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Coronavirus updates: Cases surge in Sunbelt states; Treasury may delay tax deadline; Trump visiting NJ despite quarantine order


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Coronavirus updates: Cases surge in Sunbelt states; Treasury may delay tax deadline; Trump visiting NJ despite quarantine order

Grace Hauck and Khrysgiana Pineda USA TODAYPublished 6:20 PM EDT Jun 25, 2020The U.S. on Wednesday saw more than 34,000 new coronavirus cases — the highest daily count since April — with three of the nation’s most populous states also reporting record-setting highs in daily cases.Meanwhile, health officials are possibly missing 10 coronavirus cases for every 1 case…

Coronavirus updates: Cases surge in Sunbelt states; Treasury may delay tax deadline; Trump visiting NJ despite quarantine order

Grace Hauck and Khrysgiana Pineda
USA TODAY

Published 6:20 PM EDT Jun 25, 2020

The U.S. on Wednesday saw more than 34,000 new coronavirus cases — the highest daily count since April — with three of the nation’s most populous states also reporting record-setting highs in daily cases.

Meanwhile, health officials are possibly missing 10 coronavirus cases for every 1 case detected, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield estimated Thursday.

“We’re still in the first wave,” Redfield said during a press conference. But the pandemic today looks markedly different from the outbreak two or three months ago, he said, when many deaths were among older people and those with underlying medical conditions.

Now, the CDC is seeing a greater proportion of cases diagnosed in younger people, said Dr. Jay Butler, CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases and COVID-19 response incident manager.

“For the Fourth of July, which is a family event, we want to emphasize that it’s really important that we get back to being vigilant as our collective commitment … to protect vulnerable friends, family community,” Redfield said.

Here are the most significant developments of the day:

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday he is pausing the state’s reopening plans and suspending elective surgeries amid a surge in coronavirus cases. The state is in its third phase to reopen the economy, which allowed restaurants to increase occupancy levels to 75% and most businesses to move to 50% occupancy.
  • Fewer Americans are seeking unemployment benefits but 1.48 million workers filed first time claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. 
  • The New York Marathon is canceled this November but the Kentucky Derby will happen Sept. 5, and spectators will be allowed at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville. Officials announced Thursday the race, rescheduled from May, will implement measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
  • The White House says President Donald Trump will still travel to New Jersey this weekend, according to media reports, despite the state’s new mandatory quarantine for visitors who’ve come from areas with significant community spread. 
  • Experts are forecasting 179,106 deaths in the United States by Oct. 1 from COVID-19, but a universal mask-wearing order could save as many as 33,000 lives, according to University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

📈Today’s stats on the coronavirus: The U.S. on Wednesday recorded a one-day total of 34,720 new confirmed cases, the highest level since late April, according to a database kept by Johns Hopkins University. Other tracking databases put the daily case count between 36,000 and 45,000, which would be the highest daily increase ever.

📰 What we’re reading: That extra $600 in unemployment benefits might not last until the end of July. That’s because states will pay it only through the week ending July 25 or July 26, a significant blow to unemployed workers counting on those funds to bolster state benefits that average just $370 a week.

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.

Calls grow for Disney World to delay reopening as cases spike in Florida

Groups representing workers and actors at Walt Disney World are calling for the theme park to delay its planned July 11 reopening as coronavirus cases surge in Florida.

On Thursday, the Actors Equity Association, which represents about 600 professional actors at Disney World, cited Disneyland’s postponed reopening in California in calling for the same at the Florida parks. Disneyland said late Wednesday that the park would not reopen as planned on July 17.

“If Disneyland has postponed, it is unclear how Walt Disney World can responsibly move toward reopening when coronavirus cases are much worse in Florida,” said Mary McColl, the actors group’s executive director, in a statement. 

Andrea Finger, a spokesperson for Walt Disney World, said the park’s reopening timeline has not changed.

– Curtis Tate

Thousands crowd British beaches, ignoring social distancing

Three beach towns on England’s southern coast declared a “major incident” Thursday after thousands defied coronavirus social-distancing rules and flocked to the shore on what has been the hottest day of the year in the United Kingdom so far, with temperatures in the low 90s.

“We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours,” Vikki Slade, leader of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said in a statement on their website. “The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.”

