While politicians wrangled over a pandemic relief package and schools struggled over whether to open their doors to students, the United States passed another milestone on Saturday: more than five million known coronavirus infections.

No other country has reported as many cases. Brazil ranks second, with more than three million, and India is third with two million. (In cases per capita, the United States ranks eighth, between Oman and Peru.)

The data, from a New York Times database, is based on reports of known cases from federal, state and local officials. Public health experts have warned that the actual number of people infected is far greater.

Cases are trending upward in seven states, as well as in Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and decreasing in 17, according to The Times database. In the past week, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida had the most new cases relative to population.

The United States reported its millionth case on April 28, more than three months after the first reported case. The country passed two million cases on June 10, three million on July 7 and four million on July 23.

The United States now tests roughly 720,000 people a day, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.

The number of new coronavirus cases daily peaked on July 16, with 75,697. It has been slowly tapering off since then, to a seven-day average of around 54,000 per day.

At least 161,000 people have died since the pandemic began. The seven-day average daily death toll is hovering around 1,000. That is down from a peak of more than 2,200 on a single day in mid-April, when bigger cities like New York and Seattle were hit the hardest. (The most deadly single day was April 15, with 2,752.)

But the seven-day average daily death toll is now significantly higher than it was in early July, when it was around 500. Cases have surged since then — particularly in the Sun Belt states and in communities where officials moved quickly to reopen. Many of the places with the most cases per capita have been smaller cities and rural communities in the South and the Midwest.

President Trump took executive action on Saturday to circumvent Congress and try to extend an array of federal pandemic relief, resorting to a legally dubious set of edicts whose impact was unclear, as negotiations over an economic recovery package appeared on the brink of collapse.

It was not clear what authority Mr. Trump had to act on his own on the measures or what immediate effect, if any, they would have, given that Congress controls federal spending. But his decision to sign the measures — billed as a federal eviction ban, a payroll tax suspension, and relief for student borrowers and the unemployed — reflected the failure of two weeks of talks between White House officials and top congressional Democrats to strike a deal on a broad relief plan as crucial benefits have expired with no resolution in sight.

Mr. Trump’s move also illustrated the heightened concern of a president staring down re-election in the middle of a historic recession and a pandemic, and determined to show voters that he was doing something to address the crises. But despite Mr. Trump’s assertions on Saturday that his actions “will take care of this entire situation,” the orders also leave a number of critical bipartisan funding proposals unaddressed, including providing assistance to small businesses, billions of dollars to schools ahead of the new school year, aid to states and cities and a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans.

“Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have chosen to hold this vital assistance hostage,” Mr. Trump said, savaging the two top Democrats during a news conference at his private golf club in New Jersey, his second in two days. A few dozen club guests were in attendance, and the president appeared to revel in their laughter at his jokes denouncing his political rivals.

Five months after its first case of Covid-19, Brazil on Saturday passed the bleak milestones of 100,000 deaths and three million cases, according to a New York Times database.

President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly denied the severity of Brazil’s coronavirus crisis even as the death count has risen more quickly than the government anticipated.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s refusal to support social distancing measures pushed two health ministers out, leaving the country’s response to the virus to be led by a general with no experience in public health.

The ministry has yet to reach an agreement with city and state officials, who have been scrambling to respond with varying levels of success, on how to combat the pandemic.

In early March, officials at Brazil’s Ministry of Health predicted the virus would kill at least 100,000 of the country’s citizens. But they estimated that number would only be reached in September, said Julio Croda, who then headed the ministry’s department overseeing immunization and transmissible diseases.

“The presidency wouldn’t believe in these numbers,” he said. “It’s one month ahead of schedule because the social distancing measures fell.”

Since June, Brazil has frequently reported more than 1,000 new deaths a day, as the number of new infections and deaths plateaued at a high level. Dr. Croda believes the country will continue on this trajectory for some weeks, adding tens of thousands of deaths to its toll in the coming months.

The numbers, he believes, will eventually fall — as they have begun to do in severely hit states such as Amazonas — when a large number of Brazilians acquire immunity to the virus.

But that “has nothing to do with the government,” Dr. Croda said. “It is a consequence of tragedy.”

The usual parental worries about college-bound children — whether they will be happy, or productive, or find a suitable major leading to a stable career — are getting sidelined this fall by one overwhelming concern: With coronavirus cases spiking in many parts of the country, will students be safe at school?

