Monday July 6th, 2020 5:05PM

The Latest: War-torn Libya reports biggest daily virus rise

By The Associated Press
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CAIRO — War-ravaged Libya has reported its biggest daily increase yet in coronavirus infections and deaths, raising fears that a major outbreak could overwhelm its health system, left in shambles by nine years of conflict.

Libya’s National Center for Disease Control announced 639 total virus cases, including 17 fatalities, after recording

44 new virus cases and four deaths on Tuesday. With such little testing, experts believe the number could be higher.

The North African country has become split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by an array of fractious militias and foreign powers. The National Center for Disease Control is one the few state institutions to bridge the country’s divide.

Libya’s case count has more than quadrupled in the last few weeks, largely due to its repatriation of stranded citizens from abroad. An alarming hot spot is the city of Sabha in the remote southern desert, where health facilities are drastically under-equipped and many citizens remain uninformed.

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

— Dr. Anthony Fauci cites institutional racism for virus’ impact on African Americans

— France's official contact-tracing app has been downloaded 1.9 million times but sent only 14 notifications in three weeks

— Novak Djokovic and three other top tennis players test positive for virus after Balkans tournament.

— Hotels in Greece will have basic isolation and treatment areas, doctors on call this summer.

— One of the Arab world’s most prestigious universities has endured civil war, staff kidnappings and economic crises in its 154-year history. The American University of Beirut now confronts a triple threat simultaneously in a pandemic, a recession and the collapse of Lebanon’s currency. Meanwhile, a Saudi official says the hajj pilgrimage that usually draws up to 2.5 million Muslims is likely to see only a few thousand pilgrims.

— A coronavirus outbreak linked to a slaughterhouse in Germany has led a state government to impose week-long lockdown measures. More than 1,500 people tied to the slaughterhouse have tested positive. Thousands more are quarantined. The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia says area cinemas, fitness studios and bars will be closed again. In related news, China’s ban of imports from one Tyson Foods poultry plant with infected workers has raised concerns for the U.S. meat industry.

— People are flocking to beaches for vacation after being cooped up by COVID-19 for months. But the coronavirus is taking no vacation. The U.S. state of South Carolina now has the fourth-highest new infection rate in the nation when adjusted for population. One hot spot is around Myrtle Beach, which has seen COVID-19 cases jump from fewer 300 at the start of June to nearly 1,600. And that only counts residents, not visitors. Local entrepreneurs fear more infections could result in bad publicity.

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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:

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi’s health officer says he is not “remotely surprised” and is concerned for the future after the state saw its highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases.

The announcement came as the Mississippi Senate is working to limit lawsuits by customers who say they were exposed to COVID-19 at businesses or medical offices.

“We’ve been seeing this trend evolving over weeks,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs said in an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday. ” As people have tried to embrace normal, but unsafe normal, it is permitting the virus to spread. We’re really going to end up paying the price for it.”

The Mississippi Department of Health reported 611 new cases and 11 deaths Tuesday. Dobbs said the uptick is driven by community transmission of the virus from younger, asymptomatic people to their older relatives.

“If you drive around and look at how younger people are having social gatherings, they’re crowding into bars, it’s just not safe,” Dobbs said. “People are not complying, people are not wearing masks. It’s not a joke. Really bad things are going to happen.”

Dobbs said a big concern of his is the stress the new cases are putting on Mississippi’s heath care system. He said it’s already testing the state’s hospital bed capacity.

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OLYMPIA, Washington - Washington state will require people to wear facial coverings in public settings, under a statewide public health order announced by Gov. Jay Inslee in response to ongoing COVID-related health concerns.

The order, issued by Secretary of Health John Wiesman, takes effect Friday. The order requires face coverings when people are indoor in a public area, and outdoors in a public area when six feet of physical distancing can’t be maintained.

Washington joins several other states that already have statewide mask orders in place, including California, which issued its order last week.

A spokesman for Inslee said that violation of the statewide mask order is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Violation of the Yakima County proclamation is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.

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WASHINGTON — The chairman of a House committee conducting an oversight hearing on the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response says the panel was snubbed by the head of Medicare and Medicaid.

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, would have joined Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials testifying Tuesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., says Verma turned down repeated invitations.

She “could have provided valuable insight (about) what is working, what still needs to be improved and what more we can do to help these vulnerable communities,” said Pallone. “Unfortunately, she decided not to come.”

CMS said in response that Verma has been “fully transparent with Congress” and the other officials who appeared were able to represent the administration “appropriately and sufficiently.”

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is criticizing the total lack of international coordination in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and warning that the go-it-alone policy of many countries will not defeat the coronavirus.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that what needs to be done is to make countries understand that by acting in isolation “they are creating the situation that is getting out of control” — and that coordinated global coordination is key.

He said COVID-19 started in China, moved to Europe, then to North America and now to South America, Africa and India, and some people are now talking about second waves coming at any moment — “and there is total lack of coordination among countries in the response to the COVID.”

