US Virus Updates: Florida's Miami-Dade Imposes Curfew; Texas Governor Issues Mask Order

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The U.S. reported a record number of new daily coronavirus infections, surpassing 50,000 cases a day for the first time as many states struggled to contain the spread of the pandemic, blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or following social distancing rules.

In response, California and New York City joined a growing number of states and cities rolling back reopening plans by ordering indoor dining at restaurants closed. And in Florida, hospitals braced for an influx of patients as Miami's Jackson Health System scaled back elective surgeries and other procedures.

Health experts say the virus in Florida and other Southern states risks becoming uncontrollable, with case numbers too large to trace.

Despite the virus' resurgence, President Donald Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Wednesday he hopes it will eventually just go away. "I think we are going to be very good with the coronavirus," he said.

On Capitol Hill, the House easily passed a temporary extension of a subsidy program for small businesses slammed by the coronavirus, sending the measure to the White House.

The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus cases, with more than 2.7 million infections and nearly 129,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

Florida's Miami-Dade County to Use Curfew to Fight Growing Coronavirus Cases

In an attempt to curb the rising number of coronavirus cases in southern Florida, Miami-Dade County will impose a curfew beginning at 10 p.m. Friday.

The announcement about the curfew by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez came the same day that health officials reported more than 10,000 new cases statewide, a record high.

"This curfew is meant to stop people from venturing out and hanging out with friends in groups, which has shown to be spreading the virus rapidly," Gimenez said in a statement, adding that the nightly restriction would be in place until further notice.

The county curfew will be from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., but there are exceptions for people including first responders and hospital and food delivery workers. Miami Beach, which is in Miami-Dade County, on Wednesday announced a citywide curfew from 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m.

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Texas Governor Issues Mask Order to Fight Coronavirus

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered that face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state, a dramatic ramp-up of the Republican's efforts to control spiking numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Abbott, who had pushed Texas' aggressive reopening of the state economy in May, had previously said the government could not order individuals to wear masks. His prior virus-related orders had undercut efforts by local governments to enforce mask requirements.

But faced with dramatically rising numbers of both newly confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus and the number of patients so sick they needed to be hospitalized, Abbott changed course with Thursday's mask order. It requires “all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions."

Texas reported 7,915 newly confirmed cases, a slight dip after zooming past the 8,000 mark for the first time on Wednesday. The 7,382 hospitalizations means the state has more than quadrupled its numbers in that category since the end of May.

Herman Cain, a Trump Surrogate, Tests Positive for COVID-19 After Attending Tulsa Tally

Herman Cain, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate and businessman, has tested positive for COVID-19 more than a week after attending President Donald Trump's Tulsa rally, a statement posted to his official Twitter account on Thursday.

“There is no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr. Cain contracted the coronavirus, but we do know he is a fighter who has beaten Stage 4 cancer,” the statement said. Cain is currently receiving treatment at an Atlanta hospital, NBC News reports.

While there’s no way to pinpoint exactly where he contracted the virus, Cain Trump’s rally in Tulsa on June 20 and posted a photo of himself with others at the event, which showed him without a mask on. The 74-year-old tested positive on June 29, the statement said.

After testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday, he developed symptoms "serious enough that he required hospitalization," and spent the last night in the hospital where he’s been resting comfortably on Thursday, the statement said.

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Moderna Stock Dips After Report Says COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Delayed

Moderna’s stock fell 8% on Thursday after a report said the biotech company’s late-stage trial for a potential coronavirus vaccine will be delayed, possibly by a few weeks, CNBC reports.

The company, which is working with the National Institutes of Health, was expected to begin a phase 3 trial with 30,000 participants for its vaccine candidate later this month, pending the results from its mid-stage trial.

However, the company is making changes to the trial plan, which has pushed back the expected start date, according to health-care publication STAT News, citing an investigator. STAT News said it’s unclear how long the start date will be delayed. 

