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Across the United States, 39,327 new coronavirus infections were reported by state health departments on Thursday — surpassing the previous single-day record of 38,115, which was set on Wednesday. Texas, Alabama, Missouri and Nevada reported daily highs. The death toll also spiked, to about 2,500, as New Jersey added 1,854 probable deaths to its overall tally.

Texas reported 5,996 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, beating Wednesday’s record of 5,551. The state’s rolling average of 4,581 was a record and 340 percent higher than the rolling average on Memorial Day. The 47 new deaths were the most since May 20, according to tracking by The Washington Post.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) raised alarms about the biggest jump in new cases in his state since April, emphasizing that more than increased testing is at play. Ohio reported 892 new cases on Thursday, compared to 632 on Wednesday.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The number of Americans who have been infected with the novel coronavirus is likely 10 times higher than the number of cases reported, according to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a call with reporters Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said, “Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections.”
  • A rush to reopen the nation’s economy without proper safety measures in place is behind this week’s spike in cases, Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said Thursday on the “Today” show.
  • In New York, coronavirus hospitalizations dipped just below 1,000 for the first time since March 18, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said.
  • President Trump continued to push the discredited notion that coronavirus cases are increasing in the United States because of “GREAT TESTING” and complained that the news media was not spreading the word. While testing has increased, health experts say that in several states with rising caseloads, new cases are outpacing the spread of testing.
  • The World Health Organization said the global pandemic’s hotbed is now in Latin America, which has reported 100,000 fatalities as of this week. New flare-ups have also been reported in Australia, Germany and South Korea.

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June 25, 2020 at 11:39 PM EDT

The Marine Corps Marathon is still on (for now). But there will be less time to finish.

Wednesday’s announcement that the Oct. 25 Marine Corps Marathon would go on as scheduled was a surprise to many, especially as it came amid a wave of cancellations of major fall marathons. New York City had thrown in the towel just minutes earlier.

The announcement also contained an unwelcome surprise for some runners: They will have less time to finish.

Longtime race director Rick Nealis said the change is one of many his team is agonizing over in trying to reinvent the iconic race in a way that will mitigate the chance of spreading covid-19.

Read more here.

By Bonnie Berkowitz
June 25, 2020 at 11:02 PM EDT

Mississippi health official ‘terrified’ by increase in coronavirus cases in his state

Saying he is “terrified we will overwhelm the health-care system,” Mississippi’s state health officer is urging residents to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Mississippi on Thursday reported 1,092 new cases of the novel coronavirus, the second time in four days the state has surpassed 1,000. There are 532 people hospitalized.

“If we’re not careful, Mississippi will look like New York,” said epidemiologist Thomas Dobbs, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

After four days without reporting any covid-19 deaths, the state said 78 people died of the virus in the past four days.

“It’s not just the cases,” Dobbs said. “We have seen the highest number of hospitalized patients. I’m terrified we will overwhelm the health-care system, the hospitals, the ICUs. Not in the fall, I’m talking about this week.”

The state’s stay-at-home order ended June 1. All businesses were allowed to reopen, including bars and movie theaters, with capacity limits and other guidelines.

By Steven Goff
June 25, 2020 at 10:15 PM EDT

Amid a rise in cases, New Mexico pauses next reopening phase

Citing a “very concerning” climb in coronavirus cases, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said Thursday the state is not ready to enter the next phase of reopening businesses.

“We’re not doing as good a job keeping the virus in check,” New Mexico Human Services Secretary David Scrase said in a video conference. “We have to be even more careful.”

State health officials, the Albuquerque Journal reported, are weighing whether to reimpose more stringent health orders and increase enforcement of wearing masks in public. The state is also considering quarantine orders for visitors arriving in vehicles, not just on planes.

According to data compiled by The Washington Post, New Mexico has seen a steady rise in new cases this week, including 202 on Thursday.

Bars remain closed, but since June 1, restaurants have been allowed to offer dine-in services at 50 percent capacity and with additional guidelines. Salons and barbershops were allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity.

By Steven Goff
June 25, 2020 at 9:39 PM EDT

Surprise birthday party in Texas believed to infect 17 family members

A surprise birthday party in Carrollton, Tex., last month is believed to be the source of 17 family members contracting the novel coronavirus, including a couple married 68 years.

As reported by WFAA in Dallas, the host of the party, who unknowingly had the virus, passed it onto seven relatives who attended. It then spread to 10 other family members.

Ron Barbosa told the TV station he didn't attend the May 30 party, which was for his daughter-in-law, who turned 30. His nephew was the host.

Though guests practiced social distancing, Barbosa said he believes the party, which was attended by 25 people, was the catalyst for the virus spreading. He also said it could’ve started spreading when his nephew went golfing with relatives before the party.

Three are hospitalized: Barbosa’s parents and his sister, who is also battling breast cancer. She did not attend the party.

His mother has been hospitalized since June 13. His father, who entered the hospital four days later, is on life support. “My dad’s hanging on by a thread,” Barbosa told WFAA.

By Steven Goff
June 25, 2020 at 9:09 PM EDT

White House coronavirus task force to hold press briefing on Friday

With cases on the rise, the White House coronavirus task force has scheduled its first press briefing in nearly two months for Friday afternoon.

Unlike the daily briefings held at the White House at the start of the crisis, this one will be held at the Department of Health and Human Services and be led by Vice President Pence, who heads the task force.

Trump played a significant role in the earlier briefings, but it’s unclear whether he will attend this one.

A month ago, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, said he was hopeful that Americans would begin hearing directly from him and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, on a more regular basis again.

“I think you’re probably going to be seeing a little bit more of me and my colleagues,” Fauci predicted in a May 21 CNN interview. “They realize we need to get some of this information out. … Hopefully you’ll be seeing more of us.”

By Colby Itkowitz
June 25, 2020 at 8:48 PM EDT

Reopenings, record cases and full hospitals: America’s dissonant response to the pandemic

Americans are living through a split-screen pandemic: Their leaders are relaxing restrictions while their states set records for new coronavirus infections. Churches, beaches and bars are filling up, and so are hospital beds.

Early in the outbreak, President Trump told governors they were on their own — for testing, medical supplies and stay-at-home orders. Now, in this new phase of soaring cases and reopenings, the effects of this decentralized decision-making are particularly noticeable and subject to politics, with some states making seemingly arbitrary decisions.

Experts note a troubling lack of consistent, unified messaging from Trump and Vice President Pence, who have downplayed the danger and denigrated effective disease defenses such as mask-wearing, testing and social distancing — even as the administration’s own health officials contradict them. The coronavirus task force briefings, where health officials updated the public daily, disappeared weeks ago.

On Wednesday, the country reported more than 38,000 new cases, its highest-ever single-day count, according to data gathered and analyzed by The Washington Post. The counties home to Dallas, Phoenix and Tampa all reported record-high averages on at least 15 straight days in June.

In many places, the number of people sick enough to be hospitalized has also increased sharply. Those hardest hit include the largest states — California, Texas, Florida — and those that thought they had the virus under control, like Utah and Oregon.

“I think the politicians are in denial,” said Kami Kim, director of the Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine at the University of South Florida.

The push to reopen quickly even as cases climb sends a dangerous and inaccurate message, said Andrew T. Pavia, the chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health.

“On the one hand, you get messages from politicians and the business community that we have to go, go, go and open up,” he said. “On the other hand, you’re seeing epidemiological indicators that we still have to be very careful.”

“It’s cognitive dissonance,” he added.

Read more here.

By Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner
June 25, 2020 at 7:52 PM EDT

Union urges Disney to delay Florida reopening after Disneyland pause

A union representing actors and stage managers at Walt Disney World is calling on Disney to push back the planned reopening of its Orlando theme parks as coronavirus infections surge in Florida and across the South.

The Actors’ Equity Association urged the company to delay the reopening, which had been planned for July 11 — first with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, and then EPCOT and Hollywood Studios on July 15.

The plea comes a day after Disney announced that the reopening of its Disneyland Resort in California would be postponed. The company had planned to welcome guests back on July 17, but said on Wednesday it was delaying because the state of California would not issue guidelines for theme parks to reopen until some date after July 4.

“If Disneyland has postponed, it is unclear how Walt Disney World can responsibly move toward reopening when coronavirus cases are much worse in Florida,” Mary McColl, executive director of the Actors’ Equity Association, said in a news release Thursday.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the union’s request and to confirm Disney World’s current plans.

Health departments posted the highest-yet number of new, nationwide covid-19 cases on Wednesday. Florida and California were among the three states with the biggest spikes, each reporting more than 5,000 new infections.

By Hamza Shaban
June 25, 2020 at 7:09 PM EDT

Under siege from Trump, U.S. Postal Service finds surprising financial upside in pandemics

A tidal wave of packages is keeping the U.S. Postal Service afloat during the coronavirus recession, boosting the beleaguered agency’s finances to near pre-pandemic levels while legislators and the White House joust over its independence.

When the pandemic’s resulting economic shutdown took hold in early spring, postal leaders told lawmakers the mail service expected to hemorrhage $2 billion a month for 18 months, risking insolvency as soon as September. After Congress approved an emergency $10 billion loan from the Treasury Department, the agency said it could hold out until March 2021, but it’s avoided accessing those funds, wary of conditions the Trump administration is poised to impose in exchange.

But postal leaders, in revised financial data provided this week to Congress and obtained by The Washington Post, said rising e-commerce transactions may have — at least temporarily — delivered the USPS from imminent financial ruin. Week to week, package deliveries increased 20 to 50 percent in April compared with the same period a year ago, and 60 to 80 percent in May.

Read more here.

By Jacob Bogage
June 25, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT

U.S. sets another single-day record for coronavirus cases

The United States on Thursday set another daily record for new coronavirus cases, surpassing Wednesday’s mark as several states, including Texas, reported single-day highs.

The new case total was 39,327, according to data maintained by The Washington Post. Wednesday’s count of 38,115 had demolished the previous high of 34,203 on April 25.

The seven-day average is 32,806 -- 9,112 more than last Thursday’s figure.

The death toll also spiked, to about 2,493, as New Jersey added 1,854 probable deaths to its overall tally.

It comes as the state health departments of Texas, Alabama, Missouri and Nevada reported daily highs of new cases. Thirty-nine states reported increases in their seven-day average compared to last Thursday, and 17 of them reported 40 percent increases.

Texas reported 5,996 new cases, beating Wednesday’s record of 5,551. The state’s rolling average of 4,581 was a record and 340 percent higher than the rolling average on Memorial Day. The 47 new deaths were the most since May 20.

The 350 new covid-19 hospitalizations Thursday in Texas increased the number of current patients to a record 4,739.

With 497 new cases, Nevada also reported a record rolling average for the seventh day in a row. The rolling average is now 398 — up 66 percent from last week’s rolling average of 240 cases.

Alabama reported 1,129 new cases, and the state has a total of 880 deaths, up from 801 deaths a week ago. Missouri is reporting just over a 1 percent increase in cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the state to roughly 19,400 total.

Georgia reported 1,714 new cases, the third consecutive day with more than 1,700.

Arizona has reported an almost 200 percent increase in hospitalizations since Memorial Day. Texas and Arkansas are 190 percent higher.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) raised alarms about the biggest jump in new cases in his state since April, emphasizing that more than increased testing is at play. Hospitalizations have increased, and those infected are trending younger, he said, echoing officials in other states.

After Arizona set a single-day case record on Wednesday with 3,593 cases, it reported 3,056 new infections on Thursday. Hospitalizations there hit another high of 2,463 people, up by more than 300 from Wednesday.

California reported its second-highest single-day caseload, with 5,349 new infections — down from Wednesday’s 7,149. Hospitalizations, which jumped more than 300 to 5,552, have increased 25 percent since Memorial Day.

In Florida, the daily caseload topped 5,000 for the second time in two days.

By Jacqueline Dupree, Katie Mettler, Hannah Knowles and Steven Goff
June 25, 2020 at 5:36 PM EDT

Two sisters wanted to lift lonely seniors’ spirits. Their organization has sent 14,000 letters.

Shreya and Saffron Patel usually FaceTime their grandparents in England every weekend, but during the novel coronavirus pandemic, they have typically reached out each day. Their grandmother on their mom’s side hasn’t left her apartment in nearly four months.

When the Patel sisters, who live in Boston, spoke to their grandmother, they noticed her mood improve. She texted them about the cards and showed them to her teenage granddaughters during their video calls.

They started Letters Against Isolation in early April with a plan to send cards to seniors at care centers, where residents have lost in-person contact with their family and friends because of the coronavirus. Shreya, 18, who will begin her freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis this fall, reached out to a few local nursing homes, expecting maybe one to respond and ask for 10 cards. Instead, several agreed and hoped to receive a combined 200 cards.

Read more here.

By Emily Giambalvo
June 25, 2020 at 4:57 PM EDT

Illinois continues reopening effort as other states scale back

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Thursday announced that Illinois would move to Phase 4 of its five-phase reopening plan — which allows for gatherings of 50 people or fewer and indoor dining at restaurants, among other expansions.

Illinois will move into Phase 4 on Friday, even as other states begin to take steps back. But Pritzker said the state had met the benchmarks to plow ahead, which means bars, movie theaters, barbershops and more can reopen — with some capacity limits and other safety measures in place.

Those in Illinois will be asked to continue to wear face coverings, socially distance and frequently wash their hands.

“I think we are being measured, I think we’re being careful,” he said at a news conference. “The states where you see these massive spikes have either opened up completely, and not done so in a measured fashion, and have suffered because of it.”

Health officials in the state have pointed to favorable metrics, highlighted by testing and new cases. On Thursday, the Department of Public Health announced 894 new cases and 41 additional confirmed deaths.

“We’ve seen what’s happened in other states that have allowed politics or short-term thinking to drive decision-making. Many other states are now seeing significant increases in cases, hospitalizations, and intensive care bed usage and they’re being forced to move backward and stay at home — that’s not the story in Illinois,” Pritzker said in a statement. “… It’s because of the people of Illinois that we’re seeing a trajectory of relative success where other parts of the country are not.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
June 25, 2020 at 4:34 PM EDT

Texas Medical Center hits normal ICU capacity, turns to surge inventories

Amid a statewide spike in covid-19 cases, the Texas Medical Center — which calls itself the largest medical complex in the world — hit 100 percent of normal operating capacity in its intensive care units this week and will use additional beds in its effort to handle a sustainable surge.

The normal ICU capacity at the Houston center is 1,330 beds, of which 374 (28 percent) are occupied by covid-19 patients. The sustainable surge capacity can accommodate 373 more people. A temporary ICU for 504 patients is also available.

“The reality is all of us have the ability to significantly expand capacity on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis,” Doug Lawson, chief executive of CHI St. Luke’s Health, which has facilities at the center, told the Houston Chronicle.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) stopped elective surgeries in the state’s biggest counties, including in the Houston area, and said Texas would pause its reopening as it confronts a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The rolling average of daily new cases in Texas has increased 62 percent from the past week, jumping from 2,610 on June 18 to 4,227 on Thursday, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. The daily count has set a record each day for 13 consecutive days.

By Steven Goff
June 25, 2020 at 4:02 PM EDT

White House’s Kudlow on new hot spots: ‘We just have to live with that’

Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic official, said Thursday that the administration does not anticipate a second wave of the novel coronavirus to hit the United States and that new hot spots popping up across the country are scenarios Americans will “just have to live with.”

Kudlow’s remarks on the government’s management of the pandemic came during an appearance on the Fox Business Network and while talking to reporters at the White House, Reuters reported.

A number of states have recorded record-high daily case counts this week, and on Wednesday the United States set a new daily high of 38,115 new infections reported by state health departments — surpassing the previous single-day record of 34,203 set on April 25.

Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, told Fox Business that “there will be some shutdowns individually … in individual places and certain stores.”

“We are keeping a very close eye on this,” Kudlow said, according to Reuters.

Later, while speaking with reporters at the White House, Kudlow said that there is “no question” the United States will experience new hot spots. “We just have to live with that,” he said.

On Tuesday, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a House committee hearing that the country is still experiencing the effects of the pandemic’s first wave. He characterized the new cases in states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona as a “disturbing surge.”

“That’s something I’m really quite concerned about,” Fauci said. “A couple of days ago, there were 30,000 new infections. That’s very disturbing to me.”

Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, echoed that concern Thursday morning during an appearance on the “Today” show.

“It is pretty alarming; it is pretty worrisome,” Jha said. “We had hoped that we would be able to keep the virus at bay for awhile, but we are seeing these resurgences, largely because we opened up too quickly and we opened up without the right safeguards in place.”

By Katie Mettler
June 25, 2020 at 3:52 PM EDT

Apple to re-close 14 stores in Florida

Apple announced on Thursday that it is re-closing 14 stores in Florida, as the state reported a second consecutive day of more than 5,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases.

The decision comes a day after the tech giant announced it would temporarily close seven stores in the Houston area, owing to the rapid rise in infections and hospitalizations in and around Texas’s largest city.

In recent days, Apple has announced the re-closing of 32 stores as case numbers surge in the United States, according to a count by CNBC.

Like many other major retailers, the tech company closed all stores worldwide in March, before gradually reopening its facilities in the United States as states and localities loosened their restrictions.

But with outbreaks spreading at record levels in much of the South and West, the move to shut some stores down again may signal a growing hesitance from major businesses to expose their employees and customers.

“We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation,” the company said in a statement to ABC news affiliate KTRK, “and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.”

Apple has closed nearly a dozen stores in Arizona, Florida and the Carolinas, all of which have reported surges in new infections recently. Some other companies have made similar moves. On Wednesday, Disneyland in California said it would delay its reopening, which had been scheduled for July 17.

Of Apple’s 271 stores across the country, about 200 are now open, according to Bloomberg News, incorporating health measures such as mask requirements and temperature checks. Some locations only allow shoppers to make purchases online and then pick them up curbside.

Coronavirus hospitalizations in the Houston metro area have more than doubled since Memorial Day, with about 650 new cases per day on average, Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) said at a news conference Wednesday.

Hospitalizations have soared, too, with the Texas Medical Center reporting that 97 percent of its intensive care unit beds were occupied.

By Teo Armus and Hamza Shaban
June 25, 2020 at 2:49 PM EDT

Coronavirus cases may be 10 times higher than reported, says CDC’s Robert Redfield

The number of Americans who have been infected with the novel coronavirus is likely 10 times higher than the number of cases reported, according to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a call with reporters Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said, “Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections.”

Redfield said the estimate is based on blood samples collected from across the country that look for the presence of antibodies to the virus. For every confirmed case of covid-19, 10 more people had antibodies, Redfield said.

Currently, there are 2.3 million covid-19 cases reported in the United States. The CDC’s new estimate pushes that total up to at least 23 million.

Redfield and another top official at the CDC said Thursday that young people are driving the recent surge in the South and West. He estimated 92 to 95 percent of the U.S. population is still susceptible to the virus.

Read more here.

By Lena H. Sun
June 25, 2020 at 2:27 PM EDT

British authorities declare ‘major incident’ as huge crowds gather at beach

Authorities on Thursday warned people to stay away from the English seaside town of Bournemouth due to drastic overcrowding, with the country’s chief medical officer warning that cases of coronavirus will rise in England unless proper social distancing is maintained.

Half a million people had traveled to the town in southern England, causing gridlock and hindering access for emergency vehicles, according to Tobias Ellwood, a member of parliament for Bournemouth East.

Photographs and videos shared on social media showed large crowds at the beach in the coastal resort town in Dorset around 100 miles from London.

Darren Slade, a journalist with Bournemouth Echo, told Sky News there had been “fights breaking out, illegal camping at the beach overnight, and with no public toilets or anything open, all the waste has been left behind on the beach.”

The scenes came as England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, warned that while the risk from covid-19 had decreased, the coronavirus is “still in general circulation.”

“If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again. Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all,” he wrote on Twitter.

Much of Britain has seen warm weather this week, with the hottest temperatures of the year recorded on Wednesday and Thursday. The country had been under strict lockdown rules since March, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week that the rules would be significantly relaxed on July 4, with holiday resorts and hotels — among others — able to open.

With limited options for international travel, domestic tourism destinations have voiced concerns about their outlook for this summer. Earlier this month, local councils in Dorset asked the national government to amend the guidance on travel so people would “stay local” and not leave their home areas.

“I am worried that we will see a second wave of infection here in Dorset as a result of the high number of visitors to the area over recent days,” Dorset Council leader Spencer Flower said in a statement released June 1.

By Adam Taylor
June 25, 2020 at 1:18 PM EDT

Trump continues to push discredited notion that testing is driving increase in cases

President Trump continued Thursday to push the discredited notion that coronavirus cases are increasing in the United States because of “GREAT TESTING” and complained that the news media was not spreading the word.

“The number of ChinaVirus cases goes up, because of GREAT TESTING, while the number of deaths (mortality rate), goes way down,” Trump said in a tweet. “The Fake News doesn’t like telling you that!”

The tweet was sent as Trump traveled from a wreath-laying ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial to Joint Base Andrews, ahead of a planned trip to Wisconsin.

While testing has increased in the United States, health experts say that alone does not account for the increase in cases. In several states with rising caseloads, new cases are outpacing the spread of testing.

“For some states with rising case growth, it is almost certainly because more people are becoming infected,” Jennifer B. Nuzzo, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security, wrote in a recent Washington Post article in which she called Trump’s theory “dangerously wrong.”

The number of deaths nationwide had fallen in recent weeks, as Trump says, but that is largely because of a sharp decrease in deaths reported in some of the hardest-hit urban centers — most notably New York. The decline has since become less steep.

It remains unclear if the rising caseloads in states such as Texas, Florida and Arizona will lead to a corresponding upticks in deaths. Some experts have said the death rates may be lower recently because relatively more young people are being infected and they tend to survive the virus at higher rates.

By John Wagner
June 25, 2020 at 1:12 PM EDT

Texas pauses reopening amid surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Thursday that Texas would delay moving into its next phase of reopening as it struggles to contain a surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” Abbott said in a statement Thursday. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”

An hour before the governor paused the reopening, he issued an executive order to suspend elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties to ensure room for coronavirus patients.

The rolling average of daily new cases in Texas has increased 62 percent from the last week, jumping from 2,610 on June 18 to 4,227 as of Thursday, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned Thursday that states such as Texas that have spiking infection rates would have to quickly implement policy changes to contain the outbreak in the weeks ahead. Gottlieb, speaking on MSNBC, also cautioned that the outcome of the next week or two is “already baked” in in hot spots.

Abbott said the state would not revert to the stricter closures of earlier phases. The state’s current third phase of reopening allows restaurants to operate at 75 percent capacity and outdoor amusement parks and carnivals to operate at 50 percent, while other businesses can move to between 25 and 50 percent capacity.

Masks remain advised but not mandatory statewide, though major counties have enacted requirements that people cover their faces while going into businesses.

By Kim Bellware
June 25, 2020 at 12:46 PM EDT

Ex-world leaders, Nobel laureates among more than 500 saying pandemic threatens democracy

The novel coronavirus pandemic is a “political crisis that threatens the future of liberal democracy,” says a letter released by the nonprofit National Democratic Institute and signed by more than 500 international figures, including former heads of state and government.

The letter, published online Thursday, takes aim at not only authoritarian countries but also democracies for certain restrictions issued in response to the ongoing pandemic.

“Authoritarian regimes, not surprisingly, are using the crisis to silence critics and tighten their political grip,” the letter says. “But even some democratically elected governments are fighting the pandemic by amassing emergency powers that restrict human rights and enhance state surveillance without regard to legal constraints, parliamentary oversight, or timeframes for the restoration of constitutional order.”

Among the signatories are former heads of state and government in more than 50 countries, as well as 13 Nobel laureates. A small number of currently serving government officials, including Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib, have signed the letter.

Dozens of U.S. political figures signed as well. Among them are former deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes, former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson (D), former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

The letter does not name any country, but it notes that the pandemic “began in a country where the free flow of information is stifled and where the government punished those warning about the dangers of the virus.”

“Democracy does not guarantee competent leadership and effective governance,” the letter continues. “While democracies predominate among the countries that have acted most effectively to contain the virus, other democracies have functioned poorly in responding to the pandemic and have paid a very high price in human life and economic security.”

By Adam Taylor
June 25, 2020 at 12:13 PM EDT

Hospitalizations in New York slip below 1,000 for the first time since March

Coronavirus hospitalizations in New York have slipped just below 1,000 for the first time since March 18, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said Thursday.

The state also has recorded 17 new covid-19 deaths, “one of the lowest numbers since we started,” Cuomo said on CNN’s “New Day.” A day earlier, announcing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone coming to New York from states with high viral spread, he had emphasized his state’s dramatic turnaround from the early days of the pandemic.

What started as the nation’s hardest-hit hot spot now has one of the slowest-rising case counts in the country, though its overall death toll remains the highest, both in raw numbers and relative to population. Especially devastated New York City is on track to move into the next phase of reopening July 6, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Thursday.

Under that anticipated “phase 3,” gatherings of up to 25 people as well as indoor dining are allowed, and more businesses, including nail salons and massage parlors, can reopen. The city will be the last in New York to enter phase 3, and officials are still evaluating as July 6 nears.

Cuomo contrasted his approach to that of some governors who have been quicker to open up and are seeing rising infections and hospitalizations.

“I got lambasted by everyone saying just open up the economy, you’re overreacting, don’t listen to all these scientists … that’s just fearmongering,” he said on CNN. “It wasn’t.”

“The people who played politics now are causing this nation great havoc,” the governor said.

Cuomo was pessimistic about the country’s prospects even as New York hits encouraging milestones, saying he expects tens of thousands more Americans to die in the pandemic.

“It’s a real American tragedy that we’re living through right now,” he said.

By Hannah Knowles
June 25, 2020 at 12:05 PM EDT

Ex-FDA head: States with rising infections must act fast

States experiencing a sharp rise in new infections of the novel coronavirus face a daunting task of containing the outbreak and must be willing to make some tough calls — and fast, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned.

“It’s going to be difficult now to get this under control. They still have a window of opportunity,” Gottlieb said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” early Thursday. “Whatever these states do right now is really going to help them in about two weeks.”

Since the beginning of June, states like Arizona, Texas, California and Florida have seen record high rolling averages of new infections. And while deaths still lag, those could catch up soon.

Gottlieb pointed to a delay between New York City implementing a stay-at-home order and the city’s peak infection rate.

“The next week or two is largely baked in terms of what impact you can have on it from policy,” Gottlieb said.

He advised state and local officials to start thinking now about where their infection rates could be in two weeks and beyond and prepare to make adjustments.

Gottlieb acknowledged states are unlikely to shut down their economies again. “It’s very clear: They’re going to weather this,” he said. He urged officials to consider closing “congregant settings” like bars and dialing back nonessential medical procedures to ensure enough hospital capacity for coronavirus patients.


This article previously misstated the channel that "Squawk Box" is on.

By Kim Bellware
June 25, 2020 at 11:06 AM EDT

Rushed reopening led to spike in U.S. cases, health official says

Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said Thursday on the “Today” show that a spike this week in U.S. cases of the novel coronavirus was caused by a rush to reopen the nation’s economy without proper safety measures in place.

State health departments reported 38,115 new infections on Wednesday, the highest single-day caseload in the United States since the pandemic began. Texas, Florida and California reported the most cases, with more than 5,000 each.

“It is pretty alarming. It is pretty worrisome,” Jha said. “We had hoped that we would be able to keep the virus at bay for a while, but we are seeing these resurgences, largely because we opened up too quickly, and we opened up without the right safeguards in place.”

“And I’m worried that we’re going to see increases in the number of cases in the days and weeks ahead,” Jha added.

It’s true, he said, that some states have increased their testing capacity, which is contributing to the increase in case numbers. But he also said that testing alone does not explain the spike. Hospitalization rates are up, too.

When asked about data that shows some of the new cases are in younger people, Jha said that does not necessarily bring him comfort. Young people can still succumb to the virus or get gravely ill, and doctors are still learning about the long-term side effects of the disease.

In addition, Jha said, young people risk infecting their parents or grandparents, who are more susceptible to the virus’s deadliest consequences.

To contain the uptick in cases, Jha said that hot-spot states such as Texas, Florida and California should implement statewide mask-wearing laws in public places, discourage indoor restaurant dining and continue to discourage large gatherings.

By Katie Mettler
June 25, 2020 at 10:47 AM EDT

Delta threatens ban on passengers refusing to wear masks

The chief executive of Delta Air Lines said in a memo to all employees Thursday that any passenger who refuses to wear a mask or follow any other safety requirement on flights may be permanently banned from flying with Delta.

“We take the requirement to wear a mask very seriously,” Ed Bastian wrote. “So far, there have thankfully only been a handful of cases, but we have already banned some passengers from future travel on Delta for refusing to wear masks on board.”

Last month, Delta joined other U.S. airlines in mandating face coverings to help protect passengers and staff from contracting and spreading the coronavirus. Delta also has instituted several other safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including cleaning aircraft surfaces before every flight, blocking middle seats and capping the passenger capacity in the main cabin at 60 percent.

Despite the precautions, many Americans have abandoned travel plans. Bastian said that even as Delta has seen a steady increase in passenger volume as it adds flights, he expects summer demand to be just 25 percent of last year’s revenue.

A return to “normal,” he said, is probably years away.

By Hamza Shaban
June 25, 2020 at 10:31 AM EDT

After covid-19 scare, Ezekiel Elliott expresses concern about NFL’s plan to protect players, families

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott said his case of covid-19 has been a mild one. But in a Twitch chat Wednesday with YouTube host Scooter Magruder he said the NFL needs to do everything it can to protect its players and their family members if it wants to have a season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I just feel like there’s a lot of moving parts that have to be figured out,” Elliott said. “I just don’t know how they can keep the players healthy. You’ve got to put the health of the players first. And it’s not even so much I would say the players’ health because I got corona and it didn’t really affect me much. But a lot of people have kids; they may have kids with asthma, their parents or grandparents may live with them.

“We have to find a way to make sure the players and their families, and the coaches also and their families, aren’t put at risk.”

Read more here.

By Matt Bonesteel
June 25, 2020 at 10:02 AM EDT

Macy’s will slash 3,900 corporate jobs as coronavirus hammers sales

Macy’s is laying off 3,900 corporate employees and managers, or about 3 percent of its total workforce, marking the latest effort by the beleaguered retailer to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The layoffs announced Thursday come just months after the beleaguered retailer said it would close 125 stores — about a fifth of its total — and shed 2,000 jobs after a disappointing holiday season. The company also is scaling back staffing at its Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores, distribution facilities and customer service centers but says it will “adjust as sales recover.”

The retail giant furloughed the majority of its 125,000 employees in mid-March after coronavirus-related closures led to a steep decline in sales. Many of those workers are expected to return to work in July as the company continues reopening stores across the country.

Read more here.

By Abha Bhattarai
June 25, 2020 at 9:52 AM EDT

WHO official warns ‘significant resurgence’ in Europe could push health systems ‘to the brink’ again

The number of coronavirus cases in Europe increased for the first time in months last week, a World Health Organization official warned Thursday, with a “very significant resurgence” in 11 countries that could “push health systems to the brink once again” if left unchecked.

Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said 30 European countries had seen infections rise over the past two weeks.

“Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months. For weeks I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures,” Kluge said. “In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality."

In 11 of the 30 countries with recently rising cases, he said, “accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe.”

WHO had noted some positive examples of containment, Kluge said, pointing to regional outbreaks in Poland, Germany and Spain, and many people across Europe were adhering to social distancing and wearing masks. “Bravo to the people!” Kluge said.

But there was still much more to be done on the continent, especially with regards to technology and contact tracing, he said.

“We need to get smarter in using the evidence and the information we have from our covid-19 surveillance systems to improve the only way we have to minimize transmission: find, isolate, test and care for every case,” he said. “Trace and quarantine every contact.”

By Adam Taylor
June 25, 2020 at 9:39 AM EDT

Chuck E. Cheese parent files for bankruptcy

The parent company of Chuck E. Cheese declared bankruptcy Thursday, citing store closures and stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic as driving factors.

CEC Entertainment, which also owns Peter Piper Pizza arcade venues, said in a news release that it filed for Chapter 11 protection to achieve a “restructuring that supports its re-opening and longer-term strategic plans.” The company has reopened 266 stores since states began lifting shutdown orders designed to stem the spread of the virus that has sickened more than 2.3 million people in the United States and caused more than 121,000 deaths.

Chuck E. Cheese, a rite of passage for childhood birthdays in nearly four dozen states, announced no immediate plans to close any stores. CEC said it will continue to pay employees and honor guest gift cards during the reorganization.

Read more here.

By Hannah Denham
June 25, 2020 at 9:17 AM EDT

Trump does not plan to abide by quarantine during visit to New Jersey

When he visits his Bedminster golf club this weekend, President Trump does not plan to abide by a new travel advisory in New Jersey and nearby states that are telling anyone coming from places hard hit by the coronavirus to quarantine for 14 days, the White House indicated.

Trump traveled earlier this week to Arizona, among the states designated as hot spots by the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York when they announced their quarantine period Wednesday. Connecticut and New Jersey do not have plans to enforce the measure, while New York has made violations punishable by fines starting at $2,000.

“Anyone who is in close proximity to him, including staff, guests and press, are tested for COVID-19 and confirmed to be negative,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

“With regard to Arizona, the White House followed its COVID mitigation plan to ensure the president did not come into contact with anyone who was symptomatic or had not been tested,” Deere said. “Anyone traveling in support of the president this weekend will be closely monitored for symptoms and tested for COVID and therefore pose little to no risk to the local populations.”

As of Wednesday, the travel advisory applied to Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas.

During an appearance on CNN on Wednesday night, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) played down concerns about Trump’s plans, noting that “there is a carve-out for essential workers, and I think by any definition the president of the United States is an essential worker.”

“I think the bigger point here is we want folks to really be responsible in terms of thinking about not just themselves, but their family and their communities,” Murphy said. “And we’ve beaten this virus down to a pulp in New Jersey with an enormous loss of life. We’ve been through hell, and we don’t want to go through hell again.”

By John Wagner
June 25, 2020 at 8:54 AM EDT

Fact Checker: Trump keeps saying Obama left him ‘no ventilators.’ The number is 16,660.

The president certainly has been offering a relatively consistent message — when the coronavirus pandemic struck, there were “no ventilators,” “none” or “very few,” and those few were “obsolete.”

Those phrases suggest that the number of ventilators the Obama administration left behind in the Strategic National Stockpile was zero.

So we were a bit surprised when Vice President Pence wrote in the Wall Street Journal on June 16: “The Strategic National Stockpile hadn’t been refilled since the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009, and it had only 10,000 ventilators on hand.”

Ten thousand certainly seems like a lot more than zero.

But now it turns out that even that number was a lowball figure. And it has been known for months. The real number was 16,600.

Read more here.

By Glenn Kessler
June 25, 2020 at 8:30 AM EDT

Tesla gave workers permission to stay home rather than risk getting covid-19. Then it sent termination notices.

SAN FRANCISCO — When he defiantly reopened the company’s Fremont plant against county orders last month, Elon Musk promised Tesla employees they could stay home if they felt uneasy. They would not be penalized.

If “you feel uncomfortable coming back to work at this time, please do not feel obligated to do so,” he wrote in an email sent to the company’s factory workers in early May that was viewed by The Washington Post.

Nonetheless, two Tesla workers say they received termination notices alleging a “failure to return to work” after they opted to take unpaid leave to protect themselves and their family members when the factory restarted production the second week of May.

Read more here.

By Faiz Siddiqui
June 25, 2020 at 8:10 AM EDT

Analysis: Research explores how conservative media misinformation may have intensified coronavirus

Coronavirus infections have surged in a number of states, setting the United States on a markedly different pandemic trajectory than other wealthy nations.

There are many reasons the response to the pandemic tied to nearly 120,000 U.S. deaths has faltered, experts say, including the lack of a cohesive federal policy, missteps on testing and tracing, and a national culture emphasizing individualism.

In recent weeks, three studies have focused on conservative media’s role in fostering confusion about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Taken together, they paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others.

Read more here.

By Christopher Ingraham
June 25, 2020 at 8:05 AM EDT

Coronavirus sweeps through Afghanistan’s security forces

KABUL — The novel coronavirus is sweeping through Afghanistan's security forces, according to senior Afghan security officials from four provinces who report suspected infection rates of 60 to 90 percent among their units — reducing the number of forces available to conduct operations or take up duty at outposts.

Few have died, the officials say, but little to no testing capacity has forced many into weeks of isolation, leaving deployable forces stretched thin at a time when the country is under pressure from both increased Taliban violence and from the United States, where officials are eager to see the government and militants begin direct talks.

Read more here.

By Susannah George, Aziz Tassal and Sharif Hassan
June 25, 2020 at 7:45 AM EDT

NFL teams could cover seating around field in attempt to make up lost revenue

The National Football League and its franchises are discussing a plan by which rows of seating closest to the field in stadiums this season could be covered and used to display the logos of sponsors and messaging for league and team initiatives.

The prospective measure is to be discussed by team owners when they meet Thursday by videoconference, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. The plan could be put into effect if teams are prohibited from having their stadiums filled with fans by state and local restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to that person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the NFL has not yet publicized the measure.

The plan would represent a health and safety measure that would create additional distance between fans in the stands and the players, coaches and other personnel on the field. It also could give teams the opportunity to generate revenue from sponsors that would partially offset money lost from the absence of fans.

Read more here.

By Mark Maske
June 25, 2020 at 7:06 AM EDT

Eiffel Tower reopens to tourists — at least the ones who like stairs

France’s Eiffel Tower, which attracts an estimated 7 million visitors each year, reopened to the public Thursday after a three-month closure amid the global health crisis — although those visiting the landmark will have to take the stairs for now.

According to the tower’s official Twitter account, it takes approximately 10 minutes to climb each level, and just the first two floors are open at this time, with the top floor expected to open later this summer.

The attraction’s public spaces will be thoroughly disinfected daily, and the elevator will begin taking small groups starting next week.

Upon reopening, stringent health and safety measures are in place to stop further transmission of the coronavirus, and face masks must be worn by all guests over age 11. Guests are asked to remain about five feet apart and must enter and exit the venue at different locations.

The total number of people allowed on each floor will be capped.

Photos shared on social media Thursday showed visitors wearing face masks posing for selfies on the first and second floors.

The opening was celebrated with fanfare beneath the 1,063-foot tower on Thursday. Musicians stood spaced apart and wore face coverings as they banged drums and danced outside.

At least 29,734 people lost their lives to the coronavirus in France, and the country has more than 197,000 confirmed cases. France began lifting its lockdown restrictions in May, while Phase 2 of easing the rules began earlier this month.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron made his first foreign trip since February and was met with a socially distanced greeting in London by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and heir to the throne Prince Charles.

Macron’s visit was to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s radio broadcast from London in June 1940, when he sounded the first call for French resistance to Nazi Germany in World War II.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 25, 2020 at 6:38 AM EDT

Trump health officials say they are not ‘pulling the rug’ out from testing sites

Top Trump administration health officials sought Wednesday to dampen a controversy over an end to federal management of 13 coronavirus testing sites, insisting that the change does not diminish access to diagnostic tests, even as infection numbers soar in many states.

Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services who is the government’s coronavirus testing coordinator, said seven sites in Texas and six elsewhere were part of an early phase of a federal community testing program for the virus that he called “antiquated,” saying they have been kept open a month longer than planned.

Giroir’s remarks, in an unusually lengthy conference call with journalists lasting nearly an hour, marked the second consecutive day that senior health officials publicly distanced themselves from President Trump’s assertion during a campaign rally Saturday that he had directed officials to “slow the testing down.”

Read more here.

By Amy Goldstein
June 25, 2020 at 6:04 AM EDT

Australia launches door-to-door testing blitz to contain virus flare-up in suburbs

Australian health workers will go door-to-door to test more than 100,000 people in the Melbourne suburbs, authorities said Thursday, as worries mount that a flare-up of the coronavirus could lead to a possible resurgence.

Although Australia has battled the virus with relative success, with barely more than 100 deaths, the spreading outbreak threatens to undo a near-victory over the pandemic.

Just weeks after lifting most restrictions on business and public life, Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria state, urged residents to see participation in the free testing as their civic duty.

“Every Victorian who gets tested — every case that is identified — brings us one step closer to containing and slowing the spread of this virus,” he said in a statement.

New infections in his state, the country’s second most populous, make up the vast majority of Australia’s 270 active cases. Officials reported 33 new cases on Thursday, marking the state’s highest daily toll since April.

With the 10-day initiative, officials hope to target about half the residents in 10 communities near the city of Melbourne, with some efforts incorporating less invasive saliva tests.

Although the expanded testing will most likely cause the number of reported infections to climb, Andrews said such an outcome would be well worth it to keep local businesses open.

More than 1,000 military personnel are helping with expanded testing efforts, which involve sending ambulances and mobile test centers to every block.

Australia’s defense minister said they would largely be helping to enforce a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone who has recently arrived in the country, according to Reuters.

Victoria officials, who say they believe that patients with mild or no symptoms spread the virus at large family get-togethers, tightened a cap on public gatherings earlier this week.

By Teo Armus
June 25, 2020 at 5:50 AM EDT

MLS sets schedule for its tournament return; D.C. United opens July 10

D.C. United will return from a four-month layoff July 10 against Toronto FC at the MLS Is Back Tournament in greater Orlando, the league announced Wednesday.

United will also face the New England Revolution on July 16 and the Montreal Impact on July 21 in a group stage that will count toward the regular season, which was suspended in March after two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Major League Soccer had previously announced the six conference-specific groups, and on Wednesday it released the dates, times and TV coverage for the 54-match competition, which will run from July 8 to Aug. 11 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the Disney World campus.

Read more here.

By Steven Goff
June 25, 2020 at 5:17 AM EDT

Vietnam has reported zero coronavirus deaths. And it doesn’t want tourists to change that.

As countries around the world succumbed to the coronavirus, Vietnam, with its population of more than 97 million and shared border with China, managed to contain it — reporting only 352 confirmed cases and no deaths.

To keep this enviable record in fighting the outbreak from being threatened by arrivals from abroad, international tourists will not be allowed in anytime soon — although domestic travel has resumed.

“Vietnam is not yet ready to welcome back international tourists,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a government statement Wednesday. “There is no story of rushing to open the doors.”

Tourism has exploded in Vietnam in recent years, with more than 18 million arrivals in 2019 accounting for 6 percent of gross domestic product.

Phuc added that there would be exceptions, including foreign experts and investors who would be “welcomed but closely monitored” and expected to quarantine in hotels after being flown into the country on designated flights.

Vietnam’s swift reaction to news of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan has been credited with preventing the loss of many lives. As other countries debated the best strategy to implement, Vietnam moved fast to prevent an outbreak even before any cases had been confirmed on Vietnamese soil.

The country deployed the same tactics used to battle the SARS health crisis more than a decade ago, including a broad testing strategy.

In January, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam called on the Ministry of Health to issue an action plan following advice from the World Health Organization. Airports and seaports strengthened quarantine checks, and officials closely monitored the unfolding situation in neighboring China and Thailand.

Stringent quarantine measures came into force, confining tens of thousands to their homes, and mass testing and contact tracing took place as the country made its own test kits and protective wear. Schools in Vietnam closed in January for the Lunar New Year and did not reopen until May.

By Jennifer Hassan
June 25, 2020 at 4:55 AM EDT

Social, religious taboos complicate Indonesia’s testing efforts

As Indonesia seeks to ramp up coronavirus testing to keep up with the global pandemic, social taboos appear to be getting in the way.

Crowded, bustling markets on the islands of Bali and Sumatra have emerged as hot spots for transmission, authorities said Wednesday, but hundreds of the traditional vendors who work there have refused to undergo nasal and throat swabs.

“Maybe there is fear; maybe there is trauma. We need to explore the reasons why,” Jasman Rizal, a spokesman for the coronavirus task force in the province of West Sumatra, told Reuters. “The government must take persuasive action and educate.”

The country of 270 million people is experiencing the largest outbreak in Southeast Asia, with nearly 50,000 infections and more than 2,500 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

At a market in West Sumatra, 50 traders refused to be tested this week. In Bali, authorities had planned to carry out 2,200 tests — but nearly 1 in 10 vendors failed to show up.

Nyoman Suwirta, who heads one regency in Bali, told Reuters that people worry they may have to isolate themselves if they test positive. Local doctors, meanwhile, said some patients with symptoms have refused to go to hospitals designated for treating virus patients, the news agency reported.

The stigma has stretched to coronavirus fatalities, too.

Some villages in Java have prohibited funerals for those who died of covid-19, fearing that the burials could spread the disease, Reuters reported. One community on the island of Sulawesi broke into a hospital to take back the bodies of victims and bury them according to traditional religious practices.

Social distancing measures have varied across Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populous and largest majority-Muslim country. Although officials banned people from returning to their hometowns for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, they refrained from imposing a national lockdown.

By Teo Armus
June 25, 2020 at 4:21 AM EDT

Analysis: How the split over face masks sums up America’s chaotic coronavirus response

By any measure, the United States has some of the top public health experts in the world. Yet as the novel coronavirus began to spread early this year, these U.S. experts repeatedly recommended against a simple tactic to prevent spreading the infection: face masks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in January that it did not recommend the use of masks for “people who are well.”

But weeks later, the advice was reversed. On April 3, the CDC altered its recommendation to state that “cloth face coverings” should be worn when social distance cannot be maintained.

The U-turn regarding masks and the subsequent political divide over them has come to symbolize the chaos of the U.S. response to the still-raging pandemic. It also may be particularly damaging for America’s global standing, as it has drawn in not just political leaders such as President Trump but also widely respected public health experts who did not initially back the wearing of face masks.

Read more here.

By Adam Taylor
June 25, 2020 at 3:54 AM EDT

Delhi overtakes Mumbai as worst-hit city in India by the virus

NEW DELHI — With over 70,000 coronavirus cases, Delhi has emerged as India’s new hot spot. On Wednesday, the city recorded 3,788 new infections and overtook Mumbai, previously the worst-hit city. Delhi, however, has tallied fewer deaths than India’s financial capital, where the count is nearing 4,000.

Delhi’s local government is scrambling to ramp up its infrastructure, which has begun to buckle as cases rise steadily. Patients have been shifted to railway cars that have been converted into isolation wards with medical teams deployed from the armed forces.

The city is racing to build a jumbo 10,000-bed health-care facility at the campus of a spiritual center. Hotels and banquet halls have been roped in to ease the pressure on hospitals. Delhi, whose metropolitan area is home to 29 million people, also plans to carry out door-to-door screening of every household in the next two weeks.

Earlier in June, Delhi’s top elected politician had warned that the city was likely to have more than 500,000 cases by the end of July.

India has struggled to contain the coronavirus pandemic ever since the government lifted a stringent lockdown in a bid to save the hemorrhaging economy. At the beginning of the month, India had about 200,000 cases. In three weeks, the cases have more than doubled to more than 473,000. It is now the world’s fourth-hardest-hit country, after the United States, Brazil and Russia.

By Niha Masih
June 25, 2020 at 3:46 AM EDT

UAE lifts nighttime curfew but closes bars amid warnings to remain vigilant over virus

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates announced late Wednesday that it had concluded its “national sterilization campaign,” meaning that a nighttime curfew across the country has been abolished even as authorities warned people to continue wearing masks and to remain vigilant.

Alone among the countries in the Persian Gulf region, the UAE has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of cases, with 300 to 400 new infections found each day, less than half the peak daily rate last month. Children under 12 are also now allowed into malls across the country.

In Dubai itself, however, bars and outlets that don’t serve food with alcohol have been shut down until further notice. According to the local Gulf News, the move followed a viral video of people socializing at a hotel pool bar without any social distancing.

Even with restrictions lifted across the country, including the announcement that schools will reopen in the fall, Abu Dhabi remains sealed off from the rest of the country, with entry allowed only by permit.

The extension of the month-old travel ban to the capital was announced Thursday as authorities said they are continuing extensive testing around the emirate.

Abu Dhabi controls the lion’s share of the country’s oil, while neighboring Dubai’s economy depends heavily on international travel and tourism. That reliance seems to have prompted Dubai to take a more aggressive path to reopening.

Dubai has announced that tourists will be welcomed back in July, but there has been no corresponding announcement from the other six emirates that make up the country. In fact dueling regulations have been issued for those traveling from abroad to Dubai and those traveling to the other emirates.

Residents returning to Dubai, for instance, need to self-isolate at home only until they obtain a negative result of their coronavirus test, while for other emirates, travelers will have to quarantine themselves for two weeks.

Some 400,000 infections have been reported across the six Arab nations of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia has the most — more than 167,000 cases — and Qatar has more than 90,000.

By Paul Schemm
June 25, 2020 at 3:35 AM EDT

Utah governor reverses course on face masks, requiring them in state-run buildings

Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) will require people to cover their faces at state-run buildings, including liquor stores and higher education offices, he said Wednesday, and will move to allow counties to enact even stricter measures.

Although he stopped short of implementing a statewide requirement for face coverings — a move recently undertaken by Nevada and North Carolina — the order marks a rapid reversal for a state experiencing a growing coronavirus outbreak.

On Tuesday, Herbert suggested that he would not succumb to mounting calls for a face mask order, saying it would create “divisive enforcement issues.” After Utah’s top epidemiologist said a complete shutdown may be necessary, he rejected such a measure as well.

But on Wednesday, the governor said he had changed his mind and called on Utahns to “dial up” their personal response to the pandemic.

“The heavy hand of government sometimes has a negative reaction with the people,” Herbert said at his weekly news conference. “I’m hopeful we can get people to do the right thing for the right reasons, because they love their neighbor and want to protect their neighbor as well as themselves from the coronavirus.”

Instead of a statewide mask requirement, Herbert said Wednesday that he wanted city and county leaders to ask him for permission to issue such directives at the local level. He will soon approve such a request from the mayor of Salt Lake County, the state’s largest.

According to data tracked by The Washington Post, Utah has for more than a week straight seen a high in its rolling average of new infections, though testing has not increased substantially.

Herbert said he will keep current restrictions in place for at least two more weeks, with restaurants, gyms, salons and pools all allowed to operate under the current stage of reopening.

By Teo Armus
June 25, 2020 at 2:58 AM EDT

Analysis: Trump’s approval ratings on coronavirus, Black Lives Matter protests continue to decline

For much of Donald Trump’s presidency, he avoided the kind of massive crises that truly try presidents. Americans had significant concerns about his steadiness as a leader in 2016, despite electing him, but those concerns were never really tested in the face of major upheaval.

The coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter protests have changed that, and they appear to have damaged Trump significantly.

Two polls released Wednesday morning reinforce this. A Washington Post-Ipsos poll shows that just 36 percent of American adults approve of Trump’s handling of the protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, while 62 percent disapprove. A New York Times-Siena College poll, meanwhile, shows the same number disapproving — 62 percent — but just 29 percent approving.

Read more here.

By Aaron Blake
June 25, 2020 at 2:38 AM EDT

Enforcement of lockdown in Europe was racially biased, Amnesty International finds

When Europe went into lockdown this spring, the effects were not felt equally: Ethnic minorities and marginalized groups bore the brunt of police “violence, discriminatory identity checks, forced quarantines and fines,” according to a report released Wednesday by London-based Amnesty International.

The report examined police enforcement of lockdowns in 12 European countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia, Romania, Spain and Britain. While each country has its own unique racial and ethnic makeup and context, the human rights group said it documented an overarching trend.

“Police violence and concerns about institutional racism are not new, but the COVID-19 pandemic and coercive enforcement of the resulting lockdowns have exposed just how prevalent they are,” Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s Western Europe researcher, wrote in a statement. “The triple threats of discrimination, unlawful use of force and police impunity must be urgently tackled in Europe.”

In France, for example, Amnesty found that police targeted enforcement of lockdowns in poor and historically marginalized communities, which have high proportions of minorities and immigrants. In Seine-Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb that is France’s poorest area and where many residents are black or of North African origin, local authorities reported that people followed the lockdown rules on par with other communities. Nonetheless, Amnesty found, the neighborhood had three times the number of fines for breaking the lockdown compared with the rest of the country.

Many European countries don’t track data according to ethnicity. In Britain, one of the few that does, Amnesty found that during its shutdown, “stop and searches” in London rose by 22 percent, while for black Britons it rose by one-third during the same period.

Roma communities in Bulgaria and Slovakia and refugees across the continent also disproportionately faced curfews and other forms of police or military enforced isolation, according to Amnesty.

By Miriam Berger
June 25, 2020 at 1:40 AM EDT

Canada’s four Atlantic provinces agree to travel bubble starting July 3

Canada’s four Atlantic provinces have agreed to a new travel bubble, the provinces’ four premiers announced Wednesday, paving the way for their borders to open for travel starting July 3.

The agreement will allow travelers to move between the four provinces — Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick — without mandatory isolation periods, reversing earlier measures that have largely restricted domestic travel in the region to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The four provinces have experienced relatively low case and death counts. On Prince Edward Island, there have been only 27 cases, all of them linked to off-island travel. No one has been hospitalized or died. Nova Scotia has reported 1,061 cases and 63 deaths. Newfoundland and Labrador have reported only 261 cases and three deaths. New Brunswick, the only province of the four with current cases, has reported 165 cases and two deaths.

Although Prince Edward Island has started to allow summer residents to enter the province, Premier Dennis King said last week that the island, which relies heavily on tourism, is not prepared to consider expanding the bubble beyond Atlantic Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

He expressed concern that if neighboring provinces began allowing in outside visitors, it would cause difficulties for Prince Edward Island’s border-control measures.

“We would have to either strengthen our borders to keep those [people] out or to tell those people coming from other parts of the country that they would need to isolate here,” King said.

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 25, 2020 at 1:15 AM EDT

Nevada to require face masks in public, inside all businesses

As Nevada experiences a record surge in new coronavirus cases, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) said all residents and visitors will be required to cover their faces in public.

The order, which takes effect Friday and includes all businesses, comes three weeks after casinos were allowed to reopen and a month after restrictions were loosened on most other kinds of stores. Authorities suggested a stream of maskless crowds back onto the Las Vegas Strip may be tied to the surge.

“We’ve taken some steps backward,” Sisolak said at a news conference late Wednesday. “Clearly, for many, the excitement and enthusiasm of escaping from our confinement … overshadowed the good judgment we practiced in recent months.”

His directive makes Nevada the latest state to require masks in response to rapidly spreading outbreaks. In the past week, California, Michigan and North Carolina, as well as several cities in Arizona, Florida and Texas, all issued similar orders.

Sisolak said that businesses that do not comply will face police action, though he urged local agencies not to impose fines and fees as a way to enforce the order. Children between the ages of 2 and 9 and people with certain medical conditions are exempt.

Hours before his announcement, MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment said it would be requiring face masks inside its casinos, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported, and several restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip that had already shut down again.

During the news conference, the governor also apologized for making an “inexcusable” error in judgment when he and his wife were photographed failing to wear masks at a Carson City restaurant.

According to data tracked by The Washington Post, Nevada’s rolling seven-day average of new infections has climbed upward for nearly a week, even as testing levels remain flat.

By Teo Armus
June 25, 2020 at 12:59 AM EDT

Indiana Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon is the latest NBA player to test positive

Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, weeks before the National Basketball Association is set to resume play at Disney World next month.

The 27-year-old guard, who was in the midst of a career year before the NBA shut down on March 11, said that he still plans to play for the Pacers when the 2019-2020 season commences on July 30.

The NBA entered Phase 2 of its comprehensive reopening plan Tuesday, with players reporting to their teams in their respective home markets to undergo mandatory testing. Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ all-star center, tested positive for the coronavirus, while the Arizona Republic reported Tuesday that two unidentified members of the Phoenix Suns also tested positive.

Read more here.

By Ben Golliver
June 25, 2020 at 12:28 AM EDT

With ‘kung flu,’ Trump sparks backlash over racist language — and a rallying cry for supporters

President Trump’s first use of the phrase “kung flu” — during a campaign rally in Tulsa last weekend — drew broad political backlash as a racist slur against Asian Americans.

Within three days, however, it was also something else: a rallying cry for his supporters.

Trump’s appearance before a crowd of several thousand enthusiastic young people at the Dream City Church in Phoenix on Tuesday showed how his casual use of a demeaning phrase — one that even some White House aides rejected three months ago — has swiftly morphed into a staple of his reelection message amid tumbling poll numbers.

Read more here.

By David Nakamura
June 25, 2020 at 12:27 AM EDT

Dozens of Secret Service officers and agents told to self-quarantine after Trump’s Tulsa rally

Dozens of Secret Service officers and agents who were on-site for President Trump’s rally in Tulsa last week were ordered to self-quarantine after two of their colleagues tested positive for the novel coronavirus, part of the fallout from Trump’s insistence on holding the mass gathering over the objections of public health officials.

The Secret Service instructed employees who worked the Tulsa event to stay at home for 14 days when they returned from the weekend trip, according to two people familiar with the agency’s decision.

The order came in the wake of the discovery — hours before the president’s Saturday evening rally — that at least six advance staffers who helped organize the trip had tested positive for the virus, including two Secret Service employees. Another two advance staffers tested positive after Trump returned to Washington on Sunday.

Read more here.

By Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Partlow
June 25, 2020 at 12:25 AM EDT

Coronavirus deaths lag behind surging infections but may catch up soon

With novel coronavirus infections setting a single-day national record Wednesday, health experts are taking little solace from one of the few bright spots in the current resurgence: Deaths are not rising in lockstep with caseloads.

But that may be just a matter of time.

“Deaths always lag considerably behind cases,” Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, told Congress at a hearing Tuesday. In the weeks to come, he and others said, the death toll is likely to rise commensurately.

Which means Arizona, Texas and Florida, states that reopened early and now are experiencing runaway infection rates, are likely to be burying more dead in July.

Read more here.

By Lenny Bernstein, Rachel Weiner and Joel Achenbach