The Latest: Georgia workers at voting prep center have virus

National News

A medical staff takes a swab from a child near a residential area in Qingdao in east China’s Shandong province on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. A hospital president and the director of the health commission in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao have been fired after China’s latest coronavirus outbreak, authorities said Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)

ATLANTA — Election officials said nearly a quarter of the workers in a warehouse where election supplies are kept and voting equipment is readied for Georgia’s most populous county have tested positive for COVID-19.

But Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said Thursday that the positive tests for 13 of the 60 workers at the county election preparation center shouldn’t delay election operations.

Barron said the county is working to hire replacement staff and implement more mitigation measures, including daily rapid testing.

The state Department of Public Health said Georgia had 1,686 cases and 23 deaths reported Thursday.

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

— Dr. Fauci criticizes ‘herd immunity’; suggests people rethink Thanksgiving travel

— France sets curfew at 9 p.m. Friday; health workers march in Paris

— More Swiss Guards, who attend to the Pope, test positive at Vatican

— Coronavirus cases around world climb to all-time highsof more than 330,000 per day, with surges across Europe and outbreaks in U.S.

— Kamala Harris suspends in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the U.S. vice presidential nominee’s campaign tested positive for coronavirus.

— Queen Elizabeth II carries out her first public engagement outside of a royal residence since early March.

— 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:

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Thursday for the first time since mid-August, after Gov. Tate Reeves instituted a statewide mask mandate.

The day of high case numbers comes just two weeks after the Republican governor repealed that same statewide mask mandate, citing declining numbers of virus cases.

For most of the last two months, Mississippi has seen lower infection numbers, ranging between around 200 to 800 cases a day. In mid-to-late July, the state was regularly reporting between 1,000 and 1,500 cases a day on average.

The count has slowly been rising again. The state health department reported more than 1,300 new cases Thursday. Mississippi has had more than 108,000 virus cases and at least 3,152 virus-related deaths.

COVID-19 hospitalizations were also rising slightly, with 500 people reported to be hospitalized in the state on Tuesday, compared to 393 on Oct. 3. Mississippi’s state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Monday that six hospitals have no beds available in their intensive care units.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Thursday that the state’s four-week average of unemployment claims has fallen below 100,000 for the first time since the jobless rate skyrocketed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The rolling average for the week ending Oct. 10 was 90,445, down from 100,464 the previous week and the unadjusted number of initial claims was 4,840, down by 940 from the prior week’s revised total 5,780.

A record of more than 182,000 continuing claims were reported in late June as the state reopened following Gov. Kevin Stitt’s shutdown of many businesses to stem the spread of the virus.

The state health department on Thursday reported 1,112 additional virus cases and 13 more deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the disease, for a total of 102,615 cases and 1,132 deaths since the pandemic began.

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O’FALLON, Mo. — The number of people hospitalized for the coronavirus in Missouri reached another record Thursday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was more than triple the benchmark suggested by the World Health Organization.

The state health department’s COVID-19 dashboard showed other alarming numbers, too: 1,875 new confirmed cases and 22 deaths. According to the dashboard, Missouri ranks fourth nationally in reported deaths over the past seven days, and eighth in the number of new cases. All told, Missouri has reported 150,554 confirmed cases and 2,442 deaths since the pandemic began.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate was 17.9%. Johns Hopkins University data shows the national seven-day positivity rate was at 5.1%. The WHO has set 5% as the benchmark.

Meanwhile, 1,443 people were hospitalized in Missouri on Wednesday, setting a new record for the third straight day. Hospitalizations have risen dramatically since the state loosened restrictions in mid-June. On June 16, 626 people were hospitalized, and that number dropped to 375 on July 7. It has nearly quadrupled since then.

Dr. Marc Larsen, who oversees the COVID-19 response at Kansas City-based St. Luke’s Health System, said the system’s rural hospitals are seeing surges just as bad as the hospital on the Plaza in Kansas City.

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MADRID — Spain added more than 13,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Spain’s health ministry reported 6,603 new infections diagnosed in the previous 24 hours. The other cases were diagnosed in recent days but not reported until now by regional officials.

The government’s top virus expert, Fernando Simón, says while “no province is where we want it to be” in terms of infections, “we have the sensation that we are in a process of stabilization.”

Spain leads Europe with 921,374 confirmed cases. It’s recorded 33,553 deaths. However, health experts believe the actual number is higher due to a shortage of tests early in the pandemic.

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HONOLULU — Struggling business owners in Hawaii will be watching as tourists return to the islands on Thursday without having to quarantine upon arrival.

A new pre-travel testing program allows visitors who test negative to come to Hawaii and avoid two weeks of mandatory quarantine. The state-run coronavirus testing program is an effort to stem the downturn on Hawaii’s tourism-based economy.

However, gaps in the program coupled with increasing cases across the U.S. and the world have raised questions about whether Hawaii is ready to safely welcome back vacationers.

Critics say a single test 72 hours before arrival — especially when coupled with the option to fly without a test and still quarantine — is not enough to keep island residents safe.

