Infections Swamp the U.S., Which Recorded 42% of All Its Coronavirus Cases in July


The United States recorded more than 1.9 million new infections in July, nearly 42 percent of the more than 4.5 million cases reported nationwide since the pandemic began and more than double the number documented in any other month, according to data compiled by The New York Times. The previous monthly high came in April, when more than 880,000 new cases were recorded.

The virus is picking up dangerous speed in much of the Midwest — and in states from Mississippi to Florida to California that thought they had already seen the worst of it.

Gone is any sense that the country may soon get ahold of the pandemic. The seven-day average for daily new infections has hovered around 65,000 for the past two weeks, more than doubling the peak average from the spring, when the country experienced what was essentially its first wave.

In many states, distressed government officials are re-tightening restrictions on residents and businesses, and sounding warnings about a rise in virus-related hospitalizations.

Across the country, deaths from the virus continued to rise after a steep drop from the mid-April peaks of about 2,200 a day. At the start of July, the average death toll was about 500 per day. Over the last week, it has averaged more than 1,000 daily, with many of those concentrated in Sun Belt states.

The Northeast, once the virus’s biggest hot spot, has improved considerably since its peak in April. Yet cases are now increasing slightly in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as residents move around more freely and gather more frequently in groups.

The picture is similarly distressing overseas, where even governments that would seem well suited to combating the virus are seeing surges.

New daily infections in Japan, a country with a long tradition of wearing face masks, rose more than 50 percent in July. Australia, which can cut itself off from the rest of the world more easily than most, is battling a wave of infections in and around Melbourne. Hong Kong, Israel and Spain are also fighting second waves.

None of those places has an infection rate as high as the one in the United States, which has the most cases and deaths in the world.

Hours after unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans lapsed, administration officials arrived on Capitol Hill on Saturday morning for a rare meeting with top congressional Democrats to discuss a coronavirus relief package and work to break an impasse over new aid as the American economy continues to shudder.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who hosted the meeting with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York in her Capitol Hill suite, emerged after three hours and said the discussion “was productive in terms of moving us forward,” but they remained far apart on a number of issues. They declined to offer specifics, but said that staff would meet on Sunday and that the principal negotiators would again convene on Monday for another meeting.

“Here we have this drastic challenge and what they were saying before is, ‘We’re going to cut your benefit,” Ms. Pelosi said. “That’s, shall we say, the discussions we’re having.”

“This is not a usual discussion, because the urgency is so great healthwise, financial health-wise,” she added.

Also in attendance were Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary. (Mr. Mnuchin observed before entering Ms. Pelosi’s suite that it was “just another working day in the Capitol.”)

Among the largest sticking points in the discussion is a $600 weekly federal jobless benefit that became a lifeline for tens of millions of unemployed Americans, while also helping prop up the economy. The aid expired at midnight as officials in Washington failed to agree on a new relief bill, but Mr. Meadows and Mr. Mnuchin said there were signs that the two sides could begin to reach common ground, including on reviving a federal moratorium on evictions and funding for schools and child care.

“There’s things we agree on. There’s things we don’t agree on,” Mr. Mnuchin said after the meeting. “We’re trying to narrow down the things we don’t agree on. Obviously any negotiation is a compromise.”

Joblessness remains at record levels, with some 30 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits. More than 1.4 million newly filed for state unemployment benefits last week — the 19th straight week that the tally had exceeded one million, an unheard-of figure before the pandemic.

Nearly 11 percent of Americans have said that they live in households where there is not enough to eat, according to a recent Census Bureau survey, and more than a quarter have missed a rent or mortgage payment.

The benefit’s expiration will force Louise Francis, who worked as a banquet cook at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans for nearly two decades before being furloughed last spring, to get by on just state unemployment benefits, which for her come to $247 a week.

“With the $600, you could see your way a little bit,” said Ms. Francis, 59. “You could feel a little more comfortable. You could pay three or four bills and not feel so far behind.”

The aid lapsed as Republicans and Democrats in Washington remained far apart on what the next round of virus relief should look like.

Democrats wanted to extend the $600 weekly payments through the end of the year, as part of an expansive $3 trillion aid package that would also help state and local governments. Republicans, worried that the $600 benefit left some people with more money than when they were working, sought to scale it back to $200 per week as part of a $1 trillion proposal and have begun to push the prospect of doing a short-term package that deals with just a few issues, including the unemployment insurance benefit.

“They’ve made clear that there’s a desire on their part to do an entire package,” Mr. Mnuchin said of Democrats. “We’ve made clear that we’re really willing to deal with the short-term issues, pass something quickly and come back to the larger issues so we’re at an impasse on that.”

Democrats have rejected a short-term proposal.

As under the current lockdown, acceptable reasons for leaving the house include shopping for essential goods and services, medical care and caregiving, and necessary exercise, work and study. But food shopping is now limited to one person per household per day and outdoor exercise is limited to one hour per person per day, both within five kilometers of home. Public gatherings are limited to two people, including household members.

In explaining the new measures, Premier Daniel Andrews said that the high rate of community transmission, including 671 new cases reported in the state of Victoria on Sunday, suggested the virus was even more widespread than known.

“You’ve got to err on the side of caution and go further and go harder,” he said.

Less stringent restrictions are being introduced in the rest of the state starting at midnight on Wednesday, and further measures regarding businesses will be announced on Monday.

Victoria has had a total of 11,557 cases, almost all of them in metropolitan Melbourne, and 123 deaths.

Global roundup

An estimated 17,000 Germans packed the heart of Berlin on Saturday, defying public health requirements to maintain a safe distance from one another, or cover their noses and faces, before Berlin police moved to break up the demonstration against the country’s efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The protest, under the motto “Day of Freedom” — a title shared by a 1935 Nazi propaganda film by Leni Reifenstahl — was supported by known neo-Nazi groups and conspiracy theorists, along with Germans who say they are fed up with the government-imposed restrictions on public life. Germany enforced a strict lockdown from mid-March that has been lifted in stages since the end of April, but large public gatherings are still banned and requirements for wearing masks on public transportation and in all stores remain.

A majority of Germans support the measures, but public health officials worry that people are becoming more lax, as the past weeks have seen a rise in new infections. On Saturday, 955 new cases were reported, compared with 580 two weeks ago.

Protesters at the demonstration blew whistles, heckled and jeered anyone wearing a mask, and carried the red, white and black flag of the 19th-century German Empire. They also carried signs equating the government-imposed restrictions to the Nazis’ forcing Jews to wear yellow stars. One banner, emblazoned with images of Chancellor Angela Merkel, her health minister and leading German public health officials, as well as Bill Gates, demanded: “Lock Them Up Already!”

Here are some other developments from around the globe:

  • South Africa on Saturday surpassed 500,000 coronavirus infections, according to Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, fifth most in the world. More than 10,100 new cases had been recorded, South Africa’s Department of Health said, adding virus-related deaths had risen to 8,153. South Africa in March quickly became Africa’s first epicenter and the first country on the continent to impose a severe lockdown, restricting travel between provinces.

  • Belgium on Saturday announced that its number of confirmed coronavirus infections had doubled in one week. On average about 448 people per day tested positive from July 22 to July 28, the Belgian health authorities said. The city of Antwerp was of particular concern, officials said.

  • Kuwait on Saturday began to resume some commercial flights after a five-month suspension. It announced that flights would remain suspended from 31 countries, including India, China and Brazil. Flights are also still barred from some countries that were once major hot spots, such as Spain and Italy, but not the United States, which remains a global epicenter. Kuwait, with its relatively small population, has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Its 1,618 cases per 100,000 people is the sixth highest globally, according to a New York Times database.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced that lockdown measures that were set to be lifted Saturday would continue for two more weeks, as case numbers in the country rise. Restrictions remain on indoor performances, casinos, wedding receptions and other gatherings, which Mr. Johnson said he knew would come as a “real blow” to some people. But it was necessary to apply the “brake pedal,” he said, in order to stem the spread of the virus.

  • In Vietnam, the city of Danang plans to test its entire population for the coronavirus, the local authorities said, after dozens of cases there showed how the disease can stalk even places that were thought to have eradicated the virus. As the country went more than three months without reporting any local transmission or even a single death from the virus, up to 800,000 domestic tourists flocked to Danang, a coastal city known for its golden beaches. Vietnam has now recorded three deaths and almost 600 cases, although many are returnees in quarantine.

  • As of Saturday night, Mexico’s confirmed death toll of 47,472 was the world’s third highest behind the United States and Brazil. Britain ranked fourth, with 495 fewer deaths. The number of new reported infections in Mexico has been climbing since May and topped 9,000 for the first time on Saturday, bringing the country’s caseload to nearly 435,000.

