The Latest: WHO urges focus on first wave of coronavirus

GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says “we need to put up a fight now” during a peak in the current wave of the coronavirus pandemic — rather than focusing on when a second wave might come.

Dr. Michael Ryan said the world will be much better at fighting a second wave, if people can learn the lessons of fighting the first wave.

WHO officials emphasized mask-wearing, social distancing, and hygiene by individuals, along with contact-tracing and tracking of cases by health authorities as key strategies to fight the virus. They say governments and individuals should contour their policies and behavior based on the outbreak’s status in their countries.

Ryan said the world was experiencing a “second peak in the first wave” — a situation in which the virus hasn’t been suppressed enough to quell transmission to end the first one.



— Florida reports nearly 9,500 new virus cases.

— Confirmed coronavirus cases are rising in 40 of 50 states.

— Kim Jong Un urges North Koreans to keep up virus fight.

— South Africa’s hospitals bracing for surge of virus patients.

— Pubs in England can reopen on Saturday for the first time since they were closed on March 20 as part of the coronavirus lockdown. Those that reopen will have to make sure they are safe for staff and customers alike.

— With coronavirus-related restrictions being eased and temperatures climbing, people are flocking back to the Jersey Shore. And with the July Fourth holiday on the horizon, that’s making some people nervous.

— Nearby South American countries are grappling with uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus, but Paraguay appears to be controlling the disease. It’s had just a few thousand confirmed cases and a few dozen deaths.


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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas has reported another big increase in new coronavirus cases that capped its worst two-week spike since the pandemic began.

The state health department released its latest figures Friday as a statewide mask mandate from the governor took effect.

The Department of Health and Environment reported that Kansas has had 15,919 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, up 929, or 6.2% since only Wednesday. Kansas also has reported 277 COVID-19-related deaths, up five in two days.

Kansas reported an average of 276 new coronavirus cases a day over the past two weeks. That was the largest 14-day average since the state confirmed its first case March 7. The previous peak for the 14-day average was 271 on May 11.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s mask order requires people to wear masks in public and at their workplaces. However, state law allows the state’s 105 counties to opt out, and even if they don’t, officials don’t expect vigorous enforcement.


MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama reported more than 1,700 new confirmed coronavirus cases — the highest number yet for a single day — as doctors and state officials expressed concern about further spread during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The state on Thursday surpassed the previous high-water mark for the most infections reported in a 24-hour period while the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also reached a new high of 843.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey urged people to use precautions during the holiday weekend. The state saw an uptick in cases in the weeks following Memorial Day.

According to the state Department of Public Health, Alabama has reported more than 41,000 cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began with more than 25% of infections being reported in the last two weeks. So far, at least 983 Alabamians have died after contracting the virus.


PHOENIX — Arizona has reached new peaks in hospitalizations and emergency room visits, indicating the state is only intensifying as a coronavirus hot spot.

State health officials say the capacity of hospital intensive care units is at an all-time high of 91%.

The number of people hospitalized Thursday due to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 was 3,013, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. It’s the first time reaching 3,000.

People who went to the ER because of COVID-19 symptoms numbered a record 1,847, nearly 500 more than a day earlier.

The state reported Friday 4,433 confirmed cases and 31 deaths. The total stands at 91,858 cases and 1,788 deaths.


NEW YORK — New York state reported 918 new coronavirus infections and nine deaths, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

It’s the first time more than 900 new infections have been reported since June 12, when 916 people tested positive for the virus statewide.

“The more than 900 new cases in New York yesterday, while representing just 1.38% of tests, is a reminder that the virus is still here,” the Democratic governor said in a news release.

He added, “I cannot repeat enough that our actions today — those of individuals being smart and following all precautions, and local governments enforcing the state’s guidelines — will determine which direction these numbers go.”


BATON ROUGE, La., — Only 63 Louisiana state prison inmates will be released through the furlough program that state officials developed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Louisiana Department of Corrections created a review panel in April to consider up to 1,100 state prison inmates for temporary release. The Advocate newspaper reports the panel reviewed fewer than 600 cases before it was suspended on June 5, when Louisiana entered Phase 2 of reopening.

About 100 people were approved and 63 will be released, corrections department spokesman Ken Pastorick said. Louisiana has the nation’s highest incarceration rate, with approximately 32,000 prisoners.

