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Saturday October 24th, 2020 10:38PM

The Latest: Florida testing sites close due to hurricane

By The Associated Press
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MIAMI — Hurricane Isaias’ imminent arrival is forcing the closure of some outdoor coronavirus testing sites Friday even as the state reached a new daily high in deaths.

Meanwhile, the virus was complicating efforts to put contingency plans in place for evacuations and shelters if the storm makes them necessary. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Friday an order declaring a state of emergency in eastern coastal counties from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville, but no evacuations had been ordered or shelters opened.

The coming weather forced officials to halt testing in Miami, which has been worst hit by the coronavirus, for at least three days because many of the sites operate outdoors, in tents. Under normal circumstances, the sites have the capacity to test hundreds of people per day.

“We had to put safety first,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said at an online news conference Friday. “We will have thousands of tests that will not be conducted until we get these test sites up and running again.”

Social-distancing measures necessary to stop the virus’s spread were complicating evacuation plans. The shelters must now provide 40 square feet (3.7 square meters) of space for each person, and can’t offer cafeteria-style dining.

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

— Adm. Giroir: Slow test results in U.S. from high demand across nation

— Dr. Fauci: Thousands sign up for coronavirus trials in U.S.; any crowd without masks is risk for spread

— Peru probes whether more than 27,000 coronavirus deaths uncounted

— Dr. Anthony Fauci tells lawmakers once a coronavirus vaccine is approved as safe and effective, Americans should have widespread access within a reasonable time.

— Americans struggling amid the economic fallout are worrying about paying for food and rent. An extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits to help pay their bills is expiring.

— The game Friday between St. Louis and Milwaukee is postponed after two Cardinals employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Two other games are postponed Friday because of positive tests among players and staff.

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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:

PROVO, Utah — The Utah County Commission will no longer consider a letter requesting that the county health department ask the governor to grant the county exemptions to the statewide public K-12 school mask mandate after a new state order seemingly addressed all concerns.

The Daily Herald reported that Commissioner Bill Lee pulled the letter after a state order “clarified every single thing” requested.

The order is effective until Dec. 31 and clarifies a number of exemptions. Those exemptions include children under 3, people with medical conditions preventing them from wearing a facial covering, students practicing social distancing and students eating and drinking outdoors.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School District Board of Education has announced that its schools will start the year with all online-only classes, making it the only district in the state to not offer in person classes, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The board voted 6-1 to approve the decision Thursday in response to an increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city.

Board President Melissa Ford said that schools will start online Sept. 8 under a two-week delay to give teachers, parents and students time to prepare. Any reopening plans are expected to align with either the midway mark or end of a quarter to not disrupt classes and grading.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Just days after public schools around Indiana reopened their doors, at least one student and one school staff member in districts around Indianapolis have tested positive for the virus.

In the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation, a student tested positive for the virus on the first day back to class. Superintendent Harold Olin told The Associated Press that the student attended school for part of the day Thursday.

People who came into close contact with the student will have to quarantine before returning. At Avon High School, a staff member tested positive. However, the district says that person had not been at school this week.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia set a record for newly confirmed coronavirus cases with 182, the highest since the outbreak began.

Officials reported record highs of COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive care unit patients and use of ventilators.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice renewed his call for residents to wear masks and urged people to take the virus seriously as it surges within West Virginia and surrounding states. Still, he declined to reimpose additional virus restrictions Friday, but didn’t rule it out if numbers keep rising.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a contact tracing smartphone app is available to notify Canadians of exposure to the coronavirus.

The app use is voluntary and if someone tests positive, other app users who have been in proximity of the person will be alerted.

Some governments have looked into smartphone technology to help battle virus flare-ups while easing lockdown restrictions. But technical problems and privacy concerns have dogged the development of virus tracing apps.

The app has been developed with the help of Canadian technology companies Shopify and BlackBerry.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities are tightening measures against the spread of the coronavirus after 78 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours.

Masks will be mandatory through August in all indoors areas – including churches and other places of worship – except for restaurants.

Authorities on Friday strongly recommended the use of masks outdoors where it’s difficult to observe social distancing.

No standing customers will be allowed at bars and nightclubs from Aug. 3-9, a maximum 100 people will be allowed to attend weddings, baptisms and funerals. No visits will be allowed through Aug. 15 to hospitals, retirement homes, refugee camps and homeless centers.

Authorities also extended the ban on air travel to neighboring Turkey, Albania and North Macedonia. Greece has 206 confirmed coronavirus deaths, including three announced Friday.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon has a record 224 new coronavirus cases and two more deaths, leading authorities to enforce a new nationwide partial lockdown.

The tally Friday brings the overall number of cases to 4,555 and 61 confirmed deaths.

It’s the first time the number of daily recorded infections surpassed 200.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci dismissed a tweet by Donald Trump claiming the U.S. global lead in coronavirus cases is because of increased testing.

