NEW YORK — ST. LOUIS — More Missouri counties in the region around St. Louis are imposing mandates requiring the use of face masks as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge.

The move comes amid an unsuccessful campaign by health officials in that area to get Gov. Mike Parson to require masks statewide.

Jefferson County, just south of St. Louis, is the latest to adopt a mask mandate. Neighboring Franklin County passed a mask order last week, and Boone County adopted a similar requirement earlier this week. Also this week, St. Charles County officials ordered an 11 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants.

On Thursday, state officials reported 4,471 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 287,263. Since the pandemic started, 3,808 people have died of COVID-19.

 

Mask mandate spurs Idaho official to push back

SANDPOINT, Idaho — A county commissioner in northern Idaho has proposed defunding the local health district after the district instituted a mask mandate to slow the spread of the coronavirus as it surges in the area.

The Bonner County Dailey reports that Bonner County Commissioner Steven Bradshaw proposed the resolution this week to pull about $250,000 from the Panhandle Health District.

Commission Chairman Dan McDonald said the resolution will have to be placed on the agenda before it can be considered at next week’s meeting.

The health district ordered the mask mandate on Nov. 19.

Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler says his agency won’t enforce it.

The Panhandle Health District covers five northern Idaho counties. The district reports the area has more than 9,000 virus cases and 106 deaths. The district reported 185 new cases on Wednesday, and that 74 people were hospitalized in the district due to the virus.

Alaska hospital serving Native peoples is over capacity

BETHEL, Alaska — The Alaska Native Medical Center, which specializes in health care for Alaska Native and American Indian people in the state, says it is now over capacity with coronavirus patients.

The center says it had to open an alternate care site to handle overflow.

The hospital’s Acting Administrator Dr. Robert Onders said during a virtual town hall on Monday that the critical care unit is so flooded that it cannot hold all the hospital’s most seriously ill patients.

About 20% of coronavirus patients at the hospital require critical care. Onders said he expects the hospital’s situation to worsen.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region had the highest coronavirus case rate in the state as of Tuesday with about 273 cases per 100,000 people across the region on Tuesday.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation had urged earlier this month for every community in the region to shelter-in-place for a month in response to a spike in virus cases.

Coroner in Nevada warns of inability to treat sick, store dead

RENO, Nev. — The coroner in Reno fears the recent explosion of coronavirus cases in Nevada could soon overtake not only the ability to treat the sick, but also store the dead.

COVID-19 is now spreading so fast statewide that someone is confirmed to have contracted it every minute and someone else is dying from it about every two hours.

The Reno-Sparks area has recorded 59 COVID-19 deaths the last 30 days — half of those this past week.

If the current trend continues, Washoe County Medical Examiner Laura Knight says the death rate could potentially double over the next two to three weeks, and double again by early January.

Gov. Steve Sisolak has been most concerned about statewide hospitalizations, which set another record Wednesday with 1,414 COVID-19 patients. Health officials said it’s enough people to fill nine commercial airliners.

French official warns distancing, masking must continue after vaccinations start

PARIS — France’s health minister says his country is readying to start administering COVID-19 vaccines in late December. But Olivier Veran is warning Thursday that people will still have to wear masks and keep their distance even after vaccines are widely available.

Veran said he can’t say yet whether mass vaccination “will allow us to get rid of this virus and totally return to our past lives,” because it’s not clear exactly how long protection from the eventual vaccines will last.

Noting broad skepticism in France about vaccine safety, he promised transparency about vaccination policy and to release plans soon on who will get the vaccine first and how.

President Emmanuel Macron has said France will not make COVID vaccines mandatory.

The government laid out details Thursday of a gradual easing of its monthlong virus lockdown and announced hundreds of millions of euros in new aid for struggling workers and students and businesses forced to close.

French authorities are also increasing efforts to counteract the mental health consequences of the second lockdown and protracted pandemic. The prime minister said a government hotline for psychological help is now receiving 20,000 calls a day.

France leads Europe in numbers of confirmed virus infections, and has reported 50,618 virus-related deaths.

Italian officials say numbers dropping at overtaxed hospitals

ROME — Italian health officials say the number of coronavirus patients both in intensive care and regular care beds has dropped. It’s an encouraging sign for Italy’s overtaxed hospitals during the surge in cases.

According to Health Ministry figures, 34,038 people in the country of more than 60 million were hospitalized in non-ICU beds Thursday, down 275 from Wednesday.

There were 3,846 ICU patients, two fewer than on the previous day.

Italy has been registering several hundred COVID-19 deaths daily since early November. Experts say the high numbers will likely continue for several more days, even as the rate of transmission of infections has been gradually slowing.

On Thursday, 822 additional deaths were registered, raising to 52,850 the total of known deaths in Italy in the pandemic.

Although some 2,700 more swab tests were performed compared to the previous 24-hour period, the number of persons testing positive jumped by more than 3,000 Thursday.

With 29,003 new confirmed cases, Italy surpassed the 1.5 million mark in the pandemic Thursday, reaching 1,509,875.

WHO warns against sedentary lifestyles brought on by pandemic

GENEVA — The World Health Organization says people need to get more active, warning that up to 5 million deaths worldwide could be avoided each year if people were. That’s despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.N. health agency, launching updated guidelines on sedentary behavior Thursday, is pointing to figures that one in four adults don’t get enough physical activity — a situation complicated by the COVID-19 crisis that has shut many people indoors.

The agency recommends at least 2 1/2 hours of “moderate to vigorous aerobic activity” for adults per week, and an hour per day for kids and teens.

A lack of physical activity leads to extra health care costs of $54 billion per year, plus another $14 billion in lost productivity, the Geneva-based WHO said.

