Key data of the day
The outbreak is growing: Two of the highest daily tallies in new global cases were reported this week.
The number of coronavirus cases continues to grow globally, with two of the highest tallies in the history of the pandemic recorded this week, driven by outbreaks in Latin America, Africa, South Asia and the United States, which still posts some of the highest counts of new cases.
More than 140,000 cases were reported on Tuesday and another 166,000 on Wednesday, two of the three highest tallies since the outbreak began. Seventy-seven nations have seen a growth in new cases over the past two weeks, while only 43 have seen declines.
While Wednesday’s total, the record high, was inflated by a backlog of more than 30,000 mishandled and unreported cases that Chile added to its tally, the rising daily numbers reflect the pandemic’s stubborn grip on the world.
Brazil reported more than 32,000 new cases on Wednesday, the most in the world. The United States reported the second-most: more than 25,000. The leaders of both nations have been criticized for their handling of the outbreak.
But the virus is also taking off in other parts of the world.
If the outbreak was defined early on by a series of shifting epicenters — including Wuhan, China; Iran; northern Italy; Spain; and New York — it is now notable for how widespread it is. And more risks lie ahead as nations around the world are beginning to reopen their economies even though the virus has yet to be vanquished.
The virus is spreading rapidly in South Asia, including in India, which reported a record number of new cases Wednesday. India, which initially adopted some of the strictest measures in the world to curb the spread — placing all 1.3 billion of its citizens under a lockdown — moved to reopen even with its strained public health system near the breaking point. And the outbreak is spreading rapidly in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
It took Africa nearly 100 days to reach 100,000 cases, the World Health Organization noted, but only 19 days to reach 200,000 cases. South Africa now averages a thousand more new cases each day than it did two weeks ago.
And some countries that had seemed to be improving — including Israel, Sweden, Costa Rica and others — have seen cases rise again.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited the rising rate of infections earlier this month when he moved to slow the rate of reopening. On Thursday, he said that the nation was “done with reopening the economy” at a going-away party for a health ministry official.
But the nation is not really done: Rail service is set to be restored Monday.
California, seeing record increases in cases, orders people to wear masks in many settings.
As cases continue to mount in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered people to wear face masks in most indoor — and some outdoor — public settings.
He issued the order as California reported more than 4,000 new cases on Wednesday, a new one-day record. The new guidance states that “people in California must wear face coverings” in indoor public spaces from offices to Ubers to apartment hallways, and outdoors if it is not possible to stay six feet away from people in other households.
“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered, putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Mr. Newsom said. “California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”
The updated guidance comes amid national tension over masks, which have become a political flash point between those who prioritize safety and those who have come to associate them with political correctness. President Trump has eschewed masks in public. This week Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, which is also seeing record numbers of new daily cases this week, gave mayors the power to require wearing masks.
In California, face mask requirements have varied from county to county, and at least seven county health officers have recently resigned amid controversy over those and other preventive measures. Earlier this week, Santa Clara County revealed that its public health officer had been threatened.
The Newsom administration noted that a growing body of scientific research showed that “people with no or few symptoms of Covid-19 can still spread the disease and that the use of face coverings, combined with physical distancing and frequent hand washing, will reduce the spread of Covid-19.”
The state’s orders make exceptions for toddlers, people with disabilities that prevent them from wearing face coverings, restaurant customers while eating and people who are incarcerated.
College and professional sports in the U.S. stumble toward a renewal that may not come in 2020.
As cases rise in 20 states around the United States, pockets of student-athletes returning to campus have tested positive, underscoring the difficulty colleges and professional sports leagues face as they prepare for the possibility of a fall sports season.
The University of Texas, where football players began voluntary workouts this week, said Thursday that 13 players had tested positive, and another 10 were self-quarantining after officials carried out contact tracing. Last week, the University of Houston suspended voluntary workouts for its athletes after six of them tested positive. And at Southern Methodist University, officials said this week that five of 75 athletes tested were positive.
