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Friday September 18th, 2020 7:31PM

The Latest: Feds to ship rapid coronavirus tests for schools

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — Federal officials will begin shipping tens of millions of rapid coronavirus tests to state governors this month for use in reopening schools.

The Trump administration’s top testing official, Admiral Brett Giroir, laid out plans Tuesday to distribute some of the 150 million tests ordered from test maker Abbott Laboratories. The federal purchase was first announced last week.

Abbott’s rapid test, the size of a credit card, is the first that doesn’t require specialty computer equipment to develop. The test delivers results in about 15 minutes and is priced at $5, significantly lower than similar older tests.

Giroir says the “great majority” would go to U.S. governors for use in screening children at K-12 schools. The tests could be used to test first responders and other high-risk populations.

Tests will be shipped to 20,000 assisted living facilities. Unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities are not overseen by Medicare. Because assisted living facilities also house a vulnerable population, they face some of the same risks as nursing homes.

Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. testing has mainly relied on nasal swab tests sent to labs for processing. But supply shortages led to testing backlogs, delaying results and hindering efforts to track cases.

Health experts view rapid tests run outside the laboratory as key to expanding the number of tests ahead of the flu season. However, Abbott’s new test still requires a nasal swab by a health worker. In general, rapid tests like Abbott’s are less accurate than lab-developed tests. The FDA has said in some cases, negative results with Abbott’s test may need to be confirmed with a lab test.

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

— US federal officials to ship rapid coronavirus tests for schools

— NYC delays start of school for more prep time for virus safety measures

— Virus or not, it’s time for class again across Europe

— Apple and Google want more U.S. states to adopt their phone-based approach for tracing and curbing the spread of the coronavirus, building more of the necessary technology directly into phones.

— British lawmakers have returned to Parliament after a six-week summer break, with Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic setting the stage.

— Pope Francis is citing the medical, social and economic crises of the pandemic. He says its “time for restorative justice” and rich nations should forgive the debt of poor countries.

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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:

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The University of Kansas is requiring no fans at athletic events and Kansas State University is battling four new coronavirus outbreaks.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment is reporting 19 clusters tied to colleges and five tied to schools with younger students.

At the University of Kansas, entrance testing uncovered 474 positive cases. Infections were particularly prevalent among sorority and fraternity members, with 270 positives among 2,698 members tested, for a rate of 10%.

In the Manhattan, Kansas, health officials say the four newest outbreaks include 10 positive cases among the Kansas State football team. There are several cases tied to a fraternity and sorority.

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ROME — Italy registered fewer than 1,000 new coronavirus cases, even as the number of swab tests soared.

The Health Ministry says 978 coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, when some 81,000 tests were conducted. That is 22,500 more tests than the previous day when nearly the same number of cases were detected.

Health experts are encouraging Italy to boost testing and tracing of contacts of the newly infected ahead of schools opening on Sept. 14.

Italy has 270,189 confirmed cases, adding eight deaths to increase the known toll to nearly 35,500.

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NEW YORK — New York City is delaying the start of its school year until Sept. 16 to give teachers more time to prepare for the return of students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the deal struck with unions representing teachers, staff and administrators. Instruction was supposed to begin on Sept. 10. All students will spend the first few days learning from home online before in-person instruction begins for some students on Sept. 21.

The city’s plan to restart schools includes mask-wearing, staggered schedules to reduce the number of students in rooms, supplying every school building with a nurse and asking all staffers to get tested shortly before school starts. A medical monitoring program will includes random virus testing for a sampling of students and staff each month.

The city used ventilation experts to check air flow in classrooms, and officials say they'll would work to make parks and streets available as teaching space, if needed.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew says the union’s independent medical experts signed off on the reopening plan. Delegates of the UFT were poised to vote on whether to authorize a strike.

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BERLIN -- The head of an association representing German medical laboratories has criticized proposals to use veterinary and industrial labs to process coronavirus tests.

Andreas Bobrowksi, chairman of the medical laboratories association BDL, says the capacity to conduct more tests is limited by the shortage of materials required to process them, which he says has been “covered up by rationing.”

Germany has conducted more than 11.2 million tests for the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak. About 244,600 tests have been positive.

Bobrowski says the available test capacity also would be needed to screen for influenza in the coming months. He called for other measures such as preventive quarantine and travel restrictions rather than expanding the number of people who are tested.

Germany has nearly 245,000 coronavirus cases and 9,300 confirmed dead.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say the country’s schools will require masks and open fulltime on Sept. 14, a week later than planned.

Officials say the delay will allow people returning from summer holidays to determine whether they have contracted coronavirus on vacation and take precautions against spreading the disease.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas urged parents and children back from holiday to limit their social contacts until school starts.

Education Minister Niki Kerameos says schoolchildren and teachers diagnosed with coronavirus or who live with somebody with it, along with people belonging to high-risk groups, will be exempt from attending classes. They can use distance learning.

