More than 13.5 million COVID-19 infections have been confirmed worldwide and over 588,000 have died, in a July 16, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

More than 13.5 million COVID-19 infections have been confirmed worldwide and over 588,000 have died, in a July 16, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Virus prompts drastic measures as death tolls set records

HOUSTON — The coronavirus kept surging in hot spots around the U.S. on Thursday, with one city in South Carolina urging people to pray it into submission, a hospital in Texas bringing in military medical personnel and morgues running out of space in Phoenix.

Record numbers of confirmed infections and deaths emerged again in states in the South and West, with hospitals stretched to the brink and fears worldwide that the pandemic’s resurgence is only getting started.

Texas reported 10,000 new cases for the third straight day and 129 additional deaths. The state has seen a third of its more than 3,400 total COVID-19 fatalities in the first two weeks of July alone.

Florida reached another ominous record, with 156 virus deaths, and health officials reported a staggering 13,965 new cases.

South Carolina confirmed 69 deaths, more than double any other day. In Louisiana, where officials thought they had contained the virus earlier this year only to become a hot spot again, it’s averaged more than 2,000 new confirmed infections a day over the past week.

Many of the governors leading states with the highest rising numbers had refused to mandate masks in public or prevented local officials doing so. While a number of them have reversed course — including Arkansas’ Republican governor — and at least 25 states now have mask rules, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp banned cities and counties from requiring face coverings and then sued Atlanta to prevent the city from defying his order.

Georgia’s capital and 14 other cities had ordered masks be worn, but the Republican governor has maintained that no local directive can be more or less restrictive than his statewide mandates.

“How can we take care of our local needs when our state ties our hands behind our back and then says, ‘Ignore the advice of experts?’” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson told reporters. He later added: “If you don’t want to protect us, then allow us the opportunity to protect ourselves.”

Arizona, meanwhile, has been so hard hit by the virus, the medical examiner’s office in metro Phoenix has gotten portable storage coolers and ordered more to handle an influx of bodies — reminiscent of New York City at the height of the pandemic there earlier this year.

The Arizona agency’s regular morgue storage was 63% full Thursday. Marcy Flanagan, executive director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said many funeral homes are at capacity and unable to accept more bodies.

In Texas, the rising numbers are hitting big cities like Houston as well as smaller communities along the Mexico border. This month, Hidalgo County, about 220 miles (354 kilometres) south of San Antonio on the border, has reported more deaths than Houston’s Harris County.

Dr. Ivan Melendez, Hidalgo County’s public health authority, said it’s not uncommon for the body of a COVID-19 patient to lay on a stretcher for 10 hours before it can be removed in the overcrowded hospitals where intensive care space is running short.

“Before someone gets a bed in the COVID ICU unit, someone has to die there,” Melendez said.

Elsewhere in the second-largest state, health officials in San Antonio also turned to refrigerated trailers to store the dead, and soldiers prepared to take over a COVID-19 wing of a Houston hospital.

An 86-person Army team of doctors, nurses and support staff was setting up a nursing station at United Memorial Medical Center and expected to begin treating up to 40 patients in the coming days.

Some of the soldiers from around the country wore their uniforms. Others wore scrubs affixed with strips of surgical tape that had their ranks, names and medical titles.

“This facility, working with the United States military, is something that we asked for,” said U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, standing near the soldiers as they worked. “We have exhausted medical personnel that we’re so grateful to, but we didn’t have enough.”

In South Carolina, where the coronavirus crisis was deepening, the mayor of Charleston asked for spiritual help.

“We do turn to God at a time like this,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said.

Declaring a day of prayer and remembrance in what for centuries has been nicknamed the Holy City for the number of church steeples dotting its colonial skyline, Tecklenburg was surrounded by pastors of various faiths who prayed for the dead, the sick, their families, health care workers, scientists seeking a vaccine and politicians.

Charleston is one of the biggest hot spots in a state that’s among the worst in the nation for the rate of new cases. South Carolina is a microcosm of how the virus has been playing out in the U.S. the past few months. Nearly 39% of the more than 62,000 known cases in the state have been diagnosed in the past two weeks.

South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations nearly every day this month. The 69 deaths reported Thursday pushed it well past 1,000 people killed by the virus, the 25th state to cross that sombre threshold.

More than 13.5 million infections have been confirmed worldwide and over 588,000 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The numbers are likely higher for a number of reasons, including limited testing.

Elsewhere around the world:

— Brazil’s health ministry reported that the country had passed 2 million confirmed infections and 76,000 deaths. Since late May, Brazil has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths on average in a gruesome plateau that has yet to tilt downward.

— With Europe’s summer vacation season kicking into high gear for millions weary of months of lockdown, scenes of drunken British and German tourists on Spain’s Mallorca island ignoring social distancing rules and reports of American visitors flouting quarantine measures in Ireland raised fears of a resurgence of infections.

— In France, which has seen new outbreaks, Prime Minister Jean Castex said masks would be mandatory in closed public places as of next week — sooner than Aug. 1 as previously announced.

— India’s record daily increase of nearly 32,700 cases pushed its total close to 1 million and led authorities to reimpose a three-day lockdown and nightly curfew in the popular western beach state of Goa, two weeks after it was reopened to tourists.

By The Associated Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Shanna Lydiard is upset to have had mail delivery cut off last month to her West Park street because of water main reconstruction. Delivery is to resume by May 19 at the latest, according to the City of Red Deer. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Red Deer woman frustrated by mail delivery suspension due to construction

Shanna Lydiard said residents shouldn’t have to drive across the city for their mail

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen received his COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday at Jackson’s Pharmacy in Innisfail. (Devin Creeshen Twitter photo)
COVID-19: Most local MLAs have received their first vaccine shot

Alberta’s NDP is encouraging all MLAs to get vaccinated and publicly promote… Continue reading

Alberta continues to wrestle with high COVID-19 case numbers. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer up to 858 active cases of COVID-19

Province reports additional 1,799 cases of the virus

Bo's Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening.
(Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

The Bowden Institution medium security facility near Bowden has 15 active COVID-19 cases. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
15 active COVID-19 cases at Bowden prison

Bowden Institution has had 36 positive cases this year with 21 recovered and no deaths

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and several members of city council helped kick off the spring Green Deer cleanup campaign on Wednesday. Veer said city workers do their best to keep the city looking good, but need volunteer help to get rid of litter that has blown into bushes onto road sides over the winter. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)
Red Deer city councillors launch spring Green Deer campaign

Volunteers are needed to keep the city looking good

Ottawa Senators centre Josh Norris, right, celebrates his game-winning overtime goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with left wing Brady Tkachuk Wednesday May 12, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Norris scored winner, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 in Andersen’s return from injury

Norris scored winner, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 in Andersen’s return from injury

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, holds up the trophy after beating Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, in the final at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament, in Montreal on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Tennis Canada could move top tournaments to US if Toronto, Montreal plan not approved

Tennis Canada could move top tournaments to US if Toronto, Montreal plan not approved

Philadelphia Flyers' Travis Sanheim (6) and Brian Elliott (37) celebrate with teammates after the Flyers won an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Puck luck? Hockey’s secrecy makes betting on NHL a gamble

Puck luck? Hockey’s secrecy makes betting on NHL a gamble

FILE - John Davidson, left, president of the New York Rangers, and Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton pose at a news conference in New York, in this Wednesday, May 22, 2019, file photo. The New York Rangers abruptly fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 with three games left in the season. Chris Drury was named president and GM. He previously served as associate GM under Davidson and Gorton. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
New York Rangers fire coach Dave Quinn, 3 assistants

New York Rangers fire coach Dave Quinn, 3 assistants

Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, returns a shot from Ilya Ivashka, of Belarus, during the Miami Open tennis tournament, Saturday, March 27, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Wilfredo Lee
Canadian Denis Shapovalov books meeting with Nadal in third round of Italian Open

Canadian Denis Shapovalov books meeting with Nadal in third round of Italian Open

United States goalie Alex Cavallini (33) deflects Canada's Marie Philip Poulin (29) shot during the first period in the women's 3-on-3 game, part of the NHL hockey All-Star weekend, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in St. Louis. Hockey Canada's roster of players invited to try out for the 2022 Olympic women's hockey team indicates the squad will be experienced up front and less so on the back end. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Roberson
Hockey Canada announces players invited to try out for women’s Olympic team

Hockey Canada announces players invited to try out for women’s Olympic team

Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried works against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Hernández 2 HRs as Ryu, Blue Jays improve to 5-0 vs Braves

Hernández 2 HRs as Ryu, Blue Jays improve to 5-0 vs Braves

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save as Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) and Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (73) look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Leafs and the Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years when the 2020-21 NHL post-season gets underway.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Leafs, Habs will face off in long-awaited playoff rematch, Oilers will face Jets

Leafs, Habs will face off in long-awaited playoff rematch, Oilers will face Jets

Most Read