Coronavirus update: U.S. single-day death toll surpasses 1,000 for sixth straight day
Here are some significant developments:
- Delegates’ vote to renominate President Trump at the Republican National Convention will be closed to reporters, according to the Associated Press. A convention spokeswoman told the AP the decision was made because of state and local social distancing guidelines in Charlotte. It remains unclear which of the convention’s major events will take place after Trump announced in July that he would cancel most of the proceedings.
- At least four schools — Corinth High School in Mississippi, Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana and two schools in Indiana’s Greater Clark County Schools district — reported that a student tested positive for the coronavirus during the first week back in session, forcing people who had been in contact with them to self-quarantine. The diagnoses offer a sobering reminder of the stakes of the nationwide debate over reopening schools.
- The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it had authorized the first two tests that estimate the amount of coronavirus antibodies present in a person’s blood. Tim Stenzel, director of the FDA’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, cautioned that scientists still do not know exactly what having antibodies might mean about someone’s immunity.
- California on Saturday reported 219 new coronavirus fatalities, the most the state has reported in a single day. California also set a record for the seven-day average number of deaths, as did Idaho, Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, Florida and Mississippi.
July’s infection total was more than double that of June and represents about 42 percent of the 4.5 million cases the country has logged since the outbreak started, according to tracking by The Washington Post. Nationwide, testing has steadily increased — in July, it rose from about 600,000 to 820,000 tests per day — but soaring positivity rates and hospitalizations made clear that virus transmission was accelerating.
“July was definitely a disaster, and even though there was a lot more testing, the percent positivity was quite high in many areas, indicating that the rise in cases wasn’t attributable solely to increased detection,” Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, told The Post. “The U.S. has failed to take the opportunity that the summer could have presented to control this virus and is instead entering the fall in a disastrously bad position.”
States in the South and the West were most severely affected by the new wave of infections. California added more than 270,000 cases in July, and on Saturday it became the first state to record half a million infections, according to The Post’s tracking. Florida more than tripled its caseload, with 318,000 new cases in July, while Texas added 261,000 cases.
Coronavirus-related deaths also rose after declining during April and May: The country saw 25,259 fatalities in July, up more than 3,700 from the previous month, according to The Post’s data. Health experts predicted daily deaths would continue to trend upward in August, trailing spikes in infections by a few weeks. On Friday, the U.S. death toll surpassed 150,000.
The number of deaths rose in July in most states where cases spiked, with Texas reporting 4,415, Florida reporting 3,362, and California reporting 3,025. Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee and the Carolinas also reported sharp increases.
In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) predicted more deaths to come in his city. Ventilator use is at almost twice its previous high, he said.
Suarez echoed other politicians’ pleas for a national mask mandate and called on President Trump to set a good example.
“It would be helpful if the president would wear a mask when he’s in Florida, certainly when he’s in Miami, so that we send the right signal to all members of our community to do likewise,” Suarez said.
The spikes in fatalities nationwide have also alarmed medical workers. In Houston, one of the country’s hardest-hit metropolitan areas, the chief medical officer of United Memorial Medical Center said he signed more death certificates in the last week of July than at any point in his career.
“I have been in the middle of earthquakes, in the middle of bombings, in the middle of tsunamis. I’ve been involved in every possible catastrophe that you can imagine. And by far, this is the worst,” Joseph Varon told Houston’s ABC affiliate.
The virus was spiraling out of control because people were disregarding health guidelines, Varon said. “My motto has been, you know, at the present time, I’m pretty much fighting two wars, a war against covid[-19] and a war against stupidity,” he said. “And the problem is that the first one I have some hope about winning. But the second one is becoming more and more difficult to treat.”
Faced with that kind of pandemic fatigue, the World Health Organization continues to issue urgent reminders that “sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts” will be critical during the pandemic’s “lengthy” duration.
The United States’s virus response, however, remains fractured and halting. Officials at all levels of government spent July sparring over whether to roll back reopening plans and institute mask mandates and other public health requirements recommended by leading health experts.
“We reopened too quickly in many places around the country, we haven’t been unified and consistent in our messages and now we see where we are,” Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said in a CNN interview Friday. “We can do better than what we’re doing. Other countries around the world have done much better, and we can learn from them.”
The pandemic has also had a harsh impact on the economy, with the nation’s gross domestic product shrinking at an annual rate of 32.9 percent in the second quarter. At midnight Friday, tens of millions of American workers lost $600 weekly unemployment payments after congressional leaders failed to reach an agreement on how to extend the benefit, which has helped keep many households afloat the past four months.
Negotiations appeared to move forward on Saturday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) emerged from a three-hour meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows saying they had their most productive discussion to date, though they did not reach an agreement.
July’s spike in infections was accompanied by backlogs, long lines and shortfalls in key components for testing as people in new virus hot spots converged on sites to find out whether they were infected. Many patients across the country reported waiting a week or more for results — a delay that effectively renders tests useless in controlling the virus’s spread.
To speed up testing, the National Institutes of Health announced it was awarding nearly $250 million to seven biomedical companies developing new, more efficient technologies that the agency’s leaders said could increase weekly testing by tens of thousands per day by the fall.
Even as officials worked to expand testing, however, Trump continued to cast doubt on its value. He reiterated in a tweet Saturday his incorrect and misleading claim that the country has “more cases because we have tested far more than any other country.”
The president’s remarks came as the virus continued to circulate in high levels of government. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) revealed he was the latest member of Congress to test positive, saying in a statement that he was asymptomatic and self-isolating at his home in the D.C. area. The congressman said he felt “fine” after receiving the diagnosis Friday.
Earlier in the week, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), who defied social distancing guidelines and was often seen walking through the Capitol without a mask, learned he was infected. A day after Gohmert’s diagnosis, Herman Cain, a former pizza chain executive and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, died of the virus.