This is a roundup of the latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

LONDON — A vaccine summit hosted by Britain on Thursday raised billions of dollars to immunize children in developing countries as experts wrestled with the difficult question of how any potential vaccine against the new coronavirus might be distributed globally – and fairly.

The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have urged that “a people’s vaccine” be developed for COVID-19 that would be freely available to everyone, calling it a “moral imperative.”

Thursday’s event raised $8.8 billion, exceeding its target, for the vaccines alliance GAVI, which says the funds will be used to vaccinate about 300 million children in dozens of countries against diseases like malaria, pneumonia and HPV.

GAVI also announced a new “advance market commitment” mechanism to enable developing countries to get any effective COVID-19 vaccine when available. It hopes to raise an additional $2 billion for that effort, to immunize health care workers as well as high-risk individuals and create a buffer of doses to be used where needed most.

But experts pointed out that the unprecedented pandemic – where arguably every country will be clamoring for a vaccine – may make efforts at fair distribution extremely messy.

The worldwide scramble for masks and ventilators that erupted in the early stages of the outbreak – where France took over the country’s mask stocks so they could be given to first responders and others inside the country and the U.S. apparently paid off shippers to redirect ventilators to the U.S. – are not encouraging signs that there will be much global cooperation if and when a coronavirus vaccine is available.

Read the full story about potential vaccine distribution here.

South Korea reports 39 new coronavirus cases over 24-hour period

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 39 new cases of the coronavirus over a 24-hour period, a continuation of an upward trend in new infections in the Asian country.

The additional figures released Friday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the country’s total to 11,668 cases, with 273 deaths.

The agency says 34 of the additional cases were reported in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

South Korea has seen a rise in the number of new cases after easing much of its rigid social distancing rules in early May. But the caseload hasn’t exploded, unlike when the country reported hundreds of new cases every day in late February and early March.

After historic casino closure, gambling returns to Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — The casino coronavirus closure has ended. Cards are being dealt, dice are rolling and slot machines flashed and jingled for the first customers who started gambling again early Thursday in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada.

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Dealers in masks wait for customers before the reopening of the D Las Vegas hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Casinos were allowed to reopen early Thursday after being shut down since March because of the coronavirus. John Locher/Associated Press

“The past few months have presented our city with an unprecedented challenge,” said Derek Stevens, owner of two downtown Las Vegas casinos that were shuttered along with all gambling establishments in March. “We are excited to get our employees back to work and to welcome guests to the entertainment capital of the world.”

Hotel-casinos in downtown and suburban Las Vegas were the first to open, at 12:01 a.m., to be followed later in the morning by a restart of the iconic Bellagio fountain and several resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.

The D Hotel and Casino, one of Stevens’ two downtown properties, had several dozen people waiting in line for the doors to open shortly after midnight. After guests had their temperatures checked at the door, the casino was quickly crowded with revelers and gamblers, while the dealers wore face masks or shields. Even a bartender dancing on top of a bar in lingerie was donning a face mask.

Mike Gebhardt, a utility worker from Cincinnati, flew to Las Vegas Thursday morning with his sister and her fiance for a birthday trip on a surprisingly full flight. He walked the largely empty Las Vegas Strip before many of the casinos were scheduled to open.

“It’s going to be a little different, but that’s the way things are now,” said Gebhardt, who described himself as a blackjack player.

Read the full story about Las Vegas reopening here.

Medical journal retracts study on safety of malaria drugs

Several authors of a large study that raised safety concerns about malaria drugs for coronavirus patients have retracted the report, saying independent reviewers were not able to verify information that’s been widely questioned by other scientists.

Thursday’s retraction in the journal Lancet involved a May 22 report on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs long used for preventing or treating malaria but whose safety and effectiveness for COVID-19 are unknown.

The study leaders also retracted an earlier report using the same company’s database on blood pressure drugs published by the New England Journal of Medicine. That study suggested that widely used blood pressure medicines were safe for coronavirus patients, a conclusion some other studies and heart doctor groups also have reached.

Even though the Lancet report was not a rigorous test, the observational study had huge impact because of its size, reportedly involving more than 96,000 patients and 671 hospitals on six continents.

