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Across the United States, 38,115 new infections were reported by state health departments on Wednesday — surpassing the previous single-day record of 34,203 set on April 25. Texas, Florida and California led the way, with all three states reporting more than 5,000 new cases apiece.

Three states — California, Florida and Oklahoma — reported record highs in new single-day coronavirus cases, while hospitalizations hit a new peak in Arizona, where intensive care units have quickly filled.

Even as case numbers climb, reports circulated that the federal government is poised to stop providing federal aid to testing sites in some hard-hit states, including Texas, prompting a top federal official to respond that testing was on the rise.

Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has recorded more than 2.3 million coronavirus cases and at least 119,000 deaths, while the global number of cases has soared past 9 million.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The Dow Jones industrial average fell 709 points, or 2.7 percent, as investors grappled with a spike in covid-19 infections in several states, fueling concerns that an already drawn-out economic recovery will be delayed further.
  • The governors of the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area jointly announced a travel advisory, which requires a 14-day quarantine for visitors from nine states whose infection rates meet certain thresholds indicating “significant community spread,” according to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D).
  • The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said the global economy will shrink this year by 4.9 percent and will be followed by a sluggish recovery as the pandemic has caused more widespread damage than expected.
  • Virginia took a big step on Wednesday toward ushering in a new set of coronavirus-era safety rules that companies would be forced to implement to protect workers from infection — a first in the country and potentially a way forward for other states in the face of federal inaction.
  • An independent investigation into a Massachusetts long-term care facility where 76 people died of the novel coronavirus and an additional 84 residents tested positive found that errors by officials there contributed to the spread of the virus.

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June 24, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT

Virtually no tourists travel to Alaska after a record 1.4 million cruise visitors were expected

Most summers, Icy Strait Point near Hoonah, Alaska — population 760 — is filled with cruise passengers visiting restaurants and shops, whale watching, exploring on all-terrain vehicles, or hollering down a more-than-mile-long zip line. The destination expected 450,000 visitors this year.

“We haven’t had a ship yet,” said Tyler Hickman, the senior vice president of Icy Strait Point. It has not yet opened as a result.

So far, 99 percent of the projected capacity has been canceled, says Mike Tibbles, vice president of government and community affairs for Cruise Lines International Association Alaska.

Read more here.

By Hannah Sampson
June 24, 2020 at 11:11 PM EDT

After sharp declines, virus numbers may be starting to plateau in DMV region

The District, Maryland and Virginia reported 36 new covid-related deaths on Wednesday, along with 884 new infections.

The seven-day averages for both figures have been declining since early June but started to plateau this past week.

The District added four deaths and 34 new cases. Maryland added 16 deaths — including six in Baltimore City — and 330 new infections, nearly half of which were in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Read more here.

By Rebecca Tan
June 24, 2020 at 10:47 PM EDT

Will MLB’s health and safety plan hold up once baseball returns? It’ll be tough.

Major League Baseball’s 2020 operations manual, the guiding document for playing during the coronavirus pandemic, covers a lot of ground in a lot of detail.

Players can lean on padded railings at the ballpark if there is a towel between their body and the surface. Large condiment bottles must be “removed from eating areas and replaced with individually packaged units.” The final 10 pages, out of 101 total, are filled with diagrams that show how to best socially distance during drills and group stretching. One is dedicated to using two cut-off men from the outfield while staying six feet from the nearest teammate.

“It’s basically an honor system and you’re trusting that a whole lot of people understand how serious this is, and will be careful and safe,” said Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University. “This is a real gamble.”

Read more here.

By Jesse Dougherty
June 24, 2020 at 10:22 PM EDT

California’s Disneyland will delay its reopening

Lacking sufficient time to negotiate with labor unions and to bring back employees, Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., announced Wednesday it will delay its reopening. The park had been scheduled to open July 17 but will remain closed pending approval from government officials.

According to the company’s statement, California will not issue a reopening plan for theme parks until after July 4. Because the park will require weeks to call back its workforce, Disney decided to back out of the proposed reopening date.

“Once we have a clearer understanding of when guidelines will be released, we expect to be able to communicate a reopening date,” the statement read.

In late March, Disney parks closed amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, earlier this month after Disneyland announced its return, an online petition to keep the park shuttered drew tens of thousands of signatures. Following that trend, Disney World employees in Orlando started a petition asking company executives to reconsider plans to open as daily cases in Florida continue to mount. On Wednesday, Florida reported 5,511 new cases, shattering a previous single-day high mark set on June 20.

“Keeping ourselves and our visitors safe is our number one priority, in every theme park. This includes our health and well being,” the petition read. “We are encouraged to say something when we see something that we deem is unsafe so we’re speaking up.”

The company statement on the Disneyland delay did not address the employee petition, which had received more than 50,000 signatures by Wednesday evening. Disney World in Orlando appeared to be on track to open in July just as other international theme parks have.

“We developed enhanced health and safety protocols for both cast and guests at Shanghai Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort that have been approved, allowing us to reopen in a responsible manner and bring our cast members back to work,” the statement read.

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 9:51 PM EDT

Top W.Va. health official resigns after governor complains about accuracy of coronavirus case numbers

After complaining about the accuracy of recent coronavirus case numbers in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice (R) accepted the resignation of a top state health official.

On Wednesday, Cathy Slemp, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources commissioner and a state health officer, stepped down after being asked to leave her post, according to a statement released by Justice’s office.

“After the Governor expressed to [state Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch] his lack of confidence in Dr. Slemp’s leadership of the Bureau for Public Health due to a series of recent events involving issues under her direct control, Secretary Crouch then asked for Dr. Slemp’s resignation, which she offered immediately,” the statement read.

Earlier in the day during a news briefing, Justice said that some of the reported numbers of new cases in the state had been inflated. As of Wednesday evening, the health department reported 2,629 total cases in the state, an increase of 47 confirmed results in a single day.

“We have every reason to believe that numbers that I have been reporting to you the last few days are maybe inaccurate,” Justice said. “Now they’re inaccurate to the good side for us. But that doesn’t matter to me. And what I mean by that, we really believe now that I’ve been reporting to you that we have more active cases than we really have.”

Without giving details, Justice cited an example in Jackson County in which the state is “still investigating” what happened with testing at a nursing home. Also, Justice highlighted a situation in the city of Huttonsville where there were six cases, but they were not properly reflected on the state total number.

“It is my responsibility to tell our people the right numbers,” Justice said. “If I overstate the number of actives, then I’m scaring you. I’m scaring you when I don’t need to scare you. And that’s not going to cut it with me. … We’re going to get to the bottom of this really quickly.”

Slemp worked as the state’s health officer from 2002 to 2011 and returned to the position in 2018.

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 9:37 PM EDT

CDC and drugmakers boost flu vaccine doses amid fears of tough respiratory illness season

Worried about a simultaneous assault of the novel coronavirus and seasonal influenza this winter, public health officials and vaccine manufacturers are making millions of extra flu vaccine doses to protect those most vulnerable to the pandemic and influenza, according to government and company officials.

Even though flu season doesn’t begin until the fall, major flu vaccine manufacturers say they plan to boost production by about 10 percent, to about 189 million doses, up from 170 million doses last year, to ensure enough doses exist for an anticipated surge in people seeking flu shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken the rare step of buying 7 million doses directly from manufacturers to be distributed to states for adult vaccination, CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview. “This is a big move,” he said.

Getting a flu shot does not protect against the coronavirus, but disease experts said reducing episodes of flu could prove pivotal in freeing up space in hospitals and medical offices to deal with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Read more here.

By Lena H. Sun
June 24, 2020 at 8:55 PM EDT

Oregon county rescinds exemption for people of color from mask mandate

After an Oregon county excused people of color from its new mask mandate, citing “heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment due to wearing face coverings in public,” it has withdrawn the exception.

Lincoln County noted its exemption for people of color last week when it mandated face coverings in “any indoor public setting or outdoor public location where a person will be in within six feet of another individual, who does not share the same household."

