BERGER CRITICIZES "BLANKET" SOLUTIONS, WANTS FULL-TIME SCHOOLS: "If you're practicing the social distancing and doing all the other things, it just strikes me that that's not a higher risk situation," Berger said. Berger spoke with WRAL News Wednesday for a back-to-school special that aired Thursday night. He also discussed the state's mask mandate, saying businesses should have the option of requiring them but that a government mandate "seems to me to cut against the grain." He acknowledged COVID-19 as a serious public health crisis, but said "we have failed to address that problem in a way that really targets the more serious adverse consequences." "We've allowed sort of blanket solutions, and those blanket solutions, I believe, have missed the mark in probably a majority of situations," he said.
DR. MANDY COHEN SAYS NEW TRUMP POLICY WILL DOUBLE THEIR WORK LOAD: The Trump Administration’s new mandate that hospitals must send information about coronavirus hospitalizations and equipment directly to a new federal database, rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, caught North Carolina health officials off-guard, Dr. Mandy Cohen said Thursday. Cohen, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, called the decision “abrupt” and unexpected. She said it has increased the workload of health officials at a time when the state is trying to remain transparent with the public on COVID-19 information. “We will continue to be transparent at the state level, but I think it always helps for us to be able to compare to what’s going on in other states and understand where we fit into the national landscape,” Cohen said Thursday in a press conference. With the change, hospitals now will report the data to a new federal database operated by Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies. In April, the government awarded TeleTracking a $10.2 million contract to work on data collection with the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, The Associated Press reports.
NC DHHS UNVEILS SPANISH LANGUAGE WEBSITE WITH COVID 19 INFORMATION: The state Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday launched new online tools to help Spanish-speaking North Carolinians to determine if they should consider being tested for coronavirus and help individuals monitor their symptoms if they have tested positive for or been exposed to the virus. “Reliable information is a powerful tool to fight COVID-19. This Spanish language symptom checker will help people identify symptoms and then connect them with resources to know where to get tested. All of this is important to slowing the spread of the disease,” said Governor Cooper. “I am very concerned about the health of our Latinx/Hispanic community who have been hit hard by the pandemic,” DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a statement. “This new tool is one way that we can help our Spanish-speaking community members protect themselves and their families.” North Carolina’s Latino population is being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. As of mid-July, the Latino population represented 44 percent of cases in North Carolina where ethnicity is known, although they make up 9 percent of the state’s population.
U.S. BREAKS PREVIOUS RECORD OF *DAILY* NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES WITH 75,600: As clashes over face-covering mandates and school reopening plans intensified throughout the United States, the country shattered its single-day record for new cases on Thursday — more than 75,600, according to a New York Times database. This was the 11th time in the past month that the record had been broken. The previous single-day record, 68,241 cases, was announced last Friday. The number of daily cases has more than doubled since June 24, when the country registered 37,014 cases after a lull in the outbreak had kept the previous record, 36,738, standing for two months. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease specialist, warned senators in June that cases could reach 100,000 a day in the United States if outbreaks at the time were not contained. It’s not just cases that are breaking records, so are deaths. Florida on Thursday reported 156 new fatalities, its highest number. It was one of 10 states to reach a record for deaths in a single day this week, joining Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. As cases have soared, cities and more than half of the states are issuing mask requirements to try to stop the spread. Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican, announced a face covering requirement on Thursday, after previously taking a more hands-off approach. Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado, a Democrat, also issued a mask order on Thursday, after questioning whether such a mandate would be enforceable. But there remains firm resistance in many circles, including from some Republican leaders who view mask requirements as a threat to personal liberty.
ISRAEL'S ANNEXATION OF PARTS OF THE WEST BANK HAS STALLED: President Trump’s Middle East plan envisions Israel annexing territory amounting to almost a third of the West Bank as well as the adjacent Jordan Valley. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged not to proceed without approval from the White House. Now, some Israeli settlers fear the window may be closing as talks with the United States appear to have stalled amid reports of divisions within the administration and mounting health and political crises in both countries. And some settlers are increasingly angry that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t acted on his own. “I’m pessimistic,” said David Elhayani, a farmer and head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. “There is the corona; there is the election in the United States. But a real leader, when he sees a historic opportunity, he takes it. I demand of my prime minister that he be a real leader.” Under an agreement between political leaders in the parliament, or Knesset, July 1 had been set as the earliest an annexation plan could be presented for government approval. That date has come and gone without a decision from Netanyahu, and the issue has largely been pushed from Israeli headlines by a burgeoning second wave of coronavirus infections. There is no question that other priorities are dominating in Israel, where officials have closed wedding venues and limited restaurant seating for a second time as the country’s earlier success controlling the epidemic in the spring has been wiped away by new cases. Almost 1,800 new infections were reported on Thursday, with the number of seriously ill doubling in a week.