‘Celebrate at home’: Health officials make a plea for the holiday amid record caseloads in the U.S.
Health officials are urging Americans to scale back Independence Day plans after virus case levels reached disheartening new highs on Tuesday, with eight states setting single-day reporting records.
The Oregon Health Authority warned that “the safest choice this holiday is to celebrate at home.” In Nebraska, state leaders suggested that holiday cookout hosts keep guest lists to make contact tracing easier. In Los Angeles County, where 10,000 new cases have been announced since Friday, the public health department ordered beaches closed and fireworks shows canceled.
Elsewhere, the pleas were similar: Skip the party. Stay home. Don’t make a bad situation worse.
“We don’t want any more closures, but our numbers are going through the roof,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the public health officer in Riverside County, Calif. “Please don’t mix households, even if you think everyone is healthy, and instead celebrate the holiday with the people you live with. We started seeing more and more cases after Memorial Day, and we can’t afford another jump after the Fourth of July.”
The virus outlook in the United States is bad and getting worse. The number of new cases in the United States has shot up 82 percent compared to two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database. With more than 48,000 new cases on Tuesday, the country set a daily record for the fourth time in a week. More than 4,600 new cases of the virus were announced in Arizona, by far its most in a single day, as Vice President Mike Pence planned to travel there on Wednesday. California added more than 8,100 new cases, Georgia added more than 2,400 and Texas added more than 7,900, all records. The virus is also surging again in some places that had been doing much better, including Delaware, where new clusters in beachfront cities led Gov. John Carney to close some bars ahead of the holiday.
“Clearly we’ve had an outbreak among bars, restaurants, social activities in Delaware beaches,” said Mr. Carney, who noted “complacency in mask wearing and social distancing.”
With the virus spreading rapidly in other large states like Florida and Texas, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that New York City would not resume indoor dining at restaurants next week as scheduled.
The decision to delay indoor dining comes as New York officials are becoming increasingly concerned that the increase in virus cases in more than 30 states could trickle back to New York, which has managed to rein in the outbreak.
“Indoors is the problem more and more,” Mr. de Blasio said at his daily briefing, adding, “The news we have gotten from around the country gets worse and worse.”
The mayor said restaurants should “double down” on outdoor dining. “It is not the time to forge ahead with indoor dining,” he said.
Shortly afterward, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo confirmed at his own briefing that indoor dining in New York City would be postponed. He said it could resume in the city once citizens begin complying better with mask and social-distancing rules, and when numbers stabilize nationally.
“Citizen compliance is slipping,” he said. “That is a fact.”
The course reversal came on the heels of a similar decision by Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey to halt a restart of indoor dining that was to have gone into effect on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut called on travelers from 16 states, including the nation’s three largest — California, Florida and Texas — to quarantine for 14 days after arriving.
Florida and Texas, in particular, have had to retrench in the face of surging cases after allowing bars and restaurants to reopen with some indoor seating.
Statewide, all New Yorkers can get tested, the governor also said. New York City had previously allowed anyone to be tested.
On Wednesday, Florida reported more than 6,500 new cases, as hospitals sounded the alarm about seeing their beds increasingly filled with Covid-19 patients. Jackson Memorial, Miami’s biggest public hospital, announced that beginning on Monday, it would stop elective surgeries except for those deemed urgent, in order to cope with its Covid-19 caseload, which has doubled over the past two weeks.
“If the trends continue the way we are, we will be inundated,” Carlos Migoya, the hospital’s president and chief executive, told the Miami-Dade County Commission.
Ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, a handful of counties announced that the beaches would be closed. In some places, parks will also be off limits. Traditional mass gatherings to watch fireworks have been canceled.
In Miami-Dade, which has seen more than 1,400 new cases a day, Mayor Carlos Gimenez banned restaurants from selling food or drink after midnight. Over the holiday weekend, hotel pools will have to close at 8 p.m., and alcohol sales will be prohibited before 11 a.m. and after 8 p.m. “There is no more patriotic an act than protecting the lives of everyone in our county,” Mr. Gimenez said in a statement.
