Teams of military medics were deployed in Texas and California to help hospitals deluged by coronavirus patients, as Miami area authorities on Friday began stepping up enforcement of a mask requirement – echoing efforts in many parts of the world to contain surging infections.
In California, military doctors, nurses and other healthcare specialists were being deployed to eight hospitals facing staffing shortages amid record-breaking case numbers. In Houston, an 86-person army medical team worked to take over a wing of United Memorial Medical Center.
Texas reported 10,000 new cases for the third straight day on Thursday and 129 additional deaths. California, meanwhile, reported its largest two-day total of confirmed cases, nearly 20,000, along with 258 deaths over 48 hours. There are more than 8,000 people in hospitals who have either tested positive for the coronavirus or are suspected of having it.
There were signs elsewhere in the country’s Sunbelt that the virus was stretching states’ capacity to respond. The medical examiner’s office in metro Phoenix has gotten portable storage coolers and ordered more to handle an influx of bodies – reminiscent of New York City at the height of the pandemic there earlier this year.
In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, the county commission unanimously approved an emergency order giving all code and fire inspectors authority to issue tickets of up to $100 for individuals and $500 for businesses not complying with guidelines to wear masks and practice social distancing. Police officers already had this enforcement power.
“We’re going to put a heck of a lot of people out there,” said Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “Our people are going to go everywhere.”
In Miami-Dade, which is Florida’s most populous county and the current epicentre of the outbreak, more than 3,100 new coronavirus cases were reported on Thursday. The state, meanwhile, reached another ominous record, with 156 virus-related deaths, and a staggering 13,965 new cases.
At least half of the 50 states have adopted requirements for wearing masks or other facial coverings.
But in Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp has banned cities and counties from requiring face coverings. He sued Atlanta late on Thursday to prevent it from defying his order, but Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she was prepared to go to court to maintain the local mask requirement.