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New COVID-19 Outbreak in New Zealand Rises to 17 Confirmed Cases

Medical staff prepare to take a COVID-19 tests at a drive through community based assessment centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Health authorities in New Zealand are scrambling to trace the source of a new outbreak of the…

A new coronavirus outbreak that prompted New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to put the city of Auckland under a new lockdown is growing.

Authorities in the northern city Thursday reported 13 new community infections, all of them connected to a family of four who tested positive for the virus, becoming the country’s new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 in 102 days. The new confirmed cases bring the total number of active new cases to 36, including one person who entered New Zealand from overseas.

Prime Minister Ardern placed Auckland’s 1.6 million people under a three-day lockdown Tuesday, mandating that its 1.6 million citizens stay indoors except for essential trips. Police checkpoints were established at the city’s borders to turn away anyone attempting to leave. Ardern has also ordered strict social distancing measures for the rest of the country.

Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s health minister, said Wednesday that investigators are searching a cold storage facility where one of the infected people worked, on the chance the virus was imported, but other experts believe it was more likely it had been spreading in Auckland for weeks.

The new outbreak has also prompted Ardern to delay the dissolution of parliament, a decision that could lead to the postponement of parliamentary elections scheduled for September 19.

Among the world’s 20.6 million total confirmed infections, including nearly 750,000 deaths, New Zealand has one of the lowest numbers in either category, with just 1,589 cases and 22 deaths. Ardern imposed a strict nationwide lockdown in March in the outbreak’s earliest days and closed New Zealand’s borders to international travel, while introducing a widespread testing and tracing regime.

In the United States, another collegiate athletic conference is postponing its fall sports schedule due to the pandemic. The Big East Conference announced Wednesday none of its 11 member schools will hold contests in men’s and women’s cross country track and soccer (football), and women’s volleyball and field hockey, after consulting with its internal COVID-19 task force.

The decision by the Big East comes a day after the Big Ten and the Pac-12 announced they were calling off all of their fall sports competitions, including their lucrative schedule of American-style football games. The Big East does not participate in football.

The Big Ten and Pac-12, along with the Atlantic Coast, Southeastern and Big 12, make up the so-called “Power Five” major college athletic conferences, whose gridiron 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 pandemic was thrown into doubt well before the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed their seasons. Three other conferences, along with a handful of independent college programs, have either postponed or canceled their football seasons. But the ACC, SEC and Big 12 said Wednesday they plan to carry on with their football seasons, although with a limited number of games.

Meanwhile, one of the world’s top golf tournaments – The Masters – will be played this year with no spectators.

It’s the third major U.S. golf match to be fan-free this year. The PGA Championship was played last week with no one watching from the sidelines. The U.S. Open, which was moved from June to September, will also have no spectators.

The Masters is usually held every April at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. The club has been closed because of the coronavirus, and this year’s tournament has been postponed until November.