Monday, August 10, 2020

Coronavirus cases rose by nearly 50% in June, led by states that reopened first

Jul 02. 2020
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By The Washington Post · Anne Gearan, Derek Hawkins, Siobhán O'Grady · NATIONAL, HEALTH 

Coronavirus infections in the United States surged nearly 50% in June as states relaxed quarantine rules and tried to reopen their economies, data compiled Wednesday showed, and several states moved to reimpose restrictions on bars and recreation.

More than 800,000 new cases were reported across the country last month, led by Florida, Arizona, Texas and California - bringing the nation's officially reported total to just over 2.6 million, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

States that took an aggressive approach to reopening led the country in infection spikes - along with California, the nation's most populous state, where leaders have been more cautious. California on Wednesday reported 110 new deaths, more than any other state.

The novel coronavirus continued its recent spread, especially in the South and Southwest. More than 52,000 new cases were reported in the United States on Wednesday, the highest total since the start of the pandemic, according to data collected by The Post. Record-shattering numbers of new cases were reported Wednesday in six states - California, Georgia, Texas, Alaska, North Carolina and Arizona.

California added 9,740 new cases to its official tally - a new daily high for the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, amid the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations after early success against the virus, on Wednesday ordered 19 counties to shut down all indoor services and activities before the holiday weekend, meaning that bars, restaurants and other businesses will remain open only outside.

Pennsylvania ordered protective masks to be worn in public, and New York City delayed the planned loosening of restrictions on indoor dining. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D, ordered the end of indoor service at bars through most of the state's lower region, citing a spike in cases among younger people.

Newsom's order was the latest step the governor has taken to impose new rules on counties that, in late spring, appeared to have the virus largely under control. While it names only a minority of California's 58 counties, the reclosing order will affect nearly 75 percent of the state's residents, including those who live in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and the East Bay area.

Over the past two weeks, coinciding largely with the reopening of bars and restaurants, hospitalization rates in California have climbed 52% because of new virus infections. The rate of Californians testing positive for the virus has also jumped 6% over that time.

Los Angeles County, which passed 100,000 cases earlier this week, has been the epicenter of the virus in the state's south, where several neighboring counties were also named in Newsom's order. But new cases also have risen sharply in the Bay Area and the capital, Sacramento. Sacramento County is also on the list.

President Donald Trump said he still hopes the virus will fade away on its own. He professed a greater willingness to wear a face mask as recommended by federal officials and increasingly mandated by localities as the virus rebounds.

"I think we are going to be very good with the coronavirus," Trump said during a Fox Business interview. "I think that, at some point, that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope."

Face masks do not need to be made mandatory, Trump said. Although he has previously declined to wear one in public or in the Oval Office, saying the look is unpresidential, Trump said Wednesday that he would wear one "if I were in a group of people and I was close."

He described a recent, apparently off-camera, mask debut. "Actually, I had a mask on. I sort of liked the way I looked, OK? I thought it was OK. It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked OK. Looked like the Lone Ranger."

Every state should have a mask requirement to help prevent the country from seeing 100,000 cases per day, according to Harvard Global Health Institute director Ashish Jha.

"I just think we can't dither around on masks," he said Wednesday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Everyone needs to be wearing one when they're outside of their home."

Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Arizona as state health officials on Wednesday reported record highs in new infections, deaths and virus-related hospitalizations.

The state reported 4,877 new confirmed cases, eclipsing its daily record set 24 hours earlier. Eighty-eight more people died of the virus, the highest daily death toll yet, bringing the state's fatalities to 1,720.

Pence endorsed Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's moves this week to reimpose restrictions on bars, gyms, water parks and more, calling the governor's caution "responsible." He said the federal government will meet Ducey's request for 500 additional emergency medical workers.

Despite offering praise for Ducey's handling of the pandemic, Pence acknowledged the numbers in Arizona are alarming. He did not answer a question about whether Ducey has gone far enough and should mandate a wider stay-at-home order.

"The reason we're here is because of the rising number of cases in Arizona as well as the rising positivity rate," Pence told reporters.

"It's very clear we have community spread in this state and across much of the Sun Belt and that's the reason why we wanted to be here and receive a briefing," Pence said. "But it's also why we wanted to be here to express our strong support for the steps that Governor Ducey and that local officials have put into effect: limiting certain gatherings, closing certain establishments during this rising time."

Pence spoke the week after Trump visited the state for a tour of the border barrier with Mexico and to hold a crowded indoor political rally in Phoenix over the objections and public health advice of local officials.

Trump did not wear a mask then, but Pence did so for much of his brief visit Wednesday.

Worldwide, more than 10.5 million cases have been detected, and 60% of those were diagnosed only in the past month, according to the World Health Organization.

Over the past week, more than 160,000 cases were diagnosed worldwide each day, WHO Secretary General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.

The fast pace of infection serves as a grim reminder that even as some countries begin to reopen, the risk of contracting the coronavirus remains.

"Flare-ups are to be expected as countries start to lift restrictions," Tedros said at a news conference in Geneva, noting that countries applying comprehensive tracking and isolation measures will be best prepared to avoid widespread outbreaks and new restrictions.

"However, we are concerned that some countries have not used all the tools at their disposal and have taken a fragmented approach," he added. "These countries face a long, hard road ahead."

Tedros did not name specific countries, but the example of the United States was clear.

In 45 states, seven-day averages of new infections are higher than they were a week ago, according to a Post analysis. 

Health officials are nervously eyeing the July 4 holiday weekend amid the surge. Though some beaches, including in South Florida and Los Angeles, have been closed, other oceanfront destinations have not. 

"We're going to see several hundred thousand people come down here regardless of the recommendations that have come out," Peter Davis, chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol, told the Houston-based news station KHOU this week.

Health experts are pleading with Americans to take the pandemic seriously before it's too late. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in an op-ed for Fox News that "the more we fight among ourselves, the more the virus divides and conquers us."

One bright spot: U.S. private employers added nearly 2.4 million jobs in June as states reopened their economies, according to payroll services firm ADP. That's a huge upswing after months of staggering job losses, but it is not clear that it can last as the outbreak regains strength.

And after clawing back most of the devastating losses from the beginning of the year, when the novel coronavirus began to infect Americans around the country, stocks continued to gain on Wednesday, starting the second half of 2020 on an upward path.

The positive start to a new month, a new quarter and the final half of the year comes after Wall Street staged a remarkable comeback. Investors capped the second quarter reaping gains not seen since 1998 during the dot-com bubble. 

While the Dow and the S&P 500 have not fully recovered for the year, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is up more than 11% on the year, lifted by companies that investors see as resilient to the physically distant, remote-working world brought on by the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Apple said it is re-closing 30 more stores this week as coronavirus infections continue to rise in several states.

The iPhone maker initially closed its doors in March as the first major outbreaks in the United States took hold. Apple has since reopened stores, joining other businesses in easing shutdown measures.

But as infections have continued to spread in the United States, the company has reversed course. The latest round brings the total number of Apple stores that have re-closed to 77, according to a count by CNBC.

 

 

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