The Latest: India’s downward trend in new cases continues

Health

A health official from the district office wearing protective gear, walks near a banner showing a precaution against the coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

NEW DELHI — India has reported 48,648 new coronavirus cases, continuing a downward trend in infections even as the country’s caseload has crossed 8 million and is only behind the U.S.

The Health Ministry also reported 563 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 121,090 on Friday.

The slowdown in the pandemic in India has now lasted more than a month and the country has reported fewer than 60,000 cases for nearly two weeks. According to the Health Ministry, India has 594,386 active cases, which suggests that more people are recovering than those who are testing positive for the virus.

But even as cases are dropping nationwide, the capital New Delhi is facing what could be a third wave of infections.

The national capital, which recently became the worst-hit city in India, is among the few regions in the country that is increasingly seeing a spike in new infections from last week.

New Delhi has 30,952 active cases of the virus. It has been clocking more than 5,000 cases daily from the last three days. The surge in new infections comes at a time when pollution levels have started to soar in the capital, exacerbating respiratory illnesses among many.

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

— WHO says Europe has reached 10 million coronavirus cases

— Spain to keep state of emergency until May 2021

— Pope Francis ends general public audiences amid virus surge in Italy

— U.S. public health experts say the nation’s response to the crises has been marked by grave missteps and missed opportunities.

— ‘Difficult winter’: Europe divided on lockdowns as cases soar. EU leaders try to coordinate their approach to virus testing, tracing and vaccines.

— Advertising executive feeds downtrodden Venezuelans from his bicycle seat. Every day, he hands out corn flour patties known as arepas to the hungry.

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— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

TOKYO — Japan’s coronavirus cases has topped 100,000, nine months after a first case was found in mid-January, according to the health ministry figures released Friday.

The country confirmed 808 new cases on Thursday, bringing the cumulative COVID-19 cases to 100,334, including 712 cases found on a cruise ship earlier this year, according to the ministry figures.

About one-third of the cases come from Tokyo, where 221 cases were confirmed Thursday, bringing a prefectural total to 30,677, with 453 deaths. Nationwide, Japan has more than 1,700 deaths.

Experts say Japan has so far managed to avoid “explosive” infections as in Europe and the U.S. without enforcing lockdowns, most likely thanks to the common use of face masks and disinfectant, as well as other common preventive measures including social distancing.

Japan had a nationwide state of emergency in April and May, and experienced a less serious second wave in August, but has since been seeing a slight uptrend in new cases in northern Japanese prefectures, setting off concerns of a surge in the winter.

Experts have urged extra caution at dining and drinking parties and workplaces. According to health ministry data, nearly half of the new cases were in their 20s and 30s.

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EL PASO, Texas — El Paso County officials ordered a two-week shutdown of non-essential activities Thursday after the area’s medical resources were overwhelmed by the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced the measure during a virtual news conference Thursday. Among the non-essential services ordered to be closed, effective at midnight Thursday, are tattoo, hair and nail salons, as well as gyms and in-person dining. He also appealed to residents to avoid all non-essential activities. Grocery and drug stores, funeral homes, health care services and government activities were among the activities deemed essential.

Samaniego said all election-related activities, including campaigns and voting, also were deemed essential activities.

“Our hospitals are at capacity, our medical professionals are overwhelmed, and if we don’t respond we will see unprecedented levels of death,” said Samaniego, the county’s top elected official.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The chief medical officer for the largest hospital system in New Mexico said Thursday that the state is at a pivotal point with the coronavirus as a new high was set for the daily case count and hospitalizations hit record levels.

Dr. Jason Mitchell with Presbyterian Healthcare Services said during a briefing that the data and modeling is clear that New Mexico’s health care system will face a crisis if the spread of COVID-19 continues at its current rate. He warned that by December, equipment like ventilators would have to be shared and hospitals would have to set up tents in parking lots to make room for patients.

“Our goal is to ensure transmission is low enough so we never hit that point,” he said. “This is a serious call to action for us as a community.”

New Mexico on Thursday marked its highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began, with state officials saying the number of people in hospital beds due to a COVID-19 infection has increased more than 50% in just seven days.