Guterres said it’s important to use that fact “to make countries understand that bringing them together, putting together their capacities, not only in fighting the pandemic in a coordinated way but in working together to have the treatments, testing mechanisms, the vaccines … accessible to everybody, that this is the way we defeat the pandemic.”

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NEW YORK -- The Macy’s July 4th fireworks will go forward in New York City, but with a twist meant to keep spectators from congregating in large numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that there will be a series of “unannounced displays” around the city leading up to the Fourth.

“With heights reaching up to 1,000 feet from some firing locations, staying close to home and following social distancing guidelines is the best way to enjoy the show,” de Blasio said.

The mayor described the fireworks as “5-minute surprise displays” that will culminate in a national television broadcast featuring a final fireworks celebration and music performances.

The initial displays will start Monday and continue “on select evenings at one or two land or water based locations across New York City,” Macy’s said in a new release.

“The final display sites were chosen because they could safely accommodate the launch and firing of large-scale pyrotechnics.”

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Dr. Anthony Fauci is offering some advice for colleges attempting to reopen classes this fall: tailor plans to local conditions, make sure everyone is wearing masks, and don’t ignore the wellbeing of the maintenance and dining hall staff.

“Masks have to be done at all times,” Fauci told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He said colleges have to assume that some students will get infected, and they have to have plans for how to keep them and their classmates safe.

Fauci said online learning and teaching should be offered as options for all students and faculty.

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WASHINGTON — Federal health officials tell Congress to brace for a second wave of coronavirus infections in the fall and winter of this year.

Drs. Anthony Fauci of the NIH, Robert Redfield of the CDC, and FDA head Stephen Hahn agreed under questioning before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“It’s simple,” said Redfield. “We are going to experience significant coronavirus infection in the fall and winter.”

Other respiratory viruses follow a usual pattern of resurgence during the cold weather months, when people are likelier to be indoors, making it easier to transmit infection.

HHS assistant secretary for health Brett Giroir concurred with the other officials, adding that he wants to have enough supplies stockpiled so the health care system can treat COVID-19 patients without having to shut down access for people needing care for other conditions.

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TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is recommending that communities wait a little bit longer before moving to the next phase of reopening as coronavirus cases increase.

The “Phase Out” stage of Kelly’s Ad Astra reopening plan was set to begin Monday, but Kelly and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are now advising communities to stay in Phase 3 for at least two more weeks.

The main difference is that Phase 3 limits mass gatherings to no more than 45 people. The “Phase Out” stage merely urges social distancing but doesn’t limit the size of crowds. The ultimate decision, though, rests with local officials.

“Though many Kansans and communities have been social distancing, wearing masks, and working hard over the past few weeks to mitigate the spread of the virus, we have unfortunately seen an increase in disease spread,” Kelly said in a news release.

New data released Monday shows Kansas has at least 12,465 cases, up 406 from Friday. The state health department also said the number of COVID-19 deaths rose by five to 259.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas has surpassed 5,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time, recording another troubling milestone as America’s largest pediatric hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, begins taking adult patients to free up bed space in Houston.

The announcement Tuesday comes days after Texas eclipsed 4,000 new cases for the first time just last weekend.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that “the next couple weeks are going to be critical” in Texas and other states that are trying to curtail an alarming spike in new cases.

The infection rate in Texas has doubled since late May to nearly 9%. And on Monday, Texas recorded an 11th consecutive day of record COVID-19 hospitalizations with more than 3,700.

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WASHINGTON -- The chairman of a House committee conducting an oversight hearing on the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response says the panel was snubbed by the head of Medicare and Medicaid.

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would have joined Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials testifying Tuesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., says Verma turned down repeated invitations.

She “could have provided valuable insight (about) what is working, what still needs to be improved and what more we can do to help these vulnerable communities,” said Pallone. “Unfortunately, she decided not to come.”

There was no immediate comment from the Medicare agency. Pallone said he will keep pushing for Verma to appear before the committee.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Republican governor says he has no plans to shut down the economy even though he shares some of the concerns raised in a memo by the state’s epidemiologist who warned a “complete shutdown” might be imminent if the state can’t stop a prolonged spike of coronavirus cases.

Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted late Monday night that he appreciated the analysis by epidemiologist Angela Dunn in her memo that detailed the severity of a spread of COVID-19 that has doubled the infection rate and daily case count since Herbert allowed many businesses to reopen in mid-May.

But he reiterated his stance that economic growth can happen while keeping people safe.

“We will work to stem this tide, but I have no plans to shut down Utah’s economy,” tweeted Herbert.

Dunn recommended that the state reimpose some restrictions on businesses and group gatherings unless the state lowers its weekly average of case by more than half by July 1.

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WASHINGTON -- Top federal health officials say they continue to deal with the World Health Organization despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the U.N. health agency, which serves as a forum for the global coronavirus response.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that they continue to have regular interactions with scientific peers at the WHO.

