Even as President Trump insists that children must return to school in a matter of weeks, the nation appears no closer to controlling this worst-in-a-century medical emergency than it was months ago.
The number of patients hospitalized with covid-19 has roughly doubled over the past month as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus tightened its grip on states such as California, Florida, Texas and Arizona. U.S. hospitals treated 59,670 people on Friday, just shy of the mid-April record of 59,940, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
At least 143,000 Americans have died of covid-19 and more than 4.1 million have been infected, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. As of Saturday evening, the seven-day averages for new cases hit fresh highs in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Kentucky, Alaska, Mississippi, Missouri, Indiana, Kansas and California, according to The Post’s tracking.
Montana’s one-day case high increased by more than half from its previous high — from 144 cases on July 15 to 221 on Saturday. Hawaii’s single-day infections count also set a record.
California, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Florida set records for their seven-day averages of daily deaths.
The galloping outbreak appears to have bested efforts to return the economy to normal functioning, at least for now. After regaining almost one-third of the nearly 21 million jobs lost when most nonessential businesses closed this spring, the U.S. economy appears to be losing momentum.
Workplace activity has slumped in the hardest-hit states and is plateauing elsewhere, leaving the number of Americans working “roughly unchanged” over the past month, the bank said.
A new Census Bureau survey of U.S. households was even more downbeat. It found 5 million fewer Americans saying they were employed than in a similar survey two weeks earlier.
The economy is set to suffer a further blow within days as funding for enhanced unemployment benefits and a federal moratorium on evictions both expire. The Senate recessed for the weekend, with Republicans unable to unite behind an alternative to House Democrats’ proposed $3 trillion economic rescue legislation.
Lawmakers had spoken of reaching a deal before the end of the month, when millions of jobless Americans will see their additional $600-per-week benefits vanish. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday he hoped for a compromise, including funding for schools and health programs, “in the next few weeks.”
Any measure is likely to be the last legislative remedy for the pandemic-inspired recession before the November election.
Notes of caution were also sounded on the medical front. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said states hit hard by the virus in recent weeks need to halt or reverse their reopenings while they grapple with infection surges. During a live interview with The Post, Fauci said a coronavirus vaccine would probably not be “widely available” until “several months in” to 2021.
The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers that at least 77 hand-sanitizer products may contain methanol, a toxic compound that can cause blindness or even death.
In states where cases have ballooned, officials are weighing additional public health measures to slow the spread of the virus, even as they battle resistance from some quarters.
Citing a recent rise in infections, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) banned the sale of takeout alcoholic drinks at bars and restaurants, effective Saturday. The mayor’s announcement at a news conference Friday came after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) ordered the state’s bars closed for on-premise consumption earlier this month.
In Washington state, a federal judged rejected a legal challenge to Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus edicts. While Republican state lawmakers argued for a preliminary injunction against the Democratic chief executive’s use of emergency powers, which they called unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled that other state officials, not Inslee (D), were responsible for enforcing the orders.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said state nursing-home inspectors would start being tested for the coronavirus regularly. The change, announced Friday, comes on the heels of a Los Angeles Times report revealing that inspectors were not tested before they entered the facilities and could have been bringing the virus to vulnerable residents.
Other states moved toward loosening restrictions, even as the virus raged there. The secretary of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Halsey Beshears, signaled that he planned to start talking with bars and breweries about how they can return to business. His announcement came as Florida’s average number of deaths rose for the third straight day.
In Texas, bar owners themselves were fighting for the ability to reopen. Nearly 800 owners there said they would participate in “Freedom Fest” on Saturday, and openly defy a June 26 order by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to shut down, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Even as the pandemic rages, an information battle to define it continues.
A conservative television network on Saturday canceled a planned program advancing a baseless conspiracy theory that Fauci was responsible for the creation of the coronavirus. The allegation originated with the former medical researcher behind the debunked “Plandemic” documentary.
Amid fierce criticism, Sinclair Broadcast Group on Saturday said it had decided to postpone the program to bring together “other viewpoints and provide additional context.”
The “America This Week” program would have featured host Eric Bolling interviewing former researcher Judy Mikovits, who claims that Fauci “manufactured” the coronavirus and shipped it to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. A chyron during the segment reads: “DID DR. FAUCI CREATE covid-19?”
The segment was first reported on by Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog.
In a statement on its Twitter account, Sinclair, which has 191 stations, insisted it was not “aligning with or endorsing” Mikovits’s views and said it supported Fauci “valiantly.”
Bolling later told The Post that “this segment does need to be reworked to provide better context, and as such we are delaying the airing of the episode for one week.”
“Let me also add that I have immense respect for Dr. Fauci and recognize him as the leading expert on this topic,” he said in a statement. “For the past two months, I have consistently pursued the opportunity to bring Dr. Fauci on air so that he may provide critical information to the public about the virus. The invitation stands.”
A Sinclair spokesperson and Mikovits did not immediately respond to The Post’s requests for comment.
Also Saturday, Hurricane Hanna, the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season, threatened to complicate efforts to social distance as coastal communities in Texas prepared to shelter in place. Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez told residents to bring soap and hand sanitizer with them if they are forced to evacuate their homes.
Although the United States has logged more cases of the virus than any other country, the pandemic continued to make waves around the world this weekend.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un imposed a lockdown on the city of Kaesong and declared a state of emergency after someone there was found to have symptoms of the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported, citing North Korea’s state-run media. That country has reported no confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he had tested negative for the coronavirus after testing positive July 7 and previously expressing skepticism about the virus and measures to address it.
In the United Kingdom, the Department for Transport removed Spain from its list of safe nations to visit as Spain saw an uptick in daily cases. Anyone returning to the U.K. from there will be required to self-quarantine for two weeks.