Texas and California, the country’s two most populous states, were among those recording a record number of new COVID-19 cases across the U.S. on Tuesday, while Florida faced an impending shortage of intensive care unit hospital beds.
Authorities have reported alarming upswings of daily caseloads in roughly two dozen states over the past two weeks, a sign that efforts to control transmission of the novel coronavirus have failed in large swaths of the United States.
Hawaii, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma on Tuesday also shattered their previous daily record highs for new cases. About 24 states have also reported disturbingly high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week.
In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks.
The trend has driven many more Americans to seek out COVID-19 screenings. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday it was adding short-term “surge” testing sites in three metropolitan areas in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
In Houston, a line of more than 200 cars snaked around the United Memorial Medical Center as people waited for hours in sweltering heat to get tested. Some had arrived the night before to secure a place in line at the drive-thru site.
In Florida, more than four dozen hospitals across 25 of 67 counties reported their intensive care units had reached full capacity, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Only 17 per cent of the total 6,010 adult ICU beds statewide were available on Tuesday, down from 20 per cent three days earlier.
Additional hospitalizations could strain healthcare systems in many areas, leading to an uptick in deaths from the respiratory illness that has killed more than 131,000 Americans to date.
In Arizona, another hot spot, the rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive rose to 26 per cent for the week ended July 5, leading two dozen states with positivity rates exceeding 5 per cent. The World Heath Organization considers a rate over 5 per cent to be troubling.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 8:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 106,167 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 69,883 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,755.
Ontario introduced new legislation Tuesday to enable the extension of some pandemic emergency orders over the next year, as the province reported 112 new cases.
Meanwhile, Toronto and Ottawa joined Kingston in requiring non-medical face coverings inside businesses open to the public, starting Tuesday.
B.C.’s provincial health officer says the controversy over airborne transmission of the coronavirus has been overblown, after hundreds of scientists signed a letter calling for the World Health Organization to revise its recommendations.
In an open letter to the WHO, 239 scientists in 32 countries have reportedly argued particles smaller than what has previously been reported can carry the novel coronavirus and infect people. According to a story in the New York Times, those scientists want the global health body to begin treating the novel coronavirus as an airborne illness.
But Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested Monday that the letter was designed “to foment a bit of controversy,” and the disagreement is part of an ongoing discussion about how coronaviruses and other illnesses like influenza are spread.
With airborne viruses like the measles and smallpox, tiny disease-carrying particles can float in the air for hours, even travelling down hallways and through ventilation systems.
“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at WHO, told a news briefing in Geneva.
Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, but that it was not definitive.
WATCH | WHO says evidence of airborne coronavirus transmission not definitive:
Here’s what’s happening around the world
In the Americas, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for the coronavirus after months of downplaying its severity.
Bolsonaro, 65, confirmed the results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters in the capital Brasilia. He said he is taking hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a result of the positive test.
On Monday, the president told supporters in Brasilia that he underwent an X-ray of his lungs that showed they were clean, and that he would be tested for coronavirus. On Tuesday, he told CNN Brasil that his fever had subsided.
WATCH | Reaction to Bolsonaro’s positive COVID-19 test:
In Europe, thousands of protesters fought running battles with police and tried to storm the parliament building in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Tuesday after the president announced that a coronavirus lockdown will be reintroduced.
Police fired several rounds of tear gas at the protesters, some chanting “Resignation! Resignation!” as they gathered in front of the downtown parliament building in the Serbian capital. Some of the protesters briefly managed to enter the parliament by force, but were pushed back by riot police.
The protesters responded by hurling flares, stones, bottles and eggs at the police. Several clashes erupted between some of the most extremist rioters apparently belonging to far-right groups and the baton-wielding police.
In Asia-Pacific, India’s death toll has passed 20,000, with case numbers surging past 700,000.
Saudi Arabia issued guidelines for about 1,000 pilgrims who will be allowed to participate in the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca later this month. Pilgrims will only be able to drink holy water from the Zamzam well in Mecca that is packaged in plastic bottles, and pebbles for casting away evil that are usually picked up by pilgrims along hajj routes will be sterilized and bagged ahead of time. Pilgrims will also have to bring their own prayer rugs.
In Australia, the city of Melbourne and surrounding regions are locking down again as cases spike.
WATCH | Almost 5 million Australians under lockdown after spike in coronavirus cases:
In Africa, South Africa’s confirmed cases have surpassed 200,000 as the country continues to post some of the highest daily numbers in the world.
The health ministry reported 8,971 new cases, bringing the total to 205,721. Nearly one third are in the new hot spot of Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.
The African continent overall has more than 477,000 confirmed cases.
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