The Latest: UN assembly head warns of pandemic unilateralism

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Women wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk out from a subway station in Beijing, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Even as China has largely controlled the outbreak, the coronavirus is still surging across other parts of the world. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

UNITED NATIONS — The new president of the U.N. General Assembly is warning that unilateralism will only strengthen the COVID-19 pandemic and is calling for a new commitment to global cooperation including on the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines.

Turkish diplomat and politician Volkan Bozkir, who took over the reins of the 193-member world body on Tuesday, announced that the General Assembly will hold a high-level special session on the COVID-19 pandemic in early November, though diplomats said the date may slip.

Bozkir takes over from outgoing General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who presided over a unique year-old session that he said was “defined by a pandemic” and included virtual meetings and new voting procedures.

Bozkir told diplomats from U.N. member nations, seated at socially distanced spaces in the assembly chamber, that “confronting the effects of the coronavirus in all their dimensions will be an overarching priority for my presidency.”

He said “no state can combat this pandemic alone,” and it is the members’ responsibility “to strengthen people’s faith in multilateral cooperation and international institutions, with the U.N. at their center.”

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

— Dr. Fauci calls Vermont’s coronavirus efforts a model for nation

— Spain’s death toll for coronavirus surpasses 30,000

— Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will remain in session until lawmakers deliveranother round of COVID-19 relief.

— At least seven people in Maine have died in connection to a coronavirus outbreak following awedding receptionthis summer that violated state virus guidelines.

— The COVID-19 pandemic has struck out a number of bars and restaurants near Cleveland’s Progressive Field this baseball season.

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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:

WEST VIRGINIA __ West Virginia officials have yet again amended guidelines for reopening schools with the aim of restarting in-person instruction and sports in more counties.

The changes Tuesday add a new category to the state’s color-coded coronavirus map, which rates the severity of the outbreak in counties. Critics and education groups say multiple tweaks to the map over several weeks have confused parents and school officials.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice and his advisers unveiled the new gold category after an hours-long meeting on Monday evening. Starting Wednesday, five counties can resume in-person instruction and sports competitions after moving from orange to gold.

Officials also changed the metric for how counties are labeled on the map, which now features five color categories. Counties in gold have 10 to 14.9 confirmed cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of 5% or less over seven days.

“Parents, I know it’s confusing,” Justice said. “But we try to give you as clear a path as we can possibly give you.”

The West Virginia Education Association, which has about 15,000 members, slammed the rollout.

“We are angry that our state leaders continue to manipulate the color-coded map,” Dale Lee, president of the association, said in a statement.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Corrections says two more state prison inmates have died, and the deaths could be linked to COVID-19.

The department reported late Monday that one inmate was hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus. The other was being treated for symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

The state medical examiner will determine the causes of deaths of these two men plus two more inmates who may have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The state health department on Tuesday recorded the total number of reported virus cases as 71,314, with 912 deaths. That’s an increase of 1,091 reported cases and seven additional deaths from Monday.

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DENVER — Colorado is experiencing an upward trend in coronavirus cases among college-age students, similar to case growth occurring across the U.S.

State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy says a spike in cases among younger populations can spill over to more vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions.

Herlihy says there has been a substantial increase among the 18-to-22-year-old group with the greatest increase among college freshmen and sophomores. The University of Colorado at Boulder is one hot spot, with more than 300 cases reported little more than three weeks into the fall semester.

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — With more than 1,300 of its students infected with the coronavirus, the University of Missouri in Columbia has expelled two students and suspended three others for violating rules meant to slow the virus’ spread.

The university said Tuesday that the sanctions were necessary because of flagrant violations of rules and regulations that require students who test positive for the COVID-19 virus to isolate themselves and comply with social distancing requirements. Names of the students were not released.

University System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi says the discipline was necessary because the students “willfully put others at risk, and that is never acceptable.”

