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The Latest: Moscow mayor: Work from home as virus cases rise

Posted September 17, 2020 3:47 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2020 3:51 p.m. EDT

Students of the MGIMO (Moscow State Institute for Foreign Relations) wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus attend a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Russia's tally of confirmed coronavirus cases has surpassed 1 million after authorities reported 4,729 new cases. With a total of 1,000,048 reported cases up to Tuesday, Russia has the fourth largest caseload in the world after the U.S., Brazil and India. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

MOSCOW — Moscow’s mayor is urging employers to support employees working from home as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

The Russian capital on Thursday recorded 730 new cases, an increase of about 15% from early September. Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on state television the rise is apparently due to increased testing and the percentage of positives remains stable at about 1.5%.

He recommends “all heads of enterprises, regardless of the form of organization, if it is possible, and this is not seriously damaging to the work of the organization, continue to organize remote work.” Nationwide, Russia has recorded more than 1 million infections and 19,061 confirmed deaths.

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

— University of Michigan teaching graduate students end strike

— Ex-CDC director concerned about White House politics involved in science

— Texas Govenor eases some virus restrictions; Utah virus numbers spike

— The U.S. House has voted to condemn racism against Asian Americans tied to the coronavirus outbreak.

— Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to 860,000, a historically high figure that reflects economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

— Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider took to social media to condemn anti-maskers who ripped off their masks inside a Florida store while blaring the group’s hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

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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:

MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will meet with Madrid’s regional authorities to discuss the surging coronavirus.

Sánchez sent the letter on Thursday to Madrid regional leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who replied on Twitter that she’s happy to meet with the prime minister.

Díaz Ayuso has been one of the biggest critics of the Sánchez’s handling of the national crisis. But since the national government lifted a state of emergency that had reined in a devastating first wave of the virus in June, many regional governments such as Madrid have dealt with new outbreaks.

Spain is leading Europe with 287 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days. France is next with 166 per capita.

Spain’s health ministry reported Thursday that Madrid has confirmed 43,900 new cases in the last 14 days. Catalonia follows with 12,100 cases.

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LONDON — The U.K. government says travelers from Singapore and Thailand won’t need to quarantine for two weeks because of a lower coronavirus infection risk.

The government says Slovenia and Guadeloupe travelers must quarantine for two weeks starting Saturday because of an increase in confirmed cases.

The weekly changes have proven controversial, causing problems for hundreds of thousands of British travelers during the summer, prompting a dash home to avoid quarantine.

The U.K. continues its sharp increase in new confirmed cases, with 3,395 reported Thursday. On Wednesday, it was 3,991 cases. The seven-day average is nearly double the level of two weeks ago.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A spike in coronavirus cases in Utah will continue if schools keep resisting state health department guidelines.

That’s according to Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious diseases specialist at the Intermountain Healthcare hospital network based in Salt Lake City.

Two Utah high schools recently surpassed 15 coronavirus cases among students and staff. School officials ignored state guidelines recommending schools that reach that number close and switch to remote learning for two weeks.

The rolling 7-day average for positive tests in the state is 661 per day. The rolling 7-day average for percent of positive laboratory tests is 11.9%. Last week, the averages were 381 and 9.1%, respectively.

Stenehjem says the recent increases were likely driven by high school and colleges resuming in-person learning. He’s concerned it could lead to an increase in hospitalizations for older people in the next few weeks.

“If we don’t do something, we can’t expect a different result,” he said. “We can’t just hope that this gets better.”

Utah has 60,000 confirmed cases and 437 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is easing some coronavirus restrictions in Texas but says bars will remain shut.

Abbott says restaurants, gyms and retail shops can expand to 75% capacity starting next week.

Texas has nearly 14,500 confirmed deaths, the vast majority occurring after the state embarked on an aggressive reopening in May.

The outlook has steadily improved in the past month as hospitalizations have fallen and the infection rate has dropped into single digits.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says there are more than 2,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in conflict-torn Yemen.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says a high-level meeting on Yemen on Thursday that the estimate takes into account that “war has decimated the country’s facilities.”

He said more than five years of war has reversed development in Africa’s poorest country “by decades,” left state institutions at “the verge of collapse.”

He said despite initial expressions of support by the warring parties to his call on March 23 for a global cease-fire to deal with the pandemic, “the conflict continues unabated” and “in recent weeks, conflict has unfortunately escalated.”

Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 100,000 people. More than 3 million people were internally displaced and two-thirds of the population relies on food aid.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Graduate students who teach at the University of Michigan returned to classes Thursday after voting to end a nine-day strike.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, which represents about 2,000 students who teach or assist, says it achieved “critical progress” on childcare options during the coronavirus pandemic, testing protocols and concerns about campus police operations.

The union says the vote Wednesday was 1,074-239, ending a strike that began Sept. 8.

The deal ends legal action taken by the university, which sued this week to try to end the strike.

“By withholding our labor, building coalitions, and making our power impossible to ignore, we forced the university to give us an offer with substantive progress toward a safe and just campus,” the union said.

The university said the strike disrupted many online undergraduate classes taught by graduate students.

