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State and city leaders in the U.S. are responding to a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations by implementing new rules, scaling back on reopening plans and issuing dire warnings about the future of public health and the economy.

In lieu of a Florida statewide mask rule, several city mayors in Miami-Dade County are implementing their own mask requirements. Texas authorities temporarily suspended the alcohol permits of 12 bars for violating protocols designed to stem the crisis, as Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said cases and hospitalizations there are increasing at an “unacceptable” rate. And in Utah, the state epidemiologist is warning that the state could be facing a “complete shutdown” if cases continue to rise.

Twenty-nine states and U.S. territories showed an increase in their seven-day average of new reported cases on Monday, with nine states reporting record average highs. In the states where cases are spiking the most, hospitalizations are also rising sharply. More than 2,290,000 cases and 118,000 deaths have been officially reported in the United States.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Income is a potent force along with race in determining who among the nation’s vulnerable, older population has been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to a federal analysis.
  • As cases increase in Boise, Idaho health officials Monday scaled back some reopening plans in Ada County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction.
  • The bitter, months-long negotiation between Major League Baseball and its players’ union effectively ended Monday night, with the MLB saying it intended to exercise its power to implement a 2020 schedule. Meanwhile, the NBA is preparing for its return at Disney as Florida’s coronavirus cases exceed 100,000.
  • Coronavirus cases at San Quentin State Prison in California are skyrocketing, with the prison reporting 317 active cases as of Monday evening, more than double the number of reported cases two days ago.
  • Citing the pandemic, President Trump issued an executive order Monday barring many categories of foreign workers and curbing immigration visas through the end of the year.
  • Politicization of the pandemic has worsened the global outbreak, the secretary general of the World Health Organization said Monday, a day after the U.N. body announced the highest daily rise since the pandemic began.

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June 22, 2020 at 11:41 PM EDT

Houston mayor warns city: ‘We are moving very fast in the wrong direction’

Delays in data reporting and a large jump in new coronavirus case numbers in Houston led the city’s mayor to offer city residents a stark warning Monday.

“We are moving very fast in the wrong direction,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a news conference in which he announced more than 1,700 newly confirmed coronavirus cases since Sunday. The city now has 14,322 cases, he said.

Turner said Houston had worked diligently to flatten the curve of new infections in March and April, but soaring numbers in June are consistently outpacing those reported in past months. Texas began lifting coronavirus restrictions on May 1.

The number of hospitalizations in the city are also on the rise, with some hospitals already at capacity, and the police and fire departments have experienced staffing difficulties because of coronavirus cases among first-responders.

New cases reported by the health department have been delayed, and most of the new cases reported on Sunday and Monday were confirmed in tests conducted between June 9 and June 17, Turner added.

The mayor urged people to cover their faces with masks or bandannas whenever they are in the presence of another person outside of their household. He reminded residents that the virus can be spread even by people who are asymptomatic.

“The course that we are currently on is not one that is in the best interest of our city,” Turner said. “At the very minimum, what we’re asking people to do is to put on their masks, or face coverings, when they go into a business.”

Turner added that he is disappointed that the city has lost the gains it made in tamping down the outbreak during the shutdown measures in previous months.

“We are all engaged in opening and activities that are wiping away the success that we collectively achieved,” he said.

By Katie Shepherd
June 22, 2020 at 11:18 PM EDT

Cruise industry extends suspension of sailing from U.S. ports to at least Sept. 15

More than three months after first suspending cruises from U.S. ports, operators said they will now continue that pause for another two months — if not longer.

Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, said in a statement Friday that its members would voluntarily extend the suspension until Sept. 15 or later if necessary. That’s almost two months after a no-sail order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to lift on July 24.

“[A]lthough we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States,” the association said in a statement.

Read more here.

By Hannah Sampson
June 22, 2020 at 10:49 PM EDT

Amid spike in cases, Idaho’s most populous county restores some restrictions

Citing a spike in coronavirus cases, particularly among young people who had visited Boise bars early this month, Idaho health officials on Monday reinstated some restrictions in Ada County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction.

Nine days after progressing to Phase 4 of its reopening plan, Idaho returned to Phase 3 in the county, which includes the capital city.

Effective Wednesday, bars must close again and gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited. Visitors are not allowed at senior centers. However, movie theaters will remain open and use of face masks will stay voluntary.

The remainder of the state will remain in Phase 4 until at least Friday.

“This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, but we feel it is absolutely necessary and the time is right now,” Central District Health Director Russ Duke said in a video statement. “We recognize the impact this pandemic is having on our communities. Because you can’t see the virus, it’s easy to become complacent.”

One infected person is expected to lead to seven more cases, Ted Epperly, a board member for Central District Health, told the Idaho Statesman. Early in the pandemic, he said, the rate was 2.5, and as of Monday it was 1.19.

Idaho has reached its highest seven-day average of confirmed and probable cases since early April.

By Steven Goff
June 22, 2020 at 10:18 PM EDT

CBS News’s ‘60 in 6’ team recounts its coronavirus outbreak

The CBS News “60 in 6” team is believed to be one of the first known coronavirus clusters of the pandemic in New York, according to Jon LaPook, CBS News’s chief medical correspondent.

In a video produced by members of the “60 in 6” staff, the team recounts that the coronavirus tore through the team in “just days” and ultimately infected 16 people in early March. New York City reported its first case on March 1.

“The fact that it spread like wildfire shook me in a major way,” Spencer MacNaughton, a producer for “60 in 6,” said in the video.

In early March, ahead of the team’s planned launch on Quibi, the team met in person to shoot promotional material in New York with “60 in 6” correspondents Wesley Lowery, Seth Doane, Enrique Acevedo and Laurie Segall. By March 7, seven staffers were feeling ill. It is not known how or where the first coronavirus transmission within the group occurred. CBS closed its New York offices on March 11 after employees tested positive.

“60 Minutes” senior producer Matt Polevoy was among one of the first confirmed covid-19 patients at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn. In the video, it was stated that he was one of the more serious cases, while the majority of the team had more mild cases.

By Samantha Pell
June 22, 2020 at 9:53 PM EDT

Arizona church hosting Trump rally claims air system kills ‘99.9 percent of covid within 10 minutes’

President Trump will hold a rally Tuesday at an Arizona megachurch that claims its air-purification system kills “99.9 percent of covid within 10 minutes” — despite no scientific evidence that is the case.

In a video posted by Dream City Church, senior pastor Luke Barnett and chief operations officer Brendon Zastrow touted an ionization system by CleanAir EXP that, Zastrow said, “takes particles out, and covid cannot live in that environment.”

Barnett said, “You can know when you come here you will be safe and protected. Thank God for great technology and thank God for being proactive.”

Air purifiers can help reduce airborne contaminants but, on their own, cannot kill the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.

An email to church officials was not immediately returned.

CleanAir EXP said on its website that “lab tests confirm that CleanAir EXP eliminates 99.9% of coronavirus surrogate from the air in less than 10 minutes.” However, the company cited in a footnote that it kills 99.9 percent of active coronavirus 229E, which is not the coronavirus that causes the disease covid-19.

An email to the company seeking details was not immediately returned.

In Phoenix, Trump will speak before a largely young audience of an estimated 3,000, his second rally in the past few days. On Saturday, he appeared before a smaller-than-expected crowd at a sports arena in Tulsa.

Arizona is among several states that have seen a spike in coronavirus cases this month. On Friday, the Phoenix City Council mandated face masks in public when social distancing is not possible. The church plans to distribute masks and check body temperatures of those attending the rally.

By Steven Goff
June 22, 2020 at 9:42 PM EDT

With no statewide regulations, several Florida mayors implement mandatory local mask rules

After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) reiterated over the weekend that he will not be implementing a statewide mandatory mask rule, several city mayors across Miami-Dade County are announced local restrictions.

The cities of Miami, Aventura, Hialeah, Miami Gardens and North Miami Beach are all enacting new mask rules, which mandate that residents wear masks or facial coverings in public.

Miami’s regulation was announced at a news conference for the Miami-Dade County League of Cities Mayors’ Coalition on Monday. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the city’s new mask rule was in response to the recent increase in cases.

Suarez also added that the city will not be transitioning to Phase 3 of its reopening plan, which included lifting closure restrictions on nightclubs, movie theaters and other entertainment venues. It instead will be postponed to a later date.

