Connecticut enters 3rd reopening phase Thursday

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s third reopening phase is set to begin Thursday, a milestone during the coronavirus pandemic that is getting a lukewarm reception from some business owners and arts aficionados.

A number of restaurant owners say they won’t be able to reach the new 75% capacity limit for indoor dining because they don’t have the space, primarily due to the requirement that tables be at least 6 feet apart. The indoor capacity maximum is being increased from 50%.

Indoor performing arts venues will be allowed to open beginning Thursday at 50% capacity, while outdoor event venues will be allowed to increase their capacity from 25% to 50%, with required masks and social distancing at all locations. But many theaters and concert venues have decided not to open this week, as shows already have been canceled and many say they can’t make money with half-full facilities.

The Phase 3 reopening comes as Connecticut has seen a slight uptick in coronavirus cases. Nearly 140 people were hospitalized as of Wednesday, up from 50 from a month ago and the highest number since late June.


The positive test rate for the virus was less than 1% over most of the summer, but has edged up to around 1.5% recently.

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

— President Trump’s doctor says he’s been symptom-free for 24 hours

— What do we know about superspreader events in the pandemic?

— Gov. Cuomo issues restrictions in parts of New York

— Eli Lilly and Company has asked the U.S. government to allow emergency use of an experimental antibody therapy.

— Ethics experts say the special treatment Trump received to access an experimental COVID-19 drug raises fairness issues and public’s right to know about his condition.

— Tennessee will not be returning to the team’s facility after two more players tested positive and New England Patriots have canceled practice through Thursday amid reports that a third player has tested positive for the coronavirus.

— 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:

ORLANDO, Fla. — About 8,800 part-time union workers at Walt Disney World in Florida will be part of the 28,000 layoffs in Disney’s parks division in California and Florida, union officials said Wednesday.

The addition of the union workers to the almost 6,500 nonunion layoff already announced brings the Disney-related job losses in Florida to more than 15,000 workers.

Disney officials announced last week that it was laying off 28,000 workers because of the coronavirus pandemic. Two-thirds of the planned layoffs involved part-time workers and they ranged from salaried employees to hourly workers.

Disney’s parks closed last spring as the pandemic began spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened this summer, but the California parks have yet to reopen as the company awaits guidance from the state of California.

In a letter to employees, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experience and Product, said California’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen” exacerbated the situation for the company.

Disney has soared to success with the breadth of its media and entertainment offerings, but is now trying to recover after the coronavirus pandemic pummeled many of its businesses. It was hit by several months of its parks and stores being closed, cruise ships idled, movie releases postponed and a halt in film and video production.

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has tested negative for coronavirus in Las Vegas a day after a positive COVID-19 test came back for one of his staff members working at his office in the Capitol in Carson City.

Sisolak’s spokeswoman Meghin Delaney says the Democratic governor has not had in-person contact with the staffer since mid-September.

She said the negative result came back Wednesday after he was tested Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution.”

Sisolak departed northern Nevada on Sept. 17 and has been working from Las Vegas since then.

He intended to return to Carson City next week but those plans are on hold.

All staff in Carson City who came into contact with the staffer who tested positive are now working from home where they will remain in quarantine for 14 days in compliance with CDC guidelines, Delaney said.

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JACKSON, MISS. — Preparations for the Mississippi State Fair’s grand opening moved forward Wednesday amid criticism that masks will not be required at the event after the governor repealed the statewide mask mandate.

The event usually draws thousands to the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in the state capital every year for food, carnival rides, music and agricultural expositions. This year, the fair is scheduled to run from Oct. 7 to Oct. 18. Doors open Wednesday night.

While many residents were happy with the opportunity to be able to attend the fair, others said they were choosing to skip the event because of safety concerns associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you’ve ever been to the Mississippi State Fair, you already know: social distancing is practically impossible,” said Zeke Morgan, who grew up in Jackson attending the fair. “This will be a super-spreader event and that’s something that Mississippi can’t handle.”

Governor Tate Reeves previously said during the planning process for the fair that it was likely masks would be required. Then, a week before the fair was scheduled to begin, he repealed the state’s mask mandate.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The number of hospitalizations in Oklahoma due to the illness caused by the coronavirus has surged above 700 to a new record one-day high.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 738 people hospitalized either confirmed with COVID-19 or under investigation for infection.

Oklahoma National Guard Lt. Col. Matt Stacy, who has coordinated the state’s surge plan said state officials are working with hospitals to move patients to facilities with more bed capacity.

“We understand the hospitals … they’re stressed with COVID patients.” Stacy said.

The health department reported 94,352 coronavirus cases on Wednesday and 1,075 deaths due to COVID-19, up from 93,346 cases and 1,066 deaths reported Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has returned to the Oval Office for the first time since he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Spokesman Brian Morgenstern confirmed that the president has returned to the Oval Office. He has been convalescing in the White House residence since he returned from a three-night hospital stay on Monday evening.

