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The Latest: Virus grounds crew at US hurricane flight center

by Helen Pittman (2020-06-21)


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LAKELAND, Fla. - Florida's coronavirus outbreak has spread to the team that operates the hurricane hunter airplanes in the United States.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said Tuesday that five employees at the team´s Lakeland, Florida, base tested positive last week, forcing others into quarantine.

Spokesman Jonathan Shannon said the three planes are still flying with minimum crews.

He said the planes are being cleaned before and after each flight.

Florida's Department of Health reported 2,783 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, breaking the daily record of 2,581 new cases set on Friday. The numbers on both days are almost double the previous high of 1,601 set in mid-May.

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

An hospital worker wears a face mask writing « In strike » during a demonstration, Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in Paris.

French hospital workers and others are protesting in cities around the country to demand better pay and more investment in France's public hospital system, which is considered among the world's best but struggled to handle a flux of virus patients after years of cost cuts.
France has seen nearly 30,000 virus deaths. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

- The German government wants to require any cases of the coronavirus in pets to be reported to authorities.

- Tanzania´s president says the country will reopen schools at the end of this month after claiming victory over COVID-19 and that divine intervention is key to stopped the virus.

- China reimposes some travel restrictions in the capital to contain a new outbreak, highlighting calls for vigilance as the U.S., Europe and Latin America continue to reopen.

- Americans are unhappier today than they´ve been in nearly 50 years.

That's the takeaway from the COVID Response Tracking Study conducted by University of Chicago researchers. It finds that just 14% of American adults say they´re very happy, down from 31% who said the same in 2018. About twice as many Americans reported being lonely as did in two years ago, an unsurprising finding given lockdowns and stay-home orders.

- Scientists at Imperial College London will start immunizing people in Britain this week with an experimental coronavirus shot, while pharmaceutical company Sanofi and the French government announced more than 800 million euros ($890 million) in investment as part of the worldwide race to find an effective vaccine.

- Health care workers are reckoning with the psychological toll of fighting the virus.

While the global pandemic hasn´t abated, the days of ventilator shortages and makeshift morgues at hospitals have subsided. Not necessarily the pain from treating gasping patients in past months and fears that COVID-19 could flare anew later this year.

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HERE´S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

HARRISBURG, Pa.

- Pennsylvania has recorded a third straight day of fewer than 400 positive coronavirus tests, according to Department of Health data.

That's the longest such stretch since new confirmed cases in the state began regularly exceeding that number l in late March.

Still, the number of people dying with the virus every day remains in the dozens.

Officials reported 33 additional deaths and 362 new confirmed cases on Tuesday.

That brings the state´s totals to nearly 80,000 cases and 6,276 deaths since early March.

Of those, 75% have recovered, the department said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state´s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks.

Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn.- The number of COVID-19 patients in Tennessee hospitals has reached its highest level at more than 400, but Vanderbilt University researchers report the increase has not put acute strain on the state´s hospital system.

A report from the Nashville-based university´s hospital and medical school issued Tuesday said increases in hospitalizations in June were mostly concentrated in the Memphis area and southeast Tennessee, including Chattanooga.

Around 400 patients were hospitalized between June 7 and June 13, a jump of nearly 30% from a week earlier, the report said.

Increasing numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in recent days have led the cities of Memphis and Nashville to delay plans to reopen more businesses and to raise customer limits at restaurants and retail stores.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.

- Florida´s confirmed coronavirus cases has risen sharply again and set a daily record weeks after the state began restarting its economy.

The state Department of Health reported 2,783 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, breaking the record of 2,581 new cases set on Friday.
The numbers on both days are almost double the previous high of 1,601 set in mid-May.

The state also reported 55 more virus-related deaths for a total of 2,993.

Gov. Ron DeSantis last week said the upward trend in confirmed cases was mostly a reflection of more testing being conducted combined with spikes in some agriculture communities.

But the number of tests performed daily peaked three weeks ago, and the percentage of positive tests is now over 6%, more than double the 2.3% rate in late May.

The governor´s press office did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday on the increase; the Florida health department has not responded to multiple phone and email requests for comment from The Associated Press since Monday.

