More than a million coronavirus relief payments totaling some $1.4 billion went to dead people, a new government watchdog study reports. (June 25)
AP Domestic
Coronavirus cases are trending upward in about half of U.S. states, and several have reported record-breaking daily new case counts this week, according to Johns Hopkins University.
But the true number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is likely ten times the number of reported cases, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday.
While some states are pushing ahead to the next phase of reopening, Texas hit pause on its reopening plan Thursday and suspended elective surgeries in the state’s largest counties. The state reported record-high new daily coronavirus cases on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when it also broke it record for hospitalizations for the 14th day in a row.
Alabama and Missouri also reported record-high daily increases Thursday, according to the respective health departments.
Here are the most significant developments of the day:
Today’s stats: Worldwide infections are nearing 9.5 million, with almost 2.4 million in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 484,000 people have died worldwide, with more than 122,000 deaths in the U.S.
What we’re reading: Summer is here and it’s going to be hard to stay inside. With the right preparation, though, you can lessen your risk for getting the coronavirus. So take this quiz:Are you ready to join the COVID-19 world?
Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.
Calls grow for Disney World to delay reopening as cases spike in Florida
Groups representing workers and actors at Walt Disney World are calling for the theme park to delay its planned July 11 reopening as coronavirus cases surge in Florida.
On Thursday, the Actors Equity Association, which represents about 600 professional actors at Disney World, cited Disneyland’s postponed reopening in California in calling for the same at the Florida parks. Disneyland said late Wednesday that the park would not reopen as planned on July 17.
“If Disneyland has postponed, it is unclear how Walt Disney World can responsibly move toward reopening when coronavirus cases are much worse in Florida,” said Mary McColl, the actors group’s executive director, in a statement. 
Andrea Finger, a spokesperson for Walt Disney World, said the park’s reopening timeline has not changed.
 Curtis Tate
Thousands crowd British beaches, ignoring social distancing
Three beach towns on England’s southern coast declared a “major incident” Thursday after thousands defied coronavirus social-distancing rules and flocked to the shore on what has been the hottest day of the year in the United Kingdom so far, with temperatures in the low 90s.
“We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours,” Vikki Slade, leader of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said in a statement on their website. “The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.”
The decision to declare a “major incident,” as Slade said, gives additional powers to local authorities and emergency services to tackle the issue. She said they are also “deploying additional resources to provide increased patrols in the vicinity to help tackle any issues of anti-social behavior and other offenses being committed.”
 Morgan Hines
Pregnant women at higher risk for hospitalization  
Breaking from earlier guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women.
The good news is that pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19 aren’t at any greater risk of death than women who aren’t pregnant, according to the CDC.
The worse news is that infected pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and are at increased risk for ICU admission and to require mechanical ventilation, according to a CDC study of thousands of women in the U.S. from January to June.
Among women with COVID-19, about 32% of pregnant women were reported to have been hospitalized compared with about 6% of nonpregnant women, the study found.
It’s possible, but not known, that the higher hospitalization rate might be due to doctor’s overall concerns for the health of pregnant women, so they could be more likely to admit them to a hospital, CDC officials said.
Elizabeth Weise and Grace Hauck
What we’re reading
CDC urges Americans to stay ‘vigilant’ on 4th of July holiday
Health officials are asking Americans to socially distance this Independence Day, saying that they are “concerned” about the surge in coronavirus cases after the U.S. on Wednesday saw its highest daily number of new cases in months.
Those numbers only represent about 1 in every 10 cases, said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a press conference Thursday.   
While “were still in the first wave,” Redfield said the pandemic today looks markedly different from the outbreak two or three months ago, when many deaths were among older people and those with underlying medical conditions.
“For the Fourth of July, which is a family event, we want to emphasize that its really important that we get back to being vigilant as our collective commitment … to protect vulnerable friends, family community.”
Elizabeth Weise and Grace Hauck
1.48M workers file for unemployment 
Fewer Americans are seeking unemployment benefits, but the number who need help remains high as the country haltingly reopens its economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, 1.48 million workers filed first time claims for unemployment insurance, the Labor Department said Thursday. That latest round of applications means a staggering 47.1 million Americans have made initial jobless benefits claims in just 14 weeks.
Initial jobless claims are the nation’s most reliable gauge of layoffs, and in an investors note Oxford Economics said the latest numbers “paint a picture of a job market in turmoil. Initial claims fell only slightly from last week, reminding us that layoffs in some areas remain widespread.”
Charisse Jones 
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 authorized 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
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 Abbotts 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 
More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY
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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.
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