- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Trump administration on Sunday warned Americans to brace for more hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 this summer as the disease surged across the country and Florida set a record for the most new cases in a single day.

The dire picture emerged as the administration acknowledged that some “hot spot” states might need to reissue lockdown orders even as officials press K-12 schools to fully reopen their doors for in-person learning as soon as next month.

“We are not out of this at all. We’re all very concerned,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration’s testing czar.

The virus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, late last year, has spread around the world and infected more than 12.8 million people, leading to more than 567,000 deaths.

More than 3.2 million cases and more than 135,000 deaths have been reported in the U.S., according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization on Sunday reported more than 230,000 new cases worldwide — also a daily record.

Adm. Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, predicted a worsening picture, though he did say treatments have become available within the past few months that could lower the mortality rate of those infected.

“We do expect deaths to go up,” Adm. Giroir said on ABC’s “This Week.” “If you have more cases, more hospitalizations, we do expect to see that over the next two or three weeks before this turns around.”

New lockdown orders in hot spot states such as Arizona, Texas and Florida can’t be ruled out.

“This is not out of control, but it requires a lot of effort,” said Adm. Giroir. “You’ve really got to stop the bars. You have got to decrease restaurant capacity. You have got to physically distance.”

In Florida, the state health department on Sunday reported 15,300 new COVID-19 cases, setting a single-day record for any U.S. state.

The Defense Department announced that U.S. Northern Command is sending an additional 580 medical personnel to Texas as new cases there surge as well.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, recently paused some of the state’s reopening plans and ordered bars and restaurants to close or cut seating capacity.

Some Democrats called for a complete shutdown of the state.

“Gov. Abbott: you need to issue stay at home orders. This is only going to get worse until you do,” former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, a past 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a post on Twitter.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the increasingly dire situation can turn around in a matter of weeks if the public bands together to take proper precautions.

“While we’re seeing cases rise, we can see cases go down just as quickly if the American people will do the things that we know slow the spread of this disease, including wearing a face covering,” a mask-clad Dr. Adams said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The country is better prepared now than when COVID-19 first took hold in February and March, the surgeon general said, touting a 300% increase in available personal protective equipment.

“That’s not to say mission accomplished, but we are in a better place,” he said.

Dr. Adams invoked extreme past medical treatments to explain the administration’s shifting guidance on wearing masks.

“It’s important for people to understand that once upon a time we prescribed cigarettes for asthmatics, and leeches and cocaine and heroin for people as medical treatments,” he said. “When we learn better, we do better. … We’ve learned more about asymptomatic spread.”

President Trump, who has resisted wearing a mask in public, donned one when he visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday. Members of the president’s team rushed to share pictures and praise the mask-clad Mr. Trump for the move.

The administration also is pushing K-12 schools and colleges to reopen their doors to in-person learning for the upcoming academic year, which for many districts starts next month.

“We know that children get the virus at a far lower rate than any other part of the population,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And again, there is nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is dangerous to them.

“In fact, it’s more a matter of their health and well-being that they be back in school,” Ms. DeVos said.

Mr. Trump last week said he would put pressure on governors to open schools as scheduled and criticized guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said reopening schools is too costly and burdensome.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said his agency doesn’t plan to revise the guidelines but will likely issue additional reference documents.

Ms. DeVos declined to answer directly when asked whether reopening schools should follow the CDC guidelines, which deal with recommendations such as wearing face coverings and social distancing.

“The CDC guidelines are just that — meant to be flexible and meant to be applied as appropriate for the situation,” she said.

The House and Senate are in recess, but lawmakers are aiming to pass another round of coronavirus relief legislation before members depart for their extended August vacations.

Congress has passed and Mr. Trump has signed close to $3 trillion in coronavirus relief spending.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, listed as priorities extended unemployment benefits, another round of direct payments for millions of Americans, more money for states and localities, and legal protections for workers.

“We will have to find common ground to pass legislation,” Mrs. Pelosi said on CNN.

Mrs. Pelosi said lawmakers “must” find a way to extend unemployment benefits. A $600-per-week boost to unemployment checks is due to expire at the end of the month.

Congress is trying to find a way to extend the benefits in some form, though Republicans have said they don’t want the benefits to be more lucrative than returning to work.

The Democrat-led House passed another $3 trillion-plus relief package in May even though Republicans said the bill was dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said Sunday that Mrs. Pelosi was living in “handout heaven” with Democrats’ latest antes.

“It’s direct checks to illegal immigrants. It’s bailouts to big city and state pension plans that are run by Democrats,” Mr. Barrasso said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

“We’re not going to do that,” he said. “The focus of this bill has to be getting people back to work and paychecks back into their pockets.”

⦁ Lauren Meier and Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.

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