California shutdowns; death toll may be 35% higher
As California reimposed restrictions on most of its residents to control a growing surge in coronavirus cases, researchers said the U.S. death toll from the pandemic may be 35% higher than reported and the total number of U.S. cases surpassed 50,000 for the first time.
The outbreak is also having a significant impact on race relations, as nearly 40% of Asian Americans and Blacks reported an increase in incidents of discrimination, according to a new survey.
Wednesday’s national daily cases rose to a new high of 52,770 cases, the Washington Post reported.
Those developments come with U.S. coronavirus cases rising, as multiple states are reporting new daily records, and with the World Health Organization warning that the global pandemic is “speeding up.”
Texas and Georgia set single-day records for new cases, while Arizona reached high marks in virtually all meaningful categories, including news cases, deaths, ER visits and the number of people hospitalized. Amid that crisis, Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday to meet with state officials.
The Trump administration, undeterred, unveiled plans for the Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza on the National Mall, an annual event that routinely draws hundreds of thousands of people. In an interview with Fox Business, President Donald Trump said of the coronavirus: “I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”
Here are some major developments:
- Six months into the nation’s battle with the coronavirus, doctors and nurses still face a dearth of supplies. Nearly 45% of those surveyed by the American Nurses Association said they experienced protective gear shortages as late as May 31. Almost 80% said their employers encouraged or required them to reuse disposable equipment.
- Gyms in Arizona and Michigan are defying orders to close again. One gym has filed a lawsuit calling the order “arbitrary and irrational.”
- Hospitalizations are rising in 12 states and about 130 counties are “hot spots,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief says. See a list of which states are pausing reopening plans here.
📈Today’s stats: There were 44,766 new cases confirmed nationwide, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Other media tallies put the case count as high as 48,000, which would be a record for daily totals. Globally, there have been more than 10.5 million cases and 512,000 deaths. In the U.S., cases have surpassed 2.6 million with over 127,000 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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California takes major step back in reopening after COVID-19 case surge
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that 19 counties in California would take a major step back in reopening plans as the state grapples with rising positive tests and deaths from the coronavirus.
The counties include Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Ventura, and they encompass almost 75% of the state’s population of 40 million. COVID-19 cases in California have increased nearly 50% over the past two weeks, and hospitalizations have risen by 43%.
Just days ahead of the busy Fourth of July weekend, Newsom said enforcement strike teams would help enforce social distancing rules, including mask wearing. He expects the rollback to last at least three weeks.
Among changes in the 19 counties:
- Indoor operations for all restaurants, movie theaters and other social gatherings are shut down.
- All bars are closed.
- State beaches will remain open for Fourth of July weekend, but parking will be closed. Counties can shut down beaches as needed. All state parks will remain open with social distancing guidelines in place.
Los Angeles and San Francisco already have called off fireworks shows and Newsom is encouraging other cities to do the same.
“If we want to be independent of COVID-19, we have to be more vigilant,” Newsom said.
– Heather Tucker
Coronavirus death toll in US might be 35% higher, new study says
The death count from the coronavirus pandemic, now over 127,000 in the U.S., has long been regarded as an underestimate. A new study says the actual death toll could be 35% higher.
The study, conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth and Yale universities and published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said there were 87,000 more deaths than expected in the U.S. from March 1 to April 25, based on the average from the previous five years.
But only 65% of those deaths were directly attributed to COVID-19, suggesting the rest were linked to the pandemic but not ruled as the main cause.
Dr. Steven Woolf, the study’s lead author, said reasons for the undercount may include lack of reporting and other health complications that might have been listed as the cause of death.
“But a third possibility, the one we’re quite concerned about, is indirect mortality — deaths caused by the response to the pandemic,” Woolf said. “People who never had the virus may have died from other causes because of the spillover effects of the pandemic, such as delayed medical care, economic hardship or emotional distress.”
The report noted that deaths from causes other than the coronavirus increased markedly in the hardest-hit states in March and April.
DC to see fireworks, Blue Angels on Fourth; mayor not celebrating
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host a Salute to America on Independence Day over the objections of Washington, D.C.’s mayor. The event will feature flyovers by the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels and a massive fireworks display that annually draws hundreds of thousands of spectators. The National Mall and surrounding areas will remain open and available to the general public for prime viewing, the Department of the Interior said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, however, urged residents to stay at home to avoid fueling spread of COVID-19, which has seen a surge in cases in recent days.
“We’ve communicated to (Interior) that we do not think this is in keeping with the best CDC and Department of Health guidance,” Bowser said. “But this event will take place entirely on the federal property.”
Pew Research Center: Ethnic slurs on rise since beginning of COVID-19 outbreak
Almost 40% of Asian and African Americans say they’ve had adverse experiences because of their race or ethnicity since the coronavirus outbreak began, according to a study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center released Wednesday.
Incidents include hearing slurs or jokes or fearing someone may threaten or physically attack them. Almost 40% of U.S. adults – including 58% of the respondents of Asian descent – said it’s more common for people to express racist views about Asians than before the outbreak, which has been traced to the Chinese city of Wuhan.
