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COVID-19 surge hits a 'turning point' in Europe

'This is a serious situation that should not be underestimated. It is serious on a European level.'

Posted: Oct 16, 2020 11:49 AM

MILAN (AP) — Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down.

With newly confirmed cases reaching records, the Czech Republic has shut schools and is building a field hospital, Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and schools, and France is planning a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other big cities. In Britain, authorities are closing pubs and bars in areas in the country's north, while putting limits on socializing in London and other parts of the country.

“This is a serious situation that should not be underestimated. It is serious on a European level,’’ Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, said Friday.

“If we don’t get a handle on this, we run the risk of getting into a situation that’s harder to control,” Bertrand Levrat, the head of Switzerland’s biggest hospital complex, told The Associated Press. “We are really at a turning point — things can go both ways.”

But while officials are sounding the alarm on rising cases, they are also wary of imposing the stricter nationwide lockdowns that devastated their economies this spring. Instead, they are trying more targeted restrictions.

France is deploying 12,000 extra police to enforce its new curfew; Saturday night will be the first time establishments will be forced to close at 9 p.m. Restaurants, cinemas and theaters are trying to figure out how can survive the forced early closures.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot told Le Parisien newspaper she is negotiating for exceptions to a monthlong curfew across the Paris region and eight other metropolitan areas.

One movie theater chain will start opening at 8 a.m. in hopes of making up evening losses. Since Paris restaurants generally open at 7 or 7:30 p.m. for dinner, some might close altogether because it no longer makes financial sense to stay open for such a short shift.

“The French culture world isn’t invincible, it needs help,” author and filmmaker Yoann Sfar, who has a new movie coming out, said Friday on RTL radio.

Italy, the first country outside of Asia to detect local transmission of the virus, has banned pickup sports and public gatherings after health officials said the resurgence had reached ‘’an acute phase’’ following a period of relative grace after its particularly strict lockdown.

Speranza, the health minister, told reporters that any new measures in Italy, including a curfew, need to be “well-considered.” But the governor of Campania, which was mostly spared in the spring but is seeing infections skyrocket, urged quick action, saying the area around Naples is the most densely populated in the country and therefore especially vulnerable.

"Half measures are not worth anything anymore,'' Vincenzo de Luca said in a Facebook video. He already announced the closure of schools for the rest of the month, against the wishes of Rome and the protests of parents.

Massimo Galli, the director of infectious diseases at Milan’s Luigi Sacco hospital, said Italy’s surge — which hit pandemic highs of new daily infections this week — is not the result of record testing, as policy makers have suggested, but a sign of a real return among the population most at risk of developing serious illness if infected.

That is a worrying trend since a tide of serious cases has the potential to swamp hospitals, and it's one that can be seen in other countries on the continent as many see even higher numbers than Italy.

France, Spain and Britain recorded more than 300 infections per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, compared to Italy’s quickening but relatively low 106.

The Czech Republic reported over 700 people infected per 100,000, and the country's military will start to build a field hospital at Prague’s exhibition center this weekend — a reminder of the dark days of spring when many countries put up makeshift facilities to ease pressure on overwhelmed medical centers. The government is also negotiating with neighboring Germany and some other countries for Czechs to be treated abroad if the health system can't handle them.

In Italy, Milan is the epicenter of the resurgence, and it, too, is seeing its hospitals strained. Sacco’s COVID-19 ward was the first in the city to begin filling up.

“We have a situation that reminds one quite distressingly of the one that we already have experienced,’’ Galli told The Associated Press, referring to the peak in March and April when Italy hit its record of 969 deaths in one day. The country recorded 83 deaths on Thursday — twice previous days, but far off earlier levels.

Already in Milan, Galli said that the number of elderly patients or those with other risk factors is growing, indicating the virus has moved beyond its initial late September’s expansion, when most of the cases were mild or asymptomatic caught by screening and contact tracing.

Since then, mixing among families, within companies, and among students outside of school has fueled the spread to more vulnerable people, he said, renewing pressure on Milan’s hospitals.

