CONCORD, N.H. — Anyone who went to five restaurants in Portsmouth, Concord and Peterborough on certain days this month should get tested for the coronavirus, state health officials said Friday.

The Department of Health and Human Services said at least four people who have tested positive visited Daniel Street Tavern in Portsmouth while potentially infectious, and anyone who was in the bar area on Oct. 9, 14 or 15 should get tested. At least one person has tested positive who visited the Goat Bar and Grill in Portsmouth on Oct. 15.

In Concord, at least five people who have tested positive visited the Draft Sports Bar and Grill on Oct. 9 and 11, and Oct. 14-18. And at the Barley House Restaurant and Tavern, potential exposure via two people may have occurred Oct. 12, 13, 14 and 16.

Exposure also may have occurred Oct. 13 at the Bantam Grill in Peterborough, where at least one person has tested positive.

Health officials have been notifying close contacts of those who have tested positive.

Also in that state, the University of New Hampshire is extending its winter break for a week but eliminating spring break in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

France surpasses 1 million coronavirus cases

PARIS — France has surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, becoming the second country in Western Europe after Spain to reach the mark.

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French President Emmanuel Macron chairs a meeting with the medical staff of the Rene Dubos hospital center, in Pontoise, outside Paris, on Friday. Ludovic Marin, Pool via Associated Press

The national health agency announced 42,032 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 1.04 million cases. Health experts say the actual numbers are likely higher because of a lack of testing, asymptomatic cases and reporting issues.

French President Emmanuel Macron called on citizens to respect a nightly curfew and other measures to fight the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Macron says cases are “very strongly accelerating,” with coronavirus patients occupying more than 42 percent of ICU beds nationally and 64 percent in the Paris region.

The government announced a six-week curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in 46 regions and Polynesia.

France has more than 34,200 deaths, the fourth-highest death toll in Europe behind Britain, Italy and Spain.

New forecasts show why masks are the easiest – and cheapest – way to save U.S. lives

If Americans would stop complaining about face masks and wear them when they leave their homes, they could save well over 100,000 lives — and perhaps more than half a million — through the end of February, according to a study published Friday in Nature Medicine.

The researchers considered five scenarios for how the COVID-19 pandemic could play out with different levels of mask-wearing and rules about staying home and social distancing. All the scenarios assumed that no vaccine was available, nor any medicines capable of curing the disease.

Consistently, the most effective — not to mention cheapest and easiest — way to reduce deaths was to increase the number of people wearing masks.

As of Sept. 21, only 49 percent of Americans said they “always” wore a mask in public, according to the study. If U.S. residents do not mask up in increasing numbers, they risk another round of mandatory social distancing measures that could shut businesses and schools around the country, the authors said.

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A sign advising that face masks are required is posted at Bob’s Pumpkin Patch in Half Moon Bay, Calif., this month. Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

“The potential life-saving benefit of increasing mask use in the coming fall and winter cannot be overstated,” wrote the team from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

The forecasts also suggest that if states continue to ease their social distancing mandates and other restrictions despite the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, there could be more than 1 million deaths in the U.S. by the end of February.

As with any modeling study, the five scenarios presented below should be considered a guide, rather than a definitive road map, the researchers emphasized.

“We are not forecasting the future, but rather a range of outcomes we believe are most probable given the scenarios tested and based on the data so far, ” they wrote.

Read the full story here.

Dutch hospital airlifts patients to Germany amid virus surge

ALMERE, Netherlands — A bright yellow helicopter rose into a blue sky Friday carrying a COVID-19 patient from the Netherlands to a German intensive care unit, the first such international airlift since the global pandemic first threatened to swamp Dutch hospitals in the spring.

The clatter of the helicopter’s rotors as it lifted off from a parking lot behind the Flevohospital in Almere, 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Amsterdam, was a noisy reminder of how the coronavirus is again gripping Europe and straining countries’ health care systems.

