WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday chose to delay New Zealand’s national elections by four weeks as the country deals with a new coronavirus outbreak in its largest city, Auckland.

The election had been scheduled for Sept. 19 but will now be held on Oct. 17. Under New Zealand law, Ardern had the option of delaying the election for up to about two months.

Opposition parties had been requesting a delay after the virus outbreak in Auckland last week prompted the government to put the city into a two-week lockdown and halted election campaigning. Ardern said she wouldn’t consider delaying the election again, no matter what was happening with any virus outbreaks.

Opinion polling indicates Ardern’s liberal Labour Party is favored to win a second term in office.

First Mediterranean cruise sets sail

ROME — Cruise ship passengers had their temperatures checked and took COVID-19 tests Sunday so they could set sail on what is being billed as the first Mediterranean cruise after Italy’s pandemic lockdown.

The cruise ship company MSC has made the procedures, for crew as well as passengers, part of its new health and safety protocols. The MSC Grandiosa, which was christened last year, set sail from the northern Italian port of Genoa on Sunday evening for a seven-night cruise in the western Mediterranean.

Any one testing positive, or with a fever, or having other COVID-19 symptoms was denied boarding, the company said. Guest must wear face masks in elevators and other areas where social distancing is not possible. The crew spent time in quarantine before the start of the cruise.

Earlier this month, the Italian government gave its approval for cruise ships to once again depart from Italy’s ports but limited cruise ships to sailing with 70 percent capacity.

MSC declined to say how many passengers were sailing on this cruise. Among the port calls for the Grandiosa, MSC’s flagship, are Naples, Palermo, Sicily and Valletta, Malta.

Georgia governor allows local mask mandates

ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor, who has opposed local mask mandates and even sued over one in Atlanta, has signed a new executive order that allows local governments to enact mask requirements to help fight the pandemic.

As with previous orders, the one issued Saturday says residents and visitors of the state are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings when they are outside of their homes, except when eating, drinking or exercising outside. But unlike previous orders, this one allows local governments in counties that have reached a “threshold requirement” to require the wearing of masks on government-owned property.

A county meets that threshold requirement if it has had 100 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days. Only two of Georgia’s 159 counties were below that threshold, according to data from the state Department of Public Health.

Brian Kemp

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is allowing local governments to enact mask requirements to help fight the coronavirus. John Bazemore/Associated Press

Local mask mandates cannot result in fines, fees or penalties against private businesses or organizations, and penalties against individuals for non-compliance cannot included a fine greater than $50 and cannot include prison time, the order says. If people are not in compliance, local authorities must warn them “about the health risks posed by not wearing a face mask or face covering” prior to issuing a citation.

Local mask requirements can’t be enforced on residential property and can only be enforced on private property, including businesses, if the owner or occupant consents to enforcement, the order says.

Florida reports lowest case increase in a month, worst week for fatalities

ORLANDO, Fla.— The Florida Department of Health reported 3,779 new coronavirus cases and 107 new resident fatalities Sunday, bringing the statewide case total to 573,416 and the resident death toll to 9,452.

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A sign urging people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus is posted in Florida. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

With 135 nonresidents, the combined toll is 9,587.

From Sunday to Sunday, Florida saw 1,266 newly reported deaths, along with 40,610 cases and 3,423 hospitalizations, according to state health department data.

In comparison, the week ending August 9 saw 1,102 deaths, 45,674 new cases, and 3,355 new hospitalizations reported.

The report shows the highest weekly increase in reported deaths, compared to the week ending Aug. 2, which saw 1,230 deaths. There is a lag time between the date of death and date it is announced.

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Vacationers arriving in Rome get virus tests

ROME — Vacationers arriving in Rome from four Mediterranean countries lined up with their suitcases at Leonardo da Vinci airport to be immediately tested for the new coronavirus on Sunday.

Last week, Italy’s health minister issued an ordinance requiring the tests for all travelers arriving in Italy from Croatia, Greece, Malta or Spain.

Travelers have the option of being tested instead within 48 hours of arrival at local public health offices closer to their home or destination in Italy.

Vacationers coming from abroad are fueling an increase in new coronavirus infections in Italy in recent weeks. On Saturday, the daily caseload of new infections topped 600 for the first time since May.

Alessio D’Amato, health commissioner for Lazio, the region including Rome, said at the airport that concern was mounting about the rising number of infections, especially since school resumes in Italy on Sept. 14, for the first time since the pandemic began.

NCAA’s top doctor: COVID-19 testing needs to improve to play

The NCAA’s chief medical officer says there is a narrow path to playing college sports during the coronavirus pandemic and if testing nationwide does not improve, it cannot be done.

