NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) – As positive coronavirus cases in Texas soar past 500,000, state officials are redoubling their efforts to get residents to wear masks and practice social distancing, after suggesting that the surge has been driven by people letting their guard down.
“The most important thing I could convey today that is even though the numbers of COVID-19 have improved, it has not left Jefferson County, it has not left Orange County, it has not left the state of Texas,” Governor Greg Abbott said.
Texas has been at the center of the resurgence of coronavirus cases along with California and Florida, which are both reporting thousands of new daily cases. Though Texas officials initially came under scrutiny for downplaying the severity of the virus’ spread and acting slowly to pull back plans for reopening, Abbott said during a news conference Tuesday that the state is ramping up distribution of personal protective equipment and encouraging Texans to wear masks and socially distance.
“The bottom line is Texans realized how dangerous COVID-19 can be,” Abbott said.
Infection and hospitalization metrics are improving in the state, but are “still too high,” he said. To get businesses up and running, Texans need to lower and maintain the positivity rate below 10% and stick to safety precautions.
Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames said in the news conference with Abbott that the spike in July followed people letting their guards down as the state reopened. And rising positivity rates now could be the result of the same thing, Abbott said.
“There’s a reason why this is happening, I believe, and that is some people feel if they’re just with family members — even if it’s 50 family members — they can let their guard down,” Abbott said. “And that turns out not to be the case.”
The next reopening in the state will be for the new school year; and though local leaders will decide how and when to go back, officials have been working to provide schools with the personal protective equipment and sanitizer they need to stay safe, he said.
Positive Tests Amid Starts To A New School Year
School buildings have been reopening across the country, even as new coronavirus cases among students and staff have been reported in places where in-person learning has resumed.
In Ohio, more than a third of Ohio students, totaling about 590,000 children, will return to full-time in-person learning, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.
But among the 101 largest school districts in the country, 63 will start the new academic year remotely over virus concerns.
Public schools in Elizabeth, New Jersey, had to scrap plans to return to classrooms and switch to virtual learning after more than 400 teachers notified the district that they could not return to campus due to “special considering for health-related risks.”
Students have not yet returned to school in the Broken Arrow Public School District in Oklahoma, but 33 district employees tested positive last week, Superintendent Janet Vinson said Monday, according to Tulsa World.
Meanwhile, North Paulding High School in Georgia will announce plans to reopen Wednesday after reporting several virus cases and receiving criticism over a viral photo that showed students — few wearing masks — walking in a packed school hallway.
Rely On Science — Not Politics, Fauci Says
Although practices like wearing face coverings have been politicized, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday he has learned that in order to be a good public health leader in a crisis, you have to divorce yourself from politics, rely on science and be as transparent as possible.
“Completely divorce yourself from the kind of political undertones that sometimes go into an important outbreak like this,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said as he was honored with a 2020 Citizen Leadership Award Tuesday night by the Aspen Institute.” “You’ve got to stay away from that, lead by example, be perfectly honest and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something when you don’t know it. I find that to be a very good formula when you’re dealing in a crisis.”
Even with the polarization, every state in the U.S. passed at least one physical distancing measure in March to slow the spread, researchers from Harvard University and University College London said. Those measures worked, a new study found.
Physical distancing resulted in the reduction of more than 600,000 cases within just three weeks, according to the study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS. Had there not been preventative interventions, the models suggest up to 80% of Americans would have been infected with COVID-19.
“In short, these measures work, and policy makers should use them as an arrow in their quivers to get on top of local epidemics where they are not responding to containment measures,” said the study’s co-author Dr. Mark J. Siedner in a news release
Rushing, But Not Racing, Toward A Vaccine
A vaccine against the virus is anxiously anticipated, but health experts said that the US will not rush its development — even as Russia announces its own.
“We will require any vaccine in the United States be safe and effective and meet the FDA is gold standard,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a news conference from Taipei, Taiwan, adding that “this is not a race to be first.”
Russia claims to have approved a “world first” coronavirus vaccine, but is only in the first step of clinical trials, Azar said. And data from those trials have not been made public.
Fauci has serious doubts that Russia’s approved vaccine is safe and effective, he told Deborah Roberts of ABC News.
“We have half a dozen or more vaccines,” Fauci said. “So if we wanted to take the chance of hurting a lot of people or giving them something that doesn’t work, we could start doing this, you know, next week if we wanted to. But that’s not the way it works.”
If the US eventually approves a vaccine from Moderna Inc., the company will manufacture and deliver 100 million doses after striking a $1.525 billion deal with the Trump administration, according to a news release from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Moderna is one of several companies manufacturing the vaccine “at risk,” as the industry calls it, meaning the company is currently making the vaccine before it is approved. Clinical trials are currently underway to test whether it’s safe and effective.
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