California wildfire destroys 1 home, prompts new evacuations California Wildfires An air tanker drops fire retardant at the Apple Fire in Cherry Valley, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. A wildfire northwest of Palm Springs flared up Saturday afternoon, prompting authorities to issue new evacuation orders as firefighters fought the blaze in triple-degree heat. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)August 1, 2020, 7:40 AM BEAUMONT, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire northwest of Palm Springs flared up Saturday, with evacuation orders for thousands of people as firefighters fought the blaze in triple-degree heat.An unspecified number of homes were in the path of the flames but were not in imminent danger, CalFire captain Fernando Herrera told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.The blaze, which began as two adjacent fires, was reported shortly before 5 p.m. Friday in Cherry Valley, an unincorporated area near the city of Beaumont in Riverside County. Flames leapt along brushy ridge tops and came close to homes while some 375 firefighters attacked it from the ground and air, authorities said.The blaze, dubbed the Apple Fire, doubled in size overnight and is over 18 square miles. About 7,800 people have been told to evacuate over 2,500 homes, according to fire officials. Hundreds of people in foothill neighborhoods north of Beaumont fell under mandatory evacuation orders.One home has been destroyed. Herrera said firefighters were having difficulty assessing the damage because the charred ground was too hot to walk on.The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning as Southern California found itself in the midst of a heat wave.The mercury hit 105 degrees (41 Celsius) in Palm Springs by Saturday afternoon.The weather service said “dangerously hot conditions” were expected to continue into evening because of high pressure over the region.
In Palm Beach County, about 150 people were in shelters, said emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda. The county has a voluntary evacuation order for those living in mobile or manufactured homes, or those who feel their home can’t withstand winds.
“We don’t anticipate many more evacuations,” she said, adding that the evacuees are physically distant from each other and are wearing masks, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Isaias is piling another burden on communities already hard-hit by other storms and sickness.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds declined steadily throughout Saturday, and were near 70 mph (110 kph) at 5 p.m., when the U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded it its status. But the agency said it is expected to pick up strength overnight as it heads over warm water toward Florida.
The center of the storm was forecast to regain strength and approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning, then travel up the state’s east coast throughout the day. It is expected to remain a hurricane through Monday then slowly weaken as it tracks up or just off the Atlantic seaboard. Heavy rain, flooding and high winds could batter much of the East Coast this week.
Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.
Isaias has already been destructive in the Caribbean: On Thursday, before it became a hurricane, it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.
Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast.
As the storm moves now toward the southeast coast of Florida, a hurricane warning is in effect from Boca Raton to the Volusia-Flagler county line, which lies about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north. A storm surge watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach.
Coronavirus cases have surged in Florida in recent weeks, and the added menace of a storm ratcheted up the anxiety. State-run virus testing sites are closing in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.
Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens, said that the storm itself doesn’t cause her a great amount of concern.
“The hurricane is not that serious, but I feel that the public is really panicking because it’s a hurricane and we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.
Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people.
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Curt Anderson from St. Petersburg, and Cody Jackson in Palm Beach County, Florida, contributed.
On a warm summer weekday in the middle of July in Greenwich, Connecticut, one of the wealthiest communities in the country, a group of teenagers gathered at a house party. Many were seniors who had just finished their final year at two elite private college-preparatory schools, Greenwich Academy and the Brunswick School, as well as the local public high school, Greenwich High School, according to accounts from students and school officials.
They had endured weeks of lockdown, had time on their hands and now Connecticut was among the few states in the country where the coronavirus appeared to be under control. As the weekend approached, some of the teenagers would attend more get-togethers, according to the accounts.
But amid the festivities, the virus was quietly spreading.
Two weeks after the parties, Greenwich is experiencing what health officials called a “mini surge” of infections, an outbreak that has cascaded through the community and underscored how social gatherings among young people are posing fresh challenges to containing the virus.
More than 20 people between the ages of 16 and 21 have tested positive for the virus, with more cases expected as testing continues, according to Greenwich health officials.
