Coronavirus Updates and Live News

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KEY DATA OF THE DAY

Florida and Texas report records for daily highs in new cases.

Two of the nation’s most populous states, Texas and Florida, both reported this week their highest daily totals of new coronavirus infections, a concerning sign as all 50 states move to ease social distancing restrictions and allow more businesses to reopen.

The nation’s most populous state, California, hit a new daily high last week, when it recorded 3,593 new cases, a record it nearly matched it again this week.

The rise in cases helps explain why the nation continues to record more than 20,000 new cases a day even as some of the original hot spots, including New York, have seen dramatic declines. While some officials in states seeing increases attribute the rise to increased testing, and the number of cases per capita in Texas and Florida remains low, some health experts see worrying signs that the virus continues to make inroads.

Texas, which avoided the worst of the virus in the early spring and was one of the first states to make moves to reopen its economy, identified more than 2,000 new cases on both Wednesday and Thursday, the highest daily totals yet. The counties that include Houston and Dallas are reporting some of the nation’s largest single-day rises. Cases are also trending upward around Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Lubbock, McAllen and Midland.

“To be quite frank, I have not been thrilled with what I’m seeing in terms of folks not wearing masks at a high enough rate,” said Mayor Eric Johnson of Dallas, who attributed the increased caseload to an expansion of testing and the reopening of the economy.

Harris County, which includes Houston, created a new color-coded system this week to gauge the virus and said that the current threat level was orange, the second-most severe, meaning that there was a “significant and uncontrolled” level of Covid-19.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio said he was concerned about the pace of the state’s phased reopening plan. “We’re kind of blowing through phases before we have an understanding of the impact of that decision,” he said.

Florida recorded more than 1,000 new cases on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, including 1,698 on Thursday, the state’s highest daily total yet. That record only stood for a day: it was eclipsed on Friday, when the state reported another 1,902.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, said Friday that he was pleased to see hospitalizations declining in parts of the state, and attributed the rise in cases in part to more widespread testing, and in part to outbreaks in several agricultural communities, including a watermelon farm. “These are workers that are working very close together,” he noted at a news conference.

But Florida continues to push forward with its reopening plans, and on Thursday night the Republican National Committee announced that President Trump would deliver his Aug. 27 convention speech in Jacksonville, Fla., in an arena that holds 15,000, after his demands for an event without social distancing rules led to a rift with Democratic leaders in North Carolina, where the Republican convention was originally planned.

The C.D.C. says the highest-risk gatherings are large, packed ones that draw people from out of the area.

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Credit…Noah Berger/Associated Press

Three months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly stopped holding regular media briefings on the pandemic, its director, Dr. Robert Redfield, restarted them on Friday amid growing calls for the agency to reclaim a prominent role in the virus response.

The agency also released a new guidance document, “Considerations for Events and Gatherings,” which described different events in terms of the risk of the virus spreading. It labeled “highest risk” any large gathering which draw attendees from outside the local area and where it is difficult for people to stay at least six feet apart.

The guidance, which comes as people around the country are attending outdoor protests of police brutality, and as Mr. Trump prepares to resume holding large political rallies, advises that staff members at large events be required to wear face coverings, and that attendees be encouraged to do so.

Asked if the guidance referred to political rallies, Dr. Jay C. Butler, the agency’s deputy director for infectious diseases, replied, “The guideline is really for any type of gathering, whether it’s the backyard barbecue or something larger, and it’s not intended to endorse any particular type of event.”

He added that the guidelines were “not requirements, they’re not commands,” but suggestions for keeping people safe.

The agency also released a list of recommendations and factors to consider for those considering whether to resume daily activities like going to the bank, holding cookouts and going to the gym.

Asked about rising rates of infection in Arizona and other states, Dr. Butler emphasized that it was important to distinguish between increased case counts stemming from more testing versus an outbreak. Dr. Redfield, who remained silent for most of the question-and-answer session, jumped in to emphasize that “aggressive” testing of certain high-risk populations, including nursing home residents, prison inmates and clinics that serve low-income city residents, would be crucial.

Calls for the C.D.C. to resume its regular briefings grew louder after Mr. Trump’s virus task force stopped holding briefings more than a month ago. The agency’s routine in past emergencies was to hold briefings almost daily. But the C.D.C. stopped holding its own regular briefings about the virus on March 9.

‘A pandemic within a pandemic’: The W.H.O. warns about the indirect effects on women and children.

The World Health Organization warned Friday that the indirect impact of the pandemic on women, children and adolescents could do more damage than the actual disease.

“The indirect effects of Covid-19 on these groups may be greater than the number of deaths due to the virus itself,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director general. “Because the pandemic has overwhelmed health systems in many places, women may have heightened risk of dying from complications of pregnancy and child birth.”

The W.H.O. gathered a panel of experts for a conference call with reporters on Friday, to highlight many additional indirect threats caused by the pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns, on women and children. Resources have been diverted away from health services to address the immediate threat of the virus, millions have lost jobs and an estimated 1.2 billion children and youth are not attending schools, leaving them without essential services like meals and access to mental health care, which are often provided by the schools.

The economic stress, combined with tight living conditions in lockdowns, has also placed women and children at increased risk of violence and abuse.

Dr. Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, called the situation, “a pandemic within a pandemic.”

Gabriela Cuevas Barron, the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said that 42 to 66 million children are in danger of falling into extreme poverty due to the pandemic.

Dr. Kanem said that for every six months of lockdown an estimated 47 million women will lose access to contraception, which would result in an additional 7 million unintended pregnancies during that six-month period.

Wall Street shows signs of life after a deep plunge, and global stocks begin to recover.

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Credit…Ahn Young-Joon/Associated Press

Stocks on Wall Street rose on Friday, rebounding from their sharpest drop in nearly three months, and global stocks began to recover.

The S&P 500 was up about 1 percent, after paring earlier gains of as much as 3 percent, and oil futures rebounded after falling about 8 percent the day before. Shares in Europe were also higher, following a slump in most Asia-Pacific markets that was not quite as severe as Wall Street’s plunge on Thursday.

In Thursday’s plunge, the S&P 500 index fell nearly 6 percent in a sudden reversal of weeks of bullish investor sentiment that had withstood major disruptions to the global economy, worries over protests in American cities and worsening relations between the United States and China.

That rally began in late March after the Federal Reserve signaled that it would create as much new money as needed to stabilize deteriorating financial markets, and the federal government injected trillions of dollars into the economy. Those two actions reassured investors that the American government would not let the bottom fall out of the market, giving them the confidence to begin buying stocks again, The Times’s Matt Phillips reports.

Even as tens of millions of Americans applied for unemployment benefits and the national unemployment rate spiked to its highest level since the Great Depression, the S&P 500 rallied by nearly 45 percent between March 23 and Monday. It was the fastest recovery off a market low for the benchmark index since 1933.

But that confidence was rattled when the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, warned this week that the depth of the downturn and pace of the recovery remained “extraordinarily uncertain.”

The central bank repeated its warnings on Friday, in its semiannual report to congress.

U.S. Roundup

U.S. officials are adjusting a patchwork of policies amid reopenings, even as new cases rise in 22 states.

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Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

As the United States emerges from virus-related lockdowns, officials are taking varied approaches, even as new cases are on the rise in 22 states.

In Orange County, Calif., health officials are dropping mandatory mask-wearing rules that some residents rejected. In Maryland, the state’s top health official pushed back after the governor announced an easing of restrictions on indoor gatherings. And in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has paused reopening efforts, citing a rise in cases in the state.

The national patchwork could pit one locality against another. The mayor of Long Beach, Orange County’s neighbor, called the mask decision “totally irresponsible.”

“What happens in Long Beach affects Orange County and what happens in Orange County affects Long Beach,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “We are neighbors, and I worry about seniors that are vulnerable in not just their community, but our community as well.”

The change in Orange County, which has seen a rise in recent weeks in the number of cases and hospitalizations makes wearing masks in public when social distancing is not possible “strongly” recommended, rather than required. The shift comes just days after the county’s top health official resigned because of threats to her and protests at her home over mandatory face coverings. Here is a look at other key developments around the country.

  • Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed an executive order lifting the limit on the number of people who can sit together in restaurants and decreeing that servers only have to wear masks when interacting with customers. The order, which goes into effect on Tuesday, also says bars can accommodate up to 50 people or 35 percent of their total listed fire capacity, and removes any limit on audience numbers at movie theaters.

  • Puerto Rico, which had one of the earliest and strictest lockdowns in the nation, said that much of its economy would reopen next week and that tourists would be welcome again starting July 15. Beaches will be fully open next week but will close if people start holding large parties, Gov. Wanda Vázquez said.

  • President Trump is resuming indoor campaign rallies this month, but a disclaimer on his campaign website says that attendees cannot sue the campaign or the venue if they contract the virus at his June 19 rally in Tulsa, Okla.

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued an emergency rule barring colleges from granting virus relief funds to foreign and undocumented students, including tens of thousands protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, or DACA.

  • This week, Trump administration officials proposed a fallback for when they need to lift “emergency” border closure rules for the coronavirus, proposing regulations that would raise the standard of proof for migrants hoping to obtain asylum and allow immigration judges to deny applications for protection without giving migrants an opportunity to testify in court, the New York Times correspondents Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Maggie Haberman write.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

Canada may give special attention to caregivers in the country who have applied for asylum.

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Credit…Nasuna Stuart-Ulin for The New York Times

This week, Canadian immigration officials said the federal government may allow caregivers who are seeking asylum to essentially jump the immigration queue and remain in the country permanently because of their outsized contributions to fighting the pandemic.

Even the current government of Quebec — which came to power two years ago pledging to cut immigration each year by 20 percent — has said it would consider the cases of individual migrant caregivers under a provincial program.

“We deserve to remain in Canada because we are putting our lives on the line every day to save others,” said Sterly Lucien, a Haitian orderly in a Quebec nursing home who entered the country in 2018 without immigration papers.

Like nursing homes across the world, Canadian long term care centers have suffered staggering mortality rates and acute staff shortages.

Many of those working in those homes are, like Ms. Lucien, asylum-seekers who entered Canada in recent years from the United States, crossing outside of official border points to avoid a treaty that otherwise requires their return before making a refugee claim. Once in Canada, they sometimes wait years for their claims to be resolved and many are ordered returned to their homelands.

Here are some other key developments elsewhere around the world:

  • Australia has eliminated the virus in many areas of the country, its chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, told reporters on Friday, as more than half of the 38 cases reported over the past week were travelers returning from abroad and remaining quarantined.

  • Britain’s economy collapsed by 20.3 percent in April compared with the month before, a record contraction. The data reflects the first full month of Britain’s lockdown during the pandemic, and will most likely add to the push to accelerate the relaxation of rules that have restricted economic activity.

  • Olena Zelenska, the wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said on Facebook that she tested positive for the coronavirus, but that Mr. Zelensky and the couple’s children had tested negative.

  • At least 12 major Russian cities have said in recent days that they will not hold a parade on June 24, the day that President Vladimir V. Putin decreed Russia would publicly commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazis in World War II.

  • Hundreds of doctors in southern India ended a two-day strike on Friday that had left hundreds of virus patients without care. The strike by doctors at several hospitals in Telangana State began after some of them were assaulted by relatives of a 55-year-old patient with Covid-19 at Gandhi General Hospital in Hyderabad, the state capital.

  • Twitter said Thursday that China has stepped up its effort to spread misinformation on the platform by creating tens of thousands of fake accounts that discussed the Communist Party’s response to the virus and the Hong Kong protests. The company said it had removed 23,750 accounts that were “highly engaged” in a coordinated effort to spread misinformation, and 150,000 others that were dedicated to amplifying China’s messages through likes and retweets.

  • The local government in Beijing said on Friday that it would suspend the resumption of school for young primary school students after the appearance of three new cases in the city. The change affects almost half a million students who were supposed to return to school on Monday. The Beijing Municipal Education Commission did not set a new date for class resumption.

  • The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, citing concern over the coronavirus and disorder and vandalism, urged residents to “please stay at home over the next few days and find a safe way to make your voices heard.” Mr. Khan said he stood with “the millions of people around the world who are saying loud and clear that Black Lives Matter.”

  • Spain’s government is allowing the Balearic Islands to admit visitors from Germany beginning Monday, even as Spain plans to lift a quarantine order for other foreign visitors on July 1.

  • The widow of a Chinese doctor who was censured by the police when he sought to warn colleagues about Covid-19 gave birth to a second son on Friday, a little more than four months after her husband succumbed to the disease.

A coronavirus variation with a unique mutation infects more cells in the lab, but research is just beginning.

For months, scientists have debated why one variation of the coronavirus became dominant in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe and in much of the United States.

Many scientists argue that the variation spread widely by chance. Others have looked to a specific genetic mutation, hunting for clues that it confers some kind of biological edge.

Now, scientists have shown — at least in the tightly controlled environment of a laboratory cell culture — that viruses with that mutation infect more cells than those without the mutation. The viruses found at the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, did not have the mutation.

The D614G Mutation

A tiny mutation in the coronavirus genome may stabilize the spike proteins that protrude from the virus and allow it to infect more cells — at least in laboratory experiments.




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Geneticists cautioned against drawing conclusions about whether the variation, which has been circulating widely since February, spreads more easily in humans. There is no evidence that it is more deadly or harmful, and differences seen in a cell culture do not necessarily mean it is more contagious, they said.

But the new study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, does show that the mutation appears to change the biological function of the virus, experts said.

Researchers at Scripps Research, based in Florida, found that the mutation, known as D614G, stabilized the virus’s spike proteins, which attach to cells to infect them. The number of functional and intact spikes on each viral particle was about five times higher because of the mutation, increasing the likelihood of infection, according to the scientists who led the study, Hyeryun Choe and Michael Farzan.

Dr. Choe said that the virus spikes with the mutation were “nearly 10 times more infectious in the cell culture system that we used” than those without.

But other scientists cautioned that it would take significantly more research to determine if differences in the virus were a factor in shaping the course of the outbreak. Other factors clearly played a role in the spread, including the timing of lockdowns, travel patterns and luck, scientists argue.

arts and sports roundup

The Van Gogh Museum, usually overcrowded, is now searching for visitors.

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Credit…Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has reopened but without its crushing crowds. The museum can now only accommodate a maximum of 750 visitors over a six-hour day, a far cry from the 6,000 visitors a day before the pandemic.

“It is going to feel slow,” Emilie Gordenker, the museum’s new director said. “We’re used to having so many more visitors here, but we have to be careful and do what we can.” Tickets must now be booked for specific time slots, and Ms. Gordenker said there were still plenty available.

All museums need visitors to survive, but the Van Gogh Museum is particularly reliant on tourists. Some 85 percent of its visitors do not live in the Netherlands, and unlike Dutch national museums, which receive substantial government subsidies, the Van Gogh relies on earned income — ticket sales, and revenue from the shop and cafe — for 89 percent of its budget. That reality creates additional difficulties during an already challenging time.

So Ms. Gordenker hopes that more local people will see this period as a special opportunity to come in. That’s the message she wants to get out there.

“A lot of people here thought that the Van Gogh Museum is for tourists,” Ms. Gordenker said. “That was a matter of perception that we need to change.”

In other arts and sports related coverage:

Virus cases with possible links to protests start to trickle in across the U.S.

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Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Health officials in the United States have not yet traced major outbreaks of the virus to the protests that followed George Floyd’s killing, but across the country, officials are seeing a handful of new cases with possible links to the demonstrations, with at least 30 cases as of today, according to a New York Times analysis.

That number — which includes police officers, National Guard members and demonstrators across nine states and Washington, D.C. — represents a tiny fraction of the thousands of new virus cases being identified across the country each day that have no apparent connection to the protests.

And health officials have warned that it is still too soon to know whether the protests against police brutality and systemic racism will lead to major clusters and wider community spread of the virus, which can take up to 14 days to produce symptoms. In late May, Mr. Floyd, a black man, died after he was pinned under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer for nearly nine minutes, including even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive. The officer was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

In Minnesota, where the protests began and where a handful of National Guard members were infected, the state has asked protesters to get tested and has opened new testing sites. Officials were bracing for the possibility of new cases, however. Gretchen Musicant, the Minneapolis health commissioner, said it was too early for cases traced to the gatherings to appear in the numbers.

In other pockets of the country those cases were already turning up.

In Nebraska, at least nine members of the National Guard and one police officer tested positive after working at protests in Lincoln and Omaha. Two police officers in Canton, Ohio, who worked during a protest came down with the virus. Two cases may be related to demonstrations in Kittitas County, Wash. And in Lawrence, Kan., where a man with symptoms went to a protest without wearing a mask, a second person who attended the gathering tested positive, officials said Thursday.

In New York, the governor has also asked for protesters to get tested and to consider themselves exposed. On Friday, Dr. Jay Varma, a top health adviser to the New York City mayor, said that public health best practices suggest waiting as many as 28 days from the beginning of the demonstrations — twice the virus’s longest incubation period — before more definitively determining whether the events contributed to a spike in cases.

NEW YORK ROUNDUP

New York churches offer virus testing to communities that need it most.

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Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Over the past few weeks, 24 New York City churches serving communities of color have been transformed into mini-clinics offering free virus tests to all comers.

The initiative, a partnership of the churches, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office and Northwell Health, aims to expand testing among black and Hispanic residents, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Nearly 20,000 virus tests were administered in the initial round of screening, during the first 10 days of May.

Black and Latino New Yorkers have succumbed to Covid-19 at twice the rate of white residents, a result of entrenched economic and health disparities, denser housing and a higher risk of exposure on the job.

Here are other key developments from New York:

  • Mr. Cuomo said Friday that state officials had yet to make a decision about whether to open sleep-away summer camps in the state. Day camps in the state are allowed beginning June 29.

  • Statewide, another 42 New Yorkers had died of the virus, Mr. Cuomo said. In New Jersey, there were an additional 48 deaths.

  • In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio signaled again that he does not expect the city to enter the second phase of reopening until sometime in July, at the earliest. “My view is, when you get to the last week of June, you’re going to have a much better sense of how all of this is adding up and if we can move forward effectively into Phase 2,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Dan Bilefsky, Kate Conger, Michael Cooper, Maria Cramer, Manny Fernandez, Abby Goodnough, Raphael Minder, David Montgomery, Mitch Smith, Rick Gladstone, Jenny Gross, Maggie Haberman, Mike Ives, Zolan Kanno-Youngs,Annie Karni, Andrew Kramer, Chang W. Lee, Jesse McKinley, Paul Mozur, Elian Peltier, Matt Phillips, Roni Caryn Rabin, Frances Robles, Nina Siegal, Kaly Soto, Chris Stanford, Matt Stevens, Eileen Sullivan, Carlos Tejada, Anton Troianovski and Sameer Yasir.

Source: nytimes.com

Tags: health

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