Military medics deploy in Texas, California Texas as virus surges

Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force members Army Maj. Katy Bessler, right, and Infectious Disease Physician Maj. Gadiel Alvarado, enter a wing at United Memorial Medical Center, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Houston. Soldiers will treat COVID-19 patients in the newly prepared hospital wing as Texas receives help from across the country to deal with its coronavirus surge. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

By FREIDA FRISARO and DAVID CRARY Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — Teams of military medics were deployed in Texas and California to help hospitals deluged by coronavirus patients, as Miami area authorities began stepping up enforcement Friday of a mask requirement — echoing efforts in many parts of the world to contain surging infections.

In California, military doctors, nurses and other health care specialists were being deployed to eight hospitals facing staffing shortages amid a record-breaking case numbers. In Houston, an 86-person Army medical team worked to take over a wing of United Memorial Medical Center.

Several states have been reporting record numbers this week, contributing to a surge in the national death rate. The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths has risen 34% from two weeks ago, while the case count in that period shot up 43%.

Florida reported 128 new deaths Friday and 11,345 new cases.

Texas reported 10,000 new cases for the third straight day Thursday and 129 additional deaths. California reported its largest two-day total of confirmed cases, nearly 20,000, along with 258 deaths over 48 hours.

There were signs across the Sunbelt that the virus was stretching authorities’ 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.”

Gimenez said that too few people, especially younger people, have been following the “new normal” guidelines, so the county needed another enforcement tool.

Meanwhile, a Florida state legislator, Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, filed a lawsuit Friday against a mask ordinance in Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg and Clearwater. About 100 people in support of his stance rallied in front of the county courthouse, some holding signs saying mask requirements are unconstitutional.

At least half of the 50 states have adopted requirements for wearing masks or other facial coverings.

But in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp has banned cities and counties from requiring face coverings. He sued Atlanta late 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.

 

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