Most inmates considered were in local jails, not state prisons, the paper reported. Candidates had to be within six months of their release date, among other criteria. No one convicted of a violent crime or sex offense was considered. The meetings weren’t open to the public and advocates criticized the plan for its limited scope.

Sixteen inmates at Louisiana’s state prisons have died from the coronavirus, according to corrections department data.

Louisiana recorded its largest daily coronavirus case spike since April on Wednesday, with nearly 2,100 new cases.


RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro approved a law requiring masks on streets and in public transportation to help prevent coronavirus infections.

However, he vetoed clauses requiring masks in churches, schools, shops and factories. Bolsonaro says forcing people to use masks in such places could violate property rights.

He also vetoed an article enabling the government to provide masks to vulnerable groups and requiring commercial establishments to provide masks to their employees.

As in the United States, use of masks has become contentious and sometimes politicized in Brazil. Bolsonaro only occasionally covers his face in public and often mingles with crowds.

Even in cities where masks have been obligatory, compliance and enforcement have been lax.

Brazilian cities last month started lifting restrictions even as COVID-19 cases and deaths surged. Latin America’s most populous nation has confirmed more than 61,500 deaths and nearly 1.5 million infections, the second most in the world behind the U.S.

Experts say both are undercounts due to the lack of widespread testing. On Thursday, Brazil reported its second-highest daily increase in cases, more than 48,000, and nearly 1,200 deaths.


HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is joining health officials in Allegheny County and Philadelphia in recommending that people returning to Pennsylvania from a coronavirus hot spot to stay at home for 14 days.

The Democratic governor’s administration singled out the following 15 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

The rising number of COVID-19 infections in the Pittsburgh area helped drive Pennsylvania’s number of confirmed new cases to 667, the state Health Department said Friday.

Wolf issued a more expansive order to wear masks this week. Five House Republicans issued a statement questioning the science behind using a mask to contain the virus.

Pennsylvania’s confirmed death toll from the coronavirus pandemic rose by 34 to more than 6,700. There have been nearly 89,000 confirmed cases.


MIAMI — Florida reported 9,488 new confirmed cases and 67 deaths, a day after setting a new daily record with more than 10,000 cases.

The state’s health department’s tally of hospitalizations was higher Friday at 341 new admissions, one of the biggest daily increases since the pandemic began. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez cited staffing shortages at hospitals in announcing a new curfew beginning Friday.

Statewide, about 20 percent of ICU beds are currently available, though some hospitals have additional capacity that can be turned into ICU units.

Ten Democratic legislators urged Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday to require Floridians to wear masks. They want the governor to make masks mandatory in public spaces, indoors and outdoors, when social distancing isn’t possible. The Republican governor has resisted those calls.

“This is not a partisan issue; this is an issue of life and death,” the legislators said in a letter to DeSantis. “This small but important gesture will have big consequences for the greater good.”


NAIROBI, Kenya — Burundi’s new government appears to have reversed course, announcing screening of suspected clusters of the coronavirus.

However, there’s no requirement to wear a face mask in Burundi, which has 170 confirmed virus cases. The United Nations Development Program donated 14 million masks, along with other supplies, to the East African nation on Friday.

Burundi’s previous government had said divine protection would suffice, and it kicked out the World Health Organization’s country director.

Now the government is conducting screenings, along with providing cheaper soap and lower water bills. But Health minister Thaddee Ndikumana remains suspicious of outside influence: “We will never accept the vaccine of COVID-19 because Burundian people are not a field of experimentation.”


ROME — The governor of Italy’s northeastern Veneto region says he’ll crack down on people who test positive but refuse to quarantine or give details to health authorities about recent contacts for tracing.

After days of fewer than a dozen daily confirmed infections, Veneto’s new cases increased to 20 on Thursday. Gov. Luca Zaia says next week he’ll present a new ordinance aimed at ensuring those testing positive stay home in isolation until further testing indicates they have cleared the virus.

Said Zaia: “If we continue to go around without masks in crowds, continue to give credence to conspiracy-believers, those who think the virus was invented by Big Pharma, Martians or came aboard some spaceship, it’s inevitable” that Veneto’s cases numbers will rise again.

Veneto, which early on stressed widespread testing, has had only a fraction of confirmed cases and deaths than its neighbor, Lombardy, by far Italy’s worst-stricken region.


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced he’s tested positive for the coronavirus.

