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More than 150,000 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus, according to a New York Times database, as the rate of deaths continues to rise on the heels of ballooning infections and hospitalizations in many areas.
An average of about 1,000 virus-related deaths a day have been reported over the past week, the worst rate since early June, when the number of people dying seemed to be falling. Now, daily death counts are rising in 24 states and Puerto Rico.
The nation’s overall death toll reached the grim figure on Wednesday, five months after the first reported virus death in the United States in February. The nation passed the 50,000 mark on April 27 and 100,000 on May 27, a milestone whose approach The Times commemorated by filling its front page with names of the dead.
During the early peak of the U.S. epidemic in late April, the national death toll was driven by a surge in New York State, which at its worst was reporting about 1,000 deaths a day, roughly half the national total at that time.
These days, the toll is being felt much more widely across many states, especially in the South, while New York is reporting about 16 deaths a day on average. For example, more than 2,100 deaths have been reported in the past week in Texas, the state with the highest recent death toll relative to its population, followed by Arizona and South Carolina. On Wednesday, Florida again broke its single-day record for deaths, reporting 216 fatalities, bringing the state’s total to 6,332.
The trend in virus deaths generally lags the trend in infections, reflecting the delays between when people test positive, when they die and when those deaths are reported. Daily death tolls kept falling for a while after daily case reports began to climb significantly in June. Since early July, though, the death numbers have been rising, while infection reports have begun to level off at around 65,000 a day.
Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who has frequently refused to wear a mask in the Capitol, tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday ahead of a planned trip with President Trump on Air Force One, officials familiar with the matter said.
The results immediately sent a shudder through the Capitol, where Mr. Gohmert has actively participated in multiple congressional hearings this week, including Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee session with Attorney General William P. Barr and a hearing held by the Natural Resources Committee, during which he did not wear a mask.
Lawmakers and Mr. Barr were seated more than six feet apart during the hearing, but reporters spotted an unmasked Mr. Gohmert outside the hearing room exchanging words with Mr. Barr and in proximity to him. A Justice Department spokesman, Kerri Kupec, said that the attorney general would be tested on Wednesday.
Mr. Gohmert is among a group of House Republicans who have pointedly refused to wear masks in many instances while in the Capitol in recent weeks despite warnings from public health experts and an outbreak in his home state. He told CNN last month that he did not wear a mask because he did not have the virus.
“But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask,” he said.
Democrats were furious at the news, and both parties spent Wednesday morning scrambling to retrace Mr. Gohmert’s steps. The House Judiciary Committee was waiting for official guidance from Congress’s attending physician. It is a daunting task since Mr. Gohmert is a frequent schmoozer who could have come into close contact with dozens of fellow lawmakers and aides this week alone.
“I’m concerned about the irresponsible behavior of many of the Republicans who have chosen to consistently flout well-established public health guidance,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and a member of the Judiciary Committee. He pleaded with Republicans like Mr. Gohmert to put on masks or go home.
Members of Congress have been flying weekly between Washington and their home states — some of which are experiencing serious outbreaks — and they are not required to be tested. Mr. Gohmert received a test only because he was scheduled to be in proximity to the president.
President Trump on Wednesday indicated that he did not care about the fate of a broad economic recovery package that lawmakers in both parties, along with members of his own administration, are scrambling to put together before tens of millions of Americans formally lose their jobless benefits on Friday, telling reporters he would rather see a narrow package.
“You work on the payments for the people,” Mr. Trump said, referring to another round of direct payments, “and the rest of it — we’re so far apart we don’t care.”
“We really don’t care,” Mr. Trump added.
Mr. Trump suggested that he wanted to renew a federal moratorium on evictions that expired earlier this month for millions of Americans, saying, “We want to stop the evictions.” But the Republican proposal his administration helped draft has no measure to do so.
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said the president “is very focused on evictions and unemployment” — though Mr. Trump made no mention of the $600-per-week enhanced unemployment benefits set to formally expire Friday. Mr. Mnuchin said if the administration cannot reach agreement with Democrats by then on a broader economic stabilization plan, “the president wants to look at giving us more time to negotiate this.”
Mr. Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, are expected to huddle with Senate Republicans during their weekly policy lunch and meet for the third consecutive day with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, later Wednesday afternoon. Democrats have so far rejected the prospect of a narrow package, insisting on a comprehensive package, and Mr. Trump has dismissed the Republican package as “semi-irrelevant.”
