Coronavirus cases rising in 41 states as Republicans scale back convention

With as many as 41 US states experiencing worsening coronavirus outbreaks in July, some sharply so, on Thursday crisis measures were being taken in some southern hotspots, including calling in military medics and parking mobile morgue trucks outside hospitals, in a throwback to New York City when it became the center of the world outbreak in the spring.

The spread of the virus has now resulted in a total of almost 56,000 hospitalizations for Covid-19 in the US currently, going from a situation where hospitalizations were rising in 11 states a month ago, to now rising in 33 states.

Several states have been breaking records on many days in the last week as numbers rise. Florida saw a record almost 14,000 new cases on Wednesday as it became the focus of attention of the southern surge in Covid-19.

Early on Thursday, the Republican National Committee announced plans to scale back its national convention next month in Jacksonville, Florida, which it had moved from North Carolina before the surge of cases in Florida, hoping for fewer restrictions on crowds.

RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel confirmed the update in a letter to convention delegates, noting they will comply with local and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health guidelines while adapting the events.

“We still intend to host a fantastic convention celebration in Jacksonville,” she wrote. “We can gather and put on a top-notch event that celebrates the incredible accomplishments of President Trump’s administration and his re-nomination for a second term – while also doing so in a safe and responsible manner.”

As part of the revised logistics, some events have been moved to outdoor venues while there will be smaller crowds

The entire RNC event has been capped to a total of nearly 7,000 attendees, a fraction of the typical volume at the huge election year events. Florida has become one of the country’s fastest growing hotspots for the coronavirus outbreak. The state on Thursday reported nearly 14,000 new daily cases and a grim new one-day record of 156 deaths.

Covid-19 testing are administered at a converted vehicle inspection station in San Antonio, Texas. The state has deployed army medics to assist with hospital overflow.

Covid-19 testing are administered at a converted vehicle inspection station in San Antonio, Texas. The state has deployed army medics to assist with hospital overflow. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

Across Texas, which reported a rise to 11,000 new cases in one day, US Army medics have been deployed to assist with hospital overflow and limited personnel. In the city of San Antonio, where local officials reported hospitals are now at 90% capacity, refrigerated morgue trucks have been requested to park outside hospitals.

Ken Davis, chief medical officer for Christus Health South Texas, told KSAT the bodies will be held at the hospital until they could be picked up, as “there are only so many places to put bodies”.

“It’s a hard thing to talk about,” Davis said. “People’s loved ones are dying. Our funeral homes are out of space.”

Also, as earlier hotspots such as New York City in April found, when pressure ramps up on hospitals quickly, personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns for medical workers falls short, with some hospitals obliging staff to reuse masks and gowns that are normally disposable, ABC reported.

Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, the largest union for registered nurses, told ABC: “In a country that’s this rich with resources, it seems criminal that nurses and healthcare workers are having to make do with cobbled together, non-certified equipment.”

Meanwhile some Republican governors have reversed their stances against masks, enacting mandates or executive orders to require them.

On Wednesday, Alabama governor Kay Ivey said a mask order could not wait, but wished that people didn’t “have to be ordered to do what is in your own best interest”.

Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia dug into his support of reopening the economy.

Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia dug into his support of reopening the economy. Photograph: Nathan Posner/REX/Shutterstock

But Georgia governor Brian Kemp dug into his support for reopening the economy, signing an executive order Wednesday that explicitly bans local governments from enforcing their own orders requiring masks.

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who recently confirmed she and her household had contracted the virus, said Donald Trump had “violate[d] law in the city” by not wearing a mask during his visit there Wednesday.

The Trump administration faces continued backlash for its response to the outbreak. In a scathing op-ed Thursday, Maryland’s Rpublican governor Larry Hogan accused the president of downplaying the pandemic and failing to prepare Americans for its potential impact.

“So many nationwide actions could have been taken in those early days but weren’t,” he wrote. “While other countries were racing ahead with well-coordinated testing regimes, the Trump administration bungled the effort.”

Hogan clashed with Trump after circumventing White House officials to pull strings and outsource Covid-19 tests from South Korea in April when there was a shortage, saying “it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless” and would “be condemning more citizens to suffering and death”.

He added that Trump left the state more vulnerable to the virus, accusing the president of “talking and tweeting like a man more concerned about boosting the stock market or his re-election plan”.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Trump administration pushed back against criticism of its decision to require that hospitals bypass the CDC’s system for reporting hospital information, opting for the Department of Health and Human Services’ reporting portal.

“HHS is committed to being transparent with the American public about the information it is collecting on the coronavirus,” spokesman Michael Caputo said in response to a report from CNBC that data previously available to the public had already disappeared from CDC websites.