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UK officials to mull north England virus steps

LONDON — Health officials are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to add areas of northern England, including Manchester and Lancashire, to the highest-risk tier, meaning additional anti-coronavirus measures such as closing pubs could soon be imposed there. Only Liverpool was placed in the highest-risk category when the plan was unveiled Monday.

The discussions come as the regional government in Northern Ireland prepares to announce even tougher measures, including a two-week school closure. Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate among the U.K.’s four nations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being criticized by all sides two days after announcing his three-tier approach to controlling the virus.

A report released Tuesday showed that the government’s science advisers have called for tougher measures, including a two- to three-week national lockdown. The opposition Labour Party has called for that advice to be followed, while members of Johnson’s Conservative Party say the measures already in place go too far and are damaging the economy,



— Lives Lost: Indian doctor embodied his family’s dreams

— More masks, less play: Europe tightens rules as virus surges

— Possible safety issue spurs pause of COVID-19 antibody study

— AP-NORC poll: New angst for caregivers in time of COVID-19


— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at and



NEW DELHI — India has confirmed more than 63,000 new cases of the coronavirus, an increase of over 8,000 from the previous day but still far fewer than it was reporting a month ago, when the virus was at its peak in the country.

The Health Ministry reported 63,509 new cases on Wednesday, raising India’s total to more than 7.2 million, second in the world behind the U.S. The ministry also reported 730 fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 110,586. The country was seeing more than 1,000 deaths per day last month.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. Over the last month, the country has been seeing a trend of declining cases on a week-to-week basis.

On Tuesday, India registered 55,342 new cases, its lowest single-day tally since mid-August.


BEIJING — China says it has carried out more than 4.2 million tests in the northern port city of Qingdao, with no new cases of coronavirus found among the almost 2 million sets of results received.

The city has reported a total of 12 cases, six with symptoms and six without, since the new outbreak was first spotted over the weekend at a hospital.

China on Wednesday reported 27 new cases of coronavirus, including 13 new cases of local transmission and 14 cases brought from outside the country.

China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths among 85,611 confirmed cases of COVID-19.


BOISE, Idaho — Idaho health care experts say coronavirus is increasing

Utah officials announce new pandemic strategy, mask mandates

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is implementing a new strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic as the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations continued to surge, state officials announced Tuesday.

The state will move away from its color-coded health system and instead place counties under restrictions based on their COVID-19 transmission rates, said Gov. Gary Herbert. Each county will be listed as high, moderate or low level transmission areas.

Six counties — Salt Lake, Utah, Cache, Garfield, Juab and Wasatch — have been designated as high transmission areas. Masks will be required in all indoor settings in these counties, and social gatherings must be limited to 10 people or fewer, said Rich Saunders, acting director of the Utah Department of Health.

In moderate transmission areas, gatherings will be limited to 25 or fewer unless masks are worn, said Saunders. Gatherings will be limited to 50 or fewer in low transmission areas if people don’t wear masks.

As a two-week “circuit breaker,” masks must be worn in all moderate transmission counties until Oct. 29, said Saunders.

Utah has been in the midst of a record-setting surge in reported coronavirus cases over the past month. The state ranks fifth in the country for newly confirmed infections per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Utah’s health department reported a seven-day average of 1,182 new positive test per day on Tuesday, just below Saturday’s record of 1,189.

“We are having one of the worst outbreaks in the country, and this is unacceptable,” Herbert said.

There have been over 87,000 reported virus cases in Utah and 522 people have died, according to state data. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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These Angelenos Need To Get Coronavirus Tested, Officials Warn

LOS ANGELES, CA —More than 100,000 people took to the streets of Los Angeles over the weekend in support of Armenia and to celebrate the Lakers, and if you were among them, you should get tested for the coronavirus, county health officials said Monday.

Unable to stop Angelenos from avoiding crowds, health officials are trying another tack: getting participants tested before they can unknowingly spread the coronavirus to others. It’s an approached learned from the widespread demonstrations that played a role in the summer surge.

In a statement, the county Department of Public Health insisted that COVID-19 “remains easily spread among people who are in close contact with an infected person.”

While not specifically mentioning either of Sunday’s large gatherings, health officials called on anyone who spent time in a large crowd to get tested for the virus.

