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When people ask how to protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19, one of the first suggestions from doctors is washing your hands. Here are the do’s and don’ts.

USA TODAY

The coronavirus outbreak surging across the nation could be controlled in 4-6 weeks if people were disciplined about wearing masks, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

While the comments from Robert Redfield and encouraging news about a top vaccine candidate were fueling some optimism Wednesday, struggling California was tightening restrictions on testing in an effort to improve turn-around time for results in overwhelmed labs.  The state’s Department of Public Health released new guidelines Tuesday that say people without symptoms and not in essential jobs won’t be prioritized for testing until results can be turned around in less than 48 hours. 

A USA TODAY study found almost half of all states are spiking at a faster rate than they had been in the spring. In Texas, officials once again reported a daily record-breaking number of 10,745 new cases on Tuesday. The previous record was 10,351 on Saturday. 

Starting Wednesday, Best Buy and most Starbucks stores will begin to require customers to wear a face masks.

Some recent developments: 

  • France aims to reopen schools in the fall despite concerns from some parents and teachers.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he’s not considering closing down the economy again. Officials said the state continues to have adequate capacity in hospitals.
  • Arizona is the most resistant state in the country when it comes to face masks, according to a new study.

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has surpassed 3.4 million cases with over 136,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been 13.3 million cases and over 578,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: Not everyone wants to wear a mask. Several videos have shown confrontations, often violent, over face masks. Here’s the psychology behind why some people resist them, according to experts.

Redfield: ‘We could drive this epidemic to the ground’

Disciplined use of face coverings, social distancing and handwashing can shut down the pandemic that continues to strengthen across the nation, said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Masks, he said at a press conference in North Carolina, are our “major” defense against the spread of the virus. The CDC issued a guidelines that included wearing masks more than three months ago. The Trump administration, however, has left the decision on mandatory masks to individual governors.

“If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks to six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground in this country,” he said.

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California narrows testing priority as virus cases surge

With coronavirus cases rising fast, the state overhauled its guidelines Tuesday for which groups have priority when it comes to testing. The changes come as the state faces testing shortages and long wait times for results as new outbreaks pop up.

The system is designed to help officials zero in on outbreaks spread among essential workers or by gatherings of family and friends. Here’s a look at the priority groups:

  • Tier One: Includes hospitalized patients with COVID-19 symptoms and those in close contact with confirmed cases. 
  • Tier Two: Includes other individuals with virus symptoms and those who live and work in skilled nursing facilities, residential care facilities for the elderly, correctional facilities, or homeless shelters. 
  • Tier Three: Includes retail, manufacturing, food services, public transportation and education workers. 
  • Tier Four: Includes those who are asymptomatic but believe they have a risk for being actively infected as well as routine testing by employers. 

About 7,800 people are testing positive a day in the Golden State, where 10,000 contact tracers are reaching out to people who have been in close contact with infected individuals. The state is testing about 107,000 people daily.

– Arlene Martinez

COVID-19: Fit people, not cities, are protected

The annual ranking of the fittest U.S. cities, out Tuesday, tracks with some of the cities that weathered COVID-19 better – but the reverse is also often true. 

The ranking underscores how cities can help or hinder residents’ opportunities to be physically active, lose weight and avoid chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, which increase the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.  

The COVID-19 death rate for Arlington, Virginia, the nation’s fittest city for the third year in a row, is 56 per 100,000 population. Like most of the other Washington suburbs, Arlington had more cases per capita than more rural parts of the state. Indiana’s Marion County, which includes 94th-ranked Indianapolis, has the highest number of cases and deaths in the state. 

“We know from research that physical activity can build a healthier immune system and overall wellness, which help minimize harmful effects of illness and disease,” said Barbara Ainsworth, chair of the American Fitness Index Advisory Board. “This pandemic shows the need to have local parks, trails and connected sidewalks in all neighborhoods that allow people to exercise safely.” 

