With new coronavirus cases, the positivity rate and hospitalizations skyrocketing in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott relented Thursday and issued a statewide order mandating the use of face masks in public.
In the U.S., the number of new cases surged above 50,000 in one day for the first time, but President Donald Trump preferred to focus on encouraging jobs numbers on a day when his campaign surrogate Herman Cain announced he has been hospitalized with COVID-19.
The U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June as states, in fits and starts, slowly eased restrictions and more Americans went back to work. “These are historic numbers in a time that a lot of people would have wilted. They would have wilted,” Trump said. “But we didn’t wilt, and our country didn’t wilt.”
The Johns Hopkins data dashboard reported 50,655 new cases, pushing the U.S. total to more than 2.7 million since the pandemic began six months ago. The daily death count was 645, about average among recent days but down from daily totals that exceeded 2,000 in April. The total death toll surpassed 128,000.
Public health experts fear a significant rise in deaths may follow the spike in new cases, which often precede fatalities by 4-5 weeks.
Here are some major developments from Thursday:
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has delayed indoor dining indefinitely.
- Sheriff deputies will begin to issue citations to people who are not wearing masks in West Hollywood, California. The fine will be $300 total.
- Following the Senate’s lead, the House voted Wednesday to pass the Paycheck Protection Program extension deadline allowing small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic to apply by Aug. 8.
📈Today’s stats: Globally, there have been more than 10.7 million cases and 518,000 deaths. In the U.S., cases have surpassed 2.7 million and over 128,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
📰 What we’re reading: While the CDC says face shields should not be worn to replace a cloth mask, more and more people are turning to them for additional protection. Here’s where you can buy them.
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Texas Gov. Abbott mandates face coverings
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who had resisted calls to mandate the use of face masks amid a spike in coronavirus cases in the state, relented Thursday when he ordered those in counties with at least 20 cases to cover up in public.
Abbott had previously forbidden local officials from requiring masks. On Thursday, he granted them authority to restrict outdoor gatherings to 10 people or less.
With some exceptions, Abbott’s new order – going into effect Friday at noon – mandates face masks inside public buildings and outside when it’s not possible to maintain six feet of social distance. Violators would be initially warned and can be subsequently fined up to $250.
In a video presentation justifying his decision, the Republican governor pointed out daily new cases in the state have quadrupled to more than 6,000 since May, the positivity rate has skyrocketed from 4.5% to 14% and hospitalizations have more than tripled to 5,700 a day. Abbott added that more than 91 counties have set records for new cases in the last three days alone.
“Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Abbott, who noted he didn’t want to issue a stay-at-home order. “We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another — and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces.’’
Herman Cain hospitalized with COVID-19
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate who attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was taken to a hospital Wednesday after contracting COVID-19. Cain, 74, tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday and “developed symptoms serious enough that he required hospitalization,” according to a statement posted Thursday on his Twitter account.
The statement said Cain, a surrogate of the president as co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, is “resting comfortably in an Atlanta-area hospital” after spending the night there and did not need a respirator.
Cain tweeted a photo from the June 20 rally in Tulsa, and neither he nor the five people around him were wearing a face mask or socially distancing at the time. Health experts had expressed concern about the Tulsa rally, held indoors and with no masking requirements, possibly becoming a super spreader event.
— William Cummings
Florida smashes daily record, posts more than 10,000 new cases
Florida added 10,109 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, a new record. It marks the ninth consecutive day that at least 5,000 new cases have been counted, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. The total number of COVID-19 cases statewide is now 169,106.
The state’s total number of cases has nearly tripled since the Phase 2 reopening began on June 5. Bars were closed for the second time during the pandemic June 26.
The number of reported deaths of Florida residents rose to 3,617, including the first death of someone between the ages of 5 and 14. The death toll increased by 67 since Wednesday.
— Cheryl McCloud, Treasure Coast Newspapers
Trump lauds pandemic response despite boom in new cases
President Trump lauded his administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic Thursday, one day before heading to a holiday celebration at Mount Rushmore that will not require masks or social distancing. Trump said improved job numbers show his strategies are working. Vice President Mike Pence asked governors if they needed anything to combat the virus, and “not one governor needed anything. …. Thank you, U.S. government,” Trump said.
“We’ve implemented an aggressive strategy to vanquish and kill the virus and protect Americans at the highest risk while allowing those at lower risk to return safely to work,” Trump said. He said federal health officials were addressing “temporary hot spots” in some cities and counties.
Casino or church? Atlantic City casinos reopen minus drinking, smoking
Gamblers wore face masks and smoking and drinking were banned, but Atlantic City’s casinos reopened Thursday with drastic changes inside and outside. Opening day crowds were small, limited to no more than 25% of usual capacity. Patrons mostly observed social distancing guidelines, aided by plexiglass dividers between seats at card, craps and roulette tables, and slot machines turned off at certain intervals to create distance between players.
