Texas Up 4.8%; U.S. Cases Climb Fastest This Month: Virus Update
Voters wearing protective masks wait in line to check in at a polling location in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Victor Blue/Bloomberg)

Texas Up 4.8%; U.S. Cases Climb Fastest This Month: Virus Update

Texas paused its reopening, Houston’s intensive-care wards reached full capacity and surgeries were suspended as new coronavirus cases climbed 4.8%, topping a one week average. Infections rose in two other Sun Belt states, adding to concern for a resurgence of the outbreak.

Arizona’s new infections increased at double the weekly average, and Florida reported infections rose more than the one-week trend. New modeling predicts the virus will kill 180,000 Americans by October, though an embrace of masks may lessen the toll.

Apple Inc. said it was closing more stores as cases spike. Macy’s Inc. said it plans to cut about 3,900 jobs. A U.S. watchdog said dead people got more than $1.4 billion in stimulus checks.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases reach 9.52 million; deaths pass 484,000
  • Pandemic rages in U.S., spurring quarantines and mask orders
  • Fear of vial shortage for Covid vaccines prompts flurry of deals
  • Bloomingdale’s greets shoppers with Sinatra and sanitizer
  • France plans furlough program that could run for two years
  • Europe is approaching a disastrous economic cliff edge

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Texas Up 4.8%; U.S. Cases Climb Fastest This Month: Virus Update

Texas Cases, Deaths Climb (5:10 p.m. NY)

Texas added 5,996 cases in the past 24 hours, a third consecutive day of record-breaking increases, according to state health department data. The 4.8% jump exceeded the 3.9% seven-day average and brought total inflections to 131,917.

Fatalities increased by 47 to 2,296, the grimmest one-day advance since May 15. The positive-test rate surged to 11.76%, the highest since April 16.

U.S. Airlines Offer Ticket Refunds (5:06 p.m. NY)

U.S. airlines will refund the tickets of any passenger denied boarding after a screenin by the government detects an elevated temperature during the Covid outbreak, the industry’s trade group said.

Airlines for America has been calling on the Transportation Security Administration to conduct temperature screenings of all airline passengers as a way to help protect travelers from Covid-19. So far, the TSA hasn’t announced any such checks.

Slack Allows Indefinite Remote Work (5 p.m. NY)

Slack Technologies Inc. is joining Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., and other Silicon Valley companies in letting its 2,000 employees work remotely indefinitely, even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

San Francisco-based Slack has 16 offices, including in Tokyo, London and Paris, and had planned to stay closed until at least September. Competition for talent is one reason to leave a return date open ended, Chief Executive Officer Stewart Butterfield told Bloomberg TV.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.7% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased by 39,907 compared with the same time Wednesday to 2.4 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The 1.7% gain, the biggest jump since May 30, was above the average daily increase of 1.4% over the past week. It was the third straight day of new cases above 35,000. Deaths rose rose 0.5% to 122,320.

  • Nevada cases rose by 9.9% to 14,861, according to the data from Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News.
  • Florida reported 114,018 cases, up 4.6% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 4% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 3,327, an increase of 1.4%.
  • Arizona reported 3,056 new cases, a 5.1% increase that brought the total number of cases to 63,030. That compared with the the prior seven-day average of 2.3%.
  • California reported 5,349 new cases, its second-largest daily jump, for a total of 195,571, according to state data. Deaths rose 1.8% to 5,733.

Mexico Finance Minister Tests Positive (3 p.m. NY)

Mexican Finance Minister Arturo Herrera said he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is working from home under quarantine, according to a tweet. Herrera said he has “light symptoms” of the coronavirus.

Apple Shuts More U.S. Stores (2:45 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc. will close 14 stores in Florida, citing a spike in new coronavirus cases, raising total U.S. shop closures to 32.

The company on Wednesday closed its seven retail stores in Houston and last week again shut 11 stores across Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Despite the new closures, Apple has reopened the majority of its 271 U.S. stores.

France Deaths Rise by 21 (2:40 p.m. NY)

France reported 21 new deaths on Thursday, raising the total to 29,752, with a weekly update on fatalities in nursing homes scheduled for Tuesday. The Health Ministry didn’t provide an update for the number of cases. Hospitalizations and the number of patients in intensive care continued to drop.

