WHO acknowledges evidence of airborne spread; US sunbelt is new global epicenter — 9 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. set another daily case record, with about 60,000 new COVID-19 infections confirmed July 7. On July 8, the total number of cases reported in the U.S. surpassed 3 million.

Nine updates:

1. The White House submitted a notice to withdraw from the World Health Organization by July 6, 2021, a senior administration official told CNBC. The notice, given to the United Nations secretary-general, is the first step in a yearlong process that relies on cooperation from Congress and President Donald Trump's reelection. Following the withdrawal notice, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians and American Medical Association released a joint statement, saying the organizations are in "strong opposition" to the decision. The statement called the withdrawal a "major setback to science, public health and global coordination efforts needed to defeat COVID-19." Presidential candidate Joe Biden vowed to reverse the withdrawal if he wins the election, according to a July 7 tweet. 

2. WHO officials acknowledged "emerging evidence" about the airborne spread of COVID-19 during a July 7 media briefing. A group of scientists recently urged the WHO to update its recommendations, citing evidence that suggests the virus can linger in the air indoors. The WHO has previously held that research regarding airborne transmission indoors is inconclusive. Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, head of the WHO's emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said July 7 that the organization has actively engaged with the scientists who wrote the letter and that the WHO is set to release a scientific brief summarizing what's known about virus transmission in the next few days.

3. HHS launched "surge" testing in three hard-hit states July 7. The free testing sites are in Jacksonville, Fla.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Edinburg, Texas. Each site will perform up to 5,000 tests per day and deliver results within three to five days. The surge sites will be open for up to 12 days.

4. During a briefing about reopening schools this fall, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said missing school can be detrimental to children's well being. AAP President Sally Goza, MD, said children receive more education at school and missing school can be detrimental for social and emotional well-being. During the same July 7 briefing, President Donald Trump said he is "very much going to put pressure on the governors and the schools to reopen [in the fall]." 

5. The nation's sun belt is the new epicenter of the global pandemic, reports The New York Times. Arizona, Florida and South Carolina have the highest rate of new cases per million residents over the last seven days compared to any other country in the world. Only three Middle Eastern countries — Bahrain, Oman and Qatar — have outbreaks that match the sun belt states' severity. 

6. Focusing solely on the nation's falling death rate is a "false narrative," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said July 7, according to The Washington Post. The decrease is largely due to two reasons: clinicians have gotten better at treating COVID-19 patients and now more younger people are contracting the virus. While younger Americans are more likely to have mild cases, some could still be hospitalized or require intensive care, Dr. Fauci warned. 

7. COVID-19 hospitalization data for all 67 counties in Florida is still unavailable one week after Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state would begin reporting it. Mr. DeSantis did not provide an explanation why during a July 7 press conference, according to the Miami Herald. After asking the state for more nurses, Jackson Health in Miami will receive 100 healthcare workers by Friday. Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya asked the governor on Monday for additional nurses. During his July 7 press conference, Mr. DeSantis said the public hospital network will receive 100 healthcare workers by July 10 through a private staffing company, according to the Miami Herald. The reinforcement from the state supplements about 80 nurses Jackson has hired in the last two weeks. Florida is currently one of the hardest-hit states, recording 7,347 new COVID-19 cases July 7. As of July 8, 56 hospitals’ adult intensive care units were 100 percent occupied. 

8. Texas recorded 9,845 new COVID-19 cases July 7, a record-breaking daily surge. South Texas Health System, which is based in Edinburg and includes five hospitals, asked the state and Hidalgo County for 223 more nurses, according to The Monitor.

9. Ninety percent of adult ICU beds in Arizona are in use, according to the health department’s data dashboard. The state recorded 3,617 new COVID-19 cases July 7. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 3,009,611
Deaths: 131,594
Recovered: 936,476

Counts reflect data available as of 11:30 a.m. CDT July 8.


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