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Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 2.5 million on Sunday as a crushing new wave of infections continued to bear down throughout the country’s South and West. Across the nation, 40,587 new daily cases were reported.

Florida, Texas and Arizona are emerging as the country’s latest epicenters after reporting record numbers of new infections for weeks in a row. Positivity rates and hospitalizations have also spiked. On Sunday, Arizona (3,857) and Georgia (2,225) hit new one-day case highs.

Global cases of covid-19 exceeded 10 million, according to a count maintained by Johns Hopkins University, a measure of the power and spread of a pandemic that has caused vast human suffering, devastated the world’s economy and still threatens vulnerable populations in rich and poor nations alike.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Sunday downplayed concerns about Florida’s rising number of new coronavirus cases and attributed the state’s numbers to young people flouting social distancing rules.
  • As cases surge in parts of the United States, testing centers have been overwhelmed with an influx of patients, leading to long wait times and huge lines.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday the wearing of masks should be mandatory nationwide during the pandemic.
  • A record surge in new cases is the clearest sign yet of the historic failure in the United States to control the virus — exposing a crisis in governance extending from the Oval Office to state capitals to city councils.
  • The faltering response in the United States remains a subject of global shock and fascination, with one prominent French virologist saying Sunday the situation was “explosive.”

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June 29, 2020 at 8:53 AM EDT

Fauci says vaccine may not cause herd immunity because of effectiveness level and people who won’t get it

The fact that an eventual vaccine for the novel coronavirus may be only 70 to 75 percent effective and the likelihood that many people will not receive it make the United States unlikely to achieve herd immunity, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, told CNN.

“The best we’ve ever done is measles, which is 97 to 98 percent effective,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in the interview that aired Sunday as part of the Aspen Ideas Festival. “That would be wonderful if we get there. I don’t think we will. I would settle for [a] 70, 75 percent effective vaccine.”

About 70 percent of U.S. residents say they plan to get a coronavirus vaccine if it’s free and available, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this month. About two-thirds said the same in a CNN poll.

CNN asked Fauci whether a vaccine that is 70 to 75 percent effective and given to two-thirds of the country would create herd immunity, in which a large enough portion of a population is immune to the virus so that it is unable to spread.

“No — unlikely,” he responded.

Fauci also told CNN that contact tracing is going poorly in the United States, in part because many communities are trying to do it by phone. About half of people who answer such calls don’t want to talk to anyone in a position of authority, he said. He recommended that contact tracers do their work in person.

Asymptomatic transmission also makes contact tracing difficult, Fauci added. He said 20 to 40 percent of people carrying the virus may not have symptoms.

“So the standard classic paradigm of identification, isolation, contact tracing doesn’t work, no matter how good you are, because you don’t know who you’re tracing,” Fauci told CNN.

By Marisa Iati
June 28, 2020 at 11:17 PM EDT

NBA’s Rudy Gobert contracted the coronavirus in March. He still can’t smell properly.

It’s been more than three months since Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert contracted the novel coronavirus and he still hasn’t come to his senses. Literally.

The two-time NBA defensive player of the year told the French newspaper L’Equipe that even though he quickly recovered from the virus, he still hasn’t completely regained his sense of smell.

“The taste has returned but the smell is still not 100 percent,” Gobert said in quotes published by the paper Wednesday. “I can smell the smells but not from afar. I spoke to specialists who told me it could take up to a year.”

Gobert told the paper he still feels “strange things” but doesn’t know if that’s attributable to lingering effects from the virus or the time that has elapsed since he last played a game.

Read more here.

By Jake Russell
June 28, 2020 at 10:13 PM EDT

Texas judge leading coronavirus response begins self-quarantine after possible exposure

A Texas judge leading the coronavirus response in the county that houses Houston is self-quarantining after a member of her office tested positive last week.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement that she and her staff may have been exposed on June 22 and will quarantine for 14 days. Hidalgo, who leads the county’s emergency management office, has not displayed any symptoms, the statement said.

“The reality of it is, there are thousands of residents across Harris County that are increasingly finding themselves in the same position I am in today,” Hidalgo said. “There are rising numbers of residents testing positive for this virus, and more and more requiring hospitalization.”

Texas is among several states experiencing an upswing of new coronavirus cases. Harris County leads the state with nearly 10,000 more total cases than the next county, Dallas, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. The five days with the state’s highest new-case totals have all come in the past five days.

Harris County recently introduced a rating system to measure the pandemic’s danger there, and its first day showed a rating one step below “severe.” Level 1 warns of a “severe and uncontrolled level” of the virus and indicates that “outbreaks are present and worsening.” Residents are asked to minimize contact with others whenever possible and to stay at home except to retrieve essential items.

By Kareem Copeland
June 28, 2020 at 9:43 PM EDT

Maryland orders Prince George’s lab without proper certification to stop doing coronavirus tests

The Maryland Health Department has ordered a Prince George’s County lab that had been processing coronavirus specimens collected at pop-up clinics to cease operations, saying the facility does not have the proper certification.

In an order issued Saturday, Secretary Robert R. Neall of the Maryland Health Department issued an order requiring the Advanced Pain Medicine Institute, which has offices in Greenbelt, to immediately stop all collection and processing of coronavirus tests.

The order was issued after the department received a complaint about test sites operated in coordination with the lab, the state said in a release. An investigation determined the lab did not have the proper certification to perform coronavirus tests. It also found that some patients had problems obtaining their test results.

Read more here.

By Ian Duncan
June 28, 2020 at 8:57 PM EDT

Families of those lost in one of Maryland’s deadliest nursing home outbreaks grieve and celebrate their lives

The families of those who died amid one of Maryland’s deadliest nursing home coronavirus outbreaks gathered Sunday to cry, to laugh and to hug one another in a memorial service they said they hoped would ensure that their loved ones are not forgotten.

They sat in front of 46 crosses at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in La Plata and took turns remembering the residents of Sagepoint Senior Living, less than two miles away. Sometimes speaking through masks, they told stories of grief — of not being able to see their loved ones in their final moments and not being ready to say goodbye — but also of better times.

Throughout the service, where families brought photographs and drawings of the dead, there were stories about the connections formed between residents who called Sagepoint home.

Read more here.

By Rachel Chason
June 28, 2020 at 8:04 PM EDT

Choir at Pence event in Texas did not wear masks while singing

Dozens of members of a choir performed without masks Sunday at an event where Vice President Pence spoke, despite warnings from public-health officials that singing in groups can spread the novel coronavirus.

Although the choir members wore masks during the speeches, they removed them to sing, according to a pool report from the event in Dallas. An NBC News reporter in attendance said there was space between the choir members, but probably not six feet.

The choir sang the national anthem and the anthems of each branch of the military, encouraging veterans to stand during their corresponding song, the pool report said.

Neither a spokesperson for Pence nor a spokesperson for the church immediately responded to requests for comment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that singing “may contribute to transmission of Covid-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.” The agency warned of “superspreader” events after a choir practice in Washington state in March, where an infected choir member passed the virus to 52 other people, two of whom died.

Coronavirus cases have been rising rapidly in Texas, and the state’s seven-day average of new infections set a record Sunday.

Masks were “strongly encouraged,” but not required, for attendees of the event in Dallas. A pool reporter estimated that two-thirds of the audience members were wearing face coverings.

Pence wore a mask when he arrived at the event, called “Celebrate Freedom Sunday,” but removed it before he spoke. In his remarks, he praised Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s leadership during the pandemic and vowed to protect the health of the state’s residents.

“Working with your governor, we will put the health of the people in the Lone Star state first, and every single day we’ll continue to reclaim our freedom and our way of life,” Pence said.

Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

By Marisa Iati
June 28, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT

Nationals set 60-player pool for season shortened by pandemic

It’s all subject to change, for so many reasons, but the Washington Nationals have a list of 60 players who could participate in a 2020 season shortened by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The deadline to submit their club player pool was 4 p.m. Sunday. The club player pool, its official name in Major League Baseball’s operations manual for 2020, is an extension of the active and 40-man rosters a team uses in a normal season. Because there will almost certainly be no minor league games this summer, MLB asked teams to choose who could be added to the 40-man roster throughout a tentative 60-game schedule.

The Nationals’ current 40-man roster is at 38 players, after the club announced Sunday that infielder Adrián Sanchez has been placed on the 60-day injured list with a torn right Achilles’ tendon. That means they chose 22 non-40-man roster players for the pool, a list highlighted by infielder Luis García and right-hander Jackson Rutledge, a pair of top prospects. It is likely that Washington will fill the final two 40-man roster spots before the regular season, which is set to begin July 23 or 24.

Read more here.

By Jesse Dougherty
June 28, 2020 at 5:57 PM EDT

California governor shuts down bars in several counties as rolling average case total hits high

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is reversing the reopenings in some areas of the state as new coronavirus cases continue to rise there.

Newsom announced Sunday that he has ordered bars to close in Los Angeles, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, San Joaquin and Tulare counties. He also recommended that they close in Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Riverside, San Bernardino, Stanislaus and Ventura counties.

California is in the second stage of its reopening, and the health department created a 14-page document with guidelines for restaurants, bars and wineries. Meanwhile, the state’s highest 11 days of new cases all have come in the last 11 days, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. The state’s seven-day rolling average of confirmed cases set a record Sunday for the 12th day in a row.

The Walt Disney Co. has scrapped plans for a July 17 reopening of its California theme parks because of the uptick in coronavirus infections. Parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida are still set to open in mid-July.

California initially had success at containing the virus because of aggressive stay-at-home mandates, compared with the East Coast. That has changed in the past several weeks, and last week Newsom ordered people to wear face masks in all indoor and outdoor public areas.

“As we phase in — in a responsible way — a reopening of the economy, we’ve made it abundantly clear that we anticipate an increase in the total number of positive cases,” Newsom told an audience in Oakland two weeks ago.

