July 3 (UPI) — Governors in Texas and Kansas issued face mask orders Thursday as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top-ranking infectious diseases expert, warned there’s a risk of an even larger spread of COVID-19.
The U.S. death toll was at 128,400 on Thursday and the total number of cases surpassed 2.7 million on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Several states have documented a surge in cases recently and the United States recorded 50,000 new cases in a single day on Wednesday, for the first time.
Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said a lack of uniformity among safety measures and compliance is the most likely cause.
“What we’ve seen over the last several days is a spike in cases that is way beyond the worst spikes that we have seen,” Fauci told BBC Radio. “We’ve got to get that under control, or we risk an even greater outbreak in the United States.
“In the United States, even in the most strict lockdowns, only about 50 percent of the country locked down — that allowed for the perpetuation of the outbreak, which we never did get under very good control.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued the mask order Thursday afternoon after days of pressing by local and county leaders throughout the state. The mandate applies only to counties where there are 20 or more confirmed cases of coronavirus.
His order also bans gatherings of more than 10 people.
“We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another — and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces,” Abbott said.
“I urge all Texans to wear a face covering in public, not just for their own health, but for the health of their families, friends, and for all our fellow Texans.”
The state hit a new single-day case record Wednesday with 8,123 and overall has 175,300 cases and 2,520 deaths.
Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina announced Thursday that the city will fine people and shut down businesses that don’t comply with its face mask requirement — and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed an executive order mandating coverings in public and for situations in which 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.
“The last few months have presented many new challenges for Kansans, and all of us want to return to our normal lives and routines,” Kelly said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we have seen a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across our state and our country. We must act.”
Kansas reported more than 500 new cases Wednesday, one day after reaching a new daily high. The state hit a peak of 511 on May 8 before a downward trajectory that lasted through early June. That trend changed as a second wave of the virus arrived in the weeks that followed.
There have been 280 deaths in the state, with four reported Wednesday, according to The New York Times’ tracker.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett also ordered face coverings in public spaces, joining three counties in the state — Elkhart, LaGrange and St. Joseph.
“This isn’t complicated. It’s a piece of cloth. It’s a piece of cloth that can save your life and the lives of those around you. And it is the right thing to do,” he said.
Indiana has confirmed 47,553 cases and 2,662 deaths, with 376 new cases and 10 deaths reported Wednesday. The state reached a daily case peak in late April and had been on a downward trajectory until late June, when cases started inching up again.
Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to meet Thursday with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss efforts to control the surge. The state’s Department of Health on Thursday reported more than 10,100 new cases, shattering the previous single-day case record and pushing the state’s total confirmed cases to 169,100.
Sixty-seven new deaths were also reported, pushing Florida’s total past 3,600.
Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, will meet DeSantis at a medical and research facility at the University of South Florida.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said Thursday he expects a COVID-19 vaccine to be available in the United States by the end of this year or early next.
Hahn told Good Morning America the FDA has authorized clinical trials for four vaccine candidates.
“We have a lot of different ‘shots on goal’ with respect to vaccines, and that’s good news,” he said. “We expect two of these vaccines to go into the late stages of clinical trials [in July].
“We are on target to reach a vaccine by year’s end or early next year. I’m cautiously optimistic.”