Responding to questioning by a House Democrat, Fauci says the scale of the U.S. outbreak is the result of multiple factors, including some states opened too quickly, disregarding federal guidelines. Those recommendations called for a phased approach to easing restrictions on restaurants, bars and gyms based on state case counts.

Trump tweeted as a House oversight committee heard from the nation’s top health officials on the federal response to coronavirus. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, chaired the committee hearing.

Fauci’s warnings about the scope and dangers of the outbreak have drawn the ire of some of President Trump’s supporters and prompted calls for his firing. But he’s avoided open confrontations with the White House.

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WASHINGTON — The National Institutes of Health is awarding nearly $250 million to several U.S. companies as part of a government effort to ramp up testing capacity for the coronavirus.

The announcement Friday comes as demand for testing outpaces availability, leading to backlogs at U.S. labs and delays in getting results to many patients.

The NIH grants to seven manufacturers are aimed at helping increase production to provide millions of more tests by the fall.

Three of the companies are developing tests run on portable devices that could be used at doctor’s offices, clinics and testing sites. The other four companies are working to expand testing at diagnostic laboratories, which process more than half of U.S. tests. Those companies include Helix OpCo, of San Mateo, California, which is studying a high-capacity testing system that NIH says could process 50,000 samples per day by September.

Several of the tests are already on the market, including a 15-minute antigen test from San Diego-based Quidel that was cleared by regulators in May.

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MADRID — Spain has reported 1,525 new daily coronavirus cases Friday, the highest daily number since April 29.

Spain in mid-March went into a more than three-month lockdown as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths surged across the country. By the end of May, new daily infections had fallen to double digits.

The lockdown ended June 21, but the number of cases has rebounded. Since last Wednesday, cases have exceeded 1,000 a day.

The Aragon region in northeastern Spain recorded the highest confirmed infections, with 511, followed by the Madrid region (372).

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LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization predicts the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt for “decades to come.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the coronavirus as a “once-in-a-century health crisis.” Tedros reconvened WHO’s expert committee on Friday to consider what further recommendations are needed to stem the spread.

“Most of the world’s people remain susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks,” Tedros says. “Although vaccine development is happening at record speed, we must learn to live with this virus and we must fight it with the tools that we have.”

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government’s top testing official says it’s not possible to return all coronavirus test results to patients within three days because of overwhelming demand.

Adm. Brett Giroir told a congressional panel that eventually the U.S. should achieve that time frame. Many health experts say coronavirus results are not helpful when delivered after two or three days because the window for contact tracing has closed.

Americans across much of the West and South faced long lines and delays of a week or more in obtaining their test results. Giroir says about 75% of testing results are coming back within five days, but the remainder are taking longer.

Rapid, widespread testing is critical to containing the coronavirus outbreak, but the U.S. effort has been plagued by supply shortages and backlogs. President Donald Trump has downplayed the importance of testing and falsely claimed the nation’s number of coronavirus cases is solely due to the high testing rate.

The U.S. leads the world with nearly 4.5 million cases and more than 150,000 confirmed deaths.

___

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is fighting back against questioning from a Republican lawmaker over whether recent protests increased the spread of coronavirus.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio repeatedly pressed the top health official on whether protests in Portland and other cities against police brutality and racial discrimination should be curbed to stop the virus spread.

Jordan complained that government officials “are stopping people from going to church,” but not shutting down protests.

Fauci refused to be drawn into the politically sensitive debate while testifying before House lawmakers on the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, he reiterated, “Any crowd, whether it’s a protest, any crowd when you have people close together without masks is a risk.”

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says 250,000 people have registered on a National Institutes of Heath website to take part in experimental vaccine trials.

The study of the first vaccine involving 30,000 people began this week. The U.S. government plans to launch studies of additional vaccines every month through the fall.

Trials are pivotal for establishing the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. Not all patients who volunteer for clinical trials are eligible to participate.

Fauci is testifying before House lawmakers on the federal response to the pandemic, alongside the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the government’s testing czar. With hospitalizations and deaths on the rise, Fauci says Americans most again embrace public health basics such as social distancing and mask wearing.

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NEW YORK — A student’s positive test for the coronavirus in New York City schools will trigger a classroom shutdown under a back-to-school plan for the nation’s largest public school system.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan released Thursday says if there’s a single confirmed case, the entire classroom will self-quarantine for 14 days. Students will have the option for online learning.

Every New York City school will have an isolation room for students with coronavirus symptoms.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said it is up to him to decide whether any of the state’s 700 school districts can open in September. Friday is the deadline to submit reopening plans to the state.

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ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor says one of the nation’s largest convention centers will reopen on Monday with “surge beds” to treat COVID-19 patients.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta will begin receiving patients on Monday. There will be 60 beds with an increase to 120 beds, if needed.

Kemp says the beds will provide relief to nearby health care facilities.

Reopening the convention center comes as Georgia hospital officials are concerned about bed space following a surge of cases. The Georgia World Congress Center says it’s the fourth-largest convention center in the U.S.

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