Florida ICUs nearing capacity as deaths spike; Nevada, New Mexico renew restrictions; Kentucky requires masks

Eufemia Didonato

A spiking COVID-19 case count in Florida is straining the Sunshine State’s hospital system as nearly half of its intensive care units are at least 90% full, state data shows. On Thursday, Florida recorded a one-day record of 120 deaths. More than 4,000 people have died there since the start of the […]

A spiking COVID-19 case count in Florida is straining the Sunshine State’s hospital system as nearly half of its intensive care units are at least 90% full, state data shows.

On Thursday, Florida recorded a one-day record of 120 deaths. More than 4,000 people have died there since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mississippi has also seen a recent strain on its hospitals. Five largest medical centers in the have no ICU bed space for new patients – coronavirus or otherwise – and are being forced to turn patients away.

Meanwhile, some states are scaling back reopening guidelines or adding new requirements: Some bars in Nevada will be closing again Friday and restaurants can no longer serve parties more than six people. Kentucky will join the growing list of states that require face coverings in public, too.

In New Mexico, indoor dining at restaurants and breweries will be restricted again starting Monday, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham halted high school sports and said state parks will be closed to out-of-state residents.

Here are some recent developments:

  • Caesars Entertainment employees must get tested by the end of next week or else they will not be scheduled to work.

  • A dog in Texas is the first animal in the state to have the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • The NBA bubble is taking shape at Disney World. Here’s how it’s happening.

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has surpassed 3 million confirmed cases and 133,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been 12 million cases and over 555,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: California is set to become the first state to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s new policy that prevents international students from staying in the U.S. if their college or university switches to online-only classes in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.

‘The curve is no longer flat’: Nearly half of Florida’s ICUs are at least 90% full

Nearly half of Florida’s intensive-care units are at least 90% full, and more than 1 in 5 are completely full, according to state data.

Hospitals are increasingly strained under COVID-19, and hospitalizations across the state have jumped more than 13% just since July 1. More than 17,100 Floridians have been hospitalized for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. 

A total of 95 hospital ICUs were at least 90% full Thursday, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. That’s nearly half the 207 ICUs that the agency is tracking. At least 45 hospital ICUs were at capacity, and 46 others had only one bed available in the units.

At least 4,111 people in Florida have died from the virus, according to the state — a figure that would have made it the ninth leading cause of death in Florida last year, according to Florida Department of Health statistics. Florida set a one-day record Thursday with 120 deaths. The previous high, 83, was in late April.

“Three months ago, everyone joined in a shared goal of flattening the curve, which was temporarily accomplished … the curve is no longer flat, instead we have a spike in cases and the spike is growing fast,” said Larry Antonucci, CEO of Southwest Florida’s Lee Health hospital system.

– Frank Gluck, Fort Myers News-Press

Mississippi hospitals turning patients away

The five largest medical centers in Mississippi have no ICU bed space for new patients – coronavirus or otherwise – and are being forced to turn patients away, even as COVID-19 continue to surge.

In some cases, patients are being sent to facilities out of state and as far away as New Orleans. In many hospitals, patients admitted to the ER are being forced to spend the night before they receive treatment.

“(Wednesday), five of our biggest hospitals in the state had zero ICU beds. Zero,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. “Our biggest medical institutions who take care of our sickest patients have no room.”

The transition from shelter-in-place to where we currently stand, with the highest number of hospitalizations since the first reported case of the coronavirus virus on March 11, has left the state “wide open,” said Dr. Louann Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs.

– Justin Vicory, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Trump and CDC battle over how to reopen schools safely

President Donald Trump’s attack on his own health experts’ guidance for safely reopening schools cracked open for public display a power struggle within the administration that has been building for months.

Trump blasted the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday as “very tough & expensive” and “asking schools to do very impractical things.”

But CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said on Thursday the guidance would stand, and his staff would provide some new documents to clarify the recommendations.  

The flare-up punctuates a conflict escalating for months, with the nation’s top scientists publicly sidelined in the Trump administration’s initial coronavirus response. Earlier disagreements delayed the release of the reopening guidance for schools and businesses.

Public health leaders who worked at the CDC under prior presidents said they had never seen anything like this week’s open discord. “It undermines leadership for everyone involved,” said Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, a former CDC director. “It’s public health malpractice to say, ‘Open without worrying about anything.'”

– Brett Murphy and Letitia Stein

What’s actually in the CDC school guidelines? These are the highlights.

