The Latest: Texas gov says state’s health system up to task

AUSTIN, Tx — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is insisting the state’s health care system can handle the fast-rising number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as it pushes forward with aggressive moves to reopen its economy.

Abbott also pointed to Texans who may have become lax in wearing masks or practicing other social distancing measures as the state hit new record highs in new cases and hospitalizations. He urged them to take greater responsibility for stopping the spread of the pandemic and to stay home as much as possible.

“It does raise concerns, but there is no reason right now to be alarmed,” Abbott said of the rising numbers of cases.

Tuesday marked the eighth time in nine days the state set a new high for hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients with 2,518 and a jump of nearly 200 patients from Monday. That’s more 1,000 more patients than Memorial Day, which had been the lowest day in more than a month.

State health officials also reported 2,622 new cases, a single-day high.

Texas began aggressively re-opening its economy on May 1 and the Republican Abbott has continued to relax restrictions.

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

— Pandemic death toll in US surpasses American military casualties in World War I

— The German government wants to require any cases of the coronavirus in pets to be reported to authorities.

— Tanzania’s president says the country will reopen schools at the end of this month after claiming victory over COVID-19 and that divine intervention is key to stopped the virus.

— China reimposes some travel restrictions in the capital to contain a new outbreak, highlighting calls for vigilance as the U.S., Europe and Latin America continue to reopen.

— The global coronavirus crisis is disrupting summer internships for many university students and recent graduates even as economies slowly restart. About half of all internship openings in the United States have been scrubbed since COVID-19 arrived, and even more than that in the U.K. Summer internships are an important stepping stone to working life for many young adults. Some companies are making their internships virtual, – mirroring the work-from-home trend that’s swept office life during the pandemic. But that will not be quite the same for interns, who will lack the in-person networking that can help them get jobs. https://apnews.com/49f8f9427ed4f7bac9503ae76a41c80a

— Americans are unhappier today than they’ve been in nearly 50 years. That’s the takeaway from the COVID Response Tracking Study conducted by University of Chicago researchers. It finds that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy, down from 31% who said the same in 2018. About twice as many Americans reported being lonely as did in two years ago, an unsurprising finding given lockdowns and stay-home orders.

— Scientists at Imperial College London will start immunizing people in Britain this week with an experimental coronavirus shot, while pharmaceutical company Sanofi and the French government announced more than 800 million euros ($890 million) in investment as part of the worldwide race to find an effective vaccine.

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Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A union representing U.S. coal miners has asked a court to force the federal government to take unspecified measures to protect them from the coronavirus.

The petition Tuesday asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for an expedited order against the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. It was filed by the United Mine Workers and the United Steelworkers unions.

If MSHA fails to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases that would be legally binding on all mine operators, it would put the lives and health of tens of thousands of miners in “grave danger,” the petition said.

“The situation confronting miners is urgent,” the petition said. “Miners have largely been designated as ‘essential’ workers and thus are currently working at mine sites across the country. Further, as government-imposed stay-at-home orders are lifted and demand for mine-produced resources increases, more miners will return to work at pre-pandemic levels.”

A U.S. Department of Labor spokeswoman said the agency is confident it will prevail in the court action.

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The Trump administration says a recent rule change allows small business owners convicted of felonies to apply for government loans to help them weather the COVID-19 pandemic, but civil rights groups claim the program revision doesn’t go far enough.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued Tuesday to block the U.S. Small Business Administration from denying Paycheck Protection Program loans to small business owners with criminal records.

The federal lawsuit, filed in Maryland, says excluding business owners with criminal records from the $669 billion program has disproportionately harmed black and Hispanic business owners.

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CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul says he has tested positive for the coronavirus, has mild COVID-19 symptoms and is self-isolating on the advice of his doctor.

Raoul revealed his virus test results on Tuesday and said he got tested a day earlier after experiencing symptoms.

He said in a statement that he is fortunate “to be otherwise healthy.”

The former state legislator is a Democrat who won his first term as state attorney general in 2018.

Raoul’s disclosure came as the number of confirmed virus cases in Illinois has been falling and the state has been taking gradual steps to reopen amid stay-at-home orders.

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PHOENIX — Arizona has reported a new daily high of nearly 2,400 more confirmed coronavirus cases.

