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

WASHINGTON — Nursing home residents account for nearly 1 in 10 of all the coronavirus cases in the United States and more than a quarter of the deaths, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data released Thursday.

As federal data collection becomes more robust, a clearer picture is emerging of the ravages of COVID-19 in nursing homes. About 1.4 million older and medically frail people live in such facilities, a tiny share of the American population that has borne a crushing burden from the pandemic. Most residents have been in lockdown since early March, isolated from families and friends, even in death.

AP’s analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that nearly half of the more than 15,000 nursing homes have reported suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of June 7. About 1 in 5 facilities – or 21% – have reported deaths.

Nationwide, nursing homes reported nearly 179,000 suspected or confirmed cases among residents and 29,497 deaths. The latest figures include about 95% of nursing homes.

Earlier this week, a special House panel on the coronavirus pandemic launched an investigation into the crisis in nursing homes.

The vulnerabilities are many. Residents live in close quarters, usually two to a room before the pandemic. They shared dining and recreational areas, and physical therapy gyms. Many staff aides work in several facilities, so they can unwittingly carry the virus from one nursing home to another.

Read the full story on nursing home deaths here.

Face masks now required at casino table games in Nevada

LAS VEGAS — Nevada casinos are now requiring gamblers and spectators to wear protective face coverings at table games that have no barriers.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board on Wednesday updated its health and safety policy required for the reopening of casinos, tightening rules for gamblers sitting down to play.

“Licensees must require patrons to wear face coverings at table and card games if there is no barrier, partition, or shield between the dealer and each player,” the board said in a statement. “This requirement applies to table and card game players, spectators, and any other person within 6 feet of any table or card game.”

People play blackjack at the reopening of the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas on June 4. Nevada casinos are now requiring gamblers and spectators to wear protective face coverings at table games that have no barriers. John Locher/Associated Press

The new rule applies to players of blackjack, roulette, craps, poker and other table games and all casino employees. Masks aren’t required of other casino patrons, including slot machine players, but casinos are required to offer and encourage masks.

Most casino workers have the ability to move around their properties, but dealers are confined to one location for an hour at a time and are exposed to hundreds of people every day, Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan said.

“We were at least able to agree that face coverings (were needed) at table games, if there’s not going to be Plexiglas or any other kind of barrier,” she said. “The lack of individual patron responsibility is disappointing to say the least. So we have to do at least what we can to ensure that the gaming employees have some protection as well.”

Casinos across the state began reopening June 4 after being closed since March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Nevada health officials have reported more than 12,000 cases of COVID-19 and 475 deaths from the disease.

Florida shatters its daily record for new virus cases

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida has shattered its previous record for the number of coronavirus cases recorded in a day, according to data released Thursday.

The announcement came shortly after federal officials revealed that more than 86,000 Floridians applied for new jobless benefits last week, a drop of almost 30 percent from the previous week as pandemic-related restrictions continued easing up across the state.

The easing of restrictions meant to stop the spread of the new coronavirus has accompanied new outbreaks around Florida, forcing some local leaders to pull back.

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A TSA worker checks a passenger before entering a security screening at Orlando International Airport on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported 85,926 coronavirus cases statewide, a daily jump of 3,207 cases, the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic in March. John Raoux/Associated Press

The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported 85,926 coronavirus cases statewide, a daily jump of 3,207 cases, the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic in March. The previous record — 2,783 cases — occurred Tuesday. The state has had at least 3,061 related deaths.

At least some of the increase reflects expanded testing especially among people who are younger and without symptoms. But the rate of positive tests also has been ticking upward in recent days, raising alarm.

In the Florida Keys, Monroe County commissioners voted Thursday to make facial coverings mandatory, effective immediately. All employees and customers in businesses and other public places where there is a roof overhead must now wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, according to the new ordinance. Patrons in restaurants and bars are permitted to remove their masks to eat and drink.

Commissioners also recommended that anyone age 6 and older should carry a mask when they leave home and wear it “whenever they come within six feet of another person.” Violation of the mask requirement is punishable by fines, but not jail time, the commission said in a news release.

Read the full story about Florida here.

‘Football may not happen this year,’ Fauci says

The nation’s top infectious-disease expert said the NFL may not be able to put on games this year, as the health risks posed by the coronavirus are amplified by the flu season and the possibility of a second wave of infections fueled by the turn in cold weather.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community, and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” said Anthony S. Fauci, in comments aired on CNN Thursday morning. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

Fauci’s warning comes as other professional sports leagues decide how to restart amid a global pandemic, as public health experts, league officials and players weigh the risks of a return while several states are suffering a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Earlier this week, Fauci urged Major League Baseball to avoid playing in the fall and to compress its schedule into the summer months.

