SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea is considering including religious facilities on the same list with nightclubs, hostess bars and karaoke rooms as “high risk” venues for the spread of COVID-19 following a slew of transmissions tied to church gatherings.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a virus meeting on Wednesday that more than 40% of the country’s newly confirmed infections over the previous three days have been traced back to places of worship.
He pleaded people to refrain from religious gatherings and criticized churches and other facilities for failing to implement proper preventive measures, such as requiring followers to wear masks and sit apart during services.
“If religious facilities continue to be an environment for infections by failing to implement anti-virus measures, it will be inevitable for the government to designate (them) as high-risk facilities and enforce strong restrictions,” Chung said.
High-risk facilities are advised to close or otherwise must enforce anti-virus measures, including distancing, temperature checks, keeping customer lists and requiring employees and visitors to wear masks. They are also required to register visitors with smartphone QR codes so they could be easily located when needed.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Experts say the pandemic is wreaking havoc in poor and war-torn nations.
— Virus cases worldwide hit 10 million and deaths have surpassed 500,000.
— UK PM Boris Johnson says the pandemic “has been a disaster” for Britain.
— Hunger stalks Yemen's children as pandemic hits Arab world's poorest nation.
— Nurses, doctors feel strain as virus races through Arizona.
— The pandemic means millions of women in Africa and other developing regions could lose years of success in contributing to household incomes and asserting their independence.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota says seven athletes from “multiple sports” have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Gopher Athletics Department conducted 170 COVID-19 tests during June, and seven athletes tested positive. The school said Tuesday that students who test positive are entered into a protocol and asked to self-isolate. Those students will have access to all necessary resources and food, and will be in daily communication with the university’s athletic medical staff.
Those students will have to undergo additional testing and screening before they can participate in team activities. A team physician also must clear the student.
The university said contact tracing was conducted, and any person who was potentially exposed was asked to quarantine to help prevent spread of the virus.
BEIJING — China has reported just three new confirmed cases of coronavirus, all in the capital Beijing where an outbreak last month appears to have run its course amid intense testing and case tracing.
No new deaths were reported Wednesday, leaving the toll at 4,634 among 83,534 cases of COVID-19 recorded since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
The National Health Commission said 421 people are in treatment with another 108 under monitoring for being possible cases or having tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms.
Beijing has begun discharging those infected in the recent outbreak tied to the Xinfadi wholesale food market in the southwestern suburbs.
With 328 cases reported since June 11, Beijing has reinstated some prevention measures, suspended classes for schoolchildren and carried out 8.3 million virus tests among the city’s more than 20 million residents.
SALEM, Oregon - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has extended the COVID-19 state of emergency for 60 days.
She said as of Tuesday there have been over 8,600 coronavirus cases in the state, with over a quarter of those cases identified in the past two weeks. The Oregon Health Authority said 207 people in Oregon have died from the disease.
The state of emergency declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders Brown has issued throughout the pandemic, including her orders on reopening Oregon, as well as orders related to childcare, schools, and higher education operations.
Extending the state of emergency declaration allows those orders to stay in effect. She will review and reevaluate each of her emergency orders every 60 days. Brown said this extension will last through Sept. 4.
CALEXICO, Calif. -- An official says a farming region on California’s border with Mexico has sent hundreds of patients to hospitals outside the area in recent weeks as leaders accept Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recommendation to backpedal on reopening its battered economy.
Imperial County unveiled a plan that includes closing businesses deemed non-essential and shuttering county parks.
The Mexican border city of Mexicali has taken its own measures to combat the virus, including a checkpoint for motorists entering from the U.S. that created a seven-hour backup on the U.S. side on Saturday.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said coronavirus cases could grow to 100,000 a day in the U.S. if Americans don’t start following public health recommendations.
The nation’s leading infectious disease expert made the remark at a Senate hearing on reopening schools and workplaces.
Asked to forecast the outcome of recent surges in some states, Fauci said he can’t make an accurate prediction but believes it will be “very disturbing.”
“We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned,” said Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.
Fauci said areas seeing recent outbreaks are putting the entire nation at risk, including areas that have made progress in reducing COVID-19 cases. He cited recent video footage of people socializing in crowds, often without masks, and otherwise ignoring safety guidelines.