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LONDON - Britain is making available to people in the country´s National Health Service a drug that has been shown to improve chances of survival for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

A large U.K.

clinical trial has found that a cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one-third in hospitalized patients who needed oxygen.

The U.K. Department of Health said Tuesday that effective immediately, the drug had been approved to treat all hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen. The department said the U.K.

had stockpiled enough to treat 200,000 patients.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the drug was the "biggest breakthrough yet" in treating COVID-19. Johnson spent a week in the hospital being treated himself.

Peter Horby of Oxford University, one of the leaders of the trial, told a news conference that dexamethasone had shown "quite a significant effect" in patients with respiratory difficulties.

It´s also readily available.

Horby said that "it´s on almost every pharmacy shelf in every hospital, it´s available throughout the world, and it´s very cheap."

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Dutch lawmakers have called for an independent review of the government´s handling of the coronavirus crisis so authorities can be better prepared for a possible second wave of infections.

In a vote Tuesday, a majority of lawmakers supported a motion by the opposition Labor and Socialist parties calling on the Netherlands´ governing coalition to seek independent advice before Sept.

1 on "what lessons can be learned" from the measures taken by the government to rein in the spread of the virus.

Nearly 50,000 people have tested positive for the virus in the Netherlands and 6,070 have died, according to the government´s official tally.

The pandemic´s actual death tolls in many countries are believed to be higher because not all people who died with suspected COVID-19 were tested.

The Dutch Safety Board, an independent panel that investigates major incidents such as plane crashes and industrial accidents, also is investigating the government´s coronavirus response but its probe is expected to take many months.

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TORONTO - Canada and the United States have agreed to keep borders closed to non-essential travel until July 21 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the two countries extended their existing agreement by another 30 days.

The border restrictions were announced on March 18 and previously extended in April and May.

Many Canadians fear a reopening.

The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world,

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ATHENS, Greece - Greek authorities say more than 7,800 coronavirus tests were carried out on passengers who arrived at Athens international Airport last week and turned up four cases.

Authorities said the 7,804 checks were carried out on flights that arrived June 8-14, before Greece opened to most European tourists this week without compulsory coronavirus tests.

Greece has been eager to promote itself as a safe tourist destination, and to salvage what is left of the summer tourist season. The country is heavily dependent on tourism, which makes up around 20% of its economy.

Tourists have been able to fly into Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki since Monday, and are subject to random coronavirus tests rather than mandatory testing and quarantine.

International flights will be able to fly directly to regional airports from July 1.

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BERLIN - Authorities in Berlin have placed 369 households under quarantine after dozens of people tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Officials in the southern district of Neukoelln said Tuesday that the outbreak involved homes in seven different locations and in some cases with 10 people living together.

Berlin´s top health official, Dilek Kalayci, urged the German capital´s residents to use a new government-backed contact tracing app rolled out on Tuesday.

As of Monday, Berlin had recorded a cumulative total of 7,368 cases of COVID-19 and 208 deaths since the outbreak began.

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NAIROBI, Kenya - Tanzania´s president says the country will reopen schools at the end of this month after claiming victory over COVID-19.

President John Magufuli's comments came a day after his prime minister said 66 people in Tanzania were still infected.

Confusion has surrounded the East African nation after it stopped publicly updating its number of cases at the end of April.

Magufuli has claimed the pandemic has been greatly exaggerated and pressed ahead with loosening restrictions in Tanzania, a country of some 56 million people.
He says precautions such as wearing masks are unnecessary and instead divine intervention is key to stopping the virus.

Health experts have pleaded with the government for cooperation and transparency.

While Tanzania´s official number of cases has been frozen at just over 500, opposition leaders fear the real number is in the tens of thousands.

Magufuli spoke Tuesday while dissolving Tanzania's parliament to pave way for an October general election, another event that has caused concern.

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LONDON - A new study by Public Health England has confirmed that historic racism and social inequalities are contributing factors that increase the risk of black and Asian people and members of other minority communities dying from the coronavirus in the U.K.

Britain´s government has been under heavy pressure to do more to directly address the issue after data consistently showed that coronavirus death rates were significantly higher for black people and ethnic minorities compared to white Britons.

The report published Tuesday didn´t look at genetic factors, but said it was clear that the pandemic "exposed and exacerbated longstanding inequalities" in the country.

