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

WASHINGTON — A new private sector report is warning anew of continuing damage to the economy if Washington doesn’t deliver several hundred billion dollars in budget relief to states and local governments amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But Wednesday’s report by Moody’s Analytics, a private sector economic research firm, could also help illustrate a path for bipartisan agreement in Congress on next month’s fifth, and possibly final, COVID-19 response bill.

The study warns that doing nothing to address the economic perils of state layoffs and cutbacks could cost 4 million jobs. But it also says that significantly less money is needed than what’s being called for by House Democrats, who passed almost $1 trillion in help for cash-poor states and local governments as part of a sweeping $3.5 trillion rescue package last month.

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Orange barriers enclose chairs and tables to be used for dining in downtown Pittsburgh this week. A report by Moody’s Analytics released Wednesday warns of continuing damage to the economy if Washington doesn’t deliver several hundred billion dollars in budget relief to state and local governments. Associated Press/Gene J. Puskar

The Democratic bill combines $500 billion for state governments — as requested by the nation’s governors — and $375 billion for local governments, many of whom were left out of earlier relief efforts. The Moody study says that level of spending — rejected out of hand by Republicans — is likely beyond what’s needed.

“The scope of aid being requested is certainly unprecedented in size and warrants significant scrutiny,” Moody’s says. “For example, the $1 trillion in aid recently approved as part of the house’s HEROES Act would be enough to raise the eyebrows of even the most aggressive advocates of fiscal stimulus.”

Instead, the firm — which is respected by both Democrats and Republicans — says that $500 billion in combined aid state and local aid is needed in total under its baseline scenario, with perhaps $120 billion being sufficient to get states through the 2021 fiscal year that starts next week. But it also warns that failure to act would have terrible economic consequences, adding to unemployment and cutting into gross domestic product.

Read the full story on the Moody’s report here.

North Carolina requires face coverings statewide

North Carolina’s governor announced Wednesday that people across the state must wear masks or other face coverings in public as he extended other business restrictions by three weeks amid a surge in cases of COVID-19.

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered that face masks be worn statewide beginning Friday, as the number of coronavirus cases rises in the state, saying, “The numbers we see are a stark warning, and we must pay attention.” Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via Associated Press

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings in public when it’s not possible to maintain physical distance. The order also mandates face coverings for employees of businesses including retailers and restaurants, as well as state executive branch employees. The order takes effect on Friday.

Violations of Cooper’s executive orders are generally punishable as a misdemeanor, but Wednesday’s order directs law enforcement to issue citations to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce mask requirements, not individuals. The order notes that people who refuse to wear a mask and won’t leave a business can be penalized under trespassing laws. The mask order exempts those with certain health conditions, young children and people strenuously exercising, among other situations.

Several other states including California and Washington have statewide mask requirements.

Cooper, a Democrat, also extended restrictions that limit capacity at retailers, restaurants and public gatherings until July 17. Businesses including bars, movie theaters and gyms must also remain closed. The rules are part of Cooper’s Phase 2 of reopening, which began last month.

A legislative effort led by Republican lawmakers to allow gyms and bars to reopen failed on Wednesday when House leaders couldn’t muster enough votes to override Cooper’s veto of the measure to scale back the governor’s business restrictions.

Cooper’s executive order comes as the state reports its second-highest one-day jump in virus cases at around 1,700. About 900 people are currently hospitalized, also representing the second-highest mark in that category.

“The numbers we see are a stark warning, and we must pay attention,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the state currently has sufficient hospital capacity, but that could quickly change if virus trends don’t improve. Statewide, health officials say approximately 20% of both inpatient beds and intensive care beds remain available, based on reports from the vast majority of hospitals.

“Doctors and health care experts have warned that hospital capacity can be overwhelmed in the blink of an eye,” Cooper said. “And once we see that capacity is gone, it can be too late to reverse the tide.”

Virus cases surging among the young, endangering older people

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  — Coronavirus cases are climbing rapidly among young adults in a number of states where bars, stores and restaurants have reopened — a disturbing generational shift that not only puts them in greater peril than many realize but poses an even bigger danger to older people who cross their paths.

In Oxford, Mississippi, summer fraternity parties sparked outbreaks. In Oklahoma City, church activities, fitness classes, weddings and funerals seeded infections among people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. In Iowa college towns, surges followed the reopening of bars. A cluster of hangouts near Louisiana State University led to at least 100 customers and employees testing positive. In East Lansing, Michigan, an outbreak tied to a brew pub spread to 25 people ages 18 to 23.

There and in states like Florida, Texas and Arizona, young people have started going out again, many without masks, in what health experts see as irresponsible behavior.

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People sit outdoors to watch a movie on June 18 as part of a program offered by the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium during the coronavirus pandemic in Miami Gardens, Fla. Associated Press/Lynne Sladky

“The virus hasn’t changed. We have changed our behaviors,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Younger people are more likely to be out and taking a risk.”

In Florida, young people ages 15 to 34 now make up 31% of all cases, up from 25% in early June. Last week, more than 8,000 new cases were reported in that age group, compared with about 2,000 among people 55 to 64 years old. And experts say the phenomenon cannot be explained away as simply the result of more testing.

Elected officials such as Florida’s governor have argued against reimposing restrictions, saying many of the newly infected are young and otherwise healthy. But younger people, too, face the possibility of severe infection and death. And authorities worry that older, more vulnerable people are next.

“People between the ages 18 and 50 don’t live in some sort of a bubble,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. “They are the children and grandchildren of vulnerable people. They may be standing next to you at a wedding. They might be serving you a meal in a restaurant.”

The virus has taken a frightful toll on the elderly in the U.S., which leads the world in total deaths, at over 120,000, and confirmed infections, at more than 2.3 million. Eight out of 10 deaths in the U.S. have been in people 65 and older. In contrast, confirmed coronavirus deaths among 18-to-34-year-olds number in the hundreds, though disease trackers are clamoring for more accurate data.

Read the full story here.

Some travelers to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut are told to isolate for 14 days

NEW YORK — New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will require visitors from states with high infection rates to quarantine for 14 days, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

“We now have to make sure the rates continue to drop,” Cuomo said. “We also have to make sure the virus doesn’t come on a plane again.”

Cuomo announced what was called a “travel advisory” at a briefing jointly via video feeds with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, both fellow Democrats.

The states’ health departments will provide details of how the rule will work, Murphy said.

The announcement comes as summer travel to the states’ beaches, parks and other attractions — not to mention New York City — would normally swing into high gear.

Visitors from states over a set infection rate will have to quarantine, Cuomo said. As of Wednesday, states over the threshold were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.

Read the full story about the travel restrictions here.

Airline passengers who hide virus infections show risk of reopening borders

People infected with coronavirus were allowed to board aircraft and travel to Hong Kong in recent days, highlighting the challenge of controlling the pandemic while governments seek the safest ways to reopen borders.

Hong Kong’s health authority said one infected passenger arrived Sunday from Manila on a Cathay Pacific Airways flight, and another was on a Cathay Dragon flight from Kuala Lumpur. Both were diagnosed with COVID-19 before they traveled. It also said 45 passengers on Emirates flights from Dubai over the weekend either were confirmed or probable cases. The airline only restarted flights to Hong Kong this month.

The infections underscore the risk of peeling back restrictions when the global pace of infections keeps accelerating. Airlines worldwide, largely propped up by government bailouts, have been lobbying to get their planes back in the air as they face more than $84 billion in losses this year.

Read the full story.

U.S. citizens likely to be left out as Europe reopens borders

BRUSSELS  — Americans are unlikely to be allowed into Europe when the continent reopens its borders next week, due to how the coronavirus pandemic is flaring in the U.S. and President Donald Trump’s ban on Europeans entering the United States.

