The latest on coronavirus from around the U.S. and the world.

As the number of new coronavirus cases continues to increase worldwide, and more than a dozen states and Puerto Rico are recording their highest averages of new cases since the pandemic began, hospitalizations in at least nine states have been on the rise since Memorial Day.

A woman has her temperature checked before entering the new baseball park in Arlington, Texas, on Monday. The state’s average new-case number has hit a new high in 10 of the past 15 days. Associated Press/LM Otero

In Texas, North and South Carolina, California, Oregon, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Arizona, an increasing number of patients have come under supervised care since the holiday weekend because of COVID-19 infections. The spikes generally began in the past couple weeks, and in most states are trending higher.

Data from states that are now reporting some of their highest seven-day averages of new cases are disproving the notion that the country is seeing such a spike in cases solely because of the continued increase in testing, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

Many of these states that have experienced an increase in cases have also had an increase of hospitalizations, with a handful of states also nearing bed capacity. Hospitalizations nationwide are difficult to track, with states reporting hospitalization numbers in varying ways, or not at all. Even states that do report hospitalization numbers may not have always received complete data from every hospital in the state at the time of their reports.

Texas has reported 75,616 cases since the pandemic began and in 10 of the past 15 days, the state’s average new case number has hit a new high.

As of Tuesday, it had reported two consecutive days of record-breaking coronavirus hospitalizations. The state has seen a 36 percent increase in new cases since Memorial Day, with a record 2,056 current hospitalizations as of early Tuesday afternoon. It was up from a high of 1,935 hospitalizations on Monday.

Read the full story about the surge in cases here.

Some nursing homes demand residents’ stimulus checks, prompting outcry

WASHINGTON — Compounding the hardships of the coronavirus, some nursing homes have demanded that low-income residents turn over their $1,200 economic stimulus checks, a cash grab lawmakers want to halt.

On Tuesday, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office to issue a warning to nursing homes and assisted living facilities that such practices are “improper and unlawful.”

In the House, Reps. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to spell out to nursing homes that the relief money from Congress is not considered income that facilities can legally claim to defray the cost of care.

Low-income Medicaid recipients must not be “coerced into wrongly handing over their checks for fear of being kicked out of their homes,” wrote Neal and Pallone. Any funds taken must be returned.

Nationally, over 35,500 people have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, about a third of the national toll, according to a running tally by the Associated Press.

The attempt to claw back stimulus checks from residents on Medicaid was flagged last month by the Federal Trade Commission’s elder justice office, which said it had received reports from Iowa and other states. Oregon’s attorney general has issued a “scam alert,” calling the practice unlawful.

The nursing home industry says if there’s a problem, it’s not that common. “We are not aware of widespread issues with resident stimulus funds,” the American Health Care Association said in a statement.

But the FTC’s elder justice coordinator, Lois Greisman, posted earlier that “this is not just a horror story making the rounds.”

Some nursing homes were claiming that if a resident was on Medicaid, the facility would get to keep the $1,200 stimulus payment.

Generally, a Medicaid recipient’s taxable income is taken into account in determining their eligibility for the program. Taxable income can be taken by a nursing home, according to congressional staff, while the resident can keep a small amount as a personal allowance.

But lawmakers said Congress structured the payments as a tax credit, not as taxable income. They were part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, passed to provide an economic lifeline as the pandemic shut down much of the nation’s business activity.

Read the full story about stimulus checks here.

California health official resigns after receiving threats

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A high-ranking public health official for Southern California’s Orange County has resigned after receiving threats over her order for residents wear to face coverings when near others in public to protect against the coronavirus.

Dr. Nichole Quick, the county’s health officer, left her job late Monday, said Jessica Good, a spokeswoman for the county health care agency.

Virus_Outbreak-California_Beaches_91665

Visitors talk to police officers in front of a closed-off beach in Laguna Beach, Calif., in May, the day before two Orange County cities started reopening their beaches after they submitting plans to avoid overcrowding and allow for physical distancing in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A high-ranking public health official for Orange County has resigned after receiving threats over her order for residents wear to face coverings when near others in public. Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Quick is the seventh senior health official to resign in California since the pandemic began and the officials suddenly faced unprecedented pressure, criticism and threats, said Kat DeBurgh, executive director of the Health Officers Association of California.

