IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa has among the nation’s highest coronavirus infection and death rates and residents should avoid gatherings in most counties, federal health experts say.
Iowa had 238 new cases and 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people last week, about double the national per capita average between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reported.
The task force report of Oct. 18 was released Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The grim statistics came as Iowa’s hospitals faced a surge of coronavirus patients. The number hospitalized hit a record 536, according to data released Thursday.
In all, 90% of Iowa’s 99 counties are experiencing high or moderate levels of virus transmission.
The report recommends “mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private and ensuring flu immunizations.”
The state reported a one-day record of 31 deaths on Wednesday and 38 more in the two days since for a total of 1,617.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— France surpasses 1 million coronavirus cases
— WHO says Northern hemisphere at ‘critical juncture’ with rising cases, deaths
— FDA approves first COVID-19 drug: antiviral remdesivir
— UN chief says G-20 leaders must coordinate to fight coronavirus. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is frustrated leaders of 20 major industrialized countries didn’t do it in March as he proposed.
— Schools from New Jersey to California have been hit with teacher and staff layoffs. Urban areas lacking the property wealth of suburban communities are especially vulnerable to budget cuts, with many schools hoping for a new round of federal money.
— An online Japanese-language text messaging service for suicide prevention has grown to 500 volunteers since March.
Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PHOENIX — Arizona health officials on Friday reported an additional 975 known COVID-19 cases and six more deaths, the fourth day this week in which the state’s daily case report topped 900.
The additional cases and deaths reported by the Department of Health Services increased the state’s totals to 235,882 cases and 5,865 deaths.
Arizona in the past month has seen a gradual increase in COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations but levels remain well below the thousands of cases reported on some days in June and July when Arizona was a national hot spot. The outbreak diminished in August and September as many local governments imposed mask mandates and the state re-imposed some business restrictions.
According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, the state’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose over the past two weeks, going from 598 new cases per day on Oct. 8 to 880 new cases per day on Thursday.
PARIS — France has surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, becoming the second country in Western Europe after Spain to reach the mark.
The national health agency announced 42,032 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 1.04 million cases. Health experts say the actual numbers are likely higher because of a lack of testing, asymptomatic cases and reporting issues.
French President Emmanuel Macron called on citizens to respect a nightly curfew and other measures to fight the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Macron says cases are “very strongly accelerating,” with coronavirus patients occupying more than 42% of ICU beds nationally and 64% in the Paris region.
The government announced a six-week curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in 46 regions and Polynesia.
France has more than 34,200 deaths, the fourth-highest death toll in Europe behind Britain, Italy and Spain.
LONDON — Bars, restaurants and most shops have closed across Wales in a lockdown to curb surging coronavirus cases.
The Cardiff-based government has imposed the U.K.’s strictest lockdown for 17 days starting Friday night. Most businesses will close, high school students will be taught online and people will avoid non-essential journeys.
The U.K. has Europe’s deadliest coronavirus numbers, with more than 44,500 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths. There have been 1,756 deaths in Wales, which has a population of about 3 million.
LA GUAIRA, Venezuela — Some Venezuelans headed back to the beach on Friday after the government relaxed measures aimed at containing the coronavirus.
It’s been seven months since tourists went to the La Ultima beach in the Caribbean town of La Guaira, outside the capital of Caracas.
Vendors again peddled drinks and snacks to sunbathers. Umbrellas waved above the sand.
Restaurants, flower shops, bars, liquor stores and ice cream parlors also opened along the seaside boulevard, with social distancing rules in place.
President Nicolás Maduro this week announced a broad reopening of most private businesses, parks and beaches around the country, saying the curve of new infections has flattened and “is steadily descending.” Open-air concerts, amusement parks and drive-ins return as well.
But Venezuela’s airports remain closed to international travel and officials haven’t said when they plan to resume operations. The government has reported 88,416 confirmed cases and 759 deaths since March.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization warns that countries in the Northern hemisphere are at a “critical juncture” with rising cases and deaths.
“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing on Friday. “Many countries are seeing an exponential increase in cases,” and he called for immediate action.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on coronavirus, says the U.N. health agency had recorded about 445,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours; nearly half of those were from Europe.
She says in many cities across Europe, “the capacity for ICU is going to be reached in the coming weeks.”
ROME — Italy reached a new daily high of nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases.
The 9,143 infections were found during a record 182,000 swab tests, raising the confirmed total to 484,869 cases.
The number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care surpassed 1,000 on Friday. So far, hospitals say they can handle the case load.
Italy added another 91 deaths, bringing the confirmed total to 37,059 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak.
ALFRED, Maine — Officials with a Maine county say a coronavirus outbreak that sickened more than 80 people at a jail is over.
The outbreak occurred at York County Jail in Alfred and was connected to a larger outbreak centered on a northern Maine wedding and reception. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said an employee of the jail attended the wedding.
The outbreak connected to the Aug. 7 wedding event sickened a total of 178 people and killed eight. The case total includes the cases from the Alfred jail.
The County Commissioners of York County said in a statement Friday that no inmates are currently receiving treatment and all staff have returned to work. An inquiry by an outside examiner continues.
County Manager Gregory Zinser says the county has stepped up efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus since the outbreak.
A Maine CDC spokesperson confirmed the facility met the criteria to close an outbreak investigation on Oct. 12.
GENEVA — Swiss health authorities are reporting another record daily coronavirus count, crossing the 6,000 threshold for the first time.
The announcement of 6,600 new cases Friday comes amid rising concerns about hospital capacity.
Federal officials in the country have called on regional leaders to do more to fight the growing outbreak that has mostly hit the French speaking areas of the southwest and west the most.
