The Latest: Louisiana lawmakers, Edwards clash over election
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana lawmakers are plowing ahead with a contested emergency plan to run the state’s fall elections during the pandemic despite Gov. John Bel Edwards’ intention to jettison the plan if it reaches his desk.
Republicans on the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted in a near-bloc Wednesday to advance the emergency plan offered by GOP Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to the full House for consideration. It eliminates most of the coronavirus-related reasons for a person to request an absentee ballot, requiring most people to vote in person despite the virus outbreak unless they have recently tested positive for COVID-19.
The rules have little chance of being used for the Nov. 3 presidential election or a Dec. 5 state election because Edwards, a Democrat, intends to block it.
The impasse likely will leave a federal judge to determine how Louisiana runs its fall elections, because of a pending lawsuit filed by voting rights advocates that seeks to widen mail-in voting options.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Florida virus deaths surpass 10,000 as teachers, state argue
— Spain’s records 3,700 infections in single day, most since mid-June
— Trail of bubbles leads scientists to coronavirus clue about lung issues
— Iran passes 20,000 coronavirus deaths, the health ministry says. It’s the highest death toll for any Middle East country in the pandemic.
— Governments around the world are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to justify crackdowns on press freedom. Some regimes have moved to curb alleged misinformation about the coronavirus that doesn’t align with official proclamations.
__ Poll: Pandemic shifts how consumers use gig companies. It shows how consumer attitudes have changed about using ride-hailing and delivery services for groceries.
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — President Donald Trump’s top coronavirus adviser said Wednesday that other states could adapt West Virginia’s color-coded map for public schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
The map, which will use four colors to classify the opening status of each of the 55 county school systems, “was very remarkable to me,” Dr. Deborah Birx said at a news conference. “I’m worried that West Virginia is going to get a call from another 49 governors.”
The map is based on the seven-day average of new daily cases per 100,000 population and range in color from minimal community transmission in green to substantial transmission in red. Red counties must suspend in-person instruction and activate remote learning plans.
Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said the school alert system map on the state’s website offers “very clear guidance of what to do depending upon what your category is.
DAHLONEGA, Ga. — A north Georgia school system that refused to provide current numbers of coronavirus cases to the local newspaper now reports that 85 of its students are being quarantined. The Lumpkin County School System says on its website that 10 students and 9 employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
The dispute between the school system and the local media comes amid heated debate in Georgia over whether schools should be open for in-person learning. One of the state’s biggest school districts — Cherokee County in the Atlanta suburbs — has temporarily closed three large high schools after the virus led to the quarantines of more than 2,000 of its students.
The Dahlonega Nugget reports that the school superintendent wouldn’t give out the numbers so they could be printed in the newspaper amid a dispute over its news coverage. Lumpkin County Superintendent Rob Brown said in an email to school board members the newspaper had created “unnecessary fear and panic” with an earlier headline. The school system serves about 3,830 students.
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little is calling the part-time Legislature back into a special session due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican governor in a news release Wednesday said the special session will start Monday. He said lawmakers will consider election law changes as well as establishing temporary civil liability standards related to the pandemic. Lawmakers have been calling for a special session to address those two issues.
Lawmakers say polling places for the November election could be limited due to a lack of volunteers. Some lawmakers also say that a liability shield law is needed to protect government, schools and private businesses from frivolous lawsuits from people who get COVID-19.
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon residents waiting for unemployment benefits can now apply for a $500 relief check.
People eligible for the one-time payment must have made less than $4,000 before taxes per month before losing your job, be an Oregon resident, be 18 or older and the employer must have closed or the person’s income “decreased significantly because of executive actions by Gov. Kate Brown to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
PARIS — France recorded more than 3,700 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
Health authorities say that’s 1,500 more than the previous day. The number hospitalized and in ICUs was slightly down. But health authorities say “the transmission of the virus is accentuating” among all age groups, especially young adults.
President Emmanuel Macron told Paris-Match magazine that “we can’t bring the country to a halt.” But he’d consider “targeted reconfinement … if the situation calls for it.”
French officials have confirmed nearly 30,500 deaths from COVID-19, seventh highest in the world.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has reported 1,303 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest daily increase in more than a month.
The figures announced by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Wednesday brought the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 253,108. Koca also reported 23 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the total since the start of the outbreak to 6,039.
The number of infections was the highest since June 29 when the country had reported 1,374 cases.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday the outbreak is “under control” despite the increase in cases.
The wearing of masks in public spaces is mandatory in much of the country of 82 million. Turkey is restricting people 65 and over, and people with chronic illnesses, from attending crowded public gatherings in more than a dozen provinces.
