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Across the United States, 38,115 new infections were reported by state health departments on Wednesday — surpassing the previous single-day record of 34,203 set on April 25. Texas, Florida and California led the way, with all three states reporting more than 5,000 new cases apiece.

Three states — California, Florida and Oklahoma — reported record highs in new single-day coronavirus cases, while hospitalizations hit a new peak in Arizona, where intensive care units have quickly filled.

Even as case numbers climb, reports circulated that the federal government is poised to stop providing federal aid to testing sites in some hard-hit states, including Texas, prompting a top federal official to respond that testing was on the rise.

Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has recorded more than 2.3 million coronavirus cases and at least 119,000 deaths, while the global number of cases has soared past 9 million.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The Dow Jones industrial average fell 709 points, or 2.7 percent, as investors grappled with a spike in covid-19 infections in several states, fueling concerns that an already drawn-out economic recovery will be delayed further.
  • The governors of the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area jointly announced a travel advisory, which requires a 14-day quarantine for visitors from nine states whose infection rates meet certain thresholds indicating “significant community spread,” according to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D).
  • The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said the global economy will shrink this year by 4.9 percent and will be followed by a sluggish recovery as the pandemic has caused more widespread damage than expected.
  • Virginia took a big step on Wednesday toward ushering in a new set of coronavirus-era safety rules that companies would be forced to implement to protect workers from infection — a first in the country and potentially a way forward for other states in the face of federal inaction.
  • An independent investigation into a Massachusetts long-term care facility where 76 people died of the novel coronavirus and an additional 84 residents tested positive found that errors by officials there contributed to the spread of the virus.

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June 24, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT

Virtually no tourists travel to Alaska after a record 1.4 million cruise visitors were expected

Most summers, Icy Strait Point near Hoonah, Alaska — population 760 — is filled with cruise passengers visiting restaurants and shops, whale watching, exploring on all-terrain vehicles, or hollering down a more-than-mile-long zip line. The destination expected 450,000 visitors this year.

“We haven’t had a ship yet,” said Tyler Hickman, the senior vice president of Icy Strait Point. It has not yet opened as a result.

So far, 99 percent of the projected capacity has been canceled, says Mike Tibbles, vice president of government and community affairs for Cruise Lines International Association Alaska.

Read more here.

By Hannah Sampson
June 24, 2020 at 11:11 PM EDT

After sharp declines, virus numbers may be starting to plateau in DMV region

The District, Maryland and Virginia reported 36 new covid-related deaths on Wednesday, along with 884 new infections.

The seven-day averages for both figures have been declining since early June but started to plateau this past week.

The District added four deaths and 34 new cases. Maryland added 16 deaths — including six in Baltimore City — and 330 new infections, nearly half of which were in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Read more here.

By Rebecca Tan
June 24, 2020 at 10:47 PM EDT

Will MLB’s health and safety plan hold up once baseball returns? It’ll be tough.

Major League Baseball’s 2020 operations manual, the guiding document for playing during the coronavirus pandemic, covers a lot of ground in a lot of detail.

Players can lean on padded railings at the ballpark if there is a towel between their body and the surface. Large condiment bottles must be “removed from eating areas and replaced with individually packaged units.” The final 10 pages, out of 101 total, are filled with diagrams that show how to best socially distance during drills and group stretching. One is dedicated to using two cut-off men from the outfield while staying six feet from the nearest teammate.

“It’s basically an honor system and you’re trusting that a whole lot of people understand how serious this is, and will be careful and safe,” said Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University. “This is a real gamble.”

Read more here.

By Jesse Dougherty
June 24, 2020 at 10:22 PM EDT

California’s Disneyland will delay its reopening

Lacking sufficient time to negotiate with labor unions and to bring back employees, Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., announced Wednesday it will delay its reopening. The park had been scheduled to open July 17 but will remain closed pending approval from government officials.

According to the company’s statement, California will not issue a reopening plan for theme parks until after July 4. Because the park will require weeks to call back its workforce, Disney decided to back out of the proposed reopening date.

“Once we have a clearer understanding of when guidelines will be released, we expect to be able to communicate a reopening date,” the statement read.

In late March, Disney parks closed amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, earlier this month after Disneyland announced its return, an online petition to keep the park shuttered drew tens of thousands of signatures. Following that trend, Disney World employees in Orlando started a petition asking company executives to reconsider plans to open as daily cases in Florida continue to mount. On Wednesday, Florida reported 5,511 new cases, shattering a previous single-day high mark set on June 20.

“Keeping ourselves and our visitors safe is our number one priority, in every theme park. This includes our health and well being,” the petition read. “We are encouraged to say something when we see something that we deem is unsafe so we’re speaking up.”

