The Latest: China eases restrictions on domestic tourism

By The Associated Press | Wed, July 15, 2020 12:12 EDT

BEIJING — China is further easing restrictions on domestic tourism after reporting no new local cases of COVID-19 in nine days.

A directive from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism dated Tuesday said that tourist sites should allow 50 percent of their daily visitor capacity, up from 30 percent, and that interprovince group tours should be resumed.

The National Health Commission said that six new cases were recorded Tuesday, all in people who had arrived from overseas. It has not reported any domestic cases since an outbreak in Beijing that infected more than 330 people before it faded early this month.

China has reported 83,611 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths since the outbreak began. It does not include people who test positive but show no symptoms in its case count.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— France aims to open schools by new academic year

— South Africa exceeds UK in number of confirmed coronavirus cases

— Arizona reports all-time high in coronavirus hospitalizations

— France, England make masks mandatory in most places

— No Olympics, no awards shows, no weddings, no summer camp, no graduations. The coronavirus pandemic has brought change to almost every part of life.

— A Montana memory care facility didn’t carry out free coronavirus testing on its residents. Now its reeling from an outbreak that's infected nearly all the residents.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The leader of Australia’s worst-hit state says police were cracking down on a coronavirus lockdown in the nation’s second-largest city.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday warned that restrictions would be increased unless the spread was contained in Melbourne.

“If ... people do not do the right thing, then we will have to move to additional restrictions being put in place and we will have to prolong the period that those restrictions are in place,” Andrews said.

The Australian military is bolstering police numbers at checkpoints. Police were scanning license plates to determine drivers’ addresses and whether they were subjected to stay-at-home orders.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said 238 new cases detected in the latest 24-hour period could be the start of a stabilization in the spread since Melbourne and part of its surrounds were last week locked down for a second time for six weeks.

Sutton did not know whether new restrictions would likely entail spreading existing rules beyond Melbourne or tightening existing restrictions in Melbourne.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday outlined her government plans to contain future community outbreaks in New Zealand.

The South Pacific nation has not recorded a community spread virus case in 75 days. Its two new cases recorded Wednesday and all 27 of its active cases are people quarantined after foreign travel.

Ardern said a system of local or regional lockdowns would be used if community spread occurs and a national lockdown would only be considered as a last resort. Local lockdowns might involve buildings, suburbs or a city.

“Our priority will be to control any cases with the least intrusive measures and over the smallest area we can,” Ardern said. “No one wants to go backwards but the reality is our fight against the virus is not over and we must have a plan at the ready to protect our current position if it comes back.”

Since New Zealand stopped community spread and lifted its lockdown, life has returned largely to normal with schools, bars and restaurants all open and with packed stadiums at sports events.

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SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico health officials are reporting an additional 227 COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to more than 15,500 since the coronavirus outbreak began.

The latest figures released Tuesday show Bernalillo County, which includes the state’s most populous metro area, added another 65 confirmed cases.

Health officials also reported three additional deaths, bringing that total to 551. Those deaths include a McKinley County man and San Juan County woman, both in the their 30s, who had underlying conditions.

New Mexico has been added to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut’s quarantine list because it’s among those states with growing infection rates.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas voters have returned to the polls as the state reports a record number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in a single day.

The short ballot of primary runoff elections Tuesday included a big race to determine Texas’ Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. In San Antonio, elections officials say they were unable to staff a handful of polling locations because some poll workers feared getting the virus.

Texas reported nearly 10,800 new cases and 87 new deaths. The rate of positive cases also climbed to nearly 17%, which was also a new high.

Primary runoff elections are typically low turnout in Texas. Election officials in many of the state’s big cities reported short lines, and some equipped polling places with social distancing measures and disposable gloves for voters to use.

The primary runoff in Texas was originally set for May but pushed back because of concerns over the virus.

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan officials say new coronavirus cases have surpassed 10,000 nationwide, with an alarming number of recent illnesses found in the capital of Caracas.

President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday ordered strict enforcement of quarantine measures in Caracas where most of the 303 new daily cases were diagnosed.

