US surpasses 3 million cases, hits daily record of 60,021; NJ to require masks outdoors; Ryder Cup postponed 1 year

Hospitalizations continued to rise and ICU beds were quickly filling as the nation surpassed 3 million coronavirus cases Wednesday.

The stunning milestone hit less than six months after the first confirmed case was reported Jan. 21, in Everett, Washington. Tuesday saw a record 60,021 new cases as the nationwide surge showed no signs of ebbing. In hopes slowing spread in his state, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he would require masks outdoors.

The number of new daily cases has risen exponentially since the middle of last month, reaching a record high of 57,209 on July 3. At a Senate hearing last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified that the U.S. is “going in the wrong direction” and that he “would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

The virus has killed more than 131,000 Americans and put a strain on the health care system. In California, hospitalizations are up 50% from two weeks ago. In Arizona, more than 90% of its ICU beds were filled, and the percentage was growing. In Savannah, Georgia, hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled in a month.

In Florida at least 56 hospital intensive care units have reached capacity – and some Republican senators said they won’t attend the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville next month.

Here are some recent developments:

  • A group of national movie theater chains filed a lawsuit against New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy for not allowing them to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

  • New Zealand officials said they will press charges against a COVID-19 patient who escaped quarantine to go shopping.

  • San Francisco has indefinitely delayed reopening plans for outdoor bars and indoor restaurants.

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. surpassed 3 million confirmed cases and more than 131,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been almost 12 million cases and more than 545,000 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.

CDC revising back-to-school guidelines after Trump complains on Twitter

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is revising its guidance on reopening schools after President Donald Trump tweeted his disagreement with them, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday. Trump tweeted dissatisfaction with the CDC’s “very tough & expensive guidelines” for opening schools as the coronavirus pandemic continues. He also threatened to withhold funding from schools that don’t fill their classrooms this fall.

“As we work with Congress on the next round of state support, we’re going to be looking for ways to give states a strong incentive and encouragement to get kids back to school,” Pence said at a news conference at the U.S. Department of Education.

Maureen Groppe

Help wanted: At least 30,000 volunteers sought to test vaccines

The National Institutes of Health launched the COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network, part of the effort to find volunteers to test possible COVID-19 vaccines. The network is a combination of four existing federal clinical trial networks at over 100 hospitals and clinics nationwide. It will help researchers find the at least 30,000 volunteers, especially people in populations who are most affected by COVID-19, including racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly and pregnant women. The first group of volunteers is expected to test the vaccine candidate developed by Moderna. That study will begin this summer, NIH said. You can volunteer here.

“Community engagement, particularly with the communities most vulnerable to COVID-19’s severe outcomes, will be critical to the success of this research,” said National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins.  

Elizabeth Weise

US surpasses 3 million cases. No end in sight.

The U.S. now has 3 million documented cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, a virulent bug that crawled into the national consciousness early in the year and now is likely to consume the rest of it.

The milestone reached Wednesday represents roughly a quarter of the world’s cases and the same percentage of its deaths. It took the U.S. a little more than three months to hit 1 million cases on April 28. It took about half that time, 44 days, to get to 2 million on June 11, and only 26 days to reach 3 million on July 8. By that gauge, if no new measures are taken, 4 million cases could be tallied as soon as July 22.

“Like a runner coming from behind in a macabre race, it has surpassed the death toll of many diseases so many Americans consider important,” says Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Marco della Cava, Jorge L. Ortiz

New Jersey to require masks outside when social distancing not possible

New Jersey will require masks to be worn outside under an order expected to be signed Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said. Murphy has been reticent since the state’s first reported COVID-19 case in March to require masks, citing enforcement issues. But he said he decided to issue the new requirement when social distancing is not possible because of “hot spots” of the virus in other areas of the country. New Jersey, which saw its peak in April and the second-highest amount of deaths in the United States, “can’t go through that hell again,” Murphy said.

Dustin Racioppi, Asbury Park Press

Report: As coronavirus surges, many federal workers authorized to return to offices

Many federal workers have been authorized to return to their offices on a full- or part-time basis, despite the concerns of many leaders in Washington, D.C., according to the New York Times.

