The Latest: Georgia extends virus emergency rules again

ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor is again extending his emergency rules regarding COVID-19 as the state surpasses 7,000 deaths from the respiratory illness.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday extended the underlying state of emergency that allows him to issue other orders until Nov. 9. The Republican pushed back the expiration of pandemic rules and guidelines until Oct. 15.

Georgia has recorded more than 318,000 cases of coronavirus overall. The state’s seven-day average of new cases has fallen below 1,200 a day. Georgia ranks 24th nationwide for new cases per capita in the last two weeks. It once was worst.

One complicating factor is the increasing usage of rapid antigen tests, which aren’t yet recorded in state figures. Department of Public Health spokesperson Nancy Nydam says the state has recorded more than 28,000 positives from those tests, but they are not yet routinely published.

“Discussions are ongoing about when they will be included on the website,” Nydam wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Fewer new deaths are being recorded, even as the state’s total rose to 7,021 Wednesday. But with three months left in the year, if Georgia averages 33 deaths a day, it will surpass 10,000 deaths for the year. The state has averaged 35 deaths a day over the last week.

Kemp changes his orders to allow restaurant and bar workers diagnosed with COVID-19 to return to work once they’ve been symptom free, without medication, for 24 hours, down from a previous three days.

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

— UK lawmakers grumble but renew sweeping govt virus powers

— Wisconsin hospitals filling with patients as virus surges

— Virus outbreak pushes NFL’s Steelers-Titans game to Monday or Tuesday

— Scientists are starting to unravel one of COVID-19′s scariest mysteries: Why are some people only mildly ill or have no symptoms and others rapidly die.

— The coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on student life across the globe. But in Brussels, the Belgian capital is using its famous Grand-Place square for graduation ceremonies of two universities.

— Scores of actors, technicians and theater staff marched through London’s West End to Parliament to the beat of showtunes, asking for plan to revive the arts.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief and leaders from governments, the private sector, civil society and international organization are pledging support for a global initiative to increase access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, especially for developing and middle-income countries.

At a virtual high-level event Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly’s annual meeting of world leaders, countries pledged nearly $1 billion to the initiative, a show of support welcomed by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The U.N. chief opened the meeting on accelerating financial support, saying “it is in every country’s national and economic self-interest to work together to massively expand access to tests and treatments, and to support a vaccine as a global public good — a `people’s vaccine’ available and affordable for everyone, everywhere.”

The U.N. chief has urged the international community to provide $35 billion — including $15 billion immediately — to fund the ACT-Accelerator to speed an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and its COVAX Facility to provide countries worldwide with access to safe and effective vaccines once they are licensed and approved.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK was pledging 571 million pounds ($732) for the COVAX Facility and earmarking 500 million pounds ($641 million) to support low- and middle-income countries. He said the total includes a commitment to match 1 pound for ever $4 committed by others up to 250 million pounds ($321 million).

Raab said “the pandemic is really an acid test of our international resolve to work together on the issue of the day, on the issue facing our generation, in order to save lives and rebuild our economies.” He called the COVAX Facility “an unprecedented alliance” and urged others “to back our aspirations with the resources necessary.”

The ACT-Accelerator was launched five months ago by the World Health Organization, European Commission, France, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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FARGO, N.D. — A North Dakota marketing agency is rolling out a campaign meant to help stem the tide of rising COVID-19 cases in central North Dakota as the state ranks among the worst in the nation in new cases per capita.

Agency MABU was hired by a governor’s task force in two counties and has created messages designed to leverage North Dakotans’ strong sense of freedom. MABU president and CEO Mike Mabin says the ad campaign plays on personal choice, “letting people know that everyone is free to respond as to how they choose to protect themselves and others.”

The first video ad features three people who first express their skepticism about the virus before having a change of heart. By the end of the 30-second spot, each is wearing a mask and declaring that “COVID stops with me.”

The state will soon follow with a nearly $2 million campaign of its own that dwarfs MABU’s $76,800 media budget.

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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a challenge by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis to Minnesota’s coronavirus restrictions, turning aside the former congressman’s arguments that the rules unconstitutionally limit his freedom to campaign.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz acted within his authority to respond to the public health crisis when he imposed restrictions on crowd sizes, travel and other measures meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 99,000 Minnesotans and killed more than 2,000 in the state.

The judge noted that some of the restrictions already have been relaxed or rescinded and said Lewis had failed to show that his rights were improperly violated. He dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning Lewis can’t file it again.

Lewis, a former conservative talk radio host who served one term in the U.S. House, has been campaigning against the state’s coronavirus restrictions since the early days of the pandemic. He says he plans to appeal and make the ruling an issue in the race.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Public Health reported the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state in the past day topped 1,000 with 18 more deaths.

In the 24 hours since 10 a.m. Tuesday, the state reported 1,048 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 88,555. The 18 additional deaths reported Wednesday brought that total to 1,324.

The state also reported that an increase in people being treated at hospitals for the virus has continued, with the 390 people now hospitalized.

A White House coronavirus task force report dated Sunday found that Iowa last week had the nation’s sixth-highest rate of coronavirus infections per 100,000 people.

The task force again recommended the state institute a statewide mask requirement, but Gov. Kim Reynolds has said such a requirement is unnecessary.

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OMAHA, Neb. — The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Nebraska remains elevated as the state continues to report hundreds of new cases each day, but the number of hospitalizations is still below the peak set in the spring.

The state’s online virus tracker on Wednesday showed 215 people were hospitalized. Nebraska reported 466 new cases and six new deaths to give the state 45,044 cases and 478 deaths.

