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Sunday September 20th, 2020 7:36AM

The Latest: Louisiana protesters want to keep $600 benefit

By The Associated Press
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NEW ORLEANS — More than two dozen unemployed workers chanted and held signs outside the New Orleans-area offices of two U.S. senators on Thursday to demand continued $600 federal coronavirus unemployment benefits.

Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy are among Republicans supporting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal to cut the benefit to $200 a week, which would be in addition to state unemployment pay.

“That would sever a critical lifeline at a time when coronavirus cases are spiking, businesses continue to face mass closures, and whole industries have been decimated,” protest organizers from numerous labor unions and activist groups said in a news release.

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

— Florida tallies another record high daily deaths

— India says herd immunity won’t work, need vaccine

— Health officials Birx, Fauci recommend face shields, masks

— Deaths are mounting rapidly in the U.S., and cases are rising in close to 30 states in all. The outbreak’s center of gravity seems to be shift from the Sun Belt toward the Midwest.

— More than 1.4 million laid-off Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, further evidence of the devastation the coronavirus outbreak has unleashed on the U.S. economy.

— An AP NBA reporter's town was hard hit by the coronavirus in the suburbs of New York. He shifted from covering sports to covering the virus and protests in the city. Now he's heading to the bubble in Orlando to cover the NBA, which begins its postponed season.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

OMAHA, Neb. — The Douglas County board has approved a plan to spend $1.85 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to buy a mobile command center for the county sheriff’s office, despite objections from three board members who said the money should be used for rent assistance and other human needs.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the board voted 4-2 Tuesday to approve the expenditure, with Sheriff Tim Dunning and supporters saying the vehicle could be used for mass vaccinations in rural parts of the county.

The county’s vote came as coronavirus numbers continue to climb in Nebraska. On Thursday, the state’s online virus tracking tool showed an additional 265 confirmed cases and three additional COVID-19 deaths from the previous day.

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BURLINGTON, Vt. — Vermont reported its first new death from the coronavirus in 43 days on Thursday, bringing the state’s total number of deaths since the pandemic began to 57.

“We have been uniquely fortunate to have been spared such a loss for many weeks,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine in a written statement.

The state also reported one new case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

The state is maintaining a relatively low rate of new positive cases because of “the cooperation and sacrifices Vermonters,” he said.

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MIAMI — Florida tallied another record high in daily confirmed coronavirus deaths for the third straight day with 253.

The Florida Department of Health says that raised the state’s total death toll to 6,586.

The new deaths bring the average reported deaths per day to 154 for the past week, second only to Texas in the current resurgence of the outbreak.

The head of a congressional coronavirus oversight panel sent letters to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and three other Republican governors Wednesday requesting documents to show how their states are fighting the pandemic.

According to the letter sent by South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat, Florida is not following three recommendations outlined in a White House coronavirus task force report. It says the state is allowing gyms to remain open even in worst-hit Miami and Tampa, permitting a larger capacity for indoor dining and not limiting social gatherings.

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a statewide mask mandate amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

Evers, a Democrat, declared a new public health emergency and ordered the wearing of masks for anyone age 5 and up starting on Saturday for all enclosed spaces except a person’s home. The order also applies to outdoor bars and restaurants except when people are eating or drinking.

Violators would be subject to a $200 fine. It will run through Sept. 28.

Republican legislative leaders oppose a mask mandate, byt they have stopped short of saying whether they would sue if Evers enacted one.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio pharmacy board reversed course Thursday and tossed a rule that would have prohibited use of a malaria drug for patients with COVID-19.

The decision followed public feedback and a request by Gov. Mike DeWine to ditch the rule.

At issue was the prescribing of the drug hydroxychloroquine, whose effectiveness for the coronavirus has been widely questioned. On Wednesday, the pharmacy board banned its use as a coronavirus treatment, noting that the Food and Drug Administration previously revoked the emergency use of the drug.

But on Thursday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Steven Hahn said on NBC’s “Today” show that the drug’s use should be between doctor and patient. DeWine said he agreed with that assessment.

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WASHINGTON — Public schools in the nation’s capital will open with full-time distance learning in the fall.

The announcement Thursday by Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser was widely expected as all surrounding school districts in northern Virginia and southern Maryland had made the same decision.

Bowser had planned to use a hybrid model with most students attending classes inside school buildings two days per week. But coronavirus infections have increased.

Bowser says the decision was based on a combination of virus metrics, parental concerns and opposition from the teacher’s union to opening up public school buildings.

The online learning will last the entire first term, which ends on Nov. 6.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan says the government will extend the large-scale social restrictions in Indonesia’s capital until Aug. 13.

He says the number of the new coronavirus cases are still rising while the Jakarta government is aggressively doing tracking, tracing and treatment to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Jakarta has become the first epicenter of coronavirus in the country since the outbreak started in March. By Thursday, there were 20,969 confirmed cases and 817 deaths in Jakarta.

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — With coronavirus cases surging, several St. Louis-area school districts have decided to start the school year with online-only learning.