The government will provide free masks to all teachers and pupils at state and private schools.

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CAIRO — Egypt reopened its ancient sites in Cairo and elsewhere in the country for the first time since they were closed in March to stem the coronavirus.

The reopening came despite a recent upward trend in new infections. Antiquities Minister Khalid el-Anany says museums, temples and other sites are reopened at 50% capacity.

In the southern ancient city of Luxor, tourists from France and Ukraine visited the famed Karnak Temple, arriving from the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, according to the ministry.

Since July, Egypt lifted most of its restrictions in place against the pandemic, reopening cafes, clubs, gyms, theaters and worship houses.

Egypt’s health ministry has reported more than 98,900 confirmed cases and 5,421 deaths.

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BERLIN -- Authorities in Berlin say protesters must wear face masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus after a demonstration where thousands ignored social distancing rules last weekend.

German news agency dpa reported Berlin state’s executive agreed to make masks mandatory for protests with more than 100 participants. There will be exceptions for car and bicycle rallies.

Until now, masks weren’t required at open air events unless the minimum distance of 1.5 meters between participants couldn’t be maintained.

Police ordered a large protest dissolved on Saturday because participants didn’t respect the rules. The demonstration was against mask wearing and other pandemic protection measures.

Participants have mostly wore masks at other protests in Berlin, including a large Black Lives Matter demonstration in June and a rally by Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigners on Tuesday.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portugal has launched its first coronavirus contact tracing app, called Stayaway Covid, after weeks of delays over privacy concerns and amid debatable success for similar apps deployed by European governments.

The smartphone app uses Bluetooth technology to help discover whether people have been in proximity to someone infected with the coronavirus. It uses an application programming interface developed recently by Apple and Google.

Health Minister Marta Temido said at the app’s launch Tuesday it is “voluntary, confidential, secure and trustworthy.”

The developers at INESC TEC say the app doesn’t have access to personal data.

But Portugal’s D3 - In Defense of Digital Rights Association, a nonprofit group, says public information about the app’s source code is incomplete. It also asked for the code that shows how Apple and Google use the data to be made public.

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Schools in much of Bosnia reopened amid coronavirus restrictions and despite relatively high number of daily new infections.

The Serb-dominated Republika Srpska half of the country decided to fully open elementary and high schools. In the Bosniak-Croat Federation, which includes the capital Sarajevo, the government opted for a mixed approach, combining online lessons and traditional classes.

Although less hit by coronavirus compared to larger western European nations, Bosnia reported more than 19,000 cases to date and about 600 confirmed deaths.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Finnish health authorities say some 900,000 people have downloaded a coronavirus tracing app a day after it was launched.

The Koronavilkku app is aimed at finding out whether a person has been exposed to the coronavirus, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. It says the free application was created to help break infection chains. App users send a randomly generated code via Bluetooth to others when in close contact.

“The Koronavilkku mobile app is part of the government’s test, trace, isolate and treat strategy,” said the health ministry’s permanent secretary, Kirsi Varhila.

The app has been published in Finnish and Swedish, the Nordic country’s two official languages, and an English version is planned for later this year.

Finland has had more than 8,000 cases and reported 335 deaths.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has started the new school year, making it mandatory again to wear face masks on public transport.

The health authorities have argued that measure could help contain the coronavirus pandemic as many of almost 1.4 million students at elementary and high schools use the public transport every weekday.

Masks are also mandatory at Prague’s international airport, government and state offices, clinics and pharmacies starting Tuesday.

Strict hygiene measures are in place at schools, but the authorities reversed their initial order for all to use protective face coverings inside school buildings.

Face masks have only been recommended in schools in Prague, one of the worst-hit regions in the Czech Republic, with almost 45 infected per 100,000 people.

Education Minister Robert Plaga said about 20 of some 12,000 schools have remained closed because teachers and staffers have been quarantined.

The Czech schools were closed on March 11 and only some of them partially reopened at the end of May on a voluntary basis.

The Czech Republic has had 24,618 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 424 deaths, according to government figures.

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BEIJING — Children returned to school Tuesday in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic that underwent months of lockdown but which has not seen new cases of local transmission for weeks.

State media reported 1.4 million children in the city reported to 2,842 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools as part of a nationwide return to classes.

Life has largely returned to normal in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus was first detected late last year. After what critics called an attempt to ignore the outbreak, the city underwent a 76-day lockdown during which residents were confined to their homes and field hospitals opened to assist an overwhelmed medical system.

Wuhan marked a milestone on Sunday when its last confirmed case, a patient who brought the virus from overseas, was released from a city hospital.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 1 million on Tuesday as authorities reported 4,729 new cases. Russia has the fourth largest caseload in the world after the U.S., Brazil and India.

Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is much higher than all reported figures, due to limited testing, missed mild cases and concealment of cases by some governments, among other factors. As of Tuesday, Russia has lifted most lockdown restrictions in the majority of the country’s regions.

Last month, Russian authorities announced approval of the first-ever coronavirus vaccine — a move that Western experts met with skepticism and unease as the shots were only tested on a few dozen people. Last week, officials announced starting advanced trials of the vaccine among 40,000 people.

It remains unclear whether vaccination of risk groups — such as doctors and teachers — announced earlier this year will be part of the trials or carried out in parallel.

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LONDON — Hundreds of thousands of British schoolchildren are heading back to classrooms, with the country watching nervously to see if reopening schools brings a surge in coronavirus infections.

Tuesday marks the start of term for about 40% of schools in England and Wales, with the rest reopening in the coming days.

Most children have been out of full-time education for more than five months, since a nationwide lockdown was imposed in March, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government says the health risk to children from COVID-19 is far less than the risk to their education and well-being if they don’t go back to school.

Schools have introduced measures to reduce contact between children, such as staggering break times and keeping pupils in “bubbles” with their class or year group. Face-coverings are required in communal areas of secondary schools in districts with heightened rates of coronavirus infection.

While many parents are nervous, the government says those who refuse to send their children back to school face fines.

Scottish pupils returned in August and so far there have only been small, limited outbreaks linked to schools.

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LONDON — AstraZeneca says a potential coronavirus vaccine has entered phase III trials in the U.S to test the effectiveness and safety of the product.

Cambridge, England-based AstraZeneca says the trial will involve up to 30,000 adults from various racial, ethnic and geographic groups across the U.S. The trial is funded by units of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services.

AstraZeneca says development of the vaccine known as AZD1222 is moving ahead globally with late-stage trials in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa. Further trials are planned in Japan and Russia. The potential vaccine was invented by the University of Oxford and an associated company, Vaccitech.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca is gearing up for large-scale production of the vaccine.

Oxford Biomedica said Tuesday that it had signed an agreement with AstraZeneca for “commercial manufacture” of AZD1222. The company says it will reserve capacity at a new manufacturing center in Oxford, England, for an initial period of 18 months, with the possibility of extending the deal for a further 18 months.

Oxford Biomedica says it will receive 15 million pounds ($20 million) as a capacity reservation fee, plus as much as 35 million pounds for the manufacture of multiple large-scale batches of the vaccine, if it proves effective.

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PARIS — Millions of French children starting going back to school Tuesday despite a recent rise in virus infections, in a nationwide experiment aimed at bridging inequalities and reviving the economy.

“The virus is still there, and you have to protect yourself,” President Emmanuel Macron said in an Instagram video aimed at France’s more than 12 million schoolchildren on their first day back.

He spoke masked. Masks are required throughout the school day for all students 11 and over, and all teachers and school staff.

Masks are also mandatory starting Tuesday in all French workplaces, as the government encourages parents to return to the job while trying to keep infections under control. France reported 3,082 new coronavirus cases Monday, down from recent days but still higher than European neighbors and well above the few hundred daily cases reported in May and June, before summer vacations sent infections rising again. France has reported more than 30,600 deaths related to the virus.

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BEIJING — Chinese students on Tuesday began a full return to regular classes following two weeks without new cases of local transmission in the country.

About 75% of students had already returned to school and the remainder will return beginning from Tuesday.

Reports said students had their temperatures checked on arrival but rules on social distancing and mask wearing varied depending on the region.

Çhina’s National Health Commission reported 10 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, all of them brought from outside the country. China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths from COVID-19 among 85,058 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

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JERUSALEM — Israel has opened its new school year while facing a persistently high coronavirus infection rate, with restrictions in place to try to prevent the virus’s spread.

Classes begin Tuesday in most of the country, with an estimated 2.4 million students returning to school. But in 23 communities that the health ministry classified as outbreak epicenters, the reopening will be delayed.

Students from third grade and up are required to wear face masks in the classroom. Class sizes for most grades will be limited to 18 students. Middle and high school students will study in the classroom only twice per week, with the remainder of lessons being held online.

Israel has recorded over 116,000 cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic, including 939 deaths. The country saw a major spike in new cases after it reopened the economy and schools following the nationwide lockdown in May.

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NEW DELHI — A single-day spike of nearly 70,000 new coronavirus cases, the lowest daily surge in the last six days, has driven India’s overall tally to almost 3.7 million.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday also reported 819 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 65,288.

India has been reporting the highest single-day caseload in the world every day for nearly three weeks and is the third worst-hit country behind the United States and Brazil. But it now conducts nearly 1 million tests every day and the recovery rate of virus patients is more than 76%.

Meanwhile, the federal government on Monday said the country’s parliament will resume on Sept. 14 with strict physical distancing norms. The parliament was adjourned in March just before a nationwide lockdown was announced to contain the pandemic.

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