Miami-Dade County has tallied 26,239 reported cases as of Monday, 4,042 since last week, according to Washington Post data. There have been 884 coronavirus-related deaths in the county, 58 since last week.

On Monday, Florida passed 100,000 overall coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. The state also reported 2,926 new positive cases and a dozen deaths of Florida residents on Monday. The state set a single-day record for new cases on Saturday (4,049).

Saturday evening, the Florida Department of Health issued an additional public health advisory, recommending that residents wear masks in public, encouraging older and vulnerable populations to limit interactions outside of the home, and urging all individuals to refrain from participating in gatherings of more than 50 people.

By Samantha Pell
June 22, 2020 at 9:29 PM EDT

Orlando Pride withdraws from NWSL tournament, citing 10 positive tests for coronavirus

The Orlando Pride on Monday withdrew from the National Women’s Soccer League tournament after six players and four staff members tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

All are asymptomatic, the team said. Their identities were not disclosed.

“This was obviously a difficult and disappointing outcome for our players, our staff and fans. However, this is a decision that was made in order to protect the health of all involved in the Challenge Cup,” Orlando executive vice president Amanda Duffy said in a written statement. “Our priority is now making sure our players and staff safely recover and providing any support wherever and however possible.”

The NWSL Challenge Cup is still scheduled to begin Saturday without spectators in greater Salt Lake City — the first U.S. team sport to return to since the pandemic shut down all professional sports leagues in March.

Read more here.

By Steven Goff
June 22, 2020 at 9:20 PM EDT

Cases at California’s San Quentin State Prison skyrocket with more than 300 inmates infected

Coronavirus cases at San Quentin State Prison in California’s Marin County climbed sharply to more than 300 active cases as of Monday evening.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s real-time covid-19 tracker, there are 317 cases in San Quentin, a massive increase from the 48 cases reported only eight days ago. It is more than double the number of reported cases 48 hours ago.

No deaths have been reported in San Quentin, but there is a growing distress that the virus will continue to spread with serious consequences. All of the reported cases have started to pop up after nearly 200 inmates from the California Institution for Men were transferred to San Quentin and Corcoran prisons, according to the Mercury News. The transfer plan was announced May 28.

Corcoran currently has 155 active infected inmates, while the California Institution for Men has 850. There are roughly 3,700 active confirmed coronavirus cases in California federal prisons, as of Monday. Nineteen inmates have died.

On Friday, a federal judge called the recent transfer of infected prisoners to the facility a “significant failure of policy and planning” in a live-streamed court hearing, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of Oakland said that many lives could be saved if they transfer the medically vulnerable prisoners to a new facility, use a furlough-like system of releases or allow some inmates to serve sentence at home.

Tigar, visibly distraught, did not order the state to release or relocate prisoners, saying he wasn’t sure he had that authority, the Chronicle reported.

“But I’m just saying, I think that needs to happen,” he said.

By Samantha Pell
June 22, 2020 at 9:19 PM EDT

MLB is set to implement terms of 2020 schedule after union votes down 60-game proposal

The bitter, months-long negotiation between Major League Baseball and its players’ union effectively ended Monday night when the union’s executive board voted to reject the owners’ last offer of a 60-game regular season and expanded postseason, and MLB responded by saying it intended to exercise its power to implement a 2020 schedule — which it will attempt to shoehorn into a dwindling calendar amid a global pandemic.

Should the sides sign off on the health and safety protocols for navigating the coronavirus outbreak, spring training camps could reopen July 1, with Opening Day about three weeks later and a regular season that could still be 60 games — but without the expanded postseason the sides had all but agreed to. MLB has insisted the season must end by Sept. 27, with the postseason contained to October, to guard against a second wave of the novel coronavirus wiping out the playoffs.

Read more here.

By Dave Sheinin
June 22, 2020 at 8:59 PM EDT

Apple’s new way to help stop the spread of coronavirus: Hand wash sensing mode

During its WWDC keynote Monday, Apple announced a new addition to its Watch to help users wash their hands the appropriate amount of time. With the update, the Watch will look out for the signs you’re at a sink, from the way you move your hands, to the sound of water swooshing by. Then the Watch will give you a countdown to make sure you spend the doctor-recommended amount of time cleaning away all those nasty germs.

The Apple Watch, already one of the most popular fitness trackers, is also getting smarter about tracking some other everyday activities — from sleeping to dancing.

By Geoffrey Fowler
June 22, 2020 at 8:45 PM EDT

Utah epidemiologist warns that state’s ‘only viable option’ is ‘complete shutdown’ if cases continue to surge

Utah’s state epidemiologist warned other officials that the state could be facing a “complete shutdown” if coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Dr. Angela Dunn wrote Friday to the leaders of the state’s coronavirus response that Utah was in the “acceleration phase” of a covid-19 outbreak in a memo obtained by The Washington Post. As of Monday, Utah has reported 17,906 overall cases since the pandemic began, with 444 new cases reported on Monday. The state has 158 total deaths, with 171 current hospitalizations.

“We are quickly getting to a point where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown,” Dunn wrote. “This might be our last chance for course correction. Contact tracing and testing alone will not control this outbreak.”

Utah was one of the nine states that logged their record highs in seven-day averages of new reported cases (471) on Monday.

Dunn also noted in the memo that Intermountain Healthcare hospitals were forecast to exceed ICU capacity in July. University of Utah Health could surpass its capacity in “four to eight weeks," according to her memo.

In response to the memo, the office of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) released a statement saying he shares her “concern about the increased spread of the virus in our state."

“Her memo was prepared specifically to help frame key issues for this week’s leadership deliberations about how to address the surge in cases,” according to the statement. “Dr. Dunn will be a part of those consultations, and her analysis will be front and center in our meetings.”

Herbert’s office also emphasized that residents should follow “common sense guidelines for social distancing, good hand hygiene and especially the use of face coverings.”

By Samantha Pell
June 22, 2020 at 8:31 PM EDT

Activists halt street protests in South Carolina as some demonstrators become infected

South Carolina racial justice activists said they would postpone future demonstrations or move them online after at least 13 people who took part in previous protests tested positive for the coronavirus.

As the number of cases across the country continued to climb ominously Monday, organizers of “I Can’t Breathe” protests in South Carolina urged participants to get tested for the virus.

In a video posted Sunday on Facebook, organizer Lawrence Nathaniel said demonstrators who marched in Columbia, S.C., between May 30 and June 17 have tested positive. He said four organizers were confirmed infected, along with three photographers and six protesters.

“We need to do our part,” he said. “Go get tested. Don’t come to a protest until you get tested, okay?”

Read more here.

By Brittany Shammas, Chelsea Janes, Lateshia Beachum and Lenny Bernstein
June 22, 2020 at 8:21 PM EDT

Texas suspends alcohol permits for 12 bars for violating safety guidelines

Texas authorities temporarily suspended the alcohol permits of 12 bars for violating protocols designed to stem the coronavirus crisis in the state.

“Protecting the health and safety of Texans during this pandemic is our top priority,” Bentley Nettles, executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, said in a statement. “We warned businesses TABC will have no tolerance for breaking the rules, and now, some bars are paying the price. I hope other establishments will learn from these suspensions.”

The crackdown was part of Operation Safe Open, the commission’s undercover investigation. Businesses that violate guidelines will lose their licenses for up to 30 days. A second infraction would result in a penalty of up to 60 days.

Under the state’s reopening policy, the indoor customer capacity is 50 percent for bars and 75 percent for restaurants. Businesses also must enforce social distancing of at least six feet between groups of customers.

Three of the affected bars are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, three in Austin, two in greater Houston and two in El Paso and one each in Lubbock and McAllen.

By Steven Goff
June 22, 2020 at 7:59 PM EDT

Florida is crucial to the return of sports. It’s also a coronavirus hot spot.

Needing a place to resume its season, the NBA in early June announced it would sequester all 22 of its teams that will return to competition in Florida. The state had opened its arms to sports leagues, and Disney World offered requisite court space and lodging. Crucially, Florida’s novel coronavirus statistics were under control. And the NBA crafted a 113-page plan, praised by outside experts for its thoroughness and feasibility.

After months of toiling to salvage its season, the NBA had seemingly found a solution.

Now it has a problem.

“If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I would have said I thought it was sufficient,” said Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Oxford College of Emory University. “Now, I’m not so sure.”

Read more here.

By Adam Kilgore
June 22, 2020 at 7:54 PM EDT

Gilead announces human trials of inhaled version of remdesivir

Gilead Sciences will begin a clinical trial to test the safety of an inhaled version of its drug remdesivir, which is the only drug that the Food and Drug Administration has said can be used to treat the novel coronavirus, the company announced Monday.

A significant drawback of remdesivir is that it can only be administered intravenously, which has limited its use to hospital settings on patients with serious and moderate coronavirus symptoms. But if patients could use the drug at home, it could be taken by people soon after infection, when Gilead and government scientists have theorized that the drug will have a stronger effect. The trial of an inhaled version of the drug is expected to begin in August, the company said.

If successful, “that could have significant implications in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic,'' Gilead chief executive and chairman Daniel O’Day said in an open letter Monday. “As part of our next wave of clinical development, we will study remdesivir in treating earlier in the disease, in combination with other therapies and in additional patient groups.”

In a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, remdesivir was shown to shorten hospital stays by four days.

The major factor in coronavirus deaths may be an overly aggressive immune system response to the infection, studies indicate. Remdesivir, an antiviral, may have a better chance of working before there is major damage to a patient’s lungs.

“The inhaled formulation studies are one means of exploring the use of remdesivir in the earlier stages of COVID-19,” the O’Day letter said. “We will also conduct trials using intravenous infusions in outpatient settings such as infusion centers and nursing homes. For patients who are at high risk of disease progression, it could be particularly beneficial to start treatment outside the hospital.”

Gilead has not yet set a price for remdesivir. O’Day said it has donated its existing supply, which will last through June. It is negotiating with nine generic manufacturers to begin worldwide production and distribution.

By Christopher Rowland
June 22, 2020 at 7:15 PM EDT

Amid threats and political pushback, public health officials are leaving their posts

Public health workers, already underfunded and understaffed, are confronting waves of protest at their homes and offices in addition to pressure from politicians who favor a faster reopening. Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said more than 20 health officials have resigned, retired or been fired in recent weeks “due to conditions related to having to enforce and stand up for strong public health tactics during this pandemic.”

Although shutdown measures are broadly popular, a vocal minority opposes them vociferously. There have been attacks on officials’ race, gender, sexual orientation and appearance. Freeman said some of the criticisms “seem to be harsher for women.”

Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said attacks on health officials have been particularly awful in California, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Read more here.

By Rachel Weiner and Ariana Eunjung Cha
June 22, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT

29 states report coronavirus spikes as numbers across the country continues to rise

Twenty-nine states and U.S. territories logged an increase in their seven-day average of new reported cases on Monday, with nine states reporting record average highs.

While Monday numbers are generally the lowest of the week, as of early Monday evening, the number of new cases counted nationwide was nearly 7,000 higher than the 18,402 cases reported last Monday, according to Washington Post data.

Though a few states have yet to file their numbers as of early Monday evening, the seven-day average of new cases across the country is also likely to be above 27,000, which is more than 6,000 cases higher than the seven-day average ending June 15.

Texas reported 3,280 cases Monday and reached a new rolling average high (3,682) for the 14th day in a row. That average is 76 percent higher than its average was last Monday (1,927). Its current hospitalizations were announced at 3,711 patients, compared with 2,326 one week ago and 1,756 on June 1. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Monday that the coronavirus was spreading at an “unacceptable rate” but maintained that closing down the state again was the last resort.

South Carolina is also continuing to spike, reporting 1,005 new cases Monday and reached a new rolling average high for the 15th day in a row. Florida also has reached a new rolling average high for the 15th day in the row, which is tied with South Carolina for the most in the nation.

The Sunshine State issued a public health advisory Saturday night recommending people wear face masks in public as the state’s hospitalizations continue to spike. In South Carolina, hospitalizations also continue a steady climb, with 731 currently hospitalized patients, up from 521 a week ago and 402 on June 1.

California was one of the nine states that logged a record high in their seven-day average of new reported cases on Monday, in addition to Nevada, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Utah and Oklahoma. The state recorded 4,230 new cases on Monday, with a record rolling average of 3,800.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Monday that ICU cases continue to rise in the state, up 16 percent over the last 14 days.

By Samantha Pell
June 22, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT

Trump campaign says two more staffers contracted coronavirus in Tulsa

The Trump campaign said Monday that two more staffers contracted coronavirus in Tulsa, Okla., where the president held a rally Saturday night.

“After another round of testing for campaign staff in Tulsa, two additional members of the advance team tested positive for the coronavirus,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said, according to multiple reports. “These staff members attended the rally but were wearing masks during the entire event. Upon the positive tests, the campaign immediately activated established quarantine and contact tracing protocols.”

Murtaugh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The news comes after Trump’s campaign announced shortly before Saturday’s rally that six members of the advance team staffing the event had tested positive for the coronavirus. The campaign that said quarantine procedures had gone into effect for the infected staff members and those in “immediate contact” with them.

By Felicia Sonmez
June 22, 2020 at 5:58 PM EDT

Trump, citing pandemic, extends immigration restrictions through December

President Trump issued an executive order Monday barring many categories of foreign workers and curbing immigration visas through the end of the year, moves that the administration characterized as necessary to protect U.S. workers following steep job losses amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to senior administration officials.

The freeze will apply to work visas that many companies use, especially in the technology sector, landscaping services and the forestry industry. It excludes agricultural laborers and some health-care workers and includes a special exemption for the approximately 20,000 child-care providers who come to the United States as au pairs.

Administration officials described the measures in a call with reporters Monday, but the White House would not allow the officials to be quoted by name. The new restrictions, which Trump signed Monday afternoon, will prevent foreign workers from filling 525,000 jobs, according to White House estimates.

Read more here.

By Nick Miroff and Tony Romm
June 22, 2020 at 5:39 PM EDT

Saudi Arabia will hold ‘very limited’ hajj this year over virus concerns

Saudi Arabia announced Monday that this year’s hajj, the major Muslim pilgrimage, will be restricted to people of various nationalities already residing in the kingdom as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

In years past, more than 2 million Muslims from around the world have traveled to Mecca for five days of worship and rituals. This year, only “very limited numbers” will be able to attend the July event, according to a government news release. The decision was partly attributable to the risk associated with crowded spaces and large gatherings, as well as the global exposure that comes with international travel.

Saudi Arabia has never canceled the hajj in the approximately 90 years since the kingdom was established, the Associated Press reported.

The news comes after Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, said in early June that it would bar citizens from traveling to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, out of concern about an outbreak.

All Muslims who are able-bodied are required to perform the hajj once in their lifetime. It is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Saudi Arabia suspended entry into the country for the umrah, a Muslim pilgrimage that can be performed year-round, in February as many countries began reporting cases.

Saudi Arabia has reported 161,005 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. The country ranks 16th in the world in the number of reported cases, according to a Washington Post tracker. At least 1,307 people have died there of complications related to the virus.

By Meryl Kornfield
June 22, 2020 at 5:02 PM EDT

Hospital visits for non-coronavirus emergencies declined during pandemic, CDC report says

Emergency visits to hospitals declined substantially after a national health emergency was declared in March, suggesting patients could not access care or avoided medical facilities in fear of contracting the novel coronavirus, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said Monday.

In the first 10 weeks of the pandemic, the report said, visits to emergency departments declined 23 percent for heart attacks, 20 percent for strokes and 10 percent for hyperglycemic crises.

Overall, the CDC said, surveillance data found that visits to emergency departments had declined 42 percent during the early months of the pandemic, a potential indirect effect of the outbreak.

“The substantial reduction for these life-threatening conditions might be explained by many pandemic-related factors, including fear of exposure to covid-19, unintended consequences of public health recommendations to minimize nonurgent health care, stay-at-home orders, or other reasons,” the CDC said. “A short-term decline of this magnitude in the incidence of these conditions is biologically implausible for [heart attack] and stroke and unlikely for hyperglycemic crisis.”

The decrease in visits for heart attacks and strokes, the CDC said, was the largest among people ages 65 to 74, and the decline for hyperglycemia was most substantial in those ages 18 to 44.

“Clear, frequent, highly visible communication from public health and health care professionals,” the CDC wrote, “is needed to reinforce the importance of timely care for medical emergencies and to assure the public that [emergency departments] are implementing infection prevention and control guidelines.”

By Steven Goff
June 22, 2020 at 4:40 PM EDT

Trump declines to say whether he ordered a testing slowdown

President Trump declined in an interview Monday to directly answer whether he had told his administration to slow down coronavirus testing, but he asserted that the United States has done “too good of a job” on that front.

The president made his comments in an interview with Scripps television in which he was asked about telling supporters at a campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday that he had told officials to “slow the testing down, please” because it was showing too many cases compared with other countries.

Administration officials — including White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Monday — have said that Trump made the comment in jest.

Asked Monday whether he had indeed directed officials to slow down testing, Trump paused.

“If it did slow down — frankly, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you want to know the truth,” he then said. “We’ve done too good of a job. … The reason we have more cases is because we do more testing.”

Shortly after the excerpt was made public, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted during a briefing that Trump had not directed a slowdown in testing.

“Any suggestion that testing has been curtailed is not rooted in fact,” she said. “It was a comment that he made in jest” during the rally.

The campaign for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden responded to Trump’s remark, saying that the slowdown in testing would benefit Trump politically because it would appear as if the outbreak in the country was diminishing.

“President Trump just made it clear again today that he views COVID-19 testing as a political inconvenience — not the single most important tool we have to stop the spread of this virus, save lives, and get Americans back to work,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield wrote in a statement. “And, after the President’s aides spent the weekend trying to spin away his comments in Tulsa as a pathetic attempt at humor, today’s comments showed that the only joke here is the idea that this White House has a shred of credibility left when it comes to fighting the coronavirus.”

By John Wagner
June 22, 2020 at 4:29 PM EDT

WHO calls to make more steroid that could help some severely sick patients

The World Health Organization on Monday called for increased production and distribution of dexamethasone, a decades-old steroid that a British clinical trial recently found helped some severely sick patients recover from the coronavirus. WHO Secretary General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the preliminary findings “a much-needed reason to celebrate.”

“The next challenge is to increase production and rapidly and equitably distribute dexamethasone worldwide, focusing on where it is needed most,” Tedros said in his opening remarks at a news briefing. “Demand has already surged, following the U.K. trial results showing dexamethasone’s clear benefit.”

The U.N. agency is “confident [manufacturers] can accelerate production” of the drug, Tedros said, adding that governments must work together to prioritize distribution in “countries where there are large numbers of critically ill patients, and that supplies remain available to treat other diseases for which it is needed.”

The steroid is commonly used to treat inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. In the past week, Chris Whitty, Britain’s chief medical officer, called the study “the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far.”

But some doctors have expressed concern that they do not have enough information about the British study to decide whether to use the drug. Tedros noted Monday that there is no evidence that suggests the steroid would be effective for patients with mild coronavirus symptoms or as a preventive measure.

The drug “should only be used for patients with severe or critical disease, under close clinical supervision,” he said.

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 22, 2020 at 3:55 PM EDT

Texas governor says coronavirus spreading at ‘unacceptable rate'; experts warn of Fourth of July holiday

New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Texas are increasing at an accelerated and “unacceptable” rate, yet shutting down the state again remains a last resort, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Monday.

Speaking at a news conference, Abbott said Texas is now averaging about 3,500 new cases a day, compared to only 1,500 new cases in the last half of May. Additionally, the rate of positive tests has gone up to more than 9 percent.

Abbott reiterated Monday that masks are still not required statewide and said forcing Texas to shut down again “will always be the last option.”

However, he did say that if spikes continue at their current rate, “additional measures are going to be necessary.”

“To state the obvious, covid-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas,” Abbott said.

The number of positive cases has been spiking across multiple cities and counties in Texas. A group of experts at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center are forecasting a 20 percent rise in cases in North Texas by early July, as a growing number of young people contract the virus.

The models, presented in an online forum Monday, are based on patient data from several counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In mid-June, hospitalizations increased by 24 percent over the course of a single week. New cases have spiked among younger people but remain mostly consistent in patients from other age groups.

“The recent growth appears to be primarily due to increased cases in younger age groups, especially those aged 21-40,” the experts said in the analysis shared Monday. “In June, 50 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and 30 percent of ICU patients have been under 50 years old.”

The experts urged people to continue to follow social distancing and mask guidelines and warned that precautions should be taken around the Fourth of July holiday, when group gatherings typically take place. Data from recent weeks shows that a notable increase in hospitalizations occurred two weeks after Memorial Day and Easter weekends.

By Samantha Pell and Siobhán O'Grady
June 22, 2020 at 3:46 PM EDT

In a new video, every living governor of California urges residents to wear a mask

“This is not about being weak,” says seven-time Mr. Olympia winner and the 38th governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a new public service announcement featuring every living California governor, Schwarzenegger joins his predecessors and successors in urging residents to wear a mask to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s about fighting the disease and keeping our families and ourselves safe,” says Gray Davis, the state’s 37th governor.

“And it’s about getting Californians back to work,” says Pete Wilson, the 36th governor.

The video circulating on social media arrives as current governor, Gavin Newsom, ordered the state’s roughly 40 million residents to wear masks in most public settings. California recently reported record-high coronavirus infections, as more than two dozen states grapple with concerns of a second wave of the pandemic.

The wear-a-mask campaign also appears to push back against President Trump’s mockery of face masks.

The president has falsely suggested that wearing a mask signals political correctness, a sign of personal weakness or opposition to him. White House staffers are required to wear masks in the building, but Trump is exempted from that rule.

“Covid-19 is still spreading,” says Jerry Brown, the 34th and 39th governor of California, acknowledging that even as states are lifting lockdown measures, infections are surging in many places. The video encourages Californians to stay vigilant, despite signs that businesses are trying to return to a degree of normalcy.

“It didn’t go away just because your mall is open at 50 percent capacity,” Schwarzenegger says. The bipartisan group of governors tells Californians to “do their part,” framing the public health response as a collective mission.

“This isn’t over,” Wilson says.

By Hamza Shaban
June 22, 2020 at 3:28 PM EDT

White House press secretary defends Trump’s racist ‘kung flu’ remark

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday defended President Trump’s use of the words “kung flu” to describe the novel coronavirus, although she stopped short of using the racist phrase herself.

During his rally in Tulsa on Saturday night — which McEnany said drew 7.7 million viewers on Fox News — Trump referred to the virus as the “kung flu,” prompting broad condemnation from critics who warned that the phrase incites hate and violence against Asian people.

Asked by a reporter why Trump uses “racist phrases like ‘kung flu,’ ” McEnany replied, “The president doesn’t.” Pressed further, she said that Trump was trying to draw attention to the fact that the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus occurred in China.

“The president never regrets putting the onus back on China, pointing out that China is responsible for this,” McEnany said at Monday’s White House press briefing. She dismissed criticism of the phrase, arguing that “the media is trying to play games with the terminology of this virus,” and pointed to instances in which mainstream media outlets had used the words “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” to describe the pathogen.

By Felicia Sonmez
June 22, 2020 at 2:33 PM EDT

South Carolina protest organizer urges attendees to get tested after several contract virus

Organizers of “I Can’t Breathe” protests in South Carolina are postponing future events and urging participants to get tested for the coronavirus after several people involved learned they had been infected.

Several demonstrators who marched in Columbia between May 30 and June 17 have tested positive, organizer Lawrence Nathaniel said Sunday in a Facebook post. In a video, he said that four organizers were confirmed as infected, along with three photographers and six protesters.

“We need to do our part,” he said in the video previously reported by the State newspaper. “Go get tested. Don’t come to a protest until you get tested, okay?”

Nathaniel, who added that he has been tested and is awaiting results, said his group was canceling several protests, including one that had been scheduled for Sunday. They plan to wait until they “come up with some type of ideal way” or until the number of cases [goes] down, he said.

Nathaniel noted that the black community has been disproportionately affected by the virus. Black people account for 36 percent of South Carolina’s confirmed cases and 46 percent of deaths despite making up 27 percent of the state’s population, the State reported.

He said that more protests will be moved online, and that his group will discourage protests after Wednesday, when a march is planned.

“We can win this battle against covid-19 and we can win this battle against racism,” he said.

By Brittany Shammas
June 22, 2020 at 2:26 PM EDT

Trump claims that foreign governments will rig mail-in balloting, cites protesters as evidence it is okay to vote in person

President Trump on Monday continued to rail against expanding mail-in balloting in response to the pandemic, speculating without evidence that it could lead to foreign governments interfering in the 2020 election and arguing that if people can go out to protest they should be able to go out to vote.

“RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” Trump said in a tweet, which marked an escalation of his push to prevent a method of voting that he has said would hurt Republican prospects in the fall.

He claimed that the upcoming election would be “the most RIGGED Election in our nations history — unless this stupidity is ended,” adding: “We voted during World War One & World War Two with no problem, but now they are using Covid in order to cheat by using Mail-Ins!”

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House for soliciting interference from Ukraine in the 2020 election but later acquitted by the Republican-led Senate.

Mail-in voting has been embraced by a growing number of states, including some controlled by Republicans. Election experts say large-scale mail-in balloting fraud is practically impossible, in part because local voting jurisdictions maintain tight controls over the process and know how many ballots they send out and to whom.

In one of his tweets Monday, Trump referred to an interview of Attorney General William P. Barr that aired over the weekend in which Barr said mail-in voting could “open the floodgates of potential fraud.”

“Right now, a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, and be very hard for us to detect which was the right and which was the wrong ballot,” Barr said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Trump returned to the subject of mail-in balloting later Monday, referencing the nationwide protests that have occurred in the wake of the death in police custody of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

“If people can go out and protest, riot, break into stores, and create all sorts of havoc, they can also go out and VOTE — and keep our Election Honest,” Trump tweeted. “With millions of mail-in ballots being sent out, who knows where they are going, and to?”

Recent polls have shown Trump trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by an average of more than nine percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics.

By John Wagner
June 22, 2020 at 2:10 PM EDT

Florida virus cases surpass 100,000

The number of reported coronavirus cases in Florida has now surpassed 100,000, according to Washington Post data.

The sunshine state’s health department reported 2,926 new cases on Monday and 19 additional deaths, increasing the total caseload to 100,217 and the overall death toll to 3,173, the Miami Herald reported.

Florida broke another state record Saturday when it reported 4,049 new cases, surpassing previous daily highs.

Its seven-day average of 2,386 daily new cases is 84 percent higher than its average daily reported cases one week ago, according to Washington Post data.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) suggested last week that the surge could be attributed to increased testing and upticks of illness in migrant farmer communities, jails and long-term care facilities in the state, WJXT reported.

Public health groups and aid organizations rejected the governor’s claim targeting specific groups and blamed the state’s delayed testing response for many agricultural communities, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Lourdes Villanueva, the director of Farmworker Advocacy for Redlands Christian Migrant Association, told the paper that advocates had been requesting state help for farm workers, but nothing came.

“It’s always about blaming the less fortunate and the ones that cannot defend themselves," she told the Tampa Bay Times.

The governor said the state would continue to protect those susceptible to the virus but dismissed the option of shutting down again because of the upticks.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 22, 2020 at 1:47 PM EDT

Some New York companies tell workers to stay home as the city reopens

The vast majority of New York Times staff will not be asked to return to their offices until at least January of next year, employees were told in a memo Monday morning.

The Times is the latest company to extend remote-working into next year, as American businesses reshape their operations to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and limit employees’ exposure to infection at work. Government lockdown measures that took effect in March and April prompted abrupt shifts in working conditions for employees that can do their jobs on computers and through teleconferencing.

Times employees received the memo on the same day that New York City allowed office buildings to reopen, as public health restrictions are gradually lifted across the country. Dubbed “Phase 2” of the city’s reopening plan, establishments that are welcoming workers and customers again include: outdoor restaurants, hair salons and car dealerships. The city estimates that between 150,000 and 300,000 employees will return to work in person.

But several companies with offices in New York are telling employees to stay home — extending the sharp break from office-centric culture, relying instead on group calls and Internet-based software to keep business running. Alongside media companies, financial services firms, such as Goldman Sachs, are not expecting employees to return until 2021. Major tech companies such as Facebook have gone further, telling employees they can work from home permanently.

Still, other companies are calling workers back in, hoping to return to some degree of normalcy amid a surging pandemic. NFL headquarters reopened Monday, although it’s restricting the number of staffers inside the building.

By Hamza Shaban
June 22, 2020 at 1:09 PM EDT

Mexico to resume sending farmworkers to Canada

TORONTO — Mexico said Sunday that it will resume sending temporary farmworkers to Canada after the two countries reached an agreement to improve the “sanitary conditions of the compatriots who work on farms in that country,” staving off a potential labor crunch ahead of the summer produce season.

The Mexican government said last week that it would be hitting the “pause button” on plans to send some 5,000 farmworkers to Canada until it was satisfied that the conditions that led to the deaths of two Mexican farmworkers from covid-19 and the sickening of hundreds of others would be rectified.

The announcement came as the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit in southern Ontario said a third migrant farmworker from Mexico had died of covid-19. He was employed at Scotlynn Group Farm, where 199 of 216 farmworkers and 18 others have tested positive for the deadly virus.

The agreement establishes a new group, made up of representatives from both countries, that will “ensure adequate access to health, inspections and timely medical care for workers.”

Canada’s agricultural industry is heavily reliant on the arrival each year of roughly 60,000 migrant farmworkers from Mexico and 11 Caribbean countries who are recruited under a federal government program that allows them to work here for up to eight months to fill chronic labor shortages.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared them essential workers and exempted them from the restrictions that have shut the borders to most foreigners. They must quarantine for 14 days before working.

Advocates for migrant farmworkers and public health officials have cited a lack of personal protective equipment, overcrowded bunkhouses, no paid sick days and sick workers being forced to work as reasons for the outbreaks.

By Amanda Coletta
June 22, 2020 at 1:02 PM EDT

White House scales back temperature checks for visitors

The White House announced Monday that it is scaling back temperature checks for visitors to the complex but would maintain stricter measures for those expected to come into contact with President Trump and Vice President Pence as a precaution against the coronavirus.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the move was consistent with the District moving into Phase 2 of its reopening plan, which among other things, will allow indoor dining and reopening of stores at reduced capacity and gatherings of up to 50 people. Those changes took effect Monday.

“In conjunction with Washington, D.C. entering Phase Two today, the White House is scaling back complex-wide temperature checks,” Deere said. “In addition to social distancing, hand sanitizer, regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, and voluntary facial coverings, every staff member and guest in close proximity to the president and vice president is still being temperature checked, asked symptom histories, and tested for COVID-19.”

Reporters in the pool covering the president will be among those tested, the White House indicated.

By John Wagner
June 22, 2020 at 12:32 PM EDT

College football faces tougher road to return than NFL, former FDA head says

Playing football during the novel coronavirus pandemic presents a serious challenge, and it’s one that will be more easily solved by NFL teams than by college and high school teams, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration said.

“I think the professional leagues can do a lot to create a bubble around the players and test them and put in place measures to control what they do off the field as well,” Scott Gottlieb said Monday morning on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “I think it’s going to be much more difficult for colleges to do that. First of all to implement the testing — they don’t have the resources to do it — but also to control behavior off the field.”

As college players began to return to their campuses to resume voluntary summer workouts after the coronavirus shut down sports, several teams were dealing with outbreaks. Louisiana State University, the reigning national champion, placed at least a quarter of its roster — 30 of 115 players — in quarantine because of virus-related concerns, according to Sports Illustrated, with that number fluid based on test results.

A recent Washington Post review found signs that college teams were risking outbreaks, jeopardizing the season two months before it is scheduled to begin.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence you’re seeing the outbreaks [on college teams] in states where you already have outbreaks,” Gottlieb said. “I think this week is going to be a pivotal week for us to get a picture on where this is headed in states like Florida, Arizona and Texas and whether they’re tipping over into exponential growth or not.”

By Cindy Boren
June 22, 2020 at 12:14 PM EDT

Small businesses turned to technology to survive the pandemic. But it may not be enough.

Everything about Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books was designed to be experienced in person. Flipping through the pages of its carefully chosen selection of books, milling around and talking to neighbors over an espresso, crowding in to hear speakers at free events. When Philadelphia announced its stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus on March 16, the three-year-old bookstore had to rethink how it was going survive.

Three months later, the store, founded by author and activist Marc Lamont Hill, is selling physical books online through a service called Bookshop and audio books with a company called Libra.fm. It’s hosting Zoom happy hours, wellness talks and virtual events with authors. And in the past few weeks, it has seen a surge in online business from people wanting to support black-owned bookstores and read more about anti-racism. Still, the bookstore will largely rely on loans and a Go Fund Me campaign to survive until it reopens.

Despite a widespread shift to online shopping, nearly 90 percent of U.S. commerce takes place in the physical world. Small businesses, including restaurants, bookstores and yoga studios, have long earned their keep through bricks-and-mortar operations built on attracting customers to come in, gather, mingle and spend money.

Read more here.

By Heather Kelly
June 22, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT

Movie theater owners search for ways to safely reopen that won’t freak out their customers

As he gets ready to open his movie theaters across Illinois and Wisconsin, Chris Johnson faces a dilemma.

Johnson is eager to emphasize all the measures he and his staff are taking to protect patrons from the coronavirus. But he’s also wary of overdoing medical talk and scaring off potential customers.

“You don’t want to make all the health stuff too obvious,” said Johnson, the chief executive of Classic Cinemas, which operates 120 screens at 15 theaters. “Because if it feels like they’re checking in for a flight, they aren’t going to come. But you have to let them know somehow. So it’s really hard.”

Movie theaters are encountering a slew of challenges as they lurch toward reopening after a three-month shutdown, including well-documented obstacles such as a lack of new movies and capacity legally capped as low as 25 percent.

The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on theaters, and reopening is unlikely to see the business quickly recover to its former strength. The total box office return for the weekend of June 12-14 was just $500,000; it was $170 million on the same weekend a year ago.

Read more.

By Steven Zeitchik
June 22, 2020 at 11:18 AM EDT

WHO chief warns that politicization has worsened pandemic

The politicization of the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the global outbreak, the secretary general of the World Health Organization warned Monday, as cases continue to rise at an alarming rate internationally.

“The world is in desperate need of national unity and global solidarity. The politicization of the pandemic has exacerbated it,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual gathering Monday hosted by the World Government Summit in Dubai. “The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself, it’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership.”

Tedros also called on governments to prioritize universal health care, Reuters reported.

His comments came one day after the WHO reported its largest 24-hour increase in cases globally since the outbreak began. On Sunday, the U.N. agency said it recorded more than 183,000 new cases in the past day. Nearly 55,000 of those new cases were confirmed in Brazil, and more than 36,000 were recorded in the United States.

Trump has repeatedly accused the WHO of not taking a tough enough stance on China, where the virus was first detected late last year. In May, he announced that the United States would terminate its relationship with the U.N. agency.

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 22, 2020 at 10:25 AM EDT

Stocks fall slightly, undaunted by coronavirus surge

U.S. stock markets opened slightly lower Monday, as investors largely waved off troubling economic data and surging coronavirus cases in more than two dozen states.

After setting an all-time high earlier this month, the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 11 points or 0.12 percent. But many of the tech giants began the day’s trading session heading upward, as shares of Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon lifted slightly.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 125 points or 0.48 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index traded 12 points lower, or 0.48 percent in the morning hours.

The slight drop in stocks marks the latest confounding signal from Wall Street, as historically high unemployment and a spike in infections clashes with relatively unchanged share prices. As local governments have eased public health restrictions, 29 states and U.S. territories reported an increase in their seven-day average of new confirmed cases, fueling concerns. Public health experts say the United States has not yet ended its first wave of the illness, and they fear a second wave later in the year.

The spike in U.S. infections contributed to dramatically rising cases around the globe. The World Health Organization announced more than 183,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest number recorded of new daily infections since the start of the pandemic.

By Hamza Shaban
June 22, 2020 at 9:56 AM EDT

White House press secretary says Trump in ‘a great mood’ after Tulsa rally

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday insisted that President Trump was in “a great mood” following his campaign rally in Tulsa that left large swaths of an arena unfilled amid concerns about the pandemic, saying it had been “a great night.”

McEnany offered her assessment of the Saturday night rally on Fox News, even as images continued to circulate on television and social media of empty blue seats and Trump looking dejected as he returned to the White House after the event.

Asked by Steve Doocy of “Fox & Friends” how angry Trump was about the turnout — just under 6,200 people, according to the Tulsa Fire Marshal’s Office — McEnany said he was “not angry at all.”

“The president was quite energized,” she said. “It was a huge success. His speech got rave reviews. … He was in a great mood. It was a great night, and there was a lot to celebrate. … He’s in his best mood when he gets to speak directly to the American people, because that’s what he loves.”

On Sunday, the Trump campaign sought to blame the media for the far lower than expected turnout at the 19,000-seat arena.

“The fact is that a week’s worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of COVID and protesters, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said.

By John Wagner
June 22, 2020 at 9:23 AM EDT

Going back to the office? What public health experts say about using the elevator.

As workers are expected to return to office buildings in coming weeks, the whoosh of opening elevators may herald an uncomfortable reunion: Welcome back to sharing very tight spaces with strangers.

Even before the novel coronavirus pandemic, special etiquette ruled the elevator’s awkward confines: Face forward. Hold the door for stragglers. Chatterboxes unwelcome. Now, health agencies and medical experts are urging elevator riders to follow additional rules: Wear masks. Tap buttons with an object or knuckle. Avoid speaking when possible.

If riders follow those recommendations, “there’s essentially no risk in an elevator,” said infectious-disease physician Colleen Kraft, associate chief medical officer at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Read more here.

By Ben Guarino
June 22, 2020 at 8:56 AM EDT

Sen. Rick Scott says RNC attendees should wear masks, physically distance

In a sharp departure from President Trump’s approach, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Monday the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville must implement safety measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“You have to do this safely. People need to wear masks. They need to social distance. You need to do this in a manner no one gets sick,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Scott, a former Florida governor, said the precautions could help prevent an uptick in the number of coronavirus cases.

Republicans had planned to hold their convention in Charlotte, but Trump insisted that the event not be required to impose social distancing measures. The original site refused to go along with Trump’s demands for a crowded, large-scale event in the middle of a pandemic, so the Republican National Committee moved key elements of the convention, including Trump’s renomination speech, to Jacksonville.

Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, recently saw single-day records in the number of coronavirus cases, the Florida Times-Union reported. Florida has reported a 26 percent increase in cases since June 15, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 22, 2020 at 7:31 AM EDT

Chinese study finds that antibody levels may decline quickly, raising new questions over immunity after infection

A new Chinese study is raising concerns that recovered antibody levels in coronavirus patients may decrease only months after an infection.

The study tracked antibody levels in a relatively small sample of 74 patients — half of them symptomatic.

The gathered data suggests that “asymptomatic individuals had a weaker immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the scientists wrote, using the formal term for the novel coronavirus.

For many symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, levels of virus-specific Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies had fallen two or three months after infection. Neutralizing serum antibody levels also declined, although less significantly.

“The reduction in IgG and neutralizing antibody levels in the early convalescent phase might have implications for immunity strategy,” the researchers wrote.

Some countries have pondered “immunity passports,” which would allow recovered coronavirus patients to move more freely.

The study was conducted by a number of Chinese research institutes, including Chongqing Medical University, and was published by the Nature Medicine journal last week.

The study appeared to cast doubt on hopes that existing antibodies in the population could make second waves of infections less severe and help slow the spread of the virus.

But researchers cautioned that it is too early to assess the implications of the Chinese study. University of Hong Kong virology professor Dong-Yan Jin told the Reuters news agency that the “finding in this paper doesn’t mean the sky is falling.”

He said other mechanisms that could provide protection — including body cells’ ability to, in effect, remember a virus and mobilize a response — are not impacted.

By Rick Noack
June 22, 2020 at 7:30 AM EDT

Perspective: The return of sports anytime soon seems somewhere between unlikely and irresponsible

Here come the Stanley Cup playoffs and a bizarre Disney World tournament that will decide an NBA champion and a summer of golf that will end with an unprecedented fall Masters, and surely Major League Baseball will come to its senses and find a way to stage a season, and then: football. My goodness, football.

For a few weeks, I have to admit, I thought it was possible — if not all of it, a righteous portion. But let’s not just tap the brakes on the full-throated return of sports in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. We might just have to slam them to the floor.

Keep in mind: This virus spreads easily, and this virus kills. Does it need to kill a professional or college athlete — or coach or staff member — to have officials reel back these plans?

Read more here.

By Barry Svrluga
June 22, 2020 at 7:01 AM EDT

Trump continues to insist testing makes U.S. case total look worse

President Trump continued to contend early Monday that the United States appears to have more coronavirus cases than other nations because of more robust testing, a notion that prompted a fresh chorus of criticism following remarks along those lines at his weekend campaign rally in Tulsa.

“Our Coronavirus testing is so much greater (25 million tests) and so much more advanced, that it makes us look like we have more cases, especially proportionally, than other countries,” Trump said in a tweet sent after midnight. “My message on that is very clear!”

On Saturday night, in his first campaign appearance since the virus hit the United States, Trump called testing — which public health experts say is a crucial part of controlling the pandemic — a “double-edged sword.”

“Here’s the bad part … when you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people; you’re going to find more cases,” Trump told his supporters. “So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.”

In response to criticism from health experts and others who disputed Trump’s scoreboard calculus, his chief trade adviser, Peter Navarro, called Trump’s comments “tongue-in-cheek” during an appearance on CNN.

By John Wagner
June 22, 2020 at 6:50 AM EDT

Saving The Eagle: Can a London pub survive the pandemic?

LONDON — Michael Belben paces the wooden floor of The Eagle, trying to imagine pub life in a coronavirus world.

Chairs are stacked in a dusty jumble. A box of blue latex gloves sits on a ledge. A worn, green leather sofa, a choice seat at Sunday brunch, has been shoved aside, under a window bearing a message in jaunty script: “We’ll Be Back!” Belben, gray hair flopping, is focused on making that happen.

Tape measure in hand, he moves from bar to window to sidewalk. Must he allow a full six feet between customers or will three do? Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has promised to make the call within days, but Belben and proprietors of 47,000 other pubs in Britain are fuming about delays.

Read more here.

By Christine Spolar
June 22, 2020 at 6:42 AM EDT

It looks like the beginning of the end of America’s obsession with student standardized tests

America has been obsessed with student standardized tests for nearly 20 years. Now it looks like the country is at the beginning of the end of our high-stakes testing mania — both for K-12 “accountability” purposes and in college admissions.

When President George W. Bush signed the K-12 No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, the country began an experiment based on the belief that we could test our way to educational success and end the achievement gap.

Now, we are seeing the collapse of the two-decade-old bipartisan consensus among major policymakers that testing was the key lever for holding students, schools and teachers “accountable.” And it is no coincidence that it is happening against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic that forced educational institutions to revamp how they operate.

Read more here.

By Valerie Strauss
June 22, 2020 at 6:20 AM EDT

South Korea says it is fighting a second wave of coronavirus

South Korea says it has been hit by a second wave of the deadly coronavirus that health officials believe is linked to a long holiday weekend in May when young people visited bars and clubs in the capital, Seoul.

“In the metropolitan area, we believe that the first wave was from March to April, as well as February to March,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday, according to Reuters. “Then we see that the second wave, which was triggered by the May holiday, has been going on.”

Jeong said officials had expected the second wave not to arrive until fall or winter.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said the R-number — which shows how many other people one infected individual spreads the virus to on average — increased significantly between the end of April and June 11, triggering a wave of new infections, particularly around the capital and surrounding areas.

The mayor warned that social distancing measures would be implemented once again if cases continued to climb over the next three days or if hospital admissions reached more than 70 percent of capacity — a rate considered “burdensome” for the country’s health-care system.

“If the R-number stays at the figure seen 10 days ago, daily new infections are expected to reach around 800 a month later,” he said, urging citizens to wear face coverings and to avoid crowded spaces.

To date, 12,438 cases of the disease have been recorded in South Korea, and the country has so far avoided locking down its citizens, relying instead on a test-and-trace strategy along with stringent quarantine measures that officials began to lift early last month. The country has a much lower death toll than others, with only 280 reported fatalities in total.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 22, 2020 at 5:44 AM EDT

China rebukes Trump over comments that it says ‘stigmatize’ the country after ‘kung flu’ remark

President Trump reignited controversy over the words he uses to talk about the coronavirus pandemic when he called the virus the “kung flu,” provoking a response from the Chinese government.

Many people slammed the president for making a “racist joke” at a time when Asian Americans have endured increased hate speech and incidents of violence and more than 118,000 people have died of the virus in the United States.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the president’s comment and urged him to follow the World Health Organization’s guidance to avoid connecting the novel coronavirus to a particular region or country. WHO eschewed geographic labeling when it named the disease caused by the virus “covid-19,” or the coronavirus disease of 2019.

“China also firmly opposes any words or actions that try to use the origins of the coronavirus to stigmatize any country,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, CNN reported.

Trump’s words have elicited a response from China before. After the president repeatedly insisted on calling it the “Chinese virus” in March, a Foreign Ministry spokesman suggested he focus on addressing the U.S. outbreak and “stop finger-pointing at China.”

By Katie Shepherd
June 22, 2020 at 5:05 AM EDT

Mysterious deaths in California probed as possible early cases missed by officials

Several mysterious deaths in late 2019 and early 2020 have left families wondering whether loved ones died of early cases of the novel coronavirus that went undetected by public health officials in California.

According to records obtained by the Los Angeles Times, California officials are slowly reexamining deaths in cases of unexplained respiratory failure or a strange inflammatory condition that may be linked to covid-19 in children.

The deaths date back as early as November, more than two months before the first documented U.S. coronavirus death was confirmed on Feb. 6. The first U.S. covid-19 case was diagnosed in Washington state in late January, in a man who had recently returned from a trip to the central Chinese city of Wuhan. China’s first coronavirus cases were reported in December.

Several California medical examiners have submitted tissue samples from unexplained deaths for further testing, the Los Angeles Times reported, but bureaucratic hang-ups at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have slowed the process. The CDC is allowing the state to submit samples in only eight to 10 cases each week.

By Katie Shepherd
June 22, 2020 at 4:34 AM EDT

Those uncomfortable nasal swabs may be ending as Britain tries coronavirus saliva tests

LONDON — Trials of new saliva-based coronavirus tests are being launched in Britain this week, much to the relief of test subjects who have described the traditional method of inserting a swab in the nose to be acutely unpleasant.

According to experts, the new saliva testing method is less invasive for participants, as it involves spitting into a sample vial. Currently, swab testing is the typical approach, with the swab inserted deep into the nose and throat. Some swab tests have also presented false negatives in the past.

About 14,000 key workers and the people they live with will be participating in the project, led by Southampton University, the local council and Britain’s National Health Service.

“Saliva testing could potentially make it easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home, without having to use swabs,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said as he thanked those participating in the national trial.

Hancock added that the saliva test has the power to “make a big difference, if it works well.”

Test vials will be sent to the homes of participants and collected by staff participating in the study. The containers can also be dropped off at an agreed location. The results will be available within 48 hours.

The trial is expected to run for at least four weeks, British media reported Monday.

With at least 42,717 deaths, Britain is the third-hardest-hit country in the world, after the United States and Brazil. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been widely derided for his handling of the health crisis, with critics saying testing should have begun sooner.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 22, 2020 at 3:55 AM EDT

Poaching on the rise as communities seek food and income during coronavirus lockdowns

At least four tigers and six leopards have been illegally killed by poachers in India since the country began its coronavirus lockdown, wildlife advocates told the Associated Press.

Officials in Asia and Africa fear poaching is on the rise amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Other animals, including gazelles, wild boars and peacocks, have also been illegally hunted in recent months.

“It is risky to poach, but if pushed to the brink, some could think that these are risks worth taking,” Wildlife Trust of India biologist Mayukh Chatterjee said.

Tigers are endangered and leopards are threatened in some areas and endangered in others, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. People kill both big cat species for their coats.

The Wildlife Justice Commission issued a report in April suggesting that poachers had begun stockpiling illegally poached wares, such as pangolin scales and rhinoceros horns, as they wait out the pandemic.

In Africa, officials say commercial poaching has been kept in check because the park rangers who patrol to enforce hunting restrictions were designated as essential workers in most national parks. But some fear people have been increasingly hunting “bush meat,” including duikers, antelopes and monkeys, for food in rural communities that have been hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Rural people are struggling to feed themselves and their families,” Ray Jansen, chairman of the African Pangolin Working Group, told the Associated Press.

By Katie Shepherd
June 22, 2020 at 3:50 AM EDT

Dubai set to reopen for tourism, allow residents to travel

DUBAI — Dubai authorities announced late Sunday that the city would once again be allowing in tourists — with a negative coronavirus test result — starting July 7. Residents will also be allowed to travel again starting Monday.

