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A pedestrian wearing a protective mask in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photographer: Gabriella N. Baez/Bloomberg)

Puerto Rico sees record hospital use – Global virus update

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photographer: Gabriella N. Baez/Bloomberg)

Key Developments:

Puerto Rico Sees Record Hospital Use

Puerto Rico reported its largest single-day spike in hospitalisations due to the coronavirus on Wednesday, as Governor Wanda Vazquez weighs the need to lock down parts of the US commonwealth’s economy again.

The Health Department reported that 45 new COVID-19 patients had been admitted to hospitals in the last 24-hours. There are currently 254 people hospitalized due to the pandemic, the largest number since the virus was first detected on March 13.

Oklahoma Governor Tests Positive

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19 at a press conference Wednesday.

The first-term Republican governor attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally last month in Tulsa, which experts said contributed to a spike of cases in the region.

Austria Quarantines 244 Meathouse Workers

Austria quarantined all 244 workers at a meathouse in Eggenburg, an hour north of Vienna near the Czech border, after 29 tested positive for the coronavirus, Ulrike Koenigsberger-Ludwig, health secretary of the Lower Austria province, said in an interview on public broadcaster ORF. About 40 test results are still outstanding, the official said. Authorities discovered the cluster after one employee was voluntarily tested after feeling symptoms, according to ORF.

Florida Case Increase Slows (10:40 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 301,810 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, up 3.5% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 4.5% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 4,521, an increase of 112, or 2.5%, according to the report, which includes data through Tuesday. The new rate of people testing positive for the first time fell to 13.6% for Tuesday, from 15% on Monday.

Florida currently has 8,324 COVID-19 hospital patients, compared with 8,187 at a comparable time on Tuesday, according to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Three counties in southeast Florida — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — have the largest numbers of patients with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19, accounting for 3,701 of the total.

Walmart Mandates Masks at US Stores

Walmart Inc. will require customers to wear masks in all of its U.S. stores to protect against the coronavirus, an admission that the nation’s pandemic has reached new heights and setting up potential confrontations with customers who refuse to don them.

The measure will go into effect starting July 20, US Chief Operating Officer Dacona Smith said in a blog post Wednesday. The retailer will place employees, dubbed “Health Ambassadors,” near the entrance to “remind those without a mask of the new requirements,” it said. Stores will have a single entrance. Walmart’s decision follows similar moves by Costco Wholesale Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Best Buy Co.

US Industrial Output Surges by Most Since 1959

US industrial production in June posted the largest monthly gain since 1959, indicating manufacturing is stirring to life. Total output at factories, mines and utilities increased 5.4% from the prior month after climbing 1.4% in May, Federal Reserve data showed. The Fed’s index of industrial output remains 10.9% below pre-pandemic levels. What’s more, sales may be tempered in coming months as states like California impose renewed lockdown measures.

Philippines Curve Flattened Until Lockdown Eased

The Philippines was able to slow the spread until lockdown measures were lifted, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

“We flattened the curve for some time until we started opening up,” Duque said in a statement on Wednesday. A lockdown over large parts of the country had served its purpose since it now takes 8 days for cases to double from only 3 days in April, he said.

Johnson Says UK Is Preparing for Second Spike

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government is “taking every step” to avoid a second spike of infections. Taking questions from lawmakers in Parliament, he praised the test-and-trace program and committed to holding a independent inquiry to learn lessons from the pandemic “in the future.”

Johnson also said flag carrier British Airways and a number of other U.K. companies are in “severe difficulties at the moment,” with real risks of many job losses. “We cannot simply with a magic wand ensure that every single job that was being done before the crisis is retained after the crisis,” he said.

Russia Says Vaccine Trial Shows Promise

A Russian military hospital discharged the first group of 18 volunteers in a vaccine trial after a 28-day observation period, calling the initial phase a success, according to an emailed statement from the Defense Ministry.

The group had no health complaints, complications or adverse reactions to the vaccine, according to the statement. They will come back for further tests on the 42nd day after their first vaccination.

Oxford Vaccine Trial to Report ‘Positive News,’ ITV Says

“Positive news is coming” on initial trials of the COVID-19 vaccine that the University of Oxford is developing with AstraZeneca Plc, ITV’s Robert Peston said in a tweet, without specifying how he obtained the information. Shares in AstraZeneca rose as much as 4% in London.

“The vaccine is generating the kind of antibody and T-cell (killer cell) response that the researchers would hope to see,” Peston wrote, adding that details will be released soon in medical journal The Lancet.

Oxford’s vaccine trial — led by Sarah Gilbert, who is profiled this week in Bloomberg Businessweek — is already undergoing phase III testing in Brazil. The trial shot is seen as being months ahead of other key candidates.

New York Amazon Workers Drop Emergency Order Bid

Amazon.com Inc. workers at a New York warehouse dropped their bid for an immediate court order forcing the e-commerce giant to better protect them from the coronavirus.

The workers will press forward with litigation over the company’s contact tracing program at the warehouse and its paid leave policies.

Merkel Hints at Compromise

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she’s prepared to compromise in difficult talks on assembling a European recovery plan this weekend in Brussels, as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged leaders to reach an accord.

“There are still different opinions to overcome,” Merkel told reporters Tuesday in Berlin alongside Sanchez. “But from the German side, we will go to Brussels with a certain reserve of compromise.” Sanchez was more direct, saying “July must be the month of decisions.”

Sanchez’s visit to Berlin follows that of Italy’s Giuseppe Conte on Monday, during which the German and Italian leaders demonstrated a common line in favor of a proposed 750 billion-euro ($855 billion) recovery plan. A handful of member states are voicing concern over the proposal’s cost.