For the first time, the numbers of coronavirus cases reported in the United States passed 77,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
There were 77,255 new cases reported Thursday, topping the previous high of 67,791 two days ago.
Florida reported 13,965 of Thursday’s cases, the second most reported in a day in the state.
As much of the country sees a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, the test results data that many cities and states depend on to make important decisions about resources and reopenings is lagging.
Right now, tests are being done in much larger numbers – a positive development – but this increase is also slowing down results.
Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said Thursday that health officials want to reduce wait times for results.
“Even in the large commercial labs, and we follow this every single day, there may be an outlier that’s 10 days or 12 days, we can’t deny that that happens,” Giroir said. He wants test results back as fast as possible, but a three-day turnaround is “very reasonable.”
Commercial labs have said they are backed up, with results often taking as long as seven days to turn around. “I’m never going to say that I’m happy with any turnaround time, Giroir added.
Giroir says 700,000 to 800,000 people are being tested each day.
That means it’ll be a week before officials know how many of them are infected.
Test results also are important information for contract tracers who are trying to find people who might be infected. Researchers in the Netherlands report that when testing results are delayed more than three days, not even perfect contact tracing can keep the spread of the virus from accelerating.
In the meantime, state and local leaders are making decisions on whether to stop reopenings or reimpose restrictions.
And with a lack of federal mandates, they’re taking matters into their own hands, such as requiring people to wear masks in public.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced that face masks are required in public places when social distancing is impossible. The order takes effect at midnight on Thursday.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a statewide order effective Monday. Masks will be required when people are in the presence of non-household members and aren’t able to socially distance.
Alabama and Montana issued statewide facial covering orders on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum signed a city mask ordinance while wearing a mask himself, according to a post on his Facebook page.
Large retail chains have also mandated masks in stores. CVS, Publix and Target announced new rules for stores in states and cities where there are no government-mandated ordinances.
Fauci has warning for young people
Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned against young people assuming they are immune to serious infection.
While the data shows that young people are less likely than older people to become seriously ill, Fauci said he has seen ample evidence of young people being “knocked out on their back and brought to their knees pretty quick” by Covid-19. “I’ve never seen an infection with this broad range of manifestations.”
He told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that many young people are getting infected and some of them feel horrible for weeks.
The nation’s leading infectious disease expert directly urged young people to consider their societal responsibility.
“You’re going to get back to normal, and you’ll be able to freely have fun, go to the bars, go with the crowds, but not now,” he said. “Now’s not the time to do that.”
As morgues fill up, two counties bring in refrigerated trucks
With skyrocketing coronavirus hospitalizations in several states, hard-hit counties in Arizona and Texas are preparing for the worst by bringing in refrigerated trucks as morgues fill up.
The US coronavirus outbreak passed 3.5 million total infections on Thursday afternoon with more than 138,000 reported deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Thirty-nine states reported an increase in the number of new cases from the week before. California, Florida, Arizona and Texas have become the states to watch as surging coronavirus cases lead to a shortage of hospital beds.
In Arizona’s Maricopa County, which has the most Covid-19 cases in the state, the medical examiner’s office has ordered four portable coolers with additional ones expected in the coming days, said Fields Moseley, the county spokesman. The medical examiner’s office morgue had a total of 156 deceased people – with a surge capacity of just over 200, Moseley said Wednesday.
It is unclear how many of the deaths are related to the coronavirus – the county has said fatalities go up in the summer due to the heat.
The latest mask guidance
In Texas, the city of San Antonio and Bexar County have secured several refrigerated trailers to store bodies until they can be released to funeral homes, Mario Martinez, Metro Health Assistant Director, said in a video interview released by the city.
He said that they currently have two in operation and another three will be operational by the end of the week.
Cameron and Hidalgo counties in Texas are sharing a large refrigerated trailer to store bodies of coronavirus patients because of a lack of space at the morgues.
“I’m pleading with everybody in our neck of the woods, help us do your part, people’s lives are at stake – not just the people getting sick, but doctors, nurses working to the bone, EMS personnel, transporting people,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. told CNN affiliate KVEO.
The Dallas County morgue had to use an external refrigerated truck this week due to the increased caseload, the Medical Examiner’s Office told CNN.
“We have had to go to the external refrigerated truck once this week due to increased caseload, but today we are back with all cases inside,” Dr. Jeffrey Barnard, the Dallas County Medical Examiner, said in a statement. “I anticipate that we will at some point have to use the truck again based on continuing increased volume.”
Georgia governor, Atlanta mayor clash
Gov. Brian Kemp extended Georgia’s emergency coronavirus restrictions and said while people are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings – they’re not required. The order, which expires July 31, limits public gatherings to 50 people and mandates social distancing.
His order prevents local governments from implementing stricter rules than the state’s – including requiring face masks.
But on Thursday, Michael Smith, press secretary for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, told CNN the “Mayor’s Order remains in effect, as science and data will continue to drive the City’s decisions. Masks save lives.”
So the governor sued the mayor and the City Council, according to court documents. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted: “The State of Georgia continues to urge citizens to wear masks. This lawsuit is about the rule of law.”
Bottoms fired back, writing: “3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing. #ATLStrong”
Epidemiologist says California needs more contact tracers
To combat the rise in coronavirus cases in California, there needs to be enough contact tracing staff in regions where Covid-19 infections are increasing, the principal investigator for the state’s contact tracing program told CNN, but not all regions require an equal number of tracers.
“They’re not, in their current level, they’re not in all places,” said University of California, San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford, who also leads the university’s contact tracing training program. “If we spread it evenly there still probably wouldn’t be enough in the highest incidence areas.”
Health officials, he said, cannot forecast how much contact tracing is needed in a region until public health departments are alerted to positive results, but the teams are scalable. “We can call in extra people if there’s a surge,” Rutherford said.
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Joe Sutton, Jon Passantino, Sarah Moon, Jennifer Henderson and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.