The Times reports that the Energy Department has authorized 20% of its approximately 600 employees to return. It also reported that the Defense Department has authorized up to 80% of its workforce to return to offices, which could mean as many as 18,000 employees returning to the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, the Interior Department said in a statement June 23 that “telework should continue to be encouraged,” when it makes sense, but that “bureaus and offices should begin bringing employees back to office spaces to better satisfy operational needs” as part of the department’s entering of Phase 2.

“To move them to a work site so the administration can say they reopened the government is irresponsible,” Everett Kelley, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, told the New York Times.

Ryder Cup golf event postponed until 2021

The Ryder Cup, among the premiere events in professional golf, was postponed for one year Wednesday, the latest major sports event to fall victim to the pandemic. PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe and the PGA TOUR jointly announced Wednesday the one-year delay. The tournament, played every two years, features a team of elite U.S. golfers against a team representing the rest of the world. It was set for Sept. 22-27, at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, but has been pushed back a year, to Sept. 21-26, 2021.

“Unlike other major sporting events that are played in existing stadiums, we had to make a decision now about building facilities to host the 2020 Ryder Cup,” said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh in a statement. “It became clear that as of today, our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible.”

NYC unveils schools plan for mix of in-class, remote learning

New York City’s public schools plan to open in September with a mix of in-person and remote learning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. Plans call for no more than a dozen students in a classroom at once. Most students will not  report to the schools every day, although some “cohorts” of students will attend five days, including many special needs children. De Blasio said he understands that having kids at home will put a strain on many working parents but noted that day care centers are beginning to reopen.

“There is a huge amount of work to be done,” de Blasio said. “If the data tells us to do something differently, we will. But my responsibility is to get the schools ready to go.”

China rips US withdrawal from WHO, dismisses ‘habitual quitter’ 

The United States decision to drop out of the World Health Organization damages the global fight against COVID-19 and reflects U.S. unilateralism, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday. Zhao Lijian made the remarks a day after the U.S. formally submitted its notification of withdrawal to United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres.  President Donald Trump has  blasted the multilateral institution as an ineffective tool of China.

“This move has once again revealed the U.S. side’s pursuit of unilateralism as a habitual quitter,” Zhao said. “We also call on the international community to … increase support for the WHO, and jointly safeguard global public health security.”

MIT, Harvard sue ICE over plan to kick out foreign students studying online

MIT and Harvard filed suit against ICE and the US Department of Homeland Security challenging the Trump administration decision that international students must leave the country if the college or university they attend switches to online-only classes in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. International students enrolled in colleges or universities offering only online courses this fall will be barred from entering the U.S. The suit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, asks ICE and DHS be barred from enforcing the guidance and that it be declared it illegal.

“The announcement disrupts our international students’ lives and jeopardizes their academic and research pursuits,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said. “ICE is unable to offer the most basic answers about how its policy will be interpreted or implemented.”

Trump rally in New Hampshire has some public health experts on edge

President Donald Trump’s planned rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Saturday has raised concerns among some local medical experts about the potential impact on relatively low COVID-19 numbers in the area. Compared to other states, the Northeast currently seems to be managing the pandemic fairly well after early difficulties. Some fear a large, crowded rally will reverse that positive trend.

“A lot of people, including me have been working hard to keep our numbers low, to educate people about the best way to be safe,” said Dr. David Itkin, infectious disease expert at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. “So, I worry that the rallies give the perception that our president will be seen as a negative role model. I also worry his visit could undo what we have accomplished here.”

Karen Dandurant

US coronavirus map: Tracking the outbreak

WHO: Evidence ’emerging’ of airborne transmission of virus

Evidence of airborne transmission of the coronavirus in “crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings… cannot be ruled out,” said Benedetta Allegranzi, the World Heath  technical lead for infection prevention and control. The acknowledgement comes days after 239 health experts, in an open letter to the international science community, urged their colleagues to take airborne transmission seriously as COVID-19 cases rise.

The World Health Organization had not recognized such transmission except in health care settings through “aerosol-generating procedures.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called airborne, person-to-person transmission over long distances “unlikely.” But Dr. Matthew Heinz, hospitalist at Tucson Medical Center in Arizona, said there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence “based on who I’m admitting and their described behavior.”

Adrianna Rodriguez

Pandemic rewrites rules for scientific advancement

The methodical process of going from a scientific hypothesis to consensus can take years. But a pandemic waits for no scientist, and researchers have been sharing information openly and finding ways to innovate. Since December, more than 5,000 manuscripts related to COVID-19 research have been submitted to medRxiv and another preprint server, bioRxiv. Such online archives are where the first genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.

