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Coronavirus updates: California reimposes shutdowns; virus death toll may be 35% higher than known in U.S.

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 7/1/2020 John Bacon and Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY
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As California reimposed restrictions on 19 counties to control a growing surge in coronavirus cases, researchers said Wednesday the U.S. death toll from the pandemic may be 35% higher than reported.

The outbreak is also having a significant impact on race relations, as nearly 40% of Asian Americans and Blacks reported an increase in incidents of discrimination,  according to a new survey.

Those developments come with U.S. coronavirus cases rising, as multiple states are reporting new daily records, and with the World Health Organization warning that the global pandemic is "speeding up."

Texas, which set new marks for positive cases and hospitalizations, has shut down bars. So has Arizona, while Florida banned alcohol consumption at them. White House task force leader Vice President Mike Pence was meeting with Arizona officials Wednesday amid that state's surge in cases and hospitalizations.

COVID-19 testing site on June 26, 2020, in Houston. © David J. Phillip/ AP COVID-19 testing site on June 26, 2020, in Houston.

The Trump administration, undeterred, unveiled plans for the Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza on the National Mall, an annual event that routinely draws hundreds of thousands of people.

Here are some major developments:

📈Today's stats: There were 44,766 new cases confirmed nationwide Tuesday, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Other media tallies put the case count as high as 48,000, which would be a record for daily totals. Globally, there have been more than 10.5 million cases and 512,000 deaths. In the U.S., cases have surpassed 2.6 million with over 127,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

📰 What we're reading: While the CDC says face shields should not be worn to replace a cloth mask, more and more people are turning to them for additional protection. Here's where you can buy them. 

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

California takes major step back in reopening after COVID-19 case surge 

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that 19 counties in California would take a major step back in reopening plans as the state grapples with rising positive tests and deaths from the coronavirus. 

Newsom said enforcement strike teams, which include but are not limited to members of the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Business Affairs, would help enforce social distancing rules, including mask wearing. He expects the rollback to last at least three weeks.

Among changes in the 19 counties, which include Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Ventura:

  • Indoor operations for all restaurants, movie theaters and other social gatherings are shut down.
  • All bars are closed.
  • State beaches will remain open for Fourth of July weekend, but parking will be closed. Counties can shut down beaches as needed. All state parks will remain open with social distancing guidelines in place.

Los Angeles and San Francisco already have called off fireworks shows and Newsom is encouraging other cities to do the same.

"If we want to be independent of COVID-19, we have to be more vigilant," Newsom said.

-- Heather Tucker

Pandemic's death toll in U.S. might be 35% higher

The death count from the coronavirus pandemic, now over 127,000 in the U.S., has long been regarded as an underestimate. A new study says the actual death toll could be 35% higher.

The study, conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth and Yale universities and published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said there were 87,000 more deaths than expected in the U.S. from March 1 to April 25, based on the average from the previous five years.

But only 65% of those deaths were directly attributed to COVID-19, suggesting the rest were linked to the pandemic but not ruled as the main cause.

Dr. Steven Woolf, the study’s lead author, said reasons for the undercount may include lack of reporting and other health complications that might have been listed as the cause of death.

“But a third possibility, the one we’re quite concerned about, is indirect mortality — deaths caused by the response to the pandemic,” Woolf said. “People who never had the virus may have died from other causes because of the spillover effects of the pandemic, such as delayed medical care, economic hardship or emotional distress.”

The report noted that deaths from causes other than the coronavirus increased markedly in the hardest-hit states in March and April.

D.C. to see fireworks, Blue Angels on Fourth; mayor not celebrating

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host a Salute to America on Independence Day over the objections of Washington, D.C.'s mayor. The event will feature flyovers by the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels and a massive fireworks display that annually draws hundreds of thousands of spectators. The National Mall and surrounding areas will remain open and available to the general public for prime viewing, the Department of the Interior said. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser, however, urged residents to stay at home to avoid fueling spread of COVID-19, which has seen a surge in cases in recent days.

"We've communicated to (Interior) that we do not think this is in keeping with the best CDC and Department of Health guidance," Bowser said. "But this event will take place entirely on the federal property.”

Ethnic slurs on rise since outbreak began

Almost 40% of Asian and African Americans say they’ve had adverse experiences because of their race or ethnicity since the coronavirus outbreak began, according to a study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center released Wednesday. Incidents include hearing slurs or jokes or fearing someone may threaten or physically attack them. Almost 40% of U.S. adults – including 58% of the respondents of Asian descent – said it’s more common for people to express racist views about Asians than before the outbreak, which has been traced to the Chinese city of Wuhan.


Video: Fauci 'Cautiously Optimistic' Covid Vaccine Ready by Beginning of 2021 (Bloomberg)

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“Our community is struggling to cope with COVID-19 xenophobic attacks," said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC. "It is heartbreaking to know that both Asian and Black people have to struggle with the paradox of putting their safety at risk when they are wearing face masks to protect their health.”

Mount Rushmore will host celebration, minus social distancing

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said despite health experts' concerns about a large gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic, people would "not be social distancing" during a July 3 celebration at Mount Rushmore that President Donald Trump will attend. Free masks will be provided to those who choose to wear them, but people concerned about social distancing should stay home, Noem said.

"In South Dakota, we've told people to focus on personal responsibility," Noem told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. "Every one of them has the opportunity to make a decision that they're comfortable with. So, we will be having celebrations of American independence."

William Cummings

Pfizer vaccine shows positive early results

A small and early study of a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine found it raised levels of some protective antibodies more than those antibodies were raised in people who’ve recovered from COVID-19. The results are encouraging but not proof the BNT162b1 candidate vaccine created by the pharmaceutical giant and the German biotech company BioNTech will be effective in preventing coronavirus infections.

The study included 36 people who got the actual vaccine and nine who got placebo shots. The results were from Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials, which test whether a vaccine is safe and at what doses but aren’t meant to prove it is effective in preventing the disease. Some of the volunteers who got the vaccine reported fever, chills, muscle and joint pain after the injection, but the symptoms peaked the day after the injection and resolved within a week.

The findings were published in a preprint paper, which means the results are preliminary and have not undergone the normal peer-review process required for publication in medical or scientific journals. Pfizer said that if the studies are successful and the vaccine candidate receives regulatory approval, the companies expect to manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020.

-- Elizabeth Weise

Where are we in the race for a vaccine? We're one-third of the way there, experts say

WHO leader: 'The worst is yet to come'

The global pandemic is expanding and is "not even close to being over," the leader of the World Health Organization says. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said isolating, testing, tracing and quarantines remain the only way to slow the scourge until a vaccine is widely available. He warned that "the worst is yet to come" and called for greater resilience, patience, humility and generosity in the months ahead.

"We all want this to be over," he said. "We want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over. Although many countries have made some progress, the pandemic is actually speeding up."

'Pooling' could drastically increase testing capacity

Public health officials say a new "pooling" approach for coronavirus testing could dramatically boost U.S. screening capacity by combining test samples in batches instead of running them one by one. If the batches come up negative, individual tests are not needed. But a positive would mean testing each individual sample. The Food and Drug Administration issued guidelines for test makers two weeks ago but has not approved the protocols until they are tested for accuracy.

FDA approval could help stretch laboratory supplies, reduce costs and expand testing to millions more Americans. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, says pooling "would give us the capacity to go from a half-a-million tests per day to potentially 5 million individuals tested per day."

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Companies add 2.4 million jobs as economy restarts amid uncertainty

U.S. companies added nearly 2.4 million jobs in June as the economy struggled to recover amid the unrelenting pandemic, according to a private survey. The payroll company ADP said that small businesses reported the biggest increase, adding 937,000 jobs. Still, the economy remains under pressure amid a new spike in cases across much of the South and West. On Thursday, the government will release the jobs figures for June, projected to show that employers added 3 million jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 12.3%. That would be down a point from May, although both rates are among the highest since the Great Depression.

'Affordability crisis': Pandemic puts squeeze on housing supply

Housing inventory has dropped 29% from a year earlier through the week ending June 20, according to Realtor.com. More than 40% of buyers who purchased their home during the pandemic reported entering into a bidding war on at least one home, according to recent data from Clever Real Estate, which surveyed 1,000 homeowners from May 31 through June 2 who made their purchase between January and May.

Javier Vivas, director of economic research for Realtor.com, said low mortgage rates have made buying a home attractive – if you can find one. “Housing demand has increased beyond expectations," he said. "When you combine that with historically low levels of inventory, it’s a perfect storm for increased competition and an affordability crisis.” 

Jessica Menton

What we're reading

PPE shortage still an issue as cases rise

Physicians and nurses still face a dearth of supplies as coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide. Nearly 45% of those surveyed by the American Nurses Association said they experienced protective gear shortages as late as May 31. Almost 80% said their employers encouraged or required them to reuse disposable equipment. 

The USA TODAY Network analyzed dozens of government reports and interviewed more than 50 experts — including health care administrators, traders and lawmakers — about the PPE shortages, especially the disposable masks that cost anywhere from a few pennies to a dollar. 

“The magnitude and speed of the spread of coronavirus just overwhelmed the entire supply chain from A to Z,” said Mike Crotty, an Ohio-born, Shanghai textile broker with more than 35 years in the business. “It was a madhouse.”

Dinah Voyles Pulver, Katie Wedell and Erin Mansfield

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Mike Pence visits Phoenix as Arizona grapples with COVID-19 surge

Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Phoenix on Wednesday, continuing his tour of the nation’s new coronavirus hotspots in an effort to calm growing concerns that leaders in Washington and Arizona have bungled their response to the crisis. Pence stepped out of his plane wearing a face mask.

Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, accompanied Pence on his visit to the election battleground state. Amid the growing concerns over the spread of the virus in Arizona, Pence scrapped a planned visit to Yuma and a campaign event in Tucson. Pence and Birx met with Gov. Doug Ducey, public health officials and health care representatives.

The trip to Arizona follows their stop in Dallas on Sunday, where Pence, who chairs the task force, sounded an optimistic note about the battle to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. He sought to assure leaders there that they had the “counsel, the resources, and the support to meet this moment.” 

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic

Lockdown baby boom may be baby bust

Predictions of a possible baby boom as couples nationwide have had an abundance of time together may go bust amid a spike in birth control requests. Digital health clinic Nurx says they've seen a 50% increase in new patient requests for birth control and a 40% increase in emergency contraception requests. The company serves over 250,000 patients. Worth noting: A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women.

"Whether to have a child for the first time or another child ... that’s something people are feeling it isn't the time to explore," said Nurx spokesperson Allison Hoffman.

Adrianna Rodriguez

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Coronavirus Watch: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. And come together and share the latest information about coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.

How do you stay safe on flights during the pandemic? Experts say flying is safer than it was earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic because of airlines' changes, but travelers can take precautions, too. Here's how.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus updates: California reimposes shutdowns; virus death toll may be 35% higher than known in U.S.

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