Virus Updates: Republicans, Except Trump, Now Push Mask-Wearing; Fauci Says Cases Could Top 100K Daily

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Amid an alarming resurgence of coronavirus cases nationwide, leaders in several states are backtracking on reopening plans and ordering residents to wear masks in public.

Arizona, Texas, Florida and California are re-closing beaches and bars in some cases. Governors in Oregon and Kansas announced Monday new face mask requirements statewide while city officials in Jacksonville, Florida, where President Donald Trump plans to accept the Republican nomination in August, said Monday coverings must be worn in "situations where individuals cannot socially distance." Trump has refused to wear a mask during visits to states and businesses that require them.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s postponing the restarting of indoor dining because people have not been wearing face masks or complying with recommendations for social distancing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, nation's top infectious disease expert warned at a Senate hearing Tuesday that coronavirus cases could grow to 100,000 a day in the U.S. if Americans don’t start following public health recommendations.

The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus cases, with more than 2.6 million infections and over 127,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

Republicans, With Exception of Trump, Now Push Mask-Wearing

In Republican circles -- with the notable exception of the man who leads the party -- the debate about masks is over: It’s time to put one on.

As a surge of infections hammers the South and West, GOP officials are pushing back against the notion that masks are about politics, as President Donald Trump suggests, and telling Americans they can help save lives.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, on Tuesday bluntly called on Trump to start wearing a mask, at least some of the time, to set a good example.

"Unfortunately, this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do,” Alexander said.

It’s a rare break for Republicans from Trump, who earlier this month told the Wall Street Journal that some people wear masks simply to show that they disapprove of him. And the Republican nudges for the public -- and the president -- to embrace mask-wearing are coming from all corners of Trump’s party and even from friendly conservative media.

Both Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in recent days have urged Americans to wear one when they are unable to maintain social distance. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, told reporters it would be “very helpful” for Trump to encourage mask usage.

“Put on a mask -- it’s not complicated," McConnell, R-Ky., urged Americans during his weekly news conference Tuesday.

Last week, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted a photo of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a disposable mask and a cowboy hat. She included the message: “Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK #realmenwearmasks,” a hashtag that echoed words spoken earlier by the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

California Travelers Added to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Quarantine Order

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut added eight more states to their quarantine travel advisory on Tuesday, including California, as the nation’s most populous state grapples with a spike in new coronavirus cases, NBC LA reported.

The temporary restrictions call for any traveler arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

The eight states added Tuesday were California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee. They join Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

“As an increasing number of states around the country fight significant community spread, New York is taking action to maintain the precarious safety of its phased, data-driven reopening,‘’ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “We’ve set metrics for community spread just as we’ve set metrics for everything the state does to fight COVID-19, and eight more states have reached the level of spread required to qualify for New York’s travel advisory, meaning we will now require individuals traveling to New York from those states to quarantine for 14 days.”

Cuomo’s office said non-compliance with the quarantine order may be deemed a violation of the state’s public health law and subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

Fauci: US Could Top 100,000 New Cases a Day 'If This Doesn't Turn Around'

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the surge in coronavirus cases shows the U.S. is "going in the wrong direction" and warned that if Americans don't start start following public health recommendations the number of infections could grow to 100,000 a day.

The nation’s leading infectious disease expert made the remark at a Senate hearing on reopening schools and workplaces.

Fauci said about 50% of all new cases are coming from four states: Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. Asked to forecast the outcome of the recent surges, Fauci said he can’t make an accurate prediction but believes it will be “very disturbing.”

“We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned,” said Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.

Fauci said areas seeing recent outbreaks are putting the entire nation at risk, including areas that have made progress in reducing COVID-19 cases. He cited recent video footage of people socializing in crowds, often without masks, and otherwise ignoring safety guidelines.

TSA Casts Doubts on Effectiveness of Passenger Temperature Checks at Airports

Checking temperatures at airports might not be the best way to weed out travelers with Covid-19, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.

TSA and other industry officials urged all travelers to wear masks throughout the airport and on board, but the federal government hasn’t yet made a decision on temperature checks for passengers.

“I know in talking to our medical professionals and talking to the Centers for Disease Control is that temperature checks are not a guarantee that passengers who don’t have an elevated temperature also don’t have Covid-19,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said on a call with reporters. The reverse may also be true, where travelers could have temperatures but not Covid-19.

The aviation industry is grappling with how to keep travelers and employees safe in the pandemic, and ensure that customers feel comfortable flying again. U.S. airlines now require that travelers wear masks on board and have threatened to deny them flights if they don’t comply.

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Fauci Says Bars Are ‘Really Not Good’ for Avoiding COVID-19

Bars are “bad news” for avoiding the coronavirus, according to NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, implored CDC head Dr. Robert Redfield and Fauci to provide specific data about where the risk for infection by the new coronavirus is greatest. What about outdoor reunions? Are planes safe to travel on, he asked.

Outdoors are better than indoors and bars are “really not good,” Fauci said.

“Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news,” Fauci said. “We really gotta stop that.”

Still, Fauci stressed that “some social interaction” outdoors with people wearing masks and observing social distance is OK because “you don’t want to restrict everything.”

“Make public health work for you, instead of against you,” he said.

FDA Head Says ‘We Will Not Cut Corners’ on Vaccine Development

The head of the Food and Drug Administration says vaccine developers will be expected to study COVID-19 shots in racial minorities, the elderly, pregnant women and those with other health conditions.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn outlined the guidelines for potential vaccines at a Senate hearing on reopening schools and workplaces.

