US hospitals under pressure amid difficulty in containing coronavirus spread

By Jairo Mejia

New York, Jul 9 (efe-epa).- A record number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States is forcing a reevaluation of economic reactivation processes and school reopening plans and putting extreme pressure on hospitals, particularly those facilities’ intensive-care units.

An additional 58,000 new cases – a new daily high – were reported in the US on Thursday, according to data from Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in that country since the start of the pandemic to more than 3.1 million, by far the most worldwide.

The states of Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia all reported record numbers of new cases on Thursday.

According to figures from the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, Texas hospitals’ intensive care units currently are at 95 percent capacity, while in Florida the intensive-care units of 56 hospitals are at full capacity and 35 others are on the verge of collapse.

The high number of cases has raised concerns that the coronavirus situation could spiral out of control despite new measures taken this week to close bars, beaches and gyms and require the use of masks and face coverings in the most-affected states.

On Thursday, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, said no changes would be made to the guidelines for reopening public schools and childcare facilities that President Donald Trump has slammed as too stringent and expensive.

He made those remarks a day after Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would be issuing “new guidelines on preparing communities for school re-openings,” adding that it is important that the guidance not be “too tough.”

In referring to the CDC’s guidance, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany recalled that Dr. Redfield has said that “he doesn’t want these guidelines to be a reason for schools to not reopen,” adding the director himself had said the initial guidelines are “not requirements and they’re not prescriptive.”

Asked by one reporter about a Trump tweet in which he said US schools that do not reopen may face funding cuts, McEnany said the president wants schools to resume on-site classes because there are “real consequences” for not doing so and cited the American Academy of Pedriatics’ call for schools to reopen with in-person classes in the fall.

Separately, the battle over masks continues to rage in the US with political overtones.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, has encouraged people to wear face coverings but continues to resist calls to make masks mandatory in public places and has prohibited city governments from imposing coronavirus restrictions that are stricter than those established state-wide.

The Democratic mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, however, has ignored Kemp and issued an order requiring that masks be worn in public places in the city, although that measure may not be sufficient given that commercial establishments are operating and the number of coronavirus cases in that southeastern metropolis continues to rise.

The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, made masks mandatory last week by executive order after initially resisting calls to do so, but he now is facing a backlash.

Law-enforcement officials in at least nine counties are refusing to enforce the mask order.

One of these officials, Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree, said on Facebook late last week that the mandate is an executive order, as opposed to a Texas state law. and is practically unenforceable because it prohibits police from detaining anyone for violating the order. EFE-EPA


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