KEY DATA OF THE DAY
Florida and Texas report records for daily highs in new cases.
Two of the nation’s most populous states, Texas and Florida, both reported this week their highest daily totals of new coronavirus infections, a concerning sign as all 50 states move to ease social distancing restrictions and allow more businesses to reopen.
The nation’s most populous state, California, hit a new daily high last week, when it recorded 3,593 new cases, a record it nearly matched it again this week.
The rise in cases helps explain why the nation continues to record more than 20,000 new cases a day even as some of the original hot spots, including New York, have seen dramatic declines. While some officials in states seeing increases attribute the rise to increased testing, and the number of cases per capita in Texas and Florida remains low, some health experts see worrying signs that the virus continues to make inroads.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said that in some parts of the country the rising number of new cases reflected more testing, but that in other areas, the increasing number of hospitalizations suggested a disturbing uptick in new infections.
“Whenever you loosen mitigation, you can expect you’ll see new infections, I think it would be unrealistic to think that you won’t,” he said in an interview on ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. “The critical issue is how do you prevent those new infections that you see from all of a sudden emerging into something that is a spike, and that’s the thing that we hope we will be able to contain.”
Texas, which avoided the worst of the virus in the early spring and was one of the first states to make moves to reopen its economy, identified more than 2,000 new cases on both Wednesday and Thursday, the highest daily totals yet. The counties that include Houston and Dallas are reporting some of the nation’s largest single-day rises. Cases are also trending upward around Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Lubbock, McAllen and Midland.
“To be quite frank, I have not been thrilled with what I’m seeing in terms of folks not wearing masks at a high enough rate,” said Mayor Eric Johnson of Dallas, who attributed the increased caseload to an expansion of testing and the reopening of the economy.
Harris County, which includes Houston, created a new color-coded system this week to gauge the virus and said that the current threat level was orange, the second-most severe, meaning that there was a “significant and uncontrolled” level of Covid-19.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio said he was concerned about the pace of the state’s phased reopening plan. “We’re kind of blowing through phases before we have an understanding of the impact of that decision,” he said.
Florida recorded more than 1,000 new cases on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, including 1,698 on Thursday, the state’s highest daily total yet. That record only stood for a day: It was eclipsed on Friday, when the state reported another 1,902.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, said Friday that he was pleased to see hospitalizations declining in parts of the state, and attributed the rise in cases in part to more widespread testing, and in part to outbreaks in several agricultural communities, including a watermelon farm. “These are workers that are working very close together,” he noted at a news conference.
But Florida continues to push forward with its reopening plans, and on Thursday night the Republican National Committee announced that President Trump would deliver his Aug. 27 convention speech in Jacksonville, Fla., in an arena that holds 15,000, after his demands for an event without social distancing rules led to a rift with Democratic leaders in North Carolina, where the Republican convention was originally planned.
Forecasts suggest that the United States will likely see 124,000 to 140,000 Covid-19 deaths by the Fourth of July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The agency said that its forecasts suggested that more virus-related deaths were likely over the next four weeks in Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, North Carolina, Utah and Vermont than those states saw over the past four weeks. The nation has already seen 114,426 virus-related deaths, according to a New York Times database.
The C.D.C.’s forecasts were released as the agency and its director, Dr. Robert Redfield, held a public briefing on Friday, three months after it abruptly stopped holding regular media briefings on the pandemic.
The agency also released new guidance about the risks of holding events. It labeled “highest risk” any large gathering which draws attendees from outside the area and where it is difficult for people to stay at least six feet apart.
The guidance, which comes as people around the country are attending outdoor protests of police brutality, and as Mr. Trump prepares to resume holding large political rallies, advises that staff members at large events be required to wear face coverings, and that attendees be encouraged to do so.
The agency also released recommendations and factors to consider for those considering whether to resume daily activities like going to the bank, holding cookouts and going to the gym.
New cases are rising in 22 states, and local and state officials are adjusting policies in a patchwork across the country.
Here is a look at other key developments around the country.
The World Health Organization warned Friday that the indirect impact of the pandemic on women, children and adolescents could do more damage than the actual disease.
“The indirect effects of Covid-19 on these groups may be greater than the number of deaths due to the virus itself,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director general. “Because the pandemic has overwhelmed health systems in many places, women may have heightened risk of dying from complications of pregnancy and child birth.”