Stefan Kuster, the head of infectious diseases at the Federal Office of Public Health, says the positivity rate has reached a worrying 21 percent in the most recent seven-day period.
Kuster said Switzerland now has 495 cases per 100,000 people, surpassing neighboring France at 450. The rate is twice that in Italy and Austria, and five times higher than in Germany, he said.
Overall, the nation of 8.5 million has 103,653 confirmed cases and 1,877 deaths.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will go into self-isolation after contact with an official who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Borissov was informed Friday that deputy construction minister Nikolay Nankov had tested positive earlier in the day.
Borissov says he was in contact with Nankov five days ago and a PCR test done Friday was negative. Before these events on Friday, Borissov had met with visiting U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith J. Krach.
Bulgaria hit record levels on Friday with 1,595 new infections. The Balkan nation of 7 million people has recorded 34,930 confirmed cases and 1,064 deaths.
PINE RIDGE, S.D. — The Oglala Sioux Tribe is locking down the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for one week in response to surging coronavirus cases in the state.
The lockdown begins at 10 p.m. Friday and lasts until 6 a.m. Oct. 30 when all non-critical travel is barred. The tribe says non-essential businesses should close to the public and travel to non-essential work or non-emergency medical appointments to or from the reservation should stop.
Tribes nationwide have taken an aggressive approach to preventing infections amid concerns Native Americans could be particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The lockdown comes as South Dakota surpassed 9,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday and reported an all-time high of 973 cases and 14 deaths in one day. October has been South Dakota’s deadliest month, with 124 of the 347 deaths.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe posted on its Twitter page there were 391 active cases on the reservation, which has a population of nearly 20,000 people.
BOSTON — Massachusetts has ordered the shutdown of all indoor ice skating facilities in the state for two weeks in response to several coronavirus clusters linked to ice hockey games and practices.
The order takes effect Friday and lasts until Nov. 7, the state Department of Public Health announced. College and professional programs are exempt from the order.
There have been at least 30 coronavirus clusters associated with organized ice hockey activities, involving residents from more than 60 cities and towns in the state, the department says.
Each included two or more confirmed or probable virus cases, totaling 108 cases.
Bucharest, Romania — Romania’s daily tally of coronavirus infections rose above 5,000 for the first time and patients in intensive care units also reached a new high.
Health officials report 5,028 cases and 82 deaths in the last 24 hours. Intensive care units across the country were treating 782 people for the coronavirus.
Authorities have stepped up protective measures in localities where the rate of infection exceeded 3 people per 1,000 inhabitants, ordering the closure of schools, theaters, bars and restaurants.
The eastern European nation of 19 million has recorded a total of 201,032 confirmed infections and 6,245 deaths.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s parliament has passed a law making it mandatory to wear face masks in many outdoor situations.
The law approved Friday means anyone age 10 or older must wear a mask in public spaces whenever it is “impractical” to keep at least a 2-meter distance from others.
Police will enforce the measure. Failure to comply entails a fine of up to 500 euros ($591).
MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appealed to Spaniards to pull together and defeat the coronavirus, warning: “The situation is serious.”
Sánchez, in a televised address to the nation Friday, acknowledged public fatigue with restrictions to contain the spread. But he added: “We have to step up the fight.”
This week, Spain became the first European country to surpass 1 million confirmed cases. Sánchez says the actual number could be more than 3 million because of gaps in testing.
The current pressure on the health system, including hospitalizations, is not as acute as it was in the spring, he says. Even so, he asked for the public’s cooperation, discipline and unity during the winter months.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia report soaring numbers of daily coronavirus infections.
Croatia on Friday reached another record as 1,876 people tested positive in the past 24 hours and seven people died. Authorities say the positivity rate was more than 25 percent, which means every fourth person tested had the virus.
Neighboring Slovenia has announced the closure of non-essential shops, hotels and kindergartens after previously imposing an overnight curfew. The country on Friday reported 1,656 new cases and the positivity rate in tests of more than 25 percent.
Bosnia on Friday exceeded 1,000 daily cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The crisis-stricken Balkan nation says 1,179 people tested positive in the past 24 hours and 14 people died.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Finnish government has recommended public sector employees work remotely “to the extent possible.”
It urged the private sector to do the same but added “the decision is up to the workplace.” That would mean fewer people using public transportation.
In a statement, the government warned if the flare-up reached “the acceleration phase,” public events and meetings, outdoor and indoor, may be restricted, regardless of the number of participants. Higher education institutions should also “seriously consider switching to distance learning.”
In neighboring Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg says “the fewer people we meet, the less the virus will spread.”
Her government will announce restrictions next week so “there is a greater probability of a normal Christmas celebration with the family at home.”
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s government has announced the entire country will become a “red zone” of strict anti-COVID-19 restrictions starting Saturday, just short of a lockdown.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealed Friday to Poles to strictly observe the restrictions in order to protect lives. The appeal came as the nation of 38 million hit another daily record of new registered infections — over 13,600 and 153 deaths.
The measures, expanded from local red zones, include wearing masks at all times outdoors and switching all primary schools to remote learning. Morawiecki says the goal is to limit social contacts and the number of passengers on public transport. In other measures, restaurants and other eateries can provide takeout only for another two weeks and gatherings cannot exceed five people, except for professional activity.
People over 70 are asked to stay home, and a system of support in delivering supplies is being put in place.
“We absolutely must cut the means of transmission of infection,” Morawiecki said.
Poland’s government is also appealing to Poles to stay home and refrain from observing the national tradition of visiting graves on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1.
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