Virus Updates: Surgeon General Pressed on Mixed Messages; NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson Tests Positive

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The U.S. is heading into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays canceled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans’ self-control.

They say this could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak. With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families are being urged to celebrate their independence at home.

Even then, they are being told to keep their backyard cookouts small.

President Donald Trump was set to travel to South Dakota on Friday for a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore before returning to the nation’s capital for military flyovers Saturday and a mile-long pyrotechnics display show on the National Mall that his administration promises will be the biggest in recent memory. Up to 300,000 face masks will be given away but not required.

The big party will go on over objections from Washington's mayor.

“Ask yourself, do you need to be there? Ask yourself, can you anticipate or know who all is going to be around you? If you go downtown, do you know if you’re going to be able to social distance?" Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. set another record on Friday with 52,300 newly reported cases, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Arizona, California, Florida and Texas have been hit especially hard.

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

Chicago to Ask Travelers to 'Do the Right Thing' by Quarantining

The city of Chicago warned of fines of $100 to $500 per day -- up to $7,000 -- for anyone who violates a new emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine for those arriving from states now experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases.

But the city won't be enforcing its quarantine order set to take effect Monday by pulling over people with out-of-state plates or creating a list of travelers, NBC Chicago reported.

"We really are asking people primarily to do the right thing here," Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

As of Thursday, states included in the order were: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

Jimmie Johnson 1st NASCAR Driver to Test Positive

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss this weekend's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 44-year-old Johnson is the first driver in any NASCAR series to test positive and the news Friday evening cast a shadow over the historic NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader races coming up Saturday and Sunday. There was no indication any races would be affected.

Hendrick Motorsports said Johnson will not return until he is cleared by a physician. He was tested earlier Friday after his wife, Chani, tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms.

Johnson is asymptomatic.

"My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said. “I’ve never missed a race in my Cup career, but I know it’s going to be very hard to watch from the sidelines when I’m supposed to be out there competing. Although this situation is extremely disappointing, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”

MLB Cancels All-Star Game for 1st Time Since WWII

Dodger Stadium’s 40-year wait to host the All-Star Game is going to last even longer.

The game scheduled for July 14 has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Dodger Stadium was awarded the 2022 Midsummer Classic.  

The 2021 game is set for Atlanta’s Truist Park, home of the Braves since 2017.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, opening day has been delayed from March 26 to July 23 or 24.

This will be the first time since 1945 that no game will be held.  

Travel restrictions because of  World War II kept the game scheduled for Boston’s Fenway Park and any player selections from taking place that year. It was pushed back to the next season. 

Florida Adds Nearly 9,500 New Cases, Miami 11-Year-Old Becomes State's Youngest Death

Florida's total number of coronavirus cases pushed closer to 180,000 Friday, with nearly 9,500 new cases reported on Friday, NBC Miami reported.

More than 55,300 of the cases were confirmed just in the past week. The seven-day average for daily fatalities is now back over 40, a 30% increase from two weeks ago.

Among those who died this week was Miami 11-year-old Daequan Wimberly, the state's youngest COVID-19-related fatality.

“I would just like for the world to know how he loved everybody," his father Jerry Wimberly, now hospitalized with COVID-19 himself, told NBC Miami.

Miami-Dade is the state's hardest-hit country and announced Thursday it will impose a curfew beginning at 10 p.m. Friday.

Dr. David De La Zerda, who oversees intensive care units at Jackson Health Systems in Miami-Dade, said patients are skewing younger and, in some cases, getting sicker than older patients did during the first influx of COVID patients.

"I do expect things are going to get worse in the next few weeks," he told NBC Miami about the influx of new patients.

Surgeon General Calls for Wearing Face Coverings During Holiday, Won't Advise Against Large Gatherings

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of the higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading the coronavirus at public gatherings.

But Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams wouldn't flat out recommend against attending one, telling NBC's Craig Melvin on TODAY Friday that "every single person needs to make up their own mind."

"There are people going to beaches, going to barbecues, going to different environments and they have to look at their individual risk," Adams said about the July 4 holiday weekend. "As you mentioned, CDC says larger gatherings are a higher risk. You have to take that into account again with whether or not you're at risk, whether you live with someone who is vulnerable and then you have to take measures to stay safe."

