FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s new confirmed coronavirus cases skyrocketed Wednesday by 5,500, a 25% jump from the previous record set last week and triple the level of just two weeks ago.
The rapidly escalating daily figures continue a trend that began when Florida started reopening its economy last month and have caused several counties and cities to implement emergency orders requiring the wearing of masks in public places and crack down on businesses that aren’t enforcing social distancing rules.
Two weeks ago, Florida’s one-day record for confirmed coronavirus cases was 1,601, set in mid-May. That has been exceeded every day since June 12 and the seven-day average for tests coming back positive has tripled from 3.8% on June 1 to 13%.
The state now has confirmed more than 109,000 cases since March 1. There have been 3,281 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, a jump of 43 since Monday.
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization says the agency has been working with partners to increase the access to medical oxygen for people sickened by the new coronavirus in developing countries.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Wednesday press briefing the WHO estimated that at the current rate of about 1 million new COVID-19 cases every week, the world would need about 88,000 large cylinders of oxygen every day.
Tedros says the WHO has purchased 14,000 oxygen concentrators that will be sent to 120 countries in the coming weeks. WHO has identified another 170,000 concentrators, valued at $100 million, that will be available in the next six months.
BAGHDAD — Iraq reached a new record with 2,200 coronavirus cases reported over a 24-hour period, according to the Health Ministry.
The Iraqi government opened temporary field hospitals in the capital this week to cope with a recent surge in coronavirus patients. Cases of COVID-19 began rising after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and spiked seven-fold in less than a month.
At least 1,330 people have died of the disease among 36,702 confirmed cases, according to Health Ministry figures. The highest number of cases has been in Baghdad.
Health workers say budget shortfalls brought on by a severe economic crisis has led to shortages in medical supplies.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Republican nominee in a heavily contested U.S. House race in South Carolina says she has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Nancy Mace sent an email to supporters saying she learned some members of her campaign were potentially exposed to the virus last week and she took a rapid test Tuesday that came back positive. Mace says she is going into quarantine with her children for two weeks or until she tests negative for COVID-19.
Mace says she tried to find every person she has been in contact with the past week and is asking volunteers and staff to get tested and start working remotely.
Mace’s opponent in November, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, also tested positive for COVID-19 in late March. The Democrat reached out to Mace on Twitter, saying he was thinking about Mace, her family and her campaign.
“This virus is rough but my family and team are here if you need anything at all,” Cunningham said.
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia’s government has reintroduced mandatory use of face masks in closed public spaces and on public transport after a spike in cases of the new coronavirus in recent days.
The government on Wednesday removed Montenegro and Luxembourg from the list of safe countries that face no entry restrictions and said visitors coming from Albania or Portugal face a 14-day quarantine.
Health Minister Tomaz Gantar says Slovenia has confirmed 20 new cases since June 20. The anti-virus rules will be reviewed every two weeks, he said.
Slovenia has previously introduced entry restrictions for some countries after reopening following the lockdown. Authorities say new cases largely have been imported.
The total number of positive cases so far is 1,541 and 109 people have died.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— International aid group says data in some countries show sharp discrepancy between coronavirus cases in men and women.
— US virus cases surge to highest level in 2 months.
— Indian armed forces personnel to provide medical care for coronavirus patients kept in New Delhi railroad coaches.
— The spread of the coronavirus is prompting soaring demand for medical oxygen, which is expensive and hard to get in much of the world. Scarce oxygen supplies are another basic marker of inequality both between and within countries from Peru to Bangladesh. Across Africa, only a handful of hospitals have direct oxygen hookups, as is standard across Europe and the United States.
— Americans are unlikely to be allowed into Europe when the continent reopens its borders next week, due to how the coronavirus pandemic is flaring in the U.S. and President Donald Trump’s ban on Europeans entering the United States. European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1, and their EU representatives are debating the criteria for lifting restrictions on visitors from outside Europe.
— Major League Baseball has issued a 60-game schedule that will start July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks as the sport tries to push ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic. It will be MLB’s shortest season since 1878. Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and four games against each of the five clubs in the corresponding division in the other league, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization chief says all 54 countries in Africa have lab capacity to test for the coronavirus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the news during an African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conference on Africa’s role in pursuing a COVID-19 vaccine.
The continent, which saw its first virus infection on Feb. 14, has had nearly 325,000 cases, with more than 8,600 deaths.
Africa CDC chief John Nkengasong says the pandemic was delayed in Africa “but is picking up speed very quickly” as more countries ease their lockdowns.
While Tedros called for the initial supply of any COVID-19 vaccine to be deployed where it’s most needed, rather than on the “ability to pay,” Nkengasong warned that “unless we act now, Africa is at risk of being left behind on the global vaccine” and urged local manufacturing of one as well.
BRUSSELS — Theaters, cinemas and swimming pools in Belgium can reopen next month, the latest easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
Speaking after a meeting of the national security council, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said “there are fewer and fewer rules, but they have to be followed.”
