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Coronavirus Live Updates: Birx Urges Bar Closures and Limits on Gatherings

2020-07-27 11:13:34
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Birx advises several states to reimpose limits ‘to control the pandemic before it gets worse.’

With Kentucky officials set to announce stricter measures on Monday to contain the coronavirus, a top federal health official suggested that the leaders of nearby states should take a hard look at doing the same.

On a visit to Kentucky on Sunday, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, said several states in the region should reinstate bar closures and restrictions on public gatherings to quell the rise of infections.

“We do believe that there are states that do need to close their bars, to decrease indoor gatherings to less than 10 and to decrease social gatherings to less than 10 to really make it possible to control the pandemic before it gets worse,” Dr. Birx said at a news conference.

Several states in the South and Midwest are facing the prospect of shutting down parts of their economy again to try to stem the virus, which the Trump administration and many governors have increasingly been forced to recognize as unrelenting.

Florida has surpassed New York, an early epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, in the number of cases, and four states have set single-day records for infections: Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Alaska.

On her visit to Kentucky, Dr. Birx cited as worrisome not just that state but also Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. She said the federal health authorities were concerned about the percentage of people who were testing positive for the virus, as well as the total number of cases.

Dr. Birx appeared with Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, a Democrat, who said that the state would announce new guidelines on Monday to address the rise in cases.

“I want you to know that the White House and Kentucky state government are in complete agreement that the escalation of cases is going to require us to take some new steps,” Mr. Beshear said.

In Florida, cases have surged this month. Over the past week, there have been an average of about 10,500 cases per day, an increase of about 19 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database. There have been at least 5,853 deaths in Florida since the beginning of the pandemic.

And despite increased testing capacity across the nation, there is a consensus among federal state and local officials that test results are taking too long.

The federal government said Sunday that it would pay the testing company Hologic up to $7.6 million to expand the number of tests its machines can run by two million a month. The expanded capacity won’t be available until next January.

Testing is considered crucial to understanding — and slowing — the spread of the virus. When turnaround times extend beyond several days, it can render the information useless, since those tested may have spread the virus to other people by the time their results are back.

Several countries that had the virus under control have had to sharpen their response after a sudden uptick in cases. In June, China reimposed restrictions in Beijing after a flare-up ended a 56-day run of no locally transmitted cases. Officials in Australia locked down much of Melbourne in early July after restrictions had been eased for months. But Japan has shied away from new restrictions even as cases broke records last week.

In other news from around the world:

  • Often criticized for a slow response to the coronavirus, the government in Britain moved quickly this weekend to impose a 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving from Spain, after a spike in coronavirus cases there. The rapid move brought disarray to thousands of Britons, blindsiding those already traveling and embarrassing Britain’s transportation secretary, Grant Shapps, who is responsible for aviation policy but learned of the quarantine while on vacation. In Spain.

  • Officials in Hong Kong, which reported a record 145 new cases on Monday and has had more than 100 new cases for six days in a row, said on Monday that they would shut down all dine-in restaurant service, limit public gatherings to two people and require masks in public at all times. Hong Kong is coping with its worst outbreak yet after having the virus largely under control from mid-April to July.

  • The government of Morocco locked down eight cities on Sunday before the Eid al-Adha holiday. People are prohibited from leaving or entering Berrechid, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, Settat, Tangier and Tetouan, except under specific conditions. The lockdown is open-ended. The decision comes after a week of rising coronavirus cases in the North African kingdom and is aimed at containing the virus during a holiday when Moroccans travel across the country to visit family. Over the weekend, the authorities also tightened the control of the mask mandate and fined and even arrested people who didn’t wear their masks outside of their homes. Morocco has had 20,278 cases and 313 deaths from the virus.

In Zambia, 15 lawmakers tested positive for the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has been surging across Zambia, with the government announcing a record number of cases. Last week, the authorities also said that 15 lawmakers and 11 members of staff had tested positive for the coronavirus.

One of those is the lawmaker Princess Kasune Zulu, 44, prominently known for being the first Zambian legislator to declare that she had H.I.V. Elected in 2016, she has worked with global organizations and traveled the world talking about living with H.I.V. and advocating on behalf of others with it. Ms. Zulu announced that she had tested positive for coronavirus on Facebook, saying she was going into quarantine.

“Covid-19 is moving rapidly and so many lives at stake,” she wrote on Facebook, urging Zambians to stay at home, wear masks and avoid gatherings, including church. “Let’s do our part so that God can do his,” she said. As of Sunday, Zambia’s ministry of health had reported cumulative 4,481 cases and 139 deaths.

Hoping to understand the virus, everyone is parsing a mountain of data.

The latest count of new coronavirus cases was jarring: Some 1,500 virus cases were identified three consecutive days last week in Illinois, and fears of a resurgence in the state even led the mayor of Chicago to shut down bars all over town on Friday.

But at the same moment, there were other, hopeful data points that seemed to tell a different story entirely. Deaths from the virus statewide are one-tenth what they were at their peak in May. And the positivity rate of new coronavirus tests in Illinois is about half that of neighboring states.

“There are so many numbers flying around,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago health department. “It’s hard for people to know what’s the most important thing to follow.”

Six months since the first cases were detected in the United States, more people have been infected by far than in any other country, and the daily rundown of national numbers on Friday was a reminder of a mounting emergency: more than 73,500 new cases, 1,100 deaths and 939,838 tests, as well as 59,670 people currently hospitalized for the virus.

Americans now have access to an expanding set of data to help them interpret the coronavirus pandemic. Sophisticated data-gathering operations by newspapers, research universities and volunteers have sprung up in response to the pandemic, monitoring and collecting coronavirus metrics around the clock.

“Everybody’s tracking this virus in a way that they’ve never done with any other infectious disease,” said Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who has treated coronavirus patients. “For some people, it’s helped them understand what is happening. For other people, it’s been misinterpreted and not very helpful.”

Restaurants, barbershops and small shops have closed across the city, and for some New Yorkers, the near-weekly closures of neighborhood mainstays have ushered in a type of mourning.

“It’s been this long, drawn-out loss, and it’s a lot to take in emotionally,” said Jeremiah Moss, the author of “Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul,” a book about gentrification.

Mr. Moss said he recently rode by a Manhattan theater and suddenly began wondering if it, too, would disappear soon. “And then I pushed it aside,’ he said, ”because it’s just too much right now. It’s overwhelming.”

Reporting was contributed by Stephen Castle, Julie Bosman, Troy Closson, Choe Sang-Hun, Tiffany May, Raphael Minder, Richard C. Paddock, Edgar Sandoval, Neil Vigdor and Daniel Victor.


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