– Jayne O’Donnell

Gov. Bill Lee says he won’t consider reclosing Tennessee’s economy 

While pleading with Tennesseans to wear masks — and affirming that doing so is not a political statement — Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday said bringing back restrictions that would once again hamper the state’s economy is still off the table.

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“I’m not at any point considering closing the economy back down,” Lee said, noting there are “levers and options” to pull around expanding health care capacity.

Some other states, including Texas, have reverted back to previous phases of restrictions as coronavirus cases have continued to mount. Instead, the governor said members of hospital systems in Tennessee have indicated a desire to take the lead, ahead of the government, on solving capacity issues.

Lee and Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said the state continues to have adequate capacity in hospitals. Piercey said during a bad flu season, the state’s hospital capacity could decrease to single digits. On Tuesday, the state reported as many 2,600 of 12,300 hospital floor beds remain available.

– Natalie Allison and Joel Ebert, Nashville Tennessean

France aims to open schools by fall

France is aiming to reopen all schools for the new academic year under as “normal” conditions as possible, President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday, despite lingering virus concerns from some parents and teachers.

France gradually reopened schools in May and June as the country emerged from virus lockdown, and most children returned to class. While new infections prompted a few schools to close again, the vast majority stayed open until the school year wrapped up earlier this month.

“We have learned a lot” from that period, Macron said. “We developed a new way of teaching” to take the virus into account.

Schools adjusted schedules to keep children from mingling freely and kept students in one classroom instead of having them move around for different subjects. They were required to air out classrooms regularly, and masks were necessary for middle and high school students.

Macron pledged that teachers would be “well-protected” and that schools would adapt again if the virus takes off again before France’s 12.9 million students return to school around Sept. 1.

Banksy tags coronavirus-inspired graffiti as Italy returns his stolen artwork to France

Banksy is back with a coronavirus-inspired message. The British artist, known for his detailed graffiti and hidden identity, took to the London Underground to make some street art involving face masks and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a video posted to his Instagram on Tuesday, the artist appears to disguise himself as an employee tasked with deep cleaning the trains of London’s metro system, known as the Tube.

But instead of cleaning the interior of a train, Banksy tagged images of rats all over the walls, including one of a rat sneezing across a window. Other rats wear face masks as parachutes and carry hand sanitizer. “If you don’t mask – you don’t get,” the artist captioned the video of him working.

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– Charles Trepany

Best Buy to require shoppers wear masks in stores nationwide

Shoppers will need a mask to enter Best Buy stores nationwide starting Wednesday.

The Minneapolis-based electronics retailer is the latest to add the requirement as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation. The coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19.

“This new requirement, which starts July 15, will help protect not only our shoppers and communities, but also the tens of thousands of Best Buy employees working to serve our customers each day,” the company said in a news release Tuesday. 

Best Buy says it will provide face coverings to shoppers who don’t have one and notes “small children and those unable to wear one for health reasons may enter without one.”

– Kelly Tyko

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate appears safe and provides some immunity

A candidate vaccine against COVID-19 developed by the federal government and Moderna, Inc., appears to be safe and to trigger an immune response, according to data released Tuesday from an early phase trial.

But whether that immune response is enough to protect someone from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 remains unclear, according to several experts who reviewed the results.

Moderna’s chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks said although the protective effect of their vaccine can’t technically be known yet, all indications are that mRNA-1273 will be safe and effective.

Zaks said the levels of protective antibodies produced by the trial participants were similar to those found in patients who had recovered from COVID-19, suggesting that the candidate vaccine provides the same protection as an infection. Animal studies also show that mRNA-1273 can protect mice against infection, he said, and trials in primates and Syrian hamsters are underway.

– Karen Weintraub and David Heath

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Where a face mask is required: Many governors are instituting or renewing orders requiring people to wear face coverings in public as cases continue to rise. Is your state on the list? See it here. 

Coronavirus Watch: We have a few ways for you to stay informed. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here, and come together and share the latest information about the coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.

Where are states on reopening? Some are taking preemptive measures to postpone further phases of their reopening, while others have rolled back their phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. See the list.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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