The Latest: Hatred, threats against health workers rising

The head of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department says expressions of hatred and daily threats against herself and public health professionals across the country are worrisome and disheartening

LOS ANGELES -- The head of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department says expressions of hatred and daily threats against herself and public health professionals across the country are worrisome and disheartening.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday that the death threats against her started last month during a COVID-19 Facebook Live briefing when someone casually suggested that she should be shot.

Ferrer said she didn’t immediately see the threat but her husband, children and colleagues did. She said threats against the public health agency by email, public postings and letters have been going on since March.

Ferrer conducts televised briefings that have made her the public face of efforts to fight the virus in Los Angeles County.

“The virus has changed our world as we know it, and people are angry,” Ferrer said in a statement. “And while frustration boils over in our communities as people are done with this virus, this virus is not done with us.”

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

— The WHO chief is warning world leaders not to politicize the pandemic.

— As virus surges, Pakistan says there’s no choice but to open.

— From shopping to dining out, New York City reopens but some remain wary.

— Coronavirus lockdowns have increased wildlife poaching in Asia and Africa, and it may worsen as countries reopen.

— Young baseball players, deprived of a treasured tournament, get a memento from the stadium.

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Follow all of AP's pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

Two more members of President Donald Trump’s campaign working on his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The president’s campaign put out a statement Monday that said the two staffers, part of the advance team for Saturday’s rally, tested positive before they boarded their flight out of Oklahoma.

The two were then quarantined and the campaign began contact tracing protocols. These positive tests follow the news that six other staffers, including two Secret Service agents, tested positive in the hours before Saturday’s rally.

The rally was believed to be the largest indoor event in the nation since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The White House did not immediately plan any specific infection monitoring for the event.

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LIVINGSTON, La. — Laine Hardy, the 2019 winner of “American Idol,” says he has been diagnosed with COVID-19 but his symptoms are mild and he is recovering under home quarantine.

“This wasn’t what I expected on the first day of summer,” the 19-year-old singer from Livingston, Louisiana, wrote on his Facebook page and on Instagram. “My doctor confirmed I have Coronavirus, but my symptoms are mild.” He ended his tweet: “Y’all stay safe & healthy!”

Hardly had performed Friday, singing the national anthem at swearing-in ceremonies for Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard’s third term, The Advocate reported.

Hardy also recently completed a virtual tour that was watched by more than 2 million viewers. And his next livestream is scheduled Thursday evening.

Acoustic versions of his new songs “Ground I Grew Up On” and “Let There Be Country” will debut on Friday.

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ATLANTA — The number of people hospitalized in Georgia because of COVID-19 hase risen to 1,000, erasing a month’s worth of progress and showing that an accompanying increase in confirmed infections is leading to serious illness.

Coronavirus infections have been rising throughout June and are now at the highest level since the pandemic began. Georgia has averaged 1,073 infections reported daily over the last seven days, according to figures kept by The Associated Press. Since Friday, the average has been higher than the previous peak of 857 set on April 13.

Almost 66,000 Georgians have now been infected since the start of the outbreak, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported, and 2,648 people have died statewide.

The surge in infections comes nearly two months since Georgia began lifting restrictions April 24 on hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys and other businesses that had been forced to close to slow the virus. Restaurants, retail stores and bars have since reopened as well.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said Monday he’s so alarmed by the rapidly increase in infections that he wants to require people to wear masks in public places. He asked the city’s attorney to begin drawing up an emergency order to make face coverings mandatory.

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PHOENIX — Demand for tests has been growing especially in underserved communities of color in Arizona, which the COVID Tracking Project says has now has a 7-day average positive test rate above 20 percent.

On Saturday, dozens of people waited for as long as 13 hours in triple-digit temperatures outside a sports complex for free drive-up COVID-19 testing in the sprawling west Phoenix community of Maryvale, a predominantly working class neighborhood of Hispanic families.

Tomás Leon, senior vice president for Equity Healthcare, said staff had to turn people away as night approached, after nearly 1,000 tests were administered by the private firm that focuses on equitable health care.

“I’ve never heard of that many people showing up to any of the testing events,” said Leon, who attended the event. “Usually it’s about 100 people.”

Equity Health plans another free testing event for people without insurance at the same Maryvale site next Saturday, Leon said.

