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Health Team

Coronavirus new case counts are falling nationwide, but some states still seeing record numbers

Posted July 28, 2020 3:04 a.m. EDT
Updated July 29, 2020 3:03 a.m. EDT

Fauci warns Tennessee and others to stem coronavirus trends, saying 'we just can't afford' another surge

— Even as the number of new coronavirus cases across the United States has dropped recently, several states are still setting distressing records.

In Florida, where cases are declining, the state reported 186 deaths Tuesday, the most it has had in a single day.

North Carolina's hospitalizations are at a record high -- 1,244 -- topping the previous record of 1,228 patients July 22. Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday issued an order prohibiting alcohol sales after 11 p.m.

Missouri had a record number of new cases Tuesday with 1,773. Almost 45,000 people in the state have been infected during the pandemic.

The numbers come as the new nationwide case total was just 56,336, the second lowest in the past 20 days. The country's seven-day average for new cases was 65,083 Monday, the lowest figure since July 15.

According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, cases are at least 10% higher in 22 states over the previous week.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday warned several states including Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky to get a handle on rising coronavirus cases, saying the nation couldn't afford the kinds of surges seen further south and west.

Fauci's comments to ABC's "Good Morning America" echoed fellow White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx, who recently visited those states to warn their numbers were headed the wrong way.

Test positivity rates there have been rising, Fauci said. Tennessee on Monday saw its highest seven-day average of new daily cases, at well over 2,000.

Tennessee's average was around 750 per day a month ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

"We just can't afford, yet again, another surge" like that seen in recent weeks in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, Fauci told ABC.

Wearing masks, social distancing, closing bars where virus spread is high, and washing hands can help turn the tide, he said. He also repeated what he'd recommended in April: Reopen economies in phases, crossing each phase only after seeing cases decrease over 14 days. States largely ignored that advice.

"We would hope that (states) all now rethink at what happens when you don't adhere to that," Fauci told "Good Morning America."

Health officials are urging states to implement stricter measures after weeks of surges in new cases following reopenings that mostly began in May.

Live updates on the coronavirus pandemic

Hospital says outbreak after worker returns from hotspot

Officials at a medical facility in the Massachusetts city of Springfield have identified 13 patients and 23 employees from a non-Covid-19 care unit who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The cases are from an outbreak stemming from an employee who traveled to a hot spot in the United States, according to Baystate Health President and CEO Mark Keroack. The person tested positive for the virus after they returned, he said.

Keroack said people without masks gathered without appropriate social distancing in break rooms.

"These simple lapses were able to happen in spite of our screening employees for fever and other symptoms before every shift, mandating mask usage and social distancing throughout the facility," the statement said.

"We are deeply disappointed that this outbreak occurred, and we are committed to an ongoing review of our safety practices to ensure they are aligned with current guidelines and science," he added.

Educators organization says teachers can go on 'safety strikes'

The president of the American Federation of Teachers said teachers can go on "safety strikes" if they feel they are forced to return to teaching when it is unsafe to do so.

President Randi Weingarten told 4,000 delegates meeting virtually at the union's biennial convention that strikes should be on a case-by-case basis.

"Let's be clear: Just as we have done with our health care workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators," Weingarten said of the resolution, which was passed recently by the group's 45-member executive council.

"But if authorities don't protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as our executive council voted last week, nothing is off the table -- not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary and authorized by a local union, as a last resort, safety strikes."

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and health care workers; and early childhood educators, according to its website.

States crack down on social gatherings

Birx has said that among the states officials are tracking, there seems to be a "household" pattern of infections that starts with young people, usually younger than 30. Those residents, who are usually asymptomatic, then transmit the virus to their parents who then transmit it to other, older residents, she said.

In Mississippi, about 80% of surveyed coronavirus patients said they had attended a social gathering, including funerals and birthday parties, where people weren't adhering to social distancing. And in New Jersey, health officials said they have seen multiple outbreaks arising from gatherings of young people.

To stem those infections, states have cracked down on settings where people congregate -- like bars -- and pleaded with younger groups to heed guidelines including wearing masks and social distancing.

In Columbus, Ohio, the city council approved legislation that would require bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. each night starting Tuesday.

"Our city like many others across the country are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, and there is clear evidence of community spread -- especially indoors in places where groups are gathering," Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement. "We're also seeing a clear increase among younger people, and we know that bars and nightclubs have been the source of outbreaks locally."

In Kentucky, the governor on Monday announced restaurants' indoor dining would be restricted to 25% capacity. He also said bars will shut down for two weeks, starting Tuesday, and recommended schools postpone in-person instruction until late August.

"It's time to do the things that we got to do, given the stage that we're in, to control this virus," Gov. Andy Beshear said. "And I know there ended up being questions out there about 'why didn't you take this step four weeks ago, or six weeks ago?' Listen, this virus doesn't care about our schedules."

Birx, who visited Tennessee on Monday, said she spoke to Gov. Bill Lee "about the importance of mask mandates."

"Tennessee stands at that very important moment in time, where their test positivity increased ... to greater than 10%," Birx said.

Lee said Monday he is against a statewide mask mandate, because "they don't effectively bring about the wearing of masks as well as other strategies," though he added, "there's nothing off the table."

"I've also said we're not going to close the economy back down ... but, I appreciate (the task force's) recommendations and we will ... take them seriously," Lee told reporters.

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New York and Miami issuing hundreds of citations

Despite new restrictions, some local leaders have voiced their opposition to the mandates and others -- like sheriffs -- have said they won't be enforcing the rules.

But in Miami and New York, officials have doubled down on enforcement.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the state had issued at least 132 violations over the weekend to bars and restaurants for not following coronavirus-related policies such as social distancing. Most of them were in New York City, Cuomo said.

Since the state began reopening, at least 40 establishments have had their liquor licenses suspended because of violations, and 10 of those suspensions had happened since Friday, the governor said.

In Florida's Miami-Dade County -- which has reported more coronavirus cases than all but 12 states -- police issued more than 300 citations in 10 days to people and businesses that weren't abiding by a local mask order. More than 165 tickets have been issued in the city of Miami alone, Mayor Francis Suarez said Tuesday.

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