However, the county took back the exemption Wednesday after receiving national attention, alleging that racist remarks spurred by the news put the minority community at risk.

“We are shocked and appalled at the volume of horrifically racist commentary we have received regarding this policy exception,” according to a statement from the county, the News Guard reported.

“The very policy meant to protect [Black residents], is now making them a target for further discrimination and harassment,” the statement continued. “Let us be very clear. The directive and policy were meant to protect. Threats and racist statements turned it into a policy that now harms.”

Protests of racism and police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis have heightened awareness of the biases nonwhite people could face. For months, black Americans, in particular, have expressed concerns about how they’ll be perceived — and potentially targeted — when wearing masks.

“As an African American man, I have to be cognizant of the things I do and where I go, so appearances matter,” Nashville resident Kip Diggs told The Washington Post earlier in the pandemic. He said of the masks he wears: “I have pink, lime green, Carolina blue so I don’t look menacing. I want to take a lot of that stigma and risk out as best I can.”

Oregon soon ordered people in seven counties, including Lincoln, to cover their faces inside businesses. That broader order does not list an exemption for nonwhite people.

By Hannah Knowles and Meryl Kornfield
June 24, 2020 at 8:13 PM EDT

Austin labs’ use of fax machines blamed for long wait times for coronavirus test results

In Austin, technology has not been able to keep up with the novel coronavirus.

Travis County officials have complained about the old-fashioned way some medical labs have delivered test results: by fax machine. On Monday, the city reported a relatively low amount of 129 new cases, a decrease by nearly 400 from the previous day. However, that number did not represent the total amount. Tested individuals were still waiting to receive their results via fax.

“This incredibly wasteful, stupid process of putting it on fax paper and faxing it to somebody so that they then have to manually enter it on a computer,” Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said Tuesday during a live-streamed meeting, according to CBS Austin.

Dr. Mark Escott, who attended the commissioners’ briefing, said it was not uncommon for the results to be entered into the system seven to 10 days after the patient has been tested. According to Austin Public Health, nasal swab tests should yield a result within 24 to 72 hours. However, residents who have tested for the coronavirus have criticized longer-than-expected wait times. The department said it receives more than 1,000 daily faxes with test results, according to CBS Austin.

“That’s like a third world technology,” Shea said. “Most young people don’t even know what a fax machine is anymore.”

During the earlier days of the pandemic, Caroline Cook told KVUE that she took a coronavirus test at the Austin Regional Clinic on March 20 and was told the results would return in five to seven days. At the time of the interview on March 31, Cook had yet to receive the results.

“I feel like we need to have the results quickly so we can take action,” Cook told the television station.

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 7:28 PM EDT

GNC files for bankruptcy, will close as many as 1,200 stores

Vitamin and nutrition chain GNC has filed for bankruptcy, with plans to close roughly a fifth of its 5,200 U.S. locations as it searches for a buyer.

GNC — General Nutrition Centers — has struggled for years to shore up sales as it has tried to pay down more than $900 million in debt. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which forced it to suspend operations at about 40 percent of its stores. GNC holdings said it plans to permanently close as many as 1,200 locations.

The chain, founded in 1935 in Pittsburgh, is the sixth major U.S. retailer to file for Chapter 11 protection during the pandemic, which has already led to thousands of permanent store closures and billions in lost sales across the industry.

Read more here.

By Abha Bhattarai
June 24, 2020 at 7:03 PM EDT

Pence tells Republican lawmakers to focus on ‘encouraging signs’ amid the pandemic

Vice President Pence urged GOP senators Wednesday to focus on “encouraging signs” despite a recent spike in coronavirus cases in numerous states as various localities move swiftly to reopen their economies.

Pence made the remarks in a closed-door lunch with Republican senators on Capitol Hill as lawmakers have begun to express alarm because of rising infection rates in Florida, Arizona, Texas and several other states, some of which are likely to be critical to the outcome of the presidential race in the fall and control of the Senate. On Wednesday, five states hit new highs in covid-19 hospitalizations.

Multiple senators said Pence pointed to positive indicators, including the fact that while infections are rising, the mortality rate is not. That is partly because there is more testing, and younger and healthier people now account for larger shares of those getting tested, Pence said.

Read more here.

By Erica Werner
June 24, 2020 at 6:43 PM EDT

Texas county official assaulted by irate store customer who refused to wear mask, sheriff says

When Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff ordered all commercial businesses to require employees and customers to wear facial coverings, the Texas county executive acknowledged the action “may be pushing” the legal boundary. On Wednesday, an irate customer pushed back against his order — and allegedly assaulted the judge.

According to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, Wolff (D) was confronted by a customer at a Lowe’s store in San Antonio who had berated a cashier over the county mandate.

In surveillance video reviewed by local deputies, Wolff was standing in the checkout line behind an unidentified man who refused an employee’s request to put on a facial covering. When the customer became angry at the employee, Wolff stepped in to explain the local mandate.

Although Texas has no decree on facial coverings, on June 17 Wolff became one of several local leaders in the state to issue a countywide executive order. Businesses could face a fine of up to $1,000 for not requiring face masks.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters the customer accosted Wolff, apparently knowing his identity as the official who was behind the order. Wolff attempted to give the customer his business card, and the man smacked it away.

“It was some kind of literature that he was trying to hand the gentleman,” Salazar said, “being very nice to him, but just for some reason he took offense to it and decided he’d rather assault him.”

Salazar said law enforcement has identified the customer, who could face a charge of assault on a public servant.

“We’re recommending he come in and give us his side of the story,” Salazar said. “Give us a call. We want to hear your side of the story, but we are coming.”

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 6:10 PM EDT

Houston cases soar as mayor warns people to take situation ‘very seriously’

Houston’s mayor on Wednesday announced 987 new coronavirus cases in the city and seven new deaths — a troubling number that he said was indicative of recent trends in the state.

Sylvester Turner (D) said the new cases, 91 percent of which reflect tests conducted between June 14 and 22, bring Houston’s total to 16,253. According to the Houston Chronicle, hospitalizations have more than doubled in the Houston area since Memorial Day, and Texas has averaged more than 3,000 new cases per day over the past week — nearly double the number from a week earlier.

Houston is facing 650 new cases per day on average, Turner said.

“It’s past time for people to take this situation very seriously,” he said. “The numbers are moving in the wrong direction.”

Turner said he was optimistic that Houston could right the ship if people remain vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing. He said that in the coming days, he will urge local officials to monitor clubs and bars specifically to ensure they are adhering to occupancy limits. Those that aren’t complying will be referred to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which has previously suspended the liquor licenses of businesses that flout public health rules.

“I don’t care if you get mad at me,” he said. “We are going to get this back under control.”

The mayor’s announcement comes as the number of patients hospitalized with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in the city continues to soar. The Texas Medical Center reported that 97 percent of its ICU beds are occupied.

“People wanted to open up toward the end of April/May, and we did. Now people are resocializing,” he said. “Nobody’s saying we’re shutting down, but we are asking people: If you want to open, okay, let’s put on a mask.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
June 24, 2020 at 5:15 PM EDT

Calif., Fla., Okla. report record-high new cases; record hospitalizations in Arizona

Three states — California, Florida and Oklahoma — reported record highs in new single-day coronavirus cases Wednesday, while hospitalizations hit a new peak in Arizona, where intensive care units have quickly filled.

California reported more than 7,000 new cases, according to Washington Post tracking. That’s 42 percent higher than the previous peak of 5,019, set on Tuesday. Hospitalizations of people with covid-19, the disease the virus causes, or suspected to have the virus were up 7 percent from the day before.

Florida blew past its previous record from the weekend by well over 1,000 cases, reporting more than 5,500 new infections in a day. The Sunshine State has broken its rolling average record for new cases for 17 days straight.. Numbers on Florida’s current hospitalizations were not available on its dashboard, but the daily average change in cumulative hospitalizations has been edging upward.

Oklahoma reported 482 additional known cases, hitting a new rolling average for the 12th day in a row. That average is up about 83 percent from June 17.