N.J. Lists ‘Probable’ Covid Deaths (2:30 p.m. NY)

New Jersey has classified an additional 1,854 deaths as “probably” linked to the coronavirus, Governor Phil Murphy said at a Trenton news conference. The state has recorded 13,018 deaths among people who had tested positive for the virus.

Ed Lifshitz, a physician and medical director of the state health department, said the probable deaths were in three categories: those whose tests were considered unreliable; were linked to known outbreaks and showed symptoms; or whose death certificates strongly suggested a coronavirus link.

Ireland Eases Travel Limits (2:15 p.m. NY)

Ireland moves to the third stage of reopening on Monday, with domestic travel resuming, most businesses able to operate and sports restarting, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in Dublin. Face coverings will be mandatory on public transport. Some restrictions on international travel will ease July 9, he said.

While warning of a possible “second wave,” Ireland has “prevailed,” he said. Earlier, the nation’s health ministry reported one more death and 11 new cases. There have been 25,406 virus cases, with 1,727 deaths.

CDC Adds Pregnancy to Risk List (2 p.m. NY)

Pregnant women with Covid-19 are at greater risk for being hospitalized and sent to an intensive-care unit than women who aren’t expecting, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as it added pregnancy to the list of conditions that make patients more likely to suffer severe complications.

An agency study found pregnant women were 5.4 times more likely to be hospitalized, 1.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU and 1.7 times more likely to end up on a ventilator. Pregnant women didn’t have a higher risk of death, according to the CDC’s findings.

The agency wasn’t able to assess the effects of the virus on the fetuses or babies born to those women since the pandemic hasn’t gone on long enough, but she said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if they are at higher risk for preterm birth.

California Posts Second-Biggest Case Jump (1:45 p.m. NY)

California reported 5,349 new cases, its second-largest daily jump, for a total of 195,571, according to state data. The 2.8% increase was in line with the 7-day average. Deaths climbed by 1.8% to 5,733.

Houston-Area ICU Wards Are Full (12:40 p.m. NY)

Houston-area intensive-case unit wards reached 100% of their capacity, according to data compiled by the Texas Medical Center. About 28% of those patients were being treated for Covid-19.

GAO: $1.4 Billion in Stimulus Went to Dead People (12:36 p.m. NY)

The federal government’s quick action to issue stimulus payments in the wake of the coronavirus crisis led to more than a billion dollars of fraudulent payments, while slow action to address the health risks might have worsened the outbreak, according to a report by a government watchdog.

“In emergency situations, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, it is understandable, and appropriate, for agencies to want to get funds out the door quickly,” the Government Accountability Office said in the report released Thursday. “However, without the necessary safeguards in place, funds may not get to the intended places or be used for the intended purposes.”

The report found that the Internal Revenue Service issued about 1.1 million economic stimulus payments worth $1.4 billion to people who have recently died, which largely went to their next of kin. The IRS has said that recipients of those payments should return the money, but many people may be unaware that they are required to do so.

Italy Cases Top Average (12:15 p.m. NY)

Italy registered 296 new cases on Thursday after 190 on Wednesday, the health ministry said. That is above the previous seven-day average of 226. The agency reported 37 deaths in the past 24 hours, compared with 30 Wednesday; total is now 34,678.

Italy had a one-day peak of 6,557 new infections on March 21; a total of 239,706 cases have been reported since the end of February. The Lombardy region, which includes Milan, reported 170 new cases, or 57% of new national cases.

Texas Halts Reopening (11:45 a.m. NY)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott halted the phased reopening of the state’s economy, citing a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Under the executive order announced on Thursday, businesses that were already permitted to open can continue to operate under their existing occupancy limits. The next phases of reopening have been put on hold, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Texas is one several U.S. Sun Belt states coping with a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations. Houston’s intensive-care beds are approaching full capacity.

NYC Ready for Phase 3 Reopening (11:05 a.m. NY)

New York City will start the third phase of reopening on July 6, to add indoor dining and personal-care services, and access to basketball and tennis courts, and dog runs, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“It’s important for everyone that this city keeps moving,” de Blasio said, crediting New Yorkers with adhering to social distancing and face covering regulations.