“My understanding was that they wanted to get the first vaccines given in July, and they say they’re still committed to do that,” one investigator told STAT News. “As best I can tell, they’re close to being on target for that.”

Moderna is one of several U.S. companies working on a potential vaccine for Covid-19. More than 100 vaccines are under development globally, according to the World Health Organization. At least 17 vaccines are already in clinical trials, according to the WHO. 

Earlier Thursday, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said he was optimistic that “Operation Warp Speed,” the Trump administration’s vaccine-acceleration program, will be able to generate a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 by year end and can meet a target of making 300 million doses by early 2021.

“That’s really a stretch goal, but it’s the right goal for the American people,” Collins said at a Senate subcommittee hearing.

Florida Smashes Daily Record for New Coronavirus Cases

Florida again shattered its daily record for new Coronavirus cases Thursday, reporting more than 10,000 cases for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak began, NBC South Florida reports.

With 10,109 new COVID-19 cases, the state’s total rose to 169,106, according to figures released by the Florida Department of Health. State officials also reported 67 virus-related deaths Thursday, bringing the state's official total to 3,617.

The state has seen a large increase in cases in the past week, with more than 50,000 confirmed in that span of time. Before June 11, the state’s worst day for reported cases had been 1,601, set in mid-May. That number has been eclipsed every day for the last three weeks.

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NH Nursing Homes Say Feds Sent Useless Protective Equipment

Isolation gowns with no arm openings. Child-sized gloves. Surgical masks with ear loops that break when stretched.

Such items make up the bulk of the personal protective equipment recently sent by the federal government to New Hampshire nursing homes struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, according to the head of an industry group who called the shipments “profoundly insulting.”

“Legitimate personal protective equipment is available out there on the market. I don’t know what the federal government is paying for this garbage it’s sending to nursing homes, but it is garbage and it’s going to be treated as such,” said Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association. “There’s no way a provider is going to force a caregiver into the indignity of wearing a garbage bag. Things are bad enough.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced in May that it would send a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment to nearly 15,000 nursing homes across the nation. FEMA spokeswoman Alexandria Bruner told the Concord Monitor that only 1% of facilities have complained about the shipments and the agency is working to address facilities' concerns. Some equipment, she said, might be different from what facilities typically use.

Williams said the shipments included fabric masks, which, according to the CDC, are not considered adequate protection in a clinical setting

Several states have reported similar problems with the equipment sent by FEMA.

5 US Airlines Reach Deal With Treasury Dept. for Billions in Coronavirus Loans

Five airlines have struck agreements with the Treasury Department for portions of $25 billion in federal loans aimed at softening the blow of the coronavirus pandemic on their businesses, CNBC reported.

American AirlinesHawaiian AirlinesSky West Airlines, Spirit Airlines and privately-held Frontier Airlines have signed letters of intent for the loan terms, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

Other airlines have said they expect to be eligible for billions in federal loans but haven’t yet signed letters of intent, though conversations are ongoing, a Treasury Department spokeswoman said. 

U.S. passenger airlines, posting their first losses in years because of the virus, were allowed to apply for portions of the $25 billion in federal loans, funding set aside under the CARES Act in March.

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US Economy Added 4.8M Jobs in June

U.S. employers added a substantial 4.8 million jobs in June, and the unemployment rate fell to 11.1%, as the job market improved for a second straight month yet remained far short of regaining the colossal losses it suffered this spring.

The nation has now recovered roughly one-third of the 22 million jobs it lost to the pandemic recession. And with confirmed coronavirus cases spiking across the Sun Belt states, a range of evidence suggests that a job market recovery may be stalling.

In those states and elsewhere, some restaurants, bars and other retailers that had re-opened are being forced to close again.

California has re-closed bars, theaters and indoor restaurant dining across most of the state. Florida has also re-closed bars and beaches. Texas has reversed some of its efforts to reopen its economy. New York has paused its plans to allow indoor dining.

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Pfizer Reports Encouraging, Very Early Vaccine Test Results

The first of four experimental COVID-19 vaccines being tested by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech showed encouraging results in very early testing of 45 people, the companies said Wednesday.

Study volunteers given either a low or medium dose, in two shots about a month apart, had immune responses in the range expected to be protective, when compared to some COVID-19 survivors, according to the preliminary results.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID and member of the White House coronavirus task force, testified to Congress on Tuesday that a coronavirus vaccine could be available as early as the beginning of 2021.

Side effects were typical for vaccines, mostly pain at the injection site and fever.

The report has been submitted for publication in a scientific journal but not yet reviewed. With its other potential candidates still in the earliest stage of testing, Pfizer aims to open a large-scale study this summer but can't yet say which shot is best to include.

About 15 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in human testing worldwide, with several poised to begin huge, last-stage studies to prove if they really work.

NBC News medical correspondent Dr. Joseph Fair told TODAY Thursday he was “cautiously optimistic” about the latest vaccine news, which he called a first step.

"There's still quite a long way to go," he said, citing the potential for "adverse events," people getting sick from the vaccine.

"That's the number one thing we want to avoid," he said.

He said an unanswered question is how long the vaccine would offer protection.

Officials: Students in Alabama Threw COVID Contest Parties

Several college students in an Alabama city organized “COVID-19” parties as a contest to see who would get the virus first, officials said.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students hosted the parties to intentionally infect each other with the new coronavirus, news outlets reported.

McKinstry said party organizers purposely invited guests who tested positive for COVID-19. She said the students put money in a pot and whoever got COVID first would get the cash.

"It makes no sense," McKinstry said. "They’re intentionally doing it."

Smith didn't say whether actions would be taken against the students. He also didn't say which schools the students attend.

California Officials Blasted for Prison Outbreak

California lawmakers harshly criticized state corrections officials' “failure of leadership” Wednesday, saying they botched their handling of the coronavirus pandemic by inadvertently transferring infected inmates to a virus-free prison, triggering the state’s worst prison outbreak.

A third of the 3,500 inmates at San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco have tested positive since officials transferred 121 inmates from the heavily impacted California Institution for Men in Chino on May 30 without properly testing them for infections.

“I don’t say this lightly, but this is a failure of leadership. This crisis is completely avoidable,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents the San Quentin area.

The transfer from the stricken prison in Southern California “should have never happened," McGuire said at a Senate oversight hearing. ”And then the virus spread like wildfire.”

Tents were set up in the yard of San Quentin State Prison to treat inmates with COVID-19. At least 1,011 cases of the virus have been reported.

Closing Bars to Stop Coronavirus Spread Is Backed by Science

Authorities are closing honky tonks, bars and other drinking establishments in some parts of the U.S. to stem the surge of COVID-19 infections — a move backed by sound science about risk factors that go beyond wearing or not wearing masks.

In the words of one study, it comes down to the danger of “heavy breathing in close proximity."

Crowded indoor spaces filled with people yelling, leaning close to hear one another and touching the same sticky surfaces are “the opposite of social distancing,” said Dr. David Hamer of the Boston University School of Medicine.

“Can you do social distancing at a bar? Can you wear a mask while drinking?” Hamer said. “Bars are the perfect place to break all those rules."

Two other factors at play in bars make them potential virus flashpoints. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, so people forget precautions, said Natalie Dean, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Florida.

Plus, the attractive, healthy person buying you a drink could be a silent carrier, shedding contagious virus with each breath.

“Young people have less severe illness, so they may be infected and able to infect others inadvertently,” Dean said, noting outbreaks in Japan and South Korea associated with restaurants, bars and karaoke parties.

The nation's leading infectious disease expert told a Senate panel on Tuesday that going to an indoor bar is one of the most dangerous things people could do right now.

“Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "We really have got to stop that.”

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

The Associated Press/NBC
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