By Kareem Copeland
June 28, 2020 at 5:25 PM EDT

Pence encourages wearing masks, praises Abbott during Texas visit

Vice President Pence on Sunday implored Americans to wear face masks, practice social distancing and stay away from seniors to protect them amid a surge in coronavirus infections that has pushed the national case total past 2.5 million.

“Wear a mask wherever it’s indicated or wherever you’re not able to practice the kind of social distancing that would prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Pence said at an event with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

On Friday, the state scaled back reopening measures as severely ill patients continued to overwhelm some hospitals. Texas set a record for coronavirus-related hospitalizations for the 16th straight day on Saturday, with 5,523 patients being treated.

Pence had words of praise, though, for Abbott.

“I also want to commend the governor for your decisive action,” he said. “Reopening this economy, which began in early May, is a tribute to your leadership and the steady progress in putting Texas back to work is something every Texan can be proud of. But with the development of these new cases … we’re grateful, Governor, that you’ve taken the steps that you’ve taken to limit the kind of gatherings and meeting in certain places in communities that may well be contributing to the community spread that we’re seeing.”

At the event, Abbott expressed confidence that Texas could open businesses while containing the virus.

“But it does require all Texans to go back to those strategies that we mastered: wearing a face mask, sanitizing your hands, keeping a safe distance. And remembering this. … If you don’t need to get out, there’s no reason to go out at this particular time.”

By Felicia Sonmez
June 28, 2020 at 5:02 PM EDT

Fla.’s DeSantis attributes new cases to young people ignoring social distancing

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Sunday downplayed concerns about Florida’s rising number of new coronavirus cases, saying the younger people leading the infection count are at a lower risk of hospitalization or death.

“Today, we are in a very good state,” he told reporters at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla.

Florida tallied 8,530 new cases on Sunday, down from the record of 9,585 set Saturday. The state has totaled 141,075 infections and 3,419 deaths since the pandemic began.

Sunday marked the 21st straight day that the state’s seven-day average of new cases, seen as a more reliable indicator of the virus’s impact than daily totals, hit a new high.

Although critics have blamed the surge on DeSantis’s decision to reopen the state in early May, the governor on Sunday attributed the numbers to young people flouting social distancing rules. He said about 20 percent of people who recently tested positive were ages 25 to 34.

“They’re going to do what they are going to do,” DeSantis said.

Public-health experts warn that young people are still at risk of serious complications from the virus and can spread the pathogen to more vulnerable people. Jason Foland, a pediatrician at Ascension Sacred Heart, said at the news conference that people also should not disregard the potential that younger coronavirus patients could die.

“The common misconception about coronavirus is the notion that the virus only affects older populations or that it is only older people who are at risk of dying,” Foland said. “That’s simply not the case. We’ve seen younger people contract the virus and die from it, as well.”

By Meryl Kornfield
June 28, 2020 at 4:36 PM EDT

College students are angry and anxious as they await news about the fall

One after another, colleges and universities in recent weeks have announced plans for operating a fall term in the shadow of a disease that has killed more than 120,000 Americans. Social distancing, face masks, housing limits, virus screening and combinations of in-person and online teaching will be the new normal on these campuses.

But some schools are holding out, struggling to piece together a plan to bring students back safely. Princeton and Yale universities have warned that they won’t set plans until early July.

Georgetown University President John DeGioia sent students a 28-paragraph advisory on June 9. It assured students that the university was immersed in the details of how to reopen during the extraordinary public health crisis. Skeptics, however, found it lacking in hard information.

Read more here.

By Nick Anderson and Lauren Lumpkin
June 28, 2020 at 3:55 PM EDT

Two Florida counties close beaches for Fourth of July weekend, citing surge in cases

At least two Florida counties plan to close their beaches over the Fourth of July weekend, citing concerns that beachgoers will not social distance and that large gatherings could worsen the state’s growing coronavirus outbreak.

In the past 24 hours, Florida has confirmed more than 8,500 cases of the novel virus.

Dale V.C. Holness, mayor of Broward County, announced Sunday that beaches will be closed from Friday through next Sunday. Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County, said Friday that county beaches will be off limits starting this Friday and ending July 7 and warned that he would consider extending the closure if infections continue to rise.

“I have decided that the only prudent thing to do to tamp down this recent uptick is to crack down on recreational activities that put our overall community at higher risk,” Gimenez said in a statement.

He added that he had seen businesses flouting rules intended to protect people from catching the virus.

“If people are not going to be responsible and protect themselves and others from this pandemic, then the government is forced to step in and restore common sense to save lives,” Gimenez said.

Police plan to enforce the rules in Miami-Dade, with violators facing fines and jail time. Holness said that beaches in Broward County risked being “overrun” if they stayed open because beaches in Miami-Dade would be closed, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

The Sentinel also reported that Palm Beach County is considering following Broward and Miami-Dade’s lead. Citing closures in other areas of Florida, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner told the newspaper that “to allow our beaches in Palm Beach County [to] open during that time period would [be] highly irresponsible.”

