Researchers urge Arizona shutdown and enforce mask wearing

University of Arizona researchers say the current surge in the coronavirus outbreak will present the state with a hospital crisis that could become a disaster unless the state takes steps such as ordering a three-week stay-home shutdown and implementing a statewide mask mandate.

Members of the university’s COVID Modeling Team said failing to take such steps would be like facing a major forest fire without evacuation orders. It also recommends providing economic aid to affected small businesses and families and preventing evictions and foreclosures.

The team has tracked the outbreak since last spring and made its recommendations in a letter Friday to the state Department of Health Services.

Many local governments have imposed mask mandates since Gov. Doug Ducey last summer lifted a prohibition on such orders. The local mandates cover an estimated 90% of the state’s population but enforcement is lax or nonexistent in some places.

Arizona on Saturday reported 4,136 additional known COVID-19 cases and 36 more deaths.

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

— With no action by Washington, states race to offer virus aid

— British government appoints vaccines minister as it prepares to inoculate millions

— Speed of viral spread causes concern in South Korea

— Belgium is urging people to leave a chair empty at Christmas dinner — or face the possibility of having that chair empty forever

— President Trump is misstating the military’s role in fighting the virus

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,669 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Saturday, the state’s largest daily case count since the start of the pandemic.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Oregon has now surpassed 72,000 and the death toll stands at 896.

The number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations also continues to surge with 529 people hospitalized — a 209% increase since the start of the month.

In an effort to slow down the spread of the virus, Gov. Kate Brown implemented a statewide two-week “freeze.” Until Dec. 3, restaurants are limited to take-out only, social gatherings can not be more than six people and gyms, among other facilities, are closed.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada on Saturday reported nearly 3,000 additional known COVID-19 cases as related hospitalizations continued in large numbers.

The state’s coronavirus dashboard reported 2,912 additional cases and 24 more deaths, elevating the statewide totals to more than 146,000 cases and nearly 2,100 deaths.

As of Friday, 1,338 people confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 were hospitalized in Nevada. The state set a record Wednesday with 1,414 COVID-19 patients. Concerned by the virus’ continued spread, Gov. Steve Sisolak on Nov. 22 announced the state’s most expansive mask mandate to date and reduced the capacity at casinos, restaurants, bars and many other businesses from 50% to 25%.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma health officials reported a one-day record of more than 6,000 newly confirmed coronavirus cases Saturday as experts warned the Thanksgiving holiday may make testing numbers erratic.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 6,257 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths linked to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The record daily case count comes as the pandemic has grown worse across the state.

Infectious diseases experts have warned the holiday could cause spikes in testing and delays in processing that may make the resulting figures difficult to interpret.

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PHOENIX — Arizona reported 4,136 additional known COVID-19 cases and 36 more deaths on Saturday.

That increases the state’s totals to 322,774 cases and 6,624 deaths.

The Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard also reports that hospitalizations related to COVID-19 reached 2,383 as of Friday, including 553 patients in beds in intensive care units.

Seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases, daily deaths and COVID-19 testing positivity in Arizona all increased in the past two weeks. That’s according to data from The COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins University.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities announced a record 121 deaths from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours on Saturday.

The total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic is 2,223.

There were also 1,747 new confirmed infections, raising the total to 103,034.

The country is under lockdown until Dec. 7, but government officials have strongly hinted that restrictons could be extended.

In any case, the opening will be gradual, starting with schools and with restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs opening last.

Officials also said that the ban on travel inside the country will stay in effect during the holiday season. They added that vaccination against the virus, when it starts, will be free but not mandatory.

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ROME — Italy’s coronavirus infections have leveled off after nearly a month of new restrictions, with another 26,323 new positive cases and stabilizing numbers in hospital intensive care units.

But public health officials warned Saturday that the second wave of the outbreak is hardly under control, with 10 regions still declared high risk and the daily number of dead — 686 on Saturday — likely to be the last number to fall.

At a briefing, members of Italy’s government scientific advisory committee said it would be unthinkable to relax restrictions over Christmas or reopen shuttered ski slopes, saying the risk of contagion is particularly high when far-flung extended families get together.

As a result, Italians’ typical Christmas Eve dinner en famille “is something we have to give up this year,” said Dr. Franco Locatelli.

Italy, the springtime European epicenter of the pandemic, has seen a sharp resurgence in infections this fall that pushed its COVID-19 death toll to 54,363, the second highest in Europe after Britain. The government opted against second nationwide lockdown, instead imposing restrictions on a regional basis based on caseload and the ability of the health system to respond.

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LONDON — British police have arrested dozens of people at an anti-lockdown demonstration in London.

Anti-mask and anti-vaccine demonstrators, some with placards reading “stop controlling us” and “no more lockdowns,” marched along Oxford and Regent streets in the city’s central shopping district on Saturday.

Police officers led several people away in handcuffs after protesters ignored requests to disperse. Several bottles and smoke bombs were thrown as some demonstrators scuffled with police.

The Metropolitan Police force said more than 60 people were arrested and the number was expected to rise.

Mass gatherings are banned under England’s current lockdown measures.

