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Five U.S. states see record COVID-19 deaths, Latinos hit hard in California

(Reuters) – Five U.S. states in the South and West reported one-day records for coronavirus deaths yesterday and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark as California health officials said Latinos made up more than half its cases.

Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Oregon each reported record spikes in fatalities. In California deaths rose by 171, the state’s largest increase of the pandemic.

The United States confirmed that nationwide more than 1,200 lives were lost on Tuesday, the biggest one-day increase since May, according to a Reuters tally.

California health officials said Latinos, who make up just over a third of the most populous U.S. state, account for 56% of COVID-19 infections and 46% of deaths. Cases are soaring in the Central Valley agricultural region, with its heavily Latino population, overwhelming hospitals. Florida saw 191 coronavirus deaths in the prior 24 hours, its highest single-day rise yet, the state health department said.

Texas added more than 6,000 new cases on Monday, pushing its total to 401,477, according to a Reuters tally. Only three other states – California, Florida and New York – have more than 400,000 total cases. The four are the most populous U.S. states.

California and Texas both reported decreases in overall hospitalizations as Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. infectious diseases expert, saw signs the surge could be peaking in the South and West while other areas were on the cusp of new outbreaks.

Fauci said early indications showed the percentage of positive coronavirus tests rising in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.

The rise in U.S. deaths and infections has dampened early hopes the country was past the worst of an economic crisis that has decimated businesses and put millions of Americans out of work.

The trend has fueled a bitter debate over the reopening of schools in the coming weeks. President Donald Trump and members of his administration have pushed for students to return to class, while some teachers and local officials have called for online learning.

“We will fight on all fronts for the safety of students and their educators,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said during the union’s virtual convention on Tuesday. “It’s the 11th hour; we need the resources now.”

In Texas, the Texas Education Agency, the state overseer of public education, said it would deny funding to schools that delay in-person classes because of orders by local health authorities related to the pandemic.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued guidance that health authorities cannot impose “blanket” school closures for coronavirus prevention. Any such decision is up to school officials, he said.

Local health leaders in the biggest metropolitan areas in Texas, including Houston and Dallas, have recently ordered the postponement of in-person classes.

In Washington, some Republicans in the U.S. Senate pushed back against their own party’s $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal the day after it was unveiled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, weighing on U.S. stocks.

“I’m not for borrowing another trillion dollars,” Republican Senator Rand Paul told reporters.

Democrats have rejected the plan as too limited compared with their $3 trillion proposal that passed the House of Representatives in May. Some Republicans called it too expensive.

Trump said on Tuesday he did not support everything in the Senate Republican coronavirus relief legislation but would not elaborate.

“There are also things that I very much support,” he told a White House briefing. “But we’ll be negotiating.”

Trump also groused about Fauci’s high approval ratings and joked “nobody likes me” as he struggles to improve his standing with voters over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It can only be my personality,” said Trump.

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