 medical supplies to a shadowy company that sold the government $28 face masks and other materials at inflated prices.

— South Korea has reported 48 new cases of COVID-19 as health authorities struggle to contain a resurgence that’s erasing some of the country’s hard-won gains against the virus. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 200 infections so far have been linked to employees of a door-to-door sales company in Seou that mostly hired people over age 60.

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Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- An inmate from Avenal State Prison in California has died from what appear to be complications from the coronavirus.

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said late Saturday the inmate died at a hospital and the exact cause of death has yet to be determined. No additional information was provided.

Authorities said 19 inmates in state custody have died from illnesses related to the virus. It’s the first death at Avenal State Prison in Kings County, where 131 inmates have tested positive for the virus. The prison is 180 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

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WASHINGTON -- White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is calling the coronavirus a “product of the Chinese Communist Party” and suggesting without evidence it may have been intentionally created by the Chinese government.

Navarro says on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it remains unclear how the virus started and “until we get some information about what happened in those labs or what happened in that wet market, we know that the virus was spawned in China.”

President Donald Trump and his allies have been repeating the unsubstantiated theory linking the outbreak’s origin to a possible accident at a Chinese virology laboratory. U.S. officials describe the evidence as purely circumstantial.

The leading theory is that infection among humans began at an animal market in Wuhan.

Navarro says it’s “open question” whether the virus was purposefully created. He says in his view, the Chinese government is “guilty until proven innocent.”

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases in Oklahoma has set a new daily record of 478.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health department reported Sunday that total confirmed cases rose to 10,515 from 10,037 a day earlier.

The state’s previous record of 450 new cases in one day was set Thursday. Interim state health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye has said a surge in coronavirus cases was expected after the state began reopening in late April.

The new wave comes amid ongoing demonstrations to protest police killings of Black citizens, Juneteenth celebrations and a Saturday campaign rally U.S. President Donald Trump held at an indoor arena in Tulsa.

The health department on Sunday reported one virus-related death. Oklahoma’s COVID-19 death toll how stands at 369.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida has reported nearly 3,500 more new coronavirus cases as public health officials reissued advisories urging social distancing.

Some businesses are reevaluating decisions to reopen their doors, and some Floridians had to rethink Father’s Day brunch plans because of health concerns.

The number of new cases reported Sunday was a drop from the record high of 4,000 reported the day before.

Florida now has more than 97,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in all. The number of COVID-19 deaths eclipsed 3,160 with the addition of 17 more announced by health officials on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the infection rate remains high, with nearly 12% of recent tests coming back from laboratories as positive.

Despite rising cases in recent days, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not signaled the possibility of any retreat from reopening the state after three months of closures.

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ROME — Italy’s Health Ministry is asking government advisers to evaluate new World Health Organization recommendations that people with COVID-19 can come out of isolation even before they test negative for the virus.

The WHO last week said patients who spent 10 consecutive days in isolation with symptoms can be released if they then are symptom-free for at least three days. Previously, WHO recommended ending the isolation of infected people only after they tested negative twice on samples taken 24 hours apart.

The change is significant given that many countries are grappling with how to deal with thousands of people who are technically infected with the virus but may not still pose a transmission risk to others.

Italy on Sunday reported 224 new coronavirus cases and 24 deaths in the past day, bringing the country’s official death toll in the pandemic to 34,634.

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PHOENIX — The U.S. state of Arizona has now passed the 50,000 mark in confirmed COVID-19 cases after reporting 2,952 new ones.

The additional cases reported by the state Department of Health Services on Sunday took Arizona’s statewide total in the coronavirus pandemic to 52,390.

Health officials also reported one more known death, pushing the statewide death toll so far to 1,339.

The state’s recent surge in new confirmed cases has set daily records for hospitalizations, ventilator use and use of intensive care beds for coronavirus patients.

Arizona reported record new cases numbering 3,109 on Saturday, 3,246 on Friday and 2,519 on Thursday. Health officials have attributed the increases to wider testing and to community spread of the virus.

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WASHINGTON -- The acting U.S. homeland security secretary says he thinks the Trump administration is doing a “great job” with reopening the country during the coronavirus epidemic despite infections rising in key states.

Chad Wolf told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the White House coronavirus task force has been working with governors to make sure the United States “can open up this economy in a safe and reasonable way” and “I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

About 120,000 Americans have died from the new virus, and reported cases have been increasing in the South and West of the U.S..

Wolf said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the White House task force is “on top of all of these outbreaks,” including in Arizona, Texas, Florida and other states that “are having hot spots.”

He says the Trump administration has sent medical equipment, staff and Department of Homeland Security personnel to many areas to assist with reopening efforts.

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WASHINGTON -- White House trade adviser Peter Navarro says U.S. President Donald Trump was being “tongue in cheek” when he claimed at a campaign rally in Oklahoma that he asked officials to slow down coronavirus testing.

Navarro said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Trump made the comment in a “light moment.”

During Saturday’s rally in Tulsa, Trump explained that the “bad part” of widespread testing is that it leads to logging more virus cases. New cases have recently spiked in several U.S. states, but not just due to testing.

