SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it has confirmed 54 more COVID-19 cases as the coronavirus continues to spread beyond the capital region and reach cities like Gwangju, which has shut schools and tightened social restrictions after dozens fell sick this week.
The figures reported Thursday brought the national case total to 12,904, including 282 deaths.
Twenty-two of the new cases are in Gwangju, a southwestern city where infections were tied to various places, including office buildings, public libraries, welfare centers and a Buddhist temple.
Twenty-three of the new cases came from the densely popular Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May amid increased economic activity and eased attitudes on social distancing.
Health Minster Park Neung-hoo is expressing alarm over the rise of infections in Gwangju, which had one of the smallest case loads among major South Korean cities before this week.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Cases are spiking in the Sunbelt, leading states to back off reopening
— Trump says he'll now wear mask in public, thinks it makes him looks like Lone Ranger
— Egypt reopens airports, museums, Giza Pyramids.
— Hollowed out public health system faces more cuts amid virus.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BEIJING — China is reporting three newly confirmed cases of coronavirus, and says just one of them involved local transmission in the capital of Beijing.
The report Thursday appears to put the country where the virus was first detected late last year on course to eradicating it domestically, at least temporarily.
The National Health Commission says the other two cases were brought from outside China. No new deaths were reported, leaving the toll at 4,634 among 83,537 total cases of COVID-19.
China credits strict quarantine, social distancing and case tracing policies with helping radically lower the number of cases.
China is moving swiftly to re-open its economy, but mass employment looms as the heavily indebted government is reluctant to spend lavishly on stimulus programs.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s high court has rejected an effort by Republican state lawmakers to end Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic shutdown orders.
A divided court ruled Wednesday that a resolution passed with mostly GOP votes was a “legal nullity” because it was not sent to Wolf to sign or veto.
Republican majorities in both chambers, along with a few Democrats, voted early last month to end the emergency disaster declaration that has led to closure of “non-life-sustaining” businesses, bans on large gatherings and orders that people stay at home.
Wolf has gradually been reopening the state, although a recent uptick in coronavirus infections in some parts of the state has produced some additional restrictions.
The Republican leaders of the state House and Senate filed suit seeking to enforce the resolution, and the high court ruled without hearing oral argument.
RACINE, Wis. — A Wisconsin judge has thrown out the city of Racine’s coronvirus ordinance, ruling its limits on gatherings violate the state constitution.
Racine County Circuit Judge Jon Fredrickson said Wendesday that the plan interfered with the right to assemble. The judge also said the ordinance was so broadly written that “no average person of ordinary intelligence can make sense of its sprawling breadth.”
The owner of a CrossFit gym brought the lawsuit, saying the rules threatened his business. The judge said Racine could adopt a new plan if it is written more narrowly.
Racine Mayor Cory Mason says the city has asked for an immediate stay of the decision. In a statement, the mayor calls the ruling irresponsible and says it jeopardizes the city’s ability to protect the health of residents.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s top infectious disease expert said the state’s spike in COVID-19 cases is overwhelming the ability of health workers to track infected people.
Contact tracing is a critical part of slowing the virus and quickly isolating people who may be infected, so the inability to investigate cases could mean the virus keeps spreading quickly, state Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said Wednesday.
South Carolina has reported more than 1,000 newly diagnosed cases in 11 of the past 13 days. At that level, contact tracing is virtually impossible, Bell said.
The spike started after the Memorial Day weekend, and if people act irresponsibly and don’t social distance and wear masks while celebrating Independence Day, South Carolina will face a crisis, Bell said.
“If we don’t take that action now, if we don’t social distance, if we don’t wear our masks, we are going to see more of our friends, our family members, our loved ones who will continue to become ill, who will be hospitalized — and many will die,” Bell said.
South Carolina set a record reporting 24 deaths Wednesday. The state had 1,160 people hospitalized Wednesday with COVID-19, the most since the pandemic began, health officials said.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas will hold its state fair in September despite opposition from the state’s top public health official and a recent surge in new coronavirus cases.
