Here’s what you need to know:
The coronavirus has been spreading rapidly in four of six key battleground states crucial to the presidential election in November — Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The states are among 21 recently declared to be in the “red zone” in a report by the federal government because of the substantial number of new virus cases reported there each day.
If the presumptive Democratic nominee and former vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., wins the states won by Hillary Clinton four years ago, many combinations of any three of six swing states would be enough to defeat President Trump. In addition to the four swing states labeled “red zones,” the list includes Michigan and Pennsylvania, which have not seen major spikes in cases in recent weeks.
Already many states are revisiting their mail-in voting policies, so that voters will not have to go to polling stations and risk infection. The six swing states have either always allowed relatively easy mail-in voting or have recently made it easier. Currently, eight states allow mail-in or absentee ballots only with an approved excuse. The issue continues to be a point of contention between Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Trump on Thursday raised the idea of delaying the election until people could “properly, securely and safely vote???”
A recent New York Times analysis also suggests that the increasing number of virus-related deaths is damaging Republican support in some communities.
On Wednesday, the country surpassed 150,000 deaths, and deaths have been on the rise in Arizona, Wisconsin and Florida, which on Wednesday reported more than 216 fatalities, according to a New York Times database, surpassing its previous high of 186, which was recorded the day before.
And some states that are considered safe for Mr. Trump have been struggling to contain the virus in recent weeks and are among the 21 states labeled red zones: Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Mr. Trump has dismissed polls that have him trailing Mr. Biden, and on Tuesday played down the severity of the pandemic in the United States, citing nonexistent “corona-free” areas of the country.
Economic output fell at its fastest pace on record in spring as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses across the United States to close and kept millions shut in their homes for weeks.
Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced — fell 9.5 percent in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. On an annualized basis, G.D.P. fell at a rate of 32.9 percent.
The collapse was unprecedented in its speed and breathtaking in its severity. By comparison, economic output fell 4 percent during the entirety of the Great Recession a decade ago — and took 18 months to sink that far. The only possible comparisons in modern American history came during the Great Depression and the demobilization after World War II, both of which occurred before the advent of modern economic statistics.
What’s more, fears are growing that after rebounding strongly in May and June, the economy has run out of steam, with many states closing businesses again after coronavirus cases surged.
At the same time, the $600 supplemental weekly unemployment payment from the federal government is ending, a potentially crippling financial blow to millions.
Also on Thursday, the government reported that 1.43 million people filed new claims for state unemployment benefits.
It was the 19th straight week that the tally exceeded a million, an unheard-of figure before the coronavirus pandemic. And it was the second weekly increase in a row after nearly four months of declines, a sign of how the resurgence in cases has undercut the economy’s nascent recovery.
A $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit that has helped keep tens of millions of Americans economically afloat in the pandemic is likely to lapse as scheduled on Friday, a top White House official said, as the prospects for a quick compromise between Democrats and the Trump administration on a new round of aid sank further. Read more about the gulf between the sides.
America’s death toll surpassed 150,000, with California and Florida reporting single-day records. California recorded more than 185 deaths, along with a record number of new cases, more than 12,300, according to a New York Times database. Florida reported more than 216 deaths, a day after its previous high of 186. Read more on the U.S. death toll.
The Federal Reserve left interest rates near zero and pledged to keep supporting the United States economy as the pandemic continues to depress economic growth and sideline millions of workers. Read more about the Fed’s decision.
A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from moving forward with plans to deny green cards to immigrants who have received Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers, even on a limited basis. Several states, led by New York, have sued over applying such a wealth test during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more on the decision.
Europe had nearly 50 percent more deaths than normal at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, according to data compiled by Britain’s and France’s national statistics agencies, with tens of thousands more people dying the last week of March and the first week of April than in previous years.
As Europe became the epicenter of the pandemic in the late winter and early spring, many countries implemented nationwide lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus, which was already killing thousands. Most of the excess deaths were in four big, hard-hit countries — Britain, Italy, Spain and France.
In their worst weeks, Belgium, England, France and Spain all had more than twice as many deaths than was usual for the time of year.
England had the second-highest peak mortality after Spain in Europe, and “the longest continuous period of excess mortality,” according to a report published by Britain’s Office for National Statistics on Wednesday. Britain had registered over 55,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths as of mid-July, and is the worst-hit country in Europe.
