The Latest: Virus cases in Dakotas fastest growing in nation

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Coronavirus infections in the Dakotas are the fastest growing in the nation.

North Dakota and South Dakota have led the country in new cases per capita over the last two weeks, with 470.2 new cases per 100,000 people and 408.1 new cases, respectively. That’s according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

South Dakota is among the nation’s highest in positivity rates for coronavirus tests in the last week at 17%, according to the COVID Tracking Project. North Dakota’s stands at 5.8%.

Infections were likely spurred by schools and universities reopening and mass gatherings like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, which drew hundreds of thousands of people from across the country.

Health experts warn the infections must be contained before care systems are overwhelmed. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem have resisted mask requirements.

The city council in Brookings, South Dakota, moved its meeting to a local arena to accommodate intense interest, with many citizens speaking against it. The mask requirement ultimately passed, one of the few in the state.

South Dakota has reported 16,117 confirmed cases and 183 deaths; North Dakota has reported 14,684 confirmed cases and 167 deaths. Combined, the states have 1.6 million people.

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

— North and South Dakotas lead US in virus growth; both governors reject mask rules

— Texas reports nearly 3,500 new virus cases

— Illinois reports more than 2,000 new virus cases

— Oxford University says trials of a coronavirus vaccine its developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will resume, days after a pause due to a reported side-effect in a U.K. patient.

— India’s confirmed coronavirus tally has crossed 4.6 million after a record surge of 97,570 new cases in 24 hours. India reported another 1,201 deaths Saturday, bringing total deaths to 77,472, the third highest in the world.

— Antarctica is still free of COVID-19. Can it stay that way? Nearly 1,000 scientists have wintered on the ice and are getting a peek of the sun for the first time in months. Now the task is making sure incoming colleagues don’t bring the virus.

— 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:

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says its “necessary and urgent” to return to in-person Masses as soon as anti-coronavirus measures permit.

The head of the Vatican’s liturgy office, Cardinal Robert Sarah, says in a letter to bishops’ conferences Saturday that virtual liturgies, while useful, were no replacement for the real thing. He says physical presence by the faithful in churches was “vital, indispensable, irreplaceable.”

While some Catholic priests claimed coronavirus lockdowns that shuttered churches infringed on their religious liberty, Pope Francis adhered to Italy’s strict lockdown. He halted all public Masses at the Vatican and livestreamed his morning liturgies, and at one point even admonished priests who balked at the measures for their “adolescent resistance.”

Francis had urged the Catholic faithful to obey government coronavirus measures, saying they were responsible for public health. This week, he was seen wearing a face mask for the first time and has been using hand sanitizer.

In recent weeks, Francis has resumed public gatherings and celebrated a handful of public Masses before limited, socially distanced groups.

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LONDON — Britain has recorded more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases for the second straight day.

The Department for Health and Social Care show a daily increase of 3,497 new cases, slightly down from Friday’s figure of 3,539, which was the highest since May 17.

The daily cases reported are more than double those a week or two back, a change that has stoked concerns of a second wave of the virus in the country. The U.K. has recorded more than 41,600 virus-related deaths, Europe’s highest.

The British government says social gatherings in England will be limited to six people indoors and outdoors and rule-breakers will face fines starting Monday.

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ROME — Italy added another 1,501 coronavirus cases to its official count.

The Health Ministry says another six people died in the past day, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,603.

Infections have been steadily increasing for the past six weeks, mostly among Italians returning from vacation. While many infected are asymptomatic, the number of people in the ICU went from 121 to 182 in the past week.

Public health officials indicated in their weekly report the health care system hasn’t been overwhelmed, but “the observed tendency might soon reflect greater strain.”

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LONDON — Oxford University says trials of a coronavirus vaccine its developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will resume, days after pausing due to a reported side effect in a patient in Britain.

The university says in large trials “it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.”

It says globally some 18,000 individuals have received study vaccines as part of the trial. It wouldn’t disclose the medical information about the illness for reasons of participant confidentiality but says it is “committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our studies and will continue to monitor safety closely.”

Health experts say pauses in drug trials are commonplace to ensure safety and effectiveness.

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AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 3,488 new coronavirus cases Friday and 144 deaths.

That brought the total confirmed cases to 653,356 and nearly 14,000 confirmed deaths, state health official say. However, the true number of cases in Texas is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Health officials estimated 71,292 cases are now active, with 3,475 requiring hospitalization. The number of hospitalizations has been decreasing since peaking in July at 10,893.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky reported nearly 950 new coronavirus cases on Friday, one of the largest daily totals statewide.

Gov. Andy Beshear reported nine more virus-related deaths, raising the state’s confirmed death toll 1,044. The 948 newly reported cases raised Kentucky’s total to more than 55,700.

The Democratic governor has urged people to wear masks in public, practice social distancing, limit gatherings to 10 or fewer, wash hands frequently and limit travel.

Kentucky Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a similar message Friday about people doing their part.

“Until this goes away, the single best thing all of us can do — and it’s not complicated — is to wear a mask, practice social distancing,” McConnell said. “Until we get a vaccine, that’s the only way we can continue to work.”

The state’s closely watched positivity rate — a seven-day rolling figure reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for conronavirus — rose slightly to 4.7%.

The governor says the state has started the payment process to add $400 to the weekly unemployment checks for tens of thousands of people who lost work.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday reported 2,145 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 32 confirmed deaths.

The new cases came as 30 of 102 counties reached two or more benchmarks that indicate the coronavirus is spreading there.

