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Arizona, among the latest epicenters of the novel coronavirus in the United States, saw another record high in hospitalizations on Monday. Because of the surge, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks there to close for at least 30 days, effective Monday night.

The governors of Oregon and Kansas announced Monday that they will mandate face coverings for state residents. Jacksonville, Fla., where President Trump plans to pack a convention hall to accept the Republican nomination for reelection, also made mask-wearing mandatory.

The news comes as the global community marked yet another grim milestone Sunday, with the confirmed worldwide death count from the novel coronavirus surpassing 500,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned Monday that although the outbreak began six months ago, it is far from over. “We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives,” he said. “But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over.”
  • The Trump administration said Monday that it has coronavirus under control, but a resurgent outbreak in Sun Belt states continued to worsen.
  • A coronavirus mutation has spread across the world, and scientists are trying to understand why. The mutation doesn’t appear to make people sicker, but a growing number of scientists worry that it has made the virus more contagious.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed the first significant expansion of the Affordable Care Act since its birth a decade ago, forcing Republicans to go on the record about healthcare during the pandemic.
  • Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir, the first covid-19 treatment found to have worked in clinical trials, said it will charge U.S. hospitals $3,120 for the typical patient with private insurance.
  • The chief executives of some the nation’s largest companies expect the economic fallout from the pandemic to extend through 2021, and nearly a third of them say the harm will last even longer.

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June 29, 2020 at 11:24 PM EDT

Texas bar owners sue governor over emergency shutdown orders

A group of Texas bar owners are suing Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for ordering their businesses to shut down as the state continues to see record numbers of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Surging caseloads prompted Abbott to reintroduce some coronavirus-related restrictions on Friday, including requiring businesses that make most of their profits from alcohol to close down. But restaurants are allowed to stay open, so long as their dining rooms are kept at 50 percent capacity. To some bar owners, that distinction feels unfair. Brandon Hays, the co-owner of several Dallas bars, told the Dallas Morning News on Monday that while he didn’t want to create a public health hazard, “it just doesn’t seem fair to single us out and shut down bars, specifically.”

More than 30 bar owners have signed on to the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Travis County District Court, according to the Texas Tribune. The complaint notes that other businesses ranging from nail salons to tattoo parlors are allowed to remain open and argues that the governor overstepped his authority when he issued Friday’s executive order. Abbott’s office has yet to comment on the litigation.

Texas allowed bars to reopen at half capacity in late May, and Abbott on Friday acknowledged that doing so had been a mistake. “If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting,” he told KVIA.

By Antonia Farzan
June 29, 2020 at 11:12 PM EDT

Country singers criticize Chase Rice for concert in front of hundreds

Country singer Chase Rice played his first in-person concert in months on Saturday night and appeared thrilled to do so. “We back,” he wrote in an Instagram story with a smiley-face sunglasses emoji, accompanied by video of hundreds of people singing along to his recent hit, “Eyes on You.”

But on social media, many were horrified to see images of a packed crowd, with no masks and no social distancing — especially as the concert took place in Tennessee, which is experiencing a significant spike in coronavirus infections. As the videos started circulating on Twitter, other country singers took the unusual step of calling out Rice by name.

“Imagine being selfish enough to put thousands of people’s health at risk, not to mention the potential ripple effect, and play a NORMAL country concert right now. @ChaseRiceMusic,” Kelsea Ballerini tweeted to her 1 million followers. “We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait.”

Read more here.

By Emily Yahr
June 29, 2020 at 10:27 PM EDT

Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross among first MLB players to opt out of 2020 season

Veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and starting pitcher Joe Ross of the Washington Nationals were among the first group of Major League Baseball players who have chosen to opt out of playing in 2020 because of coronavirus concerns — although with players set to begin reporting for mandatory virus testing this week ahead of Friday’s opening of “summer camps,” they almost certainly will not be the last.

The announcements from Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake, then Ross and Zimmerman — none of whom are known to have medical concerns that would qualify them as “high risk,” which would ensure they still are paid for 2020 — came in a span of several hours Monday afternoon and reflected concern among some players that the risk of playing baseball amid a pandemic may not outweigh the rewards in all cases.

“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman, 35, said in a statement Monday. “I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for my family, and I truly appreciate the [Nationals’] understanding and support.”

Read more here.

By Dave Sheinin
June 29, 2020 at 9:50 PM EDT

Trump administration says the epidemic is under control despite surges in the South and West

The Trump administration said Monday that it has the coronavirus epidemic under control in the United States, but a resurgent outbreak in Sun Belt states continued to worsen — and Jacksonville, Fla., where President Trump plans to pack a convention hall to accept the Republican nomination for reelection, made mask-wearing mandatory.

The World Health Organization warned that the outbreak is far from over and a grim milestone passed Sunday, with the confirmed worldwide death count from the novel coronavirus surpassing 500,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over the weekend, the number of coronavirus cases reported worldwide soared past 10 million.

U.S. deaths are approaching 125,000 and the total number of coronavirus cases reported topped 2.5 million amid worsening outbreaks in Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Read more here.

By Anne Gearan, Brittany Shammas and Lateshia Beachum
June 29, 2020 at 9:29 PM EDT

This coronavirus mutation has taken over the world. Scientists are trying to understand why.

When the first coronavirus cases in Chicago appeared in January, they bore the same genetic signatures as a germ that emerged in China weeks before. But as Egon Ozer, an infectious-disease specialist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, examined the genetic structure of virus samples from local patients, he noticed something different. A change in the virus was appearing again and again.

This mutation, associated with outbreaks in Europe and New York, eventually took over the city. By May, it was found in 95 percent of all the genomes Ozer sequenced. At a glance, the mutation seemed trivial. But the location was significant, and its ubiquity is undeniable. Of the approximately 50,000 genomes of the new virus that researchers worldwide have uploaded to a shared database, about 70 percent carry the mutation, officially designated D614G but known more familiarly to scientists as “G.”

“G” hasn’t just dominated the outbreak in Chicago — it has taken over the world. Now scientists are racing to figure out what it means.

The scramble to unravel this mutation mystery embodies the challenges of science during the coronavirus pandemic. With millions of people infected and thousands dying every day around the world, researchers must strike a high-stakes balance between getting information out quickly and making sure that it’s right.

Read more here.

By Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach
June 29, 2020 at 9:27 PM EDT

U.S. airlines will ask travelers to answer health questions at check-in

U.S. airlines will require passengers to answer health questions before boarding, including whether they have experienced coronavirus symptoms or have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus, the industry’s leading trade group said Monday.

Major U.S. carriers, including American, Delta and United, are implementing the health acknowledgment policy as an “additional level of protection during the pandemic,” Airlines for America said.

Travelers should expect to be asked to fill out the health questionnaire when they check in, the trade group said. Besides questions about their health, passengers will be asked to commit to wearing face coverings at airports and on planes.

“Passengers who fail or refuse to complete the health acknowledgment may be deemed unfit to travel and each carrier will resolve the matter in accordance with its own policies,” Airlines for America said. The measure is expected to remain in place through the public health crisis.

Nicholas E. Calio, the trade group’s president and chief executive, said in a statement that the health assessments are one step in a “multilayered approach to help mitigate risk and prioritize the well-being of passengers and employees.”

Airlines and airports in recent months have adopted new strategies for combating the novel coronavirus. In some airports, travelers have their temperatures checked upon arrival, and all major airlines are enforcing the use of face coverings.

With the health questionnaires, airlines seek assurance from passengers that they are not experiencing symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, cough, loss of taste or smell, chills, muscle pain or sore throat.

Passengers will also be asked to acknowledge whether they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus or had symptoms in the past 14 days.

