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Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. and Global News

2020-07-08 06:21:36
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As the U.S. passes 3 million virus cases, Fauci cautions against the ‘false narrative’ of a falling death rate.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, cautioned on Tuesday that it was a “false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” which President Trump, top White House officials and several governors have stressed in recent days.

Dr. Fauci’s comments came at an event Tuesday with Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, as the United States surpassed three million cases on Tuesday, and some states that had hoped to be getting back to normal by now have instead been forced to reinstate restrictions and issue mandatory mask orders.

“By allowing yourself to get infected because of risky behavior, you are part of the propagation of the outbreak,” he said. “There are so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don’t get yourself into false complacency.”

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, conceded that officials had been surprised by its recent spread, especially among young people.

“None of us really anticipated the amount of community spread that began in really our 18-to-35-year-old age group,” Dr. Birx said in a brief appearance on an Atlantic Council panel. “This is an age group that was so good and so disciplined through March and April. But when they saw people out and about on social media, they all went out and about.”

The rate of new cases was rising quickly as the nation hit the three million mark, according to a New York Times database. Half a million new cases have been reported since June 26. Cases have risen in 37 states over the past two weeks, and this week the nation has been averaging roughly 50,000 new cases a day — double what it did in mid-June. And though President Trump dismissed the severity of the outbreak over the weekend, falsely claiming that “99 percent” of cases were “totally harmless,” leading health officials remain concerned.

On Tuesday, more than 54,000 cases were announced in the United States, according to the Times database. And at least six states — Texas, California, Hawaii, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma — set single-day records for new cases; Texas recorded more than 9,200 cases. At least three — Arizona, Mississippi and Texas — reported their highest daily death totals of the pandemic.

People under 40 have made up a significant portion of new cases recorded in states with recent outbreaks, a sign of how the virus has spread in bars, restaurants and offices that have reopened.

Mr. Trump is pressing schools to physically reopen in the fall, pursuing his goal of reopening the United States even as the pandemic surges through much of the country.

In a daylong series of conference calls and public events at the White House on Tuesday, the president and other senior officials kicked off a concerted campaign to lean on governors, mayors and other local officials — who actually control the schools — to find ways to safely resume classes in person.

They argued that the costs of keeping children at home any longer would be worse than the virus itself.

“We hope that most schools are going to be open, and we don’t want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons,” Mr. Trump said. “They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed. No way. We are very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools to get them open, and it’s very important. It’s very important for our country.”

The president brushed off the risks of spiking infection numbers.

Mr. Trump has been pressing more businesses to reopen, but it will be difficult for many parents to work if the schools do not reopen and they have no child care.

Beyond generalities, neither Mr. Trump nor his team offered concrete proposals or new financial assistance to states and localities struggling to restructure programs that were never designed to keep children six feet apart or cope with combating a virus that has killed more than 130,000 Americans.

Before the White House event, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos castigated the nation’s school administrations for moving too slowly to reopen in the fall.

“I was disappointed frankly in schools and districts that didn’t figure out how to serve students or that just gave up and didn’t try,” Ms. DeVos told the nation’s governors, according to a recording of the conference call obtained by The New York Times.

Ms. DeVos was not impressed with school districts that want to experiment with a mix of part-time in-person teaching and online classrooms. She singled out Fairfax County, Va., as a district “playing both paradigms.”

“Here in the D.C. area, Fairfax County, one of the wealthiest districts in this region with a $3 billion budget, has offered families a so-called choice this fall, zero days or two days in school,” she said. “A couple of hours of online school is not OK, and a choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all.”

“The United States’ notice of withdrawal, effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the U.N. secretary general, who is the depository for the W.H.O.,” said a senior administration official.

By law, the United States must give the organization a year’s notice if it intends to withdraw, and meet all the current financial obligations in the current year.

Mr. Trump, whose response to the pandemic has drawn criticism, first announced that he planned to halt funding to the W.H.O. in April, claiming that the organization had made a series of mistakes as it battled the coronavirus.

