The Latest: Birx says rich nations caught off guard by virus

By | July 7, 2020

WASHINGTON — Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the Trump administration’s White House task force on COVID-19, says experts have been surprised by the impact the virus has had on high-income and upper-middle-income countries.

She says public health experts never thought that 80 percent of the cases and probably 90 percent of the deaths would be reported in high-income and upper-middle-income countries.

She says COVID-19′s impact in the United States has been aggravated by the prevalence of hypertension, diabetes and obesity, highlighting America’s need to become a healthier nation.

Birx spoke Tuesday during an online event Tuesday hosted by the Atlantic Council.



— U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants schools “fully operational” even amid coronavirus pandemic.

— Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for COVID-19 after months of downplaying the virus’ severity.

— WHO watching surge of virus cases, expects uptick in deaths.

— Almost 11 million students begin taking China’s university entrance exam after a delay as the country worked to bring down coronavirus infections.


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Dr. Anthony Fauci says Alabama and other states with soaring coronavirus rates have a window of opportunity to bring it under control and spoke in favor of state and local requirements for masks in public.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Diseases, says the United States is in a resurgence of new coronavirus cases, with daily cases nearly double the country’s previously high baseline. Infection rates have been rising in the South and West.

“We are facing a serious problem now,” Fauci said in an online news conference with Alabama Sen. Doug Jones. He says the U.S. is in a situation where it must continue to try to reopen in a safe, prudent manner.

“What is alarming is the slope of the curve,” Fauci said of cases in Alabama. He added, “the signal should be wear a mask, period.”

Fauci says the mean age of people getting infected is about 15 years younger than previously in the U.S. While generally healthier, young people can still face serious illness if they have underling health conditions.

The country’s top infectious disease expert spoke in favor of school reopening, saying there are ripple effects for families if children can’t go to school. He says areas with high rates of illness might consider mandatory masks or rotating schedules to reduce classroom size.


JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann has tested positive for the new coronavirus, his spokeswoman said.

That comes hours after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced that his own test for the highly contagious virus had come back negative.

The announcement about 73-year-old Hosemann came two days after the other top leader in the Mississippi Legislature, Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, 57, announced his positive test for COVID-19.

Mississippi legislators were at the Capitol for most of June and on July 1, wrapping up their annual session that was interrupted for several weeks by the pandemic. Many legislators and others in the building did not wear masks, and people often sat and stood close to one another.

Hosemann has informed members of the Senate he tested positive for the virus and “will follow State Health Department guidelines by self-quarantining and working at home,” spokeswoman Leah Rupp Smith said.


OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma health officials reported a new daily record of confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with 858 reported in the last 24 hours.

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The Oklahoma State Department of Health also reported five additional deaths from COVID-19, bringing the statewide death toll to 404.

Oklahoma has been experiencing a surge in hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, with 426 people currently hospitalized because of the disease, an increase of more than 100 from the same time last week, according to health department figures.

The latest data brings the total number of confirmed positive cases for coronavirus in Oklahoma to 17,220.

Meanwhile, New York officials added Oklahoma to the list of states required to quarantine for 14 days because of the surge.

The previous daily high for Oklahoma was 585, which was reported last week. Gov. Kevin Stitt said at the time the state was a “long ways away” from reintroducing restrictions that might harm the economy.


BATON ROUGE, La. — One of Louisiana’s education leaders is calling for the cancellation of public school athletics this fall amid the resurgence of the state’s coronavirus outbreak.

Nearly 2,000 new virus cases were confirmed in Louisiana on Tuesday, and hospitalizations from the COVID-19 disease have reached above 1,000.

Senate Education Chairman Cleo Fields sent letters to the leaders of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana School Boards Association, calling for the suspension of athletic events at K-12 public schools during the fall semester as a safety precaution.

“I’m asking them to step up and take action to protect our children,” he said in a statement.

Louisiana is experiencing a sharp uptick in confirmed cases of COVID-19 and patients who are hospitalized with complications from the disease. More than 3,200 Louisiana residents have died, according to the state health department, a number that grew by 23 on Tuesday.


RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Authority has extended a lockdown in the West Bank for another five days in hopes of slowing a new outbreak of the coronavirus.

The stay-at-home orders allow people to go out only for food or medicine and prohibit most intercity travel in Palestinian areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The lockdown was imposed last Friday and had been set to be lifted on Wednesday.

After the authority largely contained a first wave of cases, infections have skyrocketed in recent weeks, with more than 4,600 cases in the West Bank.

Neighboring Israel is also experiencing a new outbreak, reporting record levels of new cases in recent days.


The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization says the coronavirus is continuing to gain pace globally. Noting the marked increase in the number of confirmed cases being reported in the past five or six weeks, he warned that a spike in deaths could be soon to follow.

“In April and May, we were dealing with 100,000 cases a day,” said Dr. Michael Ryan during a Tuesday press briefing. “Today we’re dealing with 200,000 a day.”

Ryan said that the number of COVID-19 deaths appeared to be stable for the moment, but he cautioned that there is often a lag time between when confirmed cases increase and when deaths are reported due to the time it takes for the coronavirus to run its course in patients.

Ryan also dismissed the idea that the significant jump in cases was due to more widespread testing and , said, “This epidemic is accelerating.”

He says he hopes the collective knowledge gained about effectively treating COVID-19 patients helps keep the death rate relatively low, but that can’t be guaranteed.

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“We’ve only really experienced this rapid increase in cases over the last five to six weeks,” Ryan said. “So I don’t think it should be a surprise if the deaths start to rise again.”


WASHINGTON — U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the nation’s schools must reopen this fall and be “fully operational” even as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge around the country. She says anything short of a full reopening would fail students and taxpayers.

DeVos made the comments during a call with governors as the Trump administration launched an all-out effort to get schools and colleges to reopen. Audio of the call was obtained by The Associated Press.

“Ultimately, it’s not a matter of if schools need to open, it’s a matter of how. School must reopen, they must be fully operational. And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders,” DeVos told governors.

DeVos slammed districts that are planning to offer in-person instruction only a few days a week. She called out Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, which is asking families to decide between fully remote instruction or two days a week in the classroom.

The educvation secretary also criticized schools’ past distance education efforts during the pandemic, saying there were schools that “didn’t figure out how to serve students or who just gave up and didn’t try.”

–Alan Suderman contributed to this report.


RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for COVID-19 after months of downplaying the virus’ severity.

Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters in the capital of Brasilia.

“I’m well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can’t due to medical recommendation,” Bolsonaro said.


JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has tested negative for the coronavirus Tuesday, a day after announcing he was going into isolation after being in contact with a lawmaker who tested positive.

“My girls and I tested negative for COVID-19,” Reeves wrote in a tweet. “Limited contact with the people who were diagnosed, but better safe than sorry! If someone you know gets the virus, get a test!”

Reeves has not identified the lawmaker who tested positive and with whom he had brief contact last week. During a Facebook Live video Monday, Reeves said a “large number” of legislators have tested positive for the virus. The Mississippi Department of Health has not released more information.

The governor was in close contact last week with House Speaker Philip Gunn during the signing of a bill that removed the Confederate emblem from Mississippi’s state flag. Gunn announced Sunday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.


MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Employees at the Iowa Veterans Home have been disciplined more than 20 times for personal protective equipment lapses that potentially exposed residents and staff to coronavirus, its leader confirmed.

Commandant Timon Oujiri says the strict approach to requiring masks and other equipment when interacting with residents and colleagues has helped keep coronavirus largely out of the state’s biggest nursing home.

He says 25 employees and seven residents have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic and all have recovered. Oujiri says he considers that a major success, noting that the Marshalltown home has 456 residents and 900 employees.

Still, there have been numerous policy violations.

He confirmed that five employees have received three-day suspensions for showing a “complete disregard of PPE” that results in “repeated exposure to residents and staff.”

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He says five others have received one-day suspensions for exposing residents, and nine have received written reprimands for exposing staff. Two employees were terminated during probationary periods.


MADRID — The Spanish government is extending through September social spending to help families weather the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Utility companies cannot cut gas, electricity or water supply even if citizens fail to foot their bills until Sept. 30. Mortgage payments will remain frozen for those who can’t afford to pay their dues.

Home rentals will be extended without changes in their conditions for six additional months, government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero announced Tuesday. Tenants who qualify can apply for discounts on their rents or delays in payments if their landlords own 10 or more properties.

A U.N. report published this week says the COVID-19 crisis has exposed “serious weaknesses” in Spain’s efforts to reduce poverty, although it notes that the left-wing coalition government’s response to the virus outbreak is “encouraging.”

Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos also announced that more than half of a 1.77-billion-euro ($ 2 billion) aid fund for the transportation industry will be allocated to the state railway company, Renfe, whose operations nearly halted after the mid-March lockdown. Over 660 million euro will go to shore up private companies.

Spain has at least 28,300 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.


BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia has announced its highest single-day spike in deaths from the coronavirus, with 13 new deaths.

The country’s health ministry says there are 299 new COVID-19 confirmed cases.

That makes 16,719 registered cases and 330 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic in the Balkan country that went from having one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns to a near-complete reopening in early May.

Soccer and tennis matches were played in packed stands and elections were held on June 21 despite warnings from experts that the mass gatherings without social distancing could lead to a new coronavirus wave.


ROME — Italy has ordered a one-week suspension of incoming flights from Bangladesh after a spate of coronavirus cases near Rome were traced to members of the Bangladeshi community who had recently returned to Italy.

Italian health officials say 21 people aboard a flight from Bangladesh tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival in Rome on Monday.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza says a dozen or so cases were registered in recent days, along with the recent flight that arrived in Rome.

The Rome area is home to some 20,000 immigrants from Bangladesh. Like many other migrant communities in Italy, they travel back and forth to their home countries via charter flights. A new COVID-19 cluster broke out near Rome after a worker recently returning from Bangladesh infected the owner and fellow workers at a restaurant outside the city. Based on that cluster, public health authorities urged members of the Bangladeshi community to get tested.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio is working on new protocols for people arriving in Italy from outside the European Union and Shengen area. Italy, the onetime epicenter of the European outbreak, is maintaining protective quarantines for people even on the EU’s green list of 14 countries that can visit.

On Tuesday, the health ministry says another 30 people died from the coronavirus, bringing Italy’s confirmed death toll to 34,899.


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