The Latest: Italy’s schools on pace to reopen in September

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

— Italy’s education minister says students will be back in school in September. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell preaches importance of wearing masks.

— Nurse group says COVID-19 has killed more nurses in Brazil than anywhere else.

— U.N. chief warns of historic levels of famine.

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ROME — Italy’s education minister is promising students they will return to school in September.

Minister Lucia Azzolina told RAI state TV Thursday evening that come September all the nation’s school children “will hear the school bell ring” again. She said students older than six will have to wear protective masks at school and stay a safe distance apart from classmates.

Schools were closed as a safety measure after Italy started seeing hundreds of cases before the entire nation went into lockdown in early March. The COVID-19 outbreak in Europe began in Italy.

While the Italian government eased restrictions this month on many sectors of daily life, including allowing museums and all retail shops to open, restaurants to resume dining-in service and people to frequent parks, school buildings will stay shuttered for the rest of the school year. The only exception is high school students in their final year. They will return to school on June 17 to have individual oral exams needed for graduation.

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The U.N. children’s agency is warning that Latin America could see a devastating jump in childhood poverty.

UNICEF and Save the Children warned Thursday that 46% of children in the region could be living in poor households by the end of the year as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic. That would make Latin America the second hardest hit region in the world.

An additional 16 million children are projected to live in poor households this year.

Monica Rubio, UNICEF ’s social policy adviser, says such a rise would “significantly reverse” gains made in reducing childhood poverty in the past two decades.

The United Nations estimates that the region’s economy could contract 5.3% this year, a downturn that would be worse than the Great Depression.

The World Food Program says upward of at least 14 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean could go hungry this year.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s Democratic governor says his administration hasn’t received the written safety plan for the upcoming Republican National Convention that his health secretary asked for amid friction with President Donald Trump on the event’s capacity.

Gov. Roy Cooper said during a Thursday afternoon briefing that his administration has yet to see plans for how the RNC envisions safely holding the convention in Charlotte in August amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump threatened in a tweet Monday to move the convention unless Cooper could guarantee a full-capacity gathering. Trump reiterated the idea by saying he wanted an answer from Cooper within a week, or he’d be forced to consider moving the convention somewhere else.

Cooper said his administration required a similar written plan from NASCAR ahead of its recent race in the Charlotte area that was run without fans. He said he’s in similar discussions with other sports teams, including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department Department of Education on Thursday approved Saturday classes in case of another surge of coronavirus cases.

The board approved a plan starting in the fall in which Saturday classes will be counted toward minimum attendance requirements. Saturday classes are currently prohibited by state law.

Health officials have warned of a possible second surge of coronavirus cases and state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has said she wants schools to prepare multiple calendars for the fall in case of another outbreak.

Oklahoma schools canceled in-person classes and moved to distance learning in mid-March as the virus spread in the state.

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OWENSBORO, Ky. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday preached the importance of wearing masks in public as the nation’s economy reopens from the “cataclysmic” damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

During a tour of hospitals in his home state of Kentucky, the Republican leader stressed wearing masks in public and following social distancing guidelines.

“There should be no stigma attached to wearing a mask,” McConnell said during an appearance Thursday in Owensboro. “And even among age groups that are least likely to either contract this disease or die from it, you could be a carrier. So I think what we all need to do is say, ‘OK, I’m going to take responsibility not only for myself but for others.’”

McConnell, who is in his late 70s and is in the midst of his own re-election campaign, has worn masks at his appearances. On Thursday, he stuffed the face covering into his coat jacket to speak, then donned it again afterward.

President Donald Trump has refused to wear face coverings. Manw coronavirus epidemic, some two weeks ago. The country has been gradually lifting virus restrictions as the number of new cases fell to none or one or two daily.

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MADRID — Spanish authorities are reporting no setbacks in the gradual easing of restrictions on movement over the past month as some regions prepare to further loosen limits starting Monday.

Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s emergency medical response, said Thursday that the improving quality of data about the spread of the new coronavirus is allowing officials to act quickly to stamp out any resurgence. He said an outbreak this week in Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta is “perfectly manageable.”

Authorities in Ceuta say several “fiestas” and lax compliance with social distancing rules at bars and on restaurant terraces compelled officials to order the self-isolation of 271 people over the past week. They had been in contact with nine new cases there.

Different regions of hard-hit Spain are emerging at different speeds from a national lockdown as they meet targets stipulated by health officials.

