The Latest: Virus case in Vatican hotel where pope lives
The Vatican says someone who lives in the same Vatican hotel as Pope Francis has tested positive for coronavirus, adding to the 11 cases of COVID-19 among the Swiss Guards who protect him.
The Vatican said Saturday that the resident of the Domus Sanctae Marthae has moved out temporarily and is in isolation, as are all the people who came into direct contact with him.
The hotel serves as a residence for Vatican-based priests as well as visiting clerics and lay people. Francis chose to live there permanently after his 2013 election, shunning the Apostolic Palace, because he said he needed to be around ordinary people. The hotel has a communal dining room and chapel where Francis celebrates Mass each morning.
The Vatican, a tiny city state in the center of Rome, has beefed up its anti-COVID-19 measures amid a resurgence of the outbreak in Italy. Protective masks are required indoors and out, but Francis has largely shunned them even when holding audiences with the public.
At 83 and with part of a lung removed when he was in his 20s due to illness, the pope would be at high-risk for COVID-19 complications.
Last week, the Vatican confirmed a cluster of 11 cases among the Swiss Guards, the tiny army of young Swiss men who serve as ceremonial guards at papal Masses, guard the Vatican City gates and protect the pope.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is acquiring 13 million rapid antigen tests for a mass testing of its population amid a record surge of coronavirus infections.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says almost 6,000 testing sites will be established across the country for the testing that is scheduled to take place the next two weekends, starting with the three or four hardest-hit counties.
Matovic says it will be similar for citizens to going to cast ballots at elections. It’s unclear if the testing will be mandatory.
Antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, which are considered the gold standard, but have the advantage of producing faster results.
The nation of 5.4 million has been facing a record spike with the number of confirmed positive cases in one day surpassing 2,000 on Thursday.
The Slovak authorities have so far conducted a relatively low number of tests compared with other European countries. Just under 12,000 were carried out on Friday.
The country has a total of 28,268 confirmed cases and 82 people have died.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Virus surges in key battleground states as election nears
— White House puts ‘politicals’ at CDC to try to control info
— UK’s Johnson threatens to impose restrictions on Manchester
— Belgium will tighten coronavirus restrictions from Monday in an effort to hold the disease in check. The new measures include a night-time curfew and the closure of cafes, bars and restaurants for a month.
— Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down.
— Hundreds of Argentine flags dotted the sand of a beach at the Mar del Plata resort, a poignant memorial to the victims of the novel coronavirus in one of this South American country’s virus hot spots.
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ZAGREB, Croatia — Nearly 30 patients and staff at a Croatian hospital treating patients with tumors have contracted the new coronavirus amid a record surge in infections in the country.
Croatian state television HRT said Saturday that the infected patients include five in post-operative care and five awaiting surgery. The head of the Sisters of Mercy hospital, Mario Zovak, says eight surgeons have also tested positive, along with nurses and other staff.
Zovak says the hospital is setting up special wards for the infected and transferring some patients to another hospital.
Croatia has reported record numbers of new infections, which on Saturday exceeded 1,000 cases for the second day in a row in the country of 4.2 million people.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has announced its highest single-day total of new cases of the coronavirus amid a spike in this Mideast nation home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The country’s Health Ministry said tests found 1,538 new cases of the virus, pushing the overall number of cases to 114,387.
The ministry said another four people died from the virus, bringing the overall death toll to 459.
Recorded infections have soared again in recent weeks, as authorities have relaxed restrictions and resumed schools for in-person instruction. Dubai has reopened its airport for international travelers and embarked on an active campaign promoting itself as a tourism destination amid the pandemic.
The UAE is engaged in an aggressive testing campaign, with over 11 million tests conducted in a country home to over 9 million people.
BANGKOK — Health officials in Thailand say five people in the same family in a province bordering Myanmar have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The cases are the first since early September involving local transmission of the disease.
Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences, said a married couple in Tak province were confirmed to be infected on Oct. 13. He said their daughter, niece and nephew were found positive in an initial test, and results of second confirmation test would be known Saturday night.
Nine people close to the family members were put under quarantine, and provincial authorities are considering what additional measures should be taken.
Thai authorities on Saturday announced 10 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, including the two certain ones in Tak, to bring the total since January to 3,679, including 59 deaths. The other eight new cases are Thais who were in quarantine after returning from abroad.
ROME — Italy’s northern Lombardy region, where the European coronavirus outbreak began in late February, has taken new measures to contain rebounding infections, limiting bar service and alcohol sales, banning contact sports and closing bingo parlors.
The regional government late Friday also called for high schools to adopt hybrid schedules with students alternating in-person with online learning.
