The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

NEW YORK — New York hospitals released more than 6,300 recovering coronavirus patients into nursing homes during the height of the pandemic under a controversial, now-scrapped policy, state officials said Monday, but they argued it was not to blame for one of the nation’s highest nursing home death tolls.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which has taken intense criticism over the policy, instead contended the virus’ rampant spread through the state’s nursing homes was propelled by more than 20,000 infected home staffers, many of whom kept going to work unaware they had the virus in March and April. Another 17,500 workers were infected through early June.

“Facts matter. And those are the facts,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a news conference.

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A patient is loaded into an ambulance by emergency medical workers outside Cobble Hill Health Center on April 17 in Brooklyn. Associated Press/John Minchillo

New York’s report came more than a month after The Associated Press did its own count finding that hospitals around the state released more than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients to nursing homes under a March 25 Health Department directive that prohibited nursing homes from refusing to take in patients because they had or may have had COVID-19.

The directive was intended to help free up hospital beds for the sickest patients as cases surged. But several relatives, patient advocates and nursing administrators who spoke to the AP at the time blamed the policy for helping to spread the virus among the state’s most fragile residents. To date, more than 6,400 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus in New York’s nursing home and long-term care-facilities.

Cuomo, a Democrat, reversed the directive under pressure on May 10, but he has argued for weeks that infected home workers, not released COVID-19 patients, were to blame for a coronavirus spread through nursing homes that he compared to “fire through dry grass.”

Read the full story about New York’s nursing home policy here.

Hospitals approaching capacity across Sunbelt

MIAMI — Hospitals rapidly approached capacity across the Sunbelt, and the Miami area closed restaurants and gyms again because of the surging coronavirus Monday, as the U.S. emerged from a Fourth of July weekend of picnics, pool parties and beach outings that health officials fear could fuel the rapidly worsening outbreak.

The seesaw effect — restrictions lifted, then reimposed — has been seen around the country in recent weeks and is expected again after a holiday that saw crowds of people celebrating, many without masks.

“We were concerned before the weekend and remain concerned post-holiday, as anecdotal stories and observed behavior indicate that many continue to disregard important protective guidance,” said Heather Woolwine, a spokeswoman for the Medical University of South Carolina.

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Restaurant workers Alvyn Lopez, left, and Maria Lindo watch for customers as they stand outside Aura at Books & Books Monday in Miami Beach. Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the closure of restaurants and certain other indoor places, seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen. Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee

Confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states.

Florida, which recorded an all-time high of 11,400 new cases Saturday and has seen its positive test rate lately reach more than 18%, has been hit especially hard, along with other Sunbelt states such as Arizona, California and Texas.

In Miami-Dade County, population 2.7 million, Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the closing of restaurants and certain other indoor places, including vacation rentals, seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen. Beaches will reopen on Tuesday after being closed over the weekend.

Read the full story about the surge in the nation’s Sunbelt here.

Sen. Grassley will skip Republican convention because of coronavirus concerns

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday that he will not attend next month’s Republican National Convention due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic’s continued sweep across the United States.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, questions former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 3. Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Grassley’s move makes him the first congressional Republican to announce that he will skip this year’s convention, which was moved to Jacksonville, Fla., from Charlotte after North Carolina state and local officials declined to agree to Trump’s demands for a crowded large-scale event amid the pandemic.

“I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” Grassley said Monday on a conference call with reporters, according to the Des Moines Register. A Grassley spokesman confirmed that the senator will not attend the convention.

Grassley, 86, is the second-oldest member of the Senate. His announcement comes as Florida has experienced a surge in coronavirus cases, with more than 200,000 confirmed infections since late February. In Duval County, which includes Jacksonville, three new testing sites are opening this week, along with a mobile testing site, according to local TV station Action News Jax.

Grassley told reporters Monday that he has attended every Republican National Convention since 1980, and that while he supports GOP officials holding the event, they should strive to “make it as safe as possible, so that would mean with face masks and with social distancing,” the Des Moines Register reported.

The decision to move the event from Charlotte to Jacksonville came after Trump tweeted on Memorial Day that he wanted the convention in a city that would allow him speak in a fully filled arena. The RNC also indicated it did not want to require masks for Trump’s speech.

