LONDON —The head of the World Health Organization says he hopes the world can end the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years — less time than it took for the 1918 flu pandemic to be stopped.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described COVID-19 as a “once-in-a-century health crisis” and said that while globalization had allowed the virus to spread quicker than the flu did in 1918, there was also now the technology to stop it that hadn’t been available a century ago.
“We hope to finish this pandemic (in) less than two years, especially if we can pool our efforts,” he said during a press briefing on Friday.
WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan noted that the 1918 pandemic hit the globe in three distinct waves and that the second wave, which started during the fall of 1918, was the most devastating. But he said it didn’t appear COVID-19 was following the same pattern.
“This virus is not displaying a similar wave-like pattern,” he said. “When the virus is not under control, it jumps straight back up.” Ryan said that while pandemic viruses often settle into a seasonal pattern, that didn’t appear to be the case for the coronavirus.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Utah Republican Gov. Herbert: Wear masks or kids stay home to learn
— Virus cases reported at 41 schools in Berlin two weeks after children return
— Wisconsin extends ban on utility disconnections during coronavirus pandemic
— A U.S. count of deaths from all causes during the seven-month period yields what experts believe is a fuller — and more alarming — picture of the disaster and its racial dimensions.
— Lebanon has began a two-week partial lockdown and nighttime curfew after coronavirus cases increased sharply following an explosion in Beirut that killed and injured thousands.
— Saved by suburbs: Food trucks hit by virus find new foodies. The food trucks have long been seen as an urban treasure but are finding new customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW YORK — As many as 215,000 more people than usual died in the U.S. during the first seven months of 2020, suggesting the number of lives lost to the coronavirus is significantly higher than the official toll.
Half the dead were people of color — Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans. That’s according to an analysis of government data by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization.
People of color make up just under 40% of the U.S. population but accounted for approximately 52% of all the “excess deaths” above normal through July.
At that time, the official death toll in the U.S. from COVID-19 was about 150,000. It has since increased to more than 174,000 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan appeals court says Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency declarations and orders to curb the coronavirus clearly fall within the scope of her legal powers.
The court in a 2-1 ruling Friday rejected a lawsuit filed by the Republican-led Legislature. The decision is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The judges denied GOP lawmakers’ contention that a 1945 law only lets a governor indefinitely extend emergencies that are local, not statewide, in nature.
Also Friday, Michigan was approved by the federal government to provide an additional $300 weekly benefit to 910,000 unemployed residents.
ROME — Italy is nearing 1,000 new daily coronavirus cases for the first time since May.
The Health Ministry says another 947 infections and nine deaths were recorded in the past day. Most of the new infections are among Italians returning from summertime travel and discovered because of beefed-up testing nationwide.
The ministry’s weekly report indicated the average age of those infected is now 30, down from the high 60s during the peak of the epidemic. There are more than 1,000 active clusters.
The report called the sustained increase in infections in the past three weeks “progressive worsening” and urged discipline in wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and washing hands.
Italy, the onetime European epicenter, has confirmed 257,065 cases and 35,427 deaths.
LONDON — The British government says the current ban on evictions would be extend by four weeks to Sept. 20.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the extension Friday. Once the ban ends, landlords will be required to give tenants a six-month notice of an eviction to ensure tenants aren’t homeless during the winter months.
Renters were first given protection from eviction in March, when the government issued a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Charities have warned of a looming crisis, with the potential for tens of thousands to lose their homes after the pandemic triggered Britain’s deepest recorded economic slump.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 3 in a lawsuit seeking to block Gov. Kim Reynolds’ order that schools return to classroom learning.
The Iowa State Education Association and the Iowa City Community School District are requesting a temporary injunction to block enforcement of the Republican governor’s mandate. If granted, school districts would have authority to decide whether to move to 100% remote learning and not face retaliation from the state.
Reynolds has said school districts must provide at least 50% in-person instruction or face consequences. Only if the local positivity rate reaches 15% during a 14-day period can schools seek a waiver to move to remote learning for two weeks at a time — a threshold far higher than what experts say is safe.
Some school districts will begin in-person instruction by next week. Others, like Iowa City, have delayed their start dates until September.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee had 2,100 confirmed coronavirus cases in children ages 5 to 18 during the past two weeks, according to state data.
So far, 131 of Tennessee’s roughly 140 public schools have restarted, with 129 districts operating or planning to run on a hybrid model. Most of those are opening in person with a virtual option, according to Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.
Eighteen districts are operating fully remotely, and nine individual schools were closed due to at least one COVID-19 case, Schwinn says.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee says his administration is asking federal officials how specific Tennessee can get in disclosing cases of COVID-19 in schools. School districts currently have the choice of releasing information on cases on their own.
Tennessee has nearly 1,500 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 1,832 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 27 deaths.
The number of confirmed cases Thursday comes from the state conducting 51,612 tests in the previous 24 hours. The state has confirmed 213,721 cases and 7,833 deaths.
The age of cases ranges from under 1 to older than 100. Public health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says the statewide positivity rate during the last week was 4.4%.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — The Cyprus education ministers says all public and private school students must wear a face mask to protect against the spread of coronavirus.
