By The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Local health departments in the U.S. are pushing for reversal of a recent change to coronavirus testing guidance, saying it is undermining their work to stop outbreaks.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Big Cities Health Coalition, which together represent about 3,000 local health departments, released the letter Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly posted the change Monday. The CDC previously had advised local health departments to test people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. But the new guidance said those people did “not necessarily need a test” unless they were more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Public health experts have blasted the new guidance, saying testing contacts of infected people is key to keep outbreaks in check, and many infected people don’t show symptoms.
Under the guidance, doctors or public health officials could still recommend a test. “Testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said in statement.
Local health officials said federal authorities didn’t offer any scientific evidence for the change, which effectively shifted more responsibility to municipalities.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— 4 at RNC in Charlotte test positive for coronavirus
— Germany’s Merkel warns of pandemic difficulties to come
— India records daily high of 77,266 cases, adds more than 1,000 deaths
— Credibility of FDA and CDC damaged after controversial decisions that outside experts say imply political pressure from the Trump administration.
— Some college towns are dealing with too much partying and too many COVID-19 infections among students.
— President Donald Trump spoke of the deadly coronavirus pandemic as though his handling of it was an unqualified success during his nomination acceptance speech.
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Four people at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte have tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County say.
The two attendees and two people supporting the convention tested positive among the nearly 800 people tested, according to health officials.
County leaders say those four individuals were isolated and “any known close contacts were notified and issued quarantine instructions by Mecklenburg County Public Health.”
The Charlotte Observer reports the disclosures come after county health officials raised concerns about a lack of social distancing and mask wearing. Strict coronavirus protocols were required.
Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris has said the convention posed no infection risk to the greater Charlotte area.
RICHMOND, Va. — More than 550 people have tested positive for the coronavirus at colleges and universities in Virginia.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported it surveyed 41 four-year colleges across the state. It found at least 558 positive cases. Twenty-one colleges reported at least one positive case.
Some schools say positive cases were inevitable and that they are prepared to handle them. Other universities across the country have backtracked on plans to allow students on campus.
The New York Times says there are more than 26,000 cases and 64 deaths at colleges around the nation. No school in Virginia has reported a death from the virus.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi election laws could force people to choose between their health and their constitutional right to cast a ballot.
That’s according to a federal lawsuit that voting-rights groups filed to challenge the state’s restrictions on absentee voting.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Southern Poverty Law Center filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Jackson on behalf of three Mississippi residents, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi and the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP.
The lawsuit says Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson and Attorney General Lynn Fitch “have failed to take necessary steps to protect Mississippi voters’ fundamental right to vote despite the public health risks of voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mississippi law says absentee voting is available to people who will be out of town on Election Day. It
Is also open to anyone who is at least 65 or who has a temporary or permanent physical disability.
Legislators added some temporary provisions related to the coronavirus, but the lawsuit says those are confusing and too narrow.
The lawsuit is similar to one filed Aug. 11 in state court, which points out the state Health Department recommends all people avoid “large social gatherings and community events.” The guidelines say people who have chronic conditions or are in poor health should “stay home as much as possible.”
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada reported 554 additional coronavirus cases and 21 deaths on Thursday. That brings the statewide totals to 67,220 cases and 1,271 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
In addition, the state task force overseeing reopening plans kept county-level restrictions in place.
Bars and taverns in high-risk areas including Las Vegas and Reno will remain closed.
The task force denied Elko County’s request to reopen bars. Reno-area officials told the task force they had identified house parties as the source of many of the region’s cases and planned to dispatch officials to monitor for compliance.
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles plans to file criminal charges over recent parties in the Hollywood Hills, held despite a city ban on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
City attorney Mike Feuer plans to announce a crackdown Friday against so-called party houses, including one reportedly rented by TikTok celebrities Bryce Hall and Blake Gray.
Mayor Eric Garcetti last week authorized the city to shut off water and power to the home after they repeatedly held large and raucous parties in violation of public health orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Garcetti says with bars closed in town, large house parties can become “super spreaders.”
Los Angeles County has recorded nearly 237,000 coronavirus cases and more than 5,700 confirmed deaths, making it the hardest-hit county in the state.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Amsterdam and Rotterdam municipalities say face masks will no longer be mandatory in busy parts of the Netherlands’ two biggest cities starting Monday.
