NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Health officials in Tennessee have linked a small coronavirus cluster to a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention last month.
It was Nashville’s first large-scale conference after lifting restrictions on gatherings.
The Tennessean reports that Metro Public Health Department epidemiologist Leslie Waller said eight to 10 infections have been detected among attendees, but the cluster is almost certainly larger. Waller said it’s difficult to know how many other cases there might be because most of the more than 18,000 attendees live out of state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an alert asking health officials in other states to contact Nashville health officials if they discover more infections that trace back to the annual meeting of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
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Jonathan Howe, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said the organization has not alerted attendees about the cluster and is working with city and state health officials to identify its next steps.
— New virus surge is sending younger patients to Spain’s hospitals
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— California will require masks at schools this fall
— Indonesia short on oxygen, seeks help as virus cases soar
— Mexico enters 3rd wave of coronavirus, infections up 29%
Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MOSCOW — Coronavirus deaths in Russia have hit another daily record, with authorities reporting 752 more fatalities amid a continuing surge in infections.
Russia’s coronavirus task force on Saturday reported 25,082 new coronavirus cases. The daily tally of confirmed infections has soared from around 9,000 in early June to over 23,000 in early July.
Officials have attributed a steady rise in infections and an increase in mortality to the spread of the delta variant.
Despite the surge, the Kremlin has said there are no plans to impose another lockdown. Russia had one nationwide lockdown in the spring of 2020 that lasted six weeks, and the government has resisted another one to avoid damaging the economy.
The coronavirus task force has reported over 5.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a total of 142,253 deaths in the pandemic. However, reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher numbers.
BRUSSELS — The European Union says it now has enough doses to meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of the region’s adult population by the end of this month.
With infections resurging in many European countries, the next challenge will be ensuring that the doses find takers, as demand wanes in some areas. According to the European Centre for Disease Control, 44% of the adult EU population is fully vaccinated, and 64% have received at least one dose.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday that by Sunday 500 million doses will have been delivered to all regions of the 27-nation EU. She urged member countries to “do everything to increase vaccinations.”
So far EU countries have administered 386 million doses for the overall population of 447 million, according to the ECDC.
PARIS — Music is pulsing from Paris nightclubs for the first time in 16 months as other European countries shut night life down again because of rising coronavirus cases.
The reopening of Paris dance clubs Friday night was the final step in France’s process of lifting pandemic restrictions. The move was meant to mark victory over the virus, since night clubs were among the few venues that had remained closed since March 2020.
But the delta variant is spreading faster than vaccinations in France, and infections are rising again after weeks of decline. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to speak to the nation Monday about the situation, and the government could opt for new restrictions.
At the popular La Bellevilloise club, many people were eager to return to the dance floor. Parisian Laurent Queige called it “a liberation, an immense happiness to rediscover the clubbing, the party, friends.”
La Bellevilloise owner Renaud Barillet said this weekend could serve as a useful test “to see how the public, the organizers, all that reacts and manages to adopt new habits.”
TOKYO — Tokyo has reported 950 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily number in two months, as infections steadily spread less than two weeks before the city hosts the Summer Olympics.
Saturday’s tally compared with 822 confirmed cases reported Friday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo starting Monday to keep the infections from becoming explosive during the Olympics, which open on July 23.
His government initially planned to take less-stringent measures, but came under pressure to issue the emergency order as the more contagious delta strain spread in the Tokyo region.
Experts warned that caseloads could surge to thousands within weeks as people travel on summer vacations and the Olympics draws foreign and domestic visitors to Tokyo.
Despite the recent acceleration of Japan’s vaccination program, only 16.8% of the population is fully vaccinated. Japan has reported about 812,000 cases and nearly 15,000 deaths in the pandemic.
HELSINKI — A passenger arriving in Finland may soon be fined hundreds of euros for refusing to take a coronavirus test.
A new amendment to the Finnish infectious diseases act with regard to border security imposes a fine to a tourist who enters Finland and opposes a required COVID-19 test. The law takes effect July 12 and is valid until Oct. 15.
It already was possible for the police to fine those refusing of COVID-19 tests, but authorities say the amendment will remarkably clarify the situation in judicial terms.
Konsta Arvelin, an inspector at the National Police Board, told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday that the change creates a completely new criminal offense in Finland, titled “violation of the COVID-19 test.”
Finland has a population of 5.5 million and one of the lowest coronavirus figures in Europe. The Nordic country has maintained tight border control during the pandemic.
BEIJING — A Chinese vice foreign minister claims the possibility that the COVID-19 virus leaked from a lab in China has been ruled out, and called on Washington to release more information about how the virus originated as well as how it spread in the U.S.
