Viral danger zones: A report prepared by the White House Coronavirus Task Force identified 18 states in the “red zone,” with more than 100 new Covid cases per 100,000 residents over the previous week, and recommended those states close bars and gyms, limit gatherings to no more than 10 people, and require face masks in public, Liz Essley Whyte reports for the Center for Public Integrity. More than 10 states were also in the “red zone” on test positivity, meaning more than 10 percent of coronavirus tests came back positive. The document, Whyte reports, was never made public. “The fact that it’s not public makes no sense to me,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the center. “Why are we hiding this information from the American people? This should be published and updated every day.” What’s more, not all states in the red zones are following the task force’s recommendations. In Georgia, for example, which is in the red zone on both new cases and test positivity, Gov. Brian Kemp has sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to prevent her from enforcing an ordinance mandating masks in public, or discussing her authority to do so with the media.
- Also: There have been well over 3.8 million confirmed cases in the U.S. and more than 141,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Globally, there have been more than 14.7 million confirmed cases and over 611,000 deaths.
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Trump masked: Six months after coronavirus spread to the United States, President Trump has tweeted his support of face masks, writing: “We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!” The tweet was accompanied by a photo of a masked Trump. The scientific evidence that face masks can reduce the spread of coronavirus is growing, Caitlin McCabe writes in The Wall Street Journal. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, believes the pandemic could be brought under control over the next four to eight weeks if “we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.” On Fox News, Surgeon General Jerome Adams asked Americans to wear face masks in public. “I’m pleading with your viewers. I’m begging you,” he told the viewers of Fox & Friends. “Please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say, ‘Wear a face covering.’” But, Adams still doesn’t support a federal mandate to wear a mask. “If you are going to have a federal mandate, you have to have a federal enforcement mechanism and right now as a scientist and an educator, I would rather help people understand why they should cooperate with wearing a mask and how they benefit from it, versus just simply saying we are going to force you to do it, particularly by sending in federal troops or using federal mechanisms,” he said.
Promising vaccines: Early tests of a coronavirus vaccine conducted by University of Oxford researchers and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca show that it’s safe and elicits a strong immune response, according to a study published in the British medical journal the Lancet. More than 1,000 volunteers participated in the study, William Booth and Carolyn Y. Johnson report for The Washington Post. A vaccine developed in China also showed promise, according to a report in the same journal. Large-scale, real-world trials of the Oxford vaccine have begun in Britain, Brazil and South Africa, and the United States will likely test it and several other vaccines later this summer.
Teachers cry foul: Florida’s leading teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, and the NAACP are suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to stop the “reckless and unsafe reopening of schools” as Covid-19 cases in the state surge, Colleen Wright reports for the Miami Herald. Two weeks ago, DeSantis and Corcoran issued an emergency order requiring teachers to report to school in August. “No one wants to be in back in a classroom and reopen our school buildings more than educators,” said FEA president Fedrick Ingram. “We are teachers. That’s what we do … But we want to do it safely. And we don’t want to put people at risk.”
- Also: Three Arizona elementary school teachers taught virtual classes from the same classroom this June; all contracted Covid-19, and one died, James Doubek reports for NPR. One of the teachers told NPR that while working together, they took precautions and followed best practices: Keeping at a safe distance, wearing masks and using hand sanitizer.
Transit in trouble: Public transportation systems are hurting during the pandemic, as ridership and revenues plummet, Kristoffer Tigue reports for InsideClimate News. Transit agencies in some of the biggest U.S. cities are considering drastic and permanent service cuts that could have long-lasting consequences for residents and the climate. San Francisco is projecting an estimated $568 million revenue loss over the next four years, and has already reduced service by 30 percent; without more federal aid, the city may be forced to permanently cut 40 bus lines. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City is facing a $10.3 billion loss over the next two years, and one analysis estimates the authority would have to cut half of the city’s bus and subway lines to make up the difference. “To be clear, this is a four-alarm fire,” MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye said in June. “We are facing the most acute financial crisis in the history of the MTA.” Without reliable public transportation, city residents will be more likely to use personal vehicles, increasing traffic congestion, pollution and carbon emissions.
- Also: The advocacy group Kids and Cars issued a reminder that July is the worst month for deaths of young children left in hot cars. Ten youngsters have died after being left in hot vehicles already this year, and more than 940 such deaths have occurred in the U.S. since 1990.
Disparate surgery deaths: African American children are three times more likely than white children to die after surgery, even if they are otherwise healthy and low-risk, according to a new study published in Pediatrics. Post-operative deaths of children undergoing elective surgeries are very rare: Of 172,549 children, 36 died within a month. But of those children, nearly half were African American, even though they comprised only 11 percent of patients. The results challenge the assumption that African Americans have worse health outcomes because they have more underlying health issues, Rachel Weiner reports for The Washington Post. Although the reasons are not yet clear, “It is suggested in our study that complications do occur even in apparently healthy surgical patients and [African Americans] are at a distinct disadvantage,” the researchers wrote.
Ticking clock for bears: Polar bears will be virtually extinct by 2100, and many populations will suffer from reproductive failures by 2040 if carbon emissions continue apace, according to a sobering new study published in Nature Climate Change. Even if greenhouse gases are mitigated, it is still likely that the majority of Arctic polar bear populations will experience reproductive failure by 2080, Gloria Dickie reports for The Guardian. “It’s been clear for some time that polar bears are going to suffer under climate change,” said Péter Molnár, a biologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough and lead author of the study. “But what was not fully clear was when we would expect major declines in the survival and reproduction of polar bears that could ultimately lead to their extirpation. We didn’t know whether that would happen early or later in this century.”
- Also: Morgan Stanley will publicly disclose how much its loans and investments contribute to climate change, Zack Colman reports for Politico, the first major U.S. bank to do so. According to environmental group Rainforest Action Network, just 35 banks have poured $2.7 trillion into fossil fuel projects since 2016. Morgan Stanley has contributed an estimated $92 billion of that figure.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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