Latinos hardest hit in California as US states see record Covid-19 fatalities

Masked farmworker families stand waiting for donated food and much needed wares near Rolinda, California on May 9. (AP pic)

CALIFORNIA: Four US states in the South and West reported one-day records for coronavirus deaths on Tuesday and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark as California health officials said Latinos made up more than half of its cases.

Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Oregon each reported record spikes in fatalities. California had recorded 133 deaths by mid-afternoon, shy of its one-day peak of 159 with hours to go.

California health officials said Latinos, who make up just over a third of the most populous US state, account for 56% of Covid-19 infections and 46% of deaths.

Cases are soaring in the Central Valley agricultural region, with its heavily Latino population, overwhelming hospitals.

Florida saw 191 coronavirus deaths in the prior 24 hours, its highest single-day rise yet, the state health department said.

Texas added more than 6,000 new cases on Monday, pushing its total to 401,477, according to a Reuters tally.

Only three other states — California, Florida and New York — have more than 400,000 total cases. Those states are also the four most populous states in the United States.

California and Texas both reported decreases in overall hospitalisations as Dr Anthony Fauci, a top US infectious diseases expert, saw signs the surge could be peaking in the South and West while other areas were on the cusp of new outbreaks.

Fauci said early indications showed the percentage of positive coronavirus tests rising in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.

School reopening debate

The rise in US deaths and infections has dampened early hopes the country was past the worst of an economic crisis that has decimated businesses and put millions of Americans out of work.

The trend also has fueled a bitter debate over the reopening of US schools in the coming weeks.

US President Donald Trump and members of his administration have pushed for students to return to class, while some teachers and local officials have called for online learning.

“We will fight on all fronts for the safety of students and their educators,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said during the union’s virtual convention on Tuesday. “It’s the eleventh hour; we need the resources now.”

The battle is playing out in Texas. The Texas Education Agency, the state overseer of public education, said it would deny funding to schools that delay in-person classes because of orders by local health authorities related to the pandemic.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued guidance that health authorities cannot impose “blanket” school closures for coronavirus prevention. Any such decision is up to school officials, he said.

Local health leaders in the biggest metropolitan areas in Texas — including Houston and Dallas — have recently ordered the postponement of in-person classes.

Relief bill dispute

In Washington, Republicans in the US Senate pushed back against their own party’s US$1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal the day after it was unveiled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, sending some US stocks downward.

“I’m not for borrowing another trillion dollars,” Republican Senator Rand Paul told reporters.

Democrats also have rejected the plan as too limited compared with their US$3 trillion proposal that passed the House of Representatives in May. Some Republicans called that one too expensive.

Trump said on Tuesday he did not support everything in the Senate Republican coronavirus relief legislation but would not elaborate on what he did not like.

“There are also things that I very much support,” he told a White House briefing. “But we’ll be negotiating.”

Trump also groused about Fauci’s high approval ratings and joked “nobody likes me” as he struggles to improve his standing with voters over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It can only be my personality,” said Trump.

Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, is one of the most trusted people in government and many Americans listen to his advice on how to protect themselves from infection.