WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Florida reported a record one-day increase in deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday, and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark, fueling fears that the United States was losing control of the outbreak and adding pressure on Congress to approve another massive aid package.
FILE PHOTO: Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) Hang Out With A Patient At North Shore Medical Center Where Patients With Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Are Treated, In Miami, Florida, USA, 14 Dec July 2020. REUTERS / Maria Alejandra Cardona
This month, a surge in infections in Florida, along with Texas, Arizona, and California, has overwhelmed hospitals and forced a U-turn in steps to reopen economies after the end of the blockades in March and April to slow the spread of the virus.
Florida, the third-most populous state in the US and a prized destination for beach lovers and retirees, had 191 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, its largest single-day increase since the epidemic began. said the state health department.
Texas, the second most populous state, added more than 6,000 new cases on Monday, bringing its total to 401,477, according to a Reuters count. Only three other states, California, Florida and New York, have more than 400,000 cases in total.
Georgia, which borders Florida, reported 54 more deaths Tuesday as its total number of cases rose to more than 175,000, according to its state health department.
The pandemic, which first emerged in China late last year, has pushed the death toll in the US from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, closer to the 150,000 mark a little more than three months before the November 3 elections in which President Donald Trump seeks a second term in the White House.
The surge in cases in Florida led Trump last week to cancel his Republican Party’s nomination convention events in Jacksonville in late August, and Major League Baseball has postponed some games in its delayed truncated season after several Miami Marlins members tested positive for the virus.
However, there is a glimmer of hope in the Texas data, where the state health department reported that current hospitalizations due to COVID-19 fell on Monday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the leading experts on infectious diseases in the US, said there were signs that the recent increase may be peaking in affected states like Florida and Texas, while other parts of the country They could be on the cusp of growing outbreaks.
“They may be going up and down,” Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program on the state of the outbreak in several Sunbelt states.
Fauci said there was a “very early indication” that the percentage of positive coronavirus tests was starting to increase in other states, such as Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Fauci has become a lightning rod for some Trump supporters who accuse the 79-year-old health official of exaggerating the scope and severity of the outbreak in the United States and minimizing possible treatments.
BATTLE IN CONGRESS
Rising deaths and infections in the United States have lowered initial hopes that the country has overcome the worst of an economic crisis that has decimated businesses and left millions of Americans out of work.
It has also sparked bitter debate over the reopening of American schools in the coming weeks. Trump and other administration officials have lobbied for students to return to classrooms, while some parents and teachers have voiced their safety concerns.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said: “Nothing is off the table” and local “security strikes” are possible if the health of educators and students is not protected.
“We will fight on all fronts for the safety of students and their educators,” he said during the union’s virtual convention on Tuesday. “It is the eleventh hour; we need the resources now. ”
In Washington, the United States Congress was locked in tough talks about another coronavirus aid package to help American families and businesses recover from the crisis.
Congress approved about $ 3 trillion in aid, including enhanced unemployment benefits to ease the pain of blockages.
Senate Republicans rejected their own party’s $ 1 trillion coronavirus package, which was crafted with the White House and touted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “tailored and led” plan.
“I’m not about to borrow another trillion dollars,” Republican Senator Rand Paul told reporters.
Democrats have also rejected the proposal as too limited compared to their $ 3 billion proposal that was passed by the House of Representatives in May. Some Republicans called it too expensive.
The Republican proposal would grant many Americans direct payments of $ 1,200 each, grant billions in small business loans and help reopen schools. But it would reduce the current expanded unemployment benefit from $ 600 per week in addition to state unemployment to $ 200 per week. The enhanced unemployment benefit expires on Friday.
Reports by Susan Heavey, Daniel Trotta, Patricia Zengerle, David Morgan, Lisa Shumaker, Maria Caspani and Brendan O’Brien; Written by Paul Simao; Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman Edition