Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Hits Another Record for New Cases, Passing 59,460

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Zack Wittman for The New York Times

More than 59,460 new cases were announced across the United States on Thursday, setting a new single-day record with some numbers yet to be reported, according to a New York Times database.

It was the sixth time in 10 days that the record had been broken. The surge has been driven largely by states in the South and the West that were among the first to ease restrictions established during the virus’s initial wave in the spring.

The previous record — 59,453 — was set on Wednesday.

At least five states set single-day case records on Thursday: Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana and Oregon. And at least two states recorded their highest death totals for a single day: Florida, with 120, and Tennessee, with 22.

As cases continued to rise, hospitals across the South and West have been flooded, forcing them to cancel elective surgeries and discharge some Covid-19 patients early to make beds available.

In Florida, more than 40 intensive-care units in 21 counties have hit capacity. In Mississippi, five of the state’s largest hospitals have already run out of I.C.U. beds for critical patients.

The number of daily cases has escalated drastically in recent weeks after ebbing through much of the late spring.

When the Northeast was the center of the U.S. outbreak and testing was more scarce, the country reached a single-day peak of 36,739 new cases on April 24. That record stood until June 24, when the daily total was 36,880.

Thursday was the sixth day with more than 50,000 cases recorded nationwide. All have been in July.

Key data of the day

The surge in coronavirus cases in the United States, which as of Wednesday had set new daily-case records five times in 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, which has been grappling with a fast-growing outbreak, set a 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; on Thursday, the state reported more than 8,930 new cases. 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.”

At least one other state — Tennessee — also recorded its highest single-day death toll on Thursday, with 22.

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Hospitals across the South and West are being flooded with virus patients, forcing them to cancel elective surgeries and discharge patients early as they try to keep beds available.

Even as regular wards are being converted into intensive care units and long-term care facilities are opened for patients too sick to go home, doctors say they are barely managing.

“When hospitals and health care assistants talk about surge capacity, they’re often talking about a single event,” said John Sinnott, chairman of internal medicine at the University of South Florida and chief epidemiologist at Tampa General Hospital. “But what we’re having now is the equivalent of a bus accident a day, every day, and it just keeps adding.”

In South Carolina, National Guard troops are being called in soon to help insert intravenous lines and check blood pressure. At the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, patients can wait as long as four hours before being seen in emergency rooms.

In Florida, more than 40 intensive care units in 21 counties have hit capacity and have no beds available. In Mississippi, five of the state’s largest hospitals have already run out of I.C.U. beds for critical patients.

Dr. Diego Maselli Caceres at University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, said he had watched a sevenfold increase in Covid-19 patients needing intensive care over the past month, filling up three floors of the hospital instead of one.

“You get bombarded with multiple calls at the same time,” he said, referring to the “code blue” warnings from overhead speakers that send doctors and nurses rushing to save a patient in distress.

“You hear the calls and you’re running from one end to the other, just like putting out fires, and you’re trying to help as much as you can. It gets overwhelming.”

More than 1,000 employees of the Transportation Security Administration have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data released by the federal agency on Thursday.

Most of the employees — more than 900 — were airport screeners who have been on the front lines of interacting with travelers during the pandemic. More than 640 of the employees have recovered while six have died, according to the agency.

The union representing T.S.A. employees has previously raised alarms about the safety of officers who encountered travelers, including many who rushed back to the United States from overseas to beat President Trump’s travel restrictions. Hydrick Thomas, the president of the union, said the agency had not provided enough protective gear for its employees earlier in the year.

“It should have been way less than that if T.S.A. was doing what it’s supposed to be doing,” Mr. Thomas said.

While calling the data release “an unfortunate milestone,” R. Carter Langston, a spokesman for TSA, said the confirmed cases represented just 1.6 percent of the agency’s total work force.

“TSA remains committed to the health and safety of our front-line workers and airline travelers and has demonstrated this with significant safety updates to the checkpoint experience during this pandemic,” Mr. Langston said.

Credit…Callaghan O’Hare for The New York Times

The governor of Texas ordered an increase in hospital bed capacity in nearly 100 counties on Thursday, extending a ban on elective procedures to new corners of the state.

The move came a day after Texas crossed a grim milestone: On Wednesday, it recorded 119 deaths from the virus, the most in a single day in the state. As of Thursday, Texas had recorded more than 235,000 cases and more than 2,990 deaths.

The governor’s order directed hospitals to “postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary.” The governor, Greg Abbott, had already issued a similar order in hard-hit counties that include the cities of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin.

Across the state, roughly 85 percent of the 7,300 intensive care beds were occupied as of Wednesday, according to the latest state figures.

Many of the beds have been taken up with patients with conditions other than Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as hospitals performed elective procedures that, in some cases, had been put off during the spring lockdown.

The hospital order came as Texas Republicans went to court Thursday and challenged a decision by Houston’s mayor to block a party convention planned for next week.

In pulling out of a contract to host the event at a convention center, the mayor, Sylvester Turner, said the gathering, expected to draw perhaps 6,000 people, posed a danger in a city experiencing one of the worst outbreaks in the country.

In its lawsuit, filed in a Harris County court, the Texas Republican Party accused Mr. Turner, who is a Democrat, of breach of contract and “ideological viewpoint discrimination.”

Credit…Noah Berger/Associated Press

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, standing before a firefighting Black Hawk helicopter, said on Thursday that rising temperatures and browning grass were reminders that the pandemic is not the only threat Californians face.

The fire season has arrived.

“We are now walking right into the thick of wildfire season,” he said. “Let us take heed.”

For Californians, the pandemic compounds an already precarious summer. In Los Angeles, the mayor is warning that he could reimpose stay-at-home orders if a spike in the city does not abate. That would not work well if the home you are staying in is threatened by fire.

And in the summer, the wrong winds could blow any small grass fire out of control. Last year, the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., cut power to millions of Californians hoping to prevent its equipment — which has been blamed for some of the state’s most disastrous blazes — from sparking another conflagration.

This year, the virus has eroded California’s ability to keep its citizens safe. Sprawling, hot warehouses have become incubators of the virus. The state’s budget has been hit hard in the pandemic-driven economic crisis, so funding for 500 new firefighters shriveled to 172 instead. Covid-19 outbreaks at state prisons have depleted inmate firefighting crews from 192 to 94, Mr. Newsom said. And the normal ways of sheltering people forced to flee their homes had to be updated to accommodate social distancing requirements and eliminate buffet meals.

The state’s director of emergency services, Mark Ghilarducci, said during the briefing that families fleeing fires may be moved into hotels. Individual meals will be packed. Where residents must be in shelters, they’ll be required to wear masks and have their temperature taken.


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.

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.

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.



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

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Asthaa Chaturvedi and Alexandra Leigh Young, with help from Rachelle Bonja; and edited by Lisa Tobin

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

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”


Today: Long before the world understood that seemingly healthy people could spread the coronavirus, a doctor in Germany tried to sound the alarm. Matt Apuzzo on why that warning was so unwelcome.

It’s Thursday, July 9.

michael barbaro

Good. OK, so we’re going to get started.

camilla rothe

Very good, OK.

michael barbaro

So you’re recording, right?

camilla rothe


michael barbaro

You are recording, and I’m recording. So I think we can —

michael barbaro

Matt, tell me about this doctor in Germany, Dr. Camilla Rothe.

matt apuzzo

Yeah, she is a tropical medicine specialist, basically an infectious disease specialist. She’s at the Munich University Hospital. She’s at the infectious disease clinic there. And she’s part of this network of doctors around the world that serve as kind of like an early detection system.

camilla rothe

We mainly work with returned travelers, as well as with migrants from tropical destinations and who may import even novel pathogens.

matt apuzzo

They kind of report back to major health organizations, like, hey, I’m seeing a weird virus over here, or Ebola case pops up over here, or here’s a weird thing.

camilla rothe

In Germany, we are responsible for anything exotic.

michael barbaro

And so what prompted you to begin talking to her?

matt apuzzo

So January 27, this patient in Munich — 33-year-old employee from an auto parts company — walks into her clinic. And right away it’s pretty clear something weird is going on.

camilla rothe

He informed us that when he came to work in the morning, he’d been told by his boss that a business partner who’d visited the company the week before, coming from China, had just phoned. And she’d said that on the weekend back home in China, she’d been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus infection. And he’d actually been ill over the weekend himself. And he’d asked us whether he could be checked for this new virus at our institution.

michael barbaro

And this was January 27, so had the coronavirus been detected in Germany?

camilla rothe

No, not yet.

michael barbaro

So what were you thinking when this man came into your office?

camilla rothe

Well, it was January. It was a time of year when there are lots of respiratory infections circulating. In fact, it’s the peak of the influenza season. And he’d been very unspectacularly ill over the weekend, so it could have been anything. In contrast, the pictures that we received from China by then were pictures of a very serious disease — people being on ventilators, et cetera. So I thought, well, I mean, interesting story, but this could be anything. And we took a swab from his nasal pharynx and sent it to the lab. And a few hours later, I was phoned by the lab and informed that, in fact, the test tested positive for the novel virus.

michael barbaro

Huh. So at this point, you have just been told that you have the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Germany. And based on what you knew about the contact that had brought him to you in the first place, what were you thinking about that?

camilla rothe

That was quite a puzzle, because I’d obviously grilled him on the fact whether the Chinese business colleague appeared in any way ill. Had she coughed, or did she have a runny nose, or did she look ill in any way? And actually, he said she had held quite intense business workshops and meetings without showing any obvious signs of illness. And then on day two, which was the Tuesday, more employees of the company came to our clinic. And another three, all of them with very minor mild symptoms, were tested positive. That was the point when I thought, we need to spread the news to get this out to the world. And we contacted The New England Journal of Medicine, and they were interested. And it was very rapidly accepted and put online for people to read it.

michael barbaro

Matt, this paper that Dr. Rothe publishes, what does it find?

matt apuzzo

On the surface, it’s a really simple straightforward paper. It just says, we had this weird case with this guy who tested positive for the coronavirus, and the person he caught it from didn’t appear to have any symptoms. And that’s kind of weird because that’s not what we think is supposed to happen with this disease. So we thought it was important to just put it out there, and this could have serious ramifications. Just telling the world. In a nutshell, that’s all it really says.

michael barbaro

Well, help me understand that. For people who don’t work in the world of infectious diseases, what is the significance of this man’s diagnosis?

matt apuzzo

It’s funny. You look back now at the end of January, and it’s sort of like you’re looking at another time, another world. We’re still trying to find out what this disease is. And so the assumption kind of was, well, this is probably going to behave like SARS, because their genetic cousins. So good chance it’s going to spread like that. And the thing about SARS is, you don’t spread it until you are sick. Until you have symptoms, you are not really contagious.

camilla rothe

So if a disease behaves like that, it is much more easy to control. It’s easy to define what a case is, who is a suspect case, someone who has symptoms. And if you ask these people to stay at home, you have already a good means to contain the virus. Now, if you have a virus that behaves differently, like what we had observed, which spreads before it even causes symptoms, this is much more difficult to control because people would never go for a test. They are not aware they are infected. They are mixing with people in the same way that they normally do — with colleagues, with friends, with loved ones. So it’s far more difficult to contain an infection like that.

michael barbaro

So this just flew in the face of the common understanding of the virus at that point.

camilla rothe

Absolutely. And then something strange happened that I personally don’t fully understand until today.

matt apuzzo

What Dr. Rothe didn’t know was that around 20 minutes away, in this sort of suburb of Munich, in the regional health office, they were starting up a command center basically to do all the tracking and the tracing and all of the stuff that needed to be done. And the doctors there were working on their own paper that they were going to get published in a different journal. And so now you’ve got two separate groups of scientists writing on the same case for different journals.

michael barbaro

And what did this group 20 minutes away, what did they find in their paper?

matt apuzzo

It’s really, really similar. So whereas Dr. Rothe says, this woman is not symptomatic — and she says that because this woman is leading two days of business meetings and she’s not sneezing, she’s not coughing. She’s not showing any signs of being fatigued or feverish or in any way sick. The government doctors, after extensive interviews, they come back and say, yeah, but we don’t think the Chinese patient had no symptoms. We think she was probably experiencing some symptoms that were so mild that even she didn’t recognize them. And so this dispute became, does she have no symptoms, or does she have such mild symptoms that even she doesn’t recognize that she’s sick?

michael barbaro

OK, so Dr. Rothe has published a paper saying that the patient had no symptoms. This government agency has now published a paper saying that she had early, essentially undetectable symptoms. So what’s the significance of that distinction?

matt apuzzo

So this has been the story of my life for the past however many months. The amount of time I’ve spent in conversations about the word “asymptomatic” or “pre-symptomatic” or “oligosymptomatic” or any of these words, right? What does it mean? If you are somebody who studies diseases, and you are somebody who really wants to understand the characteristics of this new virus, well, then obviously you want to know what exactly needs to happen before you can become contagious. Can you be just a passive carrier? Can you just walk around spreading this thing and you’ll never get sick? Is that a real thing that happens? Or does it only spread after you get symptoms? Or does it only spread when you have mild symptoms? That is a real distinction in the scientific world.

michael barbaro


matt apuzzo

However, from a practical standpoint of what you’re going to tell the public and how you’re going to control this disease, if you wake up in the morning and you’re like, aw man, my neck is kind of stiff, I probably just slept wrong. And then you go into work and you infect people, what does it matter whether you are pre-symptomatic, whether that neck ache was actually an early sign that you were getting sick and you just didn’t recognize it? If your strategy is, if you are sick, stay home, that all falls apart if you can spread this disease before you even know you’re sick.

michael barbaro

In other words, any version of not feeling sick is a huge danger when it comes to this virus.

matt apuzzo

Absolutely. Because it means, I don’t recognize that I’m a danger to you. And you don’t recognize that you’re a danger to me. And I don’t recognize that you’re a danger to me. And we all walk around and we don’t know that we can make each other sick.

camilla rothe

Whether this person is ever going to be symptomatic or not doesn’t really matter. What the key message is, you can infect other people without knowing that you’re infected. I think the somehow sad thing is that this semantic debate — which is OK between scientists and so on, but it’s slightly splitting hairs — this debate somehow obscured the message we wanted to send out. And was somehow misleading, because it’s led us away from the core message to say, guys, keep your eyes open. This virus may spread without people knowing.

matt apuzzo

So this all would have been a kind of academic discussion between two groups of doctors in Germany. But at the beginning of February, a couple of days after Dr. Rothe’s paper came out, this thing completely escalated.


And what happened was, Science Magazine, a very respected journal, wrote a story in which the German national health official said, Dr. Rothe’s paper is flawed. She never interviewed the woman. We don’t think she was asymptomatic. We do think she had symptoms. And now suddenly, this issue that might have otherwise been a very academic debate is now front and center in the national discussion over what exactly are the characteristics of this new virus.

camilla rothe

We were accused of, how can you claim someone is asymptomatic when you haven’t talked to him? So if you like, this is formally a correct accusation, so the correct title could have been pre-symptomatic because the patient then developed symptoms at some point. But that was a slightly misguiding debate we were somehow sucked into then.

michael barbaro

And Matt, as best you can tell, is there validity to this critique from the government scientists of Dr. Rothe’s paper and her findings?

matt apuzzo

Yeah, I mean, I think there’s definitely a fair critique that she should have interviewed the Chinese patient before asserting that she had no symptoms.

camilla rothe

Which, by the way, wouldn’t have been our role because we are physicians. It’s none of our business if anyone should have spoken to her, then the public health authorities of Bavaria. And they did. And they kind of summarized their phone call to say, she didn’t have any symptoms while she was in Munich. All she had was what she already knew as a feeling of jet lag and, well, the way you feel after a long distance flight. And she herself had not noticed anything abnormal to the situation until the Thursday when she’d returned to Shanghai and she fell ill, when she had chills and fever and cough and all that.

matt apuzzo

So as if this debate couldn’t get any bigger, it’s now going to go totally global because the world’s leading health organization, the W.H.O., is about to weigh in.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

matt apuzzo

So the morning of February 4, Dr. Sylvie Briand from the World Health Organization tweets the science article, and she says, “It is important to differentiate asymptomatic from pre-symptomatic transition. 2019-nCoV study claiming new coronavirus can be transmitted by people without symptoms was flawed.” And so now everybody who’s on the frontlines of this discussion is now basically saying Dr. Rothe got it wrong.

camilla rothe

And that, of course, was disappointing in a way to see that even the highest-ranking somehow health authority didn’t get a very simple clinical message, but also got lost in semantics.

michael barbaro

Matt, why did the W.H.O. take the step of publicly disputing and criticizing Dr. Rothe’s finding?

matt apuzzo

I think there’s a couple ways to look at it. And one is that if you are the World Health Organization, and you jump in with two feet into this idea that this disease can spread without symptoms, it is a seismic change in the way we think about Covid-19, and has massive ramifications for public health policy in every country in the world. So of course, they need to be cautious. They can’t just go, oh my god, here’s an observation by one doctor with one patient, and we’re going to change the world’s policies based on that. That’s unrealistic. But what’s really confusing about all this is it didn’t take very long until it wasn’t just Dr. Rothe in Munich. Because the Bavarian health authorities get genetic information back, and they find genetic proof that it did spread before symptom onset in two other patients. And so now it’s not just Dr. Rothe saying, hey, I saw something weird. Now we have mounting evidence from this cluster saying, it’s pretty darn clear this is happening. And so now you really do wonder, why was the response from the World Health Organization, we don’t think this is a big deal? And not, boy, the evidence is growing, we’re not there yet, but we’re taking this really seriously. And we should maybe be start thinking about how we would adapt our policies if this really catches on.

camilla rothe

I would have expected a very neutral and curious way and an open way, and to at least take into consideration that this virus might behave different than the other SARS virus that we knew. And that somehow didn’t happen. I don’t understand why it wasn’t. I still don’t understand. Maybe one day someone will be able to explain to me. I don’t know.

matt apuzzo

I talked to a lot of doctors about this. And there are many who say that you have to look at this from kind of a stark public policy standpoint. This is early to mid February. If you tell the world that this thing can spread before people are symptomatic, before they even know they’re sick, then the next question is, OK, so what do we do about it? We don’t have enough testing. We don’t have a contact tracing capability to handle this, and we don’t have P.P.E. for everybody. What do we do? We’ve talked to public health officials in other countries who said, yeah, looking back, we probably could have said, this is looking more and more like a possibility. But that’s a scary place to be if you don’t have an answer for what you’re supposed to do next, and that’s kind of where we found ourselves.

michael barbaro

I mean, I just want to wrap my head around this. Because what you seem to be saying is that there’s a possibility that embracing this finding is just too frightening for the people of the W.H.O., because of what it would mean for policymakers in every country of the world. But isn’t that the job of the World Health Organization to sometimes scare the crap out of people, even if there’s no logical solution to the scare, because they need to know?

matt apuzzo

So the W.H.O. says they definitely did not do that. That is not what happened. But this issue of should the World Health Organization or other public health officials be scaring the crap out of people, I mean, I get that. But I think most people would tell you no. Because there’s a huge danger in telling people, this is the big one, this is it. Because the vast majority of alerts aren’t the big one. You need people to take their advice seriously and rationally and not feel like, oh, here comes another alert. And so it’s like they got to constantly straddle this line between, I need you to hear me and take this seriously, but I can’t also get crazy and say, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, this is the one, tbjs is the one. Because if it’s not the one — and most aren’t — then the next time, you’re just not going to listen.

michael barbaro

Matt, what is the implication on the ground of organizations like the W.H.O. resisting this idea that there is symptomless spread? What does that actually mean throughout the world?