Under state guidelines for Phase 3, indoor dining capacity is limited to 50% of maximum occupancy and all tables must be at least 6 feet apart. Employees must wear face coverings at all times, and patrons must wear them except while seated.

Florida Cases Rise 4.6% (11 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 114,018 cases on Thursday, up 4.6% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 4% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 3,327, an increase of 1.4%, according to the report, which includes data through Wednesday.

Seen on a rolling seven-day basis, Florida’s new cases reached 28,092, the highest level ever.

Cumulative hospitalizations rose by 201, or 1.5%, to 13,775. On a rolling seven day-basis, they reached 1,198, the highest level since at least the start of May. The new rate of people testing positive for the first time fell to 8.7% for Wednesday, from 15.9% on Tuesday.

Texas Halts Elective Surgeries (10:25 a.m. NY)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott suspended elective surgeries in the state’s biggest cities -- Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin -- to open more hospital capacity for Covid-19 cases, according to a statement released on Thursday.

The cities are in four counties that “have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to Covid-19” and halting such surgeries is precaution to ensure “hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat Covid-19 patients,” Abbott said in the statement.

Kudlow Expects ‘Hot Spots’ (10:15 a.m. NY)

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow acknowledged “spikes and hot spots” of new coronavirus cases could force shutdowns “in individual places or certain stores,” but on the Fox Business Network he said the U.S. economy will not shut again.

Kudlow downplayed the rise in new cases, saying the rate of increase had only risen “just a little bit” nationally. “The health experts are not telling us there’s a second wave and we have the tools to deal with this much more expeditiously than we had two or three months ago,” he said.

He said expects a 20% rebound in gross domestic product in the second and third quarters of 2020.

Houston Nears ‘Apocalyptic’ July 4 (10 a.m. NY)

Houston’s virus outbreak is accelerating at an exponential pace that will swamp the fourth-largest U.S. city’s medical infrastructure by the July 4th holiday, a leading disease specialist warned.

Even intensive-care wards approach full capacity, the worst is yet to come because of “the huge amount of transmission going on,” Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said in Thursday.

Current trends in Harris County, which includes Houston, indicate the caseload will triple or quadruple by mid-July, he said, citing modeling by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab. Such a scenario would be “apocalyptic,” he said. “We can’t go there.”

Kentucky Derby to Run With Spectators Under Guidelines (9:18 a.m. NY)

The Kentucky Derby will run with spectators on Sept. 5. The race will occur with spectators “under strict guidelines,” Churchill Downs said. Venue capacity will be reduced to limit crowd density, and access throughout the facility will be “severely limited.” Fans will be “frequently encouraged” to wear a mask at all times unless seated in their reserved seat or venue. Derby week is to be held Sept. 1-5.

N.Y. Reaches Milestone With Hospitalizations Below 1,000 (9 a.m. NY)

At its peak, New York had 18,825 people hospitalized for Covid-19. The state tested 51,144 people for the virus on Tuesday, and 1.1% were positive. At one point, more than half of New York’s tests were coming back positive.

Five New York regions -- Finger Lakes, Central New York, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and North Country -- are on track to enter the fourth phase of reopening on Friday. This step includes outdoor arts and entertainment, like zoos, at 33% capacity; indoor museums and aquariums at 25% capacity; and professional sports without fans.

Macy’s Cuts 3,900 Corporate Jobs (8:39 a.m. NY)

Macy’s Inc. will cut about 3,900 corporate and management jobs to slash costs in an effort to weather the long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the reeling retail sector. The restructuring, announced Thursday, is expected to save the company $365 million this fiscal year, then about $630 million a year going forward, it said in a statement.

U.S. Jobless Claims Worse Than Forecast for Second Week (8:34 a.m. NY)

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was higher than forecast for a second straight week, adding to signs that the recovery is cooling amid a pickup in coronavirus cases. Initial jobless claims in regular state programs fell to 1.48 million last week from an upwardly revised 1.54 million in the prior week, Labor Department data showed Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had forecast 1.32 million.

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