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Florida Breaks U.S. Daily Record With Over 15,000 New Coronavirus Cases

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Florida Breaks U.S. Daily Record With Over 15,000 New Coronavirus Cases
People visit Jacksonville Beach on July 4, 2020 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Public health experts have attributed Florida's growing coronavirus caseload to people gathering in crowds. Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

Florida broke the national record for the most new coronavirus cases reported in a single day on Sunday, with a total of 15,299.


Florida's Sunday caseload was more than any European country reported during the height of the outbreak there, Reuters reported.

"If Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases in a day behind the United States, Brazil and India," Reuters wrote.

It also reported more new cases than did New York when it was the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Sources are divided on the previous U.S. record. The Associated Press reported that California held the previous record with 11,694 new cases on Wednesday, while before the record went to New York with 11,571 on April 15. Reuters, meanwhile, gave the previous record to New York with 12,847 new cases on April 10; The New York Times also reported it was held by New York, but with 12,274 new cases April 4. But in any case, the record is an alarming milestone for the Sunshine State with real consequences for its hospitals.

"It has just been horrifically busy," University of South Florida infectious disease professor John Toney told The New York Times. "It's reminiscent of what everyone dealt with in New York. It's certainly putting a strain on a lot of the systems, even though hospitals are trying to accommodate."

Florida's record comes amidst a surge in cases nationwide and globally. Almost 40 states are seeing cases increase, and the U.S. broke world records by reporting around 60,000 new cases a day for the last four days, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reported a record of more than 230,000 new cases total Sunday, according to a New York Times update. The previous global record was set Friday, with more than 228,000 new cases.

Public health experts have attributed Florida's growing caseload to people gathering in crowds and moving around once the state began reopening.

"Bottom line is, more people are mobile and they're not necessarily taking the precautions we think would help," Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, told The New York Times.

University of Florida epidemiologist Dr. Cindy Prins also attributed the spread to people gathering in crowds, gyms and some restaurants, as well as reports of illegal raves and clubs in South Florida.

"I really do think we could control this, and it's the human element that is so critical. It should be an effort of our country. We should be pulling together when we're in a crisis, and we're definitely not doing it," she told The Associated Press. "I know people want to live their lives. There have been a lot of other times, people have made those sacrifices in order to benefit our society. It's almost like a war effort. That's what we need right now."

Instead, the state is largely persisting with reopening efforts, which began in early May, according to NPR. Two of Disney World's parks reopened Saturday, and the other two are scheduled to reopen Wednesday. Schools have also been ordered to reopen for in-person classes in August.

"We know there are huge, huge costs for not providing the availability of in-person schooling," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said, according to The Associated Press. "The risk of corona, fortunately, for students is incredibly low."

The outbreak in Florida is in some ways easier to manage than the outbreak in New York in April, The New York Times pointed out. Some of the increase in caseload is down to increased testing, and hospitals are better supplied and prepared to treat the disease. The state's death rate is also well below New York's at the outbreak's peak there.

However, daily death totals began rising in the state last week, The Associated Press reported. Health experts predicted this would be the case, since death rates tend to lag behind infection rates by two to four weeks. Florida reported 514 fatalities for this week, an average of 73 per day. It averaged 30 per day three weeks ago.

The U.S. as a whole reported a seven-day death average of 700 Saturday, up from 471 July 5, but still below the more than 2,200 daily deaths it averaged in mid-April, according to The New York Times.

Overall, the new coronavirus has sickened 269,811 people in Florida and killed 4,242, the state health department reported.

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Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.

Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.

"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."

Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.

It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.

Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.

Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.

One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.

The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.

They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.

"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."

That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.

And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.

"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."

Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.

"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.

The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.

"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."


Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan

Reposted with permission from The Revelator.

An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

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The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

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"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

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So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

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