Record Breaking Case Counts Across America
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he does not intend to move to the next phase of reopening.
- Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott reversed reopening measures, ordering all bars to close.
- The S&P 500 was down about 2 percent as news broke about re-imposed restrictions.
- Dr. Fauci warned that coronavirus outbreaks largely in the South and West could engulf the country.
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The United States broke a new record for the second day in a row, reporting more than 41,000 new coronavirus cases.
Florida Pauses Reopening, Texas Shutters Bars
Florida reported more than 8,900 new cases today, after counting more than 10,000 new cases over the previous two days, pushing its total past 120,000. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he does not intend to move to the next phase of reopening. The state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation also announced today that on-premises alcohol consumption would be suspended at bars, effective immediately.
Hospital directors have been worrisome about increasing hospitalizations. Gov DeSantis said the state has the capacity to deal with more sick people for the time being.
Texas Reinforces Lockdown Measures
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott reversed reopening measures, ordering all bars to close today, and mandating restaurants to reduce their operating capacity to 50% starting on Monday. The move comes just one day after Gov. Abbott said going backwards on reopening and closing businesses would only be a last resort.
One in ten people who took a test tested positive in the state, a benchmark that resembles a more urgent crisis. Texas set a new single-day high of 6,584 new cases on Wednesday. Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, has ordered businesses to require customers and employees to wear face masks.
Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County issued a stay-at-home advisory urging residents to avoid nonessential personal and business travel. She also announced that the county’s threat level from the virus is now red, which is the highest level in the county’s four-level threat system.
Other states that set new records for daily cases include Alabama, Alaska, Montana, Missouri and Utah. California’s total case count is now more than 200,000.
Stocks Slide Lower Amid More Restrictions
Stocks slid today, with losses accelerating after Texas said it would reinstate some measures aimed at curbing the outbreak. The S&P 500 was down about 2 percent.
Shares of big banks led the declines, dropping a day after the Federal Reserve said it would put a temporary cap on their dividend payments to keep the banks capitalized. Goldman Sachs and Fifth Third Bancorp fell about 6 percent. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America were down about 3 percent.
Doug Rivelli, president of institutional brokerage firm Abel Noser in New York, says the Texas response to close bars and restaurants is the real driver of lower markets today, as it portends to a possible second shutdown across the country, which would devastate the overall economy.
A Shift In Testing Strategies
The White House Coronavirus Task Force gave a briefing today for the first time in nearly two months. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned that coronavirus outbreaks largely in the South and West could engulf the country. He noted that half of new cases are affecting Americans younger than 35
Dr. Deborah Birx said that rising positive test rates in states across the South, including in Texas, Arizona, Florida and Mississippi, were causing significant concern among health officials. She singled out Texas as a state where higher positive test rates indicated a more complicated type of spread that could not be explained by higher rates of testing.
The task force also mentioned the possibility of shifting testing strategies. Dr. Fauci said that officials are having “intense discussions” about a possible shift to “pool testing,” in which samples from many people are tested all at once in an effort to quickly find the infected and isolate them.
If the pooled sample tests negative for the coronavirus, all the individuals who provided samples are considered to be virus-free. But if a certain pool comes back with a positive result, each patient who provided a sample can be tested individually.
The method is being used in Germany, Israel and several other countries, as well as in Nebraska and Tennessee. Dr. Fauci also said the task force is considering ways to beef up contact tracing, not only by telephone but also in person, to help persuade those at risk of infection to isolate themselves.
NYC Houses Of Worship Can Hold Limited Services
A federal judge in New York has ordered NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NY Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to give religious worshipers the same reopening privileges as others. Houses of worship in New York City can now hold services indoors at 50 percent capacity and can act without restrictions if they hold them outside.