The Latest: SKorea closes schools in greater capital area

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A worker wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus cleans the seats at a basketball court in Beijing, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. China has gone eight days without reporting a new local case of COVID-19, with the Beijing International Film Festival among public events that are returning. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is closing schools and switching back to remote learning in the greater capital area as the country counted its 12th straight day of triple-digit daily increases in coronavirus cases.

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said Tuesday that at least 193 students and teachers were found infected over the past two weeks in the Seoul metropolitan region, where a viral surge has threatened to erase the country’s hard-won epidemiological gains.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 280 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, pushing the 12-day total to 3,175. The country’s caseload is now at 17,945, including 310 deaths.

Yoo said most children at kindergartens, elementary, middle- and high-schools will receive online classes at least until Sept. 11. However, high-school seniors will continue to go to school to prevent possible disruptions to their studies ahead of the crucial national college exams.

The KCDC said 221 of the new cases came from the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where churches emerged as major sources of infections before authorities shut them amid tightened social distancing restrictions. Infections have also been linked to schools, restaurants, nursery homes and door-to-door salespeople.

The country since Sunday has banned larger gatherings, shut down nightspots and churches and removed fans from professional sports nationwide.

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

— Scientists say Hong Kong man got coronavirus a second time

— WHO says children aged 6-to-11 should wear masks at times, too

— Trump announces plasma treatment authorized for COVID-19

— Biden says he’d shut down U.S. economy if scientists recommended

— Emails show businesses held sway over reopening plans in U.S. states

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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:

BEIJING — Beijing universities are preparing to administer virus tests to students returning to the city’s campuses.

The cost of testing all 600,000 students will be born by the universities themselves, according to the Beijing Municipal Education Commission.

University classes are scheduled to begin Sept. 9. Roughly 75 percent of Chinese students in lower grades returned to class as of last month, many on staggered schedules. The rest are expected to return by this week or on Sept. 1.

China’s National Health Commission on Tuesday reported no new local infections for a ninth straight day and said 14 new cases were found in travelers arriving from abroad. The northwestern city of Urumqi, the center of China’s most recent major outbreak, was relaxing restrictions on some residential compounds after several days of no new local infections.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and a group of criminal defense lawyers are claiming in a lawsuit that state officials aren’t doing enough to protect the health of inmates amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The complaint filed Monday alleges that the government is refusing to enforce its own mandates for social distancing, heightened hygiene practices and quarantine measures. It cites violations of the state constitution, suggesting that prison conditions “have become so intolerable as to constitute cruel and unusual punishment.”

While the lawsuit lists several inmates as plaintiffs, it’s seeking immediate relief aimed at protecting the constitutional rights of all inmates in state custody.

Corrections officials did not comment directly on the pending litigation but said there have been just over 500 confirmed cases among state inmates since the pandemic began, with 11,765 tests being done so far. Only 25 cases remain active, according to the department’s count.

Corrections Department spokesman Eric Harrison said the agency already has released 143 eligible inmates who were classified as high health risks and that measures have been put in place at the state’s 11 prison facilities to curb spread.

That includes quarantining new inmates and continued testing among inmates and staff. The weekly hygienic supply for every inmate also has been doubled.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian hot spot Victoria state has recorded an increase in new coronavirus cases, although health authorities are confident infections are continuing to trend down.

Victoria’s Health Department on Tuesday reported 148 new COVID-19 infections in the latest 24-hour period and eight deaths. Victoria reported 116 new cases and 15 deaths on Tuesday. That was the lowest daily tally of new cases since 87 were reported on July 5. The daily count has been as high as 725 news cases in early August.

State capital Melbourne is around half way through a six-week lockdown.

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CONCORD, N.H. — Mental health officials say children are a particular concern during the coronavirus pandemic both as patients and as offspring of providers working from home.

The pandemic has exacerbated existing workforce challenges in behavioral health, Cynthia Whitaker, interim president of Greater Nashua Mental Health, said during an online discussion organized by U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. She and others said many providers are juggling their jobs with overseeing their children’s remote educations.