On Wednesday, he slammed Republicans for distancing themselves from his efforts to secure funding for a new F.B.I. headquarters in Washington as part of the recovery package, saying that, “Republicans should go back to school and learn.”
Big retailers have made strong statements recently about their new rules requiring customers to wear face masks when shopping, saying that the health of their workers and customers is paramount. But the companies are taking a decidedly hands-off approach to enforcing those mandates.
Walmart has told employees that they should not prevent customers from entering the store if they refuse to wear a mask. Walgreens said that “for the safety of our team members,” the company would not bar customers without masks from its stores. Lowes also said it would “not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks.”
Many shoppers and workers say the retailers’ reluctance to police mask wearing ultimately renders their rules toothless, and will perpetuate the spread of the coronavirus. And workers find themselves thrust onto the front line of a cultural and political war over masks that can lead to ugly confrontations and sometimes violence.
Last weekend, two episodes stood out. In one, a video of an altercation involving two shoppers in Walmart wearing masks with a Nazi swastika went viral. In the other, a man was arrested after he pulled a gun on another shopper who had asked him to put on his mask in a Walmart in Palm Beach County, Fla.
Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, representing workers at Macy’s and Bloomingdales in New York, said retailers needed to invest in more security guards or empower management to confront shoppers, not leave it up to rank-and-file workers. But not enforcing the rules, when they are challenged, was not effective, he said.
“A rule that isn’t enforced,” Mr. Appelbaum said, “is not a rule.”
In a new analysis, pediatric researchers have estimated that the states’ decisions to close schools last spring likely saved tens of thousands of lives from Covid-19 and prevented many more coronavirus infections. Still, the authors acknowledged that their findings are not broadly applicable today.
The findings come amid a worldwide debate on whether, when and how to reopen schools, including for some 56 million American students, kindergarten through high school. Outside experts cautioned that the effect of school closings is extremely difficult to predict because of unknowns regarding how infectious children are and because of the difficulty in separating out the effect of school closures from other measures that states took to control the virus, like stay-at-home orders, business closures and limits on large social gatherings.
In addition, early in the pandemic, testing was especially limited and spotty, raising questions about how well the number of confirmed cases reflected actual infections.
The study, published Wednesday in JAMA, focused on a six-week period in the spring, when there were still many unknowns.
“At the time, there wasn’t any masking in schools, there wasn’t physical distancing, there wasn’t an increase in hygiene and that sort of thing,” said Dr. Katherine Auger, an associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the lead author of the study.
Some experts expressed concern that the study’s estimates about the impact of closing schools early in the pandemic would be seized upon as an argument that schools should remain closed. Experts on public health and education have recommended that communities and schools should work toward reopening with strong health precautions in place, because in-person schooling has such tremendous value for children’s academic, social and emotional development.
“I do worry that these large estimates of the effect of school closures will lead people to give up because it is going to be challenging to open schools,” said Julie Donohue, a professor of public health at the University of Pittsburgh who co-wrote an editorial about the study. “I do worry that some districts will look at these numbers and say, well, it’s just too hard and it’s not safe to reopen.”
A Times survey of every public four-year college in the country, as well as every private institution that competes in Division I sports or is a member of an elite group of research universities, revealed at least 6,300 cases tied to about 270 colleges over the course of the pandemic. And the new academic year has not yet begun at most schools.
There is no standardized reporting method for cases and deaths at colleges, and the information is not being publicly tracked at a national level. Of nearly 1,000 institutions contacted by The Times, some had already posted case information online, some provided full or partial numbers and others refused to answer basic questions, citing privacy concerns. Hundreds of colleges did not respond at all.
Still, the Times survey represents the most comprehensive look at the toll the virus has taken on the country’s colleges and universities.
Among the colleges that provided information, many offered no details about who contracted the virus, when they became ill or whether a case was connected to a larger outbreak. It is possible that some of the cases were identified months ago, in the early days of the U.S. outbreak before in-person learning was cut short, and that others involved students and employees who had not been on campus recently.
Once again, the coronavirus is ascendant. As infections mount across the country, it is dawning on Americans that the epidemic is now unstoppable, and that no corner of the nation will be left untouched.
As of Tuesday, the pathogen had infected at least 4.3 million Americans, killing almost 150,000. Many experts fear the virus could kill 200,000 or even 300,000 by year’s end. Even Mr. Trump has donned a mask, after resisting for months, and has canceled the Republican National Convention celebrations in Florida.
Each state, each city has its own crisis driven by its own risk factors: vacation crowds in one, bars reopened too soon in another, a revolt against masks in a third.
“We are in a worse place than we were in March,” when the virus coursed through New York, said Dr. Leana S. Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner. “Back then we had one epicenter. Now we have lots.”
To assess where the country is heading now, The New York Times interviewed 20 public health experts — clinicians and epidemiologists, historians and sociologists, because the spread of the virus is now influenced as much by human behavior as it is by the pathogen.
Over all, the scientists conveyed a pervasive sense of sadness and exhaustion. Where once there was defiance, and then a growing sense of dread, now there seems to be sorrow and frustration, a feeling that so many funerals never had to happen and that nothing was going well.
“We’re all incredibly depressed and in shock at how out of control the virus is in the U.S.,” said Dr. Michele Barry, the director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University.
Postponed elections. Sidelined courts. A persecuted opposition.
As the virus tears through Latin America and the Caribbean, killing more than 180,000 and destroying the livelihoods of tens of millions in the region, it is also undermining democratic norms that were already under strain.
Leaders from the center right to the far left have seized on the crisis to extend their time in office, weaken oversight of government actions and silence critics — actions that under different circumstances would be described as authoritarian and antidemocratic but that now are being billed as lifesaving measures to curb the spread of the disease.
“It’s not a matter of left or right, it’s a general decline of democracy across the region,” said Alessandra Pinna, a Latin America researcher at Freedom House, an independent Washington-based research organization that measures global political liberties.
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has detained or raided the homes of dozens of journalists, social activists and opposition leaders for questioning the government’s dubious virus figures.
In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega released thousands of inmates because of the threat posed by the virus, but kept political prisoners behind bars. In Guyana, a lockdown prevented protests against the government’s attempt to stay in power despite losing an election.
And in Bolivia, a caretaker government has used the pandemic to postpone elections, tap into emergency aid to bolster its electoral campaign and threaten to ban the main opposition candidate from running.
The gradual undermining of democratic rules during an economic crisis and public health catastrophe could leave Latin America primed for slower growth and an increase in corruption and human rights abuses, experts warned.
New York City’s contact-tracing program seems to have been especially plagued by problems.
Only a few weeks into the rollout of the city’s much-heralded program, which began on June 1 and was a vital initiative in the effort to contain the virus and to reopen the local economy, the newly hired contact tracers were already expressing growing misgivings about their work.
One said the city was “putting out propaganda” about the program’s effectiveness.
Another wrote, “I don’t think this is the type of job we should just ‘wing it,’ and that’s the sense I’ve been getting sometimes.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared that the city’s new Test and Trace Corps, which has hired about 3,000 contact tracers, case monitors and others, will make a difference in curbing the virus now that the outbreak that devastated New York in the spring has waned.
The de Blasio administration acknowledged that the program had gotten off to a troubled start, but said that improvements had been made.
“All signs indicate that the program has been effective in helping the city avoid the resurgence we’re seeing in other states,” Avery Cohen, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said.
Still, some contact tracers described the program’s first six weeks as poorly run and disorganized, leaving them frustrated and fearful that their work would not have much of an impact.
They spoke of a confusing training regimen and priorities, and of newly hired supervisors who were unable to provide guidance. They said computer problems had sometimes caused patient records to disappear. And they said their performances were being tracked by call-center-style “adherence scores” that monitor the length of coffee breaks but did not account for how well tracers were building trust with clients.
Federal Reserve officials will conclude a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday that is likely to yield little action — rates are already at near-zero and are almost certain to stay there for an extended period — but could provide a fresh read on how policymakers are thinking about the economic outlook, and hints about their plans.
On Tuesday the Fed extended its emergency lending programs through the end of 2020, a three-month addition that, while not surprising, signaled how lasting the economic damage from the coronavirus is proving.
The chair, Jerome H. Powell, who will hold a remote news conference at 2:30 p.m., is sure to field questions on the newly extended programs, which were introduced to try to keep markets functioning and credit flowing.
The Fed took unprecedented actions in March and April to provide a first line of defense for the economy as coronavirus cases swept the nation and shut down entire business sectors. Most of the nine programs were set to expire on or around the end of September, a sign that officials thought normal conditions might return by fall.
That optimism has been upended by a surge in infections, which has continued to depress economic activity. While state and local economies have reopened, many have had to roll back or delay their plans, and experts warn that the situation could worsen if the virus takes hold more deeply.
Here’s what else is happening in the business world:
U.S. stocks ticked higher and global markets were mixed on Wednesday as investors waded through corporate earnings reports.
Boeing lost $2.4 billion in the second quarter, the company said Wednesday, adding that it plans to slow plane production and could cut more jobs as it reels from the grounding of the 737 Max and the devastating aviation slowdown brought on by the pandemic.
A union representing FedEx pilots called on the delivery company on Tuesday to suspend operations in Hong Kong after its members were subject to quarantine facilities under “extremely difficult conditions.”
Hong Kong began testing all airline workers who were previously exempt from mandatory coronavirus tests this month, prompting United Airlines and American Airlines to suspend flights to the city. A FedEx pilot who had arrived from the United States and visited a popular restaurant tested positive on July 11.
The Air Line Pilots Association International said on Tuesday that three FedEx pilots who had tested positive for the coronavirus but were asymptomatic were “forced into mandated hospital facilities.” Those who tested negative but had been in close contact with an infected person “were put into government camps under extremely difficult conditions.”
“Pilots who test positive for Covid-19 face compulsory admission and treatment in government-selected public hospitals, with as many as five patients to a room with one shared bathroom,” the union said in a statement.
“Not only do these situations pose unacceptable risks to our pilots’ safety and well-being, but they also create added stress and distraction for flight operations,” it added.
Hong Kong has had the same quarantining and hospitalization requirements for residents.
The semiautonomous Chinese territory is fighting its biggest surge in coronavirus infections yet, reporting more than 100 new cases in each of the past seven days. Health officials believe the spike was caused by people who had been exempted from quarantine rules to help boost the economy, including airline workers, seafarers and business executives.
Hong Kong planned to tighten testing and quarantine arrangements for air and sea crew members starting on Wednesday.
Reports about Hong Kong’s quarantine facilities have varied. Some camps have been compared to a “cozy university dorm” with new Ikea furniture, but people in others have complained about unsanitary and moldy environments.
On Wednesday, Carrie Lam, the city’s top leader, warned that the sharp rise in infections could lead to a “collapse” of the hospital system. Health officials reported 118 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total tally past 3,000.
Here are other developments from around the globe:
Across the Middle East, celebrations for Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice that marks the end of the hajj this weekend, will be tamer this year. About 2.5 million Muslims from around the world performed the pilgrimage to Mecca last year. This year, Saudi Arabia said it would allow just 1,000 pilgrims, all from within the kingdom.
The agriculture minister of Zimbabwe, Perrance Shiri, who led a military unit that massacred thousands of civilians during civil strife in the 1980s and helped plot the coup that overthrew the country’s longtime strongman leader, Robert Mugabe, in 2017, has died of coronavirus, according to local media reports. Mr. Shiri was 55, and was thought to have contracted the virus from his driver, who also died recently.
The federal government in Australia said this week that it would send a specialist medical team usually deployed to disaster zones to help manage an outbreak in the state of Victoria. The state of Queensland said it would bar entry to travelers from Sydney and surrounding regions in New South Wales after recording new cases from travelers who had passed through the city.
Sending patients from hospitals to nursing homes to free up hospital beds early in the pandemic has been described as “reckless” by lawmakers in Britain, the BBC reports. The death toll in British care homes has been a defining scandal of the pandemic for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Drinkers in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, now must make reservations for seats in outdoor patios. The measure was introduced after Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health, expressed concern that a rise in cases among people in their 20s was partly related to long lines outside of bars.
Talking about money is always difficult, but new financial hardships may be hitting those closest to you, making these conversations all the more important. It doesn’t have to be awkward.
Reporting was contributed by Pam Belluck, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Weiyi Cai, Julia Calderone, Benedict Carey, Michael Corkery, Nicholas Fandos, Lauryn Higgins, Danielle Ivory, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Isabella Kwai, Alex Lemonides, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Claire Moses, Jeffrey Moyo, Sharon Otterman, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Eileen Sullivan, Neil Vigdor, and Elaine Yu.
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