“If you were in a crowd with non-household members, especially if people weren’t wearing face coverings and were shouting, chanting and/or singing, you may have been exposed to COVID-19 if an infected person was also there,” according to the county statement. “People can pass the virus to others, even before they know they have it.”

People who may have been exposed to the virus are urged to stay away from other people and monitor themselves for symptoms for the next 14 days.

“This is essential to prevent you from unintentionally spreading COVID-19 to other people,” according to the county.

The warning came as the county reported two additional coronavirus- related deaths, raising the overall total during the pandemic to 6,773. The county also announced another 881 cases, while Long Beach health officials reported 41 more, lifting the countywide cumulative total to 283,023.

County officials noted that case numbers tend to be artificially low on Mondays, due to reporting lags over the weekend. The low numbers are a welcome change from last week, when the county saw a one-day spike of new cases topping 1,600, followed by three days of case numbers above 1,200.

In order to escape the most restrictive tier of the state’s four-tier economic-reopening roadmap, the county needs to get the average daily new case number down to about 700.

Although the county’s testing-positivity rate qualifies the county to move out of the state’s restrictive “purple” tier, the case rate per 100,000 residents remains too high. The rate needs to be no more than seven per 100,000 residents.

Since counties must meet the state requirements for two straight weeks to move up in the reopening matrix, Los Angeles County is currently unlikely to see any movement for at least two to three weeks.

The state updates county placements in the matrix every Tuesday.

As of Monday, there were 693 people hospitalized in the county due to the coronavirus, down from 715 on Sunday.

Since the pandemic began, more than 2.8 million coronavirus test results have been reported in the county, with an overall positivity rate of about 9%. The more recent seven-day average has been much lower in

L.A. County health officials report 1,285 new coronavirus cases and an additional 28 deaths

ARCADIA, CA - OCTOBER 07, 2020 - A sign tells customers to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as shoppers return to indoor shopping at the Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall in Arcadia on October 7, 2020. This is the first day customers were allowed to return to indoor shopping after Los Angeles County eased restrictions and have reopened the malls and the individual stores. Such stores have been closed for weeks, but reopened Wednesday at 25% capacity. Westfield Santa Anita has placed Covid-related signage with one-way traffic, 6 feet distancing when waiting to get into individual stores, hand sanitizing stations and mask are required before entering the mall. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A sign tells customers to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as people return to indoor shopping at the Westfield Santa Anita mall in Arcadia on Wednesday, the first day L.A. County malls were allowed to reopen at limited capacity. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Twenty-eight more people have died from COVID-19 across Los Angeles County and 1,285 new infections have been confirmed, officials said Saturday.

The numbers, reported by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, bring the countywide pandemic death toll to 6,768 people, with 281,165 confirmed cases.

In 72% of the new cases, those who tested positive were under 50 years old, the department said.

Of the 28 deaths, the department said, 22 people had underlying health conditions. One of the fatalities involved a person between 18 and 29 years old, while two people were between 30 and 49, seven were between 50 and 64, nine were between 65 and 79, and nine were over 80, the department said.

“Please remember that even young people can have serious illness if infected with this virus and have severe outcomes,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a news release. Ferrer recommend the use of face masks, social distancing, and avoiding non-essential activities.

The department said 93% of the fatalities involve people with underlying health problems. The LA County numbers do not include Pasadena, where the reported deaths are now 129, and Long Beach, where the number is 249.

The department urged bars and restaurants that might be airing sports not to allow customers to congregate around the televisions.

Experts say it is too soon to characterize the increase in cases in Los Angeles County as a surge, of the kind that accompanied rapid business reopenings over the summer. The state is now relying on a tiered reopening strategy, and in L.A. County, where businesses such as breweries and wineries have been allowed to reopen outdoors, the high case count has kept it at Tier 1.

Across the county, some 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 are reported every day. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert, said last week that the pandemic could get worse in the winter and persist through much of next year. He warned that a vaccine won’t return the country to pre-Covid conditions, but predicted “some degree of normality” in the second half of 2021.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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Wig-Looking Poisonous Caterpillars Can Inflict Pain, Officials Warn

First, it was murder hornets. Now it’s stinging caterpillars.

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about in 2020, foresters in Virginia are warning that if you see a caterpillar that looks like a wig on a tree, don’t touch it.