Dr. Brian Hainline told CNN late Saturday that “everything would have to line up perfectly” for college sports to be played this fall. Much of the fall college sports season has been canceled, with conferences hoping to make up competitions, including football, in the spring.

But not everyone has accepted those decisions.

On Sunday morning, Big Ten football players continued to push the conference to overturn its cancellation of the fall season. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth and other players posted on Twitter an online petition requesting the Big Ten reinstate the schedule the conference released six days before it pulled the plug.

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Michigan marks 100K coronavirus cases in 5 months. Experts warn they’ll see at least 100K more

DETROIT — Michigan quietly surpassed 100,000 novel coronavirus cases — when both confirmed and probable cases totaled 100,724 on Friday, five months into the pandemic.

Using that metric, at least 6,500 people have died of COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported — a number higher than those who died in the 9/11 terror attacks and the attack on Pearl Harbor combined.

There have been more cases in the Great Lakes State than in dozens of nations with higher populations — including China, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands and Egypt.

Still, by most measures, Michigan has managed to contain the spread better than many other states in a country that leads the world with 5.3 million cases and more than 168,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Global Case Tracker.

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Bavarian officials still trying to contact people who tested positive

BERLIN — Bavarian authorities said Sunday they’re still haven’t been able to contact 46 of more than 900 people who tested positive for the new coronavirus upon entering Germany recently, but didn’t receive the results.

The southern German state admitted last week that tens of thousands of travelers returning back home had to wait for weeks to receive their test results — among them the more than 900 who had tested positive but were not aware of it because of the missing results.

The bureaucratic breakdown led to an uproar in Germany over concerns that those who tested positive but were not aware of it could spread the virus to others.

The Bavarian state government said the long delays in getting the results were linked to problems with the software and an unexpectedly high number of people wanting to be tested at newly established test centers, primarily at highway rest stops near the country’s southern borders.

On Saturday, authorities in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate said there had been delays in informing people of their test results in the southwestern state. However, the authorities there were at least able to contact all those who tested positive immediately, the German news agency dpa reported.

French government now pushing for tighter mask use

PARIS — After France recorded its highest one-day rise in virus infections since May, the government is pushing for wider mask use and tighter protections for migrant workers and in slaughterhouses.

But France still plans to reopen schools nationwide in two weeks, and the labor minister says the government is determined to avoid a new nationwide lockdown that would further hobble the economy and threaten jobs.

France’s infection count has resurged in recent weeks, blamed in part on people criss-crossing the country for weddings, family gatherings or annual summer vacations with friends. Britain re-imposed quarantine measures Saturday for vacationers returning from France as a result.

France reported 3,310 new infections in a single day Saturday, and the rate of positive tests has been growing and is now at 2.6%. The daily case count was down to several hundred a day for two months, but started rising again in July. Overall France has reported more than 30,400 virus-related deaths, among the world’s highest tolls.

Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne said in an interview published Sunday with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that the government wants to expand mask use in workplaces.

“We must avoid new confinement at any cost,” she said.

Auckland back in lockdown after small outbreak

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Health authorities reported 13 new cases of the coronavirus in New Zealand on Sunday, including 12 linked to an outbreak in the city of Auckland and one returning traveler who was already in quarantine.

The outbreak in Auckland, discovered Tuesday, has prompted officials to put the nation’s largest city back into a two-week lockdown.

The outbreak has now grown to 49 infections, with authorities saying they believe all the cases are all connected, giving them hope the virus isn’t spreading beyond that cluster.

New Zealand had gone 102 days without community spread of the disease before the latest outbreak. Officials believe the virus was reintroduced to New Zealand from abroad but haven’t yet been able to figure out how it happened.

Hawaiian airport completes thermal screening

KAHULUI, Hawaii — Kahului Airport on Maui has completed its second phase of its thermal screening project meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The screening uses thermal imaging and facial recognition technology to pinpoint people with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher.

Dual lens cameras have been installed at all arrival gates and TSA checkpoints in the airport.

The Maui News reports that when phase three is completed, the cameras will be able to track travelers with high body temperatures so contact tracers can stop and screen them before they leave the airport.

Dr. Birx uses Kansas stop to urge citizens to wear masks

KANSAS CITY — Trump’s top coronavirus adviser used a visit to Kansas to urge people to wear masks regardless of where they live.

“What’s really important for every Kansan to understand is that this epidemic that we have been seeing this summer is both urban and rural,” Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force said Saturday. “So we are really asking all communities, whether you are urban or rural communities, to really wear a mask inside, outside, every day.”

She also stressed that people should socially distance and not have gatherings while in Kansas City, Kansas, for a meeting with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, as well as community and state health officials at KU Medical Center, The Kansas City Star reports.

“You can’t tell who’s infected,” Birx said. “Much of the spread is asymptomatic. I know we all want to believe that our family members cannot be positive. They are.”

