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World hits coronavirus milestones amid fears worse to come

The world passed two sobering coronavirus milestones Sunday – 500,000 confirmed deaths and 10 million confirmed cases – and hit another high mark for daily new infections as governments that attempted reopenings backtracked and warned that worse news could be yet to come.

“COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, who allowed businesses to start reopening in May but on Friday shut down bars and limited restaurant dining amid a spike in cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings of bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles. He ordered them to close immediately and urged eight other counties to issue local health orders mandating the same.

More Florida beaches will be closing again to avoid further spread of the coronavirus as officials try to tamp down large gatherings amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said interactions among young people are driving the surge. “Caution was thrown to the wind and so we are where we are,” he said.

South Africa’s health minister warned that the country’s current surge of cases is expected to rapidly increase in coming weeks. Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said the rise in infections came from people who “moved back into the workplace.

New clusters of cases at a Swiss nightclub and in the central English city of Leicester showed that the virus was still circulating widely in Europe, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the U.S., Latin America and India.

Poland and France, meanwhile, attempted a step toward normalcy as they held elections that had been delayed by the virus.

Wearing mandatory masks, social distancing in lines and carrying their own pens to sign voting registers, French voters cast ballots in a second round of municipal elections. Poles also wore masks and used hand sanitizer, and some in virus-hit areas were told to mail their ballots.

“I didn’t go and vote the first time around because I am elderly and I got scared,” Fanny Barouh said as she voted in a Paris school.

In Texas, Abbott appeared with Vice President Mike Pence, who cut campaign events from upcoming visits to Florida and Arizona because of rising virus cases in those states.

Pence praised Abbott for both his decision to reopen the state, and to roll back the reopening plans.

“You flattened the curve here in Texas ... but about two weeks ago something changed,” Pence said.

Pence urged people to wear masks when unable to practice social distancing. He and Abbott wore face masks as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, defended the fact that President Donald Trump has rarely worn a mask in public, saying he doesn’t have to follow his own administration’s guidance because as a leader of the free world he’s tested regularly and is in “very different circumstances than the rest of us.”

Addressing spikes in reported coronavirus cases in some states, Azar said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that people “have to take ownership” of their own behaviors by social distancing and wearing masks if possible.

A reported tally Sunday from Johns Hopkins University researchers said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had topped 500,000.

About one in four of those deaths – more than 125,000 – have been reported in the U.S. New York state has reported more than 31,000 of those deaths.

To date, more than 10 million confirmed cases have been reported globally. About a quarter of them have been reported in the U.S.

The World Health Organization announced another daily record in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the world – topping 189,000 in a 24-hour period. The tally eclipsed the previous record a week earlier at 183,000 cases, showing case counts continue to progress worldwide.

New York, once the nation’s pandemic epicenter, is now “on the exact opposite end,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with “Meet the Press.”

The state reported five new virus deaths Saturday, its lowest reported daily death toll since March 15. During the state’s peak pandemic in April, nearly 800 people were dying every day.

In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee put a hold on plans to move counties to the fourth phase of his reopening plan as cases continue to increase. But in Hawaii, the city of Honolulu said campgrounds will reopen for the first time in three months with limited permits to ensure social distancing.

Britain’s government, meanwhile, is considering whether a local lockdown is needed for the central English city of Leicester amid reports about a spike in COVID-19 among its Asian community. It would be Britain’s first local lockdown.

“We have seen flare-ups across the country in recent weeks,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC.

Polish voters were casting ballots, in person and by mail, for a presidential election that was supposed to have taken place in May but was chaotically postponed amid the pandemic. President Andrzej Duda, a 48-year-old conservative, is running against 10 other candidates as he seeks a second five-year term.

Iwona Goge, 79, was encouraged to see so many people voting in Warsaw.

“It’s bad. Poland is terribly divided and people are getting discouraged,” she said.

French voters were choosing mayors and municipal councilors in Paris and 5,000 towns and cities in a second round of municipal elections held under strict hygiene rules.

Italy honored its dead later Sunday with an evening Requiem concert in hard-hit Bergamo province. The ceremony in the onetime epicenter of the European outbreak came a day after Italy registered the lowest daily tally of COVID-19 deaths in nearly four months: eight.

European leaders were taking no chances in tamping down new clusters. German authorities renewed a lockdown in a western region of about 500,000 people after about 1,300 slaughterhouse workers tested positive.

Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to climb to a new high of more than 371,000, including 9,484 deaths, according to figures released Sunday by the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

China on Monday reported a further decline in new confirmed cases, with a total of just 12, including seven cases of domestic transmission in Beijing, where nearly 8.3 million people have now undergone testing in recent weeks. No new deaths were reported Monday, leaving the total at 4,634 among 83,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Cave City man to be sentenced in federal counterfeiting case

A man who pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit merchandise is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Yan Chen, 68, of Cave City, pleaded guilty to two counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods and three counts of aiding/assisting in preparing false returns to the IRS.

Federal prosecutors accused Chen of selling off-brand clothing, technology, perfume, watches, wallets and other items in 2016 at Flea Land in Bowling Green and at Retail and Wholesale Market in Cave City.

The goods carried labels purporting to be from brands such as Apple, Burberry, Michael Kors, Nike Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi, Under Armour, Dolce & Gabbana, North Face and other well-known companies.

Chen also admitted preparing tax returns for the years 2013-15 that underreported his business income and gross receipts each year.

