The Latest: N.C. orders face coverings in close quarters

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The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak around the world:

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RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina’s governor announced Wednesday that people across the state must wear masks or other face coverings in public to fight the spread of COVID-19, and he extended other restrictions by three more weeks to fight a surge in cases.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order that people must wear face coverings in public when it’s not possible to maintain physical distance. The order also mandates face coverings for employees of businesses, including retailers and restaurants, as well as state employees in the executive branch.

Violations of Cooper’s executive orders are punishable by misdemeanor.

The governor also said restrictions limiting capacity at retailers, restaurants and public gatherings will remain in place for three more weeks.

The order comes as the state reports its second-highest, one-day jump in virus cases at around 1,700. About 900 people are currently hospitalized, also representing the second-highest mark in that category.

Cooper said the state currently has sufficient hospital capacity, but that could quickly change if virus trends don’t improve.

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Confirmed coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania now exceed 83,000, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

The department reported 495 new infections and 54 new deaths, bringing the statewide total to 6,515.

Many of the deaths were residents of nursing homes or personal care facilities.The total death toll in those facilities is now 4,467, or nearly 70% of Pennsylvania’s total deaths attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Even though the number of daily coronavirus infections registered in Turkey since the lifting of restrictions is higher than anticipated, no new lockdowns are in the works, the health minister said Wednesday.

Fahrettin Koca blames the uptick in cases on widespread complacency and failure to comply with social distancing.

Turkey has experienced an increase in the daily number of infections after the government gave the OK for cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young at the start of June.

The country has been registering average daily infections of around 1,260 since June 12, up from around 800-900 previously.

Koca reported 1,492 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total infections registered in the country since March to 191,657. He also said there were 24 new COVID-19 deaths. The total number of fatalities now stands at 5,025.

The Interior Ministry also said more than 7,000 people were fined for failing to wear masks on Monday and Tuesday, the first two days that Turkey started imposing fines in 62 provinces where the wearing of masks has been made mandatory in public spaces.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government has announced a significant relaxation of the country’s coronavirus lockdown, allowing high schools to reopen and sports to resume with fans in stadiums – if they stick to social distancing rules and don’t chant.

In a nationally broadcast press conference Wednesday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that among other steps being taken to ease lockdown measures starting next month include allowing sex workers to go back to work and outdoor festivals to resume if visitors stay 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) apart.

Rutte said he hopes “everybody will enjoy the freedom but will act responsibly.”

Restrictions on public transport will also end July 1, with passengers allowed to sit in all seats on trains and buses, although wearing face masks will remain mandatory on public transport.

Discos and night clubs, which have been the sources of new infection clusters in other countries coming out of lockdowns, will remain closed.

The Dutch official death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak stands at 6,097, although the true number is higher because not every person who died as a result of a suspected coronavirus infection was tested.

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AUSTIN, Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott says the state is facing a “massive outbreak” in the coronavirus pandemic, and some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients.

In a series of interviews Wednesday with television stations, Abbott said Texas would again pass 5,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 4,000 hospital patients. Texas passed both thresholds for the first time Tuesday.

Abbott did not detail what “localized” restrictions might be put in place.

The Republican aggressively pushed to reopen the state in May. He acknowledges that state officials are now closely watching hospital space.

Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S., said Tuesday that it was admitting adult patients across its campuses to free more hospital bed space in the Houston area.

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BERLIN – The European statistical agency says there were about 140,000 more deaths in March and April than the previous five-year average across 21 countries where data is available.

Eurostat said Wednesday that the rise in deaths compared to previous years reflects the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency said the number of deaths rose sharply in Italy, Spain and France at the beginning of April, before dropping off. Other countries, such as Austria, Germany and Hungary. saw a less pronounced increase. Bulgaria and Slovakia actually recorded fewer deaths than in previous years during the period from week 10 to 17.

Several large countries, including Britain, which has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe, Poland and Romania weren’t included for lack of data.

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma health officials on Wednesday reported a record one-day spike in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, with 482 positive tests reported in a 24-hour period.

That’s the third time in the past week the state reported record one-day increases, including the previous high of 478 new cases on Sunday and 450 on Thursday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The agency also reported an additional COVID-19 death on Wednesday, a Garfield County woman in the 36-to-49 age group. That brings Oklahoma’s statewide death toll to 372 and the total number of confirmed positive cases to more than 11,500.

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NEW ORLEANS – Health and safety officials are forming a task force in New Orleans to help the city crack down on large gatherings and businesses that don’t comply with social distancing orders as Louisiana deals with a surge of new COVID-19 cases.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the task force during a news conference Wednesday. Cantrell and city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno also said there has been no sign that recent racial justice demonstrations have led to new clusters of COVID-19 cases in the city.

Louisiana announced a statewide increase in confirmed cases of nearly 900 to 52,477. A day earlier, cases had jumped by more than 1,300. The state death toll is 3,039.

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Doctors at Honduras’ Military Hospital said Wednesday that President Juan Orlando Hernández was improving after being placed on oxygen a day earlier.

Hernández tested positive for COVID-19 last week and a day later was hospitalized with pneumonia.

In a statement, his medical team said that on Tuesday his pneumonia appeared to be worsening with greater inflammation in his lungs and falling oxygen levels. A decision was made to give him oxygen.

Doctors said Hernández’s exam Wednesday showed improvement. He did not have a fever or difficulty breathing and the inflammation in his lungs had decreased.

Hernández’s wife has also tested positive and doctors say she continues following medical advice at home.

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GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei said Wednesday that most of the 240 workers in the country’s National Laboratory have tested positive for COVID-19.