Other carriers enforcing the health acknowledgment policies are JetBlue Airways and Alaska, Hawaiian and Southwest airlines.

By Luz Lazo
June 29, 2020 at 9:13 PM EDT

Report: About 30 U.S. personnel at Kuwaiti air base contract virus

About 30 U.S. troops who operate alongside Kuwaiti counterparts at Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base have contracted the coronavirus in recent weeks, according to Military.com.

The base houses a number of U.S. Central Command personnel, according to the report.

“This cluster developed over time, and we believe social distancing and contact tracing measures has limited the size of that cluster,” a U.S. Central Command official said in a statement to Military.com.

The official said that the infections have not impacted daily operations at the base and that personnel continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines, frequent hand-washing and wearing masks when social distancing is not possible.

“Our top priority, first and foremost, is the health and welfare of our personnel,” the official said in the statement. “Any individual who shows possible COVID-19 symptoms or who tests positive for the virus immediately receives the best possible medical care, and that care continues for as long as necessary.”

According to the Pentagon’s coronavirus data, there have been 17,116 cumulative coronavirus cases within the Defense Department as of Monday: 11,770 military, 1,666 dependents, 2,551 civilians and 1,129 Defense Department contractors. In the military alone, 290 people have been hospitalized, 5,928 have recovered and there have been three reported fatalities.

By Samantha Pell
June 29, 2020 at 8:53 PM EDT

NBA’s Atlanta Hawks to open State Farm Arena for early voting starting in July

After Georgia experienced a number of issues in this month’s primary election, the Atlanta Hawks are stepping up to help alleviate the concerns of local voters. The National Basketball Association team announced Monday that it is making its home, State Farm Arena, available as the state’s largest-ever polling site in a partnership with Fulton County.

On July 20, voters will be able to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing guidelines as they cast their ballots early for the Georgia general primary runoff election on Aug. 11. Voters will also be able to access the venue for November’s general election. The team says parking will be free for voters and more than 1,500 spaces will be made available.

Fulton County was hit particularly hard by the disorganization that plagued the state’s primary election on June 10. Voters waited in long lines for hours, the result of reduced polling locations, a lack of proper training on new voting machines and an inability to process a large number of mail-in ballot requests amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“When our ownership group purchased the Hawks & State Farm Arena five years ago, we were clear that we felt it was our responsibility to make sure the organization was an important civic asset to the city of Atlanta,” Hawks and State Farm Arena owner Tony Ressler said in a statement. “Utilizing State Farm Arena and our incredible staff to make the arena an accessible and vital polling site in an important election year is a fulfillment on that promise.”

By Jake Russell
June 29, 2020 at 8:30 PM EDT

L.A. County shuts down beaches for holiday weekend

Citing a record number of coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County on Monday closed all beaches for the entire Fourth of July weekend.

“We cannot risk having crowds at the beach this holiday weekend,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn said on Twitter. Violators face $1,000 fines. The closures, which are in effect Friday through Monday, also include piers and bike paths.

With more than 10 million residents, L.A. County is the most populous in the country. On Monday, it reported a high for new cases (2,903), surpassing 100,000 since the pandemic began in March. The positivity rate is almost 9 percent.

More than 1,700 covid-19 patients are hospitalized in the county, a 30 percent increase since early in the month.

County beaches, which include Malibu, Venice and Manhattan beaches, have operated with restrictions. Volleyball and other sports, as well as group gatherings, have been prohibited. Masks and social distancing, except within a family, have also been required.

Later on Monday, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told Fox Los Angeles that his department would not enforce the county’s order.

“We were not consulted on the beach closure and will only assist our beach cities in closing parking lots and traffic enforcement on [Pacific Coast Highway],” Villanueva told the network. “In regards to enforcing the beach closure, we will not be enforcing it because we are ‘Care First, Jail Last.’ ”

By Steven Goff
June 29, 2020 at 8:22 PM EDT

CDC finds high rate of infection among quarantined inmates in Louisiana

Inside a Louisiana prison, nearly three-quarters of isolated inmates with exposure to the novel coronavirus tested positive for it, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlighting the prevalence of infection in correctional facilities, even among quarantined people.

Among 98 incarcerated and detained people who were tested, 71 were infected, the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health found. The results were based on three tests conducted between May 7 and May 21.

The investigation also found that about one-fourth of the people with positive test results had previously tested negative during the first and second tests, according to the research summary published Monday. The CDC found that 45 percent of the infected people did not report any symptoms at the time of the test, underscoring the challenge of screening for sick people when many are asymptomatic.

With close living quarters and inconsistent access to soap and disinfectant, U.S. prisons have become hot spots for the coronavirus. Thousands of inmates have fallen ill, and people released from prison and the guards who work there increase the risk of exposing the broader community.

The CDC said that testing inmates in a series as opposed to a one-off test can identify sick people who would otherwise not be identified through screening for symptoms alone. “Serial testing, particularly for close contacts of patients, is important for complete identification of cases and prompt public health response in congregate settings,” the agency said.

Public health experts have criticized prisons and jails as institutions at high risk of spreading the virus, which has led to calls to release inmates to prevent further outbreaks.

By Hamza Shaban
June 29, 2020 at 8:16 PM EDT

Hospitalizations rise as seven states hit record highs, eight states see at least 25 percent rolling average increase

Average current coronavirus hospitalizations in seven states this week are at least 25 percent higher than their seven-day average a week ago, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

Texas, which is fast emerging as the country’s latest epicenter after reporting record numbers of new infections for weeks in a row, reported 5,913 hospitalizations on Monday, a record high.

The state saw a 61.9 percent increase of its seven-day average of covid-19 inpatients compared with June 22, as the state’s hospital beds continue to fill. On Monday, the state reported a rolling average of 5,036 patients in hospitals, compared with a 3,110 average on June 22.

In Arizona, another coronavirus hot spot in the country, the state again hit a new high for hospitalizations on Monday (2,721). It’s rolling seven-day average increased by 36.2 percent as of Monday, reporting a rolling average of 2,424 patients, compared with its 1,780 average last week.

On Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered all bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters and water parks to close for at least 30 days because of the coronavirus.

The other five states seeing increases in their seven-day averages of currently hospitalized patients are: Nevada, South Carolina, Montana, Georgia and California. Seven states also reached record highs in current hospitalization numbers: Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina, Alabama, Utah and Tennessee.

With hospitalizations still rising in multiple states, the week-to-week rolling average for new coronavirus-related deaths has also increased in eight states: Oklahoma, Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.

Arizona has seen a 66.7 percent change in its rolling average for new deaths, with an average of 21 last week, compared with an average of 35 this week. Similarly, in Virginia, the state averaged 10 deaths per day last week, which increased to 17 this week.

Overall, the United States reported 33,903 new daily cases on Monday. Case report numbers are almost always their lowest of the week on Mondays because of weekend delays in reporting.

By Samantha Pell and Jacqueline Dupree
June 29, 2020 at 7:39 PM EDT

Amid spike in cases, Arizona orders bars, gyms, theaters to close for 30 days

With coronavirus cases rising sharply, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks to close for at least 30 days, effective Monday night.

“This will help relieve stress on our health care system and give time for new transmissions to slow,” he wrote on Twitter, adding: “We must be clear-eyed. The next few weeks will be hard. But these steps combined with stepped-up compliance with public health guidance can make a difference, and we’re grateful to Arizonans for their cooperation. Stay home. Wear a mask. Be responsible.”

Ducey also announced that organized events of more than 50 people are prohibited, and he urged residents to “celebrate the 4th of July responsibly this weekend, including by staying home, avoiding larger gatherings and wearing a mask if you do go out.”

Ducey said schools would not open until at least Aug. 17. They typically open in early August.