Birx said when communities start seeing a rise in positive cases, leaders need to close the bars, restrict indoor dining, decrease social gatherings and ensure there’s a mask mandate.

“We have been doing that across the South and we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in cases where the population has followed those guidelines,” she said.

Texas death toll nears 10,000

AUSTIN, Texas — The death toll in Texas from the coronavirus inched nearer to 10,000 on Saturday, with 238 deaths bringing the total to 9,840.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the number of reported cases increased by 8,245 to 528,838.

Health officials said Saturday that 6,481 people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, were hospitalized.

The number of hospitalizations has been decreasing since peaking in July at 10,893, and the number of newly reported cases is shrinking. But the virus is still spreading geographically.

Manhattan’s light display marking 9/ll back on

NEW YORK — New York’s annual light display honoring victims of 9/11 is back on, officials announced Saturday. They say health officials will supervise this year’s tribute to ensure workers’ safety amid concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that it is especially important this year to commemorate the lives lost and heroism displayed in the Sept. 11 attacks “as New Yorkers are once again called upon to face a common enemy.”

The announcement came days after the National September 11 Memorial & Museum canceled the Tribute in Light over concerns the coronavirus might spread among crews creating twin columns of light to represent the World Trade Center in the Manhattan sky.

Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, thanked former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Cuomo and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation “for their assistance in offsetting the increased costs associated with the health and safety considerations around the tribute this year.”

“This year, its message of hope, endurance and resilience are more important than ever,” she said in a statement.

Arizona reports 933 new cases, 69 deaths

PHOENIX — Arizona reported 933 confirmed coronavirus cases and 69 deaths on Saturday.

That increases the state’s totals to more than 192,000 cases and 4,492 deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases decreased from 2,550 to 1,021 per day from July 30 to Aug. 13. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths decreased from 94 to 54 in the same time period.

The latest COVID-19-related hospitalization numbers posted by the state Department of Health Services were at levels last seen in early June.

The COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Arizona peaked about a month ago following Gov. Doug Ducey’s lifting of stay-home orders in May. Ducey re-imposed some restrictions and allowed local governments to impose mask requirements in late June.

South Africa lifts ban on cigarette, alcohol sales

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is lifting its month-long ban on cigarette sales and will allow limited alcohol sales.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the country has passed the peak of coronavirus infections and a “ray of light is visible now on the horizon.”

The loosening of the lockdown on Monday will remove nearly all restrictions on economic activity, including the hospitality industry, and allow inter-provincial travel. But international travel restrictions are still in place and gatherings of more than 50 people are still banned.

South Africa has the world’s fifth-largest virus caseload with more than 583,000. The health ministry announced Saturday a total of more than 11,600 confirmed deaths.

Ramaphosa says in the past three weeks, confirmed cases have dropped from more than 12,000 a day to around 5,000. The president acknowledged the hardship of the lockdown and warned South Africans not to be complacent because of asymptomatic spread, when people don’t realize they have the virus.

Operations ongoing at nuclear waste repository despite outbreak

CARLSBAD, N.M. — Managers of the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico say operations are ongoing despite a recent increase in coronavirus cases among workers.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has had cases among employees and contract workers more than double in the last week. This week, the plant announced four new cases among employees of Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor hired to oversee daily operations at the facility.

The plant is in the second phase of resuming normal operations.

Alabama high schools cut fans at football games

OPELIKA, Ala. — Alabama high schools are limiting attendance at football games this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Opelika High School says it will cap attendance at about 30% of the stadium capacity of 8,000 so fans can maintain proper social distancing. Gulf Shores says attendance at athletic events will be cut by 50%.

Other schools are announcing attendance reductions or still working on plans. Some are skipping fall sports. The first football games are scheduled for this week, although some schools have delayed games after players or staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

The seven-day average number of daily cases in Alabama has dropped below 1,000, after reaching 1,800 in mid-July. The number of hospitalized patients has lessened from about 1,600 to 1,400, and the percent of positive tests has gone from 16.7% to 12.3%.

However, Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who heads the Alabama Hospital Association, says 89% of ICU beds are full.

Nearly half a million cited for not obeying lockdown in Italy

ROME — Some 455,000 people in Italy received citations or fines for not obeying early lockdown rules, according to Italian Interior Ministry figures released Saturday.

The government imposed a nationwide lockdown in a bid to slow the coronavirus on March 11. Citizens could go out for essential work or food shopping in a country that became the epicenter of the virus in Europe.

Authorities says they cited 1,117 people for violating quarantine through July 31. The numbers of cases and deaths have dramatically decreased since the peak in Italy.

Italy currently has 252,809 known cases. More than 35,000 people have died, sixth highest in the world.

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