matt apuzzo

Well, I mean, so I’m in Belgium. And here’s a practical example. Belgium locked down nursing homes and said, you can’t visit if you’re sick. And thousands of people in nursing homes died. And they think that symptomless visitors and symptomless care workers brought the disease in, and they just had no idea that was even a possibility. We had the Diamond Princess cruise off the coast of Japan, where one of the reasons that people were allowed to mix and mingle and go to the buffet, even after a former passenger tested positive, was because, well, we don’t think he was symptomatic when he was on board. And then February 29, we get a tweet from the U.S. surgeon general, all caps: “Seriously, people, stop buying masks. They are not effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus.” And it’s hard to imagine the surgeon general weighing in like that if there was kind of a growing acceptance in the medical community that, boy, this might actually be spreading before symptoms.

michael barbaro

And of course, now we know that symptomless spread can be curbed, and a primary way to curb it is masks.

matt apuzzo

Yeah, and now good luck messaging that when you’ve been telling the public, in all caps, masks don’t help. As you look at these moments, it just cost us time. And that’s kind of the story of Covid right now. We lost time.

michael barbaro

So, Matt, where does this debate stand at the moment? I mean, is there a settled understanding of whether or not, and how frequently, someone without symptoms can spread the coronavirus?

matt apuzzo

I think the best science now is people without symptoms are contributing to the spread of this pandemic. It’s significant. We don’t know exactly how significant it is.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. But it is clearly something that happens. And because it’s symptomless, it represents a special danger in this pandemic.

matt apuzzo

Exactly right.

michael barbaro

So that’s the public health consensus. But given everything that you have just told us, do you think that the public has reached that same conclusion? Has that message convincingly reached the world?

matt apuzzo

Well, the message is still a mess, right? I mean, we saw in early June, the W.H.O. came out and said, oh, symptomless spreading is really rare. And then they walked it back the next day. And part of what the W.H.O. is still doing is trying to draw this distinction between asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic, and it feels like we’re right back in February.

michael barbaro

Right. We’re making distinctions that don’t mean all that much to people who are trying to decide whether to go to work, whether to go to a restaurant, whether to see friends.

matt apuzzo

Yeah, and those are life and death situations right now. If I wake up in the morning and I believe that I’m not sick, and if the whole policy comes down to me understanding the difference between asymptomatic and oligosymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, then the important message is lost. I’m putting other people’s lives in danger with my decisions.

michael barbaro

Matt, thank you very much.

matt apuzzo

Good to be with you.

michael barbaro

Doctor, if German authorities and European health officials and the W.H.O. had taken your findings seriously back in January, despite the fact that it was a single patient, despite the fact that there was a semantic debate around the title of the paper, how do you think it would have made a difference in the state of the pandemic today?

camilla rothe

Ha. That is very difficult to tell. It would be too easy, even though I would like to say that that could have saved hundred thousands of lives. Had authorities been stricter at an earlier point in time, well, would have people accepted it? This may sound strange, but maybe we needed the drastic pictures that we saw in Italy, when the military had to basically bury the coffins because nobody else could, or the dramatic pictures from New York City. Maybe that we needed, all of us needed that shock to take it seriously and really to pull up our socks to fight the virus. So it’s very difficult to tell what would have happened had we taken this onboard early on.

matt apuzzo

Has this experience changed how you see the global health community, your colleagues essentially?

camilla rothe

Oh, yes, definitely. Definitely. It was a very sobering experience. I still don’t know what to make of it. What I really hope is that someone is going to somehow work this up in a, again, in a scientific way to say, what happened? What happened in the heads of people? Why was this unwelcome news? Why was this dismissed? Can we learn from this? Is this, if you like, a cognitive error on the side of decision makers? And what can we do to prevent this from happening again? And I was, to be honest, deeply disappointed by it. But more so, I really wish to understand what was behind it. I’m really hoping that one day someone will come and explain to me what the issue really was.

michael barbaro

Well, Doctor, we really appreciate your time, and we wish you the best of luck.