Arizona reported more than 7,600 new cases over the past three days and on Monday hit a new high for hospitalizations, with 2,721.

Last week, Ducey criticized eight bars and nightclubs in Scottsdale for not following social distancing guidelines. Some restaurants have voluntarily closed or decided to return to takeout service because of coronavirus risks and the rise in cases, ABC 15 reported.

“We’re not going back to normal anytime soon,” Ducey said.

By Steven Goff
June 29, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT

Oregon and Kansas governors mandate masks in public spaces

Amid fears of spikes in coronavirus cases, the governors of Oregon and Kansas announced Monday that they will mandate face coverings for state residents.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said people in the state must wear face coverings in indoor public areas, a requirement already mandated in eight counties. The statewide order goes into effect Wednesday.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) said her order will go into effect Friday for people in “public spaces.” Additional details will be announced Thursday, she said.

Brown’s announcement comes three days after an Oregon Health Authority report estimated that daily coronavirus cases could increase 20 percent.

“Reopening comes with the risk of seeing an increase in covid-19 cases beyond our health systems’ capacity to test, trace and isolate them,” Brown said in a statement. “Over the last month, we have seen the disease spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties.”

Oregon’s confirmed cases have grown almost every day since May 30 and include a record high of 278 cases on June 16. On Saturday, there were 276 cases. The death rate has remained relatively low: 204 overall and no more than five in a single day since early May.

Dean Sidelinger, an Oregon state epidemiologist, said in a conference call Friday that the “latest model provides us with a sobering reminder that we all need to guard against continued spread, especially as we continue to reopen and the weather gets warmer.”

Meanwhile, Kansas reported 905 cases over the weekend and six deaths. Overall, 271 have died since March.

“The evidence could not be clearer: Wearing a mask is not only safe but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” said Kelly, who cited a “significant increase” from clusters where masks were not worn.

“This doesn’t change where you can go and what you can do,” she said. “It just means if you are around other people, you must wear a mask.”

Counties in Kansas have the power to overturn the directive, the Kansas City Star reported.

By Steven Goff
June 29, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT

R.I. joins other states in requiring visitors from hot spots to quarantine

Following the lead of other Northeast governors, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced Monday that visitors from states with a 5 percent or higher positivity rate in coronavirus testing must quarantine for 14 days, unless they have tested negative within 72 hours.

The order will affect people arriving from 23 states and Puerto Rico as Rhode Island enters the typically busy summer tourist season. On Tuesday, the state will enter Phase 3 of its economic reopening, but with stricter guidelines than initially planned.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued similar guidelines last week for visitors from states with positivity rates of 10 percent or higher.

“The story across the country is a very different story from the story we are seeing in Rhode Island,” Raimondo said at a news conference in Providence.

Rhode Island’s positivity rate is 2.04, the 12th lowest among states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The state has seen a steady decline in cases since a peak in late April but reported 19 deaths on Monday, its highest in two weeks.

By Steven Goff
June 29, 2020 at 6:28 PM EDT

Los Angeles County tops 100,000 confirmed cases as officials cite ‘alarming increases’ in positivity rates, hospitalizations

Los Angeles County health officials are urging residents to stay home as much as possible as the county topped 100,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

On Monday, Los Angeles County reported 2,903 new cases — the largest single-day number of new infections in the county — and 22 additional deaths. The daily total brings the number of cases in the county to 100,772, with 3,326 deaths.

There are 1,710 people hospitalized in the county — the highest number the county has reported “in many weeks,” according to Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for L.A. County. Seventeen percent of those hospitalized are on ventilators.

The county is seeing “alarming increases” in cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations, Ferrer said in a Monday news briefing.

“This is the time to hunker down back in your home whenever you can and always wear your face covering and keep physical distance when you are outside your home,” Ferrer said.

L.A. County is projected to run out of hospital beds in two to three weeks, Roger Lewis, a biostatistician, director of the covid-19 demand modeling unit for L.A. County and chair of the emergency department at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, told the Los Angeles Times.

In California as a whole, 19 counties, accounting for 72 percent of the state’s population, are now on the state’s “watch list,” according to ABC7. Solano, Merced, Glen and Orange counties were the newest additions to the list Monday, the TV station reported.

In California’s Riverside County, Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), who is also a physician, tweeted Monday that ICU beds in Riverside County are 99 percent full and that hospitals have initiated their surge capacity expansion plans.

Ruiz, in a statement on Twitter, said he is calling on county officials to “immediately reverse” their decision to rescind public health safety measures, reinstate their order to wear masks in public, and transparently communicate their social distancing and stay-at-home surge intervention plans and enforcement mechanisms.

Riverside County reported 639 new cases Monday, totaling 16,848 overall since the pandemic began, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. The county also reported 437 current hospitalizations as of Monday.

By Samantha Pell
June 29, 2020 at 6:24 PM EDT

McConnell says there should be ‘no stigma’ to wearing face masks during pandemic

The top Senate Republican said Monday that there should be “no stigma” to wearing face masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus as President Trump continues to refuse to wear one in public.

The remarks by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) came one day after Vice President Pence appeared at an event in Texas, one of the new coronavirus epicenters, where he urged Americans to don masks and wore one himself while not speaking.

“We must have no stigma — none — about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people,” McConnell said in Senate floor remarks Monday afternoon. “Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves. It is about protecting everyone we encounter.”

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez
June 29, 2020 at 6:01 PM EDT

West Virginia gym-goers urged to quarantine after patron tests positive

Health officials are urging hundreds of people who visited a Planet Fitness in West Virginia to quarantine and watch for symptoms after a patron tested positive for the coronavirus.

About 205 people could have been exposed while at the gym in Morgantown between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on June 24, the Monongalia County Health Department said in a news release. Health officials said they should stay home for 14 days, unless seeking medical care.

“They also should do their best to stay away from others in their household,” Lee B. Smith, the health department’s executive director and county health officer, said in the release. “Ways to do this would be to stay primarily in one area of the home and to wear a mask if you must be around others.”

The Morgantown Planet Fitness said on its Facebook page it was closing for additional deep cleaning “out of an abundance of caution.” The gym plans to reopen on Tuesday.

The Facebook post added that Planet Fitness had rolled out multiple safety measures while reopening, including temperature checks, contactless check-ins, increased cleanings and adherence to social distancing practices.

“We will continue to take appropriate steps so that our members can gym confidently,” the gym said.

West Virginia is among states experiencing an increase in cases, the Monongalia County Health Department said. The caseload went up by 400 in the past 10 days, compared with 240 in the 10 days before that.

Monongalia County is reporting 152 cases — up 21 cases in the past 10 days.

Local health officials are calling for residents to wear masks in public, wash hands thoroughly and maintain six feet of distance from others.

“These measures have proven to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Smith said. “If we want to continue to open up businesses and avoid the need to reverse some of the steps we have taken, people must take these precautions seriously.”

By Brittany Shammas
June 29, 2020 at 5:32 PM EDT

Dow climbs more than 500 points after Friday’s sell-off

Stocks began the shortened Fourth of July holiday week with a bang, bouncing back from sharp losses on Friday that coincided with a staggering rise in coronavirus infections across several states.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose more than 580 points, or 2.32 percent, to finish the trading day. The Standard & Poor’s 500 increased by 44 points, or 1.47 percent, while the Nasdaq composite gained 116 points, or 1.2 percent, at the end of the session.

The surge comes after all three indexes finished last week’s session at a loss. Investors were battered by alarming updates on the spread of the coronavirus, prompting several states to delay their reopening plans and keep businesses closed or only partially operating.

But on Monday, investors were greeted with positive housing data from the National Association of Realtors, which showed the largest month-over month gains on pending home sales, up 44 percent from April to May, as measured by contract signings in May.

