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The latest on coronavirus: Houston officials call for return to lockdown

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in June.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in June.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

HOUSTON, Texas — Top officials in Houston are calling for the city to lock back down as area hospitals strain to accommodate the onslaught of patients sick with the new coronavirus.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, both Democrats, said this weekend that a stay-at-home order is needed for America’s fourth-largest city to cope with the surge of COVID-19 cases.

The call comes after a week in which Texas continued to break records for confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths linked to the disease. State health officials reported 8,196 new cases Sunday, another 80 deaths and a total of 10,410 people hospitalized due to the virus.

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The decision over a lockdown, however, rests with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — who has resisted this step, saying it should be a last resort.

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

— Coronavirus deaths take a long-expected turn for the worse

— As U.S. grapples with virus, Florida hits record case increase

— Dengue prevntion efforts stifled by coronavirus pandemic

— Coronavirus surge in eastern Europe prompts new restrictions

— Doctors say virus spread, not politics, should guide school reopenings.

— Churches amid the pandemic: Some outbreaks, many challenges

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

JACKSON, Miss. -- Students in Mississippi are scheduled to return to school in August amid rising cases of COVID-19 in the state, but campus life will be a lot different than what many are used to.

At Mississippi State, temperature check-in kiosks will be scattered around campus. Students who live in dorms will be required to log their temperature every 24 hours and fill out a health questionnaire. Employees and day students will be required to check temperatures at home and take a screening survey before arriving on campus.

At Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi, all members of the community will be required to wear masks inside and out of the classroom, where class sizes will be reduced by 50%.

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“While we remain focused on preserving the on-campus experience, COVID-19 has forced us to rethink everything we do,” University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce said in a letter to the campus community in late June.

New cases of the disease caused by the new coronavirus and numbers of hospitalizations are still rising in Mississippi. On Friday, the state reported 1,031 new cases — one of its single highest increases.

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DICKINSON, N.D. — Metal band Great White has apologized for performing at an outdoor North Dakota concert where the crowd didn’t wear masks despite the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

The band drew criticism on social media after the performance Thursday night as part of the “First on First: Dickinson Summer Nights” concert series in Dickinson, in the southwest of the state. Spin magazine posted video showing the crowd packed in and not wearing face masks.

“We have had the luxury of hindsight and we would like to apologize to those who disagreed with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement. The Promoter and staff were nothing but professional and assured us of the safety precautions,” Great White said in a statement Saturday.

Although North Dakota health officials recommend social distancing and wearing masks when possible, there is no legal requirement to do so in the state and Great White said the band nevertheless was “not in a position to enforce the laws.”

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The band is best known for its version of “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” A different iteration of Great White that included longtime frontman Jack Russell and that performed under the name Jack Russell’s Great White was involved in one of the most tragic concerts in U.S. history in 2003. During a show at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island, the band’s pyrotechnics sparked a fast-moving blaze that caused a bottleneck as fans tried to flee. The fire killed 100 people.

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BARCELONA, Spain — Regional authorities in northeast Spain have tightened a health lockdown and confined over 140,000 people to only leaving their homes for work and other essential activities.

Catalan authorities announced the confinement on Sunday, a week after they had already limited travel to and from the county of El Segria, population 210,000, because of an outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Lleida, with 138,000 residents, is one of the municipalities in which people are confined to their homes.

“We must break the chain of contagion,” said regional health authority Alba Vergés. “We must limit our contact to those people we live with.”

The outbreak in the rural area is connected to farm work and seasonal day laborers, many of whom work and live in precarious conditions.

Catalan health authorities are also keeping close watch on an outbreak in Hospitalet, a densely populated municipality in the greater Barcelona metropolitan area. In total, northeast Catalonia reported over 800 new cases on Sunday.

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Spain emerged from a three-month nationwide lockdown in mid-June that it needed to rein in the virus that has officially claimed at least 28,000 lives.

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JOHANNESBURG -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday the country will return to a ban of the sales of alcohol immediately to reduce the volume of trauma patients so that hospitals have more beds to treat COVID-19 patients.

Confronted by surging hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, South Africa is also reinstating a night curfew to reduce traffic accidents and has made it mandatory for all residents to wear face masks in public.