Britain’s relatively small but vocal anti-lockdown movement includes anti-vaccine activists, conspiracy theorists and people who believe the restrictions infringe civil liberties.

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NEW YORK — The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States reached 205,557 on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University – the first time its daily figure topped the 200,000 mark.

Its previous daily high was 196,000 on Nov. 20.

The total number of reported cases in the U.S., since the first one was registered in January, has topped 13 million.

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LONDON — The British government has appointed a vaccines minister as it prepares to inoculate millions of people against the coronavirus, potentially starting within days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Conservative lawmaker Nadhim Zahawi will oversee the country’s biggest vaccine program in decades.

The U.K. medicines regulator is currently assessing two vaccines — one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, the other by Oxford University and AstraZeneca — to see if they are safe and effective. The Guardian newspaper reported that hospitals have been told they could receive the first doses of the Pfizer shot the week of Dec. 7 if it receives approval.

The U.K. says frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by older people, starting with those over 80.

Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — enough for 20 million people — and 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

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BANGKOK — Health authorities in northern Thailand have traced and tested more than 300 people who were in contact with a Thai women who returned from Myanmar and tested positive for the coronavirus after somehow avoiding a mandatory quarantine.

Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said Saturday it was the 10th case in the past two months of community transmission, where it could not be ascertained with certainty where the patient caught the virus. Another case earlier this month involved the Hungarian foreign minister who arrived from Cambodia, but more typical cases involved people who had crossed the border illegally from Myanmar or Malaysia and were not immediately tested or quarantined, he said.

The 29-year-old woman had been in Myanmar for a month during a coronavirus surge before entering Thailand on Nov. 24. She then spent three days including visits to a nightclub and department store in Chiang Mai, the most populous northern province, before going to a hospital where she tested positive for the disease.

Health officials traced and tested 326 people who had been in contact with her and quarantined the 105 judged most at risk.

Thailand since January has had 3,966 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 60 deaths.

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TOKYO — The number of people hospitalized in serious condition for COVID-19 in Japan reached a record 440 people, the health ministry said Saturday.

Daily confirmed cases topped more than 2,600 people, a record for Japan, according to tallies by local media. In Tokyo, daily cases have totaled more than 500 recently, raising alarm about a third wave of infections. The number had been hovering at about half that level for the past couple of months.

Although Japan has never had a lockdown, restaurants and bars have periodically closed early, including in Tokyo starting Saturday. More than 2,000 people have died related to the coronavirus pandemic nationwide.

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LONDON — The British government is warning lawmakers who oppose strict coronavirus restrictions that the measures are the only way to avoid a surge that will overwhelm the health system.

A four-week national lockdown in England is due to end Wednesday, and will be replaced by three-tier regional measures that restrict business activity, travel and socializing. The vast majority of the country is being put into the upper two tiers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces opposition from dozens of his own Conservative Party’s lawmakers, who say the economic damage outweighs the public health benefits. Some say they will vote against the measures in Parliament on Tuesday.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the measures were “grimly” necessary. Writing in The Times of London, he said there are currently 16,000 coronavirus patients in British hospitals, not far below the April peak of 20,000. Gove said a rise in infections would mean coronavirus patients would “displace all but emergency cases. And then even those.”

Britain has had Europe’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 57,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

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PARIS — Non-essential shops around France are opening their doors Saturday, as part of a staggered relaxing of lockdown restrictions. The plans that come after a drop in nationwide virus infection rates were laid out by President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week.

All businesses, as well as delivery services, are authorized to open until 9 p.m. if they respect the French government’s reinforced sanitary protocol, including mask-wearing and social distancing.

That includes bookstores, music shops, libraries and archives.

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is appealing anew to Germans to adhere to coronavirus restrictions as the Christmas period begins, telling her compatriots that “it will be worth it.”

Federal and state leaders this week decided to extend a partial shutdown that started Nov. 2 until at least Dec. 20 and tighten some restrictions. The measures so far have succeeded in halting a rise in new cases, but haven’t pushed them down significantly.

The national disease control center on Saturday reported 21,695 infections in the past 24 hours, compared with 22,964 a week earlier. There were another 379 deaths linked to COVID-19. Germany has reported just over 1 million cases and 15,965 deaths since the pandemic began.

Merkel said in her weekly video message that Germans can be proud of their discipline and thoughtfulness over the past 10 months and encouraged them to keep to the rules and reduce their contacts over the festive season.

She said: “Let us continue to show people what we’re made of by sticking to the rules that apply to all of us now, in winter, before Christmas, over the new year. Because we will see that it will be worth it.”

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported more than 500 new coronavirus cases for the third straight day, the speed of viral spread unseen since the worst wave of the outbreak in spring.

The 504 cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought the national caseload to 33,375, including 522 deaths.

Around 330 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million population, where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions linked to hospitals, schools, saunas, gyms and army units.

Infections were also reported in other major cities including Daegu, which was the epicenter of the country’s previous major outbreak in late February and March.

The recent spike in infections came after the government eased social distancing restrictions to the lowest levels in October to support a weak economy, allowing high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and spectators to return to sports.

Officials reimposed some of the restrictions this week and could be forced to clamp down on economic activities further if transmissions don’t slow.

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Source: Associated Press