Virus cluster found at Alaska hockey tournament

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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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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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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GENEVA — The World Health Organization reports a worldwide record of 350,000 new daily coronavirus cases.

The U.N. health agency says the confirmed daily high of 350,766 cases surpasses by nearly 12,000 a record set earlier this week. That tally includes more than 109,000 cases from Europe.

British scientists reported the coronavirus outbreak is doubling every few weeks. French hospitals are running out of ICU beds. Spain declared a state of emergency in Madrid because of soaring cases.

WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan acknowledged the worldwide surges, saying “there are no new answers.” He says although the agency wants countries to avoid punishing economic lockdowns, governments must ensure the most vulnerable people are protected and take measures toward that end.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas’ top public health official warned the state is “losing the battle” against the coronavirus and reported another record increase in new cases.

The state Department of Health and Environment says Kansas reported 1,855 new cases since Wednesday, an increase of 2.9%, to bring the total for the pandemic to 65,807.

The state reported another 40 COVID-19-related deaths, increasing the confirmed total to 763. Twenty-six of those were reported Thursday in Shawnee County, where the local health department reviewed previous death certificates from the Topeka area.

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MADRID — Spain’s Health Ministry has reported 12,788 new cases of the coronavirus.

Madrid remains the hardest-hit region, with 2,256 confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours. The second highest was Aragón (487).

The Spanish government on Friday declared a state of emergency in Madrid, where special restrictions on movement are in place.

Spain has more than 860,000 confirmed cases, the highest in Europe. It has nearly 33,000 deaths, the third-highest total in Europe after Britain and Italy.

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ROME — Italy recorded one of its highest single-day totals of coronavirus infections, adding 5,372 cases and 28 more deaths.

Hard-hit Lombardy, the onetime European epicenter of the pandemic, added 983 cases and southern Campania added 769.

Campania’s spike in cases has alarmed public health officials, given the region is less equipped to handle a surge in cases than the prosperous north. The regional governor has defended the measures the region has taken to date, but experts warning Italy’s center-south still isn’t prepared for a second wave.

The head of the Italian association of hospital anesthesiologists, Alessandro Vergallo, tells news agency ANSA that intensive care beds could be filled in Campania and the Lazio region around Rome within a month if new restrictions aren’t adopted.

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LONDON — The British government will pay two thirds of the salaries of workers in companies that close because of coronavirus restrictions expected to take effect next week.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak responded to calls from businesses, local leaders and unions to provide a financial package to prevent mass job losses in pubs and restaurants in parts of northern England.

The U.K. has more than 42,600 confirmed deaths, the highest in Europe and No. 5 in the world. It’s likely more because of a lack of testing early in the pandemic, and the British government changing in July how it counts deaths – only those within 28 days of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

The latest daily figures published Friday showed 13,864 new cases. Though down from the previous day’s 17,540, its nearly double from a week earlier.

The daily death toll rose to 87, the highest since early July, for a confirmed total of 42,769.

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TORONTO — The Ontario government says its prohibiting indoor dining in restaurants and bars in Toronto and Ottawa for 28 days starting on Saturday.

The measures include closing gyms and theaters after Ontario registered a record 939 coronavirus cases on Friday.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says the measures wouldn’t have been necessary if more people had followed public health guidelines by wearing masks and keeping a social distance.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says doctors have told him that he could’ve become very ill with COVID-19 and credits an experimental antibody drug for helping him recover.

Trump told Rush Limbaugh in his call-in radio show on Friday that he was not in “great shape” and “might not have recovered at all.”

But the president says one day later, he was fine. Health experts say there is no way for the president or his doctors to know whether the drug was effective.

Trump says he is trying to get federal health officials to quickly approve an emergency use authorization from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which provides the antibody drug.

He adds it just “wiped out the virus,” which he says has killed five friends.

Health experts say it’s not a cure, but experimental antibody drugs like those are among the most promising therapies being tested. They aim to help the immune system fight the coronavirus. However, they are still in the testing phase and their safety and effectiveness are not yet known.

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NEW YORK — Fans of Broadway will have to wait a little longer for shows to resume, until at least late May.

Although an exact date for various performances to resume has yet to be determined, Broadway producers are now offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for shows through May 30.

Broadway theaters abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows — including 16 that were still scheduled to open — and scrambling the Tony Award schedule. Producers, citing health and city authorities, previously extended the shutdown to Jan. 3.

Actors’ Equity Association, the national union that represents actors and stage managers, has urged lawmakers to include arts funding and loans to help those who work in the live performing arts.

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LONDON — Dr. Kate O’Brien, the World Health Organization’s director of immunization, says even though fast-track approval processes have been started for COVID-19 vaccines, no shots will be approved unless they can demonstrate minimum levels of efficacy and safety.

She noted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently said it would require at least two months of follow-up safety data before licensing a vaccine and advanced trials were designed so researchers could examine data at certain points before the trial’s completion to know if the vaccine works.

Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, the group’s chair, says careful monitoring of any COVID-19 vaccines used in broad immunization programs was critical.

He says there’s a need to “follow the safety of these vaccines for a longer time once they start being used in this much more massive way.” He calls for surveillance systems to be reinforced in countries to evaluate the vaccine’s impact on COVID-19 deaths and other factors.

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LONDON — Buckingham Palace says the Countess of Wessex is self-isolating at home after contact with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The palace says the 55-year-old Countess Sophie hasn’t experienced symptoms but is following relevant government guidelines. Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones married Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, in 1999.

The royals have been touched by the pandemic in the past. Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, tested positive for the coronavirus in March.

Charles, 71, recovered and described himself as one of “the lucky ones” with only mild symptoms.

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