Since the semester began, the university says that about 470 students have been referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Accountability for possible violations of COVID-19 policies. Eleven student organizations also are under investigation.

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PHOENIX — Arizona health officials have reported 484 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 more deaths as some coronavirus-related hospitalization metrics reached their lowest levels since April.

The Department of Health Services reported 138 intensive care unit beds were in use Monday for COVID-19 patients, below the 155 when the state started reporting hospitalization data on April 8. Use of ventilators also was below levels first reported in April.

Arizona became a national hot spot in June and July after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed stay-home orders, but numbers of new cases and deaths began to drop in late July after Ducey and local governments imposed new restrictions.

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MONTPELIER, Vt. — Dr. Anthony Fauci calls Vermont’s ongoing efforts to control the coronavirus a model for the nation.

The top infectious disease expert appeared on video at Gov. Phil Scott’s virus briefing Tuesday. Fauci says Vermont has emphasized wearing masks, avoiding crowds and keeping physical distance.

He says those measures work in small states along with states such as New York, Texas and California.

Vermont has the lowest rate of positive tests for the coronavirus in the country and the lowest number of cases per capita.

The state has conducted rapid testing and contact tracing of potentially infected individuals and continuing its gradual reopening. Vermont has recorded 1,700 total coronavirus cases and 58 confirmed deaths.

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GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic should be a “last resort” and only applied in places with high levels of transmission.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was joined by the heads of the UNICEF and U.N. cultural and education agency UNESCO to tout the importance of keeping schools open, when possible, and warn the more kids are out of school, the less likely they are to return in many places.

He says “distance learning” should be available where possible.

Tedros says WHO data shows fewer that one in 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases and under 0.2 percent of COVID-19 deaths were recorded in people under age 20. He says more research is needed on the factors that increase the risk of severe cases and death among children and warned the long-term effects remain unknown.

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LONDON — Ireland’s entire Cabinet is self-isolating and parliament has been suspended after the health minister reported feeling unwell.

Speaker Sean O Fearghail made the announcement Tuesday, saying the “house stands adjourned, I suspect, until Tuesday next” or until he’s been given directions to restart government proceedings.

Irish broadcaster RTE reported that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had contacted his doctor for a coronavirus test.

Donnelly had taken part in a cabinet meeting and attended a press conference announcing the Irish government’s latest plans to reopen the country’s economic and social life.

Ireland had 357 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, with the majority reported in Dublin.

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LOS ANGELES — California fitness centers have filed a lawsuit alleging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus unfairly target the industry and are demanding they be allowed to reopen.

Scott Street, a lawyer for the California Fitness Alliance, says the suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. It accuses state and Los Angeles County officials of requiring gyms to close without providing evidence that they contribute to virus outbreaks and at a time when staying healthy is critical to residents.

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BEIRUT — Syria’s government has decided to reopen the Damascus International Airport for international flights while taking all precautionary measures against coronavirus.

The airport has been closed since early March but in recent months there have been some flights that brought Syrians who were stuck outside the country back home.

The decision came Tuesday during a Cabinet meeting, according to state news agency SANA.

Syria, which had a population of 23 million before its conflict began in March 2011, has registered 3,540 confirmed coronavirus cases and 155 deaths in government-held areas.

The actual number of cases is believed to be much higher because of low testing.

Coronavirus tests at private clinics cost around $60, too expensive for most Syrians, whose average salary is less than $100 a month. The government conducts about 300 free tests each day for people showing symptoms.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexicans will celebrate their Independence Day without big, public ceremonies for the first time in 153 years Tuesday because of restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised to perform the “grito” and “viva Mexico” but only in front of a select number of invited guests.

Traditionally, the president rings the bell that marked the call to arms during the 1810-1821 struggle to win independence from Spain. The event has not been cancelled since 1847, during the Mexican-American War, when U.S. troops occupied Mexico City.