“Science immediately reorganized itself in a purposeful way to address a global threat,” James Bradner, president of the Institutes for BioMedical Research at Novartis, said in a webinar hosted by Chemical & Engineering News.

Jordan Nutting, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Louisiana lawmaker equates COVID-19 mask mandates to Holocaust

A Louisiana lawmaker said people who refuse to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic are being treated like Jews in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Republican State Rep. Danny McCormick posted a Facebook video Tuesday railing against mask mandates as an assault on liberty, triggered by a mask mandate issued by Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins. In the video, McCormick shreds a surgical mask with a chainsaw, saying the “Constitution is being shredded before our very eyes.”

“Government needed a villain,” McCormick said in the video. “People who don’t wear masks will be soon painted as the enemy just as they did to Jews in Nazi Germany. Now is the time to push back before it’s too late. We can preserve America.”

McCormick said his constituents are praising his post. “It’s a tremendous response,” he said in an interview with the USA TODAY Network. “The liberty message is strong. It’s amazing more politicians don’t take on the liberty movement because it’s so popular.”

Greg Hilburn, Monroe (La.) News-Star

56 Florida hospital ICUs hit capacity

At least 56 intensive care units in Florida hospitals reached capacity Tuesday, according to data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Another 35 hospitals show ICU bed availability of 10% or less. The data comes as the state, now the nation’s No. 1 hot spot for the virus, reports 7,361 new COVID-19 cases. Gov. Ron DeSantis refused Tuesday to say why his state has not begun reporting the daily COVID-19 hospitalization rate, the Miami Herald reported. On Monday, he said that the outbreak in Florida had “stabilized.”

As of Monday, over 16,400 Floridians have been hospitalized because of COVID-19, and over 3,800 have died.

Elinor Aspegren

AMC, Cinemark, Regal file lawsuit against New Jersey to reopen theaters

Several national movie theaters chains – iAMC, Cinemark and Regal among them – are suing New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy for not allowing them to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit alleges that it is a violation of the theaters’ rights to free speech, equal protection and due process as other businesses have been allowed to reopen. The groups claim they have presented detailed safety plans to the state specifying how they would ensure the safety of patrons and employees. 

“Rather than address these comprehensive safety proposals in any meaningful way, Defendants have chosen to continue to discriminate against movie theaters and to continue to require the closure of indoor movie theaters,” the suit claims.

San Francisco delays reopening of outdoor bars, indoor restaurants

Reopening plans for outdoor bars and indoor restaurants have been delayed in San Francisco as cases continue to rise in the city, Mayor London Breed announced. They were originally set to reopen on June 13.

“We know the pause on reopening is disappointing, but we cannot risk letting the virus get out of control,” Breed said on Twitter. “We all need to do our part by wearing face coverings, keeping your distance from others, and getting tested so we can get to a place where we can safely resume reopening.”

Some senators will not attend GOP convention as cases in Florida spike

Several top Republican lawmakers said they would skip the Republican National Convention as coronavirus cases climb in Florida, where President Donald Trump is set to accept the party’s nomination in August before a large crowd. The RNC backed out of Charlotte, North Carolina, last month and picked Jacksonville as the main site for the convention after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles wouldn’t commit to allowing a full convention because of health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On a Monday conference call with local reporters, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, at age 86 the oldest Republican senator, said he would avoid the convention “because of the virus situation.” A few other GOP lawmakers have announced they are deliberating or won’t be attending the convention while not pointing back to coronavirus specifically. 

New Zealand to charge patient who escaped quarantine to go shopping

New Zealand authorities say they will press charges against a coronavirus patient who escaped quarantine in Auckland and went shopping at a supermarket. Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the head of managed isolation and quarantine, said the 32-year-old man escaped through a fence at the Stamford Plaza hotel and was gone for just over an hour before returning. The man later tested positive for the virus. 

Webb said the man was a New Zealand citizen who’d recently returned from India and his actions were “completely unacceptable.” New Zealand has eliminated community transmission of the virus and is trying to contain cases at the border by placing new arrivals into a 14-day quarantine at various hotels. The supermarket has been closed for a deep clean.

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: United States passes 3 million cases; Ryder Cup postponed

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