The state Department of Health Services reported 2,392 new cases and 25 additional virus-related deaths on Tuesday. A day earlier, the state recorded 1,104 new confirmed cases and eight deaths, bringing the state’s totals in the pandemic to 39,097 cases and 1,219 deaths.

It’s unclear how many of the new cases are due to expanded testing.

Arizona has drawn national attention as one of several emerging virus hot spots. Some experts have criticized Gov. Doug Ducey and his administration for not doing more to stop the spread of the virus, such as enforcing the use of face masks and increasing contact tracing.

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JUNEAU, Alaska — A spokeswoman says ConocoPhillips plans to resume normal production operations on Alaska’s North Slope in July after a reduction this month that the company attributed to low prices caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a global oversupply of oil.

ConocoPhillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said the company in late May began a ramp-down ahead of plans to cut production by about 100,000 barrels a day for the month of June. She said that reduction currently is in effect.

Lowman said the company does not provide month-to-month production levels so she could not predict what production might be in July. But she said the company expected to resume normal production operations then. She says decisions on any further production reductions would be made on a month-to-month basis.

North Slope oil prices that were around or below $10 a barrel in late April were around $40 a barrel last week.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 now exceeds the number of American service members who died in World War I.

The current pandemic mortality tally for the United States from Johns Hopkins University reached 116,526 on Tuesday. The number of Americans who died in World War I is 116,516.

Both figures are far from precise, due to a lack of testing during the pandemic and the challenges of counting the dead in the trenches of World War I a century ago.

But historians and the Congressional Research Service believe that 116,516 is the best figure for WWI battlefield deaths.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo – Health officials in Kosovo have warned that a worrying increase in new coronavirus cases may overwhelm hospitals and increase the number of deaths.

Kosovo reported its highest daily number of new confirmed cases on Tuesday with 141, The small Balkan nation’s National Institute of Public Health blamed people not respecting social distancing guidelines.

Most lockdown measures were lifted about two weeks ago. In the past week, Kosovo has registered significantly higher daily case numbers.

New case clusters have been identified at public and private companies and institutions which authorities had been advised to close.

As of Tuesday Kosovo had a total of 1,756 confirmed cases and 34 deaths.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The prospect of hosting the first rally for U.S. President Donald Trump in months would be a delight for many mayors in deep-red states like Oklahoma, but Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum isn’t celebrating.

Other Oklahoma GOP officials are hailing Trump’s planned rally at Tulsa’s 19,000-seat BOK Center arena on Saturday. But Bynum finds himself in a precarious position, balancing partisan politics, the city’s deep racial wounds and a spiking coronavirus infection rate.

The mayor has been strident about avoiding large group and says he won’t attend the Trump rally. Bynum said in a statement posted Tuesday on Facebook that he had no plans to prevent the event by invoking civil emergency authority.

He also said he was unaware of plans for a rally until arena management reached out to the city regarding police support.

The mayor wrote: “I would have loved some other city to have proven the safety of such an event already.”

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada is reporting its single largest daily increase of new cases of coronavirus after the governor announced he would hold off on easing any more restrictions in the state.

Health officials said Tuesday that 379 new confirmed cases were reported statewide Monday. Before that, the largest one-day increase was 295 cases on May 22.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said the increase can be partially attributed to delayed reporting from the weekend but is also part of an upward trend of new cases in the last three weeks.

Nevada’s casinos reopened almost two weeks ago after being shuttered for 11 weeks. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday night that current customer limits for businesses, social distancing guidance and limits on gatherings of more than 50 people would remain in place at least until June 30.

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MILAN — The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Italian intensive care units has dropped to its lowest levels since Italy’s government ordered a nationwide lockdown.

The number of ICU patients in Italy’s hospitals dropped below 200 for the first time since March 2, to 177. That’s an 80% improvement from the March peak.

About 3,300 others also remained hospitalized on Tuesday, nearly 200 fewer than a day earlier.

The civil protection agency said Italy added 210 new confirmed cases from Monday to Tuesday, bringing its epidemic total to 237,500. There also were another 34 deaths.

Experts have said those figures are likely to be much lower than the real infection level, because only people hospitalized or showing strong symptoms are tested.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania has recorded a third straight day of fewer than 400 positive coronavirus tests, according to Department of Health data.

That’s the longest such stretch since new confirmed cases in the state began regularly exceeding that number l in late March.

Still, the number of people dying with the virus every day remains in the dozens.

