The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 1:00 am

Virus rampant in South, West

Governors resist mandating masks in several states

Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alarming surges in coronavirus cases across the South and West raised fears Monday that the outbreak is spiraling out of control and that hard-won progress against the scourge is slipping away because of resistance among many Americans to wearing masks and keeping their distance from others.

Confirming predictions that the easing of state lockdowns over the past month and a half could lead to a comeback by the virus, cases surpassed 100,000 in Florida, hospitalizations are rising dramatically in Houston, and a startling 1 in 5 of those tested in Arizona are proving to be infected.

Over the weekend, the virus seemed to be everywhere at once: Six staff members helping set up for President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tested positive, as did 23 Clemson University football players in South Carolina. At least 30 members of the Louisiana State University team were isolated after becoming infected or coming into contact with someone who was. Meatpacking plants were also hit with outbreaks.

“It is snowballing. We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike,” said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO and president of Houston Methodist Hospital, noting that the number of COVID-19 hospital admissions has tripled since Memorial Day to more than 1,400 across eight hospital systems in the Houston metropolitan area.

He predicted that in three weeks hospitals could be overwhelmed, and he pleaded with people to cover their faces and practice social distancing.

“It is possible to open up at a judicious pace and coexist with the virus, but it requires millions and millions of people to do the right thing. Right now, we don't have that” because people have let their guard down, Boom said.

Texas is among a number of states – including Arizona, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina – whose governors have resisted statewide mask requirements, leaving the matter to local authorities.

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases across the country per day has reached more than 26,000, up from about 21,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 120,000 deaths in the U.S. have been blamed on the virus, the highest death toll in the world.

In Orlando, 152 coronavirus cases were linked to a bar near the University of Central Florida campus, said Dr. Raul Pino, a state health officer in the resort city.

“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said. “People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.”

Although he asked health officials to renew calls for people to wear masks and keep their distance, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not signaled he will retreat from reopening the state after three months of shutdowns that have damaged the economy.

In Louisiana, however, Gov. John Bel Edwards extended restrictions on businesses because of a troubling uptick in cases, following the example set by Utah and Oregon last week. Louisiana has recorded more than 3,000 deaths.

 

 

 

 


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