By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The number of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 set another fresh record in the U.S. on Friday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, sending state officials scrambling to revisit reopening plans.
The U.S. recorded more than 45,000 new infections and at least six states recorded their highest one-day totals, a New York Times tracker shows, namely Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah. A full 30 states are showing increasing case numbers over a 14-day period, according to the Times tracker.
Texas, Florida and Arizona had paused their efforts to reopen as hospitals approach full capacity on Thursday and Texan Gov. Greg Abbott reimposed a ban on elective surgeries, to keep space for COVID-19 patients.
On Friday, Abbott went a step further, issuing an executive order that closes all bars, further limits restaurant capacity and restricts certain outdoor activities, including tubing and rafting, that are popular with Texans.
“As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the governor said in a statement. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars.”
Shortly after the Texas news, Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars.
The mayor of Miami-Dade County in Florida said he would sign an emergency order on Saturday that will close beaches starting July 3 through July 7.
“The closure may be extended if conditions do not improve and people do not follow New Normal rules requiring masks to be worn always inside commercial establishments and outdoors when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was reimposing restrictions on Imperial County because of a spike in cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this week that an estimated 20 million Americans, about 6% of the population, have likely been infected with COVID-19, according to a nationally representative survey it conducted using blood samples.
This figure, which takes into account asymptomatic people and those who were sickened but did not get tested for COVID-19, is more than eight times larger than the estimated 2.3 million tests that have been performed in the U.S.
The administration of President Donald Trump is considering a new approach to testing, using a pooled strategy that could help find infected patients faster and quickly isolate them, the Washington Post reported.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told the paper that health officials are in “intense discussions” on pool testing. The strategy involves testing samples from many people all together. If the tests are negative, the group can be considered to be infection-free. If the test is positive, only then would individual tests be needed, he said.
“What you need to do is find the penetration of infected people in your society,” Fauci told the paper. “And the only way you know that is by casting a broad net.”
Germany, Israel and other countries are using pool testing.
The White House Task Force created to manage the pandemic held its first public briefing in two months on Friday, but took very few questions from reporters. Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. had succeeded in slowing the spread and flattening the curve, even though the data shows otherwise.
Pence acknowledged that the surge in cases in the South is of concern, but said half of new cases are patients below the age of 35, “which is very encouraging, because younger people are less susceptible to serious outcomes.”
Pence did not wear a mask like the other members of this task force.
Fauci emphasized that the virus poses a special challenge in the high number of carriers that have no symptoms, which makes them unlikely to seek testing and enable health officials to trace and isolate their contacts. He called on young people in particular to understand their individual responsibility as well as their societal one.
“If we want this to end, realize you are part of the process and can either be part of the solution of part of the problem,” he said.
In a move that bewildered many, the Trump administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, a move that would strip more than 20 million Americans of health coverage. The administration made the filing with the high court in a continuation of the 10-year battle that Republicans have fought over the act known as “Obamacare” ever since its passage in 2010.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed the administration for the move, coming in the midst of the worst public-health crisis since the 1918 flu outbreak.
Pelosi is planning a floor vote early next week on her own bill to expand the ACA.
“There is no legal justification and no moral excuse for the Trump administration’s disastrous efforts to take away Americans’ health care,” she said in a statement.
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation has long funded global fight against infectious diseases, also criticized the government on Thursday, for failing to manage the crisis. In a virtual town hall on CNN, Gates said the U.S. is “not even close” to doing everything it can to battle the pandemic, and said the global response is worse off because of a lack of leadership