At a recent Orange County board of supervisors meeting, a resident said she would invite others to hold workout sessions outside Quick’s home while wearing masks in protest.

DeBurgh said residents also took a banner depicting Quick as a Nazi to a public meeting and held protests outside her home.

The threats against Quick had been denounced by Michelle Steel, chair of Orange County’s Board of Supervisors.

Quick issued her order in late May to try to limit the spread of the virus as the Southern California county began reopening more businesses. A similar order is in place in neighboring Los Angeles County.

In addition to the California public health officials who have resigned, one was given a sheriff’s escort to provide security, DeBurgh said.

“We certainly have had angry comments at meetings before, especially around vaccines, but this level of threat, of having to have a sheriff’s escort, we haven’t seen it before,” DeBurgh said.

Orange County has reported 7,500 cases of the virus and 177 deaths.

WHO walks back claim that asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus is ‘very rare’

The World Health Organization moved Tuesday to clarify its position on whether people without symptoms are widely spreading the new coronavirus, saying much remains unknown about asymptomatic transmission.

A comment by a WHO official on Monday — calling such asymptomatic transmissions “very rare” — touched off a furious scientific debate over the unresolved question and attracted widespread criticism of the organization.

Less than 24 hours later, WHO convened a special news conference to walk back its comments, stressing that much remains unknown. But the comment from Monday had already spread widely and been seized upon by conservatives and others to bolster arguments that people do not need to wear masks or maintain social distancing precautions.

The episode sparked criticism of WHO’s public health messaging and highlighted just how fraught and easily politicized such work remains months into the pandemic.

Calling the controversy “a misunderstanding,” Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging disease and zoonosis unit, said that during the news conference Monday, she was trying to respond to a journalist’s question when she said asymptomatic transmission was “very rare.”

“I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that,” she said. “We do know that some people who are asymptomatic, or some people who do not have symptoms, can transmit the virus on.”

Read the full story here.

Airline industry forecast to suffer record $84 billion loss

Airline losses are surging to unprecedented levels that are expected to be more than double those following the 2008 global economic slump, according to the industry’s main trade group.

The International Air Transport Association on Tuesday predicted carriers will lose a combined record $84 billion this year and almost $16 billion in 2021. This compares with $31 billion during the last recession.

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People walk by a departures monitor at the Rome Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, Thursday, March 12. AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File

The grim forecast comes as airlines seek to gradually restart operations following the grounding of their fleets during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Industry debt has jumped by about $120 billion, a level many carriers will be unable to sustain without governments stepping in to convert borrowing into equity, the trade body said. The alternative to a rise in government ownership will be mass bankruptcies, it said.

“Losses this year will be the biggest in aviation history,” IATA Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac said on a call with reporters. “There is no comparison for the dimensions of this crisis.”

Losses will amount to between 15% and 30% of revenue this year depending on the region, with no prospect of a return to profitability until 2022 at the earliest, IATA forecast.

Airlines are set to end the year with about $550 billion in total debt. That means the sector’s borrowings next year will be 16 times earnings even on an Ebitdar basis, stretching from 4.6 times in 2019.

While some carriers may be able to cope by raising fresh equity themselves, stretched balance sheets are likely to lead to many states buying stakes, it said.

Global connectivity will also be reduced, with the number of city-pair links down by about 25% by the end of the year even after operations resume, the trade body said. Yields, a measure of fares, are likely to be down by around 20% as airlines cut prices to attract passengers back to travel.

Cyprus ends commercial flight ban

LARNACA, Cyprus — An Israeli plane with 22 passengers aboard was the first commercial flight to touch down at Cyprus’ main Larnaca airport after the east Mediterranean country re-opened its airports following the end of an 11-week flight ban aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Nora Reich, a passenger aboard the small Israir turboprop that arrived Tuesday from Tel Aviv said she rushed to catch the first flight to Cyprus to see her newborn granddaughter.

“My daughter is with her family, they are diplomats here,” Reich told The Associated Press. “And now she have a baby, she delivered a baby girl. I come with the first flight to see her. “

Israel is among a group of 19 countries with low COVID-19 infection rates from which Cyprus is now permitting commercial flights.

