Thursday, July 9, 2020

Florida, Faced With Rising COVID-19 Cases, Tries to Close Back Down After Reopening Just Weeks Ago

For the first time in nearly four months, annual pass holders crossed through the gates of the Disney World theme parks in Florida today, most of them wearing face masks along with their Mickey Mouse ears. But although Disney’s reopening might be welcomed by those in Florida happy to see business coming back to the state, for others, it’s cause for fear. Will the park goers spread COVID-19 along with their tourist dollars?

Disney, which plans to open its Florida parks to more guests this Saturday, has touted strict safety measures—including mandatory masks for guests older than 2, temperature screenings before entering the parks and increased cleaning of facilities. However, the fact remains that Disney World sits in one of the states where COVID-19 is spreading the fastest. Disney might be reopening, but elsewhere in the state, 56 intensive care units reached capacity yesterday, according to TIME’s Vera Bergengruen, and long lines of cars snaked outside of drive-through testing centers. Worse, 86% of Florida's intensive care unit beds are currently occupied, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

As Bergengruen writes for TIME, Florida’s local governments are navigating difficult and in some ways contradictory policy positions: convincing residents that the crisis isn’t passed while allowing businesses to recover economically. In Miami-Dade County, mayor Carlos Gimenez announced on Monday that many businesses, including restaurants, gyms and event venues, needed to close again.

It can be a tough pill to swallow for business owners like Miami restaurateur Michael Beltran, who had to let his employees go after bringing them back to work. “It’s demoralizing and its soul crushing. To see restaurants used as a scapegoat here is gross, when there are so many other things that are going wrong. I can’t stand it,” Beltran tells Bergengruen.

Read more here.


The Global Situation

More than 12 million people around the world had been sickened by COVID-19 as of 1 AM eastern time this morning, and more than 549,000 people had died.

Here is every country with over 200,000 confirmed cases:

COVID-19 continues to permeate some of the world’s most populous countries today. Brazil, the world’s seventh-most populated country, and the country second-most affected by the pandemic after the U.S., reported nearly 45,000 new cases yesterday, while India, the world’s second-most populated country, reported almost 25,000 new infections.

Other countries that seemed to have averted the pandemic’s worst effects are now working to contain outbreaks. Australia reported 179 new cases yesterday, including many in the city of Melbourne, which on Wednesday was put on a six-week lockdown. Tokyo reported a record number of new daily cases, confirming 220 infections.

Elsewhere, Bali partially reopened today after enduring a three-month lockdown. The Indonesian island, which is one of the country’s biggest tourist destinations, plans to reopen to domestic travelers on July 31 and foreigners on Sept. 11.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization announced today that an independent panel will evaluate the world’s response to the pandemic. “This is a time for self-reflection, to look at the world we live in and to find ways to strengthen our collaboration as we work together to save lives and bring this pandemic under control,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said to representatives of WHO member states at a member state briefing on the pandemic.

In other WHO news, the organization formally acknowledged that COVID-19 may be airborne indoors through miniscule respiratory droplets that can stay in the air. Earlier this week, 239 scientists published a letter arguing that the agency was possibly in the wrong for insisting that the virus was spread through large droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, while not forcefully warning about the potential impact of small, airborne droplets.

The charity Oxfam raised the alarm today that disease isn’t the only scourge threatening the world. The charity said that 12,000 people may die per day by the end of 2020 due to hunger related to the pandemic.

The Situation in the U.S.

The U.S. surpassed 3 million cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. More than 132,000 people have died as of this morning.

On July 8, there were 58,601 new cases and 820 new deaths confirmed in the U.S.

States with surging COVID-19 cases “should seriously look at shutting down,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in an interview with the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Fauci said residents of some states threw “caution to the wind” as they reopened, and that states should follow federal public health guidelines as they reopen to reduce their chances of a surge.

Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, responded today to President Trump’s criticism that the organization’s guidelines for reopening schools are “very tough & expensive,” in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. Redfield said the “guidelines are our guidelines,” but the CDC will provide additional material to schools on how to implement them.

Coronavirus cases are spiking in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and President Donald Trump’s June campaign rally “likely contributed” to their rise, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said yesterday, according to the Associated Press. COVID-19 cases reached a record high in Tulsa County on Monday, with 261 new cases.

An outbreak at the Mississippi capitol of Jackson has spread to at least 36 people, including 26 lawmakers, after many officials reportedly ignored a Mississippi State Department of Health recommendation to wear face masks in public, according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. Governor Tate Reeves urged anyone who recently had contact with a Mississippi state legislator get tested for COVID-19.

All numbers unless otherwise specified are from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and are accurate as of July 9, 1 AM eastern time. To see larger, interactive versions of these maps and charts, click here.


Carbon Emissions Have Dropped—for Now

Global carbon emissions have dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, history shows that when emissions have dropped in the past, such as in the years following the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression, within a few years they shot up again. Read more here.

Joining a New Kind of Choir During COVID

After Tom Vanderbilt had to give up singing with his choir in person to avoid spreading COVID-19, he found an innovative (and safe) way to keep the music going. Read more here.

U.S. Considers Giving Black and Latino Americans First Access to Vaccine

Public health officials are considering a plan to give the initial approved COVID-19 to medical and national security workers first, and then essential workers and people at high risk from the vaccine, the New York Times reports. The officials are also pondering a more controversial decision: giving priority access to Black and Latinx people, who have suffered disproportionately from the outbreak. Read more here.

The Pandemic Is Pushing American Companies to Bankruptcy

More than 110 American companies that declared bankruptcy this year, including big names like Brooks Brothers, Gold’s Gym, and J.C. Penny. Many have said COVID-19 is part of the reason for their downfall, according to analysis by Bloomberg. Read more here.

Thanks for reading. We hope you find the Coronavirus Brief newsletter to be a helpful tool to navigate this very complex situation, and welcome feedback at coronavirus.brief@time.com.

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Today's newsletter was written by Tara Law and edited by Elijah Wolfson.

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