RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s count of COVID-19 deaths surpassed 150,000 on Saturday night, despite signs the pandemic is slowly retreating in Latin America’s largest nation.
The Brazilian Health Ministry reported that the death toll now stands at 150,198. The figure is the world’s second highest behind the United States, according to the tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has played down the severity of the virus while deaths mounted rapidly in Brazil. The 65-year-old president flouted social distancing at lively demonstrations and encouraged crowds during outings from the presidential residence. He has rejected governors’ and mayors’ lockdowns and other tough measures to contain the virus’ spread, even after he contracted it himself in July.
But there have been recent signs of relief in Brazil. Over the last month and a half, the viral curve has dropped. The average number of deaths sat at 598 over the last 7 days, the lowest level since the beginning of May.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— President Trump makes speech from White House balcony, 1st appearance in 5 days since return to residence
— Religious gathering limit upheld as New York hospitalizations rise
— Dr. Fauci cautions against large gatherings without masks, social distancing
— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismisses the latest White House offer in COVID-19 aid talks but remains hopeful progress can be made toward a deal.
— Queen Elizabeth II honored the work of doctors and nurses, delivery drivers, fundraisers and volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic.
— The NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots had no positive coronavirus tests Saturday and both teams will be allowed to go back to their facilities.
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anchorage public health officials say they are investigating a coronavirus outbreak from a youth hockey tournament that drew teams from around Alaska. Officials say more than 300 players, coaches and fans were in attendance at the Termination Dust Invitational over a three-day period last weekend. Teams came from nine cities across the state. Local health officials did not provide specific numbers as to how many people tested positive as a result of the event. But, tournament organizers say they first learned of a positive case in one of the teams on Monday. They also say they knew of two teams with a positive case each.
ST. LOUIS — Missouri reported more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, more than doubling its previous daily record.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said there have been a total of 144,230 confirmed cases since the outbreak started, up 5,066 cases from Friday. The state also reported 27 more deaths to bring the total to 2,422.
The new number more than doubles the previous single-day high of 2,084 new cases, which occurred on July 30. Health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox didn’t immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking an explanation for the large increase.
Data from the state shows that 1,313 people were hospitalized as of Friday, the second-most for any single day. The rise in hospitalizations is occurring largely in Missouri’s rural communities.
Jayne Dees, administrator of the health department in New Madrid County in the Bootheel region of southeast Missouri, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that people aren’t social distancing or wearing masks.
Dr. Nathan Sprengel, a doctor at the SEMO Health Network clinic in New Madrid, said some patients get upset when they are urged to wear masks in the clinic.
PHOENIX -- A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says coronavirus cases in Arizona dropped 75% following the implementation of mask mandates.
The mandates were enacted after a statewide stay-at-home order was lifted, which resulted in a sharp uptick of cases.
The report was authored with the Arizona Department of Health Services. Arizona’s stay-at-home order expired on May 15 and two weeks later the daily average number of coronavirus cases climbed 151%. The substantial spike in cases overwhelmed the state’s health care system. The number of virus cases in Arizona peaked between June 29 and July 2 and declined by approximately 75% between July 13 and Aug. 7.
Find the report here: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6940e3.htm
AUSTIN, Texas — Protesters from Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s own party have gathered outside his home to criticize his coronavirus orders as overbearing and unlawful.
State party chairman Allen West, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and some GOP lawmakers were among an estimated 200 people gathered outside the governor’s mansion to protest Abbott’s executive orders including a continued statewide mask mandate and lockdowns.
Abbott was scheduled for a Saturday morning campaign event in Dallas and shortly after noon tweeted a photo of himself at the Texas-Oklahoma football game in Dallas.
COVID-19 has killed more than 16,500 people in Texas, according to the state’s official count, and is closing in on 800,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic started.
Earlier this week, Abbott lifted his shutdown order on bars that has been in place since June, though he gave county leaders control to keep them closed locally.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump spoke from a balcony in his first public appearance since returning to the White House after being treated for the coronavirus.
The president addressed a large crowd on the South Lawn despite the White House refusing to declare whether he is no longer contagious and against the guidance of public health officials.
Trump delivered an address on his support for law enforcement from the Blue Room balcony to a friendly crowd. Most in the crowd wore masks, but there was little social distancing.
The president had not been seen in public — other than in White House-produced videos — since his return five days ago from the military hospital where he received experimental treatments for the coronavirus.
ROME – Rome was the site of two anti-mask protests on Saturday, even as Italy undergoes a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
The Health Ministry reported another 5,724 cases in the last 24 hours and 29 deaths. Most cases were asymptomatic and determined through increased testing — more than 133,000 in the period.
Protesters at one of the demonstrations complained about measures they call harsh, including a new order for all Italians to wear masks outdoors or face fines of up to 1,000 euros ($1,200). Most of the new cases are in Lombardy in the north, which tallied 1,140 new infections, followed by Campania, which includes Naples, and Veneto.
In front of the Duomo Cathedral In Milan, entertainment workers protested against the government’s economic policies to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Italy has reached totals of nearly 350,000 confirmed cases and 36,140 deaths.
(This item has been corrected to show two demonstrations in Rome, not Milan.)
BUCHAREST, Romania — Several hundred Romanians gathered in Bucharest on Saturday to protest coronavirus restrictions, despite a sharp spike in cases.
The protesters, all without mandatory masks, briefly scuffled with police as officers attempted to prevent them from erecting a makeshift stage in the University Square in the nation’s capital.
The protest came at the end of the week with the highest daily infections and deaths in Romania since the pandemic hit the country in February. The relatively small crowd was comprised mainly of Orthodox Christian and right-wing nationalists.
Many protesters shouted anti-Muslim slurs against the head of the country’s emergency services, who is of Palestinian descent. They also chanted “down with the masks” and “freedom.”
Some 85 percent of Romanians identify as Orthodox Christians.
Romania, a nation of 19 million, has confirmed more than 152,400 coronavirus cases and 5,350 deaths.
WATERBURY, Conn. — U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes says a test Saturday showed no signs of the coronavirus in her body, nearly three weeks after she tested positive.
The Democrat, who represents Connecticut’s 5th District, has been documenting her health struggle on social media since revealing her positive test results on Sept. 20.
Hayes says a follow-up coronavirus test on Saturday came back negative. She says she also received a flu shot and made an appointment with the American Red Cross to donate plasma.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal has reported 1,646 news cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily count since the start of the pandemic.
Portugal has seen a steady rise in new infections in the past six weeks. The 115 cases per 100,000 inhabitants accumulated over 14 days is still significantly lower than neighboring Spain (308) and France (267).
The country has reached totals of 85,574 confirmed cases and 2,067 deaths.
YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s nationwide reported daily coronavirus cases has exceeded 2,000 for the first time.
The 2,158 cases announced Saturday brings the total to 26,064 since March. There were 32 more deaths for a total of 598.
Myanmar recorded 353 virus cases at the start of August, but an upsurge later that month in the western state of Rakhine quickly spread to other parts of the country.
Myanmar’s leader, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, urged people who have recovered from the illness to consider donating blood plasma, which she says can help the recovery of those still sick.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, is again cautioning against large-scale gatherings of people without masks.
President Donald Trump is planning to convene another large crowd outside the White House on Saturday. Trump’s Rose Garden event announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee on Sept. 26 has been labeled a “super-spreader” for the coronavirus.
Fauci said of the Rose Garden event in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday: “I was not surprised to see a super-spreader event given the circumstances. Crowded, congregate setting, not wearing masks. It is not surprising to see an outbreak.”
Fauci says the CDC guideline for getting people back into society generally “is 10 days from the onset of your symptoms.”
That onset for Trump was Oct. 1, according to his doctors. The president’s White House doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, said Trump could return to holding events on Saturday. Organizers says attendees are required to bring masks or masks will be provided for the outdoor White House event.
TRENTON, N.J. — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’s been discharged from a New Jersey hospital where he spent a week after contracting the coronavirus.