The spread of the disease slowed in Kansas from mid-May until mid-June, but it has since had a resurgence, according to health department statistics. The state has reported nearly 15,000 cases and 272 deaths overall.
Dr. Lee Norman, top administrator at the state health department, told the State Fair Board on Tuesday that it would be difficult to enforce mask wearing, social distancing and smaller crowd sizes at a fair, The Hutchinson News reported.
“There will be new cases and it will be dangerous,” Norman said. “We’re going, clearly, in the wrong direction.”
The board nevertheless voted to hold the fair Sept. 11-20 in Hutchinson, with some precautions. Patrons will be required to wear masks at indoor commercial and competitive exhibit spaces, and will be encouraged to wear them elsewhere. Crowds won’t be limited.
Citing a spike in Covid 19 cases, a local health official said Wednesday he will order bars and nightclubs to close beginning Friday for the next two weeks in a northeast Kansas county that is the home to the University of Kansas.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered bars and indoor operations of restaurants to close for the next three weeks in most parts of the state.
The Democratic governor’s order comes amid a troubling increase of California coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The order applies to 19 counties covering 72% of the state’s population, including Los Angeles County.
The order also applies to the indoor operations of movie theaters, wineries, tasting rooms, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums. Newsom ordered parking lots closed at beaches in Southern California and in the San Francisco Bay area to limit overcrowding.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday said she was closing indoor seating in bars in parts of the state, including a city with a bar that has been linked to about 140 infections.
Whitmer also signed a bill allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails-to-go in an effort to help those businesses.
ATLANTA — Just in time for the July 4th weekend, the nation’s top public health agency is advising Americans to wear face coverings when they are at the beach.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the guidance on Wednesday. The CDC said people should not wear masks or cloth fave coverings in the water, but should cover at all other times. People should also try to stay at least six feet away from others they don’t live with, whether it’s in or out of the water. It reiterated that people should stay home if they are feeling ill.
The CDC guidance is designed to prevent the spread of new coronavirus.
PHOENIX — A masked Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Arizona on Wednesday where the state leads the nation in new coronavirus cases per capita.
Pence's visit comes as Arizona broke its own records in newly reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, emergency room visits and deaths. There have been roughly 558 new cases per 100,000 people in Arizona over the past two weeks, ranking the state first in the country for new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University.
State health officials reported 4,878 new confirmed cases — a number comparable to recent daily case totals in larger states such as Florida and California, which have three to six times as many people as Arizona.
Pence was met on a tarmac by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, where the men exchanged an elbow bump.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana is seeing its largest daily coronavirus case spike since April, during the height of the state’s outbreak.
Nearly 2,100 new cases of the COVID-19 disease were confirmed over the last day in Louisiana. Hospitalizations continued to tick upward.
The trend is concerning public health experts, who noted Louisiana’s once successful efforts to slow infections are being undermined by the public ignoring recommended precautions.
Baton Rouge mayor Sharon Weston Broome says she’s signing an executive order that requires people to wear face coverings when they are inside businesses.
“My message is simple. Save a life, save our economy and wear a face covering,” Broome wrote on Twitter.
New Orleans already has a mask requirement for nearly all activities in the city
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb will keep capacity limits in place for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues because of concerns about a possible increase in coronavirus cases across the state.
The state’s reopening plan called for those restrictions to be lifted this weekend, but Holcomb says he’ll keep them in place until at least July 18. The state will keep its current 250-person limit on social gatherings.
Holcomb, a Republican, says he was concerned about recent increases in hospitalizations across Indiana involving COVID-19 cases and other states that have seen fresh outbreaks after lifting restrictions on bars and other businesses.
Since June 12, restaurants have been allowed 75% capacity in their dining rooms. Bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys, museums and amusement parks have been open at half capacity.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Experts say Florida residents should brace themselves for further coronavirus restrictions, warning the Sunshine State and other southern U.S. states didn’t adopt strong enough measures to control outbreaks early on and are now paying the price.
