French PM says 2nd virus wave is here, vastly extends curfew

France’s prime minister has announced a vast extension of the nightly curfew that is intended to curb the spiraling spread of the coronavirus

Hours after the prime minister announced the curfews, public health authorities reported that France had recorded more than 41,600 new virus cases, a daily high since the country began widespread testing. Figures showed France nearing 1 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with 999,043 as of Thursday evening.

“In France, like everywhere in Europe, the second wave is here,” Castex said at a news conference, adding that “no one is spared.”

The virus is spreading less rapidly during the second wave but more extensively, the prime minister said. The number of cases of COVID-19 has doubled in France in the past 15 days.

“The situation is grave,” Castex said.

The number of cases reported daily recently has floated around 30,000. However, the count leaped to a new record Thursday, when health authorities reported 41,622 cases in the previous 24 hours. More than 34,200 people have died in France since the start of the pandemic, one of the highest death tolls in Europe.

The prime minister said the national hospital bed occupancy rate is now at more than 44% percent and that four regions, including Paris, have more than half of their intensive care unit beds filled by COVID-19 patients, including the Paris region.

Several other government ministers joined Castex at the news conference as he prepared much of the nation for a stay-at-home life after dark and the need to wear masks outdoors.

France has been using a targeted approach to curb the virus, but some of the regions to go under a curfew have yet to reach alert-level infection rates. Castex said those areas are being placed under curfew for preventive reasons.

In just one week, the infection rate per 100,000 people has climbed by 40%, he said.

“The weeks ahead will be tough…and the number of dead will increase,” he said.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran called the rate at which the virus is spreading “alarming” even if it is less rapid than earlier in the pandemic. The map of areas to go under curfew shows that infections are reaching beyond big cities and into less populated or even rural areas.

The southern coast, from the Pyrenees to Nice, is to go under curfew, along with a mass of areas in the southeast and central France, as well as patches in the north, in the east and around Paris.

ICU beds represent a major challenge, he said, and scheduled operations are being delayed to free up beds. France has increased its ICU beds from 5,100 to 5,800 but can go quickly to 7,700 beds to treat COVID-19 patients.

In another step to better track the virus, the minister in charge of data and electronic communications, Cedric O, formally announced plans for a new application that provides more information than a previous version, included the number of daily cases. When ready, it will replace the failed StopCovid app, which the prime minister recently admitted he had never downloaded.

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Melbourne suburbs on alert over virus cluster

Victoria has recorded five new cases of coronavirus, all linked to a cluster in Melbourne’s northern suburbs that has forced some 500 people into quarantine.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed Thursday’s new cases are linked to the northern suburbs outbreak, with four located in the local government area of Hume and one in Banyule.

A total of 36 people are linked to that cluster, with 16 cases remaining active.

Residents of Broadmeadows, Dallas, Preston, Roxburgh Park and West Heidelberg, including 120 people living in a social housing block, have been urged to get tested if they experience symptoms of COVID-19 after a school student tested positive.

The pupil attended East Preston Islamic College, which has been closed until further notice for deep cleaning, as contact tracing gets underway.

“We have now identified 73 close contacts at the school, predominantly students but also some teachers; they and their households have all been instructed to self-isolate and quarantine for the next 14 days,” the state’s Commander of Testing Jeroen Weimar told reporters on Thursday.

Some 400 people linked to the school are self-isolating, either at home or in accommodation and are being monitored by Austin Health and Banyule Community Health.

A further 120 residents of a housing block in Broadmeadows have been told to stay in their homes for the next 48 hours after authorities established links to a positive case.

“We are keen to test all of those people in that accommodation block to make sure we really understand any potential change of transmission,” Weimar said.

“I should stress this is an abundance of caution approach. We are taking the view that although we have every reason to believe that the positive case was contained within a particular apartment, we don’t want to take any chances.”

A close contact linked to the East Preston school has also been identified at Dallas Brooks Primary School, which has also been closed for deep cleaning as a precautionary measure.

A community door-knocking program will start on Thursday to alert residents in the suburbs about the potential exposure to coronavirus and provide information about testing sites.

A text message was sent out on Wednesday afternoon alerting people who live in or were visiting the listed suburbs to get tested.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the outbreak proved the need for vigilance.

“We are in an extraordinarily strong position but we have to be ever vigilant,” he told Nine’s Today Show.

“The NSW model has shown us that we can manage case numbers with having a predominantly open society if we have incredibly strong testing and tracing and isolation.”

Hunt said Victoria was in a strong position to manage the outbreak.

The cases, confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday, bring Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average to 6.1.