His move to withdraw drew immediate criticism. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Republican who is the chairman of the Senate’s health committee, said that he disagreed with the president’s decision.

“Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need,” he said in a statement. “And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States.”

The nation cannot withdraw until next year, after the presidential election. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, said on Twitter that he would rejoin the W.H.O. “on my first day as President.”

The president of the United Nations Foundation, Elizabeth Cousens, said in a statement that the administration’s “move to formally withdraw from the W.H.O. amid the greatest public health crisis that Americans and the world have faced in a century is shortsighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous.”

Mr. Trump turned on the W.H.O., the world’s premier global health organization, this spring, accusing it of doing too little to warn the world of the outbreak. In fact, the agency issued its first alarm on Jan. 4, just five days after the local health department of Wuhan, China, announced 27 cases of an unusual pneumonia at a local seafood market, and followed up with a detailed report the next day.

Lawrence Gostin, the director of the W.H.O.’s Collaborating Center on National & Global Health Law, called the decision “among the most ruinous presidential decisions in recent history.”

“It will make Americans less safe during an unprecedented global health crisis,” he said. “And it will significantly weaken U.S. influence on W.H.O. reform and international health diplomacy.”

Experts acknowledged that the W.H.O. has made some missteps during the pandemic, but said that it has largely done well given the constraints under which it operates. The agency is coordinating clinical trials of treatments, as well as efforts to manufacture and equitably distribute the vaccine worldwide.

In other W.H.O. news:

  • After hundreds of experts called for the W.H.O. to review its guidance, the agency acknowledged on Tuesday that airborne transmission of the virus may be significant in indoor spaces and said it planned to release updated recommendations in a few days.

  • Two W.H.O. scientists will travel to China this weekend to begin preparations for a larger investigation into the virus’s origin. The two, an epidemiologist and an animal-health specialist, will start in Wuhan, where the outbreak began late last year, and will collaborate with experts from the Chinese ministries of science, technology and health. Their purpose is to lay the groundwork for a later investigative expedition.

U.S. ROUNDUP

The fight over a drug that President Trump promoted enters a new round.

A team of doctors has asked the Food and Drug Administration to reverse its decision revoking an emergency waiver that had allowed government distribution of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment, the latest twist in a highly politicized debate over whether the drug promoted by President Trump is useful in fighting the disease caused by the coronavirus.

In revoking the waiver last month, the F.D.A. said studies had found the drug was “unlikely to be effective” in treating Covid-19 and could carry risks.

But doctors at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit last week reported the results of a study finding that 13 percent of hospitalized patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine had died, compared with 26.4 percent of those who were not treated.

The study was retrospective and established only association, not causality. But Mr. Trump and his allies have been promoting the research on Twitter.

On Tuesday, the Detroit doctors asked the F.D.A. to issue a new emergency waiver, which would enable the government to again distribute the drug from the national stockpile as a treatment for Covid-19 patients.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, the hospital’s executive vice president, said in a statement that it was seeking the waiver for “a clearly defined list of clinical uses, including use in clinical trials.”

“We owe it to our patients and our communities to do everything we can to provide safe, effective, affordable treatments,” he said.

In other U.S. news:

  • Five senior Republicans said this week that they did not plan to attend the Republican National Convention next month in Jacksonville, Fla., where President Trump will formally receive the party’s nomination. Among them are two of the party’s elder statesmen, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Three others are moderates who have clashed with Mr. Trump during his first term, including Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee.

  • Officials in Arizona on Tuesday announced more than 3,500 new cases and a single-day record for the number of deaths, more than 90. More than 50 of those deaths were in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. Twenty were reported in Pima County, which includes Tucson. Relatively few deaths were reported in Arizona over the holiday weekend, which may have contributed to Tuesday’s spike.

  • Officials in Montana announced more than 70 new cases on Tuesday, a single-day record in that state. More than 50 of those cases were in Yellowstone County, which includes Billings.

  • Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, a Republican, said his virus test came back negative. He was screened after his exposure last week to a member of the state’s legislature who tested positive. At least eight Mississippi legislators have tested positive for the virus, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, said Tuesday during a news conference.