“We were really overwhelmed by the response to our grassroots effort to get out the word,” said Leon.

He said a testing event that Equity Health held May 16 at an African American church in downtown Phoenix drew more than 300 people.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana won’t be further easing its restrictions on businesses because the state is seeing a troubling, recent uptick in coronavirus cases.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that he’ll keep in place the current limitations on restaurants, bars and retailers enacted on June 5, which were set to expire Friday. He’s extending the restrictions until July 24.

The decision comes as Louisiana exceeded the grim mark of 3,000 deaths from the outbreak.

The Democratic governor was considering moving Louisiana from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of reopening under the White House guidelines. But he decided against the move based on the latest surge in cases of the COVID-19 disease and hospitalizations over the last week.

“We do have a new normal, whether we like it or not,” Edwards said. “There are a lot of people out there saying they are done with this virus. Well, the virus isn’t done with us.”

The regulations that will be renewed keep churches, restaurants, coffee shops, bars with a food permit, gyms, hair and nail salons, museums and other businesses limited to 50% capacity. Bars that don’t have a food permit will remain limited to 25% occupancy.

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HOUSTON — COVID-19 hospital admissions in Houston have tripled since Memorial Day to more than 1,400 admissions across eight hospital systems, said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital.

“It is snowballing,” Boom said. “We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike.”

In three weeks, Boom predicted, hospitals could be overwhelmed and “although we may not have a government, official shutdown, we may be in an effective shutdown.” He pleaded with Houston residents to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“It is possible to open up at a judicious pace and coexist with the virus, but it requires millions and millions of people to do the right thing. Right now, we don’t have that” because people have let their guards down.

Other hospital officials share his concern, Boom said. “None of us sees an end in sight,” he said.

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ROME — Italy added another 218 coronavirus infections to its official count, evidence that the virus is still circulating in the one-time European epicenter.

Another 23 people died in the past day, one of the lowest day-to-day death tolls and bringing Italy’s total number of confirmed victims to 34,657.

Hard-hit Lombardy again counted most of the new infections with 143. But about half of them were in people who got tested only because they did a blood test that showed they had coronavirus antibodies.

In Italy, anyone who tests positive for the antibodies must be tested for the virus. Lombardy welfare chief Giulio Gallera said these cases are considered “weak positives” since people might have been infected a long time ago, but simply haven’t shed all the virus from their systems.

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MADRID and RABAT, Morocco — A Spanish official has welcomed Morocco’s decision to cancel the visit by millions of residents in Europe to their relatives in the north African country in order to avoid further spread of the coronavirus.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita announced Monday that the annual “Marhaba operation” across the Strait of Gibraltar to facilitate the return of nationals who live and work in Europe wouldn't take place.

Fernando Simón, who heads Spain’s response to the outbreak, said Monday that Rabat’s decision was “a big favor” given that most of the 3 million travelers who depart use ferries on Spain’s southern coast after traveling by car across Europe.

Over 3.3 million people, most of them Moroccans residing in Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy, traveled last year in about 760,000 vehicles to visit relatives and friends back home during their summer holiday.

In March, when countries around the world closed their borders to foreigners to keep out the virus, Morocco barred its own citizens from returning home.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said that by the end of the week the north African country will have repatriated 7,800 citizens stranded abroad during the country’s rigid lockdown measures.

Moroccan diasporas wishing to return home will have to undergo a compulsory nine-day quarantine and two tests for infection, he said in Parliament.

Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita also announced in Parliament the annual “Marhaba operation” across the Strait of Gibraltar to facilitate the return of nationals who live and work in Europe would not take place this summer.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A day after President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, the Oklahoma State Department of Health urged people who have attended large-scale events recently to be tested for the coronavirus.

The department didn't specify any event in the statement it released. The president’s rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa was attended by nearly 6,200 and the vast majority, including Trump, didn't wear face masks which, along with social distancing, is encouraged by the department.

“Personal responsibility remains key in protecting yourself and our local communities from COVID-19. We continue to encourage Oklahomans to consider wearing a mask, to routinely wash hands, and to use physical distancing measures,” interim state Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in the statement. The state reported at least 10,733 cases Monday, including 218 new infections.

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GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Monday that 151 of the people who work at his official residence have tested positive for COVID-19, and one has died.