The authors said there was a strong association between economic disadvantages and having the virus.

Black people and minority groups are more at risk because they are more likely to live in cramped housing, use public transportation and work in jobs with a higher risk of virus exposure.

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BEIJING - The head of the World Health Organization is scheduled to deliver a graduation address to business students at one of China´s premier universities amid U.S.

accusations that he and the U.N. health agency gave in to undue influence from Beijing.

Tsinghua University´s School of Economics and Management announced that WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will address students remotely on Sunday.

Tedros earlier publicly praised the Chinese response as "very impressive, and beyond words."

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to suspend funding for the WHO after saying the agency had echoed China´s claims that it was responding swiftly to the coronavirus even as information appears to show Beijing covered up or delayed passing on data about its outbreak.

The AP found significant delays by China in the early stages of the country´s outbreak that compromised the WHO´s understanding of how it was spreading, according to internal recordings of WHO meetings, documents and interviews.

The AP uncovered evidence that China sat on releasing the genome of the virus for more than a week after three government labs had fully decoded it.

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MOSCOW - Outdoor spaces in cafes and restaurants, museums and zoos have reopened in Russia´s capital as part of easing coronavirus restrictions.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said last week that the city government would end the lockdown it imposed in late March.

The steps taken Tuesday also allowed dental clinics to resume providing non-urgent treatment.

Kindergartens, gyms and the indoor spaces of cafes and restaurants in Moscow are set to reopen starting June 23.

Moscow authorities cited the decrease in new confirmed virus cases as the reason why stay-home orders and other restrictions could end.

The daily number of new confirmed cases in Moscow has dropped from over 6,000 to under 1,500 in recent weeks.

However, Kremlin critics link the move to the Russian government's desire to boost voter turnout in an upcoming constitutional referendum that would allow President Vladimir Putin´ to rule until 2036.

Voting is set to start on June 25.

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VERMONT -- After months of having some of the fewest coronavirus cases in the country, Vermont is now trying to contain an outbreak that has hit an immigrant community in a small but densely populated city.

What health officials described as a small cluster in Winooski that they first noticed on Memorial Day has jumped to 83 cases and expanded into neighboring Burlington and other surrounding communities.

No hospitalizations or deaths have been reported.

About 40% of the cases have been in children. As of Monday, only 17% of those who tested positive showed any symptoms of COVID-19, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

Compared with larger states, Vermont´s current outbreak is small.
But for several weeks before the Winooski outbreak, the number of new cases reported in Vermont was frequently in the low single digits, with occasional days with no positive cases. Vermont has 55 COVID-19 deaths.

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PARIS - Drug maker Sanofi pledged Tuesday to invest 610 million euros ($677 million) in vaccine facilities in France, as President Emmanuel Macron announced 200 million euros ($222 million) in government investments to reduce France´s dependence on other countries for vaccines and other medicines.

Sanofi said its investment would go into a vaccine production site and a new vaccine research center, to be able to produce in greater scale and "quickly respond to future pandemic risks."

Macron said starting Thursday, France will "relocalize" production of some medicines as part of broader government efforts to revive the virus-battered economy and bring more manufacturing production back to France.

Sanofi is working on a vaccine it hopes to test on humans later this year.

one of dozens of vaccine candidates being pursued around the world.

Last month, Sanofi prompted outrage in France by promising to give the United States first access to the company´s eventual vaccine because the U.S. had invested more in its research.

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DHAKA, Bangladesh - Bangladesh on Tuesday reported 53 new deaths from coronavirus in a day, the highest in a daily count, bringing the death toll to 1,262.

Nasima Sultana of the Health Directorate said 3,862 people tested positive, raising the total caseload to 94,481.

The new figures came amid calls to control new infections by locking down many areas in the capital, Dhaka, and elsewhere.

Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million, has only 61 laboratories for testing. Experts say the country´s healthcare facilities have already been overwhelmed.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia has surpassed 40,000 coronavirus cases but will allow some schools to reopen.

A spokesman for the national COVID-19 task force, Achmad Yurianto, said there are 1,106 new COVID-19 cases in Indonesia in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 40,400 cases and 2,231 deaths.

The government will allow schools in "`green zone" areas to reopen, which includes about 6% of students.

But Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim said 94% of the students in Indonesia cannot have face-to-face academic activitiesl as they are located in 429 districts in high and medium-risk areas. The new school year is scheduled to begin on July 13.

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BERLIN - The German government plans to introduce an obligation that any cases of coronavirus in pets be reported to authorities.

It says the move is needed to assist research into the virus.

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said Tuesday that the plan is for the move to be considered by parliament next month.

Kloeckner said that there will be no obligation for people to test their pets, but it would make sense to do so in certain situations - for example, if a cat living in a household with human coronavirus cases itself shows symptoms.

She stressed there´s no evidence so far that pets can transmit COVID-19 to humans.

Germany has about 31 million pets and 83 million people. The head of the country´s animal disease research center said there has only been one known animal case there so far.

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LONDON - Scientists at Imperial College London will start immunizing people in Britain this week with their experimental coronavirus shot, becoming the latest entry into the race to find an effective vaccine to stop the pandemic.

In a statement, the British government said 300 healthy people will be immunized with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed at Imperial, which has been backed by 41 million pounds ($51 million) in government funding.

So far, the vaccine candidate developed by Imperial College London has only been tested in animals and in the laboratory, where it produced much higher levels of antibodies than would normally be seen in infected people.

Many scientists have warned that the pandemic might only be stopped with an effective vaccine, which typically takes years to develop.

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KYIV, Ukraine - The wife of Ukraine´s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been hospitalized with double-sided pneumonia after getting infected with the new coronavirus.

Zelenskiy´s office said in a statement Tuesday that Olena Zelenska´s condition was stable and the president himself and the couple´s children tested negative for the virus on Monday.

Zelenska said she tested positive for the virus on Friday.

Ukraine´s authorities started to gradually ease lockdown restrictions in late May, resuming the operation of public transport, reopening malls and gyms.

On Monday, the country´s authorities resumed international flights to several countries.

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ISLAMABAD - Authorities in Pakistan are taking action to seal off high-risk areas in the country´s 20 biggest cities after an increase in coronavirus infections.

Pakistan´s National Command and Control Center says raids are being carried out to impose fines and shut markets, industries and shops where social distancing regulations were being violated.

The sealing of high-risk areas began after Pakistan reported a big jump in COVID-19 deaths and a steady increase in infections.

Pakistan put its entire population of 220 million under lockdown from March until last month, when Prime Minister Imran Khan´s government loosened restrictions, saying it was necessary to save the country´s economy.

Critics say the government´s gamble resulted into a sharp increase in infections and deaths.

On Tuesday, Pakistan reported 111 new COVID-19 fatalities.

It raised the overall death toll from the virus to 2,839 among 148,921 confirmed cases.

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ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey has made the wearing of face masks mandatory in five more provinces, following an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted early Tuesday that the wearing of masks was now compulsory in 42 of Turkey´s 81 provinces.

In the remaining provinces, residents are required to wear masks on public transportation and in shops and malls, and are being advised to wear masks and keep to social distancing practices elsewhere.

Koca tweeted: "We cannot struggle against the virus without masks."

Turkey is seeing an upward trend in the daily number of infections after the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen, lifted inter-city travel restrictions and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young at the start of June.

The daily number of infections climbed to above 1,500 in the past five days after hovering around 800-900 previously.

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JOHANNESBURG - Africa´s coronavirus cases are now above a quarter-million after South Africa registered a series of daily record-high new cases over the weekend.

South Africa further loosened its lockdown measures on June 1, allowing alcohol sales, more business openings and religious gatherings limited to 50 people.

The country has more than a quarter of the cases on the 54-nation African continent with more than 73,000.

It saw its highest jump in cases on Sunday with more than 4,300.

South Africa´s struggle to balance measures to slow the spread of the virus and relieve economic pain are common throughout Africa, where the World Health Organization last week said the pandemic is now "accelerating."

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ATHENS, Greece - Hundreds of health care workers have marched through central Athens demanding the hiring of permanent workers for the health sector, while Greece´s hospital doctors´ union declared a 24-hour strike Tuesday.

The union for state hospital workers also declared a seven-hour work stoppage for the Greek capital and a 24-hour strike for the rest of the country with the same demands.

