Coronavirus Live Updates: The Surge in U.S. Cases Is Driven Largely by States That Reopened Early

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The surge in the United States is being driven largely by states that moved to reopen early.

The surge in coronavirus cases in the United States, which has set new daily-case records five times in the past nine days, is being driven largely by states that were among the first to ease virus restrictions as they moved to reopen their economies.

Florida has seen its average new daily cases increase more than tenfold since it began reopening in early May. Cases in Arizona have jumped by 858 percent since beginning to reopen May 8. Cases in Texas have risen by 680 percent since beginning to reopen May 1.

Epidemiologists had warned that reopening could lead to waves of new infections if it was done before the virus was contained, and before contact tracing was sufficiently ramped up enough to contain future outbreaks.

The trajectory taken by many states that pushed to reopen early offers a cautionary tale.

South Carolina, one of the first states to let retail stores reopen, has seen its average daily case count rise to 1,570, up from 143 from when the state began to reopen in late April, a 999 percent increase. And in Georgia, where the governor’s moves to reopen swiftly in late April were criticized as too aggressive by Mr. Trump — who had generally been pushing states to move faster to reopen — cases have risen by 245 percent.

Now the U.S. is debating when and how to reopen school classrooms — which Mr. Trump is pushing for strongly, even as school districts, teachers and some parents express concerns — and which steps should be taken by states that have become hot spots, from reimposing restrictions to ordering people to wear masks.

Many of the states that bore the brunt of cases in March and April but were slower to reopen have seen significant decreases in reported cases since. Average daily cases in New York are down 52 percent since the state began to reopen in late May, and they are down 83 percent in Massachusetts.

There are exceptions, though. California, once seen as a model for how to contain the virus, has seen an alarming increase in new cases, which are up 275 percent since May 25.

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Where cases are rising fastest

Florida sets a new record for most deaths reported in a single day.

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Florida, which has been grappling with a fast-growing outbreak, set a new record on Thursday for the most deaths reported in a single day: 120.

That brought the state’s death count to above 4,000, the ninth highest tally in the nation. And it raised concerns that the state, which has so far seen far fewer deaths than the states that saw the first spikes this spring, could be entering a deadlier phase.

Cases in the state have doubled since late June. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference Thursday that as testing has expanded, some labs have grown slow to return test results as they see a growing backlog of cases, leaving people unsure of whether to isolate while their test is being processed, particularly if they are not showing symptoms.

He said that the state was working to speed up the processing of tests for people with symptoms.

Even as the state continues to set records for new cases, and deaths, Mr. DeSantis continued to press for schools to reopen, which Mr. Trump has made a priority.

“If fast food and Walmart and Home Depot — and I do all that so I’m not, like, looking down on it — but if all that is essential, then educating our kids is absolutely essential,” he said. “And they have been put to the back of the line in some respects.”

The virus continues to upend life in Florida. At one Miami television station, WPLG Local 10, at least nine employees, including a news anchor, have come down with Covid-19 or tested positive, and another 150 people linked to the station were awaiting test results.

In a report broadcast on Wednesday, the anchor, Nicole Perez, and her husband, Roy Ramos, a reporter for the station, were interviewed about the symptoms they were experiencing. Calvin Hughes, Ms. Perez’s co-anchor, told viewers: “This is not a political message here, this is a personal one. Please, please, wear your mask.”

Under pressure from scientists globally, the W.H.O. acknowledges that the virus can linger in the air indoors.

Credit…Alfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Thursday formally acknowledged that droplets carrying the coronavirus may be airborne indoors and that people who spend long periods in crowded settings with inadequate ventilation may be at risk of becoming infected, a reversal that many scientists said was long overdue.

The agency also acknowledged unequivocally that the virus can be transmitted by people who do not have symptoms.

Apoorva Mandavilli reports on the admission, which came after a push by more than 200 experts prompted the agency to update its description of how the virus is spread. The agency now says transmission of the virus by aerosols, or tiny droplets, may have been responsible for “outbreaks of Covid-19 reported in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing.”

The W.H.O. still largely emphasizes the spread of the virus by larger droplets that are coughed or inhaled, or from contact with a contaminated surface, also known as “fomite transmission.” And in a longer document on the scientific evidence, the agency still maintains that “detailed investigations of these clusters suggest that droplet and fomite transmission could also explain human-to-human transmission within these clusters.”

In addition to avoiding close contact with infected people and washing hands, people should “avoid crowded places, close-contact settings, and confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation,” the W.H.O. has said. It said homes and offices should ensure good ventilation.

“It is refreshing to see that W.H.O. is now acknowledging that airborne transmission may occur, although it is clear that the evidence must clear a higher bar for this route compared to others,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech.

Still, the updated guidance is not as extensive as many experts hoped to see.

The W.H.O. had previously maintained that airborne spread is a concern only when health care workers are engaged in certain medical procedures that produce aerosols. But mounting evidence has suggested that in crowded indoor spaces, the virus can stay aloft in the air for hours and infect others when inhaled, and may even seed super-spreader events.

It has been widely accepted for months that seemingly healthy people can spread the virusas evidence for asymptomatic transmission building. But from the beginning of the pandemic, the W.H.O. has maintained that asymptomatic cases were infrequent, and that asymptomatic transmission, while it may occur, was “very rare.”

On Thursday, however, the agency said: “Infected people can transmit the virus both when they have symptoms and when they don’t have symptoms.”

The statement provides an explicit rationale for everyone to wear masks — the W.H.O. endorsed them only in early June, long after most national governments did — and for more widespread testing even of people without apparent symptoms.

U.S. schools struggle to meet the costs of reopening.

Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

As the White House, the nation’s pediatricians and many worn-out, economically strapped parents push for school doors to swing open this fall, local education officials say they are being crushed by the costs of getting students and teachers back into classrooms safely.

Mr. Trump threatened this week to cut off federal funding to districts that do not reopen, though he controls only a sliver of the money for schools.

Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, said Thursday on Fox News that the Trump administration is not suggesting pulling funding from education. Instead, she said, “let the families take that money and figure out where their kids can get educated if their schools are going to refuse to open.”

Administrators say they are already struggling to cover the logistical and financial challenges of retrofitting buildings, adding staff and protective gear, and providing students with the proper academic and emotional support after a traumatic disruption to their lives.

The federal relief package passed in March dedicated $13.5 billion to K-12 education — less than 1 percent of the total stimulus. But education groups estimate that schools will need many times that, and with local and state budgets already depleted by the pandemic, it’s unclear where the funds can be found.

Exactly how much money the nation’s schools need to reopen is also a matter of debate, complicated by the conflicting, sometimes shifting guidelines that administrators have received from government agencies and medical authorities.

Regardless of which guidelines are followed, reopening schools will require changes. An average-sized district of 3,700 students can expect $1.8 million in pandemic-related costs for 2020-2021, representing 3 to 4 percent of a typical annual budget, according to an estimate from AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

When a vaccine arrives, who should get it first? U.S. officials have plans, and some tough choices.

Credit…Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Federal health officials in the United States are trying to decide who will get the first doses of any effective coronavirus vaccines, which could be on the market this winter but may require many additional months to become widely available to Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an advisory committee of outside health experts have been working on a ranking system for what may be an extended rollout. According to a preliminary plan, any approved vaccines would be offered to vital medical and national security officials first, then to other essential workers and those considered at high risk — the elderly instead of children, people with underlying conditions instead of the relatively healthy.

Agency officials and the advisers are also considering what has become a contentious option: putting Black and Latino people, part of the population that has disproportionately fallen victim to Covid-19, ahead of others in the population.

Some medical experts are not convinced there is a scientific basis for such an option. They foresee court challenges or worry that prioritizing minority groups would erode public trust in vaccines at a time when immunization is seen as crucial to ending the pandemic.

“Giving it to one race initially and not another race, I’m not sure how that would be perceived by the public, how that would affect how vaccines are viewed as a trusted public health measure,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, a group represented on the committee.

Tedros says lack of leadership is the ‘greatest threat’ as the U.S. begins withdrawing from the W.H.O.

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transcript

Head of W.H.O Calls Lack of Leadership the ‘Greatest Threat’

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director-general, urged global leaders to unify in the fight against coronavirus.

My friends make no mistake, the greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself, that rather it’s the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels. That’s why I said earlier, each and every individual should reflect. This is a tragedy that actually is forcing us to miss many of our friends, losing many lives. How is it difficult for humans to unite to fight a common enemy that’s killing people indiscriminately? Are we unable to distinguish or identify the common enemy? Can’t we understand that the divisions or the cracks between us actually are the advantage for the virus?

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director-general, urged global leaders to unify in the fight against coronavirus.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Fabrice Coffrini

The same week the United States began the process of withdrawing from the W.H.O., the group’s leader made an emotional appeal on Thursday for international solidarity to fight the raging pandemic.

“The greatest threat we face is not the virus itself,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director-general, his voice cracking, during a briefing at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “Rather, it is the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels.”

While not mentioning the United States directly, Dr. Tedros noted some countries have struggled to contain the virus as infections have soared over the last several weeks. Others have been able to suppress the number of infections and deaths with a diligent and united effort.

Dr. Tedros, who has often lamented the lack of international cohesion, said the virus “thrives on division.” “How is it difficult for humans to unite to fight a common enemy that’s killing people indiscriminately?” he said, and appeared to wipe a tear from his cheek.

The United States is the W.H.O.’s largest donor. According to the organization’s bylaws, the withdrawal cannot take place for one year. Mr. Trump has been critical of the W.H.O.’s handling of the pandemic and accused it of favoring China in its response. Mr. Trump said in May he planned to withdraw, raising alarm around the world. Dr. Tedros announced on Thursday the appointment of a blue-ribbon panel, led by former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand to evaluate the response to the pandemic.

He said the world required an honest reflection to learn the big lessons, but asked, “Can we honestly do it?”

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

A hospital once at the center of the Italian outbreak marks a milestone: a day without a Covid-19 patient in the I.C.U.

Credit…Fabio Bucciarelli for The New York Times

The intensive care unit at the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, one of the Italian provinces most affected by the virus, hit a milestone this week: It had no Covid-19 cases, for the first time in 137 days.

The hospital marked the occasion on Wednesday by commemorating the dead with a moment of silence, followed by a round of applause for those who had been cured.

“Then I told them, ‘Well done, now back to work,’” said Ferdinando Luca Lorini, the director of emergency services at the hospital.

The milestone was important to observe, he said, “not so much for the outside world, but instead for all the people who worked around the clock for 137 days, giving their all, to celebrate that we’d won the battle.”

It was a slow road to a Covid-free status. Patients began arriving in February and didn’t stop. On March 16, a date etched in Dr. Lorini’s memory, more than 100 patients crowded the intensive care unit, with another 144 on ventilators in other wards.

“It’s now back to the way things were,” he said.

Workers have shed the protective gear they wore for months: double gloves, masks, double white coats. They took showers before and after each shift. “Now we move around freely, dressed like doctors and nurses,” he said.

Of the 88 patients currently in the intensive care unit, a small number are former virus patients, who are still grappling with the aftermath of the virus. The hospital will soon begin to follow up with patients who have been released, to see how they are faring, Dr. Lorini said.

In other news from around the world:

  • India recorded nearly 25,000 new infections on Thursday, its highest single-day total, as new research showed that the country’s virus reproduction rate had increased since lockdowns were eased. India’s caseload is the world’s third-largest after the United States and Brazil, and it is averaging about 450 Covid-19 deaths a day, according to a Times database.

  • Australia stepped up its efforts to isolate the outbreak spreading through Melbourne on Thursday, as the state of Queensland shut its doors to people trying to flee the city’s six-week lockdown. Most of Australia is now off limits to people from the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital. The state authorities reported 165 new cases on Thursday, including six infections tied to a school where a cluster has now spread to 113 people.

  • Hong Kong announced new social-distancing measures on Thursday as it recorded 42 new cases, another daily high this week. Starting on Friday for two weeks, restaurants and nightclubs may not be more than 60 percent full, while the number of people permitted at each table has been restricted to eight at eateries and four at bars.

Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Missed Warning About Silent Coronavirus Infections

Why an early scientific report of symptom-free cases went unheeded.

‘Maybe I shouldn’t have come:’ New visa rules upend the lives of international students in the U.S.

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

The futures of thousands of international students in the United States have been thrown into question by the Trump administration’s directive that those whose classes move entirely online for the fall will have to leave the country.

The directive would affect around one million students, according to data from the 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. China sends the highest number of students — with about 370,000 enrolled in American universities in 2018-2019 — followed by India with just over 200,000 students enrolled that year.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued the Trump administration in federal court to block the directive, arguing that the policy is political and will upend higher education in the United States, and other universities have tried to ease students’ fears. The American Medical Association on Thursday called on the administration to reconsider the rule change, saying it could jeopardize the status of medical students who are badly needed in the work force.

As the reality has sunk in, outrage has grown from those around the world who are now met with the possibility that they may not be able to return to, or stay in, the United States for their education. Many are rethinking whether the choice to enroll in an American institution, despite the expertise and prestige, was worth it.

Macarena Ramos Gonzalez, a native of Spain who is nearing the end of a Ph.D. program in applied physiology at the University of Delaware, was blunt: “If they really don’t want me here — and the administration has made that very clear in a number of ways — maybe I shouldn’t have come.”

In a sprawl of Southern California warehouses, the pandemic brings more work and risk.

Credit…Bethany Mollenkof for The New York Times

In the last decade, dozens of enormous warehouses and distribution centers for companies like Amazon and Walmart have gone up across what was a patchwork of ranches and inexpensive tract housing in the area of Southern California known as the Inland Empire.

The region has grown rapidly as people have fled steep housing costs closer to the coast. From 2010 to 2019, the Riverside-San Bernardino metro area added more residents than any other metro area in California over that time.

Infections across the state have hit alarming new highs in recent days, and the spike comes as Americans continue to rely heavily on e-commerce giants to deliver their necessities during the pandemic, and the need for people to sort, package, ship and deliver goods has grown.

And with that demand comes a hazardous downside.

Warehouse workers are more likely to toil in conditions that put them at greater risk of infection. A recent report from the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that, nationwide, Latino and Black workers were far overrepresented in warehouse jobs.

Consistent demographic data about Covid-19 cases has been difficult to compile, but in Riverside County, the rate of confirmed cases among Hispanic or Latino residents is two and a half the rate of cases among white people, according to the public health department. Statewide, Black people accounted for 9.1 percent of Covid-19 deaths, but roughly 6 percent of the population.

Meet a researcher who raced to develop a treatment as her mother worked in a Covid-19 ward.

Credit…Melissa Bunni Elian for The New York Times

In January, as a frightening new virus filled hospital wards in Wuhan, China, Stephanie Giordano, a 25-year-old researcher at the drugmaker Regeneron, in a suburb of New York City, began working on a treatment.

By March, the virus had hit home. Fearing she would get infected on her commute, she moved from her apartment in East Harlem to an Airbnb near the company’s headquarters in Westchester.

Then her mother, a nurse’s assistant, was reassigned to a Covid-19 ward, where she tended to older people struggling to breathe. No drug could help them — or her, if she were to fall ill.

“I had somebody on the line that I really cared about,” Ms. Giordano recalled. “And I wanted to see her make it through this.”

Ms. Giordano, the youngest member of the company’s five-person rapid response team for infectious diseases, helped develop what many consider one of the most promising new treatments for Covid-19.

She worked 90 hours a week screening thousands of antibodies — the weapons of the immune system that seek out and destroy viruses — in search of the most powerful. The result was a cocktail of two antibodies that might not only treat the virus, but could prevent it by giving the body the same natural defenses that people infected with it produce on their own.

The Trump administration gave a major boost to Regeneron’s treatment this week, awarding the company $450 million to manufacture and supply doses. That’s in addition to $160 million in federal money the company had already received to run clinical trials and ramp up manufacturing. After the treatment passed an initial safety study, Regeneron’s broader trials to evaluate the product’s efficacy got underway.

Regeneron is one of several companies pursuing antibody treatments. The drug giant Eli Lilly has also begun clinical trials, and others working on antibody treatments include partnerships of Amgen and Adaptive Biotechnologies and also Vir Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline. But drug development is notoriously unpredictable, and it’s unclear which of these projects — if any — will succeed.

BUSINESS ROUNDUP

1.3 million file for unemployment benefits in the U.S. as the virus continues to take a toll on workers.

Credit…Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Just over 1.3 million laid-off workers in the United States filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the government reported on Thursday.

Another one million new claims were filed last week under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is designed to funnel jobless benefits to freelancers, the self-employed and other workers normally ineligible for state unemployment insurance.

Hiring nationwide has picked up in recent weeks, and the overall jobless rate dipped in June to 11.1 percent from a peak of 14.7 percent in April. But most of the payroll gains were because temporarily laid-off workers were rehired. The number of people whose jobs have disappeared and who must search for new ones has increased.

