The Latest: Mexico passes 500,000 confirmed virus cases

MEXICO CITY — Mexico has passed the half-million mark in confirmed coronavirus cases.

The Health Department reported 7,371 newly confirmed cases Thursday, bringing the country’s total for the pandemic to 505,751. The department reported 627 more confirmed COVID-19 deaths, giving Mexico a total of 55,293.

Experts agree that due to Mexico’s extremely low testing rates, those numbers are undercounts and that the real figures may be two to three times higher. With only about 1.15 million tests conducted to date in a country of almost 130 million people, less than 1% of Mexicans have been tested.

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

— NYC mayor plans to reopen nation’s largest public school system on time

— WHO says Russian vaccine not in advanced test stages

— Second man dies of virus in federal immigration custody in Georgia

— Talks by U.S. leaders on emergency coronavirus aid are stalling out, with both sides playing the blame game rather than make any serious moves to try to break their stalemate.

— Number of U.S. laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic intensified five months ago, yet still remains at a high level.

— Artist creates origami crane memorial for COVID-19 victims

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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:

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is reporting fewer than 7,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time in six weeks.

That encouraging sign Thursday was clouded by questions over testing as students return to school and college football teams push ahead with playing this fall. Testing has dropped off in Texas, a trend seen across the U.S as health experts worry that patients without symptoms aren’t bothering because of long lines and waiting days to get results.

Numbers from Texas health officials this week offer a hazy picture of how much testing has fallen. At one point this week, the infection rate in Texas was as high as 24%, only to suddenly drop Thursday to 16%.

Officials have not offered explanations about the wild swing in infection rates.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will resume eviction and foreclosure proceedings Sept. 2, stoking fears of a wave of evictions during the coronavirus pandemic unless the governor and state Legislature can agree on a proposal to extend protections.

The Judicial Council of California voted 19-1 Thursday to end the temporary rules blocking such proceedings that had been in place since April 6.

Since the pandemic began in March, more than 9.7 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in California. A survey from the U.S. Census shows more than 1.7 million renters in the state could not pay their rent on time last month.

California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye has been reluctant to let the rules stay in place much longer, saying it is the job of the judicial branch to interpret the laws, not make them.

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LONDON — Britain will require all people arriving from France to isolate for 14 days — an announcement that throws the plans of tens of thousands of holidaymakers into chaos.

The government said late Thursday that France is being removed from the list of nations exempted from quarantine requirements because of a rising number of coronavirus infections, which have surged by 66% in the past week. The Netherlands, Malta, Monaco and the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Turks & Caicos also were added to the quarantine list.

France is one of the top holiday destinations for British travelers, who now have until 4 a.m. Saturday to get home if they want to avoid two weeks in isolation.

The number of new infections in Britain is also rising.

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JACKSON, MISS. — The governor of Mississippi says new cases of the coronavirus are steadily declining in most of the state’s 82 counties.

Gov. Tate Reeves attributed the decrease to residents’ commitment to wearing masks and social distancing, but he also urges people not to become complacent.

Reeves says the state is seeing steady decreases in more than 70 counties. However, he says “there’s more work to do” in six counties — Forrest, Jones, Lee, Union, Bolivar and Panola, where officials are still seeing a considerable number of infections.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 612 new confirmed cases and 22 deaths Thursday, raising the state’s total cases to 2,011.

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ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says he’s dropping a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta in a dispute over the city’s requirement to wear masks in public and other restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican governor sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council in July to block them from implementing restrictions at the local level, even as case counts and hospitalizations in the state soared.

Kemp argued that local governments can’t impose measures that are more or less restrictive than those in his statewide executive orders, which have strongly urged people to wear masks but not required them.

He has sought to block local governments from issuing orders requiring that masks be worn, but several cities, including Atlanta, have done it anyway.

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RENO, Nev. — Nevada’s biggest daily jump in coronavirus fatalities to date has pushed the state’s COVID-19 death toll past 1,000.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday that the grim milestone should reinforce the seriousness of the pandemic and the need for individuals to do more to help slow its spread.

On Thursday, Nevada recorded 602 new cases of the virus to bring the total to 58,650. The death toll grew 34 to 1,030, surpassing the previous single-day record of 29 deaths reported on July 31 and equaled Aug. 7.

The state’s cumulative positivity rate remained virtually unchanged at 10.5%. It’s generally been rising since it hit a low of 5.2% on June 17.

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ATHENS, Greece – Greek authorities have quarantined the country’s third-largest migrant camp on the eastern Aegean Sea island of Chios after an asylum-seeker and a staff member were diagnosed with COVID-19.