The shortened trading week will culminate on Thursday when the latest monthly unemployment figures will be released. A falling unemployment rate could fuel investor optimism that the worst economic impacts of the coronavirus have passed.

By Hamza Shaban
June 29, 2020 at 5:10 PM EDT

Fire ravages California desert town hit hard by coronavirus

A wind-fueled brush fire that roared through a California desert town Sunday night inflicted additional misery on an area hit hard by covid-19, forcing evacuees into hotels instead of shelters because of fears the novel coronavirus would spread.

About 40 homes in Niland were destroyed, and at least 500 residents were evacuated, the Imperial County Fire Department announced. The town of fewer than 1,000 is on the eastern edge of the Salton Sea, 40 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The blaze was contained early Monday. No serious injuries or deaths were initially reported. About 150 people were displaced.

Imperial County Supervisor Ryan Kelley paid for hotel rooms for 12 to 15 families who lost their homes, the Calexico Chronicle reported. The American Red Cross placed other families in nearby hotels and tested people for the coronavirus, the newspaper reported.

Imperial County is 30th in population in California but has reported the seventh-highest number of coronavirus cases, making it first in positive tests per capita.

By Steven Goff
June 29, 2020 at 4:47 PM EDT

Florida State University tells remote employees they can’t care for their kids during work hours

Employees of Florida State University who are working remotely will not be allowed to care for their children during working hours as of Aug. 7, reversing an exemption instituted during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a reopening memo shared by the school’s administration.

Ahead of the fall semester starting Aug. 24, FSU’s workers will need to find an alternative way to care for their children, the university announced Friday, as parents of young children across the country debate the risks of sending their children back to school or day care.

Only some staff members, but not faculty, will be affected, said Renisha Gibbs, associate vice president for human resources.

“Florida State University is closely monitoring Leon County School’s reopening plans. If circumstances change, Florida State University will make any adjustments accordingly,” the university said in a statement Monday.

Matthew Lata, president of the FSU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, said the union is lobbying the school to continue to allow all employees, including staffers, to take care of their children during business hours, as long as their work is not affected.

“I don’t see how it’s one, any of their business, and two, how they would even monitor that,” he said. “They are now trying to go back to normal come August, but August won’t be normal.”

Universities that began letting athletes return to campus have reported outbreaks among players and staff members. More than 130 cases have been linked to 28 Division I universities’ athletic departments, according to the New York Times.

As an essential service, child-care providers were never instructed to close by the state of Florida. But nationwide, half of child-care centers, home day-care facilities and after-school programs surveyed in March shut their doors, including Florida facilities, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

By Meryl Kornfield
June 29, 2020 at 4:38 PM EDT

After FDA approval, Beckman Coulter to ship millions of coronavirus antibody tests

The biomedical testing company Beckman Coulter announced on Monday it has received emergency-use authorization from U.S. regulators to distribute a new coronavirus antibody test.

The company said in a news release it has already shipped its serology tests to more than 400 hospitals and clinics in the United States and to facilities around the world. Beckman Coulter said it is able to deliver 30 million tests every month.

Authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, the test targets antibodies that recognize the protein the coronavirus uses to attach to human cells. Public health experts and researchers say antibody tests will play a crucial role in national recovery plans. Unlike diagnostic tests, which determine if a person has an active coronavirus infection, antibody tests search for remnants in the blood of past infections. People who have recovered from the virus may have disease-fighting antibodies, which could provide some degree of immunity and offer public health officials a sense of how vulnerable the population is to the virus.

Antibody tests can also identify people who can donate their blood plasma, as part of a century-old method for treating infectious diseases called convalescent plasma. People who have recovered from an infection can give their plasma to be used in transfusions, which may offer recipients a boost to their immune system to fight the virus. Earlier this month, a large study of 20,000 hospitalized covid-19 patients who received transfusions of blood plasma found the method was safe and suggested giving it to people early in their treatment may be beneficial.

“We anticipate that understanding the immune status of communities and convalescent plasma donation will play important roles in the fight against COVID-19 before a vaccine is widely available,” said Shamiram R. Feinglass, chief medical officer at Beckman Coulter.

By Hamza Shaban
June 29, 2020 at 4:14 PM EDT

‘Compliance isn’t a polite suggestion’: New Jersey restaurants will not reopen indoor dining this week

New Jersey will not allow indoor dining in restaurants to resume on Thursday, delaying the state’s reopening plans, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced Monday.

In his Monday coronavirus briefing, Murphy said the state had “no choice” but to hit a pause on Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plans. However, Atlantic City casinos will still reopen with limited capacity.

Murphy said the coronavirus spikes in other states after they allowed indoor dining influenced his decision to postpone it indefinitely.

“Given the current situation in numerous other states, we do not believe it is prudent at this time to push forward with what is, in effect, a sedentary indoor activity — especially when we know that this virus moves differently indoors than out, making it even more deadly,” Murphy said.

New Jersey reported 90 new cases and 17 fatalities on Monday. The state has totaled 171,272 positive cases since the pandemic began.

Murphy also tweeted that while he recognizes there are many more establishments that have been responsible and have lived up to the guidance and safety protocols released by the state, New Jersey needs to do what is best for the safety of all.

“The carelessness of one establishment can completely undo the good work of many others,” Murphy tweeted. “We will not tolerate outlier bars and restaurants — and, frankly, patrons — who think the rules don’t apply to them. They are the ones who ruin it for everyone else.”

New Jersey originally reopened outdoor dining on June 15.

“Compliance isn’t a polite suggestion,” Murphy tweeted. “It is required. Selflessness, not selfishness.”

By Samantha Pell
June 29, 2020 at 3:41 PM EDT

Florida reports high in rolling seven-day average of new cases for 22nd day in a row

Florida reported 5,266 new cases of the coronavirus Monday, as well as 28 deaths, bringing the total number of cases and deaths in the state during the coronavirus pandemic to 146,341 and 3,447, respectively.

Although the new daily case number was lower than the day before, as a rolling seven-day average it was a record high at 6,589, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

For the past 22 days, the rolling average has continually set a record each day. A number of other states are on similar streaks — South Carolina has set a record on its rolling seven-day average for 21 days, while Texas has for 19 days.

Florida’s rolling seven-day average has risen by 102 percent since a week ago, an increase second only to Louisiana, where the seven-day average is 123 percent higher than a week ago. The state’s seven-day average of new deaths has also increased: It is now 15 percent higher than last week.

By Adam Taylor
June 29, 2020 at 3:25 PM EDT

Jacksonville, Fla., host of Republican National Convention, orders mask-wearing

Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida and host of the Republican National Convention planned for late August, announced Monday that masks will be mandatory in public and indoor locations, as well as in “other situations where individuals cannot socially distance.”

City spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton told The Washington Post that whether the mandate applies to the convention will be addressed “as we get closer to the event,” noting that it “is still two months away.”

The mask order, which goes into effect Monday evening, is a turn for Mayor Lenny Curry. The former Republican Party of Florida chairman has been “ideologically resistant to passing government mandates,” Politico reported. He said a week ago that he did not plan to issue an order on masks, according to News4Jax, although he encouraged mask-wearing as “the responsible thing.”

“Wearing a mask is not a political statement,” the news station quoted Curry as saying at the time. “It’s about protecting yourself and your loved ones and your neighbors.”

Republicans announced earlier this month that the premier festivities of their convention would be held in Jacksonville instead of Charlotte, after North Carolina officials balked at Trump’s demand to host a mass gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The GOP began its last-minute search for a new site after the president tweeted that he would move the event if he couldn’t get a commitment for large-scale crowds to be permitted. RNC officials had called for a convention with tens of thousands of attendees. They pledged to conduct temperature checks and make masks available.

