Gauff Out of Olympics; Social Media Criticized: Virus Update

Tennis player Coco Gauff tested positive for Covid-19, ruling her out of representing the U.S. at the Olympics and highlighting the challenges faced by the Tokyo Games less than a week before the opening ceremony.

Three members of South Africa’s soccer squad and a rugby coach tested positive in the Olympic Village — there are more than 55 cases so far tied to the Tokyo Games. Southeast Asia also continues to reel from a wave of infections, with Singapore reporting cases at an 11-month high.

U.S. senator Amy Klobuchar demanded that social media platforms be held liable for spreading misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, a day after Facebook pushed back against President Joe Biden’s comments that the platforms are “killing people.”

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 190.2 million; deaths pass 4.08 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 3.62 billion doses administered
  • Long Covid’ fears grow in U.K. as curbs end and delta surges
  • Covid’s daily U.S. death toll tops guns, cars and flu combined
  • Dance lessons at $15,000 a pop mark ballroom’s Covid comeback
  • MRNA vaccine access carves up world into haves and have-nots

U.S. Hospitalizations Rise (6:15 a.m. HK)

U.S. hospital admissions for Covid-19 rose 33.7% in the week ending July 16, compared with the previous seven days, according to the latest data released by the Department of Health and Human Services. The region with the largest increase is the eight states comprising the agency’s southeastern district, which includes Florida, now reporting the most new cases in the nation. New admissions in that area rose 52.8% in that same period, the data show.

Even with the recent rise, driven by the spread of the delta variant, hospitalizations nationally and regionally are a fraction of the peak reached around the New Year.

Los Angeles Official Defends Mask Order (5 p.m. NY)

One of Los Angeles’s top county officials defended the indoor mask order that starts Sunday, saying it’s not a “punishment” for the vaccinated but a prevention for the unvaccinated, including young children who aren’t eligible to get their shots.

“I am not pleased that we have to get back to using the masks,” Hilda L. Solis, chair of the county’s board of supervisors, told ABC News. “But nonetheless it’s going to save lives,”

The order led to criticism from another county supervisor, as well as the sheriff, who said he won’t enforce it because it contradicts CDC guidelines. Solis said she’s not concerned about that and the enforcement will be done through health department inspectors.

“I don’t see where the sheriff has to come in and weigh in on the matter,” she said. “The public overall is smart enough to understand what is being said and how to protect themselves.”

Cases in L.A. County fell for a second day, down to 1,635 Sunday after reaching a four-month peak of 1,902 on Friday.

Coco Gauff Ruled Out of Olympics (4 p.m. NY)

Tennis player Coco Gauff, aged 17 and ranked 25th in the world, tested positive for Covid-19, ruling her out of joining the women’s U.S. Olympic team in Tokyo.

She was set to become the youngest tennis player to take part in the Olympics since 2000. Jennifer Capriati, aged 16, won the gold medal at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Court Blocks Lifting of Rules for Florida Ships (3:41 p.m. NY)

U.S. requirements for preventing the spread of the coronavirus on Florida-based cruise ships must remain in place after a federal appeals court blocked a previous ruling that allowed the state to avoid the regulations.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted late Saturday by 2-1 to stay a decision issued last month that barred the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from imposing strict pandemic protocols on cruise lines.

German Minister Rules Out Lockdown (1 p.m. NY)

Peter Altmaier, Germany’s economy minister, ruled out further lockdowns and wants to allow major events exclusively for the vaccinated and those who have recovered from Covid-19.

“We must and will prevent a new lockdown,” Altmaier told the Bild an Sonntag newspaper. “It would be devastating for many shops and restaurants that have been closed for months.”

Altmaier also said he wants to accelerate vaccinations by deploying mobile vaccination teams spread throughout German cities.

Delta Likely Undercounted, Gottlieb Says (12:51 p.m. NY)

Cases of the delta variant may be undercounted in the U.S., partly because those who get tested are more likely to be younger, have clear symptoms like loss of smell or be very sick, said Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

For anyone who contracts the variant, Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation that “it’s going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital.”

Murthy Says Mask Rules Not Cause of New Spread (11:50 a.m. NY)

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy pushed back on criticism that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acted too soon in relaxing mask rules for the fully vaccinated, helping drive the recent surge in U.S. infections.

“What’s driving the rise of infections actually is the delta variant,” Murthy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This is the most highly transmissible…variant of Covid-19 that we have seen to date, and it is spreading quickly.”

The CDC has been criticized, including by Murthy’s predecessor Jerome Adams, for making a decision prematurely that ended up discouraging mask wearing more broadly. Murthy said the decision, in May, was meant to provide more “flexibility” for vaccinated people and local governments to set Covid-19 guidelines specific to their area.

Senator Wants Platforms Liable for Misinformation (11:19 a.m. NY)

Senator Amy Klobuchar said misinformation on social media about Covid-19 vaccines adds urgency to her call to change liability standards for what is published on their platforms.

“There’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be able to monitor this better and take this crap off of their platforms,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Her comments come after President Joe Biden said Friday that the platforms are “killing people” by allowing the spread of false information.

South African Soccer Players Test Positive in Tokyo (11 a.m. NY)

Three members of South Africa’s Under-23 soccer team tested positive for Covid-19 at the team’s base in Tokyo ahead of the Oympic Games, the South African Football Association said.

The SAFA named the players as Thabiso Monyane, Kamohelo Mahlatsi and video analyst Mario Masha. A South African rugby sevens coach, Neil Powell, also tested postive, the SAFA said in a statement.