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ATHENS — Greece reported 135 cases of coronavirus infections among migrants and refugees on the island of Lesbos after several thousand people were tested Thursday.

Notis Mitarachi, the migration affairs minister, says the infections were discovered after some 5,000 migrants made homeless by a fire at a large refugee camp last week. They were escorted by police to a temporary new site and given rapid tests for the coronavirus.

A spike in cases nationwide has prompted the government to impose additional restrictive measures in greater Athens through Sept. 30.

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MILAN — Italy counted another 1,585 people with the coronavirus on Thursday, with tests reaching 101,000.

Italy has recorded an uptick in new positives for the last six weeks, mostly from people returning from holidays. All regions reported new positives, with the most in Lombardy at nearly 300 cases.

The number of deaths remain well below peak levels, with the toll rising by 12 on Thursday to a confirmed total of 35,658.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark officials advised against travelling to the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary and Austria.

Denmark made the move because of a flare-up of coronavirus cases, with the countries crossing the threshold of 30 cases per 100,000 inhabitants per week.

The other nations on the list against unnecessary travel are Andorra, Belgium, France, Croatia, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria.

Denmark has confirmed 21,393 cases and 635 deaths.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is reporting its biggest daily increase in new coronavirus cases in five months.

The General Directorate for Health says 770 new infections and 10 deaths were recorded Thursday.

The deaths are the highest daily number in two months. The increases came in the week when classes resumed.

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NEW YORK — New York City has delayed again the planned start of in-person learning for most of the more than 1 million students in its public school system.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that most elementary school students will do remote-only learning until Sept. 29. Middle and high schools will stay remote through Oct. 1. The original in-school return date was Sept. 21.

Pre-kindergarten students and some other special education students will resume in-person instruction on Monday as planned.

De Blasio and union leaders say the city needed more time to prepare for the safe return of students and staff to school buildings.

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WASHINGTON — Former CDC Director Tom Frieden says he’s concerned about political pressure on the science of the coronavirus pandemic.

Frieden told “CBS This Morning” the FDA and the CDC have been “unduly influenced by politics, when it comes to the emergency approvals, when it comes to recommendations.”

He says its “very problematic, because we want to have a safe, effective, acceptable and trusted vaccine.”

President Donald Trump disagreed on Wednesday with current CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield about how soon a vaccine would be accessible, if one becomes available, and the effectiveness of protective masks.

Frieden says he’s alarmed some information on the CDC website isn’t “scientifically justifiable” and “written not at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta but in Washington by people with no special experience in public health.

“And it’s unfortunate because there are thousands of really good documents on that website. It’s had 1.6 million clicks and you need to be able to trust it.”

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health plans to have more than 4,000 coronavirus testing sites running at store locations around the country by mid-October.

A company spokesman says the drugstore chain is doubling its locations to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus and to be ready to deliver a vaccine, once one is approved by federal regulators.

The tests involve self-swab test kits the customer uses while being monitored by a pharmacy employee. Most results will be available in two-to-three days.

The Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health Corp. has more than 9,900 locations. The company says it can support testing in 33 states and Washington, D.C.

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JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s top public health official says the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been in talks with nine vaccine manufacturers about potential coronavirus vaccine clinical trials on the continent.

John Nkengasong says the talks include the Oxford University group that’s developing a vaccine with drug company AstraZeneca and already has a clinical trial in South Africa.

The African Union’s 54 member states want to secure more than 10 late-stage COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in Africa. They’re motivated by memories of watching millions die while years passed before affordable drugs or vaccines for diseases reached the continent of 1.3 billion people.

Health experts say COVID-19 vaccine trials must include Africans to make sure any effective vaccine can be rolled out quickly in Africa along with the rest of the world.

Nkengasong warns that a vaccine will not be a “magic bullet,” saying the world has never been able to vaccinate even 500 million people in a single year. Africa has more than 1.3 million confirmed virus cases, including more than 33,000 deaths, and new cases have slowed in recent weeks.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization’s European director has warned countries against reducing the quarantine period for people potentially exposed to the coronavirus, even as he acknowledged that COVID-19 fatigue is setting in and people are increasingly resistant to the strict public health measures needed to control the pandemic.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Dr. Hans Kluge warned “even a slight reduction in the length of the quarantine” could have a significant effect on the virus’ spread, which he said had grown to “alarming” rates in Europe.

He said countries should only reduce the quarantine period if it was scientifically justified, and offered to convene scientific discussions on the issue if necessary.

Last week, France cut its required quarantine time for people who have been exposed to a potential COVID-19 case from 14 days to seven, saying many people did not respect the two-week period anyway.

Katie Smallwood, WHO Europe’s senior health emergency officer, said its recommendation that people quarantine themselves for 14 days after a possible exposure to coronavirus was based on their understanding of the disease’s incubation period and transmission patterns.

“We would only revise that on a basis of a change in our understanding of the science and so far that’s not the case,” she said.

Smallwood added that several countries are considering reducing their required quarantine periods. “We would really re-emphasize that our position is that a 14-day quarantine is important for patients that have been exposed to the virus.”

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