Worsening U.S. Outbreak Prompts Tough Actions as New Coronavirus Cases Set Global Record

Source: Al Jazeera

New Jersey adopted a stringent coronavirus face-mask order on Wednesday, and New York City unveiled a plan to allow public school students back into classrooms for just two or three days a week, as newly confirmed U.S. COVID-19 cases soared to a daily global record, Reuters writes.

Officials in New Jersey and New York, the hardest-hit states at the outset of the U.S. outbreak, are trying to preserve progress in curtailing spread of the virus in the face of a resurgence elsewhere across the country, especially the South and West.

More than 47,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the two northeastern states, accounting for more than a third of the 132,000-plus Americans killed by the virus, according to a Reuters tally.

More than 60,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported across the United States on Wednesday, the greatest single-day tally of cases by any country since the virus emerged late last year in China. And U.S. deaths rose by more than 900 for the second straight day, the highest level seen since early June.

New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy unveiled an executive order requiring face coverings outdoors where social distancing is not possible, citing a rise in the state’s coronavirus transmission rate. “It’s about life and death,” Murphy said at a briefing.

Many states require masks in public indoor settings and recommend them outside but have stopped short of mandating their use outdoors.

“I think that’s the right thing to do,” said Jordan Grant, 23, a real estate accountant who expressed dismay at seeing people congregating without masks. “It’s what we should have been doing months ago.”

Republican state Senator Michael Doherty, however, accused Murphy of “exploiting a public health crisis for power,” calling the new mask directive “oppressive.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan for 1.1 million students in the nation’s largest public school district to return to classes in September. Pupils would alternate attending school two or three days weekly and spend the remaining time at home under the “blended learning” schedule, which requires state approval.

Republican President Donald Trump, who has exhorted Americans to return to their daily routines, threatened to cut off federal funding to schools that fail to reopen on their normal schedule due to the coronavirus outbreak.

States are chiefly responsible for primary and secondary education, but the federal government provides some supplementary funding.

Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would soon issue new back-to-school protocols after Trump criticized current recommendations as too strict and costly.

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