camilla rothe

Thank you so much. Thank you.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back. Here’s what else you need to know today. Amid intense pressure from President Trump to reopen schools, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would issue new guidelines to local school districts. In tweets on Wednesday morning, Trump described the original C.D.C. guidelines, which call for masks, social distancing, staggered arrival times and no meals in cafeterias, as, quote, “tough, expensive and impractical.”

archived recording (robert redfield)

But I want to make it very clear that what is not the intent of C.D.C.‘s guidelines is to be used as a rationale to keep schools closed.

michael barbaro

A few hours later during a briefing at the White House, the C.D.C.‘s director emphasized that those guidelines are suggestions, not requirements, and said that he did not want the guidelines to prevent schools from reopening. And in a major ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld a regulation from the Trump administration that lets companies with religious or moral objections to birth control limit coverage of them under the Affordable Care Act. The 7-to-2 ruling could result in as many as 126,000 women losing coverage for contraceptives from their employers. It was the latest case involving the relationship between church and state, in which the court’s majority has sided with religious groups.


That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

A Bolivian lawmaker who claimed the country’s interim presidency last fall said on Thursday that she had tested positive.

In a video posted on Twitter, Jeanine Añez Chavez said she felt strong and would continue working while in quarantine.

She is the third Latin American leader known to be infected.

Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, said on Tuesday that he, too, had been infected. And in June, the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, was hospitalized for Covid-19 and treated for pneumonia, a government health official said.

Ms. Añez declared herself the leader of a staunchly right-wing caretaker government in November, after the controversial ouster of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president.

Credit…Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Since the pandemic began, aid groups warned that the virus might prove devastating for a rebel-held Syrian province packed with displaced people and hampered by battered medical facilities.

On Thursday, medics there reported the first confirmed case.

The discovery in Idlib Province came as disagreements on the U.N. Security Council threatened to lead to the closure of one of two border crossings with Turkey that aid groups say is essential for getting humanitarian aid into northwest Syria.

After nine years of war in Syria, Idlib is the only province still in the hands of rebel and jihadist groups committed to the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad. The province is home to more than three million people, most of whom have fled fighting elsewhere in the country.

The United States and other Western countries are pushing to keep both crossings open. Russia, a staunch backer of Mr. al-Assad, has argued that all aid should be delivered through his government and is seeking to limit the crossings to one.

The man who tested positive was a doctor working in a hospital in a town near the Turkish border, according to the Syria American Medical Society, which supports medical facilities in opposition areas of Syria.

Hosam al-Ali, a Syrian pharmacist involved in the virus response in the region, said that the infected doctor had been exposed to hundreds of patients and that local medics were trying to track them down for testing.

Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel had reopened parts of its economy too early, as virus cases in the country have continued to rise sharply.

“I take responsibility for this measure and I take responsibility for fixing it,” Netanyahu said at a news conference at his office in Jerusalem, referring to the reopening of bars, nightclubs, event halls and other venues.

After forcing them to close in March, Israel reopened bars and nightclubs in late May and event halls in mid-June. But earlier this week, the government ordered them closed again.

Since late June, virus cases in Israel have soared. The nation is averaging more than 1,000 new cases per day, up from 338 two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. Netanyahu also presented an aid package for the nation’s ravaged economy that would expand eligibility for unemployment benefits, provide grants to self-employed people and offer relief to businesses.

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.”

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

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.


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

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:

  • Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that Kentuckians will be required to wear face coverings in many public settings, including any indoor space in which it is difficult to maintain six-foot social distancing.

  • 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.

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday extended New York City’s prohibition on large public gatherings through Sept. 30, adding the West Indian American Day Parade, the Dominican Day Parade and the Feast of San Gennaro to the list of popular events to be scrapped this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • At least five states set single-day records for new cases on Thursday: Alabama with 2,200, Montana with 95, Idaho with 527, Missouri with 950, and Oregon with 371.

  • Mayor London Breed of San Francisco said Thursday she had tested negative after she attended an event with another person who had the virus.

  • 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.

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, J. David Goodman, Erica L. Green, Maggie Haberman, Anemona Hartocollis, Ben Hubbard, 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, Adam Rasgon, 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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