Training camp for football players is scheduled to begin at the end of July, with the regular season kicking off in September. The NFL, in a league-wide memo in May, had set conditions for facilities to partially reopen, so long as they complied with public health regulations and limited the number of people who can be in a building.

White House press secretary insists Tulsa rally will be ‘a safe opportunity to congregate’

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted Thursday that President Trump’s upcoming campaign rally in an indoor arena in Tulsa will be “a safe opportunity to congregate” despite a recommendation from the city’s health director to postpone the event because of coronavirus concerns and calls by city leaders to cancel it.

During an interview on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” McEnany was pressed about the president’s plans for Saturday, with host Steve Doocey noting that sporting events in similar-sized venues have not restarted.

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Supporters of President Donald Trump, camp outside the BOK Center in Tulsa on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, four days before his scheduled rally on Saturday. Associated Press/Tom McCarthy

“We are leading on that,” McEnany said. “There will be hand sanitizer. There will be masks handed out. There will be precautions taken, so we believe that this is a safe opportunity to congregate, to really celebrate the great things that President Trump does each and every day in this administration.”

Vanessa Hall-Harper, a Tulsa city council member, echoed other officials Thursday during an interview on CNN in which she said allowing the rally to take place at the the 19,000-seat BOK Center would endanger public health. She cited a spike in covid-19 cases in the surrounding county.

“It is a very grave concern, certainly on the public health level,” Hall-Harper said. “I am very concerned about the potential aftermath.”

During her Fox News appearance, McEnany accused some in the media of applying a double standard when scrutinizing Trump’s rally plans compared to recent protests of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

“It’s interesting to watch the media, some in the media … cherry pick science when it’s ideologically convenient,” she said. “Because we’ve seen some in the media praise the protesters, make no mention of the fact that they’re not socially distanced or wearing masks in some cases, and then target the Trump rally.”

Reported cases of coronavirus have risen 17 percent in Oklahoma since June 11, according to Washington Post data.

ATHENS, Greece — Europe grappled Thursday with local spikes in coronavirus infections as the continent’s lockdown restrictions eased, after hundreds of cases were found at one meatpacking plant in Germany and Greece had to impose a total seven-day lockdown on one village.

The developments came even as a new outbreak in Beijing saw a decline in daily cases and Hong Kong Disneyland reopened after a major drop in infections in the Chinese territory.

In western Germany, health officials in Guetersloh on Wednesday said the number of new COVID-19 cases linked to the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck had risen to 657, a significant regional spike for a country that has recorded daily nationwide infections in the low hundreds lately.

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People wear face masks as they leave a train at the central train station in Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday. Associated Press/Michael Probst

“It’s no coincidence that the Toennies slaughterhouse has become the next hotspot of Coronavirus infections,” said Freddy Adjan, the deputy chairman of the NGG union that represents workers in the food and drinks industry.

He said workers employed by sub-contractors face “catastrophic working and living conditions.”

Germany is widely considered to have handled the pandemic well. The infection rate declined sharply after authorities imposed nationwide social distancing rules in March and the daily case increase has averaged between 300-400 in June. Germany has recorded 188,474 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8,844 deaths — about one-fifth of Britain’s death toll.

In China, an outbreak detected in a wholesale market in the capital last week has infected at least 158 people in the country’s largest resurgence since the initial outbreak was brought under control in March. The city reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, down from 31 on Wednesday. City officials said close contacts of market workers, visitors and other connections were being traced to locate all further cases as quickly as possible.

1.5 million more laid-off workers seek unemployment benefits

About 1.5 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a historically high number, even as the economy increasingly reopens and employers bring some people back to work.

The latest figure from the Labor Department marked the 11th straight weekly decline in applications since they peaked at nearly 7 million in March as the coronavirus shut down much of the economy and caused tens of millions of layoffs. The decline was much smaller, though, than in recent weeks, falling just 58,000.

The total number of people receiving unemployment aid also fell slightly, reflecting the return of many to their old jobs.

Read the full story.

‘Sesame Street’ to air special pandemic episode for kids around the globe

Social distancing is coming to Sesame Street.

The beloved PBS children’s television show will air a 25-minute special over the next few weeks featuring Elmo, Grover and their global counterparts as they emphasize the importance of indoor play and tackle a world upturned by the coronavirus pandemic.

