The United States reached another milestone on the coronavirus pandemic with COVID-19 toll passing 150,000 deaths Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
With nearly 4.5 million confirmed cases, the U.S. leads the world in both categories.
Although other countries are experiencing new case surges, their rates are below those in the United States, where some states, including California, Florida, and Texas, are breaking their own records weekly or daily.
U.S. health experts say many states reopened businesses and public attractions too soon. They also say a lack of clear federal guidance and enforcement on the federal level means governors must develop their own public health directives to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. The result is restrictions and directives that vary from state to state, including travel limitations for returning residents and nonresidents.
In Maryland, for example, as of Friday, all residents 5 years old and older must wear face masks in all indoor and outdoor public places when social distancing is impractical. Larry Hogan, the Republican governor, on Wednesday also issued a travel advisory for nine states where the testing positivity rate is 10 percent or higher.
Any Maryland residents traveling to or from those states should be tested and quarantined until they get the results, according to the advisory.
“Wearing masks is the single best mitigation strategy that we have to fight the virus, and the science and data are very clear,” Hogan said. “If you do nothing else, wearing a mask alone would help us significantly slow the spread of this virus and continue on the road to health and economic recovery.”
The Democratic speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, ordered everyone on the House floor to wear masks after Texas Republican Congressman Louis Gohmert tested positive for the coronavirus. Gohmert had balked at wearing a mask and several lawmakers who had been in close contact with him, including Democrat Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, self-quarantined.
“In the meantime, my work schedule and the lives of my employees are disrupted. This stems from a selfish act by Mr. Gohmert, who is just one member of Congress,” Grijalva said.
Pelosi said failure to cover up in the House would be a “serious breach of decorum” and violators would be removed.
“It’s a sign of respect for the health, safety and well-being of others present in the chamber and in surrounding areas,” Pelosi said.
At least nine other House members have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged senators to wear masks and only a handful have refused.
Elsewhere, hospital officials in Guatemala say they are being forced to bury COVID-19 victims without identifying them.
Officials say many of the unidentified people came to the hospital alone and were too sick to provide personal details before dying.
At least one hospital has started photographing unidentified patients hoping that someone will eventually be able to identify them.
Others have been placed in transparent body bags in the hope that a relative would recognize them.
The hospitals say they best they can do is estimate a victim’s age and note his or her gender.
Islam’s holiest observances began Wednesday in Saudi Arabia, where pilgrims arrived in Mecca to begin the Hajj, which has been dramatically scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of the more than 2 million people from around the globe that normally make the required once-in-a-lifetime journey to Islam’s holiest site, Saudi Arabia has barred all international travelers from entering the kingdom to perform the Hajj, limiting the attendees to just 1,000 people, made up of Saudi nationals and foreign residents who were preselected weeks ago.
The pilgrims are between the ages of 20 and 50 and have been tested for the virus before traveling to Mecca, where they were required to quarantine in their hotel rooms before the start of the Hajj. They will also be required to enter quarantine for a week after the end of their five-day pilgrimage.
Saudi Arabia had more than 270,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 2,800 deaths as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins.
Source: Voice of America