The latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

MIAMI — Arizona, Texas and Florida together reported about 25,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday as restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the pandemic took hold in the United States and around the world in an unsettling sign reminiscent of the dark days of April.

The face-covering mandates, lockdowns, health checks and quarantine orders underscored the reality that the number of infections is continuing to tick upward in parts of the world and that a return to normalcy may be farther off than many leaders had envisioned just weeks ago.

Alabama will begin requiring face masks after the state reported a pandemic-high of 40 deaths in a single day. In Texas, which again set a record Wednesday for confirmed new cases with nearly 10,800, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has increasingly emphasized face coverings as the state’s way out of avoiding another lockdown, which he has not ruled out.

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Naliber Tavares winces as she gets a COVID-19 test at the Whittier Street Health Center’s mobile test site on Wednesday in Boston’s Dorchester section. The health center has administered free COVID-19 tests to over 5,000 people. The tests, administered since April 13, have been a popular service in Boston’s low-income communities that have experienced high rates of infection. Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Among the sternest measures were in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo added to a list totaling 22 states whose visitors will be required to quarantine for 14 days if they visit the tri-state region. Out-of-state travelers arriving in New York airports from those states face a $2,000 fine and a mandatory quarantine order if they fail to fill out a tracing form.

The broad reach of the virus has brought scrutiny to governors’ decisions. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a first-term Republican governor who has backed one of the country’s most aggressive reopening plans, became the first U.S. governor to announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He plans to quarantine at home.

Stitt, who has resisted any statewide mandate on masks and rarely wears one himself, attended President Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month, which health experts have said likely contributed to a surge in coronavirus cases there, though Stitt said he’s confident he didn’t contract the virus at the gathering.

Read the full story here.

Florida’s daily death toll again tops 100 as virus cases pass 300,000 mark

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida passed the 300,000 mark of confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday and reported more than 100 daily deaths for the third time in a week, prompting state Democratic leaders to accuse Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of not acting aggressively enough to stem the virus.

Valentina Fasano

Valentina Fasano cleans her work space with sanitizing wipes at the Girl’s Empowerment and Mentoring Summer Arts Camp during the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday in Miami. This Miami-Dade County summer camp program is operating at limited capacity, and has enhanced health screening and sanitizing procedures, practices social distancing, and required wearing of face coverings. Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

“There is failed leadership in the governor’s office,” State Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson said during an online news conference shortly after health officials reported 10,181 new confirmed cases. The new report brings the total number of confirmed cases to 301,810 since the outbreak began in the state March 1.

The state recorded 112 deaths Wednesday, the third time in the past seven days it has reported more than 100 — a mark that had only been topped once before last week. The state has now recorded 4,626 COVID-19 deaths.

Florida’s rolling seven-day average for deaths is now 92 per day, triple the 31 posted a month ago, just before the toll began creeping up and then exploding last week. Hospitals reported Wednesday morning that they are treating 8,276 coronavirus patients, a jump of 84 from Tuesday. As of Tuesday, Florida had the No. 2 death rate in country, slightly behind Texas, which has 25 percent more residents.

The governor’s “hands-off approach is not working,” Gibson said. “He’s losing the war against the pandemic, and that means the people of the state of Florida are losing the war against the pandemic.”

Democratic Sen. Oscar Braynon warned that DeSantis’ failure to act could lead to reclosing the state’s economy, which would prolong the economic misery that has gripped much of the state.

DeSantis has defended his coronavirus response. He frequently cites his decision in early March to ban nursing home visitations, saying it saved lives compared to New York, where 700 per day were dying in April. He also says his close relationship with President Trump has gotten Florida needed equipment, drugs and support.

Still, he has been criticized for refusing to issue a statewide order requiring masks in public places. He says that should be left to local officials because some counties, such as Miami-Dade, are more hard hit than more rural, less-populated counties, which have few cases. Several counties and cities now require masks.

Read the full story about Florida here.

Oklahoma’s governor says he’s tested positive for COVID-19

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that he’s tested positive for the coronavirus and that he is isolating at home.

The first-term Republican governor has backed one of the country’s most aggressive reopening plans, has resisted any statewide mandate on masks and rarely wears one himself.

Stitt attended President Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month, which health experts have said likely contributed to a surge in coronavirus cases there.

Read the full story.

Walmart will require all customers in all stores to wear face masks

NEW YORK — Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam’s Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy that has otherwise proven difficult to enforce without state and federal requirements.

The company said the policy will go into effect on Monday to allow time to inform stores and customers. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said that currently about 65% its more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is already some form of government mandate on face coverings.

The retailer also said it will create the role of health ambassador at its Walmart stores and will station them near the entrance to remind customers without masks of its new requirements. These workers, who will be wearing black polo shirts, will receive special training to “help make the process as smooth as possible for customers.”

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Trump administration asks governors to use National Guard for data collection, bypassing CDC

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is asking governors to consider sending the National Guard to hospitals to help improve data collection about novel-coronavirus patients, supplies and capacity, according to a letter, internal emails and officials familiar with the plans.

The move is part of a new data reporting protocol for hospitals that eliminates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a recipient of that information — a decision that is sparking controversy about whether that data is reliable.

In a letter to the nation’s governors that says the National Guard could help improve hospitals’ data flow, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Deborah Birx, the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator, say they ordered the changes because some hospitals have failed to report the information daily or completely. That portrayal, and the involvement of the National Guard, have infuriated hospital industry leaders, who say any data collection problems lie primarily with HHS and repeatedly shifting federal instructions.

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Members of the Rhode Island National Guard set up an information table to advise travelers about the coronavirus in March at a Providence, R.I. train station. Associated Press/Steven Senne

The new protocol, to begin Wednesday, leaves health-care institutions to report information daily about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus, to a federal contractor or to their state, which would coordinate the federal reporting.

Read the full story.

Tokyo governor warns infections rising quickly

TOKYO — Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says the spread of infections in the Japanese capital has escalated to levels tantamount to “issuing an alarm,” and requested residents and business owners to step up preventive measures.

Koike specifically urged restaurants, shops and nightclub operators to fulfill safety measures and urged customers to stay away from places that don’t comply with guidelines.

Koike also asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to revise the law to authorize local governors to penalize business owners who violate requested safety measures.

She appealed to residents to avoid non-essential out-of-town trips, and to the government to “think carefully” if it’s an appropriate timing to push Abe’s unpopular tourism campaign.

Experts on the Tokyo task force said infections are no longer limited to younger generations linked to nightlife districts.

The number of serious cases is not rising rapidly but hospital beds are quickly filling up and more are needed. Tokyo has had 8,189 confirmed cases and 325 deaths.

British city sees ‘rising tide’ of infections

LONDON — Authorities in the English town of Blackburn have imposed new restrictions on social mingling amid what they say is a “rising tide” of new coronavirus cases.

Director of Public Health Dominic Harrison says Blackburn’s infection rate is 47 per 100,000 people, one of the highest in the country.

He said Wednesday that the main issue is transmission within families, mostly in South Asian households. He told the BBC that “what we are seeing is a single case being infected, then going back to a household and all that household becoming infected.”

He said that as a result the borough was limiting the number of other people residents can visit, requiring face masks to be work in public places and sending mobile testing units out into the community.

Harrison said that if infection numbers did not fall by July 27, officials would begin to reimpose lockdown measures such as the closing of shops and other businesses.

Harrison said he hoped Blackburn would not have to impose a blanket local lockdown like one in the city of Leicester. The government ordered restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops to close there on June 30 after the infection rate surged to 157 cases per 100,000 residents.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government would assess Leicester’s lockdown on Thursday when the latest coronavirus data is out. He said the number of infections in the city was falling but remained “well above the rest of the country.”

Like Blackburn, Leicester has a large South Asian population. Statistics show that Britain’s ethnic minorities are more likely to contract the virus than their white counterparts. Experts point to a range of factors, including social inequality and the prevalence of underlying health conditions such as diabetes.

Russia lifts quarantine restrictions for visitors

MOSCOW — Russian authorities have lifted mandatory two-week self-quarantine for those arriving as part of easing coronavirus restrictions.

Starting Wednesday, both Russian and international travelers will have to either provide coronavirus test results at the border or take a test within three days of arrival in Russia. Self-quaratine will remain mandatory for those who test positive for the virus or whose health deteriorates upon arrival.

It’s one of several steps in an effort to reopen the country after health officials started reporting a slowdown in infections. Last month, authorities allowed travel abroad for the purpose of work, studying, medical treatment or taking care of relatives. They also let foreigners with work permits or those seeking medical treatment or taking care of family members into the country.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Russia may resume international flights starting Wednesday, adding that the final decision would depend on the outcome of negotiations with other countries.

On Tuesday night, Belarus Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko announced reopening of the border with Russia and resuming transport ties between the two countries “in the coming days.” Russia has so far reported over 746,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Police, military set up Australian virus checkpoints

MELBOURNE, Australia — The leader of Australia’s worst-hit state says police were cracking down on a coronavirus lockdown in the nation’s second-largest city.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday warned that restrictions would be increased unless the spread was contained in Melbourne.

“If … people do not do the right thing, then we will have to move to additional restrictions being put in place and we will have to prolong the period that those restrictions are in place,” Andrews said.

The Australian military is bolstering police numbers at checkpoints. Police were scanning license plates to determine drivers’ addresses and whether they were subjected to stay-at-home orders.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said 238 new cases detected in the latest 24-hour period could be the start of a stabilization in the spread since Melbourne and part of its surrounds were last week locked down for a second time for six weeks.

Sutton did not know whether new restrictions would likely entail spreading existing rules beyond Melbourne or tightening existing restrictions in Melbourne.

Fauci tells students not to get involved in ‘political nonsense’ surrounding virus

WASHINGTON– Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, offered encouragement–tinged by firsthand experience–to young people on doing their part in separating politics from science as they navigate life in the age of coronavirus.

“Do your thing, and don’t get involved in any of the political nonsense, that’s a waste of time, and a distraction,” Fauci advised students during a virtual forum Tuesday, hosted by Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative,

Fauci has been increasingly sidelined by the White House as he sounds alarms about the virus, a message that White House officials have become hostile to as President Donald Trump focuses on pushing an economic rebound.

Fauci, asked by a students how to separate politics from the science, said it’s very tough for young people to have an impact on depoliticization of the virus “except by not being part of the politicization.”

He added it was important that young people remind each other that in protecting oneself from the virus that “it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are–you’re Republican, Democrat, anybody else.”


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