MANILA, Philippines — Two of the most popular Philippine tourist destinations, including the Boracay beach, have partially reopened with only a fraction of their usual crowds showing up given continuing coronavirus restrictions.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Friday that 35 local tourists, including seven from Manila, came on the first day of the reopening of Boracay, a central island famous for its powdery white sands, azure waters and stunning sunsets. Only local tourists from regions with low-level quarantine designations could go, subject to safeguards, including tests showing a visitor is coronavirus-free.
The mountain city of Baguio, regarded as a summer hideaway for its pine trees, cool breeze and picturesque upland views, has been reopened to tourists only from its northern region, she told ABS-CBN News.
Despite the urgent need to revive the tourism industry, it’s being done “very slowly, cautiously,” she said, adding mayors and governors would have to approve the reopening of tourism spots. “We really have to be careful,” she said.
Like in most countries, the pandemic has devastated the tourism industry in the Philippines, which now has the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia at more than 314,000, with 5,504 deaths.
— The White House is backing a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit and possible COVID-19 relief bill with a price tag above $1.5 trillion.
— France’s health minister is threatening to close bars and ban family gatherings, if the rise in virus cases doesn’t improve.
— Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week to a still-high 837,000, suggesting the economy is struggling to sustain a tentative recovery from the summer.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
LOS ANGELES — California’s plan to safely reopen its economy will begin to require counties to bring down coronavirus infection rates in disadvantaged communities that have been harder hit by the pandemic.
The complex new rules announced late Wednesday set in place an “equity metric.”
It will force larger counties to control the spread of COVID-19 in areas where Black, Latino and Pacific Islander groups have suffered a disproportionate share of the cases because of a variety of socioeconomic factors.
Some counties welcomed the news and said it will build on efforts underway. Supporters of a more rapid reopening criticized the measure.
NEW ORLEANS — Starting this weekend, New Orleans bars will be allowed to sell drinks to go and restaurants may operate at 75% indoor capacity instead of 50% since a number of coronavirus indicators have stayed low, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.
The limit for restaurants and other businesses matches the state limit set weeks ago. If all goes well, New Orleans could match all state reopening levels by Oct. 31, with two more possible groups of changes, Cantrell said Thursday at a livestreamed news conference.
Those will depend on public response “ensuring we are a healthy city not only to live in but to visit,” she said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards let some bars reopen and restaurants and other businesses move to 75% of indoor capacity on Sept. 11. New Orleans, which had shut down bars in July, did not follow suit.
French Quarter and downtown stores cannot sell package liquor outside bars’ state-set hours of 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. because when bars were allowed to reopen earlier, “crowds continued drinking package liquor” after 11 p.m., the mayor said.
Cantrell said the city had closed six businesses as of Wednesday for flouting pandemic restrictions.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky reported 17 more coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, one of its highest one-day totals as the state combats an escalating outbreak.
The latest deaths included a 29-year-old woman from Clark County who had “significant underlying health conditions,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. Her death marked the first coronavirus-linked fatality of someone in their 20s to be reported in Kentucky, he said.
The 17 deaths were the fifth-highest daily total in Kentucky since the start of the pandemic, he said.
The state also reported 910 new cases of COVID-19, down from the prior two days when daily case counts topped 1,000, the governor said. The spike in cases is hitting rural and urban areas, and Beshear said the state remains on course to set another record for the number of cases in a week.
“When we have a lot of cases, sadly a lot of death follows,” Beshear said at a news conference.
The Democratic governor continued to stress the need to wear masks in public, maintain social distancing and follow other health guidelines to contain the virus.
“We can turn this escalation around,” he said.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota health officials have reported all-time highs for the toll of the coronavirus with 13 deaths and 747 more people who tested positive.
State epidemiologist Josh Clayton says communities statewide — from cities to rural areas — are seeing significant levels of the virus. He noted that 245 of the infections reported were backlogged from previous days after a reporting error.
One of the largest outbreaks came from a women’s prison in Pierre as mass testing revealed that 29 more women in one housing unit had the virus. A total of 197 prisoners and staff have tested positive and 110 have recovered.
OKLAHOMA CITY — A mask mandate in Tulsa is being expanded and extended in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The amended measure lowers the age of those who must wear face coverings from 18 and up to those older than 10. It also extends through Jan. 31 the mandate for masks to be worn in public when social distancing is not possible. Previously it was to expire Nov. 30
President Donald Trump held an indoor campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20 that attracted about 6,000 attendees as well as protesters. Local Health Department director Bruce Dart said later that the event “likely contributed” to a sharp surge in new coronavirus cases.
As of Thursday, Oklahoma’s state health department has recorded 88,369 virus cases and 1,035 deaths due to COVID-19, increases of 1,170 and four, respectively, from the previous day.
DENVER — Colorado’s deadliest workplace coronavirus outbreak has been declared resolved after five months, 291 cases and six deaths.
The determination regarding the outbreak at the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley was made by the state Department of Public Health and Environment after there were no new cases for at least 28 days and an investigation was completed.
The announcement comes as families of some JBS employees who died say their worker’s compensation claims have been denied.
JBS argues that their infections were not work-related. The plant did not respond to requests for comment by Colorado Public Radio.
PHOENIX — Arizona is reporting 705 additional COVID-19 cases and 24 more deaths as health officials say all 15 counties have cleared state benchmarks for partial reopening of certain businesses.
The overall statewide total of confirmed cases is now 219,212 cases, and the death toll 5,674.
Arizona’s Department of Health Services says the classification of largely rural Graham County improved to “moderate transmission stage.” That made it the final county to meet criteria for reopening businesses such as indoor gyms, bars serving food and movie theatres .
One county, tiny Greenlee in southeastern Arizona, is at “minimal” status, the highest step below normal conditions.
HELENA, Mont. — Nearly half Montana’s confirmed COVID-19 cases came in September as the state continues to report record numbers of infections.
The state reported 429 cases Thursday, the highest daily total by a margin of 81. Overall there were just over 6,000 in September, or 44% of the 13,500 since mid-March.
The true numbers are thought to be much higher because not everyone has been tested, and studies show people can have COVID-19 without experiencing symptoms.
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho will remain in the fourth and final stage of Gov. Brad Little’s economic-reopening plan for at least another two weeks as coronavirus infections and deaths rise.
The Republican governor says Idaho will receive 530,000 rapid antigen tests that will be prioritized for schools. Little also announced Thursday the formation of a COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee in anticipation of a vaccine that would be distributed by the federal government.
Stage 4 of Idaho’s plan allows most businesses to open.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials say hospitals bought only about a third of the doses of remdesivir that they were offered over the last few months to treat COVID-19, as the government stops overseeing the drug’s distribution.
Between July and September, 500,000 treatment courses were made available to state and local health departments but only about 161,000 were purchased.
Dr. John Redd of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that “we see this as a very good sign” that supply now outstrips demand and it’s OK for hospitals to start buying the drug, also known as Veklury, directly from maker Gilead Sciences Inc.
The government will buy some of the excess for the national stockpile.
Several studies suggest remdesivir can shorten time to recovery and hospital stays by four days on average.
At $3,200 per treatment course, its price might be playing a role in the low demand.
LONDON — A British lawmaker has apologized for travelling to London to attend a coronavirus debate in Parliament despite having COVID-19 symptoms. She also took a train home to Scotland after getting a positive test.
The Scottish National Party suspended Margaret Ferrier after she said that “there is no excuse for my actions” and that she had reported herself to police.
People in Britain are told they must self-isolate if they have COVID-10 symptoms and while they are waiting for a test result.
Also Thursday, Stanley Johnson, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father, apologized after he was photographed shopping without a face covering.
Britain’s government recently raised fines for not wearing masks in places like stores in a bid to curb a spike in infections.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Republican state lawmaker’s positive test for the coronavirus has prompted legislative leaders to cancel the Pennsylvania House’s voting session.
Human resources workers were deployed to trace Rep. Paul Schemel’s personal contacts to see if others should be quarantined.
He was most recently in the Capitol on Tuesday, and it’s unclear if he wore a mask while in the building’s public spaces.
MADRID — Spain’s health ministry has reported 9,419 new coronavirus cases as the country struggles to control Europe’s most worrisome flare-up.
The ministry says 3,715 of the cases were diagnosed in the last 24 hours. The remainder were from previous days but not reported to central authorities until now.
Spain leads Europe with more than 778,600 cases. The ministry reported another 182 confirmed deaths, increasing the total to 31,973.
NEW YORK — Schools across New York report that at least 1,200 students and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the academic year.
As of Tuesday, 693 public and private schools had reported at least one infection. Around 700 students and 400 school staff have tested positive. State officials note the count doesn’t capture the full extent of infections among schoolchildren.
A separate data system operated by state health officials has documented around 2,300 infections among school-age children since Sept. 1.
The district is rolling out a monthly plan to test students and staff. Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city plans more than 100,000 tests on students a month, at a cost of $78-$90 a piece.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State University will move classes entirely online after the Thanksgiving break and the college’s fall commencement will not be held.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports University President John Floros says the university surveyed students, faculty and staff at the Las Cruces campus about returning following the break, when there will be two weeks left in the fall semester.
The campus will remain open to provide housing, dining and other services. The college plans to return to in-person classes after winter break.
BEIRUT — Syrian state media report the country has reopened the capital’s main airport for international flights amid tight coronavirus measures.
The Damascus International Airport had been closed since early March, though some flights have brought home Syrians stranded outside the country.
Syria has 4,200 confirmed coronavirus cases and 200 deaths in government-held areas. Scores more cases have been registered in northern areas outside government control.
CHICAGO — Add ballet in Chicago to the list of things called off because of the pandemic.
The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago says it has cancelled its entire 2020-21 season, which runs through spring.
The Joffrey says the decision will cost it more than $9 million in lost box office receipts.
A philanthropic fund called the Joffrey Crisis Stabilization has been set up with a goal of raising $12 million, with some $9 million already raised.
MILAN — Italy has tallied 2,548 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily total in five months.
Health authorities tested more than 118,000 people, a 10% increase from a day earlier.
Nearly 3,100 people are hospitalized, with 291 in intensive care. Italy has averaged 1,500 daily cases since schools reopened three weeks ago.
The nation has reached 317,409 cases and nearly 36,000 confirmed deaths.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Police say several parties and large gatherings coinciding with the University of South Carolina’s season-opening football game were broken up.
Columbia Police told The State newspaper Wednesday that three citations and four warnings were issued to residences that house some USC students.
The largest gathering was at an apartment complex near the Gamecocks’ Williams-Brice stadium, where about 300 people got together Saturday after the game.
HILO, Hawaii — A Hawaii food bank is now serving up to 80,000 people monthly.
That’s up from about 14,000 at this time last year, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports
Food Basket executive director Kristin Frost Albrecht says the group helps residents through a network of partner agencies and programs.
The organization serves between 2,000 and 3,700 people at each of its Big Island sites, and 80% to 85% of them are unemployed. Albrecht says there have been numerous donations, including food contributed by farmers.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland is reporting zero coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time since March 28.
That doesn’t necessarily mean no COVID-19 deaths occurred in that time frame, because sometimes there is a delay in the submission of a death certificate.
Still, Gov. Larry Hogan says it’s an “encouraging milestone” and a tribute to the efforts of health care workers.
LONDON — The European Medicines Agency has begun its first review process for an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
The EU regulator says it started a “rolling review” process it hopes will expedite any eventual approval.
The EMA has begun analyzing preliminary information from scientists on the Oxford vaccine that suggest it “triggers the production of antibodies and T-Cells,” referring to immune system cells that target the virus.
The agency says it was waiting for data from ongoing late-stage tests of the vaccine involving thousands of people, which it hopes will be shared in the coming months.
The Oxford vaccine is proceeding with a large U.K. trial even though a similar study has been halted in the U.S. while the FDA examines the report of a serious neurological side effect in a British trial participant.
The Associated Press