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June 26, 2020, 2:33 p.m. EDT

Coronavirus update: U.S. sets record for new cases in a single day, as Texas becomes first state to reimpose restrictions

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch


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Texans are no longer allowed to tube as COVID-19 cases surge

The number of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 set a fresh record in the U.S. on Thursday of almost 40,000, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, amid a rise in hospitalizations and deaths in states in the South and West after reopening for business.

The data shows several states, including Texas, Alabama and Nevada, reported record one-day increases in infections. A full 30 states have seen cases increase in the last two weeks, a New York Times tracker shows, led by California, Texas and Florida.

Texas, Florida and Arizona have paused their efforts to reopen as hospitals approach full capacity. Texan Gov. Greg Abbott reimposed a ban on elective surgeries, to keep space for COVID-19 patients, as the Associated Press reported.

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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday 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 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.”

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 has 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 from the U.S.

“The U.S. in particular hasn’t had the leadership messages or coordination that you would have expected,” he said. “I’m still pretty disappointed. Without U.S. leadership, it’s been hard to pull together a response, and now the developing countries are bearing the brunt of the burden.”

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