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A muted Fourth of July as virus shatters infection records

Fourth of July celebrations in many parts of the United States were muted this year, overshadowed by a virus spreading with alarming speed. The national death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 130,000, and hospitals in the South and West particularly are struggling to keep up with the demand for urgent care. Still, some Americans oppose shutdowns and mask requirements. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The COVID-19 pandemic reached staggering new highs today, as the U.S. death toll surpassed 130,000. Sixteen states have now posted record daily spikes in new infections this month.

    All this as hospitals in the South and the West struggle to keep up with the urgent demand for care.

    William Brangham has our report.

  • William Brangham:

    In many places, it was a subdued holiday weekend, one overshadowed by a virus that's spreading with alarming speed.

    Americans marked the Fourth of July with measured celebrations, their trips to the beach flanked with warnings. But even in states with soaring new infections, others gathered defiantly and rejected those warnings.

  • Man:

    I'm an American, and I feel I should be able to do what I want to. I pay my taxes. I live free. I want to be free.

  • William Brangham:

    Some at this rodeo in Houston refused to wear masks, despite a new statewide order to wear them in public.

  • Woman:

    Because it's against our constitutional rights. They shouldn't be able to dictate what I wear.

  • William Brangham:

    The surging caseload in Texas has stretched hospitals to capacity, with record numbers of new patients admitted every day.

  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner:

  • Mayor Sylvester Turner:

    The number of people in our ICU beds has exponentially increased. In fact, if we don't get our hands around this virus quickly, in about two weeks, our hospital system could be in serious, serious trouble.

  • William Brangham:

    A similar concern from the mayor of Miami, another hot spot.

  • Mayor Francis Suarez:

    When we reopened, people started socializing as if the virus didn't exist.

  • William Brangham:

    Both Florida and Texas reported their highest single-day totals this weekend since the pandemic began.

    But President Trump took to Twitter to insist it is testing that is driving those surges, while highlighting that nationwide deaths remain low and steady.

    That mirrored his comments over the weekend that incorrectly downplayed the severity of the virus.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless.

  • William Brangham:

    It's a claim his own administration officials struggled to defend.

  • Commissioner Stephen Hahn:

    What I will say is that we have data in the White House Task Force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously.

  • William Brangham:

    Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo accused the president of enabling the virus' spread through his unfounded claims.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

    Mr. President, don't be a co-conspirator of COVID. Do one simple thing: Acknowledge to American people that COVID exists, it is a major problem,

  • William Brangham:

    But, later, at the White House, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called Mr. Trump's statements factual.

  • Secretary Kayleigh McEnany:

    The president was noting the fact that the vast majority of Americans who contract coronavirus will come out on the other side of this. Of course he takes this very seriously.

  • William Brangham:

    Meanwhile, overseas, new cases in India today surpassed Russia's tally, putting India now in third place for most reported infections globally.

    The country acknowledged more than 24,000 new infections in the last 24 hours alone. Officials had to postpone plans to reopen the Taj Mahal this week.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Late this afternoon, the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, announced that she has tested positive for COVID-19. But she said she hasn't shown any symptoms.

    We will take a closer look at the pandemic's racial disparities later in the program.

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