Coronavirus Live Updates: Dire Numbers Prompt Mask Orders in U.S.
Coronavirus Live Updates: Dire Numbers Prompt Mask Orders in U.S.
Russian hackers have been using spear-phishing and malware to target U.S., British and Canadian groups.
Russian hackers are attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine research, the U.S., British and Canadian governments said Thursday, opening a dangerous new front in the cyberwars and intelligence battles between Moscow and the West.
The National Security Agency said APT29, the hacking group known as Cozy Bear which is associated with Russian intelligence, has been taking advantage of the chaos created by the coronavirus pandemic and targeting health care organizations seeking to steal intelligence on vaccines, Julian E. Barnes reports.
The Russian hackers have been targeting British, Canadian and American organizations researching vaccines against Covid-19. The hackers have been using spear-phishing and malware to try to get access to the research.
“We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” said Paul Chichester, the director of operations for Britain’s National Cyber Security Center.
Cozy Bear is one of the most high profile, and successful, hacking groups associated with the Russian government, and was implicated alongside the group Fancy Bear in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
“APT29 has a long history of targeting governmental, diplomatic, think-tank, health care and energy organizations for intelligence gain so we encourage everyone to take this threat seriously and apply the mitigations issued in the advisory,” said Anne Neuberger, the N.S.A.’s cybersecurity director.
The British and Canadian governments said Thursday that Cozy Bear is almost certainly part of the Russian intelligence services.
The United States reported its second-highest single-day total of new cases on Wednesday, and governors and mayors were scrambling to issue new mask orders and limit the size of gatherings.
Several large school districts also said they would open the academic year with online classes, bucking pressure from President Trump and his administration to get students back into classrooms as quickly as possible.
The new restrictions reflect a painful reality that America’s outbreak, which has increased in 41 states over the past two weeks, may worsen in the coming weeks and months.
Wednesday’s tally of more than 67,300 new infections was about 1,000 cases shy of the record set late last week, according to a New York Times database, as the country’s total number of cases passed 3.5 million.
Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma became the first state leader in the nation known to be infected. He has been photographed in public while not wearing a mask, including at an indoor rally for Mr. Trump that was held in Tulsa last month.
New restrictions have been imposed by governors from both parties.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, issued an order on Wednesday that requires people to wear masks in public, on a day when her state reported 47 deaths, its single-day record. Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat, said that he was also issuing a mask order.
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, specifically forbade local officials to require people to wear face coverings in public, but he also extended by two weeks an executive order limiting the size of public gatherings to 50.
Schools, in particular, are at the center of efforts to prevent the case load across the nation from growing. On Wednesday, the school districts of Houston and San Francisco announced plans to begin the year with distance learning, with tentative plans to resume in-person classes later on.
And in Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, announced that she would delay the opening of schools until after Labor Day, saying that schools needed time to get masks, thermometers, hand sanitizer and other supplies.
“I can’t in good conscience open schools when Kansas has numerous hot spots where cases are at an all-time high & continuing to rapidly rise,” she wrote on Twitter. “We can’t risk the lives of our teachers, administrators, custodians, our students & their parents.”
The American economy is continuing its halting recovery, a pair of U.S. government reports revealed Thursday.
The Commerce Department said that retail sales rose 7.5 percent in June after a record surge in May, as federal stimulus checks and tax refunds continued to fuel a burst of summertime spending at newly reopened stores and restaurants. The increases follow two months of steep declines.
The rise in coronavirus cases in states including California, Florida and Texas is raising the specter of another shutdown, which would be a major blow for store-based retailers.
But also on Thursday the Labor Department said that 1.3 million laid-off workers filed initial claims for state unemployment benefits. That continues a decline since the peak in late March, but is still higher than levels ever seen before the pandemic and is the 17th consecutive week of more than one million claims.
Hanging over the economy are new restrictions imposed by states after a surge in cases. California has shut bars and banned indoor dining after it had relaxed restrictions. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas ordered bars to close and restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity after earlier saying that new limits on business would be the “last option.”
Economic statistics have provided a mixed picture of jobs. On the one hand, the government reported on July 2 that employers added 4.8 million jobs last month, with the unemployment rate falling to 11.1 percent. Both are healthy signs. But the continuing layoffs underscore just how vulnerable workers remain.
France will make masks compulsory in all public indoor areas starting next week, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday, as the authorities try to contain an uptick of coronavirus cases in recent days.
President Emmanuel Macron had initially suggested the rule would into effect Aug. 1, but Mr. Castex said the requirement would start earlier because Aug. 1 “sounded late.” An exact date was not announced.
Masks were already obligatory on public transportation in France, but there have been countless examples in recent days of people flouting social-distancing rules or not wearing masks inside — including during government meetings — raising concerns that the lack of precautions could trigger a wave of infections.
Britain announced similar measures this week, with face coverings compulsory in shops and supermarkets starting July 24.
Unlike Britain, Portugal or Spain, France has not instituted regional lockdowns because of new outbreaks. But the authorities have warned about a surge of cases in the northwest, and hundreds of clusters have appeared across France. At least 30,000 people have died of the coronavirus in France, the third-highest official death toll in Europe after Britain and Italy, according to a New York Times database.
On Monday, local authorities in the southern city of Nice said outdoor gatherings would be limited to 2,500 people instead of 5,000, after thousands attended a concert last weekend. The authorities had recommended concertgoers to wear masks but they were not compulsory.
In other news around the world:
India reported a single-day record of 32,695 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, as the country’s total caseload neared one million. India trails only the United States and Brazil in the total number of cases, and several Indian states are reintroducing social-distancing measures they lifted in June.
Imported virus infections continued to rise in South Korea, making up 47 of the 61 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to an official tally. Nearly a third of the new cases were from South Korean construction workers returning from Iraq, reported Yonhap, the national news agency. Separately, the U.S. military said that 12 troops and two dependents who had arrived in South Korea over the past week had tested positive for the virus.
In Washington State, which seemed to have beaten back the virus, the fight is on again.
In what seems like almost a lifetime ago, America’s coronavirus story started in January in Washington State, with the nation’s first confirmed case followed by an early outbreak that spread with alarming ferocity.
But swift lockdown measures were credited with holding down illnesses and deaths. By June, nail salons and bars had begun to reopen, even as the virus began to rage in Arizona, Florida and Texas. Washington still had relatively low case numbers, and some counties were even contemplating a return to movie theaters and museums.
Now, those plans are on hold, as the coronavirus is once again ravaging Washington.
Since the middle of June, the state has reported an average of 700 new cases per day — the highest levels since the start of the pandemic. At least 45,000 people in the state have been infected, and at least 1,400 have died.
“If these trends were to continue, we would have to prepare to go back to where we were in March,” Gov. Jay Inslee said recently.
Across the United States, many public schools have plans to reopen classrooms just a few days a week or not at all, while neighboring private schools have prepared to open full time.
Public schools, which serve roughly 90 percent of American children, have less money, larger class sizes and less flexibility to make changes to things like the curriculum, facilities or work force.
The biggest challenge for returning to classrooms is how to maintain physical distance, as required by guidelines from state governments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most countries in which schools have opened — after reducing infection levels and imposing distancing measures — have not had new outbreaks.
Public school buildings in the United States are often old, with small classrooms, cramped halls and outdated ventilation systems. Independent schools (private schools not run by a for-profit company or religious organization) are more likely to have smaller class sizes to begin with, and money to hire additional teachers.
K-12 schools received $13.5 billion from the federal coronavirus relief package in March (though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has required that the funds are shared with private schools). School officials and education policy researchers say that the money is not nearly enough, and that because states are facing budget shortfalls related to lockdowns, schools will need a huge federal infusion of cash to reopen for all students.
An average district with 3,700 students and eight buildings would need to spend an additional $1.8 million on health and safety measures, one report estimated.
Hong Kong on Thursday reported its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since the outbreak began in January, as the Chinese territory grappled with what some have called its “third wave” of infections and its most serious one yet.
Of the 67 new cases recorded on Thursday, 63 were local infections, meaning the sick had no travel history. Earlier this week, the government rolled out its most sweeping distancing measures yet, barring residents from dining at restaurants after 6 p.m. and requiring everyone to wear masks on public transportation. During the day, eateries must not be more than half full.
At a news conference on Thursday, health officials urged older adults to avoid leaving their homes as much as possible. Three patients between the ages of 89 and 95 have died from the coronavirus this week alone, with one of the largest clusters driving the current outbreak in Hong Kong linked to a nursing home.
Hong Kong saw its last record jump of 65 new infections in a single day in late March, but most had been imported cases. The city of about 7.5 million people, which has recorded a total of about 1,500 cases during the pandemic, has tallied 355 in the past two weeks.
China’s economic rebound from the virus may be hard to sustain.
China’s growth from April through June is an abrupt turnaround from the first quarter, when its economy shrank 6.8 percent, the first contraction that the government has acknowledged in nearly 50 years.
The new figures partly reflect the restrictions that China imposed after its early missteps delayed the response to the outbreak and fed public anger, as well as the government’s continued reliance on infrastructure spending instead of domestic consumption.
But all the recent spending on highways and rail lines raises questions about whether China’s economic turnaround is sustainable and whether it can become the engine needed to drive the global economy out of a slump.
Factories in China are already cranking out furniture, consumer electronics and mass-market cars more quickly than consumers at home or abroad want to buy them.
“It looks like there is still a mismatch there — people are not consuming as much as previously,” said Sara Hsu, a visiting scholar in economics at Fudan University in Shanghai.
Sales of groceries and other essentials have stayed strong in China throughout the pandemic, but people’s willingness to spend money on restaurant meals and other nonessential goods and services has still not fully bounced back.
Tens of millions of Chinese, particularly young people, also remain out of work, and the slowdown caused by the pandemic has widened the gap between the rich and the poor.
The authorities in Bangladesh have arrested the owner of a hospital who they said had sold migrant workers thousands of certificates showing a negative result on coronavirus tests, when in fact many tests were never performed.
The authorities said they caught the hospital owner on Wednesday trying to sneak across the border into India disguised as a woman. Police officers said that when they arrested the owner — a man they identified as Mohammad Shahed, with a long criminal record — he was wearing a black burqa that covered him from head to toe.
Investigators determined that Mr. Shahed’s hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, had been selling fake coronavirus certificates — thousands of them, at $59 apiece — indicating that a patient had tested negative, the Bangladeshi authorities said.
There is a huge market for these certificates among migrant workers from Bangladesh who are eager to get back to work in Europe, doing jobs like stocking grocery stores, busing tables in restaurants or selling bottled water on the streets. Many Bangladeshi workers have recently flown to Italy, where they said that employers required such certificates before allowing them to go back to work.
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Millions of Bangladeshis work overseas, sending billions of dollars back home, keeping the economy afloat. During this pandemic, many workers who had come back to Bangladesh for a short break found themselves cut off from their jobs overseas and were eager to get back to work.
How animals are helping us through the pandemic.
Whether it’s a therapy dog providing an escape for children in a hospital or your own — less useful — furry friend at home, here are some ways they are helping.
Reporting was contributed by Rachel Abrams, Julian E. Barnes, Keith Bradsher, Michael Corkery, Manny Fernandez, Jeffrey Gettleman, Russell Goldman, Mike Ives, Sapna Maheshwari, Jeffrey C. Mays, Jesse McKinley, Sarah Mervosh, Claire Cain Miller, Jennifer Miller, Raphael Minder, Elian Peltier, Nelson D. Schwartz, Mitch Smith, Sameer Yasir, Ceylan Yeginsu and Elaine Yu.