These 9 cities are seeing case increases, Birx warns; experts call for testing overhaul — 7 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. has recorded an average of 56,979 new cases daily over the past week, down 14 percent from the average seen two weeks ago, according to The New York Times. 

Seven updates:

1. The White House is keeping a close eye on nine cities where new cases are rising, according to The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington, D.C. In an Aug. 5 call with state and local officials, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, warned of case increases in the following cities: Baltimore, Atlanta, Kansas City, Portland, Omaha, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C. She also noted California's Central Valley region as an area of concern.  

2. Many experts are calling for the U.S. to rethink its testing strategy, arguing that controlling the widespread outbreaks requires adoption of less accurate tests, as long as they're administered often and quickly, according to The New York Times. The U.S. has relied heavily on PCR testing, an accurate method that requires samples be sent to labs and often takes days to receive results. Some experts say more rapid, frequent testing could detect individuals who need immediate care and perhaps slow the virus' spread. Michael Mina, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University's School of Public Health, said simple versions of antigen tests could allow users to read results within minutes. 

3. The federal coronavirus task force plans to more closely study aerosolized spread of the virus, Anthony Fauci, MD, said Aug. 5 during an online forum hosted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. Traditionally, virus particles larger than 5 micrometers will not hang in the air as aerosols, according to Dr. Fauci. However, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director said particle specialists have encouraged him to "take a bigger look at this" because there may be virus droplets larger than 5 micrometers than can hang in the air. 

4. Florida is the second state to confirm more than 500,000 total COVID-19 cases, with the number of infections statewide doubling in the last four weeks, according to NBC affiliate WTVJ. California is the only other state to report more than 500,000 total cases. 

5. New York City is setting up checkpoints to track visitors and city residents coming from states with COVID-19 surges. Those coming into the city from the 35 states and territories on New York's travel advisory list must complete the state health department's traveler form and self-quarantine for 14 days. Those who do not comply with quarantine orders will be subject to a $10,000 fine, and those who refuse to fill out the traveler form will be subject to a $2,000 fine.

6. Unemployment claims top 1 million for the 20th consecutive week, The New York Times reports. More than 1.1 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending Aug. 1, the lowest weekly total since March, according to data released Aug. 6 by the U.S. Department of Labor. About 249,000 fewer claims were filed this week compared to revised levels for last week.    

7. The pandemic has a greater toll on Americans' mental health than people in other high-income countries, according to a survey from The Commonwealth Fund. The foundation surveyed 8,259 adults from 10 countries between March and May 2020. One-third of U.S. respondents reported mental health concerns, compared to 26 percent from Canada or the U.K. Americans were also more likely to report negative economic consequences from the pandemic.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 4,824,230
Deaths: 158,268
Recovered: 1,577,851

Counts reflect data available as of 9 a.m. CDT Aug. 6.

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