The Dutch airlift to a hospital in the German city of Muenster came amid soaring rates of infection in the Netherlands, where the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 24.58 new cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 7 to 47.74 new cases per 100,000 on Oct. 21. As of Thursday, there were 463 COVID-19 patients in Dutch intensive care units.

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A COVID-19 patient is loaded into a helicopter in the Netherlands on Friday for treatment in an intensive care unit in the Germany. Associated Press/Peter Dejong

Flevohospital spokesman Peter Pels said flying patients across an international border was a last resort after other hospitals in the region around Almere said their intensive care units couldn’t take them. The hospital was transferring two patients to Germany on Friday.

“We actually prefer not to move patients because it is very drastic, also for family,” he said. “But to keep the quality and safety of care at a good level, unfortunately it is necessary to move patients.”

Numbers have been spiking in neighboring Germany as well, with the country’s disease control center saying Friday that 11,242 new cases were reported over the last 24-hour period, just shy of the record 11,278 mark set the day before. The nationwide infection rate over the last seven days rose to 60.3 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 56.2 the day before.

Read the full story.

 

Idaho community lifts mask mandate despite hospital hitting capacity

An Idaho health district voted Thursday to overturn a mask mandate for one of the state’s main hot spots, one day after the local hospital warned that it was at 99 percent capacity and might have to send some patients as far as Seattle or Portland.

First instituted in Kootenai County in late July, the mandate was initially followed by a drop in the number of new coronavirus infections, according to the Spokesman-Review. But the rule was never enforced by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, and over time, compliance declined, the paper reported. The county has now entered the Panhandle Health District’s highest risk category due to the rising number of infections and is considered one of the worst hot spots in Idaho.

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Protesters demonstrate against a mask mandate in Moscow, Idaho, in September. Geoff Crimmins/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via Associated Press

Kootenai Health, the main hospital in the area, said Wednesday that it was seeing its highest rate of positive tests since the start of the pandemic and had reached 99 percent of its capacity. Community members’ willingness to wear masks and practice social distancing could determine whether local hospitals “will have the ability to continue providing care for all types of patients in our region,” a message on its website stated. As of Thursday evening, the hospital was at 90 percent capacity.

Nonetheless, the Panhandle Health District board, which oversees five counties in northern Idaho, voted 4 to 3 to strike down the mask mandate for Kootenai County. Some of the members who supported rescinding the order acknowledged that masks could help stop the spread of the virus, but they insisted that wearing one should be a matter of personal choice. Another member, Allen Banks, claimed without evidence that something else was making people sick, the Spokesman-Review reported.

The decision to overturn the mandate appears to have led to significant backlash. Later on Thursday, the Panhandle Health District issued a public statement alerting people that its coronavirus hotline “is mainly staffed with volunteers that have nothing to do with the Board’s decisions.”

“They manage their fair share of angry callers with grace and patience, but please direct comments about the board meeting to the board,” the notice said.

Massachusetts shuts rinks after 30 virus clusters are linked to hockey games, practices

In New England, the onset of long, dark winter nights typically also marks the beginning of hockey season. But this year, health officials are beginning to worry that the combination of strenuous physical activity, enclosed rinks and face-to-face contact could result in new coronavirus clusters.

On Thursday, Massachusetts became the latest state to order all indoor rinks and ice skating facilities to shut down for two weeks. Officials said that at least 30 coronavirus clusters across the state — totaling 108 probable or confirmed cases in 60 municipalities — had been linked to hockey games and practices.

The announcement came one week after a similar move by New Hampshire, where health officials said they had identified 158 cases linked to the sport in a two-month period, with outbreaks occurring in nearly two dozen teams. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, said at the time that other sports did not appear to have similar levels of transmission.

A study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reinforced those concerns, noting that 14 out of 22 hockey players developed COVID-19 symptoms after a June game at a Florida indoor arena, and at least a dozen of them later tested positive for the coronavirus.