ROCKVILLE, Md. — Vice President Mike Pence is stressing the country is in a far better position to battle the coronavirus than it was months ago, even as cases continue to rise, especially across the south.
Pence put a positive spin on the progress at a briefing by the White House’s coronavirus task force at the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps headquarters in Maryland on Tuesday.
He says: “’We want to assure you that we’re ready — more ready than ever before — to meet this coronavirus pandemic.”
Task force members outlined improvements in testing capacity, the availability of protective gear, and new therapeutics even as the U.S. is now reporting about 40,000 new cases daily.
The comments came hours after the nation’s top infectious diseases expert warned during a congressional hearing that “we’re going in the wrong direction” and said the country could soon see as many as 100,000 new cases a day.
Still, Pence said the administration fully supports the decision of some states to-shutter certain business or delay reopening efforts due to rising cases.
The members also urged Americans to abide by public health recommendation, including wearing masks in public, saying they are key to keeping the country open.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council is trying again to reach agreement on its first resolution on COVID-19 since the coronavirus started circling the globe in February after a lengthy dispute between the U.S. and China over mentioning the World Health Organization.
A revised draft resolution by France and Tunisia was submitted for a vote Tuesday, and the result is expected to be announced on Wednesday.
The draft resolution backs Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ March 23 call for global cease-fires to tackle the pandemic, and demands an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in all conflicts on the council’s agenda including Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo.
It calls on all warring parties “to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” to enable the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.
President Donald Trump suspended funding to the World Health Organization in early April, accusing the U.N. health agency of failing to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China, and accusing WHO of parroting Beijing.
China strongly supports the WHO and insisted that its role in calling for global action on COVID-19 be included in any resolution, diplomats said, while the U.S. insisted on a reference to “transparency” on COVID-19 and no mention of the WHO.
The draft being put to a vote doesn’t mention either the WHO, a U.N. health agency or transparency.
But it does take note of a resolution adopted April 2 by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly which “calls for intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic, including ... by applying the relevant guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.”
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri reached a grim new milestone in its battle with the coronavirus on Tuesday, surpassing 1,000 deaths amid a resurgence of the disease that has seen cases skyrocket in recent weeks.
“That’s 1,000 people that lost their lives due to COVID-19,” Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday. “I think we all need to remember that.”
The state health department raised the death toll by 17, to 1,015, and added more than 500 confirmed cases to the statewide tally, raising it to 21,551 since the pandemic started. The number of confirmed cases has quickly increased since the state reopened for business on June 16, swelling by 10.9% in just the past seven days, health officials said.
There are no statewide rules on social distancing currently in place in Missouri. Still, health department Director Randall Williams urged people to continue hand washing and social distancing or wearing masks, especially on July 4.
“Going into this weekend, even if you’re outside, we really, really would encourage you to practice social distancing,” Williams said.
Despite the worsening situation, the University of Missouri is preparing to welcome back students for on-campus classes this fall. The university said Monday that it will require students, faculty and staff to wear masks in classrooms when on-campus classes resume in August, though those plans could change depending on the coronavirus situation. Parson said he had no plans to issue a statewide order mandating that people wear masks in some circumstances.
AUSTIN, Texas — As the Texas GOP presses ahead with plans for a July convention amid skyrocketing coronavirus numbers, doctors are urging the party to reconsider.
Texas again set a high Tuesday for COVID-19 cases with nearly 7,000 confirmed new infections.
Texas GOP leaders have maintained their three-day convention in Houston will go forward and that face coverings won’t be mandated. That is despite Republican Gov. Greg Abbott urging the public to wear masks and stay home.
The Texas Medical Association told GOP leaders that now is “not the time to bring thousands of the party faithful from around the state” together for an indoor meeting.
The organization represents more than 50,000 physicians in Texas and is a sponsor of the convention, which begins July 16.
Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey responded by saying the party is taking all input seriously but was noncommittal about whether it would change any minds.
DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis says Colorado will rein in previously set rules for bars and nightlife because of the potential for spreading coronavirus.
After speaking with the governors from Texas and Arizona, which have seen spikes in new cases, Polis says they believe bars and nightclubs have been major sources of outbreaks, especially among young people.
Previous rules announced June 18 under Colorado’s “Protect Our Neighbors” program allowed for reduced capacity at 25 percent or 50 people. Under the new modifications, which Polis says will go into effect under the next 48 hours, bars will be closed for in-person service.