The number of deaths also are on the rise as daily case counts have increased more than 15% in the past seven days compared to the previous week. In all, nearly 1,000 people have died in New Mexico and Thursday’s count of confirmed infections — 1,082 — smashed a record that was set just days ago.

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon set another dismal record on Thursday with 575 new confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19, the most ever reported in a day since the outbreak began.

The state also reported two new deaths, bringing the total to 673. The Oregon Health Authority says the new cases indicate widespread community transmission and are mostly linked to small clusters and outbreaks around the state.

Health officials are asking Oregonians not to trick-or-treat this year because of the risk of virus transmission.

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BRUSSELS — The president of the European Commission said it will make 220 million euros available to help EU member states organize the cross-borders transfer of COVID-19 patients.

Speaking Thursday after a video conference of EU’s 27 leaders, Ursula von der Leyen urged European countries to better cooperate in their fight against the deadly virus, which has killed more than 210,000 people across the continent.

Confronted to a massive surge of infections, many EU countries have reintroduced partial lockdowns as they try to avoid reaching a saturation point in their hospitals. Belgium, for instance, has warned the capacity of the country’s intensive care units could be reached in the next two weeks if the pace of new infections is not slowed, meaning patients could need to be transferred abroad.

“If we have more data sharing on ICU capacity, and where capacity is lacking, we can increase the cross-border patient care and it can be organized early enough,” Von der Leyen said. “The good use of the money requires good information exchange.

Von der Leyen also insisted on the necessity of improving the tracing of COVID-19 cases via mobile applications, and to quickly validate at EU level the so-called antigen tests, which are less reliable than the PCR tests but produce results in about 15 minutes.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut has designated more cities and towns as hot zones for COVID-19.

New data released Thursday show about a 70% of residents now live in communities experiencing spikes in coronavirus infections. That prompted Gov. Ned Lamont allow more municipal leaders to revert back to the state’s second phase of reopening where there were more restrictions.

They’re also encouraged to test nursing home staffers. Lamont, a Democrat, acknowledges being dismayed to see the state’s positivity rate climb since Wednesday.

He calls it a “gut punch” for a state that has worked hard to control the spread of the virus.

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MISSION, Kan. — A nursing home where every resident has tested positive for the coronavirus in a rural Kansas county with the state’s highest infection rate has been removed from the Medicare program, putting its funding at risk.

A scathing report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited a lack of masks as a main driver in the outbreak at the Andbe Home in Norton, Kansas. Sixty-one residents and about three dozen staff members have been infected at the home, and 12 have died.

That outbreak, along with one at a nearby state prison, has brought Norton County to the point where 106 out of every 1,000 residents have contracted the virus.

The federal report said infected residents were kept in the same rooms with those who were not sick, with only a sheet separating them. Communal dining continued for two days after residents began showing symptoms, and even then the facility waited a week before testing all its residents.

Amid the outbreak, the report said, six different staff members also were observed with their masks removed. The report said the failures “placed all residents in immediate jeopardy.

The agency said the facility faces $14,860 in fines and that it will lose its Medicare funding effective Nov. 18, although its temporary manager, Mission Health Communities, hopes to make adequate changes before then.

Mission Health, which took over the facility on Wednesday, is working to help restore compliance — an effort that will involve boosting testing and infection control precautions, ensuring adequate person protective equipment and restricting visitors, said Cheri Kauset, the company’s vice president of customer experience and communications.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said protestors were at her home Thursday morning after her personal information was leaked online.

Dunn said it was “scary and wrong” that anyone would feel comfortable sharing her personal information. It was unclear which group organized the protest and why they were protesting.

“It’s taken a really big toll on my family and myself,” Dunn said when asked about the protest during the governor’s weekly COVID-19 briefing. “I think it’s really unfortunate we live in a state where people feel that it is OK to harass civil servants,”

Gov. Gary Herbert criticized those who went to Dunn’s home, adding that protesting there was “probably not the best use of their time.”

“I know we’re asking a lot of the people of Utah to be patient,” he said. “We know that their time is valuable. I would hope that they would put that in a constructive effort.”