Canada’s Trudeau turns down White House invitation amid pandemic

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has turned down a White House invitation to celebrate the new regional free trade agreement in Washington with U.S President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Trump and López Obrador are due to meet Wednesday Washington, but Trudeau spokesperson Chantal Gagnon said Monday that while Canada wishes the U.S. and Mexico well, Trudeau won’t be there.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic outside his residence at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Thursday, June 18. Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP

“While there were recent discussions about the possible participation of Canada, the prime minister will be in Ottawa this week for scheduled Cabinet meetings and the long-planned sitting of Parliament,” Gagnon said.

Trudeau is conducting online Cabinet meetings instead of in person meetings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A senior U.S. administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be quoted by name, said Trudeau had multiple conflicts related to the start of Parliament and coronavirus regulations which require Canadians who travel abroad to quarantine for 14 days on return. The official said Trudeau has asked to speak with Trump by phone.

Trudeau later spoke with López Obrador by phone and wished him a successful meeting with Trump, the prime minister’s office said.

Gagnon said the new treaty that took effect on July 1 “is good for Canada, the United States and Mexico. It will help ensure that North America emerges stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said Trudeau has less to lose by shunning Trump now that the new treaty is in effect.

“Trudeau losses in Canadian public opinion to be seen chumming with the very unpopular Trump,” Wiseman said. “Trudeau can afford to wait out Trump’s presidency now with less than four months to the U.S. election. Trudeau will still be power after the election, Trump much less likely so.”

Harvard to reopen with fewer than half of undergrads on campus because of coronavirus

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University’s freshman class will be invited to live on campus this fall, while most other undergraduates will be required to learn remotely from home, the Ivy League school announced Monday.

University officials decided to allow only 40% of undergraduates on campus in an effort to reduce density and prevent the spread of COVID-19. All freshmen will be invited, along with some other students who face challenges learning from afar.

All classes will be taught online, however, regardless of where students live. Students living on campus would live in dorm rooms but continue taking their classes remotely, the university said.

Read the full story here.

Treasury, SBA release data on nearly 700,000 small business loans

WASHINGTON – The Small Business Administration released information Monday about nearly 700,000 loans issued as part of the federal $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program since its launch in early April.

The disclosure includes the names of 660,000 small businesses and non-profit organizations that received at least $150,000 in funding, the most detail yet on one of the largest economic stimulus packages ever created by the federal government.

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In this April 23, 2020 file photo, a sign is posted on a closed store in North Miami, Fla. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File

The data shows the government issued $521 billion in loans, with an average loan size of $107,000. Treasury and SBA officials say the program helped support around 51 million jobs, according to self-reported data provided by borrowers. They said that accounts for 84% of all employees working at small businesses, based on Census data.

About half the money went to employers in five industries. The health care and social assistance industry received 12.9% of the money; 12.7% went to professional and technical services; 12.4% went to construction; 10.3% went to manufacturing; and 8.1% went to hotels, restaurants and other hospitality and food service employers.

So far, the data released only includes information for about 15% of all 4.9 million loans issued. After a series of contradictory statements by officials about what would be released, SBA withheld the names of borrowers for loans of $150,000 or less, which likely omits most sole proprietors and independent contractors.

The idea behind the program, part of the $2 trillion Cares Act economic stimulus legislation, was to quickly deliver money to workers at businesses with fewer than 500 employees to keep them connected to their jobs until the pandemic receded. Employers applied through their banks, which approved loans and sent them to the SBA for final approval.

Economists across the political spectrum have praised the program for quickly disbursing hundreds of billions of dollars to small business and their employees, which experts say likely drove down the unemployment rate from record highs.

But the program has also faced criticism for initially allowing hundreds of large, well-capitalized firms to receive funds as well as the changing and sometimes contradictory rules issued by the Treasury Department and the SBA. Publicly traded chains early on reaped millions, prompting more than $30 billion to be returned to the government after the administration condemned well-capitalized companies for taking funds.

Read the full story here.

