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Holiday Fuels Virus Worries            07/05 10:08

   The United States has dipped under 50,000 new daily infections for the first 
time in four days, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but 
experts fear celebrations for the July 4th weekend will act like rocket fuel 
for the nation's surging coronavirus outbreak.

   ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- The United States has dipped under 50,000 new 
daily infections for the first time in four days, according to a tally by Johns 
Hopkins University, but experts fear celebrations for the July 4th weekend will 
act like rocket fuel for the nation's surging coronavirus outbreak.

   Johns Hopkins on Sunday counted 45,300 new coronavirus infections reported 
Saturday in the U.S. after three days in which the daily count reached as high 
as 54,500 new cases. The lower figure does not mean the situation in the U.S. 
is improving, it could be due to reduced reporting on a national holiday.

   The United States has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the 
world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead, according to the 
university. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is significantly higher, 
due to people who died before they were tested and missed mild cases.

   Worldwide, nearly 11.3 million people have been infected and over 531,000 
have died, with outbreaks surging in India, South Africa, Pakistan, Brazil and 
several other Latin American countries. In a first, South Africa on Sunday 
reported more than 10,000 new confirmed cases in a single day.

   To show just how steep the U.S. infection curve is, authorities were 
reporting under 20,000 new infections a day as recently as June 15. On 
Saturday, Florida and Texas reported more record daily increases in confirmed 
cases and virus-related deaths have begun to rise.

   Despite warnings by health experts to limit gatherings, President Donald 
Trump went ahead with a speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday and 
an evening of tribute and fireworks Saturday on the National Mall in 
Washington. Trump used the nation's Independence Day as an occasion to assail 
those who do not support him and did not mention the horrific death toll from 
the pandemic.

   Pat Lee of Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania, and two friends, none in masks, 
gathered near the event in Washington.

   "POTUS said it would go away," Lee said of the pandemic, using an acronym 
for president of the United States. "Masks, I think, are like a hoax."

   In another worrying sign, the World Health Organization said member states 
reported more than 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world on 
Saturday, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic. The 
Geneva-based organization said more than 60% of the confirmed cases reports it 
received were in the Americas, which includes the United States and Brazil.

   Faced with rising infections, many U.S. communities canceled parades and 
fireworks and cautioned people against hosting large gatherings.

   Texas, which reported a record daily increase of 8,258 confirmed coronavirus 
cases Saturday, is retreating from what had been one of the country's swiftest 
reopenings. Much of the state began mandating face coverings Friday, with a 
$250 fine for scofflaws.

   In Florida, which reported 11,445 confirmed infections on Saturday, bars 
statewide are shut down and some regional attractions, such as Zoo Miami and 
Jungle Island, have closed. Officials in South Florida -- including in 
Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys -- also closed beaches through the 

   Other beaches remained open. At St. Pete Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, 
parking spaces were scarce and hundreds clustered under umbrellas and in 
cabanas on the sand. Keisha Pereira came to the beach from Osceola County -- 
more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) inland -- with her daughter and two other 

   "We're going to stay with each other," she said. "I feel pretty safe 

   The holiday weekend coincided with a big step back this week for 
California's efforts to reopen the state's economy. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a 
three-week closure of bars and many indoor establishments in counties where 
some 30 million people live.

   In several California regions, economic woes prompted campaigns to convince 
state residents to travel within its borders. But public health experts and 
mayors of popular beach towns Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay pleaded with people 
to stay home for the holiday.

   Crista Luedtke said demand has been "bonkers" since reopening the 14-room 
Boon Hotel and Spa that she owns in the Sonoma County town of Guerneville. 
Guests must stay at least two nights and are assigned lounges near the pool.

   "Tourism is not dangerous," Luedtke said. "I think people not following the 
rules is dangerous."

   In Britain, pubs and barbers reopened Saturday for the first time in months. 
It did not overwhelm emergency services as many had feared, but one senior 
police officer said Sunday it was "crystal clear" that drunk people struggled, 
or ignored, social distancing rules.

   Rafal Liszewski, a store manager in central London, voiced concerns about 
the swelling crowds on Saturday.

   "Quickly everything got out of control and by 8-9 p.m. it was a proper 
street party with people dancing and drinking," he said. "Barely anyone was 
wearing masks and nobody respected social distancing .... to be honest, with 
that many people on one street, it was physically impossible."

   In Australia and northeast Spain, authorities ordered lockdowns for specific 
counties or communities to stomp out local outbreaks.

   In the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, the relatives of one apparent virus 
victim left his coffin in the street for hours to protest the difficulties in 
having him buried. Police Col. Ivn Rojas said the demand "is collapsing the 
police personnel and funeral workers" in the city of 630,000

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