But passengers must secure a health certificate three days in advance of departure declaring them coronavirus-free.

The need for a health certificate expires on June 20 for 13 of those countries including Greece, Finland, Norway and Germany.

Tourism-dependent Cyprus is keen to resume flights in hopes of salvaging the summer tourism season. Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said the country of around 880,000 people is looking to capitalize on its very low infection rate — 970 confirmed infections and 18 deaths — to attract tourists.

Karousos said it’s projected that the country will secure about 35% of the nearly 4 million arrivals it received last year.

Spain to try 2-week tourism trial

MADRID — Spain’s Balearic Islands will allow thousands of German tourists to fly in for a two-week trial that tests out how to balance the needs of Spain’s vital tourism industry with new regulations to battle the spread of the coronavirus.

The trial that begins June 15 comes before the archipelago and the rest of Spain re-open to international tourism on July 1. The government is under heavy pressure to re-activate an industry that generates 12% of Spain’s gross domestic product and provides 2.6 million much-needed jobs.

Through an agreement with German tour group TUI, other tour operators and several airlines, up to 10,900 Germans will be allowed in, authorities said.

German states institute 14-day quarantine for travelers

BERLIN — Several German states have introduced a requirement for people arriving from Sweden to self-quarantine for 14 days because of rising coronavirus infections in the Scandinavian country.

Germany had a quarantine requirement for most people arriving from abroad for over a month until mid-May, when state governments started exempting people coming from European countries.

But several states are now reintroducing the requirement for arrivals from Sweden, on the grounds that new infections there have exceeded 50 per 100,000 residents over seven days. Inside Germany, that level of infections in a region is supposed to trigger action by local authorities.

Bavaria on Tuesday followed three northern states — Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Lower Saxony — in imposing the quarantine.

Sweden has pursued a controversial strategy which avoided a lockdown but resulted in a high per capita COVID-19 death rate. Reported infection rates in Sweden have risen slightly recently because testing rules have changed slightly, allowing new groups of people to be tested.

Britain has recorded more than 50,000 dead

LONDON — Britain’s statistics agency says the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.K. has risen to 50,107.

The updated figures from the Office for National Statistics are up to the week ending May 29 and are collated from death certificates, which can take a couple of weeks to be issued.

The statistics differ from the daily figures provided by the government, which has virus-related deaths across the U.K. at 40,597. Those are based on initial cause of death assessments by doctors.

The statistics agency also said there were 1,653 more deaths in England and Wales during the week than the five-year average, taking the U.K.’s excess total since the pandemic started to around 64,000.

Excess deaths are widely considered to be the best gauge of the virus’ impact as they provide a clear guide over historical periods and include all-cause mortality.

New Delhi reverses coronavirus strategy

NEW DELHI — New Delhi has reversed orders that limited the scope of coronavirus testing and reserved hospital beds for city residents as the Indian capital’s caseload continues to surge.

The city’s numbers of infected jumped to 29,943 on Tuesday, out of India’s 266,598 cases, the fifth-most in the world.

Since coming to power in 2013, the government led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has prioritized investing in health care. The capital has the best health care in India, drawing patients from across the country.

But as lockdown restrictions have eased, the number of people infected with the coronavirus has soared in the capital. On Sunday, Kejriwal announced that hospital beds for COVID-19 patients would be reserved for city residents and testing limited to those with symptoms.

But the central government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly objected to the rules, and late Monday the city government set them aside, with Kejriwal tweeting that “making arrangements for treatment for people from across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic is a major challenge. But maybe it’s God’s will that we have to serve everyone in the country.”

Dubai extends lockdown for another week

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The capital of the United Arab Emirates has extended an emirate-wide lockdown for another week over the coronavirus pandemic.

Government officials announced late Monday the extension of the lockdown, that has prevented people from leaving their area in Abu Dhabi.

Movement also has been restricted into Abu Dhabi from the rest of the UAE, a federation of seven U.S.-allied sheikhdoms also home to Dubai.

The lockdown comes as the rest of the UAE is trying to reopen its non-oil economy after the pandemic devastated its tourism and airline industry.

There have been nearly 40,000 cases and 280 deaths from COVID-19 in the UAE, with 22,000 of those infected now recovered.