Officials reported 33 additional deaths and 362 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. That brings the state’s totals to nearly 80,000 cases and 6,276 deaths since early March.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn.— The number of COVID-19 patients in Tennessee hospitals has reached its highest level at more than 400, but Vanderbilt University researchers report the increase has not put acute strain on the state’s hospital system.

A report from the Nashville-based university’s hospital and medical school issued Tuesday said increases in hospitalizations in June were mostly concentrated in the Memphis area and southeast Tennessee, including Chattanooga.

Around 400 patients were hospitalized between June 7 and June 13, a jump of nearly 30% from a week earlier, the report said.

Increasing numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in recent days have led the cities of Memphis and Nashville to delay plans to reopen more businesses and to raise customer limits at restaurants and retail stores.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s confirmed coronavirus cases has risen sharply again and set a daily record weeks after the state began restarting its economy.

The state Department of Health reported 2,783 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, breaking the record of 2,581 new cases set on Friday. The numbers on both days are almost double the previous high of 1,601 set in mid-May.

Florida’s has spread to the team that operates United States’ hurricane hunter airplanes.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said Tuesday that five employees at the team’s Lakeland, Florida, base tested positive last week, forcing others into quarantine.

Gov. Ron DeSantis last week said the upward trend in confirmed cases was mostly a reflection of more testing for the virus combined with spikes in some agriculture communities.

But the number of tests performed daily peaked three weeks ago, and the percentage of positive tests is now over 6%, more than double the 2.3% rate in late May.

The Florida health department has not responded to multiple phone and email requests for comment from The Associated Press.

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LONDON — Britain is making available to people in the country’s National Health Service a drug that has been shown to improve chances of survival for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

A large U.K. clinical trial has found that a cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one-third in hospitalized patients who needed oxygen.

The U.K. Department of Health said Tuesday that effective immediately, the drug had been approved to treat all hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen. The department said the U.K. had stockpiled enough to treat 200,000 patients.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the drug was the “biggest breakthrough yet” in treating COVID-19. Johnson spent a week in the hospital being treated himself.

Peter Horby of Oxford University, one of the leaders of the trial, told a news conference that dexamethasone had shown “quite a significant effect” in patients with respiratory difficulties.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch lawmakers have called for an independent review of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis so authorities can be better prepared for a possible second wave of infections.

In a vote Tuesday, a majority of lawmakers supported a motion by the opposition Labor and Socialist parties calling on the Netherlands’ governing coalition to seek independent advice before Sept. 1 on “what lessons can be learned” from the measures taken by the government to rein in the spread of the virus.

Nearly 50,000 people have tested positive for the virus in the Netherlands and 6,070 have died, according to the government’s official tally. The pandemic’s actual death tolls in many countries are believed to be higher because not all people who died with suspected COVID-19 were tested.

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TORONTO — Canada and the United States have agreed to keep borders closed to non-essential travel until July 21 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the two countries extended their existing agreement by another 30 days.

The border restrictions were announced on March 18 and previously extended in April and May. Many Canadians fear a reopening.

The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world,

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say more than 7,800 coronavirus tests were carried out on passengers who arrived at Athens international Airport last week and turned up four cases.

Authorities said the 7,804 checks were carried out on flights that arrived June 8-14, before Greece opened to most European tourists this week without compulsory coronavirus tests.

Greece has been eager to promote itself as a safe tourist destination, and to salvage what is left of the summer tourist season. The country is heavily dependent on tourism, which makes up around 20% of its economy.

Tourists have been able to fly into Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki since Monday, and are subject to random coronavirus tests rather than mandatory testing and quarantine. International flights will be able to fly directly to regional airports from July 1.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Tanzania’s president says the country will reopen schools at the end of this month after claiming victory over COVID-19.

President John Magufuli’s comments came a day after his prime minister said 66 people in Tanzania were still infected. Confusion has surrounded the East African nation after it stopped publicly updating its number of cases at the end of April.

Magufuli has claimed the pandemic has been greatly exaggerated and pressed ahead with loosening restrictions in Tanzania, a country of some 56 million people. He says precautions such as wearing masks are unnecessary and instead divine intervention is key to stopping the virus.

Health experts have pleaded with the government for cooperation and transparency.

While Tanzania’s official number of cases has been frozen at just over 500, opposition leaders fear the real number is in the tens of thousands.

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