Virus cases surpassed 2 million in the U.S., and are increasing in 21 states amid efforts to reopen.
The United States surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to a New York Times database, which showed that the outbreak is continuing to spread, with cases rising in 21 states as governments ease restrictions and Americans try to return to their routines.
Despite improvement in states that were initially hit hard, such as New York, new hot spots have emerged in others, including Arizona, where a rise in cases and hospitalizations has alarmed local officials.
The state’s health director wrote a letter to hospitals over the weekend urging them to “fully activate” emergency plans, the Arizona Republic reported.
Cases in Arizona, one of the earliest states to ease restrictions, have been rising in recent days, with the state reporting 1,556 cases on Wednesday, a new daily high.
Banner Health, a major hospital system, warned earlier this month that hospitalizations in the state had been increasing and that “most concerning is the steep incline of Covid-19 patients on ventilators.” A PowerPoint the hospital prepared showed new cases mounting two weeks after the state’s stay-at-home order was lifted, as social distancing eased.
In early May Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona began easing restrictions, beginning with retail businesses and then moving on to barber shops and restaurants. President Trump traveled to Phoenix on May 5 and spoke at a Honeywell mask production facility, where he touted the nation’s move toward reopening: “So, reopening of our country — who would have ever thought we were going to be saying that?” The state’s stay-at-home order ended May 15.
Dr. Joe Gerald, a researcher at the University of Arizona, analyzed recent virus trends and wrote that “the true pace of viral transmission likely increased around the first week of May” when the social distancing orders began to be relaxed. He added that there was compelling evidence of increasing community transmission, driven by trends Yuma, Maricopa, Pima, and Santa Cruz Counties.
More states have seen an increase in cases over the past two weeks than a decrease, according to the Times database.
In Alaska, where new case reports had slowed to a trickle in May, the number of new cases is among the state’s worst since the start of the pandemic. There have been more than 100 new cases in the past week alone, bringing the state’s total since the beginning of March to 620. Recent outbreaks have been reported among seafood workers and ferry crew members. The state reported its first coronavirus death in more than a month on Tuesday.
Some parts of the South are finally showing signs of progress. New case reports have started trending downward in Alabama and have leveled off in Mississippi. But persistent growth continues in Arkansas, North Carolina and Florida. And in South Carolina, there have been nearly 1,000 new cases in the past two days.
Researchers around the world are developing more than 125 vaccines against the coronavirus. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are hoping to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year.
The New York Times is following the status of those that have reached trials in humans.
There are three phases before a vaccine is approved for use, but some projects have combined early phase trials to speed up the process. Some coronavirus vaccines are now in Phase I/II trials, for example, in which they are tested for the first time on hundreds of people.
Additionally, the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program has selected five vaccine projects to receive billions of dollars in federal funding and support before there’s proof that the vaccines work.
Work began in January with the deciphering of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. The first vaccine safety trials in humans started in March, but the road ahead remains uncertain. Some trials will fail, and others may end without a clear result. But a few may succeed in stimulating the immune system to produce effective antibodies against the virus.
The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and near zero, offering a grim outlook for the economy in 2020.
The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and near zero on Wednesday as the central bank projected a gradual economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession. In their first economic projections this year, Fed officials indicated that they expected the unemployment rate to end 2020 at 9.3 percent and remain elevated for years, coming in at 5.5 percent in 2022. Output is expected to be 6.5 percent lower at the end of this year than it was in the final quarter of 2019.
The new forecasts predict a much slower path back to economic strength than the Trump administration — and perhaps the stock market — seems to expect as the economy climbs out of a virus-spurred downturn. The Fed skipped its quarterly economic summary in March as the pandemic gripped the United States, sowing uncertainty as business activity came to a near standstill.
“The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term,” the Fed said in the post-meeting statement that accompanied the data outlook. The Fed said that it would continue buying government-backed debt “at least at the current pace” to sustain smooth market functioning, and that it “will closely monitor developments and is prepared to adjust its plans as appropriate.”
The Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, will hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m., where he is expected to discuss the economy’s trajectory and the Fed’s plans to support the recovery.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers on Wednesday that the next round of economic stimulus legislation must be targeted to help industries that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic and that the focus must be on creating incentives to get jobless workers rehired.
Testifying before the Senate’s small business committee, Mr. Mnuchin said that he was pleasantly surprised that the economy added 2.5 million jobs last month and that he believed the economy would improve dramatically in the second half of the year.
But the Treasury secretary also said that there is still “significant damage” to parts of the economy that need to be addressed.
The White House has held off on negotiating with Congress over another economic relief package, saying that they want to more thoroughly assess how the existing measures are working. However, Mr. Mnuchin made clear that the work of stabilizing the economy is not done.
“There’s no question that small businesses in many industries are going to need more help,” he said.
Mr. Mnuchin said that the administration will be looking at measures that will encourage businesses to rehire. It is also considering the need for more direct payments to Americans and adjustments to unemployment insurance benefits to ensure that people don’t have incentives to remain jobless. The Treasury secretary sounded cool to the idea of a capital-gains-tax holiday.
The Treasury secretary appeared with Jovita Carranza, the administrator of the Small Business Administration, to update lawmakers on the status of the Paycheck Protection Program, a lending initiative that was created in March as a lifeline for small businesses but that was initially plagued by glitches, delays and changing rules.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned on Wednesday that the protests sweeping the nation could lead to a spike in infections — and said that it is not enough that many people marching against police violence are wearing masks.
“Masks can help, but it’s masks plus physical separation and when you get congregations like we saw with the demonstrations, like we have said — myself and other health officials — that’s taking a risk,” Dr. Fauci said on the ABC program “Good Morning America.” He added, “Unfortunately, what we’re seeing now is just an example of the kinds of things we were concerned about.”
Dr. Fauci said a report that members of the D.C. National Guard had become infected after the protests “is certainly disturbing but is not surprising.”
The host, Robin Roberts, later said, “People are very passionate about what they’re fighting for and it’s very evident that they feel it’s worth the possible risk.” Dr. Fauci nodded his head.
A group of more than 1,000 people working in health and medicine have argued recently that the protests are “vital” to public health as the longtime discrimination of black Americans is itself a public health crisis. Some protesters have said they weighed the health risks against the need to protest and decided the movement against police brutality and racism was worth the risk.
In California, Jarrion Harris, 32, wore a cloth mask for a march in Hollywood on Sunday.
“I’m definitely not out here because I think Covid-19 has gone into the shadows,” Mr. Harris said. “It’s worth the risk.”
And at least 15 cases nationally have been linked to protests, including five National Guard members and one police officer in Nebraska. Health officials on Tuesday in Parsons, Kan., and Stevens Point, Wis., also announced new cases involving people who attended protests.
Typically, symptoms of the virus can take up to two weeks to appear after a person is exposed, and it is too soon to see any real change in the number of cases in areas where there have been large gatherings.
Court administrators across the country have turned to measuring tapes, diagrams and various other calculators to determine how many people a jury box can safely hold or how long it will take to transport a socially distanced jury pool by elevator. They have installed plexiglass barriers for witness stands and pondered texting as a means of client-lawyer communication.
Masks pose a number of conundrums. How would a lawyer help choose a jury without being able to see the fleeting smirks or scowls that are normally tipoffs about bias?
Other questions involve more fundamental principles of jurisprudence. Would the jury pool reflect the community if people in groups hit harder by Covid-19, like older residents, African-Americans and Latinos, were more reluctant to show up? Can a trial truly be considered public if the public has been told to stay at home?
“There’s an inherent conflict between the rights of someone on trial and our social-distancing policies,” Dylan Potter said after one of his clients became the first defendant to be tried by jury in Multnomah County, Ore., since the pandemic began. “As smooth as this went, at no point would I ever advise a client to go through with it in these times.”
In April, when the federal government offered $349 billion in loans to small businesses reeling from government shutdown orders to combat the pandemic, the funding ran out in just 13 days, prompting Congress to swiftly approve a second round of $310 billion.
