At least half of all states have paused reopening or taken new measures to combat growing COVID-19 case numbers.
The U.S. again set a daily record of new COVID-19 cases Thursday, reporting more than 77,000.
The rising numbers are a stark reminder of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s warning to Congress last month that the U.S. could eventually see 100,000 new infections a day.
As the outbreak continues to surge across the southern states, Florida, Texas and South Carolina set records for new daily deaths, reporting 156, 129 and 69, respectively. While wearing face masks in public is mandatory in the majority of U.S. states, Texas only requires masks in counties with active COVID-19 cases, and Florida and South Carolina don’t have statewide mask orders.
In neighboring Georgia, meanwhile, Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Atlanta City Council and the mayor to block the city from enforcing its face mask mandate.
Some recent developments:
???? Today’s stats: The U.S. surpassed 3.6 million cases and over 138,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been 13.8 million cases and more than 592,000 deaths.
???? What we’re reading: “The Uncounted” — Experts estimate tens of millions of Americans contracted coronavirus but are not included in official tallies because of testing errors, misdiagnoses, a sluggish public health response and ignorance about the disease.
30 days, no COVID-19 deaths in Vermont
In the last 30 days, there is only one U.S. state that has not seen a single COVID-19 related death: Vermont.
Vermont’s neighbors — one of which, New York, was once considered the epicenter of the virus — have seen downward trends in reported cases and deaths. Still, New Hampshire reported 24 deaths in July, while Massachusetts and New York reported 326 and 357 deaths respectively so far this month.
Vermont has remained steady at 56 deaths from COVID-19 since June 18, a trend Health Commissioner Mark Levine attributes to the vigilance of Vermonters as well as strict health protocols for those in long term care facilities, who account for 52% of the state’s fatalities.
– Riley Board, Burlington Free Press
Texas gives school districts more leeway in reopening
Amid growing angst among parents and educators, the Texas Education Agency softened its stance on in-person instruction mandates as schools navigate around the coronavirus pandemic. The agency issued new rules Friday that give local school districts more control over the decisions on start dates and on how long schools can remain closed and teach students online.
The TEA’s new rules come a week after the agency laid out guidelines that required parents to choose between sending their children to school in person all the time or only being educated online, rather than any combination of the two.
The agency is extending the time districts can teach online without financial penalty, allowing districts to teach online for up to eight weeks, with the second four weeks requiring a waiver from the state.
– Melissa B. Taboada, Austin American-Statesman
Home Depot joins roster of retailers requiring masks
Another retailing heavyweight is weighing in on the national mask-wearing issue: Home Depot will now require all shoppers wear them.
The home improvement retailer said Friday that customers must wear masks inside all U.S. stores beginning Wednesday, July 22. However, small children and those who have a valid medical condition will not have to wear them. Customers not wearing masks because of a medical condition are asked to speak with an associate before entering the store, the company says.
Home Depot joins a slew of retailers including Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens mandating masks at stores nationwide.
– Mike Snider
Chicago public schools plan hybrid reopening
Chicago Public Schools will plan to start the school year with a hybrid in-person and at-home learning model, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday.
The plan assigns students to “pods” of about 15 for in-person learning and staggers school start times to reduce transmission by limiting interactions between groups of students, said CPS CEO Janice Jackson. Younger students will spend more time at school, and older students will spend more time online, Jackson said. Most students will spend two days at school each week, with virtual lessons on Wednesdays as schools are disinfected.
Schools will require face coverings, daily temperature checks, health screenings, and the district plans to hire about 400 additional custodians to execute cleaning and disinfection protocols, Jackson said.
Ousted Florida scientist files whistleblower complaint
Florida’s former top coronavirus data scientist filed a whistleblower complaint Thursday against the state’s Health Department, accusing the agency of firing her in retaliation for refusing to manipulate data to support the push to reopen Florida after months of quarantine.
The complaint by former agency data manager Rebekah Jones targets Gov. Ron DeSantis directly.
“These efforts to falsify the numbers are a pattern and practice in Florida government that goes on to this day,” Jones’ attorney, Rick Johnson, said in a statement. “Ron DeSantis has routinely given false numbers to the press. His underlings at (the Health Department) follow his example and his direction.”
– Chris Persaud, The Palm Beach Post
Americans are defying travel bans
Not everyone is staying home this summer. Some travelers are shrugging off the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, ignoring the shutdowns and taking a vacation anyway.
Half of Americans plan to stay put this summer, according to a new survey by LuggageHero. But 31% have taken a domestic trip since lockdown restrictions were eased, and a remarkable 19% have traveled internationally.
– Christopher Elliott
Britain eases restrictions, Israel locks down
The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage countries worldwide, with Brazil surpassing 2 million cases and India surpassing more than 1 million Friday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced rollbacks of lockdown measures Friday, saying he hopes social distancing will come to an end by Christmas.
Meanwhile, Israel re-entered a partial lockdown, Barcelona city officials urged residents to stay home, and Tokyo reported a record number of new cases for the second straight day.
R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.
A third of Delaware nursing homes failed to follow proper steps
In the first weeks of the pandemic, when Delaware nursing home residents were dying at one of the highest rates in the country, 30% of those facilities were failing to follow protocols to curb the spread of the virus.
A Delaware Online/News Journal analysis of federal infection control inspections carried out by the state shows that even weeks after the coronavirus began taking lives, 14 of 47 nursing homes failed their inspection. Many of these facilities didn’t isolate COVID-19 positive patients from residents who were not sick. Many staff members failed to wear or properly store personal protective equipment, if they were regularly provided with it at all.
