MELBOURNE, Australia — The health minister in Australia’s Victoria state has resigned in the fallout from an inquiry into why security guards were used instead of police or the military at quarantine hotels. Lapses in security at the hotels were given as the major reason for a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
Victoria reported just one more coronavirus death as Melbourne’s new case average continued to fall. The death took the state toll to 782 and the national figure to 870. There were 12 new cases, while Melbourne’s 14-day average fell again on Saturday to 23.6.
Melburnians, who have been in lockdown for more than a month, are waiting for the easing of restrictions on Monday. It’s expected to include a staged return to school for some students and outdoor gatherings of five people from two households.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Saturday issued a statement confirming her resignation, just a day after Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews gave evidence to the inquiry and pointed partial blame at Mikakos for her role in the bungled quarantine program.
“I am disappointed that my integrity has sought to be undermined,” she wrote in a one-page statement. “I have never shirked my responsibility.” She said she also plans to resign from Victoria Parliament.
Mikakos appears to be taking the blame when no one else would. After six weeks of hearings into the hotel inquiry, it was still not known who made the decision to use security guards instead of police or soldiers, which were used in other Australian states.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— Virus cases rise in US heartland, home to anti-mask feelings
— California virus hospitalizations could surge in next month
— Madrid resists government pressure to extend soft lockdown
— Cities around the U.K. are imposing new coronavirus restrictions as they race to slow the spread of COVID-19, and London could be next. The city of Leeds in northern England barred people from meeting members of other households indoors or in private backyards.
— Angry restaurant and bar owners have demonstrated in Marseille to challenge a French government order to close all public venues as of Saturday to battle resurgent virus infections.
— President Donald Trump’s remarks at a campaign event in Ohio this week reverberated all the way to a sparkling waterfront in Florida, where senior citizens parsed his assessment of the coronavirus pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California has begun to see concerning upticks in coronavirus data after a period of decline.
The state health secretary said Friday that there have been increases in the number of newly confirmed cases, hospital emergency department visits for COVID-19 and new hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected cases.
Dr. Mark Ghaly says the trends appear largely attributable to the Labor Day holiday and could lead to an 89% increase in hospitalizations in the next month.
Ghaly notes the state is heading into another hot weekend, which could increase people gathering with others. He urged renewed efforts to prevent spread.
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 61 new cases of the coronavirus, the first time in four days its daily increase has been below 100 as officials urges citizens to be vigilant ahead of a major holiday break.
The numbers released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the national caseload to 23,516 cases, including 399 deaths.
Health officials say the annual Chuseok harvest festival that begins Wednesday and continues through next weekend will be a critical period in the country’s anti-virus campaign. Millions of South Koreans usually travel across the country during Chuseok to visit relatives, but officials are pleading for people stay home this year to help stem transmissions.
NEW YORK — New York City’s health commissioner has issued an order reiterating that private schools in some neighborhoods have to follow pandemic safety protocols.
The directive comes amid concerns about an uptick in coronavirus cases in certain Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations.
The order says that nonpublic schools in the specified areas must maintain six feet of distance between people and that face coverings are required in all buildings.
New York City’s current overall infection rate remains low, but official figures indicate the affected neighborhoods accounted for 20% of the city’s coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania has asked a federal appeals court to put on hold a ruling that found Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions on gatherings to be unconstitutional.
Officials told the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday that medical researchers have determined that so-called superspreader events where many people gather are driving the spread of the coronavirus.
The move came as the governor accused President Donald Trump of blatantly disregarding social distancing and mask requirements during frequent campaign rallies in Pennsylvania, a battleground state for the Nov. 3 elections.
Another Trump rally is planned for Saturday. The campaign says everyone will get a temperature check, be given a mask and have access to hand sanitizer.
HELENA, Mont. — The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council is imposing a 14-day lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge on the reservation east of Glacier National Park in Montana.
The tribe’s business council says the shutdown will begin at midnight Sunday.
Statewide, Montana reported 323 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus infections Friday and five more deaths.
More than 100 of the new cases involve people between the ages of 20 and 29, while 67 were confirmed in people 19 and younger. State health officials have said reopening schools and colleges have contributed to an increase in cases.
BOSTON — An outbreak of coronavirus infections at a major Boston hospital has grown to 19 confirmed cases.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital originally said it had identified 10 cases among staff and patients connected to two inpatient units.
A new hospital statement says 98 employees have been tested to date, and 11 of them tested positive. In addition, it says 50 patients have been tested, with eight positive.
An additional 445 people are in the process of being tested, and the hospital expects the number of positive cases to grow.
No other areas of the hospital have been affected.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas says it recorded more than 1,300 new coronavirus cases in two days in one of its biggest spikes of the past two weeks, and most of the cases were in rural counties in the central and western parts of the state.
The state health department said Friday that of the 10 counties with the biggest per-capita increases in cases, eight had fewer than 7,200 residents and all were in western or central Kansas.
The biggest spikes for the two weeks ending Friday were in Cheyenne County in the state’s far northwestern corner and Pawnee County in central Kansas.
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s movie theaters and other venues can reopen in two weeks after nearly seven months of closure during the coronavirus pandemic, and the limit on how many people can attend funerals and other indoor events is being raised.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also issued an order Friday requiring the vast majority of students to wear masks in classrooms as of Oct. 5, and mandating that public and private schools publish information on coronavirus cases.
Indoor cinemas, performance venues, arcades, bingo halls, bowling centers, indoor climbing facilities and trampoline parks can reopen starting Oct. 9. A 10-person cap on indoor events has been revised to instead allow 20 people per 1,000 square feet or 20% of fixed seating capacity, up to a maximum of 500 people.
SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority has reported 457 new confirmed coronavirus cases, the state’s largest daily total since the the start of the pandemic.
Officials on Friday attributed the rise in cases to Labor Day celebrations, the return of college students to campus and the interruption of testing during recent wildfires in Oregon.
Health experts had said last week that the rate of virus transmission in Oregon was in a “downward trend,” but case numbers have been rising this week.
More than 32,300 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Oregon since the start of the pandemic. The death toll is 542.
WASHINGTON — The nation’s top infectious disease expert is cautioning people not to let pandemic fatigue weaken efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says that “people are exhausted from being shut down” and some give up on doing things that contain the virus.
The head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases made the comment Friday in a podcast with a medical journal editor.
Fauci urges people to remember that “there is an end to this” and “we just have to hang in there a bit” as researchers work on a vaccine. Fauci says that “what we don’t want to have to do is to shut down again” if cases really spike.