JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is reporting more than 8,300 new confirmed coronavirus cases as the country with the world’s fifth largest caseload is approaching 10,000 deaths.
The new health ministry figures push the total cases on the African continent past the 1 million mark.
South Africa has more than half the virus cases in Africa, with 529,877.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize this week expressed cautious optimism as the rate of new cases has slowed. But he warned that vigilance must continue “to prevent a renewed surge.”
South Africa’s COVID-19 deaths are now at 9,298, with more than 400 new deaths reported.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— US deaths predicted at nearly 300,000 by Dec. 1
— Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive for virus
— Dr. Fauci says public health safeguards slow virus; hopes for vaccine in 2021
— Congressional negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief package is still ongoing. Leaders are fast approaching a self-imposed Friday deadline for an agreement.
— A newsletter that updates residents of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, about the coronavirus pandemic is moving some readers to tears, thanks to weekly contributions from the city’s poet laureate.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will no longer recommend that schools allow students who have been exposed to the coronavirus to come to class following pushback from doctors and educators.
The state issued a new recommendation Thursday that any student or teacher who has come into close contact with a confirmed case should quarantine at home for 14 days.
The change in guidelines comes one week after Gov. Gary Herbert and health officials announced a modified quarantine option that would have allowed exposed students without symptoms to attend school.
Herbert also announced Thursday that the process for implementing mask mandates at the local level will be further streamlined and no longer require state approval.
HELENA, Mont — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says counties will be permitted to hold all-mail voting in November as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The order was issued Thursday. The Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders and the Montana Association of Counties had urged the governor last month to allow the option of conducting the general election vote by mail.
Republicans criticized the Democratic governor’s order, saying voters should have the right to go to polling places if that is how they want to cast ballots. A GOP official said that “if Montanans are able to safely go to the grocery store, they should be able to safely go to their polling location to vote on Election Day.”
Bullock issued a similar order that permitted June 2 primary elections to be held by mail. Those primaties saw record-high voter participation.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma governor spokesperson Charlie Hannema said Thursday that Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, the first governor in the nation to test positive for the coronavirus, was infected when he hugged two friends from Tulsa.
At least one of the two men, whom Hannema did not identify, later tested positive for the virus. The meeting took place July 10 in Oklahoma City, and was not connected to Stitt’s attendance at a June 20 campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Tulsa.
Stitt announced July 15 that he was quarantining himself following a positive test.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Thursday reported 41,401 coronavirus cases and 593 deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, increases of 837 confirmed cases and 10 deaths from those reported Wednesday.
CHICAGO — Illinois has reported nearly 2,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases as public health officials continued warnings Thursday that there could be a reversal in the state’s progress against coronavirus if things don’t change.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,953 confirmed cases, the highest since late May, and 21 deaths. Overall, the state has reported 188,424 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,594 deaths.
Public health officials say 41,686 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours and the seven-day average positive rate for tests is 4%.
The numbers come as Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, decided earlier this week to scrap plans to offer some in-person teaching and will start the school year solely with remote learning.
LONDON — Britain has announced that travellers arriving from Andorra, Belgium and the Bahamas will have to quarantine for two weeks effective from Saturday, following an increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in all three locations.
Officials say COVID-19 cases in Belgium have increased fourfold since mid-July, and that in Andorra new cases per week have increased five-fold over the same period. They added that the Bahamas also saw a significant increase in case rates.
Officials now say all travel to Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas should not go ahead, unless they are essential trips.
Britain on Thursday also announced that it has added Brunei and Malaysia to its list of safe countries — meaning quarantine upon arrival from those locations is not required — following a decrease in confirmed cases there.
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana residents who have struggled to pay rent or utility bills during the coronavirus pandemic have one more week before the state’s protections against evictions and utility shutoffs end, despite a recent analysis that found that more than 40% of the state’s renters are unable to pay their rent.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that he intends to allow the state’s rental property eviction moratorium and its ban on disconnecting utility services to expire on Aug. 14.