He says he felt a ’slight fever,” immediately quarantined at home and later tested positive for the coronavirus.

Qureshi is the senior most government official to contract the virus. Pakistan’s infection rate has been steadily climbing as Prime Minister Imran Khaneased restrictions saying the country’s fragile economy would collapse under a strict lockdown and the poorest would suffer the most.

Khan has gone on national television to ask Pakistanis to wear masks and social distance, but the vast majority largely ignore the precautions. Confirmed infections reached 221,896 on Friday and more than 4,500 deaths. Pakistan has pulled back on testing to around 20,000 tests a day from a high of more than 32,000.

Four Parliamentarians have died of COVID-19 disease, one from the federal legislature and three provincial Parliamentarians.


BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia announced the highest number of daily deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the Balkan country, as authorities declared an emergency in the capital of Belgrade.

Authorities say 11 people have died and there were 309 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours. This compares to the highest previous daily figure of nine deaths on April 14.

Serbia has gone from a very tight lockdown to almost total relaxation, allowing spectators back to the soccer and tennis venues and reopening nightclubs. Government critics have said this was because populist authorities wanted to hold the June 21 parliamentary election that tightened their grip on power.

The Belgrade crisis team on Friday said nightclubs and cafes will be closed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and public gatherings limited to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors. Those not wearing masks in closed spaces face strict fines.

Emergency measures also have been introduced in several other towns in Serbia where hospitals have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in recent days.

Belgrade authorities said the rules will be reviewed in two weeks. So far, there have been 25,504 confirmed cases and 298 deaths in Serbia.


BUCHAREST, Romania — Only about a third of hospital beds for coronavirus patients are available in Romania following a week during which the country has been logging hundreds of daily cases.

In the last day, the number of confirmed cases rose by 420, one of the highest daily increases in Romania since the start of its outbreak at the end of February.

“We started transferring intensive care patients between different hospitals to ensure they still have a bed available,” said Nelu Tataru, Romania’s Health Minister.

Tataru and other officials attributed the surge to a failure by local authorities in some parts of Romania to clearly communicate to the public that the danger from the virus was not removed after easing its lockdown on May 15.

Total confirmed cases in Romania reached nearly 28,200 and 1,708 deaths.


MIAMI — The mayor of Florida’s most populous county has issued a new overnight curfew and will close some businesses that reopened in June.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew begins Friday night and will be in place indefinitely. The order closes casinos, movie theaters and other entertainment venues.

“This curfew is meant to stop people from venturing out and hanging out with friends in groups, which has shown to be spreading the virus rapidly,” Gimenez said in a statement.

On Thursday, Florida reported a new daily record of 10,109 COVID-19 positive cases. The state’s health department on Thursday tallied 325 new coronavirus hospitalizations in Florida, one of the biggest 24-hour jumps.

The 66-year-old Gimenez cited staffing shortages at local hospitals in announcing the curfew.

The Cuban-born Republican had previously announced beaches would be closed over the July 4th holiday weekend.


BEIJING – Officials in China’s capital city say 10 million people have been tested for the coronavirus.

Samples had been collected from 10.4 million people, about half the city’s population, through Thursday and tests had been completed on nearly 10.1 million, according to Zhang Qiang, a Communist Party official,

Starting Saturday, officials say Beijing will lift a requirement that anyone leaving the city must have a negative coronavirus test result within the past seven days. Authorities imposed the testing requirement and restricted outbound travel after an outbreak emerged three weeks ago.

Beijing officials reported two new cases in the previous 24-hour period, raising the total confirmed in the three-week outbreak to 331.


LONDON — Official figures show nearly 20,000 care home residents in England and Wales died after contracting the coronavirus, comprising nearly 40% of COVID-19-related deaths.

In its assessment of death certificates between March 2 and June 12, the Office for National Statistics has found 19,394 care home residents mentioned “novel coronavirus” as a cause of death. That’s 29.3% of the deaths of care home residents over the period.

The tally includes all care home residents who died with coronavirus either at their care home or in hospital. Around three-quarters of the deaths took place in the care home, with men more vulnerable to dying from the virus than women.

Comparative figures show the U.K. as a whole – including Scotland and Northern Ireland — failed to contain the outbreak in care homes, along with other countries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged it’s been an “absolutely miserable time” and the government “will have to have a proper investigation.”

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