Florida sees record 156 COVID-19 deaths; Georgia governor sues Atlanta

Face mask often used to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Photo: https://nursetogether.com/Wikimedia Commons

July 17 (UPI) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday filed a lawsuit seeking to block Atlanta’s mask order as the United States reported more than 66,000 new cases.

The lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court challenges Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ decision to require face masks be worn in public and to revert the city to “Phase 1” of its re-opening guidelines, closing restaurant dining rooms and calling on residents to only leave their homes for essential activities.

“This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times,” Kemp wrote on Twitter. “These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth.”

Wednesday night, Kemp signed an executive order overruling local governments that enacted ordinances requiring face coverings and prohibited similar orders in the future.

Kemp’s order asserted the state’s right to impose its own less-stringent guidelines, in which residents are merely “strongly urged” to wear masks “as practicable” in public.

The provision, included as part of the state’s general COVID-19 guidelines, explicitly voids mask mandates at the local level.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University said in an update Thursday about 66,300 new coronavirus cases were recorded nationally on Wednesday. To date, there have been 3.6 million cases and more than 138,400 deaths in the United States, according to the researchers.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said Thursday he is “very, very close” to issuing a new stay-at-home order amid a surge in cases and deaths in Florida.

Florida, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, said Thursday it set a new record for COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, with 156 — topping the previous mark by 24 deaths. Officials also reported 14,000 new cases statewide.

More than 315,000 people in Florida have now been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“There is very little, if any federal and state guidance on how and what metric we need to use to close,” Suarez told CNN. “So we’re developing all of that on our own. And we’re faced with making these tough decisions in the next few days if things don’t improve radically.”

In Oklahoma, the Tulsa City Council passed a mask requirement by a 7-2 vote Wednesday, less than a month after President Donald Trump held a re-election rally in the city.

Mayor G.T. Bynum was expected to sign the measure Thursday morning, which requires adults in public areas to wear face coverings at all times.

“We will continue to do what we have to do to protect our local healthcare system,” Bynum said.

The ordinance came on the same day Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he tested positive for COVID-19.

In Arizona, Maricopa County has ordered portable body coolers to cope with the number of rising deaths.

Spokesman Fields Moseley said the added deaths have led to a “surge capacity” designation for the county morgue. Officials ordered four coolers to address the lack of space for the dead.

New cases in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, have flattened at around 2,500 new per day during the last week, officials noted.

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