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The death toll in the United States from the novel coronavirus surpassed 150,000 on Friday, according to data gathered by The Washington Post, a milestone the country was never supposed to reach.

While the disease continues to kill the oldest among us with impunity, other disturbing trends have surfaced. In recent weeks, Hispanics and Native Americans have made up an increasing proportion of deaths from covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Though the national fatality rate was on the decline for most of June, it began a steady rise in July, when the pandemic took a turn for the worse. States reported at least 24,833 coronavirus-related deaths in July, up more than 3,000 over the previous month, according to The Post’s tracking. The United States tallied 1,315 coronavirus deaths Friday, the fifth day in a row the country has reached a four-digit death toll.

On Friday morning, three of the Trump administration’s top health officials were pressed by a Democratic-led House panel about the ongoing crisis. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, told the panel that a “diversity of response” from states had hampered efforts to bring down the number of new infections. In contrast, he said, many European nations went into near-total lockdowns.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Over the past week, 24 states surpassed a case increase of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people — a metric the White House and Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, have defined as “red zone” states, where the spread of the virus is serious enough to warrant stricter public health precautions.
  • The coronavirus recession threatens to devastate Black commercial districts and other ethnic enclaves that fuel the vibrancy, economies and identities of American cities.
  • A new CDC report suggests that children of all ages may be susceptible to coronavirus infections and may also spread it to others, and it details an outbreak at a sleep-away camp in Georgia last month in which 260 children and staffers — more than three-quarters of those tested — contracted the virus less than a week after spending time together in close quarters.
  • Students can return to college safely if they are tested for the coronavirus every two days, according to a JAMA study by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Minnesota Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against a ranch claiming that its three-day rodeo event in July bucked social distancing orders, threatening to expose people to the coronavirus.
July 31, 2020 at 10:16 PM EDT

Inequalities in PPE access put minority health-care workers at risk, study says

Limited access to personal protective equipment put Black, Asian and minority ethnic health-care workers in the United States and Britain at greater risk of infection amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.

Health-care workers had a threefold increased risk of reporting a coronavirus infection compared to the general community, and health-care workers who were Black, Asian or ethnic minorities had five times the likelihood of testing positive for the virus, according to the research published Friday in The Lancet, a public health journal.

The study, by researchers at Harvard Medical School and King’s College in London, tracked self-reported data through an app from about 100,000 health-care workers and other people from March 24 through April 23.

Workers who reported shortages of personal protective equipment like gloves, masks and gowns were more likely to become sick, and the shortages have continued, said lead author Andrew T. Chan, according to a news release by Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Our results underscore the importance of providing adequate access to PPE and also suggest that systemic racism associated with inequalities to access PPE likely contribute to the disproportionate risk of infection among minority frontline healthcare workers,” Chan said.

By Meryl Kornfield
July 31, 2020 at 9:48 PM EDT

U.S. death toll surpasses 1,000 for fifth day in a row

The United States tallied 1,315 coronavirus deaths Friday, the fifth day in a row the country has reached a four-digit death toll, according to data analysis by The Post.

As the nation is on track for its deadliest week since May, four states reported records for single-day death tolls: Florida (257), Mississippi (52), Nevada (29) and Montana (5). The daily average for coronavirus deaths during the past seven days reached highs in Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Nevada.

Over the past week, 24 states surpassed a case increase of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people — a metric the White House and coronavirus task force leader Deborah Birx have defined as “red zone” states, where the spread of the virus is serious enough to warrant stricter public health precautions.

Friday also marked the third day in a row the nation has confirmed more than 60,000 infections, reporting 66,593 cases.

Florida topped the country in new confirmed cases with more than 9,000 reported, while Texas and California counted more than 8,000 infections.

California still leads closely over Florida in coronavirus cases, even though California has nearly double the Sunshine State’s population. The states with the most cases per capita are Arizona, Louisiana and Florida.

The daily average for coronavirus cases during the past seven days rose to historic highs in four states, including Oklahoma and Montana.

North Dakota reached a new high for single-day confirmed cases with 168.

By Meryl Kornfield and Jacqueline Dupree
July 31, 2020 at 9:00 PM EDT

South Koreans burned over $1 million worth of won since outbreak began

South Koreans are burning large amounts of money in botched attempts at disinfecting cash, according to the country’s central bank, Reuters reported.

The Bank of Korea reported Friday that it had received 1.32 billion won ($1.1 million) worth of burned bills between January and June, one-third more than the 480 million ($400,000) returned to it during the same time last year. The bank attributed the increase to people trying to disinfect their money amid fears of the novel coronavirus, which studies have shown can linger on paper surfaces for several hours.