Trump pulled the U.S. out of the World Health Organization after complaining about its response to the coronavirus and alleged favoritism toward China.

Fauci and Redfield both said they were not directly consulted about the president’s decision.

Fauci said his National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a memorandum of understanding that governs regular collaboration with the WHO. Redfield said his agency is working with the world body on Ebola, polio and influenza.

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Louisiana jumped by more than 1,356 Tuesday, and the number of people hospitalized with the disease ticked up by 16.

The statewide increase to a total of 51,595 cases was the largest single-day rise in reported cases since early April — excluding days when delayed reporting of backlogged cases accounted for increases.

The daily record was reported by the state health department a day after Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the recent surge in cases would prevent Louisiana from further easing restrictions aimed at keeping the new coronavirus from spreading.

On Twitter, the state health department said 95% of the cases reported Tuesday were the result of “community spread,” as opposed to infections in nursing homes or other such settings.

The pandemic death toll in Louisiana as of Tuesday was 3,021.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has registered 27 more virus-related deaths over 24 hours, pushing thecountry's overall COVID-19 death toll to 5,001.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Tuesday also reported 1,268 new confirmed virus cases since the day before. They bring Turkey's total confirmed cases to 190,165. The death toll now stands at 5,001.

Turkey has seen an increase in new cases since the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young at the start of June.

The country has reported new daily cases numbering around 1,200 or above since June 13, up from around 800 to 900.

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WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says his agency is maintaining an arm’s-length relationship with a White House-led effort to quickly produce a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s approved.

The White House effort is called “Operation Warp Speed,” and it’s geared at having ready the manufacturing capacity and distribution channels for a massive vaccination program.

But FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that his agency is careful not to work in tandem with Warp Speed.

“We absolutely must maintain regulatory independence and make the right decision for the American people based on the science and the data,” said Hahn.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he thinks the United States will be better prepared if the country has a second wave of coronavirus infections this fall and winter.

Fauci told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that the U.S. should have the ability to do 40 million to 50 million tests per month by that time, giving public health officials the ability to understand the dynamics of the spread of the virus.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says that supplies of masks, gowns and other equipment are also being replenished in the national stockpile, and U.S. production is being built up.

Fauci also told the committee he doesn’t regret the American public wasn’t urged sooner to wear face masks because health personnel needed equipment when there wasn't enough to go around early on.

Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia asked Fauci if he thought President Donald Trump was being judged unfairly about his response to the pandemic.

Fauci said the question is unfair and replied, “I work in the White House, and I believe everyone there is doing everything” they can.

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LAS VEGAS — The U.S. state of Nevada has reported its biggest one-day increase in new coronavirus cases for the fourth time in the past eight days.

The record 462 new confirmed cases reported Tuesday came amid an uptick that started about two weeks after casinos in Las Vegas reopened.

Nevada’s governor said last week that he plans to leave current restrictions on businesses and gatherings in place at least through the end of June while the state's climbing number of infections is evaluated.

Overall, Nevada has reported nearly 14,000 virus cases and 492 deaths from COVID-19.

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WASHINGTON-- The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tells House lawmakers he hasn’t felt any political pressure from the Trump administration to make decisions related to therapies for COVID-19.

The FDA last week pulled its emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug aggressively promoted by President Donald Trump for treating COVID-19.

The FDA in March initially green-lighted use of the drug but said new studies strongly suggest it doesn’t work against the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine also can sometimes cause dangerous heart side effects. The FDA said that risk outweighed the drug’s unproven benefit for COVID-19 patients.

Democratic Congresswoman Anna Eshoo asked FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to immediately report any political pressure on the FDA to members of Congress. Hahn said he would.

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PHOENIX — Arizona reported a new daily record of nearly 3,600 additional coronavirus cases on Tuesday as the state continued to set records for the number of people hospitalized, in intensive care and on ventilators for COVID-19.

The state Department of Health Service reported 3,591 new confirmed cases, breaking the previous record set Friday by 345 cases. A total of nearly 7,900 confirmed cases were reported Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Tuesday’s report took the state’s total caseload in the pandemic to 58,179, while 42 more deaths reported Tuesday raised the death toll to 1,384.

The health department said 2,136 patients were hospitalized for the new virus as of Monday, 614 were in intensive care beds and 386 were on ventilators.

Arizona has emerged as a COVID-19 hot spot in the U.S. since Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lifted his stay-home orders in mid-May.

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WASHINGTON — The leading infectious disease specialist in the United States has told lawmakers that institutional racism plays a role in the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on African Americans.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Rep. Bobby Rush, Illinois Democrat, asked Fauci about the virus’ toll on Black people.

Fauci cited two main reasons for the disproportionate impact. He says one is that many African Americans are in jobs that are considered essential and involve interactions with the public.

The second reason he gave is that Black people are more likely to suffer from health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes that worsen the symptoms of COVID.

Fauci said, “It’s a sort of double whammy...through no fault of their own.”

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