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Coronavirus Live Updates

2020-07-24 11:20:20
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As global cases keep soaring, the virus rebounds in places that seemed to have tamed it.

As the pandemic continues to grow around the world — new cases have risen more than 35 percent since the end of June — troubling resurgences have hit several places that were seen as models of how to respond to the virus.

An outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, has rattled officials after extensive testing and early lockdowns had limited outbreaks for months. Hong Kong — where schools, restaurants and malls were able to stay open — has announced new restrictions in the face of its largest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic. And cases have surged in Tokyo, which has avoided a full lockdown and relied on aggressive contact tracing to contain flare-ups.

Spain’s reopening has stumbled in the month after it lifted a national lockdown. New cases have quadrupled, with high infection rates among young people, and forced hundreds of thousands of people to return to temporary lockdown.

As governments around the world look to relax rules put in place to combat the virus, the experiences show how difficult it will be to keep outbreaks at bay. And they reflect, in some places, a weakening public tolerance for restrictions as the pandemic drags on.

“Once you loosen the restrictions too much,” warned David Hui, the director of the Stanley Ho Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “you face a rebound.”

Nearly 70,000 coronavirus cases were recorded in the United States on Thursday, the third-most of any day in the pandemic. The total number of known cases in the country surpassed four million, according to a New York Times database, and the United States also recorded its third consecutive day of at least 1,100 deaths from the virus.

In other news around the nation:

In Cochabamba, high in the Bolivian Andes, people line up daily outside pharmacies on the central plaza, eager to buy the scarce elixir they hope will ward off Covid-19: chlorine dioxide, a kind of bleach used to disinfect swimming pools and floors.

Experts say drinking it is pointless at best and hazardous at worst. But in Bolivia, where people have been hospitalized after ingesting chlorine dioxide, regional authorities are testing it on prison inmates, the national Senate last week approved its use and a top lawmaker has threatened to expel the World Health Organization for opposing its medical use.

Julio César Baldivieso, a local soccer hero and former national team captain, told a local television station that because Cochabamba’s hospitals “don’t have tests, they don’t have materials, they don’t have protective equipment,” he and his family had turned to chlorine dioxide to treat their coronavirus symptoms.

Bolivians have a lot of company in resorting to unproven and even dangerous treatments to prevent or treat infection. In every part of the world, hard science has had to compete for attention with pet theories, rumors and traditional beliefs during this pandemic, as in the past. Even in the United States, President Trump has promoted treatments that scientists say are useless.

But interest in dubious medicines has been especially high recently in Latin America, where the virus is raging uncontrolled and many political leaders are promoting them, whether out of genuine faith or a desire to offer hope and deflect blame.

In a region where few people can afford quality medical care, alternative treatments are widely touted on social media and exploited by profiteers.

“The people feel desperate when confronted with Covid-19,” said Santiago Ron, an Ecuadorean biology professor, who has clashed with proponents of supposed treatments. “They are very vulnerable to pseudoscientific promises.”

Children under 11, and people with disabilities or certain health conditions are exempt, and face coverings are not required in pubs and cafes, hairdressers or cinemas. They were already mandatory on public transportation.

The guidelines on masks bring England into line with European countries including Germany, Italy and Spain. France also implemented similar rules this week. Britain has been the hardest-hit country in Europe, with at least 45,500 coronavirus deaths, and nearly 300,000 cases.

The quiet planet: A locked-down Earth is making a lot less noise, geologists report.

The seismometers used by geologists to listen for underground movement are highly sensitive. Apart from earthquakes and human activity, they can detect waves crashing onto shorelines and the impacts of rocky intruders from outer space. In 2001, when the World Trade Center in New York City collapsed, the vibrations registered in five states.

For this study, the team assembled data from 337 seismometers run by citizen scientists and 268 stations run by government, university and corporate geologists.

They found that the quieting began in China in late January and spread to Europe and the rest of the world in March and April. By the end of the monitoring period, in May, the vibration levels in Beijing remained lower, suggesting that the pandemic was still restricting activity there, the researchers said.

The delays are caused in part by the outbreak’s spike in states like California, Florida and Texas, which has strained laboratories across the country and touched off a renewed national testing crisis.

But officials have also been unable to adequately expand the capacity of state and city government laboratories in New York to test rapidly at a time when they are asking more New Yorkers to get tested to guard against a second wave.

As capacity expanded, New York City authorities began encouraging everyone to get tested, and urged people to get tested repeatedly, setting a target of 50,000 tests per day.

In recent weeks, about 20,000 to 35,000 people are tested most weekdays, a demand that has put a strain on local labs.

City public health officials said they were growing increasingly alarmed by the delays, pointing out that widespread testing and quick turnaround times were needed to reduce transmission by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients, who are believed to play a major part in the virus’s spread.

“This is becoming a problem,” said Dr. Jay Varma, a City Hall adviser who has a critical role in the city’s testing and contact-tracing program. “Any lag in this process can make it more difficult to have case and contact tracing be effective.”

President Trump this week expressed a new level of concern about the outbreak, saying things would “probably, unfortunately, get worse,” but despite broad public opposition, he continues to insist that schools must reopen in person this fall.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump argued that schools ought to be able to “reopen safely,” even as he abandoned plans to hold the Republican National Convention in Florida because of concerns over spreading the virus.

“We cannot indefinitely stop 50 million American children from going to school, harming their mental, physical and emotional development,” he said, arguing that federal funding should be rerouted away from schools that don’t reopen in person and put toward voucher programs. “Reopening our schools is also critical to ensuring that parents can go to work and provide for their families.”

But polls show that Americans — parents in particular — remain gravely worried about sending students back to school.

An Associated Press/NORC poll this week found that most Americans said they were very or extremely concerned that reopening K-12 schools for in-person instruction would contribute to spreading the virus. Altogether, 80 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned, including more than three in five Republicans.

“I have yet to see any data where there are appreciable numbers of people who say, ‘Yes, I want my kids back in school,’” Ed Goeas, a veteran Republican pollster, said in an interview. “They want their kids back in school, but not right now. I think safety is taking priority over education.”

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released on Thursday, 60 percent of parents with children in elementary school said that they would rather schools reopen more slowly to ensure safety, versus 34 percent who said they wanted schools to prioritize reopening swiftly so that parents can get back to work and students can return to a normal learning environment.

On a personal note for the president, the school attended by Mr. Trump’s son Barron, 14, said in a letter to parents that it was still deciding whether to adopt a hybrid model for the fall that would allow limited in-person education or to resume holding all classes completely online as was done in the spring.

Reporting was contributed by William J. Broad, José María León Cabrera, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Joseph Goldstein, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni, Josh Keller, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Patricia Mazzei, Patrick McGeehan, Jesse McKinley, Raphael Minder, Elian Peltier, Alan Rappeport, Giovanni Russonello, Nate Schweber, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Jim Tankersley, María Silvia Trigo and Daniel Victor.


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