CDC won’t revise guidelines for opening schools; deaths surge in California, Texas; Trump again blames testing

Federal health guidelines for reopening schools across the nation will not be altered despite complaints from President Donald Trump that they are too difficult and expensive, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence had said Wednesday that the CDC would next week issue “a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.” Documents, yes, new guidelines, no, Redfield told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He also stressed that guidelines are not requirements.

“Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to basically aid communities in trying to open K-through-12s,” Redfield said. “It’s not a revision of the guidelines.”

Also Thursday, Trump again defended the nation’s booming number of coronavirus cases as a function of testing.

“For the 1/100th time, the reason we show so many Cases, compared to other countries that haven’t done nearly as well as we have, is that our TESTING is much bigger and better,” Trump tweeted. “We have tested 40,000,000 people. If we did 20,000,000 instead, Cases would be half, etc. NOT REPORTED!”

Texas and California reported their highest single-day death totals Wednesday as the U.S. surpassed 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases. On Thursday, the Johns Hopkins data dashboard reported 820 daily U.S. deaths – and a near-record 58,601 new cases – indicating the U.S. outbreak is far from over.

Here are some recent developments:

  • The mysterious coronavirus can wreak havoc on your health. But medical care for very ill COVID-19 patients is getting better.

  • ‘Scared for my life,’ but needing a salary: Teachers weigh risks as COVID-19 looms.

  • A Tulsa official said that President Donald Trump’s rally and protests “more than likely” contributed to the spike in coronavirus cases in the last week.

  • The NBA bubble is taking shape at Disney World. Here’s how it’s happening.

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has surpassed 3 million confirmed cases and 132,300 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been 12 million cases and almost 550,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: Hundreds of millions of dollars has gone to COVID-19 contractors accused of prior fraud. Those contracts range from masks and medical equipment to janitorial cleaning, video productions and even ferryboat services.

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.

Palm Beach rejects governor’s statewide order to open schools

Students in Palm Beach County public schools will continue learning from home when classes resume next month despite a state mandate to open schools. Under increasing pressure from teachers and local health experts, the seven board members unanimously agreed to keep classes online-only for the district’s 174,000 students until the coronavirus pandemic improves. Florida has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly called for schools to provide in-classroom learning. This week, state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran followed through on his bosses’ commands, ordering public schools to offer in-person classes five days a week.

“We’re not ready from a health standpoint,” board member Marcia Andrews said. “And we’re not ready from a planning standpoint.”

– Andrew Marra, The Palm Beach Post

California security guard charged with murder after confrontation over mask

A California security guard has been charged with murder and possession of a handgun by a felon in the fatal shooting Sunday of a supermarket customer following a confrontation over wearing a mask. Prosecutors say Jerry Lewis, 50, reportedly entered the market without a mask Sunday and got into an argument with security guard Umeir Corniche Hawkins, 38. After a confrontation, Lewis was fatally shot as he walked away, prosecutors said.

Bail for Hawkins, convicted in 2013 for assault by means of force, was set at $1 million. He pleaded not guilty and could face a sentence of 50 years to life in prison if convicted. 

Mississippi lawmakers flouted masks. Now 26 have tested positive.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is warning the public to get tested for the coronavirus if they have been in contact with a state lawmaker. The number of cases linked to an outbreak at the Capitol in Jackson has grown to 36, which includes 26 legislators, according to the state health officials. Many politicians flouted recommendations to wear a mask inside the Capitol in recent weeks. Now, about one in six of Mississippi state lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus, including House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.

Reeves warned that Mississippi’s health care system will be overwhelmed if the state does not change its trajectory on coronavirus cases and hospitalizations: “The fact is that the crunch on our hospital system is not a hypothetical. It is not in the future.”

Giacomo Bologna, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Teachers feel pressure to return to classrooms in fall

Despite soaring numbers of  COVID-19 cases across the nation, officials are pouring on pressure to reopen schools full time this fall. On Monday, Florida’s education commissioner ordered the state’s schools to open full time in August. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday criticized plans to offer in-person instruction only a few days a week. And on Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reworking its guidance on reopening schools after President Donald Trump complained the guidelines were too tough. 

