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Tuesday July 14th, 2020 3:32AM

The Latest: Demand for tests grows in Arizona communities

By The Associated Press
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PHOENIX — Demand for tests has been growing especially in underserved communities of color in Arizona, which the COVID Tracking Project says has now has a 7-day average positive test rate above 20 percent.

On Saturday, dozens of people waited for as long as 13 hours in triple-digit temperatures outside a sports complex for free drive-up COVID-19 testing in the sprawling west Phoenix community of Maryvale, a predominantly working class neighborhood of Hispanic families.

Tomás Leon, senior vice president for Equity Healthcare, said staff had to turn people away as night approached, after nearly 1,000 tests were administered by the private firm that focuses on equitable health care.

“I’ve never heard of that many people showing up to any of the testing events,” said Leon, who attended the event. “Usually it’s about 100 people.”

Equity Health plans another free testing event for people without insurance at the same Maryvale site next Saturday, Leon said.

“We were really overwhelmed by the response to our grassroots effort to get out the word,” said Leon.

He said a testing event that Equity Health held May 16 at an African American church in downtown Phoenix drew more than 300 people.

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

— The WHO chief is warning world leaders not to politicize the pandemic.

— As virus surges, Pakistan says there’s no choice but to open.

— From shopping to dining out, New York City reopens but some remain wary.

— Coronavirus lockdowns have increased wildlife poaching in Asia and Africa, and it may worsen as countries reopen.

— Young baseball players, deprived of a treasured tournament, get a memento from the stadium.

___

Follow all of AP's pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana won’t be further easing its restrictions on businesses because the state is seeing a troubling, recent uptick in coronavirus cases.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that he’ll keep in place the current limitations on restaurants, bars and retailers enacted on June 5, which were set to expire Friday. He’s extending the restrictions until July 24.

The decision comes as Louisiana exceeded the grim mark of 3,000 deaths from the outbreak.

The Democratic governor was considering moving Louisiana from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of reopening under the White House guidelines. But he decided against the move based on the latest surge in cases of the COVID-19 disease and hospitalizations over the last week.

“We do have a new normal, whether we like it or not,” Edwards said. “There are a lot of people out there saying they are done with this virus. Well, the virus isn’t done with us.”

The regulations that will be renewed keep churches, restaurants, coffee shops, bars with a food permit, gyms, hair and nail salons, museums and other businesses limited to 50% capacity. Bars that don’t have a food permit will remain limited to 25% occupancy.

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HOUSTON — COVID-19 hospital admissions in Houston have tripled since Memorial Day to more than 1,400 admissions across eight hospital systems, said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital.

“It is snowballing,” Boom said. “We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike.”

In three weeks, Boom predicted, hospitals could be overwhelmed and “although we may not have a government, official shutdown, we may be in an effective shutdown.” He pleaded with Houston residents to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“It is possible to open up at a judicious pace and coexist with the virus, but it requires millions and millions of people to do the right thing. Right now, we don’t have that” because people have let their guards down.

Other hospital officials share his concern, Boom said. “None of us sees an end in sight,” he said.

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ROME — Italy added another 218 coronavirus infections to its official count, evidence that the virus is still circulating in the one-time European epicenter.

Another 23 people died in the past day, one of the lowest day-to-day death tolls and bringing Italy’s total number of confirmed victims to 34,657.

Hard-hit Lombardy again counted most of the new infections with 143. But about half of them were in people who got tested only because they did a blood test that showed they had coronavirus antibodies.

In Italy, anyone who tests positive for the antibodies must be tested for the virus. Lombardy welfare chief Giulio Gallera said these cases are considered “weak positives” since people might have been infected a long time ago, but simply haven’t shed all the virus from their systems.

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MADRID and RABAT, Morocco — A Spanish official has welcomed Morocco’s decision to cancel the visit by millions of residents in Europe to their relatives in the north African country in order to avoid further spread of the coronavirus.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita announced Monday that the annual “Marhaba operation” across the Strait of Gibraltar to facilitate the return of nationals who live and work in Europe wouldn't take place.

Fernando Simón, who heads Spain’s response to the outbreak, said Monday that Rabat’s decision was “a big favor” given that most of the 3 million travelers who depart use ferries on Spain’s southern coast after traveling by car across Europe.

Over 3.3 million people, most of them Moroccans residing in Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy, traveled last year in about 760,000 vehicles to visit relatives and friends back home during their summer holiday.