“The indoor space and close contact between players during a hockey game increase infection risk for players and create potential for a superspreader event, especially with ongoing community COVID-19 transmission,” the researchers concluded.

Mite Red faced Mite Orange on the first day of the 2019 annual Lions Tournament in Auburn last February. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In Maine, youth hockey games have been canceled for the past two weekends. After discovering that a single referee potentially exposed 400 people to the coronavirus during one weekend, organizers received a strongly worded warning from state health officials, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Meanwhile, Vermont has traced at least 30 coronavirus cases to one Montpelier arena. Last Friday, Gov. Phil Scott (R) banned rinks from accepting any new reservations for a two-week period and hinted that more restrictions could be on the way. Rather than cancel the season entirely, Vermont may prohibit teams from playing against out-of-state competitors, according to the Boston Globe.

The virus is surging in much of the world. In India, it’s in retreat.

NEW DELHI — As the United States and Europe grapple with fresh surges in coronavirus cases, the outbreak in India is slowing for the first time since the pandemic began. Epidemiologists and doctors say the virus is in retreat — at least for now — in this country of more than 1.3 billion people.

After seven straight months in which cases increased relentlessly, culminating in a devastating September surge, the number of new infections per day in India dropped sharply in October.

Waiting for a COVID-19 test in Hyderabad, India on Friday. Associated Press/Mahesh Kumar A.

India is home to one of the largest outbreaks on the planet. Last month, the country hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, a record in the pandemic. Since then, however, daily cases have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third. The downward trend in India’s cases means it is no longer on track to overtake the United States as the country with the most coronavirus cases in the world. India has 7.7 million cases compared with 8.3 million in the United States. Each day this week, India has reported fewer new cases.

North Koreans urged to stay inside over fears that dusty wind from China may carry coronavirus

SEOUL — North Korea has urged its citizens to stay indoors over fears that “yellow dust” carried by wind from China could spread the coronavirus into the country.

North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Thursday called for “thorough measures” against the yellow dust that, according to the state-run paper, can spread the coronavirus. The paper said the dusty wind from China can carry the “malignant virus” of airborne nature, citing unspecified evidence.

No such transmission is known to have occurred during the coronavirus pandemic, the BBC reported, and South Korean experts said cross-border spread of the virus via dust is practically impossible. In addition, China has recorded few cases of the virus in recent months.

But diplomats and employees of international organizations in North Korea were advised to stay indoors due to infection risks from the “yellow dust” particles in the air, according to the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang.

North Korea-focused news outlet NK News reported that the streets of the capital, Pyongyang, were deserted on Thursday, citing unnamed local sources.

The isolated country, with its weak health-care infrastructure, has been on high alert due to the virus since January. North Korea was one of the first countries in the world to ban all international travel and close its borders, and it claims that it has not had a single confirmed infection.

In a speech earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reiterated that claim and credited citizens with keeping the country virus-free.

Czech minister under fire after restaurant trip

PRAGUE — The health minister of the hard-hit Czech Republic has been under fire to resign after a media report that he broke strict government restrictions and visited a Prague restaurant.

The Blesk tabloid daily said Health Minister Minister Roman Prymula met with Jaroslav Faltynek, deputy head of the senior government ANO (YES) movement led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, on Wednesday night.

Amid tight restrictions, restaurants, bars, schools are closed. The meeting took place just hours after Prymula announced the latest series of regulations, including a limit on movement and the closure of many stores.

The junior government coalition party, the Social Democrats, joined the opposition to demand Prymula’s resignation, calling his behavior “absolutely unacceptable.” In photographs, Prymula didn’t wear a mandatory mask.

Faltynek said he asked Prymula to meet to discuss an extraordinary parliament session that is set to approve a plan for NATO military medical personnel to come to the Czech Republic to help with the outbreak.

Prymula didn’t immediately comment.

