Here’s what you need to know:
Florida reports a high number of new daily cases, and Texas moves to close bars.
As cases rise around the United States, Florida reported more than 8,900 new coronavirus cases on Friday, after counting more than 10,000 new cases over the previous two days, pushing its total past 120,000.
Florida also reported an unusually high number of tests results — more than 71,000 — according to a daily Department of Health case report. The report was posted online before the department updated its coronavirus dashboard, which usually displays the latest case numbers before the case report is issued.
Hospital directors have been sounding increasingly worried about seeing more Covid-19 patients, and in an unexpected move, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation abruptly announced on Friday morning that on-premises alcohol consumption would be suspended at bars, effective immediately.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has said Florida has the capacity to deal with more sick people for now. Across the state, long lines have returned at testing sites that just a few weeks ago were seeing limited demand. On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis said that he did not intend to move to the next phase of reopening. Orange County is now averaging 412 cases a day compared with 80 two weeks ago.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott went a step further and ordered all bars to close on Friday, telling restaurants to reduce their operating capacity, in an abrupt reversal of his previous policy as the nation’s second largest state also grapples with surging coronavirus cases weeks after reopening.
The move comes just a day after Mr. Abbott, a Republican, put the state’s reopening on pause, while remaining firm that going “backward” and closing down businesses was “the last thing we want to do.”
By Friday, he said, “it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars. The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”
Under the order, bars must close effective 12 p.m. Friday locally, but they can remain open for take out. Restaurants, which had been operating at 75 percent capacity, can remain open, but must reduce capacity to 50 percent.
The changes come as the percent of positive tests in Texas exceeded 10 percent, a benchmark that Mr. Abbott had previously set as a warning sign of a more urgent crisis. Texas set several single-day records for new cases this week, including a high of 6,584 on Wednesday. Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, ordered businesses to require customers and employees to wear face masks. The order, which goes into effect on Friday, comes days after a similar policy went into effect in neighboring Dallas County.
The United States on Thursday reported more than 41,000 new cases, a record total for the second straight day, as a nationwide sense of urgency grew and five states — Alabama, Alaska, Montana, Missouri and Utah — reported their largest daily totals.
California, where stay-at-home orders were imposed particularly early in the pandemic, surpassed 200,000 total cases on Thursday, as its number of infections doubled over the past month. That is the second highest total for any state, though California’s per capita infection rate remains far lower than New York’s.
Some states, however, are holding firm to their reopening plans. In Santa Barbara County, Calif., nail salons, tattoo parlors and piercing shops were set to reopen Friday, despite rising case numbers. In Michigan, where the outlook has been improving, the governor said professional sports could return, though without spectators.
And in Illinois, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker described a “trajectory of relative success,” museums, zoos and bowling alleys were set to reopen on Friday, along with indoor dining at restaurants.
“I’m not afraid to protect the people of Illinois by moving a region back to an earlier phase if we see a surge,” Mr. Pritzker said. “Ours will not be one of the states that takes no action in response to a return to a peak.”
Younger people are making up a growing percentage of new cases in cities and states where the virus is now surging, a trend that has alarmed public health officials and prompted renewed pleas for masks and social distancing.
And in a stark reminder of what officials still don’t know about the scope of the outbreak, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday that the number of Americans who have been infected with the virus is most likely about 10 times the 2.4 million cases that have been reported.
Trump’s coronavirus task force will brief the nation for the first time in almost two months.
The White House, responding to surging infections around the country and warnings that the pandemic could worsen this fall, will send Vice President Mike Pence out to brief the public on Friday for the first time in nearly two months.
Mr. Pence will be joined by top members of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator.
The session is a significant re-emergence for the task force, whose health officials, at one point, gathered every day for long hours as death rates peaked around the country, and offered a public briefing that allowed for questions from reporters. But they have been largely sidelined at the White House even as the United States on Thursday reported more than 41,000 new coronavirus cases, a record total for the second straight day.
Despite the staggering numbers, Mr. Trump — who is not expected to attend Friday’s session — has been trying to declare the pandemic “over.” Around midnight Friday, he wrote on Twitter, “Our Economy is roaring back and will NOT be shut down. ‘Embers or flare ups will be put out, as necessary!”