Dunn said the protestors were planning to return to her home Thursday evening.

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LONDON — Another 2 million people in England are being placed under the government’s highest level of restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as case numbers rise and measures are gradually tightened across the country.

Civic leaders in the West Yorkshire region of northern England say it will be placed under Tier 3 restrictions — the highest of three levels — starting Monday. Under the measures most pubs and some other businesses must close and people are barred from meeting indoors with members of other households.

The area, which includes the cities of Leeds and Bradford, joins a large swath of northern England that is already under the restrictions.

The British government hopes its regional approach can avoid the need for a new nationwide lockdown.

But its scientific advisers say that may be the only way to stop a resurgent virus. A large, ongoing study into the COVID-19 epidemic in England estimated Thursday that there are about 96,000 new cases every day and that the outbreak is doubling in size every nine days.

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PARIS — French people will be confined to 1 kilometer (half a mile) from their homes for the next month, unless they’re buying food or going to school or a few other exceptions, as the government tries to wrestle down fast-climbing numbers of virus infections and deaths.

Violators will be fined 135 euros ($162). All non-essential businesses will close, and working from home will be required wherever physically possible, government ministers announced Thursday, just a few hours before the measures take effect at midnight.

“The situation will be difficult in the weeks to come,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said. “There are no other solutions” to protect hospitals facing increasing strain.

COVID patients now occupy more than 62% of France intensive care beds, and the country reported another 235 virus-related deaths Thursday – levels not seen since May.

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ROME — Italy has authorized pediatricians and general practitioners to perform up to 100,000 rapid virus tests each day to try to identify new infections amid an eight-fold increase in confirmed new cases in the past three weeks.

Italy’s commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency, Domenico Arcuri, announced the expanded testing Thursday as he pleaded for Italians to stay home to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed as they were in northern Lombardy in the first phase of the outbreak.

He said intensive care units weren’t yet overflowing, but that some emergency rooms and sub-intensive wards already are.

Italy added a record number of new confirmed cases Thursday at more than 26,000. Arcuri said at that rate, tracing contacts becomes “a gigantic and probably impossible to realize” feat.

Italy can currently only process about 200,000 virus tests per day through its public health system.

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MADRID — Spain has reported 23,580 daily confirmed infections as health authorities tighten restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Spain’s health ministry says 9,395 cases were diagnosed in the past 24 hours. The remainder were diagnosed in recent days but not immediately reported to central authorities.

Spain’s caseload since the pandemic began reached 1.1 million, second only to France in Europe.

More than 25% of Spain’s intensive care units are occupied by patients with the virus.

Spain’s Parliament on Wednesday endorsed an extension of the state of emergency declared by the government until May 9. The measure puts into place a nightly curfew and allows regions to impose more restrictions.

Spain has more than 35,000 confirmed deaths.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization says Europe had a record 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the last week and has reached 10 million of the 44 million global cases.

WHO’s European director Dr. Hans Kluge says, “hospitalizations have risen to levels unseen since the spring” and deaths have sharply risen by more than 30%.

“Europe is at the epicenter of this pandemic once again,” Kluge told European health ministers.

He says testing systems haven’t kept up with widespread levels of transmission. He adds “test positivity levels have reached new highs,” with most European countries exceeding 5%.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — A nursing home where every resident has tested positive for the coronavirus in a rural Kansas county with the state’s highest infection rate is losing its federal Medicare funding.

A scathing report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited a lack of masks as a main driver in the outbreak at the Andbe Home in Norton, Kansas. Sixty-one residents and about three dozen staff members have been infected at the home, and at least 10 have died.

That outbreak, along with one at a nearby state prison, has brought Norton County to the point where 106 out of every 1,000 residents have contracted the virus.

The federal report said infected residents were kept in the same rooms with those who were not sick, with only a sheet separating them. Communal dining continued for two days after residents began showing symptoms, and even then the facility waited a week before testing all its residents.

Amid the outbreak, the report said, six different staff members also were observed with their masks removed.

The agency said the facility faces $14,860 in fines and that it will lose its Medicare funding effective Nov. 18.

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