Broadway actor Nick Cordero dies at 41 after long battle with COVID-19

LOS ANGELES — Broadway actor Nick Cordero, who appeared in the Broadway productions “Rock of Ages,” “Waitress,” “Bullets Over Broadway” and “A Bronx Tale: The Musical,” died Sunday morning after a long and difficult battle with COVID-19. He was 41.

His wife, Amanda Kloots, confirmed the news on her Instagram account. “God has another angel in heaven now,” she wrote. “My heart is broken as I cannot imagine our lives without him. Nick was such a bright light. He was everyone’s friend, loved to listen, help and especially talk. He was an incredible actor and musician. I will love you forever and always my sweet man.”

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Nick Cordero at the after-party for the opening night of “Bullets Over Broadway” in New York. in 2014. Brad Barket/Invision/Associated Press

Cordero tested positive for COVID-19 in March and was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he spent more than 90 days in the intensive care unit. During his hospital stay, he was given a temporary pacemaker, underwent a leg amputation and was put into a medically induced coma. He also had additional complications, including lung infections and septic shock.

Kloots had been sharing updates on Cordero’s status on Instagram throughout his treatment. On March 31, she shared the news that he was in the ICU after “having a hard time breathing” and was initially misdiagnosed with pneumonia. Fans and former cast mates circulated a #wakeupnick hashtag on social media in support of Cordero, posting video clips of themselves dancing and singing along to his “Waitress” single “Live Your Life.”

The Hamilton, Ontario, native attended Ryerson University but dropped out to sing for the band Lovemethod. After leaving Canada for New York, he originated the role of Toxie in the off-Broadway production of “The Toxic Avenger.”

Two Spanish counties renew lockdown as virus returns

MADRID — Traffic controls are in place Monday into and out of two northern Spanish counties that have renewed lockdowns to contain significant spikes in coronavirus infections.

The restrictions to leave or enter these areas unless it’s for work or extenuating reasons affect some 70,000 residents in the northwestern county of A Mariña, in the northern Atlantic coast, and over 200,000 in northeastern Catalonia’s Segrià county around Lleida.

The latter is particularly worrying because it affects migrant laborers harvesting fruit who are considered highly vulnerable to contagion.

Catalonia’s regional health authorities are warning that residents could be asked to stay at home if the outbreak there doesn’t subside.

The small-scale lockdowns come two weeks after Spain ended a national state of emergency that enable the national government to lock down the entire country and prohibit travel between provinces or certain areas since mid-March.

Over 28,000 people are confirmed to have died from the virus in Spain.

Dubai issues new school rules

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Children 6 years old and above must wear masks at school, while children of all ages will undergo temperature checks at school gates, cannot participate in festivals, concerts or field trips and must be spaced 1.5 meters apart in classrooms, according to new guidelines issued by Dubai for private schools when they reopen.

Teachers, who must also wear some form of masks, are encouraged to use clear face shields that show their facial expressions, but meetings with parents should be held online.

Only one parent, wearing a mandatory mask, is allowed to drop off and pick up their children with staggered timings to avoid crowding. Students’ bags and shoes must be sprayed with sanitizer when arriving at school, while common areas and shared computers must be sanitized throughout the day.

In addition to designating an isolated room for suspected cases of the virus, schools will not be allowed to open their pools or hold sports tournaments, and showers and changing rooms must remain closed.

Schools in Dubai were closed to students in March due to the coronavirus. Most students in Dubai, who are majority foreigners, attend private schools and will be impacted by the guidelines issued Sunday.

UK announces arts and cultural support

LONDON — The British government has announced a big pot of money to help the country’s renowned arts and cultural institutions recover from the coronavirus pandemic, after some theaters and music venues warned that without support they might never open again.

The 1.57 billion-pound ($1.96 billion) package for museums, galleries, theaters, cinemas, heritage sites and music venues includes almost 900 million pounds in grants and more than 200 million pounds in loans.

Details of how the money will be distributed have not been released, but leaders of arts organizations breathed a sigh of relief. Tamara Roja, artistic director of the English National Ballet, said “this package gives our sector a fighting chance of survival.”

Some U.K. arts institutions are starting to open their doors after more than three months of lockdown, starting with the National Gallery in London, which reopens Wednesday.

But theaters and concert venues have not been told when they can admit audiences, and several have already announced they will close permanently.

