- U.S. death toll, unemployment figures creep upwards.
- Republicans ready to put forth latest U.S. coronavirus aid package after bickering.
- B.C. puts new rules on restaurants, bars, nightclubs amid rising coronavirus numbers.
- Bolivia first responders clear hundreds of bodies in recent days in La Paz, Santa Cruz.
- Tokyo dealing with rise in cases as a long weekend approaches.
- South Africa excess death study reveals toll of coronavirus.
U.S. coronavirus cases topped four million on Thursday, with more than 2,600 new cases every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.
Infections in the United States have rapidly accelerated since the first case was detected on Jan. 21. It took the country 98 days to reach one million cases. It took another 43 days to reach two million and then 27 days to reach three million. It has only taken 16 days to reach four million, at a rate of 43 new cases a minute.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published earlier this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said that based on antibody tests, total case numbers between March and May were likely multiples higher than the official count.
U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus rose by more than 1,100 for a second day in a row on Wednesday, including a record one-day rise in fatalities in Alabama, California, Nevada and Texas.
Florida on Thursday reported a record one-day increase in deaths from COVID-19, with 173 lives lost, for a cumulative total of 5,632 deaths. It was the fifth straight day of rising casualties.
In Texas, one hard-hit county is storing bodies in refrigerated trucks after COVID-19 deaths doubled in the span of a week. Hidalgo County, at the southern tip of the state on the U.S. border with Mexico, has seen cases rise 60 per cent in the last week, according to a Reuters tally, with deaths doubling to more than 360.
WATCH | Masks all school day for children may be ‘practically impossible’:
Meanwhile, debate in the United States over restarting education has intensified, even as the pandemic flares up in dozens of states.
Donald Trump’s administration has aggressively pushed for states and school districts to return to in-person instruction for the fall semester. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in an interview last week with a conservative radio show, made the false claim that “kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don’t get it or transmit it themselves.”
Trump will discuss a strategy to reopen the nation’s schools at a briefing late Thursday afternoon, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News in an interview.
The CDC is expected to issue additional guidelines on how schools can safely reopen as early as this week.
The head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program on Wednesday cautioned schools to be careful about reopening until community transmission of the coronavirus is under control.
“We have to do everything possible to bring our children back to school, and the most effective thing we can do is to stop the disease in our community,” Mike Ryan said. “Because if you control the disease in the community, you can open the schools.”
In Washington, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is set to unveil a $1 trillion US COVID-19 rescue package on Thursday, pushing past an inner-party revolt over big spending and differences with the White House as the virus crisis worsens.
The package, called CARES II, is made up of separate bills from 10 senators as McConnell seeks to replicate an earlier strategy to launch negotiations with Democrats. But the path will be tougher this time. GOP senators and President Donald Trump are at odds over priorities, and Democrats say it’s not nearly enough to stem the health crisis, reopen schools and extend aid to jobless Americans.
The urgency to get a deal done was illustrated by the latest unemployment figures. For an 18th consecutive week, jobless claims exceeded one million, according to the latest U.S. Labour Department release on Thursday.
The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits actually rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March, to 1.4 million. The previous week’s total was 1.3 million.
An additional 975,000 applied for jobless aid under a separate program that has made self-employed and gig workers eligible for the first time. That figure isn’t adjusted for seasonal trends, so it’s reported separately.
In a video released Thursday by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign, Biden and former president Barack Obama discuss the challenges the U.S. faces with respect to public health and the economy.
“If you want the economy growing again, people have to feel safe,” said Obama.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada has seen 112,485 confirmed coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 98,425 of those as recovered or resolved and a total of 5,156 still active. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates that 8,904 Canadians have died.
In Ontario, a new study released Wednesday said that for-profit long-term care homes in the province saw significantly worse outbreaks of COVID-19 and more related deaths than their non-profit or municipally run counterparts.
The paper in the peer-reviewed Canadian Medical Association Journal raises questions about the ownership status of nursing homes, a factor the association that speaks for the facilities said last year had no impact on quality of care.
WATCH | B.C. tightens some restaurant rules but not all servers wear masks:
In British Columbia, new measures will be introduced at restaurants, bars and nightclubs amid rising COVID-19 numbers. Thirty-four new cases were announced in the province on Wednesday, bringing its total to 3,362. No new deaths were announced.
What’s happening in the rest of the world
The city of Tokyo announced a record 366 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, exceeding 300 for the first time as Japan begins a four-day weekend with many people joining a tourism promotion campaign that the government is pushing despite concerns of a new wave of infections nationwide.
The number of daily cases in Tokyo had fallen to just a small number in late May after the government ended a national state of emergency but have climbed steadily since late June, with the number tripling in the first three weeks of July.
WATCH l Upcoming sports launches will provide lessons for Olympics:
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has asked residents to stay home as much as possible during the long weekend, even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has gone ahead with a “Go To” tourism promotion campaign that excludes Tokyo for now to help the badly hit tourism industry.
Until recently, officials have said most cases were limited to younger people linked to nightlife entertainment districts, but experts at a Tokyo task force meeting on Wednesday said infections have spread to older people and to regular homes, workplaces and restaurants.
Tokyo, which earlier allocated 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients, has asked hospitals to secure up to 2,800 beds, but preparations are taking time and beds are filling up quickly. Koike said the city is also in the process of securing hotel rooms for less sick patients.
The city would have been hosting the Summer Olympics beginning Friday, but the global competition was scrapped for 2020 months ago. Hopes the Games can take place in 2021 are questionable.
WATCH | ‘COVID long-haulers’ — Tracking small number whose symptoms persist:
South Africa witnessed some 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes, or 59 per cent more than would normally be expected, between early May and mid-July, scientists said, suggesting many more people are dying of COVID-19 than shown in official figures.
New data by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), released overnight, showed that just in the week to July 14 — the latest figures available — there was an excess of 5,022 deaths by natural causes, about half more than usual.
The council’s data showed that of the 17,090 extra deaths, 11,175 were people over the age of 60, a telltale sign of COVID-19, which is overwhelmingly more deadly for older people.
Africa’s most industrialized nation is in the middle of a runaway epidemic of the coronavirus, with cases increasing by more than 10,000 a day and the current total just shy of 400,000. But its recorded death toll has so far been low, at 5,940 deaths, or less than 1.5 per cent of cases.
Police in Bolivia said this week they recovered 420 bodies from various locations in La Paz and in Santa Cruz, in the span of five days. Between 80 and 90 per cent of them are believed to have had the virus.
Bolivia has reported nearly 2,300 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, although the real number is believed to be higher. Cesar Salinas, the president of the Bolivian soccer federation, was among the dead. Interim President Jeanine Anez tested positive and says she is recuperating in quarantine.
The interim Bolivian government says the peak of the outbreak is not expected until August, putting into a question whether a necessary election after a controversial vote last year can be held in early September, as planned.
The government in Chile is letting its elderly out of the house after a four-month ban on people 75 and older in public.
The government says the elderly will be allowed to leave their homes just for an hour three times a week.
The age-based restriction was one of the strictest, though it’s not clear how much it helped. The South American nation’s hospital critical care units remain 82 per cent occupied.
The country of 19 million has recorded 336,000 confirmed infections of the coronavirus and 8,700 deaths.
Worldwide, more than 15.3 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus and 627,021 have died, according to a Reuters tally.