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Coronavirus updates: Texas eases school reopening requirements; US hits record number of daily COVID-19 cases

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The U.S. again set a daily record of new COVID-19 cases Thursday, reporting more than 77,000.
The rising numbers are a stark reminder of Dr. …

The U. S. again set a daily record of new COVID-19 cases Thursday, reporting more than 77,000.
The rising numbers are a stark reminder of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s warning to Congress last month that the U. S. could eventually see 100,000 new infections a day.
As the outbreak continues to surge across the southern states, Florida, Texas and South Carolina set records for new daily deaths, reporting 156,129 and 69, respectively. While wearing face masks in public is mandatory in the majority of U. S. states, Texas only requires masks in counties with active COVID-19 cases, and Florida and South Carolina don’t have statewide mask orders.
In neighboring Georgia, meanwhile, Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Atlanta City Council and the mayor to block the city from enforcing its face mask mandate.
Amid growing angst among parents and educators, the Texas Education Agency softened its stance on in-person instruction mandates as schools navigate around the coronavirus pandemic. The agency issued new rules Friday that give local school districts more control over the decisions on start dates and on how long schools can remain closed and teach students online.
The TEA’s new rules come a week after the agency laid out guidelines that required parents to choose between sending their children to school in person all the time or only being educated online, rather than any combination of the two.
The agency is extending the time districts can teach online without financial penalty, allowing districts to teach online for up to eight weeks, with the second four weeks requiring a waiver from the state.
– Melissa B. Taboada, Austin American-Statesman
Another retailing heavyweight is weighing in on the national mask-wearing issue: Home Depot will now require all shoppers wear them.
The home improvement retailer said Friday that customers must wear masks inside all U. S. stores beginning Wednesday, July 22. However, small children and those who have a valid medical condition will not have to wear them. Customers not wearing masks because of a medical condition are asked to speak with an associate before entering the store, the company says.
Home Depot joins a slew of retailers including Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens mandating masks at stores nationwide.
– Mike Snider
Chicago Public Schools will plan to start the school year with a hybrid in-person and at-home learning model, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday.
The plan assigns students to “pods” of about 15 for in-person learning and staggers school start times to reduce transmission by limiting interactions between groups of students, said CPS CEO Janice Jackson. Younger students will spend more time at school, and older students will spend more time online, Jackson said. Most students will spend two days at school each week, with virtual lessons on Wednesdays as schools are disinfected.
Schools will require face coverings, daily temperature checks, health screenings, and the district plans to hire about 400 additional custodians to execute cleaning and disinfection protocols, Jackson said.
Florida’s former top coronavirus data scientist filed a whistleblower complaint Thursday against the state’s Health Department, accusing the agency of firing her in retaliation for refusing to manipulate data to support the push to reopen Florida after months of quarantine.
The complaint by former agency data manager Rebekah Jones targets Gov. Ron DeSantis directly.
“These efforts to falsify the numbers are a pattern and practice in Florida government that goes on to this day,” Jones’ attorney, Rick Johnson, said in a statement. “Ron DeSantis has routinely given false numbers to the press. His underlings at (the Health Department) follow his example and his direction.”
– Chris Persaud, The Palm Beach Post
Not everyone is staying home this summer. Some travelers are shrugging off the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, ignoring the shutdowns and taking a vacation anyway.

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