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The U.S.’s daily number of deaths from the coronavirus has risen recently in some of the nation’s most populous states, signaling a possible end to months of declining death totals nationally.
In Texas, officials announced 119 deaths on Wednesday, surpassing a daily record for deaths in the pandemic that the state had set only a day earlier. In Arizona, more than 200 deaths have been announced already this week, and the daily virus death toll in the state reached higher than ever. Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee also set single-day death records this week.
The seven-day death average in the United States reached 608 on Thursday, up from 471 earlier in July, but still a fraction of the more than 2,200 deaths the country averaged each day in mid-April, when the situation in the Northeast was at its worst.
Health experts cautioned that it was too early to predict a continuing trend from only a few days of data. But the rising pace of deaths in the Sunbelt followed weeks of mounting cases in the region and suggested an end to the country’s nearly three-month period of declines in daily counts of virus deaths.
That steady downward trend in daily deaths began in April, after states instituted stay-at-home orders, and it continued through June, after states reopened their economies. The decline had continued over the past month even as cases of the virus skyrocketed in the South and West.
Deaths occur weeks after infections, so any rise in deaths would be expected to come later than a rise in cases. But public health experts said the diverging trends — newly rising cases but still declining daily deaths — had occurred largely because the new surge of virus cases also involved many younger and healthier people, who experts said were less likely to become seriously ill or die. Still, many experts predicted that the declining death tolls were unlikely to last as the virus continued spreading, passing from younger people to older people and others more vulnerable to the virus.
“We’ve always said the deaths are going to be coming soon enough and now they are,” Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said. The age range of those who have died in recent days was not yet clear nationwide, though health officials in some communities said they were continuing to mainly see deaths among older people.
Some officials have attributed the drop in deaths over the last few months to improvements in treatment for the virus. Doctors have more tools today than they did in the spring, including the use of remdesivir, an anti-viral drug, and have learned from earlier outbreaks.
A federal judge in Boston said in a court hearing on Friday that a challenge to new federal rules stripping visas from foreign students who planned to study entirely online in the fall had a high likelihood of success, but she put off any decision until another hearing on Tuesday.
“My gut on it is that the big ticket item here is going to be a likelihood of success on the merits,” said Judge Allison D. Burroughs of the United States District Court for the district of Massachusetts.
Lawyers for Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argued in court papers that the new rules from the Trump administration would cruelly and recklessly upend the lives of tens of thousands of international students and threaten public health. The universities asked for an emergency order stopping the administration from imposing the new guidelines, which were issued Monday, after many if not most colleges and universities across the country issued reopening plans that had been months in the making.
The guidelines would affect around one million students, according to data from the 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. China sends the highest number of students, followed by India.
The new rules from Immigration and Customs Enforcement require students to take some in-person classes or face the threat of having their visas revoked and being forced to leave the country.
Universities like Harvard and M.I.T. want to welcome students back to campus, the court papers said, but had determined that “it is not yet prudent to do so.” Harvard announced this week that its undergraduate courses will be given entirely online, although some students will be invited back to campus. M.I.T. has said that most of its courses will be taught online.
The lawyers noted in court papers that the national emergency that President Trump declared on March 13 for the pandemic was still in effect, with the number of cases in the United States having passed three million this week.
The administration directive, the university lawyers argued in a motion supporting a restraining order, “has the hallmarks of a politically motivated maneuver” to force schools to reopen “without regard to the public health judgment of the schools and experts about whether that is safe for students, faculty and staff.”
The Los Angeles teachers union called on the Los Angeles Unified School District Friday to keep campuses closed when the semester begins on Aug. 18 and to focus on preparing for distance learning in the fall, the union said in a statement.
United Teachers Los Angeles said that the spike in coronavirus infections, paired with a lack of resources from state and federal governments for schools to increase public health measures, would not allow schools to reopen safely.
“It is time to take a stand against Trump’s dangerous, anti-science agenda that puts the lives of our members, our students, and our families at risk,” the union’s president, Cecily Myart-Cruz, said in the statement. “We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance. Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities.”
The school authorities had no comment as of Friday morning.
