Coronavirus Updates: Latest News and Analysis
Coronavirus Updates: Latest News and Analysis
Alarming clusters among young people in the U.S. South are linked to bars and fraternity rush parties.
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the Southern United States, officials there are speaking out with increasing alarm about the large number of cases turning up in young adults.
At least 100 cases were linked on Friday to employees and customers of bars in the Tigerland nightlife district near the Louisiana State University campus. In South Carolina, cases among people ages 21 to 30 have grown 413 percent since April 4. And in Mississippi, state officials said several cases had been tied to fraternity rush parties in Oxford, home to the University of Mississippi. More than 80 percent of new cases in Oxford were in people age 18 to 24.
“Early information suggests that they’re violating the law in the number of people who are at these parties,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s state health officer, who noted that indoor gatherings without social distancing were supposed to be limited to 20 people.
In South Carolina, which posted its largest single-day case increase yet on Friday, officials warned that some young people had become seriously ill from the virus and that those without serious symptoms could still infect family members and friends.
“The increases that we’re seeing serve as a warning that young adults and youth are not immune to Covid-19,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. “They also tell us that younger South Carolinians are not taking social distancing seriously.”
The clusters may be especially worrying to colleges and universities that plan to bring students back to campus in the fall, when both the coronavirus and the flu virus are expected to be circulating simultaneously.
While some — like Cal State, the nation’s largest four-year public university system — have already told students classes will be almost exclusively online, others are betting that careful planning, broad testing and social limits can keep students and faculty members safe and healthy.
Critical to their planning is the idea that young people will strictly adhere to social distancing and other mitigations, an assumption that one expert on the psychology of the young has called “delusional.”
Gradual reopenings are continuing across the United States and globally this weekend, including the lifting of a state of emergency that Spain imposed nearly three months ago. But a return to public life has also been accompanied by rises in coronavirus cases — and in some instances a reimposition of restrictions to curb the virus’s spread.
In Australia, which has received widespread praise for its success in containing the virus, the state of Victoria said on Saturday that it was bringing back tighter restrictions on gatherings after a resurgence of cases. The state, which includes Melbourne, on Wednesday recorded its largest single-day increase in infections in over a month. At least three of the cases involved protesters who participated in Black Lives Matter demonstrations this month.
The reimposition of restrictions followed preventive moves this week in Beijing as the Chinese capital tries to stem a new outbreak that has raised fears of a broader contagion, although the authorities did not turn to the kind of widespread strict lockdowns that the country introduced in January after the pandemic began spreading there late last year.
That change in approach is in part a recognition that it is not feasible to entirely shut down societies for the duration of the pandemic, which shows no signs of disappearing.
The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan has had an outbreak of Covid-19, a spokesman for the mission said on Saturday. The country is grappling with a rapid spread of the virus amid a raging war.
Without providing numbers, a spokesman for the embassy said employees — including diplomats, contracts and local employees — had been affected. The Associated Press reported that the number of infections at the embassy was up to 20.
In the United States, some officials called for greater vigilance, mask-wearing and social distancing this week as several states repeatedly set record daily highs for new coronavirus cases.
Florida, among the hardest-hit states, reported 3,822 new cases on Friday, bringing its total to close to 90,000. Arizona recorded a new single-day high, and South Carolina reported a record of 1,081 new daily cases, the seventh time in 11 days that the state had broken its single-day case record.
As people lined up outside an arena in Tulsa, Okla., in anticipation of President Trump’s campaign rally on Saturday, health officials braced for the possibility that the event could further spread the coronavirus in a state that has seen a surge in new cases.
A lawsuit filed by local residents and businesses to stop Mr. Trump from holding the rally, his first since the pandemic began, because of the risks of spreading the virus was rejected on Friday by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The lawsuit had demanded that the event be postponed unless the BOK Center, the 19,000-seat arena where the rally is being held, agreed to enforce certain social distancing guidelines.
The court said that because Oklahoma’s reopening plan, put in place on June 1, allowed businesses to use their discretion when instituting social distancing measures, such restrictions were not mandatory.
At the same time, city officials rescinded a three-night curfew after Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he had spoken with the mayor, “who informed me there will be no curfew tonight or tomorrow for our many supporters.”
Local health officials say that Mr. Trump’s rally has the potential to become a “super spreader” event. Tulsa’s police chief, Wendell Franklin, said this week that his department was planning for “a mass amount of people that probably Tulsa has never seen before.”
The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said that attendees would be given face masks, but that using them would be optional. Mr. Trump has eschewed masks in public, and Ms. McEnany said on Friday that she would not wear one at the rally.
The state has recorded more than 9,700 confirmed cases. With about 245 cases per 100,000 people, the state’s per capita total ranks in the bottom 20 percent of the country. But the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 352 additional cases on Friday, its second-highest daily number of new cases.
Despite concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the president has been determined to signal a return to normal as states move to reopen. Late Friday, he announced that he would hold a Fourth of July celebration outside the White House for the second consecutive year, including “music, military demonstrations and flyovers.”
The event, which is expected to culminate in a speech by Mr. Trump, comes as Democratic lawmakers in the area urged against such a gathering, saying it would “needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans.”