Although European countries encountered wide discrepancies in their excess deaths, most saw a rise over the course of two deadly weeks, from March 30 to April 12. During the last week of March, the deadliest across Europe with 33,000 excess deaths, Spain alone registered over 12,500 more deaths than would be expected when compared with data from 2016 to 2019, a 155 percent increase, and Italy over 6,500, according to data provided by the French national statistics agency, INSEE. The following week, Belgium recorded over 2,000 excess deaths, an increase of nearly 110 percent compared with data from previous years.
The coronavirus has depleted nursing homes across the continent, infected thousands of health care workers, and revealed how some of the most stable countries in the world were unprepared for a pandemic, although several national security agencies had defined it as one of the most critical threats that their countries could face.
The surge in deaths was highest among elderly people, according to the statistics provided by Britain and France, with northern Italy and central Spain the hardest-hit areas across the continent.
Coronavirus outbreaks have swept through three Alaska fish processing facilities and a factory trawler in recent weeks, stressing an industry already facing an unstable market for seafood.
Roughly 26,000 processing workers head to plants in Alaska each year, the bulk of them in the summertime. Many work the red salmon season out of Bristol Bay, the largest red salmon fishery in the world and the source of most of America’s wild-caught salmon.
Conditions in fish plants mirror those in meat-processing plants, with people living together and working long shifts in close quarters. Alaska put in place strict procedures and required monitoring, quarantining and testing out of concern that processing workers and fishermen, many who come from out of state, would spread the virus into Alaskan communities.
The plan largely worked and Alaska’s case total stayed low until July. But as cases began to spike in recent weeks, resident workers — not those from other states — brought the virus into fish plants, said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer. “It unfortunately has taken off pretty quickly,” she said. “It’s so hard to mitigate the spread once you get it in the plant.”
Alaska has had 20 coronavirus deaths and about 3,500 cases, according to a New York Times database.
At the Copper River Seafoods plant in Anchorage, 76 out of 135 people had tested positive as of Wednesday, Dr. Zink said. In Seward, a small town south of Anchorage, 139 out of 252 workers tested positive. At Alaska Glacier Seafoods, in Juneau, 62 out of 150 workers were positive. And the American Triumph, a factory trawler that docked in Dutch Harbor, had 85 positive cases out of the 119 people on board, she said.
But there have been no outbreaks at fish plants in Bristol Bay, where the season is wrapping up. Most workers there came from elsewhere and didn’t mingle with the locals, said Nicole Kimball, a fisheries analyst with the Pacific Seafood Processors Association. “The key there was a closed campus,” she said. ‘People took it very seriously to keep their doors closed.”
Outbreaks at plants force production to cease while facilities are cleaned and workers are tested, further pressing a salmon industry that analysts say is facing decreased restaurant demand and a glut in the retail sector. Processors are paying fishermen at Bristol Bay half as much per pound as they were last year, said Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
That stings, he said. “It makes it hard to enjoy all the sacrifice people put in to make the season safe and successful.”
Australia has recorded its deadliest day since the pandemic began, with 13 deaths reported on Wednesday, all in the southern state of Victoria, which also had 723 new cases. A total of 21 new cases were recorded in other states, as the authorities tightened borders and local restrictions.
The record numbers are largely the result of outbreaks in nursing homes, as well as people going into work while symptomatic, the authorities said.
“This is incredibly serious. And every time somebody doesn’t do the right thing, every time somebody contributes to the spread of the virus, then that means that another family will be having to plan a funeral,” Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
“Unless everyone plays their part this lockdown will not end anytime soon,” he added.
While Australia’s figures pale in comparison to the tens of thousands of new cases each day in the United States, they are significant in a country that had appeared to contain the virus to manageable levels before an outbreak in early July, which is thought to have spread from hotel quarantine facilities in Melbourne.
Masks, which the health authorities had advised only for those experiencing symptoms, have since become mandatory in the city. Starting on Sunday they will be enforced across the state of Victoria, where restrictions on private gatherings have also increased.
“We have now been in this lockdown now for some weeks, and we are not getting the results we would hope for,” Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, told reporters in Canberra. The high rates of community transmission, he added, were of “great concern.”
Here are other developments from around the globe:
President Adama Barrow of Gambia is in self-isolation for two weeks, after the vice president, Isatou Touray, tested positive for Covid-19, Reuters reported.
The Hong Kong government said on Thursday that it would again allow restaurant dining until 6 p.m., only a day after banning dine-in arrangements for breakfast and lunch. The measure had quickly triggered a backlash, with social media filled with images of people eating outside in the rain and summer heat. Hong Kong is seeing its most severe surge in infections, with more than 100 new cases daily for the past week.