The company statement on the Disneyland delay did not address the employee petition, which had received more than 50,000 signatures by Wednesday evening. Disney World in Orlando appeared to be on track to open in July just as other international theme parks have.

“We developed enhanced health and safety protocols for both cast and guests at Shanghai Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort that have been approved, allowing us to reopen in a responsible manner and bring our cast members back to work,” the statement read.

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 9:51 PM EDT

Top W.Va. health official resigns after governor complains about accuracy of coronavirus case numbers

After complaining about the accuracy of recent coronavirus case numbers in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice (R) accepted the resignation of a top state health official.

On Wednesday, Cathy Slemp, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources commissioner and a state health officer, stepped down after being asked to leave her post, according to a statement released by Justice’s office.

“After the Governor expressed to [state Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch] his lack of confidence in Dr. Slemp’s leadership of the Bureau for Public Health due to a series of recent events involving issues under her direct control, Secretary Crouch then asked for Dr. Slemp’s resignation, which she offered immediately,” the statement read.

Earlier in the day during a news briefing, Justice said that some of the reported numbers of new cases in the state had been inflated. As of Wednesday evening, the health department reported 2,629 total cases in the state, an increase of 47 confirmed results in a single day.

“We have every reason to believe that numbers that I have been reporting to you the last few days are maybe inaccurate,” Justice said. “Now they’re inaccurate to the good side for us. But that doesn’t matter to me. And what I mean by that, we really believe now that I’ve been reporting to you that we have more active cases than we really have.”

Without giving details, Justice cited an example in Jackson County in which the state is “still investigating” what happened with testing at a nursing home. Also, Justice highlighted a situation in the city of Huttonsville where there were six cases, but they were not properly reflected on the state total number.

“It is my responsibility to tell our people the right numbers,” Justice said. “If I overstate the number of actives, then I’m scaring you. I’m scaring you when I don’t need to scare you. And that’s not going to cut it with me. … We’re going to get to the bottom of this really quickly.”

Slemp worked as the state’s health officer from 2002 to 2011 and returned to the position in 2018.

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 9:37 PM EDT

CDC and drugmakers boost flu vaccine doses amid fears of tough respiratory illness season

Worried about a simultaneous assault of the novel coronavirus and seasonal influenza this winter, public health officials and vaccine manufacturers are making millions of extra flu vaccine doses to protect those most vulnerable to the pandemic and influenza, according to government and company officials.

Even though flu season doesn’t begin until the fall, major flu vaccine manufacturers say they plan to boost production by about 10 percent, to about 189 million doses, up from 170 million doses last year, to ensure enough doses exist for an anticipated surge in people seeking flu shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken the rare step of buying 7 million doses directly from manufacturers to be distributed to states for adult vaccination, CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview. “This is a big move,” he said.

Getting a flu shot does not protect against the coronavirus, but disease experts said reducing episodes of flu could prove pivotal in freeing up space in hospitals and medical offices to deal with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Read more here.

By Lena H. Sun
June 24, 2020 at 8:55 PM EDT

Oregon county rescinds exemption for people of color from mask mandate

After an Oregon county excused people of color from its new mask mandate, citing “heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment due to wearing face coverings in public,” it has withdrawn the exception.

Lincoln County noted its exemption for people of color last week when it mandated face coverings in “any indoor public setting or outdoor public location where a person will be in within six feet of another individual, who does not share the same household."

However, the county took back the exemption Wednesday after receiving national attention, alleging that racist remarks spurred by the news put the minority community at risk.

“We are shocked and appalled at the volume of horrifically racist commentary we have received regarding this policy exception,” according to a statement from the county, the News Guard reported.

“The very policy meant to protect [Black residents], is now making them a target for further discrimination and harassment,” the statement continued. “Let us be very clear. The directive and policy were meant to protect. Threats and racist statements turned it into a policy that now harms.”

Protests of racism and police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis have heightened awareness of the biases nonwhite people could face. For months, black Americans, in particular, have expressed concerns about how they’ll be perceived — and potentially targeted — when wearing masks.

“As an African American man, I have to be cognizant of the things I do and where I go, so appearances matter,” Nashville resident Kip Diggs told The Washington Post earlier in the pandemic. He said of the masks he wears: “I have pink, lime green, Carolina blue so I don’t look menacing. I want to take a lot of that stigma and risk out as best I can.”

Oregon soon ordered people in seven counties, including Lincoln, to cover their faces inside businesses. That broader order does not list an exemption for nonwhite people.

By Hannah Knowles and Meryl Kornfield
June 24, 2020 at 8:13 PM EDT

Austin labs’ use of fax machines blamed for long wait times for coronavirus test results

In Austin, technology has not been able to keep up with the novel coronavirus.