The Czech Republic has been facing record coronavirus infections that put the health system under pressure. The Health Ministry says daily confirmed cases reached 14,151 on Thursday, after the record of almost 15,000 the day earlier.

The country has had 223,065 cases, about a third of them in the last seven days while 1,845 people have died.

UN secretary general frustrated by lack of coordinated global response to virus

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. chief says it’s “very frustrating” that leaders of the 20 major industrialized nations didn’t come together in March and establish a coordinated response to grapple with the coronavirus in all countries as he proposed.

The result, he says, is every country is taking its own sometimes contradictory actions, and the virus is moving “from east to west, north to south,” with second waves of infections now affecting many countries.

Ahead of the Group of 20 summit next month, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an interview with The Associated Press that he hopes the international community now understands “they need to be much more coordinated in fighting the virus.”

Guterres says the United Nations also will be “strongly advocating” during the G-20 summit for a guarantee that when a vaccine is available, “it becomes indeed available and affordable for everyone, everywhere.”

Oglala Sioux Tribe locks down Pine Ridge Reservation

PINE RIDGE, S.D. — The Oglala Sioux Tribe is locking down the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Friday, in response to a surging number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

The lockdown begins at 10 p.m. Friday and lasts until 6 a.m. Oct. 30. During that time, all non-critical travel is barred. The tribe said non-essential businesses should close to the public, and travel to non-essential work to or from the reservation should stop.

The tribe also said non-emergency medical appointments that require travel to or from the reservation should be rescheduled.

Tribes nationwide have taken an aggressive approach to preventing infections amid fears that Native Americans could be particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus — and this isn’t the first time the Oglala Sioux Tribe has imposed a lockdown since the pandemic began.

The lockdown comes as the state surpassed 9,000 active coronavirus cases on Thursday and reported an all-time high of 973 new cases in one day. Thursday’s numbers also matched a record high of 14 deaths in one day. October has been the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with 124 of the state’s 347 deaths happening this month.

South Dakota also ranks second in the country in new infections per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data, with about one in every 97 people in the state testing positive for the virus in the last two weeks.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe posted on its Twitter page that there were 391 active COVID-19 cases on the reservation as of Thursday.

Washington governor: ‘Every choice you make right now matters.’

SEATTLE — Health officials in Washington state say the number of people in the state who have been confirmed with coronavirus infections during the pandemic has surpassed 100,000.

The Department of Health reported 651 new virus cases and three new COVID-19 deaths Thursday. The latest numbers increased the state’s confirmed cases to 100,525 and the total number of people who have died to 2,289.

Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted about the cases topping 100,000, saying, “Every choice you make right now matters.”

Inslee says cases are on the rise again in Washington, and he urges people to have fewer and shorter interactions with others.

Texas governor sends medical aid to hard-hit El Paso

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is sending more medical reinforcements to the El Paso area in response to a surge of coronavirus infections and cases of COVID-19, the illness the virus can cause.

The Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Division of Emergency Management will provide more medical personnel and equipment this week.

The move comes during the same week that El Paso County reported 3,750 new coronavirus infections, including 1,161 on Thursday. That number accounts for 17.5 percent of the 21,321 cases reported this week by the state’s 254 counties.

Active coronavirus cases in El Paso rose 864 Thursday to 9,569. The 558 confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized in El Paso, Culberson and Hudspeth counties account for more than one-third of all of that region’s hospitalized patients

Montana taking legal action against businesses flouting health directives

HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says the state health department is pursuing legal action against several businesses in northwestern Montana for not following a mask mandate and other restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement came Thursday as the state reported 932 newly confirmed coronavirus cases. That was far above the previous one-day high of 734.

The new cases include 173 in Yellowstone County and 112 in Flathead County, where the governor says businesses face legal action.

State officials also have launched a new website to allow people to submit complaints against businesses and events that are not complying with health directives.

 


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