EL PASO, Texas — The Texas National Guard has sent a 36-member team to El Paso to assist morgues in the border region with the number of dead as a result of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Statewide, the Texas health department on Saturday reported a one-day high of 12,597 new virus cases, nearly 20,500 dead since the pandemic began and more than 8,200 virus hospitalizations.

“The Texas Military will provide us with the critical personnel to carry out our fatality management plan and we are very grateful to them for their ongoing support,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said late Friday when the deployment was announced.

The pandemic is blamed for 853 deaths in El Paso County, including more than 300 since October. Jail inmates are being paid to move bodies and county leaders are offering $27 an hour for morgue workers.

County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking for support for a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew in the county, said mortuaries are being overwhelmed. He wrote that the local medical examiner’s office reported that 234 bodies were being held at the main morgue and nine mobile morgues.

U.S. surpasses 12 million coronavirus cases

BALTIMORE — More than 12 million people in the U.S have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

The nation’s total number of confirmed cases reached 12.01 million on Saturday, six days after the number had reached 11 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Daily numbers of new U.S. cases are approaching 200,000, less than three weeks after hitting 100,000 for the first time. The record of 195,542 new cases on Friday was the latest of several recent daily highs.

Deaths rates are getting closer to the dire numbers seen in the spring. The U.S. daily death toll exceeded 2,000 on Thursday, the first time since early May. On Friday, 1,878 deaths were reported.

The U.S. leads the world with more than 255,000 dead.

Bidens says people should be able to attend religious services

WILMINGTON, Delaware — President-elect Joe Biden says all Americans should be able to attend religious services during the pandemic — as long as they do so safely.

Biden made the statement in response to a reporter’s shouted question as he was walking out of church Saturday evening in Delaware.

Specifically, Biden was asked whether all Americans should be able to attend religious services during the pandemic.

He responded, “Yes, safely.”

He did not answer a follow up question about whether indoor services should be allowed.

Some in-person church services across America have been closed as state leaders grapple with social distancing safeguards as the pandemic surges.

South Dakota at more than 50% positivity rate for weeks

PIERRE, South Dakota — Coronavirus infections are ravaging South Dakota, where more than half of tests have come back positive for weeks.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem won’t issue a mask mandate but suggests smaller gatherings “may be smarter this year.”

Some governors who for months echoed President Donald Trump’s criticism of measures to control the coronavirus are now relenting, including North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who recently ordered the use of masks statewide.

Republican and Democratic governors from several Midwestern states issued a joint video urging people to say home for Thanksgiving and wear masks to slow the spread of the virus until a vaccine is widely available.

Hospitals in many states are running out of beds and are short on nurses, including in the states where governors are reluctant to act.

“We know what will happen. We know that three to four weeks from Thanksgiving, we will see an exacerbation of the outbreaks,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

CDC scientists believe about 40% of infected people don’t have obvious symptoms but can still spread the virus.

The U.S. leads the world with 11.9 million cases and more than 254,000 deaths.

Italy hits nearly 35,000 new daily virus cases

ROME — Italy registered 34,767 new cases on Saturday, about 2,500 fewer than the previous day.

The government recently put the majority of Italy’s regions under new restrictions, including banning dining at cafes and restaurants in areas where the health care system risked collapse.

Italy has1.3 million total confirmed cases. With 692 more deaths, the known death toll reached 49,261.

Kansas launching campaign to encourage mask-wearing

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas will launch a media campaign to encourage more of its residents to wear masks.

The campaign comes months after the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature forced Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to accept that local officials would set pandemic restrictions. Kelly issued two mandates for people to wear masks in public, including one set to take effect Wednesday, but a law enacted in June allows each of the state’s 105 counties to opt out.

The state has set aside $1.5 million of its federal coronavirus relief funds for television, radio, print and social media ads promoting masks that are set to start before Thanksgiving and run through January or longer.

Kansas added an average of 2,718 per day over the seven-day period that ended Friday, with the state reaching a confirmed total of more than 134,000 cases. There’s been more than 1,400 confirmed deaths.

More than 3,000 hospitalized in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported Saturday there were 3,162 people hospitalized with coronavirus, the most since May.

A total of 661 coronavirus patients were in intensive care units. The trend in the 14-day rolling average of hospitalized patients per day had increased by nearly 1,900 since the end of September, the department says.