At least eight Kansas State University athletes tested positive for the virus since returning to campus, officials said this week. The university’s athletic director said that they had anticipated a “small number” of positive tests. University officials said athletes were being asked to quarantine for seven days after arriving on campus and were not being allowed to practice until they tested negative. Many of the athletes who tested positive were asymptomatic, according to their universities.
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday on CNN. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”
In professional sports, no leagues have regular-season games on any public schedules. Because of precautions, there are few solid plans to include fans. And the N.F.L. slate could be in some jeopardy as teams are unsure about the start of training camps in July.
Major League Baseball may not happen, either. For weeks, team owners and players have not been able to agree on how to stage a shortened season, creating the possibility of no baseball season for the first time in 150 years.
The N.B.A. wants to quarantine teams in Florida to finish its season in August and perform a two-month postseason beyond that, though some players are balking at such confinement. The N.H.L. has similar ideas, but nothing is truly scheduled.
There are some glints of optimism. Professional golf, NASCAR and combat sports have returned — and tennis is expected to resume in August — though more as made-for-TV events than as anything resembling a collective experience. NASCAR will hold a race in Alabama this weekend, but attendance will be limited to 5,000 fans.
Texas schools to reopen in the fall for in-person classes.
Texas, which has reported large increases in new cases in recent days, plans to reopen its schools in the fall with both in-person classes and options for remote instruction, the governor’s office said Thursday.
After Gov. Greg Abbott announced the plans in a conference call with lawmakers, one of the state’s major teachers’ organizations quickly raised concerns about restarting classes during the pandemic and demanded that teachers be directly involved in any planning for reopening schools.
“We don’t think right now that it’s safe to be talking about reopening school buildings,” said Clay Robison, a spokesman for the 65,000-member Texas State Teachers Association.
Texas in recent weeks has seen a sharp increase in cases, and on Tuesday and Wednesday it reported the highest daily totals of new cases since the pandemic began.
John Wittman, a spokesman for the governor, said that the Texas education commissioner, Mike Morath, “will be announcing a plan next week laying out guidelines and health protocols for students to safely return to school in the fall.”
In a statement to the news media, Mr. Morath said the plan would allow for students, teachers and staff to return to school campuses for class, but he said that there will also be “flexibility” for students to be taught remotely if their families have health concerns.
Governor Abbott is moving forward with a plan to reopen the Texas economy and social activity even as the nation’s second-largest state faces a spike in cases and hospitalization rates.
A doctor in a small city in Canada tested positive. Then the police opened a criminal investigation into the matter.
The crime? He had driven from the province of New Brunswick into Quebec, and returned without self-isolating, violating an emergency rule. The authorities accused him of bringing back the virus and sparking an outbreak, which he disputes. He believes he contracted the virus at his hospital job.
The story of the doctor, Jean Robert Ngola Monzinga, captures the fear and uncertainty the pandemic has unleashed. While it has brought some communities together, it has turned others against one another. In some places, doctors and nurses have been physically attacked and ostracized as perceived vectors of the disease.
Dr. Ngola made the trip to pick up his 4-year-old daughter, and stopped for a job interview along the way. Two weeks later, he and his daughter tested positive. The same day, he was denounced online and by the provincial government, and suspended from his job without pay.
Some say Dr. Ngola’s example shows the calamitous effect a single person’s carelessness can have; others say it highlights the danger of scapegoating individuals for suffering unleashed by a virus that will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Weeks after he was diagnosed, Dr. Ngola remains hidden in his home, not even leaving for groceries for fear he will be targeted. He is an easy mark — a rare black man and immigrant in the shrinking mill city of Campbellton. He believes that racism played a role in his public denunciation and shaming.
“I have been treated like a criminal,” Dr. Ngola said. “I am a destroyed person.”
Wall Street faced another day of unsteady trading on Thursday, with stocks drifting between negative and positive territory as investors considered new data on unemployment claims and the latest reports on fresh outbreaks.
In the end, the S&P 500 ended essentially unchanged.
Another 1.5 million U.S. workers applied for state unemployment benefits last week, a report released Thursday by the Labor Department showed. Not all the unemployment claims necessarily reflect new layoffs. Some states are still working through backlogs of claims filed earlier in the crisis; in other cases, people filing under multiple programs may be counted twice.
But three months into the crisis, there is little doubt that layoffs remain elevated. Economists warn that job losses could worsen if government support that has helped prop up the economy is allowed to lapse too soon.
Hoping to goose job growth, House Democrats said Thursday they would bring up a $1.5 trillion package of infrastructure improvements by month’s end. The 10-year plan is about twice as large as the bill they introduced in January to rebuild the nation’s highways, airports and other infrastructure, a size that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said reflects the toll of the pandemic.
“With the coronavirus, so many needs have been magnified,” Ms. Pelosi said.
The plan includes an additional $100 billion for schools, $100 billion for affordable housing and more money for clean energy projects.
There is little doubt that it will pass the Democratic-led House, but infrastructure plans have so far faced indifference in the Senate.
Antibodies to the new virus may last only two to three months in the body, especially in people who never showed symptoms while they were infected, according to a study published on Thursday.
The new study, published in Nature Medicine, looked at only 37 people who did not show symptoms when infected, but it is the first to offer a characterization of the immune response in such people.
It suggests that asymptomatic people mount a weaker response to the virus than people who develop symptoms. And within weeks, antibody levels fall to undetectable levels in 40 percent of asymptomatic people and 13 percent of symptomatic people.
“That is a concern, but I’d point out that these are pretty small group sizes,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York who was not involved in the work. She also noted that immune cells would continue to offer protection even in the absence of antibodies.
“Most people are generally not aware of T cell immunity and so much of the conversation has focused on antibody levels,” she said.
Still, the results offer a strong note of caution against the idea of “immunity certificates” for people who have recovered from the illness. If levels of immunity decrease so soon after illness, the authors suggest, people who have had the infection once might fall ill a second time.
Antibodies to other coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS, are thought to last about a year. Scientists had hoped that antibodies to the new virus might last at least as long.
Nearly 500 Russian medical workers have died after contracting the virus, more than four times the number announced previously, the head of a health watchdog agency said Thursday.
But soon after the official, Alla Samoilova, spoke, her agency, Roszdravnadzor, appeared to backtrack, issuing a statement that the figure of 489 dead doctors and nurses cited by Ms. Samoilova was not an official count, but merely one from the internet.
With President Vladimir V. Putin pushing ahead with plans for nationwide military parades next week and a referendum that would allow him to stay in office until 2036, Russian officials have come under pressure to declare the fight against the pandemic won and to avoid downbeat assessments.
But Ms. Samoilova’s assessment was: During a video conference on Thursday, she warned that “the epidemic has not ended, more than half a million people in Russia have been really sick.”
She said the high fatality rate among doctors was due in part to “shortcomings” in providing proper protective clothing in the early stages of the pandemic, a problem she said was now solved.
Russia, with more than 561,000 cases reported, is the third-hardest-hit country. But, boasting of a “Russian miracle,” officials have reported a death toll of 7,660, compared with more than 118,000 in the United States.
If nearly 500 medical workers have died — nearly as many as the 600 estimated to have died in the United States — Russia’s overall death rate may also be considerably higher than reported.
Other news from around the world:
Amid a partial lockdown in Beijing, the government said Thursday that the number of cases in the recent outbreak had risen to 158, after an additional 21 cases were reported. Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the city had brought the outbreak under control.
New Zealand recorded its third new case of the week, days after declaring itself among the first countries to be free of the virus.
In Germany, schools and day care centers in the northwestern district of Gütersloh remained closed on Thursday after more than 650 workers in a meatpacking plant tested positive. Separately, a chicken processing plant in Wales was shut down for two weeks after several employees tested positive for the virus.
Britain didn’t want Silicon Valley’s help on a tracing app, but now it does.
For months, British authorities went their own way, pursuing an app they promised would help ease the country out of lockdown, even as criticism grew that it posed privacy risks and would not work well.
On Thursday, they abruptly reversed course.
Now, Britain plans to join other countries and design a new contact-tracing app based on software provided by Apple and Google.
It was an embarrassing turnaround, and just one of a string of pandemic missteps by the government. At one point, the government said the contact-tracing technology would be available to the public in May. Now the aim is to have it ready by winter.
British officials had counted on the app, which is intended to alert anyone who may have come near an infected person, such as on a bus or subway, to help prevent a new wave of infections.
Leaders stuck to a plan of building an app in-house even as other countries changed course. Germany and Italy, which both agreed to use Apple and Google’s technology more than a month ago, debuted contact-tracing apps this week.
British public health officials wanted to avoid using the software provided by Apple and Google because it limits the amount of data that can be centrally collected and analyzed — information they felt was critical in tracking the disease. But the British team struggled to build an app that worked properly without support from the Silicon Valley giants.
Apple and Google, whose operating systems run on nearly every smartphone on the planet, prevented outside apps that did not use their code from taking full advantage of a device’s ability to measure proximity. The companies took this approach in the interests of privacy.
The switch comes as big tech zeroes in on the virus-testing market. As businesses across the United States grapple with how to safely reopen during the pandemic, numerous tech giants and start-ups are pushing out a glut of new virus risk-reduction products.
Verily Life Sciences, a sister company of Google, is introducing a health screening and analytics service for businesses. Microsoft and the large insurer UnitedHealth Group recently collaborated on a free symptom-checking app that helps pinpoint workers at obvious risk for the virus and direct them to testing resources. On Tuesday, Fitbit introduced a program that includes a daily symptom-checking app for employees and a work force health-monitoring dashboard for employers.
Each year, thousands of migrant workers make their way from southern Florida up the East Coast and into the Midwest, following the ripening of fruits and vegetables. This year, many will undoubtedly bring the virus with them.
Florida’s agricultural communities have become cradles of infection, fueling a disturbing spike in the state’s daily toll of new infections, which hit another record on Thursday, when more than 3,200 cases were reported. The implications go far beyond Florida: As case numbers in places there are swelling, many farmworkers are migrating north.
As in other agricultural communities around the country, Florida’s farming regions have a high degree of built-in risk. Fruit and vegetable pickers toil close to each other in fields, ride buses shoulder-to-shoulder and sleep in cramped apartments or in trailers with other laborers or several generations of their families.
While many of them are guest workers on temporary visas, others are undocumented, with little access to routine health care and an ingrained fear of the authorities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has called the contagion in agricultural communities Florida’s “No. 1 outbreak.”
Farmworkers tend to be younger and fitter than the rest of the population and may not suffer as severely from the virus. Some of them joke, in gallows humor, that if the tomato fertilizer has not killed them yet, maybe the virus will not.
Other news from around the United States:
The governors of at least six states — Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina and Vermont — have recently extended their state of emergency orders, even as cases in some of the states have been declining. Along with control over travel restrictions and business closures, the emergency declarations provide a direct line to federal funding for disaster relief.
Cases have spiked in Arizona, where a sheriff who was scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump tested positive ahead of his trip to the White House. Sheriff Mark Lamb of Pinal County, who had called enforcement of the state’s stay-at-home order unconstitutional, said that he did not have symptoms and would self-isolate. Across the country, there had been a bubbling backlash to stay-at-home orders. Some protesters, businesses and church leaders defied the measures.
New Jersey malls, as iconic in the state as the shore and the boardwalk, can reopen on June 29, the governor said. Stores will be limited to 50 percent, employees and customers must wear masks, and food courts stay closed, though restaurants can serve takeout.
Mr. Trump derided the importance of virus testing and raised doubts about the value of face masks in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on Thursday.
“I personally think testing is overrated, even though I created the greatest testing machine in history,” Mr. Trump said. He added that because more tests lead to a higher number of confirmed cases, at least in the short term, “in many ways, it makes us look bad.”
Mr. Trump questioned the use of masks as a means of slowing the virus’s spread, and said some people wear them to signal political opposition to him. Most experts say that risk does not outweigh the benefits of widespread use of face masks.