The W.H.O. gathered a panel of experts for a conference call with reporters on Friday, to highlight many additional indirect threats caused by the pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns, on women and children. Resources have been diverted away from health services to address the immediate threat of the virus, millions have lost jobs and an estimated 1.2 billion children and youth are not attending schools, leaving them without essential services like meals and access to mental health care, which are often provided by the schools.
The economic stress, combined with tight living conditions in lockdowns, has also placed women and children at increased risk of violence and abuse.
Dr. Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, called the situation, “a pandemic within a pandemic.”
Gabriela Cuevas Barron, the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said that 42 to 66 million children are in danger of falling into extreme poverty because of the pandemic.
Dr. Kanem said that for every six months of lockdown an estimated 47 million women will lose access to contraception, which would result in an additional 7 million unintended pregnancies during that six-month period.
At least 58 members of the Guatemalan president’s staff have tested positive, officials said, making it one of the world’s largest outbreaks to erupt at a nation’s center of elected power.
The employees work in President Alejandro Giammattei’s official compound in Guatemala City’s historic district, and include members of his security detail and workers on the compound’s domestic staff, officials said.
Mr. Giammattei, however, said he had so far tested negative.
Among governments in Latin America, Guatemala moved particularly early and aggressively to curb the spread of the virus. It quickly implemented a range of measures, including closing its borders to citizens of certain countries, enforcing a nightly curfew and effectively cordoning off areas of the country that were suffering severe outbreaks.
But despite those efforts, the contagion in Guatemala has continued to grow, with the number of daily confirmed cases increasing significantly in the past month, putting extraordinary strain on the nation’s fragile health care system. The country registered its highest daily death toll — 27 — on Tuesday. As of Friday, the authorities had confirmed a total of 8,561 cases and at least 334 deaths.
The Guatemalan government has accused the United States of aggravating the situation by deporting scores of Guatemalans infected with the virus. The charges have inflamed tensions between the two governments and led to several suspensions of deportation flights while the authorities studied the claims and implemented more rigorous screening of deportees in the United States.
At least 186 deportees, including nine children, have tested positive, Guatemalan officials said. The vast majority were tested at the airport shortly after disembarking from their deportation flights.
Here are some other key developments elsewhere around the world:
Canadian immigration officials said the federal government may allow caregivers who are seeking asylum to essentially jump the immigration queue and remain in the country permanently because of their outsized contributions to fighting the pandemic.
Australia has eliminated the virus in many areas of the country, its chief medical officer, told reporters on Friday, as more than half of the 38 cases reported over the past week were travelers returning from abroad and remaining quarantined.
Britain’s economy collapsed by 20.3 percent in April compared with the month before, a record contraction.
Olena Zelenska, the wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said on Facebook that she tested positive, but that Mr. Zelensky and the couple’s children had tested negative.
At least 12 major Russian cities have said in recent days that they will not hold a parade on June 24, the day that President Vladimir V. Putin decreed Russia would publicly commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazis in World War II.
Hundreds of doctors in southern India ended a two-day strike on Friday that had left hundreds of virus patients without care. The strike by doctors at several hospitals in Telangana State began after some of them were assaulted by relatives of a 55-year-old patient at Gandhi General Hospital in Hyderabad, the state capital.
The local government in Beijing said on Friday that it would suspend the resumption of school for young primary school students after the appearance of three new cases in the city. The change affects almost half a million students who were supposed to return to school on Monday. The Beijing Municipal Education Commission did not set a new date for class resumption.
The widow of a Chinese doctor who was censured by the police when he sought to warn colleagues about Covid-19 gave birth to a second son on Friday, a little more than four months after her husband succumbed to the disease.
Stocks on Wall Street rose Friday, rebounding from their steepest drop in months, in a day of unsteady trading.
The S&P 500 closed more than 1 percent higher, after earlier having climbed more than 3 percent. On Thursday, the index plunged by about 6 percent, its sharpest drop since mid-March.
Financial markets experienced a shift in sentiment this week, as investors have seemed to acknowledge the risks to the economy from pandemic-related shutdowns earlier this year and the prospect of a second wave of coronavirus infections as governments lift restrictions on activity, The New York Times’s Matt Phillips reported.
