Virus cri­sis eas­ing in Sun Belt

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION / WORLD - BY MATT SEDENSKY AP Na­tional Writer

The tor­rid coro­n­avirus sum­mer across the Sun Belt is eas­ing af­ter two dis­as­trous months that brought more than 35,000 deaths. Whether the out­break will heat up again af­ter La­bor Day and the re­sump­tion of school and foot­ball re­mains to be seen.

Seven of the nine states along the na­tion’s South­ern and West­ern rim are see­ing drops in three im­por­tant gauges — new deaths, new cases and the per­cent­age of tests com­ing back pos­i­tive for the virus. Alabama is the only state in the re­gion to see all three num­bers ris­ing; Mis­sis­sippi’s deaths are up, but pos­i­tive rates and cases are drop­ping.

In Florida, where re­ported deaths from COVID-19 are run­ning at about 114 a day on av­er­age, down from a peak of 185 in early Au­gust, Gov. Ron DeSan­tis went so far as to an­nounce Tues­day that he is eas­ing the state’s 5-month-old ban on visi­tors to nurs­ing homes.

“Part of hav­ing a healthy so­ci­ety is un­der­stand­ing that hu­man be­ings seek af­fec­tion,” DeSan­tis said, his voice crack­ing at times as he won­dered aloud whether his ac­tions con­trib­uted to the suf­fer­ing by sep­a­rat­ing the el­derly from their loved ones. He paused for about 20 sec­onds to col­lect him­self.

The gov­er­nor also said the num­ber of peo­ple in the hospi­tal in Florida with COVID-19 is down nearly 60% from its peak in July, and new cases on Mon­day dropped below 2,000, the low­est daily to­tal since mid-June.

As of Tues­day, there were more than 25.3 mil­lion con­firmed cases and over 850,000 deaths world­wide, ac­cord­ing to the tally kept by Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, with the U.S. ac­count­ing for more than 6 mil­lion in­fec­tions and 183,000 of the dead.

NYC de­lays re­turn to class­room

New York City post­poned stu­dents’ re­turn to class­rooms by more than a week to keep work­ing on coro­n­avirus safety pre­cau­tions, an­nounc­ing the de­lay Tues­day af­ter teach­ers said they might OK a strike over the city’s drive to open schools.

The change came nine days be­fore the na­tion’s largest pub­lic school sys­tem was set to re­sume teach­ing stu­dents face-to-face.

Mnuchin says Trump still wants virus re­lief pack­age

Pressed by Democrats to quickly ne­go­ti­ate a new coro­n­avirus re­lief pack­age, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said Tues­day the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­mains will­ing to work on a bipartisan agree­ment to help small busi­nesses, the un­em­ployed, chil­dren and schools. Demo­cratic lead­ers are hold­ing it up with hard­ened po­si­tions, he said.

“Let’s move for­ward on a bipartisan ba­sis on points we can agree upon,” Mnuchin urged at a hear­ing by the House Select Sub­com­mit­tee on the Coro­n­avirus Cri­sis. “The pres­i­dent and I want to move for­ward.”

Mnuchin pinned the blame on a re­fusal to com­pro­mise by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen­ate Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer. Still, Mnuchin showed some open­ness to ne­go­ti­at­ing and even agreed, un­der prod­ding from Rep. Max­ine Waters, D-Calif., to phone Pelosi right af­ter the hear­ing.


Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin tes­ti­fies be­fore a House sub­com­mit­tee on Tues­day.

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