The United States is edging closer to hitting 5 million coronavirus cases.
On Thursday evening, the number of confirmed cases surpassed 4.8 million and is expected to reach 5 million by early Friday. The five-day average of new daily cases in the U.S. is currently about 53,000, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University.
The rate at which COVID-19 tests come back positive serves as a good indicator of whether outbreaks are contained. The seven-day rolling average test positive rate across the country has hovered around 8% since the last week of July. A rate of 10% or lower is a good sign that the country is recovering. Some individual states, however, have significantly higher test positive rates.
Arizona’s weeklong average test positive rate is 16.6%. Florida’s rate is nearly 18%, and Mississippi’s rate is about 22%.
New Pew Research Center polling Thursday found that a majority of people, 69%, think most states now seeing surges of new cases, such as Georgia, Florida, and Texas, reopened their economies too early in April and May without enforcing social distancing guidelines. Meanwhile, only 26% said the proper way to revive the U.S. economy, which took a nosedive in the spring, would be to reopen businesses and schools even if there hasn’t been a significant decline in infections.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said that the U.S. economy would not have to shut down a second time in order to beat the coronavirus pandemic as long as people take social distancing measures seriously.
“There seems to be a misperception that either you shut down completely and damage a lot of things, mental health, the economy, all kinds of things, or let it rip, and do whatever you want,” Fauci said on the Politico podcast Pulse Check published Thursday.
Fauci renewed calls for widespread mask-wearing, avoidance of crowded spaces, and more social distancing guidelines he and other public health officials have advocated for since March.
“You don’t have to lock down again, but everybody has got to be on board for doing these five or six fundamental public health measures,” he said.
Fauci also maintained that he is “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine for the coronavirus would be made available by the end of the year, while President Trump said Thursday that it’s possible a vaccine could come before the November election.
Trump was asked on Geraldo Rivera’s radio program when a vaccine might become publicly available, to which he said, “Sooner than the end of the year, could be much sooner.”
He added, “I think in some cases, yes, possible before [Election Day], but right around that time.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, tested positive for the coronavirus moments before meeting with Trump. DeWine’s office said he has “no symptoms at the present time.”
“Governor DeWine is returning to Columbus where he and first lady Fran DeWine, who also has no symptoms, will both be tested. Governor DeWine plans to follow protocol for COVID-19 and quarantine at his home in Cedarville for the next 14 days,” DeWine’s office said.
Trump signed an executive order Thursday requiring the federal government to buy essential drugs only from domestic manufacturers rather than from overseas. It’s unclear how many drugs will be considered “essential,” as the Buy American order instructed the Food and Drug Administration to determine which medications should be subject to new purchasing requirements. Trump signed the order at Whirlpool Corporation’s manufacturing plant in Clyde, Ohio, where he also said he’s going to be signing something “very important” in the coming week that will have a big impact on “fairness and trade.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the chamber will be back in session Monday, rather than adjourn for the traditional summer recess. McConnell blamed Democrats for failing to negotiate a deal on the next coronavirus economic relief package.
“A second straight week of political theater from our Democratic colleagues with no result except more pain for families, more uncertainty for workers, and more evidence to suggest that perhaps Democratic leaders were never serious about getting something accomplished in the first place,” McConnell said Thursday morning in a Senate floor speech.
Trump has said that if a final compromise between Democrats and Republicans is not made by Friday, he will take executive action to provide coronavirus aid. A meeting between McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is scheduled for Thursday evening.
Forecasters expect the Friday jobs report from the Labor Department will show that about 1.6 million jobs were added to payrolls in July and that the unemployment rate dropped to 10.6% from June’s 11.1%.
Before the pandemic, 1.6 million new jobs in a month would have been a record. Given the cataclysmic job separations of the spring, however, it would suggest that the recovery has fallen off the pace needed to return the labor market back to normal and avoid a deep and lasting recession. In comparison, 5 million jobs were created in May and June.