Congress takes up stimulus checks, $600 weekly jobless benefit; Trump says ‘I’ll be right eventually’ as records fall

Worldwide coronavirus infections and deaths continued to mount at an alarming pace Sunday as the World Health Organization again reported a single-day record of new infections.

In the U.S., Congress this week could decide the fate of proposals that could send out another round of stimulus checks and extend in some way the $600 weekly unemployment benefit that runs out next week. The crucial negotiations come as 16 states and Puerto Rico set one-week records for new cases on Saturday. And the WHO reported 259,848 cases worldwide.

In parts of the United States, a fast-rising tide of new coronavirus cases is flooding emergency rooms. In Texas, Dr. Alison Haddock of the Baylor College of Medicine said the current situation is worse than after Hurricane Harvey, which swamped Houston with floodwaters in 2017.

“I’ve never seen anything like this COVID surge,” Haddock said. “We’re doing our best, but we’re not an ICU.”

Some recent developments: 

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has about 3.7 million cases and more than 140,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been 14.3 million cases and more than 600,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: Houses of worship are figuring out how to safely practice their faith after religious gatherings have been repeatedly linked to outbreaks. Practices traditional to some religions, such as shaking hands, taking Communion and dipping the host in a chalice with wine, are ideal breeding grounds for the virus.

Trump shrugs off criticism of COVID-19 efforts: ‘I’ll be right eventually’

President Donald Trump defended his claims that the coronavirus will simply “disappear” in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” Trump described the increase in COVID-19 cases as “burning embers” as the pandemic winds down. Wallace said it was more like a “forest fire.” Trump reiterated his claims that the number of daily cases is increasing dramatically because of increased testing, though experts said the increased rate of infections far outpaces the increased rate of testing. Increases came after states reopened, moves encouraged by the president.

“I’ll be right eventually,” Trump said. “You know, I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again.”

– David Jackson

Ohio might require masks amid fears state ‘could become Florida’

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who has balked at a statewide masks mandate, says more counties likely will be added to the state’s mandatory mask list and that a statewide requirement is possible. DeWine said he has watched warily the situation in Florida, where the number of new cases and deaths have surged in recent weeks. 

“We are at the point where we could become Florida,” DeWine, a Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “When you look at our numbers today vs. where Florida was a month ago, we have very similar numbers. So we’re very, very concerned.”

More than half the states now require masks in public, but not without controversy. DeWine spoke a day after hundreds of maskless people gathered at the Ohio Statehouse to protest what they see as overreach by government officials and public health advocates. They said infection and mortality data are being manipulated and that DeWine is a helicopter parent who’s got it all wrong.

“It’s not connecting to the science. It’s propaganda,” said Cherrelyn Pierson of Marysville, Ohio, who said she works in a health-related field. “I trust myself. I am the science.”

Rita Price, The Columbus Dispatch

U.S. paying price for rush to reopen, NIH chief says

The failure of many states to follow federal reopening guidelines is a key reason for the boom in new cases across the nation, the director of the National Institutes of Health said Sunday. Dr. Francis Collins, speaking on “Meet the Press,” also called for more rapid testing so people will know whether they are infected and can avoid infecting others. Patients are waiting up to a week for results in some places, Collins said. The struggles with testing are contributing to the surge in cases, he said. But successes in some states shows the battle can be won, he said.

“We basically did a good job in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut,” Collins said. “Meanwhile, the rest of the country … kinda went about their business.”

Texas sets weekly records for cases, deaths

A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows at least 16 states set records for new cases in a week while four states had a record number of deaths. New case records were set in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, and also Puerto Rico. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina and Texas.

In Texas, an analysis of Johns Hopkins data from late Saturday shows new cases per week leaped to 72,691, more than 10 times the number of the worst week seen in the spring. And deaths per week increased to 801, more than three times the worst week of the spring.

Michael Stucka

Pope: Pandemic shows no sign of ending

Pope Francis renewed his plea Sunday for a global cease-fire to allow governments and  their citizens to combat the pandemic. Francis, speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, said the pandemic shows “no signs of coming to an end.” He said his thoughts with were those suffering from the illness and the economic and social repercussions of the pandemic.

 “My thought goes out especially to the populations whose sufferings are heightened due to situations of conflict,” he said. “I renew the appeal for a global and immediate cease fire that would allow the peace and safety that are indispensable in order to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance.”

Congress to decide fate of stimulus checks, unemployment benefit boosts

The coronavirus recession has split America in two: those who are still financially intact, and others struggling to survive. Congress is set to reconvene this week as the $600 weekly unemployment benefits under the CARES Act near their expiration. Policymakers will debate whether more emergency stimulus checks and extra unemployment payments are needed to keep jobless people afloat. More than two-thirds of Americans say they need a second stimulus check to help make ends meet, according to recent data from tax preparer Jackson-Hewitt.

“I’m panicked. I’ve run through my entire savings,” says Chelsie Caudle, who sublets a spot in a Portland, Oregon, hair salon.

Jessica Menton

Global deaths pass 600,000

The world hit yet another startling milestone on Saturday as the global death tally surpassed 600,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Of the 188 countries tracked, only 17 have not yet reported a virus-related death. The U.S. has the highest number of fatalities, the only nation reporting more than 100,000 deaths. Confirmed cases of the virus have doubled globally since early June, according to data from the university. If deaths – which often lag weeks behind cases – follow a similar trend, the virus could become one of the top 10 global causes of death in coming months.

– Joel Shannon

As churches reopen, outbreaks are sprouting

Almost 40 places of worship and religious events have been linked to more than 650 U.S. cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to tracking by the New York Times. Along with the nationwide surge in infections that has followed the loosening of restrictions aimed at combating the virus, outbreaks connected to churches have sprouted at several spots.

Those include a Pentecostal church in northeastern Oregon tied to at least 236 positive tests; five flareups linked to churches in West Virginia, the largest one resulting in 51 infections; more than 50 cases stemming from an evangelical church outside San Antonio where the pastor allowed hugging again; a large worship service in Cleveland, Tennessee, that appears to have generated at least a dozen cases, including the pastor, who said he stopped counting after 12; a Christian camp in Missouri that had to shut down after 82 campers, counselors and staffers contracted the virus despite taking a number of precautions.

– Jorge L. Ortiz

Tommy Croft and Eddie Ford install plexiglass dividers on desks in a classroom at Oakland Heights Elementary School in Meridian, Miss.
Tommy Croft and Eddie Ford install plexiglass dividers on desks in a classroom at Oakland Heights Elementary School in Meridian, Miss.

What we’re reading

Ousted Florida scientist files whistleblower complaint

Florida’s former top coronavirus data scientist has filed a whistleblower complaint against the state’s Health Department, accusing the agency of firing her in retaliation for refusing to manipulate data to support the push to reopen Florida after months of quarantine. The complaint by former agency data manager Rebekah Jones targets Gov. Ron DeSantis directly.

“These efforts to falsify the numbers are a pattern and practice in Florida government that goes on to this day,” Jones’ attorney, Rick Johnson, said in a statement. “Ron DeSantis has routinely given false numbers to the press. His underlings at (the Health Department) follow his example and his direction.”

DeSantis has dismissed the complaint as part of a “partisan narrative.”

– Chris Persaud, The Palm Beach Post

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Where a face mask is required: Many governors are instituting or renewing orders requiring people to wear face coverings in public as cases continue to rise. Is your state on the list? See it here

Coronavirus Watch: We have a few ways for you to stay informed. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here, and come together and share the latest information about the coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.

Where are states on reopening? More than half of all states, including California and Michigan, have paused reopening plans or are taking steps to halt the spread of COVID-19. Here’s the list.

What went wrong in Florida? Two months after Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted about proving the experts wrong by flattening the curve and getting COVID-19 under control, Florida has become the state that other states don’t want to become.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus updates: ERs filling up in US; stimulus checks; Trump