Greece´s center right government hired hundreds of workers for state hospitals on fixed-term contracts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Unions are demanding permanent hires, and for funding for the country´s health care system.

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NEW DELHI - India recorded another 10,000-plus coronavirus infections as patients swamp health services in its largest cities.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday also reported a 24-hour increase of 380 deaths due to COVID-19, driving the death toll to 9,900.

The 10,667 new cases raise the nation´s total to 343,091, fourth-highest in the world behind the U.S., Brazil and Russia.

The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons such as limited testing.

Maharashtra, the western state that is home to Mumbai, India´s financial and entertainment capital, continues to have the highest state toll.
Mumbai, Chennai and the capital New Delhi are seeing rising infections swamp their health services.

New Delhi is a growing concern with the federal government criticizing its contact tracing and hospital capacity. The capital has about 10,000 beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients, half of which are already occupied.

Hotels and sports stadiums are being considered for use as field hospitals.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand is no longer free from the new coronavirus after two women who flew from London to see a dying parent tested positive.

The new cases sparked a round of testing for anybody who might have been close to them, including their flight´s fellow passengers and crew, staff members at a hotel and a family member.

The women are isolated and have delayed the funeral of their parent until they have recovered.

New Zealand has counted 22 deaths from COVID-19, and until Tuesday, everyone else among the 1,500 people known to have been infected had recovered.

Face masks on sale at Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday June 16, 2020.

The country now has more than a quarter of the coronavirus cases on the 54-nation African continent with more than 73,000 cases after new, record-high infections were registered in South Africa over the weekend. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

Soldiers and residents disinfect a basketball court at a park amid the spread of the new coronavirus in the San Cristobal area of Bogota, Colombia, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Kevin Norsworthy, State Theater's "marquee master," puts a new message outside the venue, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in Portland, Maine.

Norsworthy, who is optimistic the State will survive because of local community support, said 90 percent of independent concert venues around the country may close permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic. The theater still does not have any plans for reopening but has rescheduled some cancelled shows for next year.

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

A primary school student gestures for a hug from a distance to her teacher, as she collects her personal belongings, as the school year ends, in a school in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

People wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus infection stand in line to enter a clothing store, opened after more than three months lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic, in St.Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

(AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Cemetery foreman Juan Rivera walks with his dogs in the Municipal Cemetery of Valle de Chalco amid the coronavirus pandemic on the outskirts of Mexico City, Monday, June 15, 2020.

(AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Police and security officials watch as people gather at a coronavirus testing center at a sports facility in Beijing, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

China reported several dozen more coronavirus infections Tuesday as it increased testing and lockdown measures in parts of the capital to control what appeared to be its largest outbreak in more than two months. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

People sit in distance to prevent against the coronavirus during a commemorative event on June 17, 1953 take place at the Andreasstrasse Memorial in Erfurt, Germany, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

67 years ago in former East Germany was a popular uprising which was bloodily suppressed. (Martin Schutt/dpa via AP)

Visitors enjoy themselves at Yoyo Land, an indoor amusement center in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

Thailand's Cabinet has approved three projects with a combined budget of more than 22 billion baht ($707 million) to help the country's reeling tourism industry recover from the coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Packages of Dexamethasone are displayed in a pharmacy, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in Omaha, Neb.

Researchers in England said Tuesday they have the first evidence that the drug can improve COVID-19 survival. The cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalized patients. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

French President Emmanuel Macron listens to researchers as he visits an industrial development laboratory at French drugmaker's vaccine unit Sanofi Pasteur plant in Marcy-l'Etoile, near Lyon, central France, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.The visit comes after rival pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca this weekend announced a deal to supply 400 million vaccine doses to EU countries, including France.

(AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, Pool)

Hospital workers march during a demonstration, Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in Paris.

French hospital workers and others are protesting in cities around the country to demand better pay and more investment in France's public hospital system, which is considered among the world's best but struggled to handle a flux of virus patients after years of cost cuts.
France has seen nearly 30,000 virus deaths. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

A Mexican artisan wearing a face mask decorated with an image of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo attends a protest blocking Paseo de la Reforma avenue in Mexico City, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

Artisan families originally from Oaxaca are asking for financial help, months after the city government closed their market as part of the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)