López Obrador generally has no problem with crowds and dislikes wearing face masks. But with more than 671,000 cases and almost 71,000 deaths — the fourth highest in the world — the president apparently thought twice about packing the usual 100,000 rowdy revelers into Mexico City’s main square, known as the Zocalo.

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MADRID — Spain’s official death toll for the coronavirus surpassed 30,000. The total cases increased beyond 600,000, becoming the first European country to reach that threshold.

The Health Ministry added 9,400 new confirmed infections to the total and 156 deaths.

The country has been experiencing one of Europe’s steepest second curves of contagion, with new cases increasing since mid-July. More than half of the newly infected didn’t develop symptoms and are mostly between 20 to 60 years old who didn’t end up requiring treatment.

Health workers in the Madrid region staged small-scale protests at the gates of health centers and smaller clinics on Tuesday, demanding more resources to treat patients with COVID-19.

At least 8.5% of hospital beds in Spain are used for treating nearly 10,000 coronavirus patients and 1,273 in intensive care units.

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LONDON — Hospitals in England say a shortage of coronavirus tests in Britain is jeopardizing efforts to restore medical services and prepare for a potential surge in coronavirus cases this winter.

National Health Service Providers says inadequate testing is leading to increased absences among NHS workers as they are forced to self-isolate while waiting for test results after possible exposures.

The shortage comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the U.K. Last week, the U.K. recorded more than 3,000 new cases of the virus for three straight days for the first time since May. In response, the government has imposed new limits on public gatherings.

The government says it can process about 243,000 coronavirus tests a day, up from 220,000 at the end of August. The problem is the “second wave″ of the virus is hitting Britain earlier than anticipated, said John Bell, a professor of medicine at the University of Oxford.

The U.K. is No. 14 in coronavirus cases in the world with 373,559 and No. 5 in deaths with 41,726, according to Johns Hopkins. On Aug. 20, the reported death count in the U.K. was 41,483.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan is suing to stop a strike by graduate-student instructors after they voted to extend their walkout.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Washtenaw County court, seeks an injunction that would stop the strike by the Graduate Employees’ Organization, which represents 2,000 graduate-student instructors and graduate-student assistants. The university said a strike is illegal under the contract.

The strike began Sept. 8. Union members said the university isn’t doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It also wants the campus police budget cut by 50% and an end to cooperation with Ann Arbor police, among other demands.

Approximately 90% of all undergraduate students are enrolled in at least one course that is led wholly or partly by a graduate student, the university said.

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BERLIN — Germany says it is providing up to $892 million to support three domestic pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines for the coronavirus.

Science Minister Anja Karliczek says the government has already agreed to pay BioNTech and CureVac to develop their mRNA-based vaccines. Talks with a third company are expected to conclude soon, she says.

IDT Biologika is developing a vaccine that delivers a coronavirus protein into cells to stimulate the body’s immune response.

The agreement with the three companies would guarantee Germany 40 million doses of vaccine. The amount comes on top of other vaccine supply agreements concluded through the European Union, of which Germany is a member.

Karliczek says Germany wouldn’t cut safety corners when it comes to testing vaccines, meaning most of the population may have to wait until mid-2021 to be inoculated.

Health Minister Jens Spahn added Germany intends to share vaccines it doesn’t need.

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BANGKOK — Thailand’s Cabinet has approved in principle a plan to reopen the country to tourists by issuing special renewable 90-day visas and limiting their numbers to 1,200 a month.

Deputy Government Spokeswoman Traisulee Traisaranakul says the program, proposed to begin next month, is an effort to boost the coronavirus-battered economy, especially the tourism sector.

Under the plan, visitors would stay in quarantine at a hotel or hospital for 14 days on arrival and show confirmation they’ve made arrangements for long-term accommodations. The cost of the “special tourist visa” would be 2,000 baht ($64), with the same charge for each of two allowed renewals.

Thai health officials on Tuesday reported five new cases, from people arriving from abroad. That brings the confirmed total to 3,480 cases and 58 dead.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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