In testimony early this week, Dr. Fauci flatly contradicted him, stating, “The virus is not going to disappear.”
Dr. Fauci confirmed in a brief interview on Friday morning that officials are having “intense discussions” about a possible shift to “pool testing,” in which samples from many people are tested all at once in an effort to quickly find the infected and isolate them. Dr. Fauci’s comments were first reported by The Washington Post.
If the pooled sample tests negative for the coronavirus, all the individuals who provided samples are considered to be virus-free. But if a certain pool comes back with a positive result, each patient who provided a sample can be tested individually.
The strategy can be particularly effective when the prevalence of infection in a population is less than 30 percent, according to some reports. The method is being used in Germany, Israel and several other countries, as well as in Nebraska and Tennessee.
“When you are dealing with the kind of resurgences that we’re seeing in certain locations — and there is community spread which is clearly going on in a situation in which a substantial proportion of the infected people might be without symptoms — the standard process of identification, isolation and contact tracing does not seem to be adequate,” Dr. Fauci said in the interview.
Dr. Fauci said the task force is also considering ways to beef up contact tracing, not only by telephone but also in person, to help persuade those at risk of infection to isolate themselves.
“A certain number of people don’t want to stop working and get out of circulation,” he said, adding, “You have to get people that the community trusts to get out there, that are on the ground, in person, not making phone calls but actually making sure that you really can isolate them.”
Officials said the Friday briefing is to be a wide-ranging discussion at the Department of Health and Human Services, not at the White House, as past sessions had been.
India, with nearly 500,000 cases, aims to test all 29 million people in New Delhi.
Officials in India’s capital, New Delhi, planned to test all of the city’s 29 million residents over about 10 days, as the nationwide caseload surged toward 500,000 infections and pushed many hospitals to their breaking point.
New Delhi and three Indian states have collectively reported about two-thirds of the country’s more than 490,000 cases, according to a New York Times database. On Thursday, the government reported 16,922 new cases, a single-day record.
As of Friday morning, more than 15,000 people had died from Covid-19. And in particularly struggling areas, hospitals have run out of beds, forcing patients to cram into corridors.
In New Delhi, which has more than 70,000 cases, officials said that teams of health care workers planned to visit every household and to conduct blood tests on anyone who exhibited coronavirus symptoms.
The exercise is scheduled to begin on Saturday and end by July 6. Each three-person team is expected to cover at least 50 of the city’s roughly 4.5 million households per day.
In other news from around the world:
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, defended the agency’s response to the outbreak while taking pointed questions from members of the European Parliament. Peter Liese, a European Parliament member from Germany, said Dr. Tedros should apologize for not calling for a travel ban early in the outbreak, which Dr. Tedros said that the W.H.O. was not empowered to do.
Officials in South Africa — where the national caseload of more than 118,000 is the highest on the continent — published new measures on Friday to ease restrictions that had been in effect since late March. Among other things, people will be allowed to leave home to go to work, buy food and attend a place of worship in their neighborhoods.
Starting on Saturday in Egypt, restaurants, cafes and mosques will gradually reopen after three months of lockdown that exacted a punishing economic toll on the country’s 100 million citizens. Restaurants will operate at 25 percent capacity and close by 10 p.m., and mosques and churches will stay shut for weekly prayers, the busiest time of the week.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan said on Friday that 53 of its personnel had tested positive for the virus since the country recorded its first case in early April. The mission has almost 20,000 peacekeepers from 73 countries who are protecting civilians, assisting humanitarian aid and investigating human rights abuses related to the violence that has engulfed the country since 2013.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel announced a new partnership with the United Arab Emirates to cooperate in the fight against the virus, but he was contradicted hours later when the Emirates issued a much more muted statement, announcing what it described as an agreement between two private Emirati companies and two Israeli companies to develop technology to fight the virus.
Mexico’s finance minister, Arturo Herrera, said on Thursday that he had tested positive. Mr. Herrera is part of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s inner circle, and was seen in a video standing next to the president on Monday at the National Palace, where both men have their offices.
In South Korea, the city of Daegu has filed a lawsuit seeking at least $83 million in damages from a church that was an epicenter of the country’s outbreak. More than 40 percent of the country’s nearly 13,000 coronavirus patients have been members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus or linked to them. The city has accused the church of hampering the government’s disease-control efforts by not fully disclosing its number of worshipers.