“We have a lot of staff hitting this breaking point in the fall of, ’Can I actually effectively do my job, talking to someone who’s had a traumatic event, while in the next room my child can’t get on Zoom for math class?’” said Rebecca Throop, vice president of community relations at Seacoast Mental Health Center.

Referrals to mental health centers for children have dropped during the pandemic, Throop said, because teachers haven’t been assessing children. And parents often aren’t equipped, she said.

“When we’re getting children in emergency services for intakes, the severity we’re seeing has skyrocketed,” she said. “Parents are waiting until there’s a crisis and then they bring their kids in, when it’s so obvious you can’t ignore it.”

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JACKSON, MISS. — An entire fourth grade class in Mississippi is in quarantine after a student and more than half of a school’s fourth grade teachers tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

As students in Mississippi return to school, the state is reporting the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Mississippi has risen over the past two weeks from 20.71% on Aug. 9 to 40.83% on Aug. 23.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas no longer has any counties free of reported coronavirus cases after another weekend surge pushed its total number for the pandemic past 38,000.

The state Department of Health and Environment said Monday that Kansas saw another 1,545 confirmed and probable cases since Friday, an increase of 4.2%. The total since the pandemic began is 38,401.

The health department reported another seven COVID-19-related deaths, to bring the total to 426. Johns Hopkins University’s count is 427 deaths.

All 105 of the state’s counties have had a confirmed or probable case, according to the health department.

Rawlins and Wallace counties in northwest Kansas had remained the only two without a reported case for more than a month before the department said Monday that they had one case each. Rawlins County has about 2,500 residents and Wallace County, about 1,500.

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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA __ All employees at Clemson University who make more than $50,000 a year will be required to take at least one day off this year without pay as the school deals with lost revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic.

University officials said Monday the more an employee makes, the more furlough days they will have to take. The unpaid days off move closer to five for employees making at least $100,000 a year.

And the university’s highest paid employees with salaries of at least $400,000 — including Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and university President Jim Clements — have agreed to take a 10% pay cut.

The unpaid days off will start Sept. 1 and affect more than 3,000 Clemson University employees, about half of the school’s payroll.

Clemson estimates it will lose up to $180 million between losing fans at football games, losing fees and tuition from the spring and fall semesters and having to buy protective equipment and renovate classrooms for social distancing and COVID-19 safety.

“That’s a sobering number” in the college’s $1.4 billion budget, said Tony Wagner, Clemson’s executive vice president for finance and operations.

The University of South Carolina is requiring 10 furlough days for employees who make more than $118,000 and 20 unpaid days off for employees making more than $200,000 annually. It’s highest paid sports coaches also took a 10% cut.

The spread of COVID-19 continues to slow in South Carolina, which has reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in just two of the past 14 days. The state had at least 1,000 new virus cases each day in July and into early August, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The coronavirus outbreak sent Atlantic City’s casinos plunging to a $112 million second quarter gross operating loss as the gambling houses remained closed for the entire three-month period, according to figures released Monday by state gambling regulators.

That compares with an operating profit of nearly $160 million in the second quarter of last year.

Only one of the nine casinos — the Golden Nugget — reported an operating profit for the quarter, and that was helped by the market-leading internet gambling operation. The casino made $3.1 million, down nearly 69% from a year earlier when it made over $10 million.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the casinos closed on March 16, and did not allow them to begin reopening until July 2. That more than covers the entire second quarter, the months of April, May and June.

The casinos offered online gambling and sports betting during the quarter, which provided them some revenue during the period their physical buildings were shuttered. The nine casinos collectively reported $121.4 million in net revenue, down nearly 85% from the second quarter of 2019.

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TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — The mayor of Tuscaloosa announced Monday that the city is closing bars for the next two weeks after University of Alabama officials described an “unacceptable” rise in COVID-19 cases that could derail plans to continue the semester on campus.