Victoria is poised to unveil a further easing of coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, after seven straight days with no more than five new cases.

The state’s death toll remains at 817 and the national figure is 905, with only one death in the past week.

Nine Victorians are battling the virus in hospital, though none are in intensive care.


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Two Victorian schools closed as COVID cases spread to social housing block, Alerts for Bathurst 1000 visitors after virus found in raw sewage, Coronavirus cases surge across US, Australia death toll at 905

“This timeframe allows for the department to ensure the community is aware of the situation and for residents to get tested and get their results back before determining what the next steps are,” Victoria’s commander of testing and community engagement, Jeroen Weimar, said.

“We’re asking all these residents to come forward for asymptomatic testing at the dedicated testing station on site.”

The East Preston Islamic College has been closed for deep cleaning after it was revealed a student who was supposed to be self-isolating as they were a close contact of a positive case had attended school due to a misunderstanding.

“The college has taken positive steps to manage this situation and is working closely with us. It has been closed for deep cleaning,” Mr Weimar said.

“We need everyone working together to tackle this virus, and that’s exactly what the school community is doing. Staff and students who are close contacts – and their households – have been identified and are quarantining for 14 days.

“Extensive contact tracing is underway and we expect that as part of this work, additional cases will be detected.”

The Dallas Brooks Primary School has also been closed for deep cleaning.

A text message was sent to residents in the northern suburbs, urging them to get tested if they experienced any symptoms.

Pop-up testing sites and a community outreach program will be launched today.

Banyule Community Health and Himilo Community Connect will doorknock the area on Thursday to alert residents to the outbreak and provide information about testing and supports like financial assistance for missing work.

“We’re asking everyone who lives in this area or who has loved ones linked to these suburbs to please get tested if they have symptoms and to share this information within their families and broader community,” Mr Weimar said.

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Virus spikes have officials looking to shore up hospitals

BOISE, Idaho — Hospitals across the United States are starting to buckle from a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, with several states setting records for the number of people hospitalized and leaders scrambling to find extra beds and staff. New highs in cases have been reported in states big and small — from Idaho to Ohio — in recent days.

The rise in cases and hospitalizations was alarming to medical experts.

“It’s really worrisome,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at George Mason University. Around the world, disease trackers have seen a pattern: First, the number of cases rises, then hospitalizations and finally there are increases in deaths. Seeing hospitals struggling is alarming, she said, because it may already be too late to stop a crippling surge.

“By the time we see hospitalizations rise, it means we’re really struggling,” Popescu said.

In Kentucky, the governor called the number of daily confirmed cases “grim,” forcing another round of preparations to expand hospital capacity.

“We are now going back to our plans about capacity in hospitals, looking — if we have to — at hotel options and the use of state parks,” Gov. Andy Beshear said during a recent briefing. “Ensuring that we have the operational plans to stand up the field hospital, if necessary.”

The governor reported 776 people hospitalized, including 202 in intensive care and 96 on ventilators. There were 1,312 new COVID-19 cases statewide Tuesday — the fourth-highest one-day total since the pandemic began.

At the other end of the country, Idaho reported its largest coronavirus spike, with new cases increasing by some 47% over the past two weeks. Idaho is currently sixth in the nation for new cases per capita, with a positivity rate of just over 15% — one of the country’s highest.

Still, Gov. Brad Little has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate, saying it’s up to individuals to take the necessary steps — wearing masks, social distancing and practicing good hygiene — to stem the surge.

“As a health system, we’re all very concerned,” said Dr. Bart Hill, the vice president and chief quality officer of St. Luke’s Health System, the state’s largest. “It’s indicative of anticipating we’re going to see more hospitalizations affecting an older population in the next two, three, four weeks.”

“The direction we’re heading is one that looks real problematic,” he said.

Since the virus was first detected earlier this year, more than 40 million people around the globe have been infected and more than 1.1 million people have died. In the United States, there have been more than 8 million confirmed cases and more than 220,000 deaths. The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases has reached nearly 60,000 — the highest since July.

In some cases, spikes are happening as schools reopen and as Americans grow weary of wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“At this point in the pandemic, everybody’s tired. Everybody’s craving human interaction,” Popescu, the epidemiologist, said. “I worry this is a ripe situation for us to really bubble over what we’ve seen.”

Winter is a busy season for hospitals as influenza and other respiratory illnesses ramp up with more people congregating indoors. “I worry a COVID wave that causes a heavy surge on hospitals that are already very busy will further add stress to a system that is exhausted,” Popescu said.