The president told the government’s TGW Radio that despite the infections the lab continues processing COVID-19 tests. He characterized it as a “crisis.”

During the first months of the epidemic in Guatemala, all of the nation’s COVID-19 testing was centralized at the lab. But as the number of cases has grown, the government has allowed public hospitals to test samples as well.

Citizens have complained recently of waiting more than a week for test results.

Giammattei earlier announced that 158 people at the seat of his government have tested positive for the virus.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Florida’s new confirmed coronavirus cases skyrocketed Wednesday by 5,500, a 25% jump from the previous record set last week and triple the level of just two weeks ago.

The rapidly escalating daily figures continue a trend that began when Florida started reopening its economy last month and have caused several counties and cities to implement emergency orders requiring the wearing of masks in public places and crack down on businesses that aren’t enforcing social distancing rules.

Two weeks ago, Florida’s one-day record for confirmed coronavirus cases was 1,601, set in mid-May. That has been exceeded every day since June 12 and the seven-day average for tests coming back positive has tripled from 3.8% on June 1 to 13%.

The state now has confirmed more than 109,000 cases since March 1. There have been 3,281 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, a jump of 43 since Monday.

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LONDON – The head of the World Health Organization says the agency has been working with partners to increase the access to medical oxygen for people sickened by the new coronavirus in developing countries.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Wednesday press briefing the WHO estimated that at the current rate of about 1 million new COVID-19 cases every week, the world would need about 88,000 large cylinders of oxygen every day.

Tedros says the WHO has purchased 14,000 oxygen concentrators that will be sent to 120 countries in the coming weeks. WHO has identified another 170,000 concentrators, valued at $100 million, that will be available in the next six months.

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BAGHDAD – Iraq reached a new record with 2,200 coronavirus cases reported over a 24-hour period, according to the Health Ministry.

The Iraqi government opened temporary field hospitals in the capital this week to cope with a recent surge in coronavirus patients. Cases of COVID-19 began rising after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and spiked seven-fold in less than a month.

At least 1,330 people have died of the disease among 36,702 confirmed cases, according to Health Ministry figures. The highest number of cases has been in Baghdad.

Health workers say budget shortfalls brought on by a severe economic crisis has led to shortages in medical supplies.

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Republican nominee in a heavily contested U.S. House race in South Carolina says she has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Nancy Mace sent an email to supporters saying she learned some members of her campaign were potentially exposed to the virus last week and she took a rapid test Tuesday that came back positive. Mace says she is going into quarantine with her children for two weeks or until she tests negative for COVID-19.

Mace says she tried to find every person she has been in contact with the past week and is asking volunteers and staff to get tested and start working remotely.

Mace’s opponent in November, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, also tested positive for COVID-19 in late March. The Democrat reached out to Mace on Twitter, saying he was thinking about Mace, her family and her campaign.

“This virus is rough but my family and team are here if you need anything at all,” Cunningham said.

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – Slovenia’s government has reintroduced mandatory use of face masks in closed public spaces and on public transport after a spike in cases of the new coronavirus in recent days.

The government on Wednesday removed Montenegro and Luxembourg from the list of safe countries that face no entry restrictions and said visitors coming from Albania or Portugal face a 14-day quarantine.

Health Minister Tomaz Gantar says Slovenia has confirmed 20 new cases since June 20. The anti-virus rules will be reviewed every two weeks, he said.

Slovenia has previously introduced entry restrictions for some countries after reopening following the lockdown. Authorities say new cases largely have been imported.

The total number of positive cases so far is 1,541 and 109 people have died.

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

– International aid group says data in some countries show sharp discrepancy between coronavirus cases in men and women.

– US virus cases surge to highest level in 2 months.

– Indian armed forces personnel to provide medical care for coronavirus patients kept in New Delhi railroad coaches.

– The spread of the coronavirus is prompting soaring demand for medical oxygen, which is expensive and hard to get in much of the world. Scarce oxygen supplies are another basic marker of inequality both between and within countries from Peru to Bangladesh. Across Africa, only a handful of hospitals have direct oxygen hookups, as is standard across Europe and the United States.

– Americans are unlikely to be allowed into Europe when the continent reopens its borders next week, due to how the coronavirus pandemic is flaring in the U.S. and President Donald Trump’s ban on Europeans entering the United States. European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1, and their EU representatives are debating the criteria for lifting restrictions on visitors from outside Europe.

– Major League Baseball has issued a 60-game schedule that will start July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks as the sport tries to push ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic. It will be MLB’s shortest season since 1878. Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and four games against each of the five clubs in the corresponding division in the other league, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

JOHANNESBURG – The World Health Organization chief says all 54 countries in Africa have lab capacity to test for the coronavirus.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the news during an African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conference on Africa’s role in pursuing a COVID-19 vaccine.

The continent, which saw its first virus infection on Feb. 14, has had nearly 325,000 cases, with more than 8,600 deaths.

Africa CDC chief John Nkengasong says the pandemic was delayed in Africa “but is picking up speed very quickly” as more countries ease their lockdowns.

While Tedros called for the initial supply of any COVID-19 vaccine to be deployed where it’s most needed, rather than on the “ability to pay,” Nkengasong warned that “unless we act now, Africa is at risk of being left behind on the global vaccine” and urged local manufacturing of one as well.

A man wearing a mask to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, carries a ladder past a row of people waiting to enter a bank in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Thursday, June 18, 2020. The hospitalization Wednesday of Honduras’ president with COVID-19 and pneumonia has drawn attention to another country struggling under the pandemic’s strain as cases rise exponentially in the capital. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)
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