Small businesses have since grown more wary of taking the money.
As of Monday, more than $130 billion was left in the fund, known as the Paycheck Protection Program. Even more striking was the fact that on many days last month, more money was being returned than borrowed, according to data from the Small Business Administration, which is overseeing the program.
For some owners, the program’s terms were too restrictive; for others, the criteria for loan forgiveness was too murky. Some public companies that received these loans returned them after a public outcry, and in the initial rush, some borrowers accidentally got duplicate loans that they, too, returned.
The turn of events is notable for a signature program of Congress’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. After all, small businesses are still in distress, and millions of storefronts around the country remain shuttered.
On Wednesday last week, Congress moved to loosen the program’s rules and give businesses more flexibility in spending their aid, and President Trump signed the bill on Friday.
The amended rules could help the remaining $130 billion move faster. However, having the terms of their loans revised on the fly again is a nightmare for borrowers, and for many small businesses that depend on foot traffic, like restaurants and nail salons, even the more relaxed relief terms might not be enough.
The world economy is facing the most severe recession in a century and could experience a halting recovery with a potential second wave of the virus and as countries embrace protectionist policies, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned in a new report.
A grim economic outlook released by the O.E.C.D. on Wednesday depicted a world economy that is walking on a “tightrope” as countries began to reopen after three months of lockdowns. Considerable uncertainty remains, however, as the prospects and timing of a vaccine remain unknown. Health experts fear that the spread of the virus could accelerate again later this year.
“Extraordinary policies will be needed to walk the tightrope towards recovery,” said Laurence Boone, the O.E.C.D.’s chief economist.
The O.E.C.D., which comprises 37 of the world’s leading economies, predicts that the global economy will contract by 6 percent this year if a second wave of the virus is avoided. If a second wave does occur, world economic output will fall 7.6 percent, before rebounding by 2.8 percent in 2021. The two scenarios are viewed as equally plausible.
The report is slightly more ominous than other recent forecasts from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
New York Roundup
‘I’ve never seen it like this’: The pandemic has transformed the experience of riding N.Y.C.’s subway.
Subway cars lurched through a system eerily devoid of stray plastic bags, unidentifiable liquids and, notably, people. In stations, the loop of prerecorded announcements that seep into New York City’s collective subconscious (“Stand clear of the closing doors, please”) offered a new message to riders: “Please, do your part to reduce crowding.”
The pandemic drained more than 90 percent of the subway’s usual ridership and transit officials remain uncertain whether all 5.5 million weekday riders will ever return.
Now the ability of the subway to regain riders’ confidence will play a crucial role in the city’s recovery. In the interim, though, the subway’s transformation serves as a vivid reminder of the outbreak’s aftershocks.
“All my life, I’ve never seen it like this,” Melody Johnson, a nurse who lives in Brooklyn, said while riding an uptown No. 2 train one recent morning. “Look around — we’re empty.”
After hitting a low of 7 percent of the usual passenger load in April, ridership levels have recently crept up to around 15 percent. On Monday, as the city started reopening, around 113,000 more riders rode the subway compared to the same day the previous week, officials said.
Here’s a look at other developments:
At the governor’s daily briefing on Wednesday, one of his aides said the state would soon issue guidance for municipalities about how and whether to reopen public pools.
New York City’s mayor said Wednesday that he would like 50,000 residents to be tested for the virus each day; the city had reached a high of 33,000.
Early this spring at Brooklyn Hospital Center, a cheering section would materialize outside every evening as 7 p.m. and exhausted hospital workers would come out at the end of their shifts to soak up the love. On Monday night, with the city’s outbreak diminished, the organizers threw a farewell party.
A study indicates Britain, where more than 40,000 have died from the virus, may have missed a chance to slow its assault.
Only “a tiny fraction” of the first virus cases in Britain came directly from China while a vast majority came via Europe, a study of the genetic lineages of virus samples has found.
The results, which have not yet been peer reviewed, suggest that Britain could have slowed the arrival of the virus by moving faster to advise against all nonessential overseas travel instead of only counseling against travel to mainland China, where the virus originated. Britain advised against nonessential travel to China on Jan. 28. But the government did not advise until March 17 against nonessential travel overseas.
The study comes as Britain, along with the rest of the world, is taking steps to reopen. At a news conference Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to ease lockdown restrictions, including allowing single-adult households to form a “support bubble” with one other household without practicing social distancing. “We’re making this change to support those who are particularly lonely,” he said.
Here are other developments from around the world.
Greece, a country that largely managed to contain the virus, is seeing a spike in cases, just days before it opens its borders to tourists. On Monday, the government announced that in the past four days 97 people had tested positive for the coronavirus since Thursday; 30 of them had traveled from abroad. The government said on Tuesday that it would increase testing and localized restrictions, according to local reports.
Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, resigned Wednesday from the committee to respond to the pandemic in the province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a position he was appointed to two months ago. Dr. Mukwege said he was resigning because of difficulties in testing procedures and disorganization in efforts to fight the virus. Congo has reported 4,259 cases and 90 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister, said Wednesday that most travel restrictions on incoming European Union and Swiss citizens would be lifted as of June 16. Controls at German land borders would also be eased. E.U. or Swiss citizens arriving from European coronavirus hot spots — regions where at least 50 coronavirus infections per 100,000 people were registered in the previous seven days — would still have to quarantine when traveling to most German states. Controls on flights coming from Spain will be lifted on June 21.
A Syrian pharmacist shares his story fighting the virus.
Hosam al-Ali is an activist who has supported the democracy protests against Syria’s authoritarian president since they began nine years ago, and he knows a thing or two about battling adversity. But Mr. al-Ali, 35, is more than a little worried about his new adversary: the coronavirus.
A pharmacist in Idlib, the last province still in the hands of Syrian opposition groups, Mr. al-Ali volunteered to be the main virus-response coordinator in his region.
As he set to work, Mr. al-Ali began keeping an audio diary, which he shared day by day with Carlotta Gall, the Istanbul bureau chief for The New York Times.
For some journalists in Latin America, covering the pandemic has meant putting their lives at risk.
In Peru, the National Journalists Association has identified at least 22 journalists who were believed to have died of Covid-19, including 11 who covered the outbreak, said Zuliana Laínez, its general secretary. Many were freelancers without access to protective equipment, Ms. Laínez said.
“They did their coverage using homemade masks and working in unsafe conditions,” she said in an interview. “Many feel they are invisible to the eyes of the government.”
The region is confronting outbreaks rivaling Europe at the peak of its crisis, but without robust health and social welfare systems to rely on. At the same time, the devastating economic fallout of lockdowns has spurred layoffs at media organizations, and freelancers have seen gigs dry up. Many journalists have struggled to find adequate protective gear while in the field.
In Ecuador, one of the hardest-hit countries, the press freedom organization Fundamedios said that 11 journalists who had symptoms of the virus had died. Many were never tested, said Desirée Yépez, the group’s director of content.
In both countries, journalists have protested firings and demanded delayed payments and other benefits. Ms. Yépez said that many media workers had not received government aid and were struggling.
The pandemic has also raised the specter of new threats to press freedom. A report published in April by Reporters Without Borders concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil had stepped up his attacks on the media amid the pandemic, blaming them for “hysteria.”
On May 31, a television station in Guayaquil, the center of Ecuador’s outbreak, was targeted by an assailant who lobbed a stick of dynamite at its entrance. The attack may have been linked to the station’s reporting on corruption linked to sales of protective equipment during the pandemic. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called it “a clear message of intimidation.”
Republicans expect to move their national convention from Charlotte, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., a shift planned after Mr. Trump told officials in North Carolina that he did not want to use social distancing measures aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus, according to three senior Republicans.
The decision could change, the Republicans cautioned, but as of now, officials are on track to announce the new location as early as Thursday.
Jacksonville has been Republicans’ top choice for days, after Mr. Trump told the governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, a Democrat, that he needed an answer about whether Charlotte could accommodate the convention in August with a promise that there would not be social distancing.
Once they decided to uproot the convention, Mr. Trump’s aides and Republican officials had wanted to relocate to a state and city controlled by Republicans. Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida, where Ron DeSantis, a Republican and an ally of Mr. Trump, is the governor. Jacksonville’s mayor, Lenny Curry, is a longtime Republican official.
New reported cases of the coronavirus are on the rise in both North Carolina and Florida.
What exactly the event will look like remains unclear. Conventions normally last for four days, with thousands of party officials, delegates, donors, members of the news media and others coming together for speeches and votes.
Mr. Cooper had repeatedly told Mr. Trump that it was too early to make any promises about social distancing, and state health officials said the Republican National Committee and the host committee in Charlotte provided a requested plan for safely holding the event.
The virus has upended the usual campaign cycle. Jon Huntsman Jr., Republican candidate for governor in Utah, said on Wednesday he had tested positive for the virus, becoming the latest politician to do so.
The government vehicles began appearing in Indonesian towns and cities in May, equipped with loudspeakers blaring a blunt message:
“You can have sex. You can get married. But don’t get pregnant,” health workers read from a script. “Dads, please control yourself. You can get married. You can have sex as long as you use contraception.”
Indonesian officials are worried about a possible unintended consequence of the country’s coronavirus restrictions: a post-pandemic baby boom.
In April, as people across Indonesia stayed home, about 10 million married couples stopped using contraception, according to the National Population and Family Planning Agency, which collects data from clinics and hospitals that distribute birth control.
Many women couldn’t get access to contraceptives because their health care provider was closed. Others did not want to risk a visit, for fear of catching the virus. Now, officials are expecting a wave of unplanned births next year, many of them to poor families who were already struggling.
“We are nervous about leaving home, not to mention going to the hospital, which is the source of all diseases,” said Lana Mutisari, 36, a married woman in a suburb of Jakarta, the capital, who has been putting off an appointment to get an IUD. “There are all kinds of viruses there.”
Hasto Wardoyo, an obstetrician and gynecologist who heads the family planning agency, has estimated that there could be 370,000 to 500,000 extra births early next year, in a country that typically sees about 4.8 million a year.
That would be a setback for Indonesia’s extensive efforts to promote smaller families, a key aspect of its fight against child malnutrition. Many poor and young married women in Indonesia get free contraceptives, many through hormone shots. But their clinic visits were disrupted by the virus.
The pandemic puts a spotlight on medical waste.
If you live in a city, you’ve probably seen a lot of discarded face masks lying around on sidewalks over the last month or two. They’re also ending up in the sea.
In a posting on Facebook in late May, a French environmentalist said there soon could be “more masks than jellyfish” in the sea.
It’s hard to say how much of that waste comes from hospitals and how much comes from households. But, over all, some doctors and hospital managers say, the pandemic has raised awareness of a growing medical waste problem in America and exposed an urgent need to make the system more sustainable.
Currently, the country’s health care system generates roughly 30 pounds of waste per hospital bed every day and accounts for about 10 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s because, in the last decade or so, hospitals have increasingly favored equipment intended for single use, much of it, like scopes and staplers, that could possibly be reusable.
“I’ve never met a clinician who is OK with the amount of garbage we produce,” said Dr. Cassandra Thiel, an ophthalmologist and professor of population health at NYU Langone hospital.
Reporting was contributed by Manuela Andreoni, Choe Sang-Hun, Michael Cooper, Jonathan Corum, Stacy Cowley, Abdi Latif Dahir, Shaila Dewan, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sheri Fink, Christina Goldbaum, Maggie Haberman, Josh Katz, David D. Kirkpatrick, José María León Cabrera, Iliana Magra, Allison McCann, Andy Newman, Aimee Ortiz, Richard C. Paddock, Alan Rappeport, Tatiana Schlossberg, Christopher F. Schuetze, Dera Menra Sijibat, Natasha Singer, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Matt Stevens, Eileen Sullivan, Jin Wu, Carl Zimmer and Karen Zraick.
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