The quarantine, in force until Aug. 25, includes a ban on anybody entering or exiting the facility, and the suspension of all programs in the camp by charity groups as well as the asylum application process.

The camp is home to more than 3,800 people — almost four times above capacity. It’s the first time a COVID-19 outbreak has been registered at any of the island camps, where a total 25,000 people live in very cramped conditions after arriving in smuggling boats from the nearby Turkish coast.

The migration ministry said Thursday that a 35-year old asylum-seeker from Yemen was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was taken to hospital with “mild” symptoms and a fever. The other case was a staff member at the camp. No details were provided on her condition.

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MILAN — Italian Health Ministry data shows that the number of new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country has risen above 500 for the first time this week.

According to the data released on Thursday, the 523 new positives brings to 252,235 the total number in Italy since the virus was first detected locally in late February.

The northern regions of Veneto, Lombardy and Liguria all recorded boosts in the high double-digits, while only Valle d’Aosta, which shares an Alpine border with France, recorded none.

Six people died in the last 24 hours, compared with 10 a day earlier, bringing the epidemic total to 35,225. A weekly report shows that the situation in Italy ‘’risks worsening’’ with 1,000 active outbreaks, with new cases recorded in every region of the country, often imported from abroad.

Italy is imposing mandatory testing on anyone arriving from Greece, Spain, Malta and Croatia as the numbers continue to nudge up, but the head of the scientific committee helping to guide the coronavirus response said that a new national lockdown was “improbable.’’

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NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held firm to plans to reopen the nation’s largest public school system within a month, despite pleas from teachers and principals to delay the return of students to classrooms.

The city is aiming for a hybrid reopening Sept. 10, with most of the 1.1 million students spending two or three days a week in physical classrooms and learning remotely the rest of the time. Parents were given the option of requesting full-time remote learning for their children.

The Democratic mayor conceded there were challenges with the plan as the city recovers from a pandemic. But he says the city has managed to lower the rate of positive cases to around 1%.

The union representing school administrators sent a letter to de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza on Wednesday, saying school leaders still had questions about various issues, including staffing, personal protective equipment and ventilation system repairs

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MEXICO CITY — A potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University will be produced in Mexico if its advanced trials are successful and it receives regulatory approval, the government said Thursday.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the agreement with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which also provides for production in Argentina, should result in a vaccine that the government would provide free starting in the first quarter of 2021.

Production of the vaccine in Mexico and Argentina would allow for distribution throughout Latin America, except for Brazil, which had already reached its own agreement with the drug maker.

Sylvia Varela, AstraZeneca’s president in Mexico said the cost of a dose would be around $4, but López Obrador said the government would cover that expense.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the foundation of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim would effectively guarantee production starts on time. He said results from the Phase III clinical trials are expected in November.

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MADRID — Spain’s daily number of new coronavirus cases reached nearly 3,000 Thursday, up significantly from 1,690 the previous day.

That’s the highest daily number of new infections since April, as countries around Europe are concerned about a second wave of the coronavirus.

Emergency health response chief Fernando Simón says part of the increase was due to the Madrid region reporting the numbers for two days, after missing the deadline Wednesday.

Cases in Spain have been steadily increasing since the country ended a more than three-month lockdown on June 21. Simons says there is no pressure on the health system, with coronavirus patients occupying only 3% of hospital beds.

Spain is conducting around 340,000 nasal swab tests a week, he says. More than 50% of cases are asymptomatic, and the average age of infected people is 42 for women and 39 for men.

The Health Ministry says Spain has officially recorded more than 337,00 total infections and more than 28,000 deaths.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization says the vaccine approved by Russia this week is not among the nine that it considers in the advanced stages of testing.

WHO and partners have included nine experimental COVID-19 vaccines within an investment mechanism it is encouraging countries to join, known as the Covax facility. The initiative allows countries to invest in several vaccines to obtain early access, while theoretically providing funding for developing countries.

“We don’t have sufficient information at this point to make a judgment” on the Russia vaccine, said Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general. “We’re currently in conversation with Russia to get additional information to understand the status of that product, the trials that have been undertaken and then what the next steps might be.”

This week, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia had approved a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to complete advanced trials in people and claimed, without evidence, the immunization protects people for up to two years.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Greece’s foreign minister says his country will allow tourists from Israel to enter.

Nikos Dendias announced during a visit to Israel that 600 Israeli tourists will be allowed into four Greek destinations per week.

It wasn’t immediately clear under what conditions the tourists will be allowed in and whether they must quarantine upon arrival.

Dendias met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Israel’s Foreign Ministry says there was no decision regarding Greek tourists to Israel.

Israel is challenged by high daily coronavirus infections, adjusted for population. However, the country is taking steps to open travel for its citizens.