Record new infections were reported in Tulsa County, where President Trump held a campaign rally over the weekend — a mass indoor gathering that the county’s top public health official worried could be a “super spreader” for the already-surging virus.

In Arizona, intensive care unit beds are 88 percent full, while inpatient beds are 86 percent full, according to state data. Doctors and top health experts such as former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb warn that the health-care system in Arizona and several other states could become overburdened. The state reports 2,270 hospitalized covid-19 patients, up from 2,136 reported Tuesday.

At the same time, Arizona posted its lowest number of new infections since June 15, about 1,800.

Montana also reported its highest-yet number of coronavirus hospitalizations, though the state continues to have one of the lowest infection and death totals relative to its population — about two deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 150 per 100,000 in now-recovering New York.

By Hannah Knowles and Jacqueline Dupree
June 24, 2020 at 5:12 PM EDT

N.Y., N.J., Conn. say travelers from states with high spread of coronavirus must quarantine

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are instructing travelers arriving from states with high coronavirus infection rates to quarantine for 14 days, the three states’ governors announced Wednesday in a joint news conference.

New York will be enforcing the measure with judicial orders and fines starting at $2,000, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said, while the other states are not penalizing people for violating the “travel advisory.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said “stricter measures” could follow if people do not heed the quarantine.

The new rules, which take effect at midnight, will apply to states with an infection rate of more than 10 per 100,000 people over seven-day rolling average or a 10 percent-or-higher positivity rate among those tested over a seven-day rolling average. Nine states meet that threshold, Cuomo said: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have seen infections slow, while cases and hospitalizations have accelerated in many states in the South and West.

“We did a full 180 degrees,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “We went from the highest cases, the highest viral transmission rates, to some of the lowest rates in the country.”

“We also have to make sure the virus doesn’t come on a plane again,” he said later. “Learned that lesson.”

Emphasizing the Northeast region’s progress, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) echoed those worries: “We’re not an island.”

Cuomo said in the past week that he was considering a quarantine order for travelers from Florida, in the latest sign of the state’s reversing fortunes. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, in March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered anyone flying into his state from New York to self-quarantine for two weeks. New York was the main hot spot of the U.S. outbreak, while Florida had roughly 1,200 confirmed cases and 17 deaths.

“Tale of two cities, two countries,” Cuomo said in the past week at a news briefing.

An earlier version of this post said visitors from those states would fall under the tri-state area’s new quarantine rule if 10 percent of the “population” tested positive over a certain period, citing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s news conference statements. In fact, the threshold is 10 percent positivity rate among those tested. The post has also been updated to clarify states’ different approaches to enforcement.

By Hannah Knowles
June 24, 2020 at 4:32 PM EDT

North Carolina to require face coverings in public, delay next reopening phase amid surge

As North Carolina experiences a surge in daily new cases and total hospitalizations, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) extended the second phase of reopening into next month and required residents to wear face coverings while in public.

On Wednesday, North Carolina reported 1,721 new cases with 906 people hospitalized because of complications from covid-19. Both represent the second-highest numbers the state has experienced since the beginning of the global outbreak.

While still under “Safer at Home” Phase 2 guidelines, North Carolina gyms, fitness centers, museums and playgrounds will remain closed. On July 17, the order will expire with the intention of easing restrictions.

In hitting the pause button on the reopening plan, Cooper cited White House coronavirus task force member Anthony S. Fauci’s congressional testimony about the possibility of North Carolina seeing a community spread that would be difficult to contain.

“This is not where we planned to be or wanted to be,” Cooper said during his briefing. “But it is one of two important decisions that we need to make to effectively fight this disease. The other important decision is requiring face coverings when people are out in public.”

The mask requirement will extend to employees, as well as customers, of retail businesses and restaurants. Also, employees in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture must wear face coverings while on the job.

Cooper, who wore a mask to the briefing, said the state must follow “overwhelming evidence” that shows the effectiveness of face coverings in slowing the spread of the virus.

“This is a simple way to control this virus while we protect ourselves and the people around us,” Cooper said.

By Candace Buckner
June 24, 2020 at 4:17 PM EDT

60 Texas college students test positive after Mexico spring break trip, CDC reports

On March 19, the day the Trump administration urged Americans to stop traveling internationally, a group of students from the University of Texas at Austin returned from a spring break trip to a Mexican beach resort.

Within two weeks, 60 of the 183 travelers to Cabo San Lucas tested positive for the coronavirus, along with four contacts, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As students prepare to return to many universities this fall, the case study offers a window into how easily the virus spreads among college students — and how it can be contained. Researchers likened the students’ close quarters and constant interaction to the environment of a nursing home in the potential for disease spread.

“Contact tracing and testing of close contacts, regardless of symptoms, is important in limiting spread, especially in young and healthy populations living in shared housing,” they wrote.

Read more here.

By Rachel Weiner
June 24, 2020 at 3:58 PM EDT

More male cases than female cases signals lack of testing for women in some poorer countries, aid organization says

Confirmed coronavirus cases among men are disproportionately higher than among women in certain conflict-ridden or poorer countries, according to data published Wednesday by the International Rescue Committee.

The aid organization said that the rates suggest a general lack of testing for women in areas where access to health care and testing is already scarce. While globally, women comprise 51 percent of positive cases of the coronavirus, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Chad and the Central African Republic, they make up less than 30 percent of confirmed cases, the IRC found. In wealthier countries such as the United States, Britain and Germany, women account for closer to 50 percent of positive coronavirus cases.

“Both men and women in conflict-affected countries experience great difficulty in accessing healthcare, but data shows women have a slimmer chance of seeing a doctor than men in countries such as Pakistan,” Stacey Mearns, senior technical adviser of emergency health at the IRC, wrote in a statement.

Experts say the disparity in other parts of the world accounts for a worrying dearth of testing among women, who often serve as vital caregivers in those societies.

“Women are usually caretakers of the sick and elderly in these cultures and therefore exposed to COVID-19,” Mearns said. “Women also work in industries such as healthcare as nurses and cleaners, in retail and in the informal sector as market-sellers, food vendors and domestic workers, all exposing them to the virus. The numbers do not add up.”

By Ruby Mellen
June 24, 2020 at 3:22 PM EDT

Coronavirus cases spike in Tulsa, but city officials blame small gatherings rather than Trump rally

Four days after President Trump’s rally, the number of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma’s Tulsa County has hit a new high, with Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, saying at a news conference Wednesday that 259 new cases had been confirmed.

But Dart and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum (R) attributed the rising number of cases to small gatherings such as weddings and funerals and to people failing to wear masks and keep social distance — rather than political rallies and protests.

Dart said new cases in Tulsa are on “steep upward trends” similar to the rest of Oklahoma, with confirmed cases in the week of June 14 to 20 increasing by 92 percent. Hospitalizations also have increased, he said, including a 133 percent rise in the 18-to-35 age range.

There have been 2,742 coronavirus cases and 66 deaths in Tulsa County so far.

Dart said 60 volunteers in Tulsa are doing contact tracing to track the spread of the virus. He did not say whether there were confirmed cases directly linked to Trump’s rally or protests outside the venue Saturday. “It’s still too soon to know the outcome from these events,” he said.

Dart said that over the past month, the spread of the coronavirus in Tulsa County has exceeding the Health Department’s modeling.

“We’re finding that the reality’s actually worse than what the models were showing us could possibly happen,” he said. “While hospitalization numbers are at an all-time high for covid-19, we are not close to overwhelming our health-care system, but we want to stay that way.”

The Tulsa Health Department is recommending that anyone who attended Trump’s rally or the protests that day get tested and monitor themselves for symptoms of the virus.

Bynum said city officials are discussing imposing new restrictions on gatherings and rules on mask-wearing, but he downplayed the risk of rallies such as Trump’s spreading the virus in Tulsa.

The uptick is “not from people going to protests or to rallies,” he said. “It’s from people going to weddings and funerals and family gatherings and bars and other things like that.”