With a population of some 11 million inhabitants, Belgium has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 60,000 confirmed cases and 9,722 deaths.
Infections have fallen sharply over the past two months, giving the government room to relax the lockdown restrictions.
From July 1, Wilmes said Belgium’s residents will be allowed to meet with 15 different people each week, instead of 10 previously.
In theaters and cinemas, crowds of 200 people will be allowed, while the maximum capacity at outdoors events will be limited to 400.
Wilmes said wearing a mask is recommended and could become mandatory in public spaces if a second wave of infections hits the country.
STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, who is largely behind the Scandinavian country’s approach of keeping large parts of the country open during the coronavirus pandemic, says he was surprised to see other European Union countries close their borders.
Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist for Sweden’s Public Health Agency, described his country’s strategy in a program by Swedish public radio channel Sveriges Radio P1 as a “classic pandemic model” that he had been discussing with international colleagues for some 20 years.
Tegnell said “it was as if the world went crazy, and everything we discussed seemed completely forgotten.”
Sweden, a nation of 10 million people, has so far recorded 62,324 coronavirus cases and 5,209 deaths.
Tegnell said the coronavirus is unpredictable and stressed it was difficult to know which methods have the best effect.
A recent survey in Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s largest newspapers, showed that support for Sweden’s Public Health Agency had dropped to 57% in June from 69% in April. The IPSOS survey was based on 1,191 interviews between June 2 and June 15.
TOKYO — A city in northern Japan has reported new coronavirus cases in nine people linked to the same karaoke bar and advised the elderly to refrain from karaoke singing.
Otaru Mayor Toshiya Hazama said Wednesday that the COVID-19 patients range in age from their 60s to their 80s and include an owner of the karaoke bar, seven customers and a relative of one of them.
Health officials in Otaru are tracing dozens of people who had close contact with the nine patients. Daytime karaoke singing, or “hiru-kara,” is popular among senior citizens on Hokkaido, the island where the city is located, and available at coffee shops.
In nearby Sapporo, about 60 recent virus cases were linked to the popular activity.
Tokyo reported 55 new confirmed cases Wednesday, the largest since early May. Officials said the increase was largely due to and expanded testing and does not immediately require restrictions to be reimposed on businesses.
There were about 20 other new cases reported from elsewhere in Japan, bringing the national total to more than 18,100 cases, with about 960 deaths.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia has established a program to give cash handouts to the country’s poorest households to alleviate the financial burdens caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Wednesday that the government would spend $25 million a month on cash transfers to 560,000 households identified as the poorest in Cambodia. He says the transfers will be carried out in June and July, and extended or expanded in the following months according to economic conditions.
The 560,000 households account for 2.3 million Cambodians, about 14% of the country's population of almost 17 million.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya's education minister has said schools will reopen in September and announced the measures to be put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among students.
Education Minister George Magoha made the announcement despite health experts predicting that coronavirus infections will peak in Kenya between August and September.
Kenya so far has reported 128 virus-related deaths from 4,952 confirmed cases.
Magoha says classes will be limited to 15 to 20 students and schools will provide two face masks to each student to prevent infections.
Kenyans reacted furiously to the announcement. Some wondered where students will study if classes are limited to 15, noting that classes in public schools have more than 40 students and some even 100.
They also wondered how children will maintain social distance on school buses and during recess breaks.
NEW DELHI — India’s home minister says armed forces personnel will be providing medical care and attention for coronavirus patients kept in railroad coaches in the Indian capital, which has emerged as the second worst hit state in the country.
Home Minister Amit Shah says 8,000 additional beds have been placed at the Delhi government’s disposal for COVID care centers. The Indian capital is facing bed shortages as the number of cases in the city has jumped to 66,603 with 2,301 deaths.
The Indian Railways said that it has deployed more than 500 railroad coaches at nine locations to meet bed shortages.
India recorded the highest spike of 15,968 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 456,183 with 14,476 deaths.
ROME — Sicily’s governor says 28 migrants who were rescued at sea have tested positive for the coronavirus, confirming a new complication in Italy’s efforts to manage waves of migrants smuggled across the Mediterranean from Africa.
The migrants were being held on a ship off Porto Empedocle where they’re taken to quarantine after being rescued.
Sicily Governor Nello Musumeci said in a Facebook post Wednesday that the positive tests confirmed that he was right to demand special at-sea quarantine measures for migrants to prevent new clusters from forming in Italy, the onetime European epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The positive tests come as an Italian parliamentary commission is visiting Porto Empedocle precisely to check on migrant and health care issues.
Summertime has traditionally been peak season for migrant smugglers operating in lawless Libya, and officials have predicted an increase in efforts to reach Europe with the easing of the health emergency in Italy and the resumption of activities of humanitarian rescue ships in the Mediterranean.