Adams said the most important thing people going out could do to protect themselves and others is to wear a face covering.

Three months ago, Adams had downplayed the need for people to wear face coverings. That was "outdated information" and what changed is the knowledge that up to half of virus cases may be spread asymptomatically, Adams said Friday.

Many young people who are not showing symptoms of the virus are now spreading the virus, he said.

"If you want college football in the fall, young people, please wear a face covering," Adams said." If you want prom next year, please wear a face covering."

Still, Adams stopped short of saying that face coverings should be mandated, even at large public gatherings like the fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore that President Donald Trump is set to attend later Friday.

Adams said he wasn't against state and local officials mandating coverings but was concerned that young people, in particular, might disregard being told they have to do so.

"If you make something mandatory, many of them will rebel and do something different," he said.

The comments come as leaders with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, National Retail Federation and other business groups wrote an open letter urging the White House to work with governors on national guidelines for mask mandates in public places, Axios reported.

Disney Suspends College Internship Program

Walt Disney World said it's suspending the Disney College Program indefinitely amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

Disney said in a blog post on Thursday that the internship’s participants won’t be among those returning to work when it reopens its Florida theme parks later this month.

The company said it doesn't know when the Disney-owned apartments where the students lived will be reopened.  Disney said it will refund students their fees and allow participants, including recent college graduates, to re-apply.

The company plans to reopen the Florida theme parks in phases starting July 11 with Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.

Read the full story here.

Virus Concerns Grow as Crowds Flocking to Jersey Shore

With coronavirus-related restrictions being eased and temperatures climbing, people are flocking back to the Jersey Shore.

And with the July Fourth holiday on the horizon, that’s making some people nervous, particularly given the large crowds and poor compliance with mandated measures to help slow the spread of the virus that have surfaced at some popular shore spots recently.

Several bars have hosted large crowds close together with few patrons wearing masks.

“We cannot let up on our social distancing or our responsibility just because the sun is out,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “We can’t be lulled into complacency and think it’s OK to crowd around a bar. That is how flare-ups happen.”

A more promising development surfaced Thursday when five of Atlantic City's nine casinos reopened, and gamblers overwhelmingly complied with mask and social distancing requirements.

New York and New Jersey are no longer among the few currently on track to contain COVID-19, losing ground they had just a week ago, according to Covid Act Now, which uses real-time modeling and metrics to assess the nation's standing in the war against the novel coronavirus, NBC New York reported.

Read a full story about Jersey Shore reopening fears here.

Mexican State Eyes Closing US Border as Arizona Cases Rise

Reacting to a spike in virus cases reported in Arizona, the top health official in the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora is asking Mexico’s federal government to temporarily close the border to non-essential visits from the U.S.

"No more crossings from the United States into Mexico for visitors who do not have essential activities," Sonora state Health Secretary Enrique Clausen said Wednesday. "They should only be allowed for work or business." He said he was asking only for entry into Sonora to be suspended.

The United States and Mexico previously agreed to limiting non-essential border crossings into the U.S. during the pandemic, but Mexico has not moved to block entry into its territory and it seemed unlikely the Foreign Relations Department would grant Clausen's request. The agency did announce it would screen incoming visitors from the United States over the July 4th weekend, checking temperatures and asking about symptoms as a preventative measure.

The Mexican state has only about one-tenth as many confirmed cases as Arizona — 8,976 as compared to 87,425 — but the two states are more comparable in COVID-19 deaths — Sonora with 909 and Arizona with 1,757.

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

COVID-19 Cases Among Military Service Members on the Rise

US service members are seeing a spike in coronavirus cases, according to the latest numbers from the Department of Defense.

The Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, said COVID-19 spikes in the military are mirroring the spikes seen among civilians in Florida, Texas, and parts of California, NBC San Diego reported.

Military cases rose in June with a 27% increase in infections among service members this past week, according to the Military Times.

As of Thursday, 6,493 active service members have coronavirus, the Department of Defense said. Of the 12,521 total military cases, three have resulted in death. The Army has been the hardest hit among military branches with 3,836 cases.

The Associated Press/NBC
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