Students return to classrooms on Sept. 7. Minister Prodromos Prodromou says mask wearing also will be mandatory for kindergarten and preschool kids, along with teachers and other school staff.
The maximum number of students in each classroom will be 25 and random coronavirus tests will be conducted on both students and teachers. Prodromou say classes could move online if there’s a spike in coronavirus infections inside schools.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou has extended until Jan. 15, 2021, a ban on outdoor festivals, concerts and exhibitions in places without seating where social distancing rules can’t be enforced.
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says parents who don’t want to follow his health mandate by requiring their children to wear masks when returning to school should keep them home.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports the Republican says students without face coverings should not return to classrooms and should instead take part in online school or homeschooling during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The comments follow confirmation by Herbert’s office on Wednesday that K-12 students and staff who refuse to wear masks without a legitimate medical exemption can be charged with a misdemeanor under his mandate.
MADISON, Wis. — State regulators have extended a ban on utility disconnections in Wisconsin during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Public Service Commission voted 2-1 Thursday to continue a moratorium on shutoffs until Oct. 1. That will temporarily prevent more than 93,000 customers from losing their utility service next month.
A PSC survey of nearly 200 utilities shows about a third of Wisconsin’s 1.4 million households are behind on their utility bills. In comparison, 13% of residential customers were behind in April of the two previous years. Last month the PSC voted to extend the moratorium to Sept. 1.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia has registered the highest day-to-day increase of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
Health Ministry figures show 123 were infected in the last 24 hours. The second-highest number was 114 cases on April 15.
Overall, Slovakia has a relatively low number of infections. A confirmed total of 3,225 have tested positive for the virus and 33 have died.
Officials didn’t immediately offer an explanation for the jump in cases but numbers have been increasing in neighboring countries, driven by returning vacationers and social events.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong will offer free, universal testing to its residents starting Sept. 1.
The testing program, which will last two weeks, is on a voluntary basis.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says universal testing was possible due to support from Beijing, which provided resources such as laboratory staff to boost capacity in the semi-autonomous city.
The program is aimed at identifying individuals who are infected but have exhibited no symptoms. The city, with a population of 7.5 million, has conducted over 1.2 million tests so far.
Critics of the universal testing program say there may be potential privacy concerns, given the program is supported by the Chinese Communist Party.
Lam brushed aside such concerns, stating no matter what the government did, there will always be people who come up with conspiracy theories.
BERLIN — At least 41 schools in Berlin have reported students or teachers are infected with the coronavirus — not even two weeks after they reopened in the German capital.
The daily Berliner Zeitung published the numbers on Friday and the city’s senate for education confirmed them to The Associated Press.
Hundreds of students and teachers are in quarantine, the newspaper reported. Elementary schools, high schools and trade schools are affected. There are 825 schools in Berlin.
The reopening of schools and the risk of virus clusters building up there and spreading to families and into communities has been a matter of concern.
Berlin was one of the first places in Germany to reopen schools after summer holidays. Children are obliged to wear masks in hallways, during breaks, and when entering the classroom, but they can take them off once they sit down.
Some critics say the measures in Berlin are too relaxed and both students and teachers should wear masks.
Coronavirus cases in Germany have been going up again since late July, driven by returning vacationers and social events.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday there are too many different regulations in place across the country and “people simply don’t understand” why they’re allowed to do one thing in Berlin that may be banned in Bavaria.
On Friday, Germany’s disease control center registered 1,426 new cases. According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, Germany ranks No. 20 in the world in confirmed cases with 231,626 and No. 16 in deaths with 9,264.
LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has welcomed as “great news” the U.K.’s decision to end the mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving from Portugal on Saturday.
British authorities added Portugal to a safe list of destinations. The southern European country is reporting between 200 to 300 new daily cases this week, although the spread of contagion seems to have receded since early July.
Rebelo de Sousa, who is on a work holiday tour visiting all Portuguese regions to show his support for the tourism sector, says the move will benefit the industry, especially in the southern Algarve region where he expects that U.K. citizens will make bookings for the late summer season in September and October.
The president says the measure would benefit some 300,000 Portuguese citizens who live and work in the U.K.
Portugal acted swiftly in the pandemic’s early days but experienced significant clusters when it ended its lockdown. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has confirmed nearly 55,000 infections and 1,788 deaths.
TOKYO — The governor of Iwate in northern Japan has criticized the national government’s “GoTo” campaign to encourage travel with discounts, noting the growing number of coronavirus cases.
Gov. Takuya Tasso says to start it in July was “a bit too soon” as preparations weren’t complete. He says the tourism campaign “was carried out too soon, and so I think it can be called a failure.”
Iwate has had the fewest cases of COVID-19 among Japan’s prefectures at 11 confirmed cases. The first case was reported just a month ago.
Since then, worries have been growing about the infection being brought in from outside Iwate, as well as about discrimination toward infected people.
Tasso credited low population congestion, lack of travel from abroad and the rest of Japan, and the cautious nature of residents for Iwate’s success.
Tasso says the experience of the 2011 tsunami made the Iwate people more in tune with crisis management.
Japan, which has never imposed a lockdown, has about 1,100 deaths and 60,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. It is trying to keep the outbreak under control while keeping the economy going. Tokyo has reported several hundred confirmed daily cases.