Texas Up 4.8%; U.S. Cases at Fastest Pace of June: Virus Update

Texas paused its reopening, Houston’s intensive-care wards reached capacity and surgeries were suspended as coronavirus cases climbed 4.8%, topping a one week average. Infections rose in two other Sun Belt states, adding to concern for a resurgence of the outbreak.

Arizona’s new cases increased at double the weekly average, and Florida reported infections rose more than the one-week trend. New modeling predicts the virus will kill 180,000 Americans by October, though an embrace of masks may lessen the toll.

Apple Inc. said it was closing more stores as cases spike. Macy’s Inc. said it plans to cut about 3,900 jobs. A U.S. watchdog said dead people got more than $1.4 billion in stimulus checks.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases reach 9.52 million; deaths pass 484,000
  • Pandemic rages in U.S., spurring quarantines and mask orders
  • Fear of vial shortage for Covid vaccines prompts flurry of deals
  • Bloomingdale’s greets shoppers with Sinatra and sanitizer
  • Virus has made India’s devastating gender gap even worse
  • Europe is approaching a disastrous economic cliff edge

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Florida’s DeSantis Mum on Next Phase (5:30 p.m. NY)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he doesn’t have plans to go to the next phase of re-opening as cases surge in his state. Asked Thursday about other states that paused, DeSantis said he never said when the state would move to the next phase. Speaking from Tampa, he also noted that South Florida, the region with the most cases, is on a delayed re-opening schedule.

Most businesses have resumed in Florida, including bars and nightclubs, with the exception of the hard-hit Miami metropolitan area. But there are still strict capacity limits and other rules. Florida started re-opening on May 4.

Obamacare Demand Spikes After Covid Job Losses (5:30 p.m. NY)

Nearly a half million people signed up for Obamacare after losing health-care coverage from their employer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said, as millions were caught in fallout from lockdowns to combat the spread of the virus.

The 487,000 consumers who got coverage from HealthCare.gov exchanges was a 46% jump from a year earlier, HHS said in a report. The increase in sign-ups outside the normal open enrollment period was higher than during any other year, the HHS said.

Texas Cases, Deaths Climb (5:10 p.m. NY)

Texas added 5,996 cases in the past 24 hours, a third consecutive day of record-breaking increases, according to state health department data. The 4.8% jump exceeded the 3.9% seven-day average and brought total inflections to 131,917.

Fatalities increased by 47 to 2,296, the grimmest one-day advance since May 15. The positive-test rate surged to 11.76%, the highest since April 16.

U.S. Airlines Offer Ticket Refunds (5:06 p.m. NY)

U.S. airlines will refund the tickets of any passenger denied boarding after a screenin by the government detects an elevated temperature during the Covid outbreak, the industry’s trade group said.

Airlines for America has been calling on the Transportation Security Administration to conduct temperature screenings of all airline passengers as a way to help protect travelers from Covid-19. So far, the TSA hasn’t announced any such checks.

Slack Allows Indefinite Remote Work (5 p.m. NY)

Slack Technologies Inc. is joining Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., and other Silicon Valley companies in letting its 2,000 employees work remotely indefinitely, even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

San Francisco-based Slack has 16 offices, including in Tokyo, London and Paris, and had planned to stay closed until at least September. Competition for talent is one reason to leave a return date open ended, Chief Executive Officer Stewart Butterfield told

.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.7% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased by 39,907 compared with the same time Wednesday to 2.4 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The 1.7% gain, the biggest jump since May 30, was above the average daily increase of 1.4% over the past week. It was the third straight day of new cases above 35,000. Deaths rose rose 0.5% to 122,320.

  • Nevada cases rose by 9.9% to 14,861, according to the data from Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News.
  • Florida reported 114,018 cases, up 4.6% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 4% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 3,327, an increase of 1.4%.
  • Arizona reported 3,056 new cases, a 5.1% increase that brought the total number of cases to 63,030. That compared with the the prior seven-day average of 2.3%.
  • California reported 5,349 new cases, its second-largest daily jump, for a total of 195,571, according to state data. Deaths rose 1.8% to 5,733.

Mexico Finance Minister Tests Positive (3 p.m. NY)

Mexican Finance Minister Arturo Herrera said he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is working from home under quarantine, according to a tweet. Herrera said he has “light symptoms” of the coronavirus.

Apple Shuts More U.S. Stores (2:45 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc. will close 14 stores in Florida, citing a spike in new coronavirus cases, raising total U.S. shop closures to 32.

The company on Wednesday closed its seven retail stores in Houston and last week again shut 11 stores across Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Despite the new closures, Apple has reopened the majority of its 271 U.S. stores.

France Deaths Rise by 21 (2:40 p.m. NY)

France reported 21 new deaths on Thursday, raising the total to 29,752, with a weekly update on fatalities in nursing homes scheduled for Tuesday. The Health Ministry didn’t provide an update for the number of cases. Hospitalizations and the number of patients in intensive care continued to drop.

N.J. Lists ‘Probable’ Covid Deaths (2:30 p.m. NY)

New Jersey has classified an additional 1,854 deaths as “probably” linked to the coronavirus, Governor Phil Murphy said at a Trenton news conference. The state has recorded 13,018 deaths among people who had tested positive for the virus.

Ed Lifshitz, a physician and medical director of the state health department, said the probable deaths were in three categories: those whose tests were considered unreliable; were linked to known outbreaks and showed symptoms; or whose death certificates strongly suggested a coronavirus link.

Ireland Eases Travel Limits (2:15 p.m. NY)

Ireland moves to the third stage of reopening on Monday, with domestic travel resuming, most businesses able to operate and sports restarting, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in Dublin. Face coverings will be mandatory on public transport. Some restrictions on international travel will ease July 9, he said.

While warning of a possible “second wave,” Ireland has “prevailed,” he said. Earlier, the nation’s health ministry reported one more death and 11 new cases. There have been 25,406 virus cases, with 1,727 deaths.

CDC Adds Pregnancy to Risk List (2 p.m. NY)

Pregnant women with Covid-19 are at greater risk for being hospitalized and sent to an intensive-care unit than women who aren’t expecting, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as it added pregnancy to the list of conditions that make patients more likely to suffer severe complications.

An agency study found pregnant women were 5.4 times more likely to be hospitalized, 1.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU and 1.7 times more likely to end up on a ventilator. Pregnant women didn’t have a higher risk of death, according to the CDC’s findings.

The agency wasn’t able to assess the effects of the virus on the fetuses or babies born to those women since the pandemic hasn’t gone on long enough, but she said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if they are at higher risk for preterm birth.

California Posts Second-Biggest Case Jump (1:45 p.m. NY)

California reported 5,349 new cases, its second-largest daily jump, for a total of 195,571, according to state data. The 2.8% increase was in line with the 7-day average. Deaths climbed by 1.8% to 5,733.

Houston-Area ICU Wards Are Full (12:40 p.m. NY)

Houston-area intensive-case unit wards reached 100% of their capacity, according to data compiled by the Texas Medical Center. About 28% of those patients were being treated for Covid-19.

GAO: $1.4 Billion in Stimulus Went to Dead People (12:36 p.m. NY)

The federal government’s quick action to issue stimulus payments in the wake of the coronavirus crisis led to more than a billion dollars of fraudulent payments, while slow action to address the health risks might have worsened the outbreak, according to a report by a government watchdog.

“In emergency situations, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, it is understandable, and appropriate, for agencies to want to get funds out the door quickly,” the Government Accountability Office said in the report released Thursday. “However, without the necessary safeguards in place, funds may not get to the intended places or be used for the intended purposes.”

The report found that the Internal Revenue Service issued about 1.1 million economic stimulus payments worth $1.4 billion to people who have recently died, which largely went to their next of kin. The IRS has said that recipients of those payments should return the money, but many people may be unaware that they are required to do so.

Italy Cases Top Average (12:15 p.m. NY)

Italy registered 296 new cases on Thursday after 190 on Wednesday, the health ministry said. That is above the previous seven-day average of 226. The agency reported 37 deaths in the past 24 hours, compared with 30 Wednesday; total is now 34,678.

Italy had a one-day peak of 6,557 new infections on March 21; a total of 239,706 cases have been reported since the end of February. The Lombardy region, which includes Milan, reported 170 new cases, or 57% of new national cases.

Texas Halts Reopening (11:45 a.m. NY)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott halted the phased reopening of the state’s economy, citing a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Under the executive order announced on Thursday, businesses that were already permitted to open can continue to operate under their existing occupancy limits. The next phases of reopening have been put on hold, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Texas is one several U.S. Sun Belt states coping with a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations. Houston’s intensive-care beds are approaching full capacity.

NYC Ready for Phase 3 Reopening (11:05 a.m. NY)

New York City will start the third phase of reopening on July 6, to add indoor dining and personal-care services, and access to basketball and tennis courts, and dog runs, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“It’s important for everyone that this city keeps moving,” de Blasio said, crediting New Yorkers with adhering to social distancing and face covering regulations.

Under state guidelines for Phase 3, indoor dining capacity is limited to 50% of maximum occupancy and all tables must be at least 6 feet apart. Employees must wear face coverings at all times, and patrons must wear them except while seated.

Florida Cases Rise 4.6% (11 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 114,018 cases on Thursday, up 4.6% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 4% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 3,327, an increase of 1.4%, according to the report, which includes data through Wednesday.

Seen on a rolling seven-day basis, Florida’s new cases reached 28,092, the highest level ever.

Cumulative hospitalizations rose by 201, or 1.5%, to 13,775. On a rolling seven day-basis, they reached 1,198, the highest level since at least the start of May. The new rate of people testing positive for the first time fell to 8.7% for Wednesday, from 15.9% on Tuesday.

Texas Halts Elective Surgeries (10:25 a.m. NY)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott suspended elective surgeries in the state’s biggest cities — Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin — to open more hospital capacity for Covid-19 cases, according to a statement released on Thursday.

The cities are in four counties that “have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to Covid-19” and halting such surgeries is precaution to ensure “hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat Covid-19 patients,” Abbott said in the statement.

Kudlow Expects ‘Hot Spots’ (10:15 a.m. NY)

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow acknowledged “spikes and hot spots” of new coronavirus cases could force shutdowns “in individual places or certain stores,” but on the Fox Business Network he said the U.S. economy will not shut again.

Kudlow downplayed the rise in new cases, saying the rate of increase had only risen “just a little bit” nationally. “The health experts are not telling us there’s a second wave and we have the tools to deal with this much more expeditiously than we had two or three months ago,” he said.

He said expects a 20% rebound in gross domestic product in the second and third quarters of 2020.

Houston Nears ‘Apocalyptic’ July 4 (10 a.m. NY)

Houston’s virus outbreak is accelerating at an exponential pace that will swamp the fourth-largest U.S. city’s medical infrastructure by the July 4th holiday, a leading disease specialist warned.

Even intensive-care wards approach full capacity, the worst is yet to come because of “the huge amount of transmission going on,” Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said in Thursday.

Current trends in Harris County, which includes Houston, indicate the caseload will triple or quadruple by mid-July, he said, citing modeling by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab. Such a scenario would be “apocalyptic,” he said. “We can’t go there.”

— With assistance by Steve Geimann, Joe Carroll, Peter Flanagan, and Matthew Monks

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