– Meredith Newman, Delaware News Journal
US-Canada, Mexico border closures extended into late August
Travelers looking to cross the land border into Canada or Mexico will have to wait at least another month after the Department of Homeland Security extended closures at both borders due to the pandemic.
Department of Homeland Security’s Acting Secretary, Chad Wolf, tweeted the news on Thursday. “Based on the success of the existing restrictions and close collaboration with Mexico and Canada, @DHSgov will continue to limit non-essential travel at our land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico until Aug. 20,” he wrote.
Following the announcement, he added that “close collaboration with our neighbors has allowed us to respond to #COVID19 in a North American approach and slow the travel-related spread of the virus.”
– Curtis Tate, Jayme Deerwester and Morgan Hines
Survey: Majority disapprove of Trump’s COVID-19 response
The majority of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is handling the pandemic, according to a new survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project.
When asked about Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of Americans (56%) somewhat or strongly disapprove of his performance, while 37% somewhat or strongly approve. That’s an 8-point swing from April, when 48% of Americans disapproved and 45% approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.
“There’s a bunch of dimensions here where Trump has done varying levels of worse compared to how he was doing just a couple months ago,” said Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. “In just about everything, you’re seeing the sort of decline of how (voters are) sort of assessing his presidency.”
– Rebecca Morin
Washington state limits gatherings of more than 10 people
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a limit on gatherings in 17 counties that are in the third phase of reopening as the state sees a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Inslee said Thursday that no more than 10 people can gather in those counties. The previous limit was 50 people.
“The steps are necessary to slow down the spread of COVID-19. The unfortunate truth is that we can’t let our guard down, even as we engage in more activities,” Inslee said in a news release.
The order, which goes into effect Monday, comes after state officials reported Thursday a record number of over 1,000 COVID-19 cases in one day. Infections continue to increase in the state. More than 44,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Washington state and about 1,400 have died.
What we’re reading
White House document: Nevada is in ‘red zone’ for COVID-19 cases
Nevada has landed in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases. That’s according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity citing an unpublicized July 14 document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
A state reaching “red zone” status means there were more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people last week. Nevada had 173 new cases per 100,000 population in the past week, compared to a national average of 119 per 100,000.
Cases in Clark County – home of the Las Vegas Strip – put Nevada in the red zone. “Las Vegas continues to have concerning rise in cases,” the report says.
– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal
Florida sets another daily record for COVID-19 deaths
For the second time this week, Florida set a new record Thursday by reporting 156 deaths from COVID-19, with an additional 13,965 cases overnight also proving the state’s second-highest daily increase.
The death toll surpasses Tuesday’s 132 reported fatalities. Overall coronavirus cases now have reached 315,775 in Florida, with 4,677 deaths.
While the U.S. Labor Department reported that another 129,408 Floridians filed for unemployment last week, third highest in the nation, there is rising pressure to further restrict Florida’s economy, a step that Miami-Dade County officials say they could enact locally in coming weeks.
Arizona extends pandemic moratorium on evictions until Oct. 31
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will extend eviction protections for tenants affected by COVID-19 through Oct. 31, the Republican leader announced Thursday, less than a week before his original moratorium was set to expire.
The extension isn’t as generous as the one sought by housing advocates, who wanted protections for renters through the end of the year. But it will give tenants who’ve lost jobs or become ill an additional three months to catch up on payments and seek community assistance — something Ducey called “the right thing to do for public health and our economy.”
More than 330,000 Arizonans have received unemployment insurance benefits to date, and checks are expected to drop to $240 or less after the weekly $600 federal benefit runs out July 25.
– Maria Polletta and Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic
Georgia governor sues Atlanta mayor over face mask order
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council for mandating face masks in public as the state sees a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The lawsuit, filed late Thursday, argues that Bottoms overstepped her authority and must follow Kemp’s executive orders under state law.
“Governor Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage the public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the lawsuit states.
Bottoms took to Twitter to cite coronavirus numbers in the state in response to the lawsuit. “3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing,” she said.
McEnany: ‘Science should not stand in the way’ of schools reopening
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday emphasized that schools reopening this fall shouldn’t be contingent on science surrounding coronavirus, but then claimed the “science is on our side here” as the pandemic continues unabated.
In response to a question about what President Donald Trump would say to parents who have kids in school districts that may be online-only, McEnany said: “The president has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open. And when he says open, he means open in full, kids been able to attend each and every day at their school.
“The science should not stand in the way of this,” she added, saying it is “perfectly safe” to fully reopen all classrooms.
– Savannah Behrmann
Cruises will not sail in US waters until October after CDC extends its ‘no-sail’ order
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced an additional extension to their “no-sail order” which is now set to expire on Sept. 30.
The order will remain in effect until the end of September unless the CDC director rescinds or modifies the order or the secretary of Health and Human Services declares that COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency, according to the CDC’s announcement.
Previously, the CDC’s order had been set to expire July 24.
– Morgan Hines
More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY
Where a face mask is required: Many governors are instituting or renewing orders requiring people to wear face coverings in public as cases continue to rise. Is your state on the list? See it here.
Coronavirus Watch: We have a few ways for you to stay informed. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here, and come together and share the latest information about the coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.
Where are states on reopening? More than half of all states, including California and Michigan, have paused reopening plans or are taking steps to halt the spread of COVID-19. Here’s the list.
What went wrong in Florida? Two months after Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted about proving the experts wrong by flattening the curve and getting COVID-19 under control, Florida has become the state that other states don’t want to become.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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