The Latest: Masks now required for all of Australian state

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A restaurant employee wearing a protective face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus offer a joss sticks on a huge incense burner in the Asakusa district in Tokyo Monday, July 27, 2020. The Japanese capital confirmed Monday more than 100 new coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria state is making mask wearing compulsory statewide after reporting a new daily high of 723 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Masks have been compulsory in the state capital of Melbourne and a neighboring semi-rural district for the past week. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said Thursday that masks or other face coverings will be compulsory for the whole state beginning late Sunday.

In addition, residents around the city of Geelong will not be allowed to have visitors in their homes beginning late Thursday.

The 723 new cases exceeded the previous high of 532 cases posted Monday. The state also reported a new daily high of 13 deaths.

Melbourne and neighboring Mitchell Shire are halfway through a six-week lockdown, which Andrews says could be extended.

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

— US President Trump defends doctor who touts coronavirus cure

— Russian President Putin says coronavirus ‘may worsen’

— Muslim pilgrims wearing face masks and moving in small groups have begun a reshaped hajj

— As the world races to find a vaccine and a treatment for COVID-19, there is seemingly no antidote in sight to the burgeoning outbreak of coronavirus conspiracy theories, hoaxes, anti-mask myths and sham cures.

— Ecuador’s capital of Quito has experienced an alarming surge in coronavirus cases since the government reopened the economy last month. There have been 82,300 confirmed infections of the coronavirus in Ecuador and about 5,600 deaths

— Mary Daniel took a part-time job washing dishes at the nursing home a few weeks ago just so she could visit her husband. Gov. Ron DeSantis is considering allowing visits if people can take a rapid-response virus test.

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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:

BEIJING — China is reporting 105 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, almost all of them in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Xinjiang accounted for 96 of the cases, with five others in the northeastern province of Liaoning and one in the capital of Beijing.The remaining three were brought by Chinese travelers arriving rom outside the country.

No new deaths were reported, leaving China’s official toll for the pandemic at 4,634, among 84,165 cases.

While China has largely contained the virus in other parts of the country, the Xinjiang outbreak centered on the regional capital and largest city of Urumqi continues to grow. Authorities have locked down some residential neighborhoods in the city, restricted public transit and ordered widespread testing.

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SAO PAULO — Brazil’s health ministry has reported a daily record 1,595 deaths from COVID-19, though the rise partly resulted from the country’s most populous state reporting two days worth of deaths.

Brazil’s previous one-day record death toll was set June 4, with 1,473 fatalities. Deaths have been ticking upwards for five straight weeks as the coronavirus spread into new regions, with deaths averaging more than 1,000 each day.

Authorities say the populous state of Sao Paulo did not report COVID-19 deaths Tuesday because of a counting glitch. As a result, its tally of 713 deaths Wednesday included two days of deaths.

Brazil’s health ministry has recorded 90,134 deaths so far in the pandemic and more than 2.5 million confirmed cases. Those are the second highest totals in the world.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has expanded mask-wearing rules and is also urging residents to avoid visiting some states with rapidly increasing cases of coronavirus infections.

Under the rules announced Wednesday, anyone older than age 5 will be required to wear a face covering in all indoor public areas of businesses and buildings, including churches, offices and restaurants. Hogan’s order also expands the requirement to outdoor spaces when it is not possible to maintain social distancing. The order takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday.

The travel advisory applies to states with positive test rates of or higher than 10%. Hogan says if people must visit those states, they should immediately be tested upon returning to Maryland and quarantine themselves until learning the results.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Eleven Louisiana bar owners have filed a federal lawsuit arguing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus rules limiting bars to takeout and delivery unlawfully target one business sector and impose overly harsh restrictions.

The suit filed Wednesday says Edwards cannot show a “real or substantial relation” between the closure of bars to inside drinking and the public health crisis. They say only a small number of known COVID-19 cases have been traced to bars.

The Louisiana Department of Health has traced 464 confirmed coronavirus infections to 41 bars. It says that is among the largest number of cases tracked to a specific type of business.

Edwards and his health advisers say bars are specifically problematic because people tend to huddle closely without masks while drinking and are less careful in their virus precautions the more alcohol they consume.

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MIAMI — Florida’s largest school district says it will not reopen schools for in-person learning for at least six weeks and instead implement fully remote instruction because of the surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools said Wednesday the school year will begin virtually Aug. 31, a week after it was originally scheduled to start.

Superintendent Albert Carvalho says a decision on whether to offer in-person learning will be made in late September, based on data on coronavirus infections and COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is urging districts to offer both online and in-person options, arguing going to school is crucial for many students, especially disadvantaged children.

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NEW YORK — The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. has hit 150,000, by the far the highest toll in the world. That’s according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The bleak milestone comes amid signs that the nation’s outbreak is beginning to stabilize in the Sun Belt but heating up in the Midwest, fueled largely by young adults who are hitting bars, restaurants and gyms again.

The surge has been accompanied by a burgeoning outbreak of misinformation and conspiracy theories about supposed cures and the effectiveness of masks.

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AUSTIN, Texas — The coronavirus death toll in Texas has risen to 6,190, with 313 newly reported fatalities Wednesday.

Texas officials also reported 9,595 COVID-19 patients in the hospital Wednesday and 9,042 newly confirmed cases, the most in nearly a week.

The state’s death toll has escalated rapidly amid a surge of infections and hospitalizations in June and July.

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ALTURAS, Calif. — A remote California county bordering Oregon and Nevada that was the first to defy state shutdown orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus has recorded its first COVID-19 cases.

