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New U.S. COVID-19 cases again top 70K; experts urge more mask use

New U.S. COVID-19 cases again top 70K; experts urge more mask use
People wait on Wednesday to receive a bag of groceries as the Food Bank For New York City opens a mobile pantry at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

July 30 (UPI) -- New COVID-19 cases in the United States have again exceeded the 70,000 mark for a single day, research showed Thursday.

Updated figures from researchers at Johns Hopkins University showed nearly 71,000 new cases nationwide for Wednesday. It's the highest total since 73,700 last Friday. The daily U.S. total had been under 60,000 for multiple days before Wednesday.

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The new cases added new deaths nationally, which surpassed the 150,000 mark on Wednesday. Thursday's toll showed 150,700 dead from the disease since the pandemic began.

More than 1,400 people died from COVID-19 on Wednesday -- the highest single-day death toll since May 15, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

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White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx said Thursday that state and local officials should mandate face coverings. Citing increases in the Midwest and "continuing problems" on the West Coast, she called on leaders to make it mandatory.

"If the governors and mayors of every locality right now would mandate masks for their communities and every American would wear a mask, and socially distance, and not congregate in large settings ... we can really get control of this virus," Birx told Fox News.

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Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn agreed.

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"We have the power to slow the spread of this virus," Hahn said on NBC's Today.

Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who frequently opposed masks, tested positive Wednesday. Later in a television interview, he questioned whether masks might transmit the virus. Hahn said, however, that speculation is not supported by medical evidence.

"What our data show is that people should wear masks, particularly when they can't socially distance, and they should follow their local ordinances with respect to masks," he said.

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The FDA chief promised a vaccine will be safe once it is available to the public, despite the unprecedented speed and urgency there's been in development.

"We will not cut corners. We will use our very high standards of safety and effectiveness," he said, adding that it's possible a vaccine is available by the end of the year.

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