The Latest: France sees drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations

PARIS — The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in France dropped this weekend for this first time since September, after two weeks of new nationwide lockdown measures aimed at slowing surging infections and easing hospital strains.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care also fell for the first time in six weeks, according to figures released Saturday night, though virus patients still occupy 96% of France’s standard ICU beds.

The number of weekly infections per 100,000 people in France has now been falling for 14 straight days, and some doctors say they’re starting to see signs of relief in over-stretched ICUs.

But it remains too early to say whether the one-day drop in hospital numbers means France has hit the peak in this second surge of the pandemic.

France has reported more virus infections than any European country and has had 44,246 virus-related deaths. The government imposed a nationwide partial lockdown starting Oct. 30 as the second surge hit and could start easing the measures Dec. 1 if the number of virus patients in hospitals shows consistent decline.

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

— Second round of lockdowns brings misery for Europe’s Michelin-rated chefs

— President-elect Joe Biden faces tough choice of whether to back virus lockdowns

— Mexico reaches 1 million virus cases, nears 100,000 deaths

— French doctors use their experience t o improve treatments for COVID-19 patients

— San Diego restaurants, gyms sue for right to operate indoors despite pandemic

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka say about 400 inmates from the country’s highly-congested prisons have tested positive for COVID-19 as infected cases are surging in the capital and its suburbs.

Twelve of the 400 are prison officers while the rest are inmates. The cases are detected from five prisons in different parts of the country.

Sri Lankan prisons are highly congested with more than 26,000 inmates crowded in facilities designed to hold about 10,000.

Sri Lanka has seen a fresh outbreak of the disease since last month when two clusters — one centered on a garment factory and other on the fish market — emerged in Colombo and its suburbs. Confirmed cases from just those two clusters have grown by Sunday to 13,079 people.

Sri Lanka’s total number of positive cases reached 16,582 on Sunday with 53 fatalities.

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ANTWERP, Belgium — Many a three-star Michelin meal has been put into a takeout box and sent out on Deliveroo scooters, as renowned chefs in Belgium and elsewhere try to scrape through a second pandemic lockdown that is likely to threaten even the lucrative Christmas season.

Sergio Herman, who has run three-star, two-star and many other establishments that have wowed the Michelin powers and the most refined palates around the world, doesn’t really see any positives to come out of working amid the pandemic.

“Sometimes you feel that whatever you built up over the years is slipping like sand through your fingers. It gives you this kind of fear,” he told The Associated Press.

Across much of Europe, exclusive restaurants have lost the precious appeal of the luxury dining experience — from eating several inventive courses, to basking in sommelier tastings, to savoring the after-dinner sweet and having that little extra chat with the chef.

“All that cannot just be replaced by a box and a plastic tray. That is just impossible,” Herman said amid the whirl of his new restaurant, Le Pristine, in the Belgian port of Antwerp.

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NEW DELHI — India has reported 41,100 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, taking the country’s overall tally since the pandemic began to 8.79 million.

The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 447 deaths in the same period, driving total fatalities to 129,635.

India is second in the world in total reported cases behind the U.S., but daily infections have been on the decline since the middle of September. There has been, however, a resurgence of infections in New Delhi, which has seen a renewed surge in recent weeks, recording more new cases than any other Indian state.

On Sunday, New Delhi registered 7,340 new coronavirus cases, including 96 deaths.

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SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has scheduled a news conference for Sunday morning as COVID-19 case numbers soar throughout the Pacific Northwest where he will reportedly detail new restrictions.

Inslee’s office said he would discuss actions to combat the crisis but offered no details. The Seattle Times reports that among Inslee’s announcements will be a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars and significantly reduced capacity at grocery stores and retail shops.

The newspaper cited industry officials briefed by Inslee’s staff. The Democratic governor will also prohibit all indoor social gatherings. And Inslee will reportedly limit grocery stores and retailers to 25% occupancy.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s two U.S. senators were self-isolating Saturday after a member of Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy each tweeted Saturday that they had not had close contact with the staffer but were taking the step out of an abundance of caution.

Lamont’s chief spokesperson, Max Reiss, identified himself as the senior staff member who had tested positive in a release posted to Twitter on Friday. Reiss wrote he wasn’t sure how or where he had contracted the virus.

Murphy tweeted Saturday that he had “attended an event yesterday with the Governor but was not in close contact with the staff member who tested positive. Out of an abundance of caution, though, I am isolating until I get tested and consult with the Office of Attending Physician Monday morning.”

Blumenthal tweeted Saturday afternoon that he had “just returned from being tested myself and am currently self-isolating.”

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada has reported a record number of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus for the second day in a row amid warnings from Gov. Steve Sisolak that the state is at a “critical juncture.”

Sisolak implored residents to stay home and do what they can to protect themselves a day after he announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. Sisolak told reporters on Friday that he wasn’t feeling any symptoms and would enter a quarantine.

Nevada reported 2,269 new cases and 15 additional deaths on Saturday, topping the record of 1,857 new cases set Friday.

Sisolak warned Nevadans earlier in the week that if the state fails to slow the spread of the virus within two weeks, he will be forced to reimplement stricter measures.

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NEW YORK — Students, parents and teachers are continuing to anxiously watch New York City’s coronavirus test results. The latest figures Saturday fell under the city’s threshold for shutting down school buildings, but the mayor warned that the city was at a “crucial” point in fighting the virus’ resurgence.

Mayor Bill de Blasio cautioned parents and teachers Friday to plan for a potential school shutdown as soon as Monday, saying the city could cross its deciding line — 3% of coronavirus tests citywide coming back positive over a seven-day period — over the weekend.

The rate stayed short of that on Saturday, at 2.47%, he said.

“But that could change,” the Democratic mayor tweeted, warning that the city was facing “a critical weekend” in combating the pandemic.

New York City has the United States’ largest public school system, with more than 1 million students. It became one of few big cities to reopen classrooms this fall after the pandemic forced schools online in the spring, though families had the option of continuing all-remote learning this fall.

About 280,000 students have attended in person, far fewer than the city originally expected.

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ATHENS, Greece — Deaths from the coronavirus have topped 1,000 in Greece, and authorities say that over half occurred since Oct. 18.

The Greek government has decided to shut down elementary schools, kindergartens and day care centers for two weeks starting Monday. Children will be schooled at home, as is already happening with high school and university students.

Authorities have stepped up enforcement of a 9 p.m. – 5 a.m. curfew, including by making arrests.

Two foreign exchange students who hosted an after-hours party at their apartment in the northern city of Thessaloniki were arrested Friday and fined 3,000 euros ($3,550) each on the spot. The 24-year-old Palestinian man and 21-year-old woman from France received also suspended prison sentences of 2 years and two months on Saturday.

Their 15 party guests, all university students from western Europe, were fined 300 euros ($355) each but not arrested.

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BALTIMORE — The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus has soared to a new daily high in the United States.

Data from Johns Hopkins University indicates the number of confirmed cases reached 184,514 on Friday, as the number of people infected continues to surge.

The Johns Hopkins data shows the seven-day rolling average for virus-related deaths reported daily in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from about 828 on Oct. 30 to 1,047 on Friday, an increase of about 26%

The seven-day rolling positivity rate also rose over the past two weeks from 6.4 to 9.6, an increase of about 50%, even as the number of tests performed has grown.

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