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Sunday September 27th, 2020 5:01AM

The Latest: SKorea holds leader of church with virus cluster

By The Associated Press
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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean prosecutors have arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations the church hampered the government’s anti-corfonavirus response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March.

Prosecutors are questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee over charges that the Shincheonji Church of Jesus hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines.

More than 5,200 of the South Korea’s 14,336 confirmed virus cases have been linked to the church.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 31 more confirmed cases of COVID-19. At least 23 of the cases were tied to international arrivals.

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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:

MEXICO CITY — Mexico has become the country with the third most COVID-19 deaths in the world, behind the United States and Brazil.

Mexican health officials said Friday there were 688 deaths for the latest 24-hour reporting period, pushing the country’s total to 46,688. That put Mexico just ahead of the United Kingdom, which has 46,119, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins University. Mexico’s population is double that of Britain.

The health officials also said Mexico now has had more than 424,000 confirmed coronavirus cases during the pandemic.

Also on Friday, nine state governors from opposition parties criticized what they call the federal government’s “confusing messages” on measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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BEIJING — China is reporting a more than 50% drop in newly confirmed coronavirus cases in a possible sign that its latest major outbreak in the northwestern region of Xinjiang may have run its course.

Officials on Saturday there were 45 new cases over the previous 24 hours, with 31 of them in Xinjiang, where the outbreak has been focused on the regional capital and largest city of Urumqi. That is down from 127 cases nationally and 112 in Xinjiang reported Friday.

No new deaths reported, leaving China’s total at 4,634, among confirmed 84,337 cases.

In China's semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong, infections continue to surge, with more than 100 new cases reported Saturday. That put its total at 2,273 for the pandemic. Two deaths also were reported, giving the city a total of 27.

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s president has unveiled hundreds of hospital beds set up inside a sports dome in the capital of Caracas as his government prepares for a possible wave of coronavirus infections.

President Nicolás Maduro went on state TV to show off the converted complex Friday as he urged Venezuelans to stop throwing parties and wash their hands to prevent the virus’ spread.

Inside, the dome’s floor is walled off with beds. Outside, dozens of tents in the parking lot hold even more. A Cuban medical team presented their nation’s flag, saying they are ready.

Venezuelan officials have reported 164 deaths from COVID-19 so far, among more than 18,000 confirmed infections. The official daily count Friday hit an all-time high with 715 new reported illnesses.

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CAIRO — The internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tripoli has reinstated a total lockdown for at least five days to curb the growing coronavirus outbreak in the war-torn country.

The tight restrictions imposed Friday dampened the festive spirit of the Eid-al-Adha holiday, when Muslims gather to pray and slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to the poor.

With Libya’s health system and infrastructure devastated by nine years of conflict, the U.N.-supported government ordered people in western Libya to stay inside unless they have to purchase essentials.

Libya is divided between rival administrations in the west and east. It has reported 3,621 confirmed coronavirus infections and 74 fatalities due to COVID-19, but testing nationwide remains extremely limited.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama state officials say a program to aid families with students who are limited to remote learning this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic will provide $100 million for increased internet service.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said Friday that vouchers to help families pay for equipment and high-speed internet service through Dec. 31 will be available for students who receive free or reduced-price meals or meet other income criteria. High-speed internet service is often unavailable across rural Alabama and in some urban areas.

While some students were able to participate in classes online after schools closed in the spring because of the pandemic, many were unable to take part because of the lack of reliable high-speed internet.

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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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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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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.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Health, AP World News, AP Business
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