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 28, 2020 at 2:50 PM EDT

Washington governor chastises Trump for not encouraging masks and for defending rebel monuments

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) slammed President Trump for not promoting masks as a measure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and for dividing the country over race in an interview Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Citing racial tensions in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis, Inslee criticized Trump’s focus on protesters who have defaced Confederate monuments, saying the president was distracting from the pandemic that has killed more than 123,000 people in the United States.

“We need a president who will care more about living Americans and less about dead Confederates,” Inslee told host John Dickerson.

Inslee also said Trump shouldn’t have called for his supporters to “liberate Michigan,” arguing that it put Americans further at odds with local officials’ public health measures.

“Donald Trump is for masking up like George Wallace was for integration,” Inslee said, referring to the former Alabama governor’s infamous speech calling for segregation.

Washington state as of Friday has required people to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces and outside when they are unable to maintain a six-foot distance from others.

Inslee also condemned Vice President Pence’s recent suggestion that the country had overcome the virus. Pence also spoke on “Face the Nation,” saying the United States is in “a much better place” because 34 states are not experiencing an increased positivity rate in testing.

“When I heard the vice president talk about how things are just hunky-dory, it’s just maddening,” Inslee said. “The situation is critical in many places across the United States, and all the happy talk and wishful thinking in the world is not going to wash that away.”

The country recorded more than 44,000 new cases on both Friday and Saturday, setting single-day records.

By Meryl Kornfield
June 28, 2020 at 1:43 PM EDT

Texas Medical Center quietly removes ICU data from website after reporting beds were full

The Houston-based Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical complex, quietly deleted data on current and projected intensive care unit capacity from its website, shortly after reports that beds were 100 percent full set off alarms about its ability to handle the surging numbers of coronavirus patients.

The abrupt removal, which happened without public explanation, came days after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered Houston hospitals to stop performing lucrative elective surgeries as the state faced record numbers of hospitalizations, raising questions about whether the information had been scrubbed for political reasons.

Representatives from the Texas Medical Center did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment on the decision Sunday.

As infections have spiked in the state, the Texas Medical Center has published an array of data on the outbreak in the greater Houston area, including regular updates on its ICUs. Late last week, the figures showed that the medical center had hit “sustainable surge capacity” and was on pace to reach “unsustainable surge capacity” by mid-July.

Officials sparred over the information after it was reported by news outlets and shared by public health experts on social media.

“We’re at the edge of a cliff,” tweeted state Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston).

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) responded by noting that 27 percent of people in the ICU beds were coronavirus patients. “Quit trying to scare people,” he wrote.

By Sunday morning, the data had been removed, though some of it was preserved in Web archives.

In a news conference last week, Texas Medical Center leaders said they believed their updates on ICU capacity sent the wrong message to the public.

“I think the Texas Medical Center’s purpose was to really urge people to do the right things in the community, and do so by talking about capacity, but really ended up unintentionally sounding an alarm bell too loudly,” Houston Methodist President Marc Boom said. “We clearly do have capacity.”

By Derek Hawkins
June 28, 2020 at 1:33 PM EDT

As coronavirus cases surge across U.S., some wait hours to be tested in hardest-hit states

As coronavirus cases surge in parts of the United States, testing centers have been overwhelmed with an influx of patients, leading to long wait times and huge lines, even as people are urged to keep distance to avoid contracting the virus. Over the past week, news outlets in states experiencing dramatic upticks in cases, including Florida, Texas and Arizona, have reported instances of people waiting several hours in their cars or on foot for tests.

The Texas Tribune reported this weekend that several problems have plagued the state’s testing program. Many people are waiting in long lines, the newspaper reported, and some sites have closed early.

Video footage shared on social media by a Houston Chronicle reporter show throngs of people crowded in huge lines for testing.

The Miami Herald reported that some people waited up to four hours for a swab in Miami Beach last week.

“I drive by there now and again, and I have never seen anything like that,” Dan Gelber, mayor of Miami Beach, told the Herald. “I think obviously the spike [in cases] has people thinking about this as they should.”

Last week, the Arizona Republic reported that some people waited up to 13 hours for a test. Some people turned around after waiting hours on end.

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 28, 2020 at 12:40 PM EDT

Ex-CDC director: Several states’ spikes are attributable to premature reopenings

Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Sunday that the coronavirus outbreaks in states that eased restrictions — and have since reinstated many of them — will continue to worsen in the next few weeks as figures tend to lag.

Frieden forecast in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that the United States will see at least 15,000 new covid-19-related deaths in the next several weeks in states that reopened, particularly Southern and Western states. He listed states, including South Carolina, Florida and Texas, that eased restrictions and then experienced recent spikes.

“If you open when cases are still increasing, as many states did, it’s like leaning into a left hook,” Frieden said. “You’re going to get hit hard. And that’s what’s happening.”

Although Florida and Texas announced last week that bars in the state would close and localities there have instituted face-mask mandates, Frieden said measures to address the increase in cases won’t immediately lessen the reported infections.

