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At least half of all states have paused reopening or taken new measures to combat growing COVID-19 case numbers.

USA TODAY

The U.S. again set a daily record of new COVID-19 cases Thursday, reporting more than 77,000.

The rising numbers are a stark reminder of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s warning to Congress last month that the U.S. could eventually see 100,000 new infections a day

As the outbreak continues to surge across the southern states, FloridaTexas and South Carolina set records for new daily deaths, reporting 156, 129 and 69, respectively. While wearing face masks in public is mandatory in the majority of U.S. states, Texas only requires masks in counties with active COVID-19 cases, and Florida and South Carolina don’t have statewide mask orders.

In neighboring Georgia, meanwhile, Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Atlanta City Council and the mayor to block the city from enforcing its face mask mandate.

Some recent developments: 

  • Texas issued new rules Friday that give local school districts more control over the decisions on start dates and on how long schools can teach students online. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said schools in counties with high infection rates must begin year with remote learning. In Chicago, the mayor said Friday that public schools will plan to start the year with a hybrid in-person and at-home learning model.
  • The U.S. border closures with Canada and Mexico have been extended into late August as COVID-19 cases surge in America.
  • Florida’s former top coronavirus data scientist filed a whistleblower complaint Thursday against the Health Department.
  • Arkansas and Colorado instituted face mask mandates Thursday.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is banning U.S. cruises until October.

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. surpassed 3.6 million cases and over 138,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been 13.8 million cases and more than 592,700 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: “The Uncounted” — Experts estimate tens of millions of Americans contracted coronavirus but are not included in official tallies because of testing errors, misdiagnoses, a sluggish public health response and ignorance about the disease.

📰 What we’re reading: President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from Europe was enacted too late to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. for weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Union reports deaths after Nevada casinos reopened

Nevada’s largest labor union says COVID-19 has killed 22 Culinary Union members, including their spouses or dependents.

As of Wednesday, 352 members and their spouses or dependents have been hospitalized. Hospitalizations tied to the union have increased more than 860% since Nevada officials allowed casinos to reopen in June, according to the union. On June 4, there were five hospitalizations, the union said. On July 16, there were 43. 

“Behind every worker in this state there is a family,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union, in a statement Friday. “… When workers are protected, our entire community – from the hospitality industry to customers and locals are protected.”

– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

California schools on ‘watch list’ must begin year with remote learning

School districts in California counties with elevated coronavirus transmission must begin the academic year with distance learning, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.

The governor laid out guidelines for when schools will be allowed to reopen during a press conference Friday. Schools must remain closed until their county has been off the state’s “watch list” for 14 days, he said.

Thirty-two counties are currently on the state’s monitoring list because of concerning coronavirus transmission and hospitalization rates. Counties on the list face restrictions on reopening various segments of the economy.

Rebecca Plevin, Palm Springs Desert Sun

30 days, no COVID-19 deaths in Vermont

In the last 30 days, there is only one U.S. state that has not seen a single COVID-19 related death: Vermont

Vermont’s neighbors — one of which, New York, was once considered the epicenter of the virus — have seen downward trends in reported cases and deaths. Still, New Hampshire reported 24 deaths in July, while Massachusetts and New York reported 326 and 357 deaths respectively so far this month.

Vermont has remained steady at 56 deaths from COVID-19 since June 18, a trend Health Commissioner Mark Levine attributes to the vigilance of Vermonters as well as strict health protocols for those in long term care facilities, who account for 52% of the state’s fatalities.

– Riley Board, Burlington Free Press

Texas gives school districts more leeway in reopening

Amid growing angst among parents and educators, the Texas Education Agency softened its stance on in-person instruction mandates as schools navigate around the coronavirus pandemic. The agency issued new rules Friday that give local school districts more control over the decisions on start dates and on how long schools can remain closed and teach students online.

The TEA’s new rules come a week after the agency laid out guidelines that required parents to choose between sending their children to school in person all the time or only being educated online, rather than any combination of the two.

The agency is extending the time districts can teach online without financial penalty, allowing districts to teach online for up to eight weeks, with the second four weeks requiring a waiver from the state.

– Melissa B. Taboada, Austin American-Statesman

Home Depot joins roster of retailers requiring masks

Another retailing heavyweight is weighing in on the national mask-wearing issue: Home Depot will now require all shoppers wear them.

The home improvement retailer said Friday that customers must wear masks inside all U.S. stores beginning Wednesday, July 22. However, small children and those who have a valid medical condition will not have to wear them. Customers not wearing masks because of a medical condition are asked to speak with an associate before entering the store, the company says.

Home Depot joins a slew of retailers including Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens mandating masks at stores nationwide.

– Mike Snider

Chicago public schools plan hybrid reopening

Chicago Public Schools will plan to start the school year with a hybrid in-person and at-home learning model, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday.

The plan assigns students to “pods” of about 15 for in-person learning and staggers school start times to reduce transmission by limiting interactions between groups of students, said CPS CEO Janice Jackson. Younger students will spend more time at school, and older students will spend more time online, Jackson said. Most students will spend two days at school each week, with virtual lessons on Wednesdays as schools are disinfected. 

Schools will require face coverings, daily temperature checks, health screenings, and the district plans to hire about 400 additional custodians to execute cleaning and disinfection protocols, Jackson said.

Ousted Florida scientist files whistleblower complaint

Florida’s former top coronavirus data scientist filed a whistleblower complaint Thursday against the state’s Health Department, accusing the agency of firing her in retaliation for refusing to manipulate data to support the push to reopen Florida after months of quarantine.