For much of its 51-year run, “Sesame Street” has developed a reputation for exploring big issues such as autism, foster care and racism. With schools around the world closed and children cut off from friends, this episode seeks to have a similar impact.

Sesame Street characters Ernie, Bert, Elmo, Cookie Monster Associated Press

In more than a dozen languages, the global coronavirus special will teach children in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East about how to manage being at home all the time and “big feelings” like frustration and sadness.

“Children are at home spending a lot more time indoors than before, and families are really struggling with how to help them keep learning, keep engaged, how to play in new ways,” executive producer Scott Cameron said, according to Reuters.

Dubbed “Elmo’s World News,” the episode takes the form of a news show hosted by the titular furry red monster, the news agency reported. Cookie Monster plays a special correspondent reporting from his “Things That Make Me Happy” activity box, while weather reporter Grover learns how to play inside.

Basma and Jad, who star in “Ahlan Simsim,” the Arabic version of “Sesame Street,” will show young viewers how to manage their feelings through dance.

“Sesame Street” already debuted a similar episode for parts of the Anglophone world earlier this spring, featuring special guests like Lin-Manuel Miranda.

WHO scientist hopes for vaccine end of next year

LONDON — The chief scientist at the World Health Organization says the agency hopes there will be about 2 billion doses of a vaccine against COVID-19 by the end of next year that would be reserved for “priority populations.”

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan told a press briefing: “It’s a big if because we don’t have any vaccine that’s proven.”

She said that because of the numerous vaccine candidates currently being tested, WHO hoped at least some might prove ready for use next year.

Swaminathan said that WHO recommends immunizing people at risk first, including the elderly and those with underlying conditions like diabetes or respiratory disease, as well as key workers.

But Swaminathan noted that there was still no strategy regarding any possible global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. “WHO will propose these solutions,” she said. “Countries need to agree and come to a consensus. That’s the only way this can work.”

Numerous developed countries including Britain, France, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.S. have already struck deals with pharmaceuticals to secure vaccine supplies for their citizens first.

WHO and partners have called for drugmakers to suspend their patent rights on any effective COVID-19 vaccine and for billions of dollars to buy vaccines for developing countries.

Disneyland in Hong Kong reopens

HONG KONG — Hong Kong Disneyland has officially reopened after a major drop in coronavirus cases in the Chinese territory.

Advance reservations will be required and only limited attendance will be allowed at the park, one of the pillars of Hong Kong’s crucial tourism industry.

Social distancing measures including avoiding mixing together different families are being implemented in lines, at restaurants, on rides and at shops, while cleaning and disinfecting will be increased.

Visitors will have their temperatures checked at the entrance and be required to wear masks at all times inside the park, except when eating and drinking.

Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million, has recorded just 1,120 cases and four deaths from COVID-19, but the impact on the financial hub’s economy that relies heavily on international travel and visitors from China has been severe.

Most visitors from outside the territory are still barred from entering and Disneyland said anyone who has traveled outside Hong Kong within the previous two weeks will be asked to rescheduled their visit.

African nations to hold conference regarding access to medical supplies, possible vaccine

JOHANNESBURG — African nations next week will hold a high-level conference on coronavirus vaccines to “position ourselves to not be left behind” in access, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief says.

John Nkengasong says the World Health Organization director-general will attend the discussion that also will focus on “how we can manufacture a vaccine ourselves.”

He said countries including Senegal, Egypt and South Africa already have vaccine manufacturing capabilities.

Concern has been high among Africa’s 54 nations about access to testing and medical supplies amid intense global competition.

Africa’s virus cases are now above 260,000, with South Africa representing about 30% of infections.

More than 3.7 million tests for the virus have been conducted in Africa, where the WHO has said the pandemic is “accelerating” on the continent of 1.3 billion people. Ten African nations account for about 80% of testing, while the rest are “still struggling,” Nkengasong said.

Czech Republic will (mostly) abandon mandatory face masks

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is set to almost fully abandon its most visible tool of fighting the coronavirus pandemic — face masks.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says that starting July 1, wearing masks on public transport and indoors such as in stores, theaters and cinemas is no longer mandatory.

Vojtech says masks will remain mandatory only in regions with local clusters and outbreaks. Those places will be determined later in June.

Currently, they include the capital of Prague and two eastern regions.

The country has registered several dozen new COVID-19 cases daily for a month while a total of 333 people have died.

Montenegro had no infections for weeks, now the virus is back

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegro is reporting a resurgence of the coronavirus in the small Balkan country that had no infections for weeks.