The measures were taken after Lombardy, Italy’s most populous region, has once again become the most affected in the COVID-19 resurgence, adding more than 2,000 infections a day. Hospitals are coming under strain and intensive care units are filling up.
The new measures allow only table service for bars from 6 p.m., ban takeout alcohol sales from that time and prohibit all consumption of booze in public spaces, an effort to eliminate crowds from forming in piazzas with takeout drinks.
Italy’s other hardest-hit region, southern Campania, has taken similarly strict measures, including a shutdown of schools for two weeks. After parents protested, the regional governor backed off Friday and allowed day-care centers to remain open.
PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have surpassed 10,000 in one day for the first time, setting a new record high for the third straight day.
The Health Ministry says the day-to-day-increase of the new confirmed cases surged to 11,105 on Friday. It is almost 1,400 more than the previous record set a day earlier.
The country has registered a total of 160,112 cases, including 1,283 deaths.
After a series of new restrictive measures adopted by the government to slow down the surge, Health Minister Roman Prymula said he still expected a rise of those tested positive for about two weeks.
If the new measures fail to make an impact, the number of new cases could reach a quarter of million in the second half of October, the Health Ministry predicted.
BEIJING — Qingdao, a coastal city in eastern China, has completed coronavirus testing for its 11 million residents following an outbreak and found no new infections so far.
As of Friday, the 10.9 million samples came back negative.
Xue Qingguo, Qingdao’s deputy mayor, told state broadcaster CCTV that the risk of community transmission “is basically eliminated.”
The citywide testing was ordered after 13 people were infected in China’s first locally transmitted cases in over two months.
The source of the outbreak was traced to two dock workers who had tested positive for the virus in September but did not exhibit any symptoms at first. They had visited a hospital in Qingdao and were sent to a CAT scan room, which was not disinfected properly afterward and led to the infection of other patients, according to health officials.
Health Commission Director Sui Zhenhua and Deng Kai, president of Qingdao’s thoracic hospital to which the cases have been linked, have been placed under investigation in connection with the outbreak.
On Saturday, the National Health Commission reported 13 new imported cases. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 85,659 confirmed cases.
NEW DELHI — India reported 62,212 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising its total to more than 7.4 million and continuing a downward trend.
The Health Ministry on Saturday also registered 837 additional fatalities, taking the death toll to 112,998.
The worst-hit western Maharashtra state accounted for nearly 36% of total fatalities.
According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. It is recording an average of around 70,000 cases daily so far this month.
But some experts say India’s figures may not be reliable because of poor reporting and inadequate health infrastructure. India is also relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.
Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the religious festival season beginning later this month. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told reporters on Friday that the next two months were particularly crucial because of the winter season and festivals.
New Delhi is also bracing for high air pollution levels, making the coronavirus fight more complicated in upcoming months.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s Victoria state has reported just one new case of COVID-19 and no deaths as the city of Melbourne moves closer towards the easing of some lifestyle restrictions.
The state’s coronavirus death toll remains at 816 and the Australian total is 904.
Melbourne residents are expecting COVID-19 restrictions to be eased on Sunday but it is unclear how much freedom will be regained.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated the changes would be more “in the social space,” prompting pleas from business operators for relief from restrictions that once included an overnight curfew.
Current restrictions include a two-hour exercise limit within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of work or home and mandatory face masks covering the mouth and nose when a person leaves their home.
SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority reported 418 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths.
At the current rate of transmission, Oregon Health Authority officials project that new infections will increase “substantially” to 570 new reported cases a day and 40 hospitalizations.
In addition, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that Lane County has been added to the County Watch List.
Currently there are five counties on the watch list — Benton, Clatsop, Lane, Malheur and Umatilla. A county is placed on the watch list when COVID-19 is spreading quickly.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico health officials on Friday confirmed the state set another single-day record with 819 COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 35,770 since the pandemic began.
New rules to limit gatherings to five people or less, reduce hotel capacities and impose a 10 p.m. closing time for bars and some restaurants also took effect Friday after successive days of record-breaking daily infection rates.
The previous record of 672 on Thursday already had eclipsed records set in recent days.
The state on Friday also reported six additional deaths related to the pandemic, bringing that total to 928.
At the University of New Mexico, eight football players and one assistant coach have tested positive for the coronavirus and high positivity rates in the county where the school is located have forced the postponement of practice.
University athletic director Eddie Nuñez said if the team is unable to practice for the next week, they will not be able to safely play their first scheduled game on Oct. 24 against Colorado State.
SALT LAKE CITY — One of Utah’s largest hospitals had no beds left Friday in its regular intensive-care unit as the governor declared the state’s weekslong spike in coronavirus cases “unsustainable.”
