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The Latest: Australia announces coronavirus vaccine deal

People wearing face masks pass by posters about precautions against the coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.

Ahn Young-joon

AP

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has announced a deal to manufacture a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

“Under the deal, every single Australian will be able to receive the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for free, should trials prove successful, safe and effective,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement Wednesday.

Morrison said the Oxford University trial was in a phase-three stage and more work was needed to prove its viability.

“If this vaccine proves successful, we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam and make it free for 25 million Australians,” Morrison said.

Morrison later suggested an Australian-manufactured vaccine would be shared with the country’s neighbors, but offered few details.

He said he’d recently discussed vaccines with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape and Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

“Australia will also play an important role in supporting our Pacific family,” Morrison told reporters.

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

— Germany’s Merkel against relaxing of virus rules

— WHO: Herd immunity requires effective vaccine

— South Africa loosens coronavirus restrictions

— Paris mandates masks at all workplaces. The mandate takes effect Sept. 1 after a surge of coronavirus cases.

— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gained a national following through his management of the coronavirus pandemic. Now he’s writing a book about it.

— Britain rates of depression doubled among adults during lockdown. The Office for National Statistics says 19.2% of adults were likely to be experiencing some sort of depression in June.

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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:

SPARKS, Nev. — Thousands of students began returning to northern Nevada classrooms or the first time since March with masks, social distancing and other precautions to help guard against the spread of COVID-19.

Others cranked up their laptops from home Tuesday in Reno and Sparks where the Washoe County school district is using a combination of in-person and distance learning.

The scheduled start of the new school year in Reno-Sparks was delayed a day over concerns about unhealthy air quality driven by smoke from a nearby wildfire.

The state’s largest school district doesn’t open until next week in Las Vegas, where it will be having only remote instruction.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Health officials have identified a COVID-19 cluster at another North Carolina university.

A statement from North Carolina State University confirmed on Tuesday that Wake County health officials identified of COVID-19 cases at off-campus housing east of the Raleigh, North Carolina, campus.

The school said several people who have tested positive as part of this cluster have been identified, including some who are N.C. State students. Contact tracing has been initiated with direct communication to anyone known to have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the school.

The school said reports indicated a party or some type of gathering was hosted at the location on or around Aug. 6. The notice said it was not known how many people were at the gathering, but encouraged anyone who attended to visit their personal healthcare provider or Student Health Services.

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SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s too early to say whether a COVID-19 vaccine — once available — will be mandatory for certain people in New Mexico, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is indicating that health care workers, educators, nursing home residents and emergency responders could be among those required to be inoculated.

Acknowledging uncertainties about the availability and effectiveness of a vaccine, the Democratic governor said she expects a debate over mandating certain groups of people to accept the vaccine.

Her comments came during a recent briefing as pharmaceutical companies race to have a vaccine ready by early next year.

New Mexico has seen its daily COVID-19 case counts improve. On Tuesday, an additional 79 cases were confirmed, bringing the statewide total to nearly 23,580 since the pandemic began.

The governor’s administration has authority under a 2003 state law to issue vaccine orders during a declared public health emergency. The Albuquerque Journal reported that those who decline a vaccine for reasons of health, religion or conscience can be ordered to isolate or self-quarantine under the same law.

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University is going online for the fall and is encouraging students to stay home, the school’s president announced Tuesday, as schools across the nation struggle to control coronavirus outbreaks.

Classes had been scheduled to begin Sept. 2 on the school’s East Lansing campus.

“Given the current status of the virus in our country — particularly what we are seeing at other institutions as they re-populate their campus communities — it has become evident to me that, despite our best efforts and strong planning, it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if our undergraduates return to campus,” President Samuel L. Stanley said in a news release on the university’s website.

The move to online learning is just for undergraduate students at the moment. The colleges of Law, Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and all graduate programs will receive details at a later time, according to the university.

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ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor has announced new spending plans for federal COVID-19 aid to schools.

Gov. Brian Kemp made the announcement Tuesday as the state’s newly confirmed infection numbers continue to fall but remain the highest per capita in the nation.

The Republican Kemp says he will allocate more than $65 million of the $105 million he controls. Of that money, at least $17 million will subsidize daytime supervision for students whose school systems are providing all-virtual instruction.

Families with incomes of 85% or below of the statewide median would be eligible for subsidized slots, if parents are working or attending college or job training.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana should start issuing checks for $300 in weekly federal coronavirus unemployment aid next week. But as many as 87,000 people on state unemployment may not be eligible for the federal assistance.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday the state expects to receive federal funds by the end of this week to start paying out the enhanced federal unemployment benefits offered by President Donald Trump’s executive order.

“Next week is when we believe that we will be issuing these checks,” the Democratic governor said.

About 417,000 people in Louisiana are expected to be eligible for the federal unemployment aid.

The Edwards administration says people will receive three weeks of payments at once, retroactive to Aug. 1. The money comes on top of weekly state unemployment benefits that max out at $247.

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame University has canceled in-person undergraduate classes for two weeks after a spike of coronavirus cases that occurred since the semester began Aug. 10.

University president the Rev. John Jenkins said Tuesday he decided against sending students home after consulting with health care experts. Instead, the university is imposing restrictions on student activity, including limiting access to dormitories to residents and barring students from major gathering places on campus.

Jenkins said there have been 147 confirmed cases of coronavirus on campus since the start of classes.

“It is very serious and we must take serious actions,” Jenkins said in an address to students and staff.

Tuesday’s action by Notre Dame follows the decision by officials of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to switch to remote learning starting Wednesday.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says he will reject an emergency plan for the fall elections because it doesn’t expand mail-in balloting options for people quarantined because of the coronavirus pandemic or those at greater risk to serious harm from COVID-19.

