- U.S. heads into July 4 holiday weekend after days of record cases.
- Australian authorities consider locking down more Melbourne suburbs.
- Mandating masks will help will convince more Canadians to wear them, physicians say.
- Atlantic bubble opens, allowing travellers from within the four provinces to cross borders.
After days of record spikes in new COVID-19 cases and hospitals warning they could run out of beds, U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House sought to convey that all was well in the battle against the coronavirus and touted efforts to get the U.S. economy moving again.
Coronavirus cases are rising in 37 out of 50 states, with Florida reporting more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the biggest one-day increase in the state since the pandemic started. That followed a spike in the number of cases nationwide to nearly 50,000 on Wednesday, the fourth record rise in infections in the last seven days.
The United States has now reported more than 128,000 coronavirus-related deaths, nearly a quarter of the global total.
The rising number of cases follows moves in many states to allow businesses to lift strict shutdowns, which have boosted job growth but also appear to have accelerated the spread of the virus as people returned to restaurants, bars and retail businesses.
As the wave of new cases accelerates, some states have paused or scaled back their reopenings, while closing beaches and cancelling fireworks displays over the upcoming U.S. Independence Day weekend.
Still, a Labour Department report out Thursday showed the window of reopenings had a dramatic impact on hiring, with the U.S. creating jobs at a record clip in June.
“Today’s announcement proves that our economy is roaring back,” Trump told reporters at the White House, while touting his administration’s efforts to beat back the virus as “a historic thing.”
WATCH | U.S. records biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases:
The data showing a gain of 4.8 million jobs does not reflect that governors of states hit hardest by new infections have halted or reversed moves to reopen in recent days.
The latest batch of high-frequency data assembled by Federal Reserve officials, economists, cellphone tracking companies, and employee time management firms suggests economic activity stalled in recent days.
“More than ever, we’re concerned about the worsening health situation and its impact on the burgeoning recovery. Rebounding mobility and poor use of protective equipment will make for a dangerous summer cocktail,” Oxford Economics analyst Gregory Daco wrote.
Employment remains 14.7 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.
A strong economy is an important plank of Trump’s campaign for re-election in November. Joe Biden, his expected Democratic opponent, slammed Trump’s comments on Thursday.
“Quit claiming victory with almost 15 million Americans still out of work because of the crisis. Quit ignoring the reality of this pandemic and the horrifying loss of American life,” Biden said in a speech. “Act. Lead. Or get out of the way so others can, Mr. President.”
Asked if the White House regretted encouraging states to reopen quickly, and if the move had backfired, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “Absolutely not…. There is a safe way to reopen the economy and we are going to do that carefully.”
Several states have reported record increases in new cases in the past week, including Arizona, Alaska, Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas.
Parts of Texas and Arizona are running out of available intensive care hospital beds, officials have said.
What’s happening with COVID-19 in Canada
As of 6 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 104,772 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 68,347 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,690.
The Atlantic bubble starts Friday, allowing travellers from within the four provinces to cross borders without having to self-isolate for 14 days. Each province has its own set of rules for visitors.
Travellers within the Atlantic provinces will not be required to self-isolate after crossing the borders. However, public health and proof of residency screening — showing a driver’s licence or health card — will be maintained at points of entry.
Visitors from other Canadian provinces and territories must adhere to the local entry requirements in place in each of the four jurisdictions. Other Canadian visitors to the Maritime provinces who have self-isolated for 14 days may travel within the region, but not to Newfoundland and Labrador, said P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.
As of Friday, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are the only Atlantic provinces with active cases, both currently having three, with N.S. recording two new cases this week.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
South Africa on Friday confirmed another record high number of daily virus cases with 8,728 as anxiety grows in Johannesburg, the country’s latest hot spot.
The city has more than 22,000 cases and Gauteng province, which also includes the capital, Pretoria, now has nearly 30 per cent of the country’s cases.
South Africa has Africa’s most confirmed cases with more than 168,000.
The country has the most developed health-care system in sub-Saharan Africa and in places it’s already pushed near the limit, with more than 2,000 health-care workers infected and beds in Gauteng’s public hospitals filling up.
Australian authorities are considering locking down more suburbs in Melbourne, where 66 new coronavirus cases were reported.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said suburbs with more than five cases and a high infection rate could be added to the 36 suburbs that have been locked down since Wednesday.
Sydney, Australia’s largest city, said a man who recently tested positive had been working in a Balmain supermarket.
Around 50 supermarket staff have gone into isolation. Health authorities have urged people who have visited the supermarket and show symptoms to be tested.
In the United States, Texas Republicans are moving ahead with a three-day convention in Houston, one of the nation’s coronavirus hot spots, over opposition from doctors and some local party activists.
Party leaders voted Thursday night to stick with an in-person gathering starting July 16. The event is typically one of the largest political conventions in the country, drawing thousands of attendees, and some supporters suggested that changing plans is not what Trump would want.
The vote came hours after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask order as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas set another high Thursday. Hospitals in Houston have warned they are becoming stretched and the Texas Medical Association has called for cancelling the convention, saying now is not the time to pack thousands of people indoors.
South Korea has reported 63 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to mobilize public health tools to the southwestern city of Gwangju, where more than 50 people were found sickened over the past week.
The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought the national caseload to 12,967 infections, including 282 deaths.
Thirty-one of the new cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the centre of a virus resurgence since late May.
Six of the new cases came from Gwangju, where officials have raised concern over possible shortages in hospital capacities, while 13 of them came from the southeastern city of Daegu, which had been the epicentre of a major outbreak in February and March.
The municipal government of Gwangju, which had one of the smallest caseloads among major South Korean cities before this week, has shut hundreds of schools and banned gatherings at wedding halls, banquet facilities and senior welfare centres to stem the transmissions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un urged officials to maintain alertness against the coronavirus, warning that complacency risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media said Friday.
Despite the warning, Kim reaffirmed North Korea’s claim to not have had a single case of COVID-19, telling a ruling party meeting Thursday that the country has “thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus” despite the worldwide health crisis.
Outsiders widely doubt North Korea escaped the pandemic entirely.
Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with symptoms. Experts say the country’s self-imposed quarantine is hurting an economy already battered by stringent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.