“I think it has been a wake-up call for a lot of people,” said Tom Philip, the head of the Brunswick School.
Some members of the Greenwich High School football team were placed in quarantine after a player tested positive, school officials said. About a dozen students did not attend a socially distanced Brunswick School commencement ceremony Saturday after acknowledging that they had been exposed to someone who had tested positive.
A pool at a country club in Greenwich said Wednesday that it would shut down for at least two days after a swim coach came into contact with someone who had tested positive.
While the parties that are believed to have seeded the outbreak have been widely discussed among students, parents and others in Greenwich, the conversation on social media has taken place largely on private accounts and pages.
Greenwich health officials have said that contact tracers have had a difficult time tracking down teenagers willing to admit having been at the gatherings.
Several students contacted for this article said they did not feel comfortable discussing the events. In some cases, students said that they had been told by their parents not to share information about the parties.
Still, the outbreak is sowing frustration among some students and parents who fear that allowing parties to be held showed that some residents may not be taking the risks seriously and that any rise in cases could influence plans to reopen schools for in-person learning.
Fred Camillo, the first selectman of Greenwich’s Board of Selectmen, said the board had scheduled a special meeting Wednesday to talk about how the town would better enforce rules on social distancing and mask wearing.
“There’s going to be consequences now for people who disobey the measures,” he said.
Across the country, officials have sounded similar concerns, targeting parties involving teenagers and young adults where little or no social distancing takes place and where drinks and food make consistently wearing face masks difficult.
In New Jersey, a recent increase in cases has been attributed in part to outbreaks among young people gathering along the Jersey Shore.
In New York City, as images of young people crowding outside bars and other venues circulated this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio said there had been an uptick in infections among people in their 20s.
The governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, said last week that his state had seen “a tremendous amount of spread in young people.”
“I’ve been talking for about a week about wanting to do something to curb the spread among young, drunk, careless folks,” he said.
And in Connecticut, officials in Darien, another affluent community not far from Greenwich, raised the alarm last week after five people between the ages of 10 and 19 tested positive for the virus on one day. Some of the infections are believed to be linked to parties.
“It’s summertime,” said Jayme Stevenson, the first selectman of Darien. “It’s beach weather. People are out on boats. They are having parties. And I think they are beginning to let their guard down. It’s critically important that young people understand that they can get the virus and they can spread the virus.”
The state’s governor, Ned Lamont, put out a statement this week warning about “outbreak clusters among teens and young adults” accompanied by a photo of a densely packed party on a string of boats on a state waterway.
“A small cluster of cases can turn into hundreds of new infections within days,” Lamont said. “If you multiply that, we are looking at major impact to our ability to continue to reopen our economy or even send children back to school in September for in-person instruction.”
The warnings came as researchers are still trying to understand how the virus affects children and other young people and how efficiently it spreads. Public health experts say children under age 10 appear far less likely to transmit the virus than older children.
Despite the outbreaks in local communities, Connecticut has largely contained the virus.
The caseload in the state has been steady for weeks and, over the last week, the average has been 188 cases per day, though the data has been affected by the addition of cases from the state’s testing backlog. Only seven states had a lower per capita case count over the last seven days, according to a database maintained by The New York Times.
Caroline Baisley, the health director for Greenwich, said officials first realized something was amiss when they began hearing rumors of large parties around the weekend of July 18. In the following weeks, they started looking at testing data and noted a trend — several young people were testing positive.
“When you start to see multiple 18-year-olds and 17-year-olds, then you have to start to wonder what’s going on here,” she said.
Philip at the Brunswick School said at least one student at the school had been infected at a birthday party for that student’s father.
The parties have cast a shadow over the school’s preparation for reopening in the fall, he said, advising that young people avoid large indoor gatherings, and that parents should forbid them from going.
Camilo said the kind of socializing that is typical among young people can make it hard to keep everyone safe.
“One kid goes to a party in Greenwich, next thing you know there’s a little bit of an outbreak,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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