Florida tops virus death mark
Fort Lauderdale, Florida — Florida surpassed its previous one-day record for coronavirus deaths Tuesday and Britain and France announced they will require people to wear masks in public indoor spaces, amid rising global worries about a resurgence of the pandemic.
Florida reported 132 additional deaths, topping the previous record for the state set just last week. The figure likely includes deaths from the past weekend that had not been previously reported.
Even so, the new deaths raised Florida's seven-day average to 81 per day, more than double the figure of two weeks ago and now the second-highest in the United States behind Texas. Doctors have predicted a surge in deaths as Florida’s daily reported cases have gone from about 2,000 a day a month ago to over 12,000.
Marlyn Hoilette, a nurse who spent four months working in the COVID-19 unit of her Florida hospital until testing positive recently, said she worries about returning given the pressure to handle the surge in cases.
“Nurses are getting sick, nursing assistants are getting sick and my biggest fear is that it seems we want to return folks to work even without a negative test,” said Hoilette, who works at Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee. Florida. “It’s just a matter of time before you wipe the other staff out if you’re contagious, so that is a big problem.”
Word of the rising toll in Florida came as Arizona officials tallied 4,273 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The state, which became a virus hot spot after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed stay-at-home orders and other restrictions in May, reported 3,517 patients hospitalized because of the disease, a record high. Arizona’s death toll from COVID-19 rose to 2,337, with 92 additional deaths reported Tuesday.
In Britain, officials announced they will require people to wear face masks starting July 24, after weeks of dismissing their value.
“We are not out of the woods yet, so let us all do our utmost to keep this virus cornered and enjoy summer safely,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
French President Emmanuel Macron said masks will be required by Aug. 1, after recent rave parties and widespread backsliding on social distancing raised concerns the virus may be starting to rebound.
Even Melania Trump, whose husband President Donald Trump resisted wearing a mask or urging anyone else to do so, called on people to step up precautions.
“Even in the summer months, please remember to wear face coverings & practice social distancing,” she said Tuesday in a posting on her Twitter account. “The more precaution we take now can mean a healthier & safer country in the Fall.”
Meanwhile, officials in the Australian state of Queensland said those breaking quarantine rules could face up to six months in jail.
The current set of fines for breaking a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for some visitors or lying about their whereabouts “appears not to be enough" in some cases, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.
With higher fines and the threat of jail time, "I hope that will demonstrate to the public just how serious we are about enforcing these measures,” Miles said.
Queensland shut its state borders to successfully contain the coronavirus outbreak, but reopened to all but residents of Victoria, Australia's worst affected region, two weeks ago.
The city of Melbourne in Victoria recorded 270 new coronavirus infections overnight, with more than 4,000 cases now active across the state. Melbourne is one week into a six-week lockdown in an attempt to stop a spike in new cases there.
Health experts have warned that outbreaks that had been brought under control with shutdowns and other forms of social distancing were likely to flare again as precautions were relaxed.
Disney officials announced that Hong Kong Disneyland Park is closing Wednesday until further notice following the city’s decision to ban public gatherings of more than four people to combat newly spreading infections.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, announced new coronavirus-related restrictions on Monday after 41 out of 52 newly reported infections were locally transmitted cases. Hong Kong has reported 250 new cases since July 6. Lam urged the private sector to put in place work-from-home arrangements for employees.
In Thailand, where there have been no reports of locally transmitted cases for seven weeks, authorities have revised rules governing visitors from abroad after a breakdown in screening led to two infected foreigners posing a possible risk to public health.
The government said Tuesday that diplomats will be asked to stay in state-supervised quarantine for 14 days, instead of self-isolating. And it is postponing the recently allowed entry of some foreign visitors so procedures can be changed.
“I am angry because this shouldn’t happen. They should have been quarantined, same as Thais who travel back have to be quarantined for 14 days. Why should this group of people get the privilege to skip quarantine?” said Panpen Sakulkru, a company manager who was among hundreds who lined up for virus tests in the Thai city of Rayong on Tuesday.
The cases that caused concern involved a member of an Egyptian military group and the young daughter of a foreign diplomat whose family returned from Sudan. Thai authorities revoked landing permission for eight Egyptian flights, and some schools and a mall were closed in the eastern province where the Egyptian man may have had contacts.
India, which has the third-most cases after the U.S. and Brazil, was rapidly nearing 1 million cases with a jump of more than 28,000 reported Tuesday. It now has more than 906,000 and accumulated more than 100,000 in just four days.
Its nationwide lockdown has largely ended, but the recent spikes have prompted several big cities to reimpose partial lockdowns. A 10-day lockdown that began Tuesday in the southern city of Pune will allow only essential businesses such as milk shops, pharmacies, clinics and emergency services to open.
The ebb and flow of the pandemic has governments scrambling to quash new outbreaks while attempting to salvage economies from the devastation of long shutdowns and travel restrictions.
In the U.S., flaring outbreaks have led officials in some areas to mandate mask wearing and close down bars and some other businesses to once again try to bring the pandemic under control.
Hawaii’s governor pushed back by another month plans to waive a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers who test negative for COVID-19.
The state has one of the lowest infection rates in the U.S., with 1,243 cases. Its quarantine requirement has virtually shut down tourism since it took effect in late March, pushing the unemployment rate in the islands to 22.6%, the second-highest in the U.S.
Geller reported from New York. Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed.