Coronavirus updates: Pence, asked on soundness of Trump rallies, cites Constitution

narvikk/iStockBy WILLIAM MANSELL, EMILY SHAPIRO and LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 490,000 people worldwide.

Over 9.6 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.

The United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 2.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 124,544 deaths.

Here’s how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:

4:20 p.m.: California county reports shockingly high positivity rate of 23%

San Francisco is temporarily delaying reopenings that were set for Monday due to the rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases in the city and the state.

“I know people are anxious to reopen — I am too,” Mayor London Breed tweeted Friday, but she added, “our reopening process is guided by data and science.”

Across California, the number of hospitalizations and number of ICU patients are on the rise.

Additional resources have been flowing into California’s Imperial County, along the Mexican border, where the positivity rate is at shockingly high 23%.  

Hospitals in Imperial County “are overwhelmed,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Friday.

“Today we’re working with the country to reinstate a stay at home order,” he tweeted. “We have to take this seriously.”

3:40 p.m.: Florida’s coronavirus positivity rate jumps to 13%

Florida’s coronavirus positivity rate has jumped to 13%, according to new numbers from the Florida Department of Health.

The state now has 122,960 total cases, which is an increase of 8,943 cases in one day.

The coronavirus positivity rate on Thursday was 8.9%.

Florida bars can no longer sell alcohol for on-premises drinking, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced Friday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday blamed the increase in testing for the state’s increased number of cases.

DeSantis said the recent increase in percent positivity has been “a lot of community transmission, particularly from the younger demographic.”

But the governor claimed that a statewide mask mandate would “backfire.”

“To put criminal penalties on that is something that would probably backfire,” he said. “We’re going to trust people to make good decisions.”

2:50 p.m.: Philadelphia issues mandatory mask order as cases jump, including in teens

Face masks are now mandatory in Philadelphia as coronavirus cases rise, Mayor Jim Kenney said Friday.

The masks will be required in public spaces and outdoors if you are closer than 6 feet. Children younger than 8 are exempt.

“The rate of positive test results is now 5-6%, up from less than 5% 10 days ago,” Kenney tweeted.

Philadelphia is also seeing a spike in teenagers ages 16 to 19, he said.

The city is moving forward with the reopening of some businesses Friday, including salons, barber shops and spas.

Those who travel to a high-coronavirus areas are being asked to self-quarantine for two weeks when they get back to Philadelphia, the mayor said.

2 p.m.: White House task force holds 1st briefing in 2 months, Pence defends Trump rallies

The White House coronavirus task force held its first briefing on Friday since April 27.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a conference call Friday called it a “loss to the American people” that the White House went two months without a briefing.

“It’s been clear there was no national strategy and leadership,” Cuomo said.

Vice President Mike Pence spent much of the briefing applauding the Trump administration’s efforts and emphasizing how much worse the pandemic could have been without their response.

“We have made a truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward. We’ve all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again,” Pence said.

Pence said he and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, will travel to hotspots states including Arizona, Texas and Florida next week to assist state and local responses.

Pence repeated that all 50 states and territories are reopening but said the focus of Friday’s task force meeting was on new cases across the South.

He said there were 16 states with rising cases and percentages.

“There may be states across the country that are seeing a modest increase in cases. But their percentage of positive raises remain very stable,” Pence said.

Pence said the nation can “take some comfort” knowing that fatalities have decreased from two months ago.

Before Pence delivered a message to younger Americans to do their part to slow the spread, he said it was a “good thing” the U.S. was seeing rising cases in individuals under the age of 35, as opposed to older people who are more at-risk.

When Pence called up Birx to walk through the newest data in the 16 states of concern, she began by urging millennials to get tested.

“Whereas before we told them to stay home, now we are telling them to be tested,” Birx said. “This is a great change for us because it allows us now to find the asymptomatic and the mild diseases that we couldn’t find before.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said at the briefing, “you have an individual responsibility to yourself — but you have a societal responsibility. Because if we want to end this outbreak… we’ve got to realize that we are part of the process.”

While President Donald Trump has railed against China’s response to the virus, Fauci said outbreaks of infectious disease are innately global processes and signaled the world must work together to recover.

“What happened in China affected us. What happened in Europe affected us. What’s happening here, is affecting others. We can’t get away from that,” Fauci said.

Trump, who didn’t appear at the briefing, has tried to declare the coronavirus pandemic “going away” despite the rising numbers. Trump has also resumed campaign rallies, despite warnings from some of the very officials convening on Friday without him.

When asked by ABC News why Trump’s campaign continues to hold rallies, Pence said, “the freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble is enshrined in the Constitution.”