The Virginia Department of Forestry said it had received reports of hairy-looking puss caterpillars in eastern Virginia. Its hairs are attached to a poisonous gland, said Eric Day, of Virginia Tech’s Insect Identification Lab.

Touching it could cause a painful reaction, the severity of which can vary, Mr. Day said. Other symptoms can include pain that comes in waves, a rash, fever, muscle cramps or swollen glands, according to the University of Michigan.

Symptoms should be monitored and people who are stung should use their own judgment about seeking medical attention, Mr. Day said.

He recommended taking a picture of the caterpillar and showing a doctor if symptoms worsen.

In people with severe reactions, “you’d think it was a much bigger critter,” Mr. Day said.

It’s also known as the southern flannel moth, but this caterpillar’s moth stage is nothing to worry about, Mr. Day said.

“The larva of this species is entirely covered by a thick carpet of long grayish-tan to dark brown hairs with a rusty stripe down the center of the back” and over all resembles a tiny mouse, Virginia Tech said in a fact sheet about the caterpillar.

These caterpillars, which eat oak and elm leaves, are typically found in parks or near structures, foresters said. It’s one of several stinging caterpillars in the country.

The warning from Virginia foresters comes a few months after Asian giant hornets, known as murder hornets, resurfaced in the Pacific Northwest. Though this hornet craves bee carcasses, its potent stinger has been linked to up to 50 human deaths a year in Japan.

In September, a New Kent County, Va., woman said she felt a pain in her right leg from a puss caterpillar after she reached into her car, The Daily Progress reported. She went to an emergency room, and it took three days for her to feel normal again.

“It felt exactly like a scorching-hot knife passing through the outside of my calf,” said the woman, Crystal Spindel Gaston. “Before I looked down to see where it came from, I thought 100 percent, I was going to see a big piece of metal, super sharp, sticking out from my car.”

It’s normal for Mr. Day to get reports of a few puss caterpillars a year but he’s already received about 20 inquiries — 10 times what he usually gets. He said it’s too early to tell if the numbers have been influenced by climate change but added that warmer summers and winters help the caterpillars.

“Outbreak is a big word, but the numbers are much higher,” Mr. Day said. “And definitely the number of reports are much higher.”

Puss caterpillars may have had the opportunity to feed and grow because predators that customarily keep them in check,

Irish officials warn of ‘exponential’ growth in COVID-19

DUBLIN (Reuters) – The spread of COVID-19 in Ireland has reached an exponential growth phase and a coming surge in hospitalisations will create a “very significant challenge” for Irish society, a leading public health official said on Wednesday.

On Monday the Irish government banned indoor restaurant dining across the country and limited the number of visitors to people’s homes to try to curb the accelerating second wave of coronavirus infections – seen as arising from increased socialising after the lifting of lockdown.

But the government rejected a recommendation from public health officials on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to impose a much stricter lockdown.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Public Health Emergency Team officials said that the situation had worsened further since their weekend recommendation.

“We are looking at a rapidly deteriorating position, we’re looking at a position that is very precarious because we are in a phase of exponential growth,” Philip Nolan, head of NPHET’s COVID-19 modeling group, told a press briefing.

“Unless there is a very, very significant reduction in the levels of viral transmission over the coming weeks, we will see case numbers and hospitalisations that will be a very significant challenge for us as a society.”

Ireland’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has more than doubled to 493 cases per day over the past three weeks.

But that figure could increase to between 1,100 and 1,500 cases daily by Nov. 7 if the rate of transmission is not immediately reduced, Nolan said.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan, also a member of NPHET, told the same briefing that he was deeply concerned about the path of the infection.

Ireland’s 14-day cumulative case total on Wednesday of 112.8 per 100,000 people was the 15th highest infection rate among 31 European countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control.

A total of 39,584 COVID-19 infections and 1,816 deaths related to the respiratory disease have been reported in Ireland.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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New England Journal of Medicine blasts Trump officials’ response to virus, calls for new leaders

The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, in an unprecedented editorial, denounced the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and called for voting out “current political leaders” who are “dangerously incompetent.”

The harshly worded editorial is the first time the prestigious medical journal, which usually stays out of politics, has weighed in on an election.  

The editorial does not mention President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump and Biden’s plans would both add to the debt, analysis finds Trump says he will back specific relief measures hours after halting talks Trump lashes out at FDA over vaccine guidelines MORE by name, but it refers to “the administration” and calls for voting out “our current political leaders.”