The United States has tested over 25 million people for the novel coronavirus. The country has reported more than 2.2 million confirmed cases and about 120,000 COVID-19 deaths. according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. The real numbers are believed to be higher.

In response to Trump’s remarks, Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden criticized Trump for putting politics ahead of the safety and health of Americans.

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ATHENS, Greece — Authorities say Greece had 10 new COVID-19 cases and no virus-related deaths between Saturday and Sunday.

The daily update brought the country's total confirmed cases to 3,266, including 190 deaths.

Greek authorities say the median age of the infected people who died is 76 and all of those under age 70 had suffered from serious conditions unrelated to the virus.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government will weigh possible steps to halt the spread of the coronavirus after Israel saw a major uptick in new confirmed cases in recent days.

Israel has over 20,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with new cases jumping by more than 300 in recent days. At least 305 people have died with COVID-19 since the country’s outbreak began in March.

Netanyahu said at the start of the government’s weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, “If we don’t change immediately our behavior regarding wearing masks and keeping distance, we will bring upon ourselves, against our will, a return to lockdowns. None of us wants this.”

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LONDON — No new coronavirus deaths have been recorded in Scotland or Northern Ireland in the past 24 hours, according to official figures, more evidence that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing in the U.K.

The government said Sunday that 43 deaths were recorded in all settings across the U.K. in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s official pandemic death toll to 42,632.

The daily COVID-19 mortality figure is one of the country's lowest on record, though numbers often fall on weekends because of delays in registering deaths.

The British government says it will lay out this week its plans for the next stage in lifting a nationwide lockdown, which could see cafes, restaurants and pubs in England reopen on July 4.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is likely to ease a rule requiring people to stay 2 meters (6 ½ feet) apart, something that would help venues reopen. Hancock said it might be possible for people to be closer if they took other measures, such as wearing face masks.

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BEIJING — The Chinese customs agency has suspended poultry imports from a Tyson Co. facility in the United States after coronavirus cases were confirmed among its employees.

The announcement Sunday gave no details of the facility’s location or how much meat might be affected.

Meanwhile, a PepsiCo Inc. facility in Beijing suspended production and was disinfected after a confirmed case was found there June 15, the company announced Sunday at a news conference held by the city government. It said 480 people were placed in isolation June 15 and tested negative for the coronavirus.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is encouraging grassroots movements to protect the environment after coronavirus lockdowns have “revealed once more the beauty of so many places free from traffic and noise.”

Francis, speaking to a few hundred people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, encouraged initiatives to care for the planet that began as a result of the pandemic, such as one on Sunday to clean up the banks of the Tiber River in Rome.

Francis has made environmental protection a hallmark of his papacy and just this past week, the Vatican released a guide on implementing his 2015 encyclical “Praised Be,” which blamed wealthy countries and corporate interests for destroying the Earth in search of profit.

Scientists around the world are studying the effects of lockdowns and industrial shutdowns on air and sea pollution as well as wildlife.

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh’s state-run airline resumed international flights on Sunday after a suspension of more than two months due to the coronavirus.

Tahera Khandaker, a spokesperson for Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said a flight carrying 187 passengers left Dhaka for London on Sunday afternoon. She said a scheduled flight will leave Dhaka every week on Sundays and another will depart London for Dhaka on Mondays.

Bangladesh has confirmed 112,306 cases of the virus, including 1,464 deaths.

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MADRID — Spain’s national state of emergency has ended after three months of restrictions on movement to rein in its COVID-19 outbreak.

As of Sunday, 47 million Spaniards will be able to freely move around the entire country for the first time since the government declared a state of emergency on March 14. The lockdown measures have been rolled back gradually over recent weeks.

“This freedom that we now have, that we don’t have to justify our journey to see our family and friend, this was something that we were really looking forward to,” 23-year-old Pedro Delgado said at Madrid’s airport.

Travelers from European countries, including Britain, can also enter Spain now without having to quarantine for 14 days. That quarantine rule still applies to non-Schengen countries, except for the U.K. Spain is hoping it can save part of its summer tourist season, which provides a huge part of its economic activity.

Spaniards are still obliged to wear face masks both indoors and outside when in public spaces where it is impossible to guarantee a distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) from others. Regional governments are now in complete charge of putting limits on attendance in public places, from theaters, to weddings, to classrooms.

Spain’s lockdown succeeded in stopping the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, which authorities say has claimed at least 28,000 lives in the country.

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ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan says it will reopen a key border crossing with Afghanistan to allow trade between the neighbors.

Trucks carrying fruits, vegetables and other items will start crossing the Ghulam Khan border in northwestern North Waziristan district from Monday.

Pakistan has already reopened its border with Iran.

On Sunday, Pakistan reported 119 more COVID-19 deaths and 4,951 new cases, raising its total to 176,617 cases including 3,501 fatalities.

Pakistan put its entire population of 220 million in lockdown in March, but the government last month eased restrictions, saying it was necessary to save the economy even though cases went up.

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