South Australia will allow fans at football match — but not Black Lives Matter rally

ADELAIDE, Australia — South Australia state’s government says it will allow 2,000 fans to attend an Australian rules football match but won’t allow a Black Lives Matter rally on the same day.

South Australia is the first state or territory to allow a crowd to return to professional sport.

State Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said a crowd will be allowed at Adelaide Oval on Saturday for a match between local teams Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows.

But police would not allow a second exemption for a protest against George Floyd’s death, saying those that had been allowed in Adelaide last week despite social distancing rules were due to unique circumstances.

“To continually allow people to disregard the restrictions we have in place would make a mockery of the good efforts of everybody else who are doing their best to abide by those restrictions,” Stevens added.

South Australia has no COVID-19 patient in any hospital. Australia has 559 cases that are still active among more than 7,000 total.

Slovakia eases border restrictions

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is easing its border restrictions, allowing travel to 16 more European countries.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic said Tuesday that the countries are Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

Matovic said the countries are considered safe for Slovak travelers and their citizens don’t pose a threat for Slovakia.

Last week, Slovakia reopened its borders with neighboring Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary.

Slovakia has not been hit as hard by the pandemic as some other European countries. It says 1,531 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and 28 have died.

Dutch parliament will move to accommodate social distancing

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The official opening of the Dutch parliamentary year will take place in a church in The Hague in September because the usual venue is not big enough to accommodate all 225 lawmakers with social distancing.

The chair of the lower house of the Dutch parliament, Khadija Arib, informed lawmakers of the change on Tuesday.

Traditionally, the Dutch monarch delivers a speech to lawmakers from the upper and lower houses of parliament at the historic Knights Hall on the third Tuesday in September.

Arib said a new venue was chosen because Knights Hall cannot accommodate all lawmakers if they adhere to the government’s social distancing guidelines.

She said parliamentarians will not be able to bring guests to this year’s event on Sept. 15.

The pageant-filled event features King Willem-Alexander being driven in a horse-drawn carriage through the tree-lined streets of The Hague.

Following the monarch’s speech outlining the government’s policy goals for the coming year, the country’s finance minister unveils his budget plans in the lower house of parliament.

Pakistan records 100 deaths in 24 hours

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan recorded more than 100 deaths in a single day from COVID-19 for the first time since keeping statistics in mid-March, when the country imposed a partial lockdown.

As of Tuesday, Pakistan recorded 108,316 coronavirus infections, with 4,646 new cases and a death toll that has climbed to 2,172 amid warnings from Prime Minister Imran Khan that Pakistan is not likely to see a peak in infections before August.

Despite criticism from medical professionals and opposition politicians, Khan has continued to ease lockdown restrictions saying the country’s ailing economy would collapse and the poorest would suffer most.

Pakistan’s poverty level hovers around 30%. Pakistanis have not taken precautions like wearing masks and social distancing even as Khan went on television late to reprimand the population and plead with them to wear masks.

Britain backs off return to school plan

LONDON — Britain’s government is backing away from plans to have all children return to primary school before the summer, even as the country moves to ease restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to acknowledge on Tuesday that not all students will return after schools argued they were constrained by classroom sizes, the need for social distancing and inadequate staff numbers.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he isn’t surprised by the decision and that the “ambition” to bring back all primary students for a month before the end of the term was “a case of the government over-promising something that wasn’t deliverable.’’

Greek officials meet to plan response to spike

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s prime minister met with health and civil protection officials to discuss a sharp spike in coronavirus cases over the past few days, his office said Tuesday.

During the meeting, officials stressed “the need for the strict implementation of the measures that have been decided upon in view of the gradual return to the new normality,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. It said checks would be intensified and the health ministry would make new announcements in coming days.

On Monday, Greece announced 97 new confirmed infections, including 30 people who entered the country from abroad and 29 in a northeastern town where there were previous outbreaks. Total confirmed cases now number 3,049 with 182 deaths.

Greece imposed a lockdown early in its outbreak, a move which has been credited with keeping the death toll and number of infections low. The country has been gradually lifting restrictions over the past several weeks, and nearly all businesses are now open.

But health authorities are warning that the virus still exists in the country and are urging people to continue social distancing.


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