In March, when countries around the world closed their borders to foreigners to keep out the virus, Morocco barred its own citizens from returning home.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said that by the end of the week the north African country will have repatriated 7,800 citizens stranded abroad during the country’s rigid lockdown measures.

Moroccan diasporas wishing to return home will have to undergo a compulsory nine-day quarantine and two tests for infection, he said in Parliament.

Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita also announced in Parliament the annual “Marhaba operation” across the Strait of Gibraltar to facilitate the return of nationals who live and work in Europe would not take place this summer.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A day after President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, the Oklahoma State Department of Health urged people who have attended large-scale events recently to be tested for the coronavirus.

The department didn't specify any event in the statement it released. The president’s rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa was attended by nearly 6,200 and the vast majority, including Trump, didn't wear face masks which, along with social distancing, is encouraged by the department.

“Personal responsibility remains key in protecting yourself and our local communities from COVID-19. We continue to encourage Oklahomans to consider wearing a mask, to routinely wash hands, and to use physical distancing measures,” interim state Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in the statement. The state reported at least 10,733 cases Monday, including 218 new infections.

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GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Monday that 151 of the people who work at his official residence have tested positive for COVID-19, and one has died.

Many of the infections were found among workers in the Secretariat of Administrative Affairs and Security at the presidential residence, which includes his offices, in downtown Guatemala City. Giammattei said 69 of those infected have recovered and at least five, who had been in critical condition, have improved.

The president, himself a physician, hasn't tested positive.

Nationwide, Guatemala has reported 12,614 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 531 deaths.

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GENEVA — The record levels of new daily COVID-19 cases are due to the fact that the pandemic is peaking in a number of big countries at the same time and reflect a change in the virus’ global activity, the World Health Organization said.

At a media briefing on Monday, WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said that “the numbers are increasing because the epidemic is developing in a number of populous countries at the same time.”

Some countries have attributed their increased caseload to more testing, including India and the U.S. But Ryan dismissed that explanation.

“We do not believe this is a testing phenomenon,” he said, noting that numerous countries have also noted marked increases in hospital admissions and deaths — neither of which cannot be explained by increased testing.

“There definitely is a shift in that the virus is now very well established,” Ryan said. “The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries.” He added the situation was “definitely accelerating” in a number of countries, including the U.S. and others in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese authorities are providing crack addicts with pipes free of charge as part of an effort to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

Officials said Monday the crack pipes are being bought for 78,000 euros (about $88,000) and distributed to nongovernmental health workers who deal with addicts.

The Intervention Service for Addictive Behaviors, a government body, said in an email to The Associated Press that crack use has increased in recent years and users can contaminate each other with diseases such as COVID-19, HIV and hepatitis.

Portugal has won renown for its innovative approach to drug addiction and use. A ground-breaking 2001 law sent drug users into the public health system, instead of to the criminal courts. Though drug use remains illegal, the change in tactics was successful in substantially reducing the country’s problems with addiction, especially heroin.

Authorities have been providing heroin addicts with clean syringes to stop the spread of disease since the early 1990s.

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LONDON — The British government says more than 2 million elderly and vulnerable people who have been in isolation at home for three months will soon be able to meet other people.

Lockdown has gradually been easing for most Britons, but many of the elderly and those with some underlying health conditions have been told to remain isolated.

The government says that from July 6, people in this group in England will be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six, and some can form a “support bubble” with another household.

The government also says the “shielding” program, which has provided food and support to those at greatest risk from the coronavirus, will be phased out at the end of July.

Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, says it’s safe to relax the rules because “the prevalence of the virus in the community is now lower and chances of getting infected are reduced.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock thanked everyone who has been shielding, saying “I know what a burden it has been.” He said “these measures have been vital for saving lives.”

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MOSCOW — The mayor of Moscow says the Russian capital’s gyms and pools can open after three months of coronavirus shutdown and restaurants can begin full service.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced these operations can resume on Tuesday.

Some other restrictions will remain, including a ban on mass gatherings. Moscow’s daily tally of new coronavirus infections has fallen notably this month: 1,068 new cases were reported on Monday, about half as many as in early June.

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MIAMI — In Miami, officials have been cracking down on businesses not following rules restricting capacity and requiring the use of masks as COVID-19 infections have been rising in the state.

The county conducted more than 10,000 checks and issued warnings to 45 businesses.

Police in the city of Miami last weekend shut down two restaurants in the artsy neighborhoods of Wynwood and Design District and another one in Little Havana.

