The Canadian Press
HONG KONG — Hong Kong is limiting most gatherings to just two people and ordering compulsory testing of workers at retirement homes and facilities for people with disabilities, among tightening measures to contain a new wave of coronavirus cases.
The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city reported 82 news cases on Wednesday, all but 10 of them listed as having been transmitted among local residets. Since Nov. 17, more than 1,000 cases have been reported, only a few of which were brought from outside the city.
That is prompting the government to raise penalties for failing to follow orders on mask wearing in public and for compulsory tests.
Exceptions were made for some group gatherings, including a limit of 20 people for weddings and shareholder meetings, but religious activities and group travel would no longer be exempt.
Hong Kong and Singapore, meanwhile, have called off a planned travel bubble until next year in response to the surge in Hong Kong cases.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— U.S. panel to decide who should get the first COVID-19 shots
— BioNTech and Pfizer ask European regulator for expedited approval of coronavirus vaccine
— Americans face new COVID-19 restrictions after Thanksgiving
— At tiny rural hospitals, exhausted medical workers t reat friends and family
— Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton tests positive for coronavirus
— A pop-up school has blossomed to teach reading, writing, math and art to Central American children living in a camp of asylum seekers stuck at America’s doorstep
Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TUCSON, Ariz. -- At the urging of Mayor Regina Romero, the Tucson City Council voted Tuesday night to establish a mandatory nightly curfew for three weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew will take effect Friday and run through Dec. 23. Romero says she sought the curfew “for the safety and welfare and health of the citizens of Tucson.”
It prohibits residents from being on public streets or spaces unless travelling to work or other essential activities. Romero says Pima County reported had a record-high 944 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, and hospitals in southern Arizona are on the verge of a crisis.
Earlier Tuesday, state health officials reported 10,322 new known coronavirus cases and 48 additional deaths around Arizona.
DENVER -- The ACLU of Colorado and the Weld County Sheriff’s office have reached an agreement to implement measures at the county’s jail to better protect inmates from the coronavirus pandemic.
Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams and the ACLU asked a federal judge Tuesday to enter a consent decree between the two sides to carry out the changes and provide federal oversight.
The ACLU had filed a lawsuit in April alleging that the sheriff’s office had failed to meet public health orders related to the pandemic and did not sufficiently protect inmates, jail staff and the public.
Joe Moylan, a spokesperson for the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, declined further comment.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced measures on Tuesday to boost the number of available health care workers and plan for more hospital beds.
In a partnership with the Maryland Hospital Association, the governor announced the launch of an initiative called MarylandMedNow to recruit people with clinical backgrounds to work at state hospitals, nursing homes, testing sites and vaccination clinics.
The state has asked colleges and universities to develop emergency policies and procedures to award academic credit to students who are willing to get hands-on work experience during the pandemic.
The governor also announced steps to increase hospital beds. Hospitals across the state will be required to submit a patient surge plan, including strategies to expand bed and staffing capacity adjustments. They will be due at the health department Dec. 8.
Also, if hospitalizations reach a total of 8,000 hospitalizations or more, hospitals will be required to expand their staffed bed capacity by 10% of each hospital’s physical bed capacity within seven calendar days. Of the 6,816 people in hospitals, 1,583 had confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Tuesday.
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California’s governor was there. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo went to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor dined outdoors just hours after voting to ban outdoor dining there.
All three local officials were on the hot seat Tuesday after various reports that they violated rules aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus — or at a minimum, violating the spirit of the rules as they repeatedly urged others to stay home.
Breed joined seven others at the three Michelin-starred French Laundry on Nov. 7 to celebrate the 60th birthday of socialite Gorretti Lo Lui, the mayor’s spokesman confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle. She dined in the same kind of partially enclosed indoor/outdoor room Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated in a day earlier.
Newsom, who has appealed to Californians to “do your part” and stay home, apologized when the 12-person dinner was reported, then again when photos emerged showing him, his wife and others sitting close together at the same table without masks.
Breed’s spokesman, Jeff Cretan, called the mayor’s French Laundry dinner a “small family birthday dinner.” He did not immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday inquiring whether the dinner involved more than three different households, which are prohibited under the state’s rules.
DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis joined the nation’s top infectious disease expert Tuesday and urged people to wear masks and socially distance to help prevent stay-at-home orders and overwhelmed hospitals as cases of the coronavirus surge during the holidays.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, warned during a virtual news conference that Colorado is not alone in seeing a spike in cases and pleaded with people not to travel or gather in large groups.
“If you look across the United States, we are really in a public health crisis right now because we are having a surge the likes of which is worse than the surges that we all saw in the late winter, early spring,” Fauci said.
He added that “we are likely going to see a surge upon a surge” of cases, based on the number of people who travelled and gathered for Thanksgiving and on those who are expected to shop and attend holiday parties before celebrating Christmas and New Year’s in large groups.
Colorado has been hit with a substantial spike in COVID-19 cases, with one in 41 residents believed to be contagious.
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly is trying to address the problem of 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea as a result of COVID-19 by adopting a resolution urging all nations to designate those working on ships as “key workers.”
