Walt Disney World began a phased reopening Saturday, nearly four months after the theme park shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As with other theme parks that have announced reopening plans, park capacity will be limited and visitors will undergo a temperature check and be required to wear face masks.
But COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in Florida and across the country. The U.S. reported more than 66,000 new cases Friday – the nation’s largest single-day increase since the start of the outbreak, according to John Hopkins University data. Globally, the world also saw the largest single-day increase in new cases thus far.
Florida has recorded the largest weekly increase in cases. In the past seven days, the state has added nearly 67,000 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are more than 244,000 cases statewide, according to the Florida Department of Health, making the Sunshine State a coronavirus hot spot.
Some recent developments:
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has asked all its members in Utah to wear face coverings when in public. About 62% of Utah’s 3.1 million residents are members of the church.
- The Food and Drug Administration has expanded the number of hand sanitizers to avoid because they may contain methanol, a toxic substance when absorbed through skin or ingested.
- Amid the outbreak, more children are reaching out to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, which said this week it’s experiencing its highest demand for services in its 26-year history.
- America’s testing system is once again strained and labs are struggling to keep pace as coronavirus rages faster than ever in the South and West.
- Schools should prioritize safety and rely on local authorities in school reopening plans, a joint statement from associations of pediatricians, educators and superintendents says.
? Today’s stats: The U.S. has surpassed 3.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. More than 134,000 deaths have been confirmed, according to John Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been 12.5 million cases and over 560,000 deaths.
? What we’re reading: As COVID-19 continues to hammer Arizona, the hallways, patient rooms and the COVID operations center at Tucson Medical Center provide an inside look at what hospitals are struggling with around the state: not enough ICU beds, a higher-than-usual number of sick employees, intense staffing challenges and frustrating delays with COVID-19 testing.
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Trump wears mask at Walter Reed hospital
President Donald Trump visited with wounded soldiers and front-line medical workers Saturday while wearing what – for him – is an unusual accessory: A mask.
“I’ve never been against masks,” the president said, “but I do believe they have a time and a place.”
Trump, who has been criticized by public health officials for not wearing face coverings in public, donned a dark navy blue mask with a gold presidential seal emblazoned on the side during his trip to Walter Reed.
Trump in recent days has softened his opposition to wearing masks, a subject on which he has been excoriated by public health officials who say he should set a better example. They said too many Trump followers have followed his no-mask lead, contributing to the spread of the deadly virus.
— David Jackson
California county cancels 11,000 COVID-19 tests due to supply shortage
San Bernardino County cancelled about 11,000 previously scheduled COVID-19 tests this week due to a shortage of testing supplies, according to spokesman David Wert, with nearly one-third at high desert testing sites.
Wert previously said that “hundreds” of tests were canceled as instability in supply chains left the state’s fifth-most populous county with inadequate access to testing supplies.
“The supply chain has never been completely stable,” Wert wrote in an email Friday.
The county only hit its testing goal of 3,288 daily tests – that’s 150 tests per day per 100,000 residents – five times in the past two weeks, according to data from the county public health department. Now with the supply shortage, the county is capping its daily number of tests at 1,700, Wert said, roughly 50% of its target.
Nearly 7,000 people have died in California, where cases continue to rise.
– Mark Olalde, Kristin Scharkey and Matthew Cabe, Palm Springs Desert Sun
FDA expands list of hand sanitizers to avoid due to methanol risk
The Food and Drug Administration has expanded the number of hand sanitizers to avoid because they may contain methanol, a toxic substance when absorbed through skin or ingested.
The FDA now lists on a chart 59 varieties of hand sanitizer that should be avoided, some which have already been recalled, and other products being recommended for recalls as they may contain the potentially fatal ingredient.
All of the products in the FDA’s latest methanol update appear to have been produced in Mexico.
The FDA says it has “seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination.”
– Kelly Tyko
Death of child sparks plea for South Carolina to take pandemic seriously
Health officials took a stern tone in their daily news release about coronavirus infections following the death of a child younger than 5 years old in Chester County.