As cases surge in Texas, the state’s lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, claimed that Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” when it comes to the state’s handling of the worsening pandemic.
Mr. Patrick made the comments in an interview with Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host, on Tuesday evening after Dr. Fauci laid out a grim assessment of the crisis in testimony on Capitol Hill. Dr. Fauci warned that new infections could more than double to 100,000 a day, and that outbreaks in the South and the West could put “the entire country at risk” if not contained.
Mr. Patrick claimed that Dr. Fauci “has been wrong every time on every issue.” He added: “I don’t need his advice anymore.” He spoke on a day that Texas added more than 7,900 new cases, a new record.
Texas, which moved swiftly to reopen, has emerged as one of the new centers of the pandemic, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott to roll back part of the state’s phased reopening plans by ordering the closure of bars and reducing capacity at restaurants.
Dr. Fauci told lawmakers that states that try to reopen again need to carefully follow national guidance for containing the virus. Some states, he said, are moving “too quickly and skipping over some of the checkpoints.”
Mr. Patrick took issue with that, saying: “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We haven’t skipped over anything. The only thing I’m skipping over is listening to him.”
Texas Democrats countered that it was Mr. Patrick who did not know what he was talking about.
“He’s the least credible politician in Texas history,” said Abhi Rahman, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party. “Texans should listen to science, Fauci’s warnings, wear a mask, make sure your grandparents don’t die for the economy, and ignore Patrick once again, like we usually do.”
The European Union reopens its borders to international travelers and relaxes restrictions.
The European Union reopened its borders on Wednesday to visitors from 15 countries, excluding the United States, Russia and Brazil, and many European countries further eased pandemic restrictions.
Spain and Portugal are officially reopening their land border, an event that will be attended by King Felipe VI and the prime ministers of both countries. The border had been closed since mid-March. Spain reopened its border with France on June 21.
In Belgium, swimming pools, wellness centers, amusement parks, casinos and indoor playgrounds were among the spaces to reopen. Cinemas and theaters also opened on Wednesday.
In the Netherlands, gatherings of up to 100 are now allowed, although the government urged people stay five feet (1.5 meters) apart. Sex work in the country is also allowed again.
Thousands of people in Prague in the Czech Republic held a symbolic farewell party for the pandemic on Tuesday, the BBC reported. Guests shared food and there was no social distancing. The country, which locked down early, has had about 350 deaths and 12,000 cases of the virus.
Some countries in the Middle East also relaxed virus-related measures on Wednesday. Restaurants in a few tourist areas in Qatar were allowed to reopen under some restrictions. Malls and shopping centers in Qatar also opened their doors, but prayer rooms and cinemas were among the spaces to remain closed.
Here are other developments from around the globe:
In Israel, the Health Ministry announced that it recorded 773 cases on Tuesday — the highest daily case count since the contagion first emerged in Israel. It recorded 752 cases on Sunday. In the past couple of weeks, the authorities have imposed significant restrictions in locations with high numbers of cases, while allowing the rest of the country to stay largely open.
The Hebron region of the West Bank accounts for more than 80 percent of active virus cases in the territory, and the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry reported Wednesday that it had recorded 199 new cases, bringing the number of active cases there to 1,804. Jibrin al-Bakri, the governor of Hebron, said that the city and its surrounding villages would be locked down for five days, with all movement banned except for visits to places such as pharmacies or bakeries.
Pfizer reports early but promising results on a vaccine candidate.
Early but encouraging results on an experimental vaccine came Wednesday from Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.
The trial, a Phase 1-2 study, involved 45 people. Thirty-six received the vaccine, and nine got placebo shots. Test subjects who received two shots, three weeks apart, developed antibodies, including the so-called neutralizing type that can stop the virus from infecting cells, the company said, adding that some participants reported mild to moderate sore arms or fever.
The vaccine uses genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, that contains the directions for making the spike protein that the virus uses to invade human cells. The mRNA is taken up by cells in the body, which then follow the directions and churn out the viral protein. The immune system recognizes the protein as foreign and makes antibodies that should disable the spike if the coronavirus tries to invade.
Pfizer said the findings came from one of four candidate vaccines that it has developed, and that more data from the trial will allow the company to pick a lead candidate and dose level for a much larger study that may begin as early as this month.
The company said that if its vaccine proves effective and is approved, it expects to make up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020, and “potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021.”
The first company to begin testing vaccines in humans, Moderna, also uses mRNA.
Adam Silver, the commissioner of the N.B.A., said Tuesday that the league could put the brakes on its attempt to close out the season in case of an outbreak among players or staff members.
The season is scheduled to restart without spectators on July 30 at Walt Disney World near Orlando, and the N.B.A. finals are scheduled to begin Sept. 30. The league went on hiatus in March with roughly 20 percent of its season left to play.
“We’re going to see as we go. I mean certainly, if cases are isolated, that’s one thing,” Silver said during a talk with Time 100, in reference to a potential outbreak on the Disney campus where N.B.A. players and staff are expected to be quarantined. “I think a lot of the determination will be our understanding of how our community became infected. That will be part of our judgment in terms of whether we should continue.”
Silver also said that he was “pretty confident” that the N.B.A. would be able to go through with its plans, in spite of Florida becoming one of the country’s hot spots. Orange County, where Walt Disney World is located, has seen a drastic rise in positive cases in the last month. But epidemiologists have largely praised the league’s plan as comprehensive.
“Our model was designed to protect us and our players from the cases in the outside community,” Silver said. “Maybe at the time we designed it, we didn’t think it would be as necessary as it is now. But at least we’re preparing for it.”
Did the George Floyd protests in New York lead to a virus surge? Here’s what we know.
After the police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, tens of thousands of New Yorkers poured into the streets to protest police brutality and racism.
Epidemiologists braced for a surge of new coronavirus cases. But it has not come yet.
On May 27, the day before the protests began in New York City, some 754 Covid-19 cases were diagnosed, according to the city’s Department of Health. That was the last time the city recorded more than 700 cases on a single day.
By the end of the first week of protests, the city was recording slightly more than 500 cases a day. By the end of the second week of protests, the case counts were in the low 400s or high 300s a day. They’ve continued to drop slightly. The last time New York City recorded more than 300 cases was on June 22.
“We’ve been looking very closely at the number of positive cases every day to see if there is an uptick in the context of the protests,” Ted Long, executive director of the city’s contact tracing program, said. “We have not seen that.”
In interviews, several epidemiologists expressed either surprise or relief, and offered theories for what occurred. This is what we know:
The virus spread in New York City was already slowing down.
Outdoor transmission is more rare.
Most protesters wore masks.
We could still see a wave of infections tied to the protests.
Wall Street starts the second half of 2020 on uneasy ground.
On Wednesday, stocks inched higher as investors started a new quarter on a cautious note, balancing tentative signs of economic resilience and a steady climb in virus cases in the United States.
The S&P 500 rose slightly, while European markets were modestly lower, following a mixed day in Asia.
The first half of 2020 proved to be unpredictable as stocks on Wall Street experienced their biggest quarter-to-quarter swing in more than 80 years, propelled by the global pandemic and economic shutdowns, followed by extra big helpings of fiscal stimulus by central banks. In the three months that just ended, the S&P 500 rose 20 percent, the best calendar quarter for the broad market index since 1998.
And on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to extend the application period for a relief program for small businesses, granting five additional weeks for the remaining money in the program to be spent. The program still has about $130 billion available.
But the direction of stocks for the rest of the year is a mystery.
There’s so much uncertainty about the virus that roughly 40 percent of the S&P 500, about 200 companies, have withdrawn their customary forecasts about how their businesses will perform in the months ahead, according to data from S&P Capital IQ.
The companies’ silence has unnerved analysts, who have already axed their expectations for profit growth substantially. They’re now expecting that second-quarter profits will fall more than 40 percent, according to numbers compiled by the data provider FactSet.
In Queens, the borough with the most coronavirus cases and the fewest hospital beds per capita, hundreds of patients languished in understaffed wards, often unwatched by nurses or doctors. Some died after removing oxygen masks to go to the bathroom.
In hospitals in other impoverished neighborhoods around New York City, some critically ill patients were put on ventilator machines lacking key settings, and others pleaded for experimental drugs, only to be told that there were none available.
It was another story at private medical centers in Manhattan, which have billions of dollars in endowments and cater largely to wealthy people with insurance. Patients there got access to heart-lung bypass machines and specialized drugs like remdesivir, even as those in the city’s community hospitals were denied more basic treatments like continuous dialysis.
The pandemic struck the Caribbean at the height of high season, when snow birds, primarily from the United States, pack the beaches for winter and spring break, and provide the revenue to see resorts and sometimes entire countries through the lull of summer and fall.
Now, as the region begins to reopen to international travelers, it faces not just the challenge of the pandemic, but the financial blow dealt by the absence of cruising and the onset of hurricane season.
Excluding Guyana, the Caribbean economy is expected to contract by 3 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank.
“We’re not fooling ourselves. We fully expect to see a slow return of travel,” said Frank Comito, the chief executive and director general of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, which represents 33 national hotel associations in the region.
As countries reopen, most are mandating face masks indoors and social distancing.
As governments have clarified their policies, airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest, plan to resume service to many Caribbean destinations in July.
When they do, they’ll be flying into a hurricane season that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted could be above normal. In May, it forecast 13 to 19 named storms, including three to six major hurricanes at Category 3 and above.
On any given day, somewhere in the United States, someone is going to wake up, leave the house and get in an argument with a stranger about wearing masks.
Rules on masks are left up to state and local governments, but enforcing them often falls to store and restaurant employees. Grocery store managers are training staff on how to handle screaming customers. Fistfights are breaking out at convenience stores. Some restaurants even say they’d rather close than face the wrath of various Americans who believe that masks, which help prevent the spread of coronavirus, impinge on their freedom.
Joe Rogers, 47, of Dallas, said he had gotten in a physical fight last week over masks.
In line at a Mini-Mart, he said he spotted an unmasked customer behind him and shook his head. The man asked why Mr. Rogers had been looking at him and Mr. Rogers, again, shook his head.
“I wear a full face guard, the mask that they use when they spray pesticides,” he said. “He reached for my mask and tried to pull it off.” Mr. Rogers said his “natural instinct” came out and he put his hand up and knocked the man to the floor.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California ordered the mandatory wearing of masks in public on June 18. A little more than a week later, Hugo’s Tacos, a taqueria with two locations in the Los Angeles area, announced that it would close temporarily because its staff was “exhausted by the constant conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks.”
Bill Kohne, the chief executive of Hugo’s, said that it was only in the last few weeks that the encounters had become so vitriolic.
“The one that we most viscerally remember is that a customer at the pickup window who was asked to wear a mask literally threw a cup of water through the window at the clerk,” Mr. Kohne said.
Time to give your home a good scrubbing.
There’s no way around it: When you rarely leave home, things get dirty faster. Here are some tips for a good deep-cleaning.
Reporting was contributed by Jonah Engel Bromwich, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Sopan Deb, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sheri Fink, Elaine Glusac, Joseph Goldstein, Denise Grady, Jenny Gross, Iliana Magra, Patricia Mazzei, Jesse McKinley, Raphael Minder, David Montgomery, Claire Moses, Sharon Otterman, Matt Phillips, Adam Rasgon, Amanda Rosa, Brian M. Rosenthal, Mitch Smith, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Tracey Tully, Noah Weiland and Karen Zraick.