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California releases guidelines for private gatherings with friends

Ahead of the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly addressed new guidelines the state released this week allowing private outdoor gatherings with friends if specific conditions are met.

Ghaly said attendees must be from no more than three separate households and gatherings should last no more than two hours.

Gatherings “should be and must be done outside,” he added. People are also expected to take safety precautions, including wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and washing hands.

In the past, the state discouraged any gatherings outside of a single household.


Ghaly said the guidelines are meant to recognize that many close friends and relatives have been apart a long time and increasingly want to be together, especially with the holidays ahead.

The intention of the guidelines is not to encourage gatherings, but to inspire people to socialize safely when they do.

“Guidance here does not mean go,” he said. “It does not mean that we’re endorsing or suggesting small gatherings happen. We just want to provide important ways to reduce your risk, so you protect yourselves, your families and your communities.”

“We believe and still really support the messaging that spending time with your household alone is the way we can reduce transmission the best,” he said.

While much of the country and European nations are seeing a resurgence, coronavirus indicators in California are near their record lows. Hospitalizations are at their lowest level since early April and those in intensive care at their second-lowest level since officials began keeping track in late March. The rate of positive tests has been hovering at 2.6% for two weeks.

“We don’t see the surge other parts of the country are experiencing and other parts of the globe,” he said. “We don’t want to see the spike that could rightfully happen.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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State and city leaders blame social gatherings, not businesses or schools, for coronavirus uptick in New London

Connecticut and local officials said Monday that the recent uptick in coronavirus cases in New London can be traced back to a series of social gatherings and other small social interactions — not to local school or business reopenings, or to the nearby casinos.

“We’re being told by the contact tracers that it’s not coming from any institutional or business setting, it’s coming predominantly from social spread … where people are letting their guard down,” said New London Mayor Michael Passero.

He pointed to situations — such as small family gatherings that are well within the state limits on gathering size — where people may feel relaxed enough that they remove their masks or sit nearby one another. But COVID-19 can still spread, even among a small group of people and even from people who aren’t displaying any symptoms.

“The institutional environments — nursing homes, schools, even the casino — they have these strict protocols in place, people are less likely to let their guard down,” Passero said. “So where it’s spreading now is where people are more likely to be relaxed and let their guard down.”

The state issued a COVID-19 alert for New London on Thursday, after a steep increase in cases in the city. New London and the surrounding areas saw relatively few cases in the spring, and by Sept. 25 New London had recorded a total of 229 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March. But from Sept. 25 to Oct. 9, New London’s cases jumped up to 368 — an increase of 139 in just two weeks.

The reported cause of the New London uptick align with comments made by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, during a visit to UConn’s Hartford campus last week.

“This is really a message to everyone in Connecticut: the kind of spread that we’re seeing now is very different from the spread we experienced in March and April,” Birx said.

At the Monday afternoon press briefing in New London, Gov. Ned Lamont pointed back to Birx’s comments.

It’s “informal social events, that’s where we’ve got to the track and trace, that’s where we need families to be particularly careful,” Lamont said.

Dr. Deidre Gifford, the interim commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, listed off a couple specific spreading events that have been identified by contact tracers — including carpooling, lunch breaks and family gatherings that brought together multiple households. (It’s unclear if she was referencing spreading events across the entire state or specifically in New London.)

The state’s response to the spread is “nothing new,” Gifford said. “But it’s just … the vigilance. We keep reminding ourselves: mask on, over the nose and mouth, if you’re with anybody that’s not part of your household.”

Also at Monday’s briefing, Lamont said that he expects to release an executive order “within the next couple of days” that will allow municipalities with rising cases of COVID-19, including New London, to remain

Avoid large gatherings without masks

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, is again cautioning against large-scale gatherings of people without masks.

President Donald Trump is planning to convene another large crowd outside the White House on Saturday. Trump’s Rose Garden event announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee on Sept. 26 has been labeled a “super-spreader” for the coronavirus.

Fauci said of the Rose Garden event in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday: “I was not surprised to see a super-spreader event given the circumstances. Crowded, congregate setting, not wearing masks. It is not surprising to see an outbreak.”

Fauci says the CDC guideline for getting people back into society generally “is 10 days from the onset of your symptoms.”

That onset for Trump was Oct. 1, according to his doctors. The president’s White House doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, said Trump could return to holding events on Saturday. Organizers says attendees are required to bring masks or masks will be provided for the outdoor White House event.

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

— Dr. Fauci cautions against large gatherings without masks, social distancing ahead of President Trump’s White House event

— India coronavirus cases approach 7 million; averaging more than 70,000 daily cases this month

— Czech Republic sees surge in new daily infections at nearly 9,000

— Queen Elizabeth II honored the work of doctors and nurses, delivery drivers, fundraisers and volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic.

— China’s first classical music festival since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic is featuring musicians from the former epicenter of Wuhan.

— The NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots had no positive coronavirus tests Saturday and both teams will be allowed to go back to their facilities.