The decision announced Tuesday by the Democratic governor will block the plan offered by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. The proposal needs backing from both the majority-GOP Legislature and Edwards to take effect.

Ardoin says the plan was developed to win support from Republican lawmakers.

If lawmakers and Edwards can’t reach an agreement, the issue may get settled by the courts, where a federal lawsuit over fall voting plans is pending.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s drug regulatory agency has approved final-phase testing of a Chinese-made vaccine against coronavirus in this Islamic nation where the new virus has caused 617 deaths since February.

In Monday’s statement, the state-run National Institute of Health said the approval to carry out advanced clinical trials for potential COVID-19 was granted by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan. It said the phase-3 clinical trials for a candidate vaccine against the new virus will be conducted at the country’s main health facilities.

It said the vaccine was produced by CanSinoBio, a China-based vaccine developer and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology.

Pakistan, which has witnessed a steady decline in fatalities from the new virus, reported only 15 new COVID-19 deaths and 617 new cases in the past 24 hours. It has reported 289,832 cases since February when the first infection was detected in the country.

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CHICAGO — Chicago’s Navy Pier is closing again until next spring because attendance has been so low during the coronavirus pandemic.

The tourist spot began reopening June 10, but officials say they’re only seeing about 15% to 20% of the usual crowds during what’s generally the busiest time of year. Pier president and CEO Marilynn Gardner says the closures will help limit losses.

Also Tuesday, Chicago officials added Iowa and Kansas to its list quarantine list and removed Wisconsin and Nebraska. People from those states who travel to the city are expected to quarantine for two weeks or face possible fines.

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BOONE, N.C. — The top administrator at Appalachian State, which is part of the University of North Carolina system, posted a campus-wide letter Monday night outlining factors favoring school opening after faculty passed a vote of no-confidence mainly over the coronavirus response. The vote was held shortly after the system’s flagship university in Chapel Hill was shut down.

Appalachian State Chancellor Sheri Everts wrote that 27 of more than 2,000 mostly residence hall students tested last week were diagnosed with the virus. She noted there is 86% of isolation and quarantine space available and more can be utilized if needed. Campus and city police will be monitoring for large parties and violators will be referred to a student conduct board, she said.

Active cases on the Boone campus increased from 39 on Monday to 58 on Tuesday. Everts said she is “encouraged by the numbers so far” but it’s up to “members of our university and the greater community” to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Everts declined to comment about the faculty senate vote.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — All Ohio high school sports can go forward this year, with an option for some fall sports like football to be delayed until the spring if schools wish, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

“Our order provides best guidance to play sports as safely as can be played in the era of COVID-19,” DeWine said.

The governor’s order prohibits spectators at events other than family members or individuals close to the athlete, with final decisions on those people left up to schools. DeWine’s decision comes as practice is underway at some schools and suspended at others out of concerns over spreading the coronavirus.

Dozens of states nationwide have delayed fall sports, and at least 15 won’t play high school football this autumn, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Amid questions over mask-wearing requirements in schools, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is trying to make it clear that masks are to be worn practically at all times by students in Pennsylvania’s school, drawing complaints that school leaders must again change their preparations.

The administration this week released additional guidance that Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Tuesday clarifies the state’s intentions for mask-wearing in schools as they prepare to reopen in the coming days and weeks.

Masks must be worn in school, even when students and educators are six feet apart, Levine said.

But with some private or career technical schools already open, school officials say it is another frustrating change in guidance. They say they had previously been told that students and educators could remove their masks in the classrooms if they were at least six feet apart.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has tightened the government’s recommendations for reining in the spread of the coronavirus, warning that if the country does not control new infections the Netherlands could go “back to square one.”

Rutte gave people “very, very, urgent advice” not to hold parties at home and to limit events like birthday celebrations and other private house gatherings to a maximum of six people. However, the Dutch government did not impose any new mandatory restrictions.

Rutte’s comments came after the Dutch public health institute announced that there had been just over 4,000 new confirmed virus cases in the Netherlands over the last week, around the same number as the previous week.

Virus cases have been on the rise since the Netherlands removed most of its coronavirus restrictions on July 1. Students returned to high schools in the country’s north this week for the first time in months without requirements for face masks or social distancing.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s payroll tax deferral would provide workers with a modest bump in take-home pay the rest of this year, but they’d face a big tax bill next year when repaying the money.

That’s according to an analysis Tuesday by a coalition of major business groups calling the policy “unfair” to workers and “unworkable” for employers.

A worker making $75,000 a year would get nearly $179 more every two weeks for the rest of this year. But that same worker would owe about $1,610 next year. A worker making $35,000 would get about $83 more biweekly the rest of this year and owe just over $750 next year.

The more than 30 business groups behind the analysis, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, want the Trump administration to make it optional for employers to offer workers a deferral of their Social Security payroll taxes. Or the group requests Congress permanently forgive repayment.

Trump says he’s ordered the tax deferral to boost an economy stricken by the coronavirus.

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PARIS — France will mandate masks in all workplaces, from the Paris business district to factories in the provinces.

The Labor Ministry says the mandate takes effect Sept. 1. It makes France one of the few countries in to require workers to wear masks on the job, though they’re routinely worn in many Asian countries and increasingly required in public places.

The move came after France’s daily infection count increased past 3,000 over the weekend for the first time since May. The number of virus patients in hospitals, intensive care units and nursing homes is starting to inch up again.

France currently has among the highest infection rates in Europe. It already requires masks in public indoor spaces such as restaurants and many areas outdoors.

France has more than 256,000 cases of the coronavirus and more then 30,400 deaths, seventh highest in the world.


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