The president also made his latest concerted push to get students back into U.S. schools, saying that “99.9 percent” of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic involve adults. He threatened to divert federal money from schools that don’t open, and warned of the intellectual damage that could result if children remain at home indefinitely.
“When you sit at home in a basement looking at a computer, your brain starts to wither away,” Trump said, adding that “all schools should be making plans to resume in-person classes as soon as possible.”
On Wednesday, the country reported its highest number of deaths in a single day since mid-May, at nearly 1,500. The country has now seen its seven-day average of newly reported deaths remain above 1,000 for 17 consecutive days.
Georgia reported 105 deaths Wednesday, marking its second triple-digit day in a row. North Carolina reported an additional 45 deaths Wednesday, tying its highest daily number, from July 29. Texas reported 324 additional deaths from the disease.
School systems around the country continue to take different approaches as the academic year begins. Some have already insisted they will stick to virtual learning for the time being. Others have adopted a hybrid model in which students attend in person only periodically. And some school systems have opened their doors to full-time instruction, with mixed results so far.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has said the city’s public schools expect to welcome some 700,000 students who want in-person learning when campuses open in September. That represents the majority of the 1.1 million students in the school district, the largest in the country.
New York City is poised to be the only one of the country’s 10 largest school districts to open schools for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. That became possible when the state — once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic — dramatically lowered its infection rate through strict public health measures.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced last week that school districts could choose to reopen as long as the percentage of people who test positive for the virus in a region is under 5 percent.
Other school systems continue to wrestle with the specter of outbreaks. At Etowah High School in Woodstock, Ga., dozens of seniors packed together to pose side-by-side for a photo when classes began Aug. 3. Not a single smile was covered with a mask.
Just over a week later, the students all have been sent home and the school is shut.
In all, more than 900 students and staff in the Cherokee County School District had been ordered to quarantine as of Tuesday morning after 59 students and staff tested positive for the coronavirus, according to school officials. A third of those quarantined are from Etowah High School, which has had 14 confirmed cases.
Cherokee County School District Superintendent Brian V. Hightower said in a message to the community this week that the high school will be shut until Aug. 31, and that the number of people who need to quarantine could “increase dramatically” as more positive test results come in.
Meanwhile, at another Georgia school district, parents, teachers and students voiced conflicting beliefs on school safety and leadership in an emotional meeting late Tuesday.
The Paulding County School District was shoved onto the national stage in the past week when at least two North Paulding High School students shared pictures and video that went viral of a crowded hallway of mostly maskless students.
The students were suspended for posting the images, a decision that was later reversed for at least one of them. The school shuttered its doors this week for a third day for cleaning after six students and at least three staff members tested positive for the virus.
During a school board meeting this week, some parents underscored the need for in-person learning as they try to maintain full-time jobs, and others asked the district to provide a data-driven agenda for in-person learning as well as mask mandates.
The increasing loss of life and the wave of joblessness the pandemic has created have not stopped a rebound on Wall Street.
The S&P 500 nearly broke its all-time high on Wednesday, almost matching the record from February, before the coronavirus began hammering the United States.
The striking comeback for the benchmark index represents a dramatic rise from the lows of March, when stocks in every sector tumbled with alarming speed as the virus spread across the country and local governments urged Americans to shelter at home, sending the economy into a tailspin.
The S&P 500 gained 46 points, or 1.4 percent, at the end of the trading day. The index missed its record of 3,386 by six points, or about 0.2 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average increased more than 289 points, or 1.05 percent, at the closing bell. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, which recently notched a record, rose 229 points, or 2.13 percent.
The S&P’s climb upward, like other rallies in recent months, offers a stark contrast in economic signals.
Joblessness remains at historically high levels, with more than 30 million Americans receiving some kind of unemployment assistance. The U.S. economy shrank by a stunning 9.5 percent from April through June, in what was the fastest quarterly rate drop in modern record-keeping. And corporations have suffered staggering losses as many American consumers are confined to their homes, have abandoned travel and have curtailed retail spending.
In the latest reminder that the virus is altering the U.S. retail landscape, discount chain Stein Mart filed for bankruptcy Wednesday and announced plans to close most, if not all, its stores while it searches for a buyer for its e-commerce business.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company said it had run out of cash to keep operating during the pandemic, despite a $10 million small-business loan from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. In its bankruptcy filing, it said it owed between $500 million and $1 billion to as many as 10,000 lenders.
“The combined effects of a challenging retail environment coupled with the impact of the pandemic have caused significant financial distress on our business,” Hunt Hawkins, the retailer’s chief executive, said in a statement.
More than a dozen major retailers, including J.C. Penney, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus, have filed for Chapter 11 protection since the coronavirus crisis took hold. Lord & Taylor and the parent company of Men’s Wearhouse, Tailored Brands, filed last week.
Other nations are also coping with economies rocked by the virus.
The British economy has officially plunged into a record-shattering recession, according to data released Wednesday, shrinking by a fifth in the second quarter and posting the steepest decline of any Group of Seven nation.
Alongside huge job losses announced a day earlier, Britain now finds itself with the worst economy and highest death toll in Europe from the coronavirus. Its death toll is behind only the United States, Brazil and Mexico.
The official data released Wednesday by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that gross domestic product fell 20.4 percent in the second quarter compared with the first quarter. The downturn reflected losses across all sectors.
“The recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has led to the biggest fall in quarterly GDP on record,” said Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician.
A recession is when two consecutive quarters show contraction in gross domestic product. Britain’s first quarter in January, February and March was down 2.2 percent. This is Britain’s first recession in 11 years, since the global downturn in 2009.
Meanwhile, the number of new daily coronavirus cases is rising in several major European countries, including Germany, France and Spain.
Germany on Wednesday announced 1,226 new cases, the highest figure since early May. Speaking to the country’s public broadcaster, German Health Minister Jens Spahn cautioned that the rise in cases was attributable to clusters “in almost all regions of the country.”
While German hospitals and health authorities are not overwhelmed by the new cases so far, Spahn cautioned that the rise could result in a new “dynamic.”
Karla Adam, William Booth, Valerie Strauss, Jaclyn Peiser, Lateshia Beachum, Hamza Shaban, Abha Bhattarai and Rick Noack contributed to this report.