The city officials say their experiments with masks on a limited number of busy streets, markets and shopping malls will end as planned on Aug. 31.
Amsterdam officials says in a statement that the experiment started on Aug. 5 will be evaluated before a decision is taken on whether to again mandate the wearing of masks in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The Dutch capital, a popular destination for tourists, has had a rise in infections in recent weeks. Infections have risen in Rotterdam since lockdown measures were relaxed on July 1.
However, Amsterdam says with the busiest tourist season coming to an end it’s likely to be easier for people to stick to social distancing guidelines in busy parts of the city.
LONDON — Ryanair says a passenger was removed from a plane in London after he received a text message notifying him that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Authorities in hazmat suits boarded the plane Wednesday night and took the passenger and his companion off the plane at London’s Stansted Airport before their seats and overhead luggage bins were disinfected.
The flight from London to Pisa, Italy, was delayed for an hour and 20 minutes.
Ryanair says the two passengers were wearing masks and on the plane for a short period. They were sent to an isolation area and put in touch with authorities from Public Health England.
The airline says “there was little if any risk of C19 transmission to other passengers or crew members … all of whom were also wearing face masks at all times.’
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is cautioning that the coronavirus crisis will make life more difficult in the coming months than it has been over the summer and is calling on Germans to continue taking the threat seriously.
Germany’s response to the virus is generally viewed as relatively successful, but the country has seen a pickup in new infections in recent weeks, as have many others in Europe.
Merkel says, “We have to expect that some things will be even more difficult in the coming months than in the summer.”
She says it is important to keep infections down as people increasingly meet indoors and that “we will have to keep living with the virus.”
The long-time German leader says she had three priorities, including ensuring that children can continue access education despite the pandemic, ensuring economic revival and maintaining social cohesion at a time when many in society are suffering hardship.
LONDON — London’s Gatwick Airport says it doesn’t expect air traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels for four or five years after passenger volume dropped 66% in the first half of the year.
The capital’s second-biggest airport said Friday that just 7.5 million people traveled through Gatwick in the first six months of 2020, down from 22.2 million in the same period last year.
Gatwick says it has already eliminated 740 jobs and expects to cut another 600 during the third quarter.
CEO Stewart Wingate says, “like any other international airport, the negative impact of COVID-19 on our passenger numbers and air traffic at the start of the year was dramatic and, although there are small signs of recovery, it is a trend we expect to continue to see.”
NEW DELHI — India has recorded another high of 77,266 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s total to more than 3.38 million reported cases.
Nearly 47% of India’s virus cases were detected this month alone.
The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,057 deaths for a total of 61,529.
India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for nearly three weeks. India’s previous highest daily count was 75,760 on Wednesday.
With up to 900,000 tests every day, India’s cumulative tests reached 39 million on Thursday, the ministry says.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is tightening social distancing restrictions in the greater capital area, requiring restaurants to provide only delivery and takeout after 9 p.m. and shutting down gyms and after-school academies.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo announced the plans Friday after the country reported 371 new infections of COVID-19, marking its 15th straight day of triple digit jumps and bringing national totals to 19,077 reported cases, including 316 deaths.
The measures will be imposed for eight days starting Sunday.
Park says more than 470,000 businesses in the Seoul area will be affected by the measures.
BEIJING — China began moving into its final weekend before a full re-opening of schools amid continuing measures to prevent any further spread of the coronavirus.
The country reported just nine new cases on Friday, all brought from outside the country. Hospitals are treating 288 people for COVID-19 and another 361 are being monitored in isolation for showing signs of the illness or having tested positive for the virus without displaying symptoms.
China has reported 85,013 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, with 4,634 dying from COVID-19.
The roughly 25% of students still out of school are due to return to classes on Monday.
Classes are being held on a staggered schedule and mask wearing and social distancing are required. College undergraduates are also due to return to campus next week, with Beijing ordering tests for all 600,000 taking up places at the city’s institutions.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has reported 113 new coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day, with authorities warning that the infection rate will have to fall substantially if a six-week lockdown is to be relaxed on schedule on Sept. 13.
The latest daily tallies are the lowest in more than eight weeks, with a peak of 725 in early August.
The latest death toll dropped to 12 from 23 on Thursday. Thursday’s was the third-highest toll of the pandemic.
Authorities want daily infections to fall at least to low double-digits before they would consider relaxing restrictions.