Virus crisis easing in Sun Belt
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.