Infections among Latinos have soared during the recent surge in cases.
When the coronavirus spread to the fields and food processing factories of the Central Valley in California, Graciela Ramirez’s boss announced that line workers afraid of infection could stay home without pay.
A machine operator for a manufacturer of frozen burritos, Ms. Ramirez stayed on the job to keep her $750-a-week wages. Soon her co-workers started to get sick, and then a test for Ms. Ramirez, a 40-year-old mother of four, came back positive.
Ms. Ramirez’s case reflects a grim demographic theme. Coronavirus infections among Latinos in the United States have far outpaced those among the rest of the population during the country’s surge in recent weeks, a testament to the makeup of the nation’s essential work force.
In the past two weeks, counties across the country where at least a quarter of the population is Latino have recorded an increase of 32 percent in new cases, compared with a 15 percent increase for all other counties, a Times analysis shows.
The analysis affirms broad national tallies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show that Latinos make up 34 percent of cases nationwide, a much higher proportion than the group’s 18 percent share of the population.
Detailed coronavirus data broken down by ethnicity is incomplete in many places, making it difficult to know why Latinos have been infected at higher rates. But counties with a high proportion of Latinos tend to have attributes that reflect a vulnerability during the recent surge: crowded households, younger populations and hotter weather that drives people indoors, said Jed Kolko, a researcher and chief economist at Indeed.com, a job search website.
Russian hackers target Americans working at home.
A Russian ransomware group whose leaders were indicted by the Justice Department in December is retaliating against the U.S. government, many of America’s largest companies and a major news organization, identifying employees working from home during the pandemic and attempting to get inside their networks with malware intended to cripple their operations.
Sophisticated new attacks by the hacking group — which the Treasury Department claims has at times worked for Russian intelligence — were identified in recent days by Symantec Corporation, a division of Broadcom, one of the many firms that monitors corporate and government networks.
In an urgent warning issued Thursday night, the company reported that Russian hackers had exploited the sudden change in American work habits to inject code into corporate networks with a speed and breadth not previously witnessed.
Ransomware allows the hackers to demand that companies pay millions to have access to their own data restored.
In other news from around the United States:
The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late Thursday to overturn the Affordable Care Act — a move that could bring a permanent end to the health insurance program known as Obamacare and wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans.
Nearly 1.5 million workers filed new claims for state unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was the 14th week in a row that the figure had topped one million.
Congressional leaders are in the final stages of vetting Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to lead a bipartisan oversight commission to scrutinize the programs created by the $2.2 trillion stimulus law in March, according to a person familiar with the plans.
The Trump administration made more than a million stimulus payments worth about $1.4 billion to dead people in a rush to pump money into the economy this year, the Government Accountability Office said.
North Carolina’s lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, said he planned to sue Gov. Roy Cooper over his decision a day earlier to extend the state’s emergency orders and his mandate that state residents wear masks. Mr. Forest — a Republican who will face Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, in the November election for governor — accused his opponent of overstepping his authority.
Morehouse, one of the country’s most celebrated historically black colleges, said Friday that it had canceled its fall sports of football and cross country, appearing to be the first to publicly abandon its football season outright, though a handful of other schools have canceled games.
The N.F.L. canceled its annual Hall of Fame Game, an exhibition scheduled for Aug. 6, so players and coaches grappling with restrictions related to the pandemic could have more time to prepare for the regular season, which, for now, is still set to begin Sept. 10.
Florida smirked at New York’s virus crisis. Now it has its own.
In late April, as new cases in Florida were steadily decreasing, Gov. Ron DeSantis began crowing about how his state had tamed the pandemic.
He credited his decision to impose a state-specific quarantine on New York, then the center of the nation’s outbreak. The move earned him praise in the White House and the ire of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York.
Months later, Mr. Cuomo has clearly not forgotten.
“You played politics with this virus and you lost,” Mr. Cuomo said on Thursday when asked in an interview about Mr. DeSantis’s earlier boasts.
With infections now rapidly spreading in Florida while they retreat in New York, the two states have come to reflect the rapidly shifting course of the pandemic.
