At least 10,189 people have died of the virus in California, and daily deaths have steadily increased since early July, according to The Washington Post’s tracking. Only New York and New Jersey have reported more deaths since outbreaks began there, with 29,821 and 15,869, respectively.
Here are some significant developments:
- Trump’s executive actions sought to circumvent Congress’s constitutionally mandated power to legislate tax and spending policy. The president acknowledged that he could face legal challenges, but he predicted that courts would uphold the measures.
- Tens of thousands of motorcyclists converged on Sturgis, S.D., for a massive annual motorcycle rally, which marks one of the pandemic era’s biggest public events. The gathering was expected to draw a quarter-million people, sparking worries among health experts and locals that it could result in a burst of coronavirus infections.
- Dozens of members of Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., watched his news conference Friday in apparent violation of the state’s coronavirus restrictions. Trump claimed that their attendance was a “peaceful protest” of the media and was therefore exempt from New Jersey guidelines.
Nationwide, daily deaths surpassed 1,000 for the fifth day in a row Saturday, with 1,097 fatalities reported as of Saturday night. Health officials across the country announced a combined 54,542 confirmed cases, according to The Post’s tracking.
Total U.S. cases are likely to surpass 5 million this weekend.
Weekly averages in infections have fallen in California and other hard-hit states after an early summer surge, but a recent testing blunder in the Golden State raises questions about whether the spread of the virus is more severe than the most recent numbers indicate.
A technical glitch in California’s electronic collection of coronavirus test data created a backlog of as many as 300,000 records, causing an underreporting of cases since July 25, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Friday. He said teams were working around-the-clock to fix the error.
Ninez Ponce, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, told The Post that it is understandable for public-health-data systems to be stretched right now.
“But as a researcher, if data was more open to data advocates, researchers, the media — more disaggregated race data for example — then these glitches and reporting inefficiencies could be detected sooner to help build a data system where we can confidently run our models on which communities are most at risk and on the timing of safe reopening,” Ponce, who is also the principal investigator of the California Health Interview Survey, wrote in an email.
The debacle has clouded officials’ ability to gauge their success against the virus after cases appeared to drop from a seven-day daily average of 9,420 on July 22 to 6,404 on Friday, according to The Post’s tracking. A notice on the state health department’s coronavirus page reads: “Due to issues with the state’s electronic laboratory reporting system, these data represent an underreporting of actual positive cases in one single day.”
California has reported more than 545,000 cases in total, by far the most of any state, but its infection rate is relatively low compared to the rest of the country, with 1,394 cases per 100,000 residents, according to The Post’s data. Infection rates in New York and New Jersey exceed 2,000 cases per 100,000 residents. California’s death rate also remains significantly lower than the death rate in those states.
In Ohio, public health experts had a different concern about testing: Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s false positive test this week will become a misleading data point for those who doubt the pandemic’s severity or, in some cases, its very existence. DeWine has since tested negative twice, his office announced Saturday.
Some states have reported declines in infections in recent weeks, though the data may paint an incomplete picture of the pandemic’s trajectory.
In Arizona, where cases skyrocketed starting in early June, reported infections have fallen steadily for several weeks, prompting Trump this week to tout the state as a success story. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, have attributed the decline to a mix of voluntary actions and state restrictions.
But Arizona has experienced major backups in its reporting of coronavirus tests, making it unclear how many tests were being administered in the state. The state reported 120,000 test results in the last week in June, compared with 58,000 reported from the week ending Aug. 1.
The situation was worsening in states throughout the West and Midwest. Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma and Missouri all saw significant increases in their caseloads in the past week, according to The Post’s tracking.
As the pandemic wreaked havoc on Americans’ health, some portions of the country continued to disregard public health guidelines, while others maintained a more cautious approach. The Mid-American Conference postponed its football season, the conference announced Saturday, becoming the first Football Bowl Subdivision league to decide not to hold games this fall because of the pandemic.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said Friday that schools in the state can open for in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year if community coronavirus infection rates are low — but that it is up to the more than 700 districts to decide when and how they will begin.
On the college level, Princeton University on Friday became the latest institution of higher-education to backtrack on its plans to begin the academic year on campus. Dorms at many other colleges continued to fill this week as administrators waited to see whether students would follow the social distancing guidelines that they hope will enable them to complete the academic year in person.
“Only places that control Covid in the community and open schools carefully will be able to keep them open,” Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote Saturday on Twitter. “No place will succeed unless they are careful.”
He added: “The one positive thing we can get out of the Covid pandemic is a commitment to make sure that we’re never again this underprepared. It’s inevitable there will be another pandemic. It’s not inevitable that there will be hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.”
Correction: A previous version of this report misstated the number of people who were unemployed in California in June. It is about 3 million.