As infections in the U.S. are rising sharply, the death rate has dropped.
After a minor late-spring lull, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States is again on the rise. States like Arizona, Florida and Texas are seeing some of their highest numbers to date, and as the nation hurtles deeper into summer, the surge shows few signs of stopping.
Yet the virus appears to be killing fewer of the people it infects — a seemingly counterintuitive trend that might not last, experts said.
In April and May, Covid-19 led to as many as 3,000 deaths per day and claimed the lives of roughly 7 to 8 percent of Americans known to have been infected. Now, even though cases are rising in the majority of states, some of which are hitting single-day records, the number of daily deaths is closer to 600, and the death rate is less than 5 percent.
Because death reports can lag diagnoses by weeks, the current rise in coronavirus cases could portend increases in mortality in the days to come. However, there are also a few factors that can help explain the apparent drop.
One is increased diagnostic testing, which has identified many more infected individuals with mild or no symptoms. That means those who die with Covid-19 form a smaller overall proportion of cases, said Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
And with more tests available, infections are often identified earlier, “which allows us to intervene earlier,” said Saskia Popescu, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious disease expert in Arizona.
Health experts also noted that treatments had improved, and that the virus is now infecting more young people, who are less likely to die of Covid-19.
Reports of new cases have increased 90 percent in the United States in the last two weeks. More than 53,000 new daily coronavirus cases were reported in the United States on Friday, according to a New York Times database. That total exceeded all previous daily counts but the 55,595 on Thursday, the first time the number had passed 50,000.
At least five states set single-day case records on Friday: Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to data compiled by The New York Times. In South Carolina, where more than 1,800 new cases were announced Friday, the positivity rate has hovered around 20 percent this week, up from about 10 percent in early June. In Kansas, where at least 770 new cases were announced, daily reporting totals vary widely because the state government only releases new data three times a week. The state reported positivity rates exceeding 10 percent for the first three days in July, a significant uptick from mid-June when the rate hovered between 5 and 7 percent.
On Thursday, the United States set a single-day case record for the sixth time in nine days, with more than 55,000 new cases announced, and single-day highs in eight states. Domestic travel restrictions have re-emerged, and many locales have slowed or reversed reopenings.
The vast majority of July 4 fireworks displays in big cities and small rural towns have been canceled. Most politicians, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, are forgoing the traditional parades and flag-waving appearances.
President Trump, however, has a different, discordant message: The sparkly, booming show must go on at all costs. Mr. Trump was in South Dakota on Friday evening for a massive fireworks display at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a made-for-TV patriotic display that he has spent years lobbying to revive. (There have been no fireworks at Mount Rushmore since 2009 because of fears that they would set off forest fires and contaminate groundwater.)
Few in the packed crowd of supporters wore masks. In his pre-fireworks speech, Mr. Trump barely mentioned the pandemic, which has killed more than 120,000 people in America, instead choosing to cast himself as waging battle against a “new far-left fascism.”
Hours before Mr. Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore, law enforcement officials, many holding shields, clashed with protesters blocking a road.
As tension escalated, an officer warned demonstrators that they should disperse if they wanted to avoid chemical agents.
“It’s not going to be a pleasant smell,” the officer said, according to a video posted on Twitter. “If you don’t mind it, you can stay here, but it’s going to be very irritating.”
Anti-Trump protesters chanted and held signs reading, “You are trespassing on stolen land,” and “Black Lives Matter,” according to video footage of the event. A group of Trump supporters held Trump 2020 posters and “All Lives Matter” signs.
Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Mr. Trump’s eldest son and a top fund-raising official for the Trump re-election campaign, tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday before the event at Mount Rushmore, a person familiar with her condition said.
Ms. Guilfoyle traveled to South Dakota with Donald Trump Jr. They did not travel aboard Air Force One, according to the person familiar with her condition, and she was the only person in the group who tested positive.
The president plans to follow up his trip with a “Salute to America” celebration the following day on the South Lawn at the White House, including a military flyover and a massive fireworks display on the National Mall that Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, has warned violates local health guidelines.
In many places across the country, face coverings have gone from suggestions to mandates, but Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a Republican, said there were no plans to enforce social distancing during Mr. Trump’s open-air address before a live audience, framed by some of the nation’s most revered presidents.
Early in the pandemic, more than 1,000 cases were linked to the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, which remains one of the country’s largest known clusters. But in recent weeks, South Dakota has had one of the country’s most encouraging trend lines. The state has averaged a few-dozen new cases each day, including 85 announced Friday. There has not been a day with more than 100 new cases in South Dakota since late May.
A number of protests are planned for Independence Day in the nation’s capital, ahead of the annual fireworks display and a military flyover hosted by Mr. Trump.