Mayor Walt Maddox announced the closures along with the end of bar service at restaurants during a news conference with campus officials, who requested the action. Maddox said an unchecked spread of the virus threatens both the health care system and the local economy if students are sent home for the semester to do remote learning.

“The truth is that fall in Tuscaloosa is in serious jeopardy,” Maddox said.

The university did not immediately release case numbers, but school officials said there has been a rapid rise in cases, particularly among fraternities and sororities. The university on Friday had announced a moratorium on student gatherings both on and off campus.

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MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins will allow up to 13,000 socially distancing fans to attend their home opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 20, a decision that divided political leaders and upset the visiting coach.

The same plan will be followed for the University of Miami’s home opener against UAB at the Dolphins’ stadium on Sept. 10.

Crowd size will be about 20% of the stadium’s 65,326-seat capacity, with the limitation imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Groups of spectators will be spaced 6 feet apart.

Fifteen of the NFL’s 32 teams have ruled out spectators to start the season. The Dolphins are one of at least eight teams hoping to have a limited number of spectators, and many teams haven’t announced plans.

At a news conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez applauded the Dolphins’ plan and safety upgrades.

DeSantis said the state’s virus numbers are trending in an encouraging direction. But South Florida remains a hot spot, and not all reaction to the Dolphins’ plan was favorable.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek state school teachers angry at government plans to reopen schools next month have called a protest march in central Athens Tuesday with a string of demands – several of which the education ministry had addressed hours earlier.

The main high school teachers’ union said Monday it wanted fewer pupils per class, as well as extra teachers and classrooms to make that possible.

It also called for free masks and disinfectant, extra staff hirings and seminars on COVID-19 health measures — three things which the government had already said it would do.

The teachers’ union also demanded free and repeated tests for all school staff, the implementation of “all necessary measures to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers,” extra state education funding and a ban on virtual learning using a live link with real classrooms for children unable to attend class.

Hours earlier, the education ministry announced schools would reopen full time on Sept. 7 – with a possible delay if deemed necessary – with use of masks obligatory for schoolchildren and teachers.

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MIAMI — Florida’s coronavirus spread appears to be waning, with several key metrics on the decline.

State-provided statistics on Monday showed that the number of people being treated for COVID-19 in Florida hospitals stood at 4,655 late morning Monday — less than half of the peaks above 9,500 a month ago. A total of 72 new deaths were reported Monday, bringing the seven day average to 123 — the lowest rate in a month.

And the average daily increase in cases over the past week has declined to a level not seen since late June. Because of the declining cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Florida officials announced that the Miami Dolphins football team will allow up to 13,000 socially distancing fans to attend their home opener against Buffalo on Sept. 20.

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MADRID — Fearing an even sharper surge in coronavirus infections with the opening of the school year in September, some Spanish regions moved Monday to impose new measures against the spread of the pandemic, including bans on large social gatherings.

On Monday, when Spain’s Ministry of Health reported figures for the previous three days, the country added more than 19,000 new cases to its epidemic tally of more than 400,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. The figure is the highest in Europe.

Dr. Fernando Simón, the epidemiology expert in charge of Spain’s response to COVID-19 , stopped short of describing the situation as that of a second wave, but admitted that contagion with no clear source of infection is now widespread across the country.

“There is a certain level of community transmission in all Spain, but in some regions is more than in others,” Simón said at a press conference. “The return to school is an opportunity for an easier transmission of the virus.”

The Health Ministry said that 2,060 of the new cases were diagnosed in the past 24 hours, with 34 new fatalities bringing the total death toll of 28,838. The figures are considered incomplete due to insufficient testing at the beginning of the pandemic, while daily data is often corrected as officials rein in a backlog of information reported by Spanish regions.

The Catalonia region announced Monday that it was extending a ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people to the region’s 7.6 million inhabitants. Murcia, in the country’s southern coast and with 1.5 million residents, restricted gatherings to a maximum of six people.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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