Montenegrin health authorities said late Wednesday they have registered seven new cases after two more were confirmed earlier this week.

A country of some 620,000 people, Montenegro imposed strict lockdown measures during the outbreak. Montenegro recently started reopening, hoping to attract tourists to the Adriatic coast.

Three Turkish cities mandate face masks

ISTANBUL — Turkish authorities have made the wearing of masks mandatory in three major cities to curb the spread of COVID-19 following an uptick in cases since the country allowed many businesses to reopen.

The governors of Istanbul, Ankara and Bursa announced the mask rule late Wednesday in line with a recommendation by the country’s scientific advisory council. Masks are obligatory in 47 out of 81 provinces. The statements said masks must be worn in all public spaces.

Turkey is seeing an upward trend in the daily number of infections after the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen, lifted inter-city travel restrictions and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young at the start of June.

Turkey has reported 182,727 confirmed cases and 4,861 deaths from COVID-19 since March.

Greek authorities lock down a community

ATHENS, Greece — Greek civil protection authorities have imposed a seven-day complete lockdown on a community in northeastern Greece, after a spike in coronavirus cases there over the past week.

Residents of the Echinos community in the province of Xanthi are forbidden from leaving the area, and are under a 24-hour curfew. They can leave their homes only to buy food or medication, and must wear a mask.

Only vehicles resupplying food stores and pharmacies are allowed into Echinos, while all other retail businesses have been shut.

The community has been the source of a localized outbreak before too. Authorities said the area had registered 73 new coronavirus cases and four deaths over the past week. Health officials are intensifying testing in the area.

Greece had imposed a lockdown early and has managed to maintain deaths and serious illness from the coronavirus at low levels. On Wednesday, the country announced 55 new cases, the highest daily number for weeks The vast majority were in Xanthi.

Greece has had a total of 187 deaths and just over 3,200 confirmed cases in the country of nearly 11 million people.

Beijing monitoring new outbreak

BEIJING — A Beijing government spokesman says the city has recorded a total of 158 confirmed cases since the new outbreak was detected last week at a large wholesale market.

Hu Hejian says close contacts are being traced to locate all possible cases as quickly as possible amid strengthened testing and other prevention and control measures.

Anyone who has been near the Xinfad market since May 30, along with their close contacts, will be quarantined at home for 14 days and tested at least twice, said city government official Zhang Ge.

Beijing reported 21 cases Thursday, down from 31 a day earlier.

Beijing has barred entry to all confirmed and suspected cases, patients with fever and close contacts from abroad and other provinces, Zhang said. China also has barred most foreigners from entering and even foreign diplomats arriving from abroad must undergo two weeks of home quarantine.

All indoor public venues remain closed, Zhang said. Offices, restaurants and hotels in high risk area also will be shut down, he said.

Virus spikes but Indian government won’t reimpose lockdown

NEW DELHI: India recorded the highest one-day spike of 12,281 coronavirus cases, raising the total to 366,946 even as the government ruled out reimposing a countrywide lockdown.

India’s death toll reached 12,237, a rise of 334 in the past 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry. The number of recoveries touched 52% at 194,325.

India stands behind the United States, Brazil and Russia in the number of cases.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday rejected media reports that the government was considering reimposing lockdown. India has to think about further unlocking, minimizing all possibilities of harm to people, he said.

The March 25 lockdown is now restricted to high-risk areas.

The worst-hit states are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi.

Officials try to stem Seoul outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 59 COVID-19 cases as infections steadily rise in the capital area where half the country’s 51 million people live.

The figures announced Thursday by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bring the national caseload to 12,257, including 280 deaths.

The agency says 39 of the new cases are in Seoul and the surrounding region, where authorities are trying to stem transmissions amid increased economic activity and eased attitudes on social distancing.

Eight new cases were linked to international arrivals. Officials are concerned the resurgence of the virus in China could bring more imported cases. South Korea has tied at least 1,379 cases to international arrivals and is requiring two-week quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad.

Chartered aircraft to bring international students back to Australia

CANBERRA, Australia — The two universities in Australia’s capital plan to fly in 350 foreign students as the country’s international education sector reopens after the coronavirus lockdown.

Australian National University and Canberra University said Thursday they expect the chartered aircraft to fly to Canberra from Singapore in late July.

Priority will be given to students involved in research that can’t be done online. The students will be quarantined at a hotel for two weeks. They are likely to be the first foreign students to return to Australian campuses since the lockdown.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sydney Radio 2GB he supports the universities’ plan. Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says it’s likely Australia won’t allow general international travel before next year.


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