New daily high for positive virus tests in U.S.

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BALTIMORE — The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus has soared to a new daily high in the United States.

Data from Johns Hopkins University indicates the number of confirmed cases reached 184,514 on Friday, as the number of people infected continues to surge.

The Johns Hopkins data shows the seven-day rolling average for virus-related deaths reported daily in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from about 828 on Oct. 30 to 1,047 on Friday, an increase of about 26%

The seven-day rolling positivity rate also rose over the past two weeks from 6.4 to 9.6, an increase of about 50%, even as the number of tests performed has grown.

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

— Biden faces tough choice of whether to back virus lockdowns

— Officials monitor surge of cases in New Delhi as people socialize during India’s festival season

— Germany’s Merkel says nursing homes will get first access to vaccines

— Trump, still not conceding defeat, trumpets vaccine progress

— Experience in treating COVID-19 patients is proving invaluable at the hospital in Paris that recorded the epidemic’s first death in Europe. Critical care doctors have learned not to put patients on ventilators if possible and to keep them awake and bathed in oxygen with face masks.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WARSAW – Poland has reported 548 more COVID-19-related deaths, a record number since the start of the pandemic.

The country also reported more than 25,570 new confirmed cases infection cases on Saturday. Most were in the southern industrial region of Silesia, in western province of Poznan and in Warsaw province.

The daily figures bring Poland’s totals to more than 691,100 confirmed cases and 10,045 deaths. Virus expert Wlodzimierz Gut said the growth in the death toll probably reflects last week’s peak in new infections. He says the spread of the virus appears to be decelerating since the government introduced stricter anti-infection measures on Nov. 1.

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MOSCOW — Russia has reported a new one-day high in the number of confirmed coronavirus infections recorded.

The national virus taskforce reported 22,702 new cases and 391 more virus-related deaths on Saturday. Russia’s highest daily death toll of the pandemic, 439, was reported on Thursday. Overall, Russia has reported 1,903.000 confirmed virus cases and 32,834 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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BEIRUT — Lebanese police are patrolling the streets of Beirut and ordering shops to close as the country begins a two-week lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus that has killed dozens over the past days in the small Mediterranean country.

The number of cases increased sharply in recent weeks around Lebanon, straining the country’s medical sector and almost filling hospital intensive care units.

A nighttime curfew has been extended during the lockdown lasting from sunset to sunrise while driving will be completely banned around the country on Sundays. Vehicles with odd and even number plates will be allowed to drive three days a week each to limit traffic.

The lockdown comes as Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, leading to criticism of the closure by business owners who cannot afford the loss of revenue. Over the past year, the local currency shed 80% of its value and tens of thousands lost their jobs in a population of some 5 million that has one of the highest debt ratios in the world.

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BERLIN — Doctors in Germany are calling for hospitals to postpone non-urgent surgeries in areas with high rates of coronavirus infections so medical personnel can concentrate on critically ill COVID patients.

Hospitals in Germany have resisted putting off plannable and elective procedures, arguing they would risk financial ruin doing so without further government support.

But a doctors union and four medical associations said in a joint statement Saturday that unless the strain on staff members can be eased, “many intensive care units in particular will soon pass breaking point.”

They called on the government to send a “clear signal” to hospitals that any loss of income compared to the previous year will be compensated.

According to the intensive care medicine association DIVI, the number of ICU beds in Germany occupied by COVID-19 patients is higher than it was during the spring.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says nursing home workers and the people they are caring for will be among the first to get access to coronavirus vaccines.

Merkel said Saturday in her weekly video address that staff and residents of nursing homes will “receive priority” as soon as a vaccine is available.

Almost 1 million people in Germany live in nursing and care homes. The country is seeking to buy 100 million doses of a vaccine being developed by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and U.S. partner Pfizer.

Germany’s disease control agency reported a further 22,461 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to Saturday, as well as 178 additional deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has recorded 773,556 confirmed cases and 12,378 deaths.

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ISTANBUL — Turkish health ministry statistics show 93 people died in a day of COVID-19 amid a surge in infections, bringing the daily death toll to numbers last seen in April.

In figures released late Friday, the health ministry also reported 3,045 new patients, referring to the number of confirmed cases presenting symptoms. Turkey has been criticized for only releasing the number of symptomatic cases in its figures since late July and the total number of confirmed infections is unclear.

The figures also show an upward trend in the number of critically ill patients. The total death toll has reached 11,326.