Investors’ confidence in a quick recovery and return to normal was rattled after the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, warned this week that the depth of the downturn and pace of the recovery remained “extraordinarily uncertain.”
The central bank repeated that warning on Friday. In a semiannual monetary policy report to Congress, its first since the pandemic took hold, the Fed said the nation’s gross domestic product would probably contract “at a rapid pace” in the second quarter after “tumbling” in the first.
“Chairman Powell threw a bucket of cold water on the thought that the economy is going to go back to where it was in 2019 any time soon,” said Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak, an asset management firm.
Analysts like Mr. Maley have also noted that the market was overdue a pullback, after a staggering rally — a gain of as much as 45 percent for the S&P 500 from March lows — had left stock prices somewhat disconnected from reality.
It was the fastest recovery off a market low for the benchmark index since 1933, and came even as tens of millions of Americans applied for unemployment benefits and the national unemployment rate surged to its highest level since the Great Depression.
A coronavirus variation with a unique mutation infects more cells in the lab, but research is just beginning.
For months, scientists have debated why one variation of the coronavirus became dominant in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe and in much of the United States.
Many scientists argue that the variation spread widely by chance. Others have looked to a specific genetic mutation, hunting for clues that it confers some kind of biological edge.
Now, scientists have shown — at least in the tightly controlled environment of a laboratory cell culture — that viruses with that mutation infect more cells than those without the mutation. The viruses found at the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, did not have the mutation.
Geneticists cautioned against drawing conclusions about whether the variation, which has been circulating widely since February, spreads more easily in humans. There is no evidence that it is more deadly or harmful, and differences seen in a cell culture do not necessarily mean it is more contagious, they said.
But the new study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, does show that the mutation appears to change the biological function of the virus, experts said.
Researchers at Scripps Research, based in Florida, found that the mutation, known as D614G, stabilized the virus’s spike proteins, which attach to cells to infect them. The number of functional and intact spikes on each viral particle was about five times higher because of the mutation, increasing the likelihood of infection, according to the scientists who led the study, Hyeryun Choe and Michael Farzan.
Dr. Choe said that the virus spikes with the mutation were “nearly 10 times more infectious in the cell culture system that we used” than those without.
But other scientists cautioned that it would take significantly more research to determine if differences in the virus were a factor in shaping the course of the outbreak. Other factors clearly played a role in the spread, including the timing of lockdowns, travel patterns and luck, scientists argue.
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has reopened but without its crushing crowds. The museum can now only accommodate a maximum of 750 visitors over a six-hour day, a far cry from the 6,000 visitors a day before the pandemic.
“It is going to feel slow,” Emilie Gordenker, the museum’s new director said. “We’re used to having so many more visitors here, but we have to be careful and do what we can.” Tickets must now be booked for specific time slots, and Ms. Gordenker said there were still plenty available.
All museums need visitors to survive, but the Van Gogh Museum is particularly reliant on tourists. Some 85 percent of its visitors do not live in the Netherlands, and unlike Dutch national museums, which receive substantial government subsidies, the Van Gogh relies on earned income — ticket sales, and revenue from the shop and cafe — for 89 percent of its budget. That reality creates additional difficulties during an already challenging time.
So Ms. Gordenker hopes that more local people will see this period as a special opportunity to come in. That’s the message she wants to get out there.
“A lot of people here thought that the Van Gogh Museum is for tourists,” Ms. Gordenker said. “That was a matter of perception that we need to change.”
In other arts and sports related coverage:
Some 1.7 million Americans are waiting for passports after the State Department shut down most of its consular services to protect employees from contracting the coronavirus, the agency confirmed on Friday.
As Lara Jakes and Tacey Rychter report, the State Department reopened 11 passport agencies across the United States this week and aim to process about 200,000 applications each week before turning to new applications. But officials predicted it will still take up to eight weeks to cut through the backlog that dates to February.
Officials had limited any expedited services for passport applications to life-or-death situations, said Carl Risch, the department’s assistant secretary for consular affairs.
Passport services in American embassies and consulates abroad have been suspended for all but urgent cases, and will reopen only after health conditions in each host country have been deemed safe for American diplomats to return to work.
As many as two million Americans are overseas at any time. The State Department processes about 18 million passports annually.
Health officials in the United States have not yet traced major outbreaks of the virus to the protests that followed George Floyd’s killing, but across the country, officials are seeing a handful of new cases with possible links to the demonstrations, with at least 30 cases as of today, according to a New York Times analysis.
That number — which includes police officers, National Guard members and demonstrators across nine states and Washington, D.C. — represents a tiny fraction of the thousands of new virus cases being identified across the country each day that have no apparent connection to the protests.
And health officials have warned that it is still too soon to know whether the protests against police brutality and systemic racism will lead to major clusters and wider community spread of the virus, which can take up to 14 days to produce symptoms. In late May, Mr. Floyd, a black man, died after he was pinned under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer for nearly nine minutes, including even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive. The officer was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
In Minnesota, where the protests began and where a handful of National Guard members were infected, the state has asked protesters to get tested and has opened new testing sites. Officials were bracing for the possibility of new cases, however. Gretchen Musicant, the Minneapolis health commissioner, said it was too early for cases traced to the gatherings to appear in the numbers.
In other pockets of the country those cases were already turning up.
In Nebraska, at least nine members of the National Guard and one police officer tested positive after working at protests in Lincoln and Omaha. Two police officers in Canton, Ohio, who worked during a protest came down with the virus. Two cases may be related to demonstrations in Kittitas County, Wash. And in Lawrence, Kan., where a man with symptoms went to a protest without wearing a mask, a second person who attended the gathering tested positive, officials said Thursday.
In New York, the governor has also asked for protesters to get tested and to consider themselves exposed. On Friday, Dr. Jay Varma, a top health adviser to the New York City mayor, said that public health best practices suggest waiting as many as 28 days from the beginning of the demonstrations — twice the virus’s longest incubation period — before more definitively determining whether the events contributed to a spike in cases.
NEW YORK ROUNDUP
New York churches offer virus testing to communities that need it most.
Over the past few weeks, 24 New York City churches serving communities of color have been transformed into mini-clinics offering free virus tests to all comers.
The initiative, a partnership of the churches, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office and Northwell Health, aims to expand testing among black and Hispanic residents, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Nearly 20,000 virus tests were administered in the initial round of screening, during the first 10 days of May.
Black and Latino New Yorkers have succumbed to Covid-19 at twice the rate of white residents, a result of entrenched economic and health disparities, denser housing and a higher risk of exposure on the job.
Here are other key developments from New York:
New York State moved to prohibit children’s sleepaway camps from operating this season.
“Overnight camps have congregate settings and sleeping arrangements in close quarters that present too many risks,” the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said. “In such a setting, even a single positive case in a camper or staff member could create an untenable quarantine situation and overwhelm camp health personnel that may not be able to handle a serious infectious outbreak of this nature.”
Officials remain concerned about an inflammatory syndrome that appears to be linked to the virus, which has already sickened hundreds of children in the state and across the nation. Day camps in the state are allowed beginning June 29.
Statewide, another 42 New Yorkers had died of the virus, Mr. Cuomo said. In New Jersey, there were an additional 48 deaths.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio signaled again that he does not expect the city to enter the second phase of reopening until sometime in July, at the earliest. “My view is, when you get to the last week of June, you’re going to have a much better sense of how all of this is adding up and if we can move forward effectively into Phase 2,” he said.
New York City’s admissions process for selective public schools collapsed this spring as many of the usual screening metrics evaporated during the pandemic: Attendance was nixed as a measure of student achievement for the current admissions cycle; state standardized tests were canceled; and letter grades were put on hold for most students. Now hope has emerged that a decision on how to choose students for the top schools this fall will ultimately support integration of a district that is one of the nation’s most racially divided.
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Dan Bilefsky, Kate Conger, Michael Cooper, Maria Cramer, Manny Fernandez, Abby Goodnough, Rebecca Halleck, Raphael Minder, David Montgomery, Mitch Smith, Rick Gladstone, Jenny Gross, Maggie Haberman, Lara Jakes, Mike Ives, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Annie Karni, Andrew Kramer, Chang W. Lee, Jesse McKinley, Paul Mozur, Tariq Panja, Elian Peltier, Matt Phillips, Roni Caryn Rabin, Frances Robles, Tacey Rychter, Nina Siegal, Rory Smith, Kaly Soto, Chris Stanford, Matt Stevens, Eileen Sullivan, Carlos Tejada, Anton Troianovski and Sameer Yasir.