Selin Bert, 48, who lives in Portland, Oregon, told The Associated Press that her mother-in-law, who is in her early 70s and lives in Mesquite, Nevada, recently got a severe case of COVID-19 and had to be taken to the ICU in a Las Vegas hospital. She suspects her mother-in-law was infected during a visit from her grandchildren, who traveled from Montana.

Her in-laws, Bert said, were religious about social distancing and wearing masks. But she’s not sure the grandkids were such sticklers.

“They wear masks when they’re outside, the in-laws. I don’t know about the kids, but I do know that that part of the family isn’t big on the whole mask thing, especially because of where they live,” she said, adding she’s not sure the grandkids have since been tested.

“I — we don’t want to even ask because now it’s become a very touchy subject. Because if someone says to you, ‘Hey, you potentially killed your mom, or could have killed your mom,’ it doesn’t really bode well for the family reunion.”

Her mother-in-law had symptoms for a few days at home and her health deteriorated so much that she had to be rushed to the hospital after a family member found her on the bathroom floor. She’s now doing better, but remains severely fatigued, Bert said.

Coronavirus cases are rising so fast in North Dakota that it’s taking officials up to three days to notify people after they test positive, and as a result the state has fallen way behind on tracing their close contacts who might have been exposed.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum and the North Dakota Department of Health announced late Tuesday that they’re shifting 50 National Guard members who had been working in contact tracing to simply notifying people who test positive. And public health officials will no longer notify close contacts of people who tested positive; instead those individuals will be instructed to self-notify their close contacts and direct them to the department’s website.

North Dakota, with its loose regulations, has the country’s worst per-capita spread rate, with 1,224 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Nebraska began imposing new coronavirus restrictions Wednesday, after the number of people hospitalized remained at a record level of 380 for two straight days and the state reported 11 new deaths from the virus.

Cliff Robertson, CEO of CHI Health, said his hospital group is working to bring in nurses from other parts of the country to handle the additional cases.

Over the past seven days, Nebraska has reported an average of 854 new cases per day, up significantly from two weeks ago when the state was reporting an average 525 cases per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

The trend led Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts to announce new restrictions that took effect Wednesday. Hospitals now must keep 10% of their beds free for COVID-19 patients, and customers at restaurants and bars must remain seated at tables with no more than eight people.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt and state health officials launched a new plan to handle a surge in virus hospitalizations that reached a record one-day high of 821. It includes transferring virus patients from facilities in regions where hospitalizations are high to those with more bed capacity.

Meanwhile, Wyoming health officials reported the number of people hospitalized with the virus has increased to 73, the highest since March. Health officials say the increase mirrors an increase of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases reported across the state since late September. October has been a record-setting month for cases.

Hospitalizations in Ohio have also hit a new high, with 1,154 people hospitalized and 158 on ventilators — the highest number since July.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday he was caught off-guard by the spike in cases and pleaded again for Ohioans to wear masks and keep themselves socially distanced.

And in Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh said public schools will switch to all-remote learning because of a rising number of cases. The city’s seven-day average positive test rate is currently 5.7%, an increase from 4.5% last week. Walsh said students will remain in remote learning until there are two full weeks of falling infection rates.


Peters reported from Milwaukee and Johnson reported from Washington state. AP journalists from around the United States contributed to this report.

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Older workers face higher unemployment amid virus pandemic – Long Island Business News

For the first time in nearly 50 years, older workers face higher unemployment than their midcareer worker counterparts, according to a study released Tuesday by the New School university in New York City.

The pandemic has wrecked havoc on employment for people of all ages. But researchers found that during its course, workers 55 and older lost jobs sooner, were rehired slower and continue to face higher job losses than their counterparts ages 35 to 54.

It is the first time since 1973 that such a severe unemployment gap has persisted for six months or longer.

In every recession since the 1970s, older workers had persistently lower unemployment rates than midcareer workers — partly because of seniority benefits.

But in the current recession, older workers experienced higher unemployment rates than midcareer workers in each month since the onset of the pandemic.

The older workers’ unemployment rates from April through September were 1.1 percentage points higher than mid-career workers — at 9.7% versus 8.6%. The rates were compiled using a six-month rolling average and were far worse for older workers who are black, female or lack college degrees.

Among the newly unemployed older workers is Legasse Gamo, 65. He was laid off in March from his job as a baggage handler at Reagan National airport in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia.

While Gamo is afraid of exposing himself to the coronavirus by working around others, he said he has looked for work — because he feels he has little choice but to take any job he can find.

The contractor he worked for, Eulen America, has required its laid off employees to reapply for their jobs. Gamo did so but said he has received no reply.