Germany rejects calls to drop mask requirements

BERLIN — Calls to drop rules in Germany requiring people to wear masks in shops are being rejected by the country’s health minister and other senior politicians.

German states, which are responsible for setting and lifting lockdown rules, made masks on public transport and in shops compulsory in late April. On Sunday, the state economy minister in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania — the state least affected by the coronavirus pandemic — said he sees no need to keep the rule in shops if infections remain so low.

Health Minister Jens Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday that it’s important “not to be too careless.”

He added: “I totally understand the wish to return to everyday life as it was before, I understand the impatience — wearing masks isn’t always pleasant. But we see that in enclosed spaces in particular, and where a minimum distance isn’t always ensured, everyday masks can make a difference.”

The co-leader of the Social Democrats, the junior partner in the national coalition government, said he and Chancellor Angela Merkel agree that the mask-wearing rule should stay. Norbert Walter-Borjans told the Bild daily that “we should exercise caution here.”

India second only to U.S. in number of virus cases

NEW DELHI — India has overtaken Russia to become the third worst-affected nation by the coronavirus after reporting 24,248 new cases Monday.

India has now confirmed 697,413 cases, including 19,693 deaths. Russia has 680,283 cases.

The U.S. has had the most cases, with nearly 2.9 million. Brazil is second, with over 1.6 million.

Indian authorities late Sunday withdrew a planned reopening of the famed Taj Mahal monument after new cases were detected in the area. India’s Culture Ministry had decided to reopen all monuments across the country on Monday after more than three months with a cap on the number of visitors and mandatory wearing of face masks.

After a strict nationwide lockdown, India has eased restrictions in most of the country except for the highest-risk areas.

Interior borders close in Australia

SYDNEY, Australia — The leader of Australia’s most populous state says her government’s decision to close its border with hard-hit Victoria state marks a new phase in the country’s coronavirus pandemic.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has long been a critic of states that close their borders to her state when its capital Sydney had Australia’s largest numbers of COVID-19 cases.

But she had changed her stance on keeping Australia’s internal borders open because the situation in the Victorian capital Melbourne was unprecedented.

The overwhelming majority of news cases detected in Melbourne in recent weeks were from community transmission. Everywhere else in Australia, the vast majority of cases were infected overseas or had been infected by a returned traveler, Berejiklian said.

“What is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia,” she said. “It’s a new part of the pandemic and, as such, it requires a new type of response.”

New South Wales police will close the Victorian border from late Tuesday. Some flights and trains services would continue for travelers who are given permits and exemptions, Berejiklian said.

Victoria announced on Monday that two men died of COVID-19 in the state within 24 hours, bringing the national death toll 106. They died in hospitals and were aged in their 90s and 60s.

Manila may restore lockdown

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has reported its biggest spike in coronavirus infections in recent days, raising the possibility its crowded capital may be placed back under a strict lockdown.

The Department of Health reported 2,434 cases in recent days, most of them in metropolitan Manila, raising the number of cases nationwide to more than 44,250, including 1,297 deaths. The infections and deaths are among the highest in Southeast Asia.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said there’s a possibility the capital area may revert to a lockdown if the uptick continues and hospitals get filled again.

At least one major Manila hospital, the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center, said its COVID-19 ward was running at full capacity and appealed that new patients be taken elsewhere.

President Rodrigo Duterte eased the lockdown in metropolitan Manila, an epicenter of infections, on June 1 to bolster an economy on the brink of recession. One major commercial and tourism region, central Cebu city, was placed back under a strict lockdown in mid-June due to alarming infection spikes.

Phoenix mayor says testing shortages have reached a crisis level

PHOENIX — Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is pointing to a “crisis” involving coronavirus testing shortages in her city due to surging cases in Arizona, which leads the U.S. in new coronavirus cases per capita.

Gallego, a Democrat, said some residents over the weekend had to line up for eight hours by car to get tested.

Gallego told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that Arizona went from “zero to 60” by being one of the first states to reopen after it was among the last to implement stay-at-home orders.

Arizona health officials reported 3,536 additional coronavirus cases Sunday and four more known deaths. That brings the state’s documented totals to 98,089 confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases and 1,809 known deaths.


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