The University of Utah Health had to set up extra ICU beds staffed by doctors and nurses working overtime to care for its critical patients this week as the unit hit 104% capacity, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Russell Vinik.
“We’ve cut back where we can but it’s precarious,” he said. “We are very concerned about flu season, particularly if people don’t get vaccinated. We can’t take another hit.”
MIAMI – Florida has reported a slight uptick in daily confirmed COVID-19 cases, adding 3,449 to its total caseload on Friday.
The new state report raises the seven-day average of new infections close to 2,800, a figure that had dropped under 2,300 in late September and early October, when the state lifted restrictions on restaurants and the largest school districts began welcoming students.
The COVID-19 hospitalization and deaths figures have been relatively stable in recent weeks.
The number of people being treated in Florida hospitals peaked in late July at more than 9,500, then declined for about two months. But the figure has leveled off for the past three weeks at around 2,000 to 2,200 without further decline.
The state tallied 98 new virus-related deaths on Friday, raising the death toll to 16,030.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a plan Friday in which it described the residents it will prioritize when a coronavirus vaccine gets approved and becomes available.
“We anticipate that populations of focus for initial COVID-19 vaccination will likely be the critical workforce that provides healthcare and maintains essential functions of society, staff and residents in long-term care facilities, and people with two or more co-morbidities that put them at high risk for complications from COVID-19,” the department wrote.
The state will also consider prioritizing specific locations with vulnerable populations or high rates of spread.
The detailed 148-page plan notes that the groups of people getting a vaccine first will be reevaluated over time. “Jurisdictions should anticipate that allocations may shift during the response based on supply, demand, and risk.”
The federal government will be responsible for giving money to North Carolina’s state, tribal and local health departments.
JACKSON, MISS. – Mississippi’s state health officer said he overestimated the number of people who would continue to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of coronavirus after the statewide mask mandate was lifted.
“Why we would broadly abandon something that is so simple — even easy, and effective — just because there is not an executive order, it has perplexed me and I’m frankly quite disappointed,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs said on a video call with reporters on Friday.
After months of declining cases, Mississippi has seen two straight days of new cases topping 1,000, something the state hasn’t seen since around the time Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate was put into place in August.
Gov. Tate Reeves repealed Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate on Sept. 30, citing declining cases. The Republican governor encouraged citizens to continue to wear masks anyway, but added officials “should not use the heavy hand of government more than it is justified.”
Dobbs said Friday the decision was not made lightly. But two months into the mandate, people were lashing out against it.
“There were people who were getting tired of the mandate, and they just sort of were violating it when it was still mandated,” he said. “I think that was some of the concern, that it’s lost its sort of, firepower.”
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin broke the record for new positive coronavirus cases on Friday for the third time in a week as a surge that began in early September shows no signs of abating.
The state also hit record highs for daily deaths and hospitalizations this week as a third lawsuit was filed arguing that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had overstepped his authority by issuing public health emergencies and implementing a statewide mask mandate and capacity limits for bars and restaurants.
Evers on Friday launched a television ad criticizing Republicans for inaction, and the state’s second-largest school district said students wouldn’t be returning for in-person classes until late January at the earliest.
There were 3,861 new coronavirus cases reported in Wisconsin on Friday, breaking the previous record set just a day earlier of 3,747. Wisconsin continued its record-setting pace for hospitalizations, hitting a new high of 1,101 patients on Friday. A field hospital to handle overflow patients opened near Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Evers has repeatedly blamed Republicans who control the Legislature for blocking his efforts to get the virus under control. Republicans are part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s mask mandate and the Tavern League of Wisconsin is suing to overturn Evers’ order limiting capacity in bars and restaurants.
A third lawsuit filed Friday asks the Wisconsin Supreme Court to rule that Evers overstepped his authority in issuing subsequent public health emergency orders after the first one expired in May.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Lee is calling for the temporary suspension of negative consequences for Tennessee schools and teachers related to student tests for the current school year due to adjustments and disruptions to learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican governor said Friday that while student testing will continue, he wants to “alleviate any burdens” associated with teacher evaluations and school accountability for the 2020-2021 school year.
Lee said school districts missed critical learning time when in-person classes were suspended during the spring as the virus pandemic struck. While some districts started holding in-person classes when the current school year started several weeks ago, others have maintained online learning only.
Some teachers and school district administrators have called for cancellation of tests or suspension of accountability measures. Teacher pay can be influenced by teacher evaluation scores, and poorly performing schools can be moved under state control.
Lee said he will work with the Tennessee General Assembly on his call to “temporarily pause the accountability that we have in our state that ties student testing to teacher evaluations.”