The number of people being treated in Nebraska hospitals remains below the peak of 232 set in late May, but that number hit 231 last Thursday. Hospitalizations were at their lowest in July when 95 people were being treated.

The state said Wednesday that 27% of the intensive care beds and 78% of the ventilators in Nebraska remained available.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 9.4% on Sept. 15 to 13.01% on Tuesday, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

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JACKSON, MISS. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced he’s ending the statewide mask mandate, but the Republican governor said he will still require people to wear masks in school to curb the spread of novel coronavirus.

Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate has been in place since early August. Reeves has chosen to extend the mandate several times since. However, on Wednesday he said declining numbers of new cases of coronavirus and hospitalizations are positive developments that call for the lifting of some restrictions.

The new executive order ending the statewide mask mandate expires the week after the presidential election and also limits group gatherings where social distancing is not possible to 20 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

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NEW YORK — The World Health Organization announced nearly $1 billion in new pledges on Wednesday for the effort to battle the coronavirus pandemic and make sure that poor countries get treatments and vaccines against COVID-19.

Sixteen major pharmaceutical companies are promising to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scale up manufacturing and ensure all countries have access to affordable COVID-19 tests, therapies and vaccines. Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky announced the company will donate up to 500 million doses of its COVID vaccine, if it’s proven safe and effective, around the middle of next year for developing countries. Late-stage testing of the vaccine began last week.

WHO and other partners said an additional $35 billion is needed to fund planned efforts by the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. About $15 billion of that is needed by year’s end to fund research, manufacturing, purchase of medicines and vaccines, and distribution.

The accelerator has a goal of producing 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million COVID treatments, and 500 million tests, and distributing them in low- and middle-income countries.

WHO noted that Canada, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the World Bank recently pledged about $946 million to help those countries fight the pandemic.

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HONOLULU — A University of Hawaii student has died after contracting the novel coronavirus.

Jezreel Lowie B. Juan died on Friday the university said in a statement.

Juan had transferred to the West Oahu campus in 2019 as a junior after attending Honolulu Community College. A university spokeswoman on Wednesday said they did not have Juan’s age or hometown.

The statement said Juan was not on campus and did not expose the university community to the virus. The university statement also said Juan “took his studies very seriously and even in his last stages of fighting COVID-19 he worried about class assignments and constantly asked his father how he could make up for the work he was missing.”

Because of his student leadership, Juan was recently nominated to be a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success.

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FRANKLIN, N.C. — A North Carolina sheriff’s office has been identified as a COVID-19 cluster after a number of employees tested positive, a local health department said Wednesday.

The Macon County Health Department announced the cluster in a news release, but it didn’t say exactly how many workers at the sheriff’s office tested positive. The sheriff’s office would only say that “multiple employees” fell ill and were tested, and that some of the tests have come back positive.

All staff who could have been exposed to the sheriff’s office workers have been contacted and will be tested for the coronavirus, the health department said.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office, some of the workers were on duty when they became ill but went home immediately when they started displaying symptoms. The sheriff’s office said symptoms have ranged from mild to severe, with some workers showing no symptoms at all.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma remains among the worst states in the United States for positive coronavirus tests per 100,000 people and the number of new reported cases, according to a report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Oklahoma is in the red zone for virus cases, meaning 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population, with a rate of 201 new cases per 100,000. That’s an increase of 15% from a week ago, according to the federal report dated Sept. 27 and released Wednesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The number of reported coronavirus cases in the state increased by 980 on Wednesday and there were 13 additional deaths due to COVID-19, the health department said. The department reported 87,199 total cases and 1,031 deaths compared to 86,219 cases and 1.018 deaths on Tuesday.

The report recommends increased testing to identify those with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and to isolate those infected to limit the spread of the virus. It also calls for better messaging to help residents protect themselves, including the wearing of face masks.

The report does not call for a statewide mask mandate. Gov. Kevin Stitt has said he will not implement one.

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NEW YORK — One of COVID-19′s scariest mysteries is why some people are mildly ill or have no symptoms and others rapidly die — and scientists are starting to unravel why.

An international team of researchers found in some people with severe COVID-19, the body goes rogue and attacks one of its own key immune defenses instead of fighting the coronavirus. Most were men, helping to explain why the virus is hitting men harder than women.

Separate research suggests children fare better than adults thanks to robust “first responder” immune cells that wane with age.

People’s wildly varying reactions also reflect other factors, such as their general health and how much exposure they had to the virus.

These are among the studies uncovering multiple features of the immune system’s intricate cascade that can tip the scales between a good or bad outcome. Next is figuring out if these new clues might offer much-needed ways to intervene.——

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota reported a decrease in the number of active cases to 3,658 on Wednesday as the state marked the end of its deadliest month of the pandemic.

Health officials have recorded 56 death during September. Over the past two weeks, the state reported the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita, with 567 infections per 100,000 people. The Department of Health reported 392 new cases on Wednesday.

The state’s test positivity rate has remained among the highest in the country. It reached 26% in the last seven days, according to data from the COVID tracking project.

Overall in South Dakota, there’s been 22,389 confirmed cases and 223 deaths.

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HONOLULU — Movie and television productions in Hawaii have started despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Work on new seasons of the television shows “Magnum PI” and “Temptation Island” on Oahu are beginning and other productions are expected to shoot on Maui and Hawaii island.

Maui Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett says a miniseries is expected to begin work soon and a Christmas movie is scheduled to starting filming toward the end of the year.

Hawaii Film Commissioner Donne Dawson says industry professionals have produced a pandemic protocol to safely return people to work.