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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:

TRENTON, N.J. — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’s been discharged from a New Jersey hospital where he spent a week after contracting the coronavirus.

Christie says in a Saturday post on Twitter that he’d been released from the Morristown Medical Center. He tweeted his thanks to hospital staff and says he’d “have more to say about all of this next week.”

Christie announced Oct. 3 he had tested positive and checked himself into the hospital as “an important precautionary measure,” given his history of asthma.

Christie was among several coronavirus cases connected to President Donald Trump’s inner circle. Along with Trump and first lady Melania Trump, multiple people who traveled with the president or attended his events recently contracted the virus.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Republic and neighboring Slovakia have registered big jumps in new coronavirus infections, setting a new record for the fourth straight day.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase reached 8,618 confirmed cases on Friday, over 3,000 more than the previous record set a day earlier in the nation of over 10 million.

The Czech Republic

The Latest: Dr. Fauci: Avoid Large Gatherings Without Masks | World News

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, is again cautioning against large-scale gatherings of people without masks.

President Donald Trump is planning to convene another large crowd outside the White House on Saturday. Trump’s Rose Garden event announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee on Sept. 26 has been labeled a “super-spreader” for the coronavirus.

Fauci said of the Rose Garden event in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday: “I was not surprised to see a super-spreader event given the circumstances. Crowded, congregate setting, not wearing masks. It is not surprising to see an outbreak.”

Fauci says the CDC guideline for getting people back into society generally “is 10 days from the onset of your symptoms.”

That onset for Trump was Oct. 1, according to his doctors. The president’s White House doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, said Trump could return to holding events on Saturday. Organizers says attendees are required to bring masks or masks will be provided for the outdoor White House event.

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

— Dr. Fauci cautions against large gatherings without masks, social distancing ahead of President Trump’s White House event

— India coronavirus cases approach 7 million; averaging more than 70,000 daily cases this month

— Czech Republic sees surge in new daily infections at nearly 9,000

— Queen Elizabeth II honored the work of doctors and nurses, delivery drivers, fundraisers and volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic.

— China’s first classical music festival since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic is featuring musicians from the former epicenter of Wuhan.

— The NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots had no positive coronavirus tests Saturday and both teams will be allowed to go back to their facilities.

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

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

TRENTON, N.J. — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’s been discharged from a New Jersey hospital where he spent a week after contracting the coronavirus.

Christie says in a Saturday post on Twitter that he’d been released from the Morristown Medical Center. He tweeted his thanks to hospital staff and says he’d “have more to say about all of this next week.”

Christie announced Oct. 3 he had tested positive and checked himself into the hospital as “an important precautionary measure,” given his history of asthma.

Christie was among several coronavirus cases connected to President Donald Trump’s inner circle. Along with Trump and first lady Melania Trump, multiple people who traveled with the president or attended his events recently contracted the virus.

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic and neighboring Slovakia have registered big jumps in new coronavirus infections, setting a new record for the fourth straight day.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase reached 8,618 confirmed cases on Friday, over 3,000 more than the previous record set a day earlier in the nation of over 10 million.

The Czech Republic has had a total of 109,374

Newsom formally allows social gatherings in California for first time during pandemic


California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. | Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

SACRAMENTO — California health officials late Friday released rules allowing social gatherings for the first time since the pandemic began, enabling up to three households to get together outdoors.

Details: The new rules follow general guidance that has emerged over the last several months.

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Participants must stay six feet apart and wear masks except while eating or drinking. Besides requiring gatherings outside, the California Department of Public Health encourages residents to stick to the same three households as much as possible, essentially forming a social bubble. Such occasions can occur at private homes or in parks.

The state says hosts should make sure to log the names of all attendees and their contact info in case of an infection. It says anyone with symptoms should not attend and that anyone who contracts Covid-19 within 48 hours should notify other attendees as soon as possible.

People attending gatherings can go inside to use the bathroom as long as it is regularly sanitized.

Such events should last no longer than two hours to limit exposure. And singing, chanting and shouting are “strongly discouraged,” though if they occur, participants should wear masks and try to keep the volume down.

Context: The state until now has prohibited gatherings of households, though many have gotten together for months.

It comes as California infection rates are on the decline after a summer surge. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has steadily rolled out additional guidelines in the last few weeks for activities that had little clarity until now. In late September, the state released rules enabling playgrounds to reopen.

Newsom and health officials expressed concern this spring about gatherings after some Mother’s Day and graduation get-togethers led to disease spread, particularly those that occurred indoors.

What’s next: The biggest impact is laying out best practices when gathering. Many residents have already formed social bubbles or gotten together outside and faced little risk of enforcement.

The rules come as the weather begins to cool heading further into the fall and winter, potentially testing whether residents will heed the advice to keep social gatherings outdoors.

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The Latest: Judge Won’t Block NY Plan to Limit Gatherings | World News

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.

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

— President Trump credits antibody drug for quick recovery

— Spain declares state of emergency in Madrid to contain surge

— As virus fills French ICUs anew, doctors ask what went wrong

— British government will announce more support for businesses to retain staff in the coming months if they are forced to close because of lockdown restrictions.