The resolution adopted by consensus Tuesday by the 193-member world body stresses the very difficult conditions seafarers face at sea which have been exacerbated by the response to the pandemic that has impeded crew changes and repatriation of sailors to their home countries.
Indonesia’s U.N. Ambassador DianTriansyah Djani, who sponsored the resolution, said the work of two million seafarers “who have shown their dedication and professionalism during this crisis, ensuring that world trade and logistics continue to move properly” largely goes unnoticed.
The resolution acknowledged that “shipping has continued to transport more than 80 per cent of world trade essential to the normal functioning of society, including vital medical supplies, food and other basic goods that are critical for the COVID-19 response and recovery.”
Djani said travel restrictions imposed by countries as a result of the pandemic “have generated difficulties for crew changes, and prevent the seafarers from embarkation and disembarkation,” resulting in hundreds of thousands stranded at sea. Designating seafarers and other marine personnel as “key workers” would ease their plight, he said.
The International Chamber of Shipping, which represents 80 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet, estimated that nearly 400,000 sailors are stranded at sea because of the pandemic, many for more than a year and some for up to 17 months which is far beyond their contracts.
SALEM, Ore. - Oregon reported 24 more deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high for a single day in the state.
The Oregon Health Authority said the “grim milestone” underscores that people should wear masks, keep physical distance and keep gatherings small. The increase raises the state’s known death toll to 936.
Officials in Silverton, a town east of Salem, are trying to monitor a potential outbreak among firefighters. The situation has underscored a weakness in Oregon’s response to the pandemic: a lack of a system for getting first responders tested rapidly, said Assistant Chief Ed Grambusch of the Silverton Fire District.
A member of the fire district who was taking part in training on Nov. 21 has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Twenty people who were trainees or instructors may have had a high risk exposure.
All have been advised to self-quarantine and get tested. When Grambusch, who co-ordinates local responses to infectious disease outbreaks, called the Oregon Health Authority, the agency confirmed he needed to talk to Marion County health officials about rapid testing. The county officials told him they don’t know of any such system, Grambusch said.
“The problem is — this is a big frustration of mine — is that we don’t have a system for rapid testing of our first responders,” Grambusch said. “And I’m just not sure why that’s the case. I would hope that we could send an email or make a phone call — one phone call — and send someone in to get a rapid test.”
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky reported record-high numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths Tuesday as the governor warned that the COVID-19 outbreak is “spreading like wildfire.”
Gov. Andy Beshear announced 4,151 more virus cases statewide and 35 additional virus-related deaths. He called it “the very worst day” since he started reporting daily virus numbers in March.
“COVID is spreading like wildfire, taking record numbers of people from us, infecting record numbers of people out there,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference.
Nearly 1,780 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including more than 440 in intensive care — both record numbers in the state, he said. Nearly 250 virus patients are on ventilators.
The statewide rate for positive tests reached 9.59%. Beshear warned that “a huge amount of virus” is spreading rapidly in every Kentucky county.
“Today is a terrible day that shows us how quickly this thing is spreading,” he said.
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI -- Gov. Tate Reeves instituted mask mandates in 13 more Mississippi counties Tuesday but chose not to implement the measure statewide, a week after several prominent health care leaders called on him to do so.
During a press briefing, the Republican governor said he believes issuing mask requirements in counties with the highest number of new cases will encourage people to take the regulations more seriously than a blanket approach would. A total of 54 out of the state’s 82 counties now have a mask mandate.
“I almost feel like there are those out there who really, truly believe if I were to write an executive order, a statewide prohibition against hurricanes in 2021, that we won’t have any hurricanes,” Reeves said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
Reeves instituted a statewide mask mandate in early August, but revoked the measure at the end of September when new coronavirus cases were declining in Mississippi. As cases have risen again in recent weeks, he has begun implementing mask mandates in individual counties.
Four health care leaders have said it’s time for Reeves to go a step further. They wrote a letter to Reeves on Nov. 24 calling for another statewide mask mandate.
“The statewide mask mandate, which was highly effective, needs to be reinstituted,” said a letter signed by Dr. LouAnn Woodward of the University of Mississippi Medical Center; Dr. Anita Henderson, president-elect of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Claude Brunson, executive director of the Mississippi State Medical Association; and Dr. James Griffin Jr., president of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians.
Reeves said Tuesday that he would not comment on the letter, but said he believes a county-by-county approach is best for Mississippi currently.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday called for Congress to approve money for businesses and families struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, but she said there are no plans to use available state funds as officials elsewhere have done.
Some legislatures including Colorado and New Mexico are considering allocating state funds as a stopgap measure until Congress agrees to additional federal relief.
Asked Tuesday whether she was considering calling lawmakers back into session to approve such a move, she said no.
“Unfortunately, there’s just not enough state funding to make everybody whole and that’s just a reality of what we’re dealing with,” Reynolds said. “This is something Congress needs to do. They need to step up and do their job.”
Iowa ended the fiscal year in September with a balance of $305.5 million in the general fund and cash reserves of more than $770 million.
The Iowa coronavirus infection rate showed signs of slowing Tuesday but the number of people hospitalized with illness and dying with COVID-19 remained high, according to public health data.
The Associated Press