In other business news:

  • Starbucks said it would require face masks inside all U.S. locations beginning July 15. It said that in some locations not under government mandates, customers without masks would be able to place orders at drive-throughs or with curbside pickup.

  • Sur La Table, the upscale cookware company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday. In court filings, the company said it expected to sell more than half of its locations to Fortress Investment Group, and would also shutter 51 of its 121 U.S. stores.

  • Bed Bath & Beyond said on Wednesday that it would permanently close 200 stores over the next two years, starting later this year. The retailer said sales plunged by almost 50 percent in the last quarter despite a surge in online sales.

U.S. roundup

‘Not what we need right now’: New Hampshire Republicans are concerned about Trump’s Saturday rally.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

As the top health official in Tulsa, Okla., suggested that a surge in cases could be tied to the contentious indoor campaign rally held there last month, the top Republican in New Hampshire — where Mr. Trump is scheduled to hold a rally on Saturday — has already said he would skip the large gathering as a health precaution.

“I’m not going to put myself in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people,” Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, a Republican, said recently on CNN. He is up for re-election in November.

New Hampshire, a state narrowly won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, is one of just two states seeing declines in cases, and officials there want it to stay that way.

Mr. Trump’s campaign said it does not have a sense of the expected turnout for the event, which will be mostly outside at a Portsmouth airport hangar. Campaign officials are “strongly” encouraging attendees to wear face masks, with the hope that will ease concerns about catching the virus at the event, but are bracing themselves for a smaller turnout.

“It’s not what we need right now in terms of Covid,” said Tom Rath, a Republican former New Hampshire attorney general.

Last month, health officials in Tulsa raised concerns about an indoor Trump campaign rally becoming a “super spreader” event and advised people over 60 years old — who are at more risk of virus-related complications — not to attend. Tulsa is currently seeing record-high numbers of new cases.

“The past two days we’ve had almost 500 cases, and we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right,” Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, said at a news conference. “So I guess we just connect the dots.” Recent protests in the city were among the events.
In other news from around the United States:

  • The governor of Texas ordered hospitals in dozens of counties to suspend elective surgeries in order to free up hospital beds for Covid-19 patients. The state has had the fourth-highest caseload in the country, after New York, California and Florida. The governor had already issued such orders in several areas, including hard-hit Houston.

  • The Trump administration proposed barring migrants from obtaining asylum in the United States if they traveled through or came from a country struggling with the virus or other disease outbreaks. If enacted, the rule would lay a framework for the administration to continue to use a public health crisis to justify the sealing of the United States to nearly every person seeking protection at the southwestern border.

  • More than 2,200 cases were announced Thursday in Alabama, a single-day record, and officials in Montana reported 95 new cases, also a single-day record.

  • Mayor London Breed of San Francisco said Thursday she had tested negative after she attended an event with another person who had the virus. She said she would take another test next week, since it can take some time between exposure and a positive result. She urged people to follow public health guidance. “Obviously going to events when you know you’re COVID-positive is reckless,” Ms. Breed wrote on Twitter.

  • Antibody results from walk-in medical offices in New York City appear to present the starkest picture yet of how infection rates have diverged across the city. In Corona, a working-class Latino neighborhood in Queens that was among those hit hardest, 68 percent of people tested at a CityMD clinic had antibodies. But in a wealthier, whiter neighborhood a short distance away, only 13 percent of people tested positive.

Here’s how to start a new job from home.

Without face-to-face contact and the ability to get acquainted with your colleagues in person, how can you settle into your new, remote workplace? Here are some tips to help.

Reporting was contributed by Maria Abi Habib, Maggie Astor, Peter Baker, Julia Calderone, Damien Cave, Patricia Cohen, Michael Cooper, Jill Cowan, Abdi Latif Dahir, Dana Goldstein, Joseph Goldstein, Erica L. Green, Maggie Haberman, Anemona Hartocollis, Mike Ives, Andrew Jacobs, Miriam Jordan, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Patrick Kingsley, Michael Levenson, Cao Li, Iliana Magra, Apoorva Mandavilli, Raphael Minder, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Elisabetta Povoledo, Karan Deep Singh, Mitch Smith, Megan Specia, Eileen Sullivan, Lucy Tompkins, Megan Twohey, Kim Velsey, David Waldstein, Noah Weiland, Billy Witz, Will Wright, Sameer Yasir, Elaine Yu and Karen Zraick.

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