European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1, and their representatives in Brussels are now debating what virus-related criteria should apply when lifting border restrictions to the outside world that were imposed in March.

People cross the border between France and Spain at Behobie, southwestern France. Spain reopened its borders to European tourists Sunday in a bid to kickstart its economy. Associated Press/Bob Edme

In recommendations to EU nations on June 11, the European Commission said “travel restrictions should not be lifted as regards third countries where the situation is worse” than the average in the 27 EU member countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

That is likely to rule out the United States, where new coronavirus infections have surged to the highest level in two months, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. After trending down for well over a month, new U.S. cases have risen for more than a week.

Read the full story here.

Japan advises elderly to refrain from karaoke

TOKYO — A city in northern Japan has reported new coronavirus cases in nine people linked to the same karaoke bar and advised the elderly to refrain from karaoke singing.

Otaru Mayor Toshiya Hazama said Wednesday that the COVID-19 patients range in age from their 60s to their 80s and include an owner of the karaoke bar, seven customers and a relative of one of them.

Health officials in Otaru are tracing dozens of people who had close contact with the nine patients. Daytime karaoke singing, or “hiru-kara,” is popular among senior citizens on Hokkaido, the island where the city is located, and available at coffee shops.

In nearby Sapporo, about 60 recent virus cases were linked to the popular activity.

Tokyo reported 55 new confirmed cases Wednesday, the largest since early May. Officials said the increase was largely due to and expanded testing and does not immediately require restrictions to be reimposed on businesses.

There were about 20 other new cases reported from elsewhere in Japan, bringing the national total to more than 18,100 cases, with about 960 deaths.

Patients to be cared for in railroad coaches in New Delhi

NEW DELHI — India’s home minister says armed forces personnel will be providing medical care and attention for coronavirus patients kept in railroad coaches in the Indian capital, which has emerged as the second worst hit state in the country.

Home Minister Amit Shah says 8,000 additional beds have been placed at the Delhi government’s disposal for COVID care centers. The Indian capital is facing bed shortages as the number of cases in the city has jumped to 66,603 with 2,301 deaths.

The Indian Railways said that it has deployed more than 500 railroad coaches at nine locations to meet bed shortages.

India recorded the highest spike of 15,968 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 456,183 with 14,476 deaths.

Migrants arriving in Sicily test positive for coronavirus

ROME — Sicily’s governor says 28 migrants who were rescued at sea have tested positive for the coronavirus, confirming a new complication in Italy’s efforts to manage waves of migrants smuggled across the Mediterranean from Africa.

The migrants were being held on a ship off Porto Empedocle where they’re taken to quarantine after being rescued.

Sicily Governor Nello Musumeci said in a Facebook post Wednesday that the positive tests confirmed that he was right to demand special at-sea quarantine measures for migrants to prevent new clusters from forming in Italy, the onetime European epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The positive tests come as an Italian parliamentary commission is visiting Porto Empedocle precisely to check on migrant and health care issues.

Summertime has traditionally been peak season for migrant smugglers operating in lawless Libya, and officials have predicted an increase in efforts to reach Europe with the easing of the health emergency in Italy and the resumption of activities of humanitarian rescue ships in the Mediterranean.

U.S. cases at the highest level in 2 months

New cases of the coronavirus in the United States have surged to the highest level in two months.

According to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. on Tuesday reported 34,700 new cases of the virus. That’s more than on any single day since the outbreak began with the exception of April 9, when 34,800 cases were reported, and April 24, when a record 36,400 cases were reported.

New cases in the U.S. have been surging for more than a week, after they had been trending down for more than six weeks.

While early hot spots like New York and New Jersey have seen cases steadily decrease, the virus has been hitting the south and west. Several states on Tuesday set single-day records, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas.