Its conclusion that the drugs were tied to a higher risk of death and heart problems in people hospitalized with COVID-19 led the World Health Organization to temporarily stop use of hydroxychloroquine in a study it is leading, and for French officials to stop allowing its use in hospitals there.

“Not only is there no benefit, but we saw a very consistent signal of harm,” study leader Dr. Mandeep Mehra of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told The Associated Press when the work was published.

The drugs have been controversial because President Donald Trump repeatedly promoted their use and took hydroxychloroquine himself to try to prevent infection after some White House staffers tested positive for the virus. The drugs are known to have potential side effects, especially heart rhythm problems.

The Lancet study relied on a database from a Chicago company, Surgisphere. Its founder, Dr. Sapan Desai, is one of the authors.

Dozens of scientists questioned irregularities and improbable findings in the numbers, and the other authors besides Desai said earlier this week that an independent audit would be done. In the retraction notice, those authors say Surgisphere would not give the reviewers the full data, citing confidentiality and client agreements.

Read the full story here.

Epidemic of wipes and masks plague sewers, storm drains

PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Jim Kenney kicked off a recent briefing on Philadelphia’s coronavirus response with an unusual request for residents: Be careful what you flush.

Between mid-March, when the city’s stay-at-home order was issued, and the end of April, most of the 19 sewer and storm water pumping stations in Philadelphia had experienced clogs from face masks, gloves and wipes residents had pitched into the potty, Kenney said.

“Please do not flush any of these items down the toilet,” the mayor said.

Officials in other U.S. cities and rural communities — and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — have issued similar pleas as wastewater plant operators report a surge of stopped-up pipes and damage to equipment.

The problem has sharpened the longstanding clash over whether wipes are suitable for flushing.

While drain clogs aren’t new, most of the more than 15 cities contacted by The Associated Press said they’ve become a more costly and time consuming headache during the pandemic. Home-bound Americans are seeking alternatives to bathroom tissue because of occasional shortages, while stepping up efforts to sanitize their dwellings and themselves.

“When everyone rushed out to get toilet paper and there was none … people were using whatever they could,” said Pamela Mooring, spokeswoman for DC Water, the system in the nation’s capital.

Sanitary sewer overflows jumped 33% between February and March in Houston because of clogs from rags, tissues, paper towels and wipes, said public works department spokeswoman Erin Jones.

By flushing the wrong things, people are taxing infrastructure that’s already deteriorating, said Darren Olson, vice chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Committee for America’s Infrastructure. “Your latex glove may not be the thing that causes a clog, but you are adding to the burden.”

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A storm drain with discarded gloves and other trash in Philadelphia. Associated Press/Matt Rourke

Hundreds of areas, like a portion of Philadelphia, have combined sewage and stormwater systems so sanitation officials say that means discarded masks and gloves that litter sidewalks and parking lots can also reach and help gum up treatment plants.

Olson said masks and gloves thrown in the street can travel through storm drains in separate systems to lakes and other waterways.

George Leonard, Ocean Conservancy’s chief scientist, said he’s concerned discarded personal protective equipment could wash out to sea and eventually add to “the plastics burden that the ocean is already suffering from.”

Costs of clearing, cleaning and restarting equipment are mounting for utilities.

UK hosts vaccine summit amid calls for free virus vaccine

LONDON — The British government is hosting a vaccine summit Thursday, hoping to raise billions of dollars to immunize children in developing countries and to discuss how any potential vaccine against the new coronavirus might be distributed globally — and fairly.

The event is a pledging conference for the vaccines alliance GAVI, which says the funds will be used to vaccinate about 300 million children in dozens of countries against diseases like malaria, pneumonia and HPV.

GAVI is also expected to start a new “advance market commitment” mechanism that it hopes will enable developing countries to get any effective COVID-19 vaccine when available.

The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have urged that “a people’s vaccine” be developed that would be freely available to everyone, calling it a “moral imperative.”

But experts pointed out that the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic — where arguably every country will be clamoring for a vaccine — may make such discussions extremely messy.

And the worldwide scramble for masks and ventilators that erupted in the early stages of the pandemic — where countries like France requisitioned the country’s entire supply of masks and the U.S. apparently paid off the shippers of loads already on airplanes to obtain ventilators — are not encouraging signs that there will be much global cooperation if and when a coronavirus vaccine is available.

New rules for visiting a pool, lake or beach this summer with coronavirus in mind

You may have little concern over jumping into a public pool during a normal summer. This summer, however, our minds are on pressing health and wellness concerns, like contracting and spreading the novel coronavirus.

But the weather’s getting hotter, and a swim can offer much-needed relief. So can you safely visit a public pool?

Girls play Marco Polo in the Kiwanis Pool in Portland in 2017. Staff Photo by Gregory Rec

The good news is, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of recreational waters.” Those waters include lakes, oceans, and properly chemically treated public pools and water parks.

1.9 million jobless benefit claims filed last week, a slowdown that could signal the bottoming out of the economy

Unemployment claims for the last week of May were 1.9 million, the lowest since the coronavirus started spreading widely back in March, a sign that the economy may no longer be in free fall.

That doesn’t mean the United States has any less deep of a hole to dig itself out of. The weekly numbers on Thursday are still more than double the pre-coronavirus record of 695,000 set in October 1982, as they have been every week since mid-March this year.

More than 40 million people have applied for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, with roughly 21.5 million continuing to receive them, previously unimaginable figures that wiped out a job market that saw unemployment at historic lows as recently as February. That number grew slightly the last week of May after dipping the week before, indicating that more people claimed unemployment for the first time than those who went back to work or stopped claiming for other reasons.

Read the full story.

Confidence in Swedish government’s response to pandemic dips as death toll grows

Swedes are beginning to express doubt about their government’s ability to contain the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 4,500 lives in the country, new polls show.

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State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden at a news conference providing a daily coronavirus update in Stockholm on Wednesday. Anders Wiklund/ TT via Associated Press

The Scandinavian nation made a bold gamble by eschewing lockdowns, and now has a mortality rate many times higher than its Nordic neighbors. On Wednesday, Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the architect of the controversial policy, told Swedish Radio that the country could have done more to stop that virus and that, armed with the information that he has today, he would have hewed more closely to the approach adopted by other countries.

Swedes have also expressed growing doubts about the strategy, as the new polling data suggests. According to Reuters, the number of people with high or reasonably high trust in the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic fell from 63 percent in April to 45 percent in June. Confidence in Sweden’s public health agency fell from 73 to 65 percent over that same time period, a Novus survey for SVT public service television found.

Daily newspaper Aftonbladet, which conducted its own survey with pollster Demoskop, found that the share of people reporting high or reasonably high confidence in authorities’ coronavirus response had fallen 10 percent since April.

Pakistan, India coronavirus cases, deaths spike

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan reported a record single-day spike in coronavirus-related deaths with 82 new fatalities and 4,688 cases that it says resulted from increased testing in the past 24 hours.

Pakistan’s outbreak has grown steadily since the country’s first case in February. Since then, 1,770 people have died and 85,264 have tested positive.

As many as 901 patients were listed in critical condition at hospitals Thursday. The country has barely 3,000 intensive care beds serving a population of 220 million.

Pakistan for the first time conducted over 20,000 tests in the past 24 hours. It has done more than 615,000 tests after increasing its testing capacity from only two labs in February.

The spike comes after Prime Minister Imran Khan eased lockdown restrictions over expert’s recommendations to maintain them to prevent the spread of the virus. Authorities have blamed people not adhering to social distancing regulations for the growing outbreak.

NEW DELHI — India’s COVID-19 fatalities have passed 6,000 after registering 260 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The country registered 9,304 new cases in yet another record single-day spike in infections, raising its totals to 216,919 cases with 6,075 deaths, the Health Ministry reported Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said it was ramping up the testing across the country and has performed 4 million. It said the daily capacity was almost 140,000 tests done through 480 government and 208 private laboratories.

India’s infections have spiked in recent weeks, mostly in its cities. The coastal state of Maharashtra continues to be the worst affected, with 74,860 cases and 2,587 deaths. The state capital is densely crowded Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital.

India is the seventh worst-hit nation by the pandemic.


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