A nurse watches an ambulance leaving Elmhurst Hospital, Queens, New York City, April 20, 2020 (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
The US sets its eighth daily record for Coronavirus cases in the past two weeks. Donald Trump responds by threatening to cut funding for schools and universities if they do not reopen fully in September, defying medical and public health guidance.
Confirmed cases are now 3,184,633, an increase of more than 68,000 in 24 hours and almost 130,000 in the past two days. The death toll has reached 134,097.
On June 24, the daily record was 37,014. With Trump declaring the virus “will sort of just disappear”, the surge has continued with cases rising in 45 of 50 states.
Six states reported a single-day record for cases on Friday: Georgia, Utah, Montana, North Carolina, Iowa, and Ohio. Florida announced a record high of 188 deaths in 24 hours.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Trump ally who had followed Trump’s demand to “reopen” with the lifting of restrictions, continued his reversal yesterday with the state setting four daily records in the past week and passing 10,000 hospitalizations on Friday.
Two weeks ago, Abbott stopped the reopening and ordered the wearing of masks in public. He said yesterday that there is the possibility of a new lockdown if hospitalizations are not reduced.
In some parts of Texas, notably Houston, intensive care units are near capacity. Positive rates in Houston have risen to about 25%, with demand for testing exceeding capacity.
Lina Hidalgo, the leader of Houston’s Harris County, said of “re-opening”: “We are seeing that wishful thinking is neither good economic policy nor good public health policy.”
Georgia, the first state to begin easing restrictions on April 30, reported a record of more than 4,000 new cases on Friday.
Atlanta officials said they are preparing to shift back to Phase 1 guidelines, requiring residents to mainly stay at home.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who tested positive this week, issued a mask mandate and tightened limits on large gatherings on Wednesday. It is unclear when the return to Phase 1 might begin.
Trump ally Gov. Brian Kemp was silent about the measures, but he said a convention center in Atlanta is being transformed into a makeshift medical center.
Trump Defies Federal Guidance on Schools
Trump has refused to acknowledge the Coronavirus surge, saying that less testing will mean fewer cases.
Instead, with his priority on re-election, he has belittled and berated White House medical experts and demanded the full resumption of in-class education this summer.
Earlier this week Immigration and Customs Enforcement threatened the deportation of any international student provided with online-only instruction by universities.
On Friday, Trump issued a direct warning to all educational facilities: “Schools must be open in the Fall. If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding? It won’t!!!”
The threat defied the Federal Government’s guidance that complete reopening is the “highest risk” for the spread of Coronavirus.
The assessment is in a 69-page document for federal public health response teams, marked “For Internal Use Only” and dated July 8, which sets out protocols. It sets out, as “examples of consistency with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance” universities which offer virtual services to students and staff members and which reduce in-person class sizes and gatherings. The documents also highlights states where families are offered an option of in-person and virtual classes.
Earlier this week Trump quashed CDC guidelines for safety at schools, and threatened the suspension of Federal funds to any States who limited reopening.
Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that the the CDC’s protections for staff, children, and communities will be revised: “We just don’t want the guidance to be too tough.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top infectious disease expert, continued to push back Trump’s disinformation effort on Friday.
Blocked by the White House from giving interviews on US TV, Fauci used the UK’s Financial Times to refute Trump’s claim that 99% of Coronavirus cases are “totally harmless”.
I’m trying to figure out where the President got that number. What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1 percent. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99 percent is not a problem, when that’s obviously not the case.
Even if it doesn’t kill you, even if it doesn’t put you in the hospital, it can make you seriously ill.
Fauci has explained in Congressional hearings and webcasts that the US faces a “very disturbing” death toll and is still in the “first wave” of the virus.
On Thursday, in an interview with his friend Fox TV polemicist Sean Hannity, Trump berated Fauci for “a lot mistakes”, offering no evidence for his remarks.