But the Springfield Public Schools plan to reopen with students attending classes for two days and other days of online learning. Republican Gov. Mike Parson has said he supports that plan.

Parson says he understood the frustration of many parents who want their kids back in the classroom full-time.

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AMSTERDAM — Authorities in Amsterdam and Rotterdam say people must wear face masks in busy parts of the Dutch cities on Aug. 5.

Those age 13 and over will have to wear a face mask on the street and in shops. The Amsterdam-Amstelland Security Region says the new measure is an experiment and doesn’t replace social distancing guidelines.

In Rotterdam, masks will be mandatory in the city’s main downtown shopping area, three markets and two malls. Rotterdam authorities say those not wearing masks will be asked to leave the area and could face a fine.

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NEW DELHI, India — India’s Health Ministry says herd immunity in the country can’t be an option due to its large population and it will need a vaccine to beat coronavirus.

Rajesh Bhushan, a senior Health Ministry official, says “With India’s population, to build herd immunity without vaccination is not a strategic choice or option.”

Herd immunity is when a virus can no longer spread easily because enough people are immune to it. India has a population of 1.4 billion people.

For months, the Indian government has highlighted India’s recovery rate, but experts say it is not the best way to measure the effect of the pandemic.

India has 1.5 million coronavirus cases, the world’s third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil. There have been nearly 35,000 confirmed deaths.

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JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization says the number of ventilators has more than tripled across sub-Saharan Africa since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti says the initial 3,000 machines have increased to more than 10,000. She notes the dynamics differ across Africa’s 54 nations but “overall the pandemic is increasing and accelerating.”

African countries locked down early as the virus spread elsewhere in the world. Moeti says she believes they averted a worse situation, but cases will climb as governments ease lockdown measures.

Africa has more than 891,000 confirmed cases and nearly 19,000 deaths.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania is enacting a country-wide curfew for bars and restaurants.

The daily number of confirmed infections has been hitting new highs for three consecutive days, reaching 1,356 on Thursday. Authorities reported 35 virus-related deaths, raising the total to 2,304.

The Romanian government passed an order Thursday requiring all restaurants and bars in the country to shut down by 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. The order takes effect on August 1.

Also, several villages and the small town of Faget, in western Romania, were placed under lockdown by local authorities following a surge of coronavirus cases.

Romania, a nation of 19 million people, has confirmed more than 49,500 virus cases.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark is allowing people to travel to neighboring Sweden, while Norway urged people to avoid non-essential trips to Belgium after a recent surge in coronavirus cases.

The countries issued their announcements on Thursday.

Travelers from Belgium arriving in Norway on Aug. 1 must quarantine for 10 days, Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide says.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Union announced Algeria is no longer safe to travel to because of the coronavirus.

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BRASILIA, Brazil — The fifth member of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s Cabinet has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Science and technology minister Marcos Pontes wrote on Twitter that he tested positive after experiencing flu-like symptoms and headaches. The 57-year-old is now in isolation.

Last week, citizenship minister Onyx Lorenzoni and education minister Milton Ribeiro announced they tested positive. In March, two other Cabinet members were infected.

Bolsonaro told reporters on July 7 he had been diagnosed with coronavirus and was confined to the presidential palace in capital Brasilia for more than two weeks. He announced he tested negative on Saturday.

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MIAMI — Two residents of the Florida Keys have been jailed for failing to quarantine after testing positive for the new coronavirus.

Jose Interian, 24, and Yohana Gonzalez, 26, are facing charges of violating isolation rules for a quarantine and violating emergency management disaster preparedness rules, according to jail records. They were arrested Wednesday in Key West.

The Miami Herald reports Interian and Gonzalez had been ordered by the health department to quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus. But neighbors say they were ignoring the order.

The Florida Keys island chain was closed to nonresidents for two months in the spring to keep outsiders from spreading the new coronavirus. It reopened to visitors in June.

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine health officials reported nearly 4,000 confirmed coronavirus infections Thursday in the highest daily total.

The Department of Health says the 3,954 new cases bring the country’s total to 89,374. There have been 1,983 confirmed deaths. The infections in the Philippines are the second highest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque tried to allay public concern by underscoring an increase in coronavirus tests.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovar Muslim leaders ordered the Eid-al Adha celebrations wouldn’t be held at the mosques and praying was suspended for the next 10 days dues to the rise of coronavirus cases.

Kosovo health authorities on Thursday reported the highest number of daily deaths in the country, 16, for a total of 212 deaths. They also reported 8,104 confirmed cases.

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WASHINGTON — Trump administration health officials say there is evidence to support wearing face shields to protect oneself from the coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx has both suggested their use, saying they provide the wearer with some protections, unlike face masks, which are primarily recommended to protect others.

“The mask is to protect others,” Birx told Fox and Friends Thursday. “The thing about the face shields, we think that that could protect the individuals and that it would decrease the ability of them to touch their eyes and spread virus.”

Fauci on Wednesday told ABC News, “If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it.”

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