“Our state is in a dire situation, and we will continue to mourn the loss of parents, grandparents, children, friends and neighbors until each and every one of us steps up to do what is right, not just for ourselves, but for others,” said Joan Duwve, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s public health director.
“No one is immune to this deadly disease, but we each have the power to impact the path this pandemic takes in South Carolina.”
Duwve urged South Carolinians to wear a mask and maintain physical distance in order to help “change the course of the pandemic.”
– The Greenville News
National Sexual Assault Hotline sees record demand during pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed the country, more children are reaching out to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, which said this week it’s experiencing its highest demand for services in its 26-year history. In May and June, half of visitors to RAINN’s online hotline, which sees some of the most urgent cases, were minors.
“Their safety net collapsed during this period,” said RAINN president Scott Berkowitz. “Normally the first people to spot signs of abuse are adults outside the immediate family. Teachers and guidance counselors and the parents of friends. Once kids were cut off from that support group, we’ve seen in a lot of states that reports to child abuse authorities have declined.”
Sexual violence experts and state agency officials say they are concerned by the decline, which may be the result of teachers, who are mandated to report abuse, having less access to students. But they caution against generalizing how school closures, stay-at-home orders and pandemic-related stressors may be impacting rates of child sexual abuse.
– Alia E. Dastagir
Long lines for COVID tests, stressed labs delay results as demand spikes
America’s testing system is once again strained and labs are struggling to keep pace as coronavirus rages faster than ever in the South and West.
From Florida to California, large and small labs running 24/7 can’t process samples quickly enough from millions of Americans tested every week. That means COVID-19 test results are delayed a week or longer in hotspot communities, undercutting public health efforts to track, isolate and prevent spread.
The number of daily tests reached an all-time high of more than 719,000 on July 3 and averaged nearly 640,000 each day this past week, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.
Testing centers in Sunbelt cities such as Tallahassee, Florida and Phoenix, Arizona routinely attract long lines and at times must turn away people. Other than hospital patients, whom labs are prioritizing, delays are widespread in the South and West at drive-thru and walk-up testing centers, urgent care, doctor’s offices and government-supported testing sites.
– Ken Alltucker
More evidence of COVID-19 affecting heart, brain, kidney, skin
There’s further evidence that COVID-19 is far more than a respiratory disease, according to a review published in the journal Nature on Friday.
A team of doctors at Columbia, Harvard, Yale and Mount Sinai Hospital found that the virus can cause blood clots – which may trigger hearts attacks and strokes – kidney failure, abdominal pain, skin rashes, retinal changes and neurological symptoms such as headache, dizziness and fatigue.
“Physicians need to think of COVID-19 as a multisystem disease,” Dr. Aakriti Gupta, a Columbia University Irving Medical Center cardiology fellow, said in a press release. “There’s a lot of news about clotting but it’s also important to understand that a substantial proportion of these patients suffer kidney, heart, and brain damage, and physicians need to treat those conditions along with the respiratory disease.”
The review echoes earlier evidence of a correlation between severe cases of COVID-19 and brain complications.
7-Eleven Day canceled amid outbreak
The annual 7-Eleven Day, aka Free Slurpee Day, was canceled but free frozen drinks are still up for grabs.
While the coronavirus pandemic led the nation’s largest convenience store chain to cancel its in-store birthday celebration and one-day freebie giveaway, members of the 7Rewards loyalty program will get a coupon for a free medium Slurpee added to their accounts Wednesday, July 1.
“Gathering nine million of our closest friends in stores on one day just didn’t feel right, but I am heartened that we now have the opportunity to help the communities and neighborhoods that have been the lifeline of our business since 1927,” Marissa Jarratt, the chain’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in the release.
7-Eleven also plans to donate a million free meals to Feeding America, which is considered the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the country.
– Kelly Tyko
School reopenings shouldn’t be ‘one-size-fits-all,’ educators and pediatricians say
Schools should prioritize safety and rely on local authorities in school reopening plans, a joint statement from associations of pediatricians, educators and superintendents says.
“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe,” says the statement from The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and The School Superintendents Association. “Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools.”
The statement follows a push from Trump to open schools across the nation and amid a nationwide debate over whether children should return to the classroom
– Joel Shannon
California to release 8,000 inmates to prevent COVID spread
Up to 8,000 people currently incarcerated in California state prisons could be released by the end of August, the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Friday.
“Too many people are incarcerated for too long in facilities that spread poor health. Supporting the health and safety of all Californians means releasing people unnecessarily incarcerated and transforming our justice system,” said Jay Jordan, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice.
Since the start of the pandemic, the state has released about 10,000 people, according to the state’s Department of Corrections.
Activists have repeatedly called on the governor to address the outbreak at San Quentin prison, where more than 200 staff and more than 1,300 prisoners have active cases, and at least six inmates have died, according to local news reports.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Wear a mask or risk another shutdown
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott begged Texans to mask up in a Friday interview with eastern Texas TV station CBS19, saying face coverings were “the only way” businesses could stay open.
“It’s disappointing” that some local officials are refusing to enforce the state’s mask order, Abbott said. “If we do not all join together and unite in this one cause for a short period of time … it will lead to the necessity of having to close Texas back down.”
Abbott’s order effective July 3 requires face masks in public spaces in counties with 20 or more active COVID-19 cases. The order does not apply to people eating, drinking, swimming or exercising or those under 10 years old.
– Joel Shannon
What we’re reading
Shutdowns prevented quarter of a million deaths
Shutting down states in the early days of the US COVID-19 outbreak prevented at least 250,000 deaths and as many as 750,000-840,000 hospitalizations, a new study found. Shelter-in-place orders took about two weeks to show an effect on hospitalizations and three weeks to limit the number of deaths, according to the study by researchers at the University of Iowa and National Bureau of Economic Research.
The authors, who published their results in the journal Health Affairs, also found that deaths from causes other than COVID-19 might have increased if hospitals had become overwhelmed; slowing cases saved those lives, as well, they said.
“These estimates indicate that [stay in place orders] played a key role in flattening the curves not only for cases, but also for deaths and hospitalizations, and eased pressure on hospitals from avoided COVID-19 admissions,” the authors conclude.
– Karen Weintraub
Floridians came to your state this week
All 50 states had visitors from Florida this week, according to data that 15 million U.S. mobile device users provided to the data company Cuebiq. Applying Cuebiq’s sample to the whole population, approximately 1.5 million Floridians are now setting up shop in other states.
Residents have left the state in increasing numbers at a time when the crisis there got worse. In early June, just 5% of the state’s residents appeared in other states. That number has ticked up every week.
Cuebiq’s data, which is based on cell phone locations, shows that most interstate visitors from Florida appeared in other parts of the South. About 38% of the state’s travelers were in Georgia at least once during the week, for example. Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee also topped the list of destinations for visitors from the hard-struck state.
States outside the region saw big Florida influxes as well. New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio all had more than 50,000 visits from Florida residents in the most recent week of data, based on an extrapolation of the cell phone location data.
So far, the moves do not appear to be permanent – or at least not to the same level as last year. Five percent of residents changed their home county, down from 6.5% during the same period last year.
– Matt Wynn
New data suggests remdesivir can shorten how long people are sick
New data on the experimental drug remdesivir confirms it can shorten the course of COVID-19 infections and suggests it also can save lives.
Gilead Sciences, Inc., a California pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, revealed data Friday about nearly 400 patients in its late-stage clinical trial.
According to the results, 74% of patients treated with remdesivir had recovered by their 14th day of hospitalization, compared to 59% of those who did not get the drug. Nearly 8% of the patients on remdesivir had died by day 14, versus more than 12% of patients who did not receive it.
The study also found patients who took the drug hydroxychloroquine along with remdesivir fared worse than those on remdesivir alone. The company recommended against using the drugs in combination.
Remdesivir, an antiviral initially developed to treat Ebola, has not yet been approved for widespread use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but it has been given emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 patients.
– Karen Weintraub
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