The number of daily U.S. cases surged above 50,000 for the first time and showed no indication of ebbing, but President Donald Trump preferred to focus on encouraging jobs numbers Thursday.
The U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June as states, in fits and starts, slowly eased restrictions and more Americans went back to work.
“These are historic numbers in a time that a lot of people would have wilted. They would have wilted," Trump said. "But we didn’t wilt, and our country didn’t wilt."
The Johns Hopkins data dashboard reported 50,655 new cases, pushing the U.S. total to more than 2.6 million since the pandemic began six months ago. The daily death count was 645, about average among recent days but down from daily totals that exceeded 2,000 in April.
But a study out this week determined there were 87,000 more deaths than expected in the U.S. from March 1 to April 25 alone, based on the average from the previous five years. Only 65% of those deaths were directly attributed to COVID-19, suggesting the rest were linked to the pandemic but not ruled as the main cause, researchers say.
Here are some major developments from Wednesday:New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has delayed indoor dining indefinitely. Sheriff deputies will begin to issue citations to people who are not wearing masks in West Hollywood, California. The fine will be $300 total. Following the Senate's lead, the House voted Wednesday to pass the Paycheck Protection Program extension deadline allowing small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic to apply by Aug. 8.
Trump lauds pandemic response despite boom in new cases
President Trump lauded his administration's efforts to combat the pandemic Thursday, one day before heading to a holiday celebration at Mount Rushmore that will not require masks or social distancing. Trump said improved job number show his strategies are working. Vice President Mike Pence asked governors if they needed anything to combat the virus, and "not one governor needed anything. .... Thank you, U.S. government," Trump said.
"We've implemented and aggressive strategy to vanquish and kill the virus and protect Americans at the highest risk while allowing those at lower risk to return safely to work," Trump said. He said federal health officials were addressing "temporary hot spots" in some cities and counties.
Casino or church? Atlantic City casinos reopen minus drinking, smoking
Gamblers wore face masks and smoking and drinking were banned, but Atlantic City’s casinos reopened Thursday with drastic changes inside and outside. Opening day crowds were small, limited to no more than 25% of usual capacity. Patrons mostly observed social distancing guidelines, aided by plexiglass dividers between seats at card, craps and roulette tables, and slot machines turned off at certain intervals to create distance between players.
“Accept, adapt and have fun,” said Mike McLaughlin of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. “I’m a gambler; this is what I do.”.
Immigration judges sue Trump administration
A labor union representing the nation’s immigration judges has filed suit against the Trump administration, arguing that the government is stifling the judges’ rights to speak publicly on key issues, including the threat of COVID-19 to their lives and to public health. The suit is the latest signal of deep distrust between the professionals who work in the nation’s immigration courts and the administration. The lawsuit comes as the government moves to reopen immigration courts closed because of the pandemic.
The federal agency that runs the courts, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR, says it follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"EOIR takes the safety, health, and well-being of its employees very seriously," the agency said in a statement.
– Maria Clark, The American South; Daniel Connolly, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal.
California man posts regrets on Facebook day before dying
A California man who contracted the coronavirus after attending a party died one day after expressing regret on social media, according to reports. Tommy Macias, 51, attended a party in Lake Elsinore, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and said in a now-deleted Facebook post that he was tested June 15. Three days later he learned he was positive. An official from the Riverside County Office of Vital Records confirmed to multiple news outlets that Macias died June 21 from COVID-19.
"Because of my stupidity I put my mom and sisters and my family's health in jeopardy," he wrote on June 20, adding 'This is no joke. If you have to go our wear a mask and practice social distancing. Don't be a (expletive) idiot like me."
– N'dea Yancey-Bragg
As vaccine nears, will syringes become as scarce as masks were?
Some experts warned that syringes could become the next face masks – coveted items in short supply able to plunge the market into chaos. The federal government and health care supply companies learned a lesson from the mad scramble for masks and other personal protective equipment that came to symbolize the early weeks of the pandemic. The federal government has signed at least $260 million in contracts for their production.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week a vaccine could be available by year's end.
