The Latest: Yemen’s Houthi rebels ease virus restrictions

CAIRO — Yemen’s Houthi rebels are easing a variety of coronavirus restrictions amid a news blackout on the virus’ toll in their territory.

The Houthi Cabinet announced late Monday it was allowing restaurants, wedding halls, public baths, parks and playgrounds to reopen. The statement encouraged people to sanitize regularly and practice social distancing.

Over the past months, the Houthis, who control Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and much of the war-torn country’s north, have suppressed all information about the virus. They’ve severely punished doctors and journalists who speak out, imposed only loose restrictions and promoted conspiracy theories.

The rebels have acknowledged just four virus cases, leaving aid workers, local health officials and doctors to warn the outbreak was far worse than authorities would admit. Scores of people suffering from COVID-19 symptoms in the Houthi-controlled north have died in recent weeks, overwhelming one of the capital’s largest cemeteries.

The outbreak is crippling a health system already in shambles after five years of brutal war that pits the Iran-allied Houthis against the internationally recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

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

— The World Health Organization warns that the pandemic is worsening globally and things won’t return to “the old normal” for some time.

— A top Florida doctor says the state’s rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases is turning Miami into the “epicenter of the pandemic.”

— Ultra-Orthodox protesters have clashed with Israeli police in a Jerusalem neighborhood that has been placed under lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.

— The November election is coming with a big price tag as America faces voting during a pandemic

— America’s two largest generations agree: the pandemic has smacked many at a pivotal time in their lives

— Families of Italy’s virus dead seek answers, solace, justice

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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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BEIJING — China says the number of people in treatment for COVID-19 in the country has fallen to just 297, with only three new cases of coronarvirus reported, all brought from outside the country.

No new deaths were announced, leaving the total at 4,634 out of 83,605 cases of the disease. Another 115 people are in isolation and being monitored for either being suspected cases or having the disease without showing any symptoms.

Meanwhile, a pair of experts from the World Health Organization were in China on Monday to make arrangements for an investigation into how the global pandemic may have spread after the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

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JACKSON, Miss. — A mask mandate and other restrictions took effect Monday in 13 of Mississippi’s 82 counties as the state continues to see a rapid increase in cases of the new coronavirus, including a steady rise in hospital patients.

“This is the worst that it’s ever been for spread of cases in our state,” Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said during a news conference Monday.

Figures released Monday by the state Health Department showed 1,020 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 Sunday. That is up from 664 on June 22.

The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said eight hospitals in Mississippi had no beds available in their intensive care units as of Monday. Four of those were in the Jackson area. He also said long-term care facilities are seeing an increase of cases because of transmission in communities. Even if people can’t visit loved ones in nursing homes, employees go in and out.

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MIAMI — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged that the disease is spreading after the state set a national record with more than 15,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported Sunday, but maintained the spike was because of the expansion of testing.

“We have to address the virus with steady resolve. We can’t get swept away in fear. We have to understand what is going on, understand that we have a long road ahead but we also have to understand that within the context of the moment,” he said Monday during a Miami press conference.

DeSantis highlighted the positivity rate for tests over the last two days has been just over 11%. That is four times the 2.3% rate the state had in late May, but a drop from the near 20% of last week. Officials have said they want to get the rate below 5%, which is when they believe spread is less likely and measures are taking hold.

DeSantis said it isn’t clear whether the downward positivity rate of the weekend will continue.

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PHOENIX — Arizona is reporting all-time highs in coronavirus patients using ventilators and occupying beds in intensive-care units.

The state Department of Health Services said 671 COVID-19 patients were on ventilators and 936 were in intensive care as of Sunday. Hospitals were hovering around 90% capacity as the state ranks first in the U.S. for new per capita cases over the past two weeks.

The state became one of the nation’s coronavirus hot spots in May after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed stay-at-home orders and other restrictions. Last week, the Republican governor closed gyms and bars and capped restaurants at half of their capacity but declined to shut down indoor dining entirely or issue a statewide mandate on masks.

Ducey said the state will increase testing, with a focus on low-income areas of Phoenix as many people report difficulty finding tests.

The state also is paying for a private lab to greatly increase its daily capacity as people have experienced waits of up to a week or more for test results.

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JERUSALEM — Ultra-Orthodox protesters have clashed with Israeli police in a Jerusalem neighborhood that has been placed under lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.

As Israel grapples with a spike in coronavirus cases, it has begun to impose restrictions on selected towns and neighborhoods with high infection rates. Many of these areas are ultra-Orthodox, and residents say they are being unfairly singled out.

About 400 people protested late Monday in Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood. Some clashed with police, and a large pile of trash was set on fire.

Israeli police reported at least one arrest.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s governor has extended the closure of bars and indoor dining statewide and ordered gyms, churches and hair salons closed in most places as coronavirus cases keep rising in the nation’s most populated state.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom extended that order statewide on Monday after initially ordering 19 counties with a surging number of confirmed infections to close bars and indoor operations at restaurants, wineries, zoos and family entertainment centers on July 1.

He also imposed additional restrictions on the 30 counties now with rising numbers, including the most populated of Los Angeles and San Diego, by ordering worship services to stop and gyms, hair salons, indoor malls and offices for noncritical industries to shut down.

He didn’t include schools, which are scheduled to resume in a few weeks in much of the state. But Monday, the state’s two largest school districts, San Diego and Los Angeles, announced their students would start the school year with online learning only.

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon is set to ban indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people and require people to wear face coverings outside if they cannot socially distance.

Gov. Kate Brown announced the two new statewide COVID-19 safety mandates on Monday.