“They put their finger on the mask, and they take them off, and then they start touching their eyes and touching their nose and their mouth,” Mr. Trump said. “And then they don’t know how they caught it?”
Mr. Trump shrugged off concerns that attendees at his scheduled indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday will be at risk of infection. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said on Wednesday that attendees would be given face masks, but using them will be optional.
New York Roundup
‘We can’t stay inside forever’: New Yorkers stretch the rules as the city looks to the next phase.
As New York City began reopening earlier this month, a kind of informal outdoor dining took place, with large groups eating and drinking on streets outside businesses.
The center of the U.S. outbreak in its earliest weeks, the city is being observed as a barometer of recovery, its slow-and-steady approach helping bring the number of daily deaths to just 29 reported on Thursday, down from highs around 800 in April.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that the city will ease more restrictions on Monday, which the governor said the day before could go forward. As many as 300,000 workers are expected to get back to work as outdoor dining, in-store shopping and office work resumes with limits, the mayor said at his daily briefing.
Not long afterward, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that while the state would not make its final decision on easing restrictions until Friday, he was still advising businesses to prepare.
Restaurants, many which have been open for takeout but do not have available outdoor space, would be able to place seating in curbside parking areas and on sidewalks adjacent to their restaurants, the mayor said. In July, the city would allow restaurant seating on 43 miles of streets closed to vehicle traffic. The mayor predicted that the expanded outdoor dining plan would save 5,000 of the city’s restaurants and 45,000 jobs.
The governor said he is also signing executive orders that allow the state to immediately suspend the liquor license of a business or shut it down if they’re not complying with reopening guidelines, as well to give bars the responsibility to limit the number of people gathered outside.
In Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Heather Sumner, 32, repeated a phrase commonly heard these days: “We can’t stay inside forever.”
Here’s what else is going on in New York:
The mayor again repeated concerns that the virus might have spread during massive protests over systemic racism and police brutality. Still, he said that city and state officials had been encouraged by “the trend line” of test results and hospitalizations, which have stayed flat in recent weeks, and decided to allow the reopening to go forward.
The mayor said that the city’s playgrounds, which have been shut since March, would also reopen on Monday. But team sports, like basketball, soccer and softball, will not be permitted in city parks.
Mr. Cuomo said that he was considering requiring travelers coming into New York from Florida to quarantine for 14 days — a move similar to one Florida imposed on New Yorkers in March. “I have experts who have advised me to do that,” he said. “I’m considering it now.”
The state would issue guidance to colleges and universities to allow some residential and in-person programming to resume this fall, the governor said. Schools needed to submit plans for monitoring the virus and discouraging its spread in order to reopen.
Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet and Lincoln Center all canceled their fall seasons, following similar announcements from the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. It will be City Ballet’s first year without “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” since its premiere in 1954 — disrupting a holiday tradition beloved by thousands, and leaving a big hole in the company’s budget.
‘In Harm’s Way’: The Times is collecting stories from health care workers fighting the pandemic.
Since the killing of George Floyd, some of these health care workers have joined the fight against another crisis: racism. While acknowledging the risk of infection posed by protests, they say this movement is too important to sit out.
Tawana Coates, OB-GYN in Louisville, Ky.
Check out these tips for wearing a mask while exercising.
Gyms are slowly reopening, outdoor fitness classes are starting up, and many people are hoping to get back to their typical workout routines. But wearing a mask while working out can be challenging. Here are some ways to make it more tolerable.
Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Jane Bradley, John Branch, Chris Buckley, Ben Casselman, Damien Cave, Michael Cooper, Maria Cramer, Michael Crowley, Melissa Eddy, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Michael Gold, Matthew Haag, Amy Haimerl, David M. Halbfinger, Andrew Higgins, Tiffany Hsu, Josh Keller, Apoorva Mandavilli, Patricia Mazzei, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Benjamin Mueller, Elian Peltier, Catherine Porter, Amy Qin, David E. Sanger, Adam Satariano, Natasha Singer, Mitch Smith, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Noah Weiland, Michael Wilson, Billy Witz, Will Wright, Mihir Zaveri and Karen Zraick.