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Coronavirus update: U.S. enters Fourth of July weekend facing surging infections

Written by on 04/07/2020

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The United States entered the Fourth of July weekend against a backdrop of surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, with officials and health experts nervously watching to see if the public would heed warnings to limit the size of their gatherings and take other steps to slow the virus.

“We’re going to have to celebrate differently this year. Everyone should cancel plans with others for the 4th of July,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted. “Please stay home and save lives — it’s that simple.”

Here are some significant developments:

  • Hospitals were rapidly filling in Texas, which has reported record case averages for weeks on end. Intensive care unit capacity at Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest hospital complex, exceeded 100 percent, and officials in Hidalgo and Starr counties sent out emergency alerts saying hospital beds were full.
  • Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that the new waves of infection were far from over. “We are going in the wrong direction, fast,” he tweeted.
  • President Trump delivered a dark speech to supporters at the foot of Mount Rushmore Friday, over objections from Native American tribes and other locals who said a mass gathering without any safety restrictions could fuel coronavirus outbreaks.
  • Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, tested positive for the coronavirus Friday while in South Dakota, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their personal situation. Trump Jr. was cleared of the virus, and the couple will drive home together to avoid contact with others.

Nationwide, new infections reached another single-day high of 57,497 on Friday, and at least 20 states set record highs for the average of new cases over seven days.

Faced with the soaring numbers, governors and mayors around the country have canceled or scaled back Independence Day celebrations and pleaded with people to wear masks, maintain social distancing and only celebrate with household members.

“As a veteran, I can tell you patriotism is not about putting your own health or others’ health at risk,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “We can honor and celebrate our country in many ways, and I cannot think of anything more patriotic than doing so in a way that protects our family, friends and neighbors.”

Beaches were closed in Los Angeles, South Florida and in other states, but Myrtle Beach, S.C., remained open to the public, even as cases in the city and state continued to rise sharply. The tourist hub passed a last-minute mask ordinance as thousands of vacationers flocked in for the holiday.

“We are doing all that we can,” Mayor Brenda Bethune told CNN. “I believe that people spread this virus — that’s been proven — not places.”

The holiday weekend could prove pivotal in the country’s efforts to contain the waves of infection that have swept across the South and West in recent weeks, testing whether sufficient numbers of Americans are prepared to abruptly alter their behavior to prevent the pandemic from spiraling out of control.

Friday’s caseload was the seventh nationwide record reported in nine days, coming after a peak of 55,220. Florida led the nation with 9,488 new cases. Texas, California, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina also posted record numbers.

Hospitals throughout hard-hit Texas were filling quickly, with intensive care unit capacity at Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest hospital complex, exceeding 100 percent. Local judges in Hidalgo and Starr counties issued emergency alerts saying beds were full and urging the public to stay home.

National health experts said the virus showed little sign of slowing in the United States.

“It’s worse, will continue to get worse, and will take months to improve substantially,” said Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are going in the wrong direction, fast.”

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