Christie says in a Saturday post on Twitter that he'd been released from the Morristown Medical Center. He tweeted his thanks to hospital staff and says he’d “have more to say about all of this next week.”
Christie announced Oct. 3 he had tested positive and checked himself into the hospital as “an important precautionary measure,” given his history of asthma.
Christie was among several coronavirus cases connected to President Donald Trump’s inner circle. Along with Trump and first lady Melania Trump, multiple people who traveled with the president or attended his events recently contracted the virus.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic and neighboring Slovakia have registered big increases in coronavirus infections, setting a record for the fourth straight day.
The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase reached 8,618 confirmed cases on Friday, over 3,000 more than the previous record set a day earlier in the nation of over 10 million.
The Czech Republic has had a total of 109,374 cases since the beginning of the pandemic with 905 deaths. Of those, almost 27,000 have tested positive in the first five days of this week while 146 have died this week, according to Saturday’s figures.
The government has responded to the record surge by imposing a series of new restrictive measures. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Friday he cannot rule out a lockdown of the entire country.
In Slovakia, the health ministry reported 1,887 new cases of infection on Friday, over 700 more than the day before.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says the government is preparing further restrictive measures that will be announced on Sunday.
DELHI — India’s confirmed coronavirus cases are nearing 7 million with another 73,272 reported in the past 24 hours.
The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported 926 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 107,416. The deaths have remained below 1,000 for the seventh straight day.
India is seeing a slower pace of coronavirus spread since mid-September when the daily infections touched a record of 97,894 cases. It’s averaging more than 70,000 cases daily so far this month, while the recovery rate has exceeded 85%.
But health experts have warned that congregations during major festivals later this month and in November have the potential for the virus to spread.
“We have to work aggressively to make sure that during winter months and during the festive season coronavirus cases don’t rise dramatically,” said Dr. Randeep Guleria, a government health expert.
Experts say India’s fragile health system has been bolstered in recent months but could still be overwhelmed by an exponential rise in cases.
Consumer activity is gradually rebounding and millions of factory workers who had fled cities when India imposed a 2-month-long rigorous lockdown on March 25 are returning.
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico is losing ground in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 as newly reported daily infections hit a record of 488 cases.
Three additional deaths from the pandemic also were disclosed Friday by state health officials as fatalities from the pandemic surpassed 900.
Bernalillo County, with the state’s most populous urban area, accounted for 135 new cases, while Dona Ana had 81. Lea and Chaves counties together accounted for 77 new cases.
The state’s infection and positivity rates for the spread of the virus are climbing as the administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham holds the line on emergency public health restrictions.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Enrolled members of the Navajo Nation will be eligible for payments of up to $1,500 as part of the tribe’s response to the coronavirus.
President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer on Friday approved the $49 million plan adopted by the tribal council. The funding comes from the tribe’s share of federal coronavirus relief funding.
Adults will be eligible for payments of $1,500 while minors are eligible for $500.
Nez said in a statement that there isn’t enough funding to cover payments for all enrolled members of the tribe, so the money should be directed to elders and those most in need.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The University of Rhode Island has issued a two-week shelter-in-place order for fraternity and sorority houses because of a high number of coronavirus cases.
The school sent the notice Friday in tandem with its Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association.
Students may leave Greek housing only for medical visits and other essential services, such as grocery shopping and essential employment. The students will take classes virtually while sheltering.
Students and chapters that don’t follow guidelines could be suspended or dismissed.
The school says it based its decision on statistics showing a much higher rate of coronavirus positivity among students in Greek housing at over 11% than in total off-campus housing at under 4% or in the total on-campus population at 0.65%.
ALBANY, N.Y. — A federal judge has refused to block New York’s plan to temporarily limit the size of religious gatherings in COVID-19 hot spots.
U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto issued the ruling after an emergency hearing in a lawsuit brought by rabbis and synagogues who said the restrictions were unconstitutional.
They had sought to have enforcement delayed until at least after Jewish holy days this weekend. The rules limit indoor prayer services in certain areas to no more than 10 people.
The judge said the state had an interest in protecting public safety.