The Republican governor said people who are behind on their bills should immediately contact their landlords or utilities to work out payment plans, or reach out to state agencies for assistance in getting caught up on their payments.
Statewide, an estimated 44% of rental households are unable to pay rent and are at risk of eviction, according to a July 31 analysis by the investment banking company Stout Risius Ross, LLC.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities have imposed a 10-day crackdown on public gatherings on the resort island of Poros, and have curtailed opening hours at the island’s restaurants, bars and clubs among a nationwide spike in COVID-19 infections.
Health officials said a total 153 new confirmed infections were recorded nationwide over the past 24 hours, the highest number in weeks.
For the next ten days, use of masks will be obligatory in all outdoors and indoors public areas on Poros, an island just off the coast of Greece’s southern Peloponnese peninsula. Restaurants, bars and clubs must close between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., while outdoors and indoors public gatherings, in both public and private spaces, must be limited to nine people. And gatherings such as parties, street markets, open-air fairs or religious processions are banned.
Greek media reported that 13 new infections were recorded on the island.
Greece has recorded more than 5,000 confirmed infections and 210 deaths.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An attorney has said the city of Anchorage will take legal action against a local business for violating an order prohibiting indoor dining at restaurants and breweries during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that attorney Kate Vogel said Anchorage will seek an injunction in state court ordering Kriner’s Diner to stop indoor service and comply with the emergency order.
This will be the first time a municipality takes a business to court for violating an order since the pandemic began in March.
The restaurant continued dine-in service this week after the order went into effect Monday, and was given a stop-work order from the city Tuesday.
PHOENIX — Health officials say the number of known coronavirus-related deaths in Arizona has now surpassed 4,000.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported Thursday another 1,444 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 70 more deaths. This brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 183,647 and the death toll to 4,002.
Some of the deaths were likely counted after health officials reviewed death certificates going back weeks. The news comes a day after Maricopa County public health officials confirmed 22 bodies were moved to portable storage coolers.
Officials say the action was taken after the medical examiner’s office in metro Phoenix became 86% full.
BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana judge upheld Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide mask mandate and bar restrictions as legal and enforceable.
Judge Janice Clark delivered her ruling after a two-day hearing in which the plaintiffs argued Edwards’ regulations were illegal, unfair and an overreaction to the coronavirus outbreak. The Edwards administration countered the rules helped to slow the spread of the virus and protect public safety.
“The court is firmly of the opinion that the governor has exercised his power deliberately, on behalf of the people of this state and in an effort to be proactive to limit the loss of life,” Clark said.
She handed down her decision as Louisiana’s health department announced the death toll from the coronavirus has topped 4,000.
Louisiana has one of the nation’s highest per capita virus infection rates in the last two weeks. The state is reporting more than 1,700 confirmed cases per day over the last two weeks.
HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has issued a directive allowing counties to hold all-mail elections in November to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The Democratic governor, who is running for U.S. Senate, says voters shouldn’t have to choose between voting and their health.
State officials on Thursday also announced they will spend up to $20 million on testing and contact-tracing efforts at public universities. Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian says the universities will not have universal testing policies. It will focus testing efforts on groups that are at a higher risk of spreading the virus and students who have a heightened risk of contracting it.
LANSING, Mich. — Dozens of Michigan teachers chanted and waved signs during a rally at the Michigan Capitol to bring attention to the danger of schools reopening for in-person learning in the fall.
The rally and speeches at the Capitol steps was organized by MI CORE, a teacher union caucus.
“We’re fighting for a safe return to school. For most of us that means starting online,” said Nichole Hartrick, a teacher in the Dearborn school district and one of the organizers of the event.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said more than a month ago that she was optimistic about returning to in-person instruction. Under her plan, in-person classes are allowed but not required. Several districts have announced plans to start with only online learning.