As cases spiked in Tokyo, with another daily high on Thursday of 367 new coronavirus infections, Gov. Yuriko Koike requested that karaoke venues and bars and restaurants serving alcohol to close by 10 p.m. between Aug. 3 and the end of the month. Businesses that cooperate will be offered 200,000 yen, or about $1,900. The initiative comes as the country’s Health Ministry announced a record 1,264 new cases.
Quarantines are the latest way to silence dissent in China, according to rights activists. Activists in quarantine are often detained without their families’ knowledge, and are typically “not allowed to communicate with the outside world, held in a secret location and not given the option to self-isolate at home,” said Frances Eve, deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “This treatment is de facto enforced disappearance,” she said.
Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 in Britain will now have to isolate for 10 days instead of seven, as the authorities said they may take new measures to hold off a second wave of infections that has started to appear across Europe. More than 700 new coronavirus cases were detected in Britain on Wednesday, and earlier this week the authorities reimposed a 14-day quarantine period for anyone returning from Spain.
An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson protected monkeys from infection in a new study.
Unlike many other vaccines in development that might require two injections, the Johnson & Johnson candidate shielded monkeys with just one dose, according to a study published on Thursday in the journal Nature.
It is the second vaccine candidate this week to show promising results in monkeys.
After a single injection of the vaccine, scientists waited six weeks and then infected the monkeys with the coronavirus. Six of the seven vaccine variants offered monkeys partial protection, but the seventh proved more powerful: Five out of six monkeys that received it had no detectable virus at all.
It was this best-performing vaccine that Johnson & Johnson used last week to begin its first human safety trial, a so-called Phase 1 trial, in Europe. If it goes well, the company hopes by September to enter Phase 3 trials, which test not only whether the vaccine is safe, but also whether it works.
“This week has been good — now we have two vaccines that work in monkeys,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University who was not involved in the studies. “It’s nice to be upbeat for a change.”
But she cautioned that the new results shouldn’t be used to rush large-scale trials in humans. “We just can’t take shortcuts,” she said.
On a day it reported a record number of coronavirus deaths, the Brazilian government decided to reopen its borders to foreigners, who have been barred since March.
The decree published on Wednesday night said visitors were now allowed to fly to Brazil, as long as they could prove that they were covered by health insurance for the duration of their travels.
Other countries in Latin America, like Argentina and Colombia, that are reporting far fewer cases than Brazil are keeping their borders closed to international flights.
Travelers crossing the border through land and sea are still banned with some exceptions, and international airports in five of Brazil’s 27 states are still forbidden to most incoming foreigners. The government didn’t offer any explanation for its decision.
Brazil has now reported more than 90,000 deaths and 2.5 million cases of Covid-19, second only to the United States.
The president of the council of state health departments, Carlos Eduardo de Oliveira Lula, told the newspaper O Globo he didn’t believe the new decision would have much of an impact in the country’s raging public health crisis.
“With the number of cases we have, the biggest risk is the opposite, to other countries,” he said. “I very much doubt any would want to come here at this moment.”
She was the first Covid-19 patient in the United States to receive a double lung transplant, and now she is back home.
The last thing Mayra Ramirez, 28, remembers is calling her family from the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and telling them she was about to be put on a ventilator. She needed her mother to make medical decisions for her.
Ms. Ramirez did not wake up for more than six weeks, in early June, and only then did she learn about the double transplant.
On Wednesday, she went home from the hospital.
“I’m pretty sure that if I had been at another center, they would have just ended care and let me die,” she said in an interview on Wednesday.
Ms. Ramirez is one of a small but growing number of patients whose lungs have been destroyed by the coronavirus, and whose only hope of survival is a lung transplant.
The surgery is considered a desperate measure, and is reserved for people with fatal, irreversible lung damage. Doctors do not want to remove a person’s lungs if there is any chance they will heal. Over all, only about 2,700 lung transplants were performed in the United States last year.
Patients must be sick enough to need a transplant, and yet also strong enough to recover from the operation. With a new disease, doctors are still learning how to strike that balance.
“It’s such a paradigm change,” said Dr. Ankit Bharat, who operated on Ms. Ramirez. “Lung transplant has not been considered a treatment option for an infectious disease, so people need to get a little bit more of a comfort level with it.”
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Reporting was contributed by Manuela Andreoni, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Ben Casselman, Denise Grady, Julia O’Malley, Elian Peltier, Austin Ramzy, Motoko Rich, Nelson D. Schwartz and Carl Zimmer.
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