India’s caseload nears 7 million as pace slows

NEW DELHI — India’s confirmed coronavirus cases are nearing 7 million with another 73,272 reported in the past 24 hours.

The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported 926 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 107,416. The deaths have remained below 1,000 for the seventh straight day.

India is seeing a slower pace of coronavirus spread since mid-September when the daily infections touched a record of 97,894 cases. It’s averaging more than 70,000 cases daily so far this month, while the recovery rate has exceeded 85%.

But health experts have warned that congregations during major festivals later this month and in November have the potential for the virus to spread.


“We have to work aggressively to make sure that during winter months and during the festive season coronavirus cases don’t rise dramatically,” said Dr. Randeep Guleria, a government health expert.

Experts say India’s fragile health system has been bolstered in recent months but could still be overwhelmed by an exponential rise in cases.

Consumer activity is gradually rebounding and millions of factory workers who had fled cities when India imposed a 2-month-long rigorous lockdown on March 25 are returning.

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

— Trump says experimental drugs may have saved him from virus

— WHO reports new daily high in global COVID-19 cases

— Trump official says vaccine expected starting in January

— Canada’s most populous province is prohibiting indoor dining in restaurants and bars in Toronto and Ottawa and closing gyms and theaters as Ontario marked a record 939 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday.

— Intensive care wards across France are filling up again with COVID-19 patients. Doctors are scrambling to create new ICU beds elsewhere to accommodate the sick, and asking what went wrong.

— Chancellor Angela Merkel says the federal government will offer the help of soldiers and public health experts to German cities that are seeing a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico is losing ground in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 as newly reported daily infections hit a record of 488 cases.

Three additional deaths from the pandemic also were disclosed Friday by state health officials as fatalities from the pandemic surpassed 900.

Bernalillo County, with the state’s most populous urban area, accounted for 135 new cases, while Dona Ana had 81. Lea and Chaves counties together accounted for 77 new cases.

The state’s infection and positivity rates for the spread of the virus are climbing as the administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham holds the line on emergency public health restrictions.

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Enrolled members of the Navajo Nation will be eligible for payments of up to $1,500 as part of the tribe’s response to the coronavirus.

President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer on Friday approved the $49 million plan adopted by the tribal council. The funding comes from the tribe’s share of federal coronavirus relief funding.

Adults will be eligible for payments of $1,500 while minors are eligible for $500.

Nez said in a statement that there isn’t enough funding to cover payments for all enrolled members of the tribe, so the money should be directed to elders and those most in need.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The University of Rhode Island has issued a two-week shelter-in-place order for fraternity and sorority houses because of a high number of coronavirus cases.

The school sent the notice Friday in tandem with its Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association.

Students may leave Greek housing only for medical visits and other essential services, such as grocery shopping and essential employment. The students will take classes virtually while sheltering.

Students and chapters that don’t follow guidelines could be suspended or dismissed.

The school says it based its decision on statistics showing a much higher rate of coronavirus positivity among students in Greek housing at over 11% than in total off-campus housing at under 4% or in the total on-campus population at 0.65%.

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ALBANY, N.Y. — A federal judge has refused to block New York’s plan to temporarily limit the size of religious gatherings in COVID-19 hot spots.

U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto issued the ruling Friday after an emergency hearing in a lawsuit brought by rabbis and synagogues who said the restrictions were unconstitutional.

They had sought to have enforcement delayed until at least after Jewish holy days this weekend. The rules limit indoor prayer services in certain areas to no more than 10 people.

The judge said the state had an interest in protecting public safety.

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RENO, Nev. — A recent spike in COVID-19 cases at the University of Nevada, Reno is prompting the school to suspend all in-class instruction effective Nov. 30.

UNR officials also are telling most students not to return to residence halls after Thanksgiving.

School officials said Friday they plan for students to return to dormitories for the spring semester and resume a combination of remote and in-class instruction Jan. 25. But during the period in between, all classes will be conducted remotely.

Only students facing extenuating circumstance will be allowed to live in campus housing. In recent weeks, one-out-of-nine of the county’s new cases have been tied to UNR.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Health officials in Alaska’s largest city on Friday recommended up to 300 people associated with a youth hockey tournament quarantine or isolate after “a cluster” of COVID-19 cases were identified.

The Anchorage Health Department said players, coaches and fans from parts of south-central Alaska and Juneau attended the tournament, which was held Oct. 2-4.

The department said it encouraged everyone who attended who does not have symptoms to quarantine for 14 days, except to get tested, and encouraged those with symptoms to isolate for 10 days, except to get tested.

Dr. Janet Johnston, the department’s epidemiologist, said that means the department is recommending up to 300 isolate or quarantine.