Croatia closing bars and restaurants

ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia’s government is closing down bars and restaurants and further limiting any gatherings in a bid to curb a surge in new coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Thursday announced the new set of measures that will take effect this upcoming weekend and last until Dec. 21 when the authorities will review them.

Plenkovic said the government has tried to maintain normal functioning during the second wave of the pandemic but that a rise in new cases has forced stricter measures. The country of 4.2 million on Thursday reported a record 4,009 new infections, while 51 people have died in the last 24 hours.

The new rules include a ban on more than 25 people in public gatherings and ten on private occasions. Weddings are banned and funerals can have no more than 25 people and no close contact.

While bars and restaurants will be closed, food delivery is allowed and cultural events can be held only with respect of gathering limits. The church is advised to broadcast religious ceremonies or respect epidemiological advise and only 40% capacity in public transport can be filled.

Serbia records new surge in cases

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia is registering a major surge in new coronavirus cases as health authorities warn that hospitals are running out of beds for patients.

Authorities on Thursday confirmed 7,606 new cases in the last 24 hours, a record for the Balkan country of 7 million people. They said 51 people died.

Epidemiologists have warned that the government was late in adopting a series of restrictive measures. Politicians are blaming the unprecedented surge on people failing to comply with the restrictions.

Serbia has so far registered about 150,000 COVID-19 cases and over 1,300 deaths.

Indian capital considers nighttime curfew

NEW DELHI — India’s capital New Delhi is considering a nighttime curfew amid the latest coronavirus surge that has battered the city’s healthcare system and overwhelmed its hospitals.

The New Delhi government on Thursday told this to a court that had questioned the administration on the measures being taken to control the spike in daily cases.

The court was hearing a plea seeking to ramp up COVID-19 testing facilities in the capital, which is recording the most number of cases from any state in India for the last three weeks and more than 100 fatalities on an average every day for two consecutive weeks.

India’s new overall infections have declined steadily after peaking in mid-September, but the situation in the capital remains worrying.

The surge in the national capital had started at the end of October and reached record highs this month. On Nov. 11, the city saw 8,593 new cases, an all-time high.

According to the official data, New Delhi has recorded almost 2,300 deaths due to coronavirus in the last month.

India has recorded 9.26 million cases of coronavirus, second behind the U.S. More than 135,00 Indians have died because of the virus so far.

English citizens will still face tight restrictions after lockdown ends

LONDON — Most people in England will continue to face tight restrictions on socializing and business after a nationwide lockdown ends next week.

The government announced details Thursday of the three-level regional measures that will take effect Dec. 2. Only three remote and island areas are in the lowest tier, where pubs and restaurants can open almost as normal and members of different households can meet up indoors.

London, with more than 8 million people, is in the middle level, where most shops, restaurants and leisure businesses can open with restrictions.

A huge chunk of central and northern England, including the cities of Birmingham and Manchester, will be placed in the top tier, where pubs and restaurants can only serve takeout and delivery, and leisure venues such as cinemas and bowling alleys must stay closed.

The government imposed a four-week lockdown in England early this month to curb an autumn surge in coronavirus cases, with travel restricted and non-essential businesses closed. The government’s statistics office says the infection rate appears to have leveled off, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “we must remain vigilant.”

Greece extends current lockdown measures

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s government spokesman says the country is extending its current lockdown measures, which had been due to expire at the end of the month, until Dec. 7.

Stelios Petsas said Thursday the extension in restrictions were necessary due to the continued spread of the virus, which was of particular concern in certain parts of the country, mainly in north.

Under the lockdown restrictions, all retail stores, bars, restaurants, museums, entertainment venues and gyms are closed. People are only allowed to leave home for specific reasons, including work, health reasons, to buy essential goods, to exercise or walk a pet, and must send a telephone text message or carrying a self-declaration to do so.

However, there are no restrictions on how many times a day people can leave their homes, or for how long.

Greece currently has more than 97,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and just over 1,900 deaths in this country of 11 million. Nearly 600 people are intubated in ICUs nationwide, according to figures released Wednesday evening.

Germany records 15,000th death from virus

BERLIN — Germany has passed the grim milestone of more than 15,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

The Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control center, said Thursday that another 389 deaths were recorded overnight, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 15,160.

Germany has seen 983,588 total cases of the coronavirus after adding 22,368 overnight, the agency said.

Germany embarked on a so-called “wave-breaker” shutdown on Nov. 2, closing restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities but leaving schools, shops and hair salons open.

It was initially slated to last four weeks but Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors agreed late Wednesday to extend it through Dec. 20 with a goal of pushing the number of new coronavirus cases in each region below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants per week. It’s currently at 140 per 100,000.

Merkel said that while existing measures have succeeded in halting an surge in new coronavirus infections, they have stabilized at a high level.

Russia records record deaths for third straight day

MOSCOW — Russian authorities have reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for a third straight day.

The government coronavirus task force registered 524 new deaths on Thursday, the highest daily toll in the pandemic. Previous records of 507 and 491 deaths were reported on Wednesday and Tuesday. A total of 38,062 people have died of coronavirus in Russia, according to the task force.

Russia has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths hitting new highs almost daily and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. On Thursday, officials reported 25,487 new infections, another record number.

The country’s authorities have rejected the idea of another nationwide lockdown or widespread closure of businesses, leaving it to regional governments to impose their own measures. In most, those don’t go beyond mask mandates, limiting the hours of bars and restaurants, ordering the elderly to self-isolate, forbidding mass public events and requiring employers to have some staff work from home.

On Thursday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin extended requirements for the elderly to self-isolate and for employers to have 30% of their staff work from home until Jan. 15.


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