The move by the union comes amid a nationwide debate among teachers, politicians and parents about when to resume in-person learning. Educators have widely noted that online classes are no substitute for the classroom experience, but teachers have also expressed concern for their own health and that of children if students are back in schools too soon.
After President Trump demanded Tuesday that schools reopen in the fall, the president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, said: “Our No. 1 priority is that we keep our students safe.”
In a joint statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and The School Superintendents Association, said Friday that schools in places with a high community spread of the virus should not be pushed to reopen, especially if local public health officials have advised otherwise.
“A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for return to school decisions,” the statement said.
The associations called on the federal government to provide adequate resources to all schools, saying that withholding funding would further endanger students and teachers and hurt schools financially. Though the best option for children is always to learn in the classroom, the statement said, if public health experts do not deem it safe, online learning should be implemented.
Officials across the United States reported more than 59,880 coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record for the sixth time in 10 days, according to a New York Times database.
The surge has been driven largely by states in the South and the West that were among the first to ease restrictions established during the virus’s initial wave in the spring.
In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster announced a new executive order on Friday banning the sale of all alcoholic drinks in restaurants and bars, beginning Saturday after 11 p.m. “Many of the young people in our state as well as around the country seem not to be taking the virus as seriously as they should,” he said.
In Alabama, the state on Friday reported 36 new deaths, a single-day record.
In Florida, officials on Friday announced 11,433 new cases, only 25 fewer cases than the single-day record for new cases the state reported on July 4. The state also reported 93 new deaths on Friday, a day after setting a single-day record with 120 deaths.
In Miami-Dade County, Fla., data reported on Thursday showed a 33.5 positive test rate, which is the percent of tests that come back positive. The two-week average ending Thursday was roughly 24 percent. The county has indicated that it aims to be at or below 10 percent.
At least six states set single-day case records on Thursday: Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Texas. On Thursday, Tennessee also reported its highest death totals for a single day: 22
The numbers were especially striking in Texas, which set a record for the fourth consecutive day with more than 10,900 cases. Nearly one in 10 of them were in Hidalgo County, near the border with Mexico.
“Several months ago, I warned of a potential tsunami if we did not take this more seriously,” Richard F. Cortez, the county judge for Hidalgo, said in a statement on Thursday. “The tsunami is here.”
The number of daily cases has escalated drastically in recent weeks after ebbing through much of the late spring. Even in California, once seen as a model for how to contain the virus, new cases are up 275 percent since May 25.
Health officials are concerned about the current surge partly because it is larger than the one that hit the United States in the spring. When the Northeast was the center of the U.S. outbreak and testing was more scarce, the country reached a single-day peak of 36,738 new cases on April 24.
That record stood until June 24, when the daily total was 36,880. And Thursday was the sixth day with more than 50,000 cases recorded nationwide.
President Trump had been scheduled to hold a rally on Saturday in New Hampshire, one of just two states experiencing declines in cases. Officials there had still been concerned, but on Friday, Mr. Trump postponed the rally, citing an incoming tropical storm.
Before the delay, Tom Rath, a Republican who is a former New Hampshire attorney general, had said that “it’s not what we need right now in terms of Covid.”
Mr. Trump’s campaign had previously said it did not have a sense of the expected turnout, which would have been mostly outside at a Portsmouth airport hangar, and campaign officials had been strongly encouraging attendees to wear face masks.
In one month, cases in the U.S. military have more than doubled, according to Pentagon data, a disturbing surge that mirrors a similar trend seen across the country.
On Friday, Pentagon statistics reported 16,637 cases in the entire military. On June 10, that number was just 7,408. Three people have died since March, including a sailor on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which returned to port in the United States earlier this week. More than 380 service members have been hospitalized.
The trend is likely tied to the military’s persistence on continuing exercises, training courses, and deployments. Increased testing could also be a factor. Late last month more than 80 students at a survival course, known as SERE, tested positive.
In Australia, where more than a thousand Marines recently started their annual months-long deployment in Darwin, at least one Marine was found to have the virus, according to a Marine news release on Friday. And on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, docked in San Diego, nearly a dozen sailors have tested positive and around 100 have been isolated.
Even as regular wards are being converted into intensive care units and long-term care facilities are opened for patients too sick to go home, doctors say they are barely managing.