Hahn says “while the FDA is committed to help expedite this work, we will not cut corners in our decision-making.”

Acknowledging that some people are "skeptical of vaccine development efforts," Hahn says all phases of development should include "diverse populations," especially the "populations most affected" by coronavirus.

The agency has come under criticism for granting emergency authorization to a malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for coronavirus. The agency revoked that designation earlier this month after studies found the drug was ineffective against the virus.

The U.S. is set to begin a 30,000-person trial of a government-created shot starting next month. Under the Trump administration’s program dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” health officials aim to have 300 million doses on hand by January.

About 15 experimental COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of testing worldwide. There is no guarantee that any will prove effective.

'Substantial Disappointment': Redfield, Fauci Criticize Plans for Full Flights

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, criticized American Airlines over its decision to resume full flights as virus cases spike in parts of the country.

American announced last week that it would resume full flights starting July 1, saying that when flights are full passengers can switch to less crowded ones for free through Sept. 30. The airline said it will ask customers during check-in whether they have been free of COVID-19 symptoms for the past 14 days. The airline also requires masks from passengers and crew.

Previously, American was among those that had left middle seats unbooked to promote physical distancing.

Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said during a Senate hearing Tuesday about the pandemic that Americans are "told over and over again" to stay at least six feet apart but people will soon be seated "inches apart from each other" on planes. He also warned about the prospect of full buses as well. Why hasn't the government issued guidelines banning "violations of what we all know is common sense?" Sanders asked.

Fauci said he was concerned by the move.

"I'm not sure what exactly went into that decision making," he said.

Redfield said there was "substantial disappointment with American Airlines" and "we don't think it's the right message."

"Agencies should tell these companies it's unacceptable and endangering other people," Sanders replied.

In a statement to NBC, American Airlines defended its decision saying the company is "unwavering" in its commitment to the safety and well-being of its customers and team members.

“We have multiple layers of protection in place for those who fly with us, including required face coverings, enhanced cleaning procedures, and a pre-flight COVID-19 symptom checklist — and we’re providing additional flexibility for customers to change their travel plans, as well. We know our customers are placing their trust in us to make every aspect of their journey safe, and we are committed to doing just that,” American Airlines said.

Fauci Warns of 'Tremendous Burden' on Health Care System This Fall

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned at a Senate hearing Tuesday that the U.S. health care system faces a "tremendous burden" this fall if seasonal flu and COVID-19 are circulating together.

"While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time," Fauci testified at a Senate committee hearing. "It is also unclear what impact the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will have on health care and public health systems during the upcoming influenza season. If there is COVID-19 and flu activity at the same time, this could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety."

Fauci also stressed the importance of getting a flu vaccine this season, saying in his opening remarks that avoiding hospitalization by guarding yourself against an influenza infection will help free up scarce medical resources to care for COVID-19 patients.

GOP Sen. Alexander Calls on Trump to Wear a Mask to ‘Help End This Political Debate’

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he would like to see President Donald Trump wear a mask sometimes to signal to his "admirers" that wearing a mask is helpful to slowing down COVID-19.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., opened the Senate hearing he chaired Tuesday by calling for President Donald Trump to wear a mask in public to demonstrate its importance in slowing the spread of the coronavirus to his supporters and ending mask-wearing as a political issue.

Alexander noted that he was not wearing a mask at the moment because he was six-feet away from senators, but would do so on the Senate floor or while walking in hallways.

“People wear masks because CDC has said, ’simple cloth face coverings slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others,’” he said. “Unfortunately, this simple lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says this: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do.”

Alexander added that he has suggested Trump occasionally wear a mask “even though in most cases it’s not necessary for him to do so.”

“The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his lead,” he said. “It would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for this political debate about pro-Trump, anti-Trump masks to continue.” 

S. Dakota Gov. Noem: No Social Distancing at July 3 Celebration With Trump at Mount Rushmore

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says the thousands of people who attend the July 3 celebration for Independence Day at Mount Rushmore with President Donald Trump will not be required to practice social distancing despite an increase in coronavirus cases across the country, NBC News reports.

"We will have a large event at July 3rd. We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we'll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we will not be social distancing," Noem, a Republican, said in an interview Monday night on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle."

Trump is expected to attend the celebration and deliver remarks at the event, a day before the July Fourth holiday. Mount Rushmore is located within a national park in Keystone, S.D. The event will happen amid a surge in coronavirus infections across the U.S., which has caused some states including Texas to pull back on their plans to further reopen.

website detailing information for the July 3 event says that "attendance will be limited" through an online lottery that occurred in June "to around 7,500 participants."

Read the full story here.

Miami Beach Makes Masks Mandatory in Public Spaces

Miami Beach has joined a handful of cities in Miami-Dade County that are making it mandatory for people to wear face masks in public.

City officials say starting Tuesday people in public spaces -- both indoors and outdoors -- will be required to wear face coverings, NBC Miami reported.

Last week, the City of Miami, along with Miami Gardens, Aventura, Hialeah and North Miami Beach, made masks mandatory in public. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not made masks mandatory state-wide during the pandemic.

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Los Angeles County Closes Beaches for Fourth of July Weekend

All Los Angeles County beaches, piers, access points and bike paths will close for the Fourth of July weekend, county officials announced Monday.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lost Hills Station made the announcement via Twitter Monday afternoon.

The total confirmed coronavirus cases hit 100,000 in LA County Monday, NBC Los Angeles reported.

The Associated Press/NBC
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