COVID-19 Highlights: Phoenix mayor says virus test shortage a ‘crisis’

Residents line up to eight hours for tests

  • Jul. 5, 2020 8:30 a.m.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is pointing to a “crisis” involving coronavirus testing shortages in her city due to surging cases in Arizona, which leads the U.S. in new coronavirus cases per capita.

Gallego, a Democrat, said some residents over the weekend had to line up for eight hours by car to get COVID-19 tests and that the federal government has been slow to help.

Gallego tells ABC’s This Week on Sunday that Arizona went from “zero to 60” by being one of the first states to reopen after it was among the last to implement stay-at-home orders.

She says that led to an explosion of cases, citing crowded nightclubs with free champagne and people unwittingly spreading the virus at large family gatherings.

She faults mixed public messaging after President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Phoenix. Gallego says while she was urging people to stay at home and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, Trump undercut that by holding large events and not wearing a mask.

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is praising UN Security Council efforts for worldwide ceasefires to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

In remarks Sunday to the public in St. Peter’s Square, Francis hailed the Security Council’s “request for a global and immediate cease-fire, which would permit the peace and security indispensable for supplying so urgently needed humanitarian assistance.”

The pontiff called for the prompt implementation “for the good of the so many persons who are suffering.” He also expressed hope that the Security Council resolution be a “courageous first step for the future of peace.”

The resolution calls on parties to armed conflicts to immediately cease fire for at least 90 days to enable safe, sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical evacuations.

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BALTIMORE — The United States has dipped under 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time in four days, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but experts fear celebrations for the July 4th Independence Day weekend will act like rocket fuel for the nation’s surging outbreak.

Johns Hopkins counted 45,300 new coronavirus infections in the U.S. on Saturday after three days in which the daily count reached as high as 54,500 new cases. The lower figure on Saturday does not necessarily mean the situation in the U.S. is improving, as it could be due to reduced reporting on a national holiday.

The United States has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead, according to the university. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is significantly higher, due to people who died before they were tested and missed mild cases.

To show just how steep the current infection curve is in the U.S., the country was reporting under 20,000 new infections a day as recently as June 15.

Despite warnings by health experts to limit gatherings, President Donald Trump went ahead with a speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday and an evening of tribute and fireworks Saturday on the National Mall in Washington.

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LONDON — After England’s hospitality sector, including pubs and restaurants, reopened for the first time in more than three months, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that the vast majority of people did “the right thing.”

Early indications suggest that the reopening of pubs in England on Saturday did not overwhelm emergency services as many had feared in the run-up to the biggest easing of the lockdown.

For the most part, people appeared to abide by the rules, though in some places, the numbers out and about meant it was very difficult to do so.

John Apter, chair of the Police Federation, was on shift on Saturday night, and said it was “crystal clear” that drunk people struggled, or ignored, social distancing rules.

Though the easing has been warmly welcomed by many, there are concerns the British government is being overly hasty in sanctioning the changes.

The U.K. has experienced one of the world’s worst outbreaks so far, with the official coronavirus death toll of 44,198 is the third-highest behind the United States and Brazil.

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JOHANNESBURG — A third African head of state in the space of a week and a half is self-isolating after someone close to him tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ghana’s information ministry says President Nana Akufo-Addo has tested negative but decided to isolate himself “out of an abundance of caution.”

Senegal’s President Macky Sall late last month isolated himself after a similar situation, and Botswana’s government on Thursday said President Mokgweetsi Masisi had gone into self-isolation yet again after a close official tested positive. This is the fourth time he has done so since March.

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JOHANNESBURG — For the first time, South Africa is reporting more than 10,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day.

That brings the country’s total confirmed cases to more than 187,977, by far the most of any country in Africa.

South Africa also has surpassed 3,000 deaths in this outbreak.

Cases continue to rise in Gauteng province, home of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, which now has close to one-third of the country’s infections.

Officials have said beds in public hospitals are filling up, and nurses have expressed alarm.

The African continent overall has nearly 450,000 confirmed cases.

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NEW DELHI — India has reported another record 24-hour jump in coronavirus cases as the World Health Organization cautioned against the country’s plans to release a vaccine by August.

The Health Ministry added 24,850 confirmed cases on Sunday, bringing the nationwide total to 673,165, making India the fourth hardest-hit in the world behind the U.S., Brazil and Russia.

India’s death toll rose to 19,268.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, the agency leading the country’s COVID-19 response, said last week that it had set Aug. 15 — India’s independence day — as a target for developing a coronavirus vaccine and asking clinical trial investigators to enrol participants by July 7.

The WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said in an interview Saturday with India’s online newspaper The Wire that more realistically, some phase 1 results would be available by August “if all goes according to plan.”

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MELBOURNE, Australia — The hard-hit Australian state of Victoria has recorded 74 new coronavirus cases after announcing a record 108 new infections on Saturday.

