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The Latest: Florida bans alcohol at bars as virus cases soar

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars after its daily confirmed coronavirus cases neared 9,000, almost double the previous record set just two days ago.

The Florida agency that governs bars announced the ban on Twitter, minutes after the Department of Health reported 8,942 new confirmed cases, topping the previous record of 5,500 set Wednesday.

More than 24,000 cases have been reported since Saturday, more than a fifth of the 111,724 cases confirmed since March 1. The department had not updated its death total, which still stood at 3,327.

The seven-day average for positive tests dropped slightly to 13.4%, down 1 percentage point from Thursday but still triple the rate of 3.8% of June 1. State officials have attributed much of the new outbreak to young adults flocking to bars after they reopened about a month ago.

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

— Virus taking stronger hold in US, other populated countries

— Governors who quickly reopened backpedal as virus surges

— After waves of COVID deaths, care homes face legal reckoning

— While India’s leaders have promised coronavirus testing and care for all who need it, regardless of income, treatment options are as stratified and unequal as the country itself.

— U.S. officials estimate that 20 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since it first arrived in the United States, with millions never knowing they had it. Thursday’s estimate is roughly 10 times the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed in the U.S.

— A government whistleblower ousted from a top scientific job alleges that the Trump administration is intensifying its campaign to punish him for revealing shortcomings in the U.S. coronavirus response.

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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:

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AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars in Texas again Friday and scaled back restaurant dining, the most dramatic reversals yet as confirmed coronavirus cases surge.

Abbott also says rafting and tubing outfitters on Texas’ popular rivers must close and outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must be approved by local governments.

“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

Texas has reported more than 17,000 confirmed cases in the last three days with a record high positive tests of 5,996 on Thursday. The day’s tally of 4,739 hospitalizations was also a record. The state’s rolling infection rate hit nearly 12%, a level not seen since the state was in a broad lockdown in mid-April.

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MOUNT AIRY, Md. — A nursing home in Maryland is facing a $70,000 fine for not properly isolating newly admitted residents during two weeks in May to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

State health regulators fined Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy, where the virus infected 126 residents and staff members and caused 29 deaths, the Baltimore Sun reported Friday. The nursing home in Carroll County in April was the site of the state’s first major outbreak at nursing homes.

State inspectors found that newly admitted residents between May 7-20 created an “immediate jeopardy” to the facility’s population because they were not properly isolated. This failure led to a $5,000-per-day fine.

Inspectors also found that one resident known to behave aggressively and experience hallucinations was placed in an area intended for people who were not infected with COVID-19. At that time, the test for that resident was pending and the person walked around the halls. The test eventually came back positive.

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ROME — The tiny country of San Marino says it has no known cases of people with COVID-19 infection.

The Republic is nestled near Italian provinces in the north where Italy’s outbreak began in late February. Officials say since Thursday, no new cases were registered and there were no confirmed deaths from the coronavirus infection.

Since the outbreak began, there have been a total of 698 confirmed infections and 42 deaths in San Marino.

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GENEVA — Experts behind a global push to develop and roll out a vaccine and other treatment for the coronavirus say their ambitions require a big budget.

The World Health Organization and its allies made a pitch for their ACT-Accelerator that aims to get a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment tools to the neediest people around the world, no matter the cost.

They were speaking a day before a European Union conference to drum up support and funds for the initiative that the United States has shunned so far.

Ultimately, WHO and partners say the project needs more than $31 billion through the end of 2021, for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to fight a disease that has caused more than 9.6 million confirmed cases and killed more than 490,000 people worldwide.

“If we don’t rally now, the human costs and the economic pain will deepen,” said Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of the WHO chief’s special envoys for the initiative. “So though these numbers sound big, they’re not when we think of the alternatives.”

“Just think of the trillions of dollars that have had to be spent in order to stimulate economies back,” she said. “If we spend billions now, we’ll be able to avoid spending trillions later.

“COVID-19 is a crisis that affects all of us. No one will be safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe.”

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Hungary’s foreign minister says his country is “very concerned” that the coronavirus pandemic will trigger more migrants trying to reach Europe from poorer nations.

Peter Szijjarto says European leaders must help citizens who lost their jobs due to the pandemic by stemming “labor-oriented migration” that is “definitely against the interests” of Europe.

Szijjarto says after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides that EU migration policies must be scrapped because they “can be understood as an invitation for those who consider coming to Europe illegally.”

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman is calling on Germans to show “respect and sympathy” to people in areas where there have been new coronavirus outbreaks.

Authorities in western Germany have imposed a partial one-week lockdown on Guetersloh and Warendorf counties, home to over 600,000 people, because of an outbreak at a slaughterhouse that led to some 1,400 confirmed positive tests.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert is condemning reported incidents in which people from those regions have been insulted or had their cars damaged. He says, “we must treat each other with respect and sympathy, particularly in difficult times, and all should reflect that everyone could find themselves in the situation of living close to an outbreak.”

The local administration in Guetersloh says Merkel called council leader Sven-Georg Adenauer on Friday to thank the population there for helping ensure the virus doesn’t spread.

Some local officials have complained about bans or restrictions imposed by some other German regions on vacationers from the area. Seibert says those are matters for state governments.

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BANGKOK — Authorities in Thailand will decide next week whether to extend a state of emergency imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.

Taweesin Witsanuyothin of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration says the agency will consider the issue Monday and the Cabinet would decide Tuesday on its recommendation.

The National Security Council declared Thursday it will recommend the emergency decree be extended at least until July 31. It was first implemented in March and two extensions have kept it in place until the end of June.

The emergency decree allows the government to implement curfews, censor the media and disperse gatherings.

The government used it to arrest many people for breaking the now-lifted curfew, but recently has employed it to arrest political activists for the vaguely defined offense of “instigating unrest.”

The COVID-19 center will recommend whether to allow the return of foreign visitors and the reopening of nearly all businesses and schools not already open.

There were four confirmed COVID-19 cases announced Friday, bringing Thailand’s total to 3,162 and 58 confirmed deaths.

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BERLIN — A German meat company says it plans to perform daily coronavirus tests on all 5,000 workers involved in the production process amid concerns about a series of outbreaks at slaughterhouses in the country.

Westfleisch, one of Germany’s biggest meat processing companies, said Friday that it is already conducting weekly tests on the workers but from next week wants to perform them daily.

Westfleisch suffered a COVID-19 outbreak involving hundreds of workers at its plant in the western town of Coesfeld in May, but that has since passed.

Rival firm Toennies Group is at the center of an outbreak in the nearby region of Guetersloh that has led to a partial lockdown as authorities try to prevent the spread of the virus to the wider community.

Westfleisch executive Steen Soennichsen said the tests would be examined by external labs and results would be available within hours, allowing the company to act swiftly if there are any new cases.

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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic is ending pay cuts that the Minnesota-based health system imposed to deal with a patient downturn caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Star Tribune reports Mayo plans to restore pay and return furloughed workers this summer.

In April, Mayo announced plans to cut pay to more than 20,000 employees and seek furloughs when elective surgeries were halted in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The clinic was projecting a possible $3 billion loss in 2020. But Mayo says patient volumes reached 80% to 90% of normal by mid-June, which was a quicker-than-expected recovery.

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Associated Press

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