Ramaphosa said that top health officials warn of impending shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen as South Africa reaches a peak of COVID-19 cases, expected between the end of July and September.

South Africa’s rapid increase in reported cases has made it one of the world’s centers for COVID-19, now the 9th country most affected by the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country has reported increases of more than 10,000 confirmed cases for several days and the latest daily increase was nearly 13,500. South Africa accounts for 40% of all the confirmed cases in Africa, with 264,184, including 3,971 deaths, acccording to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization has reported another record in the increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases over a 24-hour period, at over 230,000.

The U.N. health agency said Sunday the United States again topped the list among countries, with more than 66,000 cases recorded.

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The figures don’t necessarily account for delays in reporting of cases, and are believed to far underestimate actual case totals.

Still, the trend line of confirmed cases continues to increase — with three largest counts coming in over the last three days.

The previous record was Friday, with more than 228,000 newly recorded cases worldwide in a 24-hour span.

Overall, the WHO has counted more than 12.5 million confirmed cases and more than 561,000 deaths from COVID-19.

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NEW YORK — New York education officials are set to begin outlining what will need to be done to reopen schools as Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state has maintained a “low and stable” number of people testing positive for coronavirus.

The state Education Department is scheduled to present a framework for the long-awaited reopening guidance to the Board of Regents on Monday, with the full guidance to come later.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week announced a hybrid plan for the nation’s largest district that would put most students inside their physical schools just two or three days a week. Schools can’t accommodate all their students and maintain safe social distancing, he said.

Cuomo, however, said it is up to him to decide whether the state’s approximately 700 school districts can open at all. He said state officials will decide in the first week of August whether to accept plans submitted by districts — and whether schools will reopen in the fall at all.

New York reported five coronavirus deaths on Sunday, matching its lowest number since the pandemic emerged there. But Cuomo said the rising number of cases elsewhere is concerning.

“Today’s numbers remain low and stable, but it is up to us to keep it that way,” Cuomo said in a written statement, urging people to wear masks and socially distance.

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WASHINGTON -- Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Sunday the Trump administration is “trying to correct” its guidance from earlier in the coronavirus epidemic that wearing face coverings was not necessary.

With virus cases surging and many states and cities now issuing orders to wear masks in public, Adams said he and other administration officials were wrong back in March. But he insists they were going with the scientific knowledge at the time, which suggested that people with COVID-19 who showed no symptoms were not likely to spread the virus.

Adams said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “once upon a time, we prescribed cigarettes for asthmatics and leeches and cocaine and heroin for people as medical treatments. When we learned better, we do better.”

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, told “Fox News Sunday” that he would have liked to have seen administration officials wear masks sooner. He says it should not be viewed as a “personal choice” but a public health imperative.

Trump was seen wearing a mask in public for the first time Saturday during a visit to a military hospital.

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MEXICO CITY —The ashes of 245 Mexican migrants who died of COVID-19 in New York have arrived back into their home nation.

A Mexican Air Force plane carrying the remains arrived at near midnight Saturday in what the Foreign Releations Department called an “unprecedented” effort.

The urns were taken from the plane and placed on a table adorned with white llowers for a brief ceremony.

“It’s the way Mexico expresses its gratitude for so much that our migrants have contributed from abroad, and of course in addition to giving consolation to their families, who can give them a final goodbye in their land,” said Roberto Velasco, the Foreign Relations Department’s director-general for North America.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, celebrated a Mass for the coronavirus victims on Saturday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, blessing the ashes.

The Mexican government says more than 1,500 Mexican migrants have died of COVID-19 in the United States, about half of them in New York.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities reported 31 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, with no fatalities over the past 24 hours. Despite the decline in cases, authorities are still on the lookout for local outbreaks, especially in holiday spots. But only 4 arriving foreign tourists have tested positive since Saturday afternoon.

The total number of cases stands at 3,803, with 193 dead. There are 10 patients on ventilators, while 122 have exited intensive care units.

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LE HAVRE, France — For the first time since the coronavirus shut down sports and chased away spectators, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were starring in Sunday’s return of fans to elite European soccer.

“Now it’s for real ... we’re back,” Mbappe tweeted before the kick-off of Paris Saint-Germain against Le Havre, an exhibition match that was the first encounter in front of fans to feature one of Europe’s elite clubs since the outbreak erupted.