The decision to declare a “major incident,” as Slade said, gives additional powers to local authorities and emergency services to tackle the issue. She said they are also “deploying additional resources to provide increased patrols in the vicinity to help tackle any issues of anti-social behavior and other offenses being committed.”

– Morgan Hines

Apple re-closes more stores due to spikes in coronavirus cases

Rising case counts have led Apple to temporarily close 32 stores in five states.

Days after closing 11 stores in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, Apple confirmed to USA TODAY that it has also closed seven Houston area stores. An additional 14 stores in Florida will be closed starting Friday.

“Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas,” Apple said in a statement. “We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.”

— Kelly Tyko

Pregnant women with COVID-19 are 5 times more likely to be hospitalized

Pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, breaking from earlier guidance that found no difference in risk between the two groups.

The good news is that pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19 aren’t at any greater risk of death than women who aren’t pregnant, said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, a COVID-19 deputy incident manager with the CDC. 

The worse news is that infected pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and are at increased risk for ICU admission and to require mechanical ventilation, according to a CDC study of thousands of women in the U.S. from January to June.

– Elizabeth Weise and Grace Hauck

Texas halts reopening plan, suspends elective surgery

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday halted the states reopening plan and suspended elective surgeries in its largest counties in order to expand hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients.  

The state broke its record for hospitalizations for the 13th day in a row and reported 5,551 new cases Wednesday, state health officials reported. 

The state is in Phase 3 of Abbott’s plan to reopen, which allowed restaurants to increase occupancy levels to 75% and most businesses to move to 50% occupancy. Abbott declined to roll back those orders.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backward and close down businesses,” Abbott said. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”

The surgery order goes into effect Friday and will require all hospitals in the four designated counties to postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately life threatening. The governor can add or discard counties included under the executive order as surges may arise or dissipate within the state. 

– Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman 

Over 1 million dead people received coronavirus stimulus checks

More than 1 million dead people received coronavirus stimulus checks from the federal government after the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service failed to use death records when distributing the first three batches of direct cash payments to Americans, a government watchdog agency reported Thursday.

As a result, nearly 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion were distributed to dead people as of April 30.

Reports of dead people getting stimulus payments surfaced in April when the IRS began making direct deposits of up to $1,200 into taxpayers’ bank accounts. The payments were authorized under a new $2.2 trillion recovery package, known as the CARES Act, designed to help the economy recover from the catastrophic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Treasury Department announced last month that people who received a stimulus payment on behalf of someone who is deceased should return the money immediately.

 – Michael Collins

Chuck E. Cheese files for bankruptcy; Macy’s cuts 3,900 corporate jobs

Chuck E. Cheese parent company CEC Entertainment filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday after the coronavirus pandemic forced the company to temporarily close locations. The company also owns Peter Piper Pizza.

CEC David McKillips in a statement called the pandemic “the most challenging event in our company’s history” and said the company hopes to “get back to the business of delivering memories, entertainment and pizzas for another 40 years and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Macy’s cut roughly 3,900 corporate and management jobs, which the company says will save it $630 million annually. The supply chain, staffing at stores and customer service support has also been reduced but is expected to adjust as sales recover. 

“While the re-opening of our stores is going well, we do anticipate a gradual recovery of business, and we are taking action to align our cost base with our anticipated lower sales,” said Jeff Genette, Macy’s chairman and CEO, in a news release. “These were hard decisions as they impact many of our colleagues.” 

– Nathan Bomey and Kelly Tyko

Kentucky Derby will have fans in the stands in 2020

The 2020 Kentucky Derby will have fans in the stands “under strict guidelines” when it runs on the rescheduled date of Sept. 5, officials said Thursday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual horse race at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville was rescheduled earlier this year from May to September.

Churchill Downs said Thursday “after consultation with Gov. Andy Beshear and state public health officials,” officials determined that the 146th Run for the Roses will take place with viewers “under strict guidelines.” The measures limit crowd size and accessibility throughout the track, and encourage people to wear masks, among other rules.

– The Louisville Courier Journal 

What we’re reading

  • Bonnaroo 2020 is canceled amid coronavirus pandemic, festival announces 2021 dates
  • Ready to join the COVID-19 world?  Take our quiz.
  • Travel news: Disneyland California delays reopening of theme parks, hotels
  • University of Michigan lawsuit: We don’t owe students refund for switching to online instruction
  • Flights entering New York: Passengers will be ‘randomly’ checked  

1.48 million workers filed unemployment claims last week

Fewer Americans are seeking unemployment benefits, but the number who need help remains high as the country haltingly reopens its economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, 1.48 million workers filed first time claims for unemployment insurance, the Labor Department said Thursday. That latest round of applications means a staggering 47.1 million Americans have made initial jobless benefits claims in just 14 weeks.