“Accept, adapt and have fun,” said Mike McLaughlin of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. “I’m a gambler; this is what I do.”.
Immigration judges sue Trump administration
A labor union representing the nation’s immigration judges has filed suit against the Trump administration, arguing that the government is stifling the judges’ rights to speak publicly on key issues, including the threat of COVID-19 to their lives and to public health. The suit is the latest signal of deep distrust between the professionals who work in the nation’s immigration courts and the administration. The lawsuit comes as the government moves to reopen immigration courts closed because of the pandemic.
The federal agency that runs the courts, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR, says it follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“EOIR takes the safety, health, and well-being of its employees very seriously,” the agency said in a statement.
– Maria Clark, The American South; Daniel Connolly, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal
California man posts regrets on Facebook day before dying
A California man who contracted the coronavirus after attending a party died one day after expressing regret on social media, according to reports. Tommy Macias, 51, attended a party in Lake Elsinore, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and said in a now-deleted Facebook post that he was tested June 15. Three days later he learned he was positive. An official from the Riverside County Office of Vital Records confirmed to multiple news outlets that Macias died June 21 from COVID-19.
“Because of my stupidity I put my mom and sisters and my family’s health in jeopardy,” he wrote on June 20, adding “This is no joke. If you have to go our wear a mask and practice social distancing. Don’t be a (expletive) idiot like me.”
– N’dea Yancey-Bragg
What we’re reading
As vaccine nears, will syringes become as scarce as masks were?
Some experts warned that syringes could become the next face masks – coveted items in short supply able to plunge the market into chaos. The federal government and health care supply companies learned a lesson from the mad scramble for masks and other personal protective equipment that came to symbolize the early weeks of the pandemic. The federal government has signed at least $260 million in contracts for their production.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week a vaccine could be available by year’s end.
“People have to be proactive in beginning to order and stockpile these devices now,” said Thomas Polen, CEO of manufacturer Becton, Dickinson and Company. “It cannot be ‘wait until the last minute’ and expect that those products will be able to be manufactured.”
– Katie Wedell
Movie night is coming to a Walmart parking lot near you
Walmart has a remedy for families pining for a trip to shuttered movie theaters. The retail giant is transforming 160 of its store parking lots into contact-free, drive-in movie theaters. Beginning in August, Walmart says it will “roll out this red carpet experience” for a combined 320 showings. Walmart, partnering with production company Tribeca Enterprises, is promising hit movies, special appearances from filmmakers and celebrities and concessions delivered to customer vehicles.
The “tour” will run through October. Walmart says additional details will be announced closer to the start of the tour. More information can be found at walmartdrive-in.com.
Economy adds almost 5 million jobs as US reopens amid spike in virus cases
The U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June as states continued to allow businesses shuttered by the coronavirus to reopen and more Americans went back to work, a surge that has more than offset massive and persistent layoffs. The unemployment rate fell to 11.1% from 13.3% in May, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated that 3.1 million jobs were added last month.
“America is scrambling to get back to work, but jobs are only as secure as the virus allows them to be,” said Julia Friedlander, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program. “The economic clock is betting against the viral clock, hoping to gain momentum so that shutting down again won’t rocket us back to April.”
– Paul Davidson
Tuscaloosa students holding COVID-19 parties, local official says
Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have been attending “COVID parties” as part of a contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member says. Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry told ABC News that students have been organizing the parties to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 128,000 people in the United States. The organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19, she said.
“They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense,” McKinstry said. “They’re intentionally doing it.”
Drug dexamethasone hard to find after study sees COVID-19 benefits
A steroid that was in shortage before the pandemic has gotten more scarce since researchers reported it can improve the survival rate of COVID-19 patients. A study from the University of Oxford published June 16 shows dexamethasone reduced the risk of death by up to one-third among coronavirus patients on ventilators. Sixteen dosages of the inexpensive steroid had been on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s shortage list since 2019. Half of the shortages had been blamed on demand. Since the promising dexamethasone study was published, manufacturers have sent updates to the FDA list, blaming 15 of the 16 shortages on increased demand.
“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result,” Peter Horby, one of the chief investigators for the trial, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”
– Dian Zhang
More than 40 California principals quarantined after in-person meeting
More than 40 principals in Northern California have been asked to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 after attending an in-person meeting called by the Santa Clara County Unified School District.
An asymptomatic attendee tested positive for the virus days after the meeting, reported TV station KNTV. District superintendent Stella Kemp confirmed the exposure at an online meeting last week, the station reported. “Given the complexities of our reopening, some of our staff meetings are taking place in person. Of course those meetings are being conducted under the strict guidelines provided to us by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department,” Kemp said.
No other attendee has tested positive, Kemp said.
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Where are states on reopening? Some are taking preemptive measures to postpone further phases of their reopening, while others have rolled back their phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. See the list.
Contributing: The Associated Press