Hawaii, which has 1.4 million residents, reported 10 coronavirus deaths and more than 100 confirmed cases on Wednesday.

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation health officials are reporting 40 new confirmed coronavirus cases but no deaths.

That brings total cases to 10,780, with the known death toll remaining at 571.

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.

Tribal health officials say a total of 113,985 people have been tested on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon’s Health Ministry says the country registered a daily record of 1,550 coronavirus cases.

The record raises the total to 58,645 cases. The ministry added two new deaths, increasing the total to 501.

Lebanon has had a surge in cases since early July after a lockdown was eased and its only international airport opened. The situation worsened following a massive blast on Aug. 4, that killed and wounded many people and caused damage worth billions of dollars.

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VATICAN CITY — Seven more Swiss Guards have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing to 11 confirmed cases within the small army that protects Pope Francis.

The Swiss Guards say there’s more testing within the 135-member corps, with a reshuffling of schedules to “avoid all risks of contagion.”

The Swiss Guards, the world’s oldest standing army, provide ceremonial duty during papal Masses and stand at the Vatican gates. The Vatican confirmed Monday four guards had tested positive.

The 83-year-old pope, who had part of a lung removed in his 20s due to illness, would be at high risk for COVID-19 complications. He’s been reluctant to wear a face mask and appeared without one Wednesday, even though many of his entourage and all the Swiss Guards wore a mask.

Masks are required in Italy, both indoors and outdoors. While Francis was seen donning a mask a few weeks ago, the Vatican hasn’t responded to questions about why he isn’t wearing one.

Francis often seems out of breath and speaks in a whisper, suggesting that wearing a mask might be particularly uncomfortable.

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ROME — Italy set a new daily record for coronavirus infections with 8,804.

The northern region of Lombardy, hardest hit in the first wave, led the country with more than 2,000 confirmed infections.

Neighboring Piemonte added 1,000 as well as southern Campania, whose governor has warned that he’d impose a lockdown if Campania hit the 1,000-a-day infection mark.

Italy added 83 deaths, bringing the confirmed death toll to 36,372, the second highest in Europe after Britain.

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BERLIN — Germany added France and the Netherlands to its list of high-risk areas for the coronavirus.

The government’s Robert Koch Institute also included the Italian regions of Campania and Liguria, parts of Poland, and dozens of other regions across Europe on its newly updated list of risk areas.

Travelers coming from those regions must quarantine when arriving in Germany and undergo a coronavirus test. Those with negative tests can end their quarantine. Those with positive tests are recommended to quarantine 14 days or they can end a quarantine after 48 hours of no symptoms and two negative tests.

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LONDON — The British government has added Italy to its unsafe list of travel destinations following a resurgence in the coronavirus.

Anyone coming to the U.K. from Italy will have to quarantine for 14 days after arrival. The change starts Sunday and includes anyone arriving from Vatican City or San Marino.

The Greek island of Crete has been deemed safe, meaning arrivals from Greece, except the island of Mykonos, won’t need to quarantine.

Virus infections have risen across Europe, including the U.K., prompting many airlines to scale back their winter schedules.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans should rethink their usual plans for Thanksgiving gatherings, citing increased coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday that given the rise in cases, “we’ve really got to double down on fundamental public health measures that we talk about every day because they can make a difference.”

As for Thanksgiving, when millions of Americans travel to gather with families and friends, Fauci says this November may need to be different. “We really have to be careful this time that each individual family evaluates the risk-benefit.”

The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert says its especially important because people traveling over the holiday often pass through crowded transportation hubs such as airports.

“If you have vulnerable people, the elderly or people that have underlying conditions, you better consider whether you want to do that now or maybe just forestall it and wait,” Fauci says.

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PARIS — France will deploy 12,000 police officers to enforce a curfew that starts Friday night and plans to spend another 1 billion euros helping businesses hit by the new restrictions.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex and other government ministers laid out new rules Thursday aimed at what he called a “sudden acceleration” of infections.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin says 12,000 police officers would be deployed between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. to enforce the new curfew, imposed on some 20 million people in Paris and eight other French cities.

Amid protests by restaurant owners and others hit by this latest wave of virus restrictions, the government pledged to expand temporary unemployment payments and spend another 1 billion euros for hard-hit sectors.

Coronavirus patients occupy a third of France’s intensive care units and virus hospitalizations are increasing. About 1,000 nurses, doctors and other public hospital workers marched Thursday in central Paris to demand more investment, staff and salary raises after years of cost cuts.

France reported 22,591 new infections Wednesday and has a total of 33,037 confirmed deaths.

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MEXICO CITY — Ricardo Salinas Pliego, one of Mexico’s wealthiest men and an adviser to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Salinas, the founder and president of Grupo Salinas, which includes TV Azteca and Banco Azteca among other companies, has been outspoken in his criticism of quarantine as a measure to slow the pandemic’s spread.

The 64-year-old Salinas announced his test result Wednesday night on Twitter. “Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid, like I always said,” he wrote. He’s at home but didn’t say if he had COVID-19 symptoms.

Mexico has reported more than 825,000 confirmed cases and nearly 85,000 deaths.

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