Sparsely populated Modoc County in northeastern California has two confirmed cases of COVID-19 from the same household.

The county’s Public Health Department said Tuesday it is identifying people who may have had close contact with the people. The department has also asked anyone who patronized a local bar to call officials.

The county of about 9,000 residents on May 1 defied Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shutdown orders by reopening nonessential businesses and restaurants for dine-in service.

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APEX, N.C. — Vice President Mike Pence vowed Wednesday that schools around the country will have the resources they need to reopen for in-person learning as he visited a classroom of masked fourth graders at a North Carolina private school.

The visit comes as President Donald Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have threatened to withhold federal funding from K-12 schools that don’t allow all of their students to return to physical classrooms. Critics including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden have slammed Trump over the threats and argue that his administration hasn’t provided enough resources or guidance to schools.

Accompanied by DeVos, Pence visited a Raleigh-area campus of Thales Academy as part of a push to encourage more schools to reopen with in-person instruction.

“We’re all gonna make sure schools across America have the support to open up and stay open,” Pence said.

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TOPSFIELD, Mass. — The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of a more than 200-year-old Massachusetts agricultural fair for just the third time in its history, organizers said Wednesday.

The Essex Agricultural Society, the organization that runs the Topsfield Fair that was scheduled for Oct. 2-12 this year, said the decision was made for the safety of fairgoers, staff, volunteers, vendors, exhibitors and sponsors.

“We understand the impact of this decision for small businesses, family farms, competitors, and exhibitors and the disappointment of hundreds of thousands of people who look forward to the Topsfield Fair each year,” General Manager James O’Brien said in a statement on the fair’s website.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday that she’s cutting the maximum number of people allowed at backyard barbecues, house parties and other social gatherings in the state from 25 to 15 people.

The Democrat also said the state won’t move into the next phase of its reopening plan. Instead, she said phase 3, which was slated to end Wednesday, will be extended for at least another 30 days.

Raimondo said she made the decision because the state’s infection rate is rising as a result of large social gatherings, particularly among young adults in their 20s and 30s.

“We’re partying too much,” Raimondo said. “You need to knock it off. People are sick and people are dying. Your right to have a party should not infringe on their right to live.”

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida reported more than 9,400 coronavirus cases and 216 deaths on Wednesday, eclipsing the daily death record set a day ago.

The state Health Department reports more than 6,300 total confirmed deaths.

The new numbers raised the average number of deaths reported daily to 142. That’s second only to Texas overall, and to Arizona in per capita deaths.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended a state order requiring masks in public for another month to help slow the spread of the coronavirus as schools reopen.

The mask order will run through Aug. 31. Hospital officials had pushed for an extension, saying the state’s intensive care units are nearly full because of the new coronavirus.

“Y’all, we just must remain vigilant if we are going to get our kids back in school and keep our economy open. Wearing a mask can’t hurt, but it sure can help,” Ivey said.

The Republican governor, in a nod to the opposition some conservatives have to the mask orders, say her job is “to do the right thing, not necessarily the most popular thing.”

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana reported 69 more deaths Wednesday for a statewide total of 3,769.

The state health department reports an average of 1,900 new confirmed infections daily over the past week.

Gov. John Bel Edwards says COVID-19 hospitalizations have been largely flat in recent days. Louisiana’s health department reported 1,544 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Wednesday.

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GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan hospital officials say they’ve had to bury dozens of COVID-19 victims who have never been identified.

One hospital is creating an archive in hopes that once the pandemic passes, relatives will come looking for them.

Workers at one of the country’s largest public hospitals have begun photographing patients who arrive alone and too ill to give their personal details. Those who die unidentified are placed in body bags with transparent windows over the faces in case relatives arrive.

Officials says protocols to rapidly burying the dead during a pandemic only make the situation more difficult.

The government has reported more than 47,000 confirmed infections and more 1,800 deaths nationwide.

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PARIS — France is reporting another increase in coronavirus cases, adding 1,392 on Wednesday. Health authorities said the closely watched “R” indicator of infections has nudged past 1.3, meaning infected people are, on average, contaminating more than 1.3 others.

That gauge has been ticking upward since July 1, when the first wave of vacationers headed for beaches and holiday homes.

There was also an increase in new clusters, an additional 21 uncovered in the last day.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s parliament has passed a plan to give economic aid to every Israeli citizen to help the flagging economy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the plan this month amid a wave of protests of his rule and handling of the coronavirus crisis. He says the cash is meant to stimulate the economy.

Critics say the proposal passed Wednesday is a populist attempt to quiet the protests. The proposal has been panned by many of Israel’s leading economists for not being the best solution.

The economic stimulus proposal will give single individuals one-time payments of about $200. Families will receive at least $600, depending on the number of children.

Israel has seen a surge in daily infections after appearing to contain the virus this spring.

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — The nearly two-month spike in coronavirus cases in South Carolina has leveled off, but the death toll is catching up.

South Carolina reported 1,573 new coronavirus cases Tuesday and confirmed 52 more deaths. Nearly 84,000 people have tested positive for the virus during the pandemic and the death toll has topped 1,500, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

It says 60 more likely coronavirus deaths are under investigation.

Since early June, South Carolina had been in the top four in the nation in the 14-day average of new cases adjusted for population. The 14-day average as of Tuesday was 467 new cases per 100,000 people.

Many local school districts are working on reopening plans that must be approved by the state. Schools must reopen by the day after Labor Day. Gov. Henry McMaster has asked for districts to offer class five days a week. State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman can approve or reject local plans.

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