Officials noted again that most of the hospitalized patients and deaths occurred among those 65 or older.

Donald Trump Jr. doing ‘very well,’ president says

WASHINGTON — President Trump says his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is doing “very well” in quarantine after becoming infected with the coronavirus.

A spokesman for the younger Trump says he received the positive test result earlier this week, has no symptoms and has been quarantining and following the recommended medical guidelines.

President Trump tweeted Saturday that his son “is doing very well.” Trump Jr. is the latest member of the president’s family to become infected, after the president, first lady and their son Barron.

California implements 10 p.m. curfew

LOS ANGELES — California is enacting a nighttime curfew Saturday as spiking coronavirus cases threaten to overrun health care systems. The state’s largest county warned that a more drastic lockdown could be imminent.

The new restrictions say people should stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., except for essential errands. The curfew runs through Dec. 21 and covers 41 counties that contain most of the state’s population.

Authorities say the focus is on keeping people from social mixing and drinking — the kinds of activities blamed for causing coronavirus infections to soar after dipping only a few months ago.

Los Angeles County, the state’s largest with about 10 million people, could see a stricter lockdown as early as next week because of soaring cases and hospitalization levels. The county accounts for a quarter of the state’s 40 million residents, but it has about a third of the coronavirus cases and close to 40% of the deaths.

California had a record 13,000 new cases on Thursday and more than 1 million total confirmed cases. The state has 18,653 confirmed deaths, third in the nation behind New York (34,252) and Texas (20,751).

Russia reports yet another virus case record

MOSCOW — Russia on Saturday reported a new daily high in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

The national coronavirus taskforce said 24,822 new cases were recorded over the past day, the fourth time in a week that a new high has been tallied.

It said a record 467 people died of COVID-19.

The surge in infections is straining Russia’s vast but underfunded health care system, with many infected people reportedly forced to search for sparse hospital beds.

Overall, Russia has recorded more than 2,064,000 cases and 35,778 deaths.

Japan scales back travel, dining out campaigns as cases rise

TOKYO — Japan is scaling back on the government-backed “GoTo” campaign to encourage travel and dining out, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached a record for the third day straight on Saturday, at 2,418.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the decision at a government panel on coronavirus pandemic measures.

Stressing the need for “utmost caution,” he said the campaign’s travel discounts will no longer apply to hard-hit areas, and discounts on eating out will end temporarily.

Japan has never had a total lockdown. It has had fewer than 2,000 deaths so far related to the coronavirus. But worries have been growing about a spike in infections over the three-day weekend. Monday is Labor Thanksgiving, a national holiday.

India reports nearly 50,000 new cases in 24 hours

NEW DELHI — India has reported 46,232 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, with the situation particularly alarming in New Delhi.

Intensive care wards and the capital’s main crematorium are near capacity, and health officials this week found the prevalence of infections in markets much higher than expected. The city has added an average of 6,700 cases each day in recent weeks.

The next two weeks in the post-festival season, including celebrations for the Diwali holiday, are going to be important in determining which way the virus will go. The Health Ministry on Saturday also registered 564 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 132,726.

While the pace of new cases in the country of 1.3 billion appears to be slowing, experts have cautioned that official figures may be offering false hope since many infections are undetected.

The two states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have announced night curfews in at least in eight cities from Saturday. Northern Rajasthan state is also imposing restrictions on the assembly of more than four people during nighttime.

South Korea may reimpose strong social distancing restrictions

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 386 new cases of the coronavirus in a resurgence that could force authorities to reimpose stronger social distancing restrictions after easing them in October to spur a faltering economy.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the national caseload to 30,403, including 503 deaths.

More than 270 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health workers have struggled to track transmissions in schools, private tutoring academies and religious facilities.

Infections were also reported in other major cities including Busan, Daejeon, Gwangju and Asan.

South Korea has so far managed to weather its COVID-19 epidemic without major lockdowns, relying instead on an aggressive test-and-quarantine campaign and mask-wearing.

Officials eased distancing measures to the lowest level in October, which allowed high-risk venues such as nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and fans to return to professional sports.

But the Korean Society of Infectious Diseases said Friday that the country could be reporting more than 1,000 new infections a day in a week or two if social distancing measures aren’t effectively strengthened.

