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US tops 3 million Covid-19 cases as Trump pushes for schools to reopen

The virus is surging in several southern hotspots including Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Arizona.
Jul 8th 2020, 6:53 PM 18,991 91

THE UNITED STATES has passed another grim coronavirus milestone with three million confirmed cases, as President Donald Trump downplayed the risks posed by the pandemic and pushed for schools to fully reopen.

The coronavirus is surging in several southern hotspots including Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Arizona, while it has almost entirely receded from its former epicentre in New York and the north-east.

Johns Hopkins University put the total at 3,009,611, in its real-time tally of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

“At this point, we have tested more than 39 million Americans,” US Vice President Mike Pence told reporters. 

“Among those, more than three million Americans have tested positive and more than 1.3 million Americans have recovered.”

But he added there were now early indications the worst-hit zones were reaching a turning point, with the percentage of positive tests starting to flatten and emergency room statistics falling.

In a sign of the White House’s shift on the matter, Pence himself came to the briefing wearing a cloth mask, which he had avoided until now.

Face coverings when physical distancing is not possible is now mandatory in 27 of 50 states, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials told AFP.

Paediatricians for reopening  

The briefing, which was held at the Department of Education headquarters, focused heavily on the need for schools to reopen this autumn, a theme pushed by Trump in a morning tweetstorm where he said that several European countries had done so already without facing significant problems.

“Ultimately it’s not a matter of if schools should reopen, it’s simply a matter of how,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “They must fully open, and they must be fully operational.”

“The purpose of CDC’s guidance is, remember it’s guidance, it’s not requirements,” added Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The agency currently has stringent guidelines on conditions schools must meet before allowing students to attend in person, but plans to issue new advice soon.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that the goal of each school district should be having students physically present, emphasising it is important for the social support and emotional development it provides.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said most public schools would be ready to partially reopen in September, with the majority of students to spend two or three days a week in classrooms.

The proposal needs to be approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said he would make a decision in early August.

America is by far the hardest-hit country in the world, with more than 130,000 deaths – even as the fatality rate has fallen from highs seen during the late spring peak.

© – AFP 2020

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