New York still has the country’s highest number of cases and deaths, but the numbers have been steadily falling: At its peak, the virus claimed 1,000 deaths a day in the state; on Thursday, the state recorded 17 deaths. Florida, among the states not mandating masks, rushed to reopen and is now seeing 5,000 new cases a day.
And in their divergent political responses to the outbreak, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, and Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, mirror the divide over the virus among states and regions around the country.
The two brash, telegenic governors both embraced the increased visibility that the virus provided. Mr. Cuomo delivered daily sober updates on the virus, the state’s aggressive lockdown strategy and its cautious approach to reopening. Mr. DeSantis eagerly advanced a narrative pushed by Mr. Trump, seeing the economic damage as a greater risk than a virus that had, for months, largely spared his state.
On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said the city was on track to enter Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan on July 6, which would allow indoor dining and personal-care services, like manicures, tattooing and waxing, to resume with social-distancing limits.
Britain may close its beaches after crowds flock to the coasts.
Britain could close its beaches if the hordes that have descended on coastal areas recently cause a new flood of coronavirus cases, the country’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Friday, a day after tens of thousands of people headed to resorts in southern England on the hottest day of the year so far.
In Bournemouth, 110 miles south of London, the authorities said they were appalled by scenes of overcrowding, as thousands of beachgoers defied restrictions to gather in groups of more than six people, scorning social-distancing rules.
The huge influx resulted in widespread illegal parking and lengthy traffic jams, and authorities denounced the excessive drinking, fights and illegal camping. “We are not in a position to welcome visitors in these numbers now,” said Vikki Slade, leader of the Bournemouth local authority. “Please do not come.”
Mr. Hancock said he was reluctant to close the beaches because people had been through “a pretty tough lockdown,” but he cautioned that he would take action if the behavior prompted a new wave of infections.
Mr. Hancock’s warning comes as the authorities have urged against large gatherings during the pandemic. Early Friday, objects were thrown at police officers in London as they tried to disperse an illegal outdoor music party, just a day after 22 police officers were wounded as they responded to an unauthorized crowd in another part of the city.
Wall Street is unsteady and stocks tumble after the Fed temporarily caps bank dividends.
Stocks fell on Friday after a turbulent week in which U.S. spikes in new coronavirus cases tempered hopes of a rapid economic recovery.
Shares of big banks led the declines after the Federal Reserve said it would put a temporary cap on their dividend payments and halt stock buybacks to keep their capitalization strong. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America all fell about 3 percent.
The decision to limit payouts came after the Fed’s latest stress test, and highlights concerns that large financial institutions, while far better off than they were in the financial crisis, remain vulnerable to an economic downturn unlike any other in modern history.
Still, investors have also seen signs of recovery. The U.S. Commerce Department released data on Friday that showed consumer spending increasing sharply by 8.2 percent in May, as many businesses started to reopen. Spending saw record drops in March and April, when businesses were shuttered and millions of Americans lost their jobs, sending the economy into a recession.
Newly released C.D.C. records show there were widespread infections on cruise ships.
Most of the 121 cruise ships that entered U.S. waters after March 1 had Covid-19 cases on board, according to newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only 15 of the ships did not have the disease on board, the records show. The C.D.C.’s figures include cases described as “clinically compatible” with Covid-19 but not confirmed in a lab, as well as a handful of cases that occurred among crew members after passengers had disembarked.
The data from the C.D.C., released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Times, shows that outbreaks aboard more than 100 ships in U.S. jurisdiction sickened nearly 3,000 people, including more than 850 passengers.
The cruise ship industry has long insisted that only a small fraction of its fleet was affected by the pandemic, which prompted the C.D.C. to issue a no-sail order that went into effect on March 14 for all U.S. cruises.
But interviews with health officials, passengers, industry experts, cruise executives and maritime lawyers have now made it clear that restarting operations would require rethinking cruising itself.
The C.D.C. records involved only ships that entered U.S. waters, so some vessels that had high-profile outbreaks, like the Diamond Princess in Japan and the Ruby Princess in Australia, were not included.
Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, stressed that the industry had voluntarily suspended operations and was among the few that remained shuttered more than three months after the pandemic began.
The industry announced last week that its suspension would last until at least mid-September.