Venezuela has been in a nationwide quarantine for 121 days starting shortly after the first cases were diagnosed in mid-March. Officials report fewer than 100 deaths.

The South American nation hasn’t been overrun by the virus like neighboring Brazil and Ecuador, which experts attribute to the Venezuela’s isolation after years of economic and social crisis.

Maduro doesn’t consider Caracas a focal point, but he says the recent surge in the capital and neighboring state of Miranda has “set off an alarm.”

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah tallied 10 more confirmed deaths from the coronavirus Tuesday, the latest sign showing the severity of a surge of case that began after businesses reopened in May.

The Utah Health Department reported that six of the deaths came in rural San Juan County in the southeast corner of the state, including three at an assisted living facility.

Utah has now recorded 226 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and nearly 30,500 confirmed cases.

Case counts have more than doubled since mid-May when state leaders allowed some businesses to reopen, with an average of 636 per day over the last seven days.

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LAS VEGAS -- Nevada officials say a record high in the daily number of positive COVID-19 tests in the state may be the result of people failing to wear masks and keep distances apart during the Independence Day holiday.

State coronavirus response chief Caleb Cage said Tuesday a resurgence in hospitalizations continues less than a week after Gov. Steve Sisolak cited a spike in cases and again closed bars and restaurants in the Las Vegas and Reno areas.

The more than 1,100 new cases reported statewide on Tuesday brings the total to nearly 30,000. Cage blamed the Fourth of July weekend.

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Public Schools has set a tentative Sept. 14 start date for the 2020-21 academic year, but the state’s largest district will only have students attend in-person classes two days per week, if at all.

Students and families should be ready to go online beginning Sept. 2, as teachers will offer individual consultations and technology checks, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Under the proposed reopening plan, educators will spend two weeks training in how to use online learning tools and helping students and their families adjust to long-term distance learning.

Portland Public Schools is also developing a full-time distance learning program for families who opt to keep their children home. District officials say all students may need to move back to digital learning if coronavirus cases spike.

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WASHINGTON-- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, offered encouragement--tinged by firsthand experience--to young people on doing their part in separating politics from science as they navigate life in the age of coronavirus.

“Do your thing, and don’t get involved in any of the political nonsense, that’s a waste of time, and a distraction,” Fauci advised students during a virtual forum Tuesday, hosted by Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative,

Fauci has been increasingly sidelined by the White House as he sounds alarms about the virus, a message that White House officials have become hostile to as President Donald Trump focuses on pushing an economic rebound.

Fauci, asked by a students how to separate politics from the science, said it’s very tough for young people to have an impact on depoliticization of the virus “except by not being part of the politicization.”

He added it was important that young people remind each other that in protecting oneself from the virus that “it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are--you’re Republican, Democrat, anybody else.”

BATON ROUGE, La. — The Trump administration has announced plans to provide point of care coronavirus testing in nursing homes across the country to help ease the burden on overwhelmed testing sites and avoid backlogged results.

Vice President Mike Pence announced the new testing initiative Tuesday during a visit to Louisiana.

U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma says the rapid response tests will be used for nursing home employees on a weekly basis as well as for some patient testing.

The administration estimated the effort would provide 4 million to 5 million tests per month. Officials said the tests will start rolling out next week at 2,000 nursing homes, including 17 located in Baton Rouge.

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada’s Clark County School District has received approval from the state Department of Education to delay the start of the school year until Aug. 24.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that district Superintendent Jesus Jara announced the scheduling change during a town hall event.

The remainder of the reopening strategy awaits approval by the state, which must review plans to restart classes using updated health regulations following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The reopening plan was conditionally approved by the Clark County School Board last week and will return to the board for further discussion if approved by the state. Clark County is the nation’s fifth-largest school district, serving 320,000 students in Las Vegas and neighboring communities.

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CHICAGO — People traveling from Iowa and Oklahoma to Chicago will have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival or face possible fines starting Friday.

Chicago first issued a quarantine order this month for 15 other states based on increasing numbers of confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The city updated the order Tuesday, bringing the total number of affected states to 17.

