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By The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 77 new cases of the coronavirus, mostly from the greater capital area where officials are scrambling to stem transmissions at hospitals and nursing homes.

Figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the country’s caseload to 25,775, including 457 deaths.

Among the 1,484 active cases, 60 are in serious condition.

Fifty-nine of the new cases were reported from densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak since summer.

Hundreds of cases have been linked to a handful of hospitals and nursing homes. Officials are testing thousands of medical workers to stem infections.

Eleven of the new cases were tied to international arrivals, including passengers from the United States, the Philippines and India.

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

— Some hospitals in crisis as US nears high for COVID-19 cases

— Dutch hospital airlifts patients to Germany amid virus surge

— France surpasses 1 million confirmed virus cases amid spike

— President Donald Trump said during Thursday’s final debate with Joe Biden that Texas saw a “big spike” in the coronavirus that has since stopped. But in the border city of El Paso, COVID-19 is the worst it’s been since the pandemic began.

— AstraZeneca is resuming late-stage testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S. The British drugmaker said the Food and Drug Administration gave the company the go-ahead on Friday.

— Brazil’s health regulator has authorized the import from China of a potential vaccine against the coronavirus, just days after President Jair Bolsonaro insisted he wouldn’t allow doses to be shipped from the Asian nation.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MELBOURNE, Australia — All staff and students from two schools in northeast Melbourne in Australia have been told to immediately get tested for COVID-19 after the emergence of seven new cases on Saturday. There were no deaths.

Both schools will be closed for the next two weeks. Already about 800 residents in Melbourne’s northern suburbs have been isolating because of the school outbreak. Warnings have been circulated to workers, including taxi drivers, who might have visited the area.

The state’s death toll remained at 817 on Saturday and the national figure at 905, with only one death in the past week.

The updated figures follow the city’s most significant anti-lockdown protest on Friday.

A “Freedom Day” rally began mid-afternoon and continued for several hours, erupting at times in violent scuffles between police and demonstrators, many of whom did not wear masks.

Police arrested 16 people and handed out dozens of fines. Three police officers were injured and one was taken to a hospital.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s northern border state of Chihuahua returned to the highest level of alert and lockdown Friday after coronavirus cases jumped there and hospitals began to fill up.

The Chihuahua state government declared the return to the “red” level of alert Friday, which closes down most non-essential services and encourages people to stay at home.

The Health Department said the state’s hospital beds were now 69% occupied, and that only about 23% of intensive care beds were open. The department said steps were being taken to expand hospital facilities.

The department also said that three other northern states — Durango, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon — were at risk of returning to maximum alert unless infections were brought under control.

Nationwide, 19 of Mexico’s 32 states will be at high alert starting Monday, 11 will be at medium alert and one state was considered at moderate risk level.

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BOISE, Idaho — A hospital in southern Idaho says it can no longer accept any children because it is overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center announced Friday afternoon that anyone needing treatment who is under the age of 18 will be sent to a hospital in Boise — 128 miles (206 kilometers) away. The hospital will still admit newborns and neonatal intensive care unit patients, however.

The hospital in Twin Falls is like many around the United States that are running out of space and reeling from a surge in COVID-19 patients. One out of every four patients at the Idaho facility is a COVID-19 patient, and hospital leaders spent the week warning Idaho Gov. Brad Little and local public health officials that the state’s healthcare system would soon be swamped until steps are taken to stem the virus’ spread.

Still, neither the governor nor the regional public health department has issued a mask mandate.

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ROME — Protesters in Naples, angry over a just-imposed 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. regional curfew and by the local governor’s vow to put the region under lockdown to try to tame surging COVID-19 infections, clashed with police on Friday night.

The demonstrators, who Italian media said numbered several hundred, headed toward the Campania region’s headquarters near the southern Italian city’s Mediterranean waterfront.

RAI state TV said local merchants joined the protest, hours after Gov. Vincenzo De Luca told citizens in a televised speech that he was “moving toward closing everything down” except essential services.

Demonstrators threw rocks and smoke bombs, and police officers responded with tear gas, Italian media said.

“You close us down, you pay us,” was one of the shouted slogans, the Italian news agency ANSA said.

Unemployment in the south runs double or even higher than in the productive north, and the country’s economy, already sluggish before the pandemic struck in late winter, risks being crippled by another lockdown like the nationwide one the central government placed the country under for some 10 weeks early in the COVID-19 outbreak.

Several people were detained in Naples, the Lapresse news agency said.

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HONOLULU -- Hawaii had about 60,000 travelers arrive in the islands in the first week of its pre-travel coronavirus testing program.

That’s a state effort to get the tourism-based economy moving again.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Thursday that nearly 60,000 returning residents, military members, essential workers, tourists and others had been tested since Oct. 15.

The vast majority tested negative and were allowed to skip the previously required two weeks of quarantine.