By Josh Partlow
June 24, 2020 at 2:38 PM EDT

‘Utterly baffling’ choices factored in spread of virus at a Mass. long-term care facility

An independent investigation into a long-term care facility where 76 people died of the novel coronavirus and an additional 84 residents tested positive found that errors by officials there contributed to the spread of the virus.

Former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein spearheaded the investigation into Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke at the request of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) in an attempt to prevent a repeat of incidents in the future.

The report found “substantial errors” in the home’s leadership that led to the death of many residents at the home, where the average age is about 85. The facility is open to eligible veterans in the state.

Superintendent Bennett Walsh was not qualified to manage a facility such as Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke — an oversight by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services — and his team’s decisions were at times “the opposite of infection control,” according to the report.

The “most substantial error” Walsh and his team made included moving all veterans from a dementia unit into another one, causing overcrowding and disregarding isolating those infected from asymptomatic people, the report found.

The choice appeared to focus on preparing for residents’ death instead of infection control based on a refrigerator truck that had arrived to supplement the home’s limited morgue capacity and social workers who were assigned to contact relatives about end-of-life preferences, according to the report.

Other mistakes such as waiting too long to test symptom-showing veterans or closing highly trafficked areas were also factors in the home’s death toll, according to the report.

“Indeed, some of the critical decisions made by Mr. Walsh and his leadership team during the final two weeks of March 2020 were utterly baffling from an infection-control perspective, and were inconsistent with the Home’s mission to treat its veterans with honor and dignity.” the report said.

More than 80 staff members tested positive for the virus and that, too, could have been a result of the home placing no restrictions on staff members “floating” to different units and its inconsistency in giving employees personal protective gear.

Baker tweeted that the report “lays out in heartbreaking detail the failures that unfolded there, and the tragic outcomes that followed.”

“Our emergency response to the covid-19 outbreak stabilized conditions for residents and staff, and we now have an accurate picture of what went wrong and will take immediate action to deliver the level of care that our veterans deserve,” he wrote.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 24, 2020 at 2:08 PM EDT

France’s contact tracing app struggles to track users, half a million uninstall it

France’s new contact tracing phone application is not actually tracking very many coronavirus cases, according to Cédric O, the digital affairs minister.

In the three weeks since its launch, the platform alerted just 14 people that they came in close contact with another user confirmed to have the novel coronavirus, the minister said at a briefing, according to Yahoo News. Overall, 68 users told the French application that they had been confirmed infected. Another 460,000 people chose to uninstall the app, which now has around 1.5 million users out of France’s population of 67 million.

In contrast, Germany, population around 83 million, has had around 10 million users download its contact tracing platform. The digital affairs minister attributed the two countries’ gap in usage to “cultural differences and differing attitudes to the coronavirus,” Yahoo News reported.

Countries around the world have touted contact tracing apps as critical to containing the coronavirus. But while China’s authoritarian government has been able to mandate usage though stringent surveillance, Europeans have been far more wary of these tracking technologies and the privacy and political concerns they entail.

Some countries, such as Britain, have also struggled to get one up and running: Britain’s first version launched in May but didn’t work. It is now still trying to develop a new prototype in collaboration with Apple and Google.

By Miriam Berger
June 24, 2020 at 1:36 PM EDT

Florida suspends college bar’s alcohol license

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation suspended the state alcoholic beverage license of an Orlando bar near the University of Central Florida after 13 employees and about 28 customers have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Miami Herald reported.

The Knight’s Pub, the only bar in the state to have its license taken away, did not abide by the terms of a June 3 executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that allowed bars and pubs to operate with restrictions on seating capacity and with social distancing, the paper reported.

In making the decision, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation concluded that the bar was likely to continue “its harmful business practices and behavior.” The bar won’t be able to sell alcohol until the agency lifts its order or issues a final directive, according to the Miami Herald.

The college bar’s alcohol license suspension comes just days after DeSantis said state officials would start cracking down on businesses that don’t comply with his order, the paper reported.

On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health reported 5,508 new cases of the coronavirus, a single-day record that brings the state’s total number of confirmed cases to more than 109,000, according to the Miami Herald.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 24, 2020 at 12:57 PM EDT

Dow tumbles more than 700 points amid surge in coronavirus cases

The Dow Jones industrial average shed more than 700 points during early trading Wednesday, as investors grappled with a spike in novel coronavirus cases in several states, fueling concerns that an already drawn out economic recovery will be delayed further by a potential second wave of the pandemic.

The Dow dropped 775 points, or nearly 3 percent, in morning trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 88 points, or 2.84 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq — which recently set an all-time high — slid more than 2.5 percent and was headed for its first negative session in nine days.

The sell-off was widespread, hitting every sector, and marked the steepest drop since June 11. Even high-performing mega-tech companies that have rewarded investors during the nationwide lockdown — such as Microsoft, Apple and Alphabet — were trading lower, each declining more than 1.5 percent.

By Hamza Shaban
June 24, 2020 at 12:05 PM EDT

California sets another record with 7,000 cases

California reported more than 7,000 new cases, setting a record high for infections, according to Washington Post data.

The new number of cases is an increase of 42 percent over the previous high of 5,019, set on Tuesday, reports show.

The Golden State’s new seven-day average is now 59.5 percent higher than it was a week ago, and its seven-day death total average saw a slight uptick.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) led the charge as the first to issue an executive order requiring residents to stay home as the novel virus rolled through the country months ago and has publicly stated he would consider reverting to more stringent measures should data spike to undefined totals, Los Angeles Times reported.

The governor has also stated that rising hospitalizations could threaten reopening, Cal Matters reported.

New state reporting data showed a record of nearly 5,400 covid-19 confirmed and suspected hospitalizations increased by seven percent since Tuesday and that current numbers of confirmed and suspected intensive care unit patients are up to 1,487 from Tuesday’s 1,421.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 24, 2020 at 11:49 AM EDT

CVS is offering covid-19 testing program to companies and universities

CVS Health announced Wednesday that it will begin offering a suite of covid-19 testing and health services for businesses and universities that aim to reopen, even as the pandemic surges in several states.

The nation’s largest pharmacy chain will provide testing, software for scheduling tests and retrieving results, contact tracing tools and other services including thermal scanners and flu vaccinations. Dubbed “Return Ready,” the bundle of services is available to all U.S. employers and universities, the company said, but did not reveal how much it would cost.

Since May, CVS has set up more than 1,000 testing locations in the country, according to the company’s website. Employers and schools would have the option to conduct on-site testing or to use existing testing sites.

As shelter-in-place measures took hold in March, and stores, restaurants, schools and offices shuttered, CVS boosted its recruitment efforts, aiming to hire 50,000 workers to brace for the surge in business.

While many companies have directed their staff to continue working remotely, with some expecting employees to remain home until next year, others have gradually reopened their doors, while limiting the number of people allowed in the office. Other businesses, including supermarkets and pharmacies, have remained open, and bolstered their staff to handle increased demand during the pandemic.

By Hamza Shaban
June 24, 2020 at 11:29 AM EDT

New York City Marathon canceled

The New York City Marathon, one of the most prestigious road races in the world, was canceled Wednesday because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The decision to scrap the 50th edition of the race, which draws more than 50,000 runners, 10,000 volunteers and around 1 million fans along the 26.2-mile route through the city’s five boroughs, was “incredibly disappointing,” the chief executive of New York Road Runners said.

“It was clearly the course we needed to follow from a health and safety perspective,” Michael Capiraso added.

The race, which had been set for Nov. 1, will take place in November 2021 and follows the precedent set by the Boston Marathon. It had postponed its race from April until September before canceling it altogether in May.

“While the marathon is an iconic and beloved event in our city, I applaud New York Road Runners for putting the health and safety of both spectators and runners first,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said in a statement. “We look forward to hosting the 50th running of the marathon in November of 2021.”

Runners who have registered for the 2020 race can choose to receive a refund or defer entry to the race over the next three years. They can also run a virtual version of the event, with details about that coming in July.

By Cindy Boren
June 24, 2020 at 11:28 AM EDT

Top health official pushes back against reports that federal government will end funding to coronavirus testing sites

The federal official overseeing coronavirus testing efforts pushed back against reports the federal government is poised to stop providing federal aid to testing sites in some hard-hit states, including Texas, where new cases have spiked sharply in recent weeks.

Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night that the government has expanded from 41 testing sites to more than 600 in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

“In addition, 93 percent of all community health centers offer covid-19 testing — at thousands of locations,” he wrote, adding that the HHS will work to increase testing capacity and to make it accessible to underserved communities.

He wrote of the closures: “The only truthful, but still misleading report in the media, is that we are transitioning 13 sites from the original now antiquated program to the more efficient and effective testing sites” being opened.

His comments referred to reports that the federal government plans to end support of 13 testing sites in five states, including seven in Texas, this coming Tuesday.

Two testing sites are in Dallas, Talking Points Memo reported. Four of the sites, which conduct thousands of tests per day, are in Houston and surrounding Harris County, the Houston Chronicle reported. Texas reported 5,489 new cases Tuesday, its highest case count in a single day and far exceeding its previous record of 4,430 from Saturday, according to data collected by The Washington Post. Nearly 4,100 people in Texas are hospitalized with covid-19, up from 2,158 one week ago.

Giroir also testified before a House committee Tuesday along with top federal infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield; and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn. All four officials denied they had ever been directed to reduce testing after Trump told rally goers in Tulsa that he had charged officials to “slow the testing down.”

White House officials have insisted Trump was speaking in jest. Yet on Tuesday, Trump undercut that defense, telling reporters, “I don’t kid,” and elaborated further on Twitter.

“Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding,” the president tweeted ahead of the hearing. “With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”

By Kareem Copeland and Lateshia Beachum
June 24, 2020 at 10:59 AM EDT

She was furloughed from her job. So she became ‘Lasagna Lady,’ making 1,200 pans for those in need.

After Michelle Brenner was furloughed from her job at a menswear store in Gig Harbor, Wash., because of the coronavirus pandemic, she turned to comfort-food therapy.

Brenner, 45, made herself a huge pan of lasagna using her grandmother’s recipe. Then, in a moment of pride after shopping for groceries (including frozen lasagna) for some of her neighbors, she got on her community Facebook page and wrote that frozen, store-bought lasagna could not compare to the real Italian homemade deal. And she followed up with an offer: “If any of you want some fresh homemade, no calorie counting lasagna, please let me know and I will gladly prepare it,” she wrote.

Brenner set aside her $1,200 stimulus check to buy ingredients, and the requests soon began to trickle in. Nearly three months and 1,200 pans later, Brenner is still at it. About eight hours a day, seven days a week, she helps feed people in her community — from hospital workers and first responders to single parents struggling without paychecks.

Read more here.

By Cathy Free
June 24, 2020 at 10:34 AM EDT

‘History books will be written about things like this,' Sanjay Gupta says of Trump rally

CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, on Wednesday forcefully denounced President Trump’s decision to hold a packed indoor rally in a new coronavirus hot spot.

He’s one of many health professionals sharing stunned reactions to the “Students for Trump” event held Tuesday night in Phoenix. Attendees were seated close together, and pictures showed many not wearing masks, despite a new city mandate that people generally cover their faces in public.

“I don’t know what to say anymore about this sort of stuff,” said Gupta, an associate professor in the neurosurgery department at Emory University, on CNN’s New Day. 'It’s like a bunch of people being outside in the middle of a hurricane."

A large, indoor event without physical distancing or masks is “the worst-case scenario,” he said, echoing health officials’ assessments of the relative risk at gatherings during the pandemic.

“It defies logic,” Gupta said. “History books will be written about things like this … We’re not going to be judged very favorably.”

By Hannah Knowles
June 24, 2020 at 10:21 AM EDT

IMF says global economic collapse caused by the coronavirus will be even worse than feared

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday painted a bleak portrait of the global economy, saying the coronavirus pandemic has caused more widespread damage than expected and will be followed by a sluggish recovery.

The global economy will shrink in 2020 by 4.9 percent, worse than the 3 percent decline predicted in April, the IMF said.

No major economy is escaping the pandemic. The U.S. economy, the world’s largest, is expected to shrink by 8 percent in 2020. Countries that use the single European currency are headed for a decline of more than 10 percent, while Japanese output will fall by 5.8 percent, the IMF said. The Chinese economy, suffering the twin ravages of the pandemic and the trade war with the United States, is projected to eke out just a 1 percent gain — its worst performance in several decades.

Read more here.

By David Lynch
June 24, 2020 at 10:16 AM EDT

Deaths in Latin America officially surpass 100,000

The coronavirus continues to spread its affliction across Latin America, where covid-19 deaths officially surpassed 100,000 on Tuesday and confirmed cases doubled in less than a month to 2.2 million, according to Reuters.

The region of more than 650 million people is now the global pandemic’s hotspot, according to the World Health Organization, though its total tallies remain second to the United States, which has just over half the population and more than 2.3 million confirmed cases and at least 119,000 related deaths.

Brazil is Latin America’s largest and most populous country and the worst hit by the virus. This week it joined the United States as the only place to surpass 50,000 fatalities. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are also rising fast in other countries such as Chile, Peru, Argentina and Mexico, the latter of which recorded its highest one-day increase in infections Tuesday.

Public health experts agree that the official accounting of cases and deaths in Latin America, as well as elsewhere in the world, is probably a very large underestimate of the virus’s actual spread. In Latin America, however, a lack of rigorous testing coupled with creaking health care systems and widespread poverty and inequality have probably exacerbated the epidemic.

Many of the Latin American countries now seeing surges in cases, such as Chile, had been quick to lock down in March as the coronavirus tore through Europe. Others, such as Brazil, had taken a more decentralized approach similar to the United States. On Tuesday, a judge ordered Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a mask in public after he attended political rallies without one.

By Miriam Berger
June 24, 2020 at 9:58 AM EDT

New shutdown measures, elective surgery suspensions could be needed, some experts say

States with spiking coronavirus cases may need to reinstitute shutdowns or halt elective surgeries again, two health experts said Wednesday.

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb predicted on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that hospitals in Texas, California, Florida and Arizona will have to start contemplating a new suspension of elective procedures, which are planned in advance. “They’re going to be on a trajectory to get overwhelmed again” if covid-19 cases keep rising, he said of the hospitals.

Gottlieb said he originally thought states such as Texas and California might surpass 5,000 new, known coronavirus cases per day at the end of this week or sometime next week.

But California hit 6,000 new infections Tuesday, he said. Texas has reported more than 5,000 daily cases now, too.

“If that continues to build into the end of the week, that’s a really bad sign,” Gottlieb said.

Speaking on “New Day,” CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta — an associate professor of neurosurgery at Emory University — said new shutdown measures of some kind may be in order.

“This has metastasized around the country, and we need to do something aggressive in order to treat this,” Gupta said. “I think we’re still trying these half-baked measures, and we’re not even applying the half-baked measures that well.”

Leaders nationwide have been deeply reluctant to reimpose stay-at-home orders and forced closures that have devastated the economy, and other health professionals have suggested targeted measures such as further reducing capacity at newly reopened businesses. Houston Methodist Hospital CEO Marc Boom said Wednesday he thinks more serious social distancing and mask-wearing could head off tougher mandates.

“I think we can avoid lockdown if people do social distancing appropriately,” Boom said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. “We’ve done that for months across our hospital system.”

By Hannah Knowles
June 24, 2020 at 9:08 AM EDT

Hospitalizations in Houston have tripled since Memorial Day, hospital CEO says

Coronavirus hospitalizations have tripled in Houston since Memorial Day, Houston Methodist Hospital CEO Marc Boom said Wednesday, as Texas’s biggest city becomes a hot spot. But Boom said he believes another shutdown can be avoided — if people take social distancing seriously.

“People have just completely let their guard down,” Boom said Wednesday on “Good Morning America.” “I mean honestly as a health-care professional, as a physician myself, it’s really frustrating, because we’ve all been saying for a long, long time, we know how to conquer this virus.”

It’s through “best practices” like keeping distance between people and wearing a mask, he said.

“And somewhere around Memorial Day, people just sighed a breath of relief and said, ‘Hey, it’s summer, I’m going to act like it’s summer, I’m going to act like this thing never was here,’ ” Boom said. “And I think we’re really paying the price for that now.”

The good news, Boom added, is this: Houston Methodist Hospital is seeing younger coronavirus patients, who tend to have better outcomes — shorter and less serious stints in the hospital, and fewer deaths. Various cities have been reporting drops in the average age of those infected.

“We are able to care for the patients who are coming to us,” Boom said, “but of course we’re concerned with the trend lines we’re seeing.”

On Tuesday, Texas reported 5,489 new coronavirus cases, its highest in a single day. The previous record, 4,430, was reported last Saturday, according to data collected by The Washington Post.

Texas’s seven-day rolling average of new cases has increased 70 percent from last Tuesday’s average, setting a record for the 14th consecutive day. The spike has been accompanied by more hospitalizations, especially in Harris County, where Houston is.

Intensive care units and acute care beds at Texas Children’s Hospital are now open to adults to help meet demand, according to local news reports.

By Hannah Knowles
June 24, 2020 at 7:50 AM EDT

Megan Rapinoe, two other USWNT players opt out of NWSL tournament

Megan Rapinoe and U.S. World Cup teammates Tobin Heath and Christen Press have opted out of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup tournament, which starts this weekend and will be the first U.S. team sport to resume since the novel coronavirus pandemic forced leagues to shut down in mid-March.

Rapinoe, the star of the national team’s championship last summer in France, did not immediately offer a reason Tuesday as her club, OL Reign of Tacoma, Wash., announced its roster for the event. She has not practiced with the team since the league’s training moratorium was lifted this month.

“Megan let us know that she has decided not [to] play in the tournament,” Reign chief executive Bill Predmore said in a statement. “Like all NWSL players, she was given the option to participate. … We understand and respect her decision.”

Read more here.

By Steven Goff
June 24, 2020 at 7:20 AM EDT

Returning to school this fall may be ‘extremely difficult,’ South Carolina official says

School districts have been planning for the upcoming school year with a growing consensus that the most likely scenario would be a mix of in-school and virtual learning. But now, with novel coronavirus infection rates rising, South Carolina’s top education official says reopening school buildings would be “extremely difficult” if a rise in covid-19 cases is not stemmed — and other states are likely to be in the same position.

South Carolina State Superintendent Molly Spearman just released final recommendations for districts to consider as they plan for the new school year even as the state is experiencing a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. More than 1,000 were reported on Monday, adding to a sharp spike in June.

Read more here.

By Valerie Strauss
June 24, 2020 at 6:53 AM EDT

Kyrgyz president in self-isolation after two staffers test positive during Moscow visit

MOSCOW — Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, who traveled to Moscow for Wednesday’s Victory Day parade, has returned to Bishkek to go into self-isolation after two members of his delegation tested positive for the coronavirus, his press service said.

Jeenbekov did not attend the parade, which commemorates the Soviet victory over the Nazis, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of other nations, including several former Soviet states.

Two members of the Kyrgyz delegation tested positive for the coronavirus, the Kyrgyz presidential press service said, adding that the president would self-isolate for three days.

The president and his delegation were tested for the coronavirus on arrival in Moscow, according to the press service. A foreign policy official and a security official tested positive.

Kyrgyzstan’s confirmed cases rose by a record 207 on Wednesday, reaching 3,726, according to health official Madamin Karatayev. The country’s official death toll from the coronavirus is 42.

By Robyn Dixon
June 24, 2020 at 6:48 AM EDT

Virginia to create nation’s first pandemic workplace safety mandates

The state of Virginia has proposed its own set of coronavirus-era safety rules that companies must implement to protect workers from infection — a first in the country and a potential way forward for other states in the face of federal inaction.

The temporary emergency safety rules were drafted by the state’s Department of Labor and Industry under direction from Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in late May and will be voted on by the state’s 14-member health and safety board on Wednesday.

The governor’s office said the rules were prompted in large part by the lack of enforcement from the federal agency tasked with upholding workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA has issued only one citation in response to more than 4,000 coronavirus-related complaints, a jarring record that workplace advocates and former OSHA officials have criticized in recent weeks as a neglect of the agency’s duties.

Read more here.

By Eli Rosenberg
June 24, 2020 at 6:46 AM EDT

Hospitalized Honduran president in ‘delicate’ condition, treated with oxygen, doctors say

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who was hospitalized last week with the novel coronavirus, remains in a “delicate” condition and had to be treated with oxygen, a military doctor said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Juan Diaz, who works at Tegucigalpa’s military hospital, said the head of state would needs to stay in the hospital as he battles the disease and a related bout of pneumonia.

Offering the first public comments on Hernández’s condition, Diaz said the president has oscillated “between a good state and feverish with trouble breathing,” Reuters reported.

Although a number of world leaders or their close family members have contracted the virus, Hernández is one of a very few who have been hospitalized for treatment.

The coronavirus marks the latest challenge for Hernández, 51, who has faced increasing criticism after a sweeping U.S. drug trafficking investigation implicated him and his brother.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, Hernández’s political opponents and ordinary Hondurans alike have questioned whether the president was sick at all, accusing him of lying to divert attention from the investigation.

Hernández first announced that he and his wife had tested positive for the coronavirus a week ago, saying he would be shifting to work from home. Just a day later, he was taken to the hospital, where he has remained since.

Hernández, who contracted the virus just over two years into his second term as president, claimed a week ago to be suffering only mild symptoms, The Washington Post’s Claudia Mendoza and Mary Beth Sheridan reported. After imposing a strict nationwide curfew in mid-March to limit the spread of the virus, his government took steps to begin reopening the battered economy a week ago.

By Teo Armus
June 24, 2020 at 6:24 AM EDT

China says it has conducted over 90 million nucleic acid coronavirus tests since pandemic began

China has conducted more than 90 million nucleic acid coronavirus tests since the pandemic began, a senior Chinese official said Wednesday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The total is more than three times the number of tests that President Trump says have been carried out in the United States.

In total, 90.41 million nucleic acid tests have been completed, said Guo Yanhong with China’s National Health Commission.

China claims to have rapidly expanded its theoretical testing capacity, from around 1.26 million in March to now 3.78 million nucleic acid tests per day. The country’s ramped-up testing capacity was on display after a renewed outbreak in the city of Wuhan in May. Two weeks into a campaign to mass-test the city’s residents, 6.5 million had already been tested in late May.

Chinese officials have also pledged to more selectively test all restaurant or supermarket employees and food-delivery workers in Beijing, as they are considered individuals at a higher risk of being infected.

After an outbreak scare the past two weeks, Beijing had tested 2.3 million people as of Monday and taken some 3 million swabs in total from June 12 to June 22.

According to China’s National Health Commission, the number of nucleic acid testing centers has more than doubled since early March, to now around 4,800. Almost 30,000 Chinese technicians are involved in the testing effort, Chinese officials said.

The Chinese government’s push to increase testing stands in contrast to the United States, where more than 28 million test results have been recorded so far, according to a data tracker by the Atlantic, and where President Trump said Saturday that he had asked officials to “slow the [coronavirus] testing down.” Congressional Democrats and public health officials responded with outrage.

A White House official later told The Washington Post that Trump had been joking.

“I don’t kid,” Trump countered.

By Rick Noack and Gerry Shih
June 24, 2020 at 6:05 AM EDT

Scientists collect Thai bats to learn more about coronaviruses

Researchers in Thailand are collecting and examining bats in hopes of figuring out more about the origins of the novel coronavirus that has sparked a global health crisis and infected more than 9 million people around the world.

“We, as researchers, must keep finding new viruses all the time to prevent diseases that could infect humans,” virus expert Supaporn Wacharapluesadee told the BBC as the animals were inspected at the Khao Ang Rue Nai wildlife sanctuary in Chachoengsao, Thailand.