“President Trump and I believe that taking proper steps as we created screening at recent events, and giving people the very best counsel that we have. We still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process,” Pence said.

Asked about how masks — or the decision not to wear one — has become a political statement, Pence would only say he encouraged Americans to follow state and local leaders.

1:35 p.m.: WH task force holds 1st briefing in 2 months, Birx tells millennials to get tested

The White House coronavirus task force held its first briefing on Friday since April 27.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a conference call Friday called it a “loss to the American people” that the White House went two months without a briefing.

“It’s been clear there was no national strategy and leadership,” Cuomo said. 

A somber Vice President Mike Pence opened the briefing by acknowledging rising cases in the U.S. — before ticking through what the administration has achieved in “slowing the spread” through “intervention and mitigation.”

“We have made a truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward. We’ve all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again,” Pence said.

Pence said he and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, will travel to hotspots states including Arizona, Texas and Florida next week to assist state and local responses.

Pence repeated that all 50 states and territories are reopening but said the focus of Friday’s task force meeting was on new cases across the South.

He said there were 16 states with rising cases and percentages.

“There may be states across the country that are seeing a modest increase in cases. But their percentage of positive raises remain very stable,” Pence said.

Pence said the nation can “take some comfort” knowing that fatalities have decreased from two months ago.

Before Pence delivered a message to younger Americans to do their part to slow the spread, he said it was a “good thing” the U.S. was seeing rising cases in individuals under the age of 35, as opposed to older people who are more at-risk.

When Pence called up Birx to walk through the newest data in the 16 states of concern, she began by urging millennials to get tested.

“Whereas before we told them to stay home, now we are telling them to be tested,” Birx said. “This is a great change for us because it allows us now to find the asymptomatic and the mild diseases that we couldn’t find before.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said at the briefing, “you have an individual responsibility to yourself — but you have a societal responsibility. Because if we want to end this outbreak… we’ve got to realize that we are part of the process.”

While President Donald Trump has railed against China’s response to the virus, Fauci said outbreaks of infectious disease are innately global processes and signaled the world must work together to recover.

“What happened in China affected us. What happened in Europe affected us. What’s happening here, is affecting others. We can’t get away from that,” Fauci said.

Trump, who didn’t appear at the briefing, has tried to declare the coronavirus pandemic “going away” despite the rising numbers. Trump has also resumed campaign rallies, despite warnings from some of the very officials convening on Friday without him.

12:35 p.m.: Texas’ Harris County ‘careening toward disaster’

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order limiting certain businesses as the state’s positivity rate soared above 10%.

All bars that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from alcohol sales must close at noon on Friday. They can stay open for delivery and takeout, including alcohol, Abbott said.

Restaurants must limit indoor dine-in service to 50% capacity beginning on Monday, he said.

Rafting and tubing businesses must shut down, he said.

Outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people must get approval from local governments, he added.

“As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a statement.

“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” he said. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health. We want this to be as limited in duration as possible.”

In Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, “we are careening toward disaster,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo warned at a news conference Friday.

Since June 13, patients in Harris County have doubled, she said.

Hidalgo begged people to stay home and only go out for essential services.

“Our situation today is far worse today then it was when this began,” she said. “For those of you across the nation who are watching us consider us the canary in the coal mine, watch what is happening here and learn.”

12:20 p.m.: Fauci says task force having ‘intense discussion’ on pool testing

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said the White House coronavirus task force is having “intense discussions” and is “seriously considering” pool testing for COVID-19.

“Something’s not working,” Fauci said of the current approach in an interview with the Washington Post Thursday night. “I mean, you can do all the diagramming you want, but something is not working.”

In pool testing, several samples are mixed together into a “pool” and then tested at once. If the virus is not detected, all patients in the batch can be deemed negative. If it comes back positive, each sample is then tested individually.

“What you need to do is find the penetration of infected people in your society,” Fauci said. “And the only way you know that is by casting a broad net.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, also said it’s a way to ramp up testing as cases spike across the country.

“Pooling would give us the capacity to go from a half a million tests a day to potentially five million individuals tested per day,” Birx told an American Society for Microbiology virtual conference this week.

12 p.m.: Florida’s coronavirus positivity rate jumps to 13%

Florida’s coronavirus positivity rate has jumped to 13%, according to new numbers from the Florida Department of Health.

The state now has 122,960 total cases, which is an increase of 8,943 cases in one day.

The coronavirus positivity rate on Thursday was 8.9%.

Florida bars can no longer sell alcohol for on-premises drinking, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced Friday.