“The timing of the positive results suggests that the PCR test in these individuals was done during the incubation period of the infection, which is how they could be negative in South Africa and then positive in Japan,” Team SA’s Chief Medical Officer Phatho Zondi said. “They are now in isolation where they will continue to be monitored and will not be allowed to train or have any physical contact with the rest of the squad,” Dr Zondi added.

Vietnam Tells Hanoi Residents to Stay Home (8:48 a.m. NY)

Residents in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, were ordered to stay at home from Monday and venture out only when “truly necessary” as unlinked coronavirus cases emerge.

People should leave their homes only for work, to purchase food and medicines, or for urgent medical assistance, according to a statement on the government’s website. Non-essential businesses will close, while dining in at restaurants has already been prohibited. The city reported 37 new local virus cases Sunday, the health ministry’s Suc Khoe Doi Song publication reported.

Thai Police Use Tear Gas on Protesters (7:52 a.m. NY)

Thai riot police shot tear gas and fired water cannons at pro-democracy activists rallying in the capital as thousands marched to protest the government’s management of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Demonstrators in face masks marched near Government House in central Bangkok, despite restrictions on public gatherings of more than five people. Local media reported that they called for more funds for vaccination.

Thailand’s current outbreak has been fueled by the highly-contagious delta variant. Cumulative cases have exceeded 400,000 and daily fatalities are breaking records too.

France Limits Health Pass Use (7:26 a.m. NY)

France will limit the use in shopping malls of a contested digital “health pass” that provides evidence of Covid status, even as the spread of the coronavirus accelerates again.

In a bid to limit the impact on retailers, the passes will only be required to enter malls with a surface area of more than 20,000 square meters (24,000 square yards), Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in an interview with Sunday newspaper JDD.

The move comes after thousands of people attended marches on Saturday in major cities to oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to use health passes to access venues such as restaurants and cafes. The passes include data on Covid-19 test results and vaccination status.

Gauff Out of Olympics; Social Media Criticized: Virus Update

Johnson U-Turns Into Self-Isolation (5:50 p.m. HK)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would isolate after being contacted by the U.K.’s test and trace program, following a backlash after saying hours earlier that he’d take part in a daily testing program instead.

“He was at Chequers when contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate,” a spokesman for Johnson said, referring to the premier’s countryside residence. “He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.”

Johnson’s government is due to lift remaining coronavirus restrictions for England in a day it’s dubbed “Freedom Monday.”

Italian Islands to Test Foreign Arrivals (4:44 p.m. HK)

Some Italian regions and holiday destinations including the islands of Sardinia and Sicily and the Adriatic region of Abruzzo are introducing Covid tests at airports for foreign arrivals. Sardinian President Christian Solinas announced Saturday that the region will join Sicily, which has already introduced checks for arrivals from Malta, Spain and Portugal.

Italy reported 3,121 Coronavirus infections Saturday, the most since May 29. Intensive care unit patients rose for a third day to 162, after touching a 10-month low earlier in the week.

South Africa Rolls Out Weekend Shots (4:31 p.m. HK)

South African authorities are giving vaccinations at the weekend for the first time in the country’s economic hub of Gauteng, which has been badly hit by Covid-19.

The nation’s inoculation program was disrupted by unrest last week in the south-eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, the regional authority which includes Johannesburg. South Africa has been on virus alert level 4, its second-highest, since late June.

Gauteng has recorded 805,478 infections since the start of the pandemic. The national death toll from Covid-19 stands at 66,676, with the total number of cases at 2.28 million by July 17.

U.K. Advised Against Shots for Under-18s: Telegraph (4:10 p.m. HK)

The U.K. Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised ministers against mass jabs for children and teenagers, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Children between 12 and 15 years old will be offered the vaccine only if vulnerable or living with adults vulnerable to Covid-19, the newspaper said, without specifying the sources of information. Seventeen-year-olds turning 18 within three months will be able to get the vaccine, the Telegraph also reported.

Johnson, Sunak to Skip Full Self-Isolation (3:53 p.m. HK)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will avoid strict self-isolation after a recent meeting with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19 a day later.

Instead, Johnson and his Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will continue working from Downing Street and join a “daily contact testing pilot,” during which they “will be conducting only essential government business,” a spokesman for the premier said in an email.

Virtually all coronavirus restrictions will be lifted in England on Monday, even as the delta variant continues to spread rapidly across the U.K. The U.K. reported 54,674 new Covid cases on Saturday, the most since Jan. 15.

Two Athletes Test Positive in Tokyo Olympic Village (11:10 a.m. HK)

Two foreign athletes tested positive for Covid-19 at the Tokyo Olympic Village, the first cases reported among competitors at the village, according to a document from Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee on Sunday.

The games, which start July 23, will be the first to be held without spectators as Tokyo grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases that prompted the government to declare a fourth state of emergency in the capital earlier this month. The city reported 1,410 new infections on Saturday, the most since Jan. 21. There are 55 positive cases so far tied to the Tokyo Games.

Singapore Numbers Jump to 11-Month High (9:38 a.m. HK)

Singapore reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases in about 11 months as infections emerge from an outbreak stemming from karaoke lounges as well as clusters at a wholesale fish market and local food centers.

There were 88 locally-transmitted cases, the Ministry of Health said Sunday. Twenty-five came from the entertainment clubs cluster, while 42 were linked to the Jurong Fishery Port. There were 10 unlinked infections. Along with another four among travelers entering the city-state who have been isolated, the total for the day was 92.

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