“When hospitals and health care assistants talk about surge capacity, they’re often talking about a single event,” said John Sinnott, chairman of internal medicine at the University of South Florida and chief epidemiologist at Tampa General Hospital. “But what we’re having now is the equivalent of a bus accident a day, every day, and it just keeps adding.”
In South Carolina, National Guard troops are being called in soon to help insert intravenous lines and check blood pressure. At the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, patients can wait as long as four hours before being seen in emergency rooms.
In Florida, more than 40 intensive care units in 21 counties have hit capacity and have no beds available. In Mississippi, five of the state’s largest hospitals have already run out of I.C.U. beds for critical patients.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Thursday ordered an increase in hospital bed capacity in nearly 100 counties, extending a ban on elective procedures to new corners of the state.
Mr. Abbott’s order directed hospitals to “postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary.” He had already issued a similar order in hard-hit counties that include the cities of Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
In other news from around the United States:
More than 1,000 employees of the Transportation Security Administration have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data released by the agency on Thursday.
Nevada’s governor said that as of 11:59 p.m. on Friday, the state will close bars in some counties. It will also require all restaurants and food establishments to limit indoor and outdoor seatings to six people, he added.
Kentucky’s governor announced that residents will be required to wear face coverings in many public settings, including any indoor space in which it is difficult to maintain distances of at least six feet.
Mayor Bill de Blasio extended New York City’s prohibition on large public gatherings through Sept. 30, adding the West Indian American Day Parade, the Dominican Day Parade and the Feast of San Gennaro to the list of popular events to be scrapped this year.
The U.S. subsidiary of Muji, the Japanese lifestyle brand, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware on Friday, according to a court filing. Muji’s owner, Ryohin Keikaku Co., said in a statement that the brand had been hit hard by the coronavirus, with all 18 of its stores closed since mid-March.
In college sports, the Big Ten Conference’s fall teams will play only within the league, assuming public health officials advise playing at all amid the pandemic.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., begins reopening this weekend, and visitors have been advised to expect a “sparse” atmosphere. The two most popular parks, the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom, will reopen on Saturday, while Epcot and Hollywood Studios are set to reopen next week.
Hong Kong, which has been lauded for its aggressive handling of the coronavirus outbreak, is confronting a third wave of infections, and on Friday shut down its school system.
The city of seven million people has reported more than 1,400 cases and just seven deaths during the outbreak. The widespread use of face masks when the epidemic first broke out — a legacy of the SARS epidemic that ravaged the city in 2003 — was credited with helping contain the virus. Authorities also forced all new arrivals to undergo a strict two-week quarantine. From mid-April through June, Hong Kong recorded very few locally transmitted infections.
But on Friday officials reported 38 new cases — 32 of which were transmitted locally — prompting the city to shut down schools starting Monday. The practical impact will be limited since most schools go on summer break the week after.
The city’s education secretary, Kevin Yueng, said he was concerned about the surge in local cases, noting some of them involved schools.
“After consideration and listening to expert’s advice, we decided that all kindergarten, primary school, secondary schools can start the summer holiday from next Monday,” he said.
The third wave, which comes after a second wave of infections surged in March and was contained by May, was a setback for a city that had largely returned to normal, with its many restaurants enjoying packed crowds and workers returning to their offices in recent months.
The latest spike in cases included local clusters linked to a nursing home and diners, causing the Chinese territory to also announce new social-distancing rules following a period of relaxation.
In March, South Africa imposed one of the world’s most severe lockdowns in response to the coronavirus, restricting travel between provinces. This disrupted a deeply important cultural practice for many Black residents in Cape Town: returning the bodies of family members to the neighboring Eastern Cape Province for burial.
The new rules around travel for funerals are so complex, and add so much extra expense, that they have become practically insurmountable for many families, according to funeral directors and community leaders in Cape Town.
For some poorer families, the rules are forcing a choice between breaking tradition and breaking the law.
“It’s a big trauma,” said Chris Stali, the director of a funeral parlor in Khayelitsha, the informal settlement on the outskirts of Cape Town where Mr. Mweli lived while working in the city.
While South Africa is now attempting to reopen, and is easing some restrictions, the rules around funerals are still in place. Attendance at funerals is capped at 50, and overnight vigils and body viewings are banned.