The cases Friday were from 56,661 tests, resulting in a seven-day statewide positivity rate of 3.9 percent. There have been 4.6 million tests conducted in Illinois.

The total number of known infections in Illinois is 257,788, and the statewide confirmed death toll is 8,273 since the start of the pandemic.

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BERLIN — A town in the German Alps has stepped up coronavirus restrictions after a spike in infections that local authorities say was likely caused by a visitor from the United States.

The restrictions imposed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Friday include all restaurants to close at 10 p.m. for the next week and the number of people meeting in public limited to five.

Local council spokesman Stephan Scharf told news agency dpa Saturday the American woman is believed to have been at several locations in the town.

The council says the 26-year-old, who wasn’t identified, arrived in Germany in late August or early September. It wasn’t clear whether she brought the virus from the U.S. or violated quarantine regulations. Authorities say 23 people tested positive at the accommodation where she stayed.

The U.S. is on a long list of countries classified by German authorities as “risk areas.” People arriving from those areas must have a coronavirus test after arriving in Germany and quarantine until the results are determined.

Germany, with a population of 83 million, has more than 260,000 confirmed cases and 9,351 deaths. The U.S., with a population of 328 million, leads the world with 6.4 million cases more than 193,000 deaths.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary has registered another record number 916 newly infected people with the coronavirus.

The total Saturday is more than 25% higher than the previous record of 716 cases, reached Friday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government is taking a less generalized approach to the pandemic during this second wave, with restrictions decided more on a case-by-case basis.

Orban said Saturday in a video posted on his Facebook page that the aim was not just to save lives but also to keep the country running. During the second quarter of the year, the Hungarian economy contracted by 13.6%, the largest fall in the region.

“The virus can’t paralyze us again,” Orban said.

Hungary has confirmed 11,825 cases of the virus and 633 deaths.

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ISTANBUL — Istanbul’s governor has introduced new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, banning all boating companies from hosting weddings and similar gatherings.

In a statement late Friday, the governor’s office also reintroduced a ban on concerts and festivals in open spaces. The statement said the restrictions were needed because precautions like physical distancing were not being adequately heeded and the virus’ spread had increased.

Istanbul, with about 16 million residents, is Turkey’s most populous city. Turkey has seen a spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths, which began increasing after Turkey loosened restrictions in June but has intensified since late August, returning to levels last seen in mid-May.

On Friday, the health ministry announced 56 deaths and 1,671 new cases, bringing the total death toll to 6,951 and number of cases to nearly 290,000.

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PRAGUE — The coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in the Czech Republic, infecting a record number of people in one day for the third time this week.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase in the new confirmed coronavirus cases reached 1,447 on Friday, surpassing 1,000 for the fourth day this week.

Of a total of 33,860 confirmed cases of the virus in the Czech Republic, more than 5,700 have been registered in the last five working days, prompting the government to tighten restrictive measure to slow the spread.

Currently, 264 virus patients are hospitalized, including 65 in intensive care. A confirmed total of 450 people have died in the country.

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NEW YORK — The New York City teachers union warns it won’t let the nation’s largest school district reopen for in-person classes this month if the city doesn’t issue protective equipment, conduct testing and properly clean schools.

Union leader Michael Mulgrew says in a video Friday the city of not acting with enough urgency on the pandemic.

The return of public school students to classrooms was delayed from Sept. 10 to Sept. 21 so coronavirus safety precautions could be worked out.

Mulgrew says the city knows what it needs to do to make schools safe and “if you can’t make that happen before the children come into schools, then we’re not going to let you open these schools.”

The city says it will work with the union.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico is declaring 24 of its 32 states ready for partial reopening, marking the first time no state is listed at a “red” level maximum alert.

The 24 states listed at “orange” or high risk may allow many non-essential businesses to re-open at 30% capacity. The eight other states are listed at “yellow” or moderate risk, allowing even more business activities. However, bars, nightclubs and dance halls remain closed and sporting events and concerts cannot have spectators.

Mexico reported 5,930 newly confirmed coronavirus cases Friday, about the same as two weeks ago. The country has recorded a total of 658,299 infections. Officials reported 534 more deaths from COVID-19, for a total of 70,183 — the fourth-highest in the world.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution on tackling the coronavirus over objections from the United States and Israel, which protested a successful last-minute Cuban amendment that strongly urges countries to oppose unilateral economic, financial or trade sanctions.

The world body adopted the resolution Friday by a vote of 169-2. It was a strong show of unity by the U.N.’s most representative body in addressing the coronavirus, though many countries had hoped for adoption by consensus.

The resolution is not legally binding. It “calls for intensified international cooperation and solidarity to contain, mitigate and overcome the pandemic” and it urges member states “to enable all countries to have unhindered timely access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable diagnosis, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines.”

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NEW ORLEANS — Bars in a handful of Louisiana parishes will be allowed to reopen under new coronavirus restrictions announced Friday by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Bars in the state have been closed since July unless they have licenses to operate as restaurants. Under the guidelines announced Friday, bars in parishes where the percentage of positive COVID-19 deaths is 5% or below for four weeks can open if parish leaders give the OK, Edwards said.

Bars that are allowed to open will be limited to 25% capacity. They will have to shut down alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m.

Bar openings won’t happen in New Orleans, where Mayor LoToya Cantrell is maintaining stricter rules.

The latest plans were released on the day the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Louisiana surpassed 5,000. Hospitalizations, continue to drop, totaling 723 in Friday’s figures. Nearly 2,000 were hospitalized in early April, when the state was a U.S. hot spot for infections.

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