As the U.S. experiences increases in the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths, leaders remain divided on how to define and implement the way business and life should be conducted going forward. Those who oppose the lockdown want an immediate return to business-as-usual to jumpstart the economy. Others believe protecting public health should be the main priority in deciding when and how to reopen states.

This polarization is seen from the highest levels of government down to business owners and employees. Hillstone Restaurant Group, which operates 45 restaurants nationwide, prohibited its employees from following CDC recommendations for wearing masks when it reopened its dining rooms in Dallas. It changed its policy after a lawsuit, employee complaints and public backlash on social media. In a statement on the company’s website, Hillstone said, “Guests and staff members who wish to wear a mask are free to do so. Other guests and staff members may choose not to wear masks based on their personal preference and we ask that everyone respect those decisions.”

Meanwhile, as beaches, churches and restaurants begin to reopen nationwide, health officials continue to warn of the dangers of mass gatherings.

Texas had its highest single-day increase in new coronavirus cases Saturday, reporting an increase of 1,801 positive cases. In California, more than 180 people may have been exposed by a person who had coronavirus during an in-person religious service last week. In New York, clients of a barber who defied stay-at-home orders and has tested positive for the virus, are being notified of their potential exposure and are encouraged to get tested.

As of Friday, 30 states have begun to ease restrictions. About 40% of the population, roughly 130 million people, are still under some form of lockdown.

THE PANDEMIC

Social workers across the country are raising concerns over considerable drops in child abuse reports as social distancing mandates have kept people home and kids out of sight. States like Massachusetts, California, Michigan and Louisiana have all seen double-digit percentage drops since implementing shelter-in-place orders. Because people are isolated, children’s advocates say, teachers, coaches and other adults who usually interact with children don’t see the abuse.

A new study published by the journal Health Affairs reveals social distancing worked to limit the spread of coronavirus and may have prevented tens of millions of infections. According to the study’s estimate, without any social distancing mandates, the number of cases in the U.S. could have been 35 times higher.

STATES

After several reports of police brutality in enforcing social distancing mandates in Black and brown communities, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the NYPD will stop requiring the wearing of face masks. The mayor added that the NYPD will continue to enforce the city’s ban on non-essential gatherings of groups of more than six adults.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says he is “absolutely” concerned about photos and videos of crowded bars as his state begins lifting coronavirus restrictions. Although few citations were given to offending bars, DeWine said officials are working with the attorney general to keep the issue in check. The governor added that the state has hit a plateau in terms of Covid-19 cases but is making efforts to lower the numbers as it continues to lift restrictions.

AdventHealth care system in central Florida has ended a contract with a third-party lab after finding that more than 25,000 coronavirus tests it performed were unreliable. AdventHealth says it is contacting individuals who received tests that were processed by the third-party lab. Those who tested positive for the virus are being directed to take another test at no cost. According to Florida’s health department tally, more than 653,000 people in the state have been tested.

BUSINESS & POLITICS

Senior leaders at the Centers for Disease Control are voicing concern that the system used to report Covid-19 deaths is “antiquated”, often lagging by up to three weeks. Federal health officials warn that the U.S. death count from coronavirus could be thousands or tens of thousands higher.

In a battle between political parties, Republicans say they’re moving forward with plans to hold their presidential nominating convention in Charlotte, North Carolina the week of August 24. In an interview with FOX Business, GOP leaders, who expect 50,000 visitors, did not specify what steps they will be taking to keep convention attendees safe, but added that organizers would follow guidelines from federal, state and local authorities.

City leaders in heavily Democratic Charlotte have expressed fears that gathering thousands of people could prompt a surge in COVID-19 cases. The city remains under a stay-at-home order and has limited gatherings to no more than 10 people.

As the pandemic continues to alter daily life and devastate businesses, restaurant and bar owners say social distancing could wipe out their industry. Even as restrictions are being eased, these businesses are not allowed to fully reopen because they are viewed as venues where the virus might easily spread. Today, Donald Trump will host a round table discussion with leaders in the restaurant industry to discuss the impact of the pandemic on business.

After years of financial struggle, the pandemic has led to J.C. Penney to file for bankruptcy and close many of its stores. The 118-year-old retail giant is the latest retailer to lay off workers as clothing sales have nosedived 79%.

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