Chen’s attorney, Mark Chandler, filed a sentencing memorandum with the court that requests Chen not be incarcerated.

Chandler argued that imprisonment would be exceedingly harsh in this case because Chen’s age makes him “vulnerable to victimization, abuse and adjust problems in prison.”

Chen is also unable to communicate effectively in English, which Chandler said would add to his difficulties in prison. In court proceedings, Chen used an interpreter.

“Mr. Chen will be essentially deprived of all meaningful human communication should he be imprisoned,” Chandler said in his filing. “His ability to communicate with staff and fellow inmates to alert them of problems or health issues would be virtually nil ... linguistic isolation is likened to solitary confinement in its effect.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weiser has asked for a two-year prison term for Chen.

Weiser filed a sentencing memorandum Thursday in which he said the retail price of the counterfeit items seized in the investigation exceeded $2.2 million.

“Chen not only intentionally sold counterfeit goods, he also intentionally hid gross receipts and income from his tax preparer, resulting in a tax loss of over $270,000 for tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015,” Weiser said in the memorandum.

Weiser has also asked that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Greg Stivers direct Chen to pay $272,726 in restitution.

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.

South Central Kentucky Cultural Center reopens with limitations

The doors have reopened at the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center in Glasgow – the museum full of cultural artifacts and exhibits as well as a genealogy library encompassing Barren, Allen, Hart, Metcalfe and Monroe counties.

The center closed for almost three months because of the coronavirus pandemic but reopened last week – albeit with some changes to adhere to social distancing policies.

“There are still over 50 exhibits to be seen here,” Center Director Sherry Wesley said. “It’s just there are limitations.”

Wesley said the changes include placing arrows on the floor to direct people through the museum and requiring masks for visitors.

Bathrooms are closed, and most of the books usually placed with exhibits to explain the importance of the artifacts have been removed for safety reasons. Hand sanitizing is required, and the research room is not open to the general public. The only way to get those materials is with assistance.

Wesley said the museum’s kids corner is also closed for now.

There is no specific capacity limit, but Wesley said the center is playing it by ear as far as numbers.

Wesley said the closure has had other impacts, including that the museum’s third-floor expansion pretty much came to a halt in March.

The construction part was essentially finished, Wesley said, but several things still need of finishing touches.

Wesley said artifacts have started to be moved into several of the exhibit spaces with the Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts exhibit and the 1960s bedroom and bath exhibit and tobacco shop well under way.

“I think originally we had hoped to open part of it this fall, but losing that time to work on it I believe we will be into next year possibly before we can begin to open part of it,” Wesley said. “I have no way of knowing what the future holds. It has considerably slowed things down.”

Despite the setbacks on construction and the current limitations, Wesley said the staff is happy to be able to serve the community again.

“We are glad to be open now,” Wesley said. “We will just be happier when we don’t have to wear masks and take all these extra precautions.”

Renovation of county-owned building incurs extra expense

Renovation of the Warren County Public Works building at 1141 State St. will result in some extra office and storage space – and some extra cost.

Warren Fiscal Court, meeting by videoconference Friday, approved a change order of $36,027 for additions to the renovations of the building. The magistrates in February approved a $563,585 bid from Miller & York LLC of Bowling Green to renovate both floors of the building that now has more space available after the City-County Planning Commission moved to new quarters at 922 State St.

County Public Works Director Josh Moore said the change order was needed to address some opportunities discovered during the renovation.

“Any time you start taking walls down, you find some structural things that need to be addressed,” Moore said. “We were able to move some things around, make the mechanical room smaller, and get some new work space in the back. There’s also a large area underneath the back stairs that we’re going to make into a storage closet.”

The renovations so far have been limited to the first floor, which had previously been used as office and meeting space for the planning commission.

Moore said the public works staff will move into the first floor in late July. Renovations of the second floor, home to the Contractors Licensing Board and Operation Pride, will begin in August or September.

Another spending item approved by the magistrates will allow the county’s mosquito spraying program to continue this summer.

Moore said the county road department and public works’ stormwater management division each operate one truck for the spraying that is done upon request throughout the county and the city of Bowling Green.

“The mosquito sprayer used by the road department is more than 20 years old, and it broke,” Moore said. “We had repaired it several times in the past, but now it’s beyond repair. We have to replace it.”

The magistrates approved an emergency resolution that allows the road department to purchase a new sprayer at a cost not to exceed $15,000.

“We desperately need it, no question,” said Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon, who said he would ask the city of Bowling Green to help with the purchase.

Among the other items approved by the magistrates Friday were these expenditures:

  • $3,870 to Finley Fire Equipment for one inflatable rescue boat.
  • $20,000 to Peel and Holland for the county employees’ wellness program.
  • $4,925 to Bowling Green Garage Doors for replacement of an overhead section door at the county road department.
  • $1,400 to the UPS Store for printing voter instructions for the primary election.
  • $2,168.52 to Gary Force Paint and Body Shop for repairs to a vehicle that was hit by a parking lamp that fell off a pole at Ed Spear Park.

Buchanon said plans call for reopening the county courthouse to the public July 6, although county departments have continued to serve the public during the coronavirus pandemic through online services and walk-up windows.

He said the next fiscal court meeting, which is scheduled for July 10, will again be a virtual meeting as the county government continues to take precautions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s definitely not over,” Buchanon said of the pandemic, “although some people are acting like it is.

“Some people are not wearing masks, which is a sign of total disrespect for your family and friends. If you wear a mask, you’re doing yourself a favor and helping others.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.