Washington governor announces $135 million in emergency money

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday announced $135 million in grants and loans to help businesses and workers hurt by new restrictions he imposed through mid-December.

Inslee said that businesses would be able to apply for the assistance to help blunt the impact of restrictions that took effect this week, including the closure of fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers and movie theaters, and the requirement that restaurants and bars to be limited to to-go service and outdoor dining.

The economic package also includes $20 million in rental assistance and $15 million in utility payment assistance for those with low income. All of the funding is part of federal coronavirus outbreak assistance funds distributed to states.

Wyoming governor announces new gathering limits

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has announced new limits on indoor and outdoor public gatherings. But he has not implemented a statewide mask mandate as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the state.

The Republican governor and state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said Thursday that public gatherings will be limited to 25 people or fewer without restrictions. Indoor gatherings will be limited to 25% capacity, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 50%.

The new order goes into effect Nov. 24. No statewide mask mandate was approved, though nearly all of the county health officers have called for one as virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have substantially increased in recent weeks.

Texas tops 8,000 hospitalized patients

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has surpassed 8,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time since a deadly summer surge, and doctors are amplifying pleas to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small.

Texas reported more than 11,700 new cases Friday, once again approaching record highs. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has ruled out shutdowns and says cities and counties need to enforce restrictions already on the books, including occupancy limits and face coverings.

The Texas Hospital Association is now appealing for families to keep holiday gatherings “very small” as doctors and nurses struggle to keep up with rising caseloads. The group says staff are “tired and emotionally drained” and worried about the health of their own families.

Former Sen. Al D’Amato hospitalized with virus

NEW YORK — Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato has been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The New York Post reported Friday that the New York Republican was being treated at a Long Island hospital.

“I’m weak but I feel good,” the 83-year-old told the newspaper in a phone interview. He said he had a light fever and congestion.

D’Amato said he started feeling unwell late last week, and didn’t know where he had gotten exposed to the virus. He said he had been mainly working from home, where he lives alone.

D’Amato served as one of the state’s senators in Congress from 1981 to 1999.

Kentucky reports almost 4,000 new cases

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Kentucky reported 3,825 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 20 more virus-related deaths Friday, as new restrictions went into effect aiming to slow the virus’s spread.

“Remember, your decisions are going to be what determines how many people live or die. Do your part,” Gov. Andy Beshear said, urging Kentuckians to follow the new requirements.

Starting Friday, private indoor gatherings are limited to two households, with a maximum of eight people. For roughly three weeks, bars and restaurants must close indoor dining, though they are permitted to continue curbside pickup, delivery and outdoor dining services.

Event venue capacity is limited to 25 people. Gym capacity is lowered to 33%, and group classes, team practices and competitions are prohibited. Beshear has also encouraged houses of worship to refrain from in-person services.

Judge allows ban on indoor dining to stand in Michigan

DETROIT — A judge on Friday declined to halt a three-week ban on indoor dining in Michigan that is one of the most recent coronavirus restrictions imposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

The state health department, meanwhile, reported a new daily high of confirmed COVID-19 cases, 9,779, and 53 additional deaths as the virus continued to spike.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo said a restraining order halting the indoor dining ban wouldn’t be appropriate, especially when the state hasn’t had a chance to respond to the lawsuit.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, which has thousands of members, is suing to try to stop the indoor dining ban that began Wednesday. The group said restaurants can take further steps to reduce coronavirus risk without cutting off customers.

The group said its members were being unfairly treated compared to other businesses. The judge, however, wasn’t swayed.

“Individuals who patronize the businesses that remain open can do so — and must do so — while wearing a face covering. … In contrast, individuals cannot eat or drink while wearing a mask,” Maloney said.

Maloney scheduled the next hearing for Nov. 30, nearly two weeks into the three-week ban.

Toronto to enter lockdown on Monday

TORONTO — Canada’s largest city is going back on lockdown.

The province of Ontario announced Friday Toronto and the surrounding Peel Region will go into lockdown on Monday.

Premier Doug Ford and health officials say they won’t allow indoor organized events or social gatherings except for members of the same household. Restaurants and bars will only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery. Retail will only be open for curbside pickup or delivery except for big box stores.

The stricter measures come as Ontario reports 1,418 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, including 393 in Toronto and 400 new cases in Peel Region.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says Ontario flattened the epidemic curve before and he’s confident it can be done again.


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