Another pause for Hollywood’s plans.
Hollywood is postponing its planned comeback. Again.
“Mulan,” a $200 million live-action Disney movie, and WarnerMedia’s $205 million “Tenet” were supposed to revive moviegoing by rolling out late next month — the first big releases from Hollywood since theaters shut down in March. But Warner on Thursday pushed back “Tenet” to Aug. 12 because of climbing coronavirus infections in much of the United States. Underscoring how quickly market conditions are changing, “Tenet,” directed by Christopher Nolan, last shifted dates two weeks ago.
Disney is considering a new release plan for “Mulan,” according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private process. Disney declined to comment.
Theater chains like AMC, Regal and Cinemark have announced plans to reopen most of their locations by mid-July. But it is increasingly unlikely that cinemas in New York will be open by then; Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday said that he was slowing down plans to reopen theaters, gyms and shopping malls. Also spooking studios: China, the No. 2 film market after North America, recently canceled a plan to reopen some theaters.
The summer blockbuster season, which runs from the first weekend in May until Labor Day, delivered $4.32 billion in ticket sales last year. So far this year, ticket sales since early May stand at about $2.4 million, largely from drive-in theaters showing classics and independent films. Some theater companies face bankruptcy if ticket sales and concessions are not generating adequate revenue by Thanksgiving, analysts say.
Studios have been making money by selling unreleased movies to streaming services like Netflix or making them available for video-on-demand rental.
Stores limit toilet paper sales in Australia after a small rise in cases prompts panic buying.
Australia’s largest supermarket chains are reintroducing national limits on toilet paper purchases, after a small surge of virus cases around Melbourne led to panic buying and door-to-door testing with help from the military.
The reaction follows 10 days of double-digit increases in recorded infections for the state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, with cases concentrated in a handful of the city’s suburbs.
Most states and territories in Australia have gone days and weeks without a new infection, and there are only about 530 active cases in the country. But with the trends heading up after steady declines for weeks, concerns about another outbreak are rising, putting pressure on retailers and public health officials.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the situation needed to be seen in context. With around 1 million cases being reported globally each week, he said, Australians should not feel the need to rush out and stock up on toiletries.
“Stop it,” he said on Friday. “It’s ridiculous.”
“We remain on track, the curve remains flat,” he added. “But where you get bumps and when you get outbreaks, then you need to manage them and you need to respond to them, and that is exactly what is happening.”
As part of that effort, more than 1,000 public health workers are going door-to door in the two suburbs at the heart of the latest outbreak, with residents offered free testing.
Military medics are also hitting the streets to increase capacity.
Another apparent casualty of the pandemic: the Costco half-sheet cake.
Half-sheet cakes from the retail giant Costco, beloved by shoppers for their affordability and freshness, have long been a staple at birthday parties, graduations and other large events. But like handshakes and crowded bars, the cakes may have become another casualty of the coronavirus.
Half-sheet cakes are not currently being sold at any location in the United States, and the company has no immediate plans to bring them back, Costco said in a statement on Thursday. The bakeries instead will focus on round, 10-inch cakes that “seem to be resonating with our members,” the statement said.
While Costco would not elaborate on the specific reason for discontinuing sales of the half-sheet cake, the company indicated in a response to several customer comments on Facebook that it was related to the pandemic. “To help limit personal contact and create more space for social distancing, Costco has reduced service in some departments,” the company wrote. “At this time, we are not making sheet cakes for special order.”
Rediscovering personal ways to communicate.
Writing letters and journal entries has helped people connect meaningfully and find comfort during this period of isolation, grief and unrest. Here are some tips on doing it well.
Reporting was contributed by Brooks Barnes, Ronen Bergman, Julie Bosman, Damien Cave, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Abdi Latif Dahir, Melissa Eddy, Marie Fazio, Manny Fernandez, Thomas Fuller, J. David Goodman, Ben Hubbard, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Juliette Love, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, Elian Peltier, Nicole Perlroth, Alan Rappeport, Frances Robles, Amanda Rosa, David E. Sanger, Nelson D. Schwartz, Anjali Singhvi, Mitch Smith, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, David Waldstein, Declan Walsh, Noah Weiland, David Yaffe-Bellany and Sameer Yasir.
View original article here Source