“People have to be proactive in beginning to order and stockpile these devices now,” said Thomas Polen, CEO of manufacturer Becton, Dickinson and Company. “It cannot be ‘wait until the last minute’ and expect that those products will be able to be manufactured.”
– Katie Wedell
Movie night is coming to a Walmart parking lot near you
Walmart has a remedy for families pining for a trip to shuttered movie theaters. The retail giant is transforming160 of its store parking lots into contact-free, drive-in movie theaters. Beginning in August, Walmart says it will "roll out this red carpet experience" for a combined 320 showings. Walmart, partnering with production company Tribeca Enterprises, is promising hit movies, special appearances from filmmakers and celebrities and concessions delivered to customer vehicles.
The "tour" will run through October. Walmart says additional details will be announced closer to the start of the tour. More information can be found at walmartdrive-in.com.
Economy adds almost 5 million jobs as US reopens amid spike in virus cases
The U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June as states continued to allow businesses shuttered by the coronavirus to reopen and more Americans went back to work, a surge that has more than offset massive and persistent layoffs. The unemployment rate fell to 11.1% from 13.3% in May, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated that 3.1 million jobs were added last month.
"America is scrambling to get back to work, but jobs are only as secure as the virus allows them to be," said Julia Friedlander, deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Global Business and Economics Program. "The economic clock is betting against the viral clock, hoping to gain momentum so that shutting down again won’t rocket us back to April."
– Paul Davidson
Tuscaloosa students holding COVID-19 parties, local official says
Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have been attending "COVID parties" as part of a contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member says. Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry told ABC News that students have been organizing the parties to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 128,000 people in the United States. The organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19, she said.
"They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense," McKinstry said. "They're intentionally doing it."
Drug dexamethasone hard to find after study sees COVID-19 benefits
A steroid that was in shortage before the pandemic has gotten more scarce since researchers reported it can improve the survival rate of COVID-19 patients. A study from the University of Oxford published June 16 shows dexamethasone reduced the risk of death by up to one-third among coronavirus patients on ventilators. Sixteen dosages of the inexpensive steroid had been on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s shortage list since 2019. Half of the shortages had been blamed on demand. Since the promising dexamethasone study was published, manufacturers have sent updates to the FDA list, blaming 15 of the 16 shortages on increased demand.
“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result,” Peter Horby, one of the chief investigators for the trial, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”
– Dian Zhang
Six members of Dallas MLS soccer team test positive
A coronavirus outbreak among member of Major League Soccer's FC Dallas players does not bode well for other leagues attempting to begin competing again. Since arriving in Orlando for the MLS is Back tournament, six players have tested positive for COVID-19, the team said. The team said all players, coaches and staff members had tested negative before leaving Dallas on Saturday. But as part of the screening process at the Walt Disney World resort – where the tournament is set to begin on July 8 – two players tested positive on Saturday, followed by more this week.
As a result, all members of the club delegation "will remain quarantined in their hotel rooms pending the results of further COVID-19 testing," the team said. All 26 Major League Soccer teams are staying at the Disney's Swan and Dolphin resort as the league prepares to resume its regular season.
– Steve Gardner
West Hollywood, California, to begin fining people who don't wear masks
Deputies in West Hollywood, California, announced Wednesday night that they will start to fine people who are not wearing face masks in public this month.
"Our last option was to conduct enforcement by issuing an Administration Citation, but the risk to Community health is too great," officials wrote in a statement on Twitter.
The fine is $250, with an additional $50 fee. The West Hollywood station will be the only one in the county sheriff’s department to issue citations, KTLA reported. This comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars to close, and restaurants, wineries, movie theaters and other businesses to shut down indoor operations on Wednesday for the next three weeks.
More than 40 California principals quarantined after in-person meeting
More than 40 principals in Northern California have been asked to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 after attending an in-person meeting called by the Santa Clara County Unified School District.
An asymptomatic attendee tested positive for the virus days after the meeting, reported TV station KNTV. The district's superintendent Stella Kemp confirmed the exposure at an online meeting last week, the station reported. “Given the complexities of our reopening, some of our staff meetings are taking place in person. Of course those meetings are being conducted under the strict guidelines provided to us by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department,” Kemp said.
No other attendee has tested positive, Kemp said.