Supaporn has more than a decade’s experience in identifying viruses and first alerted Thai officials on Jan. 9 that a new coronavirus had emerged after detecting it while analyzing saliva samples from five people who had landed in Thailand from Wuhan, China, the original epicenter of the outbreak.

Two days later, China reported to the World Health Organization that a new virus had sickened at least 41 people and claimed one life in Wuhan.

The virus found in the sample provided by passenger No. 5 had strong similarities to a SARS virus found in the Chinese rufous horseshoe bat, but the genome was “unlike anything previously detected in humans,” she said.

Bats have the ability to carry viruses without contracting the diseases themselves. This, researchers say, makes them the host to strains of coronaviruses that can be passed onto humans.

Each study at the center requires 100 bats that yield four types of samples — including saliva and urine. The animals are later released back into the wild.

National Geographic estimates that 6 out of 10 infectious diseases that strike humans come from animals — including Ebola and SARS.

It’s possible that the novel coronavirus came from animals, and it has been linked to a wet market in China — but scientists around the world remain divided over its precise origins.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 24, 2020 at 5:58 AM EDT

As Trump ramps up his coronavirus denialism, GOP allies in hard-hit states are singing a very different tune

The United States is still struggling with the coronavirus in a way that the vast majority of other countries — particularly in Europe — simply are not. President Trump has responded not by doubling down on the fight or addressing the danger, but by downplaying the threat. His favored argument in recent days is that the uptick in cases is due to increased testing.

But the data doesn’t back up that claim. Tellingly, Trump’s commentary is increasingly at odds with GOP allies in the hardest-hit states — the ones most familiar with and accountable for the problem.

Read more here.

By Aaron Blake
June 24, 2020 at 5:33 AM EDT

Study: Racial justice protests have not prompted increase in infections

Massive nationwide protests of racial injustice and police brutality this spring did not lead to a significant increase in new coronavirus infections, according to a working paper published Monday by an economic think tank.

The report from the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research, which used anonymous cellphone data from more than 300 U.S. cities, found that net growth in coronavirus cases did not rise differentially after the demonstrations.

Many public health officials had warned that these large protests could spur fresh outbreaks by bringing thousands of people close together on city streets. Others still argued that the racial justice cause trumped the risk of infection, noting that the prevalence of face masks as well as the outdoor nature of the protests served to lower demonstrators’ likelihood of contracting the virus.

According to the report, which has not been peer-reviewed, cities with protests in fact experienced an increase in social distancing behavior for the overall population.

Researchers suggested that residents who did not want to participate in the demonstrations — for fear of clashing with police or contracting the virus or because streets and businesses were closed — may have avoided public spaces more than usual, possibly offsetting the risk at the demonstrations.

The report does not rule out the possibility of protest-related flare-ups. Racial justice activists in Columbia, S.C., said earlier this week that they would be postponing future protests or moving them online after more than a dozen people who had participated in previous demonstrations tested positive for the coronavirus.

But the National Bureau of Economic Research paper concludes that warnings about the potential consequences of demonstrations, largely sparked by the death of George Floyd, were “far too narrowly conceived.”

“Public speech and public health did not trade off against each other in this case,” the report said.

By Teo Armus
June 24, 2020 at 5:14 AM EDT

Mississippi health official warns outbreak will get worse amid widespread ignoring of precautions

In the still-early days of the pandemic, Mississippi briefly ordered residents to stay home to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus, between April 3 and the phased-in reopening three weeks later, on April 27. Nearly two months after that, the state is in the grips of a rapidly growing outbreak that officials fear could soon overwhelm hospitals.

Since then, officials have recommended masks and social distancing, but little has been done to enforce those guidelines, and they have been frequently ignored by residents. The formal limits on mass gatherings are lax: without social distancing, businesses can host 20 people inside and 50 outside; with social distancing, the permissible numbers double.

Mississippi leaders had hoped summer would provide a reprieve from outbreaks in the state, but the virus has continued to spread. On Tuesday, the state reported its highest number of new cases in a single day, with 611 people testing positive for the virus.

Now, the state’s top health official says the state is facing a dire scenario in the coming months.

“Understand that people across the nation are tired of coronavirus, but just because you’re tired of something doesn’t mean it’s gone. And we are going to pay for it,” State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs told the Jackson Free Press on Tuesday. “We’re paying for it now. And it’s just going to continue to get worse.”

Dobbs predicted the outbreak would grow to be “really bad,” leading to overwhelmed hospitals, packed emergency rooms and ventilator shortages.

“Prepare for not being able to get into the hospital if you have a car wreck, [to] have a heart attack and there not be a ventilator to put you on,” Dobbs told the Free Press.

By Katie Shepherd
June 24, 2020 at 4:54 AM EDT

Top medical experts warn that Britain is headed for virus second wave

LONDON — Top British medical experts have penned a letter warning British lawmakers that a second wave of the novel coronavirus is a “real risk” and asking for an immediate review to determine whether the country is prepared for a new surge of virus infections.

The letter was written by 16 health leaders, including the presidents of the royal colleges of surgeons and nursing, and was published in the British Medical Journal on Tuesday. It comes as the country continues to roll back the stringent lockdown measures that have been in place since March 23.

“We think there’s a strong case for an immediate assessment of national preparedness,” authors of the document wrote, adding that localized flare-ups across the country are “increasingly likely” and that measures must be implemented to prevent more deaths.

While the authors noted that steps to contain the coronavirus were being implemented, they communicated concern that “substantial challenges remain.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced broad changes to social distancing rules, reducing a stay-apart instruction from two meters to one meter and giving the green light for pubs, hairdressers, restaurants and hotels to reopen July 4.

Two households will now be able to meet indoors or outside, and groups of up to six people from different households will be allowed to socialize in outdoor spaces.

While many Britons across the country have celebrated the promise of a return to normality, others have expressed concern that the government is moving too quickly and that the threat is far from over.

On Tuesday, the prime minister said he did not believe there was “a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm” Britain’s health-care system.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 24, 2020 at 4:29 AM EDT

Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks are on — with a socially distanced twist

In a normal year, Macy’s famous Fourth of July fireworks draw packed crowds of New Yorkers to parks and rooftops and bridges to watch the display above the water.

But with such mass gatherings dangerous and illegal during the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s pyrotechnic show will adapt to the era of social distancing.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Tuesday that a series of surprise, five-minute displays around the city next week will lead up to the Fourth, culminating in a TV broadcast featuring a final show from the top of the Empire State Building.

“With heights reaching up to 1,000 feet from some firing locations, staying close to home and following social distancing guidelines is the best way to enjoy the show,” de Blasio said at a news conference.

Starting Monday, the pyrotechnic shows will be scattered throughout the week, launched from one or two on-land or water locations at night, the Associated Press reported. Macy’s said the fireworks will include more than two dozen colors and a wide array of special effects, as well as a tribute to front-line health-care workers.

Still, some slammed the adaptations, particularly given the mayor’s crackdown on a puzzling series of illegal fireworks that have gone off nearly every night in Brooklyn in recent weeks.

By Teo Armus
June 24, 2020 at 4:09 AM EDT

Australia’s first virus death in more than a month sparks fears of resurgence

For the first time in a month, Australia reported a coronavirus death, after a man in his 80s died from complications caused by the virus.

A resurgence in cases in the nation’s previous virus hot spot and second-most-populous state, Victoria, has prompted fears of a possible second wave.

Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said 20 new cases were confirmed overnight, bringing the total to nearly 1,900, Reuters reported. Australia has reported more than 7,500 cases nationwide and 103 deaths.

Although far below the ballooning coronavirus numbers seen in some other countries, including the United States, the new cases raised concerns in Australia, which managed to “flatten the curve” early in the pandemic. Officials had hoped the containment efforts would continue to keep new infections at bay. The new spate of coronavirus cases inspired a rush to buy essential supplies at grocery stores and sent thousands of people to testing centers.

“When we get additional cases, there will be a risk of people dying” or of more people “being hospitalized and going to intensive care,” Sutton told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday. “That’s why we need to get on top of [the] numbers.”

Officials said they believe the new cases stem from family parties where guests showed mild symptoms.

By Katie Shepherd
June 24, 2020 at 3:51 AM EDT

Kentucky voters banged on doors, demanded access after the only polling place in Louisville closed before they could vote

After coronavirus fears stripped Kentucky’s supply of volunteer election workers, the number of polling places contracted from 3,700 to just 170 for Tuesday’s primary. Louisville, the state’s largest city, was left with just one polling location.

As poll workers prepared to lock the doors in Louisville’s voting center just after 6 p.m., would-be voters began running from the parking lot to make it inside in time to cast a ballot.

After-work traffic and a late rush to vote caused delays in the parking lot, and many people arrived just after polls were set to close. One man told the Louisville Courier Journal that he had waited in traffic for 45 minutes before he could park and approached the exposition center just minutes after poll workers locked it down. Dozens of other people were left outside the glass doors when the last entryway was locked.

When the doors locked, people stuck outside began banging on the glass and demanding a chance to vote. Some shouted through the glass, arguing with poll workers and pleading with officials to reopen the doors.

The tense standoff lasted a few minutes before a judge’s last-minute injunction reopened the polls until 6:30 p.m. When workers unlocked the doors, people cheered as they lined up to cast their ballots inside.

U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker (D), who hopes to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in November, filed an appeal to have the voting deadline extended to 9 p.m., but a judge rejected the request.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Kentucky expects to see record voter turnout, after many residents requested mail-in ballots to avoid exposure to the coronavirus at an in-person voting booth.

By Katie Shepherd
June 24, 2020 at 3:14 AM EDT

Florida changes how it tracks ICU patient data, potentially downplaying figures

As Florida hospitals rapidly fill up with new coronavirus patients, authorities have changed how they measure the number of full beds in intensive care units. The move, which will probably lower that figure, comes as the state eyes the next phase of reopening in July.

Until recently, Florida officials required hospitals to report the number of covid-19 patients occupying ICU beds, regardless of whether those individuals in fact needed the most intensive level of care.

But under the new data-tracking guidelines, hospitals would be asked to post only the number of patients who are receiving ICU-level care. In smaller hospitals, which tend to use the units to isolate slightly less sick patients, this change could make the ICUs seem emptier on paper.

At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he wanted to verify reports that newer patients are not getting as sick as those who contracted the illness in the spring.

But some critics have questioned the timing of changing the guidelines.

“Why in the middle of a global pandemic are those guidelines being modified the week when cases are skyrocketing?” Daniel W. Uhlfelder, a lawyer who has appeared as the Grim Reaper to warn against reopening, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Rebekah Jones, who was fired as the state’s coronavirus data scientist, charged that health authorities had deleted 1,200 virus cases. That alters data and makes it look “like Florida is improving next week in the lead-up to July 4, like they’ve ‘made it over the hump,’ ” she wrote on Twitter.

For more than 10 days in a row, Florida has posted a new high for the rolling average of new infections, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

By Teo Armus
June 24, 2020 at 2:34 AM EDT

Zombie companies multiply amid government’s response to the pandemic

Even as it drilled in some of the nation’s richest oil and gas basins, Oasis Petroleum came up dry on the bottom line, failing for five straight years to make enough money to cover its annual borrowing costs.

In 2019, a dozen years after it began exploring shale formations in Montana, North Dakota and West Texas, Oasis reported $154 million in operating income — well short of the $176 million it owed in interest on its debt. On Wall Street, the Houston-based company’s shares, which traded above $56 in 2014, have spent most of this year hovering around $1.

Oasis is what economists call a “zombie company” — largely abandoned by investors and able to stay in business only by tapping banks or bond investors for more credit. The Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight the impact of the coronavirus upon the economy may be inadvertently making it possible for a growing number of companies to remain in this twilight state.

Read more here.

By David Lynch
June 24, 2020 at 2:14 AM EDT

Kennedy Center cancels most of schedule through 2020

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has canceled most previously announced performances for the rest of 2020, including its signature Kennedy Center Honors and Mark Twain Prize, which have been rescheduled for next spring. The cancellations and postponements will cost the arts center $45.7 million in tickets and other revenue, increasing its coronavirus-related losses to more than $90 million.

The national arts center closed March 12 as large gatherings were banned to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. It extended the closure through Aug. 8, canceling or postponing more than 1,000 events.

Next month, officials plan to announce new programs to be held in socially distanced fashion either outside or in reconfigured indoor spaces. In the meantime, it will not present any large-scale events — including National Symphony Orchestra concerts and Washington National Opera performances — until next year.

Read more here.

By Peggy McGlone
June 24, 2020 at 1:44 AM EDT

Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic tests positive for coronavirus as NBA teams reassemble for return

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Washington Post.

The NBA entered Phase 2 of its comprehensive reopening plan Tuesday, with players reporting to teams in their respective home markets to undergo mandatory coronavirus testing. The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday that two unidentified members of the Phoenix Suns also tested positive, while other teams don’t expect to have test results until Wednesday.

In the weeks after the NBA’s shutdown on March 11, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz announced that members of their teams had tested positive. The Nuggets and Suns would not confirm the positive test results, citing “medical privacy,” and it remains unclear whether the NBA or its teams will formally announce future positive tests.

Read more here.

By Ben Golliver
June 24, 2020 at 1:02 AM EDT

Fauci, top health officials warn of covid-19 surge, contradict Trump on testing

Top federal health officials warned Tuesday that surges in coronavirus infections in more than a dozen states could worsen without new restrictions, and contradicted President Trump’s recent claims that he told officials to slow testing so the country would record fewer cases.

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the country is still in the grip of the pandemic’s first wave, including a “disturbing surge” of new cases in Southern and Western states, including Florida, Texas and Arizona.

The hearing came on the same day that Arizona reported record-high new coronavirus cases, and both Texas and Arizona reported record hospitalizations. Trump held a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, days after his trip to Tulsa, another site of surging infections. Last week, Texas, Florida, Arizona and at least seven other states reported their highest weekly infection-rate averages.

Read more here.

By John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley
June 24, 2020 at 12:43 AM EDT

Harvard doctor compares not wearing face masks to smoking indoors

A doctor who says face masks should be a nationwide requirement to combat the spread of the coronavirus compared flouting mask recommendations to smoking cigarettes in public spaces.

Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, broke down his theory Tuesday during an interview on “The Today Show.”

“The bottom line is that we know that masks reduce infections and they save lives,” Jha said. “Just as I can’t walk into a retail store and light up a cigarette, I shouldn’t be able to walk into a retail store without wearing a mask. These are basic public health measures that I think should be implemented across the country. It’s not that inconvenient and if it helps us stay open and avoid our hospitals getting overwhelmed, it feels to me like it’s well worth the cost.”

There is no national mandate regarding face coverings, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the use of face coverings to help fight the virus’s spread.

As the debate over face masks has raged across the country, some states have made them mandatory and others have left the decision up to local officials. President Trump has repeatedly opposed wearing face masks in public.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced Tuesday that the state would make face masks in public a requirement as new cases continue to spike.

By Kareem Copeland
June 24, 2020 at 12:41 AM EDT

Analysis: Fauci indirectly rebuts Trump on young coronavirus patients

President Trump in an interview with Scripps on Tuesday suggested that increased testing was picking up many less-serious and perhaps negligible coronavirus cases among young people. “You’re showing people that are asymptomatic,” Trump said. “You’re showing people that have very little problem. You’re showing young people that don’t have a problem.”

In an interesting exchange Monday with GOP Rep. Pete Olson (Tex.), Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, roundly but indirectly rebutted Trump’s comments.

Olson then asked Fauci how, if he were “king for a day,” he would change that Bad Attitude Curve “and make these people address this issue for the threat it truly is.”

Fauci’s response bore almost no resemblance to what Trump had said.

Read more here.

By Aaron Blake