Conflicting with Trump’s claims that increased testing is the reason for the spikes, Frieden told Wallace that the positive cases identified through testing are only “a tip of the iceberg.”

“As a doctor, a scientist, an epidemiologist, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that in most states where you’re seeing an increase, it is a real increase,” he said. “It is not more tests, it is more spread of the virus.”

Frieden also disputed that the recent trend of younger adults getting infected but not requiring hospitalization is comforting, adding that there is still a risk of community transmission to older and more vulnerable people.

“What starts with the young does not stay with the young,” he said.

By Meryl Kornfield
June 28, 2020 at 12:27 PM EDT

85 coronavirus cases linked to Michigan restaurant near college campus

At least 85 coronavirus cases have been linked to a restaurant near Michigan State University’s campus.

The Ingham County Health Department said most of those infected visited Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub in East Lansing between June 12 and 20. The restaurant, which is popular with college students, announced Monday that it would temporarily close to make public health improvements.

Health officials told the Lansing State Journal on Saturday that contact tracing for those infected has been challenging.

“Unfortunately, due to the nature of a bar setting, they’re not necessarily able to identify everyone who they had prolonged, close conversations with,” health department spokeswoman Amanda Darche told the newspaper.

Darche told The Washington Post that at least 25 of the 80 coronavirus patients identified as having gone to the restaurant are students of Michigan State University. Five cases were secondary, meaning the infection probably spread from contact with someone who went to Harper’s.

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail told The Post that because students tend to travel between home and school, cases were reported in 13 counties across the state.

Inspectors found the restaurant was in compliance with local guidelines, such as limiting capacity and spacing tables appropriately, according to a health department news release issued last week. Still, the restaurant said it would close to modify its ventilation system so that air is purified instead of recirculated, according to a Facebook post by the business.

The restaurant also announced it would devise a way to ensure lines don’t stretch onto the public sidewalk, where social distancing was difficult to monitor.

“Our oversight of the line on our stairs has been successful, but trying to get customers to follow our recommendations on the public sidewalk has been challenging,” the Facebook post said.

The restaurant opened on June 8 at 50 percent capacity, as part of the state’s phased reopening plan. At the restaurant’s opening, MSU’s student-run State News reported, the line waiting to get inside was not distanced.

The news of Harper’s closure comes amid reports of outbreaks tied to bars and restaurants in other states that have reopened. States such as Texas and Florida have backtracked on easing coronavirus restrictions, ordering bars to close.

By Meryl Kornfield
June 28, 2020 at 12:07 PM EDT

U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 2.5 million amid new wave of infections

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 2.5 million on Sunday morning as a devastating new wave of infections continued to bear down throughout the country’s South and West.

The milestone is a bleak reminder of the United States’ failure to control the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 123,000 people nationwide. U.S. cases make up by far the largest share — 25 percent — of the worldwide caseload, which climbed past 10 million on Saturday.

After fumbling the rollout of diagnostic testing early in the year, the White House has taken a passive role in responding to the public health crisis, leaving decisions about how to contain the virus in the hands of state officials. A push by Trump and governors to relax pandemic restrictions and restart state economies has largely backfired, with even some of the most ardent supporters of a swift reopening starting to reverse their plans.

Florida, Texas and Arizona are fast emerging as the country’s latest epicenters after reporting record numbers of new infections for weeks in a row. Positivity rates have spiked in those states and others that did not experience severe outbreaks during the pandemic’s early stages, showing that the rising numbers are not the result of increased testing alone.

Hospitalizations also have surged, straining state medical systems. Intensive care unit beds at the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical complex, reached 100 percent capacity late last week, and the state reported a record 5,523 coronavirus-related hospitalizations on Saturday. Arizona also reported record hospitalizations, with 2,577 patients being treated.

Other states that appeared to have gained an edge on the virus also have struggled in recent days. Cases in California have risen sharply since mid-June after the governor began to ease the state’s stringent lockdown measures. Infections also have ticked upward in Washington state, whose coronavirus response was touted by health experts as a model for others, prompting the governor to pause reopening efforts.

By Derek Hawkins
June 28, 2020 at 11:57 AM EDT

Pelosi says it’s ‘long overdue’ for mask-wearing to be mandatory nationwide

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that the wearing of face masks should be mandatory nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic, as a number of states are reporting a record surge in new cases.

During an interview on ABC News’s “This Week,” host George Stephanopoulos asked Pelosi, “Is it time to mandate the wearing of masks across the country?”

Pelosi replied, “Oh, definitely long overdue for that."

“And my understanding [is] that the Centers for Disease Control has recommended the use of masks but not … required it, because they don’t want to offend the president,” she added. “And the president should be an example. You know, real men wear masks.”

By Felicia Sonmez
June 28, 2020 at 11:40 AM EDT

HHS Secretary Azar ducks questions on Trump’s covid-19 response, mask wearing

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Sunday bobbed and weaved questions about the Trump administration’s response to covid-19 as well as the president’s behavior on masks.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Azar argued, as Trump and Vice President Pence have lately, that the uptick in infections is because of expansive testing of even some asymptomatic cases and tried to focus on fatality numbers, which he said are the lowest in two months.