But those with dining options may continue to serve customers and sell takeout alcohol.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Philadelphia is bringing a halt to its plans to allow indoor dining, bars, gyms and fitness centers to reopen, with officials saying Tuesday that the city is seeing rising case COVID-19 counts and could be affected by a growing epidemic elsewhere in the country.
The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Tom Farley, broke the bad news during a news conference ahead of its Friday target to lift more restrictions.
Hospitalizations are not seeing a corresponding increase, but Farley said that is a lagging indicator.
Across the state, Allegheny County recorded another single-day record high of new cases reported Tuesday.
The county, which includes Pittsburgh and is Pennsylvania’s second-most populous with 1.2 million residents, over the weekend ordered a halt to drinking alcohol in bars and restaurants amid what officials there called an “alarming” spike in COVID-19 cases.
WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden says he has not been tested for COVID-19 yet but expects to be “relatively soon.”
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, speaking to reporters after a campaign event in Delaware on Tuesday, said he hasn’t yet taken a test because “I have had no symptoms” and “I haven’t wanted to take anyone else’s place in the process.”
He added, however, “so it doesn’t look like I’m moving to the front of the line,” he expects to be tested “relatively soon.”
Biden said that the Secret Service stationed around his home and anyone who comes into his home, including staff, are tested. He also noted his daughter, who worked in Florida, was tested twice for the coronavirus.
OTTAWA — The Canadian government says it has extended rules barring most foreign travelers from entering Canada until the end of July as part of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The restrictions covering everyone except Canadian citizens and permanent residents — as well as Americans entering Canada for essential reasons — were set to expire at midnight.
A spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency says all optional or discretionary travel through all ports of entry is covered.
But there are exceptions to allow in immediate family of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, as well as to cover cases such as flight crews.
The closure of the Canada-U.S. border to all but essential workers and trade until at least July 21 is covered by a separate order.
ROME — Italy is still insisting on coronavirus quarantines for visitors from the 14 countries green-lighted by the European Union to visit.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Italy was taking the “line of caution” given its battle to contain the outbreak in the onetime epicenter of Europe’s COVID-19 emergency.
The EU said Tuesday it would reopen its borders to travelers from 14 countries — Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
Chinese visitors are likely to be readmitted soon, but not most from the U.S., where infections are surging.
Speranza signed an ordinance Tuesday requiring “fiduciary quarantine” for visitors from the 14 countries. He said in a statement: “The situation at the global level remains very complex. We must avoid that the sacrifices made by Italians in these months are in vain.”
Italy registered its first positive case Feb. 21 and for weeks had the world’s highest death toll. But after a 10-week lockdown and strict hygiene and social distancing measures that are still in force, Italy has largely brought its outbreak under control. On Tuesday for example, Italy registered 23 new victims and 142 new confirmed infections.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina has announced plans to test all nursing home patients and workers for the coronavirus.
Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official, said Tuesday that the one-time tests will be given between July and mid-August to help curb the virus.
Cohen said the state is partnering with CVS Omnicare to test an estimated 36,000 nursing home residents and 25,000 workers in more than 400 sites throughout the state.
The cost of the program was not immediately provided, but Cohen said when possible insurance will be billed. Otherwise, the costs will be covered by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Recent statewide data recorded by the public health agency shows 4,440 of the state’s 64,670 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases occurred in nursing homes.
But nursing homes account for 660 of the state’s 1,343 coronavirus deaths.
WASHINGTON — The head of the Food and Drug Administration says vaccine developers will be expected to study COVID-19 shots in racial minorities, the elderly, pregnant women and those with other health conditions.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn outlined the guidelines for potential vaccines at a Senate hearing on reopening schools and workplaces.
Hahn says “while the FDA is committed to help expedite this work, we will not cut corners in our decision-making.”
The agency has come under criticism for granting emergency authorization to a malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for coronavirus. The agency revoked that designation earlier this month after studies found the drug was ineffective against the virus.
The U.S. is set to begin a 30,000-person trial of a government-created shot starting next month. Under the Trump administration’s program dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” health officials aim to have 300 million doses on hand by January.
About 15 experimental COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of testing worldwide. There is no guarantee that any will prove effective.