The mayor of Miami-Dade County, Florida’s largest, says he has no plans on ordering businesses and places that had reopened to close back again due to the increase in coronavirus cases. The owners of businesses not complying with the rules may face a $500 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

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CHICAGO — Illinois is poised to move to the next phase of reopening Friday, allowing museums, gyms and zoos to open their doors with restrictions.

Health officials said Monday that health metrics required for reopening under state and city plans have been met, with a continuing decline in COVID-19 cases.

Previously, Chicago’s reopening had been on a slower pace than Illinois. Indoor dining will be allowed, but capped at 25%. Indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people, up from 10. Outdoor gatherings will be capped at 100 people, up from 50 people.

Some venues, like the Lincoln Park Zoo, will require reservations.

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ORLANDO — In Orlando, 152 coronavirus cases have been linked to one bar near the University of Central Florida campus, as of last Friday, Dr. Raul Pino, a health officer in Orlando with the Florida Department of Health, said Monday.

“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said at a news conference. “People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.”

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Florida health officials say more than than 100,000 people in the state have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Florida reached the milestone Monday morning, as public health officials reissued advisories urging social distancing and mask-wearing, and as some businesses reevaluate their decisions to reopen. More than 3,100 people in Florida have died.

Over the weekend, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the Health Department to reissue advisories urging Floridians to consider wearing masks to help keep the virus from spreading.

In Orlando, a challenge was filed in court to Orange County’s mandatory face mask order that went into effect last Saturday. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, as well as other municipalities such as Tampa and the Florida Keys, issued similar orders last week.

In court papers filed Sunday, an Orange County resident said the face mask order violated his right to privacy under the Florida Constitution.

The lawsuit, supported by Republican State Rep. Anthony Sabatini and Florida Family Policy Council president John Stemberger, called the order “a radical infringement on the reasonable and legitimate expectation of privacy that most Floridians expect to have over their own facial and bodily autonomy.”

At a news conference on Monday, Demings said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit.

“With the numbers climbing rapidly, it’s really important that we wear masks,” Demings said about his order. “Our goal is really simple — to slow the spread of the virus in our community.”

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BERLIN — German officials say steps are being taken to ensure that workers at a large slaughterhouse in the west of the country are strictly quarantined following an outbreak of the new coronavirus there, to prevent it from spreading around the region.

Regional official Olaf Gericke told reporters Monday that “we don’t want a lockdown, we want a return to normal life.”

More than 1,300 workers from the Toennies meat packing plant in the western Guetersloh region have tested positive for COVID-19, and 20 have been hospitalized, with several in intensive care.

Most are subcontractors from Eastern Europe who are housed in buildings together, and Karl-Josef Laumann, the health minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said it was now critical that they remain in isolation.

He said during a visit to the region that efforts were underway to assure them they would be provided food and other supplies while in quarantine, and medical care regardless of insurance status.

“Every person who is sick here will be treated through our health care system,” he said.

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BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house reopened on Monday and performed its first post-pandemic concert — to an audience didn't have to worry about social distancing.

Instead of people, the UceLi Quartet played Giacomo Puccini’s I Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) for 2,292 plants, one for each seat in the theater. The concert was also livestreamed for humans to watch.

The event was conceived by Spanish artist Eugenio Ampudia who said he was inspired by nature during the pandemic.

“I heard many more birds singing. And the plants in my garden and outside growing faster. And, without a doubt, I thought that maybe I could now relate in a much intimate way with people and nature,” he said Monday before the performance.

At the end of the eight-minute concert, the sound of leaves and branches blowing in the wind resonated throughout the opera house like applause.

The theater says it will gift the plants to local health workers as a thank you for their efforts during the pandemic. Spain’s national state of emergency was lifted on Sunday after three months of restrictions on movement and assembly.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian state with the second-highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths, Rio de Janeiro, has lost its second health secretary in just over a month.

Rio’s health secretariat in a statement on Monday confirmed Secretary Fernando Ferry’s exit, without providing a reason. Local media published a video from Ferry announcing his resignation, in which he said that he had tried to resolve the grave health problems facing the state and apologized to Rio’s population.

Rio state has recorded almost 100,000 COVID-19 cases and 9,000 deaths, more than half in the capital. Both tallies had begun plateauing recently, prompting mayors to relax restrictions to avoid spread of the virus. Early signs of a renewed uptick in the virus’ spread are emerging.

The state’s governor, Wilson Witzel, fired his prior health secretary in mid-May after failure to construct several promised field hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The governor is among the targets of an investigation into suspect health expenditures, and the state assembly has decided to kick off an impeachment process. Witzel has denied wrongdoing and has alleged political persecution.

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