Overnight Health Care: White House seeks to reassure amid COVID-19 spikes | Florida stops bars from serving alcohol after shattering record of new coronavirus cases | Administration extends Texas testing funding
Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Health Care.
The U.S. continues to set daily records for the number of new coronavirus infections. The death toll will soon surpass 125,000 people.
The White House coronavirus task force reappeared in public and tried to reassure Americans that the pandemic was under control. In the states, Florida reported nearly 9,000 new infections on Friday, a staggering number. Both Florida and Texas are stopping bars from serving alcohol.
We’ll start with the task force:
White House seeks to reassure amid COVID-19 spikes
The White House coronavirus task force made its first public appearance in two months to give Americans a message: We’ve got this under control.
The rosy view of the pandemic comes as cases surge across much of the country and several states take a step back in their reopening plans.
Vice President Pence praised the efforts of governors for reopening businesses and sought to downplay the rising number of infections, pointing out they have mostly been among young people.
As daily infections topped 40,000 for the first time in more than a month, Pence maintained that the country is in a better place than it was before.
Even though Florida and Texas reported a record number of infections on Friday and stopped bars from serving alcohol, Pence did not mention any of the new restrictions in his comments. He insisted that the public not use a “broad brush” when viewing rising case numbers in certain states.
Good cop, bad cop: Pence’s lack of alarm on Friday was contrasted by Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease doctor, who offered a “plea” to Americans not to let their guard down.
People can “either be part of the solution or part of the problem,” Fauci said.
If Americans want the pandemic to end, everyone needs to do their part, he added.
Florida to stop bars from serving alcohol after shattering record of new coronavirus cases
Florida is suspending alcohol consumption in bars in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, after the state reported a single-day record of new infections.
The announcement did not come from the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), but from Halsey Beshears, the secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which oversees Florida bars.
“Based on recent increases in COVID-19 cases and non-compliance with previous orders, DBPR has taken action to suspend on-premises alcohol sales at bars. DBPR believes this is a necessary step to take to protect public health as we continue working in partnership with industry and health officials to combat COVID-19, Beshears said in a statement.
Takeout alcohol will still be allowed. Restaurants can continue to operate for on-premises consumption of food and beverages at tables so long as they derive 50 percent or less of their gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
The context: Florida shattered its single-day record of new coronavirus cases reported on Friday, adding an additional 8,942 confirmed infections, according to the Department of Health.
The state broke the previous record of 5,508, which was just set two days ago.
Texas to shut bars to stop virus
Texas is officially taking a step backwards. The state will order bars and some outdoor recreation businesses to close once again in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus as the number of infections mount across the state.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced the decision in a statement Friday morning amid rising cases in the state, just one day after saying he had no interest in reimposing any restrictions.
“The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health. We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part,” he said.
Abbott’s new order required bars to shut down by noon on Friday. It also required rafting and tubing businesses to close, activities popular with younger people who are contracting the coronavirus at increased rates in recent weeks. And it required any gathering of 100 or more people to be approved by local governments.
Context: Texas has reported more than 5,400 new cases of the coronavirus on each of the last three days, setting successively higher one-day records. Texas moved into phase three of its reopening plan on June 3, when bars were allowed to operate at half capacity.
The state has reported more than 1,000 cases a day on all but two days in June, and it has reported more than 3,000 new cases over each of the last 10 days.
Trump administration grants funding extension for Texas testing sites
The Trump administration will grant five community-based coronavirus testing sites in Texas a 14-day funding extension after pushback from federal and local officials. The administration has been under pressure from GOP senators and local Texas officials after announcing earlier this week its intent to stop funding 13 sites across several states and transition them to state control.
The move is essentially a half-reversal.
Eight sites in other states will still transition to state control and lose federal funding.
The Department of Health and Human services said the decision was made to extend funding as a result of the surge in coronavirus cases in Texas.
A new strategy for ramping up testing? Fauci says the White House is working on it
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said federal health officials are considering a new strategy for coronavirus testing as cases spike in states across the country.
Fauci told The Washington Post in an interview Thursday night that officials are having “intense discussions” about adopting a technique known as pooled sampling — grouping together multiple individuals’ COVID-19 tests to boost testing capacity.
How it works: Under this approach, if the virus is not detected in a combined test tube, all the patients can be deemed negative; if it comes back positive, each sample is tested individually.
“What you need to do is find the penetration of infected people in your society,” Fauci said. “And the only way you know that is by casting a broad net.”
Americans show rising concern over coronavirus as cases spike nationwide: poll
More than 75 percent of Americans are afraid of contracting the coronavirus, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds, as the number of new COVID-19 cases surges nationwide.
In the poll, 76 percent of respondents said that they are concerned about contracting the virus, up from 69 percent in the same survey on June 12.
Despite the stated fear of getting COVID-19, over 90 percent of respondents said that they were comfortable with going grocery shopping while wearing a mask and nearly 80 percent said that they were OK with going into work.
However, people are still weary about doing leisure activities such as eating at a restaurant or staying at a hotel, with just over half of the respondents saying that they would do either.
What we’re reading
Seniors in low-income housing live in fear of COVID infection (Kaiser Health News)
When COVID-19 hits the brain, it can cause strokes, psychosis and a dementia-like syndrome, new survey shows (Stat News)
Most U.S. travelers will be barred from E.U. when bloc reopens (New York Times)
State by state
Inside D.C.’s scramble to set up COVID-19 contact tracing (National Journal)
Florida smirked at New York’s virus crisis. Now it has its own. (New York Times)
Pressure mounts on DeSantis as coronavirus cases spike in Florida (CNN)
Why are California’s Covid-19 cases surging? Here’s what we know (The Guardian)
Newsom charges ahead as California virus cases reach new record (Politico)