Coronavirus updates: More than 66K new cases; Walt Disney World reopens amid surge in Florida; 7-Eleven Free Slurpee Day canceled

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Walt Disney World was expected to begin a phased reopening this weekend, nearly four months after the theme park shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As with other theme parks that have announced reopening plans, park capacity will be limited and visitors will undergo a temperature check and be required to wear face masks.

But COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in Florida and across the country. The U.S. reported more than 66,000 new cases Friday – the largest single-day increase since the start of the outbreak, according to John Hopkins University data.

Florida has recorded the largest weekly increase in cases. In the past seven days, the state has added nearly 67,000 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are more than 244,000 cases statewide, according to the Florida Department of Health, making the Sunshine State a coronavirus hot spot. 

Some recent developments:

    Every state in the country had visitors from the Sunshine State this week, according to mobility tracking data, despite a surge of cases in Florida. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Friday he has not briefed President Donald Trump in at least two months.Congestion, runny nose, nausea and diarrhea are the four most recent COVID-19 symptoms that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added to its growing list of potential signs of the novel coronavirus. (Other symptoms: chills, fever, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a new loss of taste or smell.)

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has surpassed 3.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. More than 134,000 deaths have been confirmed, according to John Hopkins University data. Globally, there have been 12.5 million cases and over 560,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: As coronavirus cases surge in Republican territory, so does rage over face masks.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks to how personal responsibility and social distancing is the key to ending the spread of the coronavirus.

USA TODAY

7-Eleven Day canceled amid outbreak

The annual 7-Eleven Day, aka Free Slurpee Day, was canceled but free frozen drinks are still up for grabs.

While the coronavirus pandemic led the nation’s largest convenience store chain to cancel its in-store birthday celebration and one-day freebie giveaway, members of the 7Rewards loyalty program will get a coupon for a free medium Slurpee added to their accounts Wednesday, July 1.

“Gathering nine million of our closest friends in stores on one day just didn’t feel right, but I am heartened that we now have the opportunity to help the communities and neighborhoods that have been the lifeline of our business since 1927,” Marissa Jarratt, the chain’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in the release.

7-Eleven also plans to donate a million free meals to Feeding America, which is considered the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the country.

– Kelly Tyko

School reopenings shouldn’t be ‘one-size-fits-all,’ educators and pediatricians say

Schools should prioritize safety and rely on local authorities in school reopening plans, a joint statement from associations of pediatricians, educators and superintendents says.

“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe,” says the statement from The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and The School Superintendents Association. “Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools.”

The statement follows a push from Trump to open schools across the nation and amid a nationwide debate over whether children should return to the classroom

– Joel Shannon

California to release 8,000 inmates to prevent COVID spread

Up to 8,000 people currently incarcerated in California state prisons could be released by the end of August, the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Friday.

“Too many people are incarcerated for too long in facilities that spread poor health. Supporting the health and safety of all Californians means releasing people unnecessarily incarcerated and transforming our justice system,” said Jay Jordan, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice.

Since the start of the pandemic, the state has released about 10,000 people, according to the state’s Department of Corrections.

Activists have repeatedly called on the governor to address the outbreak at San Quentin prison, where more than 200 staff and more than 1,300 prisoners have active cases, and at least six inmates have died, according to local news reports.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Wear a mask or risk another shutdown

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott begged Texans to mask up in a Friday interview with eastern Texas TV station CBS19, saying face coverings were “the only way” businesses could stay open.

“It’s disappointing” that some local officials are refusing to enforce the state’s mask order, Abbott said. “If we do not all join together and unite in this one cause for a short period of time … it will lead to the necessity of having to close Texas back down.”

Abbott’s order effective July 3 requires face masks in public spaces in counties with 20 or more active COVID-19 cases. The order does not apply to people eating, drinking, swimming or exercising or those under 10 years old.

– Joel Shannon

Shutdowns prevented quarter of a million deaths

Shutting down states in the early days of the US COVID-19 outbreak prevented at least 250,000 deaths and as many as 750,000-840,000 hospitalizations, a new study found. Shelter-in-place orders took about two weeks to show an effect on hospitalizations and three weeks to limit the number of deaths, according to the study by researchers at the University of Iowa and National Bureau of Economic Research.

The authors, who published their results in the journal Health Affairs, also found that deaths from causes other than COVID-19 might have increased if hospitals had become overwhelmed; slowing cases saved those lives, as well, they said. 

“These estimates indicate that [stay in place orders] played a key role in flattening the curves not only for cases, but also for deaths and hospitalizations, and eased pressure on hospitals from avoided COVID-19 admissions,” the authors conclude.

– Karen Weintraub

Floridians came to your state this week

All 50 states had visitors from Florida this week, according to data that 15 million U.S. mobile device users provided to the data company Cuebiq. Applying Cuebiq’s sample to the whole population, approximately 1.5 million Floridians are now setting up shop in other states.

Residents have left the state in increasing numbers at a time when the crisis there got worse. In early June, just 5% of the state’s residents appeared in other states. That number has ticked up every week.

Cuebiq’s data, which is based on cell phone locations, shows that most interstate visitors from Florida appeared in other parts of the South. About 38% of the state’s travelers were in Georgia at least once during the week, for example. Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee also topped the list of destinations for visitors from the hard-struck state. 

States outside the region saw big Florida influxes as well. New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio all had more than 50,000 visits from Florida residents in the most recent week of data, based on an extrapolation of the cell phone location data.

So far, the moves do not appear to be permanent – or at least not to the same level as last year. Five percent of residents changed their home county, down from 6.5% during the same period last year.

– Matt Wynn

New data suggests remdesivir can shorten how long people are sick

New data on the experimental drug remdesivir confirms it can shorten the course of COVID-19 infections and suggests it also can save lives.  

Gilead Sciences, Inc., a California pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, revealed data Friday about nearly 400 patients in its late-stage clinical trial. 

According to the results, 74% of patients treated with remdesivir had recovered by their 14th day of hospitalization, compared to 59% of those who did not get the drug. Nearly 8% of the patients on remdesivir had died by day 14, versus more than 12% of patients who did not receive it. 

The study also found patients who took the drug hydroxychloroquine along with remdesivir fared worse than those on remdesivir alone. The company recommended against using the drugs in combination. 

Remdesivir, an antiviral initially developed to treat Ebola, has not yet been approved for widespread use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but it has been given emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 patients.

– Karen Weintraub

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. 

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