— President Donald Trump says he wants to try to hold a campaign rally in Florida on Saturday, despite his recent COVID-19 diagnosis.

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

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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.

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.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday that bars around West Virginia University in Morgantown can

Sri Lanka bans gatherings amid virus cluster

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka have banned all public gatherings as a new cluster of coronavirus infections expands in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Health authorities said early Wednesday that the outbreak centered at a garment factory has risen to 830 confirmed cases while more than 1,000 people have been asked to quarantine at their homes.

The health ministry ordered a halt to gatherings such as exhibitions, parties, conferences, indoor or outdoor events, carnivals, musical shows and processions. Officials already imposed a curfew in two suburbs of Colombo where many of the patients live, closed schools and restrictws public transport.

The cluster emerged Monday, a day after Sri Lanka reported its first community infection in two months. The country has reported 3,733 cases during the pandemic, with 13 deaths.

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

— Pentagon says top military leaders are under self-quarantine

— How do I politely ask someone to wear a mask? If in store or restaurant, have a manager make the request

— Virginia Gov. Northam has mild symptoms 2 weeks after virus diagnosis

— Despite decades of warnings about the fragile supply lines bringing protective gear from overseas factories to America’s health care workers, the U.S. was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic.

— Hospitals and staff are stretched to their limits again in Madrid, where the surging number of COVID-19 patients in September forced an expansion of critical care beds into gymnasiums.

— Service workers in New Orleans who were laid off because of the coronavirus’s impact on the economy are earning a living by helping others survive during the pandemic.

— 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:

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 114 new cases of the coronavirus, its first daily jump of over 100 in a week.

Health officials had raised concerns that infections will rise because of increased travel during the five-day Chuseok harvest holiday that ended Sunday.

The figures released by health officials Wednesday brought South Korea’s case total to 24,353 for the pandemic, including 425 deaths.

Ninety-two of the newly confirmed cases were in the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a viral resurgence since mid-August. Health officials have been struggling to track transmissions linked to various places, including hospitals, churches, restaurants and an army unit in Pocheon, north of Seoul, where 37 soldiers so far have tested positive.

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s governor says the state will reinstate restrictions on businesses, houses of worship and schools in and around areas where coronavirus cases are spiking.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the severity of shutdowns would vary by proximity to hot spots.

The rules will take effect no later than Friday in parts of New York City’s Brooklyn and Queens boroughs, sections of Orange and Rockland counties north of the city, and an area within the upstate city of Binghamton near the Pennsylvania border.

Student gatherings, congregate living contribute to rapid coronavirus spread at universities: CDC

Student gatherings and congregate living settings likely contribute to the rapid spread of COVID-19 at universities, according to an analysis published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Universities that resume in-person learning should reduce the capacity of on-campus housing, increase consistent use of masks, increase testing for COVID-19 and discourage student gatherings, the authors of the CDC report concluded. 

The report looked at one university in North Carolina that experienced a “rapid increase of COVID-19 cases and clusters” within two weeks of opening campus to students. 

Between August 3 and 25, nearly 700 COVID-19 cases were identified, mostly among patients 22 or younger, suggesting most cases were among undergraduate students. 

While the report doesn’t name the university — a common practice for CDC reports — the demographics and statistics listed match up with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which ended in-person instruction two weeks after classes began following outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus. Students also were not required to quarantine or get tested for COVID-19 before arriving on campus.

Thirty percent of cases were linked to at least one cluster, defined by the CDC as five or more linked cases, such as a common residence, sports team, or membership of a fraternity or sorority. 

The CDC identified 18 clusters in total, the largest one connected to a university-affiliated apartment complex. 

“Student gatherings and congregate living settings, both on and off-campus, likely contributed to the rapid spread of COVID-19 within the university community,” the authors of the report wrote. 

By the time the university moved to online instruction Aug. 19, more than 330 COVID-19 cases had been reported to the local health department, despite taking a number of mitigation measures, including decreasing the capacity of dining halls and classrooms. 

Still, residence halls had opened at between 60 percent to 85 percent capacity, with most students in double rooms, according to the CDC’s report. 

About 5,800 students — 30 percent of enrolled undergraduates — were living on campus as of August 10. 

Among undergraduate students who tested positive for COVID-19, 36 percent lived on campus, and at least 8 percent were members of a fraternity or sorority. Eight percent were student athletes. 

As of Aug. 25, none of the students were hospitalized or had died, according to the report, but any longer-term complications are unknown because of “limited clinical follow-up,” according to the report. 

While healthy children are young adults are unlikely to face severe COVID-19 illness, they can spread it to others who are at higher risk for complications, according to a separate CDC report published Tuesday. That report found a 55 percent increase in COVID-19 cases among 18-22 year-olds between Aug. 2 and Sept. 5, as college campuses were reopening. While many colleges and universities required students be tested before or after arriving on campus, the increase in cases is not solely related to more testing, the authors of the report wrote. 

“It is likely that some of this increase is linked to resumption