Brown said that beginning Wednesday, people must wear a face covering while outside if they cannot remain 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart from others or if they are with people that they don’t live with. Brown made clear that the social gathering limit doesn’t apply to churches and businesses.

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SILVER SPRING, Md. — A judge has agreed to suspend a federal rule that requires women during the COVID-19 pandemic to visit a hospital, clinic or medical office to obtain an abortion pill.

U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland ruled Monday that the “in-person requirements” for patients seeking medication abortion care impose a “substantial obstacle” to abortion patients. Chuang said the requirements are likely unconstitutional under the pandemic’s circumstances.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May to challenge the rule.

The judge didn’t set any geographic limitations on the injunction. He had previously rejected a move by 10 states to intervene in the lawsuit because they argued the case could impact how they enforce their own state laws that relate to or reference the FDA’s regulation of mifepristone. Chuang said the federal case would not eliminate any state’s ability to continue to regulate medication abortion “above and beyond” the FDA’s requirements.

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HONG KONG — Hong Kong Disneyland Park is closing temporarily following the city’s decision to ban public gatherings of more than four people because of the pandemic.

Disney officials posted on the resort’s website that the Hong Kong park was closing on Wednesday until further notice. The resort’s hotels will remain open with adjusted levels of service.

Hong Kong announced new coronavirus-related restrictions on Monday.

The Hong Kong park and Shanghai Disneyland closed in January. Tokyo Disneyland closed the following month and Disney parks in the United States and Europe shut their doors in March.

Shanghai Disneyland reopened in May, as did Hong Kong Disneyland Park last month.

Two of Walt Disney World’s theme parks in Florida reopened last Saturday, despite a spike in coronavirus cases in Florida.

Disneyland Paris also is welcoming back visitors this week for the first time since March. The reopening of Disney’s California parks was postponed pending the issuance of state guidelines.

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DETROIT — Summer classes for hundreds of Detroit students have opened, despite a protest by critics who blocked a bus yard and said the coronavirus makes in-person learning too risky.

Protesters held signs and placed tree branches on the ground to try to prevent buses from leaving to pick up children on Monday. WWJ-AM quoted two bus drivers as saying they quit on the spot.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many students, if any, couldn’t get to school because of the protest. Meanwhile, the superintendent for Detroit Public Schools Community District posted on Twitter that 500 kids were being served.

Students and staff are required to wear masks. The district said classrooms would be limited to 10 to 15 students per teacher.

“This can be done,” said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who believes summer school is important for students who fell behind when buildings were closed in March.

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NAIROBI, Kenya — The first doctor in Kenya to die of COVID-19 was buried Monday, amid calls by health professionals for better insurance coverage and compensation.

Colleagues say Dr. Doreen Lugaliki, an obstetrician and gynecologist, was infected while attending to patients who had the virus.

Dr. Chibanzi Mwachonda, acting secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union, eulogized his colleague saying it was a “black Monday for doctors.”

Medical professionals in a joint statement over the weekend said Lugaliki’s death has highlighted the need to improve the working conditions and welfare of all Kenya’s health care workers.

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MONTREAL — Quebec is making masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces. Premier François Legault said shop owners will be responsible for enforcing it.

Quebec is the first Canadian province to make it required province wide. Masks are mandatory in Canada’s largest city of Toronto but not in some other parts of Ontario.

Canada has had about 108,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

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MIAMI — A top Florida doctor says the state’s rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases is turning Miami into the “epicenter of the pandemic.”

That assessment came as Florida recorded more than 12,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases Monday after a record-setting weekend. The spike partly reflects the larger number of tests being performed, but also a high percentage of those returning positive.

While the outbreak has been spreading through much of the state, it has hit South Florida particularly hard.

Florida International University epidemiologist Dr. Aileen Marty called the region’s situation “extremely grave.” She says the public is not taking the virus seriously enough, ignoring rules on large gatherings, social distancing and wearing masks in public places.

Dr. Lilian Abbo is the chief for infection prevention at Jackson Health System. She described nurses and doctors working around the clock and some of them getting sick.

She added: “Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic. What we were seeing in Wuhan six months ago, now we are there.”

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LONDON — The U.N. is warning that the COVID-19 pandemic could result in another 130 million people going hungry this year.

The warning was included in a new report published Monday.

Officials at five U.N. agencies estimate there were about 690 million people in 2019 who went hungry worldwide, with the majority in Asia and Africa.

The report says that another 83 to 132 million people may go hungry in 2020 due to economic problems triggered by the pandemic. Still, the report also stresses that it’s too early to gauge the full impact of virus-related lockdowns.

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MADRID — The mayor of Barcelona says the Catalonia region of Spain has an inadequate number of contact tracers as it battles coronavirus outbreaks.

Mayor Ada Colau told a news conference Monday that the region of some 7.5 million people, whose capital is Barcelona, has just 120 contact tracers, working in three shifts of 40 people each.

Between July 6 and 12 the number of new cases recorded in the city roughly tripled from the previous week.

Spain’s head of the emergency response, Fernando Simón, said Monday that several provinces have complained about a lack of resources to carry out contact tracing.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization says decisions to reopen schools should be part of a broad strategy for the fight against COVID-19, adding: “we can’t turn schools into yet another political football in this game.”

Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, says any such decisions require a look beyond just how schools, workplaces or long-term care facilities respond individually to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have got to focus on a comprehensive long-term strategy that focuses on everything at one time,” he said, suggesting countries needed to make decisions based on their setting or current levels of transmission.

“We can’t turn schools into yet another political football in this game. It’s not fair on our children,” Ryan said. “We have to make decisions that are based on the best interests of our children, be it their educational or their health interests.”

The comments come as Trump administration officials have increasingly been calling for schools in the United States to reopen.