“There was a considerable amount of bills being burned in the microwave ovens in the first half of this year,” a Bank of Korea official told Reuters. Others were reported damaged from washing machines.

Overall, the bank reported that since the start of 2020 it had destroyed damaged coins and cash amounting to 2.69 trillion won. In the same period, it exchanged 6.5 billion won worth of damaged money.

Since March, the Bank of Korea has been putting bank notes under a two-week quarantine before returning them to circulation as an infection control measure.

By Miriam Berger
July 31, 2020 at 8:20 PM EDT

Minnesota AG sues rodeo that sidestepped social distancing mandate

The Minnesota attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit Friday against a ranch, claiming that its three-day rodeo event in July bucked social distancing orders and threatened to expose people to the coronavirus.

Attorney General Keith Ellison claims that North Star Ranch “allowed and encouraged hundreds” to attend the July 24-26 rodeo events known to attract people from neighboring states, while the audience congregated in the bleachers without regard for social distancing, according to a legal complaint. Ellison said that the ranch didn’t have any measures in place to ensure people were spaced out, even ordering a rodeo clown to entertain the crowds.

One participant of the first day of the rodeo said that “everyone just gave [North Star Ranch] a ‘donation’ and sat and watched the rodeo like always,” according to the court filing.

Local news outlets have since reported that at least one attendee tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Prosecutors allege that the ranch owner, Cimarron Pitzen, was contacted before the event by state officials to discuss how he would implement the governor’s order mandating a 250-person limit on gatherings. During the call, Pitzen became angry, shouted obscenities and said he would hold the event without spectators and then hung up, according to the attorney general.

Pitzen later posted on Facebook that the spectator-less even was the result of the health department and attorney general’s office “pushing their political agendas” and encouraged protest of “ridiculous" government overreach.

He could face fines of up to $25,000 for each violation of the order and a possible misdemeanor if he convicted of encouraging staff or volunteers to violate the order.

Pitzen didn’t immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

Pitzen’s family has organized the rodeo event, billed as the largest in the state, since 1955, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.

This is not the first time a state’s lead attorney has filed a legal complaint against businesses allegedly flouting government coronavirus mandates. In Vermont and Washington state, attorneys general sued gyms that opened despite restrictions.

By Meryl Kornfield
July 31, 2020 at 7:36 PM EDT

More Pinterest boards mean boosted revenue during the pandemic

It turns out that stay-at-home orders translated to more Pinterest boards, boosting the social media site’s revenue, according to its second-quarter earnings report posted Friday.

Between March and the end of June, Pinterest’s revenue jumped 4 percent to more than $272 million, compared with around $261 million a year ago, according to its Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The company reported a loss in earnings per diluted share of $0.17.

Pinterest had 416 million global active users per month during its second quarter, an almost 40 percent jump from the site’s audience a year ago. The San Francisco-based image-sharing company generates revenue through ads on its website and mobile app.

Pinterest lost revenue during March as advertisers pulled back as an initial response to the pandemic, but the site saw an uptick in growth after April through the end of the quarter, the company said. With more people staying home, Pinterest’s user engagement jumped, including users creating more boards, saving pins and new searches. And even as stay-at-home orders eased in July, engagement continued to grow, the company said.

“This quarter we reached a milestone,” Pinterest co-founder and chief executive Ben Silbermann said in a news release. “In these tough times, we’re seeing more and more people rely on Pinterest to cook at home, plan kids activities and set up a home office. Businesses are helping them turn their ideas into reality as people are increasingly discovering and buying products on Pinterest.”

Facebook reported more than $18 billion in revenue in its second quarter, a more than 10 percent jump from a year ago, as well as a surge in new users in its earnings release Thursday.

But Pinterest thinks it has a leg up on Facebook because of an ad boycott of the platform. In a post-earnings call, Pinterest CFO Todd Morgenfeld said Pinterest is attracting more advertisers leaving other platforms, especially in July, but it’s hard to quantify.

By Hannah Denham
July 31, 2020 at 7:02 PM EDT

Battery charge dismissed against Florida man who claimed self-defense against covid-19

Prosecutors dropped a felony charge Friday against a 72-year-old Florida man who claimed self-defense against the coronavirus after he pushed and injured an 86-year-old resident of his condo.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said it won’t pursue the criminal case against the man, Nachem Gross, because prosecutors can’t “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to cause harm” when he pushed Gerald Steiglitz out of an elevator, according to a court memo obtained by Miami Herald. Gross was charged with aggravated battery against an elderly person, a felony offense that carries a minimum prison sentence of three years in Florida.

On June 22, Gross and his wife were riding their condo elevator when Steiglitz tried to get on, despite a two-person limit ordered by the building. Gross pushed him away out of self-defense, his attorney, Michael Greico, told the Herald. Gross and his wife have underlying health issues, Grieco said, and are especially at risk if they became infected.

He said his client’s actions were legal under Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which says a person doesn’t have a duty to retreat if he or she “reasonably believes” that deadly force is necessary “to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."

In surveillance video, Gross can be seen holding up two fingers to Steiglitz, signaling the elevator’s limited capacity as Steiglitz continues to try to walk in. Gross then blocked Steiglitz with his forearm, pushing him away as the 86-year-old fell back out of view from the elevator’s security camera.

Steiglitz told NBC6 Miami that Gross could have told him to take the next elevator but pushed him instead.

South Florida has become a coronavirus hotspot, and Florida has the second most reported infections in the country. In Miami-Dade County, more than 118,000 cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic. The county has reported more than 1,600 coronavirus-related deaths.

By Meryl Kornfield
July 31, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT

Greece extends lockdown of refugee camps, imposes new mask requirements

Greece announced new restrictions on Friday, including increased face mask requirements and an extension to lockdowns of refugee camps, as the country continues to grapple with rising coronavirus cases after opening up to international tourists last month.

Greece has kept its overcrowded refugee camps on lockdown since March in an effort to stave off the virus’s spread among the vulnerable populations. The latest lockdown will last until Aug. 31, the migration ministry announced Friday.

About 30,000 migrants and asylum seekers are housed across several Greek islands, in addition to several thousand refugees on the mainland. Human rights groups have criticized Greek authorities for keeping people in the often-unsanitary and congested camps where an outbreak could easily occur.

Under the other enhanced directives announced Friday, face masks must be worn in all indoor settings for all of August. Churches are included in the rule, though restaurants are exempt. Weddings may have less than 100 guests, while visits to care and nursing homes are banned until mid-August.

“In recent days, the application of measures has slackened and crowd-gathering has been noticed. This is reflected in a daily rise in infections,” deputy minister for civil protection Nikos Hardalias announced during an emergency broadcast, the Telegraph reported.

Greece reported 78 new cases on Friday. The numbers remain far lower than other countries — but a blow to the country’s efforts to remain relatively virus free and keep its embattled tourism-dependent economy afloat.

By Miriam Berger
July 31, 2020 at 5:53 PM EDT

Official overseeing pandemic response in hard-hit Maryland county tests positive

The health officer for Baltimore County — which has one of the highest coronavirus positivity rates in Maryland — has tested positive for the virus.

Gregory Wm. Branch, who is overseeing the county’s pandemic response, said he was experiencing a mild cough and minor voice loss when he decided to get tested at a county clinic. Branch is in self-isolation and continuing to work from home, said county spokesman Sean Naron.

“While I do not know exactly how I contracted the virus, this is a stark reminder of how contagious covid-19 can be,” Branch said in a statement.

In recent weeks, Baltimore County has seen a surge in cases: The county’s seven-day average caseload has shot up from about 50 new daily cases a month ago to at least 180 each day this week.

By Rachel Chason and Dana Hedgpeth
July 31, 2020 at 5:32 PM EDT

Pandemic’s weight falls on Hispanics and Native Americans, as deaths pass 150,000

It’s a milestone the country was never supposed to reach.

First, there were the reassurances: “Like a miracle, it will disappear,” President Trump promised months ago. And then came the shutdowns, with calls for a coherent national strategy and optimistic projected death tolls.

But then the shutdowns were lifted, warnings were ignored and the predictions surpassed.

And now, the novel coronavirus has officially killed more than 150,000 people in the United States, according to data gathered by The Washington Post. While the disease continues to kill the oldest with impunity, other disturbing trends have emerged. Among them: Hispanics make up an increasing proportion of covid-19 deaths. More than 25,800 have been struck down by the merciless pathogen, which now accounts for 1 out of every 5 deaths among Hispanics, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Post.

Read more here.

By Reis Thebault and Alyssa Fowers
July 31, 2020 at 5:12 PM EDT

More than 40 percent of total U.S. coronavirus cases were reported in July

The coronavirus pandemic took a dramatic turn for the worse in the United States during July, with states reporting a combined 1.9 million new confirmed cases and at least 24,833 coronavirus-related deaths, according to The Washington Post’s tracking.

July infections were more than double the number reported in June and represent roughly 42 percent of the total number of cases tallied in the United States since the country’s initial outbreaks. Nationwide testing has steadily increased — in July it rose from about 600,000 to 820,000 tests per day — but soaring positivity rates and hospitalizations made clear that virus transmission was accelerating.

Deaths were up more than 3,000 over the previous month, trailing the surge in infections by a few weeks, as public health experts predicted when outbreaks started cropping up in areas that saw relatively few infections in the pandemic’s early stages. To date, nearly 150,000 people in the United States have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

States across the South and West were hit hardest over the past month. Florida reported roughly 318,000 new cases, California reported 270,000, and Texas reported 252,000. The number of deaths rose most in those states, too, with Texas reporting 3,850, Florida reporting 3,362 and California reporting 3,025. Infections and deaths also rose significantly in Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

The figures paint a bleak picture of the pandemic when the country’s virus response remains fractured and halting. Officials at all levels of government spent much of the month sparring over whether to roll back reopening plans in response to sharply rising caseloads and institute public health requirements recommended by leading health experts. Governors in more than half of all U.S. states have issued some form of a public face-covering requirement, but some, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), have avoided them and have sought to block local governments from enacting such mandates.

By Derek Hawkins and Jacqueline Dupree
July 31, 2020 at 4:36 PM EDT

WHO leader warns virus’s impact will be felt for decades as another record in new daily cases is reached

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned Friday that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will linger globally for decades.

“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come,” Tedros said, according to official remarks released by the WHO, Reuters reported.

Tedros spoke during a meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee, which met as the world reached another daily record in new confirmed coronavirus cases: 292,527. Around 17 million people have been diagnosed with the virus, and more than 670,000 people have officially died from the disease it causes, covid-19.

The risk posed by the virus, Tedros warned, is also not on track to change.

“Early results from serology (antibody) studies are painting a consistent picture: most of the world’s people remain susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks,” he said, according to the prepared remarks obtained by Reuters.

“Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks,” he continued. “Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths.”

The WHO did not immediately respond to a request on the remarks.

By Miriam Berger
July 31, 2020 at 4:04 PM EDT

U.S. consumer spending increased again in June

Americans consumers spent $737.7 billion in June, a 5.6 percent jump that builds on May’s spending rebound, according to federal data released Friday.

The increased spending comes despite a 1.1 percent drop in personal income, the Commerce Department reported. Personal incomes were hit even harder in May, dropping 4.4 percent, as federal help waned. Friday’s report credited the lack of government social benefits to June’s drop as well, but many employers increased compensation for workers, offsetting losses in income.

Unemployment benefits also increased in June, with the month wrapping up 15 straight weeks in which more than 1 million Americans filed jobless claims.

States continued to incrementally reopen their economies in June, which helped boost the spending gains. Data show Americans doled out more on clothing and footwear, as well as health care and food services.

June’s spending numbers comes on the back of May’s surge, the largest on record since 1959, which helped mitigate the 6.7 percent drop recorded in March and the 12.9 percent tumble in April, when the pandemic forced much of the economy into hibernation and set off a recession.

By Hannah Denham
July 31, 2020 at 3:39 PM EDT

A second wave? Scientists say the world is still deep in the first.

Australia. Belgium. Hong Kong. Israel. Spain. Vietnam.

Places around the world that fought back coronavirus outbreaks in the spring are reporting record surges in new cases. In the United States, Arizona, Florida and Texas, along with other states, have become epicenters, after New York City bore the brunt in March and April.

Many countries have celebrated contractions in case numbers, only to see new spikes. According to some public officials, a second swell is around the corner. “I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this week.

Not so fast or simple, many researchers warn.

“We are still in the first wave,” said Loren Lipworth, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “As we ease up on restrictions, there is always going to be a resurgence in cases. It’s not that it’s a new wave of the virus.”

Read more here.

By Miriam Berger
July 31, 2020 at 3:07 PM EDT

260 children and staff got virus after camp where kids didn’t have to wear masks, report says

A new report suggests children of all ages may be susceptible to coronavirus infections and may also spread it to others — a finding likely to intensify an already fraught discussion about the risks of sending children back to school this fall.

The report, released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, details an outbreak at a sleep-away camp in Georgia last month in which 260 children and staff — more than three-quarters of those tested — contracted the virus less than a week after spending time together in close quarters. The children had a median age of 12.

The camp had required all campers and staff to provide documentation they had tested negative for the virus before coming. Staff were required to wear masks, but children were not.

Read more here.

By Chelsea Janes