More than a quarter of U.S. colleges plan to begin fall instruction fully or mostly online, but many are still opening up their dorms. And at many schools, upperclassmen are returning to off-campus apartments, or fraternity or sorority houses. That leaves parents with the choice of forcing their 20-year-olds to stay home against their will, or allowing them to leave and join their friends, knowing the infection data may not be in their favor.

“This is a situation where you have to pray for the best and be ready for the worst,” said Kelly Hutchison, a retired firefighter and single father in Chicago whose daughter, Katelyn, is a student at Ithaca College.

Some parents are still debating whether their child should take the year off entirely. For schools on the semester system, tuition bills for thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars, are due this month. But up until those due dates, colleges are trying to be flexible. In many cases, “you can defer admission, or you can take an academic leave, and they’ll allow you to come back,” said Lynn Pasquerella, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Taking such a break, however, may not be realistic, said Jill Schwitzgebel, a college counselor in Celebration, Fla. “What is your child going to do with a gap year?” she said. “Getting a job is tough. Flying overseas is not happening.”

Other updates from around the U.S.:

  • Princeton announced Friday that all undergraduate classes would be held online during the fall semester. In a statement, the university’s president said that the pandemic “prevents a genuinely meaningful on-campus experience for undergraduates.” On Monday, the university also said it would cut tuition by 10 percent for all undergraduates during the 2020-21 school year.

  • Johns Hopkins University made a similar announcement on Thursday, moving to remote learning and reducing undergraduate tuition by 10 percent for the fall term.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom of California released guidance on Friday for colleges and universities that plan to reopen. For schools in counties that are flagged by the state for elevated transmission for three consecutive days, the guidance would prohibit indoor classes. Many of the campuses of California State University, the nation’s largest four-year public university system, have already committed to remote learning for the fall.

  • On Thursday, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst backtracked on a previous plan to let students enrolled in online classes live on campus. Just weeks before the semester is scheduled to begin, the university said only a small subset of students “enrolled in essential face-to-face classes” would be allowed into dorms and dining halls.

  • Officials at Harvard said on Thursday that they planned to allow up to 40 percent of undergraduates, including the entire freshman class, to return to campus for the fall, but that all instruction would be delivered online. The university has not offered discounted tuition.

At least nine people were killed after a fire broke out on Sunday at a hotel in southern India that was being used as a makeshift Covid-19 facility, officials said.

The fire, in the city of Vijayawada, occurred at the Swarna Palace hotel, which was being used to shelter and treat patients who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The police attributed the accident to a short circuit in an air-conditioner on the ground floor. After the blaze broke out early Sunday morning, panicked patients jumped from balconies on the upper floors and several were injured, according to local media outlets.

After most of India’s coronavirus restrictions were lifted in recent weeks, infections have surged, leading some states to move patients into hotels and other makeshift health facilities. As of Sunday, India’s health ministry had reported more than two million total infections and nearly 45,000 deaths.

Tens of thousands of motorcyclists swarmed the streets of Sturgis, S.D., on Saturday for an annual rally despite objections from residents — and with little regard for the coronavirus.

The herds of people driving recreational vehicles, bikes and classic cars overran every street in town, making no effort to keep six feet apart. Few masks could be seen, and free bandannas being passed out were mostly folded, or wrapped around people’s heads.

With temperatures in the low 80s and not much cloud cover, many people crowded under shopping tents where “Screw Covid” shirts were sold, seeking shade.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a 10-day affair that began Friday, is expected to attract roughly 250,000 enthusiasts this year — about half the number who attended last year, but a figure that puts it on track to be among the country’s largest public gatherings since the first coronavirus cases emerged.

South Dakota is one of several states that did not impose a lockdown, and state officials have not required residents to wear masks.

Health experts say the coronavirus is less likely to spread outdoors, especially when people wear masks and socially distance. But large gatherings like the motorcycle rally also increase the number of visitors inside restaurants and stores.

A few businesses in Sturgis put up signs limiting the number of customers who could enter, but most did not.

Over the past week, South Dakota has reported an average of 87 coronavirus cases per day. At least two new virus deaths and 106 new cases were reported on Saturday.

Two parents sued the school board and health department in Franklin County, Ohio, this week demanding that their son’s high school provide in-person classes to start the school year later this month. The lawsuit claims that remote learning, which the district plans to provide to all students until at least Sept. 21, does not meet their son’s educational needs.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in other parts of the country, including Springfield, Mo., where three families are demanding five days a week of in-person classes, and California, where more than a dozen parents are seeking to overturn an order by Gov. Gavin Newsom that prevents schools from immediately reopening classrooms in most of the state.

Parents of private school students in Maryland also sued this week to block a Montgomery County order requiring private schools to teach remotely. The order was rescinded on Friday after a battle of authority between the county and the governor.

“Distance learning has been proved to be largely ineffective,” said Rex Elliott, the lawyer representing the Ohio parents suing the Upper Arlington Board of Education and the Franklin County Health Department. “That is devastating to their educational growth in the face of a virus that, in this age group, simply is not a dangerous or lethal concern.”

Public health experts continue to debate the evidence over how easily children contract or spread the virus. It is also unclear how often they develop a rare inflammatory condition that has been linked to Covid-19.

Hundreds of children in America, most of them previously healthy, have experienced an inflammatory syndrome associated with Covid-19, and most became so ill that they needed intensive care, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The syndrome, which can be deadly, has rattled parents and education officials as schools across the United States struggle with the prospect of reopening in the fall and the coronavirus continues its spread.

The researchers said that from early March to late July, the C.D.C. received reports of 570 young people — ranging from infants to age 20 — who met the definition of the new condition, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C. The reports came from health departments in 40 states, as well as New York City and Washington, D.C.

The patients were disproportionately people of color, echoing a pattern in adults who have been struck by the respiratory disease caused by the virus. About 40 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 33 percent were Black and 13 percent were white, the report said. The median age was 8. About 25 percent of the patients had obesity before becoming sick.

MIS-C was first recognized in May as a condition linked to Covid-19 that appears to occur in children and young people who often had not developed any of the respiratory symptoms that are the primary way the virus attacks adults.

The syndrome, which can include a fever, rash, pinkeye, stomach distress, confusion, bluish lips, muscle weakness, racing heart rate and cardiac shock, appears to emerge days or weeks after the initial viral infection, and experts believe it may be the result of a revved-up immune system response to defeating the virus’s first assault.

The C.D.C. reported that about two-thirds of the patients had no previous underlying medical conditions, and most experienced complications that involved four or more organ systems, especially the heart. Ten died. Nearly two-thirds were admitted to intensive care units for a median of five days.

The blockaded Gaza Strip might be among the few places in the world where no cases of community transmission of the coronavirus have been recorded — a phenomenon attributed to the coastal enclave’s isolation as well as to swift measures taken by its militant Hamas rulers.

But the pandemic has not left Gaza untouched.

Citing a need to combat the virus, the authorities that control Gaza’s borders have imposed new restrictions on movement outside the territory. That has exacerbated an already challenging situation for Palestinians who say they urgently need to travel to Israel and the West Bank.

In March, fearing an outbreak in Gaza, the Hamas authorities ordered all travelers returning to the territory by way of Israel and Egypt to enter quarantine facilities for three weeks. They could not leave quarantine until they had passed two virus tests.

The system seems to have succeeded. All 78 known infections in the territory were detected at quarantine facilities.

Still, experts did not rule out the possibility of the pandemic penetrating into the area’s densely populated cities and towns.

“All it takes is one small mistake,” said Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians. “There’s no guarantee the virus won’t get inside.”

Mr. Rockenschaub warned that Gaza lacked the resources to deal with a widespread outbreak, noting that medical institutions had only about 100 adult ventilators, most of which were already in use.

Before the coronavirus hobbled the U.S. economy, many low-wage workers were already struggling to make ends meet.

After mass layoffs and a deep recession followed in the early months of the pandemic, millions of workers found themselves faced with evictions, late car payments, and crushing medical bills. For many, the main solace through the worst months of the crisis was a broad range of stimulus measures, including $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits.

But with those measures expiring, and no clear indication of whether new ones will replace them, many unemployed workers now find themselves in limbo, struggling to find work in an economy that remains significantly weakened.

Eviction moratoriums are expiring or have expired in much of the country, and a report released Friday warned that 30 million to 40 million tenants risk losing their homes in the coming months. The Paycheck Protection Program, which helped thousands of small businesses to retain workers, also ends this week.

Research from the last recession found that when unemployment benefits ran out, people cut their spending on food, medicine and other necessities, suggesting they were able to do little to prepare for the drop in income.

While wealthier families may be able to draw on savings to get by until Congress strikes a deal to prolong the stimulus, lower-income households face serious long-term consequences from even a temporary lapse in income. An eviction can make it hard to rent in the future. Having a car repossessed can make it hard to find another job. And for children, periods of hunger, homelessness and stress can have long-term effects on development and learning.

While the U.S. economy has slowly added back some jobs that vanished at the beginning of the pandemic, the unemployment rate still stands at over 10 percent. For those who may not return to work for some time, the loss of protections has only added to uncertainty about the future.

Even as the virus continues to spread widely, and public health officials have urged people to move activities outside as much as possible, the summer heat still tends to demand a great deal of time spent indoors.

For those who regularly share home or office spaces with others for extended periods, this may raise questions about indoor air quality. A growing number of scientists are convinced that significant virus transmission can occur through the air indoors, and that poor ventilation magnifies the risk. But the options available for increasing airflow or filtering out are not all created equal.

Experts have a few recommendations.

If the temperature outside is tolerable, consider opening a few windows to let outdoor air in.

“The more outside air you have, the more you dilute the virus,” said Jose-Luis Jimenez, an aerosol scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder.

In hotter climates, some air-conditioners can be used safely if they cool and circulate both outdoor and indoor air. But be wary of certain models that only recirculate the air inside.

Those looking to be especially cautious may consider using air filters. But as with air-conditioners, to derive any real benefit consumers should look to those that meet specifications to filter out virus particles that are far smaller than other airborne particles like dust or pollen.

Above all, experts caution that airflow patterns are difficult to predict. The best way to prevent spreading the virus inside may be to avoid holding indoor gatherings altogether.

Even a pandemic could not bring Belgium’s fractious political parties together.

Party leaders blew through a Saturday afternoon deadline to form a new government, more than a year and a half after the last one collapsed. The country has been operating with an emergency minority coalition throughout the coronavirus epidemic.

But the crisis has exposed the weaknesses in a bureaucratic political system — it has among the highest Covid-19 death rates in the world. Belgium has nine health ministers who answer to six parliaments. Officials have acknowledged being slow to respond to the outbreak as they haggled over who was responsible for what.

Making ambitious change to the political system or taking up an aggressive economic stimulus package would most likely require a full-fledged majority government, something that has eluded Belgium since December 2018. Leaders of the two largest parties — the conservative Flemish separatist party known as the N-VA and the French-speaking Socialists — are seeking a majority coalition with smaller parties.

But party leaders said Saturday that they were unable to meet the deadline set by King Philippe, the Belgian head of state. The king extended the deadline, once again, to Aug. 17.

The country is polarized along regional and linguistic lines, making governing perpetually difficult. This is now the longest period without a formal government in Belgian history.

“I hope to form a government as soon as possible,” said Paul Magnette, the head of the French-speaking Socialists. “Our country needs it to effectively combat the epidemic, which sadly is rising again.”

Credit…Jimmy Escobar

New Yorkers, by and large, have adhered to rules mandating social distancing and mask wearing. The diligence has helped keep the coronavirus under control in the city even as outbreaks have raged across the United States, primarily in the South and the West.

As the summer wears on, however, mounting reports of parties, concerts and other social events, like a recent rave under the Kosciuszko Bridge, are raising fears that New York’s hard-earned stability may be tenuous.

Over the last few weeks, videos and photos posted on social media have shown densely packed, mask-free crowds.

“It’s illegal,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a recent news conference, referring to the partying. “It not only violates public health, but it violates human decency.”

The images contrast sharply with the memories of a brutal spring in New York that left tens of thousands dead, disproportionately ravaging low-income communities and neighborhoods with high numbers of Black and Latino people.

Illegal raves are growing in popularity in Europe, including in Berlin, in London and near Paris, as coronavirus lockdowns are eased across the continent but most nightclubs remain closed.

Outdoor events for hundreds — in some cases, thousands — organized via social media and messaging apps, are in full swing each weekend, causing headaches for police forces and lawmakers, and stirring public debate and news media panic.

Worries that nightlife activity would fuel the spread of the virus have in the meantime led Curaçao, the Caribbean island, to close its bars and clubs for at least two weeks since Friday, according to the Dutch newswire ANP. The nearby island Aruba was reported to have almost 300 confirmed cases over the last five days.

Reporting was contributed by Iyad Abuheweila, Sarah Almukhtar, Manuela Andreoni, Matt Apuzzo, Hannah Beech, Pam Belluck, Julia Calderone, Emily Cochrane, Conor Dougherty, Jacey Fortin, Maggie Haberman, Alex Marshall, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Constant Méheut, Zach Montague, Heather Murphy, Julia Echikson, Max Horberry, Claire Moses, Monika Pronczuk, Adam Rasgon, Thomas Rogers, Constance Sommer, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Jim Tankersley, Derrick Taylor, Mark Walker, Katherine J. Wu and Mihir Zaveri.

source: nytimes.com

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