Trump is likely still contagious with the virus.

Morgenstern says of the Oval Office return that there are “certainly ways to do it without compromising anyone.”

White House officials say they have put additional safeguards in place to protect staff who may interact with the president, including requiring full personal protective equipment.

Morgenstern says Trump is being briefed on economic stimulus talks and a potentially devastating hurricane heading toward the Gulf Coast.

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PARIS — France set a grim new record on Wednesday, with more than 18,700 new cases of COVID-19 infections detected in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said that more than 80 people died of the virus in 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths linked to the coronavirus to 32,445, among the highest counts in Europe.

In another high, the rate of positives in the increasing number of tests being conducted is over 9 percent, the public health agency said.

Authorities have been trying to beat back the worrying increase in infections that began after the summer holidays when people let down their guard, but do not want to return the nation to the strict two-month lockdown that ended in mid-May.

A day ago, bars were closed down in the Paris area — placed on a maximum alert level — and restaurants are being forced to comply with strict conditions if they want to remain open, like taking names and phone numbers of each client.

Festive activities were banned. Paris far outpaces other French cities for the number of people hospitalized and treated in ICUs, including Marseille, another trouble spot.

On Monday, the director of the Regional Health Authority, Aurelien Rousseau, said about 3,500 new cases of infection were confirmed on average each day in the Paris region, and 36% of ICU beds in the area were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

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MIAMI — Florida’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed more than 15,000 people as the state detected more than 2,500 new virus cases and local governments and school districts carried on with reopening plans.

Health officials tallied 139 new deaths, while 2,128 patients are being treated in Florida hospitals for COVID-19, a slight decrease from Tuesday’s figures. The health department figures do not represent casualties in a 24-hour period, and include deaths from several previous days.

Miami public schools continued to welcome children for physical instruction on Wednesday after more than a month of virtual learning.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said shipments with hundreds of thousands of rapid test kits will help better detect the virus and protect those with underlying conditions.

According to data kept by the Associated Press, Florida’s death toll from the virus is the fifth highest in the country overall and the 12th highest per capita at more than 69 deaths per 100,000 people.

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HELENA, Mont. — Montana health officials reported 733 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, again shattering the record for daily cases.

The previous record, set on Tuesday, stood at 504 cases. Missoula County health officials said the 211 new cases reported in the county represent a reporting lag.

However, an official said Tuesday the Missoula health department would increase enforcement of statewide regulations with unannounced inspections of businesses.

Gov. Steve Bullock has previously said it is up to to local counties and health departments to issue stricter regulations to prevent the spread of the virus.

Bullock was expected to hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the outbreak.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A member of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office staff has tested positive for COVID-19 and contact tracing has begun.

The governor’s office says in a statement Wednesday that the staff member had not interacted with Newsom or with staff that routinely interacts with the governor.

Separately, a state employee who works in a space shared with some staff from the governor’s office also tested positive for COVID-19 but the person also had not interacted with the governor or his close staff.

The governor’s office says it received word of both positive tests earlier this week and COVID-19 protocols for California state agencies were implemented.

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s governor has announced a field hospital at the state fairgrounds will open within the next week as a surge in coronavirus cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

According to the state Department of Health Services, only 16% of the state’s 11,452 hospital beds are available as of Tuesday afternoon. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has grown to 853, including 216 in intensive care.

The COVID-19 test results on an additional 262 in-patients are pending. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a 530-bed field hospital on the state fairgrounds in West Allis in April, but it wasn’t needed until now.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins refused to grant the temporary restraining order requested by plaintiffs represented by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Watkins says there is no urgency because the health orders were first issued this spring and the mask order followed in July. The case will go forward. Watkins asked the two sides to file briefs on whether the case should be dismissed.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last week extended the state mask order through Nov. 8. Ivey says the measure has proven effective at helping control the state’s coronavirus outbreak even if some people do not like it.

Moore argued the mandate, as well as state health orders that closed businesses or directed people to stay home, were unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed by Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law on behalf of seven plaintiffs.

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JOHNSTON, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds says the health care system can handle the increase in coronavirus cases and record hospitalizations without more action to reduce infections.

There were 444 people treated for the coronavirus in hospitals on Wednesday. In the past day, the state confirmed 919 new positive cases and 15 deaths.

Despite the increases, Reynolds said hospital officials had reported that they were equipped to handle the surge.

Reynolds emphasized everyone needs to take personal responsibility. Asked whether the state should do more, Reynolds says there would be a cost to requiring more stringent safety measures.

She says it’s a balancing act, and she’s “working with Iowans and businesses across the state. There’s more than just one side of this.”

Iowa’s total cases stand at 94,342 and 1,414 deaths.

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