Only 5,000 people were allowed inside Le Havre’s 25,000-seat Stade Oceane to see the French League 2 club take on PSG’s star-studded squad. Upper tiers of seating were empty.

Spectators had to wear face masks to get into the arena, although many then took them off once settled in their seats. Families and friends sat together in groups but groups stayed separated. Ball carriers wore masks and gloves. Loudspeakers broadcast appeals for social distancing. Pitch-side photographers were made to step with their shoes into trays of disinfectant.

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WASHINGTON -- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is downplaying the risk of sending kids back to school despite surging coronavirus cases in many parts of the U.S.

Speaking in Sunday TV interviews, DeVos stressed that kids attending school in the fall should be the rule, not the exception.

She asserted that “there’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.”

But she was contradicted by public health experts who said the virus can still be dangerous to kids, even if the risk is lower. Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, said on “Fox News Sunday” that science is also unclear on how much kids can spread the disease to more vulnerable adults.

DeVos said the Trump administration is looking at “all the options” for pulling funding from schools if they don’t provide full-time in person learning, calling American investment in education “a promise to students and their families.”

She described Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for keeping schools safe, such as face coverings and social distancing, as “guidelines” meant to be flexible.

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LONDON — A British pilot who was Vietnam’s most critical COVID-19 patient has arrived back home in Scotland.

Glasgow Airport said the man landed in Scotland on Sunday and was met by a waiting ambulance. He’s now in a hospital recuperating.

The 42-year-old, identified by the official Vietnam News Agency as Stephen Cameron, had flown out of Ho Chi Minh City the day before.

Vietnam had gone all out to save Cameron, who was working for national carrier Vietnam Airlines when he tested positive for the coronavirus in March. He had been critically ill and spent 65 days on life support.

Cameron is known in Vietnam as “Patient 91,” as he was the 91st person in the country confirmed to have the coronavirus. He was the Southeast Asian nation’s last patient in an ICU, and his recovery means the country still has not had any COVID-19 deaths.

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ROME — Local outbreaks of COVID-19 among workers at a courier service in northern Italy and among migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea have helped swell an increase in the nation’s daily new cases.

Calabria, which in recent days had been registering a couple or even no new daily coronavirus infections, had 28 new cases on Sunday, stemming from as many infections among nearly 800 migrants rescued from human traffickers’ boats and brought to that region.

Calabria Gov. Jole Santelli called on the national government to safeguard the local population by requisitioning navy boats going forward and keeping rescued migrants offshore until they can be tested for coronavirus infection.

In the Emilia-Romagna region, 71 cases were registered on Sunday, according to the Health Ministry, a sizable jump from recent days, reflecting a hot spot of infections at a major courier service in Bologna.

In contrast, Lombardy, which during the pandemic saw daily new cases loads far over 1,000, registered 77 cases on Sunday. With the latest 234 cases nationwide, Italy now has 243,061 known cases. With nine deaths tallied on Sunday, the overall confirmed death toll is 34,954. Authorities say the actual number of cases and deaths is certainly higher.

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BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon has reported its highest daily count of coronavirus cases, including dozens of foreign workers who work at a cleaning company, the health ministry said Sunday.

The 166 cases came after three days in which the number was a record every day in Lebanon. The increase comes after Lebanon’s only international airport was reopened on July 1, after more than three months closure.

The country has eased a monthslong lockdown and people are going out more to restaurants, nightclubs, markets and beaches. A nighttime curfew to limit the spread of the pandemic was abolished last month.

The small country of about 5 million and over 1 million refugees has so far recorded only 36 deaths and 2,344 total infections detected.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan told the local LBC TV station that the figures will continue to be high during the coming days.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases in any one state since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to state Department of Health statistics, 15,299 people tested positive, for a total of 269,811 cases.

California had the previous record of daily positive cases — 11,694, four days ago. New York had 11,571 on April 15.

The numbers come at the end of a grim, record-breaking week in Florida, with 514 fatalities. On Sunday, 45 more deaths were reported.

Throughout May and into June, the state reopened much of its economy with some restrictions.

Testing has increased, but the percentage of people testing positive has risen even more dramatically. A month ago, fewer than 5% of tests came up positive on a daily average. Over the past week, the daily average exceeded 19%.