CONCORD, N.H. — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu says New Hampshire will pay just under $10 million in accepting President Donald Trump’s plan to boost unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic.
A federally funded $600 weekly benefit expired in July and Congress hasn’t agree to a broader new coronavirus relief plan. Trump signed an executive order Aug. 8 to extend the benefit but cut it to $300 or $400 a week, depending on which plan governors choose.
States are required to pay $100 per claimant to send out the higher amount. Sununu says anyone who already is getting $100 from the state will get an additional $300 without the state having to pay more. That amounts to about 95% of recipients, and for the rest, the state will bring them up to $100 so they can qualify for the additional money, he says.
The payments will be retroactive to Aug. 1 but will take some time to process. Sununu says most recipients should get checks in two to three weeks, but others might wait five weeks.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Deaths in Florida from the coronavirus surpassed 10,000, while teachers and state officials argued in court over whether in-person schools should reopen this month.
Florida reported 174 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total confirmed deaths to at least 10,067 — the fifth-highest death toll in the nation.
The state reported an additional 4,115 confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 584,047.
The positivity rate for coronavirus testing in Florida has averaged about 11.4% during the past week.
There were 5,351 patients being treated for the disease in Florida hospitals on Wednesday, down from peaks above 9,500 patients in late July.
Meanwhile, Florida’s largest teacher’s union is seeking an injunction from a judge in Tallahassee to stop schools from reopening by this Friday.
PRAGUE — The lower house of Czech Parliament has approved a government plan to allow those quarantined due to the coronavirus to cast a drive-in ballot for elections in October.
The new legislation includes an option for the quarantined citizens to vote at 78 drive-in ballot stations that will be established by the military across the country. Those who cannot use a car can ask for a visit of a special electoral committee member with a ballot box in their homes.
Such electoral committees would also visit isolated facilities, including nursing homes, where all people are quarantined.
The upper house is set to vote on the plan on Thursday.
The Czech Republic has 20,686 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 404 have died, according to Health Ministry figures released Wednesday.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities have registered 217 confirmed coronavirus cases, below Tuesday’s record high number but still considerably higher than early summer.
Another three deaths were reported Wednesday, bringing the total to 235. A total of nearly 7,700 confirmed infections have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.
Travelers entering Greece from abroad accounted for 22 of the new cases, while most were in the two biggest cities of Athens and Thessaloniki.
MADRID — Spain’s Health Ministry says 3,715 coronavirus infections have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours, a new single-day record since the country emerged from a three-month lockdown in mid-June.
With 136 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the past two weeks, Spain tops the European chart of the highest cumulative incidence. It’s one of the main indicators closely monitored by epidemiologists.
The Madrid region, home to 6.6 million, has emerged as one of the hot spots in the new wave of outbreaks, which officials have linked mostly to family reunions and nightlife.
New regulations, including on hours of nightlife and close outdoor smoking, take effect Thursday in the Spanish capital.
The country added 127 deaths to reach nearly 28,800 confirmed victims. However, the number doesn’t count those who suffered from the coronavirus but weren’t tested.
ROME — Italy has registered 642 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily increase in three months. The Health Ministry says 669 cases were confirmed on May 23. The increase Wednesday also reflects a boost in tests performed — more than 71,000 since Tuesday.
Thousands received swab tests when they arrived at Italian airports from abroad. Last week, the government made testing mandatory for people coming from Spain, Greece, Croatia and Malta.
The number of hospitalizations rose again on Wednesday, including COVID-19 patients needing intensive care. Health authorities are concerned young people aren’t wearing masks or social distancing at parties and bars, which favors the spread of the virus.
Italy has more than 255,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. With seven more deaths recorded Wednesday, the confirmed toll rose to more than 35,400.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland has applied for a FEMA grant to provide an additional $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for state residents unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement Wednesday. Those eligible would receive $300 a week in benefits retroactive to the week ending Aug. 1.
To qualify, people must be eligible for a weekly benefit amount of at least $100 and must re-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, would fund the $300-per-week benefit, and Maryland would fulfill a 25% match through funding already paid to claimants in regular unemployment insurance benefits.
STORRS, Conn. — University of Connecticut officials have evicted several students from on-campus housing after a crowded dorm room party with no mask wearing or social distancing.
School officials notified the campus community of the investigations and disciplinary actions for violating campus coronavirus rules in a letter Tuesday night.
Students began returning to campus last Friday. All were tested for the virus and were supposed to limit their contact with others during their first 14 days back on campus.
Video of the party was posted on social media.
As of Tuesday, UConn has received coronavirus test results for 3,850 on-campus students. Five tested positive and are isolated. School officials say 25 students on campus were in medical quarantine due to potential contact with others who tested positive