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The U.S. on Wednesday saw more than 34,000 new coronavirus cases — the highest daily count since April — with three of the nation's most populous states also reporting record-setting highs in daily cases.

Meanwhile, health officials are possibly pausing the state's reopening plans and suspending elective surgeries amid a surge in coronavirus cases. The state is in its third phase to reopen the economy, which allowed restaurants to increase occupancy levels to 75% and most businesses to move to 50% occupancy.

  • Fewer Americans are seeking unemployment benefits but 1 according to media reports, despite the state's new mandatory quarantine for visitors who've come from areas with significant community spread. 
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    Calls grow for Disney World to delay reopening as cases spike in Florida

    Groups representing workers and actors at CDC study of thousands of women in the U.S. from January to June.

    – Elizabeth Weise and Grace Hauck

    Texas halts reopening plan, suspends elective surgery

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday halted the states reopening plan and suspended elective surgeries in its largest counties in order to expand hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients.  

    The state broke its record for hospitalizations for the 13th day in a row and reported 5,551 new cases Wednesday, state health officials reported. 

    The state is in Phase 3 of Abbott’s plan to reopen, which allowed restaurants to increase occupancy levels to 75% and most businesses to move to 50% occupancy. Abbott declined to roll back those orders.

    "The last thing we want to do as a state is go backward and close down businesses,” Abbott said. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”

    The surgery order goes into effect Friday and will require all hospitals in the four designated counties to postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately life threatening. The governor can add or discard counties included under the executive order as surges may arise or dissipate within the state. 

    – Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman 

    Over 1 million dead people received coronavirus stimulus checks

    More than 1 million dead people received coronavirus stimulus checks from the federal government after the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service failed to use death records when distributing the first three batches of direct cash payments to Americans, a government watchdog agency reported Thursday.

    As a result, nearly 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion were distributed to dead people as of April 30.

    Reports of dead people getting stimulus payments surfaced in April when the IRS began making direct deposits of up to $1,200 into taxpayers’ bank accounts. The payments were ized under a new $2.2 trillion recovery package, known as the CARES Act, designed to help the economy recover from the catastrophic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

    The Treasury Department announced last month that people who received a stimulus payment on behalf of someone who is deceased should return the money immediately.

     – Michael Collins

    Chuck E. Cheese files for bankruptcy; Macy's cuts 3,900 corporate jobs

    Chuck E. Cheese parent company CEC Entertainment travel advisory that was issued by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy requiring people traveling from states with significant spread of COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days, according to a White House statement reported by media outlets. 

    On Tuesday, Trump traveled to Arizona, which is seeing a rise of coronavirus-induced hospitalizations. Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden deemed the trip "reckless and irresponsible."

    "The President of the United States is not a civilian. Anyone who is in close proximity to him, including staff, guests, and press are tested for COVID-19 and confirmed to be negative," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement, according to reports. 

    Eiffel Tower reopens to tourists

    Marking another milestone in France's recovery from coronavirus lockdown, the Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors Thursday after its longest-ever closure in peace time: 104 days.

    Tourists who are trickling back to Paris were delighted to find the landmark open when some other attractions in the French capital remain closed. The Louvre Museum isn't reopening until July 6.

    "It’s very special, very special because it’s only the Paris people," said Annelies Bouwhuis, a 43-year-old visitor from the Netherlands. "We’ve seen a lot Paris people enjoying their city, enjoying their parks without all the tourists."

    – Associated Press

    DNC announces sweeping changes to convention amid pandemic

    Organizers upended the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, as they told state delegations not to travel to Milwaukee, moved the convention to a smaller venue and added satellite events around the country.

    But even as Democrats downsize their convention, they say former Vice President Joe Biden will still formally accept the nomination in Milwaukee. The decision to overhaul plans for the August 17-20 convention came after consulting with public health officials about the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers said.

    The moves by the Democrats stand in stark contrast to the Republicans, who shifted their main convention events from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, after North Carolina officials couldn't promise that social distancing rules would not be in effect.

    — Mary Spicuzza and Bill Glauber

    COVID-19's surge in Sunbelt states shows the virus, not testing, to blame

    President Donald Trump blames the rising number of COVID-19 cases on increased testing and suggests case counts would drop with fewer tests. But infectious disease and public health experts dispute that claim, saying the surge in coronavirus cases in Sunbelt states reflects a potentially dangerous new phase of the pandemic.

    Arizona, California and Texas reported record-high new daily coronavirus cases this week, as case counts continue to rise in more than half of U.S. states. Several states individually now have more cases than the entire European Union.

    — Ken Alltucker and Karen Weintraub

    Treasury may consider delaying tax deadline to Sept. 15

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin 5 Things. To share your story, go to coronadiaries.io/usatoday. Choose the first prompt, follow the instructions, and record a brief audio message.

    Coronavirus Watch: Come together and share the latest information about coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and emotions and more. Join our Facebook group.

    Timeline: It's been five months since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced what was thought to be the first confirmed coronavirus case in the U.S. Read how the pandemic unfolded here.

    Contributing: Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman; Jane Musgrave, The Palm Beach Post; Associated Press

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