“Am I going to look at my students as if they are potentially going to kill me,” asked Sarasota (Florida) High teacher Mary DeArment, 59. “I hate that.”

Are you ready for some football? Some high schools gear up despite pandemic

A large number of high school football teams across America, including in hotbeds such as Florida and Texas, are moving forward during the pandemic despite the risks. California, however, is among the states still undecided; the California Interscholastic Federation is set to announce a decision July 20. High school teams in Tennessee are barred from any contact drills until a COVID-19 state-of-emergency expires Aug. 30, and no decision has been made about the football season.

“I really think in the next couple of weeks you’re going to see a lot of decisions,’’ said Bruce Howard, spokesman for the National Federation of State High School Associations. “You may have some states that in three or four weeks are going to be just fine to start football as normal. Maybe you’ll have some states that can’t.”

– Josh Peter

Arizona hospitals feel strain as COVID records fall

Arizona has joined Florida, Texas and several other states feeling the strain of surging COVID-19 cases on its health care system. Ominous records fell Tuesday – 3,421 inpatient hospital beds were occupied by suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients; 871 ICU beds were filled;  2,008 emergency room visits were logged. Rapid case increases and hospitalizations have made Arizona now among the worst hot spots in the nation for COVID-19. Health officials caution people to stay home unless necessary to leave and to wear masks in public.

“Arizona is grateful for the women and men on the front lines of this pandemic,” Gov. Doug Ducey said. “We’re grateful for all of our citizens who are being responsible.”

Alison Steinbach, Arizona Republic

Shelter-in-place order issued for U.S. base in Japan

A shelter-in-place order was issued at the U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan because of an ongoing investigation of positive coronavirus cases, the base announced Thursday on its Facebook page. Atsugi, about 20 miles southwest of Tokyo, is home to about 10,000 servicemembers, support staff and family members. 

“This shelter-in-place directive has been put in place to safeguard the community and prevent any future spread,” the post said. “Further guidance is forthcoming.”

Vaccines won’t be only answer; closing in on COVID cure

Four months ago when COVID-19 first arrived in the United States, health care workers relied solely on intravenous fluids, fever reducers and ventilators. Today, there are two approved therapies shown to make a difference in COVID-19, and 150 treatments and more than 50 antivirals are being tested in people. Vaccines, when developed, won’t work for everyone. But researchers are getting closer to being able to identify which patients are likely to do better with which kind of therapy.

“Once somebody develops a treatment for the virus, everything will go away,” said Daniel Batlle, a kidney expert from Northwestern Medicine and professor of medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

– Karen Weintraub

California records highest single-day COVID-19 death toll

California reported 149 coronavirus deaths Wednesday, the highest single-day death toll since May, according to the Los Angeles Times. Before that, the previous high was at 132 deaths. Los Angeles County officials reported 65 new coronavirus deaths Wednesday. “Our cases are rising. The rate of infection is increasing. And the number of hospitalizations are up. And today, we’re even seeing a small increase in the number of deaths,” Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County director of public health, said Wednesday.

The county has 2,496 new confirmed cases. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti during a news conference Wednesday said that more than 50% who tested positive for the coronavirus are under 40 years old. 

Atlanta mandates masks in public

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an order late Wednesday requiring residents to wear a mask in public. The list of states that mandate masks is growing, but Georgia is not on it. Masks must also be worn at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited. Bottoms’ announcement came days after she announced that she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We will continue to take active measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infections in Atlanta,” Bottoms said in a news release. “Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of this sometimes deadly virus.

Houston mayor cancels Texas GOP convention amid coronavirus surge

As COVID-19 cases and deaths spike in Texas, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner canceled the Republican Party’s in-person convention that was scheduled for next week.