  • Officials in Poland are considering new lockdown restrictions after the country reported record numbers of new coronavirus cases for three days in a row. The health minister told a local radio station this could include reducing the number of people allowed to attend weddings, according to Reuters. The country has reported 46,346 total cases and 3,650 deaths.

  • Thirty-six crew members aboard a Norwegian cruise ship tested positive for the virus, Hurtigruten, the ship’s operator, said in a statement over the weekend. None of those who tested positive showed any symptoms, the statement said. According to the company, 387 guests who may have been exposed to infected crew members during two trips on the ship in July will self-quarantine in accordance with Norway’s public health regulations.

Florida, home to one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, braced for the arrival of Isaias on Saturday.

The state’s battle with the virus could make evacuating homes and entering community shelters especially risky. Friday was the third consecutive day that Florida broke its record for the most deaths reported in a single day, according to a New York Times database.

Floridians spent Saturday preparing for wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour and dangerous coastal surf.

The Cardinals, who also had two players receive positive tests on Friday, now have six positives in their traveling party and have become the second team, after the Miami Marlins, to experience an outbreak less than two weeks into the truncated M.L.B. season. The Marlins have had 20 people, including 18 players, test positive since last Sunday.

And the Boston Red Sox announced that starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, 27, who had been infected before the start of the season, will not play this year after developing myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart.

One of the most important aspects of curtailing the spread of the virus is understanding where people are being infected. This week the Maryland Department of Health released new data from its contact-tracing program that provides an informative — if limited — view of the patterns of behavior of people who tested positive.

The numbers do not show where virus transmission occurred — only what activities people had engaged in. After conducting contact-tracing interviews with people with the virus, the state found:

  • 44 percent had attended a family gathering.

  • 23 percent had attended a house party.

  • 23 percent had dined indoors at a restaurant.

  • 23 percent had dined outdoors at a restaurant.

  • 54 percent worked outside the home.

  • 25 percent worked in health care.

The health department did not say how many patients were interviewed, or when people had attended the events.

“I’m really excited to see that they’re putting data on this out,” said Dr. Crystal Watson, an assistant professor in the department of environmental health and engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But it’s a little hard to interpret.”

Dr. Watson said it would help to know if people had worn masks at the family gatherings and practiced social distancing. She said she was struck by the fact that only 12 percent of the people interviewed were workers in the restaurant and food service industry, given the risks of exposure.

Here are some other developments from around the United States:

The Serum Institute, which started out years ago as a horse farm and is exclusively controlled by a small and fabulously rich Indian family, is doing what few other companies in the race for a vaccine are doing: mass-producing hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine candidate that might not even work.

But if it does, Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive and the only child of the company’s founder, will become one of the most tugged-at men in the world. He will have what everyone wants, possibly in greater quantities before anyone else.

Mr. Poonawalla’s vaccine assembly lines are being readied to crank out 500 doses a minute, and his phone rings endlessly.

National health ministers, prime ministers and other heads of state (he wouldn’t say who) and friends he hasn’t heard from in years have been calling him, he said, begging for the first batches.

“I’ve had to explain to them that, ‘Look I can’t just give it to you like this,’” he said.

The Serum Institute finds itself in the middle of an extremely competitive and murky endeavor. To get the vaccine out as soon as possible, vaccine developers say they need Serum’s mammoth assembly lines — each year, it churns out 1.5 billion doses of other vaccines, mostly for poor countries, more than any other company.

Half of the world’s children have been vaccinated with Serum’s products. Scale is its specialty. Just the other day, Mr. Poonawalla received a shipment of 600 million glass vials.

But right now it’s not entirely clear how much of the coronavirus vaccine that Serum will mass-produce will be kept by India or who will fund its production.

The leader of a secretive religious sect in South Korea was arrested early on Saturday on charges of embezzling church money and conspiring to impede efforts to fight the coronavirus.

The rapid spread of the virus this winter among worshipers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, a city in the southeast, briefly made South Korea home to the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak outside China. As of Friday, more than a third of the 14,300 coronavirus cases known to the government were members of Shincheonji or their contacts.

Prosecutors say that Lee Man-hee, the church’s founder, failed to fully disclose the number of worshipers and their gathering places. Seven church officials were indicted last month on the same charge.

