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Saturday August 8th, 2020 7:27PM

The Latest: Texas Gov. Abbott shuts down bars, scales dining

By The Associated Press
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AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars in Texas again Friday and scaled back restaurant dining, the most dramatic reversals yet as confirmed coronavirus cases surge.

Abbott also says rafting and tubing outfitters on Texas’ popular rivers must close and outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must be approved by local governments.

“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

Texas has reported more than 17,000 confirmed cases in the last three days with a record high positive tests of 5,996 on Thursday. The day’s tally of 4,739 hospitalizations was also a record. The state’s rolling infection rate hit nearly 12%, a level not seen since the state was in a broad lockdown in mid-April.

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

— Virus taking stronger hold in US, other populated countries

— Governors who quickly reopened backpedal as virus surges

— After waves of COVID deaths, care homes face legal reckoning

— While India’s leaders have promised coronavirus testing and care for all who need it, regardless of income, treatment options are as stratified and unequal as the country itself.

— U.S. officials estimate that 20 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since it first arrived in the United States, with millions never knowing they had it. Thursday’s estimate is roughly 10 times the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed in the U.S.

— A government whistleblower ousted from a top scientific job alleges that the Trump administration is intensifying its campaign to punish him for revealing shortcomings in the U.S. coronavirus response.

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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:

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GENEVA — Experts behind a global push to develop and roll out a vaccine and other treatment for the coronavirus say their ambitions require a big budget.

The World Health Organization and its allies made a pitch for their ACT-Accelerator that aims to get a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment tools to the neediest people around the world, no matter the cost.

They were speaking a day before a European Union conference to drum up support and funds for the initiative that the United States has shunned so far.

Ultimately, WHO and partners say the project needs more than $31 billion through the end of 2021, for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to fight a disease that has caused more than 9.6 million confirmed cases and killed more than 490,000 people worldwide.

“If we don’t rally now, the human costs and the economic pain will deepen,” said Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of the WHO chief’s special envoys for the initiative. “So though these numbers sound big, they’re not when we think of the alternatives.”

“Just think of the trillions of dollars that have had to be spent in order to stimulate economies back,” she said. “If we spend billions now, we’ll be able to avoid spending trillions later.

“COVID-19 is a crisis that affects all of us. No one will be safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe.”

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Hungary’s foreign minister says his country is “very concerned” that the coronavirus pandemic will trigger more migrants trying to reach Europe from poorer nations.

Peter Szijjarto says European leaders must help citizens who lost their jobs due to the pandemic by stemming “labor-oriented migration” that is “definitely against the interests” of Europe.

Szijjarto says after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides that EU migration policies must be scrapped because they “can be understood as an invitation for those who consider coming to Europe illegally.”

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman is calling on Germans to show “respect and sympathy” to people in areas where there have been new coronavirus outbreaks.

Authorities in western Germany have imposed a partial one-week lockdown on Guetersloh and Warendorf counties, home to over 600,000 people, because of an outbreak at a slaughterhouse that led to some 1,400 confirmed positive tests.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert is condemning reported incidents in which people from those regions have been insulted or had their cars damaged. He says, “we must treat each other with respect and sympathy, particularly in difficult times, and all should reflect that everyone could find themselves in the situation of living close to an outbreak.”

The local administration in Guetersloh says Merkel called council leader Sven-Georg Adenauer on Friday to thank the population there for helping ensure the virus doesn’t spread.

Some local officials have complained about bans or restrictions imposed by some other German regions on vacationers from the area. Seibert says those are matters for state governments.

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BANGKOK — Authorities in Thailand will decide next week whether to extend a state of emergency imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.

Taweesin Witsanuyothin of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration says the agency will consider the issue Monday and the Cabinet would decide Tuesday on its recommendation.

The National Security Council declared Thursday it will recommend the emergency decree be extended at least until July 31. It was first implemented in March and two extensions have kept it in place until the end of June.

The emergency decree allows the government to implement curfews, censor the media and disperse gatherings.

The government used it to arrest many people for breaking the now-lifted curfew, but recently has employed it to arrest political activists for the vaguely defined offense of “instigating unrest.”

The COVID-19 center will recommend whether to allow the return of foreign visitors and the reopening of nearly all businesses and schools not already open.

There were four confirmed COVID-19 cases announced Friday, bringing Thailand’s total to 3,162 and 58 confirmed deaths.

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AMMAN, Jordan — The World Bank says it will provide $374 million in cash support to 270,000 poor families in Jordan, including many who lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

The bank announced the aid on Friday, saying it was co-financed by the U.K.’s international development agency.

Jordan took strict measures to contain its outbreak, including a 24-hour curfew that was in effect for several days in March. It has reported more than 1,000 cases but only nine fatalities.

The lockdown came at an enormous cost. The country’s vital tourism industry has been at a standstill since March, and many businesses that were forced to close three months ago have only been allowed to reopen in the last few weeks.

Jordan is a close Western ally that has long been seen as an island of stability in a turbulent region. It hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees from the conflict in neighboring Syria.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has lashed out at the World Health Organization, calling it “a total mistake” to put his nation on a list of countries where “accelerated transmission” could overwhelm health systems.

Tegnell told Swedish radio on Friday: “This is unfortunately a total misjudgment of the Swedish data.”