As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported, in multiple states, the rate of new cases has increased faster than the rise in the average number of tests.

On NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” Azar repeatedly emphasized that “the window is closing. We have to act. And people as individuals have to act.”

“This is not about reopening or not reopening. In many communities and states which are just as reopened, we aren’t seeing this …. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this,” he said, emphasizing the need for increased testing and contact tracing.

Asked repeatedly whether Trump’s comments and actions have helped promote the things he has been talking about, Azar ducked and stuck to administration attempts to shift focus to people not wearing masks and social distancing during protests.

When pressed again by host Chuck Todd, Azar said, “I’m the president’s secretary of health. I’m telling you to practice social distancing … wear a face covering.” He noted Pence showed up onstage in a face mask last week. As for Trump, Azar said the president is in a unique position “as leader of the free world.” Azar said Trump is “tested constantly” and has issued “presidential guidelines.”

By Rachael Bade and Karen DeYoung
June 28, 2020 at 11:22 AM EDT

As Pence heads to Dallas, Biden campaign says event goes against public health guidance

Vice President Pence is scheduled to appear Sunday in Dallas, where he is expected to meet with Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and speak at First Baptist Church as Texas confronts a growing number of coronavirus cases.

On Friday, the state scaled back reopening measures as severely ill patients continue to overwhelm hospitals in some parts of Texas. More than 31,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the state since Jun. 21, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign criticized Pence’s trip, saying in a statement that his decision to go ahead with events in Texas “epitomizes the dismissive attitude this administration has taken in addressing this crisis from the onset.”

“Our leaders should be tackling this pandemic head on and laying out concrete recovery plans for the American people — not jet setting across the country to hold events that go against basic public health guidance,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in the statement.

On Friday, during Pence’s first public coronavirus task force briefing in nearly two months, he claimed the United States is making “remarkable progress” in its fight against the virus. He also defended recent campaign rallies, saying, “The freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, and we have an election coming up this fall.”

On Sunday, his spokeswoman, Katie Miller, appeared to dispute reports that the vice president would cancel upcoming trips to Arizona and Florida over virus concerns, saying on Twitter that Pence will still travel to both states this week.

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 28, 2020 at 10:38 AM EDT

Houston paramedics struggle to keep pace with service calls: ‘Our system is getting strained’

As coronavirus infections soar in Houston, the city’s paramedics say they are facing hour-long wait times when transferring patients from the ambulance to the hospital.

Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña told KHOU that transfer times had doubled or tripled in some cases as the department grapples with spiking calls for service and a shortage of first responders.

“The longer it takes us to service those critical calls, it is going to cost us lives,” he told the news station. “Our system is getting strained.”

Coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in Texas since the beginning of the month, with Houston emerging as the state’s epicenter. Harris County, which encompasses the city, raised its coronavirus threat indicator to the highest level last week, sending out an emergency alert saying the outbreak was “severe and uncontrolled.”

Hospital intensive care units at Houston’s Texas Medical Center were hovering near 100 percent capacity, and health officials reported record hospitalizations statewide.

Peña told KHOU that call volumes were 20 percent higher than usual over the past three weeks, with some people calling 911 to report symptoms akin to those of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. At least 560 calls for service resulted in wait times of an hour or more during that period, the fire chief said.

Contributing to the bottleneck, nearly 200 firefighters were in quarantine and more than 50 had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Peña.

Hospital executives said last week that they were prepared to deal with the influx of patients by scaling back nonessential procedures and freeing up beds elsewhere. But they need the public to take action, too, to prevent the system from becoming overwhelmed, said Marc Boom, president of Houston Methodist Hospital, which is part of the Texas Medical Center campus.

“The time is now for everybody to dramatically change their behaviors to get this virus under control,” Boom said, “so that our hospitals for the weeks to come are there and able to handle this.”

By Derek Hawkins
June 28, 2020 at 10:10 AM EDT

Australia’s Victoria state to require testing for returning travelers as cases grow

Australia’s Victoria state will mandate coronavirus testing for returning travelers amid an uptick in cases, some of unknown origin. Staff working at hotels where people returning from travel complete mandatory isolation periods are among those who have recently tested positive for the virus.

This weekend, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the outbreak among hotel workers could be tied to carpooling and their sharing of a cigarette lighter, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. The workers were “keeping their distance but sharing a lighter between each other,” he said. “An innocent thing that can lead to transmitting the virus.”

Although testing has previously been available for those in mandatory isolation, it had not been required in Victoria. Going forward, the mandatory testing will accompany the hotel isolation period and will be completed several days before individuals are set to reenter the community.

Last week, the state’s deputy health chief said that up to 30 percent of people staying in the hotels opted out of testing. Andrews said many parents declined to have their children tested because nasal swabs can be painful, ABC reported. Authorities have added a saliva test option to mitigate that concern. Anyone who refuses a test will be required to stay in isolation for an extra 10 days.

