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What you need to know about coronavirus on Friday, June 19

Posted June 19, 2020 7:48 a.m. EDT

— As the number of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma continues to rise, some experts are urging health officials to shut down President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa tomorrow.

But the President is pushing ahead, planning to pack thousands of people into an indoor arena with no requirement for face masks or social distancing.

"This is pretty much the least safe way to get people together and I'm really worried about what's going to happen with this rally," said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

While Trump described the virus as "fading away" during an interview this week, the numbers are telling a very different story. Ten US states have seen a record number of cases this week and nearly two dozen have recorded spikes in infections compared to last week.

As of yesterday, Tulsa County had the most cases of any county in Oklahoma, Kate Sullivan writes. Tulsa County is now seeing its highest ever seven-day average for new cases at 73.9.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the United States, top level officials including the President are disregarding the advice of their own experts. The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has blamed America's "anti-science bias."

"People are -- for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable -- they just don't believe science and they don't believe authority," he said.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Is it safe to go to the beach?

A: Yes, but take precautions. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new coronavirus beach safety guidelines this week: beachgoers should stay at least six feet from people they don't live with and should not share food, equipment, toys or supplies with people outside of their household. (It's obviously OK for lifeguards to get close if they're rescuing people, the CDC noted.) And yes, face masks are appropriate beach wear.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you're facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TODAY

The "more testing = more cases" argument doesn't stand up

Florida and Texas governors have blamed spikes in Covid-19 cases in their states on increased testing rates, echoing Trump's assertion this week that "if you don't test, you don't have any cases."

While widespread testing is likely to result in more confirmed cases, official data from the two states show their testing rates haven't increased enough to explain the recent spikes.

"The data just doesn't bear that out," said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent. "The numbers don't lie. In Florida, for example, testing is holding roughly steady and yet coronavirus cases are climbing and climbing."

What really matters is the proportion of tests that come back positive -- the so-called positivity rate, which has been rising in both states. Hospitalizations, another good indicator, are also on the up. Epidemiologists also argue case numbers should go down with greater testing, because theoretically health officials should be able to trace cases and slow the spread — that has already happened in some states, like New York.

Arizona's dual crisis

Arizona is battling several large wildfires not far from its three largest cities. Because of the pandemic, the state's firefighters had to adjust how they work. They are pre-positioning more crews, spreading out camp sites and relying more on aircraft to dump water.

Arizona has seen a record number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in recent days and the fires could be disastrous for its efforts to contain the virus — as communities are evacuated into packed shelters, the risk of the infection spreading fast is high.

Beijing outbreak is a reminder that coronavirus can return any time

A fresh cluster of coronavirus cases in the Chinese capital of Beijing has spooked the world. The new outbreak, which emerged after 55 days of the city being infection-free, has infected more than 180 people as of Friday.

Similar cautionary tales have occurred around the world in recent weeks, with governments rushing to contain reemerging outbreaks after having seemingly brought initial infection numbers under control.

South Korea, much hailed for its success in containing the virus, has been fighting a spike in infections since late May after the easing of social distancing rules and the reopening of schools. Singapore had been considered a coronavirus success story until a wave of infections broke out in April among migrant workers living in packed dormitories. And even Germany is now battling new outbreaks.

Why are meat plants so vulnerable?

A German meat-processing plant was shut on Wednesday after 730 workers tested positive for Covid-19. A poultry processing facility in Wales was closed yesterday when 58 cases were confirmed among its staff. The US meat-packing sector has seen similar outbreaks in recent months. Some of the country's largest abattoirs were forced to halt operations after thousands of employees caught the virus.

Staff at meat-packing plants have been hit hard by the virus because many factories are ill-equipped to protect against the spread of an aggressively contagious disease. Social distancing is often impossible, forcing people to work shoulder-to-shoulder for hours.

While other sectors had to shut down facilities where social distancing wasn't possible, meat plants have remained opened, supplying the world with food. Adding to the risks, many of those who work in meat processing plants are migrant workers who live in cramped conditions which are ideal places for the virus to spread.

New hopes for plasma therapy

A new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings has shown that convalescent plasma -- blood from recovered patients who had Covid-19 -- that has been transfused to hospitalized patients is considered safe.

Scientists have been studying whether this plasma can help others fight the disease because it may contain antibodies.

ON OUR RADAR

A care home for elderly people in southern Brazil has come up with a "hug tunnel" that allows its residents to safely embrace their relatives. The UK government abandoned its attempt to develop a coronavirus tracing app from scratch, and will instead build a new one based on a system created by Google and Apple. Health officials in a West Virginia county are asking anyone who recently visited South Carolina's beaches to self-quarantine for 14 days after a new spike in new infections. Every day, Samantha Murozoki feeds thousands of people in her relief kitchen on the outskirts of Harare. The mother of two has become a national heroine in Zimbabwe. Anyone visiting Iceland right now could be forgiven for thinking they've arrived in a parallel universe where the coronavirus never happened.Sheldon Smith has taught hundreds of young fathers parenting and life skills to become positive role models and responsible parents. When Covid-19 hit, he mobilized to make sure they have the resources and support they need. Masks were the first to go. Then toilet paper flew off shelves. The latest national shortage? Coins. A 20-foot-tall statue honoring the frontline workers fighting Covid-19 around the world has been unveiled in Latvia. America's busiest commuter railroad, the Long Island Rail Road, has updated its app to tell passengers how crowded each arriving train car is.

TOP TIPS

What health experts want you to know about seeing friends and family

After spending months apart from others, we know people are looking at how they can see their family, friends and loved ones. There are difficult decisions to make that might depend on where you live and personal circumstances. So we asked the experts what you should consider and how to reconnect safely with people you know. Here's what they said.

TODAY'S PODCAST

"It would be a luxury to talk about a second wave. We haven't even gotten out of the first wave yet. So we can't begin to talk about what a second wave might look like." — CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta

President Trump and Vice President Pence made comments this week suggesting panic about an increase in infections is overblown. But in nearly half the country, case counts are on the rise. Dr Gupta explains where the US really stands today. Listen Now.

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