Florida’s largest teachers union has filed a lawsuit challenging an order to reopen schools next month, as the state reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases for the sixth consecutive day.
The lawsuit, filed in Miami on Monday, aims to overturn an emergency order from Florida’s education commissioner requiring schools to be open at least five days a week and provide a full range of services when the school year begins in August.
Fedrick Ingram, the president of the Florida Education Association union, called the order, which has the backing of governor Ron DeSantis, “reckless” and “unconstitutional”.
Florida on Monday reported 10,347 new cases of coronavirus, and 92 deaths, over the past 24 hours. More than 360,000 people have tested positive for, and 5,183 people have died from, the disease in the state since the pandemic began, positioning it as one of the new hotspots for the virus in the US.
The White House has pushed for schools to reopen classrooms at the end of summer. President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that do not reopen physical classrooms, but has no authority to hold back such finances without congressional approval.
The reopening debate has created a patchwork of planned approaches across the US. Phil Murphy, New Jersey governor, said on Monday the state’s education department would soon release guidance allowing parents to opt for all-remote learning for their children, adding there “are a lot of moving parts to this”.
California last Friday set out guidelines that will probably prevent most of the state’s schools from returning to in-person learning owing to the continued spread of coronavirus there. The two biggest school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — decided days earlier they would not allow students back into classrooms.
A decision on school reopening in New York is expected by early August. The state, which was the hardest hit by the early wave of coronavirus cases, has since managed to control the rate of new infections and hospitalisations.
New York City moved into the fourth phase of reopening on Monday, which includes zoos and botanical gardens, film and television production and professional sports without spectators. Indoor dining is still off the table for now.
However, Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, expressed displeasure with the enforcement of social distancing at reopened bars and restaurants, particularly in New York City, and threatened to reimpose restrictions if compliance did not improve.
Officials in Chicago, the third-largest US city by population, said on Monday that restrictions would be reintroduced on bars, restaurants and gyms and limits would be placed on personal gatherings owing to a recent increase in cases.
“While we aren’t near the peak of the pandemic from earlier this year, none of us wants to go back there, and we feel these restrictions will help limit further community spread,” Lori Lightfoot, the city’s mayor, said.
A further 192 cases were reported over the past 24 hours, Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, announced on Monday, bringing the seven-day average to 233, compared with levels of more than 1,000 during the city’s pandemic peak in May.
Dr Arwady said Chicago could soon be back above 200 cases a day “given what we are seeing around the country”.
Some states that have seen cases surge in recent weeks reported a slower rate of new infections on Monday, although figures at the start of the week tend to be lower owing to delays in reporting over the weekend.
California reported 6,846 more people tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, with nine deaths, the smallest increase for both measures in a fortnight.
Arizona reported 1,559 cases and 23 fatalities, both the lowest since last Monday, while North Carolina had its smallest daily increase since June 30 with 1,268 cases.