The National Institutes of Health said on Saturday that it had stopped a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial drug that President Trump has promoted to treat the virus with scant evidence of its efficacy, because the drug was unlikely to benefit hospitalized patients.
The halting of the trial, which had aimed to enroll more than 500 patients, is the latest evidence that scientists are increasingly concluding that the promise of hydroxychloroquine has fallen far short of early expectations.
The N.I.H. said Saturday that an oversight board that monitors safety met Friday and “determined that while there was no harm, the study drug was very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalized patients with Covid-19.”
The trial, which was being run by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the N.I.H., had enrolled more than 470 patients when the study was stopped. It was one of several placebo-controlled studies that had been organized to test the drug after a series of small, poorly controlled trials showed early signs of a benefit.
Since then, several other large trials have been halted or have not shown the drug to be effective against the virus.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration revoked the emergency authorization it had given hospitals to give hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, to hospitalized patients. The agency said that the drugs were “unlikely to be effective” and could carry potential risks.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization said it was stopping the hydroxychloroquine arm of a large clinical trial that was testing several treatments against the virus because evidence showed it did not reduce mortality rates of hospitalized patients.
And on Friday, the Swiss drugmaker Novartis said it was halting its clinical trial because it could not recruit enough patients to sign up.
Several states and cities in the U.S. will begin allowing indoor dining at restaurants.
Even as states like Texas and Florida have seen considerable spikes in new coronavirus cases in recent days, other corners of the United States where the virus has so far been mostly contained are planning to let patrons eat in restaurants again.
On Friday, the mayor of Baltimore said the city would join the rest of Maryland in allowing restaurants and bars to open for indoor dining with certain restrictions. Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., are enacting similar plans on Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers restaurants that allow indoor dining to be one of the riskier environments among those establishments that have opened so far. As scientists’ understanding of the virus has evolved, crowded indoor spaces with poor airflow have been identified as one of the likeliest situations in which the virus can spread, particularly as people laugh, talk and take off their masks to eat.
Businesses will still have to comply with restrictions. In both Massachusetts and Washington, dining establishments will have to keep tables six feet apart, and parties at any table cannot exceed six people. Washington will also limit restaurants to seating people at 50 percent capacity.
The C.D.C. has warned that even with these restrictions, indoor dining still brings together people who may not live with one another in tight spaces, and has urged individuals to take extra precautions.
Brazil passes one million cases after reporting a one-day total of more than 54,000.
Brazil on Friday became the second country to pass a million coronavirus cases, recording a staggering 54,771 cases in the past 24 hours — an increase that the country’s health ministry attributed at least in part to a lag in reporting from three states. The United States has reported more than 2.2 million cases.
More than 48,954 people in Brazil have died of Covid-19, second only to the total in the United States, according to a New York Times database. If the trend lines hold, some epidemiologists project that the coronavirus’s death toll in Brazil could surpass that of the United States by late July. Latin America has become an epicenter of the pandemic in recent weeks, largely because of Brazil’s ballooning caseload.
About half of Friday’s increase was because of delayed reporting in three states, including São Paulo, health officials said.
The country’s response to the crisis has been widely criticized at home and abroad. President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the danger posed by the virus, sabotaged quarantine measures adopted at the state level and called on Brazilians to continue working to keep the economy from collapsing.
In early June, Brazil’s government removed numbers on coronavirus cases and deaths from the Health Ministry’s website, claiming without evidence that state officials had been reporting inflated figures to secure more federal funding. The numbers were later brought back after a Supreme Court justice ordered the government to stop suppressing the data.
As the country reached the one million case mark, the government was distracted by other political crises. An associate of Mr. Bolsonaro’s son, Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, was arrested on Thursday in connection with a corruption inquiry. The president also fired his education minister, who is being investigated over threats and insults against Supreme Court justices.
A number of new cases of the coronavirus among professional and college athletes have added to concerns about competitive sports.
On Friday, days after the PGA Tour restarted, the golfer Nick Watney withdrew from the RBC Heritage tournament in South Carolina after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Clemson University also confirmed on Friday that 28 people had tested positive across its athletics department, including 23 football team members.
Sports leagues across the country have already been wrestling with stubborn questions about how and when to resume games and practices without putting players at risk.
Two Major League Baseball clubs, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays, and a professional hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, had said they would shut down their training facilities in Florida this week, after several players and staff members tested positive. Major League Baseball is now planning to temporarily close all spring training sites in Florida and Arizona for deep cleaning and will require players and staff members to be tested before they can re-enter the sites.
The Phillies said in a statement Friday that five players and three staff members working at the club’s facility in Clearwater had tested positive for the virus. The club said eight staff members tested negative and more than 30 others were awaiting results.
Both the N.H.L. and M.L.B. are hoping to start up in late July.
The shutdowns cast a shadow over the return of professional sports, which became a source of friction this week between President Trump and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
Mr. Trump rebuked Dr. Fauci after Dr. Fauci said Thursday on CNN that the National Football League would need to replicate the kind of safety “bubble” planned by professional basketball and soccer leagues to safely resume play.
Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday that “Tony Fauci has nothing to do with N.F.L. Football. They are planning a very safe and controlled opening.”
Demonstrators in France on Saturday doused the entrance to the country’s Health Ministry with bright red paint symbolizing blood, in protest over inadequate resources and poor working conditions in the country’s public hospitals.
The group of about 30 protesters also placed a giant fake “Medal of Contempt” on the steps of the ministry, in central Paris.
“It’s been years, months that health workers have been mobilizing to denounce the lack of resources in terms of staffing, beds and equipment,” said Aurélie Trouvé, a spokeswoman for ATTAC, a left-wing activist group.
“This government, and the previous ones, are responsible for thousands of deaths during this crisis,” she said. “They have blood on their hands.”
Over 29,500 people have died from the coronavirus in France. President Emmanuel Macron has praised French doctors and nurses as heroes during the pandemic, and the government has given bonuses of 1,500 euros (about $1,680) to public health care workers. The government is also in talks with unions over an investment plan for hospitals.
But French health workers say the government has not made concrete promises on issues like pay raises, increased hiring and a moratorium on plans to downsize or close hospitals.
The protesters also expressed anger at the government’s handling of a much larger demonstration of health workers last week in Paris, where violence broke out and the police used tear gas.
Ines Pujol, a spokeswoman for L’Inter-Urgences, a group of emergency health care workers, said at Saturday’s protest that “it took a pandemic, a global health crisis for the government and its institutions to take a look at public hospitals” and “for our suffering to be heard.”
Australia’s second-most populous state tightens restrictions that had been eased.
More stringent restrictions were announced on Saturday in Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, after the state experienced its highest numbers of new coronavirus cases in more than two months.
“The experts tell us that the numbers are largely being driven by families — families having big get-togethers and not following the advice around social distancing and hygiene,” Dan Andrews, the premier of the state, which includes Melbourne, said in a statement.
Melbourne has also been the site of protests this month against racism and police brutality that have been staged around the world since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Groups of up to 20 people have been allowed to attend private gatherings in Victoria since June 1, but that number will be lowered to five beginning on Monday. Public gatherings will be limited to 10 people instead of 20. And the maximum number of customers in spaces like restaurants and pubs will remain at 20, Mr. Andrews said.
With Australia being held up as an example of how a country can effectively quell a coronavirus outbreak, some people have been operating on the assumption that if they follow regulations, they will be fine. Others feel frustrated by the inconsistencies in official advice or fear that rushing back to regular life before a vaccine is available is dangerous.
“Everything we’re doing is unknown territory,” said Hassan Vally, an epidemiologist and senior lecturer in public health at La Trobe University in Melbourne.
“What we do know,” he added, “is that as a society we can’t survive in complete lockdown until we get a vaccine.”
Spain was preparing on Saturday to lift a state of emergency that was introduced in mid-March as the country was struck by one of Europe’s most severe coronavirus outbreaks.
The removal of the state of emergency, which will officially take place at midnight, means that Spain’s 47 million residents will again be free to travel within the country, and international arrivals will no longer be required to undergo a quarantine period.
Many restrictions remain in place, including limits on the numbers of people allowed inside cafes and shops. The wearing of face masks in public also remains compulsory nationwide, including on public transit.
Spain registered 40 coronavirus deaths and about 1,500 new infections in the past week, a huge drop from early April, when the country’s pandemic death toll was rising by more than 900 per day.
As it warns against complacency, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has cautioned that it will reinstall tough restrictions on movement if evidence emerges that Spain is entering a second wave of infections.
One of the biggest tests will come if tourists return in significant numbers for summer vacations. Despite lifting its state of emergency, Spain is keeping its land border closed with neighboring Portugal until July 1.
Russians wear gloves to eat burgers. In a pandemic, should everyone?
Entering a home in Moscow, it’s customary to take off your shoes. When attending a play, checking your coat is a must. And when eating a burger, it’s often done while wearing gloves.
Across hygiene-conscious Eastern Europe, many people consider it uncouth and unsanitary to eat a burger with their bare hands. The answer used to be a knife and fork. But the pandemic has accelerated a years-old trend: order a burger, and there is a fair chance it will come with a side of disposable gloves.
“Gloves, I think, are an unspoken, required attribute of any burger restaurant,” said Alina Volkolovskaya, the manager of Butterbro, a gastro pub in Minsk, Belarus. “I’m surprised that establishments in every country don’t offer them.”
Several American restaurant safety experts said they doubted that the practice would take off in the United States — the coronavirus, after all, is not even known to spread through food. But some said that gloves used properly could help protect people from a variety of germs.
“They could be potentially beneficial,” said Robert C. Williams, an associate professor of food microbiology at Virginia Tech, “in cases where the customer would not have washed their hands anyway.”
The many uses for food scraps.
Feeling crafty? Want to have less waste? There are many things that can be done with the bottoms of carrots, beets, egg shells and even meat waste. Or start a compost bin. We’ll show you how.
Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Aurelien Breeden, Nancy Coleman, Tess Felder, Matthew Haag, Tyler Kepner, Iliana Magra, Mujib Mashal, Raphael Minder, Zach Montague, Mitch Smith and Katie Thomas.