The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 1 million, but global health experts say the true toll is likely several times higher, reflecting the gaping lack of testing for the continent’s 1.3 billion people.

While experts say infection tolls in richer nations can be significant undercounts, large numbers of undetected cases are a greater danger for Africa, with many of the world’s weakest health systems.

The World Health Organization calls the milestone a “pivotal point” for Africa as infections in several countries are surging. The virus has spread beyond major cities “into distant hinterlands” where few health resources exist and reaching care could take days.

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A doctor attends to a patient confirmed to have COVID-19, at the Fann University hospital in Dakar, Senegal on Tuesday. Sylvain Cherkaoui/Associated Press

Immediately knowing they were at a disadvantage, African nations banded together early in the pandemic to pursue badly needed testing and medical supplies and advocate for equitable access to any successful vaccine. Swift border closures delayed the virus’ spread.

But Africa’s most developed country, South Africa, has strained to cope as hospital beds fill up and confirmed cases are over a half-million, ranking fifth in the world. The country has Africa’s most extensive testing and data collection, and yet a South African Medical Research Council report last week showed many COVID-19 deaths were going uncounted. Other deaths were attributed to other diseases as people avoid health centers and resources are diverted to the pandemic.

It’s all a warning for Africa’s other 53 countries of what might lie ahead. While dire early predictions for the pandemic have not played out, “we think it’s going to be here at a slow burn,” the WHO’s Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, said Thursday.

Read the full story here.

‘Worst nightmare’: Laid-off workers endure loss of $600 aid

An unemployed makeup artist with two toddlers and a disabled husband needs help with food and rent. A hotel manager says his unemployment has deepened his anxiety and kept him awake at night. A dental hygienist, pregnant with her second child, is struggling to afford diapers and formula.

Around the country, across industries and occupations, millions of Americans thrown out of work because of the coronavirus are straining to afford the basics now that an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits has expired.

“My worst nightmare is coming true,” said Liz Ness, a laid-off recruiter at a New Orleans staffing agency who fears she will be evicted next month without the added help from Washington. “Summer 2020 could be next year’s horror movie.”

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People wait to speak with representatives from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission about unemployment claims July 9 in Midwest City, Okla. Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are struggling to work out an agreement that would restore some federal jobless aid. Even if they do reach a deal, the amount is likely to be less than $600. And by the time the money starts flowing, it could be too late for many Americans who are already in dire straits

“Members of Congress may have the luxury to come to an agreement this week and vote next week and then roll it out over several weeks,” said Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide. “Families don’t have that luxury – they are out of money tomorrow.”

In the meantime, up to 30 million Americans, their jobs lost or income slashed by an outbreak that has paralyzed the economy and killed close to 160,000 people in the U.S., are trying to get by solely on state unemployment benefits, which on average are less than $400 a week.

Read the full story here.

South Africa nears 10,000 coronavirus deaths

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Workers prepare for a burial at the Olifantsveil Cemetery outside Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday. Jerome Delay/Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is reporting more than 8,300 new confirmed coronavirus cases as the country with the world’s fifth largest caseload is approaching 10,000 deaths.

The new health ministry figures push the total cases on the African continent past the 1 million mark.

South Africa has more than half the virus cases in Africa, with 529,877.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize this week expressed cautious optimism as the rate of new cases has slowed. But he warned that vigilance must continue “to prevent a renewed surge.”

South Africa’s COVID-19 deaths are now at 9,298, with more than 400 new deaths reported.

New Jersey casino workers want mandated temperature checks for patrons

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Joe Lupo, president of the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City, N.J., walks through a thermal screening area where his body temperature is automatically checked, in July on the first day the casino reopened amid the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday the main casino workers’ union called on New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to mandate physical temperature checks for all casino patrons. Wayne Parry/Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Five Atlantic City casinos are not physically checking the temperatures of guests entering the property, workers said as they pushed New Jersey’s governor to require the casinos to do so to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In an online press conference Thursday, members of Local 54 of the Unite-Here union said four casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment — Caesars, Harrah’s, Bally’s, and the Tropicana — are not physically screening casino guests for a fever before letting them onto the property. A fever is one sign of potential infection with the coronavirus.

The Ocean casino has been doing verbal screenings as well.

The remaining four casinos — Hard Rock, Golden Nugget, Borgata and Resorts — have been taking temperatures, employees said.

The workers called on Gov. Phil Murphy to mandate physical temperature checks for anyone entering a casino.

The four Caesars casinos say they use a verbal screening process to question guests.

But the union says they don’t even do that at all times. Donna DeCaprio, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said the union has documented at least 180 instances of casinos failing to verbally screen guests since most of the casinos reopened in the first week of July.

She also said the union has documented 75 instances of hotel rooms not being thoroughly cleaned daily as called for under protocols formulated and agreed to by the casinos themselves.

“We’re not doing a good job even being partially open,” said Jason McKnight, a bartender at Harrah’s. “The rooms aren’t being cleaned on a daily basis the way they are supposed to. This is a lot of people in an enclosed place, and we’re not rising to the challenge.”

Caesars Entertainment responded in a statement that its procedures were developed “with an expert in the field” and meet all requirements from the state and recommendations from federal health authorities.

“Caesars Entertainment’s Atlantic City health and safety plan fully complies with all governmental directives,” said Steve Callender, the company’s regional president. “In addition to our enhanced cleaning protocols and other requirements that apply to our valued team members, all of our guests must pass a screening process before being allowed into our properties and must wear face masks in compliance with the governor’s orders.”

A message seeking comment from Murphy’s administration was left Thursday.

Nevada requires its hotel guests to undergo temperature checks, but does not require it of casino patrons. Nonetheless, some casinos on and off the Las Vegas strip do conduct temperature checks, using hand-held thermometers or forehead scanners. A bill passed this week by the Nevada legislature requires temperature scans for all casino employees.

MLB tightens coronavirus rules, requiring masks in dugouts and compliance officers

After coronavirus outbreaks forced Major League Baseball to postpone 21 games over the first two weeks of its season, it will strengthen its protocols, including requiring players and staff to wear face coverings at all times, except for players on the field of play.

Teams were informed of the changes in a memo obtained by the Associated Press, which said they were told that repeated or flagrant violations could cause a team to be banned for the rest of the 2020 season and/or postseason.

Players are required to wear face masks while in the dugout or bullpen, something its operations manual had not stipulated before. Since games have begun, most players have not worn masks in the dugout and have been shown exchanging high fives, failing to observe social distancing and spitting. The memo also indicates that umpires must wear face masks at all times, unless they cannot do their jobs.

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Sevais, and players wear masks in the dugout with players during a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics. Associated Press/Ted S. Warren

Each team’s compliance officer will enforce protocols, which require players and staff to wear face coverings at all times in hotels and in public places, including on team buses and airplanes. While on the road, teams were told to provide a large private room or ballroom where staff and players can get food and maintain social distancing. Players who want to leave the team hotel must get approval from their compliance officer.

Teams are being told to limit the size of their traveling parties to essential personnel and to have unoccupied rows on team buses and to maintain distance seating on flights.

Teams were told to provide covered outdoor spaces and to have areas where players for both teams can maintain social distance during weather delays. Players will be told to use those areas rather than hanging out in clubhouses.

During homestands, players and staff are prohibited from going to places where groups of people gather, like bars or malls.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests negative for virus after earlier positive test

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday after testing positive earlier in the day before he was to meet with President Trump, according to his Twitter page.

The tweet says DeWine’s wife, Fran DeWine, also tested negative, as did staff members.

The Republican governor said he took a test arranged by the White House in Cleveland as part of standard protocol before he was to meet Trump at an airport in Cleveland. He had planned to join the president on a visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant in northwest Ohio.

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wears a mask in May. Doral Chenoweth/The Columbus Dispatch via Associated Press

Instead, he received the news he was positive, called his wife, Fran DeWine, and returned to central Ohio.

“A big surprise to me and certainly a big surprise to our family,” DeWine said at a late afternoon news conference broadcast from his porch on his farm in Cedarville in southwestern Ohio, where he planned to quarantine for 14 days.

DeWine, 73, said he felt fine with no symptoms. His only health concern is asthma he’s had since he was a teenager, for which he uses an inhaler daily.

He said he’d already received some “not nice texts” Thursday from people claiming the news proves that mask-wearing is pointless. But his diagnosis should not lessen the importance of wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, DeWine said.

NYC only major school system to consider in-person schooling as big districts defy Trump

New York City is the only major U.S. school system still considering in-person classes this fall, after Chicago rebuffed President Donald Trump’s calls to reopen to avoid further strain on the U.S. economy.

Chicago Public Schools will begin the academic year with all-virtual learning, the nation’s third-largest district announced Wednesday, after administrators bowed to pressure from nervous staff and parents. New York City officials say they are still on track to open in September with a hybrid of in-class and remote instruction, though they need approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said he will make a final decision this week.

The national rush to all-remote learning will keep parents struggling to work and teach their children simultaneously, businesses navigating those conflicts, and the virus-wracked country that much further away from normality.

“It’s a huge blow to the economy, and to the long-term potential for growth,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton in Chicago. “Unfortunately we’ve put ourselves in a position where it’s getting harder to see how we’re going to sustain a rebound in the third quarter.”