Many of the infections were found among workers in the Secretariat of Administrative Affairs and Security at the presidential residence, which includes his offices, in downtown Guatemala City. Giammattei said 69 of those infected have recovered and at least five, who had been in critical condition, have improved.

The president, himself a physician, hasn't tested positive.

Nationwide, Guatemala has reported 12,614 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 531 deaths.

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GENEVA — The record levels of new daily COVID-19 cases are due to the fact that the pandemic is peaking in a number of big countries at the same time and reflect a change in the virus’ global activity, the World Health Organization said.

At a media briefing on Monday, WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said that “the numbers are increasing because the epidemic is developing in a number of populous countries at the same time.”

Some countries have attributed their increased caseload to more testing, including India and the U.S. But Ryan dismissed that explanation.

“We do not believe this is a testing phenomenon,” he said, noting that numerous countries have also noted marked increases in hospital admissions and deaths — neither of which cannot be explained by increased testing.

“There definitely is a shift in that the virus is now very well established,” Ryan said. “The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries.” He added the situation was “definitely accelerating” in a number of countries, including the U.S. and others in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese authorities are providing crack addicts with pipes free of charge as part of an effort to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

Officials said Monday the crack pipes are being bought for 78,000 euros (about $88,000) and distributed to nongovernmental health workers who deal with addicts.

The Intervention Service for Addictive Behaviors, a government body, said in an email to The Associated Press that crack use has increased in recent years and users can contaminate each other with diseases such as COVID-19, HIV and hepatitis.

Portugal has won renown for its innovative approach to drug addiction and use. A ground-breaking 2001 law sent drug users into the public health system, instead of to the criminal courts. Though drug use remains illegal, the change in tactics was successful in substantially reducing the country’s problems with addiction, especially heroin.

Authorities have been providing heroin addicts with clean syringes to stop the spread of disease since the early 1990s.

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LONDON — The British government says more than 2 million elderly and vulnerable people who have been in isolation at home for three months will soon be able to meet other people.

Lockdown has gradually been easing for most Britons, but many of the elderly and those with some underlying health conditions have been told to remain isolated.

The government says that from July 6, people in this group in England will be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six, and some can form a “support bubble” with another household.

The government also says the “shielding” program, which has provided food and support to those at greatest risk from the coronavirus, will be phased out at the end of July.

Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, says it’s safe to relax the rules because “the prevalence of the virus in the community is now lower and chances of getting infected are reduced.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock thanked everyone who has been shielding, saying “I know what a burden it has been.” He said “these measures have been vital for saving lives.”

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MOSCOW — The mayor of Moscow says the Russian capital’s gyms and pools can open after three months of coronavirus shutdown and restaurants can begin full service.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced these operations can resume on Tuesday.

Some other restrictions will remain, including a ban on mass gatherings. Moscow’s daily tally of new coronavirus infections has fallen notably this month: 1,068 new cases were reported on Monday, about half as many as in early June.

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MIAMI — In Miami, officials have been cracking down on businesses not following rules restricting capacity and requiring the use of masks as COVID-19 infections have been rising in the state.

The county conducted more than 10,000 checks and issued warnings to 45 businesses.

Police in the city of Miami last weekend shut down two restaurants in the artsy neighborhoods of Wynwood and Design District and another one in Little Havana.

The mayor of Miami-Dade County, Florida’s largest, says he has no plans on ordering businesses and places that had reopened to close back again due to the increase in coronavirus cases. The owners of businesses not complying with the rules may face a $500 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

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CHICAGO — Illinois is poised to move to the next phase of reopening Friday, allowing museums, gyms and zoos to open their doors with restrictions.

Health officials said Monday that health metrics required for reopening under state and city plans have been met, with a continuing decline in COVID-19 cases.

Previously, Chicago’s reopening had been on a slower pace than Illinois. Indoor dining will be allowed, but capped at 25%. Indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people, up from 10. Outdoor gatherings will be capped at 100 people, up from 50 people.

Some venues, like the Lincoln Park Zoo, will require reservations.

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ORLANDO — In Orlando, 152 coronavirus cases have been linked to one bar near the University of Central Florida campus, as of last Friday, Dr. Raul Pino, a health officer in Orlando with the Florida Department of Health, said Monday.

“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said at a news conference. “People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.”