US looks to contain coronavirus spread amid record rise in confirmed cases

By Alex Segura Lozano

Los Angeles, Jun 26 (efe-epa).- Federal and state authorities in the United States have begun to take fresh steps to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus after a record high of nearly 40,000 new confirmed cases were reported over the past 24 hours.

While new confirmed cases are trending downward in states that had the most at the start of the pandemic, in other states such as California, Texas, Arizona and Florida new cases have risen sharply in recent days.

Several governors have responded by announcing plans to limit social gatherings, making it mandatory to wear face coverings in public and even mentioning the possibility of reimposing stay-at-home orders, while the White House is studying new methods for administering coronavirus tests.

On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the closure of bars in his state, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended the consumption of alcohol at bars in the Sunshine State. The two Republican leaders also announced new restrictions on other businesses whose operations are believed to be contributing to the spread of the virus.

Florida on Friday reported 8,942 new coronavirus cases, or nearly double the record total of 5,508 new cases that had been set on Wednesday, the state’s Department of Health said.

For its part, Texas registered nearly 6,000 new cases on Thursday, with most of those positive tests occurring in three of the state’s largest cities: Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said in a statement on Friday.

Texas, Florida, California and Arizona accounted for nearly half of Thursday’s nationwide record of 39,972 new confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The US thus far has had 2,453,044 confirmed coronavirus cases and 124,891 Covid-19-related deaths, or more than double the total of Brazil, the second hardest-hit country with 54,971 deaths, according to that same US university’s latest figures.

But different studies have indicated that the real number of cases is much higher.

On Thursday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, based on studies of blood samples collected nationwide, the real number of Americans infected with the coronavirus is probably around 20 million, or 6 percent of the population.

Those much higher estimates take into account the large number of cases that are asymptomatic or otherwise go unreported.

In that context, the US government is looking at ways to improve its strategy and start administering Covid-19 tests by groups, rather than individually.

The idea is to conduct just one test per pool and only administer individual tests if that initial test were to come back positive, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading expert on US President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, said in an interview with The Washington Post published on Friday.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said health officials are having intense discussions about that new strategy with a view to speeding up the identification of cases with fewer resources and quickly isolating those infected with the novel coronavirus.

“Something’s not working. I mean, you can do all the diagramming you want, but something is not working,” Fauci told the Post about the current testing system, in which the criteria varies from state to state.

In California, 56 percent of those who had tested positive for the coronavirus in through Wednesday were between the ages of 18 and 49, even though that age group represents just 43.5 percent of the state’s population,

That proportion had been rising steadily throughout the health emergency, but in recent weeks has grown sharply.

Meanwhile, people 65 and over (those at by far the greatest risk from Covid-19) initially accounted for nearly one-fourth of all positive tests in California but now represent just 15 percent of the total, in line with their proportion of the state’s population.

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