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US surpasses 1,000 COVID-19 deaths for fourth straight day

US surpasses 1,000 COVID-19 deaths for fourth straight day
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The U.S. tallied over 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths Friday for the fourth straight day this week, yet another sign of the alarming spike in COVID-19 cases across the country. 

There were 1,178 new deaths Friday alone, according to the COVID Tracking project, compared with 1,038 Tuesday, 1,117 Wednesday, and 1,039 Thursday. Over 137,000 people have died in the U.S. and over 4 million people have contracted the virus in the country since the outbreak began.

The alarming figures are largely driven by a surge in cases across the South and West, particularly in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. 

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The spikes have led to urgent calls from public health officials for Americans, particularly young people, to heed health guidance such as wearing masks and socially distancing.

“It’s hard for people to understand how deeply you have to clamp down,” White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx told NBC’s “Today” show Friday. “We have to change our behavior now before this virus completely moves back up through the north.” 

The White House has shifted stances on the pandemic, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE initially dismissing the severity of the outbreak and saying the coronavirus would “disappear,” to this week acknowledging that it will “get worse before it gets better.”

However, the administration is still adamant that it is safe for public schools to reopen this fall, with officials saying children are less likely to spread the virus and get serious symptoms themselves.