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US dips below 50,000 new cases but experts fear July 4 will act like ‘rocket fuel’ for pandemic 

The United States has dipped under 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time in four days, but experts fear celebrations for the July 4th Independence Day weekend will act like rocket fuel for the nation’s surging outbreak.

Johns Hopkins University, which tallies confirmed cases, counted 45,300 new coronavirus infections in the U.S. on Saturday.

The new count came after three days in which the daily count reached as high as 54,500 new cases. 

The country was reporting under 20,000 new infections a day as recently as June 15. 

Texas saw a record 8,200 new cases on Saturday, as music lovers gathered in Round Rock

Few people wore face masks at the Granger Smith concert in Texas on July 4 in Dell Diamond

Few people wore face masks at the Granger Smith concert in Texas on July 4 in Dell Diamond

Experts warned, however, that the lower figure on Saturday does not necessarily mean the situation in the U.S. is improving, as it could be due to reduced reporting on a national holiday. They also expect a further spike after the long weekend.

The United States has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead, according to the university. 

There have been almost 130,000 deaths

There have been almost 130,000 deaths 

Yet the true toll of the pandemic is believed to be significantly higher, due to people who died before they were tested and missed mild cases.   

President Donald Trump celebrated Independence Day with little heed for health warnings, beginning on Friday with a speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and marking the occasion Saturday with an evening of fireworks on the National Mall in Washington.

In Fourth of July remarks, Trump said the U.S. was testing too much and falsely asserted that ‘by so doing, we show cases, 99 per cent of which are totally harmless.’

The World Health Organization has said about 20 per cent of those diagnosed with COVID-19 progress to severe disease, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. 

Those with mild or no symptoms, meanwhile, could spread the virus to others.

There are now more than 2.8 million cases confirmed in the United States

There are now more than 2.8 million cases confirmed in the United States

The mayor of Austin, Texas, where COVID-19 cases are surging, called Trump’s remarks ‘dangerous’ and ‘wrong.’ 

Mayor Steve Adler urged people to listen to local officials for public safety guidance rather than the ‘ambiguous message coming out of Washington.’

The Food and Drug Administration commissioner on Sunday declined to back up Trump’s claim.

Dr Stephen Hahn said that he’s ‘not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,’ but that government data clearly show ‘this is a serious problem.’ 

He adds that ‘any case is tragic’ and that to stem the tide of surging cases people should follow government guidance to practice social distancing and wear a mask.  

The U.S. is failing to get the pandemic under control as numbers surge to ever-higher levels

The U.S. is failing to get the pandemic under control as numbers surge to ever-higher levels

Almost 130,000 people have now died from COVID-19 in the United States

Almost 130,000 people have now died from COVID-19 in the United States

North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Missouri, Idaho and Alabama all registered new daily highs on Friday, while Texas hit a new peak for hospitalizations.  

Florida health officials on Sunday said the state had reached a grim milestone: more than 200,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

State statistics show about 10,000 new people tested positive – a record new single-day high. More than 3,700 people have died.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in the state has increased by 5,323 – an increase of 184.1 per cent. 

About 43 per cent of the cases in Florida are in three counties: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said Sunday on ABC’s ‘This Week’ that the high numbers of positive tests both in his county and the state are ‘extremely worrisome.’

Suarez, who had the virus in March, says it is clear the growth is ‘exponential at this point’ and officials are closely monitoring hospitalizations. 

They are also closely watching the death rate, which ‘give us the impression’ that ‘much stricter’ measures have to be taken.

Florida’s death count is the ninth highest in the country overall and the 27th highest per capita, at 17.4 deaths per 100,000 people. 

Walt Disney World’s theme parks are set to reopen next week, for the first time since March, but three firefighters for the theme park resort’s private government have tested positive for COVID-19.

Up to 10 other firefighters for the Reedy Creek Improvement District are in quarantine, said Tim Stromsnes, an official with the Reedy Creek Fire Rescue IAFF Local 211. 

Firefighters are upset since they are expected to use up sick or vacation days while in quarantine, instead of getting paid time off. 

They also said Disney’s private government has done a poor job of communicating their coronavirus-related policies and informing other firefighters about their sick colleagues.

‘They can’t manage COVID in the fire department. How is Reedy Creek going to protect visitors?’ Stromsnes said.

Florida’s problems came as Texas also reported its biggest daily increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with 8,258 new cases. 

Texas now has a total of 191,790 confirmed cases.

The state also reported 33 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing its death toll to 2,608. 

Texas has similarly reported a rise in hospitalizations, with 7,890 people in hospitals for coronavirus-related ailments, an increase of 238 from Friday. 

Two counties in the Rio Grande Valley area, Starr and Hidalgo, said their hospitals had reached full capacity. 

Much of Texas began mandating face coverings Friday on the orders of Governor Greg Abbott. Failure to obey the mask order carries a $250 fine. 

The order is the most dramatic about-face that Abbott has made as he retreats from what stood out as one of America’s swiftest re-openings.  

In Arizona, cases also continued to rise. 

The mayor of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, said there was a ‘crisis’ involving coronavirus testing shortages in her city due to surging cases, which leads the U.S. in new coronavirus cases per capita.

Gallego, a Democrat, said some residents over the weekend had to line up for eight hours by car to get COVID-19 tests and that the federal government has been slow to help.

Gallego tells ABC’s ‘This Week’ on Sunday that Arizona went from ‘zero to 60’ by being one of the first states to reopen after it was among the last to implement stay-at-home orders.

She says that led to an explosion of cases, citing crowded nightclubs with free champagne and people unwittingly spreading the virus at large family gatherings.

She blamed Trump for giving mixed public messages. 

He visited Phoenix while she was urging people to stay at home and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, holding a large event and not wearing a mask.

In New York – previously the epicenter of the virus – Andrew Cuomo, the governor, said on Saturday there were more than 530 new confirmed cases and eight deaths. 

At the height of New York’s virus outbreak, new infections reached daily totals of more than 10,000 and deaths topped 700.   

And worldwide, a record 212,326 new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed on Saturday, according to the World Health Organization. 

The biggest contributors to yesterday’s rise in cases were the U.S., where there were 53,000 more positive tests; Brazil, with 48,000; India with 23,000 and South Africa with 9,000.   

The staggering figure was an 11 per cent rise on the previous record of 190,566, which was set on June 28.

June was the most devastating month for the global pandemic and saw cases top 10 million and deaths surge past 500,000.

The 10 million milestone was hit only last Sunday and the total has since risen to 11.3m, meaning more than 1.3 million people have been diagnosed in a week.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a leading scientist advising politicians in Britain, said even the harrowing official figures are ‘in reality underestimates’.

He said in a tweet that the figures were ‘sobering’.

Sir Jeremy wrote: ‘More than 10 million confirmed cases and 500,000 deaths globally directly attributed to COVID19 in ~6 months. In reality both underestimates.

‘Highly populated regions of [Central and South] America, South Asia, Africa not yet experienced full impact of 1st wave. Globally accelerating.’  


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