Australia has confirmed more than 7,600 cases of the virus. More than 2,000 cases have been confirmed in Victoria alone, the country’s second-most-populous state.

Last week, after dozens of staff members working in hotels housing travelers tested positive for the virus, the state government requested military assistance to handle the hotel isolation efforts, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Andrews warned over the weekend that further measures could be implemented if the outbreak is not controlled.

“If we have to implement a stay-at-home order, if that is deemed the appropriate public health response, that is what we will do,” he said.

By Siobhán O'Grady
June 28, 2020 at 9:35 AM EDT

Swiss authorities quarantine 300 people after ‘superspreader’ event at Zurich club

BRUSSELS — Swiss authorities said they had quarantined 300 people who visited a Zurich nightclub a week ago amid fears that a “superspreader” may have infected many of them.

A man visited the Flamingo Club on June 21 and tested positive for the coronavirus four days later, local authorities said. Then, five other people he was with developed symptoms and tested positive.

The club was keeping records of all its patrons, so authorities were able to contact everyone who was there at the time and ask them to remain at home for the next 10 days. Three hundred clubgoers and employees are now under quarantine.

Like most other European countries, Switzerland has significantly curbed the spread of the virus, but the country has recorded an uptick in recent days as it has started to reopen its economy. Infection numbers posted Sunday showed that 69 new cases had been diagnosed across the country in the previous 24 hours, about triple the number from a week ago.

Swiss authorities have said they will have to again close down clubs and other businesses where people gather if new surges in cases continue to be tied to such establishments.

By Michael Birnbaum
June 28, 2020 at 8:47 AM EDT

From yellow fever to coronavirus, keeping the mail safe

Reporting from Jacksonville, Fla., during an 1888 outbreak of yellow fever, a correspondent for the Macon Telegraph wrote, “Well, another day has dawned and is half gone (I write at noon), and still we live.”

Not all Jacksonville residents were quite so upbeat. Yellow flags marked homes that hosted infection. Thick plumes of smoke from coal fires hung in the air and the local artillery battery fired off rounds throughout the evening — both efforts to obliterate the microbes believed to be hanging in the night sky. Between late July and early December of that year, Jacksonville faced approximately 430 deaths and more than 4,600 cases of yellow fever.

With half of the towns in Florida under quarantine, many local businesses called for a return to normalcy. The Florida Times-Union published a fiery op-ed bashing the postal system for delaying deliveries due to one key practice: the disinfection of mail.

By Dustin Water
June 28, 2020 at 8:15 AM EDT

South Korea to allow fans back into sporting events

BRUSSELS — South Korea will start allowing fans back into sports events, the country’s health minister said Sunday, as the country tries to continue reopening its economy even though it has said it is in the middle of a “second wave” of coronavirus infections.

The change comes as sports teams around the world have started playing again — but often in front of empty stadiums, with their supporters stuck at home watching on television to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

“We will take phased measures including allowing spectators at sports events,” South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters on Sunday, according to Yonhap News Agency and Agence France-Presse.

Health officials said sports events could reopen as early as this week, provided that sports leagues take stringent measures to prevent the spread of infection, Yonhap reported. Stadiums are expected to be filled at roughly 30 percent capacity. Baseball, soccer and golf have all continued in some form in South Korea during the pandemic, but they have been played without spectators.

The country has had a world-leading response to the pandemic in terms of controlling infections and deaths, but it has struggled against a spike in cases after it eased social distancing rules in May. The country of 52 million people diagnosed 62 new cases over a 24-hour period, authorities announced Sunday, bringing the total cases to 12,715. Over the course of the pandemic, 282 people have died.

By Michael Birnbaum
June 28, 2020 at 7:59 AM EDT

Europe looks at faltering U.S. pandemic response with shock

BRUSSELS — The faltering response to the coronavirus in the United States remains a subject of global shock and fascination, with one prominent French virologist saying Sunday that the situation was “explosive.”

“Is the coronavirus epidemic out of control in the United States? ‘I’m afraid the answer is yes,’ ” read one headline on Sunday on FranceInfo, a popular French news outlet.

“Unfortunately, in the United States, the discussion about Covid-19 is a political discussion,” Christian Brechot, a French virologist who is president of the Global Virus Network, told FranceInfo in an interview. “Indeed, you have a part of the Republican electorate for whom all this is an invention to ruin the economic progress made by Donald Trump.”

Brechot said that the confinement measures in several states were lifted when the virus was “absolutely not controlled … we are all very, very worried.”

He noted for his French audience that American politicians are under greater pressure than many of their European counterparts because the U.S. social safety net is weaker. In Europe, for example, health insurance isn’t tied to employment, meaning that when people lose their jobs, they don’t lose their access to medical care.

“There are no benefits at all like we have in France or in Europe,” Brechot told FranceInfo. “So there is an absolutely huge pressure to go to work. And indeed, that means that there is a certain number of people who do not have the necessary protections. It really is a situation that is very complicated to manage.”