“The public health concern for our first responders, convention workers, and those who would have attended weighed heavily in our decision making,” Turner said on Twitter

The convention was scheduled to take place from July 16-18 at at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

“Houston is a hot spot right now in a global pandemic and we cannot have thousands of people gathering inside the George R. Brown,” Turner said at a news conference Wednesday. The mayor said the city of Houston looks forward to hosting future conventions at a safer time.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker calls for national mandate on masks

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for a national mandate on masks, saying that it “might be the most important thing we can do to save lives.″

“It’s not too late for the federal government to make an impact – in fact, it’s more important than ever,” Pritzker, a Democrat and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, told a U.S. House committee on Wednesday.

Illinois was one of the first states to mandate masks in public. The move “aligns with our most significant downward shifts in our infection rate,” Pritzker said. 

Texas reports highest single-day COVID-19 deaths

Texas reported an additional 98 coronavirus deaths Wednesday, making it the highest single-day increase. The state reported a previous high of 60 deaths Tuesday. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continued to climb Wednesday; 9,610 patients are in hospitals across the state. Gov. Greg Abbott aggressively began one of America’s fastest reopenings in May but has begun reversing course in recent weeks, ordering bars closed and mandating face coverings.

The state reported 9,979 new coronavirus cases Wednesday after hitting a record-high 10,028 new cases the day before. A total of 2,813 Texans have died from the virus.

Colleges should follow Ivy League lead, Sen. Richard Blumenthal says

In the wake of the Ivy League announcing Wednesday that fall sports will not be held during the upcoming semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called on other college sports conferences to do the same.

“There’s absolutely nothing different between the Ivy League and any division except for the money, to be very blunt,” Blumenthal told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s about the money. And if the other schools fail to follow the Ivy League’s lead, it will be only because of the money. And, in fact, it will be another misguided act in a long litany of putting school profits ahead of the people who play for them.”

Meanwhile, Chris Hinton, the leader of a newly formed parents group called College Football Parents 24/7, said Wednesday that his organization has sent a letter to members of the NCAA’s top policy making group and athletics directors with a list of 22 questions it says its members are regularly asking regarding the conduct of sports amid the pandemic.

– Steve Berkowitz

Dr. Anthony Fauci says states need to address COVID-19 response problems

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that states need to face problems with their coronavirus responses because “if you don’t admit it, you can’t correct it.” In an interview with “The Journal,” a podcast from the Wall Street Journal, Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, discussed the alarming rates of coronavirus cases that are surging in some states that reopened quickly. 

“What we’re seeing is exponential growth, it went from an average of about 20,000 to 40,000 and 50,000. That’s doubling,” he said. Fauci told Congress last week that new coronavirus infections could increase to 100,000 a day if the nation doesn’t get its surge of cases under control.

– Savannah Behrmann

Bed Bath & Beyond to permanently close 200 stores over next 2 years

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. plans to close approximately 21% of its namesake stores, or 200 locations, over the next two years, the company announced Wednesday. The New Jersey-based home goods retailer, which also operates Buy Buy Baby, Harmon Face Values and World Market, said the closing stores would “mostly” be Bed Bath & Beyond stores, during an earnings call with analysts. CEO Mark Tritton said during Wednesday’s call that the closings would save the company $250 to $350 million annually after one-time costs.

– Kelly Tyko

Tulsa official: Donald Trump’s rally, protests ‘likely’ led to COVID-19 spike

Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart says it was “more than likely” that large gatherings in the last few weeks, including President Donald Trump’s local rally, prompted the record number of cases this week. A record 261 new cases of the virus were recorded in the county Monday, just over two weeks after Trump’s rally, which drew about 6,200 attendees and hundreds of protesters. An additional 206 cases were reported on Tuesday, according to the Tulsa Health Department. 

“The past few days we’ve had almost 500 cases, and we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said, citing Trump’s rally and “other protests.”

– Jeanine Santucci

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Where a face mask is required: Many governors are instituting or renewing orders requiring people to wear face coverings in public as cases continue to rise. Is your state on the list? See it here. 

Coronavirus Watch: We have a few ways for you to stay informed. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here, and come together and share the latest information about the coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.

Where are states on reopening? Some are taking preemptive measures to postpone further phases of their reopening, while others have rolled back their phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. See the list.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19: CDC schools; Houston GOP convention; Atlanta masks

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