Travis County officials have complained about the old-fashioned way some medical labs have delivered test results: by fax machine. On Monday, the city reported a relatively low amount of 129 new cases, a decrease by nearly 400 from the previous day. However, that number did not represent the total amount. Tested individuals were still waiting to receive their results via fax.

“This incredibly wasteful, stupid process of putting it on fax paper and faxing it to somebody so that they then have to manually enter it on a computer,” Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said Tuesday during a live-streamed meeting, according to CBS Austin.

Dr. Mark Escott, who attended the commissioners’ briefing, said it was not uncommon for the results to be entered into the system seven to 10 days after the patient has been tested. According to Austin Public Health, nasal swab tests should yield a result within 24 to 72 hours. However, residents who have tested for the coronavirus have criticized longer-than-expected wait times. The department said it receives more than 1,000 daily faxes with test results, according to CBS Austin.

“That’s like a third world technology,” Shea said. “Most young people don’t even know what a fax machine is anymore.”

During the earlier days of the pandemic, Caroline Cook told KVUE that she took a coronavirus test at the Austin Regional Clinic on March 20 and was told the results would return in five to seven days. At the time of the interview on March 31, Cook had yet to receive the results.

“I feel like we need to have the results quickly so we can take action,” Cook told the television station.

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 7:28 PM EDT

GNC files for bankruptcy, will close as many as 1,200 stores

Vitamin and nutrition chain GNC has filed for bankruptcy, with plans to close roughly a fifth of its 5,200 U.S. locations as it searches for a buyer.

GNC — General Nutrition Centers — has struggled for years to shore up sales as it has tried to pay down more than $900 million in debt. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which forced it to suspend operations at about 40 percent of its stores. GNC holdings said it plans to permanently close as many as 1,200 locations.

The chain, founded in 1935 in Pittsburgh, is the sixth major U.S. retailer to file for Chapter 11 protection during the pandemic, which has already led to thousands of permanent store closures and billions in lost sales across the industry.

Read more here.

By Abha Bhattarai
June 24, 2020 at 7:03 PM EDT

Pence tells Republican lawmakers to focus on ‘encouraging signs’ amid the pandemic

Vice President Pence urged GOP senators Wednesday to focus on “encouraging signs” despite a recent spike in coronavirus cases in numerous states as various localities move swiftly to reopen their economies.

Pence made the remarks in a closed-door lunch with Republican senators on Capitol Hill as lawmakers have begun to express alarm because of rising infection rates in Florida, Arizona, Texas and several other states, some of which are likely to be critical to the outcome of the presidential race in the fall and control of the Senate. On Wednesday, five states hit new highs in covid-19 hospitalizations.

Multiple senators said Pence pointed to positive indicators, including the fact that while infections are rising, the mortality rate is not. That is partly because there is more testing, and younger and healthier people now account for larger shares of those getting tested, Pence said.

Read more here.

By Erica Werner
June 24, 2020 at 6:43 PM EDT

Texas county official assaulted by irate store customer who refused to wear mask, sheriff says

When Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff ordered all commercial businesses to require employees and customers to wear facial coverings, the Texas county executive acknowledged the action “may be pushing” the legal boundary. On Wednesday, an irate customer pushed back against his order — and allegedly assaulted the judge.

According to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, Wolff (D) was confronted by a customer at a Lowe’s store in San Antonio who had berated a cashier over the county mandate.

In surveillance video reviewed by local deputies, Wolff was standing in the checkout line behind an unidentified man who refused an employee’s request to put on a facial covering. When the customer became angry at the employee, Wolff stepped in to explain the local mandate.

Although Texas has no decree on facial coverings, on June 17 Wolff became one of several local leaders in the state to issue a countywide executive order. Businesses could face a fine of up to $1,000 for not requiring face masks.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters the customer accosted Wolff, apparently knowing his identity as the official who was behind the order. Wolff attempted to give the customer his business card, and the man smacked it away.

“It was some kind of literature that he was trying to hand the gentleman,” Salazar said, “being very nice to him, but just for some reason he took offense to it and decided he’d rather assault him.”

Salazar said law enforcement has identified the customer, who could face a charge of assault on a public servant.

“We’re recommending he come in and give us his side of the story,” Salazar said. “Give us a call. We want to hear your side of the story, but we are coming.”

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 6:10 PM EDT

Houston cases soar as mayor warns people to take situation ‘very seriously’

Houston’s mayor on Wednesday announced 987 new coronavirus cases in the city and seven new deaths — a troubling number that he said was indicative of recent trends in the state.

