By ROD McGUIRK
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia has reported a record high of COVID-19 deaths, and its second-largest state declared an emergency in hospitals to cope with surging patient admissions and a staffing shortage due to the coronavirus. The 74 deaths reported Tuesday exceeded the previous daily high of 59 in 2020. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said there were signs that New South Wales’ infection rate was peaking and Victoria was near a plateau. Victoria declared an emergency for hospitals in Melbourne and regionally because of staff shortages and a surge in patient admissions. About 5,000 staff are absent because they are either infected or close contacts.