Coronavirus: Florida sets new daily record for deaths

San Francisco and Sacramento say public school students will not return to classrooms when new term begins

A health worker wearing a protective mask listens while Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, not pictured, speaks during a press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, U.S., on Monday, July 13, 2020. Florida reported 282,435 Covid-19 cases on Monday, up 4.7% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 4.4% in the previous seven days. Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

Florida set a grim daily record for deaths from the coronavirus, with 156 announced on Thursday.

The state’s department of health reported 13,965 new cases, bringing the state's total throughout the pandemic to almost 316,000.

The US Department of Labour also reported a surge in first-time filings for unemployment benefits in Florida, which has recently emerged as a hot spot for Covid-19.

In the week ending July 11, there were 129,408 new filings, an increase of more than 62,000 from the week before.

In California, two more school districts, San Francisco and Sacramento, announced that public school students will not return to classrooms when the new term begins.

The decision was prompted by surges in coronavirus cases and delays in getting test results back.

They join Los Angeles and San Diego, the state’s two largest school districts.

Other schools staying closed include those in Oakland, Long Beach, Santa Ana and San Bernardino.

They have chosen to start the autumn term with online learning amid strong concerns from teachers' unions and public health officials about the safety of schools.

State officials expect more districts to announce plans for distance learning.

The Centres of Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday reported 67,404 new coronavirus infections nationwide, bringing the case count to 3.4 million.

The number of deaths rose by 947 to 136,938.

Meanwhile, mayors in Atlanta and other Georgia cities hardened their defiance against Governor Brian Kemp after he banned cities and counties from making face coverings obligatory.

Mr Kemp said municipalities did not have the power to order the use of masks in public places.

Democratic local officials condemned his stance.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who on July 1 became the first to defy Mr Kemp by ordering masks to be worn, took to Twitter on Wednesday night to blast the governor.

Officials in at least 15 Georgia cities and counties, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, ordered masks to be worn in public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many are expressing outrage at Mr Kemp for trying to stem their efforts.

Meanwhile, the US announced that borders with Mexico and Canada would stay shut for most travel until August 20 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

In Canada, the leaders of several provinces spoke out against reopening the border with the US because of its surge in cases.

Canada has recorded more than 8,800 deaths and more than 108,000 cases, while Mexican cases have topped 317,000 and the number of deaths is nearing 37,000.

The leading US expert on infectious diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, predicted on Wednesday that the country would meet its goal of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

"I feel good about the projected timetable," Dr Fauci told Reuters.

His comments follow promising early-stage data for Moderna's coronavirus vaccine, released on Tuesday, that was developed with scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of which Dr Fauci is director.

Many experts see a safe and effective vaccine as the only way out of the pandemic, which has infected 13.8 million and killed almost 590,000 people worldwide.

Dr Fauci said Moderna's results were especially promising because the vaccine appeared to offer the type of protection seen in a natural infection.