Sylvester Turner (D) said the new cases, 91 percent of which reflect tests conducted between June 14 and 22, bring Houston’s total to 16,253. According to the Houston Chronicle, hospitalizations have more than doubled in the Houston area since Memorial Day, and Texas has averaged more than 3,000 new cases per day over the past week — nearly double the number from a week earlier.

Houston is facing 650 new cases per day on average, Turner said.

“It’s past time for people to take this situation very seriously,” he said. “The numbers are moving in the wrong direction.”

Turner said he was optimistic that Houston could right the ship if people remain vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing. He said that in the coming days, he will urge local officials to monitor clubs and bars specifically to ensure they are adhering to occupancy limits. Those that aren’t complying will be referred to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which has previously suspended the liquor licenses of businesses that flout public health rules.

“I don’t care if you get mad at me,” he said. “We are going to get this back under control.”

The mayor’s announcement comes as the number of patients hospitalized with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in the city continues to soar. The Texas Medical Center reported that 97 percent of its ICU beds are occupied.

“People wanted to open up toward the end of April/May, and we did. Now people are resocializing,” he said. “Nobody’s saying we’re shutting down, but we are asking people: If you want to open, okay, let’s put on a mask.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
June 24, 2020 at 5:15 PM EDT

Calif., Fla., Okla. report record-high new cases; record hospitalizations in Arizona

Three states — California, Florida and Oklahoma — reported record highs in new single-day coronavirus cases Wednesday, while hospitalizations hit a new peak in Arizona, where intensive care units have quickly filled.

California reported more than 7,000 new cases, according to Washington Post tracking. That’s 42 percent higher than the previous peak of 5,019, set on Tuesday. Hospitalizations of people with covid-19, the disease the virus causes, or suspected to have the virus were up 7 percent from the day before.

Florida blew past its previous record from the weekend by well over 1,000 cases, reporting more than 5,500 new infections in a day. The Sunshine State has broken its rolling average record for new cases for 17 days straight.. Numbers on Florida’s current hospitalizations were not available on its dashboard, but the daily average change in cumulative hospitalizations has been edging upward.

Oklahoma reported 482 additional known cases, hitting a new rolling average for the 12th day in a row. That average is up about 83 percent from June 17.

Record new infections were reported in Tulsa County, where President Trump held a campaign rally over the weekend — a mass indoor gathering that the county’s top public health official worried could be a “super spreader” for the already-surging virus.

In Arizona, intensive care unit beds are 88 percent full, while inpatient beds are 86 percent full, according to state data. Doctors and top health experts such as former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb warn that the health-care system in Arizona and several other states could become overburdened. The state reports 2,270 hospitalized covid-19 patients, up from 2,136 reported Tuesday.

At the same time, Arizona posted its lowest number of new infections since June 15, about 1,800.

Montana also reported its highest-yet number of coronavirus hospitalizations, though the state continues to have one of the lowest infection and death totals relative to its population — about two deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 150 per 100,000 in now-recovering New York.

By Hannah Knowles and Jacqueline Dupree
June 24, 2020 at 5:12 PM EDT

N.Y., N.J., Conn. say travelers from states with high spread of coronavirus must quarantine

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are instructing travelers arriving from states with high coronavirus infection rates to quarantine for 14 days, the three states’ governors announced Wednesday in a joint news conference.

New York will be enforcing the measure with judicial orders and fines starting at $2,000, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said, while the other states are not penalizing people for violating the “travel advisory.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said “stricter measures” could follow if people do not heed the quarantine.

The new rules, which take effect at midnight, will apply to states with an infection rate of more than 10 per 100,000 people over seven-day rolling average or a 10 percent-or-higher positivity rate among those tested over a seven-day rolling average. Nine states meet that threshold, Cuomo said: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have seen infections slow, while cases and hospitalizations have accelerated in many states in the South and West.

“We did a full 180 degrees,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “We went from the highest cases, the highest viral transmission rates, to some of the lowest rates in the country.”

“We also have to make sure the virus doesn’t come on a plane again,” he said later. “Learned that lesson.”

Emphasizing the Northeast region’s progress, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) echoed those worries: “We’re not an island.”

Cuomo said in the past week that he was considering a quarantine order for travelers from Florida, in the latest sign of the state’s reversing fortunes. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, in March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered anyone flying into his state from New York to self-quarantine for two weeks. New York was the main hot spot of the U.S. outbreak, while Florida had roughly 1,200 confirmed cases and 17 deaths.

“Tale of two cities, two countries,” Cuomo said in the past week at a news briefing.

An earlier version of this post said visitors from those states would fall under the tri-state area’s new quarantine rule if 10 percent of the “population” tested positive over a certain period, citing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s news conference statements. In fact, the threshold is 10 percent positivity rate among those tested. The post has also been updated to clarify states’ different approaches to enforcement.

By Hannah Knowles