The complaint by former agency data manager Rebekah Jones targets Gov. Ron DeSantis directly.

“These efforts to falsify the numbers are a pattern and practice in Florida government that goes on to this day,” Jones’ attorney, Rick Johnson, said in a statement. “Ron DeSantis has routinely given false numbers to the press. His underlings at (the Health Department) follow his example and his direction.”

– Chris Persaud, The Palm Beach Post

Americans are defying travel bans

Not everyone is staying home this summer. Some travelers are shrugging off the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, ignoring the shutdowns and taking a vacation anyway.

Half of Americans plan to stay put this summer, according to a new survey by LuggageHero. But 31% have taken a domestic trip since lockdown restrictions were eased, and a remarkable 19% have traveled internationally. 

– Christopher Elliott

Britain eases restrictions, Israel locks down

The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage countries worldwide, with Brazil surpassing 2 million cases and India surpassing more than 1 million Friday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced rollbacks of lockdown measures Friday, saying he hopes social distancing will come to an end by Christmas.

Meanwhile, Israel re-entered a partial lockdown, Barcelona city officials urged residents to stay home, and Tokyo reported a record number of new cases for the second straight day.

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A third of Delaware nursing homes failed to follow proper steps

In the first weeks of the pandemic, when Delaware nursing home residents were dying at one of the highest rates in the country, 30% of those facilities were failing to follow protocols to curb the spread of the virus.

A Delaware Online/News Journal analysis of federal infection control inspections carried out by the state shows that even weeks after the coronavirus began taking lives, 14 of 47 nursing homes failed their inspection. Many of these facilities didn’t isolate COVID-19 positive patients from residents who were not sick. Many staff members failed to wear or properly store personal protective equipment, if they were regularly provided with it at all.

– Meredith Newman, Delaware News Journal

US-Canada, Mexico border closures extended into late August

Travelers looking to cross the land border into Canada or Mexico will have to wait at least another month after the Department of Homeland Security extended closures at both borders due to the pandemic. 

Department of Homeland Security’s Acting Secretary, Chad Wolf, tweeted the news on Thursday. “Based on the success of the existing restrictions and close collaboration with Mexico and Canada, @DHSgov will continue to limit non-essential travel at our land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico until Aug. 20,” he wrote.

Following the announcement, he added that “close collaboration with our neighbors has allowed us to respond to #COVID19 in a North American approach and slow the travel-related spread of the virus.”

– Curtis Tate, Jayme Deerwester and Morgan Hines

Survey: Majority disapprove of Trump’s COVID-19 response

The majority of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is handling the pandemic, according to a new survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project.

When asked about Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of Americans (56%) somewhat or strongly disapprove of his performance, while 37% somewhat or strongly approve. That’s an 8-point swing from April, when 48% of Americans disapproved and 45% approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.

“There’s a bunch of dimensions here where Trump has done varying levels of worse compared to how he was doing just a couple months ago,” said Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. “In just about everything, you’re seeing the sort of decline of how (voters are) sort of assessing his presidency.”

– Rebecca Morin

Washington state limits gatherings of more than 10 people

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a limit on gatherings in 17 counties that are in the third phase of reopening as the state sees a rise in COVID-19 cases. 

Inslee said Thursday that no more than 10 people can gather in those counties. The previous limit was 50 people.

“The steps are necessary to slow down the spread of COVID-19. The unfortunate truth is that we can’t let our guard down, even as we engage in more activities,” Inslee said in a news release

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The order, which goes into effect Monday, comes after state officials reported Thursday a record number of over 1,000 COVID-19 cases in one day. Infections continue to increase in the state. More than 44,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Washington state and about 1,400 have died.

What we’re reading

White House document: Nevada is in ‘red zone’ for COVID-19 cases

Nevada has landed in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases. That’s according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity citing an unpublicized July 14 document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

A state reaching “red zone” status means there were more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people last week. Nevada had 173 new cases per 100,000 population in the past week, compared to a national average of 119 per 100,000.

Cases in Clark County – home of the Las Vegas Strip – put Nevada in the red zone. “Las Vegas continues to have concerning rise in cases,” the report says.

– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

Florida sets another daily record for COVID-19 deaths

For the second time this week, Florida set a new record Thursday by reporting 156 deaths from COVID-19, with an additional 13,965 cases overnight also proving the state’s second-highest daily increase.

The death toll surpasses Tuesday’s 132 reported fatalities. Overall coronavirus cases now have reached 315,775 in Florida, with 4,677 deaths.

While the U.S. Labor Department reported that another 129,408 Floridians filed for unemployment last week, third highest in the nation, there is rising pressure to further restrict Florida’s economy, a step that Miami-Dade County officials say they could enact locally in coming weeks.

Georgia governor sues Atlanta mayor over face mask order

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council for mandating face masks in public as the state sees a rise in COVID-19 cases.

The lawsuit, filed late Thursday, argues that Bottoms overstepped her authority and must follow Kemp’s executive orders under state law. 

“Governor Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage the public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the lawsuit states.

Bottoms took to Twitter to cite coronavirus numbers in the state in response to the lawsuit. “3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing,” she said.

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? More than half of all states, including California and Michigan, have paused reopening plans or are taking steps to halt the spread of COVID-19. Here’s the list.

What went wrong in Florida? Two months after Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted about proving the experts wrong by flattening the curve and getting COVID-19 under control, Florida has become the state that other states don’t want to become.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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