Since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the end of May, Washington has become a center of protests. Its mayor, Muriel Bowser, publicly challenged Mr. Trump’s decision to order National Guard troops into the city during demonstrations against racism and police brutality, and she presided over the painting of the words “Black Lives Matter” in giant yellow letters on a street near the White House.
Black Lives Matter DC and two other groups, Sunrise and the Black Youth Project 100, announced several events over the weekend focused on defunding the police. The Instagram account #dcteensaction lists at least nine protests for Saturday, including a march near the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and an evening protest beginning in Malcolm X Park.
For the official celebration, the federal government said it would provide around 300,000 face coverings, and a news release from the Department of the Interior warned visitors to observe social distancing — while noting that viewing areas on the Mall would be accessible by four security entry points. Ms. Bowser told reporters that she did not think the event was in keeping with federal health officials’ guidelines for gatherings during the pandemic.
William H. Lamar IV, the pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, a few blocks from the White House, said that he did not normally celebrate the Fourth but that this year the country might be observing the holiday with more honesty than usual.
“The symbols coming down, that’s only the beginning,” Reverend Lamar said. “That’s people saying, ‘We need a new story. This story excludes me. It is inherently violent and evil. It murdered me. It erased me as a human being. I deserve a story that includes me and wants me to flourish.’”
He added: “Is there a kind of national story that can hold us together in this multiethnic, multiracial, multireligious reality? The survival of this experiment called America depends upon it.”
Brazil, which has more coronavirus cases than any country but the United States, topped 1.5 million total infections on Friday, just two weeks after reaching a million cases, according to a New York Times database.
But even as the country passed that grim milestone, President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed a measure that would have provided masks to vulnerable groups and required businesses to provide masks to their employees, according to The Associated Press.
Since mid-June, some major cities in Brazil have eased preventive measures. Shopping malls have already reopened in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Beaches are starting to draw crowds again. And Rio allowed gyms and bars to reopen at 50 percent capacity on Thursday, while some hospital systems were close to running out of intensive care beds.
If the country’s trend lines hold, some epidemiologists project the pandemic’s death toll in Brazil could surpass that of the U.S. by late July. Brazil had recorded 63,174 total deaths as of Friday; the U.S. has recorded 129,402.
Some experts initially thought that Brazil was well equipped to cope with the pandemic, based on its track record during past public health emergencies. Brazil has a public health care system that, while underfunded, provides robust coverage across the country.
Starting July 10, England will drop its mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from more than 50 countries but leave the restrictions in place for travelers coming from the United States, deepening the isolation of America. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland apply their own travel policies and may not follow England’s lead in easing restrictions.
The European Union recently upheld a ban on U.S. travelers, even as it opened its borders to visitors from Canada, Rwanda, Thailand and 15 other countries. England’s policy, announced on Friday, is less restrictive: Americans can still enter so long as they agree to isolate themselves for two weeks.
The United States has barred most visitors from Britain since March, after briefly exempting them from a travel ban on the European Union. At the time, Europe was dealing with far more coronavirus infections than the United States. Since then, the epicenter of the pandemic has moved across the Atlantic.
However, Britain still has the world’s third-highest known death toll, with triple-digit death counts still coming most days.
More than half the country’s nursing homes have had at least one case since March. The government announced on Friday that nursing home residents will be tested for the virus monthly, while staff members will receive tests weekly, officials announced.
Some public-health experts said the fractious debate over the travel quarantine had distracted from more pressing problems, like safely reopening Britain’s schools and organizing an effective test-and-trace program.
“The U.K. government seems focused on giving people a summer pandemic holiday instead of dealing with the hard issues facing the aviation industry for the coming year,” said Professor Devi Sridhar, the director of the global health governance program at the University of Edinburgh.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said earlier this week that it was Britons’ “patriotic duty” to go to the pub when they reopen at 6 a.m. on Saturday, has now urged people not to “overdo it.” His warning came after tens of thousands have flocked to beaches, organized illegal music parties and violated social-distancing rules in recent weeks.
“Let’s not blow it now, folks,” Mr. Johnson told LBC radio on Friday, weeks after he announced that the country’s “long hibernation” was over and that the virus was under control.
Spending two weeks quarantined in a hotel room is not a pleasant experience, as thousands of people who’ve flown internationally since the pandemic began can attest.
But the 300 foreigners confined to a Ramada hotel in Yongin, South Korea, have it worse than most.
Each day for the past week, from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., protesters outside the hotel have been raising a deafening noise with drums, brass gongs and loudspeakers blaring music. They are local residents, angry that the government chose a hotel in their neighborhood as a quarantine site.
“Even with double-glazed windows, they can still be heard when the windows are closed,” said James Martin Thompson, an app developer from Washington, from his fifth-floor room in the hotel, the Ramada by Wyndham Yongin.
“When you’re stuck in a small indoor space 24/7, being able to open the windows makes it much more bearable,” said Mr. Thompson. “And during much of the daytime, that isn’t practical with the noise coming from the demonstrators.”
On June 11, the South Korean government designated the Ramada as one of eight facilities where foreigners who arrive with no Covid-19 symptoms are quarantined for two weeks.
Three days later, a foreigner quarantined at the hotel tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, residents of the neighborhood, called Jeondae-ri, have been accusing the government of recklessly exposing them to infection.
On June 27, protesters began their daily noise-making campaign in front of the 18-story hotel, hoping to force the authorities to send foreigners elsewhere for quarantine.
A large banner that protesters hung in front of the Ramada read, “This is a hotel that produced a confirmed Covid-19 case. Shut it down immediately!”
The foreigners are confined to their rooms with little hope of escaping the torment, even if they wanted to try.
Vice President Mike Pence changed his travel plans in Arizona after Secret Service agents set to accompany with him tested positive or showed symptoms, two administration officials said on Thursday.
Mr. Pence had been scheduled to visit Arizona on Tuesday, but multiple factors related to the spread of the virus foiled those plans, according to a person familiar with Mr. Pence’s travel.
A swift rise in new cases in the state has overwhelmed testing centers in recent days, and Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, ordered bars, gyms and movie theaters closed this week. As of Friday, there have been more than 4,300 new cases reported in the state. In an apparent acknowledgment of outbreaks erupting across the South and the West, the vice president canceled his plan to headline a “Faith in America” campaign rally in Tucson on Tuesday and then tour Yuma with Mr. Ducey.
Instead, Mr. Pence opted for a shorter visit to Phoenix on Wednesday, where he participated in a public health briefing at Sky Harbor International Airport.
“Help is on the way,” Mr. Pence said at a news conference with Mr. Ducey at the airport, after descending the steps of Air Force Two wearing a mask, the latest sign of the administration’s evolving stance on face coverings.
But the positive tests and symptoms of Secret Service agents expected to be in proximity to the man who is next in line for the presidency were some of the factors that prompted his change of schedule, the officials said. The news of the agents who showed symptoms, or tested positive, was first reported by The Washington Post.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Pence did not respond to a request for comment.
The latest illnesses among the small circle of individuals who interact directly with the vice president were a reminder of the dangers of carrying on with campaign and official government travel as the pandemic rages on.
President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras has been discharged from the hospital after receiving more than two weeks of inpatient treatment for Covid-19 and related pneumonia.
He was admitted on June 17, hours after he tested positive for the illness. His wife, Ana García, also tested positive, but convalesced at home.
“My commitment to Honduras is stronger than ever,” Mr. Hernández said on Twitter, announcing his release on Thursday. “To work!”
Officials said he would continue his recuperation in isolation at home.
Honduras, like many other countries in Latin America, is struggling to contain the spread of the virus. As of Friday, more than 21,000 cases had been confirmed in Honduras, along with more than 590 deaths.
The World Health Organization has declared Latin America the center of the pandemic, and several countries in the region are now suffering some of the world’s worst outbreaks.
The organization’s regional director for the Americas, Carissa Etienne, warned this week that the death toll from Covid-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean could roughly quadruple by October to more than 438,000.
As case counts continued to hit record highs in many states, local officials released new guidance, creating a patchwork system for Americans planning to celebrate the holiday weekend.
As many as 80 percent of community fireworks displays in large cities and small rural towns have been canceled this year over fears that they would create a social distancing nightmare. In New York City, instead of the usual hourlong fireworks extravaganza, Macy’s will have five-minute displays in undisclosed locations across the five boroughs. The grand finale on Saturday, which will also be from an undisclosed location, will be televised.
In Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties had already announced they were closing beaches for the Fourth of July weekend. And on Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez’s countywide curfew, which was announced Thursday, went into effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mr. Giménez also rolled back the opening of movie theaters, arcades, casinos, concert halls, bowling halls and adult entertainment venues that recently had their reopening plans approved by the county. Florida reported more than 9,400 new cases Friday. Exactly one month earlier, the state reported just 1,317 new cases.
In Mississippi, which reported more than 900 new coronavirus cases Friday — the second-highest single day total recorded by the state — Gov. Tate Reeves’s executive orders will allow indoor gatherings of up to 20 people. Bars and restaurants can offer indoor dining as long as they stay below 50 percent capacity. Backyard BBQs can have up to 100 people so long as guests remain socially distanced. And outdoor stadiums will also be allowed to remain open at 25 percent capacity, potentially allowing thousands to gather at a single event.
And in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott reversed course on Thursday, ordering residents in counties with 20 or more virus cases to wear masks in public. Mr. Abbott, a Republican, had previously opposed attempts by Democratic mayors and other local officials to require everyone in their cities to wear masks in public. Texas has been one of the worst-hit states in the past week reaching a record number of hospitalizations on Friday, up 270 to 7,652, and reporting more than 6,400 new cases.
Elsewhere in the U.S.:
In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order allowing local officials to pass mask ordinances on Friday. Mr. Hutchinson, a Republican, never implemented a statewide stay-at-home order, instead opting to close high-contact businesses like gyms and personal care services. More than 540 new cases were announced in the state on Friday, just a day after a record 878 cases were reported, according to a New York Times database.
Critics of Amtrak’s newly announced cutbacks worry that the rail agency will not bring back service to the long-distance routes it has long sought to end. With ridership down 95 percent and revenue plummeting, Amtrak plans to cut up to 20 percent of its work force by October and suspend daily service on routes that service over 220 communities. Amtrak has received letters from 16 senators asking why it needed to enact such steep cuts since it had already received $1 billion in emergency aid.
Results of Major League Baseball’s first round of widespread coronavirus testing were released on Friday, as preseason training resumed in full after being shut down for more than three months. Out of 3,185 tests, 38 were positive (31 players and seven staff members). The league plans to open a 60-game season on July 23, with no fans in the stands. Preseason preparation has resumed at teams’ home stadiums rather than returning to spring-training sites in Florida and Arizona.
In New York Times/Siena College surveys of voters in battleground states for the presidential election, supporters of Joseph R. Biden Jr. were far more likely than President Trump’s to be concerned about in-person voting during the pandemic. About 40 percent of Mr. Biden’s supporters said they would feel uncomfortable, compared with just 6 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters. Most of these people said they would go to the polls anyway, but 8 percent of Mr. Biden’s surveyed supporters and less than 2 percent of Mr. Trump’s said they would be too uncomfortable to go vote. Voting by mail for any reason is available in all six battleground states included in the Times/Siena data.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago said Thursday that travelers from 15 states with large outbreaks would have to quarantine for two weeks or face up to $7,000 in fines.
Some 13,400 employees, or nearly 70 percent of the staffing, of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that handles U.S. visas and naturalization, face furlough by Aug. 3 because the immigration processing fees that fund it have plummeted
The actors’ union, citing safety concerns, tells members not to work on a film being produced by Michael Bay.
The SAG-AFTRA actors’ union issued a do-not-work notice to its members for a pandemic-themed independent film starring Demi Moore and Craig Robinson, saying that producers had “not been transparent about their safety protocols.” Producers for the film, “Songbird,” include Michael Bay, who is better known for his work on big-budget films, and Adam Goodman, a former president of production at Paramount Pictures.
“Songbird” has drawn attention as one of the first movies aiming to roll cameras since the virus brought production in Hollywood to a halt in March. California allowed film and television shoots to resume on June 12 — under strict safety protocols — and Los Angeles began issuing permits last week. So far, however, only a handful of TV shows (mostly soap operas like “The Bold and the Beautiful”) have restarted production; none of the major movie studios are expected to shoot anything before next month.
The independent companies behind “Songbird” have said they planned to use nontraditional camera techniques to avoid having actors in proximity. The film, a thriller, takes place in the near future during a pandemic lockdown — martial law has been imposed to combat a fast-mutating virus — and focuses on a young woman and a motorbike courier with rare immunity.
Representatives for the producers either declined to comment or did not respond to a query. Invisible Narratives, one of the companies involved, told Deadline, an entertainment trade news site, that it was “actively working to resolve this paperwork issue.”
Here are tips on how to have some socially distanced fun this weekend.
Leaders in many states are urging people to stay at home this holiday weekend. Here are some safe ideas for enjoying the Fourth of July holiday.
Reporting was contributed by Manuela Andreoni, Vikas Bajaj, Aurelien Breeden, Benedict Carey, Stephen Castle, Nate Cohn, Richard Fausset, Marie Fazio, J. David Goodman, Jenny Gross, Maggie Haberman, Rebecca Halleck, Anemona Hartocollis, Annie Karni, Tyler Kepner, Corey Kilgannon, Mark Landler, Adam Liptak, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Raphael Minder, David Montgomery, Adam Nossiter, Elian Peltier, Amy Qin, Christopher F. Schuetze, Kirk Semple, Mitch Smith, Sabrina Tavernise, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Pranshu Verma and Katherine J. Wu.