Australia is reporting a new single-day record 21 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, along with 428 new infections.
The fatalities occurred in the southern state of Victoria, which has been battling a dramatic surge of new infections since late June that prompted authorities to impose strict lockdowns to control the spread of the virus.
Premier David Andrews says all the fatalities were mainly those between their 70s and 90s, with one woman over 100, and that 16 of them were linked to elder care facilities. Victoria state also posted 410 new infections Wednesday, breaking a run of three consecutive days of new infections below 400.
The remaining 18 infections reported Wednesday were in neighboring New South Wales, where authorities have reported a new cluster of infections at a private school in Sydney.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday she is delaying the dissolution of parliament, a decision that could lead to the postponement of parliamentary elections scheduled for September 19. Ardern issued a lockdown Tuesday on the city of Auckland after a family of four tested positive for COVID-19.
The family is the first new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus in 102 days. Health authorities are working to trace the source of the new infections. Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s health minister, says investigators are looking into the possibility the virus was imported by freight.
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Sporting world impacted
The pandemic continues to have an effect on the sporting world, as two major U.S. college athletic conferences announced Tuesday they are postponing their upcoming fall (gridiron) football seasons.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said after consulting with the conference’s medical advisory board “it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the presidents and chancellors of all of the member schools agreed their individual programs “are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant.”
The Big Ten includes such legendary collegiate football programs as Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, while the Pac-12 conference, based primarily in the western United States, includes such traditional powerhouses as Stanford, the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
In addition to football, the Big Ten says it is postponing all of its fall sports activities, including men’s and women’s track and field and American-style soccer. The Pac-12 said it will not hold any sports competitions for the remainder of 2020.
The two conferences, along with the Atlantic Coast, Southeastern and Big 12, make up the so-called “Power Five” major college athletic conferences, whose football programs are not only among the best in the nation, but also bring in billions of dollars in revenue from ticket sales and national television contracts.
The prospect of any U.S. college football being played during the traditional fall season amid the COVID-19 pandemic was thrown into doubt well before the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed their seasons. Three other conferences, including the Ivy League, which represents such prestigious schools as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, have either postponed or outright canceled their football seasons. Medical experts have expressed concern that otherwise young and healthy athletes could develop long term health problems if they contract COVID-19, including heart and lung damage.
But U.S. President Donald Trump has been one of the leading figures urging college football to begin its season as normal, telling reporters at the White House Tuesday the players are “young, strong people” who will be able to fight off the virus.
The pandemic has forced the National Basketball League and National Hockey League to resume their seasons in centralized locations, dubbed “bubbles,” where players and coaching staffs must remain during competition. Major League Baseball’s shortened 60-game season has been marred with several players from the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals testing positive for COVID-19, forcing the league to postpone dozens of games and putting the truncated season at risk of being canceled.