Mr. Lee, 88, has also been accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won, or $4.7 million, from church funds to build a luxurious “peace palace” north of Seoul. The church has broadly denied all the charges against him. He could face years in prison if convicted.

Intense criticism from the South Korean public forced Mr. Lee to apologize in March.

In a statement on Saturday, the church said that Mr. Lee had never intended to hamper efforts to control the epidemic, and that he had only expressed concern over the scale of government demands for worshipers’ data.

“He has emphasized the importance of disease control and urged the church members to cooperate with the authorities,” the church said. “We will do our best to let the truth be known through trial.”

But parents who accused the church of luring and brainwashing their children with its unorthodox teachings welcomed his arrest on Saturday, calling Mr. Lee a “religious con artist.”

Europe has a bad reputation with investors. For years, asset managers and bank strategists have characterized the region by its anemic growth rate and shaky political union.

Now a crisis has turned into an unlikely investment opportunity, as the region appears to have handled the pandemic better than some other parts of the world. In the past few months, European assets have staged a comeback.

The euro this week rose to its highest level in more than two years against the U.S. dollar, and the region’s benchmark index, the Stoxx 600, is set for a second straight month of gains greater than those of the S&P 500 index, in dollar terms, according to data from FactSet.

The most important reason for this upswing, analysts say, is that Europe is recording far fewer new cases of the coronavirus. There are still occasional spikes in Europe, and there are some early signs that the infection rate is starting to level off in the United States. But there are about 65,000 new cases each day in the United States, compared with fewer than 10,000 across the Atlantic.

Another significant reason for the increase is politics. When European leaders reached an agreement last week on a 750 billion euro, or $888 billion, recovery fund, it wasn’t the size of the deal that impressed investors, but the fact that it happened after four long nights of negotiations.

The decision to raise money collectively and give grants to the countries hit hardest by the pandemic indicated that there is some political will left to further the project that created the euro two decades ago, despite the exit of Britain from the European Union, budget fights with Italy and concerns about the dismantling of democracy in Hungary.

Colleges and universities across New York are enacting hasty plans to meet state requirements for students arriving from out of state as the fall semester nears.

With many schools poised to begin in-person instruction in just one month, some of the state’s larger institutions have been forced to put together complex plans to house students from regions currently fighting major coronavirus outbreaks.

Plans for letting students back on campus revolve around an order made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June requiring travelers to New York from high-risk parts of the United States to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. As of Saturday, residents of 36 states and territories would face the mandatory quarantine, based on trends in infection data.

Cornell, which had previously pledged to provide quarantine accommodations on campus to students coming from states identified by the order, announced on Thursday that it would no longer offer housing to all students affected. The announcement said that those who could not meet the requirements should plan to begin the semester through online classes, but that the university would assist students for whom making housing arrangements represented a significant hardship.

Critics said the announcement would force some students to find space in hotels or short-term rentals just two weeks before they were scheduled to arrive.

Most colleges have advised students they will be unable to leave their rooms during quarantines and will face regular medical screenings. Columbia University said it would arrange to have meals delivered to dormitories, according to its website.

Since the list of states identified by the governor’s order is informed by seven-day rolling averages of new infections, new outbreaks in previously stable states could still force students to make last-minute travel and housing arrangements to quarantine before classes begin.

The two new Covid-19 serology tests, the ADVIA Centaur COV2G and Attelica COV2G, are from Siemens.

Dr. Timothy Stenzel, the director of the F.D.A.’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, said in a statement, “Being able to measure a patient’s relative level of antibodies in response to a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection may be useful as we continue to learn more about the virus and what the existence of antibodies may mean.

“There are still many unknowns about what the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may tell us about potential immunity, but today’s authorizations give us additional tools to evaluate those antibodies as we continue to research and study this virus.”

With remote work, remote school, remote camp and everything else remote, screens are dominating our lives. Here are some ways of thinking about it, whether you want to cut back or simply come to terms with the increased usage.

Reporting was contributed by Hannah Beech, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Melissa Eddy, Manny Fernandez, Thomas Fuller, Johnny Diaz, Jeffrey Gettleman, Jason Gutierrez, Shawn Hubler, Mike Ives, Sheila Kaplan, Tyler Kepner, Gwen Knapp, Zach Montague, Liliana Michelena, Eshe Nelson, Matt Phillips, Kai Schultz, Eliza Shapiro and Sameer Yasir.



Sahred From Source link Health

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*