Authorities on Thursday announced 182 new cases over the previous 24 hours, taking the official total to almost 238,000.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington officials say the state has recovered $300 million paid to criminals who used stolen personal information to file fraudulent unemployment benefit claims amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said Thursday that she could not yet reveal the precise amount that was paid out in fraudulent claims, but she said that the initial recovery was a result of the state’s collaboration with federal law enforcement and financial institutions across the country.

LeVine first detailed the scope of the fraud last week, saying that the information of tens of thousands of people in the state was used to fraudulently receive hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A rural northern county in California is temporarily rescinding an order allowing the reopening of restaurants, shopping and other services after reporting its first cases of the new coronavirus.

Lassen County had been one of only two counties in the state without any reported coronavirus cases and now has at least five.

The county, which has 30,000 people, had reported no cases until last Friday.

Lassen County had started reopening businesses under state rules on May 11.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — The new coronavirus has killed more nurses in Brazil than in any other country, according to the International Council of Nurses.

The group did not provide exact figures but said it is in the process of updating its data and will be releasing a new statement regarding the global situation early next week, Richard Elliot, the council’s communications director, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

Brazil has registered 157 deaths of nurses, nurse technicians and nursing assistants from COVID-19 so far, according to the Brazilian Federal Council of Nursing. The council said the trend is for the death toll among the workers to continue growing and warned its scale depends on several factors, including supply of personal protective equipment and the virus’ spread in the general population.

Brazil has reported about 411,000 infections and 25,000 deaths from the pandemic thus far, by far the hardest hit country in Latin America.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is relaxing several restrictions that were put into place to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that a ban on travel between cities most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak will be lifted, while restaurants, cafe, museums, sports centers parks and beaches will re-open on Monday. Public service workers, except those with chronic illnesses, will also return to work and child care facilities will be allowed to reopen.

However, in a televised address following a Cabinet meeting, Erdogan said that a stay-at-home order for people aged 65 and over, and for minors, will remain for a while longer, while those aged 19 and 20 are now allowed outdoors.

The country resumed limited intercity train services Thursday and mosques are scheduled to partially reopen Friday.

Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed infections in the country surpassed 160,000, with the Health Ministry announcing 1,182 new cases in the past 24 hours. The ministry also reported 30 new deaths, raising the total COVID-19 fatalities to 4,461.

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada’s record jobless figures continues to climb, with more than 18,000 people filing first-time benefits claims last week, adding to the all-time-high 28.2% statewide unemployment figure in April.

Thursday’s report from the U.S. Labor Department comes after Gov. Steve Sisolak announced earlier in the week that casinos can reopen June 4.

Nevada, which relies heavily on tourism and entertainment, saw unemployment soar to the highest rate since the national jobless rate was estimated at 25% in 1933 during the depths of the Great Depression, said David Schmidt, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

The governor closed casinos and businesses in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus after about 75 people had tested positive for COVID-19 and one died. On Thursday, state health officials reported more than 8,100 positive tests and at least 402 deaths, mostly in the Las Vegas area.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is warning world leaders that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause “unimaginable devastation and suffering around the world,” with historic levels of hunger and famine and up to 1.6 billion people unable to earn a living unless action is taken now.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a high-level meeting Thursday that COVID-19 could also lead to “a loss of $8.5 trillion in global output, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Guterres called for Immediate and collective action in several critical areas: enhancing global financial liquidity; providing debt relief; engaging private creditors; promoting external finance; plugging leaks in tax evasion; money-laundering; and corruption. He also wants to make sure the recovery tackles the climate crisis.

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PARIS — France is reopening its restaurants, bars and cafes starting next week as the country eases most restrictions amid the new coronavirus crisis.

All city parks will reopen and more children will be accommodated in schools with classes capped at 15 students.

French Prime minister Edouard Philippe also pledged to revive “cultural and sport life.”

Although life is returning closer to normal, public gatherings larger than 10 people are still banned, contact sports are not allowed, and night clubs will remain closed.

France, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries, has reported at least 28,596 coronavirus-related deaths.

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ROME — Italy registered 593 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, nine more than the previous day-to-day figure from the Health Ministry.

Lombardy in the north registered 382 new cases, nearly the same as a day earlier. All other regions registered far fewer than 100 new cases, most with fewer than a dozen.

There were 70 deaths in the 24-hour period ending on Thursday evening, raising the nation’s overall known death toll to 33,142. Italy has logged 231,732 known cases of COVID-19.

Lombardy’s situation is concerning health experts ahead of a looming government decision on whether Italians can resume travel between regions and if people can arrive from abroad without having to quarantine.

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