Virus Outbreak Florida

Maria Gomez, foreground, washes her hands Monday at a portable hand washing station as she and Barry Molett, back, enjoy a day on Miami Beach, Florida's famed South Beach. More than 100,000 people in Florida have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, state health officials reported Monday, as public health officials reissued advisories urging social distancing and mask wearing.

TRAVERSE CITY — Local health officials are tracking a possible COVID-19 death in a Grand Traverse County resident, the first since April 20, state records show.

Saturday’s suspected COVID-19 death of a Traverse City resident happened in another county. Medical officials have yet to confirm the death as a positive case of the pandemic disease, said Rose Ann Davis, public information officer for the Grand Traverse County Health Department.

More details are expected to be announced Tuesday, she said.

Meanwhile, officials say Michigan remains on track to tamp down COVID-19 with continued low positive testing rates, while other states are experiencing big spikes in their case counts.

Health officials on Monday announced 179 new cases and seven reported COVID-19 deaths statewide.

Of the new cases, four were in northern Lower Michigan — one case each in Alpena, Charlevoix, Grand Traverse and Wexford counties.

“We’re seeing between 150 and 250 each day (statewide) so we’ve kind of leveled off,” said Lynn Sutfin, public information officer for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Statistics show the 17-county region across the tip of the Lower Peninsula now has 502 confirmed cases and at least 42 reported deaths, possibly with a 43rd still under investigation. That continues to amount to a small fraction of statewide figures.

Sutfin said that despite the state’s progress, there have been small pockets of case increases in parts of Michigan. But overall positive testing rates remain below 2 percent, she said.

Local health officials identified one such pocket in Oceana County, between Ludington and Muskegon on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

District Health Department No. 10 officials reported Monday that cases there continue to climb because of outbreaks at farms and businesses. Many cases involved asymptomatic people who continued to work — having passed all workplace screenings — and inadvertently exposed coworkers and their family and household members who were subsequently infected.

Kevin Hughes, health officer for the 10-county district health department, said the situation underscores the importance of physical distancing, mask wearing, hand washing and avoiding touching your face.

“The virus spreads very quickly when in close proximity to others, which is why we are seeing families and households become infected, causing the overall numbers to increase,” he said.

The health department will offer free drive-through COVID-19 testing on Thursday and Friday in Manistee in partnership with the Michigan Army National Guard and other state and local agencies. More pop-up testing sites may be organized in the future, officials said.

Across the nation, around the world

Nationwide, alarming surges in coronavirus cases across the South and West raised fears Monday that the outbreak is spiraling out of control and that hard-won progress against the scourge is slipping away because of resistance among many Americans to wearing masks and keeping their distance from others.

Confirming predictions that the easing of state lockdowns over the past month and a half could lead to a comeback by the virus, cases surpassed 100,000 in Florida, hospitalizations are rising dramatically in Houston, and a startling 1 in 5 of those tested in Arizona are proving to be infected.

“It is snowballing. We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike,” said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO and president of Houston Methodist Hospital, noting that the number of COVID-19 hospital admissions has tripled since Memorial Day to more than 1,400 across eight hospital systems in the Houston metropolitan area.

He predicted that in three weeks hospitals could be overwhelmed, and he pleaded with people to cover their faces and practice social distancing.

“It is possible to open up at a judicious pace and coexist with the virus, but it requires millions and millions of people to do the right thing. Right now, we don’t have that” because people have let their guard down, Boom said.

Texas is among a number of states — including Arizona, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina — whose governors have resisted statewide mask requirements, leaving the matter to local authorities.

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases across the country per day has reached more than 26,000, up from about 21,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Over 120,000 deaths in the U.S. have been blamed on the virus, the highest death toll in the world.

In Orlando, 152 coronavirus cases were linked to one bar near the University of Central Florida campus, said Dr. Raul Pino, a state health officer in the resort city.

“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said. “People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.”

Although he asked health officials to renew calls for people to wear masks and keep their distance, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not signaled he will retreat from reopening the state after three months of shutdowns that have damaged the economy.

In Louisiana, however, Gov. John Bel Edwards extended restrictions on businesses because of a troubling uptick in cases, following the example set by Utah and Oregon last week. Louisiana has recorded more than 3,000 deaths.

“There are a lot of people out there saying they are done with this virus. Well, the virus isn’t done with us,” Edwards said.

Countries such as Brazil, India and Pakistan are also seeing surging cases.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said that the outbreak is “definitely accelerating” in the U.S. and a number of other countries, dismissing the notion that the record daily levels of new cases simply reflect more testing. He noted that numerous countries have seen marked increases in hospital admissions and deaths.

“The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries,” he warned.

On Sunday, WHO officials reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the prior 24 hours.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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