Turkey lifted temporary weekend lockdowns in late May and reopened travel, restaurants and other businesses. Officials have been urging people to stay at home but new restrictions so far have been limited to curtailing the movement of senior citizens in Istanbul and Ankara, closing businesses at 10 p.m. and banning smoking in crowded public places across the country.

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BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has ordered a statewide mask mandate and imposed several business restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has stressed the state’s hospital capacity.

The Republican governor’s executive order late Friday comes after months of pressure from health care professionals to require face coverings. The directive requires residents to wear face coverings in indoor businesses and indoor public settings, as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.

The order goes into effect Saturday. Failure to comply with the mandate is an infraction, with a penalty of up to $1,000, though it’s not clear how it will be enforced.

State health data show North Dakota reached a grim new milestone on Friday, as its COVID-19 death toll eclipsed the 700 mark. The state has reported more than 60,000 coronavirus infections.

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NEW DELHI — India’s overall tally of new coronavirus cases remained steady on Saturday, but officials were watching a surge of cases in the capital that comes as people socialize during the festival season.

India’s Health Ministry reported 44,684 new positive cases in the past 24 hours and 520 deaths. Of those, 7,802 new cases were reported in New Delhi, with 91 deaths.

India’s has seen 8.7 million infections since the pandemic began — the second-most in the world — but daily new infections have been on the decline from the middle of September. The county has also seen more than 129,000 virus deaths.

New Delhi has seen a spike in recent weeks, recording more new cases than any other Indian state. The rising numbers coincide with a busy festival season nationwide, with millions celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, on Saturday.

COVID-19 beds in government-run hospitals are nearly full and the availability of intensive care unit beds with ventilator support in the city has reached an all-time low, according to the government data.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is self-quarantining after his chief spokesperson tested positive for COVID-19.

The Democratic governor’s chief spokesperson, Max Reiss, identified himself as the senior staff member who had tested positive, in a release posted to Twitter late Friday. An initial news release from the governor’s office didn’t identify the staff member, but said that it was the first known case of the coronavirus in the governor’s office.

Reiss wrote he wasn’t sure how or where he contracted the virus, but added that his family had been self-quarantining after his children were exposed at school. He said none of his family was experiencing symptoms, but they will quarantine for the next two weeks.

Contact tracing has begun and all members of the administration who have been within 6 feet (2 meters) of Reiss for 15 minutes or more will self-quarantine for 14 days. In addition to Lamont, chief of staff Paul Mounds and chief operating officer Josh Geballe will self-quarantine. Reiss also encouraged journalists who had contact with him under those same parameters in the last 24 hours to “take the necessary steps.”

Three U.S. governors — Republicans Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Mike Parson of Missouri and Democrat Ralph Northam of Virginia — had COVID-19 earlier this year. Another governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak of Nevada, announced Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s soccer association says four players and a staff member of the men’s national team have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Austria for a friendly with Mexico.

Korea Football Association spokesperson Kim Min-soo said the rest of the team will be re-tested before a decision is made whether to cancel the match with Mexico, which was scheduled for Saturday night local time in Wiener Neustadt, south of Vienna.

The players who tested positive were Kwon Chang-hoon, a midfielder for German club SC Freiburg; Hwang In-beom, a midfielder for Russian club FC Rubin Kazan; Lee Dong-jun, a forward for South Korean club Busan I Park FC; Jo Hyeon-woo, a goalkeeper from South Korean club Ulsan Hyundai FC.

The KFA said none of the five who tested positive were showing symptoms and that players and staff were currently quarantining in their rooms.

At home, South Korean health authorities reported 203 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily jump in 73 days, causing concern in a nation that has eased its social distancing restrictions since October amid concerns over a weak economy.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Some churches in Kansas have suspended indoor, in-person worship services and the capital city’s zoo even has tightened its rules as the the state set another record for new coronavirus cases.

The bishops of the two Episcopal Church dioceses that cover Kansas this week directed their congregations to suspend services and meetings. The United Methodist Church bishop for Kansas and Nebraska also encouraged its churches to suspend in-person services until further notice if they are in counties “identified as being in critical or dangerous statuses.”

And the Topeka zoo said that starting Saturday, all visitors will be required to wear masks, except when eating. The zoo had allowed visitors to take off their masks if they were outdoors and socially distanced.

Kansas averaged a record 2,553 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases a day for the seven days ending Friday.

The state health department added 6,282 coronavirus cases to the state’s pandemic tally since Wednesday, increasing it to 115,507. The department also reported 41 additional COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the pandemic total to 1,256.

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