The state accepts only negative nucleic acid amplification tests from certain entities.

Other travelers came to Hawaii without being tested at all. Nearly 7,300 people were ordered to quarantine upon arrival.

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UNITED NATIONS — The president of the United Nations General Assembly has expressed concern that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected a meeting with him to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work of the 193-member world organization.

Volker Bozkir said in a statement that the United Nations “has been proud to call the city its home since the middle of the last century” and is “happy to generate billions of dollars in economic benefits and tens of thousands of jobs in New York City.” But the Turkish politician said he was disappointed at the mayor’s refusal to meet him.

Bozkir said: “This lack of interaction concerns me.”

His spokesman, Brenden Varma, told reporters that Bozkir reached out about two weeks ago to ask for an appointment with the mayor. But the assembly president received a response a few days ago declining the request, he said.

Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s commissioner for international affairs, responded to the assembly president’s statement without mentioning the mayor’s decision not to meet Bozkir.

She pointed to de Blasio’s “excellent relationship” with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and “deeply collaborative relationship with Mr. Bozkir’s predecessors,” and said the city looks forward “to continuing our partnership with the United Nations.”

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NEW YORK — The number of people hospitalized in New York because of the coronavirus has climbed back over 1,000.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there were 1,023 hospitalizations around the state as of Thursday. That’s more than double the number that were hospitalized month ago, and the first time since late June that the state has seen that many in hospitals with the virus.

At the pandemic’s peak in April, nearly 19,000 people were hospitalized. Statewide, 1,637 people tested positive with the virus on Thursday, on par with where levels have been for the month.

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

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Warp Speed boss vows Covid vaccine will be available to ‘100% of Americans by June’ as Cali and NY hospitals are overrun

THE director of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private initiative to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, has claimed that everyone in the U.S. will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine by June 2021.

Lt. General Paul A. Ostrowski made the claims in an interview with CNBC on Monday.

7 Lt. General Paul A. Ostrowski, the director of Operation Warp Speed, said everyone in the U.S. will be able to get a vaccine by June 2021Credit: MSNBC 7 Once they gain FDA approval, the first vaccine doses will be available to the highest risk members of societyCredit: Getty Images - Getty

Once they gain FDA approval, the first vaccine doses will be available to the highest risk members of society, according to reports.

Ostrowski said that "100 percent of Americans that want the vaccine will have had the vaccine" by June.

He added: "We'll have over 300 million doses available to the American public before then."

In the last month, two of America's largest pharmaceutical companies, Moderna and Pfizer, reported their vaccine trials had produced a higher-than-expected efficacy rate of more than 90 percent.

Moderna filed for FDA approval on Monday, causing President Trump to encourage the FDA to "act quickly."

FDA APPROVAL NEEDED

Trump, who has looked to claim credit for the pharmaceutical companies' progress so far, tweeted: "Moderna now applying for Emergency Vaccine Approval.. @US_FDA MUST ACT QUICKLY!!! Operation Warp Speed has been a great modern day miracle.”

Despite the recent announcements, however, a recent Pew Research poll found that only 51 percent of Americans say the would take a vaccine.

Of those interviewed in the poll, a greater number said they would take the vaccine if it was supported by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, than President Trump or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

7 Moderna announced on Monday that it has sought FDA approval for its coronavirus vaccineCredit: Reuters 7 Pfizer recently announced that its vaccine had an efficacy rate of more than 90 percentCredit: Reuters

Ostrowksi's announcement comes at a time when states have begun modifying their approaches to prepare for a potential surge in cases over the coming weeks.

On Monday, a new surge in hospitalizations in California saw the state declare that intensive care units could be overwhelmed by Christmas Eve.

According to the Associated Press, the state saw a new daily high for coronavirus cases, reaching 14,034 and an overall total of 1,212,968.

An additional 20 deaths were also reported, bringing the total in the state 19,141.

STATE SURGES

As of Monday, 8,578 people are in California hospitals with COVID-19, with 75 percent of ICU beds are occupied.

Without intervention, Governor Gavin Newsom said, that number could reach 112 percent by December 24.

The state will consider further restrictions over the next two days, Newsom added – similar to the shutdown order implemented earlier this year with "modifications."

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state is entering a "new phase in the war against COVID."

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Cuomo warned New York's hospitals must prepare for an expected surge in coronavirus infections by stockpiling masks and gowns.

He also urged hospitals to increase their capacities and to identify retired nurses and doctors to potentially help.

3,500 people now hospitalized statewide for COVID-19 – up from 900 people hospitalized in late June – and cases will only rise as New York residents celebrate the holiday season, Cuomo added.

7 7 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned New York's hospitals must prepare for an expected surge in coronavirus infectionsCredit: AP:Associated Press 7 California Governor Gavin Newsom also warned the need for ICU beds could start to overflow come Christmas eveCredit: AP:Associated Press

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