 

Effective immediately, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is suspending on premises consumption of alcohol at bars statewide.

— Florida DBPR (@FloridaDBPR) June 26, 2020

 

11:15 a.m.: 16 NBA players test positive

The NBA has tested 302 players for the coronavirus and 16 players have tested positive, the NBA said Friday.

“Any player who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until he satisfies public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and has been cleared by a physician,” the NBA said in a statement.  

The NBA plans to resume its season with 22 teams on July 31 at the Disney complex in Florida.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

11 a.m.: ‘If we’re not careful, Mississippi will look like New York,’ officials warn

Officials with the Mississippi Health Department took to Facebook on Thursday to warn of an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state.

State epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers attributed most of the recent uptick to “broad community transmission.”

The department said it traced recent cases back to parties, barbecues and other social events where people gathered without masks.

State health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said the spike in coronavirus cases cannot be due to an increase in testing, because total testing has gone down.

The officials warned that this surge is just the beginning if residents don’t take it more seriously.

“If we’re not careful, Mississippi will look like New York,” Dobbs said.

10:30 a.m.: NYC plans for indoor dining in phase 3 of reopening

New York City is on track to begin phase 3 of reopening on Monday, July 6 — which will include nail salons, massage parlors and access to city basketball and tennis courts.

Indoor dining can resume in phase 3 at 50% capacity, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.

The city is working to expand restaurant outdoor seating to city streets.

To help keep employees and customers safe, 2.5 million face coverings will be distributed during phase 3, city officials said.

The city is also working with businesses owners regarding “sneeze guards,” PPE and other equipment.

10:15 a.m.: Texas limits restaurants, closes bars as cases rise

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order limiting certain businesses as the state’s positivity rate soared above 10%.

All bars that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from alcohol sales must close at noon on Friday. They can stay open for delivery and takeout, including alcohol, Abbott said.

Restaurants must limit indoor dine-in service to 50% capacity beginning on Monday, he said.

Rafting and tubing businesses must shut down, he said.

Outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people must get approval from local governments, he added.

“As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a statement.

“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” he said. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health. We want this to be as limited in duration as possible.”

9:30 a.m.: New Mexico’s phase 2 reopening on hold

New Mexico’s phase 2 of reopening will be on hold as the state evaluates the “alarming sustained rise in cases nationally.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday that New Mexico needs another week before deciding on more reopenings and if the mass gathering limit can be raised.

“The last thing anyone wants to do is revert back to more closures in an emergency to protect public health,” the governor said in a statement. “New Mexico’s priority remains testing widely and isolating positive cases … rising cases levels will threaten reopenings, including for public schools in the fall. It is more important than ever to wear a mask and avoid groups.”

New Mexico has over 11,000 diagnosed cases and at least 485 fatalities.

Grisham said anyone traveling to New Mexico by car should self-isolate for two weeks when they arrive.

9 a.m.: American Airlines will sell all seats on flights starting July 1, joining United

As travel ramps up, American Airlines says it will book flights to capacity beginning July 1.

“American will continue to notify customers and allow them to move to more open flights when available, all without incurring any cost,” the airline said in a statement. “This is in addition to the airline’s current travel waivers.”

United is already booking flights to capacity.

“We do not block middle and/or adjacent seats,” the airline said. “If we expect a flight to be more full we reach out to our customers in advance to let them know and provide rebooking options. So far very few customers have rebooked.”

5:30 a.m.: Alabama coronavirus cases soar

The number of COVID-19 cases in the state of Alabama continues to soar, which means the number of available ICU beds is dwindling.

In a Federal Emergency Management Agency memo obtained by ABC News, hospitals in Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham are now transferring patients from facility to facility because they are running out of ICU beds.

In fact, 82% of Alabama’s ICU beds are now full, according to Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association. He tells ABC News affiliate WBMA-TV that there are only 289 beds available in the state.

Jeanne Marrazzo, director, Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama Birmingham, told the station that she worries what July will look like for the state.

“If we are seeing this very big peak in cases right now, the hospitalization and death rates as we know, typically lag two to two and a half to three cases behind those case reports,” Marrazzo said.

Alabama has more than 33,000 diagnosed cased of COVID-19 with at least 896 deaths. Just this week, it set a daily record with 1,100 new coronavirus cases.

The concerning rise in cases it’s exclusive to Alabama. It’s just one of 15 states that have set a daily COVID-19 case record in the past week. The other states are Texas, Montana, Nevada, Mississippi, Missouri, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, California, Arizona, Idaho, Georgia, Utah and Tennessee.

There are now also 23 states with rising COVID-19 hospitalization rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Powered by WPeMatico