In Chicago alone, the decision affects 355,000 students — kids whose parents had expected them to be in classrooms starting Sept. 8. Other major school districts that have already opted for virtual instruction for at least the start of the year include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta and Houston. If New York City joins in, that would affect the families of another 1.1 million students.

The cities are taking these steps as COVID-19 infections spike across the U.S., choosing to be cautious amid conflicting data about how susceptible kids are to contract or spread the disease.

Read the full story.

An infected man went to a church in Ohio. Soon 91 others fell ill.

On June 14, a 56-year-old man infected with the coronavirus attended a church service in Ohio. Shortly after, 91 other people became infected, 53 of whom had attended the same service.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) called the incident “very scary.” He said the virus had “spread like wildfire” among those in attendance, who then passed the infection on to others, including their families and co-workers.

On Tuesday, DeWine took to Twitter to share a graphic that highlighted how one infected person can spark a wave of infections across multiple counties.

DeWine said he would be contacting churches, mosques and synagogues in the community to share health and safety information on how to protect worshipers amid the global health crisis that has claimed 154,000 lives in the United States.

“It is vital that to control the spread of the virus that any time people gather together, including for religious services, that everyone wear masks, practice social distancing, wash hands, and also while indoors, making sure there is good ventilation and airflow,” he said.

At least 96,305 cases have been reported in Ohio since Feb. 29. Last month, a statewide mask mandate took effect, requiring people over age 10 to wear facial coverings in many public settings. Nightclubs, concert halls and sporting venues remain closed.

With a deal on pandemic relief elusive, Trump threatens to act alone

President Trump on Wednesday threatened to take executive action to extend an eviction moratorium, suspend collection of the payroll tax and boost unemployment benefits unless a coronavirus relief deal can be reached quickly with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

And in a sign the White House could be preparing to act, the Trump administration has asked federal agencies to identify all of the money they have not yet spent from the $2 trillion Cares Act, which passed in March, according to two people briefed on the effort. White House officials are trying to determine whether this money could be redirected and used for other purposes, such as temporary unemployment benefits or the eviction moratorium.

The president has been floating the possibility of acting unilaterally for several days, but he detailed his specific plans for the first time Wednesday at the beginning of a coronavirus news conference at the White House. It came as negotiations continued between top Trump administration officials and congressional Democrats, but agreement remained elusive.

Read the full story.

UK says 50 million masks unusable over safety concerns

LONDON — The British government says it won’t be using 50 million face masks it bought during a scramble to secure protective equipment for medics at the height of the coronavirus outbreak because of safety concerns.

The masks were part of a 252 million pound ($332 million) contract the government signed with investment firm Ayanda Capital in April. Papers filed in a court case reveal that the masks will not be distributed because they have ear loops rather than head loops and may not fit tightly enough.

The government says another 150 million masks supplied by Ayanda are unaffected but are still being tested.

The papers are part of a lawsuit against the Conservative government by campaigning groups the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor.

As the coronavirus outbreak accelerated across the U.K. in March, it became clear that the country lacked sufficient stockpiles of masks, gloves, gowns and other protective gear for health care workers and nursing home staff. That sparked a race to buy billions of pieces of equipment from suppliers in the U.K. and abroad.

Opposition parties are calling for an urgent investigation into the way personal protective equipment was acquired.

More than half of Africa’s almost 1 million cases are in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — As Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases near 1 million, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that “we cannot at all exercise fatigue” in the pandemic response.

John Nkengasong spoke to reporters as the continent’s cases are now at more than 992,000. More than half are in South Africa.

Africa has seen an 11% increase in cases in the past week, lower than in recent weeks, but Nkengasong says that while it’s tempting to see a decrease, the numbers must be observed over several weeks to determine the real trend of infections on the continent of 1.3 billion people.

Five countries account for 75% of cases: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria.

The low rate of testing remains a concern, but Nkengasong says that if countries do the right things “we have a good chance of beating back this pandemic.” He says the CDC is closely watching countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan as cases climb.

Germany requires people arriving from high-risk countries must be tested

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says authorities will require people arriving from a large number of countries deemed high-risk to take coronavirus tests starting on Saturday.

German officials have voiced alarm over a steady upward creep in the number of new infections over recent weeks. The national disease control center on Wednesday recorded more than 1,000 cases in a day for the first time in three months.

As school holidays end, the government is keen to keep tabs on potentially infected vacationers entering the country. Last Saturday, it started offering free tests for people returning to the country.