Trump at one point phoned North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to lay out his demands for the convention, telling him “we can’t do social distancing.” State officials pressed for a detailed plan on how the convention would be safely hosted.

By June 11, the RNC had announced that Trump’s renomination speech and other major convention features would move to Jacksonville.

By Brittany Shammas
June 29, 2020 at 3:21 PM EDT

Pending home sales leap 44 percent in May

Pending home sales surged by a record 44.3 percent from April to May, marking a major rebound after two months of declines amid the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus.

Based on contract signings, the housing data published by the National Association of Realtors shows the largest month-over-month gain since the NAR began sharing the survey in 2001. But while the figures highlight how parts of the economy may be recovering from the shocks of nationwide shutdown measures, contract signings are still down 5.1 percent compared with May 2019.

“This has been a spectacular recovery for contract signings, and goes to show the resiliency of American consumers and their evergreen desire for homeownership,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “This bounce back also speaks to how the housing sector could lead the way for a broader economic recovery.”

Homeowners are probably taking advantage of low interest rates, which the Federal Reserve has pledged to keep near zero for at least several years.

Danielle Howe, chief economist for Realtor.com, said in a statement that the latest pending home sales data means that figures in June and July could show further improvements, validating the idea that the housing market has pushed through the worst of covid-19’s impacts.

By Hamza Shaban
June 29, 2020 at 2:42 PM EDT

Arizona again hits record in hospitalizations, reports issues with new case numbers

Arizona reported more than 600 new cases and no new deaths Monday, but that number could grow because of a reporting issue, according to the state’s Department of Health Services.

“The data that will be posted on the covid-19 dashboard this morning will not reflect all the new cases. One of our lab partners did not submit their daily report in time. We apologize for the inconvenience,” the department announced.

The agency said it is working with the partner to resolve the reporting issue and that Tuesday’s numbers will reflect the new information in addition to the data that was reported to the health department Monday.

“This may result in an increase in reported new cases that is larger than would be expected,” the Arizona Department of Health Services tweeted.

Coronavirus cases have been increasing in Arizona, with more than 3,800 cases reported Sunday, the highest single-day total since March, according to Arizona Republic data.

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average for new cases is 12 percent higher than it was a week ago, according to Washington Post data.

The Copper State also hit a new high for hospitalizations, which has risen by 30 percent from Sunday, according to Washington Post data.

The upward trend can be seen in other states where community infection has become a growing concern.

Florida’s daily new average cases has hit a high 22 days in a row, and Montana has set a new high since March 27 and a new average since April 2, according to Washington Post data.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 29, 2020 at 2:14 PM EDT

Broadway will remain shuttered until at least January

The shutdown of Broadway’s 41 theaters will continue at least until Jan. 3, the industry’s leading trade group announced Monday. The action further extends the darkening of Broadway’s marquees that began March 12, as the covid-19 pandemic spread in hard-hit New York.

Though some new productions have revealed plans for April and May 2021 openings — including revivals of Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite” with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick and “The Music Man” with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster — few details have been made available about safety precautions that would make these events possible. In May, Actors’ Equity, the union for 51,000 professional actors and stage managers, said it is advising its members not to return to the stage until a variety of its own health and safety guidelines are met.

By Peter Marks
June 29, 2020 at 1:14 PM EDT

WHO planning to send team to China next week to investigate origin of virus

The World Health Organization is planning to send a team to China next week to try to understand the origins of the novel coronavirus, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news briefing Monday.

“We can fight the virus better when we know everything about the virus, including how it started,” Tedros said. “We will be sending a team next week to China to prepare for that. We hope that will lead into understanding how the virus started and what we can do for the future to prepare.”

The statement came as Tedros and other WHO officials marked six months since the organization received the “first reports of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in China” — what would eventually be categorized as SARS-CoV-2 and widely known as the novel coronavirus.

The exact origin of the virus became a subject of an international dispute this spring, when U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, raised the possibility that the virus could have accidentally leaked from a research facility in Wuhan, the Chinese city where cases were first confirmed.

China has repeatedly denied this possibility, and many virologists say that it is unlikely. However, Beijing has been accused of limiting access to researchers, and Chinese state media have promoted unfounded rival theories, including that the virus was a result of U.S. biowarfare research.

Public health experts say that even if the coronavirus did not leak from a lab, understanding how it spread from animals to humans will be important to prevent future outbreaks.

Tedros warned Monday that although the outbreak began six months ago, it is far from over. “We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives,” he said. “But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over.”

By Adam Taylor
June 29, 2020 at 12:51 PM EDT

Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to start negotiations on new coronavirus relief bill as economic worries continue

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Monday to immediately start negotiations on a new coronavirus relief bill.

Their demand comes with cases spiking dramatically in a number of states but little urgency from congressional Republicans and the White House to respond.

“The nation has seen a dramatic surge in both cases and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Adding to that pain, our economy is facing one of its greatest challenges since the Great Depression. Over one fifth of the workforce has requested unemployment assistance,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a letter to McConnell. “Now is the time for action, not continued delays and political posturing.”

Senate Republicans and the White House have been eyeing late July as the timeframe for putting together another coronavirus bill, after passing four bills in March and April pumping some $3 trillion into the economy.

Read more here.

By Erica Werner
June 29, 2020 at 12:11 PM EDT

Houston hospital CEO says about 60 percent of patients are younger than 50

Hospitalizations at Houston Methodist Hospital have almost quadrupled since Memorial Day, and younger people are becoming the ones in need of care, according to Marc Boom, its chief executive.

In an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Boom said that about 60 percent of coronavirus patients in the hospital system are younger than 50 as infections in Houston continue to surge.

When coronavirus was first affecting the city, about 40 percent of patients in the eight-hospital system were younger than 50.

Boom encouraged all Houstonians to help decrease the spread of the virus that’s ripping through the metropolis.

In the midst of more coronavirus patients coming through hospital doors, he said there is some positive news about how the virus is affecting hospitalization numbers.

“Even though we have about 200 more patients in house, about double, we only have about three or four more people in the ICU, so that’s encouraging,” he said.

Boom said his hospital system always runs at about 90 to 95 percent of its intensive care unit capacity, which it is doing now.

“The difference is, of course, is about one in four or even in some hospitals, up to 30 percent are covid patients,” he said, adding that the hospital system is doing well with available space to care for patients and that there are plans to meet a surge.

There could be limits to how long the hospital is able to do well if the virus becomes more out of control, Boom said.

“Let me be clear, that doesn’t mean that we can go on forever,” he said. “This is a real issue. It is spreading rapidly for Houston. … We need to get this virus under control.”

By Lateshia Beachum
June 29, 2020 at 11:41 AM EDT

Indoor gatherings remain ‘way too risky,’ expert says ahead of July 4 holiday weekend

Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said Monday that people in coronavirus hot spots may need to rethink large gatherings.

In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, Jha cautioned that indoor get-togethers are “very risky” and said that outdoor ones are more advisable.

“If you want to have a backyard barbecue and can keep socially distanced from your neighbors, I think that’s probably okay,” he said. “But I think people should be wearing a mask.”

As caseloads grow in some U.S. states, Jha stressed that anything that gathers people indoors is “way too risky and has to be dialed back.”

He attributed the rise in cases to states reopening without meeting White House guidelines and while their caseloads remained high.

Indoor gatherings at restaurants and bars, along with a lack of mask regulations, have also contributed, Jha said.

“So put all that together, and I do think that’s the combination of factors that has led us to where we are today,” he said.