Weekly numbers of aid-seeking Americans without jobs largely surpass the previous record of the 1982 severe recession, during which 695,000 first-time jobless claims were made. The pandemic-caused unemployment rate was up to 14.7% in April, the highest it’s been since the Great Depression.

– Charisse Jones 

White House says Trump will visit New Jersey despite quarantine order 

President Donald Trump will not adhere to an incoming travel advisory that was issued by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy requiring people traveling from states with significant spread of COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days, according to a White House statement reported by media outlets. 

On Tuesday, Trump traveled to Arizona, which is seeing a rise of coronavirus-induced hospitalizations. Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden deemed the trip “reckless and irresponsible.”

“The President of the United States is not a civilian. Anyone who is in close proximity to him, including staff, guests, and press are tested for COVID-19 and confirmed to be negative,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement, according to reports. 

Eiffel Tower reopens to tourists

Marking another milestone in France’s recovery from coronavirus lockdown, the Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors Thursday after its longest-ever closure in peace time: 104 days.

Tourists who are trickling back to Paris were delighted to find the landmark open when some other attractions in the French capital remain closed. The Louvre Museum isn’t reopening until July 6.

“It’s very special, very special because it’s only the Paris people,” said Annelies Bouwhuis, a 43-year-old visitor from the Netherlands. “We’ve seen a lot Paris people enjoying their city, enjoying their parks without all the tourists.”

– Associated Press

DNC announces sweeping changes to convention amid pandemic

Organizers upended the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, as they told state delegations not to travel to Milwaukee, moved the convention to a smaller venue and added satellite events around the country.

But even as Democrats downsize their convention, they say former Vice President Joe Biden will still formally accept the nomination in Milwaukee. The decision to overhaul plans for the August 17-20 convention came after consulting with public health officials about the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers said.

The moves by the Democrats stand in stark contrast to the Republicans, who shifted their main convention events from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, after North Carolina officials couldn’t promise that social distancing rules would not be in effect.

— Mary Spicuzza and Bill Glauber

COVID-19’s surge in Sunbelt states shows the virus, not testing, to blame

President Donald Trump blames the rising number of COVID-19 cases on increased testing and suggests case counts would drop with fewer tests. But infectious disease and public health experts dispute that claim, saying the surge in coronavirus cases in Sunbelt states reflects a potentially dangerous new phase of the pandemic.

Arizona, California and Texas reported record-high new daily coronavirus cases this week, as case counts continue to rise in more than half of U.S. states. Several states individually now have more cases than the entire European Union.

— Ken Alltucker and Karen Weintraub

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Treasury may consider delaying tax deadline to Sept. 15

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left the door open to extending the July 15 tax deadline for a second time to Sept. 15, as Americans and businesses continue to grapple with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

“As of now, we’re not intending on doing that, but it is something that we may consider,” Mnuchin said in an interview at the Bloomberg Invest Global 2020 virtual summit. “I would encourage all Americans, if you can file, go ahead and do it, particularly if you think you have a refund.”

The U.S. Treasury already pushed back the traditional April 15 deadline for federal 2019 income tax returns to mid-July, giving Americans three months longer to file their taxes. States, however, may have different deadlines.

— Jessica Menton

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Thinking of taking a Hawaiian vacation? Good news: Starting Aug. 1, you can bypass the state’s quarantine requirement by presenting a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.

How is your summer going amid the pandemic? 🌴 We want to hear from you, especially if you are caring for loved ones. Your story could be featured in our daily news podcast, 5 Things. To share your story, go to coronadiaries.io/usatoday. Choose the first prompt, follow the instructions, and record a brief audio message.

Coronavirus Watch: Come together and share the latest information about coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and emotions and more. Join our Facebook group.

Timeline: It’s been five months since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced what was thought to be the first confirmed coronavirus case in the U.S. Read how the pandemic unfolded here.

Contributing: Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman; Jane Musgrave, The Palm Beach Post; Associated Press

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