  • Nearly 350 public health organizations and agencies released a letter Tuesday to Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, urging him to champion the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health agencies amid “increasing reports of resistance” to their recommendations for fighting the virus.

  • Ohio’s governor, a Republican, ordered residents to wear masks in public in seven counties where case numbers are growing significantly, including the ones that contain Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland. “This is aimed specifically at the seven counties where we are the most concerned,” he said.

  • All four of the large U.S. airlines have agreed to terms for loans from the federal government under the March stimulus bill, the Treasury Department said Tuesday. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines signed letters of intent under that law, known as the CARES Act, Treasury said. Last week, the department announced that American Airlines had agreed to a five-year, $4.75 billion loan.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

Hong Kong, a model of virus prevention, confronts a ‘third wave’ of infections.

Hong Kong has entered what one health official described as “a third wave” of coronavirus infections, a setback for a city where the Covid-19 death toll remains in the single digits and many social-distancing restrictions were relaxed in April.

The health authorities reported 14 new cases on Tuesday, a spike after months in which few or no new daily infections were detected. Of the 14, five were brought in by residents who were subject to a mandatory two-week quarantine.

But nine were locally transmitted, and the authorities said they had been unable to trace the infection pattern in five of those cases. That raises the prospect that the virus is circulating silently, after months in which community transmission appeared to have been at a standstill.

“We could describe this as a third wave,” Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, a top official at the Center for Health Protection, told reporters on Tuesday. “We are worried about a big outbreak in the community.”

Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory, closed its borders to nonresidents in March and mandated quarantine for returning residents after experiencing a second wave of infections imported from Europe and the United States. Its robust contact-tracing system helped the authorities contain the local outbreak this winter, and the city was among those that won praise from international health experts in the pandemic’s early days.

In April, health officials began to ease social-distancing rules and gradually allow schools, gyms and movie theaters to reopen. Since then, most reported cases of the virus in Hong Kong have been imported. As of Wednesday, the city of more than seven million people had 1,299 confirmed infections and seven deaths.

But the authorities have said that gaps began to appear in their maps of local clusters around the time that the rules were eased.

Dr. Chuang told reporters that the latest patients had come into contact with many people in public places before they tested positive, making it impossible to trace all their contacts.

“We cannot solely rely on this method to break transmission chains,” she said.

On Tuesday, Sophia Chan, the city’s health minister, suspended residents’ visits to nursing homes and said she would contemplate reinstating restrictive social-distancing measures. A few high schools and universities, including the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, also said that they would suspend classes.

But otherwise, most businesses and offices stayed open, and the city’s subways and buses teemed with commuters.

In other world news:

Travel restrictions on Americans erode their passport privilege.

As cases surge in Florida, more than 40 hospitals in counties across the state reported having no more beds available in their adult intensive care units, according to the state’s health care administration website.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who pushed to reopen the state swiftly, announced Tuesday that he was taking steps to augment hospital capacity. The state has reported at least 213,786 cases, according to a Times database, and at least 3,840 people there have died. The average number of new cases in Florida each day has doubled since late June. On Tuesday, the state added more than 7,300 new cases.

Mr. DeSantis said the state would help create another nursing home for people with the virus and would send 100 health care workers, mostly nurses, to Miami-Dade County’s public hospital network, Jackson Health System. Some patients seeking medical care for other problems were testing positive, he said, putting a strain on space and staffing as hospitals were forced to isolate them.

“We have abundant capacity, but I think that having some of the personnel support will be very very important,” the governor said.

Miami-Dade County has been hit particularly hard. Its mayor, Carlos A. Gimenez, said that the county’s positivity rate had risen above 20 percent, more than double what it was two weeks ago. And nearly 80 percent of its I.C.U. beds are filled with virus patients, the county reported.

Mr. Gimenez has sent conflicting messages in recent days about some of the steps he was taking to curb the spread in the Miami area. After announcing on Monday that he would close gyms and restaurants, except for takeout and delivery, he later amended his decision and said that he would allow outdoor dining at tables with no more than four people. On Tuesday, he added that he had reached a compromise to allow gyms to stay open as long as people wear masks.