“Our community is struggling to cope with COVID-19 xenophobic attacks,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC. “It is heartbreaking to know that both Asian and Black people have to struggle with the paradox of putting their safety at risk when they are wearing face masks to protect their health.”
Most with COVID-19 don’t know who infected them
Most people infected with the coronavirus don’t know who they got it from, making the task of contract tracing especially difficult. A survey published by the CDC found 54% of those infected couldn’t pinpoint the source, highlighting the prevalence of asymptomatic disease and transmission.
“It’s very concerning,” said Dr. Joshua Barocas, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University. “We have seen asymptomatic disease is incredibly common, not just in what we classify as low-risk populations but also high-risk populations.”
— Adrianna Rodriguez
Students in Alabama partaking in ‘COVID parties’
Alabama officials are reporting that students who have contracted the coronavirus are getting purposely invited to “COVID parties” in and around Tuscaloosa, where the University of Alabama is located, as part of a contest for others to get infected.
“They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID,” Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry told ABC News. “Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense. They’re intentionally doing it.”
Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith confirmed McKinstry’s account in a meeting of the City Council on Tuesday.
Mount Rushmore will host celebration, minus social distancing
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said despite health experts’ concerns about a large gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic, people would “not be social distancing” during a July 3 celebration at Mount Rushmore that President Donald Trump will attend. Free masks will be provided to those who choose to wear them, but people concerned about social distancing should stay home, Noem said.
“In South Dakota, we’ve told people to focus on personal responsibility,” Noem told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “Every one of them has the opportunity to make a decision that they’re comfortable with. So, we will be having celebrations of American independence.”
– William Cummings
Pfizer vaccine shows positive early results
A small and early study of a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine found it raised levels of some protective antibodies more than those antibodies were raised in people who’ve recovered from COVID-19. The results are encouraging but not proof the BNT162b1 candidate vaccine created by the pharmaceutical giant and the German biotech company BioNTech will be effective in preventing coronavirus infections.
The study included 36 people who got the actual vaccine and nine who got placebo shots. The results were from Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials, which test whether a vaccine is safe and at what doses but aren’t meant to prove it is effective in preventing the disease. Some of the volunteers who got the vaccine reported fever, chills, muscle and joint pain after the injection, but the symptoms peaked the day after the injection and resolved within a week.
The findings were published in a preprint paper, which means the results are preliminary and have not undergone the normal peer-review process required for publication in medical or scientific journals. Pfizer said that if the studies are successful and the vaccine candidate receives regulatory approval, the companies expect to manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020.
– Elizabeth Weise
Where are we in the race for a vaccine? We’re one-third of the way there, experts say
WHO leader: ‘The worst is yet to come’
The global pandemic is expanding and is “not even close to being over,” the leader of the World Health Organization says. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said isolating, testing, tracing and quarantines remain the only way to slow the scourge until a vaccine is widely available.
He warned that “the worst is yet to come” and called for greater resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead.
“We all want this to be over,” he said. “We want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over. Although many countries have made some progress, the pandemic is actually speeding up.”
‘Pooling’ could drastically increase testing capacity
Public health officials say a new “pooling” approach for coronavirus testing could dramatically boost U.S. screening capacity by combining test samples in batches instead of running them one by one. If the batches come up negative, individual tests are not needed. But a positive would mean testing each individual sample. The Food and Drug Administration issued guidelines for test makers two weeks ago but has not approved the protocols until they are tested for accuracy.
FDA approval could help stretch laboratory supplies, reduce costs and expand testing to millions more Americans. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, says pooling “would give us the capacity to go from a half-a-million tests per day to potentially 5 million individuals tested per day.”
Companies add 2.4 million jobs as economy restarts amid uncertainty
U.S. companies added nearly 2.4 million jobs in June as the economy struggled to recover amid the unrelenting pandemic, according to a private survey. The payroll company ADP said that small businesses reported the biggest increase, adding 937,000 jobs. Still, the economy remains under pressure amid a new spike in cases across much of the South and West. On Thursday, the government will release the jobs figures for June, projected to show that employers added 3 million jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 12.3%. That would be down a point from May, although both rates are among the highest since the Great Depression.
What we’re reading
PPE shortage still an issue as cases rise
Physicians and nurses still face a dearth of supplies as coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide. Nearly 45% of those surveyed by the American Nurses Association said they experienced protective gear shortages as late as May 31. Almost 80% said their employers encouraged or required them to reuse disposable equipment.
The USA TODAY Network analyzed dozens of government reports and interviewed more than 50 experts — including health care administrators, traders and lawmakers — about the PPE shortages, especially the disposable masks that cost anywhere from a few pennies to a dollar.
“The magnitude and speed of the spread of coronavirus just overwhelmed the entire supply chain from A to Z,” said Mike Crotty, an Ohio-born, Shanghai textile broker with more than 35 years in the business. “It was a madhouse.”
– Dinah Voyles Pulver, Katie Wedell and Erin Mansfield
More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY
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How do you stay safe on flights during the pandemic? Experts say flying is safer than it was earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic because of airlines’ changes, but travelers can take precautions, too. Here’s how.
Contributing: The Associated Press