“When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent,” the editorial states. “We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

The journal takes the Trump administration to task on a wide range of issues that it argues the U.S. has failed on, from inadequate testing to shortages of protective equipment for health workers. 

“We have failed at almost every step,” the editorial states. “We had ample warning, but when the disease first arrived, we were incapable of testing effectively and couldn’t provide even the most basic personal protective equipment to health care workers and the general public. And we continue to be way behind the curve in testing.”

The editorial also criticizes states for reopening businesses before the virus had been controlled and for a lack of mask-wearing, which it blames on leaders not modeling the behavior. Trump has rarely worn a mask during appearances for months and has mocked their use. 

“Our rules on social distancing have in many places been lackadaisical at best, with loosening of restrictions long before adequate disease control had been achieved,” it states. “And in much of the country, people simply don’t wear masks, largely because our leaders have stated outright that masks are political tools rather than effective infection control measures.”

The U.S. leads the world in cases and deaths from the virus, it notes. 

“The magnitude of this failure is astonishing,” the editors write. “According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and in deaths due to the disease, far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China.” 

It adds that countries like South Korea and Singapore were able to suppress the virus through robust testing and contact tracing, in contrast to the U.S.  

The journal also points to political pressure Trump has placed on health agencies ranging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Food and Drug Administration, warning of the undermining of scientific expertise. 

“Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government, causing damage that will certainly outlast them,” it states.

D.C., White House officials begin talks on contact-tracing efforts after outbreak

Bowser (D) on Wednesday said the White House and D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt discussed contact tracing Tuesday, although it wasn’t clear what action might emerge from the talks.

“I can tell you that Dr. Nesbitt asked them about their processes. She shared with them our capabilities and how we could be supportive, as well, and I suspect that that dialogue will continue,” she said.

Bowser said Monday the city reached out to the White House last week about the outbreak but had received no response.

Asked Wednesday about the outbreak that involves more than a dozen people — including President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, several aides and journalists — Bowser said officials are “concerned about the spread of covid-19 in our city, regardless of where it happened.”

She encouraged anyone who works at the White House who thinks they might have been exposed to the virus to get tested at a city-operated testing location, a private doctor or through the White House.

“All D.C. residents should recognize that D.C. Health protects their information, and so D.C. Health will not talk about a specific White House staffer to anybody,” Bowser said.

In a phone call Wednesday with members of the D.C. Council, Nesbitt said she expects to have more discussions with White House officials about the outbreak.

“They have clarified for us what their contact-tracing process is, and our conversations will continue to be ongoing to ensure that we are getting all of the information that is necessary and the contact tracing and testing infrastructure is sufficient to capture everything that needs to be done,” she said.

During the call, Nesbitt noted that of 246 recent interviews with D.C. residents who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, 22 percent contracted it at a workplace, 13 percent while traveling, 19 percent at a restaurant and 22 percent at a social gathering.

The Rose Garden event Sept. 26 suspected of being at the center of the outbreak came as D.C.’s seven-day rolling average of new cases dropped below 40 this month, the lowest since early July. The rolling average of new cases stood at 53 on Wednesday — the highest since Sept. 17 — stemming mostly from a one-day spike Tuesday of 105 additional cases.

The 45 new D.C. cases announced Wednesday was near the city’s recent average, while the 1,014 new daily cases reported across the greater Washington region was the lowest since Sept. 28.

D.C. officials have said Tuesday’s jump could be the result of a backlog of more than 8,000 coronavirus test results the city recently received on a single day, rather than having any White House connection. Health officials said they are looking for trends in new infections but have warned against drawing conclusions after a single-day increase.

The growing spotlight on the White House outbreak has led to a rise in residents seeking coronavirus tests this week, with numbers up at the city’s free testing sites.

The region’s Democratic congressional delegation sent a letter Tuesday

Baltimore officials fear the coronavirus pandemic will exacerbate another public health issue: STD rates

At first glance, the numbers look promising.

During the first seven months of 2020, according to preliminary data provided by the Baltimore Health Department, reports of sexually transmitted diseases were down in the city. Compared to last year, reports of chlamydia decreased by 20%. Reports of gonorrhea and HIV dropped, too.