The Saturday increase resulted in state Premier Daniel Andrews announcing a lockdown of nine inner-city public housing blocks containing 3,000 people, where 27 cases have been detected.

Police are guarding every entrance of the housing estates and residents are not allowed to leave their homes for any reason.

Andrews said the residents will have their rent waived for the next two weeks and will receive one-off hardship payments of between 750 and 1,500 Australian dollars ($520 to $1,040). The government said it would arrange the delivery of food and medical supplies to all homes.

Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone called for a temporary halt to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country after the alarming surge in Victoria.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has recorded 60-plus COVID-19 cases for a third consecutive day, a continuation of a virus spread beyond the greater Seoul area.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday it has confirmed 61 additional cases, bringing the national total to 13,091. It says the death toll remained at 283.

The agency says 43 of the newly reported cases were locally infected patients. All but two of those cases were either from the Seoul metropolitan area or two central cities, Gwangju and Daejeon. The remaining 18 cases were linked to international arrivals.

South Korea has been grappling with an uptick in new infections since it eased social distancing rules in early May. South Korea recorded 63 new cases on both Saturday and Friday.

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BOZEMAN, Mont. — A Montana newspaper reports that the wife and the running mate of Republican governor candidate Greg Gianforte, as well as several other top GOP officials, were possibly exposed to the coronavirus while attending an event with the girlfriend of President Donald Trump’s oldest son.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle says Gianforte’s wife, Susan, lieutenant governor candidate Kristen Juras and other Montana Republican officials were at a Trump fundraising event Wednesday in Gallatin County with Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr.

The New York Times reports that Guilfoyle was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Friday.

Greg Gianforte is Montana’s representative in the U.S. House. He did not attend the event.

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BEIJING — Chinese officials have reported eight new confirmed COVID-19 cases as a recent outbreak in Beijing appears to have largely run its course.

China’s capital had two new cases, the seventh straight day of single-digit increase. Authorities have confirmed 334 infections during the city’s outbreak, which was detected about three weeks ago and is the largest in the country since March. No deaths have been reporte.

Beijing government spokesperson Xu Hejian said at a news conference Saturday that the situation “keeps improving and is completely controllable.”

The six cases outside Beijing were people arriving from abroad. Three were in Gansu province in the country’s northwest.

China has reported 83,553 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths since the pandemic began. Its case count does not include people who test positive for the coronavirus but show no symptoms.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has reported its biggest daily increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases — 8,258. Hospitalizations also continue to climb.

Much of Texas began mandating face coverings Friday on the orders of Gov. Greg Abbott. The mask order carries a $250 fine. The order is the most dramatic about-face that Abbott has made as he retreats from what stood out as one of America’s swiftest reopenings.

Texas health officials on Saturday said the state’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases is now at 191,790. State health officials also reported 33 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. That brings Texas’ total to 2,608 deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 7,890 on Saturday, an increase of 238 from Friday.

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BERLIN — The World Health Organization says it is ending a trial into whether anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine helps patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

WHO said Saturday it has “accepted the recommendation” from the committee overseeing the trial to discontinue testing of hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir, a drug combination used to treat HIV/AIDS. The drugs were being compared with standard care for hospitalized patients.

WHO says a review of the interim results showed hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir “produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care.”

The agency adds that while there was no “solid evidence” of increased mortality for hospitalized patients given the drugs, there were “some associated safety signals in the clinical laboratory findings” of an associated trial.

WHO says the decision won’t affect possible trials on patients who aren’t hospitalized, or on those receiving the drugs before potential exposure to the coronavirus or shortly afterward.

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BERLIN — The World Health Organization says member states reported more than 212,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the global body Saturday, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic.

The Geneva-based WHO said the highest number of new infections was reported from the Americas region, which includes the United States and Brazil, with almost 130,000 confirmed cases.

WHO’s count can differ from other global case tallies due to official reporting delays.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — A week before the first of Walt Disney World’s theme parks are set to reopen for the first time since March, three firefighters for the theme park resort’s private government have tested positive for COVID-19, union officials said Saturday.

Up to 10 other firefighters for the Reedy Creek Improvement District are in quarantine, said Tim Stromsnes, an official with the Reedy Creek Fire Rescue IAFF Local 211.

The 205-member Reedy Creek Fire Department has under 140 firefighters.

Firefighters are upset since they are expected to use up sick or vacation days while in quarantine, instead of getting paid time off. They also said Disney’s private government has done a poor job of communicating their coronavirus-related policies and informing other firefighters about their sick colleagues.

“They can’t manage COVID in the fire department. How is Reedy Creek going to protect visitors?” Stromsnes said.

A spokeswoman for the Reedy Creek Improvement District didn’t respond to an email inquiry on Saturday.

Two theme parks, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, are set to reopen next Saturday for the first time since coronavirus-related closures in March. The resort’s two other theme parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, are opening four days later.

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