A report by the WHO’s Europe office on Thursday named 11 countries, including Sweden, Armenia, Albania, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Sweden has seen a steep rise in the number of COVID19 cases but this has been attributed to an increase in testing.

Tegnell said: “We can point at all other parameters we measure, i.e. how many serious cases we have, they are decreasing. The number of admissions into intensive care is at a very low level and even deaths are starting to decline.”

Sweden has repeatedly defended its strategy by explaining it defers little to other countries despite having never imposed a lockdown. Large gatherings are banned but restaurants and schools for young children have stayed open. The government urged social distancing, and Swedes have largely complied.

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LONDON — British shopping mall owner Intu is scrambling to avoid bankruptcy after failing to strike a deal with its creditors after being hammered by lower rent payments from retail clients in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, which owns the Trafford Centre, has been trying to secure a “standstill’’ on loans and must reach a deal by midnight Friday. The company has struggled with a 4.5 billion pound ($5.6 billion) debt burden this year.

The company says in a statement that its board is “considering the position of Intu with a view to protecting the interests of its stakeholders. This is likely to involve the appointment of administrators.’’

The company employs 3,000 people. A further 102,000 work for the shops within its shopping centers.

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TOKYO — Tokyo has confirmed 54 new cases of the coronavirus, with the number staying at its highest since early May.

Japan lifted a seven-week pandemic state emergency in late May, and social and business activity has since largely resumed.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said although the new daily cases remain high, but capital is not facing a second wave of infections. She said the rate of infection was not increasing rapidly as in late March, and that Tokyo’s hospitals and health system are able to cope.

Koike said experts are now working to compile a new “caution scale” that better fits social and economic activities in the ongoing phase of living with the virus.

Most of the latest cases are people in their 20s and 30s. Koike said many recent cases are linked to workplaces and nightclubs and transmitted to family members.

Tokyo has had 5,997 cases and 325 deaths, about one-third of the national total.

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BERLIN — A German meat company says it plans to perform daily coronavirus tests on all 5,000 workers involved in the production process amid concerns about a series of outbreaks at slaughterhouses in the country.

Westfleisch, one of Germany’s biggest meat processing companies, said Friday that it is already conducting weekly tests on the workers but from next week wants to perform them daily.

Westfleisch suffered a COVID-19 outbreak involving hundreds of workers at its plant in the western town of Coesfeld in May, but that has since passed.

Rival firm Toennies Group is at the center of an outbreak in the nearby region of Guetersloh that has led to a partial lockdown as authorities try to prevent the spread of the virus to the wider community.

Westfleisch executive Steen Soennichsen said the tests would be examined by external labs and results would be available within hours, allowing the company to act swiftly if there are any new cases.

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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic is ending pay cuts that the Minnesota-based health system imposed to deal with a patient downturn caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Star Tribune reports Mayo plans to restore pay and return furloughed workers this summer.

In April, Mayo announced plans to cut pay to more than 20,000 employees and seek furloughs when elective surgeries were halted in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The clinic was projecting a possible $3 billion loss in 2020. But Mayo says patient volumes reached 80% to 90% of normal by mid-June, which was a quicker-than-expected recovery.

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PHOENIX — An Arizona nightclub faces a misdemeanor charge for alleged failure to enforce its own social distancing polices as the number of COVID-19 cases continued rising.

Scottsdale police announced the case against the nightclub Riot House, saying officers saw both customers and employees “not practicing physical distancing, not wearing face coverings and not complying with their plan.”

It appears to be the first such case against an Arizona business during the pandemic for alleged failure to follow its own social distancing rules.

The state Department of Health Services reported 3,056 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday, the fourth day in a week in which the state had daily increases over 3,000.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who lifted stay-home restrictions in May, cautioned that the expectation is that the numbers will be worse in the next couple of weeks.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah reported its second-highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases Thursday as the state deals with a troubling surge that started after state leaders allowed businesses to reopen.

The 590 new cases are behind only the 643 on Saturday, state health department figures show. The state has averaged 503 confirmed cases per day over the last week, more than double the 200-per-day rate the state’s epidemiologist recommended the state should be at by July 1 to avoid having to consider a total shutdown of the economy.

Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, has said he will not shut down the economy but has agreed to wait at least two weeks before loosening any more restrictions.

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LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday allowed for the return of pro sports in Michigan as long as fans aren’t in attendance.

The move followed Major League Baseball’s decision this week to set a 60-game schedule to start July 23 or July 24 in empty ballparks. The governor said pro teams can resume operations notwithstanding capacity limits and restrictions on gatherings and events to curb the coronavirus.

Games must be played without a live audience for the “time being.” Only staff of the facility and media can attend.

Whitmer’s order does not address college sports.

There were 33.7 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus per 100,000 people in Michigan over the past two weeks. That's the eight-lowest rate in the U.S. More than 6,100 deaths have been recorded and nearly 69,000 people have been infected.

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NEW ORLEANS — Students will be wearing face masks and washing their hands several times a day when Louisiana schools reopen for the upcoming school year in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Those are among requirements that were set and will be enforced by the Louisiana Department of Health. State Education Superintendent Cade Brumley said another 14 suggestions also are on the list of precautions.

State officials say school systems need to have plans for all-classroom, all-distance and hybrid teaching. If possible, they should have a laptop or tablet for every student and ensure that all students can connect to the internet.

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