Dr. Kristin Englund, an infectious disease physician at Cleveland Clinic, said Wednesday that once the virus is widespread in states with “huge numbers” of confirmed cases, “it’s going to be almost impossible to control.”
Referring to Florida’s one-day high reported last week, Englund said: “The public health system can’t track 9,000 cases a day and do any kind of reasonable contact tracing ... It’s uncontrollable from a public health standpoint.”
She added: “Everyone in our country is going to have to be prepared for stronger measures in the future, for shelter in place, for if not pausing, then taking back some of the measures we had been doing to open our economy.”
Jackson Health System, the largest hospital in Florida’s hardest-hit county in the coronavirus pandemic announced Wednesday it is scaling back elective surgeries and other procedures because of a new surge in cases.
Miami-Dade County and others in South Florida are closing beaches for the Fourth of July holiday in hopes of preventing further virus spread due to large crowds.
ROME — Italy’s hard-hit northern region of Lombardy accounted for considerably more than half of the nation’s latest confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Health Ministry says 187 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the 24-hour-period ending Wednesday night and 109 in Lombardy. There were 21 deaths, raising to 34,788 the total of known deaths.
Authorities say many elderly with COVID-19 symptoms who died in nursing facilities or their own homes didn’t get tested, so the overall death toll is likely higher.
Italy counts 240,760 cases nationwide in its outbreak. The number of people with the coronavirus needing intensive care beds was 87 on Wednesday. In early April, that daily figure topped 4,000.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council is demanding an “immediate cessation of hostilities” for at least 90 days in key conflicts including Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo to tackle COVID-19.
The U.N.’s most powerful body voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt the resolution after the United States and China resolved a lengthy dispute over mentioning the World Health Organization.
Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, the council president for July, announced the result calling it “a sign for hope for all people currently living in conflict zones around the world.”
“It is now the obligation of the council – and all parties to armed conflicts – to implement this resolution in our work this month and beyond,” he said.
The resolution backs Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ March 23 call for global cease-fires to tackle the pandemic. It calls on all warring parties to pause and allow safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority has announced a five-day total lockdown in the West Bank in response to a major increase in coronavirus cases and deaths in recent days.
The Palestinian government says the lockdown will take effect Friday, and people will be required to shelter at home. A two-month total lockdown of the Palestinian territory was lifted in late May.
In the past two weeks, Palestinian health authorities have reported more than 1,700 confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank city of Hebron and hundreds more in Bethlehem and Nablus.
The occupied West Bank has a total of 3,045 confirmed cases and 11 deaths from the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.
BANGKOK — The spokesman for the government body coordinating Thailand’s response to COVID-19 outbreaks has expressed pride that the European Union selected Thailand as one of just 14 countries whose travelers it will once again welcome.
Taweesin Witsanuyothin of the Center for COVID-19 Situation said Wednesday that he was proud that Thailand’s efforts to contain the coroanvirus were recognized.
Thailand has confirmed 3,173 coronavirus cases and 58 virus-related deaths, and during the past five weeks new cases only have been been found among repatriated Thais.
The E.U.’s decision has little immediate practical effect since Thailand has kept in effect a ban on regularly scheduled international flights with no set end date.
A limited number of foreign visitors in categories covering families, residency and business were being allowed into Thailand beginning Wednesday on flights carrying Thai citizens back home.
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 400,000 and deaths have crossed 10,000 as health officials warn the pandemic is picking up speed on the continent of 1.3 billion people.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say confirmed cases are now above 404,000 on the 54-nation continent, while testing capabilities remain low because of shortages of materials.
The new milestones come as some countries loosen their lockdowns and even reopen airports for international flights.
South Africa leads the continent with more than 151,000 confirmed cases. An emerging hot spot is in Gauteng province, containing Johannesburg, with 28% of the country’s cases.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak