Virus Updates: Trump Scraps Florida GOP Convention Plans; US Cases Top 4 Million

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 4 million on Thursday, with more than 144,000 deaths, according to a tally by NBC News.

The grim milestone comes as more states reimpose shutdowns over spiking infection rates. In California, where cases climbed rapidly last month and surpassed New York state Wednesday for most in the nation, Gov. Gavin Newsom and health officials have blamed the increase on people — many of them younger adults — gathering with friends and family and not wearing masks or maintaining social distancing.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is set to unveil a $1 trillion COVID-19 rescue package. The Republican leader is pushing past a GOP revolt over big spending and differences with the White House as the virus crisis worsens. The bill will include an extension of the weekly unemployment benefits boost, which is set to expire Friday.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

Trump Says Some Schools May Need to Delay Opening

Softening his earlier stance, President Donald Trump on Thursday acknowledged that some schools may need to delay their reopening this fall as the coronavirus continues to surge.

It marks a shift from Trump’s previous demand for a full reopening of the nation’s schools. In recent weeks, Trump has said that it's safe to open schools and that Democrats have opposed it for political reasons.

But speaking at a White House news conference, Trump said districts in some virus hot spots “may need to delay reopening for a few weeks." He said the decision will fall to governors.

Even as he tempered his position, though, Trump insisted that every school should be “actively making preparations to open." Students need to be in school buildings to prevent learning setbacks, he said, and to access meal programs and mental health services.

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Trump Calls Off Florida Segment of GOP National Convention

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he has canceled segments of the Republican National Convention scheduled for Florida next month, citing a “flare-up” of the coronavirus. Convention events will still be held in North Carolina.

“To have a big convention is not the right time," Trump said of Jacksonville.

Trump moved parts of the GOP convention to Florida last month amid a dispute with North Carolina’s Democratic leaders over holding an event indoors with maskless supporters. But those plans were steadily scaled back as virus cases spiked in Florida and much of the country over the last month.

A small subset of GOP delegates will still gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, to formally renominate Trump on Aug. 24. Trump said he would deliver an acceptance speech in an alternate form.

Florida Hits New Milestone With 173 Coronavirus Deaths

Florida reached a new milestone Thursday with 173 reported coronavirus deaths and pushed the total number of cases in the state past 389,000, according to the state health department, NBC Miami reports.

There were 10,249 new coronavirus cases reported Thursday. The latest death count brings the seven-day average to about 121 deaths per day in Florida. The previous high death toll reported in a single day was 156 on July 16.

Florida's death toll for residents now stands at 5,518, while another 114 non-Florida residents have died in the state from COVID-related causes. Deaths are reported when they are confirmed, so they are delayed by days or weeks after they actually occur.

For example, of the 173 new resident deaths announced Thursday, only 20 occurred yesterday, according to the state’s website. About a third occurred one week ago or longer.

Should Your State Reopen?

For states considering lifting quarantine measures, the official guidelines propose either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within two weeks or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests.

As shown below, when you compare yesterday’s new case count with that of two weeks ago, the number is often lower, simply because the counts fluctuate. Critics call the measures vague and ultimately because they aren’t binding, some states are choosing to reopen whether they meet the criteria or not.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

White House Campus Cafeterias Close After Employee Tests Positive

Two White House campus cafeterias have been closed after a person involved in food service tested positive for the coronavirus.

Pamela Pennington, a spokesperson for the U.S. General Services Administration, says numerous protocols were in place at the locations, including the use of masks and gloves, plastic shielding at check out and no dine-in service.

She says the White House Medical Unit has performed contact tracing and determined the risk of transmission to others is low.

The White House and the president’s re-election campaign have seen numerous positive cases, including one of the president’s personal valets, the vice president’s press secretary, Secret Service agents and campaign events staff.

The president, vice president, senior staff and those in contact with the president are tested regularly.

Simone Biles Says of Uncertainty Around Tokyo Olympics, 'We Train as If'

Superstar gymnast Simone Biles said that with the Tokyo Games postponed until 2021 and the possibility they could be cancelled if the pandemic does not subside, she and other Olympic athletes are continuing to "train as if."

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and the most decorated female gymnast in history told "TODAY" in an interview Thursday she cried after hearing the games were being pushed to next year.

"It's been kind of crazy, but going in every day knowing and hoping that 2021 is on the horizon keeps me going," Biles said. "It's just, we don't know what's going to happen, so we train as if."

That training has been "a little bit different," she added, with gymnasts' schedules staggered and all staff wearing masks.

For more on what other U.S. Olympians have to share about the 2020 Tokyo Games, the coronavirus pandemic and what it would take for them to feel safe at the Olympics, click here.

McConnell Set to Unveil New Virus Aid, Despite GOP Revolt

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is set to unveil a $1 trillion COVID-19 rescue package.

The Republican leader is pushing past a GOP revolt over big spending and differences with the White House as the virus crisis worsens. The package is called CARES II and is to be released Thursday.

It's made up of separate bills from 10 senators as McConnell seeks to replicate an earlier strategy to launch negotiations with Democrats. The path will be tougher this time. GOP senators and President Donald Trump are at odds over priorities. And Democrats say the package is not nearly enough to stem the health crisis, reopen schools and extend aid to jobless Americans.

Another 1.4 Million Seek Jobless Claims as Virus Surges Back

The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March, evidence of the deepening economic pain the outbreak is causing to the economy.

The rise in weekly jobless claims to 1.4 million underscores the outsize role the unemployment insurance system is playing among the nation’s safety net programs — just when a $600 weekly federal aid payment for the jobless is set to expire at the end of this week. All told, the Labor Department said Thursday that roughly 32 million people are receiving unemployment benefits.

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FDA Adds More Hand Sanitizers to 'Toxic' List, Bringing Total to 75

If you are purchasing hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean and slow the spread of the coronavirus, avoid purchasing products that contain methanol, a type of wood alcohol that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin.

In recent weeks, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified 75 products that contain methanol. The initial press release on this topic, issued on June 19, highlighted nine hand sanitizers manufactured by Eskbiochem SA de CV, that were found to contain methanol.

"Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects," said the FDA release. "Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol should seek immediate treatment, which is critical for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning."

Now, there are 75 types of potentially toxic hand sanitizer listed on the FDA's site.

If you are using hand sanitizer, make sure to use a product that does not contain methanol and contains at least 60% ethanol. However, the FDA recommends that people wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, as opposed to using hand sanitizer.

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The Food and Drug Administration says nine products produced by Mexico-based Eskbiochem SA de CV may contain methanol, which can be harmful if absorbed through the skin or ingested.

The Associated Press/NBC
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