People entering Germany from countries deemed high-risk — most of them outside Europe — are currently required to quarantine for 14 days unless they can present a negative test result no more than two days old.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said that starting on Saturday, arrivals from those countries will be obliged to take a test — unless they bring a new test result with them.

The number of infected passengers on Norwegian cruise ship climbs

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The number of people on a Norwegian cruise ship who have tested positive for the coronavirus has reached 53.

Following the outbreak on the MS Roald Amundsen, the ship’s owner halted all cruises on Monday and Norway closed its ports to cruise ships for two weeks.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that during its two journeys last month, a total of 37 crew members and 16 passengers have tested positive. The passengers all registered as living in Norway.

The cruise liner often acts like a local ferry, traveling from port to port along Norway’s west coast. Some passengers disembarked along the route and authorities fear they may have spread the virus to local communities.

In the Arctic harbor of Bodoe, the crew and passengers on the cruise ship Seadream 1 all tested negative for the virus. The tests were made “in an abundance of caution,” according to Norway-based company that owns the ship, SeaDream Yacht Club.

The ship was put in quarantine after a person from Denmark tested positive on Tuesday upon returning home. The vessel arrived in Bodoe early Wednesday.

Vietnam sees new outbreak

HANOI, Vietnam — A health official says Vietnam’s COVID-19 outbreak could peak in the coming 10 days as the country reported another death and scores of new infections.

Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Truong Son, who is in hot spot Da Nang to oversee the fight against the virus, says new infections have been found every day and “therefore, we have to continue keeping guard up.”

To cope with an increase in virus patients, Da Nang completed a 700-bed makeshift hospital on Wednesday. The hospital, converted from a sports auditorium, has a maximum capacity of 3,000 beds.

A 67-year-old woman became Vietnam’s ninth fatality. She had suffered from other health complications.

Since the outbreak returned to Vietnam two weeks ago after more than three months, 270 local infections have been confirmed, most of them traced to a cluster of hospitals in Da Nang. Among the new cases are six in a high-tech industrial park in the city.

The virus has since spread to 11 provinces and municipalities, including the largest cities of Ho Chi Minh with eight cases and Hanoi with three.

Among measures to curb the outbreak, the government is encouraging the use of a smart phone app that alerts clients if they had come into contact with a person who tested positive.

As meat production is reduced, Australians in Victoria state are urged not to panic-buy

MELBOURNE, Australia — The premier of Australia’s hot spot Victoria state has urged residents not to panic-buy as he announced reductions in meat productions.

The state capital Melbourne began its first full day of tough lockdown restrictions on Thursday as Victoria posted 471 new COVID-19 infections and eight deaths.

Premier Daniel Andrews says beef, lamb and pork production will be reduced by one third from late Friday because of the virus transmission risks in abattoirs and meat processing plants.

Poultry production will be reduced by 20%.

He says the measures are designed to drive down to the lowest possible numbers of workers to without at the same time delivering a shortage of products.

Andrews says there was no need for shoppers to stockpile, as has occurred spasmodically and to various extents during Melbourne’s first and second lockdowns.

He says, “You may not necessarily be able to get exactly the cut of meat that you want, but you will get what you need and you will get all the products that are, basically, fundamentally important to you.”

Arkansas requires public schools to stay open 5 days a week

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas state government is requiring public schools to stay open five days a week when classes resume this month, complicating efforts by some districts to limit on-site instruction because of the coronavirus.

Education Secretary Johnny Key issued the guidance to schools Wednesday as the state reported 912 new confirmed virus cases and 18 more deaths.

The state’s guidance says schools must be open all five weekdays to comply with the state constitution. Some districts had planned to limit on-site instruction and use remote learning on the days that schools weren’t open.

Arkansas’ public schools are set to reopen the week of Aug. 24.

Washington governor strongly urges most schools to use virtual classrooms

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says schools in the much of the state should strongly consider online-only learning for students this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Inslee also urged Wednesday that they cancel or postpone sports and all other in-person extracurricular activities.

Health experts say the virus is still spreading too extensively in the state, which saw the nation’s first confirmed virus case in late January. Since then, Washington has recorded more than 59,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,600 deaths.

150 Vermont inmates housed in a Mississippi prison test positive for the coronavirus

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont officials say nearly 150 Vermont inmates housed in a Mississippi prison have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Vermont houses 219 inmates at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Mississippi, because of a lack of capacity in its own prisons.

Late in July, six inmates who were returned to Vermont from the private Mississippi prison tested positive when they arrived at the Rutland correctional facility. That prompted Vermont’s Corrections Department to order that the remaining Vermont inmates in Mississippi be tested.

Interim Vermont Corrections Commissioner James Baker says there were 147 positive tests, 62 negative ones, two tests that are pending and eight inmates refused to be tested.


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