Dog has first case of coronavirus in Texas animal

A Fort Worth-area dog has been found to have the first coronavirus infection confirmed in a Texas animal, state officials said. A private veterinarian tested the animal and it is otherwise healthy.

The dog is not the first animal in the nation to test positive for the coronavirus. Ten other animals have tested positive for the virus, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.

State Veterinarian Dr. Andy Schwartz assured that there is no known evidence that pets can transmit the virus, but they can catch it. He advised that pets be restricted from contact with persons with the coronavirus.

Oregon reports largest new daily count of COVID-19 cases

Oregon saw its largest spike of new COVID-19 cases with 389 in Thursday’s new numbers released by the Oregon Health Authority. The previous high was 375 on July 2.

The OHA is attributing the increase in cases to workplace outbreaks and community spread. Oregon has had 11,188 cases of confirmed or presumed COVID-19 since March. There have now been 230 people in Oregon who have died, including 53 in Marion County.

Bill Poehler, Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal

Caesars Entertainment employees will not work without getting COVID-19 test

If Caesars Entertainment employees do not get tested for COVID-19 by the end of next week, they will be knocked off the schedule. In response to a spike in coronavirus cases recorded across the country, the hotel-casino company has required all employees in Southern Nevada to get tested. 

“We thought mandatory testing would be a good way to identify employees who might be positive for COVID-19 without knowing it and wouldn’t realize they could be spreading the virus at work,” the company said in a statement.

Workers at Caesars Palace, Paris, Flamingo, Harrah’s and Nobu have until July 17 to get tested. 

Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

New Mexico closes parks, delays sports, restricts indoor dining

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday that under amended public health orders pertaining to COVID-19, indoor seating at restaurants and breweries would again be restricted, effective Monday. 

Patio and outdoor seating is permitted to continue at 50 percent maximum legal occupancy with “COVID-safe practices,” and restaurants may continue with carry-out and delivery services. Breweries may continue to provide curbside pickup service as well. 

State parks will close to out-of-state residents, and visitors would need to show proof of residency to visit. All camping at state parks remains prohibited, with state parks open for day-use only. The governor also announced a delay to some high school sports in the fall, along with prohibitions against contact sports such as football and soccer.

Algernon D’Ammassa, Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News

Starbucks to require customers to wear face masks starting July 15

Starbucks will now require customers and employees to wear face masks when they enter stores. The policy applies to all company-owned café locations in the U.S., according to a statement by Starbucks. 

At select locations where a local government mandate is not in place, customers who may not be wearing a facial covering will have various options to order their Starbucks, including ordering at the drive-thru, curbside pickup through the Starbucks app or placing an order for delivery through Starbucks Delivers.

Nevada bars to close Friday as state returns to Phase 1 restrictions

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said bars in some counties will have to close Friday, a directive that returns the state to Phase 1 restrictions to fight a spike in COVID-19 cases. 

Under Sisolak’s directive, restaurants can no longer serve parties more than six people and must close their bar areas. He also encouraged restaurants to have people eat outside. 

The decision comes as the known number of Nevadans testing positive for COVID-19 increased to 24,904 on Thursday morning, according to the Nevada Health Alliance dashboard.

– Brian Duggan, Reno Gazette Journal

Dr. Anthony Fauci says political ‘divisiveness’ has weakened US response

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, said extreme partisanship has hampered the U.S. response to the crisis.

“You’d have to make the assumption that if there wasn’t such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach,” Fauci said in an interview with FiveThirtyEight’s “PODCAST-19” released Thursday.

Fauci is a member of the president’s coronavirus task force and has been careful not to publicly criticize President Donald Trump, but he has been increasingly blunt in his evaluations, recently saying the U.S. is “knee deep” in cases of COVID-19 and the country’s prognosis is “really not good.”

Fauci’s stances have led to pushback from Republicans such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, who accused Fauci in a May USA TODAY op-ed of trying to “corral our freedom.”

– Jeanine Santucci

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Where a face mask is required: Many governors are instituting or renewing orders requiring people to wear face coverings in public as cases continue to rise. Is your state on the list? See it here. 

Coronavirus Watch: We have a few ways for you to stay informed. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here, and come together and share the latest information about the coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.

Where are states on reopening? Some are taking preemptive measures to postpone further phases of their reopening, while others have rolled back their phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. See the list.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19: Florida ICUs strained; Nevada closes bars; Starbucks masks

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