But these numbers may be deceiving, thanks in large part to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, warned Dr. Adena Greenbaum, assistant commissioner of clinical services at the city’s health department. In fact, she and other sexual health experts are bracing for STD rates to get worse.

“That’s just STDs that were reported — it doesn’t mean that they weren’t there,” she said of the preliminary data, which has yet to be finalized. “I don’t think the actual decrease in STDs was that severe during that time. I just think it really shows what happens when the reporting system closes down, or really gets reduced capacity.”

The pandemic has forced clinics and health care providers to cut back on in-person testing services and outreach efforts. With a new infectious disease to track, Baltimore City has also had to divert its contact tracing manpower from STDs.

Even before COVID-19 hit, STDs were at an all-time high across the U.S. According to an analysis done by a health services research group on data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Baltimore City had the highest STD rate in the country, with 2,004 cases per 100,000 people as of 2018.

Still, the concerns of Baltimore experts are echoed nationwide. A National Coalition of STD Directors survey at the start of the pandemic found that 83% of STD programs reported deferring services or field visits as a direct result of the coronavirus, and 66% of clinics reported a drop in sexual health screening and testing. All jurisdictions surveyed expressed concern about how the service restrictions would impact the vulnerable populations they serve.

In Baltimore, before the pandemic, no appointment was necessary to visit one of the two sexual health clinics run by the city’s health department. Now walk-ins aren’t permitted, and the city is only offering limited testing to those who are symptomatic — encouraging others to request a personal test kit from a program run out of Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, the city has yet to send its mobile outreach vans back out into the community.

Chase Brexton Health Care, however, has continued offering HIV testing on a walk-in basis. The health network’s social workers have also “intensified” outreach to their existing patients with HIV, reaching quite a few who had fallen out of care, said Dr. Sebastian Ruhs, chief medical officer for Chase Brexton. Perhaps as a result, he said, the number of patients who have an undetectable viral load has improved slightly during the pandemic.

However, the network hasn’t been able to continue offering testing for other types of STDs for those who aren’t Chase Brexton patients, due to COVID-19 restrictions and staffing issues.

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Coronavirus outbreak at North Carolina hair salon tied to at least 1 death: officials

At least one person has died following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a hair salon in North Carolina, officials announced this week.

Haywood County Health and Human Services in a news release on Tuesday announced that the person died on Oct. 1 at a local hospital.

At least one person has died following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a hair salon in North Carolina, officials announced this week.

At least one person has died following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a hair salon in North Carolina, officials announced this week.

“The death certificate lists pneumonia due to COVID-19 infection as an underlying cause of death (the disease that initiated the events resulting in death.) The individual was elderly and had several underlying medical conditions,” officials said, noting that no other information will be released to protect the family’s privacy.

The coronavirus cluster is linked to Enchanting Hair Fashions salon in Canton, said officials, who did not reveal how many COVID-19 cases are linked to this specific cluster.


“We extend our deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones. This is a sad reminder that COVID-19 is a serious and sometimes deadly illness. We urge all citizens to do their part by observing social distancing, wear masks and practice good hygiene,” said Health Director Patrick Johnson, in a statement.

It’s not clear if the stylists or salon patrons were wearing masks, though North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper mandated them in June.

The news comes after a review from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July found that uniform mask-wearing at a hair salon in Missouri may have prevented nearly 140 clients from contracting the novel coronavirus from two hairstylists infected with COVID-19.

In May, two hairstylists at Great Clips in Springfield, Mo., tested positive for COVID-19 after seeing clients at the salon located at 1864 S. Glenstone Ave. The stylists treated some 139 clients between the two of them.

However, none of the clients were sickened with COVID-19. Experts are crediting the use of face maks, at least in part, for preventing what could have been a significant outbreak of the deadly virus.


“Among 139 clients exposed to two symptomatic hair stylists with confirmed COVID-19 while both the stylists and the clients wore face masks, no symptomatic secondary cases were reported; among 67 clients tested for SARS-CoV-2, all test results were negative,” the report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reads. “Adherence to the community’s and company’s face-covering policy likely mitigated [the] spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

“The citywide ordinance and company policy might have played a role in preventing [the] spread of SARS-CoV-2 during these exposures,” the authors added in the report. “These findings support the role of source control in preventing transmission and can inform the development of public health policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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