States are included based on the rate of new confirmed cases per 100,000 residents.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has surpassed the UK in its number of confirmed coronavirus cases. That’s according to a health ministry statement and data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

South Africa now has the world’s eighth highest number of confirmed cases with 298,292.

President Cyril Ramaphosa this week said the country is now “confronted by the gravest crisis in the history of our democracy.”

He said many more infections have gone undetected despite South Africa conducting more than 2.2 million tests, by far the most of any African country.

A strict lockdown delayed the surge in cases but it has been loosened under economic pressure.

South Africa grapples with the pandemic in the dead of winter, with temperatures in the epicenter, Gauteng province and Johannesburg, to drop below freezing overnight. That makes ventilation a challenge especially in small, crowded homes for the poor.

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RALEIGH — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has announced guidelines that will allow North Carolina K-12 schools to reopen at reduced in-classroom capacity but give parents and school districts the choice to have classes entirely online.

The guidelines from Cooper and the Department of Health and Human Services outlined on Tuesday allow in-person instruction if students and teachers wear face coverings and people remain six feet apart at school.

Districts were previously directed to prepare for three plans: entirely in-person classes, a hybrid of online and in-person learning and fully remote instruction. Cooper decided to go with the hybrid approach statewide, though districts could elect to implement fully remote instruction. In many cases, students are expected to rotate between in-person and online instruction in a given week.

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BOISE, Idaho — Healthcare leaders from the five biggest medical providers in southwestern Idaho are pleading for mask mandates across the state, saying it’s the best way to slow a rapid increase in coronavirus cases that will otherwise overwhelm hospitals.

The officials from St. Luke’s Health System, Saint Alphonsus Health System, Saltzer Health, Primary Health Medical Group and West Valley Medical Center also urged Idaho residents on Tuesday to push for mask mandates by calling government leaders.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little has so far been unswayed, though he has encouraged Idaho residents to wear masks.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Idaho has nearly doubled in the past two weeks, with more than 11,400 cases statewide on Tuesday according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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PHOENIX — Arizona reported 4,273 confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday and an all-time high in hospitalizations.

The state Department of Health Services says the statewide infection total is 128,097. On Monday, 3,517 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, with record numbers using ICU beds and ventilators.

There were 92 deaths reported Tuesday, increasing Arizona’s confirmed death total to 2,337. Only eight deaths were reported Monday, a day when generally few deaths are reported due to weekend reporting lags.

Arizona became a national coronavirus hotspot after Gov. Doug Ducey in May relaxed stay-at-home orders and other restrictions. Ducey since has closed gyms and bars and limited restaurant capacity. Many local governments have imposed mask requirements.

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ROME — Italy’s health minister has confirmed schools will reopen in September, with antibody tests for teachers, sample testing of students and a decision on masks before classes resume.

Minister Roberto Speranza says schools will reopen Sept. 14, adding Italy couldn’t consider its lockdown over until then. Unlike other European countries that sent children back to school in late spring, Italy has kept its schools closed since early March.

On Tuesday, Italy confirmed 114 more coronavirus cases and 13 deaths.

Recently, Italy blocked flights from 13 countries, including Bangladesh, where infections are surging.

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ATHENS, Greece — The Greece government has ruled out a new lockdown after a rise in reported coronavirus infections since opening its borders.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias says there are no plans for a lockdown, but local restrictions could be implemented.

On Tuesday, health authorities reported 58 new infections, with 34 from international visitors, and no new deaths. That brings the country’s overall number of confirmed infections to just under 3,900, and 193 deaths in a country of about 10 million.

Starting Wednesday, visitors from Britain can enter Greece. People arriving by road through the northern borders with other Balkan countries will need to provide negative coronavirus tests.

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ACCRA, Ghana — Officials say 55 high school students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at a boarding school in Ghana’s capital.

The Accra Girls Senior High School campus has been quarantined and angry parents have gathered outside to protest not seeing their children. Classes resumed June 22 for senior high school students and state media has confirmed cases at 10 schools, including the Accra Girls campus.

Education officials say the infection rates at the high schools are comparable to those for the general population.

Ghana has 139 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and testing has confirmed more than 25,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.

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