As the U.S. has come to a crucial time in the fight against the pandemic, health officials at the national level, who have previously taken a more lax approach to communicating with the public about the virus, are somewhat stepping up the severity in their messaging. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar urged Americans to practice social distancing and wear face coverings as people venture out into public spaces.

“This is a real call to action. We have all got to, as Americans, act responsibly,” he said during an interview on Monday.

While Azar said that the U.S. does not need a national mandate requiring masks, he said the advice is the same for everybody.

“Social distance under all circumstances, and if you can’t, wear facial coverings,” Azar said.

Azar added that local leaders should determine the circumstances in a community, and that individuals should assess their own situations and act responsibly.


As coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide, at least 12 states paused their reopening plans to curb the spread. As the July 4th holiday weekend approaches, leaders in states including Texas, Florida, California, are pleading with Americans to take the virus seriously by wearing masks, physical distancing and staying at home when possible.

At least 31 states are seeing a spike in new cases compared to the previous week: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Only four states are seeing a decline in cases: Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Gilead Sciences, the maker of a drug shown to shorten recovery time for severely ill coronavirus patients, says it will charge $2,340 for a treatment course for people covered by government health programs in the U.S. and other developed countries. The cost is drawing sharp criticism from patient advocate groups, calling the price “an outrage” because at least $70 million of taxpayer money has been invested toward its development.

Remdesivir is the first medicine to show promise in the treatment of the virus, which has killed more than half a million people globally in six months.

Popular beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and the Keys will be closed Fourth of July weekend as local and state leaders try to slow the rapidly rising number of new coronavirus cases in Florida. Officials in Miami-Dade County are warning residents and visitors that the closure could be extended if infection rates don’t improve and people don’t follow guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are calling on Republicans to come to the table to negotiate for another round of Covid-19 aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking his party to take action as Americans continue to cope financially with the crisis. Democrats also chastised Republican leadership for failing to make passing an additional aid package a priority in the early part of June.

More than 200 people in Morgantown, West Virginia are being asked to self-quarantine after a member at Planet Fitness has tested positive for COVID-19. The Monongalia County Health Department is asking members who were at the facility on June 24 to stay home for 14 days.

Department of Justice officials are warning the public of fraudulent fask mask exempt cards being sold online. The cards say “wearing a face mask poses a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability [sic] act, I am not required to disclose my condition to you.”

The card, bearing the Department of Justice logo, also carries a warning that violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act could be met with fines of $75,000 or $150,000.

The group that produced the fake cards, the Freedom to Breathe Agency, created a private Facebook group last week and now has over 400 members. The company’s Wix website and public Facebook group page has been removed. Posts advertising the cards was flagged as false information by Facebook fact checkers.

Theater lovers will be given refunds and exchanges for tickets as Broadway performances in New York City will be suspended through the rest of the year due to the coronavirus. The Broadway league is offering the concessions for tickets purchased for all performances through Jan. 3, 2021. Tickets for next winter and spring performances are expected to go on sale in the next few weeks.

5 — Black- and Female-Owned PopCom Smart-Vending Startup Makes History Through Crowdfunding

Shopping at a retail store has changed drastically since the pandemic began. And as contactless purchasing (no human physical contact) seems to be the “new” normal, one Black and woman-owned company is pioneering the new future of retail.

PopCom, an automated retail technology company specializing in smart vending and kiosk solutions, has recently made history by raising $2.3 million in capital through crowdfunding. Using the platform Start Engine, the Columbus, Ohio based company has been able to acquire money to grow its operations, build its sales team, reach more customers, and meet the demand for more automated retail machines in the wake of COVID-19.

Using Regulation CF secure token offering, PopCom has secured more than 4,000 investors. This type of fundraising, not a typical fundraising route of technology start-ups, allows companies to secure investment from the general public, both accredited and non-accredited investors.

With its PopShop Kiosk, vendors can sell their products while incorporating social distancing. In its quest to service the entire retail industry, PopCom has also secured technology to eventually power all machine-driven transactions in the retail space, integrating facial detection to understand the customer demographic profile including age, gender, and emotion.

“Although the timing is sensitive due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we must continue to look towards the future and build products for our customers,” said Dawn Dickson, PopCom Founder & CEO. “Vending machines and convenience services are becoming more essential, and retailers are looking for more ways to deliver their products direct-to-customer with less human friction. We are excited about what is to come.”

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