Heather Harris, the department’s director, could not provide “concrete” numbers of positive cases associated with the tournament. She said the tournament organizers said they tried to enforce masking guidelines and kept a contact log of participants.

Contact trace investigations indicated “significant close contact in indoor spaces, including locker rooms, with inconsistent use of face coverings,” the city health department said in a release.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday that bars around West Virginia University in Morgantown can reopen next Tuesday, a month after images of maskless college students packing bars led them to be shut down.

Police and state alcohol regulators will step up enforcement in the college town, Justice said at a coronavirus press briefing. The Republican governor abruptly ordered Monongalia County bars to close indefinitely on Sept. 2 — just two days after allowing them to reopen — as many patrons lined up without social distancing.

The owners of 12 restaurants and bars sued the governor and local officials in Morgantown last month in federal court over the shutdown.

“Bars that don’t enforce these guidelines, where we see a bunch of people packed in with no mask wearing … you will be shut down again,” Justice said, adding establishments risk having their licenses suspended.

County officials previously required bars to cut indoor seating occupancy by half, close dance floors and discontinue live performances and entertainment. Restaurants in the county had been able to continue dine-in service without operating their bars. Morgantown city officials did not immediately return a request for comment.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of people hospitalized in Oklahoma due to the coronavirus surged to a record one-day high of 749 on Friday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The number hospitalized either with the virus or under investigation for infection surpassed the previous high of 738 reported on Wednesday.

The department also reported 1,524 newly confirmed cases of the virus, the second highest daily increase since 1,7,14 new cases were reported on July 21, and 97,088 total cases. There are six additional deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, bringing the total to 1,091. There were 13,515 active cases of the virus on Thursday, and 82,482 people have recoverd, according to the health department.

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NATCHEZ, Miss. — A brother and sister in Natchez have both died of the coronavirus, Adams County Coroner James Lee said.

On Friday, Oct. 2, a 73-year-old woman died of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus, and her 69-year-old brother died two days later, Lee told the Natchez Democrat.

“I’ve seen an increase in COVID deaths in Adams County in the past month and it’s very scary to me,” Lee told the Democrat earlier this week. Lee said his 25-year-old granddaughter was hospitalized with the coronavirus. “I won’t lie. I’m very afraid of this virus and what I see. I just wish we’d take this thing seriously.”

Mississippi is one of the top 20 states with the most new cases per capita in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press. The data was evaluated over a 14-day period.

Mississippi’s state Department of Health said Friday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had more than 103,000 reported cases and at least 3,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of Thursday evening. That’s an increase of 862 confirmed cases and six deaths from numbers reported the day before, with the deaths occurring between Sept. 19 and Oct. 8 and recorded later using death certificates.

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HELENA, Mont. — Montana reported more than 700 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday and has topped 200 deaths since the pandemic began in mid-March. An increasing number of cases in the state’s most populous county likely means residents there will be facing more restrictions to stop the spread of the respiratory virus.

On Monday, Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton announced case benchmarks that would lead to county health officials to limit the allowed capacity of bars, restaurants and churches to 25%. If the county topped a daily average rate of 40 cases per 100,000 people by the last week in October, the restrictions would begin Nov. 2, he said.

However, if the county topped an average rate of 50 cases per day per 100,000 residents in any week before that, the restrictions would begin immediately, Felton said. Businesses that serve alcohol would be required to close at 10 p.m.

The county has confirmed 439 cases from Monday through Thursday, including 155 on Thursday, health department spokesperson Barbara Schneeman said Friday. If 126 more cases are confirmed Friday and Saturday — the numbers would be reported Saturday and Sunday — the restrictions would be put in place.

The county would likely announce the restrictions Monday but give businesses some time to make adjustments, Schneeman said.

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LAS VEGAS — Federal health administrators say Nevada officials must rescind a statewide directive issued several days ago telling nursing homes to stop using two types of rapid coronavirus tests due to the likelihood of false positive results.

The head of COVID-19 diagnostic testing at the federal Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that Nevada is prohibited by law from imposing the ban it ordered Oct. 2.

Nevada nursing homes and long-term care facilities were instructed by state Epidemiologist Melissa Peek-Bullock to quit using point-of-care antigen tests from two companies, Quidel Sofia and Becton Dickinson, because officials found that among the 60 positive results found since July the number of so-called “false positives” was 60%.

The results came from follow-up testing using more definitive polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests.

Dr. Brett Giroir, head of COVID-19 diagnostic testing efforts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Friday that that false positives are a fact of life in virus screening, and the value of identifying 40% of true positives is a lifesaving matter for nursing homes.

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