Out-of-work Britons fill farm jobs vacant because of travel restrictions.

Fruit picking in Britain is traditionally done by seasonal workers from Eastern Europe. Over all, 70,000 to 90,000 seasonal workers are needed to pick all the fruit and vegetables that grow in the country.

Because of travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, many of those workers haven’t been able to make the trip, have been delayed or have chosen not to come. By the time the pandemic hit Europe, most of the crops had been planted.

As a result of the looming labor shortage, the government started a “Pick for Britain” campaign in April to attract British workers. Prince Charles released a video in which he said the country needed “pickers who are stickers.”

Farmers say they have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest in these jobs, but the placement of workers has its challenges. Four-fifths of the people who initially expressed interest drop out before moving to the next stage, according to HOPS Labour Solutions. Some realized that manual labor was not for them, or their furlough ended, or the contracts offered by farms were too long.

Still, many are enjoying the work.

“It’s been really fun, but it’s been tiring and hard work,” said Ella Chandler, 19, a cricket player whose season was cut short. On a recent day, she said, she picked almost 556 pounds of strawberries.

New York City’s Board of Health approved guidelines on Tuesday that will allow more than 3,000 child care centers to open next week with new limits.

The rules will allow no more than 15 children in a room, require children and workers to wear face coverings, limit the sharing of toys and allow for frequent disinfection.

At full capacity, 3,000 child care centers can accommodate 150,000 children.

“Folks need to get back to work, and the only way they can do it is with child care,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference, adding that “the data consistently shows a low infection rate among children when it comes to the coronavirus.”

The lack of child care options remains one of the biggest obstacles to a wider reopening of New York City, which just eased more restrictions after entering Phase 3 on Monday.

After public schools closed in March, the city opened centers for the children of essential workers. But child care has been limited during the pandemic.

It is still unclear what city schools will look like when they reopen in the fall, but it’s unlikely that children will be in school five days per week. Instead, there are likely to be staggered schedules mixed with remote learning.

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner, said that child-care centers will have to meet all state regulations, including daily health screenings and safety plans that include signage for social distancing.

“This decision is rooted in health as well as equity,” Dr. Barbot said in a statement after the vote, emphasizing that white and wealthy parents were more likely to have options that Black and low-income families, as well as other families of color, do not. “Every child deserves a safe place where they can learn and grow.”

During the virtual meeting, teachers and child care center owners complained about how short notice they were given of the changes. They asked questions about the safety of children and staff and questioned how they would pay to put all of the protocols in place.

Health officials said they planned virtual seminars for providers in the next few days.

The board vote rescinds a previous resolution closing child care centers. After the vote, each center would have to develop a safety plan and affirm they meet state guidelines before opening. The city’s Bureau of Child Care will provide technical assistance to centers that want to open and will also conduct inspections to ensure compliance with the guidelines.

Is a safe cookout possible?

With the virus raging in many parts of the United States, new restrictions have left many wondering about the safety of a backyard barbecue or picnic. Here are some tips to help.

Reporting was contributed by Geneva Abdul, Manuela Andreoni, Peter Baker, Dan Bilefsky, Julia Calderone, Letícia Casado, Niraj Chokshi, Michael Cooper, Melina Delkic, Caitlin Dickerson, Nicholas Fandos, Manny Fernandez, Michael Gold, Peter S. Goodman, Abby Goodnough, Erica L. Green, Jenny Gross, Maggie Haberman, Mike Ives, Niki Kitsantonis, Isabella Kwai, Ernesto Londoño, Cao Li, Apoorva Mandavilli, Tiffany May, Jeff Mays, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Patrick McGeehan, Sarah Mervosh, Claire Moses, Aimee Ortiz, Elian Peltier, Catherine Porter, Dagny Salas, Michael D. Shear, Mitch Smith, Megan Specia, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Katie Thomas, David Waldstein, Noah Weiland, Michael Wines, Sameer Yasir and Karen Zraick.


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