The Latest: Mexico is nearing 50,000 deaths from COVID-19

International

A woman wearing a face mask to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus holds a portable fan to avoid the heat in Tokyo, Wednesday, Aug, 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

MEXICO CITY — Mexico is nearing 50,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.

The federal Health Department reported 829 newly confirmed deaths Wednesday, giving the country a total of 49,698 such deaths. That is the third highest number of pandemic deaths in the world.

Officials said Mexico’s number of confirmed infections rose by 6,139 to 449,961.

Authorities acknowledge Mexico’s real number of deaths could be much higher, in part because it has done so little testing. Only about 1 million tests have been performed in the country of almost 130 million people since the pandemic began.

___

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

— High demand for virus tests in South Carolina, but long waits

— Spain’s virus cases keep rising since easing lockdown

— Members, economy hurt as virus hits Choctaw Tribe in Mississippi

— Virginia has rolled out a smartphone app to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus. It’s the first U.S. state to use new pandemic technology created by Apple and Google.

— After more than a week of meetings, some clarity is coming to bipartisan Washington talks on a huge COVID-19 response bill.

— Chicago’s mayor says the nation’s third-largest school district will offer only remote instructionto start the school year.

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is defending school reopenings in the face of mounting reports of students and education staff testing positive for the coronavirus since returning to classes.

Box said Wednesday that she “continue(s) to believe that our schools can safely reopen.” She says improved testing and hospital capacity are added safeguards for returning students for in-person learning.

The governor adds that her biggest recommendation to students and families is to know when to stay at home.

___

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas state government is requiring public schools to stay open five days a week when classes resume this month, complicating efforts by some districts to limit on-site instruction because of the coronavirus.

Education Secretary Johnny Key issued the guidance to schools Wednesday as the state reported 912 new confirmed virus cases and 18 more deaths.

The state’s guidance says schools must be open all five weekdays to comply with the state constitution. Some districts had planned to limit on-site instruction and use remote learning on the days that schools weren’t open.

Arkansas’ public schools are set to reopen the week of Aug. 24.

___

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says schools in the much of the state should strongly consider online-only learning for students this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Inslee also urged Wednesday that they cancel or postpone sports and all other in-person extracurricular activities.

Health experts say the virus is still spreading too extensively in the state, which saw the nation’s first confirmed virus case in late January. Since then, Washington has recorded more than 59,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,600 deaths.

___

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont officials say nearly 150 Vermont inmates housed in a Mississippi prison have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Vermont houses 219 inmates at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Mississippi, because of a lack of capacity in its own prisons.

Late in July, six inmates who were returned to Vermont from the private Mississippi prison tested positive when they arrived at the Rutland correctional facility. That prompted Vermont’s Corrections Department to order that the remaining Vermont inmates in Mississippi be tested.

Interim Vermont Corrections Commissioner James Baker says there were 147 positive tests, 62 negative ones, two tests that are pending and eight inmates refused to be tested.

___

UNITED NATIONS — The United States and seven European countries are calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions in Georgia and allow medical evacuations and aid deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The eight countries said after a closed U.N. Security Council session Wednesday that Russia’s presence further divides communities and puts at risk “the health and lives of the conflict-affected population” during the pandemic.

Deputy Russian Ambassador U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky tweeted that the statement is “only a fiction.”

Georgia made a botched attempt to regain control of its breakaway province of South Ossetia in 2008, setting off a short war with Russia. Moscow then recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and set up military bases there.

___

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California officials say as many as 17,600 inmates may be released early due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That is 70% more than previously estimated and a total that victims and police say includes dangerous criminals who should stay locked up. However, prison officials say Corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz is likely to block the release of about 5,500, in part because many are serving life sentences.

Early releases also are causing consternation as probation officers and community groups scramble to provide housing, transportation and other services for inmates who may pose a public health risk because nearly 300 have been paroled while still contagious..

Officials have been under intense pressure from advocates, some state lawmakers and two federal judges to release more inmates.

___

ATLANTA — Georgia has become the fifth U.S. state to record 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The milestone reported Wednesday comes amid signs that the pace of new infections in the current upsurge has slowed, although hospitalizations and deaths remain high. Georgia is nearing 4,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Gov Brian Kemp’s administration continues to express confidence in its efforts to contain the virus, pointing to opening more hospital beds as one achievement. Kemp has ignored pleas from some medical experts to take steps like mandating mask use and shutting down bars.

A spokesman on Wednesday repeated Kemp’s belief that voluntary action is enough to tame the outbreak and that the state must divide its focus between protecting health and the economy.

___

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A community group at the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota is doing everything it can to help people stay at home, fearing the coronavirus could take a disproportionate toll on an elderly population that maintains the language and culture of the tribe.

Before the pandemic, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation worked to teach the Lakota language to children as part of efforts in recent years to revive Lakota language and culture.

The group says less than 3% of the community’s members are fluent in the language. Many elderly Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation are still fluent but they are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

___

FARGO, N.D. — The mayor of the city that was once the hot spot for the coronavirus in North Dakota is supporting an annual outdoor music festival set to go on as planned this weekend.

The 25th Fargo Blues Festival is scheduled Friday and Saturday at Newman Outdoor Field, home to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association baseball league. It usually draws up to 2,000 music fans.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney is a member of a task force that was assembled two months ago when North Dakota’s largest city saw a spike in virus cases. He says the show should go on because the virus numbers in the city have dropped thanks to increased testing and contact tracing. He cites statistics showing that Cass County, which includes Fargo, has held steady with a daily positive rate of 2% for 60 days.

“I hope people wear masks and social distance,” Mahoney said. “But we’ve been having some events that have more people and we have not seen the surge.”

___

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday that Wi-Fi hot spots will be set up around the state to give students the option to take virtual classes when schools are scheduled to reopen in September.

The Republican governor said counties will submit reentry plans this month for the state’s planned school reopening on Sept. 8, adding that he wants to give students and parents “total optionality” whether to attend classes in person or online.

Justice said he has committed $6 million to install more than 1,000 Wi-Fi hot spots at schools, libraries and state parks across the state so students can access online courses when schools restart.

Virus metrics have been on the rise in West Virginia, with hospitalizations, intensive care unit patients and ventilator use at some of the highest levels since the outbreak began. Around 7,100 people have tested positive and 124 people have died, according to state health records.

___

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little says he’ll call the part-time Legislature back into a special session in late August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican governor in a statement on Wednesday says the special session will start during the week of Aug. 24 and possibly include how to conduct the November general election.

The special session could also include legislation creating a liability shield for protection against lawsuits during declared emergencies such as the pandemic.

A timeline calls for lawmakers to give the governor specific legislation by mid-August. Little would then issue a proclamation on Aug. 17 detailing the exact issues to be considered.

___

BOGOTA, Colombia — A spokesperson for the political party of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe says the ex-leader has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A representative of the Democratic Center party on Wednesday confirmed that Uribe, who is under house arrest, had tested positive in a WhatsApp message to The Associated Press. The representative communicated with the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

A Colombian court on Tuesday ordered Uribe to be placed under house arrest while he is investigated in an alleged witness tampering case. A medical team visited Uribe for 20 minutes on Wednesday.

___

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The first cruise in an already decimated southeast Alaska cruise season came to a devastating end Wednesday when a small ship carrying 36 passengers had to return to Juneau because one of the guests had tested positive for COVID-19.

Once the Wilderness Adventurer returns to Juneau, the city says all 36 guests will quarantine at a hotel and the 30 crew members will quarantine on the ship.

The loss of large cruise ships has been devastating to Alaska’s tourism economy this summer.

Large cruise ship companies canceled their seasons, which was a big hit for a tourism industry that had anticipated 2.2 million visitors, many of them on cruises.

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