"The trend is already there, and it is frankly alarming,’’ he said, though he noted that not all of Italy was yet experiencing a surge.

But that, he said, might only be a matter of time. Galli said Italy ’’will follow in the footsteps″ of its European neighbors unless the transmission chain is blocked in the next two weeks.

Galli fears that new nationwide restrictions adopted over the past two weeks — including mandatory masks outdoors, a ban on pickup sports games among friends and restaurant closures at midnight — are not enough. He urged more restrictions be imposed on public transport and leisure activities if authorities want to avoid another lockdown — bad both for the economy and the social fabric.

While Italy’s lockdown in the spring bought it more time, Galli said the current resurgence shows “how quickly there is a risk of wasting the results of even a very decisive and very important intervention.’’

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 128152

Reported Deaths: 2354
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin33024980
Ramsey13609355
Dakota9467136
Anoka8324150
Stearns554641
Washington539968
Scott326534
Olmsted315930
St. Louis279765
Wright233214
Nobles219516
Clay215343
Blue Earth20037
Carver17247
Kandiyohi16395
Sherburne160621
Rice15929
Mower149915
Winona122518
Crow Wing94721
Lyon9416
Chisago9202
Waseca9199
Benton8827
Beltrami8397
Otter Tail7896
Todd7525
Steele7342
Nicollet70017
Itasca69617
Morrison6578
Freeborn6494
Douglas6323
Martin60216
Le Sueur5985
McLeod5764
Watonwan5724
Polk5574
Goodhue54211
Becker5193
Pine5190
Isanti5115
Chippewa4153
Carlton4031
Dodge3790
Mille Lacs37613
Hubbard3462
Cass3445
Wabasha3430
Pipestone33616
Meeker3183
Brown3113
Rock3113
Yellow Medicine2715
Cottonwood2650
Unassigned26553
Murray2643
Redwood26011
Fillmore2450
Sibley2423
Renville23711
Faribault2210
Roseau2160
Wadena2082
Jackson2041
Kanabec19410
Swift1931
Houston1861
Stevens1741
Lincoln1720
Pennington1711
Koochiching1644
Aitkin1592
Pope1520
Big Stone1310
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Wilkin1274
Lake1110
Norman1050
Mahnomen1041
Marshall971
Grant924
Clearwater880
Red Lake662
Traverse540
Lake of the Woods431
Kittson370
Cook110

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111117

Reported Deaths: 1587
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk18419283
Woodbury697994
Johnson571730
Black Hawk535098
Linn5245129
Dubuque489654
Scott421037
Story391018
Dallas336944
Pottawattamie309144
Sioux234314
Buena Vista222512
Marshall195936
Webster178914
Plymouth159426
Wapello149462
Clinton140926
Muscatine139358
Crawford133712
Des Moines13059
Cerro Gordo130423
Warren11856
Carroll107212
Jasper105534
Henry10075
Marion95710
Tama91837
Lee90710
Delaware72912
Dickinson7117
Wright7071
Boone6969
Mahaska65924
Bremer6389
Washington62711
Harrison6238
Jackson5583
Benton5381
Lyon5287
Louisa50715
Clay5044
Hamilton4613
Winnebago45818
Winneshiek4559
Hardin4495
Kossuth4460
Poweshiek44111
Floyd42411
Jones4223
Cedar4205
Buchanan4194
Emmet41517
Iowa3948
Cherokee3832
Franklin37818
Sac3774
Guthrie37615
Clayton3753
Page3740
Shelby3601
Mills3551
Butler3542
Fayette3543
Cass3512
Madison3512
Allamakee3438
Chickasaw3381
Clarke3283
Humboldt3083
Hancock2984
Palo Alto2982
Grundy2895
Calhoun2854
Howard2619
Osceola2610
Monroe25111
Mitchell2380
Monona2361
Taylor2302
Union2194
Appanoose2173
Pocahontas2172
Jefferson2121
Lucas1976
Fremont1881
Ida1842
Greene1820
Van Buren1662
Davis1634
Montgomery1616
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Decatur1430
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