The new travel rules for Dubai, a wealthy Persian Gulf emirate known for its soaring skyscrapers, luxury hotels and beaches, reflects the importance of tourism to the economy. Unlike United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, Dubai does not have oil and its economy relies significantly on international travel and tourism.

In 2019, more than 16 million tourists visited Dubai. The hotels, restaurants and other facilities catering to visitors have been desolate since a ban in late March on all arrivals except citizens. Even residency-visa holders — some 90 percent of the population — were not permitted to return to the country until just recently.

Unlike the other emirates in the UAE, Dubai implemented stricter lockdown policies, with a 24-hour curfew through much of April. It has now opened nearly everything up while Abu Dhabi is still sealed off from the rest of the country and Sharjah is only now opening beaches and museums — a move taken by Dubai weeks ago.

Under the new rules, arrivals must have a negative coronavirus test result or they will be tested at the airport, and they will have to sign up for the DXB covid-19 app to facilitate communication if symptoms appear. Visitors must also have valid health insurance.

Residents and citizens returning to Dubai will be tested at the airport, register their details on the app and then stay at home until the test results are available.

Dubai’s airport was once the busiest in the world for international travel. Its airline, Emirates, has laid off hundreds of staff.

By Paul Schemm
June 22, 2020 at 3:26 AM EDT

A Cold War spy satellite and a rocket-powered plane: Aerospace giant Richard Passman had a career kids could only dream of

Richard “Dick” Passman had the brains of one of the smartest engineers of his time and lived a life and career that any kid could only dream of. He designed some of the country’s first fastest aircraft. He worked on the first spy satellite during the Cold War. He helped design generators that space crews left on the moon to help conduct science experiments.

Passman, 94, lived a long life and ran for exercise almost every day. But on April 1, the retired aeronautical engineer died at his home at a Sunrise assisted-living facility in Silver Spring, Md., from complications of the coronavirus, his family said.

“I would consider Dick as one of the most top-notch, first-rate aeronautical engineers, one of the best I’ve ever known,” said John Anderson, the curator for aerodynamics at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Read more here.

By Ian Shapira
June 22, 2020 at 3:00 AM EDT

Dutch police arrest hundreds after anti-lockdown protest turns violent

Dutch police in The Hague arrested 400 people after an anti-lockdown protest turned violent and had to be dispersed with mounted officers and water cannon.

According to police, Sunday’s protest was initially peaceful but then turned violent with the arrival of soccer fans who began pelting officers with rocks and smoke bombs, prompting the move to disperse the crowd. Police added that the soccer fans were seeking to march into the center of the city, which had been forbidden.

Images from the protest show lines of police galloping on horseback toward the protest while a water cannon is fired over their heads.

“This has nothing to do with demonstrating or freedom of expression,” The Hague Mayor Johan Remkes said in a statement. “This group deliberately aimed to disturb public order.”

The protest was organized by the group Virus Madness, which is against social distancing measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The protest was originally banned by the mayor over fears it could spur infections. A smaller event was then allowed to proceed, which ballooned in size. Reuters estimated that several thousand attended the rally.

New cases of the coronavirus peaked in April in the Netherlands with rates of over 1,000 a day but have since dropped to double digits. There have been fewer than 50,000 total reported cases, with just over 6,000 deaths.

By Paul Schemm
June 22, 2020 at 2:18 AM EDT

New Zealand reports two new cases as travelers arrive from abroad

New Zealand’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, announced two new coronavirus cases Monday morning, bringing the total number of active infections nationwide to nine, after virtually eliminating the virus in May.

A teenage girl who had traveled with her family from Islamabad, with a stop in Melbourne, arrived in Auckland on June 13. She had a runny nose but no other symptoms. Her family members tested negative for the virus. The other passengers on the flight from Melbourne have been placed in isolation until they test negative for the virus, Bloomfield said.

The second person to test positive was a man in his 30s who arrived in New Zealand after traveling from India. One other person who arrived on the same Air India flight had also tested positive on Sunday, Bloomfield said.

New Zealand’s strict lockdown stamped out its coronavirus outbreak in just 49 days. But as the nation has reopened its borders to a small number of travelers, a few new cases have been recorded. The nation is using aggressive testing and mandated isolation of new arrivals to prevent the virus from spreading.

The two newest coronavirus patients tested positive while isolating after arriving in New Zealand. They have been moved to a hotel to quarantine until they clear the virus, Bloomfield said.

On June 16, New Zealand recorded the first two new cases after eliminating the virus within its borders, when two women traveling from Britain tested positive.

By Katie Shepherd
June 22, 2020 at 1:32 AM EDT

New coronavirus cases rising as officials brace for ‘second wave’ this fall

The Trump administration is stockpiling supplies in case of a second wave of infections this fall, as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in across the United States, a White House adviser said on Sunday.

“You prepare for what can possibly happen — I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but of course you prepare,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN.

Health experts, including Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have said the United States is still enduring the first wave of its coronavirus outbreak. The number of coronavirus cases would have to decrease significantly for an extended period before the first wave can be considered over, Fauci said last week.

But many states have been seeing increases, rather than declines, in their seven-day average of reported new case numbers.

Twenty-nine states and U.S. territories reported a higher seven-day average on Sunday than they did on June 14. California, Missouri and Oklahoma reported record-high numbers of new cases, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. Many large states that lifted shutdown restrictions in recent weeks, including California, Texas and Florida, have also seen increases in daily case totals.

The increasing coronavirus numbers have led to contentious political spats in recent days. At his Tulsa campaign rally, President Trump said he had asked officials to “slow the testing down” to lower the numbers. White House officials later defended the remark as a joke, but Democrats condemned it.

By Katie Shepherd
June 22, 2020 at 1:03 AM EDT

‘Heroes, right?’ A New York City paramedic and the injustices of covid-19

Nobody wants to know about what I do. People might pay us lip service and say we’re heroes, but our stories aren’t the kind anyone actually wants to hear about. Kids in this country grow up with toy firetrucks, or maybe playing cops and robbers, but who dreams of becoming a paramedic? That’s ambulances. That’s death and vulnerability — the scary stuff. We’re taught in this culture to shun illness like it’s something shameful. We’d rather pretend everything’s fine. We look the other way.

That’s what’s happening now in New York. We just had 20,000-some people die in this city, and already the crowds are lining back up outside restaurants and jamming into bars. This virus is still out there. We respond to 911 calls for covid every day. I’ve been on the scene at more than 200 of these deaths — trying to revive people, consoling their families — but you can’t even be bothered to stay six feet apart and wear a mask, because why? You’re a tough guy? It makes you look weak? You’d rather ignore the whole thing and pretend you’re invincible?

Read more here.

By Eli Saslow
June 22, 2020 at 12:38 AM EDT

Eye care comes into focus during coronavirus

What is it about the eyes that have prompted the repeated coronavirus warnings?

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned again and again. Wear a face mask, which may be effective because they remind you not to touch your face and eyes, among other things. Or use face shields, if you are a health-care worker.

“If someone sneezes in your face or if you touch a contaminated surface and then rub your eye,” says Jessica Belser, a microbiologist at the CDC, you risk getting the novel coronavirus in your eyes.

You want to protect your eyes from respiratory viruses for two main reasons. There is a direct connection between the eyes and the nasal passages, which can lead to respiratory infection. And viruses can infect the eyes themselves, which is called conjunctivitis — or pinkeye.

Read more here.

By Jill U. Adams
June 22, 2020 at 12:36 AM EDT

Democrats, public health experts decry Trump for saying he asked officials to slow down coronavirus testing

President Trump’s Saturday night remark that he asked officials to “slow the [coronavirus] testing down” sparked harsh rebukes from experts and frustration from his own staffers, who say it undercuts their efforts to reassure Americans as the disease surges around the country.

The president’s comment, which came on the same day that eight states reported their highest-ever single-day case counts, drew a chorus of criticism from congressional Democrats and public health officials, who worry the president is more concerned with saving face than combating the pandemic.

“Looking at it as a scoreboard is the wrong way to think about it,” said Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “To think of it as something you can manipulate or slow down based on what the numbers look like speaks to a complete misunderstanding of what an infectious-disease response should be.”

Read more here.

By Yasmeen Abutaleb, Taylor Telford and Josh Dawsey