Daily death rate climbs in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has recorded its highest daily death toll from the coronavirus: 111.

More than 2,100 people have died in the country that makes up nearly one-third of the virus cases across Africa with more than 106,000.

South Africa on Wednesday will begin vaccinating people in the first vaccine trial for COVID-19 on the continent, while the World Health Organization chief joins the African Centers for Disease Control for a conference to discuss the race for a vaccine.

Africa now has nearly 325,000 virus cases as countries loosen restrictions under economic pressure from citizens who say they have to feed their families.

Shortages of testing materials and medical supplies remain a problem as Africa could become the world’s next hot spot.

Cases climb in India, recovery rate improves

NEW DELHI — India has recorded the highest spike of 15,968 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total to to 456,183, with Mumbai and New Delhi as the worst-hit cities in the country.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported a record 24-hour increase of 465 deaths due to COVID-19, driving fatalities to 14,476.

The ministry said the recovery rate was continuing to improve at 56.38%.

The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons, such as limited testing.

Maharashtra, New Delhi and Tamil Nadu states are the worst-hit states, accounting for nearly 60% of all cases in the country.

New Delhi is emerging a cause of concern for the federal government and is being criticized for its poor contact tracing and a lack of hospital beds. With infections in New Delhi set to surge, the government estimates it will have nearly 550,000 cases by the end of July.

India is the fourth hardest-hit country by the pandemic in the world after the U.S., Brazil and Russia.

Upward trend of virus in South Korea continues

SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea has reported 51 additional cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, a continuation of an upward trend in new infections.

The figures released Wednesday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the country’s total to 12,535 with 281 deaths.

It says 10,930 of them have recovered while 1,324 people remain in treatment for the COVID-19 illness.

South Korea has been reporting roughly 40-50 cases every day over the past two weeks amid increased public activity and eased attitudes on social distancing. There has also been an uptick in imported cases.

The KCDC says 20 of the 51 newly reported cases came from overseas while 31 patients were infected locally.

Australia records its first death from virus in a month

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia has recorded its first death from COVID-19 in a month, increasing the national toll from the new coronavirus to 103.

Authorities in Victoria state say a man in his 80s died overnight, lifting the state’s total to 20.

It comes as the state recorded double-digit increase in cases for an eighth consecutive day, with 20 new cases confirmed on Wednesday. There have been more than 7,500 infections in Australia.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews on the weekend said large family gatherings had been the catalyst for the virus taking off again in some areas after lockdown rules were eased.

Nine of the state’s new cases on Wednesday were identified through routine testing, seven were linked to known outbreaks, one was a returned traveler in hotel quarantine and three cases remained under investigation.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says 241 cases in the state have been identified as community transmission, an increase of eight since Tuesday.

Hundreds of young Trump supporters crowd megachurch, most without masks

PHOENIX — Hundreds of young supporters of President Donald Trump packed a megachurch for a Students for Trump event.

Ahead of Tuesday’s event, the Democratic mayor of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, made clear that she did not believe the speech could be safely held in her city — and urged the president to wear a face mask.

But only a smattering of attendees — young conservatives from around the country — wore masks and there was little room for the participants to practice social distancing.

Mexico says pandemic has stabilized but posts another record one-day increase in virus cases

MEXICO CITY — Mexico has posted another record one-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases, with 6,288, while 793 more deaths have been reported.

The Health Department on Tuesday said Mexico now has seen 191,410 cases and 23,377 deaths from COVID-19. Officials acknowledge both are undercounts due to extremely low testing rates. Mexico has performed only about half a million tests, or about one for every 250 inhabitants.

Officials claim the pandemic has stabilized and may have even started a downward trend this week, but they have made that claim several times before.

Mexico has also had an extremely high rate of infections among health care professionals. About 39,000 of the country’s confirmed cases are health care workers, about 20% of the total. There have been 584 deaths among doctors, nurses, technicians and hospital workers.

 


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