Le Yucheng on Saturday cited a World Health Organization report saying the pandemic most likely began through the passing of the virus from animals to humans, not from Chinese laboratory. The vice foreign minister reiterated that the origin of the virus remains unknown.
Le said that, “If the U.S. actually respects the truth and transparency, it should accept an international investigation to find the source of the U.S. epidemic, the cause of the U.S.’s ineffective fight against the epidemic, and problems at U.S. biological laboratories.”
While similar to earlier official statements, Le’s comments come from a more senior official than in the past, indicating Beijing may be firming up its political stance in the dispute over the virus’ origins.
China’s outspoken Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, has thrown suspicion on the U.S. military biological laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, calling for an investigation into the possibility the virus originated there. No evidence has been produced to support that claim or that the virus emerged from any U.S. military-run biological lab.
BUCHAREST — Moldova is set to receive half a million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the United States to help the small nation combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The first 150,000 doses of J&J are set to arrive in Moldova — a country of 3.5 million, Europe’s poorest sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine — on July 12, U.S. Embassy officials in Moldova said in a statement.
Incumbent Moldovan President Maia Sandu thanked the U.S. for the vaccines and said that they will “help save lives, preserve the health of our citizens and reduce the force of the pandemic.”
The announcement came days ahead of an early parliamentary election in Moldova that pits pro-Western reformists against a Russia-friendly bloc of Socialists and Communists, with recent polls giving a lead to the former.
Only 305,000 people in Moldova have so far been fully inoculated against COVID-19, around just 11% of the population. Moldova has reported more than 257,000 infections and 6,207 deaths.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has launched a massive vaccination program aimed at inoculating tens of thousands of people in the country’s tourism industry.
It’s the latest attempt to contain the spread of the virus and to revive the lucrative tourism industry.
The vaccine drive took place in the country’s southern coast which is famous among tourists for it’s white sandy beaches. On Saturday, more than 1000 hotel workers, tourist guides and safari drivers were inoculated, said the tourism ministry.
The Ministry said it plans to inoculate 500,000 people who are directly employed in the tourism sector.
COVID-19 has dealt a severe blow to the tourism, which is a vital economic sector for Sri Lanka. Workers and businesses linked to tourism are currently facing crippling employment losses.
Sri Lanka has so far recorded 269,946 confirmed cases and 3,391 deaths.
MADRID — Managers at the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona are facing a sharp surge in infections by, once again, rearranging staff shifts and moving patients around in their sprawling facilities.
The increase in Spain comes amid the advance of the delta variant that spreads far more easily. And it’s being driven mostly by younger, unvaccinated patients who require less ICU care but are turning in droves to health centers and emergency wards. If they reach the point of needing hospitalization, they typically spend longer in regular wards until they recover.
At this facility, the number of COVID-19 patients has gone from eight to 35 in just two weeks. That is far from the hundreds that the hospital nursed at the height of previous virus surges. But it comes as a warning of what could await unless “drastic measures” are taken against the spread of the virus, according to Juan Pablo Horcajada, who coordinates all the COVID-19 activity there.
VALLETTA, Malta — Malta is now requiring proof of vaccination for visitors to the Mediterranean island nation in hopes of stemming the latest rise in coronavirus infections.
Starting Wednesday, visitors must present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate that is recognized by Maltese health authorities, meaning certificates issued by Malta, the European Union or the United Kingdom.
The EU’s green passport certifies people who are vaccinated, receive a negative PCR test result or have recovered from COVID-19. But Malta has decided to recognize only those who are fully vaccinated.
“Malta will be the first EU country taking this step,” said Health Minister Chris Fearne.
Children aged 5-12 can present a negative PCR test, while those under age 5 are exempt.
Malta, which has a population of just over half a million, had 46 active cases on July 1 but the number rose to 252 on Friday. The government says 90% of new cases are among unvaccinated people. Currently 79% of Maltese adults are fully vaccinated.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has set a new high in daily coronavirus cases for the third straight day as officials prepare to enforce the strongest social distancing restrictions in the greater capital area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Saturday that more than 1,000 of the 1,378 new cases were from capital Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, a region where officials from Monday will clamp down on private social gatherings of three or more people from 6 p.m. Nightclubs and churches will close, visitors will be banned at nursing homes and hospitals and weddings and funerals will be limited to family-only gatherings.
Dozens of new cases were each reported in major cities and regions across the country, including Busan, Daejeon, Ulsan, South Chungcheong Provine and South Gyeongsang Province.
After adding 9,700 cases in July alone, the country’s caseload is now at 166,722, including 2,038 deaths.
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