By Brittany Shammas
June 29, 2020 at 11:21 AM EDT

Airbus weighs job cuts as production drops 40 percent

The chief executive of Europe’s largest plane manufacturer predicts the company’s operations won’t return to normal until 2025, owing to a years-long drop in the production of airplanes as the industry faces the brutal economic fallout of restricted travel and the lethal coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, the head of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, said the company assumes the production and deliveries of airplanes will drop by 40 percent through 2021, Reuters reports.

The significant decrease in output has prompted Airbus to undergo what could be its largest restructuring, according to the report, cutting as many as 20,000 jobs in phased layoffs to match the shrinking of its roughly $62 billion jetliner business.

Boeing, Airbus’s chief rival, is facing a number of problems of its own. The U.S. aerospace company continues to suffer the consequences of its handling of two 737 Max crashes. Boeing has been accused of downplaying the dangers of the 737 Max and having an overly familiar relationship with regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration. In April, Boeing announced plans to cut 10 percent of its staff, or more than 14,000 jobs, as a result of the grounding of the 737 Max combined with the punishing travel restrictions prompted by the spread of the coronavirus.

By Hamza Shaban
June 29, 2020 at 11:02 AM EDT

Chinese and Russian state-backed media spread misleading virus information, study claims

Media outlets backed by autocratic governments have dominated the online coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in many countries in Europe and Latin America, according to a study from the University of Oxford released Monday, raising concerns about the spread of misinformation.

“Many of these state-backed outlets blend reputable, fact-based reporting about the coronavirus with misleading or false information, which can lead to greater uncertainty among public audiences trying to make sense of the covid-19 pandemic,” Katarina Rebello, a research assistant at the Oxford Internet Institute, wrote in a statement.

Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, said state-backed media from “China, Iran, Russia, and Turkey are targeting French, German, and Spanish-speaking social media users around the world with news on coronavirus.”

In some cases, the authors found, these state-backed outlets were more widely engaged with on social media than mainstream media in the country: Russia Today’s French-language content on the coronavirus had five times as many engagements per shared article across Facebook and Twitter than Le Monde, one of France’s most prominent newspapers, the study claims.

There was a similar disparity in engagement between Beijing-backed China Radio International, broadcasting in Spanish, and leading Spanish newspaper El País, with the former’s coronavirus coverage garnering more than four times as many engagements per shared article as the latter’s.

State-backed outlets often pushed narratives that promoted their own nations, the authors wrote, with Chinese and Turkish outlets that produced Spanish content promoting their own government’s global leadership in combating the pandemic, while Russian outlets producing coronavirus content in French and German “consistently emphasized weak democratic institutions and civil disorder in Europe.”

Some of the reporting in this period descended into conspiracy theories, the authors asserted, with media backed by China, Iran and Russia suggesting that the coronavirus may have been linked to U.S. biological warfare laboratories.

By Adam Taylor
June 29, 2020 at 10:20 AM EDT

Mixed opening on Wall Street after Friday’s sell-off

Stocks began the shortened holiday week with modest gains, recovering somewhat from sharp losses on Friday that coincided with a staggering rise in novel coronavirus infections across several of the most populous states.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose more than 114 points, or 0.46 percent, in morning trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell by four points, or 0.13 percent, while the Nasdaq composite dropped 74 points, or 0.76 percent, to start the trading day.

All three indexes finished last week’s session at a loss. Investors were battered by alarming updates to the spread of the coronavirus, prompting several states to delay their reopening plans and keep businesses closed or only partially operating.

On Sunday, Florida reported 8,530 new cases, marking 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.

Investors are also bracing for the latest unemployment figures, scheduled to be released on Thursday, since Friday is a federal holiday. May’s jobs report surprised shareholders, showing a drop in the unemployment rate for the first time since the coronavirus rattled the economy. Another round of shrinking unemployment figures could send stocks higher, providing another strong signal that the worst economic damage has already passed.

By Hamza Shaban
June 29, 2020 at 9:24 AM EDT

India opens its largest coronavirus hospital as cases surge

India recorded a new daily record Monday: nearly 20,000 new coronavirus cases. Several of its states have reimposed lockdown measures as the numbers worsen.

On Sunday, India opened what will be the country’s largest hospital of its kind, the Sardar Patel Covid Care Center, with 2,000 beds available of the 10,000 intended, the Delhi government told CNN.

India has recorded more than half a million coronavirus cases, with nearly 100,000 confirmed over the past week, and more than 16,000 deaths, amid a struggle to implement more thorough testing and contact tracing. The country’s outbreak is the fourth largest in the world, behind the United States, Brazil and Russia, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

India faces challenges in measuring the scope and impact of its outbreak, Jayaprakash Muliyil, an epidemiologist who has been advising the Indian government on covid-19 surveillance, told the science journal Nature.

“It is very difficult to count all deaths due to covid-19,” he said. “There is no way you can get it done, unless rapid tests become more widely available. Remember that at least half of all deaths will happen in rural villages — around 66 percent of our population. And there are no real mechanisms to ascertain causes of deaths in these villages.”

By Benjamin Soloway
June 29, 2020 at 8:50 AM EDT

Covid-19 treatment remdesivir priced at $3,120 for typical U.S. patient

Gilead Sciences, the maker of the first covid-19 treatment found to have worked in clinical trials, said it will charge U.S. hospitals $3,120 for the typical patient with private insurance.

The company’s chairman and chief executive, Daniel O’Day, broke down the pricing for remdesivir in a letter on Monday. Patients will require six vials, at $520 apiece, over five days, he said. Gilead relied on U.S. health-care system guidelines to make its calculation and said it expected government discounts. For other countries, the treatment will cost $2,340 per patient.

“As the world continues to reel from the human, social and economic impact of this pandemic, we believe that pricing remdesivir well below value is the right and responsible thing to do,” O’Day said.

Remdesivir, developed 10 years ago and largely funded by taxpayers, has drawn international attention for Gilead Sciences. In April, the antiviral drug was shown in National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases clinical trials to shorten the recovery time for coronavirus patients, but had a marginal impact on death rates.

Read more here.

By Hannah Denham
June 29, 2020 at 8:30 AM EDT

Former FDA commissioner says half of U.S. could get coronavirus by end of 2020

The surging number of coronavirus cases could result in nearly half the country infected with the virus by the end of 2020, according to former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

“By the time we get to the end of this year, probably close to half the population will have had coronavirus, and that’s if we just stay at our current rate,” he said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We don’t need to vaccinate the entire population because a lot of people would have already had this by the time we get to a vaccination.”

Gottlieb said parts of the country are showing signs of serious community spread that will probably increase in the coming weeks.

Younger people appear to be the most impacted in those states, which means that death rates and hospitalization numbers might not be as severe as they were in the first wave, but all that could change with transmission, he said.

“Eventually, it will start to seep into older people, more vulnerable people, and you’ll start to see the total number of deaths go up even if the death rate has come down,” he said. “We’ll probably get above 1,000 deaths a day on average as the infection starts to widen out.”

States such as Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are seeing their case counts accelerate, and other states are seeing an expanded epidemic, he said.

“It’s a worsening picture,” Gottlieb said.

By Lateshia Beachum
June 29, 2020 at 7:34 AM EDT

German labor union announces strikes at multiple Amazon locations amid health concerns

The German labor union Verdi said Sunday that employees at six Amazon locations in Germany would go on strike Monday for at least two days amid concerns that the company is not sufficiently addressing health safety concerns amid the pandemic.

Verdi representative Orhan Akman said in a statement that Amazon “risks the health of employees in favor of corporation profit.” He cited what he said were dozens of coronavirus infections linked to the company’s German branch.

The labor union is pushing for a new collective wage agreement entitled “Good and healthy work,” which includes safety demands.

Germany is a major market for the U.S. company.

In a statement seen by the Reuters news agency, Amazon denied Verdi’s accusations, arguing that it spent $4 billion to protect its workers and customers around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, with significant precautions taken at its German sites. Amazon Germany did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

By Rick Noack
June 29, 2020 at 7:18 AM EDT

World Food Program warns of ‘devastating’ pandemic impact in low- and middle-income countries

The World Food Program (WFP) warned Monday that the socioeconomic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic will be “devastating” and could trigger food shortages for millions of residents of low- and middle-income nations.

In the countries in which the organization operates, the number of people suffering from hunger is estimated to rise by more than 80 percent by the end of 2020, in comparison with pre-coronavirus times. Latin America and Africa are among the most heavily impacted areas.

The U.N. organization said it has embarked on “the biggest humanitarian response in its history” to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

“This unprecedented crisis requires an unprecedented response. If we do not respond rapidly and effectively to this viral threat, the outcome will be measured in an unconscionable loss of life, and efforts to roll back the tide of hunger will be undone,” WFP Director David Beasley was quoted as saying in a release.

“The front line in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world,” Beasley said. “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

Whereas WFP said it assisted 97 million people last year, it plans to aid almost 140 million this year. It called on donors to contribute $4.9 billion over the next six months.

By Rick Noack
June 29, 2020 at 6:43 AM EDT

Putin tells Russia coronavirus is receding. Critics face reprisals for saying it’s far from over.

MOSCOW — As Russia begins a week-long nationwide vote on constitutional changes that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power until 2036, the official line is that the coronavirus pandemic has retreated, Russia’s health system coped just fine, and that it is now safe to vote and go to gyms, restaurants, shops and hair salons.

But sometimes information slips out, telling a more dire story for Russians grappling with mixed messages: the Kremlin’s upbeat assessments, versus statistics that show Russia’s confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus still climbing.

When infectious-disease doctor Victoria Adonyeva predicted in a newspaper interview that the nationwide vote would cause a spike in new cases, many readers applauded her honesty.

But prosecutors swiftly called her in for questioning.

Read more here.

By Robyn Dixon
June 29, 2020 at 6:08 AM EDT

Chinese county goes under lockdown amid cases linked to Beijing market

A Chinese county southwest of Beijing has imposed a new lockdown amid concerns that an outbreak of the coronavirus linked to a major market in the capital may have spread more widely.

Xinan, or Anxin, county is located in Hebei province and has more than 400,000 inhabitants, according to the Agence France-Presse agency.

“In previous days, we could take walks at night. Now, the lockdown is very strict, as each family can assign only one person to go out once every day to purchase supplies. We have to stay at home every day,” an unnamed restaurant owner in the area told the Global Times on Monday.

The paper reported that the measure was taken over the weekend after authorities found coronavirus cases in the county linked to the Xinfadi market in Beijing — the center of a new outbreak in the Chinese capital in recent weeks.

Of 12 new recent covid-19 cases in the Hebei province county, the Global Times reported, 11 were linked to the market.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials have said the Beijing outbreak appears to be under control. More than 8 million people in Beijing have been tested since mid-June, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, with more than 300 people testing positive.

By Rick Noack
June 29, 2020 at 5:41 AM EDT

Graphic: Covid-19 is erasing decades of economic gains achieved through globalization

Travel is one of the clearest ways to show how the coronavirus has disrupted the world. This globe shows the disappearance of flights over a five-month period, as covid-19 emerged in China and restrictions on global travel began to take hold.

See more here.

By Anthony Faiola
June 29, 2020 at 5:17 AM EDT

New poll says most Americans don’t think their states opened up too quickly despite all those new infections

Despite rising infection numbers across the United States, most Americans don’t feel that their state was too fast to reopen, according to a new CBS News-YouGov poll.

The poll, released Sunday and based on interviews conducted last week, found that 41 percent of adults felt that their state had moved at the right pace to reopen the economy and lift stay-at-home restrictions. Another 39 percent felt their state had moved too quickly, while only 20 percent said that reopening was happening too slowly.

Still, many of the respondents expressed personal reservations about attempts to return to normal, with a majority saying that they feel no more or less at risk than they did a few months ago. Forty-nine percent said they expect the coronavirus outbreak to worsen over the summer, while only 21 percent said that they were returning to all the places they used to frequent as restrictions are eased. Forty-seven percent claimed to always wear a mask when going out in public.

The poll also found widespread dissatisfaction with President Trump’s handling of the crisis, with 72 percent saying the administration was unprepared to respond to the pandemic. Seventy-three percent felt that the U.S. death toll could have been lower if plans to combat the outbreak had been in place sooner.

By Antonia Farzan
June 29, 2020 at 4:44 AM EDT

Boris Johnson calls for more investment, plans to tackle British obesity amid coronavirus crisis

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that coronavirus has been a “disaster” for Britain, and he called for a massive “Rooseveltian” investment in the country’s infrastructure.

In a wide-ranging interview with Times Radio, Johnson described the pandemic as an “absolute nightmare for the country” and a “profound shock.” But he stopped short of committing to an investigation into any missteps made by the government along the way, saying that while he agrees with the idea in theory, the moment is not quite right.

Instead, Johnson touted his plans to increase investment in schools and public works projects. He said it would be a mistake to return to austerity at a time when the country’s economy is still reeling from widespread shutdowns.

The prime minister, who was hospitalized for covid-19 in April and spent time in an intensive care unit, also called for a more aggressive approach toward fighting obesity. The Times reported on Sunday that Johnson plans to introduce a government fitness initiative in the coming month, inspired in part by his own weight loss regimen since leaving the hospital.

Although the precise relationship between the coronavirus and obesity is unknown, people deemed to be clinically obese are thought to have a higher risk of serious illness and to experience more severe outcomes if they contract covid-19. On Monday, Johnson said that Britons tend to weigh more than other Europeans and that the discrepancy needs to be addressed.

“We are significantly fatter than most others, apart from the Maltese for some reason,” he said. “It is an issue.”

By Antonia Farzan
June 29, 2020 at 4:16 AM EDT

The data is in: Fox News may have kept millions from taking the coronavirus threat seriously

It’s another one of those Trump Era realities best described as unsurprising but nevertheless shocking.

Three serious research efforts have put numerical weight — yes, data-driven evidence — behind what many suspected all along: Americans who relied on Fox News, or similar right-wing sources, were duped as the coronavirus began its deadly spread.

The studies “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,” wrote my colleague Christopher Ingraham in an analysis last week.

Read more here.

By Margaret Sullivan
June 29, 2020 at 3:39 AM EDT

New York reports only five coronavirus deaths, its lowest number since March 15

In New York state, once the main hotbed of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, deaths and hospitalizations are falling to their lowest levels since March.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced Sunday that only five coronavirus-related deaths had been reported over the previous 24 hours, the lowest single-day death toll in the state since March 15. The number of covid-19 patients being hospitalized also dropped below 900 for the first time since March.

In a statement, Cuomo credited New Yorkers for their “discipline and hard work” but said the numbers would “shoot right back up” if people failed to remain vigilant and follow health protocols.

With nearly 30,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus, New York still has the highest death toll in the nation. But the number of new infections being reported on a daily basis has dropped dramatically, while other parts of the country — such as Arizona, Florida and Texas — witness a sharp rise.

That dramatic reversal led New York to join New Jersey and Connecticut in introducing a mandatory quarantine for people traveling from coronavirus hot spots. The order, which went into effect over the weekend, imposes fines of $2,000 on anyone from a state with a high infection rate who does not self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in New York.

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

By Antonia Farzan
June 29, 2020 at 3:05 AM EDT

South Africa facing ‘rapid rise’ in coronavirus infections after reopening, health minister says

Weeks after reopening, South Africa is facing a “rapid rise” in new coronavirus infections, Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize warned on Sunday.

