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Saturday May 15th, 2021 4:42PM

The Latest: Flags fly for pandemic victims in Spanish park

By The Associated Press
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MADRID — An association of families of coronavirus victims has planted what it says are 53,000 small Spanish flags in a Madrid park to honor the dead of the pandemic.

Volunteers placed the flags on a grassy slope overlooking a highway in the capital early on Sunday.

COVID-19 has claimed a confirmed 31,232 lives in Spain. But difficulties in testing at the start of the crisis mean many more victims likely have gone unrecorded.

“I think it is a beautiful homage to the victims, a lot better than the homage that was given by the prime minister,” 62-year-old retiree Honorio Hernandez said. “I have been in the Arlington National Cemetery and this reminds me of that. These people at the very least deserve this, if not much more.”

Elsewhere in Madrid, over 1,000 protesters rallied to demand a more vigorous response to the growing second wave of the coronavirus.

Madrid has become the epicenter of the rebound of the virus in Spain, once again the worst hit country in Europe. Spain has 319 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days. France has 229 cases per 100,000, the United Kingdom 96.

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

— Military suicides are up as much as 20% in COVID era

— Social media and COVID shaming: Fighting a toxic combination

— Israelis mark Yom Kippur under ‘painful’ virus lockdown.

— Masks are posing a problem for educators who teach students who are deaf, hard of hearing or learning English. Experts say other students need to see the teacher’s mouth in order to learn how to form words.

— The nearly 1 million people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 also have given the world a gift: a better understanding of how to treat the disease.

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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:

ROME — Italy reported another 1,766 coronavirus cases on Sunday, in line with its recent daily increases, but with a smaller number of tests conducted in the past 24 hours.

Another 17 people died, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,835, the highest in Europe after Britain.

Every Italian region reported new cases on Sunday, with the exception of the small Valle d’Aosta region.

The southern Campania was the region with the highest daily number of infections, at 245, while the hard-hit Lombardy, once the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, reported 216 new cases.

While hospitalizations and intensive care admissions are slightly rising, Italy has so far managed to keep its infections per 100,000 people far lower than France, Spain or Britain, which earlier this week were forced to impose new restrictions to avoid a second pandemic wave.

Italy, which usually processes around 100,000 tests per day, in the past 24 hours conducted only 87,714 tests.

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TALLAHASSEE, Floria — Florida now has more than 700,000 confirmed infections of the new coronavirus, according to statistics released by the state Department of Health Sunday.

The state reported 1,882 new confirmed cases and 10 new deaths caused by the virus. Overall, 14,200 people have been listed as dying from COVID-19 in Florida, including 168 non-residents.

There were 2,101 people hospitalized with the virus, eight fewer than the day before.

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PARIS — Hospitals in the Paris and Marseille regions are delaying some scheduled operations to free up space for COVID-19 patients as the French government tries to stem a rising tide of infections, the health minister said Sunday.

As restaurants and bars in Marseille prepared Sunday to close for a week as part of scattered new virus restrictions, Health Minister Olivier Veran insisted that the country plans no fresh lockdowns.

Two Nobel Prize-winning economists proposed in Le Monde newspaper this weekend that France lock down its population for the first three weeks of December to allow families to get together safely for the end-of-year holidays and “save Christmas.”

In response, Veran said on LCI television, “We do not want to confine the country again. Several countries around us made other choices. We don’t want this.”

French health authorities reported 14,000 new infections Saturday amid a mass testing effort. France has reported 31,700 virus-related deaths, the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.

While at least 10% of French intensive care beds are now occupied with COVID patients, Veran said they’re far from saturation.

Still, he said hospitals in the Paris and Marseille regions are delaying scheduled surgeries to free up space. Hospitals temporarily suspended such operations when the virus swept over France in March and April, creating backlogs that still persist six months later.

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LONDON — Prince Charles has warned that up to 1 million young people may need “urgent help’’ to protect their futures from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the Prince of Wales says there has “never been a time as uniquely challenging as the present” and that it is a particularly hard time to be young.

He says the crisis is reminiscent of the upheavals of the 1970s, when youth unemployment was one of the pressing issues facing British society.

He says, “the task ahead is unquestionably vast, but it is not insurmountable.”

Charles’ comments come as university students — many of whom have only just arrived on campuses after the summer break — are facing increased restrictions amid COVID-19 outbreaks in residence halls.

In Manchester, students are chafing at a lockdown they say was imposed without warning. One group taped “HMP MMU” to a window, suggesting the dormitory had become Her Majesty’s Prison at Manchester Metropolitan University.

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NEW DELHI — India has registered 88,600 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours in a declining trend with recoveries exceeding daily infections.

The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported additional 1,124 deaths for a total of 94,503. The average of new cases has fallen by around 7,000 daily in the past week after reaching a record number of 97,894 on Sept. 16.

Still, India is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States, where more than 7 million people have been infected.

Sunday’s surge has raised the country’s virus tally to over 5.9 million. India, however, also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. Its recovery rate stands at about 82%.

Health experts have cautioned about two major events next month: the legislative election in Bihar state, with nearly 72 million people eligible to vote, and a major religious festival season that includes huge congregations.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has further eased lockdown restrictions imposed after a surge in coronavirus cases, allowing most children to return to school from next month and sending more than 125,000 people back to work.

Melbourne and surrounding parts of rural Victoria state were placed under strict “Level 4” lockdowns on Aug. 2, shuttering schools and non-essential businesses, imposing a nighttime curfew and prohibiting public gatherings.

The restrictions were scheduled to be eased Sunday if the rolling 14-day average of new infections was between 30 and 50 cases. With 12 new infections reported Saturday and 16 Sunday, the 14-day average has dropped to 22.1.

That allowed Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews to confirm the 9 p.m.- 5.a.m curfew will be lifted from 5 a.m. Monday, though residents still cannot travel more than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from home. Public gatherings of up to five people from a maximum of two households will be allowed.

A further easing could take place on Oct. 19 if the average falls below five new cases per day. Masks remain mandatory.

Andrews said there are 399 active cases in Victoria, the first time that number has fallen below 400 since June 30.

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LONG BEACH, Calif. — The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports two prisoners have died at hospitals of coronavirus-related complications.

One prisoner was at the California Institution for Men in Chino. He was the 22nd inmate at the prison to die of coronavirus complications.

The second prisoner was at Avenal State Prison in Avenal. He was the sixth inmate to die of complications from the virus at the facility.

The department did not provide more details about the deaths.

Meanwhile, all California State University, Long Beach students who live on campus have been placed in quarantine and all in-person instruction will be halted for two weeks because five students tested positive for COVID-19.

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin on Saturday hit a record for coronavirus cases reported in a single day as health officials reported 2,817 people have tested positive for the virus.

The state has seen some of the nation’s fastest coronavirus spread over the last two weeks. The rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 950, an increase of nearly 97%, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. In that time, the state has reported the nation’s third-highest number of new cases per capita, with about 423 new cases per 100,000 people.

In another troubling trend, the positivity rate for coronavirus testing has also been among the country’s highest. That’s an indicator that many more people have infections than tests are revealing. The seven-day positivity rate is currently over 17%, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Saturday’s positivity rate for testing was even higher at 22%.

Over the course of the pandemic, 113,645 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Wisconsin and 1,281 have died. The Department of Health Services on Saturday reported seven new deaths.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of deaths in Oklahoma from the illness caused by the coronavirus has topped 1,000.

Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Saturday that 11 new COVID-19 deaths raised the state's toll to 1,004.

State health officials also reported that 990 new confirmed cases raised the Oklahoma caseload to at least 83,510. The number of active cases rose by 136 to 12,752. However, the actual number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

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HONOLULU -- A state-owned health care organization in Hawaii will take over a veterans care home where 26 residents have died of the coronavirus.

The arrangement announced on Friday will see Hawaii Health Systems Corporation take over as the operators of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo. The previous operator, Utah-based Avalon Health Care, will relinquish all control over the facility.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that the veterans home has had a history of falling short on health standards. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the home a health inspection rating of one star out of five.

There were 89 residents living at the care home before the outbreak. Since then, 71 residents have contracted the virus along with 35 employees.

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ATHENS, Greece — Authorities are closing street kiosks and minimarkets from midnight to 5 a.m. in the Greek capital and other areas in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Such vendors are a popular after-hours source of alcohol for young people, many of whom have been congregating in squares without adhering to social distancing or wearing masks. The closures are set to begin at midnight on Saturday.

Greek health officials on Saturday reported 315 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 7 more deaths. That raised the country’s total case count to 17,228 since the pandemic began and its death toll to 376,

There are 68 people on ventilators, but many more are in intensive care units and the government is concerned about the capacity of the public health system if trends continue.

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