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Your Thursday Update: U.S. Reports 50,000 New Coronavirus Cases in a Day, Closing Bars is Backed by Science, Parents and Teachers Debate How to Reopen Schools, Orange County Leaders Say Another Shelter-In-Place Order Unlikely

Photo: CDC @cdc
Photo: CDC @cdc

Drive-through naturalizations make new U.S. citizens in the COVID-19 era

Max Rivlin-Nadler, NPR

In El Cajon, Calif., a procession of cars carrying 600 soon-to-be U.S. citizens from 68 countries passed through a series of stations behind a local community center earlier this week, where they were asked a series of final questions: "Any coronavirus symptoms? Have you been arrested since your interview? No tickets, nothing like that?"

After that, they were asked to surrender their green card and given a small American flag. Driving a little farther forward, an immigration officer wearing a face cover administered the oath of allegiance, 6 feet from the car's window. And in a matter of minutes, years of uncertainty were over — hundreds of people became U.S. citizens over the course of the day.

When the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on naturalization ceremonies in March, it left a backlog of thousands of people who had qualified to become citizens but hadn't been able to officially swear an oath of allegiance — the final step in the often years-long process.

To try to clear the backlog as quickly and safely as possible, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services put together a series of naturalization drive-throughs, where prospective citizens could take the final step toward citizenship, all without leaving their cars.

Prior to the shutdown, the greater San Diego area held its monthly naturalization ceremonies at Golden Hall, a giant venue in downtown San Diego which fits thousands of people. During the coronavirus pandemic, it's been converted to a homeless shelter.

"Whoo-whoo!" Belinda Rodriguez shouts in a parking spot, just moments after becoming a citizen.

Read the full article here.

Another unwanted U.S. record: 50,000 new coronavirus cases in a day

Mark Katkov, NPR

In a grim accounting of the coronavirus' progress in the United States, another milestone was reached Wednesday: more than 50,000 new cases reported in a single day.

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine's Coronavirus Resource Center, which tracks the virus worldwide, says the total number of cases reported in the U.S. stands at 2,686,480, an increase over Tuesday's figure of 50,700. Deaths attributed to the coronavirus stand at 128,062.

Brazil is ranked second in the world behind the United States, with 1,448,753 cases and 60,632 deaths.

In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, predicted the number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. could soon reach 100,000 per day.

Fauci drew an unfavorable comparison between U.S. and European efforts to control the spread of the virus, noting up to 95% of Europeans were at some point on lockdown compared to 50% of Americans.

In an interview Wednesday with Mary Louise Kelly on NPR's All Things Considered, Fauci conceded the federal government's inconsistent early guidance on whether to wear face masks was "detrimental" to containing the virus.

Read the full article here.

Closing bars to stop coronavirus spread is backed by science

The Associated Press

Authorities are closing honky tonks, bars and other drinking establishments in some parts of the U.S. to stem the surge of COVID-19 infections.

Experts agree there’s sound science behind the move.

Clusters of cases have been linked to bars, including a Michigan outbreak now involving nearly 140 people in 12 counties.

The coronavirus spreads more easily in closed, crowded spaces with poor ventilation and where there are close-range conversations.

Natalie Dean is an infectious diseases expert at the University of Florida. She says alcohol also lowers inhibitions, so people forget precautions.

Parents and teachers share their opinions on school district's reopening plan

Natalia Clement, WLRN
At the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board meeting Wednesday, parents and teachers submitted written comments on the district’s plan to reopen schools in August. The school board’s plan provides multiple options, including fully in-person, online only and a combination of both. After the presentation, the board’s secretary read public comments. Some parents, like Nicky Dueñas, were vocal about not wanting to expose their children. “My child is not your test rat to run a trial to see if things will go back to normal if they are placed back in schools," Dueñas said. One teacher, identified as Mary, but whose last name was unintelligible, says the board should make a decision based on everyone’s health, not on the fact that some parents want schools open for babysitting. Mureen Philistine requested accommodations for teachers who don’t feel comfortable returning to campuses. She wants online learning to continue until January, when a vaccine may be available. “As a parent I appreciate giving a choice, but as an educator I feel neglected and under appreciated as I have not seen consideration given to … how all of this can affect us and our families," Philistine said. Many of the commentators shared anxiety over the uncertainty of education. The board approved the reopening plan, but parents should expect more details by the end of July.

Orange County leaders say another shelter-in-place order is unlikely as the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida surges

Amy Green, WMFE

Dr. Raul Pino of the Department of Health in Orange County says the shelter-in-place order would have to last at least six weeks and that case numbers only would rise again afterward. 

He says the best strategy is to learn to live with the coronavirus by wearing masks, washing hands and adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

Pino says he is encouraged by recent data that he says shows an Orange County mandate requiring residents to wear masks in public may be working. 

Florida has reported more COVID-19 cases during the past seven days than any other state. The state is followed by California, Texas and Arizona. 

The Orange County Convention Center is Florida’s top testing site.

The mask debate is over; Fauci on mandates, vaccine skepticism

Consider This, NPR

As Arizona hits new records of coronavirus cases and deaths, the state announced they will pause their reopening plans.

More and more Republicans are speaking up in support of face masks. Even Vice President Mike Pence has been wearing one in public lately.

Dr. Anthony Fauci tells NPR the coronavirus surges we're seeing now are partly the result of too few people wearing masks. Fauci said it's especially hard to explain the risk to young people, because the virus has such a broad range of severity.

Plus, a group of scientists who wanted to make it easier to track the virus in your community created an online risk assessment map. NPR's Allison Aubrey and Carmel Wroth reported on the new tool.

Fauci: Mixed messaging on masks set U.S. public health response back

Jason Breslow, NPR

While conceding missteps in the federal response to the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday it is not too late to avoid the dire picture he outlined in congressional testimony of 100,000 coronavirus cases a day.

The nation's leading infectious disease experts said the conflicting advice offered by federal leaders around face masks in the early days of the pandemic helped sow distrust and continues to hamper the government's ability to slow the outbreak.

"We have to admit it, that that mixed message in the beginning, even though it was well meant to allow masks to be available for health workers, that was detrimental in getting the message across," Fauci said in an interview with Mary Louise Kelly of NPR's All Things Considered. "No doubt about it."

Despite the overwhelming consensus among public health experts that face masks can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, face coverings have become a partisan issue, something critics of the federal response have blamed on what they say has been a confusing back-and-forth on the issue from the Trump administration.

Read the full article here.

Pennsylvania joins the growing list of states mandating face masks in public

Rachel Treisman, NPR

Pennsylvania officials announced Wednesday that residents must wear face coverings when outside the home, the latest in a series of mask mandates in various states to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The Pennsylvania order takes effect immediately and builds on an April directive requiring masks to be worn inside businesses. Gov. Tom Wolf called the expanded measure essential to stopping the recent increase in coronavirus cases reported in the state.

"Those hot spots can be traced to situations where Pennsylvanians were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing — two practices that must be adhered to if we want to maintain the freedoms we have in place under our reopening," he said.

Pennsylvania is not the only state to make such an announcement in recent days.

On Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that a mandate requiring face coverings in indoor public spaces that previously applied only to certain counties would take effect statewide Wednesday. And in Kansas, masks must be worn in indoor public spaces as well as in outdoor settings where social distancing cannot be maintained, starting Friday.

"Wearing a mask is not only safe — but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown," Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said.

The growing list of states with universal mask mandates includes North CarolinaCaliforniaNevadaRhode IslandNew YorkDelawareConnecticutNew MexicoIllinois and Washington.

Read the full article here.

House follows Senate in passing extension of COVID-19 business loans

Scott Neuman, NPR

House members unanimously passed an extension of the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program, aimed at helping small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The voice vote came a day after the Senate approved the measure.

The PPP had expired Tuesday at midnight. If President Trump signs the extension, the program will operate through Aug. 8.

The program was created as part of the original $3 trillion package of economic pandemic relief measures that passed Congress in March. The forgivable loans, doled out by the Small Business Administration, are meant to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll despite lockdowns and a general downturn in business as a result of the coronavirus.

There was a scramble to claim the first round, amounting to $349 billion, which was exhausted in just 13 days. A second round of $310 billion has not been fully spent.

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested the remaining $140 billion in loans under the program could be repurposed to aid restaurants, hotels and other industries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The extension passed by Congress is aimed at keeping the spigot open while lawmakers mull reworking the program.

A user's guide to masks: What's best at protecting others (and yourself)

Maria Godoy, NPR

So you want to wear a face mask? Good call.

A growingbody of evidencesupports the idea that wearing face masks in public, even when you feel well, can help curb the spread of the coronavirus — since people can spread the virus even without showing symptoms. That's the main reason to wear a mask: to protect other people from you.

Face masks can also offer the wearer some protection — though how much varies greatly, depending on the type of mask. No mask will offer full protection, and they should not be viewed as a replacement for physical distancing of at least 6 feet from others, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowds. When you combine masks with those measures, they can make a big difference.

But what kind of mask is best?

When choosing a mask, experts say focus on the fabric, fit and breathability. How well a mask protects is a function of both what it's made of and how well it seals to your face. But if you can't breathe well through it, then you're less likely to keep it on.

Read the full article here.

Anxiety during the pandemic can be overwhelming. Here's a mindfulness tool that works

Life Kit, NPR

We all need strategies to push back against conflict, anger and worry.

Tara Brach distills the practice of mindfulness into a simple 4-step tool from her book Radical Compassion.

This daily practice can help you show up for 'life' – and let go of regret and anxiety.

Six FC Dallas players test positive for COVID-19 in Florida

The Associated Press

Six players with FC Dallas have tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire team has been quarantined ahead of the MLS Is Back tournament.

The club confirmed in a statement Wednesday that the players tested positive upon arrival in Florida for the monthlong tournament starting next week.

The team said all players and staff tested negative for coronavirus before leaving for the tournament on Saturday. Upon arrival, two players tested positive.

Four more positive tests were uncovered in subsequent testing.

4th of July celebrations continue across Tampa Bay

Alysia Cruz, WUSF
As the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise in Florida, many communities have cancelled their Fourth of July fireworks displays. One park in Sarasota is doing things a little differently. Every year on July third, Nathan Benderson Park hosts Fireworks on the Lake, with live bands, a four-mile race, and other family activities. Stephen Rodriguez, CEO of the park’s management company, said this year the event will look very different. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the fireworks display will be drive-in only and each lot will be at fifty percent capacity to control social distancing. "Please just follow the rules. It's not just for yourself, but it's for everybody else around you. So wear a mask and stay in your area. And let's keep this a fun and safe evening. And again, remember that we're here celebrating our nation's independence," Rodriguez said. He encouraged people to plan ahead as parking passes are for presale only.

As COVID-19 spreads across South Florida, contact tracers are in high demand

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN
Contact tracing is like detective work that helps contain COVID-19. When someone tests positive, a contact tracer starts an investigation to find out who was within close distance of this new case. Those people should self-isolate. Counties depend on the state’s department of health for contact tracing, but some want to do more at the local level.

Broward County has recently added 150 of its own contact tracers. Mayor Dale Holness says as positive cases grow: "We'll definitely look to see whether or not we can invest more money into getting additional tracers. It's a, it's a very important part of the process of stopping the spread of this pandemic," Holness said. Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava says she wants her county to add its own, too, rather than depend only on the state. "It's taken us March, April, May, you know, almost four months to move this forward, during which time the disease has been spreading rampantly throughout the county," Levine Cava said. The Florida Health Department tells WLRN it has 500 full-time epidemiologists plus hundreds of others doing this work temporarily. It’s hiring more remote workers through MAXIMUS — a company based in Tamarac. Marta Lopez is a professor at Miami-Dade College who teaches contact tracing courses. "We would need contact tracers that also speak Spanish and they are able to communicate better with the people and therefore gather more of the very critical information that we need," Lopez said. Lopez says if the state needs locals, she knows plenty of students eager for work.

Inflation, Deflation

Planet Money, NPR Tens of millions of people are out of work. The government is pumping trillions of dollars into the economy. Suddenly, economists are worried about both inflation (rising prices) and deflation (falling prices). Today on the show: why deflation and high inflation are both really bad. And what signs to watch to see if one or the other is gonna come get us.

Tallahassee Museum to hold scaled-back 'Swamp Stomp'

Tom Flanigan, WFSU
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the Tallahassee Museum's Pioneer Breakfast along with the Jazz and Blues Festival this year. But the museum's Swamp Stomp will be held later this month with special steps taken to keep everyone safe. The museum's Kerri Whitfield says it just wouldn't be summer in Tallahassee without this particular happening. "Swamp Stomp, this is our 42nd year. We've got quite a history with the community in order to provide fun events like this one," Whitfield said. And to keep Swamp Stomp fun, even in the midst of the coronavirus, Whitfield says both the admission and musical lineup will be limited. "We're encouraging advance ticket sales. We'll actually be marking different seating areas. We'll have ushers greeting ticket holders as they arrive and guide them to a specific seating area," Whitfield said. Of course social distancing and mask-wearing will be necessary. Six of the area's top musical groups and solo acts will be featured, all happening at the Tallahassee Museum, Saturday, July eleventh. Like what you just read? Check out our other  coronavirus coverage.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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