Roughly 138,134 coronavirus cases and 2,456 deaths have been reported in South Africa, giving it a significantly higher infection rate and death rate than many other African nations, which have been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. The country accounts for one-third of all confirmed cases across Africa, according to the Associated Press.

The growing number of new cases indicates that infection numbers are likely to surge during July and August, the tail end of South Africa’s winter, Mkhize said in a statement on Sunday. He predicted that the uptick would be felt nationwide but that bustling urban areas where people have recently returned to work would be hit the hardest.

South Africa eased its nationwide lockdown to allow people to return to work earlier this month. The move was born of economic necessity, since widespread shutdowns and high levels of unemployment were creating dire conditions for those living in poverty. But reopening the economy prompted a “large inward movement” that led to a surge of new cases, Mkhize said. He added that it was “inevitable that there would be cluster outbreaks” when people left their communities to gather in mines, factories, taxis and buses.

Slightly over 4,300 people were being hospitalized for covid-19 over the weekend, Mkhize said. He expressed concern that “fatigue seems to have set in and South Africans are letting down their guard at a time when the spread of infection is surging.” In particular, he said, very little social distancing was taking place and mask-wearing protocols appeared to have been abandoned.

By Antonia Farzan
June 29, 2020 at 2:28 AM EDT

Australia reports largest single-day rise in cases since April — contemplates some return to lockdown

Australia on Monday reported its largest single-day rise in new coronavirus cases since mid-April, prompting fears of a second wave of infections.

Health officials said Monday that 75 new cases had been discovered in the state of Victoria over the past 24 hours — giving the country its highest single-day increase in infections since April 11, Reuters reported. So far, no other Australian states have witnessed a similar surge.

Australia has granted states broad latitude for deciding when to reopen, and some parts of the country still remain closed to interstate travel. Victoria began easing restrictions in May, with the goal of having most aspects of daily life back to normal by July. But authorities are now warning that it may be necessary to roll back the reopening process. On Monday, Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, told reporters that bringing back lockdowns was “absolutely an option."

Most of Victoria’s new cases are concentrated in the suburbs of Melbourne, health officials said. The state is embarking on an aggressive mission to test at least half the residents in 10 communities that have been deemed hot spots.

The source of the new outbreak remains unclear. One cluster of cases has been tentatively tied to hotel workers who shared a cigarette lighter and carpooled together, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Notably, those workers were employed at a Melbourne hotel where Australians are sent to self-isolate after returning from abroad, prompting Victoria to make covid-19 testing mandatory for all arrivals.

Jenny Mikakos, Victoria’s health minister, told reporters on Monday that 37 percent of the new cases were found in people in their 20s and 30s. “We are seeing more young people getting together with their mates contracting this virus and then taking it home to their families,” she said, according to the ABC.

By Antonia Farzan
June 29, 2020 at 1:52 AM EDT

UAE suspends flights from Pakistan amid surging cases there

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates has suspended commercial flights coming from Pakistan starting Monday in light of the surging numbers of new coronavirus cases in the South Asian country.

The state news agency announced the suspension late Sunday and said the flights would be allowed to resume once a special laboratory to conduct coronavirus tests had been constructed — presumably in Pakistan. The UAE has repeatedly touted its testing capacity, announcing tens of thousands of tests conducted daily.

On June 24, the UAE’s flagship carrier, Emirates airlines, suspended its flights from Pakistan after 26 passengers flying from Pakistan to Hong Kong via Dubai tested positive on arrival. The airline had only recently restarted flights to and from Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. Repatriation flights to Pakistan have continued, bringing 60,000 Pakistanis back to their home country since March.

There is a significant Pakistani community in the UAE, and in normal times there is constant travel between the two countries. Last week, the UAE began allowing residents stranded abroad to begin returning after obtaining government permission.

Coronavirus cases have exploded in Pakistan since Prime Minister Imran Khan loosed restrictions on the economy, citing hardship for the country’s low-income residents. In June, however, reported cases quadrupled from around 50,000 to more than 200,000.

By Paul Schemm
June 29, 2020 at 1:16 AM EDT

Analysis: The world’s climate catastrophe worsens amid the pandemic

We may be living inside the biggest annual carbon crash in recorded history. The quarantines, shutdowns and trade and travel stoppages prompted by the spread of the coronavirus led to a historic plunge in greenhouse gas emissions. In some places, the environmental change was palpable — smog lifted from cities free of traffic congestion, rivers ran clear of the murk that long clogged their banks.

But the romantic vision of nature “healing” itself was always an illusion. As my colleagues reported earlier this month, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are the highest they’ve been in human history, and possibly higher than in the past 3 million years. The specter of man-made climate change looms all the more ominously over a planet in the grips of a viral pandemic.

Read more here.

By Ishaan Tharoor
June 29, 2020 at 12:36 AM EDT

Global death toll surpasses 500,000

The worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus surpassed 500,000 late Sunday night, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The number of infections reported worldwide topped 10 million over the weekend and stands at over 10,117,000, according to the university. Both figures are likely to be an undercount, given the paucity of coronavirus testing in some parts of the world.

The United States accounts for the most deaths by far — nearly a quarter of those worldwide. At least 123,000 Americans have died since February, according to tracking by The Washington Post. On Sunday, the number of infections reported in the country topped 2.5 million as the number of new cases across parts the South and West continued to climb.

Brazil, which has seen 57,622 deaths to date, is the second-hardest-hit country, according to Johns Hopkins data. Britain, with 43,634 deaths, ranks third.

Although nations such as Italy and Spain emerged as early hot spots, Europe has accounted for significantly fewer deaths in recent months. Meanwhile, Latin American countries such as Brazil, Peru and Chile have seen infection numbers surge and death tolls rise as the pandemic sweeps the Americas, becoming the globe’s new hot spot.

Despite surging numbers of cases, especially in India and Pakistan, death rates in Asia, Africa and the Middle East have remained comparatively low.

By Antonia Farzan
June 29, 2020 at 12:27 AM EDT

For some students, this tiny and isolated college sounds perfect during a pandemic

SWEET BRIAR, Va. — At the entrance to the sweeping Sweet Briar College campus, where meadows full of wildflowers bloom, trails wind through old-growth forests, and the Blue Ridge Mountains shape the horizon line, the sign said: “Welcome home.”

Sweet Briar, the private college in rural Virginia, will reopen to students in August. It’s marketing itself as a safe haven in the midst of a pandemic — and officials even hope that pitch might help shore up its future.

Across the country, debates are raging over whether universities can house students and resume in-person classes without worsening the spread of the coronavirus. The debate is only intensifying as cases spike in Arizona, Texas, Florida and elsewhere, and as college athletes return to campuses, where hundreds have already tested positive.

Read more here.

By Susan Svrluga
June 29, 2020 at 12:26 AM EDT

Amid surge in cases, Pence urges Americans to wear masks and social distance

Vice President Pence on Sunday implored Americans to wear face masks, practice social distancing and stay away from senior citizens to protect them amid a new spike in coronavirus infections, as the United States surpassed 2.5 million confirmed cases.

At an event in Dallas, Pence commended Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for his “decisive action” in reopening the state’s economy in early May. But with the state’s hospitals experiencing a surge in patients amid skyrocketing infection rates, Pence praised Abbott for scaling back some reopening measures, including ordering bars to close and restaurants to reduce occupancy.

The virus has killed more than 123,000 people in the United States, and U.S. cases make up by far the largest share of the worldwide caseload. In Texas, coronavirus-related hospitalizations reached a record high for the 16th day in a row on Saturday, with 5,523 patients being treated.

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez, Siobhán O'Grady and Derek Hawkins