The regulations have been felt especially acutely in Cape Town, the initial epicenter of the country’s outbreak. South Africa now ranks 13th in the world for coronavirus cases and is experiencing an enormous rise.
In other news from around the world:
An outbreak in Tokyo’s nightlife districts pushed Japan’s capital to another daily record on Friday as it recorded 243 new cases. Gov. Yuriko Koike said at a news conference that about three-quarters of the cases were among people in their 20s and 30s and that the overwhelming majority of them exhibited mild symptoms. Japan has been relatively successful in containing the virus, even after lifting a state of emergency at the end of May.
The World Health Organization on Thursday acknowledged that droplets carrying the coronavirus may be airborne indoors and that people who spend long periods in crowded settings with inadequate ventilation may be at risk of becoming infected. It was a reversal that many scientists said was long overdue.
Jeanine Añez Chavez, a lawmaker who claimed Bolivia’s interim presidency last fall, said on Thursday that she had tested positive for the virus
Australia will halve the number of citizens and residents permitted to return home each week — to 4,000 from about 8,000 — to ease pressure on quarantine facilities, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday. The border has been closed to everyone except returning citizens and permanent residents since March, but a fresh outbreak is now surging through Melbourne, the country’s second-biggest city.
China’s customs authority on Friday said it had suspended imports from three Ecuadorean companies after the coronavirus was detected on a container and on packages of frozen shrimp from Ecuador, China’s state broadcaster reported. China has increased its inspection and testing of food imports after an outbreak in Beijing last month and reports that traces of the virus were found on a cutting board used for imported salmon. China has also already suspended imports from 23 meat producers, including Germany’s Tönnies, American meat giant Tyson, Brazil’s Agra and the United Kingdom’s Tulip because of outbreaks at their plants, Bi Kexin, a senior Chinese customs official, said Friday.
The International Energy Agency warned Friday that the surge of cases in countries like the United States and Brazil was “casting a shadow” over the outlook for global oil demand.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy said Friday that it was likely that the country’s six-month state of emergency would be extended beyond the July 31 deadline. The measure permits the government to act quickly during a crisis, including allowing pensions to be paid on different days, so banks were not overrun, and allowing people to work from home.
As lockdowns and other measures have been taken around the world to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has continued to move detainees from state to state and deport them. And with them, the virus.
An investigation by The Times, in collaboration with The Marshall Project, reveals how unsafe conditions and scattershot testing helped turn ICE into a domestic and global spreader of the virus — and how pressure from the Trump administration led other countries to take in sick deportees.
Thirty immigrant detainees described cramped and unsanitary detention centers where social distancing was nearly impossible and protective gear almost nonexistent.
“It was like a time bomb,” one Cuban immigrant held in Louisiana said.
The Times spoke to at least four people who had been deported — to El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and India — and who had tested positive for the virus shortly after arriving from the United States.
The governments of 11 countries have confirmed that hundreds of deportees returned home from the United States with the virus. ICE said last week that it was still able to test only a sampling of immigrants before sending them home.
Leicester, a city of 340,000 in the heart of England, was shuttered late last month — again. It was part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to play “Whac-a-Mole” with the coronavirus, bringing a mallet down on any areas experiencing an outbreak.
The imposition of a second lockdown has induced a sort of whiplash among people who were still recovering from the first. England has gradually been reopening since mid-May; starting Saturday, theaters and music venues will be able to host outdoor events.
Carving a stay-at-home border around one region, while others hurry back to pubs and jobs, has proved to be a convoluted and divisive step. And it illuminates the difficulties that countries across Europe and Asia will face as they try to battle local flare-ups of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Pouncing on an outbreak depends upon testing and tracking cases down to the level of single office buildings and neighborhoods, a strategy that England has struggled to develop.
With sweatshops employing mostly underpaid South Asian immigrant workers operating during lockdown, Leicester was a prime candidate for a second outbreak. Its garment workers were packed together, not only in the factories but also at home.
Now, Leicester residents complain, it has to shoulder the reputation of becoming England’s first city to be convulsed a second time by the virus.
“Being locked down again attaches a stigma to us,” said Dharmesh Lakhani, the owner of Bobby’s, an Indian restaurant on the city’s normally bustling Belgrave Road.
Separately, Britain on Friday dropped a 14-day quarantine for travelers coming from nearly 60 countries, including most of the European Union. The list of countries does not include the United States.
The photographer Moris Moreno flew from Seattle to Boston in June with his family, and documented his journey to show how the virus has changed air travel. His trip isn’t representative of all flights, but it shows how masks, social distancing and protective plexiglass have become part of the flying experience.
Once a year, millions of high school seniors in China take the most important test of their lives: the university entrance exam known as the gaokao.
This year the usual pressures were compounded by coronavirus restrictions, severe flooding and, in one city, a 4.2-magnitude earthquake.
More than 10 million students in China began taking the multiday gaokao on Tuesday. Many of their high schools had been closed for months, and the exam itself was delayed by several weeks.
Anyone taking the gaokao was required to undergo daily temperature checks for 14 days beforehand. And in some cities, students needed to show results from another kind of test — one that measures nucleic acid — before they could enter exam sites.
The virus also made an appearance on the test itself. In Beijing, students were given the option of writing a poem about delivery men who worked through the outbreak. Another question asked them to write about the themes of distance and connection during the pandemic.
Lu Yifan, 17, a student from the southern city of Guangzhou, said that at this point, temperature checks and face masks were routine for her. “The pressure is still the gaokao itself,” she said in an interview.
Then came the unforeseen obstacles.
Hubei, the Chinese province where the outbreak began, experienced its worst floods in decades this week, forcing officials to briefly postpone the gaokao for around 500 students. One student in Wuhan, the provincial capital, described the dual threat of the exam and floods to a local reporter as “kind of a test of mental strength.”
And in the southwestern city of Kunming, a 4.2-magnitude earthquake that struck on Wednesday morning forced about 100 students to flee their exam rooms, according to Global Times, a state-run tabloid. They returned a few minutes later.
Journalists with Al Jazeera are under investigation by the Malaysian police for sedition and defamation after the news network broadcast a documentary showing a military-style crackdown on undocumented migrant workers over coronavirus fears.
The 25-minute documentary, “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast on July 3 and shows the authorities locking down neighborhoods with razor wire and arresting hundreds of migrant workers in the name of preventing infections. The film raises the question of whether transporting arrestees on buses and detaining them in crowded conditions accelerated the spread of the virus.
Millions of migrants, many of them from Bangladesh, India and Indonesia, work in Malaysia without proper documentation.
The police questioned six journalists on Friday, Al Jazeera said. Malaysian officials contend that the report was inaccurate and misleading and deny allegations of racism and discrimination in their treatment of undocumented migrants.
The Qatari state-owned broadcaster said it stood by its report.
“Al Jazeera is deeply concerned that its staff are now subject to a police investigation,” the company said. “Charging journalists for doing their jobs is not the action of a democracy that values free speech. Journalism is not a crime.”
Malaysia’s governing coalition recently came to power without a new election or vote in Parliament. Since then, the authorities have been cracking down on independent media.
In one prominent case, prosecutors are pursuing contempt charges against the online outlet Malaysiakini and its editor in chief, Steven Gan, over comments that readers posted about the judiciary.
Reporting was contributed by Yuriria Avila, Brooks Barnes, Alan Blinder, Gillian R. Brassil, Dan Bilefsky, Julia Calderone, Michael Cooper, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Hailey Fuchs, Shane Goldmacher, J. David Goodman, Kimon de Greef, Maggie Haberman, Barbara Harvey, Shawn Hubler, Makiko Inoue, Mike Ives, Annie Karni, Emily Kassie, Gina Kolata, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Isabella Kwai, Jasmine C. Lee, Michael Levenson, Cao Li, Peter Luhanga, Apoorva Mandavilli, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Barbara Marcolini, Alex Leeds Matthews, Sarah Mervosh, David Montgomery, Morris Moreno, Benjamin Mueller, Judith Newman, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Elisabetta Povoledo, Adam Rasgon, Stanley Reed, Motoko Rich, Mitch Smith, Farah Stockman, Jim Tankersley, Maria Silvia Trigo and Elaine Yu.
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