By Michael Birnbaum
June 28, 2020 at 7:45 AM EDT

Why simple cloth masks without valves are better at fighting the spread of coronavirus

Those face masks you see with coin-sized valves on the front may look intriguing but they are not as good at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus as the seemingly lower-tech, non-valved masks.

Some masks designed for hot, dusty construction work — where the intent is to filter out dust before it hits the wearer’s lungs — have “exhaust” valves that allow the exhaled air to flow out more easily, to keep the mask-wearer cooler.

The 3M company, which makes valve masks for such occupations, illustrates on its website how they work: Inhaled air is filtered through the fabric part of the mask and hot, humid exhaled air goes out through the valve. The system may be what you want when tearing out a kitchen for remodeling, but the valve defeats the purpose when you’re trying to slow the spread of a virus.

Read more here.

By Angela Fritz
June 28, 2020 at 7:28 AM EDT

Global cases of the coronavirus surpass 10 million

BRUSSELS — Global cases of the coronavirus exceeded 10 million on Sunday, according to a count maintained by Johns Hopkins University, a measure of the power and spread of a pandemic that has caused vast human suffering, devastated the world’s economy and still threatens vulnerable populations in rich and poor nations alike.

The grim milestone came amid fears that the virus was raging across parts of America and in countries where the medical system is far less resource-rich. Brazil diagnosed more than 38,000 cases on Saturday, for example.

The global cases tracked by Johns Hopkins surpassed 1 million on April 2, meaning that it took about three months to reach the first million and less than another three months to add 9 million more. The United States has been hit worst in the world in absolute numbers, with 2.5 million cases, according to the university’s numbers. Brazil is second worst, with 1.3 million cases. Russia is third, with 633,000 cases.

Global deaths were also approaching a marker on Sunday, with 499,296 fatalities registered by Johns Hopkins. The true measure of both figures is almost certainly far higher. The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, said Thursday that the caseload in the United States may have been 10 times higher than the official count, based on antibody tests that show wider exposure to the coronavirus in the general population than was previously thought.

By Michael Birnbaum
June 28, 2020 at 6:46 AM EDT

With few rules in place, airlines and airports adopt their own strategies for combating the coronavirus

Travelers landing at Honolulu International Airport have their temperatures checked upon arrival, must provide contact information and are required to wear masks. There are no such rules for those on domestics flights at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Several U.S. carriers now require travelers to fill out health questionnaires when they check in, but only one — Frontier Airlines — mandates a temperature scan before boarding.

Several months after the novel coronavirus pandemic devastated the nation’s aviation industry, there still is no uniform strategy for managing the virus as travelers begin to return to the skies. The Trump administration has largely left it to airlines and airports to decide how to implement and enforce recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying they know best.

The result is a patchwork of responses, which some worry will hamper efforts to control the spread of the virus and undermine recommendations from public health officials about the importance of wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Read more here.

By Lori Aratani
June 28, 2020 at 6:40 AM EDT

France and Poland vote amid pandemic fears

BRUSSELS — Voters in France and Poland braved the pandemic Sunday to cast ballots that will show how the virus has reshaped citizens’ attitudes about their leaders.

Votes had been delayed in both nations this spring amid concerns that large gatherings could accelerate the spread of the novel coronavirus. With the virus significantly curbed, French citizens are voting in municipal elections that will be another measure of French President Emmanuel Macron’s standing and Poles are voting in the first round of presidential elections, with a chance to accept or reject a ruling party that has taken over the courts and squelched opposition voices.

There were still fears that the decision to hold the elections — mostly through in-person voting — could spread the virus. But both nations have curbed their infection numbers. Macron went through with a first round of the municipal elections on March 15, just before he imposed a nationwide lockdown, pressured partially by far-right politicians who were warning at the time that a delay would be a power grab by those in office. Turnout was poor — 20 percentage points lower than the previous municipal elections held five years ago.

In Poland, meanwhile, right-wing President Andrzej Duda was once expected to have an easy path to victory after his Law and Justice party took over the country’s judicial system, turned public broadcasters into pro-government news outlets and made life difficult for opposition politicians of all stripes. But public confidence has cratered in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, and Duda is likely to be forced into a runoff election that polls show is neck-and-neck with the opposition mayor of Warsaw.

By Michael Birnbaum
June 28, 2020 at 6:40 AM EDT

With Trump leading the way, America’s coronavirus failures exposed by record surge in new infections

Five months after the novel coronavirus was first detected in the United States, a record surge in new cases is the clearest sign yet of the country’s historic failure to control the virus — exposing a crisis in governance extending from the Oval Office to state capitals to city councils.

President Trump — who has repeatedly downplayed the virus, sidelined experts and misled Americans about its dangers and potential cures — now finds his presidency wracked by an inability to shepherd the country through its worst public health calamity in a century. The dysfunction that has long characterized Trump’s White House has been particularly ill-suited for a viral outbreak that requires precision, focus and steady leadership, according to public health experts, administration officials and lawmakers from both parties.

Read more here.

By Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb