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Fauci warns of a ‘disturbing’ uptick of infections in some states and contradicts Trump on testing.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told House lawmakers that the nation is experiencing a “disturbing surge” of coronavirus infections as states reopen too quickly and without adequate plans for testing and tracing the contacts of those infected.
In a break with President Trump’s relentlessly positive assessments of the pandemic’s trajectory in the United States, Dr. Fauci told the house Energy and Commerce Committee that the picture is a “mixed bag,” with some bright spots but many dark clouds and unknowns. Some states like New York, are “doing very well” in controlling the spread of the virus, he said, but called the surge in other states “very troublesome to me.”
“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other states,” Dr. Fauci told the panel as he and other leaders of the White House coronavirus task force appeared together for the first time in more than a month to brief Congress.
While deaths from the virus have been dropping over the past few days, he added, it is too soon to tell whether the numbers mean anything, saying that “deaths always lag considerably behind cases,” and that the trend may reverse itself. The hearing comes as the United States accounted for 20 percent of all the new cases worldwide on Sunday, according to New York Times data.
In their testimony, the officials said they had made progress in confronting the virus, including toward a vaccine that Dr. Fauci said he was “cautiously optimistic” could be ready by early next year and expanding the availability of testing in doctor’s offices by late fall. But they also made clear they did not agree with Mr. Trump, who last week claimed in an interview with Fox News that the virus would simply “fade away.”
Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the pandemic “the greatest public health crisis our nation and world have confronted in a century,” and warned that the outbreak would coincide with flu season later this year, straining hospitals and health workers. Getting a flu shot, he said, would be even more important this year.
“This single act will save lives,” he said.
The doctors were also grilled on Mr. Trump’s claim at a campaign rally on Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., that he had asked “my people” to “slow the testing down” because increased screening was revealing more infections, making the country look bad.
Dr. Fauci contradicted the president, saying that neither he nor any other officials he knew of had been asked by the president to slow testing, and that they planned to do the opposite.
“In fact, we will be doing more testing,” Dr. Fauci said, adding that more surveillance of new cases would help “understand exactly what is going on in community spread.”
Later in the hearing, Adm. Brett P. Giroir, once the administration’s testing “czar,” backed up Dr. Fauci, saying that he had not been instructed to slow testing.
“We are proceeding in just the opposite — we want to do more testing and of higher quality,” he said. “The only way that we will be able to understand who has the disease, who is infected, and can pass it, and to do appropriate contact tracing is to test appropriately, smartly, and as many people as we can.”
Dr. Redfield said expanded testing was particularly important because of the asymptomatic nature of many coronavirus infections.
Shortly before the hearing began, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to complain that he was not getting credit for his response to the virus, noting that Dr. Fauci, “who is with us in all ways,” has “a very high 72% Approval rating.” The approval rating for the president, who is known to track his own popularity closely, is currently 41 percent, according to the latest figures by the polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight.
The European Union may bar U.S. travelers as it reopens borders, citing virus failures.
European countries rushing to revive their economies and reopen borders after months of restrictions are prepared to block Americans from entering because the United States has failed to control the pandemic, according to draft lists of acceptable travelers seen by The New York Times.
That prospect, which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome, is a stinging blow to American prestige and a tacit repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the virus. The United States has more than 2.3 million cases and upward of 120,000 deaths, more than any other country.
Matina Stevis-Gridneff, our Brussels correspondent, reports that members of the European Union are still haggling over two potential lists of acceptable visitors based on how countries are faring with the virus. But both include China and developing nations like Uganda, Cuba and Vietnam — and neither includes the United States.
Travelers from the United States and the rest of the world have been excluded from visiting the European Union — with few exceptions mostly for repatriations or “essential travel” — since mid-March. A final decision on reopening the borders is expected early next week.
A ban on American visitors reflects the shifting pattern of the pandemic.
In March, when Europe was the epicenter, Mr. Trump infuriated European leaders by banning citizens from most E.U. countries from traveling to the United States. He said the move was necessary to protect Americans.
In late May and early June, Mr. Trump said Europe was “making progress” and hinted that some restrictions would be lifted soon. But nothing has happened.
Today, Europe has largely curbed the outbreak, even as the United States has seen infections surge in just the past week.
Banning American travelers would have significant economic, cultural and geopolitical ramifications. Millions of American tourists visit Europe every summer, and business travel is common.
Some states in the U.S. start to think twice about reopenings as the virus spreads.
More than half of the United States is seeing an increase in cases weeks after parts of the country reopened, including Arizona, as Mr. Trump visits the state. And now some state officials are slowing the return-to-work plans and in some cases, reimposing earlier restrictions.
On Tuesday, Arizona reported a record increase in cases, as the state is struggling with a sharp rise in community spread after Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, moved relatively early in May to lift stay-at-home orders.
The Arizona Department of Health Services said Tuesday the state had 3,591 new cases, eclipsing the previous record set on Friday when 3,246 cases were reported in a single day. There were also an 42 additional deaths, raising the state’s toll to 1,384. The state also reported records for the number of people hospitalized with the virus, in intensive care and on ventilators.
The governor’s handling of the pandemic has come under intense criticism by Democratic leaders in the state’s largest cities. Until last week, the governor resisted allowing mayors to make wearing wear masking mandatory in their cities.
In Maine, indoor bars won’t be reopening as planned. In Louisiana, occupancy limits will remain in place. And in Riley County, Kan., where case numbers grew more than 50 percent over the past week, officials said they would tighten restrictions on mass gatherings.
“I think we may have let our guard down a little bit,” said Julie Gibbs, the Riley County health officer. Several athletes at Kansas State University, which is in the county, have tested positive in recent days, and a majority of new cases have been in young adults.
Louisiana logged another 393 new cases on Monday, a trend seen after a period of sustained declines. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said it was not yet safe for businesses to reopen more fully. He noted that about 90 percent of new cases were coming from community spread, not nursing homes or other group living facilities.
“It is clear that Covid is alive and well in Louisiana, and as we see more people testing positive and admitted to hospitals, we simply are not ready to move to the next phase,” Mr. Edwards said.
In Maine, as in most of the Northeast, case numbers have continued to decline. But officials said clusters at restaurants and bars in other states caused them to retreat from plans to reopen bars for indoor service on July 1.
“As we learn more about how the virus spreads, duration and density — specifically, being in close quarters inside, as is the case with most bars — clearly elevate the risk of virus transmission,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Florida, the Department of Health reported nearly 3,300 new cases on Tuesday, pushing the state’s total to 103,503. Since the state began reopening in May, cases have dramatically increased. On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said bars and restaurants will be able to continue to operate, but those that fail to limit capacity to 50 percent or follow other guidelines will “get a visit from the grim reaper in terms of business licenses.”
Saudi Arabia limits the hajj pilgrimage to 1,000 people.
Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that only about 1,000 people will be allowed to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage at the end of July, signaling the effective cancellation of one of the world’s largest gatherings of Muslims.
Saudi officials already said Monday that the hajj would be limited to Muslim residents in Saudi Arabia, who last year accounted for over one-quarter of the 2.5 million people who performed the pilgrimage, as a measure to prevent the spread of the virus.
But the updated restrictions announced Monday — allowing a tiny fraction of the usual crowd — amounted to a declaration that this year’s hajj will be a token showing.
“This is a very precise process,” the Hajj Minister, Mohammad Benten, told reporters. “We are working with health ministry experts and organizers to guarantee safe pilgrimage.”
Saudi Arabia is suffering from one of the largest virus outbreaks in the Middle East, with 161,000 cases and 1,346 deaths. Although the rate of infections has risen in recent days, the authorities lifted a nationwide curfew to allow economic activity to resume but they retained a ban on international travel.
Pilgrims permitted to perform the hajj this year will have to be under 65 years of age and in good health, said the health minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah. They will be required to undergo a virus test in advance and to self-quarantine after they return home.
The announcement sent a wave of sadness across Muslim communities where some had hoped it would still be possible to travel this year. “I am heart-broken, sad and disappointed but what can one do?” said Qari Ali Gul, who runs a seminary in Peshawar, Pakistan. “This must be the will of God.”
Britain’s prime minister will lift a wide variety of restrictions.
Three months after reluctantly and belatedly imposing a lockdown on Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that he would lift many restrictions — most significantly, cutting the required social distance between people in half, to one meter, or about three feet.
Declaring that “our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end,” Mr. Johnson cleared the way for the reopening of pubs, restaurants, hotels and museums in England on July 4, which will bring the country closer in line with Germany, Italy and other European countries.
But scientists, including some who advise the government, warned that reducing the required social distance would substantially raise the risk of spreading the virus in a country that is still reporting nearly 1,000 new infections a day.
Mr. Johnson is yielding to intense pressure, even from members of his own Conservative Party, to restart the British economy and return society to a semblance of normalcy. The government’s scientific advisers signed off on the change, though not without reservations and anguished debate.
In a study released this month, the government’s scientific advisory group, known as SAGE, estimated that reducing the so-called two-meter rule to one meter could increase the rate of transmission anywhere from two to 10 times.
Those risks would be mitigated, it said, if people wore face coverings and avoided prolonged face-to-face contact. Transmission is far less likely outdoors, which is why pubs and restaurants will be required to install plastic screens, provide adequate ventilation and collect contact information from customers. Face coverings are already mandatory on public transportation.
The University of Michigan withdraws from hosting a presidential debate.
The University of Michigan said Tuesday it would withdraw from hosting a presidential debate on Oct. 15, citing concerns about bringing large numbers of national and international media and campaign officials to the campus in Ann Arbor amid the pandemic.
The Michigan gathering was going to be the second general election debate, but the event will instead be moved to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, which hosted the first debates of the 2020 Democratic primary season last summer.
This will be the second major presidential campaign event to move to Florida after officials elsewhere raised concerns about large gatherings.
After officials in North Carolina, including Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, sought assurances that delegates would adhere to social distancing at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, the Trump campaign announced that Mr. Trump would instead accept the G.O.P. nomination in Jacksonville, Fla.
In other news from around the United States:
The business world reacted angrily after Mr. Trump temporarily suspended work visas and barred more than half a million foreigners from coming to work in the United States. The move is part of a broad effort by the administration to significantly limit entry into the country during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
After months of lockdown in which outbreaks were often centered on nursing homes, prisons and meatpacking plants, new clusters have been found in bars, churches and other places where people gather.
The governor of Texas said on Monday that the virus was spreading in the state at “an unacceptable rate” and that tougher restrictions could be necessary, although he did not specify what those measures would be. “Closing down Texas again will always be the last option,” he said.
Black people have been hospitalized for Covid-19 four times more than white people, new data released on Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found. The data reinforced the many public accounts of the disparities in access to health care and treatment outcomes faced by black people during the pandemic.
A former director of the C.D.C., Dr. Julie Gerberding, warned a Senate committee that the pandemic is “a harbinger of things to come,” and said there is no guarantee that a single vaccine will protect everyone from infection.
Michigan’s governor asked an appeal court on Tuesday to put a hold on a federal judge’s order that will allow indoor gyms to open throughout the state. Last week a federal judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the state did not provide sufficient justification for keeping gyms closed in all but the least populated parts of the state. The governor’s motion asks that the ruling not be put into effect until an appeal by the state is decided.
A moratorium on evictions that New York State expired over the weekend, raising fears that tens of thousands of residents would be called into housing courts, which reopened on Monday. Statewide, there were 27 additional virus-related deaths, the governor said Tuesday.
Kentucky, New York and Virginia are holding primary elections on Tuesday. The number of voters casting absentee ballots has risen sharply because of the pandemic, and the results of key races may not be known on Tuesday night as a result. Here’s what to watch for.
In New Jersey, amusement parks, waterparks and playgrounds will reopen on July 2, the governor said Tuesday. Amusement parks and waterparks must stay at 50 percent capacity, masks have to be worn when social distancing is not possible, and people must stay six feet apart in lines. The state reported 57 additional deaths.
The White House began easing restrictions on Monday, the same day that the District of Columbia allowed churches, gyms, restaurants and “nonessential” stores to reopen with limited capacity.
After months of failed negotiations, Major League Baseball announced that it would impose a 2020 schedule and that it wanted players to report to their home ballparks by July 1 for training camp. If they do — and if the union signs off on health protocols — the schedule would be for 60 games, most likely starting July 24.
Latin America has already been hit hard. But the worst may yet still be ahead.
The virus was always going to hit Latin America hard. Experts warned that the region’s combustible blend of inequality, densely packed cities, legions of informal workers living day to day, and health care systems starved of resources could undermine even the best attempts to curb the pandemic.
But by brushing off the dangers, fumbling the response, dismissing scientific or expert guidance, withholding data and simply denying the extent of the outbreak altogether, some governments have made matters even worse and Latin America has quickly become a focal point.
Unlike parts of Asia, Europe and the hardest-hit U.S. cities, the virus is only gaining steam across the region. Deaths have more than doubled across Latin America in a month, according to the Pan American Health Organization, and the region now accounts for several of the world’s worst outbreaks.
And as the virus storms through the region, corruption has flourished, the already intense political polarization in some countries has deepened, and some governments have curtailed civil rights. Economies already stretched thin before the virus lie on the precipice of ruin.
Not all is dire in the region. Nations like Uruguay and Costa Rica seem to have avoided the worst so far, while an almost military-style health care intervention in Cuba has left the island nation in better standing than most.
In other news from around the world:
In Germany, the governor of the state of North Rhein-Westphalia announced on Tuesday a temporary lockdown of Gütersloh, the district that includes a pork processing plant which has registered 1,550 new infections since last week. Later in the day, the state’s health minister declared that a neighboring district to the west, Warendorf, would also go back into lockdown.
A 72-year-old man in Hong Kong died from the virus on Tuesday, officials said, raising the city’s death toll to six. Hong Kong has recorded 1,161 confirmed cases. The authorities also confirmed 30 imported infections on Monday — the highest daily increase in more than two months — and another 16 imported cases on Tuesday.
Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked male tennis player, said on Tuesday that he had tested positive, after days of growing criticism about an exhibition tournament he organized where other players were also found to be infected.
As the annual dog meat festival in the southern Chinese city of Yulin got underway this week, a fast-growing network of activists are using the pandemic as an opportunity to push legislation banning the consumption of dog and cat meats.
After the national government suspended the sale of wildlife in February, two southern Chinese cities became the first to ban the consumption of cats and dogs. Last month, the Ministry of Agriculture, in a major step, removed dogs from its list of approved domesticated livestock, referring to dogs for the first time as “companion animals.”
Officials in Japan, which lifted its emergency declaration in late May, announced on Tuesday a series of reopenings, including Tokyo Disneyland on July 1. The country’s professional baseball league, which played last week without fans, plans to allow spectators starting next month.
Singapore’s prime minister announced that the city-state would hold the first elections in Southeast Asia since the pandemic began.
The local authorities in Melbourne, Australia, have recommended that people in six neighborhoods remain at home after 17 new cases were reported on Monday.
A French drugmaker says it is speeding up its vaccine tests.
A French drugmaker plans to accelerate clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine in the hope of earning approval for it by the first half of next year.
The drugmaker, Sanofi, announced the plan on Tuesday. The company and its partner, GlaxoSmithKline, had originally projected that a vaccine would be available — at the earliest — in the latter half of the year.
The announcement reflects the company’s eagerness to catch up with some of its competitors, which initiated vaccine trials earlier than it did.
The Sanofi-GSK vaccine contains a laboratory-synthesized version of the virus’s “spike” protein, which protrudes from the surface of the virus and is crucial to its ability to enter host cells.
This so-called recombinant vaccine is also formulated with one of GSK’s proprietary adjuvants, compounds that can boost the body’s immune response to a foreign onslaught. In theory, that may give the vaccine more staying power.
Originally scheduled for December, a combined Phase I/II clinical trial for the vaccine will now begin in September. The goal is to have the recombinant vaccine fully licensed by June.
On Tuesday, in his testimony before the House committee, Dr. Fauci spoke of the long road to developing a vaccine. Paradoxically, he suggested that the better controlled the pandemic is through other measures, the longer that road may be.
“If it turns out there are not a lot of cases, it may take longer,” Dr. Fauci said. “That is why you cannot get an accurate prediction of when you’re going to get that data.”
Sweden’s lax approach to the outbreak alarms its neighbors.
Swedish officials, including the architect of the country’s measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Anders Tegnell, say Swedes have been stigmatized by an international campaign to prove Sweden was wrong and warn their neighbors that they are going to be much more vulnerable if a second wave of the virus hits in the fall.
“We are really confident that our immunity is higher than any other Nordic country’s,” Mr. Tegnell said during a news conference last week. He added that while Sweden was not striving for so-called herd immunity, the higher level of immunity “is contributing to lower numbers of patients needing hospitalization, as well as fewer deaths per day.”
Mr. Tegnell also said that infections in Sweden “had peaked,” and were now falling, a trend reflected in The Times’s figures.
Experts in the other Scandinavian countries say the higher immunity levels have not been proved through rigorous testing, and that such talk misses a major point.
“When you see 5,000 deaths in Sweden and 230 in Norway, it is quite incredible,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway and the former director of the World Health Organization, during a digital lecture at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in May. “It will take a lot to even out this difference a year or two into the future.”
Companies see a multibillion-dollar opportunity in virus-proofing offices.
With companies pressing to figure out how to safely reopen workplaces, makers of everything from office furniture to smart ventilation systems are rushing to sell products and services marketed as solutions.
Some companies, like makers of thermal cameras that sense skin temperature, are rebranding their wares as fever-scanning products. Others are creating entirely new services.
And they have a captive market. To protect employees and reduce liability for virus outbreaks at work, companies are racing to comply with public health guidelines on issues like employee screening and social distancing. In the United States, the market for contact-tracing technologies for employers could soon be worth $4 billion annually, according to estimates from International Data Corporation, a market research firm.
But the preventive tools and pandemic workplace rules are so new — as is the emerging science on the virus — that it is too soon to tell how well, or if, they work.
“These are all untested theories and methods right now,” said Laura Becker, a research manager focusing on employee experience at I.D.C. “What is going to be the most effective component of all of these work force return strategies? We don’t know.”
Reporting was contributed by Azam Ahmed, Jes Aznar, Hannah Beech, Aurelien Breeden, Stephen Castle, Julie Creswell, Maria Cramer, Reid J. Epstein, Thomas Erdbrink, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Matthew Haag, Ben Hubbard, Mike Ives, Miriam Jordan, Annie Karni, Ismail Khan, Tyler Kepner, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Mark Landler, Ernesto Londoño, Alex Marshall, Jonathan Martin, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, Heather Murphy, Elian Peltier, Daniel Politi, Simon Romero, Dagny Salas, Christopher F. Schuetze, Michael D. Shear, Natasha Singer, Mitch Smith, Matt Stevens, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Lucy Tompkins, Hisako Ueno, Declan Walsh, Noah Weiland, Katherine J. Wu and Elaine Yu.
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