The immigrant from Ethiopia supports three grandchildren, ages 6, 12 and 14, who live with him. His daughter is still employed, but her pay is not enough to cover their expenses. Gamo gets $210 a week in unemployment insurance payments and said he has spent almost all of his savings.

“I just want to get back to my job as soon as possible to support my family because I’m afraid we will end up homeless,” Gamo said.

The New School study focused only on workers with established careers. As a result, it did not examine workers younger than 35.

It found that the pandemic has posed a unique risk for older workers, said Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.

“The higher rate of unemployment for older workers might be because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for employers to shed older workers and not fear investigation by the labor department,” Ghilarducci said.

She added: “Age discrimination rules are not being tightly enforced. Employers, fearing economic instability, may want to get rid of relatively more expensive workers and take their chances with training new workers when the economy recovers.”

Older workers often face age discrimination, making it difficult for them to find jobs. Researchers believe employers laid off and resisted rehiring older adults, in part because they tend to face more serious health risks when infected by the virus.

The unemployment spike for older workers could force more of them into early and involuntary retirement, worsen their financial well-being and exacerbate financial disparities already experienced by women, minorities and people without college degrees in terms of retirement security.

New School researchers estimated that 1.4 million workers over 55 remain lost their jobs since April and remain unemployed. The figure does not include workers who became unemployed in April and left the work force.

The situation could have deep ramifications for older workers close to retirement because their final years on the job are critical for those who have not saved enough for their retirement and expect to work longer to shore up their retirement funds.

The researchers recommended that Congress increase and extend unemployment benefits for older workers, discourage withdrawals from retirement accounts, lower Medicare eligibility to 50 and create a federal Older Workers Bureau to promote the welfare of older workers.

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Argentina passes 1 million cases as virus hits Latin America

USHUAIA, Argentina (AP) — At the edge of Argentina in a city known as “The End of the World,” many thought they might be spared from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sitting far from the South American nation’s bustling capital, health workers in Ushuaia were initially able to contain a small outbreak among foreigners hoping to catch boats to the Antarctic at the start of the crisis.

But as Argentina passed 1 million virus cases Monday, it is now smaller cities like Ushuaia that are seeing some of the most notable upticks. Doctors have had to quadruple the number of beds for COVID-19 patients over the last month. At least 60% of those tested recently are coming back positive for the virus.

“We were the example of the country,” said Dr. Carlos Guglielmi, director of the Ushuaia Regional Hospital. “Evidently someone arrived with the coronavirus.”

Across Latin America, three other nations are expected to reach the 1 million case milestone in the coming weeks — Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The grim mark comes as Latin America continues to register some of the world’s highest daily case counts. And though some nations have seen important declines, overall there has been little relief, with cases dropping in one municipality only to escalate in another.

The trajectory is showing that the pandemic is likely to leave no corner of Latin America unscathed.

“The second wave is arriving without ever having finished the first,” said Dr. Luis Jorge Hernández, a public health professor at the University of the Andes in Colombia.

Argentina has seen cases spiral despite instituting one of the world’s longest lockdowns. Colombia’s major cities have seen a dip, but smaller areas like the department of Caldas in the coffee region are only now reaching a peak. Peru’s overall numbers have dropped, but officials recently reported 12 regions are spiking back up. Mexico, likewise, has seen a rise in a quarter of all states over the last week.

The result is that rather than a second virus wave like that being seen in Europe, epidemiologists anticipate a more sustained, plateau-like trend.

“Our countries are still getting out of the first wave,” said Dr. Marcos Espinal, director of the Pan American Health Organization’s Department of Communicable Diseases. “A great part of the population remains exposed and community transmission continues.”

The virus’ cruel path through Latin America is a consequence of weak public health systems, social factors like poverty and poor government decisions early on that resulted in flawed or limited testing and little contact tracing. Today the region is home to half the 10 countries with the highest total cases around the globe.

Argentina initially registered low virus case numbers but now has one of the highest rates of new daily infections per capita, according to Our World in Data, a non-profit online scientific publication based at the University of Oxford. It is on par with several European countries that are experiencing a resurgence of the virus.

Dr. Adolfo Rubinstein, a former Argentine health minister, said the nation depended too heavily on lockdowns as its primary means of controlling the virus, failing to purchase enough tests in the initial months of the pandemic.

Where the virus is appearing is also shifting. Initially, up to 90% of the confirmed cases were in metropolitan Buenos Aires. Today, 65% of Argentina’s cases are in its provinces and even faraway places like Ushuaia, authorities said.

“Now it is everywhere in the country,” Rubinstein said.

Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Americas branch of the World Health Organization, warned recently that the coronavirus is appearing in places that were previously not affected, with high numbers popping up in regions like the English-speaking Caribbean.

“In many countries, the pandemic has also moved to less populated areas,” she said.

That can be seen not just in Argentina but in Colombia as well. The city of Manizales in a region known for its coffee farms now registers 440.98 cases per 100,000 residents, far higher than the nationwide average of 284.09 per 100,000, according to the Ministry of Health. Officials say the slower rise in cases allowed them to expand ICU capacity.

“Here we didn’t have a peak like in Europe,” Hernández said. “We had a plateau.”

Throughout the region, testing remains a hurdle. In Peru, officials have relied heavily on antibody tests to identify cases — even though the tests are not designed to make a diagnosis because they can only detect proteins that develop a week or more after infection. Argentina’s testing is still far below that of neighboring countries; on Sunday, just 13,890 were tested, compared to 31,988 the same day in Colombia.

The high percentage coming back positive in Argentina suggests the country is still likely missing vast numbers of infections.

Brazil reached 1 million cases in June and now is up to 5.2 million for the pandemic.

“These are huge undercounts of what is really going on in terms of numbers,” said Felicia Knaul, director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas at the University of Miami. “We need more consistent mask use — but we have to couple that with testing and tracing — or else the numbers are going to rise tremendously.”

In Ushuaia, officials believe truckers carrying in produce from the Buenos AIres region may be responsible for the rise in cases since mid-September. The city famous as a departure point for cruises to the Antarctic had been a model for the nation. Closed off air travel and a halt on tourism left it virus free for months.

But that false sense of comfort may have led people to relax on basic pandemic norms like hand washing and social distancing. The Tierra del Fuego province, which has a population of about 150,000, now has over 8,000 confirmed cases.

In Ushuaia, anxious residents line up in their cars for drive-thru testing. A sports center that had been empty is now set up to take care of patients. One month ago, the regional hospital was treating just seven COVID-19 patients; now it has 28, occupying all of its bed set aside for adults with the illness.

“The failure in Argentina was the low amount of testing,” Guglielmi said.

José Bongiovanni, a lawyer in Ushuaia, said a worry that seemed distant now feels close.

“Living at the end of the world was never easy,” he said. “It’s a lot less easy in a moment like this.”


Associated Press journalist Nicolas Deluca reported this story in Ushuaia, AP writer Almudena Calatrava reported from Buenos Aires, and AP writer Christine Armario reported from Bogota, Colombia.

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Trump blasts virus expert Fauci in campaign call, says he’s a ‘disaster’

Las Vegas/Washington: US President Donald Trump has blasted coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci as a “disaster” in a conference call with campaign workers and sought to reassure them he still has a pathway to win on election day despite slipping poll numbers.

Speaking from his signature hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, before he leaves for two rallies in Arizona, Trump took his frustration out on Fauci midway through a call intended to buck up his national team of campaign workers.

Dr Anthony Fauci at a White House briefing with Donald Trump earlier this year.Credit:AP

Trump and Fauci, a member of his coronavirus taskforce, have been at odds over how best to handle a pandemic that has killed more than 219,000 people in the United States and weakened the President’s bid for re-election on November 3.

Fauci openly complained about being cited in a Trump re-election campaign ad and said in an interview broadcast on Sunday night by CBS’ 60 Minutes that he was not surprised that Trump himself contracted the virus.

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Pelosi ‘optimistic’ on virus relief deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that differences remain with President Donald Trump’s administration on a wide-ranging coronavirus relief package but that she’s optimistic legislation can be pushed through before U.S. election day.

Pelosi, the top elected Democrat, said she wanted a bill passed before the November 3 presidential election between Republican Trump and Democrat Joe Biden but acknowledged that an agreement would have to come within 48 hours for that to happen.

“I’m optimistic because, again, we’ve been back and forth on all of this,” Pelosi said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

However, with her negotiating partner, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, in the Middle East until Tuesday, a deal still appears to be a long shot.

The White House proposed a $1.8 trillion ($A2.5 trillion) stimulus last week to help Americans struggling with the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pelosi said the offer fell short in a range of areas, including tax credits for poor people, aid to state and local governments, worker protections and rent help. She has stuck to her demand for a $2.2 trillion ($A3.1 trillion) aid and stimulus package.

The Republicans who control the Senate, however, are loath to pass another giant relief bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would vote next week on relief measures totaling more than $500 billion ($A706 billion) to target specific areas of need. Democrats have rejected so-called skinny bills with pared-down funding, saying much more is needed.

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